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Inside The Forbidden Outside. Over the past many months I have been writing this book. What a learning process it has been. Writing a book is not like writing a blog post. I had a lot to learn. My first draft of 90,000 was an accomplishment in itself.  You can do a search on the title and bring up chapters I posted during this time that are not going to be used, although some pieces of it might. I’ve talked to authors and editors and read and read and read to learn the craft of writing. No writing is ever wasted I was told because it takes time to find your “voice”. I also had to find the focus of the book/the story I was writing. My first manuscript was missing the continuity of the story and who was speaking it?  Many people want to write a book.  Some start but aren’t willing to put in the time it takes to learn how to write something of quality. It would be like saying you are going to paint a great picture. You can buy the paints, canvas and brushes but that doesn’t mean you can paint something that looks like what you what it to be. With books, crappy ebooks on Amazon are a dime a dozen and about a dime’s profit is all they will ever make.  But they can say they are a published author for whatever that is worth to their ego.

I’ve been working with a developmental editor to help me with options on finding what it is I want to accomplish with this book or no one except people who love me will read it to the end. I’d really like some feed back on this.  Either in comments or email or facebook messages. This is just the prologue, that has gone through 5 rewrites, begins with now, 11 years into a 17 year prison sentence. After this – Chapter one flips back to the day Jamie Cummings was born.


DEAD MEN DON’T BLEED

ten years later . . .

    

Sleep? On a humid night like this? Ungodly heat sucked every square inch of breathable air out of his 5ft by 9ft cement cell. He sat up. Soaked with sweat, the worn frayed sheet stuck to his skin. He could smell his own stink. Air conditioning doesn’t exist. Texas heat rose to over 110 degrees in the summer, for weeks at a time, sometimes, with no let up. There was AC in the medical unit but only an epileptic seizure got him through those doors.

Hunched over, face cupped in his hands, he took long deep breaths of hot air. Searing pain creeping up the back of his neck created a rhythmic pounding in his head. Pain forced his lips to press together as he tried to stop himself from crying. Every day he listened to men break down from insanity. He wanted to be stronger than them but some days were harder than others. He choked his sobs down his throat until he got his emotions under control.

He stood and paced, fists clenched by his sides. He screamed at the gray walls, “I can’t take this no more,” turned and smashed his right hand fist into the cinder block wall. He watched silently as bright red blood from his torn knuckles dripped down his fingers.

“At least I’m not dead.” Dead men don’t bleed.

He reached over the toilet and turned on the water to rinse the blood from his hand. The water in the ancient pipes sputtered out rusty brown liquid. That was worrisome. What was making the water brown? Rust? Would it eventually kill him? He had no choice. It was all he had to drink.

He wadded up a small piece of wet toilet paper to wipe the bleeding and held his hand under the fan to dry. He had to be careful how much toilet paper he used. He was only given one small roll a week. God forbid he got the runs or even worms from undercooked pork and spoiled food.

Even though it was night it was sweltering. Some nights cooled down some but not this night. His cheap plastic fan only stirred hot air and dust. He wet a towel and covered the fan to blow slightly cooler air through the material. It dried quickly so it didn’t help much when he tried to sleep. Some nights, if the roaches let him alone he spilled water on the floor and lay naked on the cement.

Five minute showers, three times a week, were all he was allowed. It was his only relief, standing under cold water. Closing his eyes he craved the feel of a cool breeze; the soothing sound it made as it ruffled the leaves of a tree. From a childhood memory he could smell the scent of freshly mowed grass. He loved that smell. His imagination breathed it in and filled his lungs. People on the outside couldn’t imagine what things they would miss the most if they were locked up like this. He let his breath in and out slowly, ignoring the smell of rancid bodies sweating in other cells.

It was hard to be here for what seemed to be forever with conversations only taking place in his head. “Can anybody hear me? Is anyone there?” He yelled to the wall so he could hear the sound of his voice. “Shut the fuck up. I’m trying to sleep,” a voice down the hall answered back. Voices with no faces. Oh well, they disturbed his sleep often enough.

Jamie sat at the edge of his bed with only a three inch foam mattress for comfort. When he laid  down he felt his hip bones grind into the cement slab beneath. It didn’t make for easy sleeping. He didn’t want to know how many men had used it before him. When the guards wanted to mess with him they took away his mattress and he had to earn it back. Jamie was tall and the bed was narrow. The thought of stretching out on a king sized comfortable bed was an impossible dream but he thought about it anyway.

It was hard not to sink into depression. Sometimes, so he could think, he crawled inside himself to cope with this ugliness. It was the constant going back and forth from this reality to hope that could drive a man crazy. It was easy to forget what was real and what wasn’t.

It would have been easier for him in here if he had his family. If they had shown they loved him, sometimes, but they didn’t. He was forgotten. Seventeen years was too long for them. He only had one person he could count on who taught him he had value. That was Sonni

She was all he had to make him feel loved. As a child he was pushed down a path meant to destroy the lives of black families. Slavery was illegal, but not in the prisons. They became the modern day slave plantations. Blacks would never be equal in the white man’s eyes. It was the biggest corporate racket in the US. The school to prison pipeline is real. Most kids and adults locked up were black, but most of the people in America are white.

Jamie sat in front of his fan, the stench of unwashed bodies in every breath he took. Without thinking he reached up and caressed the scar on top of his head. He needed nine staples to close the gap after being beaten by five guards and then sprayed in the face with burning chemicals.

Sounds from down the hall penetrated his thinking and jerked him back to reality. He glanced quickly toward the cell door. It was a food slot banging shut down the hall. It must be at 3 A.M. The guards were bringing breakfast trays. Peace and quiet was almost over. So many men in this unit were crazy from being locked up so long, and some were crazy when they got here. This was now the place to stack the mentally ill. He didn’t have to wonder what breakfast was going to be. A spoon of peanut butter and two biscuits or two small pancakes? No butter. No jelly and they’d be cold. Milk or juice. Not enough for a grown man.

Some people thought inmates had it good in here. “Three hots and a cot” and free medical careand a roof over their heads. They never spent time locked up. All illness is treated with water and Tylenol. If you are really sick with heart disease or diabetes you’ll probably die if you’re here too long. They don’t care. Treating you takes away their profit.

What would he be doing right now if he hadn’t been railroaded into juvy as a kid? Would he have ended up here? What if he had been able to finish school? He wasn’t a bad kid. He was just a black kid in a poor neighborhood where people like him were supposed to live. Would he fail when he got out? He’d be almost forty. What would he do? How would he live? What changed? He heard racism was worse than ever. Cops were ruthless and got away with murder. What if they came after him again? He worried about all these things and there was nothing he could do about it.

He wished he could take classes, but he couldn’t. He wanted his GED but he wasn’t allowed being in adseg, another name for solitary confinement. How far could he get with no education? He wanted to learn things. He knew he wasn’t stupid. But getting an education means he could rise up and be somebody and that was not on their agenda. It was important blacks be kept down We could one day get good enough to knock the white man off his privileged post. We weren’t supposed to be as good as they were. Slavery didn’t end, it just moved indoors.

Oh well, today’s another day. A long, hot, sweaty day. Maybe the guards would take him for a shower. That would feel good. Maybe he’ll write a letter or read for awhile and take his mind off things. He took a look at his smashed knuckles. They were gonna be sore for awhile – a reminder not to hit the wall. His body does still bleed.

     To tell his story so it makes sense, he needed to go back to the beginning, to January 10, 1983 . . .


 

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22 thoughts on “Dead Men Don’t Bleed – Ten Years Later

  1. I would love to give you some quality feedback. I am in the same boat, just less words, so I know what that is like.

    Except I’m new to your site and there is just so much. The prison stories look so interesting and the (in)justice system is very near and dear to my heart. I also want to see your blogs and check out the manuscript. But I just don’t know where to start.

    Could you direct/guide me to the posts that will help me follow along, and especially the ones you are looking for feedback on. (I hope constructive criticism is ok, if not please let me know. I want to help not hurt.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I understand. After three years the sure gets so massive with so much to read. Any post in any month is still relevant because prison issues don’t change. If you want to know who Jamie is , at the top of the page are a list of pages and the posts scroll down on the bottom. But the to is an early page called “my name is Jamie”. The earliest posts which can be found through the archives. (I think I renamed it. It’s a drop down list) Those started out with his earliest letters, some were moved. It’s hard to understand today without understanding yesterday. As time went on I wrote or reblogged articles from other places who wrote about prison issues. You will find chapters from my first draft mixed in but I’m currently doing a rewrite as I better learned the craft of writing a book. The chapter you read, 10 years after is part of the rewrite and I have actually removed some of the “facts” not necessary to this chapter. There is also a prologue that starts with his first letter 10 years ago. Constructive criticism is what matters. I want to complete a book people will want read. It isn’t that Jamie’s life is special – it is because his life it’s the life of millions who have suffered by the hands of people who consider themselves to be great Christian Americans of the privileged white society. What do you mean by being in the same boat?

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      1. Same boat: looking to publish and in need of quality constructive criticism
        All your posts are near and dear to my heart, being both incredibly passionate about the criminal (in)justice system and a follower of eastern philosophies.
        Thank you for the reply, I will check out more as soon as I can. I look forward to reading!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I’m doing an online writing class offered by the university of Iowa. I found it by accident. We’re in week two of a 6 week course. They offer other classes. First, its free. There are about 180 students from every corner of the world. This class is on Culture in Society, taught in fiction, non fiction, short story etc. When we upload our work them you can critique others and they you. The teachers have videos and reading. Published authors and new writers working together to gain insight on your writing. Because it’s international you get a bigger concept of world views. There are also many groups you can join. It’s almost impossible to do everything. I think it would be wonderful to check it out. I know I will be a constant student as much as possible. Such a valuable resource for new writers. Just Google the uni.of Iowa and add writing classes.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. I did finally find the FAA site. I enjoy looking at your work. Unfortunately my income doesn’t allow me to do much over necessities – at this moment – because there are more than several I’d gladly hang. I’m not too sure exactly where I left the msg to get back to it for your reply.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for even visiting. You know, comments, likes, and support are all forms of payment, so all is good there. Still not sure why I thought your Redbubble comment was my FAA? Easy to get mixed up some time.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. So what do you think about doing my book cover when I’m ready. If it goes the way I would like I think it might be possible to merchandise it which would be quite different from anything I’ve seen – unless I’ve just missed it. If you like I could explain what it is I see I my head. When I dream I visual the whole thing. I don’t doubt because if you doubt yourself you will fail. I don’t believe in mediocrity – for myself. It is the difference between living your life and those who are afraid to live, because what if they fail? How do they save face? Shush. Don’t tell anyone. Then no one will know. The creative process is like the best drug I ever did – with no negative side effects. I think I lived my life, just to get to this point.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I hope the tears streaming down my cheeks is evidence the prologue is doing just what you wanted it to do – reach out and grab hold of someone’s heart.

    Prior to meeting you, Jamie would have been of no concern to me. Ignorance is not a pretty tbeen and I am not proud of mine. I will be forever grateful to you for opening up my world and introducing me to Jamie and the world in which he lives. I am working on me in ways I never thought possible. Thank you.

    Even though I felt no sympathy for prisoners prior to meeting you, I truly believe the prologue would have sucked me in anyway. It left me wanting more, a lot more!

    I am so proud of you. You have crawled through the fires of hell physically to make this happen. This is going to sound absurd but I have to say it. Jamie is so very lucky. How many of us will reach the end of our time here and be able to say that anyone loved us enough to do for us what you are doing for Jamie? I’m talking about the constant pain you live with every day and night. It would be so easy to give up and most people would. You are an inspiration to all of us. You are the most powerful role model I have. Thank you. Thank you for everything.

    Hugs and love,
    Leah

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your earlier thoughts about people in prison is common with people who have never had a connection with someone inside. Yes, there are bad people who deserve our disgust at the things they have done and they needed to be taken out of society and locked up for everyone’s protection. Those people are mentally insane. But when you look at the sheer volume of people we lock up compared to the rest of the world, if all those people deserved to be locked up, what does that say about the people in this country? That we have the most awful people on the planet? Since we know that isn’t true, people who want to get pissy about inmates and say they all deserve what they get, need to look at the reasons why they lock up so many. Why do so many fight and win to get out and end up getting settlements for false imprisonment for decades being held behind bars in inhuman conditions? The false Christianity pushed by politicians on the public to get them to vote for them, yet use the prison system for profit and are paid by prison corporations to lobby on their behalf – is disgusting. People should not be used for profit. My pain does not compare to their pain. My thanks for your kind words.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You’re writing has come a long way… but from a purely grammatical perspective, you are still using some unnecessary commas. (I know this because it’s one of the things I do all the time and it drives both Grammarly and editors nuts.)

    Not trying to nitpick or anything, but you did ask for me to watch for things like that, some time ago. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh No – nit pick away. I’ll send you a word file you can make comments on at places. That is why other people have to edit what you do because it is hard to see yourself. The woman I’m working with now is purely a content editor, not a copy editor. If you can show me what I’m doing wrong I’d appreciate it.

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    1. Thank you Lucy. That is the question I wanted to created – why is he there. One thing I’ve learned is there needs a reason for people to read the next chapter. I think of all the times I’ve been reading and wanted to stop but needed to know the next line of the next chapter and kept on reading ( or watching a series on netlix and binge watching a series )

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s great because most people’s reaction to someone serving a 17 year stretch is to feel little sympathy for their struggle or discomfort. But you get across so well that there is a genuine feeling of remorse and desire to make a better life for himself and that sparks a flicker of empathy and interest in the reader. Brilliantly done and I wish you all the very best with the novel!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. The first draft of this prologue the editor said all she could hear was my voice. Even if I’m telling the story he needs to come through. That is what I am shooting for. I’ve pulled all of his letters and I have copies of most of the letters I have send him and I am rereading them. I found his very first letter written while he was still in jail before he was sentenced. Very scared and upset because there is an unborn child he wasn’t going to get to see. My daughter moved in with me to get through the pregnancy. But he didn’t commit a crime. He was with someone who tried to commit a crime and he ran. The law doesn’t care. If you are there you are guilty. The prosecutor know there is no attorney so they force pleas on people. If you don’t take the plea they add charges. Only 3% of arrests actually go to court. Jamie was guilty of being black. I want to thank you very much for your comments.

          Liked by 2 people

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