Fit for Eternal Pardon
Shamar Jenkins shivered when he stepped into the cold air outside the North Avenue Prison. It was a detention center for the hardened criminals. He longed for the thick knit sweater his grandmother knitted for him when he was twelve. He did own a warm jacket, but that was confiscated when he entered the maximum security complex.
Turning to his armed escort, Jenkins protested one last time. “You know they’re going to kill me out here?”
“You shouldn’t have raped and killed that ten year old girl,” said the guard with a weary sigh.
Jenkins made a soft, abrupt sound when the guard edged him forward with the weapon.
“I didn’t mean to kill her, I did it so she wouldn’t tell anyone,” he replied.
“Murder,” said the guard. “Do you understand the word?”
“I thought about it,” Jenkins answered. “Well, in my bed I lay there helpless in the face of my own cowardice. I knew killing her was wrong, but I couldn’t stop. I was caught up in such a rage I didn’t know what I was doing. After I choked the life out of her I was confronted with demons. Left alone, I might in time have gained the courage to truly take my own life. I don’t need others to make that decision for me. At times I felt like turning a knife on me. Perhaps cleanly slit my wrists. I found myself suffering on a day to day basis, truly hoping death would find me fit for eternal pardon. Sometimes I see that girl standing at the foot of my bed like a vision punishing me for the wrong I have caused her. I wanted to open my window and jump out hoping to fall on my head so that death would be inevitable.”
“Well, maybe you should have,” said the guard sounding disturbingly cheerful.
Jenkins’s eyes grew large. He had drawn farther and farther back in thought, and his face grew tense, his eyes narrow, as if he were preparing to weather a blow. “Taking a life is the most horrifying thing any man can do.”
The guard mused, his right index finger slightly curled beneath his chin as he began stroking it slightly.
“Don’t send me out into the population,” Jenkins begged.
The guard smiled. “Hey guys, look you have a new friend here!”
There was a moment of silence at first followed by a collective roar; a cheer went up from the prison population lingering in the yard. There were almost no clouds in the sky which seemed to shimmer in blue as if the heavens would spy, and God threw in a hint of white for dramatics. The air was cold even a little bit dry in his lungs. He moved closer into the populated area but as slowly as he could.
“I hated myself, and it seemed that her death lulled me to sleep every night. It was with the understanding that I wouldn’t wake.”
“Yeah, but look,” said the guard. “You’re still with us.”
There was a crude knife making its way through the population. The knife would hide beneath sweatshirts, folded up into sleeves, and even sometimes placed in sweat pants. It made the rounds like a popular politician until it reached its destination.
The guard paused, and then moved slowly away from Shamar Jenkins. A moment passed in which Jenkins eyes moved to watch the guard leave the yard. Jenkins had drawn himself down into a crouched position, his hands wrapped around his torso. He glanced at the entrance to the yard and then back at the prison population.
A tall thin man walked closer to Jenkins and stood above him for a moment. Jenkins looked at him for a long time, his expression unreadable so Jenkins turned the other way.
In a flash the tall thin man thrashed at him wildly. He dug the crude knife into Jenkins’s chest several times and then began kicking him as fiercely as he could.
Jenkins was feeling the moisture of his warm blood cooling as it hit the cold air. He kept hearing his voice telling him that he thought he wanted to die. He was guilty of rape and murder and he deserved nothing less, but the fear of death kept pounding at his temples. In his last seconds of life, he was truly hoping death would render him fit for eternal pardon.
© 2013 Frank Atanacio
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