From "Prometheus Fit to be Tied"
When Ernest tried to transcribe their conversation from memory years later, everything he could come up with was slightly off:
"Do you hear them out there? Goading each other on? Dozens of voices. There are good men out there. I know their voices. But tonight they have convinced each other to do something they would never do alone, and will regret years later, when they are separate and alone in their small corners of the world with time to think about things. They'll whisper their prayers like beaten dogs when their own time nears, even as their family gathers around convinced they're sending God an angel."
'That crippled boy thought you could help. Do you think the law will matter here? Do you think that sheriff will keep his word? If so then you’re a fool. This late at night and their voices still rising – the law won't matter. I don't think I'll leave this night alive. What do you think? Do I have hours left, or minutes? I wonder every time their shouts rise to a pitch. What should I do, now that I don't know how much time I have?"
"I'll use some time to tell you this, so you can remember and tell whoever cares: I'm not innocent, but I didn't do this."
"I'm a strong man – I was their best friend when they needed to get some things done on their farms – when I was young and happy and a man full of promise – they could smile at my smile so long as I pulled the stumps from their fields, built their fences, gutted their hogs, cleared their brush. But now I'm different – less talkative, not smiling, older, hard-worn but not ungrateful. They wonder about me, and when they wonder they tell stories. Their women tell stories.
"I'm a strong man – I'm 48 and still a bull. They got me into this cell with guns behind me. But once they get me out there, there won't be guns. They'll want me to suffer. They'll get mad when I won't beg. They'll want to use their confidence of numbers to beat on me. But I'm a strong man. How many do you think I can take? The Lord made me a bull – they want me to beg but I intend to see how many I can take."
"Lawyer, you could read to me. Book of Hosea – I remember liking what I heard a preacher read from it. Yes – see? I know you're shaking like a leaf. But it's still me. More calluses, more layers, more hardness of scars from being in the world, but I still admire the things that show a power bigger than myself – power and a grace directing power. Like the stars. Like the words that flow like water from that book. No man could write that book."
"So maybe I've even killed a man. I did kill a man once, but it was in a place where they worked men like animals and misled them into spending their money on alcohol and whores til they had no choice but to stay where they are and work themselves to death while their bosses got fatter. Those bosses set men against each other. They liked to see them fight. The men with the fiercest spirits sink deepest, their own pride turned into a lodestone of despair at their misfortune. So I'd save money and when they'd spent theirs they'd want mine, and that would start the fights. I saved mine to make amends to a wife and little girl who didn't want to see me because of what I'd done to break their trust. Every trouble has a trouble before it, doesn't it? I had to fight back with my fists, and most would learn. But one man who didn't like getting humiliated in front of his friends came back with a knife when I was asleep. It's just the grace of God that I heard him, that I awoke and saw that knife in that dark room and grabbed it and turned it back on him even as he was lunging it at me. He died on his own knife.
"Is it funny, lawyer, that God didn't let me die then in my sleep? That he kept me alive until this day to die awake? Is it funny that I should die now that I tried to come back and make amends with the money I'd saved? Is it God's way of saying that no money can buy my forgiveness? And lawyer – the hardest thing is this – the girl who lied about me. The Lord would want me to forgive her before I died. But I can't. If you do anything before I die pray that I figure out how to forgive her. Pray that the fight lifts my spirits and fills me with an angry charity, and lets God roar through me what I can't say myself. Let the fight lift me, Lord, and stand at your side, and see that lying whore-girl as one of your own."
"...For I will be like a lion to E'phraim, and like a young lion to the house of Judah. I, even I, will rend and go away, I will carry off, and none shall rescue. I will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress they seek me, saying.."
He killed four men before the mob killed him.