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Twelve Minutes To Live

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I had almost forgotten what my dad had wanted me to do for him when I had time. This was in 2002 a few months before his death which incidentally was 19 years ago today (November 7, 2021). Imagine my surprise when I looked at the calendar this morning where I had noted months earlier the anniversary of his death; 19 years ago I wrote. I had spent a good part of the night before reading dad’s letters, short stories and poems, but didn’t realize tomorrow would be November 7thalthough I knew it would be soon, and I wanted to submit one of dad’s short stories to the paper after reading last week in the Hernando Sun Newspaper an inspiring story by Community Reporter columnist Sarah Nachin titled “A Voice from the Past.” I loved her story. It was about her father and his aspiration to be a writer, and an original account he had written while in the Army during World War ll. It was then I knew I had to find those old stories and poems my dad penned in his teens and twenties, and if nothing else re-read them.

Picture of my dad early 20’s.
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Dad’s wish was for me to take his writings and edit them. “Maybe you can finish some of them or rewrite them good enough to sell.” I said I would be glad to, but as time has its way with all of us, I was too busy to take his wish to heart. Instead I boxed up those beautiful treasures for years, and stored them in my office closet. Last night I stayed until midnight sitting on the cold, hard floor surrounded by the great works of my talented father, who also aspired to be a published fiction writer.

In a sense, I feel like Natalie Cole must have felt when she got to sing a duet, through the miracles of technology, with her long-deceased father Nat King Cole who recorded his old hit song four years before his death in 1965. So to speak, he and Natalie recorded it again in 1991. The song Unforgettable truly describes the pair’s stirring albeit eerie musical masterpiece perfectly. I always cry when I hear it.

Here are two of Don White’s pieces of history from 1939 when he was 19 years old. Very little editing was necessary.

Autumn
Poem By: Don White
1939
The wind is not the summer’s breeze,
but now is brisk and chill,
the brown and orange, and amber leaves
are blanketing the hill.
The apples red are in the bin,
and coal is piled below,
and all is ready, out and in,
is ready for the snow.
And lovers take their last long walk,
through woods where they have strolled,
breathe deep of autumn’s fragrant air,
and talk of coming cold.
The farmer takes his pumpkins,
to enter in the fair,
And baseball takes its final bow,
for football fills the air.
Rabbit season now is here,
we’ve three. (My father shot ‘em).
Thanksgiving Day will soon be here,
‘cause this my friend is autumn!

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Twelve Minutes To Live
Short Story By Don White
The prisoner sat in his cell. He had had plenty of time to think lately while sitting in a cell six by eleven. Well, he wouldn’t have to think much longer, because he had exactly twelve minutes to live. Twelve minutes to live, actually only ten now. God how time flies! If only I could slow down that big electric clock at the end of the corridor he thought.
He looked down at his slit pant legs and rubbed his shaved head and remembered the zoot suit he had worn not too long ago: all wool, and long too. Gosh, he’d been proud of his first long pants. And, he had only been 13 years old. How the other boys envied him, and how they all wanted him to be in their gang, and to be their chief too. Boy was his mother sore when she caught them on the back fence! And, did his dad ever give him a good spanking!
Good old dad and mom. This was worse on them than on me, they had to face the world knowing that their only son was a murderer: a fellow who had killed another man, a fellow who had taken a life all because he lost his temper. His temper! Temper, that’s a strange word. If only there had been no such thing. If only——but what’s the use? It’s almost over now-in a minute, God! But, it’s only a minute! Only one more minute, sixty seconds, and they will be after me, after me, to take my life.
A faint squeak and a beam of light the chaplain, and two guards slowly pacing down the corridor. Their footsteps sounded hollow, resounding, echoing through the cell block. “Good evening son.” My, what a soothing voice the reverend had. Just like Mom’s when she used to tuck me in at night. Almost like music or tinkling bells. “Care for a cigarette?” The reverend asked politely.
“No thanks, father.” We were out of the cell now. The cell, glad to be out of there, had been in almost a year, while they fought for a new trial, new evidence, reprieves, stays of execution all for nothing.
“Guilty,” said the jury.
Now, I was to walk the last mile. The reverend was talking. “Our Father,” golly how strange these words sounded, for once I was realizing what they meant.
“Who art in heaven,” my brain was clear now. I remember how I used to say that same prayer, long ago. Just a habit, said it so often it didn’t seem important, just something to say before going to sleep.
“Hallowed it be thy name,” seemed like I was hearing it for the first time. But, it really was the last time.
“Thy kingdom come,” I was now in the chair, electrodes strapped to my legs.
“Thy will be done,” now my hands are fastened too.
“On earth as it is in heaven,” now the black cloth is over my face.
“For thine is the kingdom,” God, these fellows are so businesslike, guess it comes with practice.
“The power and the glory,” wonder what they are waiting for?
“Forever and ever,” maybe the chair is out of —–
“Amen.”

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