Sissy left me quicker than sand through a sieve. Don’t recall Ole Gus coming for her. Guess maybe I fell asleep. I do that.
Sleep is my best friend. Ain’t always easy cause of the sobbing down along the row. Some of these sad-sacks still got hope. I done give up on hope long ways back. Hope ain’t nothing but a gut ache. Nothing but a thousand knives in yer heart twisting and poking and reminding you that you ain’t nothing nobody wants. Ain’t nothing but a speck a shit on the shoe of society.
Sure, they lawyer you up, schedule appeals, put you on the docket, but none of it means a damn. Hope is what kills ya in here. Hope is what takes yer mind and plays tricks on ya.
Naw. None of that shit fer me. I done put my hope away. Hid it so deep under my skin I would have to cut it out with a blade.
Thinking, now that’s something ya can’t shut off. You’d think a person would run out of shit to think about, especially since nothing new ever happens in here.
I think a lot bout Billy Thompson. Me and him used to run together. He was a mean some-bitch, tell you what. Cats was his favorite target. Folks on our street knew it was Billy when their tom disappeared, but not many had the courage to confront him, Lord no. Billy had himself a reputation, that’s for sure. Suppose I did too, since I run with him.
Anyway, he was real inventive when it came to cats. Lots of times kerosene played a part. Lordy those thing would scream! I member ole Billy rolling on the ground laughing and wiping tears. They would tear around the parking lot bumping into cars all the while screaming like the devil. Looking back, seems fortunate we never set nothing else on fire in the process. Or got caught as much racket we made.
Here’s a fact for ya, I got a thrill outta what me and Billy done to them animals. I knows it was cruel, but I had a lot of cruel living inside me. He unlocked a part of me that the Lord knows didn’t need to be unlocked.
But he didn’t give me the idea to do that little girl. Daddy did. Or maybe it been hiding inside me since I was born just waiting for the opportunity. Little girls ain’t suppose to be walking round all by themselves at night. Where was that girl’s momma?
Sounds like I’m making excuses, and I guess I am. I used to blame her folks. If they had just been taking care of her better then I couldn’t have done it. But I don’t feel that way no more. It’s my fault, that broken part of me that can’t be fixed.
My only possession I give a lick about is my newspaper clippings. Gus been kind enough to share his paper with me on the days he’s here. I point out the articles I want and he cuts ‘em out and lets me keep ‘em. Sometimes he finds a good one and brings it in fer me. He a good man, that Gus.
They’s all from the local Scottsdale Tribune which ain’t too far from where I grew up. You think me being this close to home I woulda had a visitor or two. I mean, I did at first, but they tapered off quick enough. Till today, I can’t remember the last person who come to see me.
I won’t lie. I’m glad they quit coming. I don’t want a reminder that there’s an outside world. Them first years you think about what other folks might be doing, like going to the picture show or having a picnic, but no good come of it, Lord no. That’s when the crying starts, and once it starts it real hard to close up the dam.
I’ll let ya in on a little secret. I got me a son. Only met him once, and he don’t know I be his daddy, but I know and all ‘em clippings are about him.
His name is Jacob, and he turned out fine despite having some of me in him. Fact he sort of a big shot, sharp as a tack, captain of the football team and the basketball team. Well at least he was. I’m sure he out of high school, maybe even went to college. Imagine that? A son of mine going to college? I never finished high school myself. Had to get me a job, then that little girl come walking along.
His success just proves to me that I ain’t all bad, that there’s a part of me that’s worth dog spit.
“Momma, toll ya not to come.” She never was one to listen. Hard-headed she is. Always was, prolly always will be.
“Hate having ya see me like this. You pretty as a picture. Daddy said you was a looker, and he was right.”
Momma blushed. “Now I wasn’t gonna let you leave this world without seeing ya one last time.” Tears filled her eyes. “My baby boy and all. Stand back and let me look at ya.” She clicked her tongue. “What they feeding you, boy? You look like the scarecrow down on Mr. Jetter’s farm.”
“Momma?” Tears I’ve been holding back for years finally break loose. “I’m afraid. I don’t wanna die. He gonna send me to Hell for what I done. Sweet Jesus, I’m going to hell. Don’t matter how sorry I am. I deserve to burn.”
“Now honey, God’s got a forgiving heart.”
“I ain’t asking for forgiveness.”
My momma looked at me like I was from Mars. “Well, they’s still time, boy, they’s still time.”
“I just can’t. You believe in hell, momma?”
“I do, but baby, I think you been in hell the whole time you been here.”
“You ain’t wrong, but I’m sure they’re levels of hell carved out special for some of us.”
“Them be the levels for those who don’t repent, Junior.”
Momma brings out a Bible from her purse. Shoulda known. She never went far without one. Growing up, we never knew when the power of the Lord would strike her. I always wondered where the Lord was when daddy was giving her a beating. She pulls me in her arms, but I can’t say I feel it much. She feels like a cloud around me. Then she’s gone like she never been there. I rock myself back and forth making believe she still with me.
Had the nicest dream. Well, any dream is nice. Anything that takes ya away from these walls. I dreamed about Brenda Jenkins from seventh grade. Boy howdy, did I have a crush on that gal. She had the nicest lips and smelled like fresh air and sunshine. I used to sit behind her in civics class and lean in to smell her hair if I thought I could get away with it. I would leave my hand at the front my desk just hoping her hair would touch it.
She was always nice to me even though our family was one of ‘em that people warn ya bout, wrong side of the track and all.
One time on Valentine’s Day I got a card. All the other kids got cards, but usually not me. I know it was her give it to me even if it wasn’t signed. She was that kind of girl. I didn’t have the nerve to ask her. I just liked thinking it was her.
I never was sweet on anyone else, not even Sherry. Sherry let me have her. That’s why I did that. Billy told me a girl couldn’t get pregnant the first time, and Sherry toll me it was her first time. I didn’t care. Just wanted to get my pecker wet.
But Brenda weren’t nothing like Sherry. Brenda was like butterflies. Sherry was one of them crows on the fence cawing at ya. Girl couldn’t keep her trap shut even when I was going after it.
“Hey Junior, you doing all right?”
Chuck was locked up in the cell across the way from me. He in here for murdering all four of his kids. Said God told him to do it. Anyway, me and Chuck spent hours talking quiet. They don’t like us talking at all saying it’s part of the punishment, but when Gus is on duty we can get away with it. Me and him been here the longest. Got pretty close over the years.
I sit down on the floor next to the door and peek out the food tray slot. “I’m doing all right, I spect. Doing the same as yesterday and day before. Glad we’re finally getting to it, if you know what I mean.”
He did. If anyone did, Chuck did. We talk about ways to take our own lives like we was decided what kinda ice cream to eat. We both agreed doing it quick-like is the best. I picked a gun. Figure can’t be much pain if yer brains scattered to high heaven.
Didn’t matter much. If I had figured out a way to end it, I woulda done it years ago. There was a time I felt real bad, like real bad. Bashed my head against the wall a time or two, but all that did was get me a trip to the psych ward and I tell you what, that made me appreciate my eight by ten.
Not to mention the treatments. Guess I got a preview of tonight’s activities. I don’t mind being dead, kinda looking forward to it, but the getting there got me worried some. They say you soil yourself, and I pride myself for having clean drawers, like I said afore. They say you can ask for a diaper. A diaper, believe that? Not sure what would be more embarrassing, wearing a diaper or shitting my pants.
Ain’t that a weird worry, now? I worry bout that more than heaven or hell.
“Hey Chuck, I just had me an idea. I’d like to give you my newspaper clippings, I mean if you want ‘em. You don’t have to take ‘em. He ain’t yer kid, but you’ve known about him about as long as me.”
“Chuck, you there?” I hear Chuck blowing his nose.
“Yeah, I’m here. I’d be honored, Junior. I’ll keep track of Jacob for you, for as long as I can, if you know what I mean.”
“I do. That’s be fine, just fine. I like thinking that, you watching over him for me. You a good man, Chuck. I know ya is. You and me, we just got a bad shake on life.”
“That we did, Junior, that we did.”