Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Crime and Punishment (not about the book) (07/21/11)
TITLE: The Eleventh Hour
By Ennis Smith
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“I’m sorry?” Paul knelt down to get closer to Henry. Surprisingly, the younger man seemed calm given the gravity of what was about to happen. During his 25 years in this business, Paul Whitney had seen the gamut of emotions run through men, at this stage of the process. Some cursed, others cried, still others begged for mercy. Never had he come across a man like Henry Jones: so reserved; almost peaceful. Paul reasoned the kid must be in shock. He needed to hear what was going through Henry’s mind.
Henry slowly turned his head as far as the restraints would allow. Smiling up at Paul, he spoke.
“I said Adam, boss. It all started with Adam. You see, his life was perfect. He had everything a man could ever want or need. And the only requirement for maintaining perfection, was to leave one small tree alone. ‘Don’t touch the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ God told him.”
Paul recognized the story, and his heart suddenly ached for this young man.
“That’s right, Henry. He did, son. But men…even Adam…are sinful by nature. Though Adam was the first man, he wasn’t God’s perfect creation. God knew Adam would commit the ultimate crime.”
“Yeah boss, and we receive the ultimate punishment for it as a result. Hmm…crime and punishment. They’ve walked side by side through time forever. It all started with Adam.”
Paul stalled the proceedings for a few moments. He felt in his heart that Henry Jones was sorting things out, as he sat patiently awaiting his fate. It suddenly came to Paul; the calm and reserve of the young man. He’d heard stories of this before, but had never actually seen it in person. Before he continued with protocol, he had to be sure.
“Henry…son…is there anything, anything else at all, you’d like to say,” he said. His eyes, usually stone boulders encased in a cold emotionless face, now pleaded with the young man.
‘Now is your last chance son,’ he tried to will to the young man’s mind.
Henry’s reserve broke. His calm eyes turned somber with guilt and regret. Tears rimmed his lids but refused to spill over. Henry smiled wanly at Paul.
“Boss Whitney, do you honestly think a man can be forgiven for past sins, just before he is punished for his crimes?”
“I do, son. If a man truly…honestly and wholeheartedly repents to the Lord, I believe he is forgiven. Of course, I haven’t read a Bible in a little over 25 years now. But from what I remember, God forgives those who honestly seek his forgiveness.”
“I think I’ve read every day for the past three years, boss. It’s a good book. I’ve read, but I haven’t really…”
“You haven’t believed have you, Henry?”
“No sir. I haven’t. I deserve this, boss Whitney. I deserve to burn in hell for what I’ve done. But I’m afraid. And quite honestly, I’ve felt pretty peaceful with all of this ever since I started reading.”
“That’s good Henry. We all need to believe in something at some point in our lives.”
“What about you, boss? What do you believe in? You haven’t read in 25 years. Maybe it’s time you go back to God yourself. He just might take that sour look away from your face.”
Paul felt a lump in his throat and swallowed hard to compose himself. Clearing his throat, he noticed a tingle in his chest, and stood upright to resume protocol.
“Does the accused have any last request?” He bellowed, staring straight ahead through the observation glass.
“I want to ask God to forgive me for the sins of my past. I don’t deserve his love, but I want to repent just the same. I thank him for each day of peace he’s given me up to this moment. I thank you, boss Whitney, for listening. Lord, please come into my life and save my soul. I’m ready, boss. And boss…I think you should read tonight.”
Paul’s tough exterior cracked. Though his posture held steady, his heart melted. Tears streamed down his face.
“Henry Jones, electricity will now travel through your body until you are deceased. May God have mercy on your soul.”
Henry slowly shut his eyes and breathed a sigh of relief. Through the reflection of the glass, Paul could see a smile on Henry’s face. God had accepted his plea.
Paul tipped the brim of his cap, and the lights flickered.
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