Free Wally Peppers
Sitting in a sports bar with fellow weekend warriors,
from a long time ago, reliving past glories and such;
Anniversary of winning the industrial softball wars,
We hoisted the trophy with the ball, each cut a stitch;
Closing with a toast, a somber moment to mar the event,
By this time, our terrific ten had been reduced to nine.
For all it is worth, for us, this night is time well spent,
A weeknight on a work week, designated driver duty was mine.
As we stood to depart, bestowing a series of long goodbyes,
A young girl approached, handing out coupons to all the team.
With a passing glance, I saw no weekend specials on the flyers,
I suppose, on the surface, not everything is all it seems.
"Free Wally Peppers" was displayed in bold type at the header.
Intent of the document was to invite, or should I say compel?
All the others took a pass. I took an interest in the matter,
Telling the girl I'd be there; she, nodding in her approval.
On the date assigned, as scheduled, I made a token appearance.
My curiosity matched theirs toward me, new kid on the block.
Seems the court system had failed, requiring their interference,
Over an unfortunate situation involving a corpse and a glock.
You would have thought these folks were out to free a royal,
Whose stated objective was to free country, flag and crown.
Enthusiasm was high, delusion running rampant, one and all;
When anyone tried to make eye contact, I just looked down.
When the meeting closed, I left with the girl, who I came for.
Feeling like the fox in the hen house, an unlikely plot twist;
We found ourselves in each other's company at a late night diner.
She asked if I wanted to know more about him. I said, "I insist."
She gave me an overview of a guy in the wrong place, wrong time,
High on drugs, slipped by a stranger, a victim of circumstance.
An accidental shooting occurred, in the act of a petty crime;
Had he known the gun was loaded, he'd never have taken the chance.
The more I heard, the more I had to cringe, as she made mention
As to my feelings on the matter, but I had no response to give.
When she told me the guy was up for parole for what he'd done,
I just nodded, wondering why I was there, questioning my motive.
We ended up at her place that night, not a word of him spoken;
Driving home that night, I wondered what I'd gotten myself into.
As we became an item, my apprehensions faded of a trust broken;
When you fall for a certain someone, who thinks things through?
Months later, all was roses and red wine; a chance worth taking
Had blossomed into the best romance I ever could ever hope for.
She dropped a bomb on me; a welcome home party was in the making;
Due to prison over crowding, her boy about to walk out the door.
I spent the next several days looking for reasons to leave her.
She was so happy with the impending release, she did not notice.
I bit the bullet, went to the gathering, then I saw him enter.
I can't put into words what I felt as he hugged our accomplice.
She backed away, proudly turned, so that she could introduce me;
To say he and I shared a moment, would be a major understatement.
I bet I was the last person in this world he expected to see.
The best day of his life was not turning out to be this event.
When she went to mingle in the mixer, I thought he'd duck and run,
But he surprised me, standing his ground, looking me in the eye.
"I spent the first year living in fear of you, second to none,
Something happened to turn my life around. I can't explain why."
"From that day on, I've just given thanks that chamber was empty,
And your life was spared. I know you hate me now, but I do not.
I still live with seeing your face, never a day it leaves me.
I know you've never forgiven me, rightfully, nor have you forgot."
After hearing him out, I said not a word, excused myself and left,
Thinking on that night after the game, when we stopped for a six,
My team mate, work partner, who died that night in a failed theft
At the hand of the man I had just seen for the first time since.
Wally Pepper's first shot found flesh, in a moment of surprise,
When we walked in on a convenience store robbery, our bad luck;
Second pull on the trigger went click, as I looked in his eyes.
I took him down that night in a blind rage, each blow struck...
Left me feeling he was closer to end up laying still, in chalk.
My attention diverted by the parting words of a dying friend,
I told him to hang on, help was on the way, try not to talk...
When the ambulance arrived, there was no life left to attend.
After years of guilt and remorse, therapy could not prepare
Me for what went down, and what did not, in the meeting place,
Or, maybe it did, as I chose to take his remorse as sincere;
But try though I might, I could no longer conjure up his face.
That night, she and I shared a quiet moment, laying on her bed.
I thought, in detail, about life and death and fault and fate.
If he had told her who I was, I don't know. She never said.
I knew then, what led me to her, could never be tied to hate.
Michael Todd (2014)