Bringing You The Music of Sonni Quick

 

yamaha electric grandJuly 28th is my birthday and this is the year things are coming together. 63 years young and finally hitting my stride. This 2000 piece puzzle of my life I’ve been working on, just putting the border together has been a major challenge the last couple years.  Now the puzzle pieces are beginning to lock together. I can promote the book and the music together using the same artwork for the book and the digital album.  This makes me a sellable commodity when getting a manager to book gigs for me again. This living on a disability check has GOT TO GO! No more medical disasters.  I’ve had my alloted fair share.  It’s time to kick ass since I still have life to kick, which was debatable for awhile. Music and writing is in my DNA.

Writing and rewriting the chapters for “Inside the Forbidden Outside” and working with a couple editors for guidance, taking classes and reading and reading and reading to understand what it means to write a good book. Doing everything I can to make it a success. This is why I ask if you get on my mailing list. To keep you informed of what is happening and you can share it with 1000 of your closest friends. 500? If it doesn’t happen online it won’t happen – period.

Writing music while I work on blog posts for Jamie I have composed and recorded a lot of improvisational music you can find posted on about 40% of the posts.  I’ve gotten encouraging feedback from listeners. The music and songs at earlier stage in my life when I was trying “make it” in the music business, the only way to be successful was to be picked up by a label – much like a writer had to be contracted by a publishing house.  Now we have Indie music and Indie writers and it levels the playing field. My music today is different from what I wrote earlier because it is part of who I am.  I don’t have to plan it or think about it.  I just play. Young musicians, especially electronic music doesn’t come from same place.  many are not really musicians.

Then Skunk Radio Live found me and asked me to audition for their radio program. Starting on July 28 you will find my audition on their website and will be promoted on their broadcast for one month. To become a contract signed regular I will need people to tweet my name to @skunkradiolive at twitter site.  Like anything online it is the “likes”, they call them votes – you get that shows them you are worth investing in.  They do an hour of instrumental music between 1-2 pm London time, which is 8 am EST but I have heard it at other times, as well as at their facebook site and G+. I will post again after it know it is actually playing.  I am embedding their player on this post. You can go to Skunk Radio Live if you’d like to see some of their auditions and the broadcast schedule. If you know a musician who wants to get their music out their tell them about this radio show.

It takes money to make money and doing piano gigs is my ticket. I’m worth more to a club manager if my music is online at more than just soundcloud.com/sonni-quick

This is my most recent piece –

CIRCLES INSIDE CIRCLES – Chapter five

Circles inside circles

Chapter five

 

I have to close my eyes and think

To remember how life feels

 

Spread ’em and squat.” the guard told him through the open food slot. ” Lift ’em and cough.”

They said the same thing every time they came to take him out of his cell. Shower, rec or commissary were the only choices it could be. Humiliation was part of the game they played, enjoying the chance to abuse him and make sure he knew they were in control. Oh, he knew it. He learned that a long time ago.

“Yeah, we need to make sure you don’t have something shoved up your kiester.” The second guard laughed, thinking he was some kind of comedian.

He said the same stupid crack every time, thinking it was funnier each time he said it. No one ever accused these guards of being smart. If they were, they wouldn’t be working as prison guards for minimum wage. They probably flunked out of Car Wash Training and this was the only place they could get a job. To get stuck in a job with no air conditioning, in a broiling Texas prison, walking inmates back and forth from the shower all day was not exactly anyone’s dream job. It made them angry and it made them want to kick a dog. Inmates were dogs.

Sometimes men did have something to hide – contraband they weren’t supposed to have. A lot of it was brought in by guards the inmates were able to bribe. Those with money and connections. He wasn’t that stupid.

“Turn around and put your hands back out the slot.” The cuffs were tightened a little more than they needed to be.

He could feel his circulation stopping. It wasn’t bad enough to say anything. They’d just laugh. He wouldn’t give them the satisfaction. Not with needing to be cuffed every time he was taken anywhere.

He heard the cell door open. He stepped through and stopped. He knew to go no farther if he didn’t want to get clubbed behind his knees. One guard grunted as he bent over to attach the leg chains that allowed him about a foot between steps. It would’ve be easier on the guard if his gut didn’t hang so far over his belt.

Today was shower day. He could already feel the water streaming down his body, washing a couple days sweat and grime down the drain. It was one of the only pleasures he had. He had clean clothes on for the day. Prison whites. Not really white, though. He didn’t think the prison used soap in the washers. Cut costs a little. They didn’t smell too good, neither.

Jamie preferred to wash his own clothes in the sink if he had enough soap. That was a big if. If he had money in his account for commissary purchases. Each month the prison gave them three of the tiniest bars of prison made lye soap and that had to cover all his cleaning needs. If it didn’t, tough .He could buy more if he had the money when they took him to the comm.

“Get a move on it, Cummings. You think you’re the only one we gotta babysit today?”

They got that right. Glorified babysitters is all they were. His shower boots and soap were rolled up in his towel, shoved under his arm as they started walking down the hall doing the prison shuffle.

<<< >>>

Dang these showers were grimy. Moldy. So many dudes had to use them between cleanings. As he got ready to step under the water he noticed the guards were talking to other men. If he was lucky they’d forget the time and let him have a longer shower.

Good thing he wasn’t a puny ass. Nobody would try to get over on him for sex. The smaller dudes always had trouble. It wasn’t because they were gay. Spend enough time in here and some didn’t care what sex you were if they wanted to get off. They weren’t past doing a gang rape or retaliation, either, if the guards intentionally looked the other way.

As the water passed over his body it felt like heaven. They were supposed to get three showers a week but it didn’t always happen. Guards were lazy. The heat got to them, too. He closed his eyes and started day dreaming, thinking about the past. . .

<<< >>>

Jamie didn’t know what he was going to do, now that he was free. It was all he’d thought about for four years. Now that it was here he realized he never thought past it. Freedom was his goal and sometimes he never thought he would have it again. After a few days his family went back to doin’ what they were doin’. The novelty of having him home had worn off. He didn’t really know his family anymore, or rather they didn’t know him. He wasn’t the same person he was when he went in.. Nobody was fixin’ to help him. Not in any real way.

Everyone grew up while he was in juvy. His older brother got married. His sister had her baby and another one. She had her own problems. His little brother didn’t have much to say at all. He didn’t hardly hear from anyone while he was gone. Mama was busy with everyone who always needed her for some reason or another. He thinks he only got four letters from her in four years. He’d been on his own to survive. No one knew what he’d been through and no one wanted to talk about it. What was done was done. No one wanted to talk about why he was there in the first place. It seemed to him like he gradually became guilty for what happened. It seemed easier to let sleeping dogs lay where they were. Wouldn’t do no good to try and make anyone understand.

He took to walking down the hill from his mama’s house to the convenience store at the corner. Behind it was a shabby little apartment complex for people down on their luck. Barely furnished apartments ironically nicknamed “Little New York” because it was similar to a one rough block in a not so nice part of NYC. Some people were okay but it mostly drug dealers, prostitutes and pimps.

He met a white girl named Morgan living with her soon to be ex-boyfriend and her two kids. She had moved here from California and her old boyfriend followed her here soon after, without asking her if she wanted him to come. She couldn’t kick him out because he had no money to get back. It didn’t last for long, though, and he was gone. He thinks she bought him a bus ticket and took him to the station until she saw him get on the bus and leave.

He liked her. She had quite away with herself. Sassy and confident. They hooked up. She had the most beautiful smile and he was horny. They got along – more than got along.

Right about then Hurricane Katrina crashed into Galveston and made is way up through East Texas, knocking out the electricity for weeks, tore off roofs and destroyed billboards like paper. Morgan and the kids went to stay at her grandmother’s house up the street from the apartments.

He tried to go see her but her dad, a dead beat dad who ignored her during all her growing up years, now thought he could tell her what to do today. He’d coming running out the house             yelling and waving his Bible, “Get the hell off our property or I’ll call the police.” That’s the last thing he needed – and this man was a long time druggie and alcoholic. It wasn’t like he had a problem with him being black. Morgan’s cousin married a black man – two of them – and had a set of mixed twin boys, and her brother had a daughter who was mixed. No, it was because they weren’t married and that was against the Bible. Born agains were the worst.

Morgan got pregnant. He was going to be a father. He wanted to dance he was so happy. But she wasn’t divorced. They filled out a common law marriage form but never filed it. It was still mixed up in his stuff from the jail before he was sent to the first prison. He stuff was mailed to her mom in the Keys. She told him years later she still had it.

Now her mom was flying here with her husband to visit with her daughter and grandkids. She didn’t know about him. She definitely didn’t know Morgan was pregnant. She said she didn’t want her mom to know yet. She couldn’t tell her face to face because she’d be upset.

“What were you thinking? Getting pregnant when you’re struggling to raise the two you already have,” she could hear her mom saying. Morgan decided to wait until a better time to tell her. Problem was, that time never came.

The town was torn apart by the storm. Flooding. No electricity for a couple weeks. Roofs torn off. Billboards ripped apart like pieces of paper. Motels had opened their doors for free to refugees fleeing the damage down south. They trashed their free lodging. Stole everything that wasn’t nailed down all over town. They even broke into the vending machines to steal all the snacks. They also took every available job in town which made it harder for him or any other local people looking for work.

Morgan nearly had to drag him to the hotel where her mom got a room. He didn’t believe her when she said her mom would like him. Why should she like him? He knocked up her daughter who was still married to someone else. We stood outside the motel room door. The kids were jumping up and down, banging on the door yelling, “Nana. Nana.”

When the door opened, the kids rushed in attaching themselves to a taller, thinner woman who didn’t look like Morgan in any way. The first thing she did was whip out a camera to take a picture of the first second of the visit. As the kids grabbed onto Morgan, she is laughing, I’m looking nervously at the floor, shifting my weight from one foot to the other. I wasn’t ready for this – a family photo.

“Look up at the camera, Jamie,” she asked, but I shook my head and stared at my feet.
“Come on, Jamie, look up and smile,” she teased. Not a chance, but at least I was smiling as I looked at my feet.

That was the picture Sonni kept. She told me she used it in blog posts when she wrote about me later. This was the exact moment our lives collided. Was it fate? I didn’t know – and I’m sure she didn’t know, either, how much it was going to matter. If by chance Sonni and I had never met, both our lives would be different today. It’s the little things, maybe even unimportant things we have to pay attention to that set our lives in different directions.

“Cummings. You think we got all day? Get dressed. We need to bring others down,” the guard said, breaking his thoughts in half.

It was okay. He’d been able to leave the prison for a little while and took a trip in his head. All was okay right now. They cuffed him and started the prison shuffle back to his cell. Even though everything didn’t work out okay, there were parts of things that brought a little smile to his face once in a while. He needed to remember that when he started to get down.

<<< >>>

The phone started ringing.  I answered it to hear, “Mom! Jamie was arrested,” Morgan cried into the phone, calling me in Key West. “I don’t know what do.” Stunned, I stood there, knowing things were going from bad to worse very fast.

“He went out with friends to party at an illegal gambling club. One of them had a gun in his backpack and tried to rob the place. Jamie ran but they caught him. He was driving my car and the police impounded it. I couldn’t get it out. I lost it.”

I never knew if I was getting the whole story from her. I thought it was probably common to not tell your parents everything going on your life. I know I didn’t, but this sounded like a story with another shoe to drop. Over the next few years I got different stories from three people about what happened that night and tried to piece it together as best I could. But if this news wasn’t bad enough, here was the other shoe.

“I’m pregnant.”

That comment sat me down on the edge of the bed with a shocked look on my face.

“How far?”

“Almost five months.” Okay, an abortion was out of the question.

“Is he going to get out?”

“I don’t think so, mom. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I don’t think so. He’s at Bartlet County jail waiting to find out. He’s been told it could take months to find out what’s next. But I don’t have months to wait. I can’t get to my doctor appointments. “She paused for a few seconds to let that sink in..

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. I didn’t know how. I kept telling myself I was going to tell you tomorrow. The more time went by the harder it got. I knew you’d really be upset.” I stayed quiet and let her talk.

“It’s a boy, mom. I’m having a little boy. The doctor’s been watching my blood pressure because it’s been up and keeping an eye out to see if I’m having symptoms with eclampsia again, so I can’t not go to the doctor.”

Morgan had a grand mal seizure 24 hours after her last birth, as well as falling in the hospital and fracturing her back in three places. She didn’t find out about the fractures until long after they healed wrong. The hospital never took x-rays when she complained of pain. I had a right to be worried about a third pregnancy.

I had helped her get an apartment while I was visiting the past Thanksgiving. This was only a few months later. I didn’t know Jamie was living with her but she didn’t need my okay. She lost her waitress job at a local Mexican restaurant. The economics in town were bad after the hurricane and no one was going out to eat. The whole town was trying to help the families who were hurt by the storm. A lot of people were destitute, so the people who could afford to go out to eat, didn’t. They didn’t want to be seen spending money they could be using to help. Being pregnant and not feeling well, the restaurant let her go. She was going to find it hard to get another job for just a little while. No one was going to hire her. She was up against a wall.

“Was Jamie working?” I didn’t see how they were managing.

“No, but he gets a disability check for epilepsy.” I didn’t know enough to question that.

“He’d been helping me take care of the kids while I work and that helped me a lot to not have to pay someone to watch the kids.” It seemed logical. I knew how hard it was to find good childcare you could afford. It didn’t send up any red flags.

She went to her stay with her grandmother. She had a big house already full of other family members down on their luck. She would have helped if she could but she didn’t have room for her to stay. If she could stay with me it would be better. Only thing, it would take her away from Jamie.  She wouldn’t be able to see him for the rest of the pregnancy, or after. It wasn’t an easy decision.

“That’s when I got the courage to call you, mom.” As she talked, Megan was playing with a bright red pair of infant sneakers with a white Nike swoosh on the side. Jamie brought them home one day. “He was so happy he was having a baby. Now he won’t be there.” I could hear the sadness in her voice. What a hard place to be.

I knew nothing about our justice system. No experience to compare it to. It was a world apart from anything I ever had to live through. I did have to raise her and her brother alone the first half of their lives. I kicked their father out when I was pregnant with Morgan. He couldn’t take care of himself let alone kids. My mother came to visit for a couple weeks when Morgan was born and was in the delivery room with me just like I was in the delivery room when their son was born.

My mother instincts kicked in. The only important thing was making sure they were okay. I had a little dollhouse apartment attached to the back of my house. A small livingroom/bedroom, semi kitchen with a full fridge, microwave and single burner, and a full bath with a tub. There was a second floor loft with a wooden railing that looked out over the livingroom. The older kids could sleep up there. There was a wood boat ladder to climb up top.

It could work. As long as she was able she could work with me at my store, located where the cruise ships docked, she’d have money to live on.. Afterward, she could bring the baby to the store. I bought them bus tickets. Her grandmother packed enough sandwiches to feed the entire bus so she wouldn’t have to buy food along the way.

I never thought my daughter and I would live and work together or that I would be able to spend time with my grandchildren everyday.. We never see things coming that can direct our lives to go one way or another. Sometimes, inside a tragedy good things can still happen.

I’m glad I had a chance to meet Jamie before all this happened, when all he had to worry about was whether or not I would like him when we met, in seemingly simple times when he was too shy to look at the camera. But even simple times had worry underneath I didn’t know about. At Thanksgiving I didn’t know Morgan was pregnant. A long time later I found out he had no disability check to help support the family.  That was a twisting of the truth Morgan thought I didn’t need to know. All choices have effects and all causes have an effect of some kind.  All of this was the law of cause and effect at work.

Jamie called fairly often. He needed to talk to Morgan. He was scared and the thought of prison was horrible. Jail calls were expressive. Twenty-five dollars for fifteen minutes gouged the families who needed to talk to their loved one. I’d spend only a few seconds saying hi before getting Morgan to the phone. Fifteen minutes went by fast. After I got the first phone bill I had to ask him not to call quite so often.

Today I’d give anything to be able to talk to him. Over the years he became a special person in my life. Knowing him has changed my life. I hope I changed his. I didn’t know when I received that first letter from him, apologizing for calling so much what it was going to mean in the future. But right now . . . we had come full circle.

 

<<< >>>

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Stay current on prison issues and inmate writings. As I build followers for Jamie with the book I’m writing about Jamie Cummings life, Inside The Forbidden Outside, keeping people informed along the way is important. It gives him a purpose when he gets out that he can help other lives. Much of the information is not on this blog and it’s important we reach people everywhere. We have a government now even more gung-ho on locking up as many people as they can for even longer years – making crimes out of things that were never crimes before to placate the prison corporations. It is going to affect even more people who will get knocked sideways when they find themselves behind a steel door. Staying informed helps you protect yourself, because, yes, it can happen to you, too.

 

( If you realize there has been a name change from Megan to Morgan from other chapters, my daughter didn’t want her real named used.  I was going to name her Morgan so we settled on using that)

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If you know an inmate who writes poetry or is an artist or has a story you’d like to tell you can email me at: itfonews@gmail.com

Sonni’s Pinterest

Jamie Life in Prison at Face book . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

<<< >>>

Protect yourself by having an attorney on call with an app on your phone. Stopped and given a ticket? harassed? Get screwed by a landlord? Customer not refund your money? Need a FREE will done? (normally about $300) Click on the link below and see why you need this. A friend has a brand new problem with a landlord. She had just signed up for the service. She didn’t even think about Legal Shield until I reminded her. All for much less than a trip through Kentucky Fried Chicken. Call me, email me, msg me here or at FB. It’s that easy.

I can’t make you do this. It is why you have car insurance even though you are a good driver – the other person who hit you, isn’t. Then you call your insurance company. That is why you NEED Legal Shield. If I didn’t think this was true I wouldn’t waste the space putting it here.

You can also contact me here: Legal Shield

ls101_Reasons_to_Use_LegalShield

Crazy on the Home Front – Sonni Quick in High Gear

Sonni Quick

Ever try spinning seven plates at one time without letting any of them smash into tiny pieces on the floor?  That is my life today.  The fact that things are moving fast is a good thing, but it also means working from the time I wake until the very latest wee hours of the morning (sun-up). Two blogs, three fb pages or groups, other social media and connections, studying, writing – my work and editing others, and my The ITFO Newsletter which I am late getting out this month. Did I say seven plates?

Because I haven’t been able to post as often as I’d like because of this I thought it would be a good idea to tell you what is up.

The rewrite of the book, “Inside the Forbidden Outside”  I started two years ago is in full swing.  When it comes to learning a craft, you can really only learn it by making every possible mistake there is so you know how not to make it again.  I am far from learning all I need to know, but I have learned enough to realize that first draft is only usable as far as pulling out certain facts and scenes in it, but as a book that is publishable, if I had tried it would have been as big of a disaster as some of the free books self published books I download from Nook – just to study how badly most of them have been edited.

I took two writing classes this past year and worked closely with a story editor to get it on track. If you have ever thought about writing, the University of Iowa teaches free six week courses in all kinds of writing. – called The Power of The Pen Through that I met many other writers – some new, some published and 22 of us  have joined together in a separate writer’s group to continue to read and critique each other’s writing. Because I also write poetry I am starting another class this week on poetry and playwriting. There are also good resources at All Writer Workshops

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Most of you have heard at least one piece of piano music I have recorded.  It is on quite a few blog posts and 37 pieces can be found at SoundCloud.  I was contacted by the GM of London based SkunkRadioLive about submitting my music to be aired on their show.  They play an hour of instrumental music between 1 and 2 – their time or 8 AM EST.  The music submitted is called an “audition”.  They play it for a week.  If it gets good feedback – from people liking it then there is the possibility of it played on a regular basis and having a digital album cover done to be used for promotion.

I would use the same title and artwork and that will be created for the book to better create a sellable brand.  The attitude of “Write a book, put it on amazon and buyers will come” is a pipedream.  I haven’t spent all this time developing  something using hope to sell it with. I’m spending the hours to learn how to market my self, book and music together.  I might be getting close to being a dinosaur in music – but the decades, playing, teaching and composing brings out the best in a player.

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To pull this all together means I will have to get back out in the public and play gigs again.  I retired fifteen years ago.  My last gig was at La Te Da’s in Key West.  I later went through years of illness after illness never thinking I’d be able to play again.  It will still be a struggle, but I had to decide if I was still alive or dead – and being alive won the battle. Living on a disability check clinched the deal for me.  Broke is not fun.

So, hang in there with me.  I need your support.  Jamie needs your support – because he is on the cover for all of this.  I’m hoping to get down to the prison to see him after the worst of the Tx summer is over. I also plan on being back in the Keys this Winter.  My son is moving back in a couple weeks. I HATE WINTER!

Life is for the living – go live it instead of just thinking about it!

********************

 

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LEARN THE LATEST

Stay current on prison issues and inmate writings. As I build followers for Jamie with the book I’m writing about Jamie Cummings life, Inside The Forbidden Outside, keeping people informed along the way is important. It gives him a purpose when he gets out that he can help other lives. Much of the information is not on this blog and it’s important we reach people everywhere. We have a government now even more gung-ho on locking up as many people as they can for even longer years – making crimes out of things that were never crimes before to placate the prison corporations. It is going to affect even more people who will get knocked sideways when they find themselves behind a steel door. Staying informed helps you protect yourself, because, yes, it can happen to you, too.

********************

If you know an inmate who writes poetry or is an artist or has a story you’d like to tell you can email me at: itfonews@gmail.com

Sonni’s Pinterest

Jamie Life in Prison at Face book . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

###

Protect yourself by having an attorney on call with an app on your phone. Stopped and given a ticket? harassed? Get screwed by a landlord?  Customer not refund your money? Need a FREE will done? (normally about $300) Click on the link below and see why you need this. A friend has a brand new problem with a landlord. She had just signed up for the service. She didn’t even think about Legal Shield until I reminded her. All for much less than a trip through Kentucky Fried Chicken. Call me, email me, msg me here or at FB. It’s that easy.

I can’t make you do this.  It is why you have car insurance even though you are a good driver – the other person who hit you, isn’t.  Then you call your insurance company.  That is why you NEED Legal Shield. If I didn’t think this was true I wouldn’t waste the space putting it here.

You can also contact me here: Legal Shield

ls101_Reasons_to_Use_LegalShield

 

Inside The Forbidden Outside – The Prologue

PROLOGUE

IInside the forbidden outside
Looking out through only one side

Dear mom how are you?

Fine I hope as for me I’m okay. Anyway, the reason I’m writing this letter is to let you know how sorry I am about the phone calls and the hours I was calling. Once again I’m sorry it’s just being in here is hurting me do to the fact that I don’t know if I’m going to be there for my family. I love Megan with all my heart and being here while she is in pain is putting me through pain also. I love her not only because are having a child together but because she is a loving, caring and bright young woman. I love her with all my heart. I would do anything for her even if that meant giving up my life. I love her so much mom. I sit in hear and think about her all day every day and that is why I called so much. Worrying myself about how she’s doing wondering if she’s okay. It hurts me to go so many days without hearing her beautiful voice. If you could please tell your husband that I’m realy sorry about the phone calls to. I’m realy sorry for being disrespectful to the both of you I just worry about her every day. Well I have to go now but before I do I want to say I sorry again. Love you Mom
P.S. Thanks for the positive advise
Love Always, Jamie

( To be replaced with a picture of the actual letter. Jamie has many handwritings. It is easy to see his state of mind by which handwriting he uses)

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Morgan pregnant with little Jamie and with Alex

My very pregnant daughter Morgan arrived at my home by bus a couple months ago, with her two other young children, ages six and eight. No doctor in Key West, Florida would accept her as a patient this late in her pregnancy. She was already in the latter part of the second trimester. To take on the responsibility for the care and delivery of a baby with possible problems because of maybe another difficult pregnancy, wasn’t a chance doctors, accepting Medicaid, wanted to take.

She had eclampsia with her second pregnancy which can cause dangerous problems with gestational diabetes, stroke, seizures or heart problems. She needed to tell any new doctor her medical history so they could be watching for signs of it repeating. Having no prenatal care was not an option. Because of eclampsia, after her second birth, she had a grand mal seizure twenty-four hours after giving birth which has resulted in a life time of predominantly petite mal, or silent seizures, also called staring seizures in which she can’t respond to you until the brain waves settle down. This requires seizure medication. Doctors in Key West backed away from accepting her as a patient this far into her pregnancy. They were afraid of getting sued should something go wrong. Neither of us realized getting her a new doctor was going to be so hard. Other towns going up the keys didn’t have a hospital, only clinics.

When she first started scouting around for a doctor, she had to tell them over the phone about her second pregnancy. They would quickly say they weren’t taking new patients. After days of phone calls, we had to start looking on the mainland and began calling OB/GYNs in Miami. Finally, a doctor said yes. We were relieved. I was getting worried. Ev even so, it was also going to be a grueling eight hour round trip drive for each appointment, making it a hard day. The bigger the baby grew, the bigger the bumps on the two lane road going in and out of the Keys began to feel. I could hear Morgan grunt with every bump and swerve the car made as I tried to learn and remember the rough patches.

The closer she got to her delivery date the more often we had to make that drive. When it became every week it was hard but we knew it was almost over. It was worth it. She scheduled an appointment for an inducement to make sure she was able to have her doctor there. No surprises. She didn’t want to go into labor in Key West. She did have a problem with delivery because the baby wouldn’t drop. She wanted to have him naturally but this was going to change things. If she had to go to the Lower Keys Hospital they would have life-flighted her to the mainland.

The hospital on the keys was a small hospital, good for run of the mill medical procedures but they aren’t equiped for complicated issues. They could fly them in a chopper to the mainland fairly quickly. She might not have made it in time because the baby’s umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck three times and no one knew. In the middle of the night, when his vitals started dropping, she was taken into the OR for an emergency C- section. She would not have had her own doctor, who saved the baby’s life, and I would not have been there for the birth. When baby Jamie was delivered, I would have still been driving crazy, over the speed limit, up that same narrow road through the keys.

The day of this ordinary check-up appointment was a normal, hot, humid summer day in Key West. Coming home, after driving around the block a few times trying to park close to the house, I gave up searching. I dropped her off in front of the house and parked two blocks down the street. Parking spaces were always a premium on an island only 1.5 by 3.5 miles wide. It was easier to get around town on a bicycle, moped or golf cart. Everything was close on this tiny island. I even did my grocery shopping with bags hanging from my bicycle handlebars. I rarely drove my car, instead letting Megan use it with the kids.

I was lucky finding that parking place. Walking down Whitehead Street toward my house, a few blocks up from the buoy, supposedly the southernmost point of the US. Every tourist stops there to take get their picture, even asking if you could see Cuba from there. Some people forget the world is round. I also passed the Lighthouse, the only inland lighthouse in the US and the Hemingway House, home of the late writer, Ernest Hemmingway, which still had a line of people waiting outside for the last tour of the day. Tourists were everywhere. As I glanced in through the gate, six toed cats were walking lazily around the property as usual.

Feral cats were a problem in Key West. At last count I had at least twenty-seven of them living under my house. They ate the eggs of all the chickens living in the hedges. Roosters crowed all day and night, awake because of street lights and also confused not knowing when morning hours truly started. Chickens were a protected species on the island. When they crossed the street, with all their baby chicks following behind, if you didn’t stop you could be ticketed. An island wide BBQ sounded good to me.

Key West was a very eclectic community to live in; only 90 miles from Cuba. I loved it. I felt Morgan and the kids could be happy here. Having my grandkids near me, including a new baby, brought all my mother cravings to the surface. Being close to them every day, with her working in the store with me, was special.

The front gate to my house made a metallic grind when it opened. I grabbed the mail as I walked down the two foot wide walkway between houses to get to my entrance at the rear of the house. It was barely wide enough when I had to squeak my bike through, pulling it by the handlebars. It was a typical Key West house nestled in the charm of Old Town, built close together because of hurricanes. Morgan was laying down on her daybed in the guest house, AC going full blast, already asleep from the drive. I closed the door between her place and mine and plopped down on my own bed, in the middle of the livingroom, with a loud sigh of contentment and began sorting the mail.

There was a letter addressed to me from Jamie. That was odd. He had never written to me before this. I briefly talked to him on the phone a few times to ask how he was coping, but I never wanted to use up his minutes and would quickly get Morgan. Those fifteen minutes were precious to both of them and they went by fast.

I felt bad because their life fell apart so fast. I wasn’t sure exactly what happened. I’m not sure I know now. Kids, no matter what their age, lied to their parents when they thought the truth was too hard to tell. How did I know this? I did the same thing. Morgan is her mother’s daughter. She had been an accident waiting to happen since she was twelve and found out what sex was, and those accidents happened frequently. She kept trying to get her life together, but the word consequence wasn’t a word she remembered when making spur of the moment choices.

James Cummings was the father of Morgan’s baby. A little over 6’1”, a bit chubby, with a pleasant face and perfect manners. He was nice. I liked him when I met him the previous Thanksgiving when I went to Texas to visit Morgan and the kids. She was living near her father’s family. It didn’t matter to me Jamie he was black and she was white. I have never gotten hung up on skin color. It’s a shame so many do. They seemed happy. To me, it was the only important thing right now.

Unfortunately, Jamie was arrested one night a couple months after we met, when he was at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person. Was he guilty? I didn’t know. Was he a bad person? Not by what I saw. I know good people can make bad decisions. How much of one’s life should be taken away to teach that person a lesson, and is there any other ulterior motive going on that effects how much time needed to be served?

He was still at the jail, waiting for an attorney to talk about his options. All he had was a public defender, and they aren’t known for being on the side of the defendant, I soon found out. Until then, I knew nothing about the justice system or prisons, except for what I learned watching the TV series, Prison Break. Prisons had not affected my life, so why would I know?

This was the beginning of my educationabout the prison system. I learned it was vaguely possible to have a public defender who cared about their clients, but they were overworked trying to do an impossible job because there were too many arrested people on their list to check off with their fates settled, as quickly as possible.

There were also attorneys who weren’t exactly in the brain surgeon category of attorneys, nowhere near the top of their class. They worked for about $75 an hour, doing the bidding of the District Attorney. That meant locking up as many people as possible, who didn’t have the money to fight the plea deal by hiring an attorney. It forced people into taking these deals instead of going to trial. Jamie was first offered a deal of 40 years. When he refused he was offered 17 years. If he didn’t take that deal they told him they would make sure he got 50-99 years by adding charges. What would you do if you were in his place and had no attorney to advise you, let alone fight for you?

Guilt or innocence played little part in the scenario they laid in from of him. If every person arrested got their day in court with a jury of their peers, at the rate they were arresting people in the drug war, it would take decades to get to court. So what if some were innocent. They were probably guilty of something they weren’t caught doing, right? They weren’t productive citizens of the community in their minds – and they didn’t have attorneys to fight for them.

When you look at exonerations today, because attorneys are now fighting for these people, most of the people freed after 20/40 years were judged guilty on bad or no evidence, and most were black men. No one cared if they were innocent when they were arrested. They were black.  It was all the reason they needed. They made sure all were guilty. Families were ripped apart. And if they were guilty was it really necessary to destroy their entire life, while white people serve less time for the same crime?  What is fair?

This still happens today, which is why people are fighting back and groups like Black Lives Matter was able to gain support from the people. Our government promised the prison corporations they would keep the prisons full. Jamie has filled a bed for a long time. That is a lot of his life lost, and his son has been without his father. So much loss. So common. How could I live so much of my life, with this going on around me, and not know? Reading about these things for the first time was an eye opener – and it made me angry. It brought out the fight in me. It was time to scream it from the top of a mountain because it was now affecting my family.

I couldn’t let this happen and not try to do something about it. I realized, if I didn’t know this was happening, a lot of people didn’t know. It was time to pull my head out of the sand and not wait for someone else to do something. Today, more people do know and things are beginning to change, with a long way to go. The squeaky wheel has begun to turn.

Jamie took the 17 year plea deal because the fear of being given a longer sentence scared him. He had no attorney to consult with.  His mother and other family couldn’t afford to help. I learned the phrase, “Prison Industrial Complex,” for-profit warehousing of bodies, for one reason – money for shareholders. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. I say these things to show how naive I was about the system.

I thought prisons were filled with only the guilty. They got what they deserved. and heck, they were fed and medically taken care of, so it couldn’t be that bad . . . I thought.

Knowing Jamie and what he goes through in this story of his life, impacted my own life like a freight train running over me. His story needed to be told. Not because his story is special, but because it is shockingly ordinary and is the same life of millions of other Americans and it has affected their family’s lives as well. That is frightening when you stop to think about it.

Jamie was worried. I knew that. It had to be a scary place when you didn’t know what was going to happen to your life. Having a pregnant girlfriend made it worse. Nerve racking wasn’t a good enough word to explain how either of them felt. Hopeless was a better word. All I could do was give them emotional support and help Morgan with the kids when she needed me..

Being black was only the first strike against him. Being poor was the second. Money buys justice and when you don’t have any, the misnomer of luck doesn’t fall on your side. Morgan scraped money together from paychecks she earned working for me at my store, Touched By The Sun; a busy little store where the cruise ships docked. She sent the money to Jamie’s brother, who said he knew somebody, who knew an attorney, who would take a down payment and would take payments over time. He would start working to get him out.

I don’t know what happened, except it didn’t happen and the money disappeared. There was no attorney. I only know she never got her money back. Jamie’s public defender had no interest in what happened that night. There can be no justice when there is no seeking of the truth. It made a mockery of the truth. There was only justice if you had money. Prisons set their sights on people who couldn’t buy their freedom. That is what freedom meant now.

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At first Morgan didn’t want to tell me she was pregnant, for good reasons. I was upset. Where was her head? Jamie didn’t have a job. He was looking for one, but jobs in their area were low if you didn’t have an education. He didn’t even have a high school diploma or GED. How would he support the family by himself when she became too pregnant to work?

They had plans, but right now they were pipe dreams. Love does not fix all, and pipe dreams do not buy food. She was already struggling to take care of the children she already had. She told me Jamie had a disability check because he had epilepsy since birth. It sounded reasonable. In hindsight, should I have questioned it?

After Jamie was arrested she never saw him again until little Jamie was about fourteen months old. The day after the arrest she took his seizure medication for epilepsy to the police station, but they wouldn’t let her see him. No one can have visitors until they have been processed and it can sometimes take a while. They rushed her out of the building when she pressed them for details.

As she left she turned around looked back at the jail, looking up at the second floor. She could see him looking down at her from the window. She told me he looked so sad. They didn’t signal each other in any way. They stood like that, looking each other in the eye. At this point she knew she had to make a decision about her life very soon.  She had a baby growing inside her and he was her priority.

Morgan knew she didn’t have a lot of time to figure out a plan. She couldn’t go through this alone. She didn’t even have a car now. He was driving it the night before and it was impounded. She didn’t have the money to get it out and knew every day it stayed at the impound lot the fine would get higher. She knew her mom was going to be upset and a lecture would probably come with it, but she also knew her mom would never let anything bad happen to her if she could help. She could trust that thought. l

She didn’t want to stay at her grandmother’s house. It was a big house but there were already too many family members living there. Mammaw’s adult children lived there, including Morgan’s own father, a dead beat dad when she was a kid, who was making up for lost time trying to lay down the law and tell her what to do even though she was twenty-five. His sister and stragglers of her family and grandchildren, also down on their luck, lived there. It was too much chaos and no privacy. But if she left, she would be leaving town without having the chance to see Jamie again. She did love him, but right now she needed her mother.

This is when I got the call, “Mom, Jamie was arrested. I need help. I’m pregnant.” She was 3-4 months along by now. I went on high ‘Mom to the Rescue’ alert. I put her on a bus and arranged the little guest house attached to the back of my house for her and the kids. At least I knew she would be safe and Jamie wouldn’t need to worry about her or the baby.

After she arrived I knew they needed to talk. Of course, I had no idea what it cost to accept a collect call from a jail. It was shocking when I got my first phone bill – twenty-five dollars for fifteen minutes. What a racket. This is why he wrote that letter to me. I had to tell him he could only call a certain amount of times each week. He felt bad thinking he was taking advantage of me and thought I was angry at him. He wanted me to know he was sorry.

I learned over the years he feared losing me, the only person who was consistently there for him.  If I waited too long to answer a letter he was afraid I had gone away and was angry at him.  Why shouldn’t he feel that way?  His own family dropped him like an eight ball down a side pocket and he rolled under the table – with no explanation – and no help. There is always another side to every story but I had no idea what that reason could be.  I only knew I was writing to someone who had been hurt in so many ways I didn’t understand and I wanted to wrap my arms around him so he wouldn’t feel so alone.

I also knew there was a reason why this was happening in my life, too, because things don’t happen for no reason. I didn’t know then what was going to happen, and the part he would play in my life, too.

Between Jamie and Morgan there were promises of waiting until he got out and loving each other forever. “Every day and twice on Sundays.” There was deep pain on both sides of the phone line. If I could have afforded it I would have let him call as often as he wanted. He had no one else. He was scared.

We had no way of knowing when he would be moved to a prison, and we didn’t know he wouldn’t be allowed anymore phone calls. Most inmates have phone privileges. They took that privilege away, along with being able to take classes, even for a GED. There was only one three week period of time about year nine, when he was allowed to make calls and I was the only one who registered their phone number. I let him call every day. I had forgotten he had a Texas Twang. Then they took the privilege away again because of false report made by a guard. I learned false reports were a common way for guards to get even with inmates they don’t like. Maybe they refused an offer of sex. I’m not joking. Jamie is an attractive man who lost his boyhood chubbiness from the foul, uneatable food.

While Morgan was waiting out her pregnancy, those phone calls or letters were their only means to stay together. Their relationship was cut short before it had a chance to begin. Both were afraid of what would happen to their future. Morgan would end up moving on with her life, even getting married again and having another boy a couple years later.

Jamie couldn’t move on. The making of new memories had come to a dead stop. All he had were old memories and many of those were too painful to think about, or no longer gave him comfort. In prison, growth and wisdom gained by life experiences stays exactly where it was the day you were arrested.  

His life stopped. The world outside moved on. Many people locked up are eventually broken and forgotten. Depression sets in. Communication tapers off, if there ever was any. There is little anyone can do if they are sent to a prison far away, which often happens. Everything is in a holding pattern. It becomes rare to get an answer to a letter. No one wanted to be asked if they could give a little money and he had no way to earn any. Texas pays no inmate money for any job, period. Not even the usual .20 an hour.

Life can become bitter. They get emotionally institutionalized, making it hard later when they need to re-enter society.  Many can’t make it and end up back inside again.  They have forgotten how to live, or were too young if they were arrested as a teen and never learned how to live. Never paid a bill or had a bank account. Never had a job or learned how to drive a car. Never used a computer that had windows or scanned groceries at a store.

It didn’t matter to me what he did or if he was guilty, or even how guilty he was.  Whatever happened, no one was hurt in any way.  Maybe someday I’ll find out all the little details. Maybe he’s afraid I’d go away if I knew.  I’m not going anywhere.  Whatever the details are they don’t equal the destruction of his life.  Knowing racism played a part in this pushed me to take a stand for equal – reasonable – justice.

This is when I re-entered the picture, about eighteen months after he was arrested, when he was finally sent from the jail in 2008, to a prison in La Mesa, West Texas. I asked Morgan for his address. I wanted to send him a card. He answered and I became the mom he needed at the time. I don’t always stay ‘mom’. The separation from Morgan and baby Jamie nearly killed him. He wasn’t doing well. I needed to be the bridge that spanned the gap. Their separation was nothing compared to what was coming. It was a good thing he didn’t know how hard it was going to be.

Twelve years have now passed. He has five to go. When he gets out he will be almost forty. He will have gray in his beard. Will his brain survive the seizures that persist until he can see a real doctor, not a nurse on a video screen? He will have lost his twenties and thirties. He had already lost his teens. Except for a very brief period of time when he met Morgan he has been locked up since tenth grade. He is now thirty-four. He will re-enter a world he doesn’t know – and I will still be there to help him, myself having gone from my early 50’s to nearly 70.

To begin, settle in. Relax. Make a nice, hot cup of tea. You are entering a solitary prison cell that few get to see. We are going to fast-forward to year ten . . .

 

 

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For the past month and a half I’ve been in a writing class which has absorbed my life like a Bounty paper towel, as I have been working on rewrites of chapters of my book.  “Inside the Forbidden Outside” Some of those chapters have been printed here already.

This piece is the prologue, setting up the book and telling the reader why I’m writing. What happened.

Before all is said and done, when it hits real editing I’m sure there will be more changes.  if there is one thing I’ve learned, if you do it right, no book is written, checked for grammar and published.  it is written, rewritten and parts rewritten and edited it again and maybe again., unless you want a poorly written ebook you can give away on kindle.  There is too much at stake here and the more than two years I have spent so far writing it is not going to be wasted.  It won’t be published until I think it is the best it can be.

The order so far, and the chapters are easy to do a search below the fold:

1.The Prologue

PART ONE

2. Dead Men Don’t Bleed – ten years later . . .

3.The Waking Hour

4.Jamie’s Mountain

5. Sharp Left Turn

6. Circles Inside Circles ( will be published in the next ITFO Newsletter)

PART TWO

7. (being written now)

 

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Jamie’s Mountain

Inside The Forbidden Outside

Chapter Three

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Jamie sat still on the edge of his cell bunk, lazily dozing off and on with his head in his hands, not aware of time passing. What doestime matter? Why think? Not seriously, anyway. Flashing thoughts and images passing through his mind quickly changed to something else. Concentrate? What’s the point? This wasn’t one of his good days. He couldn’t change anything about his life or affect it in any positive way. It was too hot to care. It is, what it is, what it is. He swung one hand back and forth like he was conducting an orchestra while he was thinks.

The only difference between existing and not existing was if he paid attention to the drama in his head, and only then if he wanted to latch onto any piece of it to think about. It was easier to live in this non-reality space than the one his physical body lived in. It took too much effort to want to stand up and pee. There was nothing to bring relief. Nothing to break the monotony. . . nothing.

He hoped he’d hear his name later at mail call. Hoped there’d be a letter or book, maybe a magazine from a subscription Sonni had taken out for him. Anything to fill the time until this day was over and he could cross off it off.

He was hungry. They were on lockdown again. One month out of every three. Food rations were cut to the bone. Lots of peanut butter. The lockdown came early this time because there was a gang fight in some part of the prison. He had been waiting on a food box from Sonni. She could spend $20 a month at the main commissary, or $60 at one time each quarter. They would deliver it to him. Now it won’t get through until lockdown was over. He had to laugh. She had a bookstore send him three sexy lingerie magazines full of beautiful women. Eye candy, she wrote – to make him smile. Said he must be awful horny after all this time with only his left hand to keep him company. Yeah, he thought smiling, they could write about these kinds of things after all the years they been writing letters.

Not everyone was lucky enough to have someone like Sonni. He didn’t know what he would have done without her. He’d be pretty damn lonely that’s for sure. And he would have forgotten what a stick of deodorant looked like. hygiene costs money. You do not want to be in this unit in the summer with all the stinking men, aside from the unit always smelling like piss.

mi

In her last letter, and ones before it, she kept asking him to dig in his memories and tell her things about his life growing up. That was hard. He didn’t want to remember any of these things he stuffed way down so long ago he couldn’t remember them. Who wants to dig up things better left buried?

She’s writing a book about him. He would have never thought his life was worth writing about. The only thing he was good at was doing the wrong thing. She asked him if he had a happy childhood. Birthday parties, holidays, fun times? Thinking made his head hurt. No! He doesn’t know what happy means, then or now. Did he have happy memories as a kid? If he did, he should be able to think of them. They should pop right up. He couldn’t keep putting her off.

He got off the bed, turned on the faucet and soaked a cloth called a Cold Pack. They sell ’em at the prison convenience store. Convenient my ass. A guard cuffs and shackles him once a month and leads him down to the commissary like a pet. He doesn’t always have money in his account to buy anything if she isn’t able to transfer a few bucks into it. She has money struggles and helps as much as she can.

These cold packs, he thought, must have some kinda chemical in them that gets activated when they get wet. It’s better than wetting a towel, which is what he usually does. When you lay them on the fan and the air blows, it creates cool air for a little while. He uses it sparingly because they only last so long, and it’s not like he can go to the comm whenever he feels like it and buy more. But today he needs a little relief.

He put the fan in place to blow on his face and laid down. Maybe he could fall asleep for awhile. Think back and try to remember things he could write about to Sonni. What is she thinking? His life is important? It’s depressing and it gets him down. If not for her he wouldn’t be able to even hope he got something when mail call came in. So, was he a happy kid? He sighed . . . .

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Everyone else had a dad, why didn’t he? His older brother and sister each had a dad. Even his younger brother, born a few years after him had a dad. They spent weekends and holidays with other family. Family who weren’t part of his life. Funny, not ha ha funny, but thinking back, he and his mom never talked about it. He never asked who his dad was and she never told him, at least not until he turned 32 a few years back. But he doesn’t want to get ahead of himself explaining anything. First things first.

Birthday parties? No. At least not the kind you think of when someone says it’s their birthday. No party invitations. No friends bringing presents. No balloons or party hats. No pictures of everyone yelling, ” Make a wish, Jamie. Blow out the candles!” with a camara flash going off in his face. What would he wish for? To be like everyone else? No. No parties like that. Nothing special. He remembered a few cakes, but if he ever had a party he sure forgot about it.

His mom had a rough time raising four kids by herself. The older they got the harder it got. She went to school to be a nursing assistant and after that she worked hard. Sometimes two jobs. When you’re a kid you don’t understand how much money it takes to raise kids. He did learn, you can’t work full time and stay home being a mom. Family was nearby but mostly they had to take care of themselves. The older kids took care of the younger kids.

He only had snatches of memory. Incomplete thoughts and pictures. He was a loner, even as a little kid. Because of his seizures he didn’t go outside and run around like other kids. He wasn’t sure if it was because they were afraid of him or if parents didn’t want their kids near him. Maybe they thought epilepsy could rub off. All he knew, he had very few friends and he always lost the ones he had

When he was six or seven his mom would take them to the park and have picnics and sometimes they went to the zoo in another town. We didn’t go many times but we made the best of it when we did. We also flew kites a few times. That was okay – more than okay. It was fun to run and watch the kites take off with the wind and dance around the sky. It would be fun to ride a kite and see the town from way up in the air and see the tiny people way down below. He’d feel so free without a care in the world. That was a good day.

He also loved fireworks, exploding into arcs of color, each one more beautiful than the next. One 4th of July they were ready to leave togo watch the fireworks. He was excited about going all day. He and his little brother were dressed in look-a-like outfits. At the last minute mama said they couldn’t go. He doesn’t remember why. All he remembers is hearing booms in the distance while wishing he could see them.

He didn’t have a bad childhood. He had ten aunts and uncles. He really loved his aunts. Two of them died, one when he was in juvenile detention. He flipped out with grief. He couldn’t handle knowing he’d never see her again.But was his childhood happy? No, he couldn’t call it that. He’s aware now he was mostly depressed. He felt invisible. The seizures were pretty bad. The kids were used to it happening. “Mama, Jamie’s having another seizure,” they’d yell.

When he was eight Jamie and his older brother ride to the store on their bikes. While in the store he stole a bag of skittles. Afterward, he showed his brother. He smiled and took it from him and tattled to his mother. He got sent to his room. His brother probably enjoyed getting him in trouble.

He had a friend, Brandon, who came over to play. When he found out he was grounded went to his window and asked what happened. He was upset he couldn’t play. A week later, playing together at Brandon’s uncle’s house, where he lived, Brandon’s mom came. He has never seen her before. His dad was there, too. The boys went outside to play basketball and left the grown ups inside. They found soon enough it would be the last time they’d ever see each other. They said goodbye and he watched them drive off. Jamie walked home mad and sad. In his mind the parents decided they couldn’t play together anymore because he stole a pack of skittles.That didn’t make sense. No one explained anything. Whatever, it was the last time he saw Brandon. He was the last real friend he ever had.

Jamie had to smile a bit at that memory. Kids understand so little. But at nine it was the end of his world.

Maybe his brother thought he got too much attention but he was only guessing. He doesn’t blame anyone for things they did as kids. Maybe it did look like he got too much attention. His brother kicked him into a ditch one time when he had a seizure and he didn’t help him get home. He let him lay there. A seizure knocked him out for hours. Muscles don’t work and his brain gets scrambled. He can’t get up and walk home like nothing happened. It was hard making it home that day.  He didn’t want to remember that, did he?

He doesn’t think his brother liked him much growing up. Still doesn’t. Maybe that’s why he ignored the letters he wrote. He could visit if he wanted, but he doesn’t. He lived close to this prison. He wasn’t always close. Sometimes he was in a prison far away.

Sonni called him once and asked him why he didn’t come. He said, in a so-what kind of voice, “It’s not my fault he’s in there.” Nobody said it was. Sonni sent him a video of the song ‘He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother.’ Jamie wanted to see his brother. They aren’t kids anymore. Guess he doesn’t want to see him. He can’t change that, but it hurts. That’s life. He hadn’t seen his younger brother or sister, either. Every three or four years, one time five, his mom came, but she never answered any letters. He guessed she had her reasons. She’s still his mom. He loved her very much. He probably gave her too hard ‘a time growing up so she’s done spending time on him.
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When he was twelve he had brain surgery. It was scary being wheeled down the hallway on a stretcher. He was used to getting needles all the time having his blood tested. But it’s different when they’re going in and looking at his brain. What if they did something wrong? He knew his mom was there waiting for him. Having this thing wrong with him must’ve been really hard on her. They tried to stop as much of the brain bleeds as they could. It helped. It didn’t stop the seizures but it did slow them down.

His only friend growing up was Keithy. He was an older cousin, and he was sick, too. Sickle Cell anemia. They were the “sick ones” and were always together. One day when he was about fourteen he went over to his house. He had been away, visiting with his dad. When he came home he was sicker than usual. While they were playing a game he started to cry. His mom came in to help him and she called Jamie’s mom to come pick him up. While he waited Keithy’s pain got worse. He could hear his cries for help. It hurt so much to hear him in pain and there was nothing he could do. After that, he wasn’t allowed to see him very often.

Jamie became depressed and couldn’t pull out of it. He began disappearing in the middle of the night to go walking. He did it over and over. He couldn’t lay in his bed at night so he walked. He must’ve scared his mama. She checked him into a children’s hospital to get help. He hated it there and begged her over and over to please come take him home. One day she did, but she didn’t tell him why.

They talked on the way home, about everything except the most important thing. It was fairly long drive. When they pulled into town she drove to his cousin’s house. There were a lot of people there. He still didn’t know why she came for him. He realized a long time later, she knew he wouldn’t be able to handle it. She didn’t want him falling apart in the car. She took him by the hand and led him into the back room of the house. There he was. Keithy was laid out. He was dead.

This is the way Jamie found out his cousin had died. It was a crushing blow. His mother couldn’t find the words to tell him.  He reached out his hand that day and gently touched him. His skin was so cold. That is when it really hit him. He closed his eyes with tears swimming behind his eyelids. He tried to keep it together but he didn’t think he could. He was never going to see him again. His brother grabbed him by the shoulders and said, “Don’t cry!” Then they fell into each others arms, chests heaving with sobs. He cried for the loss of his friend’s life. Cried because his heart was broken for the boy he loved. Cried because his disease had killed him before he had a chance to live his life.

Then we buried him.

Jamie laid there, hands behind his head, staring at the gray ceiling of his cell. Tears were silently running down the sides of his face. He was glad Keithy never knew he ended up in prison. It would have broke his heart. He still thinks about him. Some pain never goes away.
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After Keithy died he began hanging out with the wrong kids. Even though he lived in a small town there were still dudes who thought of themselves as wanna-be gangsters. They weren’t like city gangs where kids were born into extreme violence and drive-by shootings, but there was buying and selling drugs and some carried guns and knives. They got in trouble doing stupid stuff. Jamie wanted to feel like he belonged somewhere. Excepted. Friends. He didn’t have that closeness anywhere else. He was more a follower than a leader. He starting getting into trouble and becoming defiant.

Sometimes for a few days he slept in other places instead of coming home,  He’d sneak home to eat, shower and take a nap when his mom was at work. She’d usually catch him. He never got too old for the belt.

He was found passed out in the middle of the street one day. A man who saw him thought he was on drugs and was going to call the cops. Before he could, another man who recognized Jamie realized he’d had a seizure and called an ambulance instead. He was lucky the cops weren’t called. There’s no telli what the cops would have done.

Because of trouble he got into, the court gave him one year probation. It was decided he’d live with an uncle near Dallas for one year and attend tenth grade there. He was strict with him. He was also a parole officer. It ended up being his last year of formal education. He kept Jamie on a short leash. When he wasn’t in school he couldn’t leave the house. The only time he could go anywhere was when he rode his bike to see his probation officer. He learned to enjoy the long ride.

He began community service at the local boys and girls club. One evening, riding his bike home, it started getting dark. He was being careful riding on the sidewalk. A man in a truck pulled out of an apartment complex driveway with his headlights off. He couldn’t see Jamie coming down the sidewalk. He hit the front side of the truck, flew over it, breaking his left leg when he landed. He was knocked unconscious and later woke up in the hospital.

When he completed probation his uncle asked him to stay and finish school. He was doing good, but Jamie was homesick. If he had stayed would he have finished high school? Would his life be different? It was only a few short months later his life changed for the worse when a cop forced his way into their house.

The choices we make matter. He grew up without anyone teaching him why certain things matter. He sees that now. His mom did the best she could. She took care of us, fed us, bought us clothes, had my medical problems to handle, and she did a great job. Her way of teaching was giving us rules to follow and if we didn’t we got the belt. She was fierce with that belt.

Most every kid he knew came from a broken home. A mother can’t do everything. It’s harder he thinks in black families because the goal is to keep their kid safe and at from the cops. We learn early as kids we are not supposed to reach as high as white kids. There is always that shadow hanging over you. Prison is the end for so many black men – women, too, especially in the South. If you can’t go to school and a good job how do you feed your kids? The doors that line this hallway? Behind almost all of them are black men.

In his family there were four broken relationships with four dads. He didn’t know his but he’s gotta be out there somewhere. He had no dad to teach him anything. He can’t go back and fix that. If he knew it before he might’ve made different choices. He let white society push him through the pipeline to prison because he didn’t really understand years before that it existed.

Now he’s given up seventeen years of his life to pay for it by going through hell. But he knows he can choose his future. This he knows after ten years. His story has to go through those years so you understand.

One important thing he learned is he can’t run away from his life. He has a mountain to climb, and that mountain will appear wherever he is, in some form or another. If there is something he needs to learn he can’t fool himself into thinking he can avoid it or walk around it. He is where he is because this is his mountain to climb. Win or lose.

But right now he’s gonna get up and re-wet his cold pact and maybe sit down and begin writing a letter . . .

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

( Sonni’s note: The chapters of this book I’m writing is at the first rewrite stage. When it goes through a professional edit I’m sure there will be other changes and revisions. I have found, writing a book is a process.  You don’t just write it, edit it and publish it.  It takes time to put out something worth reading.  If you want to give me feedback – please do.)

 

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Subscribe to the newsletter on prison issues and inmate writings. As I build my mailing list for the book I’m writing about Jamie Cummings life, Inside The Forbidden Outside, keeping people informed along the way is important. Most of the information in the newsletter is not on this blog. We have a government now more gung-ho on locking up as many people as they can for even longer years. It is going to affect even more people who will get knocked sideways when they find themselves behind a steel door. Staying informed helps you protect yourself. Yes, it can happen to you, too.

If you know an inmate who writes poetry or is an artist or has a story you’d like to tell you can email me at: itfonews@gmail.com

Jamie Life in Prison at Face book . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

Protect yourself by having an attorney on call with an app on your phone. Stopped and given a ticket? harassed? Click on the link below and see why you need this. A friend has a brand new problem with a landlord. She had just signed up for the service. She didn’t even think about Legal Shield until I reminded her. Call me, email me, msg me at fb. It’s that easy. You can also contact me here: Legal Shield

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An Inside Out Oreo Cookie

Meet you on the hill , riding bikes
Meet you on the hill at 8 pm

“Mail call,” the female voice yelled as she came on the floor. Jamie had been asleep. Any time a woman came into the area they had to announce themselves. If they didn’t, no telling what they might catch someone doing, if you catch my drift.

As he sat up and stretched he wondered what the odds were he’d have mail today? He could use something new to read and think about. He needed some encouragement to keep going.  He gave up waiting for family to write years ago. There was a time he’d look at pictures of his family every day wishing he could see them. He missed his mama. He used to think it was his fault she never wrote him, because he caused her so much trouble when he was a kid. But now he couldn’t find any excuse good enough, no matter what anyone says. 

“I can’t write because it hurts me too much knowing you’re there.” What? Hurts who? Buy a card that says I love you. Wish you were here. Put a stamp on it and put it in a mail box. How much would that hurt? Better yet, how much would that help? Oh well, it’s long past.

He’s been ignored for so long he wasn’t able to care anymore. Oh, he knows he says that. He’d welcome her any day with big smiles but that wouldn’t erase the pain. Besides, she isn’t here anyway. No one in his family ever is. And it’s not like they lived far way. either. He doesn’t look at pictures anymore. It depresses him. They let him know how important he was to them a long time ago. 

But there might be a letter from Sonni. It had been more than a week since the last one so it might be possible.  He stood up to wait by the slot in the door just in case it opened.

She was all he had to hold on to. So many dudes in here had no one. Some of the things they had to do to survive he could never do. Prison law is different than on the outside. Some let themselves be used. Having someone on the outside was like gold. She was his only connection to this world to remember he was still part of it. She kept him sane and told him everything she knew about his boy. How he was doing in school and all that. 

They made an odd sort of family, Nana, grandson and dad in the middle like an inside out oreo cookie. She called him a Hershey Kiss ’cause he was sweet chocolate. Anything to make him smile. She did her level best to keep his head screwed on straight when he started to slip down. He needed her. She needed him. She knew things about him even he couldn’t understand, whispering in his head to not give up. Always making him think about why things are the way they are. 

At first he didn’t know why she was there. He thought he was a loser. What did she see in him? She laughed at him a little for saying this. Said she shook her head with a knowing smile. “You’re family”.  He wasn’t alone. He thought about her a lot. She was in his head. They talked. Not talk for real. He wasn’t allowed to make phone calls. They joked about imagining they were riding bikes out in the country and would go to the top of a hill and sit and talk about things. Have a picnic. They would both think about it at 8 PM so they could go together. Thinking about each other at the same time. Sometimes she’d write it at the bottom of her letters to make a date to meet outside the prison. 

Why did she care so much? Did she love him?  “Of course,”  She told him, “Love comes in many ways. Sometimes it comes and goes and you can’t remember who the feeling is attached to. But sometimes it is bigger than that. When you take it inside it becomes a part of you. No matter what, it is always there.

She called him Son. He called her Mom. At that time he needed a mother. Really she was a lot older than his mom, but she was beautyful to him. He was broken in a million tiny pieces and wanted to give up. He was going to die in here.  She came right into his cell, into his head and wrapped her arms around his being. She told him he was safe. He wasn’t alone. Don’t worry. He didn’t have anyone else to think about. She always knew when he was worrying too much. About his future. About his son. All the things he couldn’t figure out while he was in here. He didn’t know how to figure things out. He could do nothin’ about any of these things, but he worried anyway.

The biggest pain causing him the most heartache was not being able to see his son. His son, who has his name yet he is like a figment of his imagination. Born after he was sent away he has only seen him a few times in his ten years of living. His family hasn’t brought him. The mom won’t bring him. Only Sonni when she comes to visit but she is too far away to come often.

His boy, who he loves most in the world. He was afraid he would hate him for not being there. Knowing he is there, on the outside and he can’t touch him. He touched him once, when he was a toddler. It was the only time, the only time and he was lost, eyes closed reliving the memory.

“Cummings!” He heard his name and it startled him. “You got mail, really you got a box.” He had to move away to the back of the cell and stand there with his hands showing because they had to open the cell door. The guard brought in a box and a letter. Jamie thanked him. 

Only two things came in boxes. Food and books. Someone on the outside could go to the Texas prison website and order $60 in food four times a year. Not much but it was a few extras to supplement the garbage they served. Sonni got him some fun things. Cookies and Oatmeal Pies. Coffee. Something’s he could trade for stamps if he needed.

But this was a book box and he desperately needed books. They came from a used book store approved by the prison. All kinds. Mysteries, Sci fi, even romance and Westerns. 30 in all. That will keep him reading for awhile and get his mind off things and escape. But before he went through the books he settled down on the bed to read what Sonni had to say today.

He smiled. Sonni always had a lot say.

( This is not a book chapter. It is a submission for a writing class)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

itfo newsletter

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Subscribe to the newsletter on prison issues and inmate writings. As I build my mailing list for the book I’m writing about Jamie Cummings life, Inside The Forbidden Outside, keeping people informed along the way is important. Most of the information in the newsletter is not on this blog. We have a government now more gung-ho on locking up as many people as they can for even longer years.  It is going to affect even more people who will get knocked sideways when they find themselves behind a steel door. Staying informed helps you protect yourself. Yes, it can happen to you, too.

If you know an inmate who writes poetry or is an artist or has a story you’d like to tell you can email me at: itfonews@gmail.com

Jamie Life in Prison at Face book . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

Protect yourself by having an attorney on call with an app on your phone. Stopped and given a ticket? harassed? Click on the link below and see why you need this. A friend has a brand new problem with a landlord.  She had just signed up for the service. She didn’t even think about Legal Shield until I reminded her. Call me, email me, msg me at fb. It’s that easy.   You can also contact me here:  Legal Shield

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Sonni’s Pinterest

Gary Johnson on Private Prisons

Interesting twists about the prisons.  I will admit I haven’t given a lot of thought about the public prisons even though I knew the prison corporations didn’t have contracts with ALL of them.  Learning the guards unions were lobbying to keep the prisons full because their job depends on it. But doesn’t it seem morally wrong to want to keep your job at the expense of needing to keep the prisons full with anyone you can get your hands on whether they deserve to be locked up for the length of mandatory minimums?

This video is only about 7 minutes long and good points are made on both sides of the fence.  It’s worth watching.

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STAY CONNECTED!

Subscribe to the newsletter on prison issues and inmate writings. As I build my mailing list for the book I’m writing about Jamie Cummings life, Inside The Forbidden Outside, keeping people informed along the way is important. Most of the information in the newsletter is not on this blog. We have a government now more gung-ho on locking up as many people as they can for even longer years.  It is going to affect even more people who will get knocked sideways when they find themselves behind a steel door. Staying informed helps you protect yourself. Yes, it can happen to you, too.

If you know an inmate who writes poetry or is an artist or has a story you’d like to tell you can email me at: itfonews@gmail.com

Jamie Life in Prison at Face book . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

Protect yourself by having an attorney on call with an app on your phone. Stopped and given a ticket? harassed? Click on the link below and see why you need this. A friend has a brand new problem with a landlord.  She had just signed up for the service. She didn’t even think about Legal Shield until I reminded her. Call me, email me, msg me at fb. It’s that easy.   You can also contact me here:  Legal Shield

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Sonni’s Pinterest

The Waking Hour

 

Marginalized Into Nothingness

light from sky

Marginalized into nothingness.

I’ll say ‘people are being enslaved
and no one seems to care or even see them.
More concerned with climate change
than your enslaved neighbor’s freedom.’
They’ll say can’t we do both in concordance?
Both are equally important.
 
Then on another day,
I’ll say ‘children are being subject
to a school to prison pipeline
and a lot of your lifetime
retirement wages
depend on how many of our babies
end up in cages.
That should be foremost in your mind.
But you’re caught up in the fallacy
of black on black crime.
Then someone will say
‘Hey, these heartless criminals
will kill someone’s mother.
I can be concerned about one
without ignoring the other.’
 
So, a while later in another statement,
I’ll mention week after week
slave catchers are hunting us
like wild game in the street.
But instead and as part of the criteria,
your head is stuck
on chemical attacks in Syria.
Then true to form
as is the new norm
someone will mention
both of these issues deserve our attention.
 
As the problem becomes diluted
in an Occupy potpourri goo,
smothered and covered
in a long list of things to one day do,
I’ll scream out “what is an effort
to gain economic freedom worth
when this nation has the largest prison population
ever seen on planet earth?
Then like a bad case of crabs (pardon me being crass)
some ass will attach what they think is a unique opinion
and say ‘what good is freedom
if we’re still poor and broke?
That’s not winning. We need to do both.’
 
So I grumble and mumble and swear a few oaths
about twisted priorities.
Then point out in every state in the union
incarceration is mainly aimed at the poor and minorities.
While you are defending the character
of pink unicorns and alleged good cops
there are communities being served
with so many warrants and arrests
they are called million dollar blocks
And of course the meanness of marginalization doesn’t ever cease.
Someone will tell me in all sincerity
to start raising our kids better and not blame the police.
 
I say, they say, in a never-ending dance.
Always adding another
“well that other
thing is important we should give it a chance.”
 
By the time I’m done
there are 10,000 issues being heaped on our plate
when there should only be one.
Marginalized into nothingness ©Max Parthas 6/17 Maximumimpactpoetry.com

New ITFO Newletter – It’s All About The Positives

 

Sonni Quick April 2017

First of all – and this is not in the newsletter, I want to say thank you to all the people who have supported my efforts these past few years. I don’t do this for the money – because there is none.  I do this because it is the right thing to do. It’s for my family and Jamie is my family, with a child/ grandchild in between us. 

Thank you to those who have stuck with me through the learning curve of learning (still learning) how to put this publication together.  All of this is for Jamie – to write his book and have a mailing list to shout “It’s been published!! when I’m satisfied it is the best I can do. Self publish it the right way,  and learn the things I don’t know, so he will have a chance to do something positive with his life, too, when he gets out someday.  He’s heading into the summer months when the heat in Texas prisons kills and makes epileptic seizures worse.  I have met some wonderful people through this blog and connected social media. Thank you to all.  Sonni

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itfo newsletter

It’s hard to stay positive sometimes with all the garbage that is happening to make it harder on people of color and immigrants, but I will. This issue will bring out some of the positive things inmates are doing to express their talents and people who have allowed their talents to flourish. There are also people on the outside who try to make their lives better. There are also inmates and ex-felons who have blogs and they use them to tell their story and give space to others to tell their stories – so there are lots of good things to read today. Any support you can give would be a good cause to make. Do you know an artist in the pen?

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First on my list is a magazine that gives artists inside a locked facility a place to show their artwork. It branched out to offering prints on a throw for your bed or couch, artwork on a pillow and clothing. You will have to go to their website for costs and shipping – and be sure to subscribe to their mailing list.

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There is so much more.  Artists and the music video of Idalee’s “Heal” and more. In fact there is so much more there was not enough room so the rest will be in next month’s newsletter   Click on this link to take you to the newsletter.  Subscribe and share.  Too many people only hear the negative the media wants to portray about inmates without telling you about all the others.