“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” – Sun Tzu
The Reader’s Quandary
There are many prisons. Thousands spread across my nation and hundreds of thousands around the world. There is no doubt, that jails serve a vital purpose in both a civilized and uncivilized society. Where the unanimous thinking ends is what we think of people housed in jails and what the ultimate purpose of prisons should be. Murderers, rapists, child molesters and ponzi scheme artists that rob wealth from the innocent, tilt toward one end of the scale, while petty thieves, panhandlers and non law-abiding citizens that tend to rob only themselves (johns, prostitutes, drug addicts) balance the axis.
While there will always be casualties in any type of war, what do we think of those who are innocent by both association and actual guilt? How does a person live their life behind bars knowing, that they did not do it, and of the same importance, how does the guilty carry on with a life so devoid of morals, they allow the innocent to pay for their crime? But what if they feel just, and have no reason to repent, for the enemy unseen, is visible to them.
Marion Todd was in her third trimester and even getting out of her uncomfortable bed was a struggle. She was a pretty woman, not beautiful, but certainly had her share of admirers. It was one of those admirers, Jason Tony, that had filled her with drinks during an office party, rented a room at the same hotel, and lured her into his arms. At 26 years old, Marion still held onto her virtue. Her parents were only slightly religious, both Catholic, both married only to each other, but missed more Sunday worships than they made. Marion was not prim and proper, she drank with her high school girl friends, and experimented with heavier drugs as a collegiate. Nor was it not wanting to get pregnant, which she seldom thought about, that allowed her to maintain her innocence. It was fear, plain and simple. Fear that a man would take from her the only thing that was truly hers and that she could never get back.
She graduated near the top of her class. Dean of her sorority and landed a job on her first try. Marion was an all American girl, living in an all American world. She moved up the corporate chain with relative ease, dating occasionally, but never moving in to close. The fear kept her heart, her mind and body at bay. Talk soon escalated of her being a lesbian, but even if she were, the few out of the closet lesbians in the large company, in which she worked, were out of luck too. Her fear transcended identity of the x’s and y’s as much as it did race, creed, color and any other identity that approached her on an intimate level. Marion Frances Todd wanted to love. Not sex. She wanted the pink clouds to explode and her body to tremble from touch. But most of all, she wanted to wake up in the morning and know that he or she was still there. But twenty-six years of guarding the well was stolen with one quick drink. Jason Deval Tony shared the honor.
Jason was a confirmed bachelor with only two dreams in his life. To make the most money and to never take a wife. He loved women, this one thing is true, but he loved only their bodies, and had little time if they wished to share their minds too. Marion became his target, of that he would surely get. He knew her kind, passed them all the time, and the victory was ever so sweet, when he bed them each and every time. He was a whiz at the stock market, knowing always when to buy and when to sell. The money poured in, but a look at his abode, one could never tell. Making several trips to the Cayman Islands, his money he sewed away. Jason lived modestly, only believing in a month-to-month lease. Having problems with the women he used, always coming back, he stayed on the move, never leaving a forwarding address. When he first met Marion, he knew she was different. Her features were not perfect and her manners were not the best, but something about her smile, made him certain, he had to be careful for it was a woman like her that could touch his heart. He could not have that, but he must have her.
Of the ten harshest prisons in the world, one stands alone for its longevity. Not in the length of time its been in service, that honor belongs to HM Prison Shepton Mallet, better known as Cornhill in Somerset, England. The Louisiana State Prison, Angola holds the record for holding a prisoner in solitary confinement for the longest duration. Long after his original sentence had been served, Herman Wallace one of the Angola 3, has been held for 23 hours a day, in a 9 x 6 foot cell since 1972 in the stabbing of a young prison guard to death. While the evidence is questionable, the murder was not; and for the crime against humanity, Mr. Wallace is paying the price of living the rest of his life, alone.
Marion Todd was in the middle of her morning ritual. Every morning since her pregnancy, Marion followed the same morning routine. She would prepare a large breakfast; eat what she could then go for a stroll around her midtown neighborhood, rain or shine. She would stop by the corner store, purchase the daily paper, drop the change in the old beggar man’s cup, pat his dog on the head and stroll five blocks while breathing in the fresh morning air. She would return home, run a hot bath if it were cool, and lukewarm if it were not. Then climb her tiny frame, now bloated with water and heavy with child, into the tub. She was fretting today, not just because her child had begun a ruthless kicking match inside her, but because today would be her last day at work. She enjoyed her co-workers, even the catty gossiping ones, of which she had, until eight months ago, manage to remain above. Her non-profit did good work of feeding the hungry, and she was proud of the money she was able to secure. She enjoyed meeting donors and educating them about the plight of the poor.
Jason had robbed some of the joy from her, infiltrating her barriers, moving too close, where she could smell him, so she could want him. The brute fragrance of a man was something that she had not noticed ever before, and when she did, she lost herself in it. He made promises to give plenty to her cause, and invited her to join him in the first drink as sort of an applause. He then lured her into the second, and by the third, she had reached for the bottle herself. Before she knew it, they were in the elevators, wrapped in each other’s arms; kissing, petting, moaning, groaning. Her body was excited and his touch caused explosions she had never felt. Jason knew what he was doing. Since a young man, a master of seduction, a persuasive talker, and an attentive lover. Pink clouds she did see. Her heart sang a song of glee. But when her eyes opened come the next morn, the man next to her, had long since been gone.
As Marion turned the corner, she passed the same bus stop and waved at the familiar young man dancing to the tunes of his iphone. He waved back, like he always did, but never missed a beat. More energetic than on most days of late, she decided to stroll another couple of blocks. The still air felt good on her skin and the beautiful moon, had not yet faded, although the sun was rising from the east. She was going to be a mother in just a few short days, time to break the monotony, so she started with her trek, continuing straight, rather than, as ritual would have it, turning right.
In 2003, Amina Lawal a peasant woman from Katsina, Nigeria, won a crucial victory that saved her life and kept her child from becoming orphaned. Two years earlier, she was tried and convicted of adultery and conceiving a child out of wedlock. The sentence of stoning until dead was handed down and if not for an international outcry, a savvy defender and an imaginative appeals court, the stoning may have been carried out. The court found that Ms. Lawal, who had admitted to a lower court of having had a relationship with the man who fathered her child, should have been allowed to retract her initial confession, for lack of understanding the charges; and that, she had been improperly interrogated and arrested. Most amazingly, the court cited the so-called sleeping embryo theory in Islamic scholarship, that says an infant can be in gestation for up to five years, in effect saying that Ms. Lawal could have conceived her child when she was still married – allowing an innocent woman the chance to walk free.
Time kept ticking, and Marion had started to tire. Just two extra blocks had seemed two blocks too far, and if that were not enough, Jason Tony’s bastard child – still inside her – had come to life. A swift kick made her rub her stomach, and forced a feeble attempt to pick up the pace. A few more cars had taken to the streets and the sun now completely blocked out the moon. Marion tried to calm her unborn child, made an undramatic u-turn, and headed back in the same direction, in which she came. Reaching the familiar corner, she smiled as she saw the young man still dancing, but now in the street, no doubt searching for his bus. The bus, number 34, turned the far corner and headed toward him. Inside sat five chatty women, all dressed for success and eager to start their day. The conversation varied, from men, to stress, to families, and back to men again, each having a turn at bat, and three of the five using the bat on the same man. Six rows deep, completely admonished to the back of the bus, set Jason Tony. Quiet, demur and for the first time in his entire adult life, humiliated. Three of the five women had been prizes in his bed. Three of those three he never called back, and he could tell by the searing glances and upturned noses, some of their squawk was about him. He hated public transportation, but hated having his prized vehicles scratched up even more. Only ten blocks to the office, he decided to exit at the next stop and walk the remainder of the way. He enjoyed this town, but knew it was time he moved on again.
The beggar man had his tin cup filled early and was already in the store purchasing a roll, a cup of coffee and a small bag of dog food, which the store’s owner ordered specifically for him. Tomas, his dog, waited outside, looking toward the street and the approaching bus, which he so desperately wanted to chase, but could not take the chance on missing out on the only meal that would come his way. A patrol car pulled up at the four-way stop, two officers inside. One was on the radio, the other, the one behind the wheel, was stirring the sugar inside the hot tea his partner just poured from a thermos.
Jason Tony’s unborn child was still kicking, but no longer doing so simply to stretch his or her limbs. The child inside of Marion Todd, who was halfway to the store, and only two blocks from home, was now kicking his way out. She grabbed her stomach, dropped to her knees, and unleashed a seismic scream. Tomas heard her first. He lifted his head, panted wildly and debated: should he run to the woman’s side, or wait to be fed. The officer holding the radio, heard the scream next. He looked up and saw the pregnant woman on her knees. The stopped bus blocked their views, but the dancing boy and Jason Tony heard the screams too. The five women stopped laughing at Jason’ s departure long enough to realize the bus had not moved. Each, in turn, looked out the windows and saw a pregnant woman on her knees, in agony and appearing to be giving birth. The beggar man, the last to hear, limped out of the store, coffee in one hand, roll and dog chow in the other. Like a dear in the headlights, no one made a move. The still air gave way to a punishing breeze, within seconds, storm clouds covered the sun, and light sprinkles fell upon the tree’s leaves. On a random street corner, lives that had only sporadically touched, would come face to face with the enemy.
THE ENEMY UNCOVERED now playing
Bullying And Psychiatric Illness Linked
courtesy of National Public Radio, Tell Me More
Above the Clouds/UNHINGED from Kendall F. Person, Creator of The Neighborhood