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The Zoo Cage Prophet

The Battle


Last updated 11/4/2019 at 12:20pm

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The Battle

By Adrian Torres

The shadowy figure stood there, its back to me. I pretended like I was sleeping, as I thought of a plan to trap it. This time it would not escape!

Ad Seg (the Hole) is not the tidiest place. In a regular building, inmates are assigned to clean, sweep, and mop several times a day, but there is no such luxury in the Hole. Since the task of cleaning falls on the officers, it's rare that any gets done. Many families of rodents, roaches, spiders and who-knows-what-else are free to take up residence.

To combat any uninvited guests entering and staying in our cell, my cellmate and I clean constantly. We throw away our trash twice a day, and make sure any open food is tightly closed. We also neatly place any loose items inside brown paper lunch bags. It's not only a good offense-it's also a good defense, because our strategy creates a great "versus" competition.

Once, a small but curious rodent made his way into our cell. As I lay on my bunk, struggling to sleep, I noticed a slow-moving clump squeeze himself under the cell door. I didn't react too quickly, because I was certain there was nothing he could identify as food; I was hopeful he would report back to his fellow rodents that cell 334 was a waste of time. No food. So I just watched him.

Not two feet into the cell, the rodent accidently bumped into an already unbalanced bag of chips. The second he bumped it, the bag came crashing down right on top of him. Jumping back as if the bag was a predator, he leapt right into the wall. This second hit surprised him, because he staggered before regaining his balance and running from the cell.

Believe it or not, the rodent was never much of a worry. I am far more fearful of the roaches. They are stealthier than Ninjas; quicker than Superman; uglier than I ever was, even when I had hair.

Night after night a large dark roach crawled into our cell. Night after night I jumped off my bunk, trying to trap him. But every time, he scattered stage left before my feet hit the floor. His super-human roach senses always alerted him of my pursuit. The advantage was on his side. This "versus" match was one-sided.

On one particular night the roach was crawling in, but more slowly than usual. In my restless sleep I had been lying on my back with my eyes open. For the first time I saw the roach's full attack; I was peeking into his war room. I realized I finally had the advantage, and I was not going to waste my chance to strike.

As I watched the bottom edge of the cell door, I saw the shadowy figure make a few offensive moves. He was definitely scoping the place out; finally he was convinced the aliens within were asleep. But one of them wasn't.

At about his fourth pass he entered, then stood still for a few seconds. Like a cat burglar, he observed his surroundings. He still didn't know that the guardian of the cell was awake, watching his every move. He made his way onto our shoe mat. Big mistake. He was now on a bright white surface. His second error was turning his big ugly roach butt toward me. The odds were certainly stacking in my favor, and I planned to use my advantage.

Not letting my joint pain delay me, I inched my body toward the edge of the bunk, a millimeter at a time. As I moved, I slowly took hold of my sandal. Armed and ready to pounce, I counted under my breath: ten . . . nine . . . . eight . . . seven. . . .

Every single muscle in my body was tensed, ready to spring. My breathing was shallow. I knew I was going to score big, and then sleep well. The trigger was cocked, ready to fire. Six . . . five . . . four . . . three . . . two. . . .

I didn't wait for "one." I beat myself to the launch, jumping off my bunk like I was shot from a cannon. I threw the sandal, my body following. Everything was operating as planned.

But the roach's missile detection system was also fully armed; it turned around and jumped two feet, straight onto the wall, defying gravity. The sandal crash-landed, missing its target.

I was still moving toward the field of combat, undeterred. It was then I realized that roaches can't jump. This intruder was a huge spider! Panicked, I reached for our shoe mat and brushed the wall and floor with a mighty sweep of my arm. I knocked the spider off the wall and he skittered under the cell door to safety. To make sure, I swept the wall and floor twice more. Satisfied with my work, I returned to my bunk.

The rest of the night was quiet. No more challenges presented themselves. This night, the residents of 334 had won.

Life brings all sorts of tests, some harder to deal with than others. This fallen world tries to force its views on us, challenging our beliefs. People and circumstances defy us every day, even when we think we don't deserve them.

But we-those of us who are believers in Christ-are not of this world, and so we know to expect these challenges. The Bible tells us that many will confront us because of our belief in Him. We are only passing through a world that is not our home. These other inhabitants are intent on taking our joy from us. Be on the alert. Don't be caught unprepared.

Keep reading the Word of God, every day. Don't faint from prayer. And don't ever get weary of seeking your Creator's will.

Adrian Torres is incarcerated at California Institution for Men. Enjoy more of his writing at https:thewallstalkstories.


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