The Last Suppers

By: Mandy Mikulencak

For Andy

The Last Suppers portrays characters and events at the fictitious Greenmount Penitentiary in Louisiana in the 1950s. All names and characters—including death row inmates—are a product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The physical descriptions of the penitentiary are fictitious including the death row cell block called the Waiting Room. Some details of prison life were drawn from real-world accounts of the Louisiana penal system. This work should not be considered an accurate historical representation of any single U.S. prison in the 1950s.

Greenmount Penitentiary

Inmate Number 6451

East Feliciana Parish, Louisiana

Crime: Murder/Robbery

Execution Date: September 7, 1951

Leroy tells them he doesn’t feel right. That his chest’s going to explode. They laugh.

“You gonna be dead in two hours anyway.” The two guards laugh some more. The larger one shoves him toward the table.

Leroy just wants to sit in his cell with his Bible, but that cook from the prison kitchen has brought over pot roast for his last supper. Says she talked with his mama and got the recipe. It smells like Sundays before church, when Leroy and his brothers would line up for inspection to prove they’d washed behind their ears and didn’t have holes in their shirts.

The roast would be in the oven, waiting on them after the preacher turned them loose. That smell got him through many a sermon.

“I hope you like it,” the lady says, placing a metal tray in front of him.

The thick slabs of roast and hunks of potato look so familiar his eyes water from the memories. He doesn’t want the guards or the lady to see, so he bows his head low and pretends to say grace.

The smell is right, but the tray is all wrong. What day is it anyway? He wants one of those blue-rimmed plates his granny gave his parents for their wedding, the ones brought out only on Sunday with a warning not to dare drop one.

“You gonna watch me eat?” he asks the lady.

One of the guards hits the back of Leroy’s head with his fist. “Watch your manners, boy.”

“He didn’t mean any offense.” She looks at Leroy. “I’m sorry to linger. I hope I did your mama’s recipe justice.”

“Eat, boy!” Another fist connects with his ear.

“Please don’t hit him,” she says, and turns to leave.

Leroy hacks at the meat with the edge of his spoon and then stuffs a large chunk in his mouth. The heat’s gone out of it, but it’s tender like his mama’s. He chews and chews, but the meat seems to grow, filling his cheeks and cutting off his breath. Leroy’s chest pounds faster now, like when his brothers would hold him under the creek till he was certain he’d drown.

Even though he can’t swallow, he stuffs in a piece of potato. Then another. Choking would be a mercy, he thinks. The electric chair sits in the next room. Why would they make him eat so close to where they plan to kill him?

The cook is smaller than his little niece, but dressed like a grown-up. She waves as she exits the room. Like she’s gonna see him again one day, walking down the street. He nods his thanks for the food that’s choking him.

In his mind, his granny is scolding him for having too much food in his mouth. He sees her, still in her Sunday hat and dress, white gloves clutched in one hand. His lips stay pressed together because chewing with your mouth open is impolite, she taught him.

He slaps at the table with both hands, waiting, waiting for his lungs to give up. The guard hits him square in the back and the mass of food in his mouth is ejected onto the tray.

“Worthless piece of shit,” the guard says. “Can’t even be thankful for a goddamn meal.”

Tears cut shiny lines down his cheeks as the guard shoves his face into the now-cold food.

Chapter 1

Ginny crawled beneath Roscoe’s threadbare wool blanket, not caring that the fibers scratched at her bare skin. She’d come to lay with him, as she typically did after the weekday workers returned home or to their barracks and the weekend guards took their posts. The musky scent of Old Spice clung to his pillow. She pressed her face deep into the fabric, breathing in the memories of him that lingered there.

Tonight, he was in the bath, which was also typical right before their visits. He’d once said that the stench of desperation and violence clung to him at the end of the day and he feared it’d rub off on her. Ginny had reminded him that she, too, worked at the prison. To which he shook his head and replied, “The kitchen don’t count, Ginny. The kitchen don’t goddamn count.”

She let Roscoe believe the lie because he needed to think she was immune to the savagery in men’s thoughts and actions. But savages existed on both sides of the metal bars, a truth everyone at the prison understood.

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