The warden himself delivers Henry’s special meal, cooked by another prisoner. Watches him eat. Henry’s request: chicken fried steak, French fries, green beans in fat back, cola, hot apple pie a la mode. He finishes the steak, fries, beans. Slurps the last sips of cola through his straw. Hears the tray scrape the metal desk as he pushes away the pie. “Not hungry?” asks the warden. “Saving it for after,” Henry says. The warden prays. Henry’s role in the botched robbery: never clear. Boom boxes, computers, sawed-off shotgun: his basement, his prints. IQ: borderline. Gurney strapped, Henry asks the warden, “Hold my hand?” The warden rubs his own hands together, takes Henry’s in his, checks the clock, nods. He’s done this before. Anesthesia catches Henry. He sees steam rising from the pie, running rivers of ice cream.
Jan Elman Stout’s fiction has been published in Literary Orphans, Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Midwest Gothic, Shotgun Honey, The Airgonaut, Jellyfish Review, and elsewhere. She is a reader for SmokeLong Quarterly. In her former life she was a psychologist. Jan lives with her husband in Washington, DC.