Magazine

From the August 2017 magazine.

The corner

The comfort he gave a deathrow prisoner for a crime committed in a blackout changed his life forever

It was October 1988. I got out of my 1975 station wagon and stepped across the gravel parking lot off Spring Street in Richmond, Virginia. I pulled on my old herringbone tweed jacket and buttoned it against the lingering fog and damp that rose up from the nearby James River. The Virginia State penitentiary’s 40-foot wall loomed grim and daunting, mottled with green mold and rust streaks like a painting composed of my fear, a visual accompaniment to the queasiness I felt.

On my drive down, I’d been unable to think of a single thing to say to the man I was about to meet for the first time. Would Frank (not his real name) expect a pastoral blessing? Some wise words on the meaning of his life? Help to face the horrors of his execution just five days away? I couldn’t give him any of those things.

-- Chuck B.

Hillsboro, New Mexico, USA

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