The shot at my back sounded like the starting gun of the best race I’d ever run. It was a joy to run again, just the smooth joy of one good step, over and over. These steps connected in my mind’s eye to my last race: the crowd cheering as I came in after a hard twenty-six miles and all I could think then was: I’m sorry it has to end. It had been a long time since I had run free in the fresh air, and it felt like a summer day after a long winter.
And it did not steal my joy if today I was running in a Madison County prisoner jumpsuit instead of a tracksuit.
And I knew that I had my good luck and my good friend Boyd to thank for my freedom, and that made me feel good, too. Proof positive that if you do good things for people, good things will come your way.
Just five minutes earlier we had stood there, prisoner and guard, in the Alabama sunshine. Me smiling just to be outside picking up trash for the state of Alabama, Boyd leaning on his rifle and bitching about the heat and looking like he was sucking on lemons. I tried to interest him in a little bright conversation to make our time more easy passing.
“Look at this.” I held up a dirty box half-full of crackers about to go into my black plastic garbage bag. “What you think made somebody throw out a perfectly good box of crackers?”
“Christ, Bobby Earl, you want them, go ahead and eat them.” He checked the chamber of his rifle for the hundredth time this morning.