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Healing is a matter of time, but it’s also a matter of opportunity. Hippocrates said that about 2500 years ago, but he wasn’t talking about criminals. Nevertheless, it was something carved into the cinderblock wall of cell 112B. Actually carved—they usually didn’t spend that kind of effort, Sharpie being the preferred method of decorating here at Livingston—and so it stuck out in Ethan’s memory. Like the permanence achieved through etching the words into three dimensions equated to a slot in his long-term memory. The other bit of eloquence he’d gleaned from these walls was one of the prison world’s greatest hits – When the world shuts a door, God opens a window.
Ethan Rafe was a prison guard, had been for seven years now, and that meant that he’d shut his fair share of doors. It also meant that he was the first line of defense against God, should the Almighty care to start opening windows.
It wasn’t quite the glamorous job his mother liked to brag about to her power-walking club of chattery old women. She had hoped he’d be on the three-piece suit side of criminal law—a lawyer, or something with a business card, at least. It wasn’t quite the job Ethan liked to brag about, himself, unless he was in a bar with his buddies, which was frequently. Ethan was lucky, he was 6’ 5”, broad across the chest, with a strong jaw coupled with the ability to wear a fantastic five o’clock shadow. He looked like the kind of guy that had been minted for work as a guard for the sole purpose of posing shirtless in the yearly fund-raising calendar. When Ethan mentioned his line of work, a listener would sit up taller, buy Ethan a drink, and either shake his hand or slip him a phone number depending on whether they wore a skirt or not.
Looks went a long way in earning respect for a job that otherwise sounded like a glorified security detail. The guards with paunches, weak chins, shiny bald foreheads and dull eyes never got strangers to buy them drinks when they mentioned career choices. Sometimes they’d garner the handshake though, because American’s loved Bruce Willis and somehow, they seemed to lump together prison guards as his near cousins.
The funny thing about this job as modern-day superhero was that is was about as dull as a lecture on eliciting boredom. Sure, there were spikes of excitement, but those were rare. And opportunities for thinking were even more elusive than excitement.
Mostly, Ethan’s job was painfully-honed dull with the occasional flash of change. In fact, Ethan was ready to create some change, himself.
“I’ll be asking for a transfer.” He said with the raise of his barely touched glass of whatever was on tap. Ed and Keller, his best buddies, swiveled their heads in his direction but didn’t seem to understand the language which had just been spoken. Ed blinked hard and held it, like a man who’d been punched in the nose and was waiting for the sting to register in his brain.
“No,” was all he said in anticlimactic response.
Ed was the oldest of the group and with his balding head and bags under his eyes always came in prepared to pay for what he was thirsty for, while his wife of 15 years made sure that he remembered that he was never very thirsty. Ed had three noisy kids that he loved, and they seemed to return the affection by pestering him until his patience was paper-thin. And that’s how Ed came to work every morning– looking like he’d just escaped off the doormat to hell and that if he wasn’t so grateful for the respite offered by being surrounded by murderers, he might snap. But in the 10 years Ethan had known him, Ed had never snapped. He just lived within varying degrees to the north and south of paper-thin nerves.