Working Title “Season of Jail”
A story by Tom E. Bailey
⚠Under editing and still constructing here is entire story after 1st edit⚠
This story or parts thereof may not be reproduced in any form, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means – electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise – without prior written permission of the publisher.
This story is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or businesses in practice, are purely coincidental. The views expressed here are my own, as are whatever factual errors exist in the text.
What does a person do when they’ve lost their freedom and time while gaining a new living environment replacing loved ones with those who are unlovable?
Follow Phil Realman as he tries to maintain his values while accepting one of the most challenging seasons in his life. You think you got it rough? May we realizes it is who lives inside us that rules. May we learn to let God be our source, more powerful than our own will and will power.
MOB IN THE POD
Jason Coty, nickname ‘Chaos’, was left handed. A fellow inmate, Phil Realman, noted it a few weeks ago as he observed those who seemed to pose threats trapped in Pod Z of the county jail. There was always an obvious tension in the air.
Phil never planned on being in jail, who does? Even the extremely active and affluent criminal will say, “I ain’t trying to go to jail!” It also seemed that no one in lock up considered themselves guilty.Very few accepted that they were paying for their crimes and in Phil’s case he was being held until proven guilty, innocent yes, but still paying the same time, a price higher than any monitory citation. The law and states pursuit for justice wasn’t always fair, right or easy but here men and women find themselves literally stuck an environment where the majority rules and that majority is not law abiding citizens nor law enforcing authorities. Regardless of those who wanted to just do their time and wait for trial peacefully the environment of ‘the big house’ can cause a man to crack, give in and submit to becoming a criminal if not already a con artist in an attempt to survive. Although there is a difference between jail and prison, some of the same lifestyles are encountered while being held. Some facilities also treat all inmates with the same level of punishment, discipline, restrictions and precautions regardless of what they are really like, what their track record shows, as a human being. When treated like animals people tend to act that way.
Jason, a.k.a chaos, approached Phil to gain notoriety as the “Pod boss”. Phil was gaining more and more credit and respect from the other men and Jason didn’t like it. Phil noticed a figure lurking around him, it was Jason, and that was the only warning he had before the impact came toward the back left side of his head. Phil grabbed the arm and spun around. The two handed grip on Jason’s arm was strong enough for Phil to throw his own legs up and around his assailant’s left arm. With one leg on each side and his arm, clenched like a vice in Phil’s hand, Jason knew immediately he was rendered helpless. Phil just held on and let his body weight do the rest. Although nothing came out, Phil’s thoughts said, “wanna dance?” Jason went to his knees as he realized the fight he started wasn’t going any further. The other men hardly had time to gather, it all happened so fast. Nothing more needed to be done. Nothing more needed to be said. Jason flopped like a bear in a trap and knew his arm was about to break if he tried fighting any further. Phil just laid back, no leg muscles needed just torque and leverage. He held the arm as tight as possible and knew as long as he kept his grip Jason would soon give up. When the shouts, cheers and squeals came Phil still held on. The other men were waiting for more. They wanted to see blood but it was over, all but the pain in the arm of “Chaos”. After a good 30 seconds Phil said, “someone may want to call a medic, this man’s arm is about broken.” Many of the men let out a hoot but a few of Jason minions weren’t laughing. They shoved a few men out of the crowd gathered around the scene but as one went to kick Phil in the head Phil just arched his back slightly and Jason demanded, “NO! BACK OFF!! HE’LL BREAK IT!!!” Held hostage, Jason lowered his voice and shivered in pain pleading with Phil, “ok, ok, OK bro, I give…I give! You win! Lemme’ go. Please bro. Dude, let me go, I’m done man. I’m done!!!” Phil repeated what he said a few seconds ago, “some one call a medic!” He knew he could not let go. It wasn’t going to be over until the Correctional Officers came. A few inmates ran to the door and pounded frantically yelling for a guard until they finally got a response. The guards looked down the long hall and one chirped his walkie talkie asking surveillance, “what’s going on in Pod Z, WHAT YOU SEE, OVER?!?!” Surveillance came back with, “not sure, one man down, looks like no fight, maybe medical.” They buzzed the cell door open, an override only they had control over as the guard closest to the door was about to use his key. The buzz and the approval of, “CLEAR, Enter pod -Z, code blue medical, grey standard!” , came over the over hear speaker, by-passing all walkies. A second announcement confirmed the first but to the end of it they added, “green stand-by alert. White alerted.” They announcement was repeated in its entirety four times as four guards entered Pod-Z. A few more guards ran in the direction of Pod Z. One inmate yelled, “come on this guy’s arm is broke the F*off!!!” The lead guard said, “we wait for full back up!” The guards in the video booth were confused. There didn’t appear to be a fight. “MAYBE ONE HAD A HEART ATTACK!” said one if the viewers. “Maybe they faking one.”, said his partner. The men in the pod were observed gathering around two other men but the two were not flailing their arms or darting toward, away or around each other at all. They saw one inmate laying flat on his back, legs up in the air and the other slumped over with one arm down between the other’s legs. “What the heck is going on?” Said the man who made the over head call. With all six guards present and armed with pepper ball guns they entered the Pod and gave the command, “EVERYONE DOWN!!!” They saw no one fighting. As the guards came in the pod Phil let go, flipped onto his stomach and spread his arms and legs out. All the guards saw was one man trying to recover. The lead C.O. insisted, “WHERE IS THE OTHER ONE?! WHO’S FIGHTING?! COME ON, IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO!!!” Jason was almost in too much pain to talk but he thought twice because he also didn’t want to be a snitch. After the Correctional Officer realized addressing Jason was useless he spoke to the whole pod asking, “who was fighting this man?!? Fess up, we got it on video! Who is the other actor?!” That’s when Phil spoke up, “I was!” He was not out of breath at all and the C.O. wasn’t sure whether to even believe Phil was the other one or if he was trying to take the fall for somebody else. After they took the two men out of general population threw them in segregated solitary confinement they reviewed the tape and watched it all unfold. It was a clear case of self-defense and forced them to ask, “when somebody goes to strike you if you grab their arm and hold them in a submission hold is that really even considered a fight?”
DE-EVOLUTION DURING EVALUATION
When the correctional officers went to solitary confinement to talk to Phil they asked him what he did. All Phil said was, “I turned the other cheek.” The correctional officers said, “we’ve reviewed the tapes. We want you to give us more details than that. Explain!” Phil said, “I was just minding my own business but aware of my surroundings when the other inmate came up behind me he hit my head, my left ear. I just grabbed the man’s arm and used it as leverage to put him in an arm bar.” The C.O. persisted, “go on…” Phil took a breath, “that’s it. I just held that position. He could have struck me with his other arm, or tried to use his legs, but I just held on to his left arm, straighten my legs and only arch my back when things got worse.” The officer said, “worse?! You could have broke his arm!” “Only if I arched more or if he went against the angle.” “Why didn’t you break it?” Phil breathed again, “Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, But any fool will quarrel. I didn’t need to continue the violence I just needed to stop it.” “Stop the violence what a new concept”, said the tough correctional officer, “thank you for your time.” Phil thought, “hmph, my time.”
When they went to Jason’s private cell to get his side of the story Jason said he didn’t want to talk about it but the correctional officers persisted and reminded him that they saw the tape. Jason said, “man, that night the guy just grabbed my arm and I couldn’t get away. He wouldn’t let go. I tried to hit him with my right arm but I couldn’t get to him he just held me there bra’, almost nearly broke my arm!” The Correctional Officer said, ” you hit him first didn’t you?” Jason slurred his speech try to not incriminate himself but also be portrayed as hard, ” we jus’ were hittin’ …he was hitin’ me I hit him. The guy’s a punk. What you gonna do? Soon as I hit him he grabbed my arm and wouldn’t fight any more, it wasn’t a fair fight at all dude!!!” The correctional officer said, “no, it was definitely fair, you just weren’t able to do anything about it.” Jason said, “man, I’ve put down another man with just one punch before.” The officer said, “one punch was all this man needed to turn around on you, expose his other cheek and yet you weren’t able to do a thing about it.” Jason said, ” yeah but he could have broke my…he hit me first and he nearly broke my ARM Bra’!” The officer interrupted, “… but he didn’t and we know you started it, YOU, not him.” Jason said, ” I want to press charges because he hurt me bad!” the officer said, ” you tried to hurt him and he stopped you, everything stopped there and so now everything stops here. Enjoy your 30 days in the shoe.” They then went back to Phil. Although they wanted to released him back to Pod Z they told him, “Your fight is still under investigation. We have to talk to the powers that be and ah…investigate further so ah, when we pass on our report we’ll tell ’em what you shared and put it all under investigation. Ok?” They didn’t wait for an answer the “ok?” was rhetorical. Phil hung his head and those words haunted him. He thought about why they called this the shoe (solitary holding on evaluation). His life lately was all about a huge evaluation and investigation. He strived to keep from unraveling, keep evolving, keep surviving.
Back in Z-Pod there was still a big buzz over the fight, if you could call it that. Mugz, a 20 year old young man insisted the way Phil handled Jason was the same way he killed a guy, “That why he in jail, slaughtered the guy!” Johnson, an older, more mature male shook his head, “Mugz, he’s in on involuntary man slaughter.” Mugz shouted back, “who would volunteer to be slaughtered?!” Rob butted in, “he’s in on murder.” Johnson just shook his head again and rolled his eyes with a smirk he couldn’t hide from his face. Jones spoke up and straightened Mugz, “no dude, he hit a guy with his car and t’was ‘assident…he didn’t mean to hit em’.” Tex, a tall, very very thin pail young man with a neck as red an shinny as a stop light said, “Ya’ can go to jail…FOR THAT?” Johnson offered legal advice, “ya’ll so stupid, Phil said it was an ex of his ex wife who didn’t like em’ and the only reason he got charged is cause the ex’s family says Phil hit him on purpose. They didn’t like em’ so n’ ‘asident turns in to ‘da blame game, that’s all. HEY, TEX, ALL YOUR EX’S LIVE IN TEXAS?!” “FALSE CHARGES!” yelled Winters, a young black inmate, “just like what they got me on!” Johnson said, “You said you got drug charges Wint!” Winter interjected, “ya but it ain’t all that, that shii ain’t mine, Trevor done planted that mofo!” Billy, a heavy set middle age male asked, “so he was framed?” “Nooooo, dang you so…ugh, he accused. ” Jones completed it, “falsely accused but they got investigate that shiicuz he could’ve been pissed at em’ and the ex could be run down next.” Sonny, with tats that covered most of his face said, “I don’t see Phil running anyone over on purpose, ‘specially when the dude can fight. Man he could’ve broke J’s arm! Woo whooo!” A few bystanders yelled out, “woot woot!” Which triggered a few more in the Pod to make dog barking sounds back. Mugz said, “He did break it!” Jones corrected him, “He was gonna break it off but it w’nt broke, just hurt like a mofo.” As he smile Johnson said, “I know that right!” Tex asked, “so he gotta sit n rot in here til’ they prove he didn’t run down the man?” Johnson confirmed, “that the way it is my brother. Innocent but locked up until they make you full guilty, no matter if you guilty or not!!” The bitterness spread through the pod. The more they were treated like dogs or caged animals the more they acted like it, or was it the other was around, the more they acted like wild animals the more they were treated that way? One thing was clear, the guards could hear the dogs barking.
Phil, in confinement, took advantage of the Solitude rather than taking it for granted or looking at it as unjust punishment. He tried to do his fair share of sleeping the time away but used meal delivery time as a way of telling what time of day it was. He’d try to stay asleep until morning ‘chow’ but sometimes his mind wouldn’t let him. He was allowed a journal, a Bible and a pencil that was made from a pliable substance that made it as bendable as licorice. No one was going to be able to use it as a shive, that was an impossibility. Phil wrote, “The investigation goes on…as I sit in solitary confinement I investigate what I have done and what I can do differently.” Although what he was about to write he had written a thousand times before he wrote it yet again, “I’ve done nothing wrong on purpose. The Truth will prevail.” Then he wrote a prayer, “Lord, may they see that I did not hit and kill Mark with my car on purpose. I was driving to work, Mark was jogging and stepped out into traffic. Anyone driving by could have hit him, but it was me. It was me Lord. As I write this prayer I realize you already know all this, I’m talking to myself more than You. I don’t mean to. You know my situation. Help me wrap my head around it and may the truth and justice prevail. I have faith in you but no faith in the system or in the way this world’s ‘correctional justice system’ works but YOU are bigger than, so much bigger than it all.” Phil wrote in big bold dark letters, “my God, YOU’RE bigger than it all. So I fix my eyes on You and know that YOU will work it all out. Everything is going to be alright.” Phil then turned to the back of his journal and lifted up to God all the names he listed saying out loud, “Lord you know these people, you know all our hearts & i give all my cares to you regarding…” He moved his hand down the page as he remembered these people, some accusers, some accused and others simple family, friends, brothers and sisters who he hoped were remembering him in their prayers as well. One name Phil’s hand dwelled on more than anyone else was Jim Smith. At first he couldn’t recall this person, then he noted a “s” next to the name. That told him it was someone on the “s”taff members there in the jail. “Oh yeah, the guy that came and asked questions.” He thought, then prayed, “Lord give him direction, not just for my situation but for all he has to determine regarding this place.” Phil’s thoughts then expanded outward to the larger investigation of his case, what they brought him to jail for. He also prayed for the family of the one he struck down. He asked The Lord for forgiveness as he forgave those who were falsely accusing him.
A HARD DAYS WORK
The guards had a conversation of their own regarding the “self defense fight”, they were now calling it, that took place April 2nd in Pod Z between inmates #2657923 & #7794631 better known by their family members as Jason & Phil. Chief Investigator of Inmate Conflicts (CIIC Jim Smith) was never positive and always presumed, ‘they are all guilty and that’s why they are here’. Today was different, from a good breakfast to a slightly less stressful drive to work Jim was feeling pretty good and although he didn’t acknowledge God for all he had today his mind was a little less cluttered with the desire to slam everyone around him for not being as well off, handsome and capable as he was. The Correctional officers from Pod Z who were first to arrive on the scene asked Smith what he thought. Smith took a deep breath. “Well…obviously ya’ll seemed to have gotten there, THIS time, IN time before any blood shed.” They looked at each other both wondering if that was a compliment or a dig on how they responded in the past. It didn’t really matter. They knew Smith was never pleased. Smith went on, enjoying the sound of his own voice, “I say someone needs to have this guy (pointing at the video recording of the one who held the arm bar) tell them why he didn’t break the other piece a trash’s arm! Next time, and there is always a next time, he will snap a bone & we’ll not only have blood we’ll have a broken arm.” The sheriff was never happy with Smith’s attitude but knew he needed someone in that position who wasn’t too soft that would enforce rules and set examples of what happens when inmates break rules. Smith asked, “What you think Sherriff, you’re the one who holds the office. Everyone could see the fine line Smith drew between complimenting him for promotional purposes and a ting of jealousy. No one else was able to know about the conversation Phil was having with The Lord during this trial but there was definitely a supernatural presence. The Sheriff spoke up, “If we could get more of these men to employ self defense tactics, under control, like this Phil Realman did, heck if we had guards that knew when to move and how to do this we’d all be better off.” Some hung their head in shame Smith puffed out his chest and raised his chin as if it were his idea to make this jail more proficient. The sheriff went on, “Now I don’t mean we don’t know how to maintain order or get things under control when things get mucked up but we can do better.” One of the C.O.s raised their hand then spoke when Smith nodded his way, “What if we had training on pressure points and some type of submission holds?” Smith said 2 words, “dollar signs.” A fellow C.O. said, “You should already know that from the academy!” The Sheriff agreed but offered, “What about a refresher course?” Smith repeated, but louder, “DOLLAR SIGNS!” To which the Sheriff replied “That’s why we get Phil to do it, for free.” “Who is Phil?!” Asked smith. The Sheriff pointed to the screen. Smith laughed, “I am your CIIC and you want us to have an imate show us how to control conflict? Phssshhh.” The Sheriff smiled and said, “yep, let’s have him do that in place of serving time in segregation .”
NOT SO SOLITARY CONFINEMENT
Solitary Confinement would be better if there was more solitude, was what Phil thought as he tried to block out all the yells, moans and barking that travel through the air. No walls or single locked door could keep the nonsense of other’s verbal expressions out. Phil tried to read to himself, “Someone will say, ‘I am allowed to do anything.’ Yes; but not everything is good for you. I could say that I am allowed to do anything, but I am not going to let anything make me its slave.” The calls for help, the complaining, the rebellious onslaught of vulgarity slowly began to faint away not because it stopped, because Phil was able to block it out. With no concept of time Phil finished reading, “he bought you for a price. So use your bodies for God’s glory.” Just then the little window to his cell clanged open. “Realman!” Yelled a CIIC. “I am CHIEF Investigator of Inmate Conflicts Jim Smith!” Phil moved over the the envelope size opening. He spoke to Smith before and recalled praying for him.”And I am HERE to tell you we are still investing the fight you had three days ago….ah….we are STILL looking into it to ah… to AHUMMM, determine if you continue to stay in S.C., confined in here or ah…what the Sheriff wants done with you.” With that, before Phil could get the 2 letters “ok” out the slat slammed shut. Phil whispered another prayer, “Lord I’m confused, I thought punishment was just solitary confinement. What else could they do?” As Major Smith walked away from the cell one of the C.O.s said, “I thought the decision was made to get that inmate to show us some self-defense or pressure points or something like that?” Smith replied with a smirk, “I am in charge here. That’s still to be determined!” In the next morning meeting Smith pulled the sheriff a side and expressed his discontent for the decision to have an inmate teaching any kind of class. The sheriff replied with, “I already told you to do that?” Smith lied, ” I haven’t met with the inmates yet but I wanted to make sure before I tell him anything, that’s what you really want to do?” The sheriff addressed him with kindness but firmly said, “Jim, I made the decision. Don’t question it. Just do it please. You should have already at least met with the inmate and told him we’re working on getting him out of solitary confinement. It was not a fight in his end. They are all prisoners but they are not all the same type of person. Each one is a human being and needs to be treated that way.” Jim changed his story, “oh yes, I met with him once already.” The sheriff did a double take between his desk and the officer, “wait a minute. You said you had NOT met with him yet.” Smith recovered and stammered a little bit, “Oh yeah I ah I mm, uhum, met with him, shortly before my shift ended, was runnin ‘ late tryin’ to get everything done and I told him we’re still kind of working on it but I didn’t tell him exactly what the plan was. I wanted to be sure that is what YOU want. The sheriff confirmed, “Well, please get with the plan and tell him exactly what the plan is then get him out of solitary confinement and set up a time for him to teach some pressure points and how to resolve a conflict using some type of submission holds that will hurt but not be fatal.” Smith tried not to roll his eyes and just said yes sir as he looked down, “yes sir.” He walked away.
3 days later, now the sixth day of solitary confinement for Phil, Smith banged on the door the Phil’s cell. Phil came to the door and waited for the slot open but it never did. He could hear Sergeant Smith yelling but it was hard to make out details of the actual words. “I’m having trouble hearing you can you open the slot Sergeant Smith?” He just yelled louder, “You can hear me fine, knew it was me didn’t ya?! It’s not sound proof in there! You can hear everything just fine!” Phil strained his ears putting one up next to a crack in the door, “I’ll try!” The unintelligible shouting continued, “Actually, what I have to tell you we’re going to have to take you to another place. My guard will explain.” Someone else shouted, “Explain things to me!” Phil heard the other inmate better than the Sargent. Phil was confused and didn’t understand the words let alone what they might even mean. It sounded like he was trying to listen to somebody as they spoke underwater. It was loud but not clear. The next day there was a banging on the door and this time the slot was opened and a guard said, “Inmate Realmen, put your hands to the back of the door I’m going to Cuff you and we’re taking you to another room.” He did as he was told but his head was filled with questions. Maybe there was something going on he just wasn’t aware of, after all there were many things going on that had nothing at all to do with him as an individual in this place but they had their rules and did what they did for their reasons you just had to go along with it. He was lead down a very long hallway to one of the rooms he recalled meeting in before with a small group. The guard said, “we’ll wait here for CIIC Sargent Smith”. Phil was still wondering why Sergeant Smith couldn’t just open this flap and tell him what was going on. They waited for which seemed like an hour and a half until Sergeant Smith finally came in. He was very Gruff and demanding as if this was a waist of his precious time. After proclaiming who he was, his credence all he has to do, he finally got to the point and told Phil that he couldn’t tell him what he wanted to tell him in segregation because this was a golden opportunity that they have never offered anyone before. Phil fought back the confusion in his brain just in time to hear Sergeant Smith say , “You have two choices. You can stay in solitary confinement and just sit there and rot or wait let me make that three choices. Again, stay in solitary confinement sit there and rot and be alone and hear everybody in there complaining, nothing you can do about it or you can go back to your pod and be with those animals or you can meet for a 30-minute crash course class on self-defense. Phil went to speak but the Sergeant interrupted him, “NOW, let me remind you we never offered anything like this before and if it was up to ME you would just sit in solitary confinement where you should be and then after your 30 days there. ..” Phil’s thoughts interrupted his focus. Although he said nothing out loud he thought, surly it’s not a full 30 days from now. I already did several days, hasn’t it been like, a week already? He knew better than to interrupt Sergeant Smith who went on babbling making all three options sound bad. Phil was so confused as to why he would need a self-defense course or why he would even consider taking a self-defense course. Finally Sergeant Smith stopped rambling on and on and demanding an answer, ” so what’s your choice?” “I’ll stay in solitary confinement.” Sergeant Smith let out of breath and slammed his fist on the table, “THAT’S NOT AN OPTION!!!” Phil just said “okay? I hate to ask you to repeat the…”Sergeant Smith got in his face, “The sheriff and the facility want YOU to teach a self-defense course.” Phil tried to mask a chuckle and thought, he must be joking but he could tell this man didn’t joke at least not with inmates. So, Phil just said,”I’m confused. What are my choices?” Sergeant Smith took a big sigh and said, “Why are you so stupid? All of you inmates think you can just do whatever you want to do and make your own choices and then not have to live consequences from your choices. You are not in control of anything, especially around here.” Phil just thought silently, ‘you got that right. He’s not telling me anything I don’t know.’ Sergeant Smith rambled on a little bit more with misguided anger. He resented prisoners. He hated how the system worked and got into the field to make it better, instead he made it worse, completely oblivious. In his mind he was assured that he had all the solutions if they would just run things according to his strong willed disciplinary enforcement. Phil could do nothing but sit and wait. Sergeant Smith finally got to the point and said, “I’ll just tell the sheriff that your uncooperative and won’t go along with the program. All inmates never cooperate with us. You all always have to do it YOUR WAY. You will just stay in solitary confinement refusing to teach the class.” Sergeant Smith waited for Phil’s response. He still just looked at the sergeant not knowing how to respond. It was the old parent to child, , student to teacher or even teacher to parent stand off. One challenging the other to question their position, not as a person but as a person who held some type of authority over them. After a few moments of dead air Phil said, “Okay.” Sergeant Smith let out some more steam on how this was not negotiable and how he was in disagreement with the whole situation. He raised his voice arguing with himself, “If that’s what you want, no skin of my sack!”Phil bit his tongue telling himself, ‘I’m just here to do my time’. Not sure if that would upset Sergeant Smith anymore but he was pretty sure no matter what he said or didn’t say Sergeant Smith was going to be upset. Just when Phil thought Sergeant Smith’s voice couldn’t get any higher in pitch and volume he bellowed, “I’m just telling the sheriff that you’re uncooperative and you’re not willing to teach the class and you will stay in solitary confinement for 30 days.!!!!” Phil replied again, “Okay.” He knew it took at least two people to continue an argument and this was not a battle he wanted to fight or try to win, even if it was possible to reason together, this was one sided. Unfortunately after being escorted back to solitary confinement the last thing he heard was, “Your 30 days begins now!” Rather than argue he had already done 1 week and should only have like 3 weeks left he prayed and was reminded the CIIC determines the punishment but the time is kept track of by the S.C. cell monitor. Maybe Smith wasn’t resetting the clock just blowing hot air because he was upset over something else. It was hard for Phil to not reply the whole meeting he just survived but he knew better. He began to try and go back over the three options he thought the Sergeant had given , however, rather than think about Smith or the calendar or the reasons why all this was happening he just prayed…
BACK TO THE POD
Phil did no more than the original 4 weeks in solitary. Smith didn’t keep track of Phil’s time he just made sure no inmate was going to teach his facility anything. Back in the pod Phil prayed silently about life in jail including of his fellow inmates. He knew life was extreme and different in lock up but also had the faith to know that there was no reason he couldn’t survive and live like Jesus, even in here. Before meals he didn’t make a big show of it but he paused to acknowledge and give God thanks, even when it was bland or distasteful. One day a guy, everyone called “T” was sitting next to Phil during chow and he noticed Phil’s actions around the pod, how He conducted himself and now how he quietly prayed for the slop before them. “You always do that?”, mumbled “T” in the only defensive and harsh bully persona he knew. Phil smiled a little and said, “always grateful.” “T” just humphed, still trying to stay hard, “my gran mama alway did ‘dat but she be like (shifting to a LOUD high girly voice) ‘OH OUR HEAVENLY FATHER IN HEAVEN, DEAR LORDY HEAVENLY FATHER WE THANKS THEE HEAVENLY FATHER FORS’ THIS FOODAH’ HEAVENLY FATHER AND HEAVENLY FATHER, FATHER GOD WE’S THANKS THEE FOR YOU’D BOUNTY AND BREAD’AHhhh!’ -(back to his own voice) all like’s datn’ stuff.” “T” smiled and inmates 4 tables over raised their heads in wonder assuming they were hearing “T” make fun of what they witnessed Phil do before meals. Phil smiled too. Zeek, across from “T” said, “I hates that! Ya ain’t gotta yell, Lord ain’t hard a’ hearin’ and why’s they go, ‘Father God this this this and Father God & Father God and Father God….that’d be like sayin, ‘hey “T”. How you doing “T”? Thank you “T” for sitting here “T” and eating “T” and “T” for hanging out and eatin’ with us today “T”…why people do dat? God dat get on my nerf’!” Phil said, “well we all talk different, we all pray different. ” “I know dat right.”, a fellow inmate next to “T” chimed in with a mouth full of potatoes. Phil said, “maybe your grandma just wants to make sure everyone knows who she’s talkin’ to.” “T” responded with, “well damn, she make a show about it and we all know who she be talkin’ too.” “True, but she was aware others were listening as well.” Phil added. One inmate that took up the space of two average size men sat at an even greater distance added, “she show boatin’, putting on da ritz, churchin’ it up a lil’!” Phil said, “maybe, but she may just be following the example she heard from her grandma.” “T” confirmed “yeah she don’t know no better.” Phil just nodded and said, “But her heart was right.” Phil thought, who would have thought we’d be taking about prayer when our last meal conversation was about who owed who tattered tots?
“COMOCERY! ! !” Came the call from a C.O., “COTY, JASON!!!” Jason looked defensively. His first thought spewed out of his mouth, “I didn’t do ‘nuthin’!” “YOU GOT A BUNCH A STUFF HERE COTY, BETTER BE CAREFUL!” Jason was astonished to find a small box with his name on it. There was everything from honey buns to beef jerky, soda and chips in there. “I didn’t order this!” One of the guards who was known for being a little more humane stepped up, “someone got it for you.” “Who?!, I ain’t got no friends, just enemies and my boys.” A few of his followers smiled sheepishly wondering if they might get something from that box for things they have done or were willing to do for Jason. “Anonymous!” Said the guard with a smile, hiding a secret he helped arrange. Phil smiled too praying the secret would be kept. Giving commissary away was frowned upon . It led to to many fights, too often jealousy and rage broke out. It was as if giving away what was your’s in this culture was a sign of weakness and if a man gave away anything without something in return the receiver would just take more and more. The animinity was of utmost importance. This was Phil’s way of loving his enemy without becoming a target again. The plan back fired a little because, although it wasn’t much, Jason’s new commissary was currency and caused a few unforeseen difficulties for Jason, rather blessings. This was mainly because Jason used it for leverage. That night a few of his ‘minions’ helped beat up Phil. Four held a second blanket over the one Phil was under as he was sleeping. One man on each corner. While Jason did the pummeling. Phil, trapped, just took it. The blanket was heavy. He now knew how a fish in a net felt. To add to the confusion Phil noticed a cold dampness and then some water coming through his blanket. Jason’s crew soaked a blanket then used that to put over Phil. Double coverage! The wet blanket’s weight made it impossible to move. After the beat down Jason and his accomplice ran off leaving Phil bruised, battered and wet. Phil got up cautiously, slowly and on high alert. No one was near by. A few men watched from their bunk. It was 2 a.m. and they knew not to get involved. The fight was not theirs and they knew Phil would be o.k., he was moving. Phil simply got some dry clothes on, stripped his bed and laid back down on the uncovered mattress. He used a sweat shirt as a make shift blanket over his shoulders. As he tried to go back to sleep he breathed deep, thanked God he was alive and prayed for those who just tried to beat him to death. He prayed for blessings on them and any family they had on the outside. “Lord touch them…bless them…thank you.” He said from his heart. The 4 men laid in their bunks as still as possible. 2 if them gloated in their accomplishment and knew Jason was pleased and satisfied for now. The other 2 felt shame and thought of their family on the out side. Jason was proud and still felt the rush from his victory but wanted more, nothing seemed to truly satisfy his desires.
The next day, during morning chow Phil heard men explaining to a first timer, like himself , sitting behind him, “You see, you gotta learn the difference between a convict and an Inmate. Inmate is a prisoner here, a convict is a con artist who just happens to be in here.” The Teaching went on, “an inmate is like a fish, we schoolon’ em’…” Phil’s body ached and the ill education he heard going on was sadly true. “The only part of correction in correctional Institute is correcting mistake we make in crime so next time we not caught.” Another convict explained, “We got caught cause we didn’t do it smart enough, we learn in here how to do more: wash checks better, taps into internets, hack, fool a jeweler, make better drugs, fool people, get away with stuff better, smarter, a betta’ playa’ play the old OLD game!” Phil then felt lil’ John sit down on the same bench he was on but a few spaces down. Lil’ John sat with his trunk toward the table but turned his head and deep masculine voice toward the men behind them, “You can also learn from mistakes and give up crime. Get a new,game plan!” The men around the newbie said, “Nah man, they’s too many teachers in here, making us students, disciples of unrighteousness.” John left it go. Getting a hold of his thought on their perspective of what was right and wrong then throwing it out. ‘No room in there for that’, He said to himself. The cons went on, ” it up to the individual on what really pays, I earn my money. I take goods, watches, paint ball guns, stuff, mos’ly froms’ ‘walmarts’ and sell em’ I work for that money.” The first timer spoke up for the first time, “You take the goods from the store without paying? ” “hell yeah. I ain’t gunna pay” “Then you stealing! ” “no I sell it!” Phil thought, ‘ Your payment isn’t the money you get your payment is here, now, caught n’ locked up.’ He did not enter the conversation, it was not his to enter. Maybe later, one on one he’d talk to the new guy, fresh meat the convicts would call him. The Lesson continued, “Now you knows you might get caught, that really drive me more than the money.” Another false teacher shared, “Yeah I guess you right I take that risk, it parta’ da game, cat n’s mouse but dat money make it all good.” Another inmate said, “you just think payday is from person in the black market but ultimately your payment for wrong is lock up.” Phil thought, “or worse, death…wages for crime.” Just then he heard yet another veteran inmate join in behind him, saying exactly that but even more biblical, “wages of sin is death. Crime sure don’t really pay, I know dat right but hard truef’ bra.” The teachers said, “shut up Paul! You an old man and been in here so long you don’t even know real life out dere! Don’t try n’ confuse this guy, this his first stay.” Paul boldly said, “If he listen to you it won’t be his last.” They just got more upset and ended up shoving Paul off their turf. Paul took the message and moved on before it became a full on fight he knew he would not survive. Another inmate with a small tear tat. next to his eye was sitting in front of Phil . He spoke softly, “I wish people outside of gangs had the dedication to each other that gang members have for each other.” They started their own conversation. Phil agreed, “It is rare for people to be that dedicated for a friend, let alone willing to simply give time and show they care to a stranger.” John Treeman, they called lil’ John, was anything but lil’. He stood to his feet and walked around the outside of the little huddle of men gathered as he raised his deep tone voice, “I believe Jesus was like that…he had a gang but not like our gangs. He even did a few things his members would never do, like speak to a woman.” You could see looks of confusion then heads turned to Phil. Phil said, “why you all looking at me?” The littlest guy in the pod, Pip spoke up, “come on we see you readin’ your Bible, sometimes it’s the only other light, your lil’ flash light at night in your bunk, you trying to not wake anyone as you scan over the pages. You must know what lil’ John talkin about…” Pip stopped there not daring to accuse Lil’ John of being wrong but in his heart he wanted to know if that was really in there. The man with the small tear tattoo finished his breakfast, stood and walked away. Lil John almost read Pip’s mind, “It’ in there bro, read about how Jesus really was, a rebel dude”. Phil said, “yeah, lil’ John is right. ” lil’ John puffed out his chest and raised his head also he raised a hand up to The Lord. Phil said, “one time Jesus was walking through a town, a hood, that was off limits, Jews vs. Gentiles. He was not only in the Gentile’s hood, that the Jews avoided, he also stopped at a well there and spoke a woman. Jews would never speak to a Samaritan woman, a Gentile.” Jesus did!”, said lil’ John. Phil smiled. The subject shifted a little as Pip said, “prison different from jail though…thar’ you’s got ta’ join a gang or die.” Lil’ John asked, “You afraid to die Pip squeak?” “Sure I afraid to die.” Lil John went on, “there many things worse than dying…I ready to die cause I know only one reason I would die and Jesus in me, He rose, I will rise!” Phil just smiled and knew that, what he saw of lil’ John’s way of life, he lived like Jesus was inside him. Phil thought how great it would be if Christian’s were willing to stand for true faith in Christ even in the face of death. Pip asked lil’ John, “You been to prison?” “No, why you ask?” Pip just shrugged. Pip mumbled, “gangs rough.” Lil’ John said, “we got small baby gangs right in here, but you gotta stand fo’ somethin’, fo’ yourseff’ and fo’ what you really believe, who you really are, no matter where you be. You don’t do nuthin’ stupid and you ain’t got go on to prison.” Pip squeaked, “yeah but what about someone like Phil, he may go ta prison afta’ dis’ an he ain’t do nuthin’.” Phil looked up and straight at Pip’s eyes which did not meet his. Lil’ John said, “man, you don’t know that man’s future.” Pip just shrugged again. Phil spoke up, “But God does and if He wants me in prison, I’ll be going. I trust he don’t want me there…” Phil paused and took in a deep breath then finished letting his breath out with the words, “I didn’t think he wanted me in here either so….” Lil John put his huge hand on Phil’s shoulder and said, “we don’t know what God’s got in mind and for why.” Phil just nodded. “BUT…” John said loudly for everyone in the pod to hear, “…we live and trust knowing GOD KNOW’ BEST!!!” A few men mumbled and let out a “phft” sound. One very dark skinned man came over to the small group and with a strong Indian accent asked, “What’s this Bible study you got going on over here? My family said they would disown me if I become a Christian young man.” Pip thought about how his family disowned him because of his sexual preference and kept it a secret in here. The man, originally from India asked, “What happens in a family of Christians if you as a Christian man turn from Christian heritage? ” Phil said, “hmm I don’t know, I guess it depends on the family.” The man pressed on, “But what of your heritage, your bible, what does it say you do?” Lil’ John spoke quickly, “There may be times when people in da’ faith don’t hang out with a brother no more if he ain’t doing right or living like the Bible says but really we about loving anyway.” Pip thought how nice that would be. Phil said, “yeah, the Bible says to love em’ but don’t link up with em’. Don’t lose your faith and obedience to Christ.” In His Indian accent the man said, “But what if they are your family, your son or daughter or wife?” Lil John said, “same thing.” The man asked, “yes but how would you not talk to them or still let them live in your house?” Phil said, “Oh I’d still talk and live with them and show them love but whatever behavior they are doing that is not pleasing to God, according to what we know in His Word is against Him, I don’t go along with it.” Lil John added, “man, it jus’ like being in here, we gots’ ta’ live together but we all individuals and live how we want or how God wants. Everybody gotta choose.” Pip said, “But Phil if you had a son who was like, doing stuff you know the Bible says is wrong whatcha’ do?” Phil smiled, “You know my son?” Pip wasn’t sure if Phil was offended or joking. Phil picked up on that and continued, “my son went his own way, made drugs his Lord rather than Jesus and I spoke to him just the same if not more. I showed much compassion.” Lil’ John said, “n’ tells em’ What happen’.” Phil smiled, “well after a few years chasing drugs and a type of thug life…” Phil laughed, “He decided to get closer to God then asked Jesus to come in his life.” “WHOOOOOOOOOO! GLORY!!!!!, lil’ John couldn’t contain it, “You see the brotha’ got to know his heavenly Fatha’ cuz his ‘erfffly Fatha’ was like em’ he showed same type ‘UN CON DITIONAL’ love, the best a man could give!” Lil John had a southern gospel preacher voice starting to take off. Phil turned a little red and his smile was never bigger. Pip asked, “How you know to do dat?” Phil went to answer but lil’ John was now roaming around the outside of their small group gathering, bouncing as he walked saying, “He didn’t know it would happen but trust God and just live like Jesus in da’ Bible. Can’t be doin’ it fo’ anyone else you just gotta be letting Him ,JESUS, livin’ in you.” Phil couldn’t believe this conversation was taking place in jail. Reality came with a loud sudden slam of the main door, followed by shouts from guards rushing in yelling, “EVERYONE TO YOUR BUNKS NOW!!!” It jolted all of them, it was meant to. Several C.O.s shouted the same commands and their voices were overlapping and echoing off the cement walls. Even though this happen fairly often enough it was always upsetting. Everything would come to a screaming halt. They’d lay flat until told to do what ever the guards would command . Many times their personal belonging would be turned upside down and inside out and after the guards left they’d try to find things of value: pictures, toothbrush, pages they wrote on, things that on the outside didn’t mean much but were treasures to the inmates. Shake down was always a hardship but accepted as part of life.
HINDU OR HYMN DO
The man that joined the table talk that ended up being a make shift Bible study had questions of his own. He was the only one with a strong Hindu background, heritage and accent that went right along with his dark eyes, hair and skin complexion. To get more answers he wanted to approach Phil but knew coming up from behind him while Phil was filling out a commissary slip was risky. Phil was aware he was there and rather than turn his back he paused and said “Hey, i never got your name.” “Just call me P.T., you’ll never pronounce my full name right. Am i bothering you?” “No, no.” Phil said and laughed, “It’s not like I’ll run outta time and not finish this.” The man corrected him and said, “Well all commissary slips must be in before…” Phil smiled, “No…I know, I know…what’s up? This can wait.” The man insisted, “I can wait.” He walked away. Phil thought it strange but knew very little of the Hindu culture and thought it best to just let the man go and finish his order. Later P.T. came over to Phil again, this time Phil was just sitting alone letting the t.v. fill the air. P.T. asked, “Are you watching t.v.?” Rather than try a joke that may be misunderstood or lost in translation he simply replied, “No.” P.T. asked, “It is ok to talk?” Phil said, “anytime.” P.T. said, “well, sometimes you are reading or doing something and I don’t want to interrupt.” Phil thought how nice that was and replied, “P.T. really, anytime is okay.” P.T. looked down, “But I wish not to interrupt your prayer or reading.” Phil smiled and said, “My God is always with me, inside me, we talk all the time and I listen, the best I can, even with distractions.” P.T. said, “You are a man of faith I have never witnessed before.” “Oh?” Phil waited. “P.T. was amazed Phil didn’t have an explanation at this point. P.T. continued, “You seem to be different. The way you think, things you say and how you act, the opposite of most of the inmates but also in many ways the opposite of everyone I know in this world.” Phil just smiled but still did not speak. There were a few moments of dead air and P.T. finally broke the silence, “I imagined your god, The god of the Holy Bible much like those guards during shake down…it there a big shake down coming Phillip?” Phil didn’t expect such a question. This was a big open ended question and he wanted to give the answer he knew, he believed, according to the Bible prophecy. “First of all, Call me Phil.” P.T. Noddd and waited for the answer. “Yes, yes, there is going to be a big shake down P.T.. That is coming but The God in The Holy Bible, when you read the whole thing, you see that He wants people to be ready for it. From the start, Genesis Adam and Eve?” Phil’s voice went up as his eye searched P.T. inquisitively. P.T. nodded and said, “yes, I know of the story, go on.” Phil knew he need not say much more but just simply said, “From the start God wanted a relationship with mankind.” P.T. said, “The man and woman?” Phil replied, “with all created things.” Phil thought about how that might sound to a Hindu or even to someone who believed all things have a soul and he added, “with all human beings.” P.T. waited for more. Again, the dead air surrounded them but the noise from other inmates and the t.v. in the background kept it from being silent. P.T. still waited. Phil just smiled. P.T. waited a little longer then said, “is there more?” Phil asked, “More? What more do you need to know?” P.T.’s brow wrinkled a little not sure what to say or ask, again, dead air. Phil finally said, “I mean P.T. I had to decide if i believed in a God, one God, who created everything and if i did, then how would i find out more about him. ” P.T. asked, “How did you learn more about him?” “I prayed, spoke to him and asked, ‘If you are real, really the only God, let me know. Then I opened my eyes and then He opened my eyes really.” “Then you read the Bible?” “More and more.” P.T. asked but hesitantly, “Did you feel anything.” Phil gave a smile and said, “Yes, deep down in my gut. But it was more than a feeling, it was…” searching for a word P.T. said, “Faith.” Phil thought and said, “Yeah and now I grow more and more, since I invited Him in” P.T. said, “You are possessed?” Phil smiled and said, “Yes, yes I am, now.” “Now?” “Phil explained,”I wasn’t filled or ‘possessed’ before, not until I asked God to reveal Himself to me in a very real way.” P.T. trembled a little bit, “I think I want to know your god.” Phil said, “He is not just mine. He is THE God and He wants to be everyone’s God” Phil waited. P.T. insited, “I want to know Him and Him to know me.” Phil said, “It is simple, He already knows you, you just have to get to know Him. Get personal with Him.” “But…but..my family, they will not want me to know him.” Phil spoke as gently as he knew how and only because they were in jail he thought it best not to put his hand on P.T.’s shoulder said, “P.T. you have to talk to Him, like you are talking to me and He will love you more than your family could ever love you, now, tomorrow, the next day or even when the big ‘Shake down’ takes place.” Phil smiled. P.T. nodded and stepped away already feeling a touch to his gut that there was one God and he was about to meet with him. Phil watched P.T. walking away then turn and come back. He hesitated then asked Phil, “Do I have to kneel?” Phil said, “It sounds like you already are kneeling.” P.T. smiled for the first time, “I am very humbled.” Phil winked and smiled, “Your heart is already talking to Him.” P.T. smiled even bigger as a tear formed in his eye. “I go now Phillip, I mean Phil.” Phil smiled and just nodded in agreement, “Good talk.” P.T. tried to hide his face from everyone, “This ‘berry strange…’berry, ‘berry strange indeed… I….I…feel….” Phil kept smiling, “You’re okay P.T., that’s the way God moves and speaks.” The only thing P.T. could get out was, “‘Berry strange to me.” Phil’s smile broke into a slight laugh, “Good P.T. very good for you and for Him. Once I was blind and now I see.”
GOING TO THE CHAPEL AND WE’RE GOING TO GET MANGLED
That night Phil was attacked the same way he was before but managed to use his pillow to bloc blows to his face. This time Lil’ John came over and the frenzy was cut short.
Jason was bragging to those he knew fed on violence. A few men encouraged him, “You beat em’ DOWN good chaos, you beat the bricks off him!!” Jason smiled and puffed out his chest, while making sure Lil’ John wasn’t coming, “It settled now…he ain’t gunna try n’mess with me again, pay back cost too much for that punkashbiotch’!” It was over for now but one of them who had no remorse wanted more so he stirred things up with, “I heard he in on child molestin!” “Ohhhhh a chester, we got a chesterfield in heerrr’?” Jason corrected his slightly dumber friends, “Nah man they keep them all together in another pod. He a killa’.”, then changing subject, “hey, wanna go to Chapel service today?” His posse thought he was joking then realized he had a plan, they saw the wheels in his head moving and could hardly wait to see what he was setting up.
Across the pod, far from Jason’s meeting, was Phil watching men play cards in the common area. Lil’ John asked Phil if he was going to Chapel again. Phil replied, “no, not this week, maybe not again, depends on who it leading it.” Lil’ John agreed, “yeah I like getting out of the pod but I hate going to Chapel when the guest doesn’t seem to get into the meat of the word.” Pip came over and asked the same thing, “are you guys going to Chapel? I use any excuse to get outta this pod, even for 30 minutes. P.T., you going?” Phil wondered if Chapel would be good for P.T. or just add confusion. ” Lil’ John said, “I going, Phil not.” Phil addressed Lil’ John directly, “If who ever is doing the service offers false interpretation…make a note, I’d hate P.T. to get confused.” Lil’ John agreed, “You know it, I’ll do the correcting right there and then, using my Bible and what it really say’ Hate dem’s small time false prophets. I like da challenge.” Pip spoke up, “What you mean?” Phil said, “you’ll see.” P.T. came over to the table of cards. The men playing were slamming the cards down hard and in their own little world of entertainment. Phil greeted his new brother, “Good morning P.T., sleep well?” “Better than e’er before my friend.” He gasped as he looked at the bruises on Phil’s face, neck and arms. They looked fresh. When P.T. met Phil he noticed marks but they looked like they were going away. “How…ah…you sleep, well?” P.T. manged to just barley get the words out. Phil said, “some.”P.T. tried to carry on the conversation, “You going to Chapel of course, I am sure of that.” Lil’John jumped in, “no, he needs a true day of rest but I goin’ and you know Pip?” Pip said, “sure P.T. told me he been talking to the God of The Bible, the Holy Bible, you know Hindus gots lots a gods?” Lil’ John put his hand on Pip’s shoulder, “a lots a peoples been believin’ different from each other for years. Pip, sit next to me in Chapel and P.T. you too but gives’ me room don’t be all up on me. The benches ain’t big and I like my space.” Phil pictured Lil’John taking up the space of two men with skinny P.T. on one side and Pip, also very thin, on the other side with room for only one butt check on the steel bench in the room used for chapel. “CHAPEL TIIIIIIIIME!” The guard said as he clunk open the door and let it slam again. Jason and his men jumped up and got to the front of the line slowly forming at the door. Jason eyeballed Phil and thought for sure he was coming but just couldn’t move fast enough because of the payback inflicted the night before. Jaso gleamed in what he considered a victory. As the guard opened the pod doorand began to lead the single file group out he gave the normal command, “Pat down first…line up against this outer wall…mouths closed, eyes straight ahead, SHUT UP!!! Come on now, wastin’ your own Chapel time, not mine!” Jason moved forward as told but his head was almost put on backwards, straining to make sure Phil was coming. P.T. and Pip were also looking at Phil but for different reasons. Lil’ John was in the very back and warned those in front of him, “You best be lookin’ eyes front, they don’t play.” Just then the guard said, “come on! We ain’t playin’. COME ON! EYES front! Get up ‘gainst wall, legs spread and, NO TALKIN’!!!” The C.O. grabbed Jason and shoved him toward the wall. Jason protested, “no wait, I change my mind, I ain’t goin!” The guard just said, “too late, your out, your goin’!” As he slammed Jason up against the designated wall. The guard then emphasized the fact with an elbow in Jason’s back, “This may be good for you and don’t make me come back to pull up out of the service!” Jason got the point but said once more, “I don’t wanna go!” Another C.O. backed up the first and said, “oh, you goin’ now!” Jason’s allegiance was confused so they just did what they were told, later they knew they may have to do what Jason said but right now they just followed whatever instructions were given with the most force. Lil’ John watched with amusement from the back of the line, taking it all in. He thought, ‘they like waves tossed about in the ocean by whatever breeze is strongest.’ Phil watched the men exit and went to his bunk to see if his prayer journal was any dryer than it was this morning. It was. He opened to pages in the back where he kept names. He opened up his heart and mind as he lifted these people up. He stopped over the name Smith (staff). He recalled the strange encounter he had in solitary with this officer and prayed a little extra over this man and his family as well as his job. His mind then went to P.T. then he went to a blank page, closer the the front and began to write a prayer for whoever was leading the Chapel service and asked The Holy Spirit to give the men some good spiritual food.
CHAPEL FOR CHUMPS
The room they held Chapel in was just like all the other rooms they held all kinds of meetings in. It was not adorn with a cross, it didn’t have stain glass windows, even ones with bars on both sides as some of the inner city missions had. The long steel benches were bolted to the floor as were the table in front of each bench. The floor and walls were cold. The smell of uncirculated air was most unpleasant. Jason walked in not bothering to shake the hand of the strange elderly gentleman he assumed was the chaplain or substitute teacher for this 30 minutes of torcher. Jason slid onto the bench furthest away from the front and his followers, well, they followed. P.T. was in wide eyed wonder taking it all in. On a whip board the was the wording…
LESSON RO. 12 AND Matt. 5:21-48.
He had no idea what that meant. It was like a secret code to him but under that he read…
YOU HEARD IT SAID, BUT I SAY/ JESUS “LOVE YOUR ENEMIES PRAY FOR THOSE WHO PURSECUTE YOU.”
Pip stuck with Lil’ John who was the last into the room. He shook hands firmly with the chaplain, a tight manly grip. Pip turned and shook hands too but much more gentle. The Chaplin smiled and his thoughts went to how different each man was. Some of the hands were freezing cold but there was warmth in their eyes. Others were hot and clamy but no eye contact. Some shook like a rock, this one more like a dead fish. Lil’ John sat up front. He didn’t like His back toward anyone but there was no choice in here. The benches held the average of 6 men so Pip sat next to Lil’John but gave him space and just as Phil pictured Pip sat with only half his butt on the bench and his leg out the other side to keep him from falling off. Lil’ John called P.T. who was the only one left standing. He was still reading the board. Lil’John looked at the empty space on his right. P.T. took the seat.
The chaplain said, “Let’s start with prayer.” P.T. bowed and closed his eyes, Lil’ John bowed but with eyes open, keeping a glance toward his back. Pip didn’t know what to do and thought he could use this as a time to look at who was behind them, ‘after all their eyes will be closedv, he thought. He was wrong. A few heads were bowed but his eyes locked momentarily with Jason and his demon friends. He didn’t like the feelings that seemed to shoot at him like lazors so he looked at the chaplain. Much to his surprise the chaplain’s eyes were open too and looking around the room at all the men. When their eyes met the chaplain smiled amidst his words as he ask God to speak to them. The prayer was very short and the only way P.T. knew it was over was by Lil’John tapping him and saying , “here.” P.T. took one sheet of paper handed to him and past the stake to the row behind him.
The Chaplain jumped right in,
“Jesus says, ‘Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.’ That is from Matthew 5:17. A stake of Bibles were past around next. They were well used and tattered. P.T. wondered if he could keep one. There were allowed to keep books. Everything was passed with great order from the front, Pip’s side on to the back in a zig zag manner but as the chaplain continued to speak there was a tap on P.T.’s shoulder. Apparently there was some type of religious material being past from the back to the front. P.T. found it distracting and wrestled with some confusion. He whispered to Lil’ John holding this stack of thin magazine and pamphlets with no staples holding their binding together. Lil’John just said, “free readin’, don’t really need it. Thanks.” Lil’John took them and handed them to Pip who was just as confused. He looked at the covers that had these cheesy clean cut smiling faces. He thought how they all looked like game show host. His mind wondered and he didn’t hear the chaplain saying,
heard it said vs. but I say
to you…look at Matt. 5:21-48…”
There was a rustle of some pages mixed with what sounded like one of the paperback Bibles hitting the floor and some chuckels.
The Chaplin ignored the disrespect, he had seen it before. He knew God understood and he knew he only had 30 minutes. So he pressed on, “Jesus wanted people to compared what they had heard from the Old Testament Law with what He was about to share with them.”
Some of the men thought about ‘the law’ and how unfair and rediculous it was. Lil’John knew the Bible was talking about Jewish law, not some type of county or state laws governed by men alone.
The chaplain tried to explain in his old raspy voice, “we can make a
comparison between the Old Testament Law (written/heard) with New Testament (Jesus’ Word & promises). Have you found the book of Matthew, near the front of the New Testament? ” Most of the men knew already but the Chaplin
also knew some had never been to church. Most of the men incarcerated within the United States knew the Bible, in some cases the knew it better than many seminary students or seasoned pastors and Bible scholars. The difference came into play with those who applied and practiced what was preached. He continued, “Many of the religious leaders did all the external rituals but internally their heart was not right with God. ”
Lil’ John thought about the differance between doing Christian activities and being Christ like.
The Chaplain tried his best to get through his material and began to speak faster, “The law was all about works alone. Jesus was and is more concerned with us being like Him. You can take this hand out with you…” He caught his breath, “note, it reads Duty vs. Devotion…again, the law focused on obligation. Jesus was and is interested in true Devotion.” P.T. followed the notes. He read to himself, ‘Performance vs.Relationship.’ He thought of Phil but also heard the old Chaplin say, “the law was a way to show your religious beliefs, however, it became a way to ‘show off’ how ‘dedicated’ people were to God. Jesus is interested in a true love relationship and things done from a loving heart for and with Him, not just a performance piece.” The next few words next to a bullet point were, ‘Guilt vs. Grace.’ Things were really coming to a point of much deeper understanding for P.T. He tuned into the Chaplain’s words, “The law increased Guilt….the Jewish laws we read about in Leviticus, in the Old Testament…,” The chaplain did his best to explain, “… because humans are not able to fulfill it…ah, Jesus gives grace. HE did what we cannot.” Pip finally looked down at the notes after day dreaming and fumbling around with extra materials and the ‘on loan Bible’ he gripped with one hand. Pip read the next bullet point out loud without thinking, “Letter vs. Spirit.” The chaplain smiled and said, “yes, next point.” A few of the men in the back chuckled and mimicked Pip. The Chaplain pursued on, not admonishing those who mumbled and murmured, “That’s good, yhank you for reading, the letter of the law can’t be relied on but His Holy Spirit can fill us and make us pleasing to Him. Some one read the next point, next to the dot on your hand out…anyone?” Some guy directly behind P.T. read it, “Head vs. Heart.” A few men in the very back laughed like middle school students when they heard the word ‘head’ and took it out of context. They self assingned another connotation to it. The Chaplain was not distracted and paid no mind to it, without a dirty look or stopping to warn them of what behavior was acceptable or not he choose his fights and this would not be one of them, “The law was something to wrap humans head around. Jesus wants our heart. The law served its purpose. Then Jesus came, made a new covenant, new promise, New Testament. Now we live like Him. For Him. By HIS grace, not under law. Our time is almost up. I hope and pray you hear what Jesus is saying. That’s what really matters. There is more to your notes but I want to give you all time to share…” “This will be good.” Thought Lil’ John as he adjusted himself on the bench that seemed to be getting harder the longer he sat there. However, the chaplain did not stop talking. He repeated things he already said and read the rest of the things written on the hand out they could have read on their own if they wanted to. P.T. had some questions. Lil’ John wanted to dig into his Bible to find answeres to questions and corrections to false assumptions. A few men in the second row had some comments they felt would add to the lesson. A man on the row behind that had a great application. The men in the very back just wanted to get out of there. The Chaplain drowned on, “So our time is almost up, I hope and pray n’ this worksheet may be very helpful to you. Please notice there is an application of Matthew 5:20 too…see it reads,
• Murder – you can find that in Matthew 5:21-26
• Adultery – 5:27-30
• Divorce – 5:31-32
• Oaths – 5:33-37
• Retribution – 5:38-41
• Enemies – 5:43-48
Hear what Jesus is saying.” The guard came to the door and said, “times up!” It was as if the Chaplain lost his ability to stop speaking and just kept going as the men rose to leave. P.T. spoke over the chaplain to ask if he could keep the Bible, “sure, you can keep any of the materials I have…” He continued as he turned to grab some of the pamphlets. P.T. was practically being carried out by the group 23 men upon their exodus. By the time the chaplain turned back around the room had been cleared. Through out the whole service Jason was uncomfortable, not just because that room was twenty degrees colder than everywhere else in the jail but because the lesson was so warm. In his mind it was all about an impossible type of lifestyle. ‘Love you enemy? ‘ Jason thought to himself, ‘What kinda philosophy is that?! How would that ever work in anyone’s favor?’ For Jason the Bible was only full of fairy tails. Jason always thought Chapel was for chumps and this service, he was gladly leaving behind, just confirmed it. ‘There was no way anyone can pay back evil with good.’ He confirm in his mind.
HIS THOUGHTS WERE INTERUPTED BY HIS STOMACH CALLING HIM TO FINISH OFF THE LAST FEW THINGS HE GOT STASHED, LEFT OVER FROM HIS FREE COMMENSARY.
On the walk down the hall the guards reminded the inmates, “NO TALKING!” As they discussed what paperwork was due this week, the end if the month.
HOME SICK HOME
Phil finally got a shower and when he returned to his bunk the first thing he went for was his journal. It was gone. All his thoughts on paper, gone. He panicked and caught between anger for whoever took it and a mania of racing thought on how he’d keep his sanity. He took a deep breath and prayed. The guy under him, whom he was slowly getting to know better said, “hey, you going up there or you just going to stand there with your junk in my face? By the way, when you in the shower something fell back behind our bunk. Sounded like papers. It done’ fell past me, sawn’ da’ floor down hrrr somwhrr.” Phil went to the front where they laid their heads. He looked below the bottom bunk. Sure enough, there was his journal, wedged between the bunk and floor. He had to squat and try and get it. The bottom bunk owner just sat there. The last thing Phil wanted to do, especially after showering, was to lay on the filthy floor to reach it but he did. He now felt dirty again, needing another shower but that wasn’t an option, not worth the wait and fight. He climbed up top with journal securely in hand clear and clean psychologically. That was good enough. He jot down on a blank page, ‘Lord as long as I have my mental health and spiritual health I know I can endure. Thank you, in Jesus name and for Christ’s sake, amen.‘ Ironically just he was writing ‘For Christ’s sake’ he heard someone in the long line for the phone say, “for Christ’s sake homey, get off da’ phone!!!” He heard other mumbling and becoming more than impatient with the one in front of them. He debated in prayerful thought weather to wait in that line which was a riot waiting to irrupt or miss calling his wife.
Silvia Realman waited by the phone at home, her mind racing with thoughts that ran a long range between extreme calm to the worse case senerio. ‘maybe the line is just long…maybe he was in line and a fight broke out…if he is hurt bad enough they may have had to take him to the hospital…‘ before that thought took her all the way to convincing her Phil was not only hurt but dead she stopped to pray. She decided if she couldn’t talk to her husband she’d spend the time talking to their Heavenly Father. Part of that prayer was ‘…Lord we are in Your hands…’
Phil watched the line from his bunk. Being on the top bunk gave almost a birds eye view. He was praying for his wife, lifting her up to their Lord. With his eyes on the line he went to praying for the men in line.
The man on the phone selfishly ignored the time limit. The next man rebelled, “you in my house punk, get off the phone!” Phil prayed for him. The man ignored any nudging from The Holy Spirit and decided to lunge forward shoving the phone receiver into the other man’s nose. This fight belonged to these two but as Jason, just moments back from Chapel, saw the struggle he choose to join in the brawl. Jason’s three followers ran right behind their mentor toward the frey. The plan to beat Phil to death in Chapel or later tonight, all that misguided anger, was about to be satisfied. This was the opportunity that would instantly gratify Jason right here right now. A two man fight became a mini gang bang. Jason took the side of the one who seemed to be doing better, no defense for the underdog, all offense. To make it fair in his own mind he gave both men a few good kicks to their heads. The men thought it was from the others in line but as the guards made it in to get order and court all six men out to solitary confinement they realized the other four seemed to come out of no where. They couldn’t explain why anyone else was involved. The guards took note and filled out their reports stating, “perhaps this was gang related and all phone privileges need be banded for thrity days.”
After the excitement P.T. came over to Phil’s bunk and ask, “why does God allow violence? ” Phil replied, “well, in this case it took Jason and his baby gang out.”
Silvia felt a calm peace come over her and trusted God knew why her husband didn’t call and God was still in control.
“Let’s go get some exercise.” Phil suggested.
Phil escorted P.T. over to an area some of them used to lift their make shift weights, mostly two liter bottles filled with water. Lil’John was lifting four of them in each hand, tied together with socks. P.T. said, “What do I do if a fight breaks out? I am skinny mini.” Lil’John said, “you pray!” Phil smiled, “I’ve seen Lil’John do that, once he did it out loud and rebuked the assault in Jesus name, OUT LOUD!” Lil’John smiled. As he strained on rep. fifty. Feeling the burn in his chest and arms he let out, “Fifty, Prayer works. He is strong we is’weak!!!” P.T. began to do jumping jacks. Lil’John laughed reaching over to stop him, “THAT going to get you beat up! Try doing what Phil doin’. I would but my belly gets in da’ way.” P.T. looked at Phil as he used a two liter bottle in front of him and was down on his knees. P.T thought it looked a lot like a praying position. Phil let the bottle slide out in front of him, gravity doing all the work then his core muscles doing the work to bring him back up to a squat position, knees off the floor. P.T. said, “I will try.” Phil gave a little direction. P.T. did pretty good but was only able to do it once. The second time he crumbled to his knees half way up. Phil encouraged him, “tomorrow you do three.” Lil John chuckled, “I ain’t laughing I can do one but little by little you can build up to it. I gotta crunch and get rid of this before I can do dat.” He grabbed his belly with both large hands. “That’s right. Little by little we become stronger but not if we don’t work it.” P.T. picked up on the overtones of how important Spiritual exercises were too. He thought, ‘I guess God allows the bad to see how we react. Trust him and become stronger or try and take things in our own hands.‘ Phil added, “remember two legs are stronger than one and one leg is always stronger than the arms. We use our legs to get up and down and carry our weight.” P.T. thought back to the arm bar submission he saw Phil put on Jason. “And your core…” Phil tapped the center of his body, “Your core strength always comes into play.” Lil’John took a deep breath resuming his lift letting out air and the words, “and prayer is stronger than all dissss’.”
“CHOW!!!” Came the next call.
Meal time had always been a good time of healthy talk for Pip, Phil, Lil’John and was becoming increasingly important to P.T. as they were almost always able to sit together. This meal was different. P.T. was able to join Phil but this time the others surrounding them were cons, not inmates. Phil bowed his head briefly but didn’t close his eyes. P.T. bowed his head, closed his eyes but covered his food with his arms as he thanked God for this meal. “You gonna eat ‘dat roll?”, asked the man in front of him as he opened his eyes and notice he was being watched. “Yes.” He replied, knowing he could not give away any food without loosing everything on his trey. It was like offering a single seagull one potato chip crumb, the others come around and surround you, far out number you, then snatches the entire bag. If you’re not mindful they’ll grab your whole meal and fly away. The con had a collection of rolls gripped in his right hand like brass knuckles. His spoon in his other hand he held like a garden tool more than an eating utensil. Then he tried Phil, “you?” Phil said, “I’m eating mine.” Phil took a bite. A new face sat down across and to the right of Phil. He took one quick bite out of each of the six chicken nuggets, spit in his green beans and smashed his bread roll in his dirty hand. He knew, once the food was marked no one else would want it. The three in front of them began their meal and ate fast, guarding their plate , using their arms as shields and kept their head on a swivel. The conversation began, mouths full with occasional pieces flying out of their mouths. The conversation reached levels of perversion that almost made it impossible for P.T. and Phil to eat, let alone digest. It was as if they were trying to one up each other in a contest to see who could be more shocking or dirtier than the next. The more sexually sickening they got the more they laughed, gloated and they kept getting louder like a train approaching. Phil was just letting it all go and just considered the sources. That’s when the man directly across from him directed his full attention to Phil, point blank asking, “You liked havein’ one a dem’ young guards get you off in solitary didn’t you? I know you get yo’ rocks off on little kids. You can be my bitch in here!” It was a trap set to suck in the average man. Most men had to say something in response and give the con an opening to show his control and dominance. The con waited for a response then pushed some more, “You hear me bich?! I’m talking to you, you wanna be my bich, boy?” This con was not a homosexual, just a sexual monster and would take pleasure any which way he could. Others just talked about it. If rape was to take place it was not sexual in nature, it was just an alpha male thing, pure violence, showing who was in charge. Phil looked up and simply said, “no.” The others laughed. One man calling another a bitch was enough reason to fight. Although Phil was done eating he didn’t want to leave P.T. there alone. He wondered why he was taking so long but had seen fear freeze people up before. P.T. was trying to swallow. Although new to this code of ill-ethics P.T. knew when anyone called anyone the “B” word it required a fight. Just then the man across and to Phil’s right scooped up his green beans and flung them toward Phil’s face. Such a short distance it was a sure hit, however, Phil responded in the blink of an eye. His hand moved swift enough to catch them before reaching his face. Some of the juice hit his cheek and he prayed their was none of man’s siliva was in those few wet cold drops he felt hit his face. He forced himself not to instinctively blink, which probably wasn’t the healthiest decision but was necessary to prepare himself for what might come next. It didn’t take a prophet to know there was more coming. In another blink the con across and the the left of him threw his spoon, Phil also caught that, the whole time he maintained eye contact directly in front of him with a glance to check his perefreal view making sure no one was behind him. P.T. quickly removed himself from the table, leaving his trey but grasping his roll and taking that with him. He backed off without turning his back on the table to see Phil slouch back, his legs going up under the table. ‘Was he hit?’ P.T. wondered. All in one motion, counting the sloutch, he noticed Phil get a hold of all three men’s treys and bring them to his own chest. His own trey was now a chest shield and P.T. ‘s thick plastic trey almost slammed to the floor but managed to balance on the edge. No guards noticed the quick scuffel. The man directly across from Phil was not able to stand because Phil had locked up his ankle. With Phil’s two legs forming a vice like grip on the man’s thin ankle the power struggle was more in Phil’s favor now. It all happen in one fluid movement and motion, like an octapuss using all it’s arms to swoosh away or pull somethhing in. The three cons knew the tied shifted but their tough masculine nature was not about to admit that. Phil had gained the three treys as weapons, however, counting the ankle lock and the spoon he had five potential weapons and his own trey as well was the whole table as a wall of defense. The con’s testosterone levels climbed. Their brains told them to save face and never acknowledge defeat but their bodies were now frozen in the same fear P.T. had earlier. Phil’s voice was almost at a whisper, “listen, you called me a bitch, I heard you, but that’s not my name so I was not responding to it. We don’t want to go to solitary confinement. The guards have not noticed anything yet, let’s let this go. Fighting is not worth the cost, the rent is too high.” The con artists in front of him never heard reason from an inmate that actually made rational sense. The one on the right looked at the green beans, still in his target’s hand smashed up against the trey. Then all three sets of eyes followed Phil’s eyes leading them to look at his left hand. While holding the one con’s ankle locked between his he had bent the spoon back and forward enough to break off the rounded part. It was now a shive, contraband that could do real damage. The criminal closest to that left hand back away first. The one on the right decided to back off too. P.T. prayed from a distance. The only con left not only saw his opponent’s ability, he felt his ankle begin to throb. “You is right, ain’t worth it…but you ain’t won.” Phil thought it best to just add a few things verbally before letting go, “I ain’t trying to ‘win’ anything. I am trying to come to an agreement. I can’t win against you, you are the only one who can win against yourself.” He kept his voice soft, head on a bit of a bobble to keep his panaramic awareness. Just before he continued he loosened his ankle lock only enough to rapidly move up to the man’s knees. He still had good control and he still spoke calm, smoothly and soft, “I respect you man, you and the men that were sitting here with you.” Phil really meant this. He said it out loud to gain the respect and confidence but also remind the con he was now alone. Expressing respect to get respect Phil showed an unintimidating facial expression, it wasn’t needed at this point but he did it anyway. He spoke to the con as if he was a friend, no threat, “Two short, simple things. This stops here and now, no repercussions…” Phil thought of a more comprehensive word, ” No pay backs from either side, you or me, your men or mine. No side affects or attack toward my skinny Indian friend, HIS NAME IS P.T..” P.T. heard his name but was too far to hear anything else that was being said. The con nodded and his knee felt like a python was constricting it it more and more. “The last simple request I ask you with respect…what is your name?” The con slowly choked out, “mmMike.” Phil gave a little smile because he knew how easy knee caps could pop out of place. “Ok, Mike. The last request, no more no less…” Phil did a quick review, “this stops here, don’t mess with me or my friend and most importantly now, I don’t want you to miss this Mike…” Phil used his core muscles and arms to sit up on his end a little more, this pulled his new friend’s body in and down as well as increased the tension on the man’s knee. The con nodded in agreement and just wanted his leg free. “When we stand Mike, we gotta move slow. The guards won’t know anything happen and you will need to give your knee time to get the blood circulation back. If you move too fast you may dislocate it yourself. Ok Mike?” Phil waited for a clear eyed agreement from Mike while his own trey tilted and was about to drop to his lap. He still had Mike’s trey ready to use it as a weapon of self defense too if this didn’t work. The con noted the trey, the shive and the tension on his knee and whispered two letters, “o.k.” Phil released the captive leg. They both moved in slow motion, no sudden movements, Mike first.
“I’ll take these treys up for us.”, Phil said as he readied the trey, crushed the green beans against the outside of it and hid the former spoon in a side groove. Mike backed away and looked to see if anyone had been watching. A few eyes darted away, some out if fear, some because they felt bad for Mike and didn’t want him to know they knew he had just been beat down in a way they had never witnessed before. Mike puffed out his chest and did his best to pose as if his limp was just part of some new jive walk he was developing. Phil waited at the table just long enough to make sure Mike was a safe distance. Phil collected all five treys, which could have been used like a shovels to the side of a head or used to block any blows. As he dropped them off he kept the spoon using a little slight of hand. He knew he needed to get rid of it but if he handed it in questions would come.
Phil went over to his bunk to gather himself. P.T. came over to thank him. “No need for that, thank you for praying friend!” P.T. said, “How did you know I was praying?” Phil smiled, making eye contact, “that is what believers do.” P.T. thought of lil John’s advice earlier. “When is the last time you showered?” PT thought it was a question related to how he smelled. Phil explained, “I need this dropped down a drain.” He showed just the tip of the broken silver spoon as he added, “I can use another shower if you can’t get one…” “I am planning on taking one now.” P.T. said with a smile. Phil thought twice before handing it off, “no wait.” He looked around scanning the pod. “I made it, I’ll dispose of it. If this is found it will cost who ever is near it thirty days locked away, surrounded by other screams of misary.” P.T., never having been to the hole said, “I’ll take it.” “You don’t want that.” P.T. insisted, “I’ll only do the time if I get caught with it.” Just then Pip came over, “caught with what?” Phil changed the subject, “hey, where ya been brother?” Pip looked at them funny, “Where else would I be?” Lil John made his way over saying, “hey, our old Bible CHOW group, back together!” This gave Phil the opportunity to put the broken spoon in with his toiletries. “I gotta shower!” Pip said, “thought you got one, they ain’t gonna let you in again” Phil replied, “I think I know who will let me.” Lil John chuckled, “remember when we could use the community shower when eveah’ ? Now it takes a miracle to convince one of the brutes blessed enough to be in an area that’s not considered common to use theirs.” Phil, Pip, P.T. and Lil’John all had bunks that were not far from the common area tables because the inner parts that broke off into smaller cells that held four men were all full, ‘occupied’ and so were the toilets and showers in them NOT Available, but Phil had an idea and began to pray about it.
INTO THE LION’S DEN
The pod seemed a little more quiet without Jason there. Having him and a few others in segregation helped bring some true solitude to the cell, especially when Phil compared tonight with what the nights were like for him when he was in solitary confinement or when Jason was in general population. He slept sound, not just because Jason wasn’t there, but because Jesus was there.
The next morning, all prayed up and remaining in prayer, before breakfast chow Phil approached the cell section that ‘belonged’ to Mike and the two cons who almost shared a chow table with him yesterdays. He noticed three men but all four beds were filled with stuff, as if four men were staying there. This was the closest Phil had been to these men, including the time when there was at the table with treys between them. Mike stood in the doorway, the others behind him.
Phil spoke first, “Got something to resolve.” Mike said, “no pay backs, you said.” “This’ not a continuation of violence and revenge, this’ a favor for you, me and can beniifit the whole pod, especially your cell in this pod, you and your cell mates.” Phil showed the tip of the shive. The men used Mike as a body sheild. “Don’t bring that up in here homie!” Phil consealed it again, “If this’ found we know the consequences and if it’s used we know the consequences.” Mike nodded. Phil spoke with same soft tamber he used in his last conversation with Mike. ..”I wanna ditch it in the shower drain, let it go down beyond reach and confiscation.” One of the men behind Mike offered, “How we know you not gonna use it?” Mike elbowed the guy, a non verbal shout to shut up. Mike corrected things, “We could take it from you and use it!”Phil, giving due respect, wanting Mike to still think he was ‘tough enough’ said, “yes but the fighting doesn’t need to keep going on and on. If this is found (nodding eyes toward the hidden shive) you know it means 30 days in the hole or worse, death. Phil thought about Jesus’ words but translated them in his mind into jail terminology…’live by the shive, die by the shive.’ Mike shrugged, “So, what’s your intenshun’ homie?” “To drop it down the shower drain, beyond reach.” “Psh’ if they find that in my shower, in my drain, I go to the shoe! You ain’t droppin’ that here but I’ll take it off your hands.” Mike was way too willing. Phil insisted, “we gotta get it off the block. I made it, I’ll get rid of it, not goin’ to use it or let it be used.” With that Phil said, “that’s why I am coming to you first, I got an offer for you, like I said, it will beniifit you and the whole pod.” Mike raised his eyes, interested. Phil prayed one plea to God in his mind even as a different set of words came out to plead with Mike, “If they the find it in your drain, I’ll take the wrap for it.” Again Mike clicked his teeth, “tsk”, enough to show his disgust and unbelief, “pshhhiiiit, you crazy hom’ how you gonna take da’ shot fo’ us? You ain’t from this cell! You just one little fish in this big damn pod pond homes’ shii you ill! Sick mo’fo’ go fug yoursef’. Get outta my cell area, this my house,you in my house now bi…” Mike caught his last word before calling Phil a name that could cause that shive to find a place in his eye. Mike was not dumb, he recalled what happen the last time he started a beef with this man and used that one word, let alone all the other knock down drag out fights he had with other cons just for using that one word to address them. Phil calmly started with Mike’s name to bring humanity back into the conversation, “Mike, listen, I thought about that too. Just hear me out and if you don’t wanna deal I’ll figure another way.” Mike didn’t turn his back but took one step back and said, “ok homie, you got 10 seconds.” “I only need 5. You got 3 of you and 4 beds. I know you like your space and don’t want a 4th man, don’t need one, but if you let me in a top bunk and trouble comes cause they find the…it, I will fess up and claim it.” Phil emphasized the last few words, “If I’m in this cell and it’s found in this drain out of four in here I will go to confinement for you.” Phil waited and prayed. Mike thought for a few seconds. His cell mates were now letting out the sounds that anyone could interpret into full words of diragatory disgust toward the idea of giving up an empty bed. They got even louder when Mike said, “ok.” They couldn’t believe he’d do them like this but he was their alpha man and he ruled this cell as well as their lives, decisions and actions. To remain the master of these weaker boys behind him he added, “But we got rules homie and we kick you out if we don’t like you.” Phil agreed and said, “sure, you’re still in control boss. You ain’t nobodies boy. I respect you and your boys.” The slaves behind Mike puffed up. One even spoke up, “that’s right bro. You ain’t nothin’ to us.” Phil nodded but he knew with all the respect given it was only because they were human, he had no respect for the way they lived. They were not stupid but simply ignorant, unaware, life could be lived different. “Here daRulz’ homie. You only sleep here, no hangin’ out during da’ day time. That #1.” Phil listened, continued to pray and nodded in agreement although he’d miss a place to lay down anytime he wanted. “Next, no one else uses our shower but you. Juz’cuz’ you in here don’t mean others can come in.” Phil remained silent but nodded again thinking how unfair it was for people with cells to get each other’s strength in numbers, less light from the over heads, and a bath room to use freely. This jail should make sure there is at least a toilet for all men to use. In his thoughts Phil prayed, ‘Lord, if this is your will allow me to be safe.‘ Mike shared his last requirement, “AND you give us what we want from commissary. ” Phil waited to make sure Mike was done without asking, ‘are you done yet you selfish little…’ then he shifted his thought back to waiting, listening and maintained his conversation with His heavenly Father, ‘help me love the sinner, not the sin. Help me show respect, help me Father please…help me…’ Enough waiting past by when Mike raised his voice, “HELLO? DEAL OR NO DEAL HOMES?”Phil thought how iroinc, the slang ‘homes’ was used yet nothing was about having a true home in this housing unit. Mike smiled at his own cleverness. Phil said, “all but the commesary.” “Whachewmean’ man?” Phil clarified, “I only stay nights. No one else allowed in. I get that.I will take blame if the sh… if it is found, but I ain’t given you no goods.” “How that beniifit us?” Phil didn’t want to be threatening, although violence was the only language they seemed to understand. So he took a deep breath. Mike was waiting for a reply. “Listen, Mike, your cell is the only one with an open bunk. I need a bunk.” Phil paused as Mike nodded and raised up on his toes as if that made him any more powerful. Phil prayed the words would come out correctly and be acceptable to God but also to this con. “Ok, Mike, I’ll give each of you a honey bun or somethin’ not too expensive in exchange for the bunk and…” He paused again, showing the tip of the shive “This will have no way to find its way into your neck or anyone elses.” Phil thought about the way he was wording it in hopes that they knew he meant because it could get into the wrong hands or if need be, used in Self defense. Mike thought back for a brief second to how fast Phil made that shive with one hand, how He used treys. He remembered the capabilities this man in front of him had. Mike said, “I want gum.” Then he asked his ‘homies’ What they wanted. One said, “a car!” Mike slapped him up side the head and said, “You get nothin’ glouch! What you want, small time?” He asked the other. “I like chips!” The man said as his eyes lit up like a kid in a candy store. “Gum, chips and more gum.” Phil said, “deal?” “Get your shit, join the boys. Make room popie!”
That night Phil got in the shower. Forced the spoon against the wall to break it into two pieces to fit down the drain better. He dropped it and never heard it hit the pipe. That should be far enough down so even with the drain cap off no one can get to it. They’ll never find that, he convinced himself.
NEW DAWN NEW DAY LIGHT
Little John watched Phil moving his things yesterday but it wasn’t till breakfast the next morning he was able to sit across from him and bring it up. Pip and PT were also able to join in on the breakfast together again. Little John expressed his concern, ” you makin’ friends with the Riff Raff? “Phil reply, “no just living arrangements”. Pip Piped in, ” you crazy, they kill you!” Phil said ,”maybe but not likely.” Little John said, ” you got God on your side but you still on God’s side? You know the company you keep can corrupt you bro? ” Phil nodded but simply replied, “greater is he that is in me.” PT finally spoke up, ” looks like your buddy buddy with them and becoming part of them”. Phil gave some background, “think back to our true example, Jesus. He was friends with Misfits but he didn’t join in on their ways”. Little John backed it, “In the world but not of it” Phil nodded and asked, “Are these eggs extra salty ?!”, as he noticed Pip heap more salt on. PT added hot sauce and pepper to his. Phil picked up the conversation again, “now I need to find a place to go during the day until God opens my new cell mates minds and hearts.” Little John asked, ” you going to try to convert them?” Phil said, “no that’s not my job I’m just a light.” Pip’s voice cracked as he said, “salt!” PT look for more salt packets, ” there’s more salt up in the chow window”. Little John and Phil smiled and wasn’t sure if Pip meant he needed more salt or if he was using a reference to Jesus saying we are to be the salt of the earth to add flavor, preserve and even used by God to melt cold hearts like the way salt melts snow . Phil emphesized, “I’m just the light and salt.” PT was confused. Little John spoke with a mouthful of instant eggs that tasted like Styrofoam, “I’ll pray for you. Maybe God’ll use you as an example, show them there’s a better way to live. They are career cons, you be careful or you will beat us all to Glory, get there tonight even if they decide to take you out early.” Phil accepted that the men could take his life but even that they could only do if God would allow it. It was all about trusting God and wanting His will, needing to allow God to move, which many times meant he’d have to exercise self-control. If he move to rapid it could drive the cons further away from understanding Christ’s true character . He could also risked being killed just for being annoying. Fully relying on God’s sovereignty and will was Phil’s focus. Pip, who spoke but really wasn’t invested in the conversation said, “I’ve got a dump this breakfast… can I use your new cell toilet Phil?” Phil said, “It’s not mine.” Pip argued, “you’re in a cell now, you got a shower and toilet now! Not going to share? What kinda Christian are you?!” Phil said, “I sleep there and maybe shower and use the commode but I’m not really in yet, however you can go ask Mike.” Pip just said, ” yeah right !” With that he got up to go find an available toilet that someone might let him use. Phil offered further explaination, “there’s a protocol.” Hoping that Pip heard him as he walked away. He knew it was best not to open use of the bathroom to his friends plus it was part of the agreement and part of a larger warped legislation beyond his control.
That night was the second night in the new cell area. Phil used a pen light under his blanket to read the book of James from his Bible until he felt sleepy. He treasured thoughts and prayers asking for God’s wisdom as he nodded off making sure to turn off his small light so the batteries were not dead by the morning. Little John prayed extra that night for Phil that Phil would not be dead before morning.
OUTDOOR ‘WRECK’ TIME
Once a week Pod Z was given an hour of recreation. Although it was not outside this Jail’s idea of recreation was an open room with extremely high walls and a few windows so high up that the light came in but not one sunbeam would reach the men. There were two basketball hoops, a few mats and three guards for 60 inmates. All but maybe 6 of the inmates we’re not cons. There were only four basketballs, this was another set up for more fights. Like groups were in clusters much like any neighborhood party where people of like interest would congregate in areas and occasionally tried to form teams. Today a basketball game actually took place but it took 10 minutes away from there 60 minutes arguing over who was on who’s team, much like the way some middle school students refuse to play with certain people on their team. The game gave those that were athletic a chance to be active and a chance for those who are not athletic to watch live sports. The games were never about who won as a team but rather about what fights may break out and what individual would dominant and not get their ribs bruised. Phil used the time to stretch his legs and do walking laps around the outside of the half size basketball court. The other men watched the game or laid on the mats. As he walked he watched men on and off court. He noted how The game on the court all about each individual trying to score on their own. There was never much passing or sharing. Each man just wanted to score, forget about assisting. 1 tall dude could dunk and each time he did the three guards yelled, “NO DUNKIN’!!!” They choose not to stop the game or pulled the ‘dunker’ out of the game. All but one of these three guards were seasoned veterans and knew some rules you let slide but also knew they had to give warnings to show they were not oblivious. Pip set in a corner and each time Phil passed he said hi. Mike and now Phil’s two new cell mates put the mat up against the wall and shadow box them. Phil caught Mike eyeballing him a few times . Phil would respond with a nodd but didn’t give him his normal over-exaggerated smile in exchange. Phil kept his distance and stuck with the deal they had made. After this time of recreation he hoped to use the shower but knew everyone would want the same thing and although the water was always cold it would be even colder with all the taps on at the same time. While in route Phil noticed some guys over by the sink. One acted like he was using the sink but it was only to block the guards’ view of another man working loose a metal clip that helped hold the pipe’s insilation in place. ‘ Oh no, a new shive, another shive.‘ Phil thought. When Phil past the guards he mumbled, “Shive at sink.” The guards almost didn’t pick up on the clue that he dropped. They rarely listen to anything from the inmates but the oldest guard looked over at the sink, “Heads up boys, looks like we got activity.” as he walked over toward it. The inmate lookout saw all the guards approaching and the man on the ground was kicked and quickly acted like he was just sitting. All three guards surrounded the sink and said, “Move away!” as the youngest guard bent down he noticed what the con was working on. In the opposite corner Phil noticed another con breaking off a very small piece from the rack used to hold the basketballs. Phil wondered if the sink had been a second attempt to get more than one weapon or just a great distraction. He wondered if it was a contest and whichever one was stopped first the other would win. Everything seem to be a contest or a back-up plan. Phil thought, ‘Funny how they work in teams when it come to destructive activities.‘ Some knew they were only in jail for 60 days, some more some less, but others knew after trial it was off to prison and more time. Some have nothing to lose or so they thought. Every time one was caught it just made time harder and longer for them. No one understood why this wasn’t an insensitive to just be on their best behavior. Why couldn’t they just do the time and get out? It was obvious to Phil that it was all about a struggle of human nature and pride that caused them to rebel and eventually become institutionalized. Many would take punishment over humility or acceptance. It was all to common to lose common senes and give into defending their ego rather than submit to any conflict that went against their own will. Phil heard that one of the men who only had 60 days turned it into 25 years because he fought and killed a guard. That con was only in on drug charges and was going to be released but he picked up charges while he was in. ‘A true Career Con’, the words of Little John came to his mind. Even with staying on high alert sometimes you couldn’t avoid a beat down but a shive took everything to a whole new level. As Phil watched the man secure the piece of metal he heard the shout, “TIME!”, yelled two of the guards while the third one tried to make sure the sink was secure. It had only been 50 minutes but this situation forced the guards to take away any time left. “We gotta take this or they gonna’ get it off all the way!” Said the youngrst. Another said, “we ‘prolly have to shut da water off and not allow the inmates to use it from now on. Another simple pleasure taken away. Tis’ a shame really…oh well, they dictated it. LINE UP AND SHUT UP!!!””SINGLE FILE!!!” Two guards barked in unison. “PAT DOWN!” Phil prayed the shive would be found. It wasn’t. So much thought was on the sink, that didn’t give the men anything, and yet it preoccupied the guards from solving a bigger issue to the point of rushing through the pat down.
SHIVE, SHIVE, WHO’S GOT THE SHIVE?
Jail life is a delicate balance. Many men feel if they lose their edge they fail and will fall for sure. For Phil that edge was not his ability to fight, which he definitely had. It was not his physical characteristics, his age, maturity. It wasn’t based on his ego and how tough he looked or acted. It was not based on what respect he was shown. His edge was his relationship with Christ, his greater,higher power.
Phil did his best to always be alert of his surroundings to avoid becoming someone ‘s prey but also avoided becoming a predictor. He prayed he wasn’t prey but also didn’t want to give anybody a reason to decide he would be an easy target. Snitches end up in ditches just like criminals end up in jail the key difference in both cases was if they were caught. Too often snitching led to a fatal blow not to mention a sign of being disrespectful to ‘the game’. Everyone incarcerated felt forced to play this game. The best way to keep things in balance seemed to be, mind your own business and leave the rest alone. Stand but don’t stand on others. Walk but don’t walk on anyone. Keep in step but don’t step on anybody in the process. For a few men the steps they wanted to keep were not fashioned and dictated by other cons or even by the mentality of the jail administration but designed by God. A personal one-on-one relationship with him and dedication to him helped beyond just studying his words and knowing the Bible.
Meals were never called out breakfast, lunch, dinner, just “Chow!”, which made meals sound more like just the daily feeding. Lunch gave reason to sit together, but more than that a time to talk, just as sitting in a group playing cards or working out did. Little John moved faster than normal so he got to sit with Phil once again. Pip didn’t make it to the same table but pip seemed to move at his own pace and move around a lot anyway, sitting at a different table each meal time. PT made it and since the last bad encounter during chow he never left Phil’s side when it was chow time. After thanking God for life and another meal Phil opened the coversation with his friends, “I saw a guy…” Phil stopped and rephrased his wording, “there is a shive in the pod.” P.T. perked up, “You still didn’t drop it down the drain?” Phil clarified, “Another one. I saw it taken from the rec.hall.” Lil’John took a mouthful before speaking, ” we gotta find it before it finds us”. Phil said, ” I’ll keep my eyes open but the best thing to do is always assume the gun is loaded. No sense finding it cuz you know there’s more than just one needle in this haystack”. Little John agreed. PT said, ” I need to learn self-defense”. Phil agreed to that as well saying , “working out is good but it’s better to work on your speed, reflexes and intuition.” Little John belched out the words, ” I ain’t got no speed so always rely on my size haha haha!!!” Phil and PT laughed as he continued, ” PT I bet you can move fast, you weigh less than one of my legs!”they laughed some more. PT said, “I have to work with what I got and I don’t have much not ‘barry much at all.” He said in a sing song Indian chant. After gathering himself Phil said, “we need to work the mind not the body.” PT was interested. “After we eat let’s meet up under the stairs.” Little John said, “After lunch I ain’t working out this big ol’ body.” Phil reiterated, “we’ll work the mind more than the body.” PT said, “Finally, something I can do.”
After chow they met as discussed. P.T. was excited to report that he saw Mike with a Bible. Phil said, ” yeah I asked if he read it much and he said ‘no, it is a good luck charm.’ I’m not sure he is a believer, just a card carrying member.” Lil’John laughed, ” psss, that like havin’ a sword you nevah’ usein’ it in battle. ” Phil began, “okay, let’s just come across like we are having a casual talk or playin’ a game.” He held a napkin above his head. “P.T., you grab this before it hits the floor.” And he dropped it. PT caught it with no problem as the napkin fell fairly slow, catching the air. He handed it back to Phil who balled it up and said, “Again.” It fell a little faster because of it’s density. PT was still able to catch it but had to move a little faster. Then Phil pulled a rolled up sock out of his waistband. He repeated the same exercise a few times. To catch the sock before it hit the floor P.T. had to really move. Phil faked the drop a few times and as he toyed with P.T.’s balance, waiting for him to recover from a fake drop the sock would occasionally hit the floor. P.T. would say, “Wait I was not ready!” Phil said, “Always be ready.” One time as Phil was picking it up he dropped it at waist level and P.T. swooped in and snatched it out of mid air. “That’s what I am talking about!” Phil exclaimed, almost over enthusiastically. Another time Lil’John stepped in and punted it with his foot knowing he could not bend like his fellow skinny brothers. The sock went flying across the pod and landed up on the second tear. After getting it Phil said, “See, it is all about reflexes. Now…” Phil continued as he pulled an A.A. chip out of the side of his shoe. Without warning he quickly raised the plastic disk and dropped it from chest level. Much to their surprise P.T. caught it. He almost shouted with glee. Lil’John was doing his best at keeping himself from becoming giddy. They appeared to be having such fun no one, including them, saw this was all a drill on developing dexterity and their ability to be more agile. After a few moments Phil changed it up and challenged them with, “now, try this…” He placed the chip on the floor, ” Stop it with your foot.” He slid it speeding across the floor and before it buzzed by P.T. he stepped on it. “That’s like soccer. ” P.T. Shot it back with his foot. “Now stay standing but when it reaches you grab it with your hand and return to your feet as fast as you can.” Mean while the guards in a video survalance room outside the pod and down the long corridor watched and began to wonder what the three men were doing under the stairs. The view was a little obstructed by the stairs and it seemed harmless because they were not in close proximity to each other. Occasionally Phil would walk over a good 10 yards away and slide the coin from there with a foot shuffle. It appeared to everyone else P.T. was just doing knee bends or some type of stretching. Lil’John stayed pretty stationary but roamed in, out and around the area. Because he was such a big guy many times those watching the closed circuit t.v. we’re drawn to him. What a brilliant diversion. Lil’John wasn’t even aware he was the perfect decoy. Phil motioned with his head for P.T. and Lil’John to come sit for a few moments at one of the tables in the center of the pod’s common area. Phil smiled and addressed his friends, “Next I want to throw the sock at you and have you dodge from being hit but I am afraid it won’t look enough like catch. If the guards see me throwing anything they will stop our training and possibly accuse us of ‘dangerous activity that gives potential to offensive mayhem’ while in the pod.” Phil smiled again, “so, we’ll have to wait until next week, during Rec. Time to do some of those things. “This is fun.” P.T. chimed in. Lil’John smiled, “sure is.” Phil encouraged them both, “It’s all about being alert and your muscles having a memory of what to do so if you are attacked you are thinking faster than the one doing the attacking. Hopefully you will never have to strike back, just move, stop of submit the other person, however, if you do have to strick remember your forearms and elbows are stronger than your fist. Never use your fist. I’ve seem many hands broken from just punching someone or something.” P.T. ‘s forehead wrinkled, “punch with your elbow?” “If a guy is on top of you you won’t have enough distance to punch with your fist anyway but you sure can get him off you with a few blows to his face with your forearms and elbows. You’re right handed right P.T.?” Phil enquired. “Yes.” “Most people are but we’ll develop your left side coordination so whoever you may have to deal with has no idea how to defend what they may have started. The key is not fighting back but protection and getting the other person a chance to use their brain rather than their brawn. Use your brain to get them to use their’s. I wish we had a shoe string.” Lil’John said, “I do, hidden of course but I can get it.” “Yeah, but that’s contraband and will be taken.” “Shoe string? What would you do with that?” Phil looked around, “wait here.” He returned with a broken rubber band, laid it on the table vertically between him and Lil’John, “grab it.” Lil John moved his hand as fast as he could and smiled holding his fist up in victory. Phil smerked, “think you got it?” Lil’John opened his hand, it was empty. “How you do that?” Phil opened his own hand revealing it, “speed.” P.T. begged to try. Once again Phil laid it vertically, flinched a few times then with a quick jerk pulled it toward himself. P.T. wasn’t fooled by the flinches, kept his balance and unlike the A.A. chip escaping his grasp he managed to not get the rubber band but rather snag Phil’s wrist before he could gain control of the band. “WOW!” ,Phil shouted, “Your going to be just fine.” Lil’John praised God, “Woo hoo GLORY, this good stuff brother!” NOT wanting to draw any more attention they decided to break up and spread out again.
When the Holy Spirit comes in and changes a person’s nature too often they seem to lose their common sense.
It was one of the few nights Phil was actually in one of the cells that branched off the central common area of the pond. A few men were still forced to be on a floor mat or in one of the beds out there. ‘What’s that smell?!?‘ he thought laying there trying to defend himself from the offensive odor. He thought how funny it was that it was easier to defend oneself from a physical blow then from some extremely offensive odor. Staying in a cell offered a little less light, more privacy and also gave some security because there were three other men in there that would keep strangers from messing with you while you’re asleep; however, the closed quarters didn’t have very good ventilation. Phil involuntarily let out a moan while fighting the gut wrenching stentch. Mike laughed and the other two cell mates joined in. “You can’t handle the smell homie?” Mike prodded. Phil finally gave in, “UNCLE! WHAT IS THAT?!” Mike said , “It’s your upper lip!” They laughed again. Phil’s wits came into play, “It’s rotten fruit, ugh.” They continued taunting and were so proud of themselves for accomplishing two things at one time, one for making their own booze, two for annoying the odd man in their home. The smell was repulsive but they knew that when it fully spoiled it would give them a good buzz if they could choke it down. The home made brew was fermenting under Mike’s bed but the distance from the top bunk did nothing to prevent the fumes from burning Phil’s nose and lungs. Shouts from the cells on both sides began to intervien, “SHUT IT UP OVER THERE!” WHO’S FARTING?!? KNOCK IT OFF!!!” Mike lowered his voice after scolding his cell mates casting blame, “Yeah you girls stop talking so much I’m tryin’ to sleeeep!”Then he asked Phil, “Ever had hooch?” Phil whispered back, “No thanks…remember, I take blame if the shive is found, the one I ditched, not another one and for nothing else. I’m no snitch but I also won’t take the blame when the guards smell that, clear?”Mike blew off steam, “And you get no hooch either!” Phil confirmed, “I don’t want no hooch. You make it, you drink it, if found you pay for it.” They all coughed a little from the potency of the fumes. Mike agreed, “I always man up for my dealings.” Phil pulled his toiletries out from his pillow case, fumbled around to find his hand sanitizer and coated his hands with it then covered his nose trying to mask the smell. He was wondering if the pros of being in a cell out weighed the cons.
OKAY 9 STAFF
There was no doubt the inmate to staff ratio would always be in favor of the ward not the warden. Many times it was one or maybe two guards that would normally enter the pod holding sixty men. At times a special unit would enter and do a thorough search but the only time there seemed to be more than ten correctional officers in the pod at one time was when the men were out of the pod during recreation time. The use of pepper ball guns and occasional pepper spray was the less lethal choice the staff had to try and gain some control but even those, with enough men, could easily be over taken if the cons decided to work together. There was talk on the pod of a riot mutany but those trying to orchestrate it were having trouble agreeing on a few details which seemed minor but left holes in their potential for success. Just about the time when their plan seemed to be full proof the sheriff made a special visit himself. He brought 25 guards, his assistant deputy and six new, very qualified dogs he called, “K9 OFFICERS.”
Unannounced the sheriff entered Pod-Z with his forces. “EVERYONE DOWN RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE! DO NOT GO TO YOUR BUNKS! DO NOT MAKE ANY SUDDEN MOVEMENTS! YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!!!” They all dropped and froze as the large German Shepherds led their owners through the bodies of men. Some men let out a girly yelp as some of the dogs caught an arm or leg or two as they pounced around their new obstical course. This was play time for them. They knew their masters would be please and they would be rewarded with love and affection for a job well done. The sheriff began to speak in a loud athoritative voice, “THESE ARE OUR NEWEST STAFF MEMBERS. THEY HAVE BEEN TRAINED FOR YEARS TO ATTACK ON COMMAND!” He took a breath, “THEY ONLY RESPOND TO THE GERMAN LANGUAGE AND ONLY WHEN IT COMES FROM THE MOUTH OF THEIR HANDELER!” He paused for a brief moment as a few of the inmates raised their heads to look. “Now…” The pod was silent other than the pant from the dogs. The sheriff spoke in a more normal tone, “I NEED ALL OF YOU TO SLOWLY ROLL OVER ONTO YOUR BACKS THEN SLOOOOOOWLY SIT UP ON YOUR BUTTS.” They all did as told, some slower than others. He continued even softer, “I want all of you to…UT HUM’…what is that smell?!” He could hardly speak as his throat tightened up. “It’s burning my eyes! What the? Agh, I know that’s not body odor. We got hooch for sure!!!” The dogs were all pulling their leads taunt and the C.O. s at the other end were struggling, trying to stay on their feet. Phil was over under the stairs, about 25 yards from his cell. Two of the men he shared the cell with were on their bunks, Mike was on the floor in the door way of that cell. They all knew they’d never enjoy one sip of their three day old project. On top of not drinking it they had some explaining to do and knew it was pay day. Phil knew he would probably get lumped in unless Mike maned up, all 4 of them would be paying for this offense. The sheriff didn’t need the snout of a trained dog to find it and he said, “Where is the fourth man for this cell?” Phil raised his hand slowly. The sheriff pulled the crate of juice, sugar, water and fruit out from under Mike’s bed and carefully removed the several layer lid of shirts and books. He said, “Which one of you is responsible for this?” No one spoke up. “You all four going to solitary for this or just one or two of you?” Again, no reply. The sheriff gave no more opportunities, “Take all four out!” Phil’s heart sunk as he had trouble forgiving Mike, ‘man up, yeah right.’ He thought. As his guards gathered the four men the sheriff added , “Put their stuff, ALL their stuff from their cell in holding. I want to check it too.” All the men sat and watched. The sheriff used this rare visit to look around at the pod. He hardly ever came in, he had men who did that, but today was different. He spoke loud enough for all of them to hear, “I am not Sheriff Langer. I am Sherriff Counts and as my not so long ago slogan said, ‘you can’t count on me!’ I will not allow some of the things your former sheriff allowed. I will not get into that but all the things that matter, that use to be let go or tolerated will no longer be permitted anymore. I know this is your home, for now, but I am your landlord, not your daddy, and there are rules, conditions that apply while you live here. If those conditions are not met you will go to 1 of 3 places. 1. Solitary Confinement, the shoe or hole as some of you call it. 2. To prison or 3. To tents we have set up on some new secure property we have been developing over the years. IT IS READY FOR YOU MEN!” Some had heard talk about this new camp being built. Sounded like a consentration camp, no air, more guards who were always on site with real guns, not armed with less lethal ammo like bean bags or pepper balls but real bullets. “These six dogs are one tenth of the dogs we have for the tent city pods.We have 60 dogs there, that’s one dog for ever four inmates.” The sheriff confirmed. Then he noticed the bunks that were not in cells and tapped on one. “Over crowded in here huh?” He asked ritorically, “You four men that sleep in these bunks, move to the new empty one we are clearing out!” Pip, Lil’John, P.T. and the man that was below Phil before he moved to cell we’re thrilled. “I plan on visiting here myself regularly men. Our time together is limited and that is okay. Some of you will be back, some of you will move on but while we are here I hope you make the best of it, not the worse. Like I said, if you break the simple rules, that are really all for your own safety, you will be moving out, evicted, end of story. We now have more places to move offenders. Don’t offend each other, me, my staff, including the dogs and you’ll be fine.” With that being said he thanked them for their time and told them, “when the pod door closes you are free to go back to whatever you were doing.” Ten guards worked on bagging up the posessions from Mike’s cell. Each mate’s belonging bagged separately and labeled. The sheriff roamed around and opened discussions with the men one on one but was not able to get to all 60. He made them feel comfortable enough to share how they felt about the food, lighting, cleanliness, and noise. As he spoke to a few that were military vets he expressed how thankful he was for their service and reminded them of the men who are still in serving overseas in deserts, living in tents and eating rations, “If it is good enough for our armed forces then it should be good enough for a short stay in the county jail huh?” He was open, forcefully in charge and yet treated them like humans. Many times they heard him say, “you can do this. It is up to you how bad this experience is. Watch out who you agree with, who you obey and who you go along with. Be your own man, don’t follow the wolves and don’t be a sheep in here. You choose what activities you participate in. MAN up and decide WHICH aren’t worth getting in trouble for. Be strong, learn, lead by example. You can do it, you can do it, YOU (HE BEGAN TO POINT AROUND THE ROOM AT RANDOM MEN) YOU, YOU, YOU AND YOU…YOU CAN DO IT! YOU CAN ALL DO IT BUT…Will you? Will you be men, show respect, integrity, even just a little consideration for others? Some of you are. Mind your own business but in here don’t let your own business effect everyone around you. ALSO, I WANT TO GIVE YOU BACK YOUR PHONE PRIVILEGES.” They were all glad to hear that. “MAJOR FLINT, MAKE SURE THAT IS DONE, PHONE BACK ON! ALSO, WE NEED RECREATION MORE THAN ONCE A WEEK FOR ONE HOUR. WITH OUR NEW STAFF AND THE DOGS WE ARE GOING TO HAVE RECREATION ONCE A DAY FOR AN HOUR, EVERYDAY BUT SATURDAY AND SUNDAY. ALSO, ARE YOU LISTENING? CAN YOU ALL HEAR ME? WE ARE NOW OFFERING A.A.AND N.A. CLASSES. WANT MORE? DON’T CHEER YOU’LL UP SET THE K9, WE DON’T WANT THAT…BUT LET ME SEE SOME SMILES OR SOME RAISED EYE BROWS IF YOU’D LIKE TO GET TO HAVE LIBRARY TIME, G.E.D. CLASSES, MORE CHAPEL SERVICES, ONE ON ONE COUNSELING, SOME BANDS COME IN, MAYBE EVEN A STAND UP COMIC NIGHT? We can do some of these things but your going to have to show each other and show us that it is possible. It is still jail. You are still not home and some of you who like it so much here you want to make it home are going to have to let the bigger, long term prison system, be your institution of choice because we won’t put up with this any more.” Although becoming a little long winded the men felt he was not just feeding them B.S. “I want to talk to more of you 1 on 1 or in small groups while the guards finish bagging up the ‘hooch bar’ over there and take the four brew masters out but before they go and before I go let me tell you and my staff what else I want to change right now…” he sat down, “From now on, Major Flint make note, I want the meals to be called out for what they are, ‘breakfast, lunch, dinner, not, ‘CHOW!’,when it is time to eat. Major, you hear me? Men you hear me? Everyone nodded. Also, I’ve been thinking about this, most of you know how to micro write. Write so tiny hardly anyone can read it. You fit whole paragraphs on a tiny square of toilet paper. You also know how to fish, when your in a pod and all the cells are closed off from the common area and you connect a note to a long piece of sheet and fling it out from under your cell door and try to slid it across the pod to another cell…right?” Some men had no idea, others smerked while others knew but wouldn’t admit to ever doing it. Some were a little surprised the Sheriff knew about it. “Those things are not allowed here, don’t destroy the sheets. Don’t try to pass notes and organize things that will get us all in more trouble but I do want you to use your skills. Here is what I want you to do with those skills. Major Flint, this will involve you. I want you to write down problems you are having. Not rediculous complaint, this is JAIL you are being held in lock up under suspension and it is not going be be ANYTHING like home but write thing down that you think we may be able to offer you while you are here. Think and come up with some ideas that are practical. Use your amazing minds to come up with some brilliant ideas we will consider in order to make this more of a correctional Institute rather than just a place to be punished. Prison is for punishment, jail CAN BE a place where you learn from your mistakes and even from others mistakes but you don’t have to come back here or go on to prison from here. YOU DON’T HAVE TO, THAT IS UP TO YOU, AND YOU AND YOU.” This time he didn’t point his finger he just made eye contact with the men all around the room and up on the second deck. “Men…guards, are you done?” They hoisted 4 huge bags up in the air. The guards holding the 4 men in cuffs, including Phil nodded. “OKAY. K9, YOU READY? ONE OF THEM IS A GIRL, A REAL BITCH.” Everyone in the pod laughed. “It’s true! Okay, men, it is up to you. Do not move until the doors are closed. Thank you again for your time. I will come visit again. See you at recreation time tomorrow and we’ll talk more one on one with those who want too.” And with that the parade left the room leaving the inmates and cons feeling like they just had a pep-talk from a coach.
When that door closed some of the men remained on the floor, some even clasped flat on their back but the four men who had beds around the common area raced to get into that cleared out cell, the stentch lingered but they were overjoyed to finally get a spot off the main drag. Pip, P.T. and Lil’John didn’t know the 4th guy that use to occupy the bunk below Phil, before Phil moved into the cell they were now able to call home. The three of them felt a little bad that Phil was sent to the hole but also knew he’d be okay. How they wished Phil was here with them but Phil was once again paying for something he didn’t do. Sometimes it was best to take punishment from the guards than to be labeled as a snitch and receive punishment from the cons. They knew God would work it all out in the end.
Phil accepted the fact that he was going through a season of serious trial and conflict but that didn’t make it any easier. He knew bad things happen to good people, it rains on the just and the unjust but what he was going through lately was almost unbelievable. One of the main sources of anxiety or depression comes from not being in control of a situation in life. Phil knew his Spiritual life was in order and pleasing to God, however, this past month was an extreme strain on him physically and mentally. Phil believed God was sovereign. He had no doubt He was all powerful, all knowing and all present. The only humanly possible thing he could do was to rely on his supernatural friend to keep him strong in this time of weakness. Admitting how weak he was broke him down but in Phil’s life he came to learn that when we are broken God is able to fix us. Too often he had good friends who were broken and stayed broken. Regardless of how that brokenness started; financially, mentally, emotionally…if their foundation for life and true peace, joy, belonging and purpose was based on any of those things, when those areas crumbled they completely fell apart. Phil didn’t find himself in a state of happiness but he did have joy. He wasn’t comfortable, but he had comfort and peace. He couldn’t imagine what it was like for the Jewish people in Moses’ day while in slavery. He couldn’t imagine how bad it was for them in Jesus’ day and even in more modern times, while Hitler ruled for a time. Phil knew, God was still there, God is still here! Without going into a pity part he realized two main things, it could always be worse and also, what seemed to be the absolute worse thing, ‘death’ only lead to life because God over came that already. No matter how unfair and unjust his situation he held onto his faith. He had many Bible verses memorized but now they were becoming more and more internalized. Although he had no reason to smile he found himself knowing, not feeling, that even this time in jail was just a portion of time, just a season. Time continually moved and even though it seemed to drag at times it was still moving. Last time he was in solitary confinement he developed techniques to deal with it. He thanked God for the sounds, the shouts, even the screams. ‘ Am i loosing my mind?’, He asked his faceless friend. ‘Read my mind because the words won’t come.’ A verse came to his mind, Romans 8:26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans Romans 8:26. Immediately another one came to mind and he said it out loud, “Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28.” He felt a little better but it was more than a feeling. He decided to not only repeat the verses out loud again several times but louder each time. He had not fully considered that others could hear him, just as he could hear them. When he finally stopped shouting he realized he was surrounded by silence. Phil asked himself and His Lord, ‘How could this be? Am I imagining this?’ He listened. Nothing. Then came a shout, “That gots to be you homie, Phil!” It was Mike. Phil yelled back, “yeah! Ha ha you know it!” “You mad at me homes?” Phil waited and smiled as he answered, “No.” Mike questioned, “come on, it’s okay, I like when people hate me. You tell them your side yet? Tell them…you know…?” Phil didn’t hesitate, “No! My side is the hooch was in our cell and I am not about to snitch any more than I am about to break the law and stay in here any longer then what is within my control.” Phil thought, ‘I’ve already said too much. What if the guards just heard me.’ Then he thought about Officer Smith. It didn’t matter what the guards heard or how much they vouched for Phil’s character and good track record Smith did the investigations on those in solitary. Most of those incidents were normally for physical conflicts but also for other charges. Phil went to pray and heard Mike, “you okay with me homie. You good. I’ll look out for you.” Phil thought, ‘yeah, you need to man up like you said you would.’ Phil began to pray, again he heard Mike, “you hear me homie?!” Phil just said, “I hear you! You do what’s right now!” Phil prayed.
While searching through all four men’s belongings in the sheriff’s office the sheriff asked one of his men to get Phil’s well used Bible to him, “I don’t think that man was in on it. I been fooled by Holy rollers who carry and even use the Bible but only in their favor, I think this guy if truly different. This was the self-defense guy, Smith said he would work with us, but I know Smith too, probably didn’t present it right. I also know the other three men are constantly trying to look innocent but always up to no good when ever they can. Get all of these men their Bibles back, a writing utensil and paper.” The guard did as told.
Smith didn’t delivery the Bibles but followed his orders in finding out if the illegal drink was a community project or just the doing of one or two of them. He marked Phil as being uncooperative before and when Phil said, “I can not tell you who made it on grounds that they will annyalate me.” Smith realized Phil was just caught up in fear and the punishment from inmates was worse than anything the county jail could dish out. Phil could over hear Mike talking to Smith but not clearly enough to make out what he was saying. Phil prayed, “Lord, help Mike do what is right.”
When he finally was able to get a Bible he looked up ROMANS 8 and skimmed down to verse 17…And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Phil stopped at verse 29 and prayed, “Lord help me listen and trust you.” As he closed his Bible the door to his cell opened and so did 2 other doors. It was his last cell mates minus Mike. Mike yelled, “I MAN UP BOYS! I MAN UP! YOU GO SAVE A BED FOR ME, I’LL BE BACK!” As Phil and the 2 others re-entered the pod they naturally went to what was once their cell but all four beds were filled. They had no choice but to take 3 out of several empty beds that were in the common area. Phil notice Pip, P.T, Lil’John and the guy that he racked above when he was in the over flow beds out in the light. He was happy for them and knew his new living arrangements were going to provide him with a place he could go to any time, not just at night and no one would dare brew hooch out there. Mike’s two buddies took a top and bottom bunk together Phil grabbed a top one that was empty on the bottom, the same one he had to start with. So, like starting over again he settled in.
Phil had a son who struggled with a chemical imbalance, manic depression. Phil had this same diagnosis and was no stranger to trying to keep his mind in balance. His son would often try to self medicate himself. As long as his son took the prescribed medication from a psychologist he was fine but when he teamed up with old friends who seeked substance abuse to escape life he always ended up in trouble. For Phil, having a bunk on the outter layer in the common area was maybe best in some ways. Out there you were not lumped into activities that took place in cells. Cells provide privacy but all too often cons would use that privacy to conduct their perverted behavior, unmonitored and unaccountable to the facilitie’s staff. There was more than one way to get high and break contraband rules, especially in the cells. Cons would often convince inmates to try different things, see how it effected them and then cash in on controlling the source for that temporary fix. When Phil was younger he had friends who would play this choking game. The idea was to have someone cut off your air supply until you past out. He had watched friends do it to themselves or to some willing participant. They claimed they liked the light headrd feeling just before the blacked out. ‘Whip hits’ were another cheep way he heard young people were using to get high. While working in a 24 hour super market he and a few fellow employs were told to collect all the whip cream air despensors. Apparently kids would come in and buy the cans, hold them a certain way to inject just the gas from the can, not the cream, this gave them a quick high. He knew otjers who drank cough syrup. While in jail he recalls smelling someone smoking. It was not tabbacco, not weed, it was a coffee filter. He watched men try inhalints. Not having access to paint or gas they tried their deodorant. Maybe that is why the only deodorant available now was in stick form. The ‘hooch was Phil’s last, most recent encounter and he had no idea how desperate a man would be to drink that. A month ago some of the guards or maybe inmates working the kitchen trustee program smuggled tabbacco in through the french fries. He watched one of the cons make an announcement that there was a special ingreediant on one of the treys that was suppose to be for him and whoever has it better be sure he gets it. Electric -cicgs were on the commesary list before this new sheriff was elected but he noticed that was no longer an option. It seemed harmless enough for men to puff on a vapor but he knew that little high just seemed to cause the men to want more. Some would stop at nothing to get the slightest high. Another recent change was the mouth wash. The old one available had some alcohol in it. As a result some men had amazing breath from drinking mouth wash. He saw men drinking the new mouth wash and wondered if they were confused as to why there was no burn and no buzz. How desperate people would get to try and escape every day life outside of jail, how much more they longed for it while in lock-up. Phil thanked God for his freedom, although he was behind bars and his life was being controlled by the staff and tried to be controlled by those in jail with him he knew a freedom from even his own human nature that all too often would fight him to be in control and end up dictating what to do. Those natural desires on how to do life were a lie. Human nature, thinking we know best more often than not was a lie. As Phil applied what he read in Romans eight he found a better way to live . He enjoyed true freedom he knew he was free to do anything and everything but not everything was benificial. He read those verses over and over and kept applying them when the lies would come. He held onto the faith he had in Christ, knowing , regardless of the situation God had a plan. Although things were not ideal they would be so much worse alone, without Christ living in him. As Phil dove into his Bible, 2 Corinthians 13:5, he thought about the testing he was going through in life right now. He backed up to 2 Corinthians 12:7, he thought about the bullies he was encountering, both cons and correctional officers. In verse 8 he noted how The Apostle Paul asked God three times for things to be better but, verse 9 the response was, “My grace is sufficient…” He thought about Christ crying great drops of blood and yet accepting His fate, The Father plan for him. ‘Who am I to question Him.’ Phil pondered. He flipped to 1st Corinthians 6. Although he knew what it said he wanted to read verse 12…’All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.’ Then he prayed, ‘Lord you are my master. I will not give into trying to find an escape from this temporary, tough torcher of my body, mind or Spirit, I know you will provide away of escape and you are better than drugs, YOU ARE LORD. You have a better more righteous way to live, a better plan and help me follow you, wait on you. Give me strength. ‘
Although Phil and his son were different books they were on the same page. His son was 22 years old and their relationship was the best Father son duo anyone could ever ask for. The best part was, they shared the same Heavenly Father.
It was a Tuesday night when Phil fell asleep praying for his son. Being incarcerated made it very hard to keep in touch with his wife let alone extended family but he especially missed communication with his son and all that they shared together. They regularly would encourage each other in their relationship with God and they exchanged Bible verse with each other all the time. With no cell phones allowed he truly cherished hand written letters.
It was a Thursday night just before dinner Chow when the doors to Pod-Z made a disturbing sound. The local jail chaplain stepped into the pod, accompanied by a correctional officer. The Chaplain called out, “Phil?!” Then he recalled his training and cleared his voice shouting out, “Realman, Phil!!!” Many of the men didn’t know his last name. Some of them didn’t even know his first name, they just called or made reference to him as the preacher guy, Jesus Freak or even in some cases ‘holy man’ When they saw who the chaplain was calling they thought how interesting it was, and even in their minds ‘badass’, to have a name like a “Real Man.” Little John smiled and thought of the bumper sticker he had sticking above the door to his house that raved, “Real men love Jesus!” He loved that that was Phil’s last name. He thought about how it was ironic also that Phil was ‘filled’ with the Holy Spirit and understood the same things that he had come to understand when he was much younger but more recently started to develop and grow through their friendship. Pip was like Captain Oblivious many times but knew that if the Chaplain was in the cell block, not just down the long hall where he led services, something was wrong. Did it have to do with the family and Phil’s case or both? We’re they transferring him? Pip’s mind didn’t chase after answers, after all it was almost chow time, he was more interested in what might or might not be for dinner. P.T. recognized the chaplain and had a respect and bond for him although they only met once. He knew men of faith told him they never really saw their religious leader unless they were dieing or in trouble. This didn’t seem good. Although it was good to see the man who he knew offered a positive message and hope this call for Phil must mean something has gone wrong for Phil and his family.
Cell drama with assumptions in each inmates mind mixed with cons throwing in their mentally could really do a number in everyone’s mind, even the staff would take things beyond this compound. The walls were thick and levels like a laberynth but nothing could contain the over tones of real life people dealing with emotions, loss, confusion and delimahs that wold crush the hardest heart regardless of physical and mental capacities.
Phil’s body already ached from sleeping on steel bunks, a thin matress or some times just a mat that made it impossible to find comfort from the cold concrete floors.
Once the chaplain got alone with Phil in the chaplain’s office he took a breath. “Phil…” he began, “You are in on charges for an accident. You didn’t share with me but every once in a while the sheriff shares a file with me…ah, man…” The chaplain struggled, “I…ah, awe man this is always so hard.” Phil’s thoughts began to race and almost get away from him as he tried not to chase after them but just insist on not being moved or set off balance. He thought, ‘chaplain, it can’t get much worse just tell me. Is my sentence longer? Trial date moved? Get on with it!’ Phil’s eyes were fixed. The Chaplain composed himself, “okay, look Phil, there is no easy way to say this…they asked me to tell you, your son was in an accident and has died.” Phil felt the oxygen from the room leave. Disbelief was his first coping skill that kicked in but it was accompanied with an invisible kick to his stomach. The Chaplain continued to speak but Phil felt as if he was under water and could barely hear. “Accidents happen, there ah…I don’t know how this must make you feel and they cannot let you out to go see or attend…ah th..the funeral ah…so…Phil ah…” Phil was numb. It was as if he was in another cell within a cell.”Phil, Phil?….PHIL?!” He finally snapped out of it. “Can I see for myself, can I please see my son and…ugh…I’m gonna be sick.” The chaplain moved a trash can closer to catch Phil’s dry heaves. Nothing would come up. “Phil, they told me you can not be released. I asked. You are in on charges that won’t allow you…” “I know what I am in for. I know The real reason I am here. I know The law is not always right and fair but is there ANYWAY I CAN PLEASE JUST EVEN UNDER ESCORT?!!! I WANNA KNOW MORE, I WANT TO KNOW DETAILS. DID YOU SAY CAR ACCIDENT OR JUST AN ACCIDENT, WAS HE DRIVING? DID SOMEONE HIT HIM LIKE I HIT SOMEONE? I KNOW ACCIDENTS HAPPEN BUT I WA,A KNOW, I NEEEED Ta’ KNOW! I WA….” Phil’s voice decended with his heart. He couldn’t get out any more words. He knew what it was like to be in an auto accident. He knew what it was like to be hit and even knew what it felt like to hit someone else and take their life. This out weighed any anguish he had ever encountered before. The volume of everything around him was turned almost to mute but instead carried an awful mumbled and murmur. He could no longer sit up in the chair, he went to his knees, the to his side and laid in a fetile position. The Chaplain couldn’t offer anything more. Time stood still and yet was rushed to get back to the hell hole he was trapped in against all real justice, against what was really right and fair. Although overwhelmed with his own grief he thought about how his former in-laws loss their son, how he was responsible for that loose. Fate was so strange. ‘ Am i being punished? ‘, The fleeting thought darted through his mind. Sanity returned, ‘God doesn’t work that way.’ However, reality of what he was just told about his son was far, far away.
Phil could not recall how the meeting with the chaplain ended, there was a prayer but all he could recalled was the fact that he could not see his son again. Even if he were able to get out of jail he wouldn’t see his son alive again. He didn’t recall the escort back to Pod – Z. He manuvered on some type of automatic piolet, made his way past those eating chow and straight to his bunk which was a few feet from a table of six men slopping down whatever grub they could. He buried his face in his pillow. This was the first time he had let his guard completely down. ‘They could really beat me now…weak, in pain already, not looking, not ready to defend, they could beat me to death right now and I would not, could not and can not fight back…’ were his thought, ‘then again, if I’m messed with right now I pity the fool because if stirred I am sure I would bubble over right now and end up taking my anger and frustration out on…’ A big hand came down forcefully but with no threat on his shoulder interupting his thoughts. Normally he would grab the wrist and forearm and pop into an arm bar submission but his body laid limp. It was Lil’John. His deep voice said, “Don’t need to know what they told ya but know if it was the Chaplain, it probably wasn’t good news in this case.” Phil tried to breath in, face still smothered in his pillow. He turned his back and went into a fetal position once again. “Let’s just not talk right now John.” Phil managed to get the words out. Lil’John said nothing just patted his friends shoulder as if to nonverbally assure him, ‘I’m here and o.k, no words just now.’
No one got a trey for Phil. Someone probably ate his share. He thought and smerked. ‘Couldn’t eat anyway.’ His stomach told him this. He laid in bed as if he had a flu that effected every part of him. Even the coldest, hardest con allowed Phil time to overcome whatever news he got. His ears were still not as sharp. Normally he’d over hear inmates talking and sort through the gossip, opinions and what to consider as truth and trust worthy statements. He was just too destressed to allow his mind to filter anything. Everything was a muddled mess. Some where between complete denial and trying to proceed and process this season of Jail and death of his only Son he still held his faith that his son, a true believer was in a far better place. He thought of his son’s teen years, in and out of jail, in and out of the hospital and in and out if his own cells of past drug addiction and corrupt crowds who fed off of everyone and anyone who were just a means to get more mind numbing drugs. About two years ago the prayers for his son were answered. When he finally stopped listening to drug Lord’s and allowing drugs to be his master life gained the difference between darkness and light. His son was living proof of what happens when one acknowledged God and let Him be their God. Amazing how God allows us freedom and although our own little cell seems comfortable and manageable we don’t find peace until we get into a healthy one on one relationship with our creator. ‘My son has met his maker’, the thought didn’t bring comfort. He thought back to things his son shared. He recalled how his child was always his child, in good and bad times. He tried to focus on how pleased he was when his child was obedient. He held love for his son when he was disobedience but cherished the times when he was an obedient child -regardless it was his son and no matter what laws or terms he may have broken currently or in his tainted past the Father child relationship would endure. Phil knew he had to allow himself time to grieve but also felt guilty he wasn’t happy. He knew his son beat him to heaven and was now where there is no more tears but he couldn’t help but be angry, feel cheated, and robbed. By this time he was so far toward the wall on his bunk and covered with his sheet, blanket and pillow covering his head it was almost as if he were not there. He lost all concept of time.
A new man on the bottom bunk saw the chaplain take Phil out, saw Phil return but lost track of where he went after lights out that night. It wasn’t time for breakfast yet and many men were still sleeping. The man spoke, not even to Phil directly but just into the air, “I lost a son and daughter at the same time, not too long ago. They were real young, just babies. My wife’s dad died when she was 3, her mom when she was a teen. She was engaged before me. Her fiance was murdered out in front of their apartment. I know loss. I didn’t talk for a while. If your up there and ya don’t wanna talk I understand.” The bunk mate shot his voice upward toward where he thought Phil may be. If not this was a good rehearsal for offering his condolences for later. The man on the rack below began to cry but forced the words out, “I…I know how..har…hard…this must be..I…I don’t, don’t kn..know the ah…ne…news ya got but we all know the chaplain’s department officiate ah…deaths of loved ones and newssss..of…of th..th..the after life. I know if you don’t wanna talk or your mad or..ah’whateve’ ya going through, it is the most confusing um..thing, time, and…” He searched for words, composed himself and finished saying, “I, ah, can i asked you…was it your son?” Phil injected, “It was.” The bunk mate was relieved to know he wasn’t just speaking to the air. “Oh, I am so sorry. Your last man is Realman right?” Phil just mumbled, “yeah, Phil.” “I am Guy, Guy Johnson.” Phil got out, “nice to meet you Guy…I really can’t tal…” Guy interupted, “I knew your son, Stone Realman.” Phil sat up, rolled over toward the edge of his bed and extended a hand. Guy reached up and they shook, both hands strong and full of power. Phil took the first deep breath since he got the news, then another one and his body shivered as he let it out. “You kn..knew’wwwwhim, my son Stone?”, Phil enquired. “I did.” Phil brought his body as close to the edge as possible but wasn’t about to get up.”I knew him before he got saved and after that.”, Guy offered Phil knew what that man meant,”B.C.” ( before Christ ) and after his son entered into a new lifestyle in Christ. “We did drugs together, sad to say, but then I saw him a year later. He showed up back on the street. We use to stay in this pay by the hour or pay by the weeks sleezy motel. When I saw him I thought he was there it share a fix but nope, no dope.”, Guy explained, “He was with this group of people set up in the parking lot. I mean, he was with them but kinda separate. They were passing out free water from some type of emergency looking truck, had sirens on da’ roof, somea’ them stayed on the truck thing but not Stone. He came over to me after walking around the outside of the crowd. He remembered my name and nonjudgmentally said, ‘hey guy, be sure to get some water, it’s free!’ He knew we both would drink from the sink or pick somethin’ up with our own five finger discount but all our money went to drugs, even if it meant sleeping in an abandoned car. I expected him to go on and tell me how he obviously got clean and insist that I do the same…he didn’t. He just offered an unconditional resource, plan and simple, water.” Phil began to smile remembering a street ministry his son enjoyed participating in. He heard his son, ‘it’s not up to me to determine who may be a lost cause, that’s God’s job.’ His son would fake an Hispanic accent, ‘that’s not my ‘sjobmain!, we got a lot a chit to do, but that not my ‘shobmain!” He wisely told his dad they all knew where rehab was. They all knew it was available but they enjoyed what they thought was freedom and admitting there was a problem was ridiculous because the high they shared out weighed the consequences at the time. ‘We all saw friends die but we’d go back and use more cause it helped us not think about it and face reality.’ After Stone got cleaned up it was far beyond some 12 steps or meetings for people trying to stay on a right path. For Stone it was all about his heart, mind and body being changed from the inside. He had demons and natural desires that were cast out and The Holy Spirit move in. He was the first to admit that he couldn’t explain it other than he tried God’s way rather than his own same way of doing things and He (God) made the difference, not just some agency, corporation, program or another human being. God alone. Not just some higher power but The Uncreated Creator. Phil felt comfort to know that of all places and people he had come across here and now, on the bunk just below him, was a life that his son had reached. Guy went on as Phil listened, “Your son, he came to me and without any words or a list of conditions offered hope for a better life.” “Did ya take it”, Phil asked. “Nope, that is how I ended up here!” Guy kinda tried to laugh but couldn’t get it out right, “well..not really but this is it for me now, I’m sick of being sick. I’m ready now and I know to thank God it’s not too late.” Phil nodded, “Good, Guy. I’m in no shape to offer suggestions but you can figure it out and will perhaps never be the same.” Guy admitted to accepting Christ when he was 11 at a summer camp but felt he was always barganing with God. Phil offered, “yeah, that doesn’t work, us still trying to be in control.” P.T. and Lil’John approached the bunks. Phil introduced them to Guy, “He knew my son.” Lil John didn’t need to ask now who the chaplain’s notification was about. P.T. still didn’t know but recalled how Phil and Lil’John said that was a changed life through a father’s love, care and prayers. Phil’s eyes were swollen and face as sobern as ever. P.T. thought, ‘ this isn’t the same man.’ As Guy shared a little more with the three men they all noted Phil was able to eventually sit up and hoped to all sit together at breakfast. The t.v. blasted morning news of terrorism, followed by commercials for funeral homes and life insurance. Normally Phil would be uneffected by all this but now things were different. Just as when a son if born it changes your life, so also the death of a son so also changes your life, forever.
“CHOW, BREAKFAST TIME!”, came the cold indifferent shout. Phil had trouble moving through the line he did consider it a blessing that his new friends could surround him at the table where they ate. Phil’s mind swam through thoughts and they came out if his mouth, “His mom remarried…he tried to do the math…around the year 2000…she remarried, so did i, before her. Ugh….” He tried to breath but didn’t even attempt to eat, just broke the hard shell covering the grits trying to move and mix the small pool of yellow grease on top. “It was her new husband I hit with my car. He was jogging. I didn’t even know it was him, I really didn’t. I had no animosity toward him. He was becoming my son’s step dad over the years. How is she dealing with so much loose at one time? I took her husband, someone else took our son? Man! Is this even truly happening? How much more could happen at one time?” Phil realized he was rambling out loud. Lil’John said, “It’s okay brother. Let it out.” “My new wife was a good step mom, I wonder if she knows.” P.T. tried to offer help, “Family can be so good.” P.T. knew when he was able to get out of jail and share his new faith in Christ his family would disown him but things were different for Phil and his family ties. Pip joined the table but focused on putting as much salt, sugar and ketchup on his grits, eggs and undone hash Browns as possible. “Pip.”, Lil’John addressed him, “dround it all you want, it’s all going to the same place.” Pip inhaled some of it and left the table to get more condiments, taking his trey with him. P.T. asked, “Does the sugar help the taste?” Phil thought, ‘nothing could help right now, even if it was a good stake and eggs, he had no appetite. ” He ate a banana and drank the coffee. Even that was just to get something in his stomach.
Lil’John sang the theme song from the t.v. show “Cops” as the t.v. echoed in the back ground, ‘bad boys, bad boys, whatcha’ gonna do when they come fo’ youuuuu….sheriff jonbrown’ come fo’ you”, he repeated and chuckled. This brought Phil some levity. With his whole body just aching Phil couldn’t jump into the normal work out but did jump into his journal. Lil’John worked with P.T. and Guy joined them. A few other men worked their arms neglecting their legs. Phil found himself in another kind of containment. It was one thing to be in jail, another thing to lose a son. No doubt the later was far worse.
That night Phil’s former cell mates, minus Mike, came to Phil’s bunk. “We heard about your son homie.” Phil was shocked how news traveled in here, ‘How and what did they really know?’ He thought as they made an offer they felt would bring him relief. “We can get you some hard stuff to get you through this hard stuff.” Phil chuckled, ” ha, hooch?!” They laughed too. “No, no poppie. Hee Hee we don’t brew that no more, you were right the price was too much for that. To easy to get caught out here too homes. Nah, we gots’ some real stuff. Mike working on gettin’thru’ guards dat’ do the shoe. They crazy mad dirty in gettin’ chit that real and hard. Guarunteeeeeet’ to get you fuggedup’ homes!” Phil smiled for the first time since he got the news, “Again men, the rents too high. I’m not about to take anything that offers a quick, temporary and false high when I know in time I’ll get one that is real, supernatural and will actually help.” They were confused. Then one of them looked at the other and said, “Jesus.” The other one only heard that name used in vein but knew Phil tapped into this man Jesus some how and began to pray in his own way.”okay then homes, you keepin’ it real. God and da’ virgin Mary bless you bra’ and I’m sorry abou’ yer’son senior, truly I yam’.” There were really sincere in the only way they knew how. The one crossed himself and the other tried to remember how to as they walked away with their heads bowed in respect.
Another offer came with plans to escape. Again Phil said, “Thank you but no thank you. It is not worth the risk. I’d rather do my time and not give them any reason to give me more time. The system, just like us, is flaude. It is bad enough doing time for something I am accused of, an accident that took a life. I don’t need to to put my life or others in harms way.” They thought he was crazy, they said he didn’t deserve to be in there with them and if it were them they’ve get out. They even went as far as questioning how good of a father he was but Phil knew they were not worthy to judge his character as a father amd this season was unavoidable. The trial would determine more, the length, the penalty but for now he knew it was a waiting game. He was not in control of what may come. The only thing he could control was his own integrity and even that called for Phil’s full reliability on God.You can’t change the past, you can’t contain the present and althought he did know what the future held he knew who held the future. Talk of a take over still raised its ignorant head and some on the cons were even using Phil’s new dilemma to fan the falmes. They argued, ‘This place, these Cops, can’t keep this man from his son’s funeral’ In reality they not only can they would regardless of the circumstances.
Chaos Has A New Name
Jason entered Pod-Z. All eyes went toward him. Most hearts knew trouble accompanied him yet he was alone. His posse was moved to a different block. ‘Has it been 30 days?’ Phil’s internal alarms went off along with some misguided anger. He prayed, ‘Lord, help me not release my frustrations on him no matter what he tries.’ Jason approached Phil slowly. ‘Surly this isn’t about to happen’ , He thought. His body tensed slightly and his mind went back to prayer as well as actions he could take if needed. Jason held his hands out and up as he opened his mouth, “you got to me brother. YOOUUU GOT TO MEEEeee.” His eyes were glazed over but fixed on Phil and he bore a creepy smile. He sounded like a televangelist. Phil said, “that’s close enough.” Jason stopped, “nah, I’m not tryin’ nothin’ broootherah’ I’m not the saaaame. I BEEN…SAAAAVED!” Phil didn’t buy it. Jason knelt down. “I got JEsus but not like jail house JEeesus bull shit, somethings going on in me. You been talkin’ to Him about me and He’s fixin’ me up broooth’er’ ahhh huh. So now Heee’s talkin to me Aaall da’ time! You STILL PRAYIN’ FO ME BROOOooother?” Phil smerked, “yeah, a bit but been a lot going on since you left. Welcome back.” Jason said, “I just…I don’t know, I’m CHANGING man…I’m startin’ to understand some things.” Words are cheep thought Phil. He stoped with the funny religious accent and then it was almost as if Jason knew, “I’ll SHOW you more than tell you, and others. ALL YA’LL. I’LL SHOW AND TELLS’ YA’. I’m ready to take a beating for all the bad stuff I’ve done, pay for the past.” Phil repeated what he heard the Holy Spirit tell him, “God doesn’t work like that. You pay for mistakes, consequences yes but if you don’t dish out a fight you won’t…” Phil stopped and remembered where he was. Sometimes ya get beat by ignorant men, it rains on the just and unjust. He thought back to Jason and his crew running rampant on him unjustly. He thought about his time here in jail against all that was right and fair. He had no words and knew he was in no condition to make any sense. His foundation was secure but the upper parts were worn out, weathered. He tried to go on, “The way of life, this environment, needs change. I hope you are part of that now and tomorrow and the next day.” Jason said, “I really do have a change if heart and mind. I know that sounds like a wuss but man brother I am really different but I know, you’ll.believe it when we see it.” Phil nodded and silently prayed, ‘Lord, help my unbelief but also help me not be gullible.’ Jason got up and danced more than walked away.
Nights seemed to be harder in jail than any other time, especially for Phil, especially now with trying to accept the reality that his son was dead. The thought of Jason returning to the pod and possibly trying to suckered punch and beat him while trying to sleep was of no consern when measured against the grief he now tried to find. ‘Lord, give me peace, rest and sleep.’ Part of Phil still feared not just being acousted but how he may react with this new anger building up within him. Again, he prayed, ‘Holy Spirit fill me, cast out my own selfish desires to beat every man who I see as a punk. You accepted me in my ignorance, you accept the punks. Help me see them the way you do. Forgive me as I forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing. Help me to not be a bully, trying to be I’m control. Help me Father, to be like your son. Take over my mind, body and spirit. Take me Lord. May your will be done. I don’t understand your ways, your thoughts, your plans but I trust you. You are Holy. You rule heaven and earth. Your will be done. I pray for your kingdom, heaven, to come soon. Rescue us, all of us. May your will be done, followed, completed here with us. Thank you for giving daily bread both spiritually and physically for our soul and body. Forgive me…forgive me for things I’ve done knowing and unknowingly…ah Lord I forgive the man who hit and k…killed my son…t…t..taking his life. We all mess up Lord. Lead me Lord, not into doing the wrong thing but into doing what you want and desire. Deliver me, deliver me from this evil place, space, time….Lord, hear my prayers, my plea…” Phil knew when he started to feel anxiety he was praying wrong. He continued silently, ‘Lord, read my mind as I cast my care upon you because you care for me…’ He let his mind fire rapidly over family members, friends, the jail staff, inmates and cons. He began to feel peace as he lifted others up and trusted his sovereign God to take over and read his mind rather than try and formulate a prayer.
That night Jason woke Phil. Phil was able to grab an arm and force his other hand into Jason’s throat. Jason reared back and Guy on the bottom bunk grab his legs. With an initial jab to the wind pipe Jason couldn’t talk. His eyes bulged. Phil whispered, “Just go away, now.” Phil released him. Jason said, “I’m just coming to tell you I ain’t gonna mess with you.” Phil said, “Just stay away.” Phil had nothing more to say. This was life in the jungle, two different sets of rules, those the staff enforcement and those the cons enforce and for Phil the principles of Christ out weighed all else.To keep life in balance and stay true to Christ he didn’t ignorantly leave behind his own safety and trust those who would burn him alive but found he had to keep his distance and treat everyone out of love, however, at the same time not be pulled into participating in their criminal activity. In the world but not part of it. He’d eat with them but, as already experienced, he had to hold onto his sixth’s sense, his common sense.
Before Phil could get back to sleep he had to breath. His limbs were shaking from the fight or flight adenaline and all natural defense meconizums surging through his body. He asked The Lord if he had been too hasty. His mind recalled the many times he was beaten in his sleep before and was not able to do anything about it. He recalled how Jesus and his followers were beaten because of their beliefs. The beatings he under went were not because of his belief, they were just savages trying to express their control. He was not the aggressor before just the defendor. He was just preserving himself, his body from harm. This was unlike The Apostle Peter cutting of a man’s ear to keep Jesus from going to the cross…or was it. The Holy Spirit brought comfort and rest to Phil. Defend but don’t defy, the words came to him. He was able to drift off on the very edge of sleep. He had to live on the edge but not fall off of it into the same pit that so many of theses men were on, regardless of how close he was to that slope. He’d see Jason and people like him again tomorrow.
As the sun began to rise outside the county jail the prisons jumped to the loud rage of a voice,
“I CAN DO ALL THINGS, I WILL FIGHT ANY ONE OF YOU NOW AND BE MORE THAN A CONQUER! “
Jason was standing up on the rail of the second tear with one hand on the wall to keep his balance. Before the guards could rush in a man from the top corner cell came out, giving the loud mouth a shove. Jason lost his balance and fell back on to the balcony. Another inmate darted out with a kick while he was down, sending Jason’s body out, under and between the bottom rail rungs. He fell to the floor below. Everyone was shocked and gasped at the impact. Guards and finally some medics raced in, Phil obeyed the command, “EVERYONE TO THEIR OWN BUNK!!!” Some men just fell to the floor where they were and spread eagle. From his top bunk Phil saw Jason’s body. He couldn’t tell if he was breathing but his moans of pain informed him that he had survived the fall. Everybody heard his words, “I can do all things and I’ll fight anybody in here and be more than a conquer.” Phil thought of the two verses Jason took out of context, where they were found and the correct interpretation, ‘it’s I can do all things THROUGH CHRIST who GIVES me strength…and… we are more than conquers in HIM…’ He clarified, “Not of our own strength Lord, it’s all about you.”, He said out loud softly as one of the guards aimed the pepper ball gun at him then scanned the room for trouble. ‘Where are the dogs?’ He thought briefly. Just then he heard barking coming down the hall cutting through the closed the pod door. Phil’s eyes shifted to the few side cells yhat he knew contained the band of cons planning a mutany. He prayed, ‘Please Lord, not not. GOD OF PEACE PLEASE OVERPOWER THIS PLACE AS YOU HAVE BEFORE, speak calmness and sanity to them.‘ The pod door opened again and three dogs with their handelers entered. If a riot were to break out this gave the county jail staff several more teeth to their advantage. The medics slid Jason onto a back board and he ‘shreeeeeeked’ in pain mixed with using Christ name in vein, “I’m a child of the most high god, you all can’t hurt meYOOOWCH, COME ON THAT HURTS.” Jason had hurt himself. The devil had fooled the man, tricked him into thinking he had The Holy Spirit and was sharing the same heavenly Father as Christ when in reality the Father of lies was still his master. As the guards made sure the medics could remove Jason they backed out of the pod as well, “No one move until the door closes!” The dogs made sure their presence was made known clearly with furious barks that rocked everyone down to their core. The door opened to let the staff and crew out and slammed shut. It was over. Phil though, it’s sad how the Holy Bible could be used against people or for evil rather than used accurately for the One true God.’ Jason, a.k.a Chaos was a ruthless confused young man that could change but only if he truly surrendered his own selfish desire and seeked Christ ‘s true basic instructions before leaving earth. Whatever teaching he may have picked up obviously didn’t line up with the guidance and care given in the Bible. Jason was gone again. The two men involved with the Jason insident were haller out as well but it wasn’t until that night when Office Smith came into the pod, took them, and moved Phil and Guy into their vacant beds. Smith said, “True to his word the sheriff ain’t tolerating misbehavior so those two men that allegedly threw Coty off the balcony will be sent to the tents after solitary confinement.” This gave Phil and Guy a place to sleep, shower, shave and take care of their personal hygiene without trying to strick a deal with those who had side cells. It also gave then a place to hold their own Bible study. The two cell mates couldn’t believe what happen and said they knew their former room mates were on the edge but jumped into taking advantage of Jason’s call out before they even knew what happen. “We heard the yell, was right there.”, the tall thin one pointed as if Phil and Guy didn’t already know. “Then…”, the shorter but even thinner cellie continued, “James knocked him down and Jonny ran up and punted him right off!” It was like reliving it again. “Chaos thought he could rule the world, wasn’t even supos’ to be up here. He was as a commoner, like ya’ll. By the way, I’m Knowell.” Phil and Guy bumped his extended fist. “And I’m Trevor. ” The other extended the same gesture, “welcome to our cell, I mean the cell…we don’t let a whole lotta ‘ people in but at the risk of a poor guy shitting hit pants we lettem’ poo or take a quick pee if they clean it when they’done. A few are allowed showers, we’ll show you who we trust, don’t want trouble, ding done flashes or worse. This my 15th stay , we’ll 6th in this county lock up n’ I ain’t been raped yet!” Guy chuckled, “Good to know bro.” Phil thought this would be a good time to ask, “what about visitors, just small group, two guys, Bible study, prayer, nothin’ over the top, just me Lil’John and the Indian guy, P.T. You cool with that?” Knowell said, “oh yeah Lil’John gets what ever he wants. If things go down we want him on our side!” Trevor asked, “Indian guy?” Knowell cluded him in, “ya know da’ real dark dark guy that’s not black. Has the strong accent, he say, ‘barry barry good barrys on dis’ blue berry pie?” They laughed. Phil laughed. Guy smiled and said, “that’s him! Nice guy no trouble, no threat.” Trevor added, “yeah but no help if a fight broke out.” Phil had to mention, “you be surprised at his reflex and ability to defend what is right.” They nodded and agreed but said, “But no Holy rollers or slippers like that guy that took the plundge.” “Nope, just stable brothers.”, Said Phil. Guy added, “almost like real family. ” They were all on the same wave length. Guy winked at Phil without a word. They knew they just secured a place to bathe in God’s word and began praying for their two new potential family members. “Oh, by the way,” Knowell spoke up, “sorry about your ah..that ah… friend…?” Phil questioned him, “Jason? Not a friend, more of a foe and definitely a wolf trying to dress like a sheep.” Trevor said, “good we didn’t want him hurt but didn’t want J. around either.” Knowell injected , “He needed to go, not like that but, agh!” Phil looked down at his journal and said, “I believe God is big enough to even use what some mean as evil to accomplish some good good things.” Trevor did another improvisation of his Indian accent, “Barry barry goooood.” They all let out a laugh. Knowell said, “we won’t see chaos again but if we do I think we should give him a new name.” They all ran over potential names in their heads but at the same time thought it best to just let it go.
BIBLES UNDER EVERY BUNK
Phil slept better in this cell than he had ever slept before, even in solitary confinement. Breakfast tasted a little better and he was happy to announce to Lil’John and P.T. they were welcome to use the shower and toilet in his cell. P.T. reminded him, “we have our own, no problems there. Lil’John laughed, ” I been using that one there with Trev’ n’ Knowell before I even had my own!” Phil said, “yeah, they like you! We also wanna do a Bible study in our cell, I got some good material from a guy on the radio, “Chip Ingram and Living on the Edge.” Lil John perked up, “I get that material mailed to me too. You got a good one, recently one, n’ da one on Jesus, like a biography or autobiography usin’ da’ book a’ John.” Phil said, ” They are all good!” P.T. asked, “Better than Chapel service?” Phil and Lil’John exchanged looks. Guy spoke up, “ya neve’ know whatcha’ gonna get with Chapel.” Lil’John spoke around the food in his mouth, “like a bo’chk a’ shocolate!” A piece of grits popped out landing on P.T’s shoulder. Phil said, “we’re not limited on time too.” “Doin’ time! Makein’ da’ best of it!” Guy proclaimed as he went for a high five from P.T. who went for it using the opportunity to brush the food particular off.
Sometime after breakfast was digested but before lunch Phil check with Travor and Knowell on having Lil’John and P.T. visit. Knowell spoke first, “ok but I ain’t giving up my bunk.” “Of course not.” Phil assured him. Trevor said, “can I participate? I mean I know ya’ll do Bible stuff but hell, I don’t know much about all that but it’ll help pass the time and give me somthin’ ta’ do.” Phil not wanting to show his over enthusiasm too much said, “sure, I got stuff.” And so it was set. Phil gave Lil’John and P.T. the high sign from the stairs to come on up.
Each grabbed a spot on a bunk with the exception of leaving Knowell’s entire bunk for just him and Lil’John stood in the doorway. It was almost as if they were smuggling something as Guy and Phil pulled their Bibles out from under their bunks. Much to everyones surprize Trevor pulled one out from under his and so did Knowell. Phil pulled out some letters he got and Lil’John had his in his hand, the same most recent material from Living On The Edge sent to inmates all around. Phil prayed, with eyes open asking, in a very few words, God’s blessing then handed one of the sheets to Trevor. P.T. didn’t have time to bow by the time the prayer was over and Trevor automatically began reading out loud what he was handed, “• Love is patient, love is kind … 1 Corinthians 13:4a • When you are hurt, wounded, rejected, or ignored, love “absorbs the blow (pillow) and returns a hug (kindness).” Trevor read remarkably well and they were all pleased. He paused and they all chewed on that but sat without adding anything just…pondering it. He waited, considering any input. After a few seconds he went on, “ : Love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not rude, it is not self-seeking,it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 1 Corinthians 13:4b-5.”, Another grand pause. All six heads bobbed and Knowell sat up, “This is good!” P.T. noticed his new aquatance really taking it in, no longer just soaking in the comfort and control of being in his own cell and own bed but joining them. P.T. raised his pencil to speak. Phil called on hIm, ” P.T.?” He spoke up with his strong Indian accent that they all were amused to hear but didn’t mock, “It seems like men can get into the word of God.”, He held up his Bible, “But what men need to do is let the word of God get into them.” It was profound and true. They all nodded and shared a mutual, ‘amen!’ Trevor read on, “• Love celebrates our differences! Love refuses to compare upward (envy) or downward (arrogance) 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 • Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:6-8a”. Phil spoke up, “I know this sounds impossible, how can anyone one on the out side of jail or especially in here live with this kind of love? We don’t see it, do we?” Phil waited for a reply. Guy said, “well, we tend to follow examples that are set for us so when our daddys act a certain way or those we are around set an example on how to live life we tend to think, that’s the way to live.” Lil John agreed, “yeah there is a way that seems right to a man but only brings him death.” Phil picked up those thoughts, “When I decided to not just get into the Holy Bible but let God’s Holy Spirit into my life I wanted to see others applying this lifestyle. I saw Jesus in a few people. I mean I saw this love in how they lived and dealt with each other and with situations but I wanted to see it more and more. I finally has to focus on my relationship with God and allow Him to help me show others what He was like through me and not be so conserned with what I saw in others.” They were all taking in what God was saying. Time seemed to stand still and nothing else mattered. After a few seconds of no one saying anything Trevor read some more, “• Love responds to failure with truth and grace. Truthful and grace-filled love chooses to A. ‘Blank all things’– to cover, not bury or deny.” They all looked to their Bibles for answeres. Phil read 1 Corinthians 13:6-8 again, “so what goes in that blank, love ‘blanks’ all thing?” P.T. offered, “It is patient. So love endures all things?” Guy agreed, “year bares or puts up with.” Lil’John addrd, “long suffering! ” Each man wrote from his heart, filling in the blank and more words in the margin. Phil askek Trevor to read on, “B. ‘blanks all things’ – believes the best, but is not naïve.” Knowell said, “I’m putting the words, gives the beniifit of doubt in all things in my blank.” Trevor said two words, “Is fair.” Phil encouraged them, “yeah, good. Think things through. Love is kind, fair and hopes for the best, expects the best but it true to reality. Each situation or season we come to in life we can rely on God’s faithful love but know that the world may let us down. People will let us down but God’s love will help us through. Knowell read verse 7 from 1st Corinthians chapter 13, you got the King James version I think.” Knowell turned pail, the blood left his face. Guy noticed Phil was speaking a foreign language to Knowell. “I got it too…” Guy rescued Knowell who was so relieved, “It’s talking about real love here, it says, ‘Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 1 Corinthians 13:7 KJ” Phil said, “This gets us back on track. Don’t just try to fill in blanks on a worsheet, think about how this can really be applied to your life, our lives, even in here. Please, read on Trevor.” “C. __________’all things’ – hopes in God’s sovereign power and promises, not the person’s ability to change. D._________’all things’ – actively tolerates and stands with a person through adversity and failure, but is not enmeshed or co-dependent.” , Trevor stopped there, “That takes us back to the start if how love carries on, endures, deals with things, doesn’t try n’ bury or denied anything.” Knowell thought of his 12 step A.A. meetings and The Big book. ‘THIS could real, really help me stay sober.’ ,Trevor read the last part, “The Result: “LOVE never fails!” – because God is ABSOLUTELY SOVEREIGN!” He even read the last few footnotes on the page, ” Romans 8:28, Genesis 50:20 Reference – God: As He Longs For You To See Him, pp.77-99, Chip Ingram.” Phil addressed the men, “I didn’t always know what SOVEREIGN ment…God is sovereign…but especially now, you know, I am now just beginning to fully understanding it. I have to remind myself Sovereign means, in control of everything, everything. He reigns, rules, over it all, the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. He is all powerful, all knowing, all present…” Lil John thought of the different names for Jahovah trying to describe Him. Phil went into a heart felt prayer, “Lord, you are our creator but you are also our father…You, You..” He gasped for air and finally closed his eyes and lifted his head toward heaven, “You are a good, good father….” He began to weap. Guy waited a few seconds then stood and put his hand on Phil’s shoulder. Phil got up off the to bunk. Then P.T. stood, Lil’John moved in. Knowell got down off his bed and stood and Trevor stood also. They joined in a football type huddle. Guy took the lead, “I believe we all have a God shaped hole in our hearts. I heard a lady named Joyce Myers say that one time and that is when I realized that is what was missing in my life, God.” Guy didn’t know if Knowell and Trevor knew Phil’s son died recently but he wanted to be sure they knew and understood what really matters when it comes to the after life. “When we are lil’ kids we learn to put the right shapes in the right holes. When we grow up into men sometimes we forget we need to still to do that.” He wanted to say more but couldn’t. It was as if God was speaking directly to each man, just between Him and them in the way that only He could. This was new to Knowell and Trevor. It was still fairly new to P.T. Guy recalled this same experience that was more than an emotions and more than a feeling. Lil’John and Phil steeped in it like a tea in hot water, those oh so good moments with God they searched for and made time for every day, every hour, through good and bad times. The six men began to hear the clancing of the pod door, squeak of the chow cart wheels and the noise level of all the residents rise just before the loud call, “CH….DINNER, CHOW TIME.” They thanked God for their daily bread both Spiritually and physically as they made their way out of the cell and down the stairs, back into reality of push, shove and guard your tattered tots or go hungry.
…edit note:Already inserted notes Alexx suggested (on June 25th)…
THE NEW NORMAL
All 6 men were able to sit together during dinner. Pip was not always around and recently had distanced himself more and more but as Phil noticed him looking for a seat so he called him over. Lil’John said, “yeah, pip, sit here!” Lil’John took up the space for two men so with 6 at the table he was struggling to keep both cheeks on the bench. “Ain’t room for me but your skinny butt will fit just fine.” Pip sat down. Lil’John had the same thoughts as Phil, get pip around these new guys who are encountering Jesus and it will do him good. Phil was going to give up his seat but it made more sense for Lil’John to move so he had room to breath and swollow better. When pip sat down it was obvious he was only there to wolf down the food. He was on a mission. The other 5 men wanted to continue with what they had just left in the cell. They were not ready to just spend time with God in the cell and leave all that upstairs, at their bunks. Trevor still had the material. P.T. still had his Bible and Knowell was just staring into space. Pip clanced at him as Phil tried to introduce each of them. Pip just assumed, that man is high. As Pip dug into the lumpy mashed potatoes he actually asked, “What you on man?” Then looked for a repercussion for being too nosey. Knowell made eye contact and responded, “hah, I am high, but this like nothin’ I ever shot up before dude!” Phil smiled and looked down at his food, once again thanking God, ‘man can not live on bread alone, thank you Lord for giving the bread of life.‘, He prayed silently and just let things unfold. Guy introduced himself to Pip. No fist bumps or hand shakes were exchanged. Pip was in too much of a hurry for that. P.T. involved Pip more by saying how he missed seeing him around. The Pod wasn’t big enough for 60 men but big enough for men with similar interest to congregate together as well as avoid each other when necessary. Pip spoke fast with out fully chewing. It was as if he was inhailing the food, “I…I (burp)paaah I been around. Just doin’ my thang, you, agh, you say that every time I see you P.T. ! I ain’t been no where but (burp) bah…but here bra’ you ain’t been ’round ah me neither bra’!” Knowell began to eat. Trevor was eating and listening then added, “So Pip, you been to Bible study?” Pip shrugged, “Chapel tomorrow, I may go, not sure I buy all that. I just go to get outta da pod bra’.” Knowell said, “nothin’ to buy, it is free.” Phil smiled. He knew God’s presence was up there in that cell but now Knowell was obviously letting Him move into his heart, sovereign, he thought. Pip finished clearing the food from his plate by using his roll like a mop, “Look, I grew up in Church. WITH my whole family and they suck. The loved people they went to church with n’ spent more time and money on each other than they eve’ did on me. I’m different…” He stopped himself from giving them details and took a swig of cool aid. “Glad it’s working for you guys but it’s just not for me. I just don’t believe like ya’ll and I prechiat’ ya not trying to convert me.” Phil stepped into the conversation, “No worries there Pip, just friends man. They just enjoyed some time getting to know what God is really like and checked the church s’htuff at the door man. You hang out as much or as lil’ As ya want with us. We like hangin’ out with ya man, but it is NOT to try n’ convert you, believe that.” Trevor was a bit confused. Knowell asked, “Who would not want this?” Phil went on, “If a man only seen false religion and told it is the truth it’s hard to swollow.” “Confusing as hell!”, Guy added. Pip choked a little on the last few crumb of the roll and gravy, “agggg.” He cleared his throat to get out the confirmation, “yep, damn right Phil and…”, Pip couldn’t recall the other guys name. “… you both got datrit’. I seen the show and it ain’t all that. Not impressed! ” He got up and stormed off, however; he knew in his heart there was no denying how true and real God was and he honestly saw the Jesus of the Bible modeled in Phil and Lil’John as well as that changing power in P.T. He just wasn’t ready to bury the hatchet with the anger left over from a religious dad who did nothing but condemn him for being, ‘different’, gay. I don’t need a God who doesn’t love me for who and how I am. Phil sat and prayed. P.T. took a breath. Guy asked, “What is his problem? ” Phil took a bite from his roll and said, “He has not truly tasted the true bread of life, the real man Jesus Christ our Lord. Give em’ time n’ space. Let God work with and on em’.” Trevor asked, “But don’t you Christian’s try to convert people like that?” P.T. spoke from personal experience, “Only God can convert. He did it to me, not Phil.” Knowell said, ” Maybe the chaplain can help em’.” Guy said, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than being in jail makes you a criminal. ” Knowell laughed, “I don’t know, being in jail sure helped me become a better criminal!” Phil said, “Exactly, it may help or hurt you, the company you keep, things you share or others share with you , but it comes down to a one on one relationship. Like Adam & Eve. Man has every opportunity to commune, communicate, with God and let Him be part of his life or not.” P.T. shared again, “In Hinduism, for my family it is all about religion and practicing rituals and rites but what I am finding now it this man Jesus who wants to have a friendship, no more than that, He wants…like a marriage. I’m asking Him to be like my spouse and I want to be his spouse. Hard to put into words and until I made the choice to ask Him to help me understand I could not, but I am beginning to really understand more and more. You all are helping me too with dis’. It is barry barry good!” They all choked a lil’ As they rejoiced in their new friends and were entertained with P.T. ‘s accent once again. P.T. laughed too, “I know I say barry barry funny but I am obviously different and…” Phil chimed in, “We love ya brother, just the way you are, know that, we are all different. ” Trevor said, “I like it! You probably know more than any of us.” P.T. thought he might have meant because eastern men were stereotypes of higher education but speaking with a strong accent and running a convince store. For P.T.’s family the fact was they owned and ran many of them and spoke several languages. He was use to being poked at but knew in his heart that they were all so full of joy it was going to come out in different ways. P.T. nodded and said, “I know you guys are different and don’t mean any bullying by it. I do sound funny. Trevor added, “Barry gooood barry pie.” He realized that was probably going to far and stopped, “No, no, sorry P.T. that’ wrong of me brother. Too much ‘mericans try say we right and eve’one else wrong. We selfish conseeded pricks too much. I can evn’ see how once a person get to know God and feel His Spirit al’sudden they think they’s god and try judge n’ jury ev’one else.” Phil was just pondering how Trevor spoke compared to how he read. Knowell said, “After dinner I going to read some more Bible, I been missing out.” He finished and went straight up to their cell. Trevor agreed, “uhuh!” He gathered the material and asked Phil if he could hold on to it. Phil nodded, “Of course. ” Guy sat back on a belly break and took a deep breath not able to contain his smile. P.T. made eye contact with Phil and asked, “Can you show me more physical defensive moves, the Spiritual side is doing fine but I’d like to get this temple in shape too.” Phil agreed, “Sure, you’re really coming along. A lot of it comes naturally for you. Ya just got to sharpen a few things. It is all about becoming more and more aware.” P.T. said, “Like my dad after knee surgery, the doctor said, ‘you know how to walk, now there is a new normal for you as you walk now with a new knee.” Guy liked that, “yeah, a new normal now.” He held onto it as he left the table to return his trey. Only P.T. and Phil were left there. “You still miss your son, I see it in your face. I pray for you my friend. ” With that he left Phil too. He did and always would miss his son. He still couldn’t eat well but prayed, “Lord, life now without my son is hard, I do miss him terribly. It is as if he is just gone on a long trip and…” Phil’s prayer was a two way conversation and God spoke, ‘you will see Him again. This is all normal, how you feel, what you are thinking and when you can’t think. It is all in my control, all part of my plan. I will keep you and see you through this new normal. I was, I am and I forever will be. Not by your own might but by my power you will carry on until your final day too. I love you. I’ve already done what is needed to make a way for you to live on in eternity with me and all those who go before you. I am the last Adam. The first Adam brought sin, disobedience and thus brought death, my son came to set things right and bring life. My Spirit, the same Spirit that raised My son from the dead has raised your son and will raise you. Don’t be sad, grieve but know you have hope in me, all these men do. See me in them now. Show them me through your life.” Phil took a few more seconds to thank God and try to eat as he sat alone but not really alone. A peace surrounded him and the kitchen staff noted it. Henry, one of the trusted approached Phil, “you almost done partner? Prolly’ cold by now.” He slipped another roll to Phil then brought his finger to his lips and winked, the universal nonverbal sign to not share this simple good deed. Phil nodded in appreciation and let Henry take the trey away and got up just to keep moving on through this tough season.
READ, APPLY, SIMPLIFY
Knowell and Trevor went back and read more material from Living on the Edge ministry with their Bibles open. They began to devour God’s word and gain wisdom they had never tasted before. Trevor read out loud to Knowell who always tried to come across as the more educated one but really struggled with reading. Trevor read, “Envy – Compares and produces jealousy, anger, resentment, and bitterness. (i.e. “comparing the foot to the hand”)” They looked up 1st Corinthians 12:15-16. Knowell did know that First Corinthians was the name of a book in the Bible but had no idea where it would be found in the scheme of things. Trevor had a paged folded down from where they were looking before dinner. He showed Knowell and gauged how far back to go by the thickness of the pages in the front part, got to the New Testament section and frantically turned to get to the same place Trevor was then said, “I know the big number is the chapter and after those two dots is the small numbers.” Trevor had heard them called verses, “Verses!” Knowell confirmed as he got to it and almost shouted, “You read it, I’m there.” As the pages stopped fluttering. Trevor read it then looked back at the notes Phil gave him by Chip Ingram, “Arrogance – Compares and produces pride, boasting, rudeness, and independence. (i.e. “compare the eye to the hand”) now look at to 1st Corinthians 12:21-22.” They did. Then Trevor read, “We all struggle with envy and arrogance, but we tend to habitually fall into one camp more often than the other.” “Ain’t that the truth!”, Said Knowell, “Read on!” Trevor read, “The envious…” Knowell stopped Trevor to clarify, “That mean people who want other people’s stuff right, ‘envous’, right?” Trevor said, “yeah, you got it, not just stuff but like to be as famous or rich as them and wanna steal like who they is’ n’ get, ah…you know, rather than just be happy with what they’s got, get other’s clout and status too cause they got’s jelousy and ah…” He search for word, “like covet!” “Unhuh!” Knowell was getting it. Trevor read, “They must believe that God is good and has sov…sovern… sovereignly, yeah like Phil was sayin’ sovereignly and wisely given them what is best for them and best to fulfill His purposes…” Trevor paused and thought for a few soconds then joted a note. Knowell pressed hom, “Read that app…um appli’catssion part.” Trevor asked for anothet srcond and was busy writing something he didn’t want to sharr, then read, “Admit, repent then ask God to use you.” Knowell waited again as Trevor wrote some more, “What you doin’ Trev’ READ!” Trevor laughed, “I taken a personal inventory!” When he was ready he read, “Meditate on God’s goodness, generosity. Choose gratitude and thankfulness. The arrogant must admit their need and choose to be vulnerable in order to receive the goodness of God in their daily experience.” This time it was Knowell that wrote things down as Trevor continued, “Remember everything is given from God. Remember where you came from. Hang out with those who know where you came from – who you really are. Admit your needs.” “Oh!” Knowell exclaimed. Trevor reached the bittom portion of yhe page and read a section titled, “Discussion / Personal Applicaton Questions: What’s love got to do with simplifying your life? Share a time in the last week you were patient (pillow) and kind (hug) when someone hurt you.” Knowell thought of a shive he had been hiding in the stuffing of his pillow. Phil stepped into the cell, all sweaty having just done some exercises and said, “I can give you several examples of that for me. Several nights I even tried to use my pillow to block blows to my head, literally. ” “You ever hug the guy later?” Trevor asked. “He wouldn’t allow me to get close enough. All he wanted was some sick revenge. Ya, know that’s the amazing thing about an all powerful God who wants to love us but allows us freewill. He will only hug us, take us in, if we accept him on His terms not our own terms. He loves us unconditionally but we do need the believe in Him, love em’ back, not outta’ obligation but true, from our soul. We gotta humble ourselves and admit He is God, not us. Maybe I should have accepted Jason more. He approached me that last night before he was hurt but in here not sure who ta’ trust and what ta’ do but survive. He came up on me in my sleep and I just…reacted, I have Christ in my heart but I am still human and I don’t always do what Jesus would do but I sure try. Hope I didn’t take you off you discussion. Hey, I gotta shower quick. ” Trevor said, “okay, we gonna read a little more of this. I almost read all this one, you got more?” Phil replied, “Oh yeah and get a new one each week. I think you have parts of the one on Spiritual Simplicity there, not even sure if the pages are in order.” Knowell said, “They seems’ to be. We’s found where to go in the Bible too.” Trevor said, “We got the right address.” Phil smiled and rejoiced, “God is the best G.P.S. anyone could ask for.” As he gathered his toiletries and got in the shower he heard Trevor reading, “The Application: Separate from the World’s Values. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is– his good, pleasing and perfect will. That is from Romans 12:2.. ah NIV it says after it.” Knowell said, “LOOK IT UP!” Trevor was already searching and final read it. The wording was a little different and kinda hard to read. Knowell asked Trevor, “What NIV’?” Phil came out of the short shower. He was rushing through it to keep from freezing and explained, “N.I.V. is an abriviation for New International Version. A different translation but you got King James’ translation. You’ll see it says the same thing just not old english, a more modern english.” Phil’s mind went back to what he said about a G.P.S. and how that could be an abriviation for, ‘God’s Plan of Salvation ‘ or maybe ‘God Positioning Servants.’ He said a silent prayer, ‘thank you for placing me here Lord, I wish I met these men under different circumstances but help me work through this place and time and be faithful to YOU, in Jesus name and for Christ’s sake, amen.” Guy entered the cell and saw Trevor and Knowell devouring the word of God. He had never seen anyone change so drastically and quickly. He thought of Phil’s son, ‘Stone’, and what a difference he had seen over time in him. He couldn’t imagine how Phil mourned his loss. All four men literally slept with Bibles in hand. They woke to the small over head lights still on above each of their bunks. Phil no longer had to use a battery powered pen light to read until he fell asleep. These four men shared the same interests and longing to get to know the real authentic Jesus written about in His word. What a blessing and although their surroundings didn’t offer much hope they now knew a living hope that came from deep within.
“It’s like everything around me was in black n’ white and now I see color! ” Phil overheard Trevor telling the guy’s in the cell next to theirs. He heard one guy objecting, “Man, dude, that Jail house Jesus! It’ll wear off when you get’s back in da hood, da streets don’t play! Can’t live that Jesus feel good, be kind life on da outside. Enjoy it while it lasts but it’d go away jack ‘beliThat!” Phil continued to listen as the other inmate said, “I don’t know man, I seen it stick with some brothers, they even been back in hrrr wid’ da’ chaplain and shared how somdem’ in full time talkin’ ’bout how Jesus hepped’ dem’ and day’ doin’ good bra’ ! Ya may be one of dem’ cats now slim!” Trevor replied, “Well, I don’t know about all dat’ but dis’ good bra’ I like it, like a high betta’ than drug ma’in. I’ll catch ya’ll lata’ I going to eat somo’ dis’ up.” Phil thanked God for a brother evangelist. It seemed so natural for Trevor and he prayed for faithfulness. Phil thought about what he had seen in his journey with the Lord. It seemed that the hardest hearts, the lives that seemed to be the worse, when they came know know God’s love, mercy and grace, they would end up serving God with the same dedication they use to serve themselves or their habit. They become an example for all to see. The bigger the problems and sin the harder they fall but if they let God lift them up and carry them the more they seemed to appreciate it. Those struggling ragamuffin are such a blessing to be around. They never seemed to fit into the cookie cutter patterns that some people fell into. Phil thought back to how the only drug problem he had growing up was, ‘He was drug to church.‘ He could easily take God and the Bible for granted but he didn’t. He knew the more he surrendered to Christ the better life was and the more able he was to brave the storms. He knew each man could be and example of God’s changing and sustaining power. He met Jesus, a rebel for the right cause, and strive to allow God to reign in him. What an amazing thing when ‘The Son Begins To Reign!” Phil didn’t need more of God’s Holy Spirit, God’s Holy Spirit needed and wanted more of Phil. The other cell mates seeemed to know that as great as it was to know they were going to heaven, saved from hell, it was ewually as great to know they’ve been saved to now serve God and in a very simple as well as practical way let God’s love shine through their life. It wasn’t a matter of knowing a bunch of Bible references. It was about internalizing The Scripture more than memorizing it. Phil knew guys who could spit it out like a parrot but had no love for others. They knew the word but did they let ‘The Word’, Christ know them? Some how, too often, Phil saw that when people experienced God’s presence everything became about them knowing more than anyone else and not using common sense, remembering what it was like before the knew Christ. Frequently they became the judge of other’s smudges, no longer considering their own lense was cracked. These new cell mates were a perfect example of how the bigger the past wrongs the greater God was able to use them as a good example of how great, mighty and powerful God was.
Knowell got into the shower. He seemed to be in there longer than normal. The water was almost always too cold to enjoy. Most men just get a little wet, shut the water off, soap up then turn the water back on to rinse. This wasn’t to conserve water, it was because the cold air and freezing water almost made it impossible to move. Phil was aware the water was running on and on and even wondered if Knowell was okay. He didn’t hear a thud, didn’t hear him fall. ‘Why has he been in there for so long?’ Phil fought the destraction as he tried to keep reading. Knowell finally exited the shower and went straight to the cell opening and looked around, towel still around his waist. With the coast clear and checked twice he whispered to Phil, “I just dumped a Shank down the shower drain , was from da’ rec. hall. I had it a while.” Phil recalled. Knowell went on in a hushed tone, “I feel like a shive isda’ oposite of a pillow. I Don’t wanna comform and…subscribe, ah perrscribe to dat’ formula any more. Typical life in da’ hood and streets, that mentality, only leads to da jail yard, Prison yard or da’ grave yard. I don’t wanna live just to rot n’ die. I wanna live a life of quality and um… quantity now. Sicka’ dat’ ah…perpetual insanity and sadness but I can’t do it. I know me. If I keep on dat’ old path I’ll regret it! I got regrets bro!” Knowell put his jail jump suit on under his towel. Phil then placed his pen where he left off reading and looked up at Knowell so he had no doubt He was listening as Knowell unloaded more, “In my nature, my ah whach’ you call it, D.N.A….WHO I AM, I am set up to do wrong, covet others, hurt those around me. I always been tryin’ gain things for myself when in reality I hurt myself when I am selfish, you know? But, since I gave God a chance, more than a chance, I gave up focusin’ on what my flesh wants. That when I finally gained life, when I gave up what I use to treasure and hold onto as valuable, wow, I rich now bra’! I got somthin’ betta’ that doe! Now my treasure is in heaven, nothing in this life really matters, could give it all up and truly be happy. Heaven my home now, not here.” He looked around and finished putting on his jail cover-alls, “but ‘da best thing is…I got more joy now about how life can be celebrated n’ enjoyed. I gots’ to hold on to dis’!” He paused then whispered, “Ditchin’ that shive feels GREAT!” Phil encouraged him, “Stay in the Word but remember we all got two sides. Feed the flesh and it will win out. Feed your soul. Love Jesus and let Jesus love you, then you will not only keep this you will grow even more. Sometimes it takes a while to change and grow, especially in some areas more than others. Relapse will raise its ugly head, lookin’ all beautiful, like a woman willing to put out. Drugs, booze, money, anything you literally see is just a passing pleasure that, not only won’t last, it does harm and only offers false hope. Knowell, God’s Spirit has come into your heart and it is like a seed. In Matthew 13 Jesus explains it really well. Let that seed keep growing, don’t let Him stop growing in you.” Then Phil gave Knowell some more Bible verses to take to heart from 1st Peter 4. Knowell quickly sat and couldn’t write fast enough as Phil turned to the portion and read, “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. That’s from 1 Peter chapter 4 verses 1-11. I got the N.I.V. translation here..You know how to put the ‘dots’, the colon to seperate the verses?” Knowell wrote as he replied, “like this?” He showed Phil. “Yeah.” Then Knowell added, “I guess God told us we’re suposed to look a little strange to the world.” He underlined 1st Pe. 4:1-4 and put a bracket around verses 5-11. “It okay to mark in here right?” Phil assured him as he held up his own Bible and Knowell laughed as he saw all the notes written in on the side and different color highlighters Phil had used. Knowell stopped and took in a deep, deep breath. “Ya know we handed discipline from guards a lot in here. I can take dat’ mos’da’ time but I…” Knowell searched for the word, “hate…okay to use dat’ word? You know what I mean…I hate the discipline from cons. I…really, strongly dislike the cons and dare’ gangsta’ life!” Phil assured him, “We are supposed to hate what is evil. Love them as people but hate their wrong actions cause they wage war against God.” Phil took a little more time to mentor Knowell one on one, “Always keep facts separate from opinion. You have now tasted the truth. Keep taking in the truth, God’s word. Know the truth, hold onto it, keep going back to it and the truth will set you free. Opinions try to bind us and keep us bond up even after an argument. Ever go over and over a conflict for days?” Knowell said, “brother I still trying to get rid of heated throw downs I had with people from when I was a teenager! I gotta let go all that sh…” Knowell stopped himself, “Allsthat’ stuff’!” Phil loved watching The Holy Spirit filter things for his new brother. “See, God is giving you tongue control. That’s a big deal, I’ll show you what’s written in James about that.”, Phil promised. Knowell nodded as he said, “And there more than one crowd to hang out with. I don’t need to be runnin’ with some old beat up gangbangers. Ya know they says’ they got your back but when in real trouble they gone! I ain’t got family, I mean they alive but they put block on they’s phones n’ given up in me. Notaone’ of my boys from da’ streets put any hep’ on my commisary. They gots’ stacks of money but once I came in here, where’s they now? Nothin’ to do wif’ me bro, nothin’ they don’t cares’!” Trevor came back in the cell, he had been in and out and was making rounds sharing his new found faith. He spoke to his cellies, “I just talk to a guy who said he was a ‘Tagger’, ya know graffiti artist, and him n’ his boys ended up with taggin’ to close to a rival gang’s stuff n’ his friend got shot over THAT!” Knowell reacted, “Man, see, men who bully and jumps into fight…” Phil added, “Easily angered, fits of rage…” Knowell went on, “ummhmmm, they is really weak cause doin’ what everyone else wants, no control over self, NO sefcontrols’! Real man able to not surrender to other men taunting them. Weak give in n’ jump into right where their enemy want em’. RIGHT where their opponents want em’!” Trevor agreed, “RIGHT WHERE THEY WANT EM’!” Phil confirmed, “Ya know that God says, There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. That is in First John four, I think verse 18.” Trevor grabbed his Bible to look it up.
Time seemed to move faster as they spent time in the Word. It some how changed them and their surroundings. Before they had to leave Phil read from 1 Peter 4 out loud, “listing to this”, he said with excitement, “If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. That is from 1st Peter 4:15-16.” Knowell and Trevor grabbed a pen and wrote the reference in their journals that were quickly filling up with notes on this new life. It was as if they were born all over again and this second chance, second time around, they were determined to live with more joy, peace and even hope offered to others around them, no matter where they were; after all they were not in jail for the same reasons the Apostle Paul was in for (being an outspoken Christian) but since they were there they were going to, now with a new nature, share.
One morning while they were having breakfast a fight broke out. One inmate was killed in that fight. Those sitting near it said it all started because the dude spilled syrup on other inmate.
Everything was cold, dirty and had a smell you couldn’t escape. Phil, Lil’John, P.T. , Guy, Trevor, Knowell and a few others had the best way of dealing with their conditions, their surroundings. It wasn’t looking for a temporal high. It wasn’t found in planning an escape or take over. It wasn’t in their own strength at all. The only peace they found was in a foundation that was laid long ago by time directly with God when they were younger or by a new found resource they had started with Christ since they were incarcerated. Many of them wished they had been developing this area of their lives before but if it took going to jail to find this treasure it was all worth it.
The jail brought in a documentary crew with some troubled teens. Most of the imates and staff got in the face of these kids and tried, as the sheriff said on camera, ‘we try to put the fear of God into them.’ Phil hung back and didn’t agree with all this nonsense. He was pulled in by the film crew to comment and simply said, “Respect and fear are two different things and some kids might need to be scared into wanting to straighten out but deep down I personally know I deal better with just communicating with people. Push people and they wanna push back, it is human nature, but sometimes it is better to address things by expressing yourself with sincere words rather than aggressive behavior. I prefer to use words. Let em’ see the living conditions and some of the harsh reality of the general population mentally but also just have a talk with them.” The producer didn’t use that short interview. He felt that wasn’t what viewers wanted to see but Phil just felt that violent lives were not always changed by responding to them with more violence and hardness. The shouting, games and threats seemed to work for some kids but it just wasn’t part of Phil’s ways. He’d love to see more character built than jails built, however, he’d leave that kind of Drill Sargent character building up to the loud mouth power hungry staff and boisterous inmates. Trevor also spoke with the crew and they used his footage. He had a mix of tough love in what he said. That, the producer liked. Trevor said the director said, “This is what I like to call harsh reality t.v.!” Trevor has been in and out if jails since he was a teen and his back story was perfect to allow those teens an opportunity to see where the road they were on leads. Guy was selected to speak to the kids as a group and made reference to Phil’s son. He felt he had to talk about how Christ changed him. The show used clips of him talking with the teens but took those parts out, specifically when he used the name ‘Jesus Christ’. After the men got to see the show Knowell asked Phil why they’d leave that stuff about Christ out? Lil’John answered, “Cause they don’t believe that He the answer! ” Phil agreed and added, “Maybe they didn’t want to offend other religions.” Trevor piped in, “Jesus is a rock of offense. They killed him, highly religious people made sure a dat’!” They all nodded. Trevor said, “da’ kids heard it though, even if t.v. land didn’t!” Guy shared, “I’ll always give credit where credit due, if they don’t share it that on dem’ not me. It up to me to be and do me. Can’t be bothered by what other’ do or don’t do.” They all agreed almost in complete unison, “amen!”
“REALMAN, PHIL!” Everyone in the pod heard the call. Phil was reading a letter his wife sent him regarding how his son, her step son’s funeral was so beautiful and how well his ex-wife did with all the arrangements. He broke down when told how the son’s mother clung to the open casket. He thought of when he left on a father son trip, before the divorce, and how the mother of his son weeped not wanting to let go. Now they were both forced to let go, forever. The guard yelled two more time, louder each time, “REALMAN, PHIL!!! REALMAN, PHIL!!!!” Phil snapped out of his own mind as Guy said, “yo, they calling YOU, Brother, Phil!” Phil was now about to face another fate.
The court room was full. He heard the judge state his charge and the trial to determine if he just did more time or was given the death sentence. He knew he took another man’s life but it wasn’t murder. The parents of the man he hit were there. They were called to the witness stand first, the father was. Phil’s lawyer seemed incompetent in many ways but ‘not able to afford a lawyer one was appointed to him’ as was promised when his rights were read. The over weight mouth breeder held Phil’s life in his hands and Phil prayed, ‘Lord I trust you but I don’t know that I can trust this man. Sovereign Lord, please intervein.’ It was as if Phil was literally beside himself. He watched the bereaved Father take the stand. He was not there when his son was hit. Why would he be considered a witness? There was some special terminology the Judge used for what was taking place but Phil just couldn’t focus, he tried but felt that none of this was any where within his realm of control. The witness began, “THAT MAN!” He pointed directly at Phil as if he wanted to strangel him. “THAT man killed my son…and someone recently killed his son, in the same manner, an accident. ” His voice tambered and trembled. The blood left his face. “He didn’t do it on purpose.” The lawyers on both sides scambled their pages of notes and documents like trying to get a grip on a small life raft in a terrible storm. The judge let a smile come across his face and calmly said, “Go on.” Through tears and from his heart the father of the victim cried out, “H-h…he kno…ows what it is like to loose a s…son. Our lawyers told us what to say to win our case and be sure Phillip pays for his crime. They said the least he would get, no mater what is probably 20 years.” He addressed the judge, “Your honor, we don’t understand courts, laws and all this st..tuff but as the one pressing charges my wife and I would like to drop our ch…charges against this man in this case. We know the state will follow through with whatever charges a man gets for hitting another man by accident with his car but we can not press anymore charges because we know he didn’t do it as an act of murder. ” Everyone waited for more but nothing else would come out. The judge said, “Folks, this is a very unusual case and charged will be pressed, Phillip Dwight Realman will have another trial and if found guilty be sentenced to time in prison but not sentenced to death.” The judge went on to say more but it was all monotone and only the stanographer was able to take it down. The sound of the gavel was loud and final. Both lawyers wanted to approach the Judge’s bench but he had already set a date for the next trial that neither lawyer would play a role in. They stood dumb founded and Phil wasn’t sure what really took place. As the guards led him back out of the court room he just went in the direction they moved him, again out of his full awareness, almost as if he were not in the driver’s seat of his body. One of the guards said, “You one luckilysonabich man!” Phil spoke for the first time, the words spilled out, “I’m not.” The guard laughed and jerked him around with unnecessary force to remind him who was in control.”What you mean, you ain’t, you just…” Phil interupted, “I am not a son of a bitch and I am not kucky, I am blessed!” The guard snorted and bent Phil’s thumb into his own wrist as if he were any threat within these incredibly thick walls, leg shackles and cuffs. He handed him over to the next guards who were to accompany him the rest of the way. These guards let Phil walk next to the wall as long as he faced forward and didn’t talk. They never layer a hand on him. They knew Phil better than the court bailers. They asked Phil how it went. His reply was short and consise, “I don’t know.” He knew not to talk. He knew these guards were different than some of the others but he also Knew the rules. If he didn’t answer it could be taken as a sign of agreession and suspicion but if he said too much, well, it didn’t really matter. He was pretty sure he knew now he would do his time in jail and no doubt be sent on to prison to do more time but it was more than just time. For Phil it was now full time ministry. As long as he was alive and kept alive, allowed to live, he would serve God in every season of his life, including this next season.
Phil did go onto to prison, but that is another story. After doing 10 years of a 20 year sentance in the state penatentry he was released and finally able to return home, visit his son’s grave site and start yet another season in his life.
Phil wrote a few letters to those who were in jail with him. He was able to keep in touch, some had moved onto to other jails, some to prison. Some returned home just to return to jail, others were released, never to return, not because they weren’t caught but because the only thing they were caught doing was loving The Lord. He knew how great it was to get mail so he wrote regularly. He even made little posters he knew they would use toothpaste as glue to put up near their bunks. some of the signs read,
Always give respect but don’t expect to get respect.
Don’t have to live by the jail house code in or outside of jail.
Those signs were wrapped in a larger piece of paper where Phil wrote an explanation, ‘You do have to live different in lock up, just like you have to live on the edge when in a disfunctional household with an alcoholic mom and abusive drug addicted dad but we can function and be as much like Jesus no matter where we are living. Consider what hardship Christ endured and encountered from crowds of people in every city and village He went to, even unto death.’ He hoped this would encourage the men still in there that he knew and maybe reach some he had never met, some he may never meet.
Phil got a letter from Lil’John who actually got out a little before he was released. Lil’John shared, “wrote back,” Phil stopped reading and whispered a prayer for his brother in Christ. Then he read on, “
‘We don’t want you in the dark, friends, about how hard it was when all this came down on us in ‘County jail’. It was so bad we didn’t think we were going to make it. We felt like we’d been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since he’s the God who raises the dead! And he did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he’ll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing. You and your prayers are part of the rescue operation—I don’t want you in the dark about that either. I can see your face even now, lifted in praise for God’s deliverance of us, a rescue in which your prayers played such a crucial part.’
Both men wrote their letter after reading 2 Corinthians.
JOURNALING THE JOURNEY
Every situation we encounter in life gives us two options, God’s way or ours. Very often we’ll choose our way. “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” -Neil Peart.
If go our own way we also need to accept the consequences. If we look for God’s way and trust Him we can rest assure that He will also be in the outcome.
When in doubt, pray.
Humble yourself and pray. God gives wisdom to those who ask. That is Biblical (God’s word) and He gives us the gudance, promises and wisdon on how to unit with Him, how to be more , more like Jesus, regardless of what season we are in.
Now available, read the sequel, “Season of Prison”
The Holy Spirit
The Holy Bible
Chip Ingram and Living on the Edge ministry (www.LivingontheEdge.org)
GA federal penitentiary
Jails across the United States and Mexico City.
Chaplain Ken Aspund St. Augustine, Fl
Alexx Bailey (my only son)
For a list of other stories go to: https://tombeetlebailey.wordpress.com/stories-poems-and-art/
This story or parts thereof may not be reproduced in any form, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means – electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise – without prior written permission of the publisher.
This story is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or businesses in practice, are purely coincidental. The views expressed here are my own, as are whatever factual errors exist in the text.