I never talk about my job but, since you asked, I’d like some extra copies of the paper for my church. So. By the time I arrive, the prisoner is strapped to this crucifixion table here, arms and legs spread like a snow angel but with velcro at his wrists, elbows and shoulders; ankles, knees and hips; and this one across his chest; powerless unless he’s telepathic or diabolically persuasive, or unless I’m a merciful girl. Don’t put words in my mouth. Just listen. I know I have a calling because they leave me alone with these pre-cadavers, each one a charmer, speculating about whether I wear panties, who thinks he has nothing to lose. Although I know, I ask him about his offenses; his lies go into my book. I tighten the forehead strap so he will see me when I want him to, and wedge the filthy mouthpiece in to stop his noise, and slap him hard to remind him to breathe through his nose. All of this makes him uneasy. I speak to him of forgiveness then, to send him quietly home, but first, I rest my hand on his chest to touch his humanity. As I recite the list of his victims and how they were hurt, I feel his heart remember and confess. I place my other hand between his legs until he understands there’s nothing I can’t do. I move my face above his face and ask him if he’s sorry. When I’m not satisfied, I pinch his nostrils closed. The first time tests the restraints. When he cries, I let him briefly breathe. I survey him about cruelty and whether he thinks the sentence he’s serving is unusual. Though he can’t speak, he makes himself understood. His answers go into my book.

Copyright © December 17, 2008 David Hodges

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