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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Reason for the Season of Christmas (12/04/08)

TITLE: For Whom the Christmas Bell Tolls
By Linda Germain


The one thing Wolfe Manzelli would not miss about this place was the smell. He had lived in tenement rat holes before, but this was beyond description. He kept thinking of d-words: dank, dark, dismal, dirty, disgusting, desperate, and the final one he would face in 24 hours. Living on death-row stunk.

His mother had predicted the worst could happen if he continued his association with suspected felons. He admitted he was no angel, but offing Dippy Dude Wayne was not his style. Constant protestation did nothing to reverse this most dire situation…and so close to Christmas at that.

Wolfe-Man, as he was known in the old neighborhood, spent a lot of time trying to figure out who set him up to take the fall. The constant police interrogation forced him to question whether he did this deed and maybe just forgot. After agonizing months in solitary, he remembered for sure that he did not. No one believed him but his one parent.

He often wondered if an expensive well-known attorney could have dazzled the jury and stopped the travesty. His court appointed, bumbling, mumbling mouth-piece did more to demote him to this hopeless place than to defend him against a hot shot prosecutor with nothing but circumstantial evidence.

The doomed prisoner read scripture by the small shaft of sunlight that pushed its way into what already seemed like a tomb. It was hard to keep faith when the raw sewage of reality assaulted his senses. All Wolfe-Man knew to do was cling to the Word he had heard his whole life but had never valued.

While he was on his knees, begging for God to intervene, the familiar clanging that preceded an approaching human jolted him to attention. Keys jangled in the lock to his tiny cell. He was glad to see it was Jimbo Jenkins, one of the kinder guards.

“Morning, Wolfe. I got to get some information from you. Also, the warden says you can make a call on this phone.”

The prisoner’s voice was husky; he had gone without speaking for so long.

“Who’m I gonna call, Jimbo…the Governor? Oh, that’s right. He’s supposed to call ME, ain’t he?”

The guard didn’t laugh.

“I figured you might want to call your momma. Also, I’m supposed to ask you what you want to eat tomorrow. It can be anything.”

Wolfe thought for a minute and then shook his head.

“I don’t want nothin’. Seems kind of silly, don’t ‘ya think?”

Jimbo had no answer. He handed the small telephone to the condemned man and stood outside to wait. One side of the conversation sounded a little strange.

“Listen,” Wolfe pleaded with someone, “You’re the best friend I ever had and I was too dumb to get it. You’re the only one who knows I’m telling the truth. I never killed anybody, although I probably came close to breaking your heart a thousand times. If you can do something to turn this awful mess around, I’ll come to work for you, full time. I’m a great PR man and you won’t be sorry.”

Jimbo ambled a few feet down the hall to have a cigarette. When he returned, Wolfe gave the phone to him and then sat with his head in his hands. The prisoner waited until he heard the last slamming door before he broke into sobs.

The execution officials who came to accompany the captive on the long trek to the end of the line were stunned by his ethereal appearance. There was a decided glow in his countenance--a thing that made the coming process of elimination difficult to initiate. He wished each of them a Merry Christmas and began to sing, ever so softly, as they made their way to the waiting horror, “What a friend we have in Jesus…”

His were the only eyes that were dry. His was the only face smiling. Just before the mask and handcuffs were to be applied, he asked for another minute to pray with the prison chaplain. When they were finished, Wolfe Manzelli, innocent man, washed in the blood of the Lamb of God, raised both hands. No one moved, or blinked, or breathed.

The only sound was the nearly unbearable ticking of an ancient clock. When the phone rang, every face registered disbelief …every one, that is, except the prisoner. He knew the truth about why we celebrate Christmas. He knew the One who heard his heart-felt call. He knew he was free.

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This article has been read 672 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Joanne Sher 12/12/08
Masterfully crafted, and a story rich with vivid descriptions and a poignant message. This moved me.
Karlene Jacobsen12/12/08
You had me hangin' on to the end.
What a celebration in heaven and on earth to know his life is now God's.
Sharlyn Guthrie12/16/08
Excellent story! I was completely engaged.
Catrina Bradley 12/16/08
Great voice for this story, and the story is told very well. I'm not sure an execution would actually be scheduled for Christmas day, but I could be wrong. Besides, it's fiction! Good job!
Peter Stone12/17/08
Great imagery and descriptions, and kept my attention throughout.