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Chapter Fourteen

Feeling the wind knocked out of him again as he was shoved
against the jailhouse wall for the third time by a thrust of Eddie's
muscle-bound arms, Joe Fontaine slumped to the floor, while Eddie
turned his attention to Larry Hickman.

This is it! This is really it!, Joe said silently to himself, sensing that
his life would either end tonight or turn a corner. And I deserve
every bit of it! Oh, Jehovah! God, please help us! Please save us! His
thoughts turned into a desperate prayer. A few feet in front of him
Eddie was fondling Larry, pressing his body against him and pawing at
the young man's pants as if to pull them down. The thought suddenly
struck Joe that his blond friend, although continuing to resist, would
probably enjoy it if the body-builder actually carried out his
intentions. Larry is sick!, he thought, seeing his roommate's cravings
for the first time apart from his own lusts. And so am I! Joe's vision
seemed to blur as he saw himself in Eddie's place. His own habit of
abusing Larry nauseated him as he reflected back on it. Oh, Jehovah
God, I will never do that to Larry again if you rescue us tonight. I
promise! I swear! Just rescue us, please, Jehovah!

Just then the toilet flushed, as one of the jail guards operated the
lever in the control room. On that signal those who were smoking
smuggled joints of marijuana extinguished them, arguments stopped,
and Eddie released Larry from his grip and turned away. The inmates
all knew the routine: the guard who flushed the commode would
follow this with a brief walk-through. This advance warning by way
of the toilet served to spare them all--inmates and guards--the
embarrassment and hassle that surprise inspections would have

Joe decided to use the diversion to his advantage, in the hope that
he could prevent Eddie from picking up again where he had left off.
Summoning courage and strength he didn't know that he had, Joe
jumped to his feet as the door closed behind the jailer.

"Hey, listen, friends!" he began, raising his voice and sweeping his
hand before him in a gesture taking in all those in the cell. "Give me a
minute to prove to you that my friend and I really are Jehovah's
Witnesses." Joe had remembered reading how a J.W. in New York City
had foiled a group of muggers, and he decided to try the same

When all conversation stopped and all eyes turned toward him--
more out of surprise than obedience--Joe began his sermon. It was
one he had given hundreds of times at the doors in North Bridgewater,
and it rolled off his tongue like the spiel of a wind-up man.

"Are you concerned about the world conditions we see today?
Everyone is concerned! We see wars, earthquakes, food shortages and
many other distresses. Why are all these things happening in this
generation? God's Word the Bible prophesied ahead of time that these
things would take place. In the Bible book of Matthew, chapter 24,
Jesus warned that there would be wars and reports of wars, that
nation would rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and
that there would be food shortages and earthquakes in one place after

The novelty of hearing a sermon in the drunk tank was sufficient
to hold the attention of his audience longer than they would have
listened under other circumstances. But Joe needed to involve his
friend, too, if this scheme was to work. His aim was to thwart Eddie's
threat of rape, and to get the other prisoners to view the two of them
as ministers--or as boring pests to be avoided--anything other than
punching bags and sex objects. So, Joe continued:
"My companion in this ministry can explain to you the meaning of
these world events."

"Yes," Larry joined in, picking up on Joe's cue and mouthing the
same sermon he too had recited countless times, "the food shortages,
diseases, wars and earthquakes were all foretold by Christ Jesus in the
twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew in answer to a question his
disciples had asked him. At Matthew 24:3 they had asked Jesus,
'When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your presence
and of the conclusion of the system of things?' As parts of this sign
Jesus listed wars, earthquakes, and food shortages. And he concluded
his prophecy by adding that 'this good news of the kingdom will be
preached in all the nations, and then the end will come.' So Jesus was
predicting that these world conditions, along with the preaching work
of Jehovah's Witnesses, would be a sign that the end of the system of
things was near."

Joe interrupted at this point, convinced that his and Larry's
defense would require the best offense that they were capable of
launching. "People who recognize the fulfillment of Bible prophecy in
world events need to take action if they wish to survive the end of
this system of things and to gain everlasting life in the paradise earth
that God will restore after the battle of Armageddon. At John 17:3
Jesus said that 'This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge
of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus
Christ.' To help people take in that life-giving knowledge, my
companion and I distribute Bible literature and conduct free Bible
studies with people in their homes. We would like to start such a
Bible study with each one of you individually tonight and then get
your home address so that we can visit you later and introduce a local
minister of Jehovah's Witnesses to continue the study. My companion
will start on that side of the cell, and I'll start over here."

The strategy worked. Even before Joe had finished, men were
turning their backs on him and Larry to resume private conversations
and to start new ones--anything to avoid being drawn into a religious
discussion with the two Witnesses. Even ferocious Eddie turned his
back on his one-time victim when Larry pulled a folded Watchtower
from his pocket and began to approach him with it.

"I ain't interested!" he said disgustedly, holding up as a shield the
same hand that had been striking blows only moments before.

Others replied similarly: "I'm all set." "I've got my own religion."
"I'm busy, man. Leave me alone."

But Joe and Larry did find one taker in the person of a toothless
old vagrant who actually approached them. "Shtudy wif me," he
slurred, coughing clouds of alcohol to punctuate his sentences. "I
wanna learn da Bible." This wretched fellow had been sitting slumped
in a corner of the cell until now, shunned by the others due to the
overpowering stench of his rags.

"Yes, we'll be happy to study with you, sir!" Joe responded loud
enough for nearby eavesdroppers to hear. "Sit right down here, sir,
and we'll talk about the Bible."

Thank you, Jehovah! Joe prayed silently as he motioned for Larry
and the homeless man to join him on an unoccupied bench. I'll keep
my promise when I get out of here. Jehovah God, please give me the
strength to keep it!

For now, though, Joe wondered whether his stomach would be
strong enough to last the night next to this poor old man whose odor
reminded him of every foul mess he had ever smelled.

Larry, astride the other end of the bench, had a look of puzzled
disbelief on his face as he kept casting glances at the tattooed back of
his former attacker across the cell who was now arguing and
roughhousing with a handful of hooligans. Had Joe cast a magic spell
on everyone with his sermon? How else could he have transformed
the scene so dramatically? Missing the dynamics of what had
happened, Larry decided simply to accept it, as he did most things in
life. With a shrug and a toss of his golden bangs he bestowed a big
smile on his partner, over the drooped head of the gentleman seated
between them. Then, behind the man's back, he held his nose and
pointed at him, making faces to accompany the gesture. But the look
in Joe's eyes bothered him, as he saw neither lust nor anger nor any
other emotion directed toward him, but rather a detached
peacefulness foreign to his friend's brow.

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