I stole a brick from my neighbor’s house. With ease he had me convicted of stealing the whole thing, all three stories and the land it gouged, and rightly. We understand there is no difference. The one brick’s independence caught my eye. Almost unmortared it was and loose it seemed, nearly dislodged. In fact I needed almost an hour to pry it out with my ballpoint pen and a credit card. But it came free. And nothing fell when I took it away and used it to balance the barbecue. I would have taken each of them one at a time had I not been tried and locked in jail. Nothing, not even lack of need, would have stopped me once I started taking. You might think there are fewer temptations here but a sliver of soap is irresistible if another prisoner owns it. A preferred chair, the dry pillowcase, is wealth. We need to take it not own it. My cellmate tells me his brother came to visit, lifted a pack of cigarettes from the guard station, and was never released. There’s no release. Even the guards stay overnight. The longer we serve, the more time is added to our sentences. Already more of us are inside than out and neighborhoods of houses like my neighbor’s stand empty or are turned into prisons and the freshly convicted arrive every day looking hungry for whatever we have. I’m watching a serving of mayonnaise in a waxed paper origami cup that looks to be not well guarded. Either I will have it or I will render it distasteful. Sorry I’m cranky. I woke up on the wrong side of the argument. Will the last judge when he sentences the last of us kindly please pull the door shut behind him?

Copyright © March 29, 2009 David Hodges

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