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A man’s last meal

By Meagan DionPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 8 min read
Photo by Gabriel on Unsplash

“Why’d you request it, Ray?” the Reverend inquired as he entered the cell.

Ray sat on the edge of his thin bare mattress, elbows resting on his knees, head in his hands.

“What’d ya’ mean?” he muttered from behind his fingers.

“Well, ya’ know, many convicts request a last meal to make a statement.” The reverend crouched against the wall across from him.

Ray angrily ran his hands over his face into his hair, and then held them out in the air with disgust.

“Are you for real Rev? Now you think it’s an admission of guilt? I thought you had my back.”

“I do. You know I do. I’ve already told you where I stand with your case, but why not refuse the meal Ray? You know everyone's watching to see what you’ll do.”

Distraught, Ray stood up and walked over to the cement brick wall. He stared at it as if it were a picture window displaying the majesty of the outside world. If only.

He dug at the dry skin on his fingers, looked down at his feet and lied “it’s just cake, Rev.”

The Reverend was right, it did have meaning, but it didn’t mean what he or the rest of the world thought it did. The press, the chanting mob outside the penitentiary, the people watching the news on their comfortable couches, his family— they all thought it was about his innocence, but it wasn’t.

It was about her. This whole thing was always about her.

Ray had been a mess all day because it was April 2nd. That night was much like the rest of Ray’s life; it wasn’t just raining, it was pouring. The night was also pitch black and he was driving alone. The ache had become too much. The monotony. The pain. The guilt.

He missed her so deeply and he couldn’t be here anymore.

He pulled onto the tracks. He swore the signal wasn’t flashing. He didn’t mean to go through with it, he just wanted to satiate the temptation. So he parked— only momentarily. What could it hurt to just sit there? He turned off his car. Overcome with the crushing weight of missing his mother he crumpled on the steering wheel and wailed.

He didn’t hear the steady rhythm of it’s approaching. If it wasn’t for the horn, he would have died then. The blaring sound broke over the rushing rain and his heavy sobs. He bolted upright and stared wide eyed at the approaching head light.

Panicked, he tried to turn the key. The engine wouldn’t start. He fumbled for the buckle, clumsily he finally released it. The train was so close. He swung open the door, fell to the ground and rolled out of the way with only seconds to spare. He thought he was safe but it was the events that followed that would seal his death.

“Mr. Raymond Vogel didn’t park his car on those train tracks the night of April 2nd,” Ray winced at the date, “out of malice, or in an attempt to harm anyone other than himself,” his attorney explained to the jury. “Had the signal not been neglected, none of us would be in this courtroom today.” Ray squeezed his eyes tightly and tried to forget the horrible scene of the train colliding with his car. His attempts were never successful.

He could hear the screeching metal.

See the sparks.

Replay the furious train tumbling off the tracks.

He heard the screams.

But the worst was the teddy bear.

Every time he closed his eyes, he saw it laying in the dirt, beige fur scorched, alone.

“It’s devastating, it is! Mr. Vogel would agree. Mr. Vogel would say that those 152 lives should be here today. It was an unfortunate accident.”

Tears rolled down Ray’s cheek. The local news would use this moment to demonize him, claiming it was all an act.

“Please consider these facts as you make your decision today. Thank you.”

Ray’s attorney motioned a thanks to the jury and the judge and then confidently strolled to his chair. Ray liked his confidence. He found comfort in his confidence. But it wasn’t his attorney he was worried about.

Blaise Sutherland, prosecutor, approached the bench. He was dangerous and charming like a scorpion in a suit. His black, slicked back hair held perfectly in place. His red tie was pressed and neat, accentuating even the tie’s sharp features. To Ray, Mr. Sutherland was the embodiment of a dagger.

“Mr. Vogel,” he began. His head was tilted slightly, a small curve of a smile creeped up to the corner of his mouth and his eyes widened so as to more accurately pierce Ray’s soul and dissect the truth. “Did you see any signals the night you parked on the tracks?”

Ray gathered himself and tried to strongly reply “no sir.”

Sutherland pretended to listen intently with his index finger placed on his lips. “Interesting, interesting… yes, hmm. Then why is it Mr. Vogel,” he turned and acknowledged the crowd in the courtroom, eyebrows raised in supposed shock, “that in my hands I hold the logbook from the engineer of said train?” He turned back to Ray, “which proves that he did in fact activate the very signal you just happened to not see?”

Ray sat in the cherry stained wood box shriveled in fear, “I don’t know… I was sure…” he weakly muttered.

“You were sure there was no signal? Were you? How can we take the word of a mentally unstable person? I have the proof right here.”

Mentally unstable? That was a far cry from what Ray Vogel was. Now he was angry. “I’m not mentally unstable!” Ray blurted out.

“Order, Mr. Vogel” warned the judge.

Sutherland grinned. He looked up at Ray like a lion looking at an injured gazelle. He knew what the last blow would be.

“Really? You’re not struggling with any mental illness Mr. Vogel?”

Ray was trapped. Either he was too distraught to issue a reliable account or he wasn’t in a state of mind to attempt suicide, making his being on the tracks all the more suspicious.

“Well…” he paused to think but was interrupted by Sutherland.

“Mr. Vogel, it’s simple, did you or did you not intend to kill yourself that night?”

The truth was he didn’t. Ray looked down at his cuffed hands and thought “those are going to be there the rest of my life.”

His countenance fell. “I wasn’t going to go through with it…” he held out his chained hands in a plea for the room to understand, but the crowd erupted in gasps and murmurs.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, Mr. Vogel parked his car on a train track, with no intention of killing himself, contrary to what the defense claims! In addition, the accused would like you to believe that he didn’t see the signal, but we have documentation that confirms it was initiated by the engineer. What other conclusion is there? This was no accident. All those lives, for what? 152 lives are crying out for justice right now. Please take that into account when you come to a verdict. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you.”

The jury delivered their verdict. Ray was going to die.

It was the day before his execution. He stood in the middle of his cell thinking about his cake.

His mother was always his favorite. She was warm but sassy and had a quick wit. She loved chocolate. He often thought about her 34th birthday, he was four. She had decided to make herself a cake. It was a luscious, rich chocolate cake with chocolate frosting oozing down the sides.

“Mama, what’s that?” little Ray asked from below the counter top. His mama smiled at his little face and said “oh, that’s my favorite, it’s called Death by chocolate cake, isn’t it decadent?”

“What does decadent mean, mama?”

“Well that’s sort of funny, love. That word has two meanings; as an adjective it’s talking about something that was once good but has become bad, but as a noun it means something that is self indulgent or luxurious. Of course in this case I mean the last one.”

The phone rang and his mama rushed to answer it in the other room. Little Ray was left alone with the devilish cake. It’s drips of frosting called to him. He licked his lips and looked around for something to stand on.

Thanks to the black plastic milk crate, little Ray climbed up and sunk his hand into the spongiest, most satisfying cake of his life. He sat on the floor with his stolen prize and devoured the whole thing.

His mother came back into the room to find both her birthday treat and her sweet son a total wreck. Most mothers would get angry, but she just set her hand on her hip, sighed, and said “decadent isn’t it?” Then she called a sitter and went to the store to buy more ingredients.

Her birthday was April 2nd, the last day he saw her, the day she was killed by a drunk driver.

Hours before the execution the cake came. The chef placed it before Ray in his cell.

“They wouldn’t let me light the candle. No flames, ya’ know? What’s the candle for anyway buddy?”

“It’s April 2nd,” Ray replied solemnly while staring at the wall.

“Looks good.”

“It’s decadent.”

After the chef left, Ray sat and devoured the cake with his eyes, tears streaming down his face. Those were the last moments of Ray Vogel.

For years to come people would talk about what the jailers saw as they walked him out of his cell for good. In the middle of the room, on an orange plastic tray, sat a gorgeous Death By Chocolate cake, complete with a candle—untouched.

Short Story

About the Creator

Meagan Dion

My life is a little crazy. Four kids, homeschool, hotel clerk, write, create and coffee. Coffee is a verb. Do you coffee? I aspire to blow glass and finish / publish my novel. I would like to have an impact. Also, coffee.

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  2. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

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Comments (2)

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  • Rick Henry Christopher ☄️🔥2 months ago

    What a bittersweet story. Very well written!!!

  • Excellent and hope that is one more read for you

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