What is The Consequence?

Posted: September 10, 2014 in World On The Edge

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Man is able to snatch everything except one thing, the last of human freedoms: the choice of an attitude under any given set of circumstances to determine his own path.― Viktor E. Frankl

Following are the first pages of “The Psalm of David Fowler,” the fourth story in Birds of a Feather. Click on the cover to order the book.

The Psalm of David Fowler

One afternoon before ‘it’ happened—he was in the back yard, poking the rake into a pile of burning leaves. Laura called to him from the porch, “Don’t let that fire get out of hand and burn the house down!”

A stream of smoke spread across the yard—not in his direction; it advanced toward her. She covered her eyes.

“You shouldn’t be burning leaves in the first place, David. They protect the grass from a freeze.”

“What freeze? We may never have one.” It was the middle of December and South Georgia weather was characteristically kind with a temperature in the low seventies.

“We always have at least one freeze. And remember last year? It was so cold the pipes burst, and we were without water for a week!”

He gave her a condescending shake of his head. “I’ve got it under control, baby.” Then he remounted the riding mower.

“Don’t go off and leave that fire burning!”

Even over the sound of the mower, he could hear her warning. He advanced up the yard anyway. All around him dry leaves fluttered and fell rain-like over the yard, while flames from the unattended pile began to lick up, higher and higher.

“Don’t you ever think about the consequences?” she shouted as he turned the corner of the house. He knew she’d run for the hose.

The day “it” happened, she asked him the same question about consequences, then she ran into the bedroom, locked the door, and cried. One year later, he, David Fowler, entered the gates of a federal prison, a consequence far beyond his imagining.

He was immediately strip-searched, a procedure that scooped from him the last adhering particle of dignity he’d been able to hold on to since his sentencing, and generated in his mind words he’d heard decades before, as an altar boy serving Mass: I am a worm, not a man; the scorn of men, despised by the people. All who see me scoff at me; they mock me with parted lips, they wag their heads.

As a twelve year-old boy, dressed in his floor-length black cassock and white surplice, the words meant nothing to him then. Not until today when he was ordered by a female guard to remove his clothes, his T-shirt, his underwear; when he was ordered to bend over for her coarse, gloved intrusion of his body; did he genuinely absorb them.

 

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