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A story of two loaves

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Bread has never looked so beautiful. "The crust on the round ones is softer -- but smell it. And these long fellows are real crisp and crackly. All baked this morning, sir."

You buy one of each.

Your afternoon visiting schedule includes two more visits. It is already 3 o'clock. Placing the loaves beside you on the front seat, you drive off towards the city jail. The fragrance of the bread fills the car. A loaf for Conrad? Just once, perhaps, the prison guards will smilingly agree to your breaking this kind of bread with an inmate.

"Sorry, sir."

Your literalism is quietly rejected and the round loaf returned to the side of the long loaf in the car. Back again in the prison, you sit across from Conrad. This is your second visit together. Not a loaf but a book lies on the table between you.

"I've really got to know how."m

His finger is on the word "Prayer" that heads up the first chapter. No request is being made to you to see his lawyer, no plea to contact his family again or to add to his cigarette allowance. The man's nails are filled with prison dirt, but his eyes are earnest. As you turn the pages of the book, it is the smell of fresh bread that comes to your nostrils. . . . New thoughts hang between the two of you now and there is something in his face that you have not noticed there before.

As you leave the prison, a clock strikes 4. Your second appointment is on the fifth floor of a senior citizens' apartment building. The round loaf is again in your hands, together with a small tin of sardines. You climb the stairs. When the apartment door opens you are face to face with a dark, unforgiving frown, coming at you from under a wild tousle of silver white.

"I've got something for you."

You place your gifts on the old man's table. To be let into his life now is to hear the bleakness crying out in this room.

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