From "Harold Griffin’s Dream"
published in Catamaran Literary Reader, issue 7
Harold Griffin, our next-door neighbor, begins each morning by walking his dog, a lab mix, which is a polite way of saying she’s half pit-bull. She pulls madly at her leash, gasping and wheezing, lunging like a tethered jackrabbit as they bumble toward his truck. Harold shouts, “Heel, Luna! Heel!” But she never does. Like the neighborhood children who steal cherries and peaches by the bagful from Harold’s trees, Luna exploits his age, mocking him. Soon enough, though, they’re both in the truck, off to explore the open land around nearby Lake Dalworth (hardly a lake, more like a pond, or a swamp), or to roam the ridge trail overlooking the town, Harold beating out a rhythm with his walking stick while Luna runs, off leash now, terrorizing the resident pheasants and sparrows in the brush.
But that’s not quite correct. That’s not the beginning of Harold’s day. Before the walk, every morning, Harold Griffin brews half a pot of decaffeinated coffee. He drinks it black, finishing the first cup in his kitchen before emptying the remainder of the pot into a small thermos that he will carry on the walk. He buys Folgers in one-pound cans, and every can he empties, he saves. He now has some four hundred cans stacked in his garage, and one on the floorboard of his truck, for those desperate occasions when his bladder acts up in a traffic jam.
Don’t ask me how I know all this. Don’t ask me how I know that he has never cleaned his coffee maker, that a brown film coats the inside of the glass pot. His kitchen smells like moldy bread. Grease-caked dishes and pans remain piled on his counter, and in one remote corner is an empty, unwashed cat food can. Even the ants that once swarmed the can have now rejected its last remaining morsels. That cat has long since run away.
Harold has installed low wattage light bulbs throughout his house, and the only window in the kitchen faces west. As he sips that first cup, sitting at a small table covered in piles of paper, including several years’ worth of tax returns, receipts for everything from utility bills to vehicles he sold long ago, and half-finished letters to politicians at every level of government, the only light is soft and indirect, creating shadows that lay across more shadows.
But even this isn’t right. Before brewing coffee he relieves his bladder, having already done so two or three times throughout the night. He strips from his pale body the long underwear that kept him warm in that sagging bed with a single wool blanket. He dons blue jeans, boots, and a plaid flannel shirt. He washes his face with a bar of soap and brushes his teeth, vigorously scraping with ragged bristles his tired gums and brittle molars.
But no, even this isn’t right.
Harold Griffin begins each morning as we all do. He opens his eyes.
From "Unfortunate Man"
published in J Journal: New Writing On Justice
His was the first execution to be scheduled for this year’s festival season. In the semi-darkness of a cavernous warehouse, he stood atop the tall wooden platform, some twelve feet above the ground, his wrists bound behind his back with a sturdy, organic hemp rope, his neck snugly fitted into a noose of the same. A roar went up from the crowd outside when the enormous metal doors of the warehouse groaned open, and several executioner’s assistants, dressed in the customary garb of black and white jogging suits, their faces obscured by cotton mesh masks, pushed forward in unison, wheeling the newly constructed gallows into the bright blue daylight. The floor rumbled beneath the unfortunate man’s feet, jostling his tired body and bringing forth a dull ache in his teeth, until it came to an abrupt stop in the center of the township’s square, in direct view of the sun, whose heat and light blanketed the throng of onlookers now spread out before him, raucously awaiting the spectacle of his demise.