Eighteen Minutes

Ben's baby brother David has just turned thirty, only days before they're strapping his arms down on the gurney. Mom and Ben had a chance to look at the gurney a few hours earlier, but Mom cried at the realization that her younger son would soon be lying there, and Ben couldn't look at it anymore.

He has been waiting for this moment for years, but now that it is here, he just wants it to end. There is a shameful eagerness in his clenched fists as he stares into the folded fabric of the curtains which cover the window in front of him, disguising it as any old window, and certainly not the window to his brother's death. There's still time, he tells himself, glancing hesitantly at his watch, there's still time…

But, his throat constricts. So what if there is still time? Does he want the execution to stay? Does he want to endure another eleven years of trials and witnesses and evidence? Does he want to see his little brother continue to waste away, regretting some hours more than others? Because, certainly, a stayed execution meant reexamining the evidence, and reexamining the witnesses so the trials and all of it would just start up all over again. Waiting to die has killed David worse than this execution will, and Ben knows this. He knows this. Among so many other things he knows; his little brother is tired of waiting and, if the execution is stayed at the very last second, David might just tell them to get it over with anyway. Ben might even agree.

"I'm not staying," Mother whispers feebly to him as she grips his hands, shaking. The words barely escaped her lips, as if she has been mustering up the courage to say it all day.

He allows Mom to leave just as the lights begin to dim. She doesn't even hesitate a second as she strides deliberately towards the door. Her marriage was raked through the coals because of this David's careless actions which led to the trials, which led to his sentencing, which led to this day in June. Ben knew she was tired and heartbroken, and this moment was about as much closure as she needed; "it is going to happen whether I'm there or not, I don't need to see it."

But Ben did need to see it. He sits in his assigned seat, among all the mourning men and women—they're mourning for Officer Parks, the murdered cop who is dead and in the dirt, not for David who is only a mere few feet away.

Just on the other side of this curtain, David is alive. But for how much longer, really?

Suddenly, it happens so quickly as Ben looks up with conviction at the folded fabric wiping out and pinning back, Yes, it's all very professional, Ben observes.

Or, perhaps, the curtains were designed to distract the folks from what was happening inside. David is lying on a long table—the same gurney Ben and his mother had gone to see. He is already strapped down and he can't move even if he wants to. Though, Ben doesn't think he would want to.

"David," the name inexcusably escapes Ben's lips in a room full of Anti-Davids. Ben would have liked to have his Mom there. She is normally the sound and sane one. Recently, that job has fallen to Ben, and he is nowhere near ready to accept it. He was not ready at twenty-two when the incident happened, and he is still not ready at thirty-three.

Yet, here they are. The group of witnesses remains in their seats, though Ben anticipated they would get up and yell like at a sporting event, cheering for their favorite team, but they don't. Ben's eyes remain focused entirely David, lying horizontally on the table, his arms propped up on both side as three different doctors circle him with long needles and cloths.

David's eyes are empty, as they had become for the years spent waiting in a cell for them to just do it. He used to muse about potential ways to end it faster; he could bash his head against the wall until he was unconscious, and then cleverly place the sink right below where he would fall, and hopefully he just might drown. He joked that it seemed somehow better than a lethal injection in front of all these people who hated him.

Hated him. The phrase became so commonplace during Ben's visits to his brother's cell. It was not a matter of hate; more so just simple regret and utter disappointment. David was good looking, he was athletic, and he was smart. He was going places. He probably would have done very well. And, certainly, plenty of people drive drunk every day without getting caught; Ben was willing to bet that there were people on that same road on that same night who were driving faster and driving drunker than David. But, for whatever reason, Officer Parks chose that particular car to pull over to waggle a finger at the driver. Maybe he saw the college sticker on the back window, or maybe he just wasn't a fan of Chevys.

David never claimed innocence or insanity. He didn't use an excuse to justify what he had done. He acted deliberately and sanely. In fact, David had always made a point of taking full responsibility regardless of the consequences. If only he had been willing to do so that night he was pulled over, when Officer Parks announced he would be taking him into custody for drinking underage and driving. David was too terrified that night; worried what his parents might say, or if the coach would bench him, or any other infinitesimally small consequence that may have developed as a result.

When David is situated in the gurney and the needles are in his arms, Ben is so close to the glass, his nose is pressed against it.

The calmness on David's face abruptly dissipates. His eyes become wild. He is not afraid, he is just frantic. At first, Ben isn't sure why, but then he glances to the empty seat next to him where Mom was supposed to be. In his last moments, David is searching for his mother, but she has already left him. Ben can't even lie to him and say she'll be back because he wouldn't hear him.

One doctor flicks a needle and it begins to drip. Ben puts both hands against the glass. His stomach and his heart turn over inside, switching places. In this position, he can see his watch and David at the same time. He will time how long it takes for his brother to die.

David does not shake. He does not twitch. In fact, if one didn't know any better, one might think he is just lying down for a nap. But no—once he goes to sleep, his breathing will stop, and then his heat will stop beating. Lethal injections are supposed to be the "civilized" way of killing someone. Ben did all the research: there is a sedative that relaxes him, and gives him a dopey smile, fooling others into believing he is happy, or perhaps so twisted that he is relishing in the thought of his murder victim's image as his last thoughts. He is conscious and doesn't feel a thing; he is awake when they pump the poisons into him.

The average execution takes eighteen minutes. Ben suddenly finds the only thing can do here is hope David is not suffering for eighteen minutes, or any minutes at all.

Then, a priest hands him a piece of paper. It has the signatures of everyone who is there, and the priest is requesting he sign his name as well.

"Yes. I watched my brother die and, yes, I did nothing to stop it." Ben places the pen thoughtfully behind his ear and shakes his head. There is something so inherently counterintuitive to that statement….He pauses a moment and then scratches his name down the paper, right underneath the Widowed Mrs. Park.

And now what? Do I just go home and get ready for work tomorrow? I feel like there should be more. Is there more?

So the moment he waited for over the past eleven years is finally here. David is gone and funeral arrangements have to be made. Ben steps outside the room and into a small waiting area where Mom is seated, staring at her hands, sighing slightly, but eyes still dry. She doesn't have any tears left for David.

There is a casual ease as Ben approaches her, and she watches, as if he is a little boy approaching her to be picked up after soccer practice, and she's only looking at him to simply ask, Ready to go? "Let's go, Mom," he says, like a suggestion, and checks to make sure his shoes are still tied tightly as Mom stands up and collects her purse.

The shame in his clenched fixed relaxes for a moment. Things don't feel terribly different, but the wait is over. Good God, thank you, the wait is finally over.


A/N: This is just a oneshot submitted for the contest "Write the Wrongs." The guidelines were to write something 500-2000 words with the prompt: "He had been waiting for this day for years, and now that it was here, he just wanted it to end." This is the first entry, so wish me luck! Thanks everyone! :)