Last Tuesday evening, before I drove to Charlotte for a Continuing Education program on early Wednesday morning, I stopped by the gas station at Five Points in Raleigh, my usual filling up place. After pumping gas, I slowly began to drive off when I saw this fellow stooped down beside his car, checking the air in his tires.

Keeping my car running, I got out and walked over to him. He stood up, smiled and gave me a big Hi-Five, and asked if I remembered him. His first words were “It’s been a long time…sixteen years.” I smiled back and said yes it had, and how was he doing.

I don’t know his real name, only the name he wanted everyone to know him by…”Rags”. I had met him during the early winter of 1994, at Wake Correctional in Raleigh, where both he and I were serving time. We were in the same dorm, though he was on the other side. We really never spoke much until early one morning as I was getting ready to leave for work release in Robert Morgan’s law office, he stopped me and said he had hurt his left hand very badly the day before in an accident while on work release himself.

Rags was going to the prison doctor that day but wanted a second opinion by someone in private practice and asked if I knew anyone. Because my son Jeff had had a previous hand and wrist accident, I did know someone who was a Raleigh specialist in such matters, and so I gave him his name and told him to look the information up in the phone book. That’s all I did. It couldn’t have taken more than a few minutes at most.

Rags took my advice, went to see the specialist I had mentioned, and his hand was saved, eventually as good as new. He had not thought he would ever be able to use it properly again, which bothered him as he wanted to be an electrician one day. My last day at Wake Correctional, Rags came up to me, and using his now repaired left hand, signed his name to a yellow pad I was carrying. And he said “thanks”.

At my first book signing at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, there were lots of people, friends I had known for years, some lawyers and many professional people. And there was Rags, standing in line with others, waiting to buy his copy of my book.

The last thing Rags said to me last week was “Sixteen years…I’ve been a good boy. I am never going back”. Rags is now a successful Raleigh electrician.


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