You slay me 

An interview with noted political consultant Mr. Grim Reaper

The Honorable Grim Reaper is a good ol' boy who loves to vacation in Georgia. He speaks with a deep-fried Southern accent and sports the "real" state flag in the rear window of his pick-up. He shops for his quaint attire at the Mall of Georgia -- this state being tops for finding stylish hooded robes -- and allows that "you can't beat the south part of the state if you're looking for a new scythe."

There were some nasty rumors that he was a Gator and not a Bulldog. "It's not a conflict," he told me. "I have solid execution teams in both states. My Florida boys -- and especially my Texas team -- have been putting points on the board. But I have great faith Georgia will catch up."

Reap, as his political pals call him, blew into the state last Thursday, the guest of Ronald Keith Spivey. The two were seen leaving this temporal realm at 7:34 p.m., Reaper having presided over the insertion of tubes in Spivey's arms and the subsequent injection of poison. The late Mr. Spivey was a Columbus cop killer who, like many do when they see Eternity careening down the tracks toward them, had found religion.

Which, of course, is more than you can say for many of Reaper's political cronies.

Despite being popular among Georgia's rich and powerful leaders, not many plain folk ever get to meet Reaper -- and talk about it later. However, intrepid journalist that I am, I was able to briefly corner him during his recent visit.

Creative Loafing: Who's the most interesting public official you've met?

GR: That would have to be Pontius Pilate. I held the bowl and handed him a towel as he washed his hands. He reminds me a lot of that Georgia guy who fancies himself a king.

How's that?

The "don't blame me, I'm just doing what the people want" attitude. That's all I need to be a smashing success. Still, I did have some problems after Pilate's time.

Oh?

Yeah, remember that Fellow, the one with the crown of thorns?

Of course.

Well, He was a lot like many of my clients here in Georgia.

How's that?

He was poor and from a despised minority. Also a rabble-rouser. I did some of my most elegant work with him. They just don't do executions like the Romans did any longer. Unfortunately, that particular Person caused me a lot of grief.

Could you elaborate?

His followers wouldn't kill anyone for 300 or 400 years. Said it was a sin. I had to really work hard to befuddle bishops out of that belief. Lucky I still had plenty of pagans around to keep me busy.

I see. How did the, uh, party with Mr. Spivey go?

Well, I've got to be honest. It's not much fun when they go out with so much grace. I like it when they scream in fear, crap in their pants and curse their jailers. Takes the fun out of things when they're so downright forgiving. Mr. Spivey disappointed me when he said he was leaving without "any bitterness, any hatred, any anger." Then he scared the holy bejesus out of me.

How's that?

He had the audacity to say, "I don't believe Jesus would do this."

What's so scary about that?

He's right, that's what. And if that truth leaked out, I'd have to wait a lot longer for many of my customers. And this lethal injection business ...

Isn't that an improvement?

Improvement, hell. It's boooorrrrrrring. Oh, sure, people blame me for putting the idea of lethal injection into the heads of Nazi death camp doctors. But I was just goofing around. I never thought it would catch on.

What's the problem with lethal injection?

You've got to remember that I'm in show biz. Now, I can tell you -- as only I can tell you -- that Mr. Spivey and his predecessors suffer. They may look like they're just dozing off, but many of them are paralyzed, terrified and in agony. Lethal injection makes it easier on the fans in the stands, but not on the star on the gurney.

I didn't realize that.

The pols don't want you to. I'm the only one who really knows what's going on. Sure, it's true that I have a little fun because the guards -- especially those in Georgia -- are so wonderfully incompetent that they damn near butcher their victims trying to insert needles. Hell, they have to rush to get the chemicals flowing before the guys bleed to death. But, again, they don't let you see that. There's no drama for the public. Hardly worth my time any longer. This business has been going downhill since they ended public hangings and took apart the guillotine.

Would you like to revive the electric chair?

Definitely. It was one of my most infernal inventions. The smell of crackling flesh. The incinerated heads. The twitching. The groans. The repeated jolts to get them real dead. I told The Boss he should have held off sending His Son here for a few more centuries so that all of you could now be wearing little gold Old Sparkys around your neck. But you know how The Boss is. When He says something, He means it. Disobey Him, and He'll push the "smite" button.

You mean He was really serious when He chiseled on those tablets, "Thou shalt not kill"?

Darn tootin'. Of course, I have special dispensation.

No doubt. There's something I don't understand.

Shoot.

Well, all those folks down at the Capitol ...

Which ones?

The ones with lobbyists' cash falling out of their pockets.

Right, good friends.

They all say they believe in Him, right?

Goes with the turf. No commie atheists in the political foxholes of Georgia.

Then why do they disobey Him?

C'mon. They told me you were a smart cookie. You can't figure that out?

Because it helps prevent crime and murder?

[Reap pushes back his hood and slaps his forehead.] I'm going to whack you with this scythe if you don't wise up. Study after study shows that in every state with the death penalty, the murder rate is likely to be higher, much higher, than those without capital punishment. Try again.

Well, because it provides "closure" and comfort for victims' families?

Bzzzzzz. Wrong again. It prolongs the suffering of victims' families, often tears them apart. You won't find any unanimity among the survivors.

OK, then our frugal public servants are looking out for the public's money and it's cheaper to kill 'em than keep 'em in jail for life.

What a bonehead. It costs much more to execute. Millions more. They could fill a lot of potholes if they just locked up the killers.

Ummmm. I got it. Justice.

You're not even warm. You know how many innocent people have been freed from Death Row since 1973?

Uh.

I'll tell you -- it's 99. They'll probably spring the 100th one in Florida any day now.

Then that means that we've ...

Killed some innocent ones? Absolutely. Probably dozens. But from my perspective, once they assume room temperature, my job is done.

Is it because the public overwhelmingly demands capital punishment?

That's largely a myth. Support for slaughter has shrunk to 63 percent nationally, 60 percent in Georgia. And, if you ask an honest question -- would people support capital punishment if the alternative were life with absolutely no chance of parole? -- half the people, often more, say stop the killing.

I'm stumped.

You say you're stupid?

Stumped.

You can't figure out why politicians want to kill people?

Tell me, oh please tell me.

You asked for it. The answer is shocking. It's banal. It's really horrible.

TELL ME!

Votes.

I should have guessed.

Gotta run. See you in, oh, say, 25 years.

Make that 35.

Senior Editor John Sugg, who also has interviewed the devilish "Man of Wealth and Taste," Santa Claus and the Purple People Eater (asking such incisive questions as: Are you purple and eat people, or do you devour only purple people?), can be reached at 404-614-1241.

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