The Doughnut Boy

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Prologue: The Prisoner's Tale

We stood in the corner of the exercise yard and watched them coming, the warden, head guard, and the doughy-looking guy in the goofy wool overcoat. Everyone knew why he was here; a local preacher, he’d volunteered to take the place of the chaplain I stabbed last week.


The visitor lengthened his stride and pulled ahead of his escort.


I stepped out of the crowd to meet him in the center of the yard.

The hell with the guard, the preacher needs to be put in his place. This is the State Prison, and I run it.

Several steps in front of the warden and his sidekick, I fingered the homemade knife in my pocket, introduced myself to this idiot and growled, “Go crawl back under the rock you came from. I stabbed the last chaplain, and I’ll take care of you, too.”

The goofball smiled, extended a hand and said, “It’s nice to meet you; my name is Jim.” Disarmed by his lack of comprehension, I automatically reached for the outstretched hand, a big mistake, almost my last.

I think about it a lot, and even today, don’t know how it happened. In a swirl of dust and overcoat, earth and sky switched, and I lay on my back, choking to death.

The new guy Jim, who I had an instant and profound respect for, calmly kneeled over me, hands at his sides. Shielded from view by the coat, one knee pressed my sternum, the other my throat, and the knife had disappeared from my pocket.

An overwhelming odor of cinnamon chewing gum accompanied his words when face to face, he whispered, “Listen, son, if you fight back, I’ll lean forward an inch and crush your larynx. They’ll call it justifiable homicide, self-defense.”

He grinned and added, “If you ever stab anyone again, there’ll be no trial. I’ll come up here and kill you myself, and they’ll still call it self-defense.

“I’m taking your knife out with me; you don’t need any more trouble than you’re in already. See ya at the Bible study. Do we understand each other?”

I nodded as well as I could under the circumstances. Jim stood up, once again offered a hand, helped me to my feet, and for the benefit of the warden and the goon who hadn’t had time to move, said, “You should be more careful; the footing in this yard is treacherous.”

After he’d served his sentence and moved into my old room while Dad found him a job, the former inmate told that story to my brother, Jim Jr.