on the Outside
Morton Lockwood was a portly Dickensian character, good-natured with whiskers.
He led me up a narrow flight of stairs, and through a steel door into a barren
fetch Paul Stone from his cell for you, Reverend. Have you met the man before?”
took over from me as minister at St Jebusiah’s.”
if I know how he ended up in this place. Awfully nice turn-the-other-cheek kind
of chap, do anything for anyone. The other prisoners think he’s great.”
Pointing to a seat by a door marked Interview Room, he said, “You can wait
there,” and strode away, boots heavy on the floor, a bunch of keys dangling at
didn’t feel like sitting. I paced the
empty corridor, looking out through the inner windows onto prisoners walking in
the mesh covered courtyard below.
interview room had a table and two wooden chairs. Paul Stone and I sat staring
at each other.
it true?” I asked.
it’s not true.”
the last person I would’ve thought...”
and I went through college together. Ordained on the same day. Brothers in
Christ for forty years…”
spread his hands, palm upwards, on the table. “Praise the Lord,” he breathed.
“I prayed you at least would believe I’m innocent.”
no rage like love
to hatred turned,” I quoted. “Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned. Do you want
to talk about it?”
took off his big round glasses and wiped them with his handkerchief. “Do you
remember a Mrs Angelina Renton, a divorcee? She was at the church when you were
now and then, when she was laid low by her chronic depression, I’d visit her on
my pastoral care round, pray over her, read Bible verses and so on.” He cleared
his throat. “One day, when I was leaving, I touched her shoulder, as you do, an
innocent gesture of empathy. Well! She spun around, embraced me, and said she
wanted to have sex with me. ‘It’s perfectly okay,’ she said. ‘It’s only love.’ I wonder where she got that idea from?
Anyway, I refused. She flew into a rage and I took off. Soon after that, the
allegations were made against me by both her daughters. But I’m sure you read
all that in the newspaper. Absolute lies, I swear to God. Just her getting back
at me. Never saw any of it coming.”
irony is, standing up to her was the godly thing to do and it’s landed me in
jail. If I’d given in to her, I’d still be a free man, like you.”
reddened. Paul gazed at me with a strange reproachful expression. I saw his
mouth twist into an incongruous smile.
have all sinned and come short of the glory of God,” he said, reaching across
the table to pat my hand. “Don’t worry. The Lord works in mysterious ways. I
like being in here. The other prisoners might be rough diamonds, but they’re
straight up and down. They accept me for who I am and open up to me.” He
smiled. “There’s a genuine closeness I’ve never had before and a refreshing
honesty you don’t get on the outside.”
“It’s one of the last operational Victorian
Courtyard Prisons, you know,” said Morton Lockwood proudly, leading me back
down the stairs. “Built in 1885. Queen Anne style. Elegant on the outside, but
inside grim, dark and claustrophobic, as
the books say.”
know. But Paul Stone seems happy enough.”
a really genuine guy. We all love him.”
factories and nearby shops were closing as I stumbled down the worn stone steps
onto the street, where flocks of
people plodded the darkening footpath with faces like yesterday’s porridge.
keys in hand, my thumb and forefinger caressed the jade cross Angelina Renton gave
me just before I left the parish. It evoked the smell of her hair when we
kissed for the final time, her breasts in a strapless dress pressed firmly
against me, our hands still hungry for each other.
was waiting in the prison car park across the road, checking Trade Me auctions
i-pad. She didn’t even look up when I
got into the car.
was Paul?” she asked, sliding a finger across the screen. “Do you think he did
sure...” I said, staring back at the prison
as I reached to close
the door. The keys fell from my hand and the jade cross broke on the concrete.
As I bent down to retrieve
the pieces, the copper cupolas of the prison, luminous through the winter smog,
glared down at me disdainfully.
languages and literature in the late sixties, Bruce Costello spent a few years
selling used cars. Then he worked as a radio creative writer for fourteen
years, before training in something rather weird and spending 24 years in
private practice. In 2010, he semi-retired and took up writing to keep his
brain ticking over. Since then he has had 131 short story successes –
publications in literary journals, anthologies and popular magazines, and
contest places and wins. Two stories, "Doctor in Distress," and
"Away from Home," have been previously published in Yellow Mama.