The priest slowly walked beside the guard, his well-worn Bible grasped firmly in one hand. He hated these kinds of meetings. Give him a person on their deathbed, their body wrecked with disease or age or both anytime over this. It was true he didn’t agree with the death penalty, but it was more than that. Sometimes the inmates, hours before their death, remained puffed up with false bravado, any potential feelings of fear or regret buried too deep for he, or God, to reach. Other times the inmates would drop to their knees, groveling at his feet, begging for a miracle of salvation. Of course what they really desired was to elude the death penalty, not to accept God as their savior. But who was he to judge? He accepted their confessions, prayed with them, performed Last Rites over them and left the judging to God.
As he approached the cell, he could hear heavy breathing and wondered which way this inmate would fall. He turned to the guard accompanying him, but remained silent.
The guard met his gaze and shrugged. “He’s different, this one. Most usually ask for pizzas, double cheeseburgers, soda, pints of ice cream…all the foods doctors advise against eating, you know? This one asks for a vegetable plate and water with lemon.” He stopped at the correct cell. Inside, the inmate was on the floor, performing push-ups at an accelerated pace. “On your feet,” the guard ordered. “I’ve brought the priest.”