SHE WAS ENGLAND
When he was in prison they told him he was dying. A doctor hadbeen brought in from the nearest town to re-examine him one afternoonwhen he couldn't get out of bed to go do his mopping in the commonhallways of the old, concrete, penitentiary annex. The doctor was ayoung man, fox-faced and bespectacled, dressed in casual attire.Without a stethoscope or even a 'Visitor' pass hanging around his litheneck, he looked to his doomed patient like a college student. The doctorhelped with his own ungloved hands when they had to move him fromthe bed to a wheelchair so they could roll him down to medical. Thethree guards wore gloves. He tried not to cry out but the pain in hismiddle-gut got the better of him. To his own ears he sounded like awoman giving birth. It was that bad.And it was worse when they moved him from the chair to a gurney.He shrieked like a child. For him, Inmate #940126, this was the worstthing. The screaming. The shame of having these people hear him. Thepain itself was almost unbelievable. Taken together with the shame itmade him yearn for death in a way he had not since the early weeks of his life sentence. Seventeen years had come and gone without hisfeeling quite so desperate for oblivion. The World beyond the walls andfences had ceased to exist as a tangible reality the way early morningslowly dissolves into the less-sweet phases of just another day. Anotherday. Another day. His mind was a closed book sitting on a high shelf ina quiet room. The words printed on the pages of that book pressedagainst each other, unchanging, as the paper mildewed. The storiesthose words formed went untold and unexamined. Time unfolded astime will. Prayers and wishes and hoping for death had been replaced,by degrees, but only by Nothing. Being alive in that place becametantamount to the grave. No need to die. For the most part, in the mostimportant ways, he already had. By the date of his first parole boardhearing he was already so far gone that, without even thinking, he usedthe back of the official denial letter to keep cribbage scores. He hadserved his time in docile repose. Never getting into much trouble.Never starting any worth mentioning.