The Morning Sun
After another review of the separation papers that would release the Mouse and send him back into the world, Babbitt looked up at the large wall clock -- the minute hand clicked forward hitting the large number twelve. It was midnight. Christmas Day. His self imposed deadline was here. He had exhausted all avenues to locate the missing orders that White now commanded. It was time to tell Danny the bad news.
After the Christmas story ended, Mouse and Danny had abandoned their positions on the floor. They were both alone in their thoughts. Mouse was surveying his surroundings. Without really thinking about it, he took his hand and slowly ran it across the cold cement wall -- a subconscious farewell.
Next door, Danny was overwhelmed with conflicted emotion. He had gotten too close to Mouse. Now he would have to pay the painful price of saying goodbye to yet another person he really cared for. Ma was dying, Mouse was leaving, clearly the compassionate release wasn’t coming. He wasn't sure his mind could hold up much longer. To organize his thoughts he started pacing.
Over the soft Christmas music being piped in through the speakers Mouse could hear Danny's shower shoes slap against the hard cement as he walked. He knew Danny was grasping at his sanity, he had been there himself.
The phone rang in the control unit. Babbitt lifted the receiver before the first ring ended.
“SHU, Babbitt speaking”
The Warden’s voice caught Babbitt off guard. “Listen Babbitt, I want you to push Danny's release along. You didn't hear this from me but if you were to give him a ride to the hospital he might make it before his Mom passes.
“Warden, I never received the separation papers.”
“Well, someone has them. I think it was just a mix up”....The Warden had found out what happened and had chosen to deal with White personally. “I have signed them and I am telling you now I want him released ASAP. My wife is all over me, her sister is the administrator at the hospital and they are on my ass along with the Outreach Church. Get it done! Any problems, I want a call!”
“Yes sir, considerate it done.” Babbitt looked at the clock and watched the minute hand just sweep past twelve. He was still on schedule. He reached for the panel switch that would open the speaker system to the cells, then stopped himself -- his was a message to give in person.
Mouse heard Babbitt’s quick-paced footsteps approach his cell, then he heard the rap on his door. He knew what was next. The sound every prisoner’s can’t wait to hear, “Roll it up!” Then something unexpected followed. “You too Danny, you’re out of here, roll it up. Shift change is in 30 minutes and I’m walking both of you to R&R.”
The SHU cells came alive with whistles, shouts of approval and requests for any commodities that Danny and Mouse would leave behind.
Hours later, Mouse and Danny stood in the sally port waiting for the second door to buzz them to freedom. The morning sun peaked over the mountain range. Both men, unused to the natural light, shielded their sensitive eyes by using one hand as a visor. Even so, they welcomed the warm, bright rays. Each breath filled their lungs with fresh, crisp morning air that seemed to have a bit of a bite to it. They both blew out large clouds of smoke with each breath, like two children pretending to smoke.
They laughed together then Danny got quiet again. As he looked around a shadow passed over Danny’s face. Mouse knew how he felt. After the surreal world of the dungeon, the real world can feel overwhelming, rushing over you like a wave. Twenty four months underground had taken its toll on Danny. Mouse put his hand on Danny’s shoulder.
“A lot to take in, huh Danny.”
“It doesn't seem real.”
“Like I said last night, this is our new beginning.”
The buzz of the gate made them both jump. Mouse recovered first and pulled the gate open so that Danny could step into the free world. Mouse followed and the steel gate slammed shut behind them. The one or two taxis usually waiting to carry the newly released convicts to town were absent this Christmas morning and the parking lot only housed a few cars. In one of them was Babbitt, who had been cat napping behind the wheel, car idling and heater on for warmth.
Babbitt dropped his car into gear and pulled out of his parking space, blocking their path. “Jump in” he said. They both looked at Babbitt with reserved expressions. Mouse said with a serious tone, “Ain’t that against the rules Sarge?”
“You’ve got to be kidding me. Babbitt said as he shook his head. He reached across the seat and pushed open the front passenger door. “Not today, get in.” They all broke into laughter.