MJ Politis, Ph.D. and Punky Jennings
All rights reserved.
Copyrighted Mar 20, 2019
What you called the Grey Bar hotel with windows that were only opened within the imaginations of inhabitants inside it depended on who you were in the social hierarchy that built it. For the so-called ‘law abiding’ citizens who had not yet been prosecuted for the multiple offenses of moral and civil law they had to commit to stay alive, sane and purposeful, it was an unseen place where you could send those who threatened the common good. For the operators and especially owners of privately operated and government sanctioned ‘Correctional Facility 128’, every new prisoner who was ‘checked in’ resulted in healthy profits for themselves, and their law-abiding families. For the country, it was an opportunity to use free, ‘morally liberated’ and/or well-under minimum wage labor in a variety of new emerging industries to maintain itself without the burden of having to pay anyone, and to be competitive in a world where only the strongest of nations were allowed the God-given right to stay alive, particularly with the most recent ‘America First, Fuck everybody else’ President that had been elected to the White House. For the priests who came to visit the inmates, it was a place to put into practice the ‘morality readjustment’ theories they had learned in Seminary School or the college courses in humanistic psychology they took on line. For the inmates, it was a chance to have their heads shaved for purposes of ‘hygiene’, their bodies ‘conditioned’ by labor, and their brains medicated by drugs as well as sensory-deprivation routine so they could experience ‘new insights’ that could find their way into their defective and misled minds. But for one priest and inmate, it was a very personal reunion that was fated to happen for nearly half a century.
“So, after all these years of schooling and all my years of trying to make that schooling count, it comes to this,” Father John said to the prisoner after the door slammed behind him and the guards finally went back to their card game, in a country where gambling outside the walls was illegal. “What do you have to say about all of this Mister Petrakis?” the old man in the long beard and thinning long main on top of his century old year old head demanded to know.
“Happy almost birthday?” Inmate Petrakis replied with a sly grin revealing three recently forfeited teeth, and sorrowful 40 year old eyes that he knew would not see a cake with forty candles on it.
“Or maybe so,” Father John said, placing a Bible he had brought into the maximal security cell on the ‘table’ provided to the chained inmate whose body was covered with purulent bruises that went down to the bone. “Saint Basili,” he continued, handing over an icon from his left pocket, then opening it up, revealing a piece of baklava inside. “It’s not the usual cake one gets on one’s birthday, but imagine it is a yellow cake with chocolate icing and walnuts on top. Your favorite, as I and you fondly remember.”
“Which I don’t deserve to eat, but, do deserve to imagine that I can’t have,” Petrakis said, smelling the pastry which had gone stale, and was crushed into more of a wafer than a cake in the process of being smuggled in to him. “For the sin of envy.”
“For which you got those beatings?” Father John asked. “Which, the guards, warden and the lawyer you refused to access the services of said were mostly self inflicted?”
“And if Jesus had gone to the cross with unblemished skin, his crucifixion would have not been that effective,” Petrakis countered, stroking his bloody hand over the head shave done himself that indeed went below the scalp on a once handsome, plentifully follicled heartthrob. “But I heard Lorena thinks bald martyrs are sexy, and their photographs make their movements more long lasting. Yet in these advanced civilized times, I do know that the duration the public will be moved by a crisis of injustice has dwindled from four months to two weeks. Which doesn’t give you much time, Father.”
“Time for what?” Father John demanded, pounding the icon of the pacifist Saint on the table, blasting fire and brimstone into the condemned criminal who he volunteered with giving last rights to. “Time for me to try to get your sentence reduced? You know what you did. It nearly destroyed the entire financial system of this country! And will cause irreparable damage to the carefully constructed American economy for the rest of this century and the next. Jesus told his followers that they should pay their taxes to the Romans while on earth, and accept the fact that there will always be some who have earthly wealth and some who don’t!”
“And He kind of lost it when He went into the Temple and asked the money lenders there in a very loud and assertive voice, with fists instead of flowers, to take their ungodly business elsewhere, Father,” Petrakis replied, calmly. “And that it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get into heaven.”
“It was my job to tell you those things, then,” Father John answered, apparently recalling simpler, though not necessarily kinder, long ago. He took in a deep breath, smelling the sweat that had accumulated on the overgrown hairs on his shaking upper lip, than let it out again, smelling the putridness of his churning stomach and inflated gut. “And it’s my job to encourage you to repent for your extreme, immoral, stupid, ineffective and destructive attempts to re-distribute America’s wealth. And self-destructive to your Soul as well,” the Orthodox Priest said with firm, yet desperate, resolution.
“As it will be, despite what you get paid to do now, your job to tell Lorena why I did it, and why I have to be punished for much more than what I am convicted of doing, and actually did do,” Petrakis affirmed, with an even more intense calmness, seeing into the emotionally desperate Old Priest’s soul with Ancient eyes which were about to be soon closed by the executioner’s needle. “A story which starts when you were still a young priest working for a corrupt clergy, government and Arch Bishop, and I was a young boy who thought you were just a good, moral, nice, and caring man who smelled like incense and couldn’t afford anything other than a single plain, black robe and scuffed black shoe-boots. As did, maybe, my brother. Who—”
“—Was your best friend, Mister Petrakis, way back before….the world separated you from each other,” he replied, procedural compassion and theological reason tempering his primal rage.
“We separated ourselves, for committing the sins and civil crimes of—“
“—Theft, fraud, embezzlement!” blasted out of the Orthodox Priest’s parched mouth through his overgrown beard, accompanied by a wagging finger attached to a shaking hand. “And murder, and—“
“—Envy!” Petrakis countered into Father John’s accusatory face. “Envy for what the other one was, and what the other one has…or rather had.” The beet red rage in Petrakis’ cheeks became flooded with tears streaming down from his glassy eyes. Reason overtook Petrakis, pulling the tears back into his oculars and making him see another pathology that had afflicted so many, and still was. “And the sin of selective compassion. Caring for my family, friends and fellow citizens of my own country so much more than other people’s family, friends, and citizens of foreign countries that the latter become irrelevant, then expandable. What harm am I doing by killing, starving or mutilating a thousand strangers’ spawned brats and underfed rug-rats if it will get my kids into Oxford. Making my family more happy does justify making everyone else’s miserable. Right, Father?” Mad laughter now overtook his parched throat. “Family and country first, everybody else last! Glory to us, and no one else, except of course the Heavenly Father who’s will is for US to be on top and everyone else on the bottom. Just like you taught us.”
Before Father John could have yet another arrow shot into the many Achillies heels in his non-intentionally corrupted soul and, finally, guilt ridden heart, he pulled out a notebook, and a pen, from his briefcase. He handed them to the prisoner he had known ever since he was a free-wheeling child, blessed with so many gifts from the heavenly Father as well as his earthly one. “For your final confession,” he said, firmly and now coldly. “Which I will not infect my ears by hearing! And I have no legal or moral obligation to absolve you of your guilt. And if you commit suicide before your execution, or decide to draw satirical pictures of me, the judge, or your accusers in this notebook, I will personally see that you go to hell!”
“I’m already there,” Petrakis related, picking up the pen and commencing to put into print how the most bizarre, unexpected and destructive re-distribution of wealth and power in his still beloved country was implemented. “And you will hear exactly what I’m writing, with your eyes and ears.”