Is it Rain or Tears – Chapter – ITFO – repost

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This is an early chapter in the book I am finishing. what a journey it has been. In this chapter Jamie is still at the jail after his arrest, before he is sent to the first prison in LaMesa, Texas. He is having problems coping. I haven’t had enough time for writing blog posts, so for those who are new to Jamie’s story – this chapter is important.

 

Is it Rain or Tears?

 

“You need to flush the goddamn toilet. You can’t leave it like that,” Jamie exploded. He raised his voice louder than the sound in the room, yelling at the man walking away from him.
     He was tired of smelling everyone’s crap. Some men have the worst toilet habits like they we’re raised by animals. They can’t flush or wipe the seat if they mess it up. The next man has to clean it, if it matters enough to him.
     Jamie bit his lower lip between his teeth, forcing himself to not throw another insult at the man walking across the room, through the isles of stacked beds. Low man on the totem pole, a newcomer to this dormitory, he got stuck in the back of the room near the toilets. The only other overwhelming smell was pungent disinfection. It got poured on everything.
     Being here was getting to him. It was too soon to let it affect his behavior. He had too find a way to keep it together. The thought of not breathing free air for seventeen years was depressing beyond words. Knowing the woman he loved was getting bigger, waiting for the birth of a son he would not be able to see, was the cruelest joke life could play on him.
       This was only the beginning of his sentence. He didn’t know how he was going to get through to the end. He was tired of this crazy old asshole coming to the back of the dorm which held dozens of bunks with men reading, sleeping or playing cards, and then leave a dump for him and everyone else to smell.
     Jamie’s bunk was in the back near the toilets, and they smelled ungodly rank. If someone was going to take a dump they’d better have the decency to flush. He was losing his tolerance for ignorance as well as losing his emotional self control. He was often angry. Angry about being here. Angry because he couldn’t change it and angry at himself for screwing up.
      It wasn’t as if the janitor came in to clean every day, or even every week. No one wanted to get up and flush the damn toilet for someone else. Some dudes think they can intimidate weaker ones as if they were some stinking ‘King of the Hill’ in a child’s game. Jamie had had enough.
      “Didn’t yo’ mama ever teach you no manners?” Jamie yelled sarcastically across the room, deliberately provoking him.
      “Oh, yeah?” This dude was clearly not liking that Jamie had the guts to get in his face. He turned around and started strutting toward him with the bowed legs of a gorilla, acting as if he thought his shit didn’t stink. “You have anything else you wanna say about my mama?”
     Jamie immediately felt sorry for the woman who gave birth to this lowlife. He must have been a joy as a kid. He clearly wanted to use this as a reason to pound somebody’s head in and thought Jamie was his next likely victim. He didn’t know what a mistake that was gonna be.
     “Da-amn,” Jamie muttered under his breath in two syllables. He was going to have to make good on what he said. He got himself together and slowly stood up. He wasn’t going to get caught off-guard sitting down.
     “Oh well.” It hadn’t been a good day so far, anyway. He might as well make it worse.

     “Oh, and you think I need to flush the toilet?” He laughed. Jamie smiled.

     As he closed the gap he spoke these words with a pause between each word. In a menacing way he walked toward him with slow, deliberate steps, trying to look more dangerous than he was capable of pulling off. Maybe ten years ago he could have, but not now. He might have scared some of the smaller men but he didn’t scare Jamie. 
     “Make me,” the man taunted him.
     He had the look of injecting too many steroids a couple decades ago and the hard muscles were turning to flab.
     “You and who else?” he demanded from Jamie. He looked like he had been in a few too many bar brawls already. Jamie didn’t care. He was strong and he knew how to take care of himself. Besides, he already had a seventeen year sentence. They couldn’t do much more to him they haven’t already done.
     The man walked over to a mop sticking up from a rolling bucket someone had left propped up and leaning against the wall. He grabbed the stick at both ends and broke it in half over his thigh. He raised the stick in his right hand, ready to swing it at Jamie’s head when he got closer.
     “Come on, mama’s boy,” the man bent forward and growled at him. “Show me what ya got.” He motioned with his fingers to come and get him.

The man would sorely regret those words. He lunged at Jamie, who beat the crap out of him all the way from the toilets, through the overcrowded room, past the open mouths of men on the bunks who were startled out of their boredom, to the locked door that led to the hall.
     Once Jamie got started he lost control and took all of his pent up frustration out on that loudmouthed son of a bitch who was never taught any manners by his mama. He knew some now, that was for sure.

Jamie didn’t quit beating him until the guards pulled him off. An ambulance arrived at the jail and took the man to a hospital. Jamie was taken to solitary confinement.
     “He’s the one who came at me,” Jamie tried to explain to the guard who cuffed his wrists behind his back and walked him to his new living quarters. The guard didn’t give a shit who started the fight.
      “So you decided to put him in the hospital?”
     “Maybe he’ll learn some manners in there, like knowing when to flush a toilet,” Jamie said under his breath.
      “What did you just say?” the guard snapped back.
      Jamie shook his head, “Nothin’.”
     “I didn’t think so,” the guard replied with as much sarcasm as he could muster.
    “You’re gonna to be staying here in this hotel room until you’re moved.” He seemed to take great pleasure in saying this to Jamie, but Jamie didn’t get upset.
     “How long will that be?” Jamie asked.
     “Where will they be sending me?” he added.
     His questions hung in the air unanswered. The guard probably didn’t know where he would be sent so it was pointless to ask again. He walked out of the cell and slammed the door. Jamie heard the sound of the lock turning. He motioned for him to back up to the small opening in the door and stick his wrists out so his cuffs could be unlocked. A second guard stood right outside the cell door making sure nothing happened.
     Jamie rubbed his wrists to get the circulation going. The cuffs had been put on as tight as possible. They wanted him to know they could do anything to him they wanted and he could do nothing about it. They weren’t going to take any chances  now they knew he had a temper.             

Jamie hadn’t meant to hurt the dude so bad. He couldn’t stop once he got started. The anger for everything that happened had been building up with no way to release it. He had to get it out.
     He had been in this jail for months waiting to see what was going to happen next. Nobody told him nothing. It was like they didn’t want to let him know what was going on. Keep him in the dark. He got some letters from Morgan who told him how his family was doing. He didn’t hear much from them himself. He did in the beginning. They were probably afraid he would ask them for money for the commissary. If they didn’t write to him they couldn’t say no. Their silence told him a lot. He was on his own.

    Morgan told him over and over she would wait for him. It was the only hope he had and he was hanging on to it for dear life. If he lost her and the baby he would have nothing to live for. He waited for every letter like it was the last letter he would get, afraid she would go on without him. Every day that passed with no letter broke him into smaller pieces. When his name was called a mail time it gave him a reason to hang on. One day at a time. That’s all he had. It wasn’t much.
     On the far end of Jamie’s 5′ by 9′ cell was a raised cement slab with no mattress that was supposed to be his bed. Not even a two inch piece of foam covered it. A folded, rancid smelling blanket was at one end. He doubted it had ever been washed. It was another way to break the inmates. Take away their humanity until they feel worthless. There was a toilet with no lid and a sink with only cold running water. A nearly empty roll of toilet paper balanced on the edge.
     If he thought the toilets smelled bad in the dormitory, that wasn’t even close to the smell in here. There was a permanent smell of piss and Lysol with the added odor of vomit and a backed up toilet that had never been cleaned. He was pretty anal about being clean, especially in this place, so this smell was an insult to his senses. 
    There was a grimy piece of polished steel for a mirror, screwed to the wall above the sink. Someone must have punched it. It was so scratched and dented it was almost impossible to see his reflection.
    A bare lightbulb stuck out from the wall next to the sink. He supposed that light was never turned off so the guards on the outside could look inside and check up on whoever was there. They didn’t have any privacy. They could watch you take a crap if they wanted to, just to embarrass you. It was a low wattage bulb, hardly enough to read by, if he had anything to read. So far no one brought him his stuff. How long would they keep him in here?
     Maybe he was better off here for awhile. Give him time to think. He needed to get his head together and figure out how he was going to handle this sentence. He couldn’t be fixin’ to beat the crap out of everyone who pissed him off. Besides, maybe if he was really good and caused no trouble they would let him out early.
     Jamie went over to the cement slab and laid down, folding his arms behind his head. There was nowhere else to sit but the floor and he didn’t think he wanted to get that close to it.
     He looked up to see a vertical, narrow window too high up to stand and look out, and too grimy to see anything. The light let him know it was still daytime. It was never daytime inside. In solitary you never knew if out was night or day if there wasn’t a window. That added to confusion and a feeling of being off balance.
     He could hear the sound of rain beating against the wire-enforced glass. When he closed his eyes and listened, the sound of the rain relaxed him. It was peaceful against the thoughts and emotions still raging through his brain. It helped clear the bad thoughts away and he felt himself begin to drift off to sleep.
     Jamie couldn’t stop his raw emotions from coming to the surface. One tear fell down the side of his face to his ear. The wetness joined with the sound of the rain running down the window pane.

 

 

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I Open My Eyes And Pray – Chapter

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I OPEN MY EYES AND PRAY

 

(This time I’m inserting the complete chapter because the end is needed for the beginning. If you do a search on the title, other chapters will pop up. anything with the book cover on it is part of the second draft. Anything else has good info, but I’m rewriting the entire book)

A newspaper and magazine began arriving in the mail in February. Sonni told him she took out subscriptions for him to help him understand his life. Jamie needed to look at his life from a different angle. He had only known one way of thinking. There was a God in the universe who made everything, controlled everything, kept an eye on you, and had a plan for your life – if you loved and worshiped only him. If you didn’t you went to hell. As far as he knew he was already there.
     That was the key. He had to love God and make Him the center of his life. God demanded that there be no other gods before him. So he knew about other God’s. Everything happened because of him, even if your life ended up in a bad place like prison.
     God supposedly created the sun and the moon and the planets – the whole shebang. If he didn’t believe that, he would die and go to hell. That was enough to scare him into believing it was true. Better to be safe than sorry, he thought.
     Recently, when he had studied Islam he learned different, interesting ideas, but it was still a God based, Supreme Being religion, except it was Allah you worshiped. Both were far away in the universe so you were expected to have faith with no answers because it had been passed down through many generations. But did that make it true? People believed in one or the other but they couldn’t both be true, right? Each had a different way of thinking about life and death.
     Jamie got into Islam because there was a community of brothers at the prison who took him in and helped him study. He liked it because they were into peace, not violence. He didn’t want to fight and it always seemed to follow him. Maybe he could learn discipline, but when he was moved to a different prison and wasn’t around them anymore there was no one to keep him on target. Praying five times a day? It was hard to keep it up by himself and he slacked off.
     Sonni didn’t tell him he was wrong or that he should stop doing it. He needed to find his own way. But little bit at a time she told him things. She didn’t tell him at first it was the way Buddhists think, because a lot of it was plain common sense when he thought about it. She gave him different options to think about.
     It caused him to be unhappy when he thought about the mess of he made of things? It didn’t have to go this way. He knew it was his own fault he ended up here, but he didn’t know how to look at it deeper than that. Why did he do things that caused him to lose so many years of his life and have to live in a place that was a living hell?
     Buddhism said if you make a cause you get an effect. Everything about his life was caused by something. It didn’t happen out of the blue. If he could figure this out maybe he could ’cause’ it to go in a better direction.
     What made him who he was in the first place? What made him different from the next person? Did God make him with epilepsy? If so it was a cruel joke.
     He did know he didn’t have to die to go to hell, because he was already there, with a bunch of other dudes. Most of them thought they were victims and weren’t really responsible for being here.
     It didn’t take rocket science to understand he needed to change his thinking or when he got out he might do the same crazy things that got him put in here. He needed to find better friends. It started with the people you chose to be in your life. But was it as easy as that? How do you meet the right people? You couldn’t look inside them to see who they were. People hid parts of themselves so it couldn’t be seen. Jamie didn’t think he was going to meet the right people in here.
     This Buddhist thinking could get pretty deep and he knew so little. It was like peeling layers of an onion. It got harder and harder to peel each layer and the smell got stronger as he faced parts of himself he didn’t like.
     He prayed and prayed to God to help him and nothing changed. He was told he needed more faith. How much faith did it take for God to notice he was hurting? The chaplain told him that is what it means to have faith, but so far his faith didn’t produce any good results. His life only got worse and worse. It was time to look at other options.
     Some of the articles in this new magazine made him feel like he could change his life, but first he had to change how he thought he ended up here. He needed to understand. It sounded so easy, but it wasn’t. He could change his thinking one minute, but if a guard mouthed off at him his anger popped out real fast before he could stop it.
     It was easy to fall into a victim way of thinking. He might deserve being here but that didn’t mean he deserved to be treated badly, like he wasn’t worth the space he took up.
He liked reading the weekly newspaper, the World Tribune, and the magazine, Living Buddhism. Did he believe everything he read? He didn’t know. He didn’t understand some of it but he was trying. Sonni said she had been studying this for a long time, so he was willing to listen. He wouldn’t understand everything right away.
     In lots of ways it was like Christianity, teaching you how to be a better person, but instead of praying to God to fix things he knew he had to fix things himself. He had the time to work it out. It wasn’t like he had anything better to do.
     Sonni was in the hospital a lot right now, sick most of the time. She was slowly climbing the transplant list. It wouldn’t be long now. He was sure she was doing a lot of chanting to keep her confidence high. But he was still worried about her and wished he could do something to help.
     All of her letters came through the Jpay system. She was having trouble typing because her hands shook from the medications. She wasn’t able to hold a pen anymore to write, so she picked out what she wanted to say one key at a time with one finger. She said it took her a long time to type a letter.

Jamie tried to turn off his brain. It hurt from so much thinking. Kicking back on his bunk he tried to think about his future instead of the past or present. Changing the past was impossible, but maybe he could do better at creating a future for himself in his brain.
Thing is, he would have never learned about this on his own, yet it makes sense. What if there had been no Sonni? What would he be thinking right now? Would he be praying? Probably, because he didn’t know anything else to do. If it was up to God to change his life he would do it when and if he was ready. It’s not up to us when that is.
     Buddhists pray, too – while they chant. But they don’t pray for something in the universe to fix them. They pray for the wisdom to understand what they need to do to fix themselves.
     Either God thinks you’re worthy or he doesn’t. Sure, he knew the phrase, you reap what you sow, but it wasn’t really taught or explained because God could always override it if he wanted. He could change a bad thing and make it disappear, but he never jumped in and changed any of the bad stuff that happened to him. God doesn’t answer all prayers so how do you know if it’s pointless to pray about something?
     Jamie had to think deeper about why he was here because it wasn’t by accident. He needed to change what he did because he never wanted to come back here, or any other prison, again. Prison made him think about his life and the ball was in his court to make it change.
     A lot of dudes ended up with another prison sentence after they got out, even though they said they were serious about doing things different and staying clean. Some had families and wanted to be better fathers. But it wasn’t always that easy and they ended up inside again. Why did that happen? Was it because they started doing the same things again that got them in trouble in the first place? Did they go back to the same friends? Maybe they couldn’t make enough money. It was hard to get a good job as an x-felon. Or maybe their old life was too tempting. It could be as simple as breaking parole; getting caught with someone who had a gun or being in the wrong place. Maybe they missed a meeting with their parole officer.

He didn’t want that to happen to him.

Jamie picked up the magazine that came in the mail today. He rolled his blanket into a pillow and lay down on the floor. After reading for a while he decided to chant a little. He told Sonni he would. It did make him feel better. It took deep breaths to chant and that helped him relax. He tried to block things out in his mind and think about positive things he wanted to happen when he got out.
     He never thought doing something like this would be interesting. It was like meditating and he enjoyed doing it. Could he really use chanting to improve himself? He felt it helped him focus his thoughts. That was a start.
     The magazine had articles about experiences people had when they set a goal and chanted to reach it. He liked reading those stories.
     There is a man who is the leader of the people who practice this type of Buddhism. There is more than one kind of Buddhism just like there are many different kinds Christianity and lots of different churches. His name is Daisaku Ikeda. He teaches the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin. There is also Zen, Tibetan and Shinto Buddhism and others. They aren’t the same, just like Mormons aren’t like Catholics.
     “Nam myoho renge kyo is like the roar of a lion. Therefore what illness can be an obstacle,” Jamie read aloud from a page in the magazine.
     Reading the words was easy. He could skim it and move on, but there had to be a deeper meaning. If he didn’t take the time to try to understand it would be pointless.
     A lion is powerful – King of the jungle. When a lion roars animals stop and listen. So chanting is like a powerful roar that goes out into the universe. Reading the article he learned that the power of chanting can break through obstacles. An illness isn’t always being sick. It is anything that has the power to defeat you.
     The hardest thing about living your life alone, stuck in a small cell, is there is nothing to do but think. No matter how hard he tried not to, it was impossible to stop his brain from latching on to every thought that went though it. It was exhausting.

Jamie looked up toward the window. He couldn’t see much but he knew the sun was out. It was a good time of year. April was was one of the few months where it wasn’t too hot or too cold. Daytime and night hours were both comfortable. March wasn’t bad, either, but come May you could feel the heat start to rise. It would be good if he could be taken outside for rec. He’d like to see the sun. It got depressing being inside too much never getting any fresh air.
     Today was commissary. The guards should be coming soon to take him down. It usually happened once a month, unless they were on lockdown. Then it was canceled. There was a little money in his account that Sonni sent. He needed to get hygiene – deodorant, soap and some stamps if he had enough. If he runs out of stamps they’ll still send letters, but they’ll take the money back the next time Sonni sends any. What he really wanted was some chocolate. That put a smile on his face. Chocolate tasted like freedom If he closed his eyes when he ate it.
     Jamie got up and stood at the sink with a couple pieces of dirty clothing. He soaked the shirt he had taken off this morning when he did his bird bath at the sink. Using his last tiny piece of soap, he scrubbed the shirt the best he could and let it soak in the water a few minutes before rinsing it out. He hung it over the edge of the sink to dry while he waited for the guard to come and cuff him.
     When he could, Jamie washed his own clothes. He doubted if soap was put in the washers. Either they were cutting costs or the inmates running the huge commercial washers couldn’t be bothered.
     They also crammed the clothing in the washers so tight he doubted water could get through it and get everything wet, let alone washed and rinsed. When he was given clean clothes, like after a shower, they always smelled like the men who wore them before him. Even when he didn’t have enough soap he still rinsed them out. The water that came out of the faucet often had a bad smell so his clothes never smelled good, like he remembered when he was young and his mom did laundry.
     Jamie heard the guards stop at his cell door. There were always two when they had to take him somewhere. He turned his back to the door and waited for the food tray slot to open and put his hands through it to be cuffed. He moved away from the cell door and turned around.
     It was uneventful. The other guard felt him up like normal to make sure he wasn’t hiding nothing and put the chains on his ankles. Off they went. He forgot what it felt like to stride down the hallway at his natural speed. He could only separate his legs about a foot so it was more like shuffling than walking. Anyway, it felt good to get out of his cell.

     “Mind if I tag along?” Jamie smiled. He heard Sonni’s voice behind him.
     “What are you smiling for?” the guard asked, looking over at him.
     “Oh nothing,” he said back. “It feels good to be walking. Don’t you think it’s a beautiful day?”
     The guard snapped at him, “Don’t get smart with me, asshole, or I’ll return you to your cell and you can forget about commissary.” Jamie turned his face and was silent. He really wanted to go to commissary today or he’d have to wait a month.
     Sonni didn’t have to be quiet, though. She laughed at the exchange. “I’ve never had a chance to see the rest of this place so I thought I’d walk along.”
     Jamie never knew when she was going to pop in and he was sure glad to see her. She was looking good, but he realized that was the way she wanted him to see her in her dream. She was the one dreaming this time. She had a massive shot of chemo into the tumors in her liver not long ago and her hair fell out. You wouldn’t know that looking at her today. Her hair was long and silky-baby fine. It was also very strange seeing her walk beside him and the guards had no clue she was there. If they knew, they would be freaking out right now. It was hard to keep from laughing. He coughed instead.
     They walked down several hallways and through a few double sets of locked doors until they came to the commissary. Sonni was looking left and right taking it all in.
     “It’s an unfriendly place, isn’t it?” she asked. “The air is really stale.”
     She stood to the side when it was Jamie’s turn to go up to the counter that blocked the entrance to the room where they kept the commissary items. A woman was standing there and asked him for his ID. She needed to look him up and see if he had money on the books.
     “You have twenty dollars in your account,” she told him without looking him in the eye. Jamie told her what he needed.
     They walked back to his cell in silence and waited to talk until the guards left. If he appeared to be talking to himself they might think he was nuts. He didn’t want to give them any reason to write him up.
     “I’ve been worried about you,” Jamie told her quietly.
     “I know,” she said. She wanted to take his hand, but couldn’t. Living without the touch of another human being is hard. We were meant to be touched.
     “You’re so sick and there is nothing I can do,” he told her. “If something happens I won’t know.”
     “I’ll find a way to make sure you know, ” she assured him.
     “You’re all I have, the only one who shows me you care and I don’t want to lose you. I don’t think I can take that.” Jamie talked fast to get the words out. He didn’t want her to see him getting upset.
     “I know you are much sicker than you appear,” he looked down and almost whispered the words.
     “Isn’t that the beauty of dreams?” Sonni smiled as she talked.
     “We can go anywhere and be anyone we want.” She glanced over at the bed and saw the World Tribune laying there.
     “Have confidence,” she told him. “You’ve been reading, I see. What do you think?” She sat down on his bed and patted the thin mattress beside her for him to sit.
     “It sure makes me think about things I never thought about before.” Jamie nodded his head as he answered.
     “This is deeper thinking than anything I learned in my life before. It doesn’t say you have to believe in something you can’t see, but you should believe it anyway.”
     Jamie tried to find the words to explain what he meant. “Believe what you know to be there. See the actual proof of changes in your life.”
     “When you see what is happening in your life, something had to cause it to be there,” Sonni finished his thought and continued. “There are no accidents or bad luck. There is only effects of decisions you made, although it goes deeper than that because this isn’t our first rodeo show. If you focus on where you want to be in your life and seek the wisdom to change your life, you can.”

Sonni stopped there. “There is so much more to learn, and prison is giving you the time to learn it.”
     “It’s time for me to go now, Jamie, but I’ll be seeing you again soon.”
     That fast she was gone. She faded and disappeared like a genie in a bottle. Jamie sat there and went over everything in his head. It was quite a day.
     He still had hard years to get through, but everyone had hard years in one way or another. We all live some good years, too. Hopefully he’ll have lots of good years in his future.
     Even though Sonni is sick, she still has freedom. He doesn’t have freedom and without it, it isn’t much of a life. He can only pray things will get better for her, as he knows she prays for him. That’s all he can do for her. But Buddhists don’t close their eyes and pray, they open them and send their prayers into the universe and pray for protection.

Jamie picked up the World Tribune and began reading again where he left off.

 

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Looking Into the Crystal Ball – Chapter

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I decided to publish this chapter again for people who are new to Jamie’s story – as I continue to work on the second draft – to create interest. This is the first chapter after the prologue as he learns, from jail  about his public defend and his sentence.

There are other chapters and partial chapters available to read as well as music and videos finished that are for the chapters that have the same title. You can find the music and videos at my website sonniquick.net. This is the video and music for this chapter.

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LOOKING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL

 

One after another, thoughts kept racing through Jamie’s head. What was going to happen to him? Life would never be the same. His court date was today and he didn’t have a clue what was going on. Didn’t he need an attorney? He couldn’t represent himself. How many years could they give him? He had no idea but he had a feeling this wasn’t going to be a good day.
     A black man like him, born and raised in Texas would get as many years as they could possibly give him. Racism is alive and well and Texas ranked with some of the worst. They would lock him up whether he deserved it or not.
     Depending on your race, the same crime gets different sentencing. Looking around the room at the dozens of three tier bunks lined up across the floor it was easy to see there was more black skin than white. Maybe white men didn’t commit as many crimes in Harris county. That was a laugh.
     Jamie needed someone to talk to. Somebody on his side who would listen and help. He wanted to explain he did not go out that night with his friends so he could rob a club. He wasn’t the one who had a gun in his back pack. He didn’t even know the guy had a gun until he talked about it in the car. It sounded like he was joking. He didn’t think the dude was serious. If only he did something to stop him things would be different right now.
    Morgan wrote him a while back and said she tried to get him a lawyer but it didn’t come through. She sent money to his brother who had a friend who knew an attorney who would take a deposit. Payments could be made on the balance.
     It sounded kinda hokey to him but it was the only thing he had to hope for. Trust him or do nothing. They should have done nothing because the money disappeared. Morgan lost money she could have used herself for the kids.
     He knew his mom didn’t have any money to help him. Morgan sent money she made working at her mom’s store. He knew he was on his own. He would feel better if he could at least see her, but that wasn’t going to happen. She was too far away.
     Jamie’s life was falling apart. How could he control what was happening? He was never going to see his son be born. He wanted go be a father but he could kiss that goodbye. There would be no holding him or being the kind of dad he never had. The cycle of being raised without a father wasn’t going to be broken.
     Life wasn’t supposed to be fair all the time, but he felt his life had never been fair from the time he was born. He grew up being told to believe in God. Have a blessed day and all that. There was no reason not to believe, but he didn’t think God had done much to bless him lately. He prayed desperately since this happened but it didn’t do much good. Tears began to well up in his eyes, threatening to spill down his cheeks.
   “Choke it down, Jamie,” he told himself. “Don’t let it show.” If he started to cry he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to stop.
     “If anyone saw you they would think you weak,” he whispered under his breath. They would gang up on him to make him their whipping boy. He wasn’t about to let that happen.
     Today was supposed to be his day in court but nobody talked to him about it. He was scared. Hs heart was beating in his head and it echoed in his ears.

      Jamie leaned against the grate covering the window and hooked his fingers into the metal and stared outside, watching the day as the seconds and minutes of his life passed by. Everything outside looked normal. He could see people coming and going.
     Clouds were creeping across the blue sky as if today were a normal day like all the rest. It wasn’t normal for him. He wanted so bad to leave the building and walk out into that day and be free. Could he change what was happening? Not likely. It took all his willpower not to scream.
     “Cummings, you have a visitor.”
    Jamie was lost in his thoughts. He didn’t hear what was said. The guard raised his voice. “Cummings, wake up.” He almost yelled when he repeated it.
     Startled, Jamie whirled around to face him. He had a visitor? His first thought was of Morgan. Was she here?
     “Your attorney is here. You have to come with me.”
     “What attorney? Jamie shot back. “I don’t have no attorney.”
     “You do now.”
    Jamie was apprehensive. His mind began to race. Nobody told him someone was coming. Shouldn’t he have been told? How would he have time to help him now? There wasn’t time. He had been in here waiting for months. Why was he only coming to see him at the last minute? He hesitated before he began walking toward the guard.
    “We don’t have all day.” The guard insisted. ” Get a move on it.” Jamie turned around and let the guard cuff his wrists. There was no going anywhere outside this cell without cuffs. There were some men who would try to hurt the guard or anyone else on staff just for the fun of it.
He half stumbled when the guard gave him a small shove to start him walking. Down the hallway past three closed doors, the door to a small windowless room was standing open. When they walked inside, a man in a suit was waiting bedside a metal table bolted to the floor. Jamie didn’t remember seeing him before.
     He was a skinny man with acne scars spread across his cheeks. He glared at Jamie with contempt in his eyes. His thinning hair combed over the top of his bald head was a poor attempt at pretending he had hair. Poor dude. Jamie was sure he the public defender assigned to him. Maybe this was the only lawyer job he could get. He didn’t seem too happy to be here.
     Jamie needed someone who could help him, but this man didn’t seem like he enjoyed his job very much. He swept his arm in a gesture over the table which told Jamie to sit down.
    The man continued to stand and glare at him with his arms crossed over his chest with a ‘don’t mess with me’ attitude. It was a power move to show he was the authority in the room.
    The guard removed his cuffs. Jamie sat and waited for the man to talk. He was uncomfortable but he wasn’t going to let it show. The attorney took his time, letting his gaze slowly wander from his head to his hands as if he expected Jamie to jump up real quick and attack him.
It wasn’t the first time a white man looked at him like that, assuming he would be violent if given the chance. Jamie wasn’t a little man, but that didn’t mean he went around attacking people.
     “You’re in deep trouble, son,” the attorney began his practiced spiel.”You don’t have many options.” Son? He called him son? Was that his way of sounding superior?”
    How many times had this man repeated the same line, Jamie thought. Before he could continue, Jamie tried to talk. “I want to explain what happened. I didn’t . . .”
      That was all he managed to get out before this man, put both fists on the table, leaned over and looked him dead in the eyes.
      “I’m not interested in hearing your story. I don’t care what you did or didn’t do.
       “I need to . . .”
      “You don’t need to do anything. I said . . .” He hesitated for a few seconds, “I’m not interested. Tell your story to someone else. All you need to know is, the District Attorney has a case against you and your only option is to plead guilty.”
    He paused for a moment as he drilled that statement into Jamie’s head. He broke eye contact to take a few papers out of his brief case and lay them on the table.
     “You need to sign these papers admitting to guilt. I’m here on behalf of the DA who is offering you a plea deal of forty years. I advise you to take it.”
     Jamie stared him, stunned. What the hell? He was trying to scare him and it was working, Was he serious? Forty years? No way would he agree to that.
     “They have you dead to5th right, running out of a club after robbing it,” the attorney emphasized, rapping his knuckles on the table several times.
     “The money was found on your friend, in the car you were driving. There is nothing to defend.”
     Jamie stood. He could feel his anger rising. He was being railroaded. One case finished, on to the next sucker who couldn’t afford to pay for an attorney?
     “I’m not going to agree to that. I didn’t do it. I might have been there, but I didn’t have anything to do with what my friend did.” He knew it didn’t matter. Being there made him an accomplice. But he couldn’t go down without a fight. Forty years was beyond anything he thought could happen. “I want to go in front of the judge. No way am I pleasing guilty.”
     “Have it your way.” He put the unsigned papers back in his briefcase and closed it. Picking it up, he walked out.
     Jamie stared after him, speechless. “Now what?” he asked the guard who was leaning against the wall watching this while thing go down.
He shrugged. He didn’t make a move to take him back to the cell so Jamie sat down, waiting to see where this was going. There was no point in trying to talk to the guard. Twenty minutes later the attorney walked back in. 

     “I have another option for you and I advise you to take it,” the attorney instructed impatiently. He began tapping the toe of his shoe on the floor. “There won’t be another one.”
     It was obvious he wanted this signed and done. He didn’t want to waste any more of his day on Jamie.
     “You’re lucky.” He continued. “The DA must have a soft spot for you.”
Sarcasm dripped from his words. Jamie wondered what he did to make him dislike him so bad. He obviously didn’t want to defend him even thought it was his job. How many other people had he already said this to today?
     “Seventeen years,” the attorney paused to let it sink in. “If you don’t take it, and insist on going to court and wasting everyone’s time, they will slap on extra charges. You’ll end up doing fifty to ninety-nine.”
    “What charges?” Jamie demanded. He slammed his hands down o.k. the table. The attorney ignored him. “What about wasting years of my life?” he added.
     “I need time to think about this,” Jamie told him. How could he agree to give up the rest of his youth without a fight? He didn’t plan what his friend did at the club. Why should have to pay for it with so many years of his life? What would that prove?
      There were four of them that went out to the club that night. He had no idea what they were going through. Were they offered the same deal? He needed answers but there was no one who was going to give them to him.

     The dude who had the gun had been to prison before. He had a record so they probably went harder on him. Why did he go out that night? Why? If only he had stayed home.
     “You have five minutes.” the attorney told him. I’ll be back for your answer.”

How was Jamie supposed to know what to do in five minutes? This was wrong. He didn’t know how to fight it. This man was the only attorney he had and it was obvious, defending him in court was something he had no interest in doing. Why? Isn’t he supposed to defend him? Wasn’t that his job? He guessed not when the DA wanted it to end another way.
     Right and wrong didn’t matter. There was no such thing as justice. Another body to fill a prison bed. The only thing that mattered was locking up as many people as they could. Not just any people – black people. They went after Hispanics and other minorities, too.
     The government wanted to fill the prisons with poor people who couldn’t afford to protect themselves or pay for a real attorney. Racism toward blacks keeps growing. Why? Because they think black people wanted to knock white people off their pedestal of superiority? But most blacks and minorities only wanted to survive and raise their families. They wanted equality. They weren’t going to get it.
     Jamie didn’t understand it? He didn’t know all the history. He did know what he witnessed, though, and he heard the stories people told about why they were in jail.
     There was no way for him to come out on top of this. He was screwed no matter what he did. If he fights he loses.
     Jamie started to stand up but the guard glared at him with a look that said, “Don’t even try.” He sat back down and waited for the attorney to return. His brain was going a hundred miles an hour. How long would seventeen years feel. It was almost as long as his whole life up till now. He was only twenty- one.
     Should he take a chance and go to court? Possibly give up his entire life? He didn’t know what other charges they could add. They could make up anything they wanted.
     He closed his eyes and put his head back. He had no choice. His unborn son had no choice, either. He wouldn’t have a father. He would be giving up ask thought of raising his son. If he did all seventeen years he would be almost out of high school. They wouldn’t know each other.
     Morgan would have to go on and find someone else. It killed him to think about that. The pain ripped him in two. He couldn’t expect her to wait. Maybe he could get out early. Maybe he could get parole.
     So many unanswered questions running through his head at the same time. His five minutes are over. He heard the door handle click when it unlocked. The attorney stepped back into the room.
     “What’s your answer?” Jamie looked down, reached out his hand and signaled with his fingers for the papers.

 

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Glimpse Into Book Two – Where is Jamie Today?

wh jamie2

This is not a book chapter. This time period takes place about the time book 1 of Inside The Forbidden Outside ends. Book 1 will not go to the end of his sentence. The sequel begins in 2016 and finishes his incarceration,  his experience of getting out and what happens next. Where does he go? How does he experience freedom and what is his relationship with his family, most of all his teenage son?

This is a glimpse into Book 2

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It was almost the end of 2018 and Jamie was glad to get out of Allred Unit. There had to be a better prison than this to finish his time in. It was okay at first. They seemed more respectful of the fact that they were human beings, but it didn’t last.

It was pretty clear they weren’t gonna to be letting him out of adseg.  He had never been in regular population, but they had classified him as a threat to other inmates. That was their last reason for not moving him out of adseg and he knew it was an excuse.

It was a desperate move he made to get transferred out of Wynne Unit in 2014. He felt the threat of constant physical violence from the guards and he had no protection from them. It was hard to keep his anger in check. The pushed and pushed, trying to get him to retaliate. Having five guards pick him up and slam his head into a wall was only one thing they did. Beating him up in the hall after being allowed to make an emergency call to his mother when she was in the hospital was another. The list was a long one.

He was in G5, (Adseg.) and that was nothing new. He had spent most of his time in state prison in this bottom rung of the prison. A majority of inmates stay in population. Their time is not fun, either, but it is not the hell of segregation. The loneliness alone will get you if the smell doesn’t choke you.

Before he was moved from Wynne he had done the required years of adseg, locked down 23/7 and allowed no freedom unless you considered being shackled and taken to commissary once a month, showers or being to go to the medical unit – if they took him – to be a benefit of freedom. But he wasn’t safe. He tried to stay clear of the guards. They were supposed to move him up to the level classification of G4 but was told there wasn’t an empty bed.

The best thing about G4 is he could walk to chow for his meals, but always with eyes open in the back of his head. All he had to do was look someone in the eye for a knife to get stuck in him somewhere by someone who was told to stick him. He had no friends – and he wanted no friends. You didn’t know who you could trust. He only wanted to get through his time in one piece.

He was in limbo, being kept in solitary confinement. They took away his property, sometimes even his mattress. He had a cellmate for awhile and he let him borrow his mattress if he wasn’t using it.

**********

You will read about this in more detail later in the book chapter of that year. Currently I am writing about 2012 and a lot happens in between then and now. Subscribe to ITFO NEWS below to read about the progress of the book and soundtrack.

**********

Jamie had to get out of Wynne and the only way to do that was to threaten a guard with harm. It worked. They moved him to Allred. The punishment he received was a year in adseg, but when he got there he was told he had to do two years. It was their protocol. The more men they had in adseg the less men they had to deal openly in other parts of the prison where the could congregate.

After two years they wouldn’t release him and said, “Next year we’ll let you out,” so he waited.

At three years they wouldn’t release him and said, “In six months we’ll let you out,” indicating if he could continue to have no write-ups in his file the would get moved – so he waited a little longer.

At three years and six months he had a hearing and was turned down again, but they said, “If there are no problems, for sure you’ll be getting out in six months.” Jamie felt good about that. It felt like a sure thing the way they said it – they were going to let him out. He wanted desperately for that to happen. He was at his breaking point. The next level above G4 was G2. Then he could get a job, probably janitorial, and he could apply for a class to study for his GED and possibly a trade.

Six months came around – the four year mark and he felt good about it. He didn’t allow anything to get in his way and screw things up. He kept a positive attitude. When he went to his meeting they told him, “We’re sorry, but we still aren’t going to let you out. We think you’re a threat to the population.”

Jamie was dumb-founded. He stood there, shocked and speechless. He wanted to show his anger. It took every ounce of self control he had to keep his not shut. They had to know he would be angry and were watching to see what he did. There was so much he wanted to say but he knew arguing with them or saying anything would look bad. He silently went back to his cell.

He wrote a letter to me and said, “You would have been so proud. I would not give them what they wanted.” How could they say he was a danger to population? He had never been in the general population since he got there four years ago. Population is G2.

Besides, Jamie wasn’t a trouble maker. He minded his own business. It was the guards who didn’t mind their own business. But there was a real danger in G2, too. A lot of dudes had weapons and they used them if they thought they needed to, or if they just didn’t like you. Maybe their mental illness got the best of them that day. There were also gangs and lots of drugs. But there was also the library and classes so he could prepare himself for the outside, so that is where he needed to be. He had made it to G2 once before but the guards set him up by planting a knife in his cell and back to adseg he went. He had applied to study for his GED but that is a far as it got.

One day he heard about a program at a different prison, Hughes Unit, between Austin and San Antonio. It was a 35 week program, 5 – 7 week steps of therapy. Talking about goals and anger management. It could good for him. It would get him around people, too. He was starved for people to talk to where he didn’t have to yell to another cell to talk. Maybe this could be the start of something good.

He was accepted and transferred – with only the clothes on his back. He had to leave his property behind. His books and letters and everything he saved would take a couple months to catch up to him. He really bored and had nothing to read. Was this was going to be worth it.?

He wrote to me and asked, “Books, could you please send me some books?”  I  have a favorite place where I buy books for him and I have used them for years. It’s book store in Texas  imailtoprizons.com that is approved by the TDCJ – The Texas department of criminal justice. They sell new books and used books, single books, and book lots. 3′ of books, about 30 books for $35. It’s good deal. But I can buy 1-3 books, too.

You can’t choose the books you want in the big lot of 30 books, but when you’re locked up, you don’t care what it is, you’ll read anything – over and over. You can barter the ones you don’t want to read again for things you need – if they don’t catch you because it is a punishable offense. These books come in grab bags. You can choose between women’s stories or just an odd collection of other books. Jamie likes westerns. These grab bags are more quantity than quality but there many good titles, too. It will give him a month of new reading. A book a day. They also sell game books like soduko crosswords and word search.

They also have women’s lingerie magazines. I’ve gotten him a few of these. They aren’t naked. No porn,  but it is pretty women in sexy lingerie and gives them something to use with their imagintion. Being locked up for years as a straight male in the prime hornyness years, it must be extremely frustrating. That is why men who are totally straight end up having sex with each other because the lack of sex drives them to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do. It becomes normalized because they are so far outside normal society.

“And food, could you send me a food box? They are feeding me food loaf and it is made from spoiled food. I can’t eat it and I’m hungry.”

I was allowed to send a box, picked from a small selection of commissary food. $60 value every 90 days. About 60 cents a day. Raman noodles, instant rice, noodles, instant refried beans, oat meal, coffee. There was junk, but I tried to buy things to fill him up, mostly starches with empty calories which promote diabetes –  rampant in prisons.

To be continued. . .

**********

I went through earlier music I recorded, going back a few years, before I started recording for the book. I was back on my feet after a liver transplant and rewarded myself with a new piano. I hadn’t learned yet what it could do, and was only beginning to learn the style I play in now – improvisation. I had always structured and written music before this – wrote the chord charts and even hand charted piano arrangements ( before computers did it for you.) Improvising is as different as boogie woogie and Classical. To play improv, I believe you need a good understanding of music theory like you need to know the structure of language before you can write a book. They both have a learning process to go through to free your mind to write. If you don’t know music theory you’re flying blind and any good musician will hear, you don’t know what you’re doing. Unfortunately, most musicians who think they are free styling improv music sound like amateur musicians. I thought I would add one of those early piano pieces here. This was not recorded for the book:

Listen to One in a Million by Sonni Quick #np on #SoundCloud
https://soundcloud.com/sonni-quick/one-in-a-million

 

 

Crazy Dreams and Sleepless Nights – chapter

Time. More time. What does it mean, Jamie thought. So many countless hours of time were spent trying to figure that out. How does he use this time he was given as a sentence? Why is it called a sentence? Because there is an end? This was time stolen from him he can never get back. Never. Time that was meant for his son.
He didn’t have a record before this. It wasn’t like he had been in and out of jail. Juvenile detention didn’t count. He did that time for his brother to protect him. Yes, he was with the dude who had a gun and robbed a club, but he wasn’t the one who did it.
He panicked and ran and got caught. What was seventeen years in prison going to change? There was no point to this. Did it take that long to know he had to pick better friends?
He had no friends. He was never free long enough to make friends that mattered. There was only Morgan and the kids. That is why it mattered so much. She was the only one out there that had been part of his life except for his family. Now he was in here and he needed someone out there where he mattered, someone to come home to. He had to face it; she wasn’t going to be there because she went on with her life. To continue thinking about her being there was stupid and it always made him feel bad.
Jamie sat there with tears in his life, like he always sat there. He closed his eyes and rocked back and forth. He tried to think of something else, but he couldn’t. He was tired of thinking about his memories. They were worn out.

It wasn’t a good feeling knowing he was as a prisoner because they said he was a danger to society. His side of the story was pointless, so he was convicted and sentenced without anything from him. That’s how they do things.
So he guessed he was lost, hidden somewhere in this concept of time. Time to eat. Time to shower. Time spent on lockdown. Wasted time. Endless time. Time to sit and think. He didn’t have enough to do to fill the time.
Jamie spent a lot of time staring at the walls. Strange, when he thought about it. He spent his time like he was feeding coins into a vending machine.
Sometimes he kicked and beat his hands on the walls when he got fed up and wanted to lash out. It was how he handled frustration. But today he sat calmly on his bunk and stared at the wall, imagining a different world on the other side. He could see through it if he concentrated. When he focused, he could see his son playing outside and talking to his mom, asking where his daddy was and if he was ever going to come home. Thoughts like this killed him with pain, so why did he do it to himself, over and over?
Jamie remembered when he was young he wondered where his own father was, and why he was the only kid in the family who didn’t have one. He learned to not think about it because it didn’t do no good. He never got a real answer so he stopped asking. He didn’t want his son to go through the same thing he did, but he was and it hurt to know it was his fault.
How could he shake these feelings when they crept up on him and went round and round through his brain? Times like this he missed Morgan and his son the most. If only things could have been different.
The feeling of loss settled on his heart like a heavy blanket and suffocated him. He felt so alone.

How good it would be if he could sit and have a conversation with someone today, just to talk about stuff. No yelling to another cell, but a real talk. Yes, he had Sonni, and they talked. It helped a lot, but that could be him going crazy. He had to think about that. It wasn’t normal. If he told anyone they would for sure think he had lost it. But he hadn’t seen her in weeks. He hoped she was okay.
Jamie sighed. The more he tried to pass the time the slower it went. He laid on his bed and stretched out. Then he turned on his right side and curled into a fetal position. He wrapped his left arm around his knees so he had something to hold and put his other arm under his head. He laid there, slowly breathing, not moving.
When someone goes to prison his head changes. He’s not the same anymore, he knew that. He had to grow up, but without experiences that would teach him the right way to do things. He had little wisdom.
Will people he knew only see him as he was years ago? What if no one took the time to see who he became? Have they changed, too? There were so many things that happened since he got here that have shaped who he is today. More will happen.
Jamie hadn’t gotten used to the changes that happened to him during his four years in juvenile detention before he ended up here. What did he learn about life? He knew he didn’t have enough practice living on his own. Here he was, a grown man, and he hadn’t experienced yet how to take care of his own life and how to deal with the problems of everyday living without someone to lean on.
He might think he would be okay and make the right choices but he only knew what he knew. He didn’t know what he didn’t know, if that made any sense. Could he count on people helping him when they weren’t helping him now? One thing was certain, though. He didn’t have to wiry about it right now. He wasn’t going anywhere.
He spent far too much time with his own thoughts. Why did no one think he needed help to survive. He wasn’t thinking just about money. He needed to know he mattered. He wanted to knowWas he not worth it anymore just because he was in a prison?
No letters came asking him if he was okay. Did he need anything? Without Sonni . . . he left it at that. He didn’t know what he would do without her, and she was so sick. It wasn’t fair to expect her to be there.
If someone took the time to find out how he was, where did they take it? Did they leave it wherever they took it for someone else to find? Did it get lost, too? If it was found, would the time be added to the end of his sentence? He was losing it.
These were the thoughts that could drive a man crazy. When he left this prison one day he would not be the same person anymore. He would be a stranger to everyone.
He won’t have to worry about that for a long time because there was still a lot of time to go. Go where? Insane? Hurry up and wait.

This was how Jamie spent his lonely hours. No matter what, his mind never stopped. Time became the enemy and he wanted to scream, to prove to himself he still existed. No wonder so many dudes in here went crazy.
Doing time, that was how a prison sentence was described. “How much time did he get?” The more time you got told people how bad the crime was, whatever you did, or didn’t do. What was scary is you didn’t have to commit a crime to get a sentence of time to do. You only needed to be accused of something to get put in here and if you or your family didn’t have the money to pay for an attorney you could kiss a chunk of your life away. It affected poor people the most, Blacks and minorities. The kids all seemed to lose their dads at some point.
Someone might say he didn’t get enough time as if how much time he got could make a difference and make everything be okay again. But frankly no one cared how much time he had to do.
Doing time. How can you “do” time? What do you do when you do time. He almost laughed trying to come up with an explanation for that. He was bored. He had nothing to do. Maybe time will stop.

This was his life – every day. Every single damn day. This was how mental illness snuck up on you if weren’t careful. He tried not to have conversations with himself, speaking both sides as if he were talking to another person. What if someone listened?
He stopped placing and stood silent for a few seconds. Did anyone hear what he and Sonni talked about? They had to. But did they hear what she said? Or was it only in his head? Maybe he spoke both parts? That couldn’t be possible because he could hear her, and he didn’t know what she was going to say, did he? He didn’t dream up her part of the conversation. At least he didn’t think he did. No one ever said anything about hearing him talk to himself. That was too weird.
Then he remembered the first time she came to visit when he called the guard to his cell. He couldn’t see her, so he thought his secret was probably safe.
Jamie wished she would come+ again soon. It had been awhile. He hoped she was okay.

The holidays had finally passed, his birthday, too. He was glad of that. Get these depressing feel good days over with because they didn’t feel very good to him. Starting with Halloween, a kid ‘s fun time he will never get the chance to experience with his son.
Then came Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and his birthday. All that happened in a little over two months, bang, bang, bang, and it was depressing. Now he waited for Valentines Day. He knew by now he would spend it alone. It was just another day.
Laying there he fell asleep. He slept so much that one day an officer came by and asked him if he was okay. Sleeping was one way to pass the time, back and forth from reality.

Everyone dreams. . .

Jamie woke up and found himself walking down a driveway. “What the heck,” he murmered to himself as he looked around.
There was snow on the ground and the sidewalk that wound around to the front door of the residence had been shoveled and cleared. Funny, he should be cold because he was only wearing his prison whites, but he didn’t feel cold even though it was January. The air felt weird, like the time he went to the hospital. He wanted to experience it as long as he could.
Jamie had never been in snow before. The only snow he saw was in pictures. He glanced at the back of a car in the driveway next door and it had Pennsylvania plates. This must be Sonni’s house. He couldn’t see any other reason to be here.
He walked over to a mound of shoveled snow and kicked it. Snow went flying. Jamie laughed like a little kid. If anyone was looking, what would they see? Snow flying up like a breeze hit it? He bent down and gathered snow in his hands and formed it into a ball. Doing this impossible thing while in a dream was amazing. He threw the snowball and it shattered apart when it hit the tree.
The last time he came to see Sonni was because she was too sick to travel. He was afraid that was the reason she had not come to see him for so long. . .

End partial chapter. Subscribe to ITFO News to read the full chapter. Then email me at squick@mynameisjamie.net and I’ll email the chapter to you.

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Keeping Time

Listen to Keeping Time by Sonni Quick #np on #SoundCloud

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KEEPING TIME

Jamie sighed and blew a long, slow breath through his lips, sounding almost like a low whistle. January of the new year had begun without even the breath of a whisper. He hoped this year would be different, in a positive way, because 2011 didn’t end so good.
     The holidays got him down. If there had been no one in his life before this, no family, and lots of dudes in here didn’t have families, he wouldn’t expect anyone to care. But that was not his reality. His being here was too hard on them so they didn’t deal with it. Realizing no one cared if he was okay, physically or mentally, was hard. He missed his family very much. He didn’t stop loving THEM but he wasn’t sure if he mattered anymore.
     How could he know if they were silent? Did they miss him? It didn’t seem like it, he thought. Most of the time he could shove it into the back of his head, but Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and his birthday all came bang bang bang one after the other.
     Some of the dudes in here had family that constantly showed they weren’t forgotten. Of course, if they were far away it was hard to visit. Cards were passed around so others could see them. They were still connected to people outside. Their families helped them survive and helped them get some of the things they needed.
     The choice of clothing was limited at the commissary but he could get underwear, socks and shoes, long underwear for the winter, sweat pants, a jacket, T-Shirts. These things made a difference during cold winter nights. If he could get them on his own it would be different, but he can’t. Sonni helps as much as she can but she can’t do everything. Besides, right now she has bigger problems and she’s still there for him.
     Did anyone think it might be hard for him to get through holidays or his birthday, even Father’s Day because he might be depressed at not being able to see his son? Jamie never had a father he could tell, “Happy Fathers Day.” He knew by now hoping it would be different wouldn’t change anything, but the thought was still planted at the back of his brain just the same.
     He did receive a Christmas card from his brother. He usually sent one, and he was grateful for that, but he waited every day to see if anyone else would remember. No such luck. He should also forget about getting any cards for his birthday, too, which would come and go in little more than a week. Twenty-nine this year. His youth will not be worth remembering. Maybe he was expecting too much. Going to prison seemed about as far away as going to Mars. Mail couldn’t make it there, either.
     He would have so few good memories to think of when he thought about all these wasted years. He had a son, his only son, and he was special, even if he couldn’t spend time with him now. Someday he would be part of his life. Someday this would be over.
     Last year, and the year before, was the same as this year. He wouldn’t think any further back because he didn’t want to remember everything. Time wasn’t something that created good memories for him. It was a noose around his neck that became more painful with each passing year. His life was like a battered, rusty clock that wasn’t keeping time anymore because the batteries had long since died.
     It would only take a small effort to bring a little happiness into his life. It would be brief, but needed. A little something to look forward to. A simple card would do that for him; a present he could stare at on his shelf, with colorful happy things on the front.
     They were lies, of course, because there was no truth in wishing he would have a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Birthday, Happy Valentines Day, Happy Easter and more. Happy. Happy. Happy. He forgot what happy felt like. Was he feeling sorry for himself? Probably. He was craving the feeling of still being loved.
     A card was a new decoration for his residence, like hanging a picture on a wall. Whenever he was feeling down he could pick it up and look at it in his hands. It would lift him up when he was depressed. That’s what a card could do for him to help him through.
     The closest thing he had to human touch was holding a card. He imagined the person who sent it had held it, signed it and hopefully wrote something good inside.
     Once, Morgan sprayed perfume on a letter. He woke one morning to this wonderful smell. He didn’t know how or when it had been delivered. It didn’t come at mail call, so who had it? He laid in bed with his eyes closed and breathed this intoxicating smell deep into his lungs. He thought it might be a dream so he didn’t want to open he eyes and break the spell – until some dude down the hall yelled out asking what smelled so good.
     Jamie jumped out of bed and searched his cell. He found a letter under a t-shirt he had thrown on the floor the night before. It was near the door. Someone had shoved it through the opening under the door and it slipped out of sight under his shirt. How come this person had his mail?
     Someone had enjoyed his card before he did. That was disturbing. Was it a guard? Did he smell the card and removed it until he was done with it? Had it been opened? Jamie searched the back of the envelope to see if it looked like someone had opened it and resealed it again. He couldn’t tell, and probably would never know.
     Jamie sat on the edge of the bed, holding the card up to his face, breathing it in for the longest time. It smelled like Morgan. She wore this scent all the time. What intense memories it brought to the surface.
     He smelled the card often through the next days. It took a long time to breath in all the perfume. A little kindness and thoughtfulness went a long way when you’re locked up. It was an unexpected thoughtfulness that brought him a lot of pleasure.
     The guards didn’t usually allow stuff like this to be delivered. He guessed he could add this to the small list of good things that happened over the years.

Jamie read his mail over and over, saving every one from the very beginning. They were his connection to the outside and were moved from cell to cell, prison to prison. At times they were taken from him as punishment but he got them back eventually. Taking away a man’s letters was one way to keep him in line. He felt their absence when he couldn’t open one and read.
     Letters and cards were his only connection to people and he felt lost when that connection wasn’t there. They didn’t understand. They were the most precious property a man owns when he is locked up. 
     If they did understand, maybe they’d try harder to be there for him once in awhile. In the rare times he did get a letter no one asked how he was. It was sent to tell him someone had recently died. He hated those letters because he was left to grieve on his own. He didn’t handle death very well. Never could.
     Hoping for a visit was pointless, too. He wouldn’t let his mind go there. He listened to names being called out when someone had a visitor, but it was never his name.
Why did everybody who said they loved him end all contact with him? The thought went around and around in his head. It made no sense.

<<< >>>

Jamiee stood near the cell door, leaning on the wall. His head was down and his eyes were closed. There was no reason to move. There was no reason to do anything. He stood slumped over like that for a long while. It was a wonder he didn’t fall down.
     “I’m here Jamie, I’m here,” a soft voice whispered from behind.” She didn’t want to scare him.
     Startled, he raised his head and whirled around. He didn’t know what to expect.
     “I’m so sorry,” he said, speaking softly. The words spilled out of his mouth. She was wearing a robe over a hospital gown. She looked tired.
     “I was being selfish, calling on you to come,” he said.
     “I needed to know you were okay. I hadn’t heard from you in awhile and there was nothing I could do about any of it.” He collapsed down, sat the floor and put his head in his hands.
     “My head is in a bad place,” he said as he rubbed his temples. “I don’t feel so good.”
     He quickly added, “I didn’t mean to drag you out of bed.”
     “I think I’m going nuts in here. I don’t know how to deal with this,” he said desperately, looking her in the eye. Sonni could see the glisten of tears. She wished she could put her arms around him, but she couldn’t. That was a barrier they couldn’t cross if they wanted to.
     

~END PARTIALCHAPTER~

 

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Seize The Day – The Music

Listen to Seize the Day by Sonni Quick #np on #SoundCloud

 

 

 

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I finally recorded the music for the chapter in “Inside The Forbidden Outside”. Sometimes the music feels more right than others. I’ve gone through many changes in my music writing the past few years as I’ve experimented with sound and recording layers instead of just piano. It has been a learning process. It isn’t easy to lay one improv layer over an improv and then adding one or two more on top of that. I don’t know anything about playing other instruments such as flute or strings to know how it feels when you play them. It might not be appropriate to that instrument.  It is also next to impossible to make a flute breathe when it is played on a keyboard. So it is a learning experience.

I don’t play blues or jazz or other genres I enjoy listening to. I consider myself a classical musician who no longer plays the classics, but the training is there. So I play “myself.” and how I hear the music that comes out of my fingers. I hope you enjoy it half as much as I do.

At SoundCloud I have a playlist of just the music recorded for the book. At this time there are 25 pieces. There is other music there as well. I am also writing chapter 21. Starting over last January on a complete rewrite has been daunting but I’m now about 58,000 words into it.

When this is done it needs a story editor, to make sure it’s all connected and a line editor. Then I can set a publishing date and work like hell on promotion. The sequel, “Open the Cage and Fly” is already in promotional story planning because it covers from 2016 through Jamie ‘s reentry into the world. He has already lived a couple of those years.

The story of being in prison is only half of the story.  How he survives is also important. I have a catch up post to do on him yet because a lot has happened this past year I haven’t written about because of all the rest of the work that needs doing.

If you subscribed to the newsletter thank you so much. It’s the only way to let people know what is going on who don’t follow me regularly. It is so important to its success. Having a mailing list opens doors that otherwise wouldn’t give me the time of day. I’m so late at getting the next ITFO News out simply because I only have one set of hands. But there will be one out soon that brings it all up today plus a little extra. So those who have subscribed thank you very much.

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Poetry and Chapter – Unintended Consequences (edited)

Unintended Consequences

I never thought I’d have to live
in such a lonely place
I touch the walls on either side
I never thought I’d call this home
Memories here I can’t erase
Two thousand people all alone

I never thought this was where I’d be
My life would work it out
I never dreamed my window
was the only way I’d see
the beauty of the world outside
How can I continue?

An unintended consequence
Not thinking what will be
the end result, not thinking through
Pretending I was being free
I didn’t think, I never thought
my careless choice I can’t undo

I never thought what would I crave
the most if taken away
The touch of skin, your silken breath?
Sends goosebumps up my spine
I shiver once and cry for more
“You didn’t think,” I heard you cry

I only have my memories now
To keep me warm at night
I wrap my arms around my head
Pretending you are touching me
It will be years, will you be gone?
Touching someone else instead

An unintended consequence
Not thinking what will be
the end result, not thinking through
Pretending I was living free
But I didn’t think, I never thought
It would mean losing you

 

Sonni Quick ©2018

It is a process, writing, editing, chapters, blog posts, music, videos and poetry. I love doing all of it. It would be great if I could split my brain in two and do two things at the same time.

Today as I went through my notes I realized I had a half finished poem. That chapter was published about 6 months ago. Today I will post part of it for those who want to read it. Please subscribe for full chapters. Afterward just drop me a message and I’ll email the complete chapter to you.

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UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

It was so hard to keep his head together. Jamie’s mind went all over the place. It was hard when there was no one to talk to. There was no reason to not let his mind wander anywhere it wanted to go. He was so alone. He could only talk to himself. He was in 24/7 lock up for a year.

Administrative segregation, or adseg, it was called. Solitary in other prisons. It was all the same thing. He had tried so hard to not let this happen. Did it matter if he tried or not? Why did he agonize over it. He tried to stay away from trouble but it always found him, anyway.
     Mentally, he felt himself going down and there was nothing to keep him from smashing headfirst onto the bottom. He didn’t know what was going on. But he tried to get it together. Before this happened he tried. He didn’t know if he could try anymore.
    Before he got sent to lock up he had made a change in his life. It was a pretty big one. He thought at the time that maybe it would help, maybe not. Some dudes he met told him about Islam. He decided to join with them. They still believed in God, or Allah they called him, but there were a lot of differences in what the two religions believed. There were a lot of Christians and a lot of Muslims all saying they were right and the other was evil. His can they both be right? Islam has been around longer he was told.
     These inmates weren’t like a lot of the other ones. They didn’t talk tough. Peace was way more important than violence, than who was bigger and badder.
    He decided to give it a try because everything he had learned through the Bible didn’t do anything to help him. It never changed anything for him, no matter how much he prayed. His prayers weren’t answered. It didn’t make any difference and he thought by now something would have happened to let him know God was at least thinking about helping him.
     One of them gave him a book about the Islamic faith so he would have something to read and study. It wasn’t and he was supposed to pray five times a day. He needed a prayer rug to do it right but he didn’t have a way to get one. Still, he tried to learn and went to their meetings.    Then this happened and he was more alone than ever.
     To have your life so controlled in prison was more than anyone could take without getting angry and wanting to bust everything up. How was he supposed to get rid of the anxiety? Eat now, sleep now, shower now, breathe now, take a crap now otherwise the toilet won’t flush and you have to look at and smell the shit all day. No, you can’t go to commissary. He couldn’t do anything unless it was at the right time that someone else determines.
     A year completely alone, meals alone and no one to talk to. It was too long. There was nothing to break the monotony, the boredom. Bits and pieces of thoughts swirled around in his brain and they wanted to make him crazy.
     Things were happening in his life on the outside he couldn’t control or fix. How could he deal with this confinement day after day and not be able to do anything about it?
     Not only that, he knew there was another man in Morgan’s life, but that had nothing to do with what they shared. But he couldn’t talk to her about it and it was killing him. He had to keep what they had separate from any other person. It was his sanity. The two ideas didn’t touch. He couldn’t handle thinking about it any other way.  They shared the treasure of a son together. Nothing could take that away. She wouldn’t be with this dude if he hadn’t screwed up. He needed to believe she was still waiting, but it was getting harder and harder to do that.
     It was his own fault – all of it. Trying to find the answer wasn’t easy and many days he wanted to crawl under the floor and give up – just cash it in. Stop thinking of the future. He might not make make it that far. He might not get out of here.
     He started and stopped hunger strikes. He would only pull himself out of a funk because he was afraid of what it would do to his son. How would he deal with his own life when he grew up if he knew his father gave up on his?

(End of partial chapter. Click subscribe to get full chapters)

 

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My Mind is Playing Tricks on Me – ITFO Chapter and Music

 

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“I would enjoy riding my bike with you on a beautiful day,” Jamie called out into the universe with a slightly raised voice. He wondered if his words would reach Sonni and make her show up in his cell. He was lonely and desperately wanted someone to talk to.

     If anyone had been passing by his cell door at that moment they would probably think he was losing it. Other dudes down the hall probably heard him call out but they were used to hearing strange things being said by men locked in isolation, away from others. Most of them talked to themselves, too.

    “You ride your bike to the hill on one side and I’ll ride my bike from the other direction,” Jamie said, gesturing his arms to the right and left like he was directing traffic.  It was such a beautiful day. The sky was bright blue with puffy clouds passing over the sky. He stood and watched them for awhile. The green grass was the color of new springtime grass with dandelions growing randomly all over the hill.

     A thought came into his head – a memory, but he didn’t think it was his memory. That was strange. Maybe Sonni was in his head because he was seeing little girls with dandelions playing in a backyard. He was remembering children picking dandelions and holding them under each others chin. If there was a yellow glow on the skin it meant they were made of butter. A young child’s memory.

     Jamie had stuffed so many of his own memories into the back of his brain he had trouble remembering anything good. Sonni asked him to write down what he remembered as a child because she was thinking about starting a blog about him. Why would anyone want to read a blog about him? He was nothing special and hadn’t done anything special so He was curious about what she saw in him.

     He wrote to her about a couple things he remembered. They went to the zoo and his mom wouldn’t go in the snake house. That was funny, and they went to a pond to feed ducks. They were also going to see fireworks one July and he and his little brother had matching clothes for the special day. At the last minute his mom said they couldn’t go. That upset him but he was only eight years old and didn’t understand grown up stuff. So he sat on the steps of a house and listened to the boom! boom! He saw a glow in the sky, but he couldn’t see the fireworks. He remembered how deeply disappointed he was that night. He had been so excited about seeing the bright colors exploding in the sky. To this day, going to see fireworks was one of his favorite things to do.

     Picturing the serenity in his mind as he rode his bicycle to the hill was a way of getting out of his stark gray cell and into the warmth and colors produced by the sun. A nice cool breeze rustled the grass. The tree at the top would be great if it had a tree house. The thick branches would make climbing easy. He pictured a treehouse with a rope ladder. Little Jamie was standing at the door waving to him below. He waved back. He could hear a train blowing it’s horn in the distance. It had been so long since he had seen a day like this.

     With that picture in his head he closed his eyes and smiled. He pretended Sonni was standing there with him in this beautiful place even though he was really standing in his cell.

     “We’ll meet at the hill and climb to the top.” He told her. Even though it was only in his imagination, it lifted his spirits when he thought about the day he was creating.
     “Let’s bring a picnic of our favorite food and talk about how the future will be.”      

     Whenever Jamie thought of the future, his son was there and they would be playing together, whatever little Jamie wanted to do. They would both be happy and laughing. He knew there was more to reality than that, but he only wanted to have happy thoughts.
It was hard to develop a relationship with someone you never got to see or talk to. Did his son think about him? He was still very young, only five years old. He bonded to his oldest brother who was ten years older than him. He didn’t understand what prison was or why his father was there. He wouldn’t understand until he was older. He didn’t want him to be hurt by this, but there was no way it wouldn’t leave scars that needed to heal.

     An occasional picture was all he received from Morgan. It was never enough to quiet the pain. He couldn’t join him for birthdays or Christmas. He wouldn’t be in his son’s memories at all when he grew up and thought about his childhood, except to remember his daddy was never there. All Jamie could do was imagine what it would be like and that always left a huge hole in his heart. When would he see his son again?
     “Things aren’t going so good for me,” he said, still talking to the universe.
     “I’m doing my best, but I’m not getting nowhere.” He got to his feet and slowly walked five feet toward the cell door, turned around and walked back. He repeated the pattern over and over.
     “I know you have been very sick and can’t write me all the time,” he said as he paced, pretending she was there, “but to tell you the truth it hurts me when I don’t hear from you.”
     “That’s because you’re the only one I’m used to hearing from,” his mouth turned into a downward smile. “So when I don’t hear from you it worries me and I think I won’t hear from you again.”
     “Sometimes I think you’re mad at me,” he said quietly to the empty air.
     He closed his eyes.” My mind is playing tricks on me.”

“I told you I wouldn’t give up on you,” her voice came from out of the blue. ” I’m not going to go away.”
     “I got your letter yesterday,” he heard her say. “I told Jamie happy birthday for you.”
The unexpected sound of her voice made him jump.
     “He is getting so big.” Sonni smiled, and held up her hand to show how tall he was getting.
     “Geez, give me a little forewarning,” he said with a startled look on his face which settled into a smile. He was sure she wouldn’t be coming today. He never knew when she was going to pop in.
     Jamie’s days were long and boring, Sonni knew that. When all you have to look forward to is the possibility of a letter, your happiness rides on getting that letter, looking to see who sent it and feeling connected to reality that lives in the outside world. Letters are like gold and so many receive none. They keep you sane. Prison screws up many heads. She would never stop writing to him.
     “Does it take awhile to get my messages, and leave to get here?” he asked, “or is it like the old TV show, I Dream of Jeannie, and you zap yourself here with your arms crossed in front of you and a nod of your head?” He knew he sounded a little crazy, but then maybe he was a little crazy by now. How DID she get here?
     “Okay Jamie,” he said quietly to himself, “remember, her physical body is not really in this room.”
     He laughed at himself.

Jamie was relieved. He needed to see her, real or not. She had a way of helping him make sense of his life so he could learn to let his anger go. Yeah, he still had problems controlling it and it got him in trouble. Sometimes he started yelling and kicking the door trying to get rid of his anger.
     Sometimes he got into it with the guards because he was tired of being disrespected over every little thing. They tried to press his buttons to set him off. Sometimes they succeeded and he got angry. They could be such dicks.
     The guards often did things that would be considered criminal on the outside. They also do things to the inmates. They get hurt or killed. Although he hasn’t mentioned it much there was sex going all around him. Sometimes it’s between the guards and the inmates and sometimes it’s abusive. The guards bring in drugs and cell phones and set themselves in business. You couldn’t stop what is going on, but when you get hurt you need a way fight back against the abuse.
     No matter how wrong they were you couldn’t win. If he filed a grievance against a guard, the guard would retaliate. As prisoners they were supposed to have certain rights and being able to file a grievance because of mistreatment was one of them. It was pointless. The system was set up so prisoners would fail. Nothing good came of it when the guards had ways of getting back at them if they filed against them.
     It was more than that when it came to grievances. It is what the system was set up to do if you filed that grievance and went through the process, like a rat’s maze, chasing after a piece of cheese and finding out it was really arsenic with no way to save you.
     Most dudes, if they have been here for awhile don’t file grievances. After trying a couple times and getting denied you figure, what’s the use? Those who think they legally have a good case because what the guard did needed to be reported, might try to finish the process.
     The grievance process is set up so only filing a lawsuit will settle the grievance. You can’t win by just filing a grievance and hoping the right person read it and thought you needed to have justice. That wasn’t going to happen. You can only win if you have solid evidence that the officer was in the wrong. There would have to be evidence from a camera that the officer did what you claim.
     No officer will go against another officer even if he saw the officer doing it. If he did, the officers would retaliate against him. So if he wants to keep his job he needs to keep his mouth shut.
     If an inmate filed step one he’d have to wait 30 – 45 days to get it back – denied. Then he’d have to file step 2 and wait another 4 to 6 weeks to get that one back – denied. That is 2-3 months total. Step 2 along with step 1 is then filed in Huntsville with the TDCJ, for Texas prisons. If Huntsville sends it back not doing anything to correct the problem they will send all the paperwork back to him. If he wanted to continue the process he’d have to fill out a 1983 form for a lawsuit. He would have to take the officer to court and if he lost, because he didn’t have proof, then he’d owe the state $350. And since phones are illegal in prison, having proof by means of a cellphone is getting someone in serious trouble.
     This is a way to get more money out of the inmates and their families and it gives the officers time to get their stories straight.
     What good was having rights if you couldn’t act on them? It looked right on paper and that is what the outside world learned if they looked it up. Some people thought they had it pretty good inside – free healthcare, free food, free education, a free roof over their heads. They thought everything was handed to them on a silver platter without working for it. They even said prisoners wanted to come back to prison because they had it so good in here. What a joke. You had to be here to understand the truth of this place.

The end of this partial chapter

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Circles Inside Circles – music and ITFO

Listen to Circles Inside Circles by Sonni Quick #np on #SoundCloud

The partial chapter below was posted about 6 months ago. I included it again to give context to the music. When someone is trying to figure out up from down and what makes sense to them about why their life is the way it is, it is confusing and leaves you feeling out of control. You want to change but you don’t know what the truth is – so you search. You try things. You listen. There is more than one path to happiness, but some ways make more sense than others. Blind faith with no consistent proof is the hardest – at least it is for me.

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Jamie was trying. He couldn’t try any harder. He wanted to understand how he could turn his life around and make it through these years in one piece. If he didn’t, the years would be wasted and he’d be a mess when he got out of prison. He couldn’t afford that. He had to make up for a lot of lost time.
     This is what happened when you felt you had endless time on your hands. It was hard to fill the empty spaces. Jamie sat on his bed. He stared at the wall and lost track of time. It had no meaning. He spaced out thinking about his life and what he could have done different. Sometimes he got tired of trying and wanted to melt into the wall and disappear.
    How was anyone supposed to live in conditions like this, then get out and have an okay life? How could he get over it as though it never happened and be happy? It was hard to remember what that was.
     Jamie never had a real chance to find out what he was good at. He wasn’t blaming anyone, the right circumstances were never there. No one taught him how to make something of himself. He just followed along with whatever happened at the moment. He didn’t know how to have a dream. He needed to figure out how to do that.         All he knew for sure was the values he believed in didn’t seem to have the power to get him where he wanted to go.
     Maybe he needed to deepen his faith in God. Study more. Quite a few of the inmates also went to church. There were quite a few screwed up people who found religion after they were sentenced, and some went to church because it was something to do that got you out of your cell. Jamie really wanted to make it work but how were you supposed to know if it was making a difference in his life because nothing had changed for the better.
     He had the bible studies he sent for and was trying to study on his own. He hoped it would help. He had a lot of time to think about what he read. Still, it made no difference. He wasn’t giving up, but what could he do that would actually change things into a better direction instead of going in a circle that only went round and round? He wanted to learn something that would give him hope he was doing the right thing.

End partial chapter

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