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Piecework Hangman

R. Keelan is a writer and programmer living in Canada. He writes fantasy, science fiction, and software for medical devices. His work has appeared in AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review and hospitals all over the world. Find him online at blog.rkeelan.com.
A guinea for a skinny. That's the piecework rate.
A skinny's an elf--or that's what folks around here call 'em. Not that I do, unless someone's listening, in which case I do, to fit in like.
It's the same guinea no matter who I hang--man, woman, child--yeah, I done it--or elf--but folks always come out for the skinnies. Too easy to see you and yours in the noose when it's a man swinging from the scaffold.
I've been working the noose and spade for years piled on years. I've hung plenty I figure didn't do what I hung 'em for, but everyone's guilty of something. If not murder, then rape, or robbery, or something. Elves are different. I know what they done--nothing. But I don't hang 'em for nothing, so don't go waving your finger at me.
I done a job just yesterday--a fair young lass, nervous as a hind in a bind and sobbing fit to wake the dead. I told her not to fret and she just bawled harder, so I shook her some and spelled out what was what. Didn't hear more than a few sniffles after that.
The art of neck stretching is all tied up--heh--in the length of the noose. You want a snap without a sever. I saw a damn fool hang a fat man with too much rope once. The man's fat head popped right off his fat neck and sprayed bloody gore over half the witnesses. The fool never earned another scaffold guinea in his life.
A master noose worker like me can judge a man's weight by sight, but I never can figure right for elves. They're lighter than you'd think, all slender and wispy like. The lass I done yesterday was like that. The drop was too short or her neck was too thick, so her last dance was for me: the jig in the wind 'till the breath gives out.
This lass' last dance lasted sixty seconds--about typical for elves in my experience. I figured fifteen more seconds for good riddance then cut her down and laid her out. I had to disperse the crowd before I could continue--these arch-necked eye-gapers would follow me all the way to the cemetery if I let them, especially for a pretty young elf like this one.
Not that there is a cemetery for elves. Just a plot of land beneath the eaves of the forest.
Now, hole digging's a curious thing. Almost as curious as neck stretching. The hole has to match the crime. For a man and a rapist, I figure on eight feet to keep the spirit well grounded--heh. For a woman adulterer you don't need nearly so much hole. Four'll do pretty in a pinch. For an elf lass that's done nothing, I use a convenient ravine and a sprinkle of dirt.
The folks 'round here, they keep hanging and hanging, and it don't make a lick of difference. Seems like every time I throw an elf down that ravine, one walks out the other end an hour later.
But that's not my problem.
I got my guinea.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, May 14th, 2018

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