Intrigue and excitement! or, How I met Daniel

This is the seventh post in The Big Swap. Originally posted on Posterous, which has since been shut down.

The first time I heard from Daniel, it was a normal occurrence. He had seen the oak desk on Craigslist and was interested in trading something for it. He offered a few different things, but only one caught my eye. That was… well, you’ll have to wait to find out. (I know the suspense is killing some of you; try to hang on. It’s coming.)

We emailed back and forth a few times, trying to get the details figured out, and then right in the middle of a fairly normal email Daniel dropped a bombshell. While discussing trade options, he happened to mention that he was a retired bank robber.

Go ahead, read it twice; I did. At first I thought he was joking; then I thought he was lying. Eventually I convinced myself that neither was likely, and so it had to be true. But what a fantastic turn of events…! I wasn’t about to turn this down. We decided to meet at the Stardust Diner.

I arrived at the diner early, to do a perimeter check for spies or armed bandits. None showed themselves, so I went inside and got a table. While I waited I mentally practiced some karate techniques I had read about. I didn’t remember much, but made me feel better. Remember, breathe deep, and do the Horse stance. That’s the only karate pose I remember, and I remember it for it’s ridiculous name. The stance looks as funny as it sounds; it seems to have got it’s name from old Japanese samurais who had ridden horses long enough to be permanently bow-legged.

“Isaac?” I had been so busy thinking about conspiracy theories and karate that I forgot to watch for bad guys on approach. This voice didn’t sound like a bad guy though… I looked up and saw Daniel.

“Sorry I’m late.” Yep, this had to be him; from the tattoos to the driving cap, he was all I had expected. His brash appearance didn’t extend to his personality, though. He smiled guardedly at me and took a seat. After a few preliminary remarks, I shut up and let him tell his story.

Since he was a young boy, Daniel wanted to be a gangster. A gangster’s life is glamorous and exciting, and for many young boys like Daniel it seems much preferable to a job in the bland world of business. Unfortunately, the life of a gangster also comes with some negatives as well; at age 14, Daniel was arrested for illegal possession of a firearm and got put in confinement. From that point on, his life was characteristic of a real gangster: filled with excitement when he was out, and with boredom in prison. The last time he went in, he was there for twelve years.

Life in prison isn’t easy. Thanks to political agendas and distortion of the facts, many people think that prison life is a piece of cake. When the subject comes up, there’s talk of free meals, rent and cable TV. Cable there may be in some places, but the cold, hard facts about prison life are just that; cold and hard. You’re with a group of men with nothing to do, for years. They have more drama than a middle school cheer squad. Fights are an everyday occurrence, many of them deadly. Gang activity is a big part of prison life, with “missions” which usually involve punishing rival gang members for wrongs perpetuated against someone else.

For the first six years of his last stretch in prison, Daniel was dedicated to the gang life. Right around the half-way mark, however, something happened that changed his mind. During a gang fight, he was shot in the back of the head with a rubber bullet. The official report said it was fired from 11 feet away. The impact of the shot knocked him out, and as he fell he was hit on the head with a baseball bat swung by a member of the opposing gang. He fell face first into the muddy prison yard and drowned in the ankle-deep mud.

When he was revived, he had some serious thinking to do. Daniel had, by all definitions and accounts, died there in the prison yard. Though he was alive now, the thought of going back to the life which had brought him down was not appealing. He decided that this fight needed to end. He stopped taking part in gang activity and quietly finished doing his time.

These days, Daniel doesn’t rob banks anymore. Because of his history he finds it hard to get a job, so he’s paying the rent by re-purposing. No, that’s not illegal; it’s kinda like a combination between recycling and reusing. He takes old things and makes new uses for them. It’s not nearly as glamorous as bank robbery, but Daniel seems to think life is better this way. For some reason, I agree with him.

Wait, you say, what about the trade? Well, I’m getting to that… Daniel and I have been working out a few little details about the trade. I hope to have everything figured out by Thursday… but until then, I don’t want to jump the gun, so until then, you’ll have to wait. It’s just a little bit longer!

Don’t hold your breath, it’s a while ’til Thursday. Thursday has come and gone; just click the link below.

Read the next post: A sweet melody