True Story, Issue #7

"Take Your Son to Work Day" by Andrew Maynard

True Story, Issue #7

In "Take Your Son to Work Day,” writer Andrew Maynard—young, directionless, sort of a screw-up—shadows his lawyer father during the final appeals process for a notorious murderer on death row. But will he learn anything from the experience?

From "Take Your Son to Work Day" by Andrew Maynard

We find Richard Bible in a holding cell, his eyes shifting, his arms raised. “What’s going on, Dan? They’ve got me waiting here for over half an hour.” 

“They probably figured you weren’t going anywhere,” my father responds. Bible releases a crooked smile and nods.

A pair of corrections officers cuff Bible and escort him from the holding cell to a stark white block interview room, about the size of a cubicle. Once inside, he squats awkwardly so the officer can remove his cuffs through a small opening. He scrambles to his seat, rotating his head back and forth between my dad and me, like a bird being stalked by multiple predators. His movements are twitchy; he can’t sit still. His dark darting eyes rest deep in his soft face.

Face inches away from the glass, he rocks back and forth, staring at my dad. “So we’re screwed, right?”

My dad laughs, never breaking eye contact. “I’m not screwed, Richard.”

Bible snorts and shows his teeth. Their tone is friendly, but they’re almost yelling to be heard through the thick glass dividing them. What happened to the phone system from Law & Order?

“It’s just—I’m stuck in my house not knowing if I’ll make it through the year.” I wonder what he means by “house,” but it takes only a moment to understand: of course, anyone would label his final abode a home, not a cage.

“Oh, you’ll make it through the year. I don’t know if Santa will come see you, but I promise you’ll be here for Christmas.”

“My mom thinks I’m dead sooner.”

“Ricky, I’m not your mother. You’ll make it through the year.”

“I don’t want my mom testifying in that clemency hearing.”

“I can’t make your mother testify,” my father replies, seemingly calm. He’s been working with death row inmates for twenty-three years, and with Bible for seven. But it never gets easier—forcing aside his queasiness at their alleged crimes, accidentally and perhaps unavoidably befriending them over years, watching them go. “But I’m going through with the clemency hearing,” my father says. “I’m doing it for me. I have to know that I’ve exhausted every possible option before you go.”

Bible leans to my father’s side of the glass, blocking my view with his shoulder, and lowers his voice, attempting to exclude me. “Why is he here?”

It’s a fair question, and I don’t really know the answer, either.