Life Sentence


Lovers, by Felix Nussbaum (1928)

Life Sentence

During the lunch break of his evening shift, Leo wrapped his arm tightly around Elaine as they took their usual evening stroll along the outer wall. The moon and stars made a beautiful sight, but she shivered in the cold of that cloudless night. Leo couldn’t help but think of how she would shiver even more if she knew the man he had become.

It seemed like a lifetime ago, but Leo had been working in the prison for just three months. He had always been told it was a plum of a job, so, when he was offered a position as a prison guard, he jumped at the chance. He knew the job would not mean a raise in pay, but that didn’t worry him. Friends who worked as guards always seemed to have extra spending money.

It wasn’t until he was inside that he understood that the true economics of the position came at a price – the cost of his morality. The affluence of the guards was due to the possessions seized from the prisoners as they were incarcerated, and beatings were a common measure to stifle any resentment or dissent. In fact, over time, the severity of those beatings ensured that there would always be room for new prisoners and the wealth they provided. As a new recruit, his participation was required to guarantee his complicity.

Elaine was happy for the gifts Leo was able to provide her and the security his position seemed to offer for their future. He feared what she would think if she knew the source of those gifts.

She would not, could not, know the thoughts and concerns that were running through his mind. He would never be able to look her in the eye if she were to know the truth. In just three short months, Leo had come to wonder if he was the man she should marry.

This my response to Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge #16: Lovers, with the painting
Lovers, by Felix Nussbaum. It’s well over the 200 word guideline, at 318. It was at a fairly modest 267 words, but (of course) the more depth I tried to add, the longer it became. As always, Jane’s critique is welcome.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

8 thoughts on “Life Sentence

  1. You took this story in a particularly original direction and you’ve created a world of wrong turnings and dark corners. As in many of your stories, I have the feeling that I would like a final phrase that brings closure to one thread of the story, like a decision to tell Elaine, or a decision to keep his secret, to leave the prison service or to stop worrying about it. It’s hard to say exactly why, maybe just idle curiosity, but I think it needs just a small pointer, then the reader can make his/her mind up about what happens next.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do know what you mean. I would have to find a way to express his uncertainty about their future, whatever decision he makes. I think he’ll always worry about it, or always think about it in the case he were to tell her about his situation.


  2. Pingback: Microfiction challenge Lovers: the entries – Jane Dougherty Writes

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