By Jonathan Urban

Copyright March 10, 2000

Brandon looked frightened. The enormity of his incarceration was beginning to take its toll on him emotionally. He never cried, I mean never cried--now he was reduced to a whimpering fool in a dark solitary cell.

He had only been in the cell for a day--or was it night? Since being processed he had lost track of time. All he knew was this had to be the most frightening experience of his twenty-one years. He was a lean youth, light brown hair and blue eyes, sturdy build--but nonetheless he gave in. He shook in a corner of the cell. He felt like telling himself to get a grip--he was twenty-one--why the hell was he afraid of being in a dark room? Perhaps it wasn't the room, but the place in which the room was located.

He saw all their stares as he was processed. The lust of men, eyeing a new "fish" as they were called. He knew they wanted him--that thought alone made him feel glad he was in solitary. The excuse given by the Warden, when asked why he was being put in solitary immediately upon being processed: "So you don't mess up and end up in here later."

The Warden was tall, probably six feet, and built strong. His hair was slicked back, revealing some well-earned creases in his forehead and a strong stare that was intimidating, yet more gentle than one would have imagined.

Brandon stopped his crying as he heard someone coming towards his cell. The door opened, and the Warden stepped in. "Well, son, are we understanding each other?" The look could almost be mistaken as one of concern.

"Yes," Brandon said as the Warden helped him up and out of the cell.

The Warden turned to one of his guards, "Take this prisoner to Cell Block A."

The guard led Brandon down the hallway, past some cells. Brandon tried hard to ignore the inmates as he walked.

"Come here fish, I have something to show you," he heard one inmate whisper.

"His ass is mine," another inmate retorted.

The guard led him up some stairs. His cell was around the corner. He went inside and the guard looked at him. "You be good, you hear? The sooner you learn that, the sooner you will be out."

It was a long night. Brandon heard people talking, laughing, screaming, and crying. It was horrific hearing all of that and not seeing whom it was coming from. He could not sleep no matter what he tried. Why did that lady have to die? He never meant for it to happen. He was trying to rob the store--but that was it, no one was suppose to get hurt.

Now look where he was. Since he had not pulled the trigger, and his lawyer got the charges dropped to manslaughter, instead of second-degree murder--he was serving a sentence of no less than twenty years--eligible for parole in six.

The look in his parents eyes as they sat in the courtroom and heard the verdict. The tears of his mother and father would haunt him all the days he was in prison. Perhaps worse than that was the scream of the old lady at the store, and then the blood all over the floor. It horrified him every time he thought about it.

The next day was different. Something in the air made Brandon feel better. The Warden talked with his guards while the inmates were outside for their daily recreational time. A short thirty-minutes--but each and every one of them made it seem like forever. Brandon saw a particularly strange looking inmate look at him, then walk towards him.

"Hey fish, how's it going?"

"Not bad..." Brandon really didn't want to continue this conversation. He started to walk away.

"Not so fast, pal, get on your knees and suck it."

Brandon pretended not to hear that remark. He shuddered inside. He loved women--his girlfriend Kate was going to wait for him, so she said. He was always disgusted by homosexuals. He tried to walk off again.

"You heard me," the inmate kneed Brandon in the stomach, and he feel to the ground.

The warden and guards came over immediately. "What's going on--you back," the Warden pointed to the inmate. "You ok son?" The Warden outstretched his hand to help Brandon up. "Can you read?"

Brandon looked strangely at the Warden, "No sir, not too well."

"Good, you are now going to work in the prison library--away from inmates like these."

--10 Years Later--

"Hello Brandon," the Warden after several years began calling Brandon by his name. Brandon in ten years time had reorganized the prison library, made friends with all of the guards, and most importantly, the Warden. "You know I told the parole board they were mistaken four years ago. You are a good kid. You don't belong here--but don't tell anyone I said it," the Warden managed a smile.

"Thank you sir," Brandon looked at the Warden, "I do belong here though. If it wasn't for being here and the chance you gave me, I would of never learned to read and write. You know, even though nothing ever came of that book I wrote--just being able to read and write it meant so much to me Warden."

"I know son, I know," the Warden dropped off a book, which looked rather new to Brandon.

"We are getting new books these days?" Brandon looked at the Warden suspiciously.

"Just yours," the Warden patted Brandon on the back and left him to his work.

Brandon picked up the book--it was entitled, LIFE OF AN INMATE, by Brandon Jefferies. The biggest smile in years was on his face. Through a terrible mistake and ordeal, Brandon was able to rise above and live life to it's fullest. He was glad he had met the Warden that decade ago, very glad.