The Hanging

The below bit of scrawl is an introduction to a short story or novella that’s been hunkered down somewhere in the wings of my mind. I’ve brought it to light for this event called Sample Sunday run by a compatriot named David Wisehart. Read all about it by clicking on his name. Basically, it’s about posting a sample piece of writing for all the world to slaver over. Here’s my WIP (work in progress, for those who don’t know the lingo). Please enjoy. It is Sunday, after all.


The Hanging

Stuart Land

Copyright 2008

The fact that Juan López Marcos was still breathing when planted in the dry earth of Comanche County did not bode well for his neighbors. Common sense would tell you, if you’re going to hang an innocent man, you’d better make damn sure that he’s dead before you cut him down. That being said, selecting the location to bury your wayward crime should be of utmost importance. Most folks would tell you that choosing a dry river bed at the onset of spring would not be their first choice. God-fearin’ folk that his neighbors were, would later claim the lord had created the flash flood that ripped through that dry riverbed, unearthing his coffin and carrying it down to the port of San Jose where it popped up alongside a steamer on the way to Santiago. When that pine box was plucked from the choppy waters of the bay, and the lid pried off, the first sight to greet Juan’s eyes was the angelic nubile face of Teresa García Ramírez with a bright green lollipop sliding between plump red lips.

Teresa, the precocious girl of fourteen that she was, didn’t believe in ghosts or spirits rising from the dead, although the bright red rash circling Juan’s otherwise sensuous neck gave her pause. What settled all doubt for her about Juan being freshly back from the dead was the way he licked his lips within three seconds of their eyes meeting. She had seen this unconscious reaction from men many times in her limited experience and was quite sure that no incarnation from beyond the grave would act in such a manner. The dead have propriety and scruples, something the living searched for but seldom found.

While her parents and the accumulated seafarers and paying passengers huddled around Juan sitting upright in his half-filled bathtub coffin, sloshing water over the sides with every twist of his anxious body, Teresa took two curt steps forward, pulled the lollipop from her lips, and held out her gloved hand. Juan, not wanting to blink away the vision before him, stared wide-eyed and opened-mouthed as he took the dry tips of her fingers in his equally wet ones. He watched the moisture drain off his fingers and spread up through the fibers of her glove.

“My name is Teresa García Ramírez,” she said with a slight curtsy. “I’m almost fifteen, which is almost old enough to be married.”

This time when Juan licked his lips and swallowed dryly, it was for another reason altogether. Teresa hadn’t yet added that bit of knowledge to her lexicon of manipulation. Nevertheless, Juan bowed the best he could considering his position in the tub.

“It is truly a most pleasant honor to make your acquaintance, señorita. I am  Juan López Marcos. Please forgive the unfortunate circumstances of this first meeting. I am sure this cannot be such a favorable way in which to impress a young woman of loveliness and grace, such as yourself.”

Teresa reclaimed her damp hand, but before Juan could read anything into that gesture, she leaned forward and spoke in a low voice. “You couldn’t be more wrong about that, senor.”

With that said, she stepped back into the perimeter of the crowd which seemed to be a signal for everyone else to animate. They all moved in unison, helping saturated Juan from his heretofore final resting place, and bundled him off wrapped in Teresa’s uncle’s expensive linen dinner jacket.

Ulterior motives ran through the García and Ramírez families like white corpuscles through a healthy bloodstream. They attacked and swallowed up every opportunity, no matter how insignificant, until nothing recognizable was left, but the radiance and glow of their own healthily increased family enterprise. With young Juan, the circumstance of his arrival into their clutches, was so unique even to them, they knew, the way sparrows know to fly south in the winter, that harboring this waterlogged enigma, even marrying him into their family, would have a pay-off far exceeding any time and dowry concerns invested.

Well, this did partially come to pass, although not in all the ways anticipated. By the time the steamer put to port in Santiago, Juan and Teresa were fully engaged to be wed come her sixteenth birthday, a mere one and a half years away. That eighteen months went by quickly and smoothly with there never being any doubt about the love that blossomed between the fair couple. What was in rather heavy contention from just about every eligible young man in Santiago and beyond, was just who this Juan López Marcos was. No sooner had Juan been bathed and dressed in the finest attire and sat down before a banquette of the finest foods to pass through the gulf of Mexico, then the questions started. To each he answered his name, not like a captured soldier to his enemy, but according to Juan, that was all he could remember. There were those that turned away from the table that evening assured in their beliefs that nothing would ever come of this man and his forgotten past. Of course, this didn’t apply to the García-Ramírez families.

Now, at the eve to the wedding, they were more certain than ever that all would become clear once the week of nuptial bliss had passed and Juan felt safe and secure within his familia Nuevo. But, that’s not what happened. Juan, with the help of his newly acquired dowry, took himself and his bride back to Texas and settled into the Hotel Escondido on the second floor overlooking the broad avenue in the very town just eighteen months before had thrown him a necktie party.

That, my friends, is how Juan López Marcos arrived here in his present predicament, but how he came to have a noose around his young neck is a far more interesting story, and one which will come to bare in the very near future, I’m sure. Some say it happened this way…

Stuart Land

I am a multi-genre novelist, screenwriter, and multi-medium sculptor. I have worked in the Fine Arts, and the Movie Industry.


  1. Wow, that is a helluva start. I did a writers workshop for kids yesterday and we focused on first lines–one came up with a gem: “Mark didn’t know why he wanted to scare his friends.”

    I wish I’d had “The fact that Juan Lopez…” in hand to use as an example.

    Welcome to the ‘sphere! Saw your post on Book Blogs. The ole I’ll show you mine approach, huh?

  2. I think you have something here. 🙂

  3. Hi Stuart, Just stopping by from WestofMars Weekend Hangout! Nice to meet you.

  4. Love your blog. More people need to read your incredible writing.
    Wishing you much success.

Thanks for reading. I'm eager to hear what you have to say.