Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of “A Stitch in Time Saves Nine” (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (01/03/08)
TITLE: Family Heirloom
By Johnna Stein
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I still can’t believe I received this family heirloom from my cousin Johnny. We never did get along and it amazes me that he and I now are part of the same brotherhood; a testimony to family loyalty. When I swore my allegiance, Johnny handed this “gift” to me as a sign of trust and acceptance. I promised to follow family tradition and pass it on to the next worthy member of our family.
Of course, I am secretly hoping that my brother Joe will be the next recipient. That’s why I am waiting in line just like last week in one hundred degree scorching heat to visit him at the state pen today. Getting the heirloom inside will be a cinch; the only real issue is if Joe wants it. He’s so set in his ways and stubborn like our father was. Pops never wanted to follow family tradition. He ventured out on his own and got himself shot and killed in a bank robbery when I was only fifteen years old. I guess we just followed in his footsteps.
As the guards call me into the holding area, first they examine the care package I’ve brought for Joe. It’s full of homemade chocolate chip cookies and a few books he’d requested. Then, they frisk me from top to bottom and top again. I find I am holding my breath and finally blow out a sigh of relief when they tell me to proceed to the visitors’ block. The heirloom remains secure in my left back pocket. I am wondering if I will leave the same way?
As I sit in the grey plastic chair and stare through the glass partition, I realize I could have easily been the one on the other side. Johnny came to me the morning of the planned heist. I still to this day don’t know how he knew to come. He pleaded with me one last time and again recounted great grandfather’s legacy and for the first time I actually listened. He talked me out of joining Joe and our friends for the planned robbery. The hardest part was backing out. I only told Joe a half-truth and said I was sick. It was partly true cause I felt like I might puke every time I thought about my part as getaway driver.
Now here I sit free as a bird and there Joe will sit imprisoned for a 20 year sentence. Of course, it’ll only be nine years total if he gets out early for good behavior. That could have been me serving nine years if Johnny hadn’t come to see me that April morning.
Joe approaches his grey plastic chair, wearing the bright orange jumpsuit that distinguishes him from the free outside world. I am looking for a hint of what his answer will be, but can’t find any clue in his unshaven face. He sits down, gives me a cursory glance and buries his head in his hands. From the way I see his head shaking, I assume he is crying. I want to reach over and put my hand on his shoulder, but physical contact is forbidden. So I wait.
Finally he puts his right hand on the glass and I return the gesture and place my left hand on the glass to meet his. That’s as close as we’ll get to physical contact today. I can see that he has indeed been crying and I am dying to know what his decision will be. Joe picks up his receiver so I know he’s ready to talk. I follow his lead and put the receiver to my right ear.
“ Yes.” It’s only one word, but it will change his life and mine forever.
“Welcome to the family!” I can barely get the words out.
I reach into my left back pocket and before putting the leather bound Bible into his care package, I run my fingers over the now barely visible engraved family name, Tozer.
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