I’m sitting here quietly in my cell waiting for the guards to arrive. Today’s my big day. The state of Florida is throwing me a special party and I’m the guest of honor. Soon I’ll be strapped into a big chair and then I’ll get the shock of my life. Or death.
How did I come to death row, you ask? It’s simple really. I asked a question. That’s right, I asked a simple question and the next thing you know, the judge is banging his gavel and the courtroom is buzzing and whoosh… off I go to prison.
Before incarceration I was a simple, quiet guy. I loved to read, loved to cook and most of all, I loved my cat. He had the appearance of a miniature black panther, his sleek ebony coat gleamed in the beams of sunshine in which he loved to nap. Shadow. His name was Shadow.
The day before Christmas I left early to finish some last minute shopping for my grandparents, the only family I had. It was a cold December in the Sunshine State. Coldest winter in decades the weatherman said. Bits of snow still rested on the palmetto leaves outside my house from the light dusting we’d gotten the night before. Snow in Florida. What a novelty.
When I turned back onto my street, my gaze caught the lights from the fire trucks. Several vehicles were parked askew about 500 yards down.
“Oh man,” I thought. “Somebody’s not having a good day.” I had no idea at the time that somebody was about to be me.
When they finally allowed me to enter the charred remains of my home, I bolted towards the front door. I was met by a stocky firefighter who shambled out the entrance. He stopped me and asked if I was the resident. I told him I was, my voice quivering with fear and shock. He looked me in the eye and asked, “Do you have a cat?”
“Yes!” I sputtered back, wide-eyed. I hoped for the best.
“Well ya don’t anymore!” he grinned as he pushed past me.
His words sank deep and for some reason, the image of his face burned itself into my mind.
Later, I learned that Shadow had died not from smoke inhalation, but rather the searing air had scorched his lungs. His death had been painful and he’d been alone. I found him lying at the end of my bed.
I learned the name of the fireman that had given me the news of my cat. I learned his address. And about a week later, I paid his house a visit.
When he returned home, he found me waiting for him on his small porch. I assume he was not expecting company. He seemed rather surprised to see me, or maybe it was the blood that dripped from the axe in my hand that caught his eye. When he stopped cold in his tracks I felt it was the right time to ask my question. It was the question that landed me here.
“Hello, Mr. Taylor. Do you have a family?”
The guards are here now. I have to go. I’ll be seeing you.