Until nine days ago, my home state of Nebraska retained the distinction of being the last state in the union to offer the electric chair as its only method of capital punishment. Some Nebraskans considered this a dubious distinction, and some considered it a point of pride.
While I’m not necessarily interested in joining the argument, I’m reminded of an experience I had in college. This was in 1994, the night the State of Nebraska electrocuted Harold Lamont “Walkin’ Wili” Otey. Otey’s was the first such event since Charles Starkweather’s execution in 1959, and the unexpected turnout–a strange hybrid of protest and carnival–led state officials to conclude that midnight executions, all in all, were probably a bad idea.
Anyway, I was there. A few days later, I wrote a short story about it. This story was published a couple years later in Issue #1 of a small horror magazine edited by Paula Guran. For reasons of both craft and perspective it’s a bit painful to look back on this story now, as looking at early work so often is.
But just for nostalgia, I’ll do something I generally don’t do and pull this old manuscript into the Internet age. So if, for whatever reason, you’re interested in the earnest, slightly pretentious, ethically uncertain writings of a college English major still searching for his voice as a writer, here you are:
I must have tinkered with this at some point, because the manuscript appears to differ slightly from the published version. Beyond that, two things jump out at me now:
There’s a narrative technique in here that I ended up using, in slightly variant form, in my upcoming novel, Safer (now scheduled for Winter ’09). Though when I wrote this book, I wasn’t consciously aware of having used the technique before.
Also in Safer, I decided to use a quote from an old psychology textbook that I’ve had on my bulletin board for years. I thought, “It’s about time I used this somewhere.” And it seemed to fit the purpose at hand.
Lo and behold, looking at this short story nearly 14 years after writing it, I discover that I did use this quote before. . .
. . .confirming what I’ve grown to believe as a writer, which is that I don’t always know as much about what I’m doing as I think I do.