He sits in a rural Midwestern jail cell,
his thoughts known only to God
maybe himself. Just maybe.
Two people are dead.
Multiple lives altered irreparably
cold, legalese narrative intones
burglary gone more than bad
stolen shotgun, car, arson. Death.
Warrant, charges read ‘evil’
with no backstory just
the facts, ma’am, just the facts…
I was once his Scout leader.
Six years. Tiger Cub to Star Scout
Tuesday night arts & crafts, juice and
cookies to winter survival camping
his is now a far different
mode of survival;
harsher, colder, never to end
I should write, but say…?
old leader manuals offer nothing
I never received the addendum
He is nineteen now – chronologically –
much more in some ways, less so others
too soon because he never really was
I am years, a thousand miles removed
from his life, whatever follower-mentality
led him from touring that very jail one
wide-eyed evening to caged residency
The boys were eleven then
eager, impressionable, intimidated
now our outing’s abject failure stings
I remember vividly, leaving little
for me to have to imagine
so much to try to not recall
I remember boys who saw no comfort
in stainless steel beds, toilets
vowing their first visit their last
Did he lie, or forget?
I have seen the mug shot, know the face
but don’t recognize the dazed boy in
starched, orange jumpsuit – a pitiable
trade-off from rumpled khaki, perpetually
lopsided scarf, ornamental sash
he filled with colorful, earned patches
There is no merit badge to be earned
patches and pins cannot be
used for barter at jail canteen
there are no promotional ranks
awards ceremonies, campfires;
no team-building projects
car races, or demo derby builds
the camaraderie is not affirming
nothing to kill now but time
“On my honor, I will do my best…”
Inexplicably, he didn’t.
~ Mark Lucker