George Milton, One Final Night At San Quentin

It was just like these sons of bitches

To send the goddamn preacher in here

The very moment I’d finished off my steak

(Which, to be fair, wasn’t half-bad)

So as to be sure as to ruin my digestion.

He slipped in with the standard priestly soft-shoe,

And cooed softly about how no soul was ever truly lost,

But once he started on God’s love, I stopped him short.

Lemme tell you about love, Reverend, I barked at him,

Holding my thumb and pointer finger so close

You couldn’t squeeze a buffalo nickel between ‘em,

Love and hate live about this far apart,

And I’ve known many a good man,

Many a smart man for that matter,

Who couldn’t tell which bunk which of them slept in.

Mebbe your God could do us all a favor,

And be a little clearer as to which was which.

He stopped for a second, then went back into his spiel

(He was no more interested in listening to me

Than he was about the price of tea in China),

And he talked about Heaven as a beautiful, pastoral place,

All fields and lambs and sunshine,

And at that point I absolutely crowed with laughin’.

Livin offa the fat of the land, hey, Preacher?

He was taken aback for just a moment,

But he allowed that maybe it was at that.

Well, Reverend, I all but snorted,

That’s all well and good for those

What want and deserve all that,

But as for myself,

My dids and didn’ts are written in the ledger book,

And I have seen

All I care to of farms and farming to last me

Any number of lifetimes.




(AUTHOR’S NOTE: This was cobbled together for the Thursday challenge at Imaginary Garden with Real Toads. The challenge involved writing something from the point of view of a character from literature. As I mentioned over there, I have gone to that well more than anyone has a right to, but this came to mind in connection with a Canadian Broadcasting Company story I stumbled across the other day in connection with the execution of a low-IQ prisoner in Texas. Apparently, the Texas Department of Justice actually uses the character of Lennie Small from Of Mice and Men as part of their methodology to determine whether a convict is mentally competent, and thus eligible or not to receive the death penalty. Now, it is neither my intention nor my desire to enter a debate pro or con in regard to capital punishment, but I will say this—Using a fictional character as part of the process which decides who lives and who dies is some Texas-sized jackassery.)



9 thoughts on “George Milton, One Final Night At San Quentin

  1. I had heard that a low-I.Q. man was recently executed in Texas, but I had no idea that the character Lennie Small was used as part of the basis for determining who should live and who should die in that state. Actually, I have to wonder if they’re even aware that he is a fictional character.
    The first two lines of this poem had me. You are right there with him, ready to hear the rest of his tale. Nicely done, as always.

  2. Great voice in this story, I could almost believe you were there.
    I’m seldom shocked about what they do in Texas (my Texas friends notwithstanding), but using a Steinbeck character (much as I love Steinbeck) to determine a person’s competence is ludicrous. Surely they don’t…they can’t be that…well, perhaps they can, but I couldn’t find the CBC story you mentioned, so I might never know.

  3. Oh, golly, you want to just kill me with this one. The thought of George on death row for Lennie’s death…
    You have captured his disillusionment so accurately, his mirthless laugh over the notion of Heaven being yet another unfulfilled dream. This has more than lived up to my expectations for the prompt. Thank you for participating.

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