He eyes the 660
pounds, the front end of a small car, that lies before him. He grips the bar
and bends at the knees, glaring at nothing, and heaves. At first the bar only
bends—the weights are rooted to the platform. Then, slowly, the plates rise
from the wood.
Jumbo's eyes are
clenched shut and his teeth are bared. One can see the ropes and great slabs of
muscle beneath his skin, and for a moment it seems that Jumbo's entire body is
transparent. As the man and the bowed iron bar slowly rise, noise fills the
room. For a moment Jumbo appears to be frozen solid; there is no motion except
the wild dancing of the spectators. Jumbo stands up. Straight. The judges
signal thumbs up. Jumbo drops the weight with a resounding crash that
punctuates his feat and, stone-faced, chest expanded, strides off the
The meet has been a
success. The prisoners have new goals to strive for; Jumbo's accomplishment
lends a feeling of hope. But anxiety still lingers and problems remain.
The visitors line
up and file out shaking hands and waving, and then disappear behind the thud of
metal doors. The prisoners remain—each with his own thoughts, each with his own
calendar minus one more day.
What will happen in
the future at Stateville is impossible to guess. Some say things are advancing
as well as can be expected. Indeed, a new warden—a power lifter himself—has
taken over. A huge musclebound man sometimes called the "white Jumbo"
by inmates, he is said to understand the value of athletics. He is responsible
for the new gym that some say cost $100,000. Yet there are people who still
place the prisoners know that in all things, whether it is weight lifting or
protest, they are individuals whose lives, like stained glass, touch each
others' only at the edges. In a few minutes they will march to their cells to
ponder their own private visions and to sleep, gaining there, perhaps, the
peace that eludes them by day, proving once more Joseph Conrad's words: "We
live, as we dream—alone...."