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Illuminations: An Anthology of Welsh Short Prose

By Meic Stephens | Go to book overview

My Last Day in Prison

J. G. Williams

Perhaps those who lived in this cell before me used to feed it, because it comes to the window every day at about dinner-time. I have heard of prisoners making friends with mice, spiders, and all kinds of the most unlikely creatures, and not only with birds from the outside. So I began to save crumbs of food and share them with the grey pigeon at the window, and it's here now, fluttering about, alighting on the sill, and peeping in. There's a little redness in its grey feathers as it settles and presses up against the window-pane, as if it wants to warm itself in this cold weather. It probably can't make out what I'm doing here at this time of day, sitting in my cell like this at mid-morning, instead of being at work in the workshop with the others. It has no means of knowing that I have to stay in my cell this morning, while waiting to see the doctor before my release tomorrow. I shall have to try and bid it farewell somehow or other today. I managed to shake hands with Hooper and Summer this morning in the gully, and said goodbye to them, the only two of the seven who will be staying on in this place after I'm let out.

A feeling of guilt comes over me, and I can't help myself, as I take my leave of them all. I feel that I have no right to be leaving and that from now on my place is here. And though it will be marvellous to see my own clothes again, and to step out through the Main Gate as a free man, something is preventing me from rejoicing as it smoulders away inside me. Many's the time I was unable to understand the words when my father read them: 'It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting . . . Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better . . . The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.' I would take up the Book myself and puzzle over those dreadful words. And I once had the feeling that perhaps Jac Penyrallt had hit the nail on the head when he said light-heartedly with his customary wit, in the middle of a spell of unusually bad weather, 'Well, at least there's one comfort, we'll have fine weather next.'

One of the things irritating me now is the feeling that I haven't really achieved anything worthwhile, that I haven't suffered half

-108-

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