#1 George Washington Shute

by Jeff Stayton

He asks if I have any last words. The queer boy in the widow’s dress. He already hung the rest of us. All my male relations. Why he’s saved me for last, I don’t rightly know. Maybe cause he thinks I’m the leader, like him.

I wear a sign round my neck that declares: “Death to All Bushwhackers.” I reckon I won’t git proper buried. I reckon my soul will hang in the tree with me for eternity. But at least I’ll die knowing that the Union is preserved. At least I’ll die with my own sons and nephews.

When he strung up my boy, James, two hulking widows forced me to watch. The boy in widow’s weeds slapped the horse and James Madison dropped down. He kicked and he kicked for life. And I was forced to watch him die. After that first sight, the rest was easy. I watched Thomas, Andrew, Monroe and Knox all drop the same way.

Then he has the nerve to ask me do I have any last words.

I look him in the eye and tell him, “No.”


Darrelyn Saloom said...

Wow! This is a powerful piece. Very grit-lit. I felt like I was there. And every word is pitch perfect. Love it.

Jonathan Riley said...

Nice way to kick of the competition. "I reckon my soul will hang in the tree with me for eternity." This line really captures the mood of the piece. Well done.

Jeffrey Stayton said...

Thanks, Darrelyn & Johnathan. My novel, This Side of the River, will launch this February. Here is a link to an early review: http://bookriot.com/2014/10/23/books-about-women-fighting-in-civil-war/