the wax paper

The Second to Last Supper

Two hamburgers with Swiss cheese, three fries with mayo, three cherry cokes, two Dr. Peppers, two cream sodas and fresh squeezed orange juice. That’s it. That’s all I asked for and I don't really think that's a lot to ask for, considering why I was asking. At first, I wasn’t even going to ask him for orange juice, but then it occurred to me that this was my last chance. I didn’t want to be greedy but it seemed like the right time to go all in.

When the guy came in with the food and the drinks, I counted them to make sure they were all there. He had the cherry cokes, the Dr. Pepper, the cream sodas, the fries and hamburgers, but he didn't have the orange juice. And he asked me before what I'd wanted, he himself asked me, and he said it could be anything within reason. Well in Florida, within reason sure as hell includes orange juice. And I’m not even making that up. The man, Shane or whatever his name is, he told me that fresh squeezed orange juice was sure as hell within reason in the goddamned state of Florida. He said that.

So, when he came in with all that food and drink, every last thing I’d asked for down to the mayo, I knew something was wrong. He didn't even look me in my eyes like he'd been doing earlier in the day. You see we’d spent the whole day together me and Shane, from the time I got there, all the way leading up to this meal, except for the time he was supposed to be out getting it. He showed me where I could shower, he let me put on my free world clothes, and the whole time he'd been chatting me up like it was the most normal thing in the world to be doing. I went right along with it because it felt pretty good to be sitting there making a friend.

I guess when he came in acting all distant and stuff, it just didn't feel very friendly like before. Why was he there acting all scared, like he couldn't just tell me the truth, that he hadn’t been able to find any fresh orange juice in the whole city of Tallahassee? He could’ve made something up. Like he could’ve said he’d tried going to a few places. He bought the hamburgers at Arby’s and everything, and I didn’t even care a thing about that, even though everyone knows that Arby’s is where you buy root beer floats. So yeah, I guess now that I’m thinking about it, it felt damned unpatriotic of him to be getting me my last dinner and forget the fresh squeezed orange juice. 

I’m not fancy or anything. I haven't spent my life sniffing fancy wines and eating weird cuts of meat that cost more than others.  I just like fresh orange juice because I grew up having it. My grandma and me, we used to go out in her backyard, it backed up to this manmade lake kind of thing, and we would pick the oranges fresh off her tree. She had this plastic piece that was real pointy, like a diamond, and if you smashed an orange half on top of it, it would spill its beautiful warm juices out into a cup, and we’d drink the warm juice right then and there. We’d even suck the juice right out if we wouldn’t wait. I liked doing that. Maybe Shane could have found some boxed orange juice, but fresh squeezed orange juice just tastes different than the stuff you buy at the store. For starters, there isn't such a thing as cold fresh orange juice in my book, cause if it's cold that means that you either have old oranges that have been sitting in a refrigerator, or you squeezed it long enough ago for it to have cooled. Fresh orange juice is warm, and I just thought that maybe today was the kind of day that might be good for a glass of that orange juice. 

I thought Shane knew too, and I could see that he felt guilty. It was like some big fat elephant in the room between us and neither of us was going to point it out.  We sat there real quiet for a long time while I ate and drank, but the whole time I was getting madder and madder because I remembered that it was my fucking democratic right to get that orange juice, and finally I told him that right to his face. I said, “Shane, you better get me the fuck some orange juice you ass wipe or I swear to God, the rest of this day isn't gonna be pretty.” He knew it too, because he tried to book it out of there fast.

He knew he’d done wrong. He looked like the kind of person who’d screwed something up like this before. How hard it is to get two hamburgers with Swiss cheese, fries with mayo, three cherry cokes, two Dr. Peppers, two cream sodas and one simple Florida glass of fresh squeezed orange juice? It’s not mathematics, and I wasn't asking for any Maine lobster. 

The thing is, getting that stuff, that’s literally his only job of the day. It's not his whole job, but that’s the main thing if you think about it. That’s like the only thing that could be at all good in his day. For him, that’s like the top of the roller coaster, and he just decided not to go all the way to the top. Well how you gonna ride the roller coaster down the other side if you don’t get all the way to the top, Shane? I’ll tell you how, you can’t. You fall backwards right back the way you came, and your head cracks against the hard concrete floor in back of you, and you don’t even see it coming because you're going backwards, and that’s your fault, Shane. That was your goddamned fault.

Shane had no right to mess up like that. It was my right to get that orange juice. And you know what? The guy that came in and helped Shane off the ground, he was yelling at me to get on the floor and put my hands behind my head and stuff, but I swear I heard him say to Shane that it was his fault, that Shane should’ve got me that orange juice like I asked. Shane said I could have anything I wanted within reason, and he said that fresh squeezed orange juice in Florida was sure as hell within reason. Remember that? He said this ain’t Alaska, and then he asked me if I’d been, and that was some stupid shit to say because why the hell would I ever go to Alaska when I don't even have a passport and you got to drive through Canada to get there? And anyway, that's not much of a conversation starter because I’m not ever going to Alaska, and if there was one person in the whole entire world who knew that best, it was Shane.

Well the reason I’m here writing this is that Shane hurt my hand. He tried to grab me when he was falling, and he twisted my hand real sudden so that my thumb popped out of place. Before that guy who came in could get me some medical help, I broke a few bones in my hand. Can you imagine that? And all the while 

Shane was just lying there, fallen backwards on that roller coaster because he didn’t do his job right, because he denied me my democratic right to have one last meal of my choosing, within reason.

Yeah well, turns out, even though I ate those hamburgers and fries in my free world clothes, and I drank those sodas, except the one I saved, cause I was thinking that I might have to use it since Shane didn't say anything about the missing orange juice, it turns out it wasn't even my last meal. I got put back on the bus and went to the medical unit. They fixed my hand up and now I'm back in line. And I can’t say I’m looking forward to it being my turn again, but at least I know I’m gonna get my whole meal request, or I’ll be put right back in line again like this time. 

See, you can’t execute a person in the United States of America if you haven't given him his last meal request, the whole damned thing. You can't take something like that away from a person. Not here in this country. We have democratic rights here.

Sabrina Harris is a fiction writer now based in Brooklyn after years spent living and working in Sweden, France, Lithuania and Serbia. She is currently working on her first novel, Afterbirth.