He’s a residential burglar.
When I was a journalist, I would absolutely have written “an alleged residential burglar.” But he’s been in my jail now for weeks and while he says he didn’t do it, he did. (And no, I won’t say, George Bush-like of Harriet Miers, “Trust me.”) Too many times I’ve heard him talking with other inmates about what kind of loot he got, how he got in, etc.
He did it.
And yet yesterday, he didn’t do it.
Could have. Could have absolutely gotten away with it.
In my jail, commissary day — when the inmates are allowed to buy certain items — is extremely small; a few sheets of paper and an envelope for letters, a few candy bars, a soda, some lotion or playing cards. This guy bought two Snickers bars.
I gave him one too many and then moved on my way.
Fifteen minutes later, he called me back over and handed me the extra Snickers. “You gave me this by accident,” he said.
There must have been a shocked look on my face because at least one other inmate started laughing. “What?” I said, fairly well dumbfounded that he would hand it back.
Because in my jail, Snickers and Hershey bars are gold. Not as food…as money. Inmates buy and sell anything and everything they have — their meals, their blankets, their books, sometimes their pictures — and Snickers and Hersheys are the coin of the realm.
Call them poker chips, too. Basic ante is one bar and the betting goes up from there.
“You gave me too many,” he said. “It’s not mine. I didn’t want you to have to pay for it if you came up short on your inventory count.”
I stood for a long moment, my addled brain running through all the different scams I thought this might be, might turn into.
In the end, after seeing something approaching honesty on this guy’s face, I handed him the candy bar back. “I appreciate you letting me know about it.”
He shrugged. Eventually, looking probably as befuddled as I had moments earlier, he took the Snickers.
“You keep it,” I said. “For letting me know.”
I still don’t quite understand it. He’s in a cellblock with a bunch of guys who do regularly cause problems. He is a bit of a problem. Suddenly he gives back a 50 cent candy bar I would never have known about?
I refuse to believe any sort of jailhouse switch in morality, it just doesn’t happen that way usually. Maybe, like the character Red says in Stephen King’s ‘Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption,’ he did it just to feel normal, if only for a little while.
Maybe this guy, who probably will go to prison for breaking into Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public’s house, just wanted to be a regular guy for a little while. Maybe he wanted to see something other than suspicion on a guard’s face.
Screw it. Maybe there was a scam and I’m just not smart enough to have it figured out.