Old ink and scars slashed the face of Jamey Shelton. They were the once proud markings of a thug life poster child. That was ten years ago. Although, the consequence of shooting a store clerk dead over a bottle of whiskey still played its part.
Fidgeting with his handcuffs, he leaned quietly against the prison bus window, feeling the cool of the outside world – the free world - on his cheek. He had grown use to observing life through bars. In this case, his view was through the metalwork fastened over the bus windows, according to the latest, greatest state law fashion.
His eyes absorbed the graying sky and the already harvested cornfields that moved endlessly by, interrupted occasionally by a jagged fence line or the standard white farm house. Jamey’s lips moved silently as he tried his best to thank God for his window seat. As a rule, prison inmates didn’t get out much.
In the distance, black birds shot up into the pale bar of light still clinging to the western horizon. I wish I was one of them, thought Jamey. Evening was always quick to produce the dull ache that things could have somehow been different.
For a quick moment, Jamey glanced at the front of the bus, past the pairs of heads on either side of the aisle. Most were slumping or facing their windows like he was. He wondered if they too were thinking what it could be like had they never picked up that gun or had pulled that last punch.
The bus was silent, only its engine’s even growl reaching through. For Jamey, the silence had a way of conjuring up images of the bullet-torn body from ten years past as clearly as if it had happened yesterday. The dead man would exist in his mind forever. William Bibler. He made himself say his name. I killed a man, and his name is William Bibler.
It was hard to believe the things that must have entered his head back then. The Lord forgives murderers, too. Then why on days like today did he not feel forgiven?
The handcuffs pinched his wrists. A surge of agitation jolted him. He reached to rub the back of his neck, like he did when feeling uneasy or nauseous, but was stopped short by the clank of the chains that secured his cuffs to the floor board.
“Breathe, my brother,” said a voice in the seat next to him. “Remember in the dark what was said to you in the light.”
Jamey turned to face the man.
“Everything’s messed up.” said Jamey, his voice guarded. “I’m sick of my life. I want to die.”
“Come on, Jamey” said Shane Wire. “Don’t talk like that. God doesn’t waste lives. I need you here with me. Iron sharpens iron. We keep each other strong.”
Everyone called him Wire, even the guards. Wire was a massive man. His muscles bulged even through the thick material of the orange jumpsuit the prison provided. He was one of the first inmates Jamey met on his cell block (Cellblock 6). He was also the first to share the Gospel with him so that it made sense. Wire had been sentenced to life two years prior to Jamey for making a stupid decision, which ended with one cop dead and another in critical care. Six months later, the prison chaplain led him to the abundant grace and mercy of Christ.
Jamey dipped his head as he considered his cuffs. “Why can’t they just leave us where we are?” Although he didn’t particularly like Cellblock 6, he had become quite attached to its routine and the surroundings of his cell. It was what he knew. He liked the damp smell of the place and the small window that allowed sunlight in during certain times of the year. Now, with no questions asked, the state was up and moving Cellblock 6 to a more up-to-date facility. Jamey didn’t like this one bit. It rattled him badly.
Inside the darkness of the bus, Jamey Shelton related his fears to Shane Wire, the only man he has ever confided in. Afterwards, Wire prayed for them both, for comfort and strength. The bus whined and shifted in protest as it climbed a hill.
Then the road leveled out, and they both sat in the quiet that lay beneath the steady rumble of the bus, wondering and praying what lay ahead for them at the new facility.
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