Jamie's letters

First there was a prologue added to the new beginning.  Now there is a prologue to the prologue. As I was sorting Jamie’s letters by the different prisons he had been moved around to during these years, with the next step putting them in order, I found a letter I didn’t remember receiving. It was dated quite some time before our back and forth letters began. Before he was sentenced. Before his son was born. The pain he was in made me want to cry.

The editor I’m working with, after I gave her this letter to read, told me, “This is the beginning of your book.  Everything else comes after it. This is why you started writing to him that led to writing this book.”  It also gave me a chance to tell where I was when it started, because after all, I am the one who is writing it.

The post before this – the prologue – is ten years after this. so the title of that chapter is changed to Ten Years Later . . . The next chapter will jump back to his beginning 34 years earlier and then go linear. What do you think? Give me some input. Whether you know me and have followed along or reading about it for the first time.  Would you keep reading? Since I don’t have experience writing books, and I’m self publishing this, I am trying to learn to write the best book I can, anything helpful would be appreciated.  If you sign up for the newsletter below and follow along you’ll have a chance to download the finished product for free when it is done.

I added my newest piece of music to this post because it blew me away when I was done. It about knocked me down draining my emotions. A piece doesn’t often affect me that intensely. I usually wait 2 days to listen back so I can hear it clean, but I couldn’t wait this time to hear what I played. I hope you enjoy.  If you do, leave a comment at soundcloud. To a musician, those stats are important, too.

In The Beginning

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 Morgan 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

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

My very pregnant daughter Morgan arrived at my home by bus a couple months ago, with her two other children. No doctor in Key West would accept her as a patient this late in her pregnancy. She was already in the latter part of the second trimester. No doctor wanted to be responsible for her care and delivery, especially a doctor accepting Medicaid for insurance.

     It didn’t help her second pregnancy had problems they needed to know about when we called. After days of phone calls, we found a doctor in Miami. Every exhausting eight hour roundtrip drive, the bigger the baby grew, I could hear Morgan grunt with every bump and swerve the car made on that narrow road through the Keys.

     The closer she got to her delivery date the more frequent her appointments. It was worth the drive. While in labor she did have a problem delivery and if she had gone to the Lower Keys Hospital they would have life-flighted her to the mainland. She might not have made it on time because the baby’s umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck three times. She would not have had this doctor who saved the baby, and I would not have been there for the birth. When baby Jamie was delivered by c-section I would have still been driving crazy, over the speed limit, up that same narrow road through the keys.

     The day of this doctor 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 dropped her off in front and parked two blocks down the street. Parking spaces were always a premium. It was easier to get around town on a bicycle or moped. Everything was so close on this tiny island. I was lucky I found a parking place that close.

     Walking down Whitehead Street toward my house I passed 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. As I glanced in through the gate, six toed cats were walking lazily around the property as usual. Feral cats were a problem on Key West. I had at least twenty living under the house. They ate the eggs of all the chickens that lived in the hedges. Roosters crowed all day and all night.

     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 in the back. It was a typical Key West house nestled in the charm of Old Town, built close together because of hurricanes. Morgan was already laying down on her daybed in the guest house. I plopped down on my bed with a loud sigh of exhaustion and began sorting the mail.

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

     James Cummings is the father of Morgan’s baby. A little over 6’1”, and a little overweight, he had a pleasant face and perfect manners. He was nice. I liked him and they seemed happy.

     Unfortunately, Jamie was arrested one night a few months before when he was at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person and was arrested with him. He was still waiting at the jail for an attorney to talk to. He didn’t know yet what was going to happen to him. He knew all he had was a public defender. They are not known for being on the side of the defendant. At least not in Texas. They do the bidding of the District Attorney. He heard about that from other men at the jail, so he’s worried. Having a pregnant girlfriend made it worse.

     Nerve racking isn’t a good enough word to explain how he felt. He and Morgan were both anxious. All I could do is give her emotional support when she needed it and help with the kids when I could.

     Being black is only the first strike against him. Being poor was the second. Money buys justice and when you don’t have any, luck doesn’t fall on your side. He has no police record but Texas doesn’t much like poor black people. It didn’t look good for him because if there is no money for an attorney, would a public defender make the effort to help him the way he needed? Probably not.

     Morgan scraped money together from the paychecks she earned working for me at my store, Touched By The Sun, at the Westin Hotel. It was a busy little store right where cruise ships dock. She sent the money to Jamie’s brother, who knew somebody, who knew an attorney, who would take a down payment and pay the rest over time. He would start working to get him out.

     I don’t know what happened, but it all went up in smoke and the money disappeared with it. Jamie was stuck with the public defender who had no interest in the truth about that night. He was royally screwed, as most people are when they can’t afford to pay an attorney. There can be no justice when there is no truth. The justice system is often not interested in the truth, it is interested in filling prison beds.

     I first met Jamie last Thanksgiving, before his arrest. I had flown to Texas to visit my daughter and grandchildren. I met him the first night and he joined us for breakfast the next morning. It gave me a little time to talk with him. He was a polite young man who answered every question with, “Yes, ma’am,” or “No, ma’am.” He had a wonderful smile. It was more than obvious he loved Morgan and the kids. They hadn’t known each other very long. That’s probably why they didn’t tell me she was pregnant. I think they were worried I would be upset. It would be easier to tell me during a phone call.

     She was right. I was upset. Where was her brain? Jamie didn’t have a job. He was looking for one but availability in their area wasn’t good when you have no education. 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 doesn’t fix all, and pipe dreams don’t buy food.

     She struggled to take care of the children she already had. Her marriage fell apart and she received no child support. She knew I would worry because her last pregnancy had problems which could easily occur again.

     After Jamie was arrested, visiting him at the jail, they talked about calling me to see if she could come stay with me. Morgan knew she couldn’t do it alone. I put her on a bus and arranged the little guest house behind us for her and the kids. At least she was safe and he didn’t have to worry about her.

     During this time Morgan and Jamie needed to talk. There were promises of waiting til he got out and loving each other forever. There was such deep pain on both sides of the phone line. Their time together was cut short before it even had a chance to begin. Both were afraid about what would happen to their future together.

     The phone bill was escalating at an alarming rate. Calls from jail are expensive. Twenty-five dollars for fifteen minutes. I had to tell Jamie to cut back how often he called. Sometimes he called more than once day. I hated to do that but it was going to break me financially, and there were other added expenses getting her to and from Miami to the doctors.

     I understood, he was on the outside, worried and scared. His girlfriend was carrying his child and he couldn’t be with her. I felt bad for both of them. I didn’t want to make him feel even even more separated than he was.

     That separation was nothing compared to what was coming. It was a good thing he didn’t know.



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4 thoughts on “ITFO Book – In The Beginning

    1. This jumping around is just the beginning to set up why it is me who is writing his story. Because of the letters it is obvious he isn’t writing it. I’ve read prison stories written by the inmate, but this is more than that. My first draft wasn’t set up with any kind of backstory to know why it was being written. There was also not enough continuity to keep you reading from one chapter to the next. You could read any chapter separately. This has been a great learning experience. But when I get to the next chapter it goes back to the beginning and becomes linear. You have a little knowledge of what was going on when he was arrested; You have a day ten years later to know where he is now, and now I’ll go back and fill in the timeline. Instead of copying his letters like the first one I’m going to use pictures of any letters because it is about more than the words he writes, it is the way he writes it. Jamie has at least 6-8 different handwritings and each one expresses an emotion. You’ll be able to see his ability to write an spell improves over time. In the letter I used here, I copied it the way he wrote it – to bring out “his” voice, not mine. But thank you for your input. I don’t know about it being a modern techique. I never thought about it. But I try to read parts of books by different authors to see how they write. Amazon is great for that when you can read the first chapters and see the words they use to describe how they set up their story.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I totally get why it needs to happen and no doubt it will work brilliantly. It’s great about how his letter writing improves over time, it gives the reader a real sense of ‘character progression’, even though this is a true story – gives it a real depth and compassion. This is going to be a fabulous piece of work, I have no doubt.

        Liked by 1 person

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