S.I.T. Sinners and Papa Mark's Pledge



Ralph Oxner is America's beacon of light! -- The Lake Weekly [article excerpt]

Ralph Oxner hailed 'The New Captain America!' -- Total World View [newspaper headline]

The Ox: Lord and Master of the Underdogs! -- Peruse Digest [newspaper headline]


        In destination to Southeastern Institute of Theology, Richard Briggs traveled along Interstate 95 North for twelve hours straight, discounting three gasoline fill-up stops.  During the long trek, his erotic escapade dominated his thoughts, and his collegiate future was relegated secondary in his mind.  That desperate housewife, Nicolette Talley, had made him promise to keep in touch.  What a woman!!!  What an experience!!!

        The small, but affluent, town of Lake Forest kindly greeted him with its quaint decor of tall pine trees, sleepy streets, and old houses.  Richard found it to be a serene scene, and a welcomed contrast from bustling South Florida.  Driving a few miles farther, he visually met Southeastern Institute of Theology (S.I.T.).  The site remarkably accentuated the town's overall beauty, he found.  Then he parked alongside the curb and hopped out of the car to explore afoot.

        Richard walked all over the ornate campus, admiring everything he saw.  Its appeal was characterized by: architecturally sophisticated school buildings; high brick walls; a four foot high stone wall surrounding the campus's circumference; towering oak trees; spacious, bright green lawns; neatly-trimmed hedgerows; colorful flower gardens, some with fountains of flowing water; a network of maze-like concrete walking paths bordered by shrubs; picnic areas with tables and benches; and open recreation spaces, including basketball and tennis courts.  Richard especially liked the beautiful array of plant life all about the exquisit campus!  He felt like he was treading on the culturally refined, majestic grounds of Oxford University in Great Britain, instead of a seminary in a small American town.

        Richard loved strolling about, gazing upon the structures and landscape.  But he had driven a long time and his biological clock was ringing its alarm for sleep.  So the tired young man decided to call it a day.  Richard had elected to rent a bungalow within walking distance of the school instead of staying in the dormitory with the slightly younger crowd.  He was bent over the bed unpacking his suitcase with his back toward the wide-open door.  Suddenly, he turned around and looked up in reflexive response to a high pitched vocalization.  "Howdy, neighbor," it said.

        Standing in the threshold was a slender, teenage interloper of medium height with dirty-blonde hair, droopy brown eyes, a queer smile, and a "JESUS SAVES" shirt.

        "I saw the door open; thought you wouldn't mind me walking in.  My name is Andy Peevler."

        "Hi, Andy.  I'm Richard Briggs."  A handshake followed.

        "Well, welcome to S.I.T., Brother Briggs."




        "So, where are you from, Richard?"

        "Fort Lauderdale, Florida."

        "Wow!  I'd love to live there!  Sun and fun galore!  But for me, Lake Forest, North Carolina is a big step up; I'm from Pittsburgh."

        "Bummer!  Makes me shiver just thinking about it," commented Richard.

        "You said it!" agreed Andy.  "Up there, we call it 'The Frozen Zone.'  And I coined the term 'Pits-Burr'--as in living in Pittsburgh is the pits, because it's cold (burr).  It's a joke!  Get it... 'Pits-Burr.'  Hahahaha!!!"  Andy folded his arms and rolled up his eyeballs to demonstrate the feel of a cold climate.  He went on, "At least down here, I won't have to bundle myself up every day and shovel snow on a regular basis."

        "That sounds like a big plus!" remarked Richard, hoping the conversation would soon come to a close.  Andy was a bit too chatty and effeminate for his liking, and a little annoying.  But he didn't notice anything too wrong with the fellow.  And good ole' Richard could get along with just about anybody!

        "Well, we may be from opposite atmospheric extremes, but one thing we have in common is that we've dedicated our lives to serving the Lord," noted Andy.

        "You said it, Andy!" Richard robustly concurred.

        "How do you plan on serving him, Richard?"

        "I'm going to be a pastor."


        "And yourself?"

        "A missionary.  My calling is to travel abroad and spread the word to backward people.  But, currently, what I love doing the most is helping children; I'm a youth counselor."

        "That sounds like a very charitable activity," Richard said.

        "Oh, it is!  Very much so!  A lot of single mothers need help raising their sons... and that's where I come in.  I'm really into boys!"

        "You sound like a nice guy!" the naive, unsuspecting Floridian stated.

        "Well, Brother Richard, I'll let you get set up and settled in.  It was a pleasure meeting you."

        "Likewise," Richard returned.  Then he resumed unpacking his suitcase.

         Richard finished unpacking and wanted to call his best friend to tell him all about his new town and new school.  Hylja answered the phone, and Richard asked to speak to Marcus.  She moved the phone away from her face, but he still heard her call out, "Marcus, Richard's on the line!"

        "Tell that white boy I'll be there in a little while," he replied from another room--that, too, loud enough for Richard to hear from the phone's receiver, although barely.

        Hylja put the phone up to the side of her face again.  "Richard, Marcus said..."

        "Yeah, I know.  I heard him," Richard interjected.  Then he said, "Hylja, would you please tell that black boy to stop whatever he's doing and come to the phone immediately?!  Doesn't he know that I take top priority?!" he jokingly quipped.

        "Ha.  He's been on the computer all day replying to loads of E-mails.  A lot of important people have been sending him message after message and... Well, I'll let him tell you about it.  Hold on."  Hylja lowered the phone away from the side of her head again, and her normally soft, sweet voice was louder and more authoritative this time: "Marcus, those E-mails can wait!  Don't keep Richard on hold any longer!"

        "Okay, I'm coming!" he responded.  His beautiful girlfriend handed him the phone, and he cordially greeted his best friend: "Mr. Richard Briggs, the man of the cloth!  How's it rolling, buddy?"  Marcus's voice sounded even more upbeat than usual.  Richard could tell that he was in an exceptionally good mood.

        "Well, I was planning to tell you how I'm doing, but now I'm more interested in what's going on in your life.  From the sound of what Hylja said, I surmise that something big has happened."

        "It sure has, bro!  My agent has been negotiating with Neon Leon, the hip-hop mogul.  He's the CEO of Cornrow Records."

        "Yeah, I know," Richard said hastily -- eager to hear the good news and wanting him to get on with it and cut to the chase.

        Marcus continued, "Neon Leon wants to sign me to Cornrow."

        "That's great, Marcus!!!" Richard emphatically said.  He was teeming with excitement for his best friend.

        "Yeah, and I owe it all to you, Rich!"

        "To me??" Richard said, confused.

        "Neon Leon was vacationing in Miami when he heard Shadow on the Wall on K87.5.  He actually called me up and said he loved my song.  Thanks a million for sending it to the radio station!  I mean, 'thanks a million' literally!  After Cornrow releases my album--if it goes platinum, which I think it will--I'm going to write a check out to you for one million dollars!  That's my pledge!!"



        "And I'm gonna hold you to that promise, bro.  That's the only way I'll ever acquire that much money.  A preacher doesn't get paid nearly as much as a rap star."

        "Not unless he's Billy Graham or Pat Robertson," Marcus pointed out.

        "Yeah, well, I don't plan on ever being as successful as those guys."

        "Hey, you never know!  I always had big dreams, and look what's happening to me!"

        "Well, I'm really happy for you, Marcus!  Or should I start calling you 'Papa Mark?' "

        "While the world calls me 'Papa Mark,' you can still call me 'Marcus' because we're friends."

        "That sounds good!  Congratulations, again, Marcus!  I wish you the best of luck on your recording career.  But you're so talented that I don't think you'll need any luck!"

        "Thanks, Rich.  I wish you the best of luck with your pastoral aspirations.  You're not the most articulate guy in the world, so you'll need all the luck you can get!"

        "Ha!  Thanks a lot!!" Richard said in a humorous, backhanded tone, which denoted his surprise at the funny knock.  "I'll let you get back to those important E-mails."

        All right, Rich.  Thanks for calling."

        "Bye, buddy."

        Richard had mixed emotions about the news.  He wanted the best for his best friend, but he also knew that fame and fortune would irrevocably change things between them.  If today was any indication, he figured he'd be lucky just to be able to contact 'Papa Mark' once a year.  And although he knew that Mr. Watson was a man of his word, he considered the 'one million dollar pledge' unreliably impetuous.  He thought it was sworn during a period of starry-eyed exhilaration.  Richard had no doubt, however, that God led him to send the demo tape to the radio station.  Things were turning out according to the Almighty's will, as always!


        Ralph's sea odyssey was such a pleasurable experience thus far that he frequently dreaded the day he'd have to return to land.  Piano lessons, entertainment, socialization, relaxation, and therapy--all concluded--signified that another splendid, routine day aboard the great ship was in the books.  Now it was time for the aspiring author to pick up where he left off on his book.  Consistently, he'd written at least two hours every night for nearly a month.  The autobiography was progressing well, but he knew that there was a lot more to write and, subsequently, numerous revisions to make before he could consider it a finished product.

Chapter 4: Hell Camp

        I was only 11-years-old, in the fifth grade, when my life started to unravel BIG TIME.  My parents could never afford nice clothes for Harold and me, barber shop haircuts on a regular basis, nor school cafeteria meals.  We would invariably show up on campus in worn-out old hand-me-down clothes which rarely fit.  Most of our pairs of shoes were so shaby they looked like they were falling apart, and they were holier than Mother Theresa.  If our hair had grown any longer, birds could've built nests on top of our heads.  And, pitifully, we inwardly drooled while we sat at the lunch table watching everyone else devour their scrumptious meals in front of us.

        Only a blind person wouldn't have noticed that we were severely poverty-stricken children.  I mean, we stuck out like a sore thumb.  That made us easy targets for the plethora of cruel kids at our tough, inner-city school.  Every day we were emotionally victimized by their verbal assaults and taunts.



Mom and dad told us to 'just ignore them.'  We tried!  It was good advice, but we were far from emotionally mature enough to let the myriad of insults roll off our shoulders.  Instead, they built up in our memories like lava in a volcano.  And, as everyone knows, volcanoes erupt!

        One summer day, a little punk walked up to my face and told me that my parents were so poor they couldn't afford to pay attention.  Without hesitation, I started fighting.  I knocked out his front teeth, bruised his eye, broke his nose, and busted his lower lip.  After I was finished swinging away, his bloody mug looked like it had been through a twelve round bout with Rocky Marciano.  The principle was outraged when he saw it, and he told me that I was a crazy maniac capable of killing someone.  He was aware that I was taking psychiatric drugs and seeing the school counselor--both of which were pushed on me on account of the mental anguish I had been experiencing from all the ongoing teasing and bullying, and of no help whatsoever.  Due to the fact that he harbored prejudices against "mentally ill people," which I wasn't, he overreacted and sought to punish me above and beyond what I deserved.  With my naive parents' approval, he arranged for me to be sent off to Base 54 -- a wilderness "rehabilitation" complex for juvenile delinquents.  It was more than ten miles from civilization.  And it was run like a combo Marines/Auschwitz camp by sadistic, authority-lusting military men and law enforcement bullies.  Fittingly, its nickname was 'Hell Camp.'

        I HATED that place!!!  It was horrible!  I still have nightmares about the things that happened to me there.  Once, I refused to eat dirt as a mandatory punishment for not finishing my chores on time.  My Unit Commander felt disrespected because I blatantly disobeyed his order.  At Base 54, the first rule you learn is that you NEVER disobey an order.  He flew off the handle: screaming and cursing me like a madman.  The he socked me in the stomach so hard that it took all the air out of my lungs.  As I was hunched over, I felt his muscle-bound arm wrap around my neck in a terrifyingly tight choke-hold.  I couldn't breathe at all, as my consciousness was gradually slipping away.  I thought I was in the process of dying, but luckily (or unluckily?) I just passed out.

        When I regained consciousness, my body was lying on a hard floor; my eyes and mouth were covered with straps of duct tape; my arms were stretched behind my back on account of the handcuffs that were clamped around my wrists; and my ankles were shackled together.  My heart started pounding.  I was completely helpless.  Moments later, I heard the door open and feet walk in the room.  It was those familiar heavy boot treads.  Two gruff voices started talking about killing me.  With stone-cold seriousness, they deliberated over the ideal means.  The first proposed method was hanging with a bed sheet tied into a knotted noose.  That was rejected in favor of slashing my wrist and then dropping the knife near my body.  For about fifteen minutes, the monsters debated over the best way to make it look like a suicide and cover up all the murder evidence.  I felt sure that death was imminent.  But the apex of my panic came when I heard their next idea!  It involved operating a construction-worker friend's bulldozer.  I distinctly recall the one seeming to be in charge say, "We'll get away with it!  He's a nobody, a disposable piece of trash.  They'll barely bother looking for him.  We'll just say he escaped and ran away, and we don't even need to kill him first.  He'll be covered up by twenty feet of dirt in the middle of nowhere.  Nobody will ever find his worthless body!  Don't worry about it!"

        They'd reached their final decision; I was to be buried underground... while still alive!  I remember lying there on the floor--bound, blindfolded and gagged--thinking that they'd most likely avoid being investigated, much less prosecuted, since I was, indeed, in the middle of nowhere and, like he said, I was of 'nobody status' to society.  Just a violent, worthless juvenile delinquent in its eyes.



        My hope was very low, but I still had a drop of it left in my psychological tank.  Thus, my frazzled mind was frantically trying to figure out how I would fight them off, come time to do so.  But mounting a defense would've been virtually impossible in my artificially handicapped condition.  I couldn't see, hit, kick, or even bite my enemies.  I couldn't even stand on my own accord, and I was bound so tight that I could barely move a muscle.  I prayed that they'd take off my handcuffs before they tried to burry me--to save a pair of cuffs.  Perhaps they would do it if they thought I was unconscious, I thought.  So I quit squirming and lied on my belly as still as a rock.

        They exited the room, or so I supposed; I heard their boot steps walking away, and I heard the door open and close.  The room was soundless, but the voice inside my head was silently screaming.  The magnitude of my horror was unbearable!  I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.  Repeatedly, I attempted to swallow my tongue in order to choke to death on it.  That was my only possible method of escape from asphyxiation while being trapped under a mound of Earth.

        It must have been three hours later (three hours of emotional hell) when I heard the door reopen.  This time, it was slammed shut, indicating an expression of anger.  My tormentors had returned, and my heart started pounding even faster.  I hoped that I'd have a heart attack!  My wrists were very sore from hours of trying to slip them out of the tight cuffs.  Before a single word was uttered, I felt a hard kick against the side of my head.  It sure as heck didn't feel good, but I had more to worry about at the time!

        "This little bastard has caused us to go to a lot of trouble!" the kicker disdainfully exclaimed.  Then his partner nonchalantly said, "Let's just stuff him in the body-bag and toss him in the trunk and get this mess over with!"

        The 'playing unconscious' plan was quickly forgotten in my desperation as my legs flailed and my torso wiggled frenetically.  I was actually moving quite well considering my extremely restricted physical predicament.  My larynx was screaming, but the duct tape successfully suppressed sound waves from escaping my mouth orifice.  I was in a state of utmost hysteria!

        Suddenly, I heard a loud burst of wicked laughter from multiple sources like a disharmonic demonic chorus.  It confused me until approximately seven seconds later when I heard the comment, "The joke's on you, Oxner!" break through the persistent laughing.  The whole thing was totally contrived; it was all a sick joke, I thought.  But I was soon to find out that it was more than that.  There was, indeed, a purpose to my torment that went beyond mere sadistic toying.  As the robust laughter ebbed, the other sicko stated, "You deserve to be buried alive, but you're not worth the time or effort, you fucking bastard!"  Then, my duct tape blindfold was painfully stripped off, and I saw the speaker's hateful eyes staring down at me.  Him, I'd never seen before on the camp grounds.  But I gathered, judging from the array of badges and pins decorating his uniform, that he was a high ranking military man.  Then, my burning, blurry eyes focused, as best they could, on the other man; evidently the one whom he'd been conferring with about my doomed fate.  That guy was obviously his subordinate.  He was younger, bigger, and dressed in orthodox soldier attire without all the medals and insignias.  They both looked like street thugs in uniforms.  I closed my eyes and took a deep breath as I lied on the floor in an ambiguous state of fear and relief.

        My wrists and ankles were still bound.  The pair grabbed a hold of each arm to drag my body and  prop my back against the wall.  That's when I became visually aware of a third man's presence in the room.



This one was older, and he wore a suit and tie.  The big-shot military man with the honors adorning his uniform pointed at him and said, "This gentleman has some questions to ask you.  If you don't fully cooperate with him, we'll drink a lot of beers and piss on your ugly face for a long time.  And then we REALLY WILL bury you alive!"  Then he peeled away the strand of silver tape over my mouth.

        The so-called 'genleman' held a pen and clipboard.  He didn't bother to introduce himself to me, which I construed as arrogant and disrespectful... as if I expected anything more!!  The callous bastard began by telling me to express, as best I could, what was going through my head during the episode.  Then he sat on a stool in the corner of the room, ready to take notes on what I said. (I decided to participate in his stupid fear-factor experiment and, unnervingly, told him how I felt at each stage of it because I was much too afraid to refuse to cooperate... after what they'd (already) done to me.)  He was a psychiatrist!  The whole damn thing was a freaking mind experiment!  I felt like a guinea pig in a laboratory.

        My biggest fear had always been to be buried alive!  It's almost as if they KNEW my phobia.  But how could they have known???  The only person I ever revealed it to was my school counselor.  And she SAID that everything we talked about was confidential.

        Three months of hard labor followed; I suppose they didn't consider my aforementioned ordeal sufficient punishment for the order violation.  The labor was so strenuous that my body still has not recovered from it, and probably never will.  I am plagued by a recurrent shooting pain in my chronically stiff lower back that is excruciating.  Sometimes it gets so bad that I cannot walk, or even stand on my own feet.

        The day after my last day of hard labor, and with less than three weeks remaining on my six month sentence, even more trouble came my way!  The meanest, toughest kid in the camp got in my face and said, "I heard you've been talking trash about me!" with seething hostility in his voice.  I didn't know (what) he was talking about!  I had never said a single word about him to anyone.  I assumed that one of my peers told him the falsehood.  However, upon inquiry, he revealed that the transmitter of the lie was Dr. Metzger, the psychiatrist.  Of course, since I didn't say anything about him to anyone, I denied the allegation that I did.  So,he could either believe [me] or the white-collar, respectable psychiatrist... and, predictably, he chose the latter.

        He pushed me in the chest.  I didn't retaliate because I knew that that would be Metzger's wish, and the camp's excuse to give me more hard labor.  I tried talking to him.  I wanted to make him understand what was going on.  I said, "Listen to me!  This is all a game to Metzger.  He's just yanking your chain to see how you'll react.  It's a human behavior experiment, like the kind he performed on me. (He was informed of my biggest fear and set up a test to see how I would emotionally react to it.)  He's just using you!  You're nothing to him but a case study.  Can't you see that??!!"

        Unfortunately, the bellicose kid was in no mood to listen to reason.  He swung at my head.  Forced to defend myself, I ducked the intended blow and, in one swift motion, I landed a hard right uppercut to his chin.  He fell like a ton of bricks.  I would have been a great boxer!  He was down for the count.  I got scared for him, as well as for myself, when I saw that his eyes were closed and he wasn't moving.  I ran to get help.  Eventually, a siren-roaring ambulance came to load him into the back and carry him to the hospital.  Soon afterward, MY transit arrived in the form of a military police car, and MY destination was the juvenile detention center.  I hope Metzger was proud of himself for the results he instigated!  That son of a bitch shrink!



        I remained behind bars while I awaited trial.  I told my lawyer exactly what transpired, and I insisted that I acted purely in self-defense.  But he said that a jury wouldn't believe me, and he coerced me into pleading guilty.  In retrospect, all he would've had to do was get that kid on the stand and ask him why he was mad at me.  It would've come out that Metzger set the whole conflict in motion.  Now I realize that the sleazy barrister was working for the best interests of the D.A., as opposed to mine.  It's no coincidence that he switched over to prosecuting cases, and rose to the ranks of 'Lead Assistant D.A.' within two years.  Promotion was his reward for arranging my long-term incarceration.  The D.A. wanted to appear like he was tough on crime in order to get reelected.  Those ambitious scoundrels were in cahoots with each other, to my utter detriment.  I was their "sacrificial lamb."

        He assured me that if I pled guilty, I'd only get a few years probation.  But he knew otherwise!  I'm sure the judge was in on it, too!  My heart sank when the black robbed bastard passed sentence: six years in the youth penitentiary.  After he sternly announced his unjust verdict and banged the gavel on the wood to make that cruel sound to my ears, I turned to look at my lawyer.  He totally ignored me as he shuffled papers and put them in his briefcase.  Not only did he make no attempt to console me in my time of despair, he failed to say one word to me, or even make eye contact.  It was unbelievable how cold he was at that moment, in my darkest hour!  I felt like I had been hung-out-to-dry by everyone in my life, with the exception of my brother.

        Ralph opted to stop typing for now, and recommence on the morrow with tales of his youth-prison experiences.