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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Reading (01/25/07)

TITLE: Read, Don't Burn
By william price
01/29/07


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I was guilty of the highest degree of spiritual arson. I burned up a chance at redemption. In a time of decision, I had been given a thin sheet of hope I chose to ignore. I was at cross-roads. The words on the paper were directions to a better life. Instead of reading it and inhaling power into my soul, I filled my lungs with hope’s burnt remains.

I’d been arrested numerous times, but never had to be locked-up. My parents always posted my bond immediately and worked something with the State Attorneys Office to keep me out of jail. Eventually, my luck and parents influence dried up and I was finally sentenced to six-months in the county jail. I was one more felony charge away from being eligible for prison. I knew I had to make changes in the my life. Then I met Bubba.

“I’ve got to have a cigarette.”

Possessing tobacco was illegal in jail, but I really wanted to smoke.

“Tell you what, dawg. I got some rip. It‘ll cost though.”

Big Bubba had spent most of his life in detention facilities. He could get anything.

“Rip?” I asked.

“Tobacco, dawg.”

“How much?”

‘Five dollars and that’s a deal, jit, ‘cause I like you.”

“I don‘t have any money in here.”

“Five dollars worth of canteen,” Bubba explained.

“”For how much tobacco?”

“Enough for one square. And before you ask, that‘s one smoke.”

“FIVE dollars?”

“You’re right, dawg, that’s too cheap. Six then.”

“No, that’s okay.”

I dug into my property box and pulled out four sodas and a big bag of chips. I handed them to Bubba.

“I said six, dawg.” Bubba wasn’t smiling.

I handed him another soda and he gave me a little baggie with some loose tobacco in it.

“I don’t have any rolling papers.”

“You are a jitterbug, aren’t you?”

Bubba picked up a Bible off his bunk and tore a page out.

“No charge, jit.”

“The Bible?”

“It’s just a sheet of paper with words on it, dawg.”

I went to my bunk and rolled the cigarette. I had to give somebody else two candy bars to use a lighter before I could smoke it.

I stepped into the shower and lit up. The tobacco tasted harsh and I started to cough.

“Everybody on your bunks!”

The officer’s command gave me chills. I tried to put the cigarette out with my flip-flops. The shower curtain flew open.

“You always shower with your clothes on?”

The officer led me from the felony-pod with the remains of my seven dollar cigarette. He locked me in a one-man disciplinary cell. He said he’d be back when he decided what to do.

I sat in the seven-by-seven foot cell for over an hour. Suddenly, the steel door opened and the officer stood holding the unrolled portion of singed scripture I was smoking.

“You burned a Bible page? I was going to just lock you up for a couple of hours. But, this is outrageous. I’m going to charge you with possession of contraband. That’s a third degree felony, inmate.”

He slammed the door. I cried.

My parents couldn’t get me out of that charge. The judge was holding the burnt verses when he sentenced me to three years in the State Department of Corrections.

It was six months before I was shipped to my permanent prison camp. Most inmates there kept a Bible on their bunks. I just had one page with Romans 8:1-9 highlighted; the words I should have read.

The passages haunted me my first weeks in prison. I feared I missed my chance with God until I went to chapel one Sunday morning.

The same verses I used for rolling papers were the first words that came out of the preacher’s mouth.

“There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus…For what the law could not do in what was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son…”

I was set free.

I memorized those scriptures plus many others. Reading wasn’t a hobby for me; it was a life sustaining act as important as breathing. I spent the rest of my prison time sharing the hazards of spiritual smoking to anyone who would listen, including my parents. I also wrote the county correctional officer a thank you note. I never would have read those verses if he had not charged me. He sent me a Bible with a note.

Read, don’t burn.

Footnotes:
Jit or Jitterbug refers to a new, young or rookie inmate.
Dawg, is modern slang for friend or acquaintance.
Tobacco is considered contraband in most jails.


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This article has been read 1019 times
Member Comments
Member Date
cindy yarger02/01/07
I liked this. It's believable and shows a side of God that many of us don't really recognize. well done!
April Bailey02/02/07
I loved the realism here. You painted a graphic, painful picture of the price we pay for being lost. I have a childhood friend who is now incarcerated, and I thought of him as I read. Blessings to you.
Joanne Sher 02/03/07
This felt so real, so authentic. The slang was amazingly effectiv in putting me right there. I loved the image of almost burning the verses that save you from hellfire!
Mariane Holbrook02/04/07
Your first paragraph was
simply a masterpiece of imagery. I wonder if you know how good you are.
Blessings and congratulations!
Marilyn Schnepp 02/05/07
You did good, dawg! Kudos!
Marilyn Schnepp 02/05/07
PS: One more thing; if your main character had spent two more candy bars for a "hotrail" he wouldn't have been caught. Definition for those not familiar with incarceration...Hot Rail is a "look out". :)
Jacquelyn Horne02/05/07
I enjoyed this. I don't know why, but I really enjoyed the humor in the statement, "Read, don't burn."
Teri Wilson02/05/07
William, I loved it Dawg. This is one of my favorites of yours. Very creative. How on earth did you think of using a Bible page as a rolling paper? Excellent writing.
Suzanne R02/05/07
Your opening line was catchy and the rest of your piece didn't disappoint either. Well done!
Jan Ackerson 02/05/07
What a GREAT voice this guy has! Awesome writing style here--you struck JUST the right note.

Maybe end it with the "I was set free" line? Just a thought.

This is one of your best.
Pat Guy 02/05/07
THIS was so COOL!

It had absolutely everything and it's just way too creative. ;)

I loved the uniqueness, the subliminal message, the humor, just the whole creation of this piece.

Kudos William. Wow!
Sally Hanan02/05/07
I hope (for your sake) the jail part of the story isn't from personal experience :) but even if it is, this was a great piece of writing with an even better message.
Allison Egley 02/05/07
Oh, this was great. Spiritual arson... I'll have to use that phrase sometime. I too loved the voice. It was very unbelievable and realistic.
Jen Davis02/06/07
The intro to this story is captivating and very well written. I really liked how the scripture he heard at chapel was the same scripture he had used as rolling papers. This was a great line: “I was set free.” A powerful message which really pulled the story together.
Phyllis Inniss 02/07/07
So realistic and creative. The dialogue made the scene very vivid and the whole atmosphere seemed to come from a movie.
Crista Darr02/07/07
Creative entry. Thanks for the adventure giving us a glimpse into the county jail. This verse comes to my mind: "The law is our tutor to lead us to Christ." Good work!
Loren T. Lowery02/07/07
Well devleoped characters and setting that delivered a meaningful story wonderfully told.
Julie Arduini02/07/07
That last line in the first paragraph, wow! The dialogue here was outstanding. This piece will burn in my mind for some time to come.
Dennis Fletcher02/07/07
Well written, believable story. Well done.
Sara Harricharan 02/07/07
I could sense the desperation in this piece and the feeling of relief and peace at the end. Love the note stuck on the bible. "read don't burn"
Donna Emery02/07/07
Very good and very original! I loved the dialog and enjoyed the fresh look at the topic. Thanks for sharing it
Joanney Uthe02/08/07
Great illustration of God's grace. I love the characterization and how the MC's ignorance of the lingo enabled us to so readily learn enough of it for the story to be realistic.

I also like the term "spiritual arson". Good job.
Myrna Noyes02/08/07
Wow! Very compelling and well-written piece with an authentic feel! Terrific message, too! :)