Sunday, May 24, 2020


Wednesday, May 20, 2020, 7:42 p.m. Tomoka C.I., Daytona Beach, FL

Life in prison will never be ''normal,'' but considering what we've been going through the past two months, with transfers, quarantines, isolation, and recovery, today was the most normal one yet. We got outside three times, strictly to the chow hall and back, walk in a straight line, masks on. Peanut butter, dry cereal, and an apple for breakfast, more turkey bologna and cheese sandwiches for lunch, but they served chicken leg quarters and yellow rice for supper, a surprise. In the prison vernacular, it is ''chicken on the bone,'' as opposed to the ubiquitous ''chicken patty,'' what they commonly substitute for chicken leg quarter.

I talked recently about the sudden sprouting of interest among my cohorts in reading the Bible. Seeing the statistics on TV of thousands of coronavirus deaths, trapped in a building with fifty men who tested positive, fearing their possible one-way trip to the Promised Land could be imminent, it's understandable they would seek solace from God. But sometimes this Bible study can be a pain.

I told you about the ''Ant Man,'' the old guy in the next bunk over, whose hoarded food caused an insect infestation. He got into a couple of fights with the gay clique leader, resulting in his attacker splitting his scalp with a combination lock. Even though it was plainly self-defense, he got a disciplinary report (D.R.). Bad luck.

Since then, Ant Man borrowed a ten-pound Bible from someone, and proceeds to read it out loud several hours a day, in a dull monotone voice, pronouncing each word like he's going down a list. Like most people in prison, he is borderline illiterate, dropped out of school early, never took advantage of the free education he missed out on over thirty years' imprisonment. I have earplugs, so I can tune out much of the endless bedlam that occurs, but it's hard to ignore when you're typing on a tablet keyboard and a guy is poking your shoulder. It went like this:

''Norman, Norman.''


"Sorry to bother you, but can I ask you a question? It's about the Bible.''

"Go ahead.''

"'What is this word?''

I lean over to see what he is pointing at. These bunks are barely three feet apart. Close quarters.

"Transgression,'' I tell him.

Then I have to explain the difference between a transgression and a sin. He stared at me and nodded. I think he got it.

Ten minutes later...

''Norman, Norman, hate to bother you, but what is this word? I can't pronounce it.''

He passes this massive Bible over to me. I may have hurt my shoulder. He kept his finger on the mystery word.

"Thronged. That means the people crowded around him.''

Then I try to patiently explain the difference between the noun and the verb, throng and throng.


''You're welcome.''

I really wanted to complete the email I hoped to send out. Didn't look good.

''Norman. Norman. Hey, Norman.'' (more pokes on the shoulder).

''What?'' Irritated. Even I have my limits. I was in the middle of an important thought when he interrupted me. Lost the thought.

He asked, ''What is Tyre? T--Y--R--E?''

A city.

Then it was Sodom, then ''decapolis.'' Then I explained about the ten cities, then the Philistines, who we call Phoenicians, and Gath, where Goliath came from. I think.

"You know what you need? A good Bible dictionary. When they open up the chapel again, you should ask if you can get one.''

"Yeah, that's a good idea. I'm not very educated. You know, the Lord looks out for me. Every time He puts me somewhere, He puts me near somebody real smart who knows all the answers.''

"That's good, but you don't want to take God's wisdom for granted.''

"I won't. Norman, what is manna?''


Not only does he need a Bible dictionary, but he needs to sign up for a good Bible study course. I tell him. That's a good idea, he says.

It's late, and the psych drugs have knocked out my neighbor and a dozen more men on chemicals. It's time for me to go, too. Good night, stay safe, and God bless you.


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