A Novel Excerptby Joyce Carol Oates
That the one—Dunphy?
Her father’s the one killed those men—
—on Death Row now—
Oh man she is homely! Face like a bulldog.
The execution scheduled for April 16, 2002, had been rescheduled for October 29, 2002.
And there was a “strong probability” that the execution would be rescheduled again, to give the appeals team the opportunity to argue their case to the court.
Each night Dawn x-ed out another day on the calendar she kept hidden in a bureau drawer in her bedroom. Each morning noting how many days to October 29 . . .
It will not really happen, Jesus will intervene.
We know this. We have faith.
Dawn’s mother, Edna Mae, would have been upset if she’d seen Dawn’s calendar, on which October 29 was marked with an ink-black cross.
Yet as long as there was an appeal pending, winding its (slow, circuitous) way to the justices of the Ohio State Court of Appeals, there was hope.
So long as Luther Dunphy was alive, there was hope.
Luther was incarcerated in the Chillicothe Correctional Institution in Chillicothe, Ohio. It was in Death Row he was incarcerated—the actual name of the unit was Death Row.
Dawn whispered the words aloud: “Death Row.” You might have thought that Death Row was a made-up name from TV or movies, and so it was a surprise to realize that it was an actual name of the unit in which their father was housed.
It was not so easy to visit Luther, for Chillicothe was a three-hour drive from Mad River Junction. Visits were difficult for other reasons as well. Edna Mae was often unwell, and once, when they’d made the trip, Luther Dunphy was himself unwell, suffering from some kind of flu that prevented him from seeing visitors. Another time, all of Chillicothe was in lockdown after the attempted stabbing of a prison guard.
“Your father knows that we are thinking of him and praying for him. Maybe that is enough for now,” Edna Mae told them, with a brave smile.