50 | A Cell Search and a Soul Search

August 17, 2008
Sunday, 5:00 p.m.
Letter #50: A Cell Search and a Soul Search


Dear Family,

Greetings! I am sitting here on my top bunk, back against the wall, my knees pulled up with my feet at the edge of the bunk, using the back of my sketch pad as a makeshift clipboard writing surface. Like a prize pig at a fair, I’ve been freshly showered and fed, and I’m looking particularly dapper in my T-shirt, shorts, and socks.

I’ve enjoyed yet another beautiful day in my cell (besides the shower), thanks to our current state of facility lockdown. Gratefully, since this lockdown is only due to a missing pan and lid* from our kitchen, we’ll be back to regular programming after all cells are searched.

In the meantime, I’m not allowed out of my cell. This means no phone calls during usual dayroom times, no yard (I’ve been skipping yard in favor of studying, anyway), no church services, and “cell feeding” instead of eating in the chow hall. God is great, as the gobs of quiet time in my cell have afforded me ample time to get some projects started that I’d been meaning to get around to, such as brushing my teeth.

For my first time at this facility, I tried the laundry service, in which I sent off a towel, a sheet set, a couple T-shirts, boxers, and socks in a laundry bag marked with my name and cell number. It disappeared like the Lindbergh of Laundry, so I filed a report with Zack (the former church pianist), the Laundry Coordinator for my building.

Though not to blame for the disappearance of my laundry, he is culpable in the neither announced nor forewarned routine appearance of cops at my cell door to conduct a search, making sure I really was missing laundry. This oversight (not preparing me for the standard cell search) was not thoughtful of Zack, but the cell search was very thoughtful of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

I’m sure you’ve lost the occasional sock in the laundry process. Dozens of them, perhaps. The reason you know a sock was raptured is because of the one Left Behind. In fact, you have most likely also lost boxers, T-shirts, towels, and entire sheet sets but just never realized it, not only because nothing was Left Behind, but also because you did not have an able Laundry Coordinator, as I do. Any item you may have lost in the past has now faded from your mind, most likely—am I right, or am I right?

Let me also hazard a guess that, if after losing your sock/underwear/towel, etc., two officers from your city’s Missing Items division had ransacked searched your home looking for your laundry, that memory may not have faded so quickly, correct? I would further assume that you would wash all laundry by hand in the future, to avoid all perceived inconveniences with the laundry system. Again, I am correct.

Well, one of the officers (after ushering me out of my cell to sit at a table with my cellie) immediately came out of my cell, holding a magazine page in his hand: “What’s this, Christopher?” Puentas asked. “Why do you have contraband in your cell, with these girlie pictures?”

Puentas was the cop who had questioned me about why I was always smiling, right after I arrived. Since my response affirmed my trust in God and an acknowledgement of my wrongdoing, he had been very kind to me—up until this point.

“Those aren’t mine,” I told him flatly, not looking at what he was holding.

“I found these right here—are you calling me a liar?”

He was right in my face now, but I didn’t look away from his eyes as I said respectfully, “Yes, sir, I am.”

The other cop, my former counselor, tried to interrupt, but Puentas was intent on trying to rattle me.

“Those aren’t mine,” I said again. “I don’t need that stuff—I have a family I love.”

“Aww, come on, Christopher! Look at them! It’s only girls in bikinis!”

“No, thanks,” I responded with a smile.

He returned the smile and let up his pretense of hostility. “You’re all right, you know, Christopher? Good for you.”

And that was it—my cell search revealed no missing laundry items, so replacements were issued, and my impromptu soul search went okay too. Praise God that He gave me another opportunity to take a stand for my faith, and to the same officer who had so boldly asked about my cheerful demeanor before. Immediately, this Scripture came to mind: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (I Peter 3:15).

Thank you for praying for me: that in ALL things, I would make Him known!



*If you think I should return the pan and lid to the kitchen, text your responses of “Yes” or “No” to my cell number: 141.