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Frank's Last Stand

José Muñoz

José Muñoz is the author of the novel, To See It Through (Floricanto, 2020). His latest work, La Lady Fund is currently on submission. His short stories have been published at and at Acentos Review. He grew up in the small agricultural town of Lamont, California, where his creativity was born and nurtured. He enjoys writing about people who are underrepresented because everyone has a story to tell.

October 27, 2010, Monday 6:09 PM

Frank Feliciano looked at the calendar on the wall. It was only three days before the big day. He sighed heavily and shook his head because there wasn’t a damn thing he could do to stop what was coming next. He looked through the grey bars as the sun shined through the mesh-covered windows. “Feliciano, ¿todo está bien?” said the voice from the other cell.

“Yeah, Mac. I’m aight. Just a lot of shit on my mind, you know how it is,” said Frank, as he paced in his cell. He was scheduled to die by electrocution early Thursday morning.

“Stay strong Frankie. Fuck these motherfuckers. Don’t show ‘em no fear, ‘cause those pigs enjoy that shit.”

Frank bellowed out a hearty laugh because he loved hearing Michael McClain’s ‘fuck the world’ attitude. “Thanks, Mac. You’re always here to give me a laugh. Thank you, bro.”

“I got jo back, my Chicano homie.”

October 28, 2010, Tuesday 1:34 PM

“Feliciano, your attorney is in the Conference Room,” said Gary Garnett, an eight-year prison guard veteran. “Quickly, quickly,” he shouted.

Frank assumed the position. He put his hands through the slot, and the guard cuffed his hands in the front. The guard turned the key and the door opened and Frank took two steps forward and stopped⸺he knew the drill. The prison guard put leg irons on Frank, then attached a chain around his waist. Finally, when the guard had connected the chain to his hands,  Frank shuffled his way to see his attorney. After twenty-two years on Death Row, he’d learned to adapt to the inconveniences of prison life. He walked into the room and sat down. “Hello, Carl.”

“Frank, we still haven’t heard back from the 4thCircuit Court of Appeals.” Carl Cohen opened his beat-up briefcase and took out a pack of cigarettes. He took two cigarettes out and placed one into Frank’s mouth. He then lit Frank’s cigarette then his own.

“Thanks, Carl.” Frank needed to move forward to take the cigarette into his hands. “Hey, this one feels different. I have this feeling that this could be it.” Frank hunched his shoulders.

“Frank, we still have a chance, stay positive. We need all the good vibes we can get.” Cohen smiled, as he tried to show confidence. Cohen looked at his yellow legal tablet, then he looked away from Frank. He glanced down at his cigarette, took a big drag, and exhaled, then he faced Frank. “In case we don’t hear from the 4th Circuit by tomorrow, there’s protocol that they have to follow, and I want you to know about it.” Cohen still looked uncomfortable, but he looked Frank in the eye.

Frank put his hands up as best he could, then said, “Yes, I know, they’ll come for me twenty-four hours before zero hour. I’ll be housed right next to the Death Chamber; that way, it’s a short walk.”

“And then,” Cohen was interrupted.

“Yes, I know, they’ll be cutting off my hair and then shaving a patch on my calf for those fucking pesky electrodes.” Frank smiled, but the thought scared him. It wasn’t dying that gave him anxiety, it was thinking about the final moments of life.

The rest of the meeting was Cohen telling him about all the organizations supporting his cause, his request for a new trial, things for Frank to cling to. But Frank had a feeling that he couldn’t shake—was this going to be the end of Frank Felipe Feliciano? Frank no longer cared if he lived or died. In his last two stays of execution, he had gotten word two weeks before his execution date, but this was the deepest the threat of death had gone. Frank was in an unfamiliar place⸺and it gave him anxiety.

October 29, 2010, Tuesday 9:41 PM

Frank sat in on his final farewell with his fellow death row inmates before being moved closer to the Death House. Frank was ready to make the move. Inmates across from him and to the sides  shouted encouragement as Frank verbally give his possessions to those next to him. The clock radio he was giving to McClain was originally owned by Dalton Drakos, which Frank inherited when Drakos was executed in 2008. It was a bittersweet moment because Frank knew this was probably the last time he’d see these fools. In his twenty-two years on Death Row, these people had become his closest family. Frank heard the guards coming down the hallway. Their chains clanking⸺they sounded like ghouls coming for their next victim.  Frank assumed the position. He put his hands through the slot where they were quickly handcuffed. He then stepped through the door and a chain was quickly looped around his waist and attached to the handcuffs. Another guard put leg irons on him and secured it to the waist chain, then collected Frank’s pillow and blanket and tucked it as best he could so Frank could hold the contents. “Don’t take no shit Frankie, fuck those motherfuckers,” shouted Paulie Pike from across from his cell. Frank looked at him and smiled.

“Best of luck Feliciano. Be strong my Chicano brother,” said Gary Goebbles, a member of the Aryan Nation. Frank turned to him and smiled.

Frank continued to shuffle moving as best he could, and soon he was out of the friendly corridor that he’d spent  his time in for the last 22 years. A new door was opened, and he entered another wing of the prison⸺one he never wanted to visit. Rumor had it that it was fifty steps to the Death House, from this cell block door to chamber entrance. He was placed in a well-lit cell; the whole area seemed to have extra light. The guard station reminded Frank of nurses’ stations in hospitals. His handcuffs, waist chain, and leg irons were removed, and he placed his pillow and olive-green wool blanket on the bed and sat down. Frank was  in uncharted waters, with no idea of what to expect now.

He lay down on the bed, head facing away from the light, but the bright lights still reflected off the white walls of the Death Cell. He put his arm over his face and rested the  crook of his elbow softly over his eyes. He thought of his life. He’d been raised Catholic, so it was easy to feel guilt for his crime. He was unique in that he knew he had to be punished, and that punishment would be his death. He’d be the first to admit he had no excuse for what he did. He went on a forty-eight-hour cocaine binge, that led him to where he was lying now. He killed an innocent man because he needed money for his drug habit. Frank later learned in trial that his victim was working two jobs to help support his family. The devastation that Frank Feliciano caused his victim’s family, made Frank hate himself. No, he understood that he had to pay for his sins. He was probably the only one in prison who agreed that his death sentence would be the correct retribution for his ill-thought actions. The only thing to be decided was whether he was going to be a willing participant in his own death, or if he was going to fight like hell until the last moment. That was his last thought as he fell asleep.

October 30, 2010, Wednesday 1:01 PM

Frank’s lawyer had prepped him for this moment. Two prison guards came into his cell and explained the process of an execution by electrocution, which was why they came into his cell with hair clippers and a broom to sweep up his hair. “Feliciano, todo está bien?” Prison guard Samuel Simmons asked proudly, proud of the Spanish he’d picked up working at the prison. Frank smiled and nodded. “Hey, talk with me.” Simmons pointed to Frank and then himself. “You and me, there’s always been respect. What’s going on Frankie?”

Frank sighed deeply and began. “The whole process of getting fried, is it painful?” He was embarrassed and looked down.

“Frankie, it’s quick. It’s like a stun gun for cows. You won’t even feel it. I like you Frankie, and I wouldn’t bullshit you on something so serious.” A few minutes later Frank was completely bald, then they rolled up his right pant leg and shaved the hair off of a three-by-three-inch area where the electrode would be placed. There wasn’t a more sobering moment than realizing you’ve had the last haircut⸺of your life. Frank stopped and acknowledged the finality of it. No, he wasn’t feeling a last-minute stay of execution was coming his way. “Frank, trust me, once you’re in the chair, your job is done. You just sit and wait. You’ll get a bolt that you’ll never even feel.” Simmons patted Frank’s shoulder three times. “The hardest part is walking into the Chamber, but after that, it’s all cake.”

Frank cleared his throat, then dejectedly said, “I hear it’s pretty gory, the smell of skin being cooked, and eyeballs coming out of their sockets…”

“Hey, don’t worry about any of that shit, you won’t even be here anymore. You just focus on being in a good frame of mind, and it’ll be over quick. Remember, you won’t even feel it.” After Frank’s hair was swept up, Simmons shook Frank’s hand and then stepped out of the cell with the other guard.

October 30, 2010, Wednesday 9:45 PM

Frank paced around his cell, absentmindedly feeling for any stubble on his bald head⸻there was none. His last meal had been a surprisingly delicious pizza combination that he washed down with a two-liter bottle of Pepsi. With roughly two hours and fifteen minutes left in life, the only thing on his mind was how he’d leave this world. Would he be compliant in his own death, or would he fight until the very end, and make the State earn their money?

He vacillated between fighting to the death or helping the State to put him down. Part of him wanted to fight so the guards could earn their keep, but he knew it was only a futile attempt to escape death. Nobody had ever skirted death by fighting to escape their appointment with execution. The guards would just hog tie the condemned, then carry them to the chamber to be strapped in. The face of the condemned would appear beet red to the execution witnesses, and worse yet, the prisoner would not be in the best frame of mind to begin the next chapter in their eternal life.

Frank looked up at the clock that now read ten thirty. It was getting close now, and Frankie’s mood turned dark. The dread that Frank felt about his execution had finally materialized. This was it, there would be no Stay of Execution for him; he had less than two hours left to live. Frank sat down on the bunk and pondered his options.

He was thankful for having had the chance to talk to Simmons about the execution process. Even as a youngster, when he wasn’t stealing or scheming new ways to make easy money, he was an avid reader. One of the things he used to fixate on was the execution methods used in the United States. The irony of Frank being in this situation was not lost on him, perhaps he’d been obsessed with executions as a boy to prepare him for what he was facing now. He gave it some thought, but he didn’t know for sure. Frank got up from the bunk and peered as far as he could on the left side of the cell. He couldn’t see much, but if he craned his neck, he could see the entrance to the Death Chamber. Seeing that brought him back to the last problem of his life.

He'd already gone over the possible scenarios of resisting. He knew it would be useless to fight the inevitable, but that didn’t stop Frank from doing the mental work in his head. He was having a hard time voluntarily walking to his own death, which he saw as giving up, or throwing in the towel and saying, “Fuck it, go ahead and kill me; I don’t give a fuck.” Frank sighed deeply, still stuck in a mental struggle of what he would do in the end.

It was now eleven eighteen. Frank looked out from the cell and saw activity stirring around the Death House. Guards were going into the room, while others exited. It was becoming crystal clear to Frank that his time on earth was getting short. Those guards walking in were preparing straps, electrodes, and the black mask that kept witnesses from seeing the bloody horrors of this method of death. Execution witnesses would be spared the sight of eyeballs dislodging from eye sockets, as eyeballs dangled by tendons, as the current of electricity ran through the prisoner’s body; they’d be spared the blood and gore from this event. Frank shook his head, trying to get the image out of his mind. He remembered what Guard Simmons told him. “The hardest thing will be that walk. After you’re seated, your work is done. You’ll have done the hardest part. The jolt that will kill you, Frankie, you’ll never even feel it, so don’t fear it. You just make your peace with God, and you go out the way you want to go.”

Frank was in deep thought and still didn’t know how he’d react when the warden read his Death Sentence to him. Frank felt the stress and tried to soothe away the wrinkles on his farrowed forehead. He tried to control his breathing so his face would not feel so flush, but he felt his heart pulsing from both sides of his neck. He sat down on the bunk and cupped his face in his hands and bent forward. He tried to relax, and after about ten minutes of concentration, he could still feel his heartbeat from his neck, but less pronounced now, and the redness of his face had diminished.

He looked up, and the clock read eleven forty-two. “Shit,” he said. The time spent trying to make himself feel better was leaking in on the time he had left on earth. Still, he pondered his options. Would he go to his death in peace, or would he make the guards earn their money? He knew the warden and guards would be approaching soon.

October 30, 2010, Wednesday 11:51 PM

The warden approached the Death Cell carrying Frank’s execution warrant. Six prison guards followed behind him. One guard carried extra chains⸺should they be needed. Warden Wilber Watson read the warrant: “Francisco Felipe Feliciano, you have been ordered to be put to death by electrocution on October 31, 2010, at 12:10 AM.” The Warden looked at Frank to see if he understood. Frank acknowledged him with a nod of the head. The Death Cell opened, and Frank took a step back as the guards  entered the cell.

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