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He Couldn’t Remember A Single Prayer

Angelo tugged at his white collar – new and stiff. The Captain wiped his mouth with a white cotton napkin, dabbed the crease of his lips, and then grinned at him. He was supposed to offer solace, listen to the Captain’s confession, but instead, he stood in silence, watching him savor his last meal.

The guard, whose name he’d forgotten, told the Captain the time had arrived. He was bad with names – a priest – something his mother couldn’t understand.

He followed close behind focusing on the drab cinderblock walls, the lines, the cracks, and chipped paint. Men had walked this walk since before he was born, priests had counseled, consoled, taken confession. He cleared his throat, wanting to speak, wanting to perform his duty, but words would not come.

“Father, what did you have for lunch this afternoon?” asked the Captain as he walked one step ahead.

“Ah,” he couldn’t remember – his mind empty.

“Hank, what about you?” the Captain asked the guard, but continued before Hank could respond, “Bananas, Lemon Meringue pie – almost better than – well you know, doncha Hank. The young Father here might not know, but we do.”

He followed the guard and the Captain into the small white room. He’d seen movies, and this didn’t look any different. The tick of the clock – quite noticeable.

The guard told the Captain to lie on the cross-shaped table.

“Lobster. Ever eaten Maine lobster?” the Captain said.

The guard took the Captain’s right arm and stretched it out.

Three women, a hunched over man, and two other men sat in the viewing room. Their faces solemn yet eager. The clock.

“What about maple syrup straight from the tree?” the Captain asked.

The guard took the Captain’s left arm and strapped it to the table.


The guard tightened the leather bindings over the prisoner’s right leg.

“Oranges and warm pineapple. My, my, always did love food.”

He looked back and forth between the Captain and the viewing room. The guard quietly tightened another restraint.

“Kung Pow Chicken.”

He looked at the clock.

The guard announced he was inserting the needle into the Captain’s arm.

“Oysters, love them slippery suckers.”

The clock, the viewing room, the Captain, the guard, the clock. More talk about food – what did he have for lunch? The guard leaned down close to the Captain’s ear and suggested that this would be the time if he had anything to say.

“Frickin’ Kentucky Fried Chicken.”

The needle, the clock, the Captain, the viewing room, the guard, the pumps. The pumps. The pumps hung from the wall – just like in the movies, connected to tubes, connected to plastic lines, connected to the needle in the Captain’s arm. Do it. Do it already, the clock, the needle.

“Tuna fish, mmmm mmmm.”

The pumps, the clock, the Captain, the guard, the clock. The second hand rounding the six.

“Pumpkin pie.”

The pump, the clock, the second hand at the nine, the pump, the Captain, the viewing room, the guard, the pump. Do it, do it. Christ do it, please just do it. The viewing room, the guard, the pump. The second hand on the eleven. Oh God. The viewing room. The Captain. The guard. The pump. The clock.

“Warm milk.”

An alarm. The swoosh of the pump. His trembling legs, shaking hands. The viewing room. The pump. The motionless guard. The Captain – a blossoming smile. Looking away, Angelo grabbed at his stiff white collar. The words, “Bologna and cheese,” slipped from his tongue.


Anne Willkomm earned her MFA from Rosemont College. Herwork has appeared in The Medulla Review, Sibyl Magazine, Memoirs of Meanness, and on She was twice named a semi-finalist in the William Faulkner Creative Writing Competition. She is the Program Advisor to the Rosemont College Publishing Program and teaches at Philadelphia University.


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