The death-row convict exited the confines of the cell block into the paved enclosure. His shrewd eyes squinted against the blinding light. The hard asphalt yard near sizzled, as bands of heat climbed steadily upward and reflected off the concrete walls; causing the temperature to increase intolerably. Beads of sweat formed quickly on his shaved head as he walked out into the burning heat. The stifling air was rank with smug bitterness, and palatable fear.
The tar ground and white washed walls of the penitentiary melded together in a pitiless monochromatic scheme. The place was unforgiving and desolate like the hearts of many of the men housed within. It was surrounded by dusty roads and chained linked fences topped with razor-sharp barbed wire. The orange jumpsuits he and his fellow inmates wore provided the only other colour to be seen.
No one bothered with him. His sheer brawn and cold stare warded off most people. It was rumoured he bore a tattoo for each of his crimes, and little flesh remained uncovered.
As he walked through the yard, he eyed the patrol truck making its rounds; spirals of gritty dust churned up in its wake. His eyes trailed it along the road. A low growl emanated from him as he remembered his own days of freedom, knowing full well he would never leave the confines of this prison bodily; except in a plain pine box.
A slight movement caught his eye when the truck passed. As he made his way towards the fence the other inmates moved out of his way; some out of respect, others out of fear. There, on the ground, a hands-breadth from the edge of the fence, laid a small crumpled sparrow. Its soft downy feathers were coated in dust from being thrown to the ground when it was clipped by the patrol truck. Its tiny form continued to breathe as it lay there in stupor. The man mashed his fingers through the fence and cautiously pulled the bird towards his own cage.
“Back up, Scum!” the guard on foot patrol yelled as he and his attack dog neared the convicted felon.
The man stayed crouched by the fence his fingers continuing their work.
“I said back up! Show me your hands!” He neared the fierce prisoner with his dog snarling in excitement.
The man looked up with calculating eyes. He growled as he lifted his hands away from the fence and his secret.
The small bird was beginning to stir and started flapping haphazardly on the dusty ground. The guard sneered momentarily at the sight of the hulking convict’s quarry, before being pulled bodily by the dog in full attack mode. The inmate jammed his fingers back through the fence and around the disoriented bird as the dog came in for the kill. Canine teeth tore into the flesh on the prisoner’s rugged hands.
When the guard pulled back his dog, the man’s hands were covered in deep gouges. Other guards converged on the area, weapons drawn, shouting commands to the kneeling convict. The inmate slowly unfolded his mauled fingers. The bird peeked its head out, and continued busily preening, warily watching its surroundings. The sparrow hopped onto the thick bloodied thumb of the criminal, cocked his head to the right, and took the flight of life and freedom across the barren sands.
“What’s gotten into you, Scum?” The guard scoffed. “Spending too much time with the preacher, or did you want to kill the little birdie yourself?”
The man shook his head slightly, and narrowed his eyes as he looked up at the belittling guard. His deep voice uttered but one word, “Grace.”
The death row convict stood up, and raised his torn and bloodied hands above his head, submitting to the extended firearms, and headed back towards the confines of his cell.
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