“It is a beautiful night, Lord, upon which to die…” – an excerpt from Jungle Justice by Jim Tully

Excerpt from Jungle Justice by Jim Tully. To be included in the first published collection (heretofore untitled) of short stories and essays by Jim Tully, released by Underworld Amusements early 2011. The scene is a hobo camp, or “jungle”, and the ‘bos have seized a railroad security guard (known as a “bull”) to try him by kangaroo court and execute him. One of the gathered gives a prayer:

“It is a beautiful night, Lord, upon which to die. The stars and the moon and the beautiful river shall sing his threnody. And Lord, if one of us should be shuffled off the gallows to dance with broken arches before Thy throne, it would not be amid such beauty. Rather would the knot be tied behind our left ears, Lord, and as we fell through the trap, dear Lord, the knot would jerk our heads forward and break our immortal necks, dear Lord. We would hang like a cracked scarecrow, All-merciful Lord, while a doctor listened to our hearts pounding their way on the road to Your blessed arms, dear Lord.

“But, Blessed Lord, we are not as those men who do such deeds. We profess no creed, dear Lord. We are but humble servants in Thy name. Ours is a gentler method, Lord. It comes suddenly, Lord. The soul of the departed flies suddenly before You from a hole which a bullet makes. It is more lenient, Lord. There is dignity in death by a bullet. . .”

“Shut up!” snapped Dugan. “Do you think you’re the only one He’s got to listen to?”

Frisco Eddie resumed: “For they who taketh up the Smith and Wesson must die by a Colt, for so it is written, ever and anon, before dinner and after, from now on, Amen.”