It seems he’s earned himself some privileges. From now on, he’ll get to
spend an hour in “the yard”: a postage stamp of gravel-covered ground
beneath the open sky. He will know again what is day and what is night.
After who knows how long living in a box under artificial light,
the natural brightness stings. He blinks, shuts his eyes, pauses on the
threshold. He feels dizzy, takes a few deep breaths, clutching the sill. The
guard, standing behind him, waits patiently.
Gaining control of himself, he takes a step forward. He has yet to
open his eyes. The sun lashes him with tongues of fire as memories rush
in: it must be summer, a word concealing mysteries, the frogs and crickets and flowers, a riot of color, squadrons of insects, fragrances of rose,
eucalyptus, and lavender, the battalions of birds back from winterlands,
and more. He sinks to his knees, drops his palms to the pebbly ground,
bends down and touches it with his forehead. This is the holy.
He imagines the guard snickering in the doorway.
Later, the guard brings him a book. Only one, but it is a big one. The
Bible, no less. His mother had a copy with the usual black leatherette
binding and tissue-thin pages. He is surprised and even stunned by the
things he reads in it. It’s not so much the stuff about God, or the kings,
all too familiar in their ruthless righteousness, as it is the penetrating
advice he stumbles on in the early chapters of Matthew when Christ
preaches to the people. The things Christ says sound so very counterin-tuitive: “And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat,
let him have thy cloak also.” Well, that’s what he’s done, isn’t it? He let
them have his cloak.
Reading the book, he suddenly finds himself weeping. “Judge not,
that ye be not judged,” he reads, realizing he has judged many, and often,
and now he finds himself judged.
What he is reading is news to him. He has never encountered anything
like it. The book was mentioned in school now and then, but no one
urged him to visit the source. He feels light-headed with excitement: a
book allegedly written by God!
He knows of course that there are people in the country who do read
it, but they were never part of his world.
One morning during his half hour in “the yard,” he asks the guard,
who sits on the doorsill rolling a cigarette, You ever read the Bible?