prison wireA flash fiction story~

Father Ryan rolled to a stop in his rusty light-blue Chevy, fifty feet from the prison’s main gate. He peered out through the dirty cracked windshield as thick fog swirled upward in a mix of light and dark shadows. A black tree line rose from the shadows far away in the distance.

Guard towers swept upward as black sentinels on each side of the main gate into the dull gray sky. The inky silhouettes of two guards walked rhythmically back and forth on top of the wall. The scene before him looked so surreal that Father Ryan felt he must be dreaming. It seemed that all color had abandoned this dismal place. He prayed that hope had not deserted it as well.

Inside the prison, dank cold chilled the air and Father Ryan felt life’s warmth being sucked out of him. The lime colored walls were dirty and peeling. The floors were concrete, stained by the footfalls of thousands of prisoners long since gone. He was taken to a small, bleak room where he was directed to sit on the left side of the table.

Into the room two guards escorted a prisoner shackled by heavy chains. They sat him on the right side of the table, and they padlocked him to the cold cement floor. One guard remained in the room when the other left, standing along the wall by the door.

“Ryan, thank you for coming.” the prisoner said, “Or should I say Father Ryan now.”

The prisoner tried laughing but choked and coughed instead, a prolonged cough that left him shaking afterwards. A tube led from his nose to an oxygen tank, helping him to breathe. He was a young man , but living life on its hard edge had caught up with him.

“Hello Eddie.” Father Ryan said. “How are you doing?”

“The doctors give me six months to live.” Eddie replied. He doubled over again and coughed. “Did you see her? Did you talk to my mom?”

“I saw her. She looked well.”

“What did she say? You didn’t tell my dad I wrote to you, did you?”

“I didn’t see your dad, just your mom. She told me to tell you—“

Father Ryan paused. This was hard for him to say.

“She said she can’t come to see you. That you died to her a long time ago. She said her heart can’t take anymore heartache and sorrow. I’m sorry Eddie.”

Eddie bowed his head, and the chair creaked mournfully underneath his thin, wasted body.

“Well,” Eddie finally said, “that’s that.”

“Eddie, you wrote to me instead of your mom. Why?”

“I figured she wouldn’t read a letter if it came from me. You treated me right in high school, even after I treated you wrong. Now you’re a priest and I figured she might listen to you.”

“Write to her. I’ll deliver it.”

“It’s too late.” Eddie said.

“You have six months to make things right. Tell her you don’t blame her for what your father did to you. Tell her you know it wasn’t her fault.”

“I don’t know what to write. I don’t know who to blame.” Eddie said as he looked down at the floor.

Father Ryan sighed. The chair creaked.