Life is a Merry Go Round – youTube Video

I completed a new music video today. I really like the melody of this one. The video begins like it would be a light video at a carnival but it really represents the prisons when they movie inmates all over the state on a moments notice often destroying the ability of family and friends being able to visit. I always lived far away and visiting Jamie at the prison even once every year or two can be hard on limited income.

Through the friend of a friend of a friend I “met” a man named Melvin who began going to the prison he was in about once a month. It was wonderful for Jamie to have someone to look forward to visiting with. He have a friend, an older man, to talk to and get encouragement. TDCJ moved him with no notice. It was a longer drive in a different direction but Melvin was still able to visit. But later they moved him again – to Allred Unit where he is now. It was too far for Melvin to drive there and back in one day. It was a disappointment.

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and lastly . . .

Here is a link to the page that will show you Jamie’s T-shirt and tote bag you can purchase. I started a special for the month of September. All subscribers to ITFO News get a $5 discount on any merchandise. There is always free shipping. Send me an email at squick@mynameisjamie.net about how to take off the discount. Even my daughter purchased an adult small of Jamie’s 12 year old son.

Since they have the same name I think he will be really happy to wear it. Why is she buying it? Because the purpose of selling them is to help me with the expenses of taking care of him. Commissary, food box every 3 months, books, medical fee and legal paperwork

 

Whispers From Nowhere

My life is consumed with writing my book and the soundtrack music to go with it. I feel like I’ve been working on this for a long time – and I have. I’m about 40% through the rewrite. I feel like I am on a good roll and I’ve been liking the progress I’ve made.

Thank you for the encouragement I’ve gotten. All of the music can be found at http://soundcloud.com/sonni-quick and http://reverbnation.com/sonniquick. Thanks for the subscribes YouTube at Sonni Quick Improv Piano

Jamie has never heard any of this music. I’ve sent him chapters but there is no way I can send him music. I wish he could.

Go to http://sonniquick.netmy main music and video website. At the top of the page you can sign up on my mailing list to get the occasional email I send out with new music info.

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How Do I Find My Way – ITFO Chapter

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 How Do I Find My Way

Later: that afternoon, after Jamie got back from the showers, he sat on the edge of his bunk and opened his locker. He took out a stack of letters he had saved. They had been read so many times the creases from folding and unfolding were getting weak.
      These letters were all he had to connect him to the free world. Other inmates knew when you got letters and knew you had someone on the outside. Many men had no one, especially those who had been locked up for a long time.
      Family or friends who wrote when you were first locked up often slowly stopped writing. Maybe they ran out of things to say or got tired of writing. Life went on for them but it stopped for those inside.
      One sure fire way to stop them from writing was to ask if they could send money. No one wanted to support someone inside. Many didn’t have the money. Jamie knew Morgan could barely made enough to take care of the children. She couldn’t support him. But there was no way to get any of the things he needed unless he asked for help. The prison didn’t provide things like deodorant and other hygiene products, stamps, paper or envelopes. He’d like to be able to get some food items and maybe a radio but the other items had to come first.
      If there was no one to put money on your books for commissary you had to find another way to trade for what you needed. That could get you into a lot of trouble if you got caught. If inmates could get paid for work they did they would have a little money to to spend at the commissary. He didn’t mean housekeeping or laundry jobs, but the jobs where they made things for corporations to sell. Inmates didn’t get paid for those jobs, either.
      Texas prisons didn’t pay anyone for working although most states did. Even though the pay might only be twenty cents an hour they could still accumulate twenty to thirty dollars in a month. Texas said they give time off your sentence for good behavior but they always find a way to take it away from you.
      Jamie rarely heard from anyone in his family, although he did in the beginning. He made himself believe they were busy and he would get a letter soon. But that day rarely arrived and it was hard to deal with it sometimes. If he didn’t have Sonni’s letters he didn’t know if he would make it through with his sanity in one piece.
      Every day he listened at mail call to hear if his name was called. What if she stopped writing? She said she would always write but he was still afraid her last letter might really be her last letter.
      Finally, Jamie got up the courage to ask her if she could send a little money. He told her over and over it was okay if she couldn’t. He didn’t want her to think he was using her for money. It was hard waiting to get a letter back after that one. He was afraid he had blown it and she would be upset.
      She wasn’t. She wrote back and asked him how to send it. He sent her a slip to fill out and told her to send it back with a money order. Jamie was relieved.
    Letters from Morgan came with longer silences in between. She finally wrote and told him there was a new man in her life. He wasn’t happy about it. In fact, it ripped him up, but he knew she needed to go on with her life. He couldn’t blame her for that, but it also meant he would learn less and less about his son. Sonni helped fill in the gaps but it was never enough.
      That did not mean he expected someone else should take care of his family. Sitting in here year after year was pointless when he should be home talking care of them himself. It was hard for Morgan to take care of three kids by herself.
      He didn’t know what to do to make things better for her. He wanted to help but there was nothing he could do. He felt like was letting all of them down. He should be able to do something, but he couldn’t.
      Jamie carefully arranged his letters in piles by who wrote them and the date, the oldest ones on the bottom. This way he could read everything in order from each person. There were not many piles. He passed the rest of the afternoon by reading letters.

As he read he realized his day today could have ended up a whole lot different than it did. He had a short fuse. He knew that. He had no patience with people who had the authority to mistreat people just because they were locked up and they felt like it. Inmates could not fight back. If they argued because of being mistreated they paid a price for it.
      During the shower when the guard cut off the water, if Jamie hadn’t stopped himself from reacting in anger, the guard could have written up a case on him. It could have taken a couple years or more to turn that around. He was supposed to take the abuse because he was the inmate and had no rights, at least none they would let him use.
      From the time he was seventeen and spent four years in juvenile detention, being lied to over and over, he learned to have no patience with guards and staff who treated people with disrespect.

    Jamie pushed those thoughts out of his head and opened a letter from Sonni. Even though he had read her letters over and over, sometimes a sentence jumped out that made sense in a way he didn’t catch before.
   “Don’t believe something is the truth just because someone told you it was the truth.” That made sense, but what truth was she talking about?
      “It’s easy to believe something when you’ve been told the same thing over and over, but that doesn’t mean it is true.” She must have been answering something he had written to her in his letter. What was it? He could not remember.
   “Everything in your life happens for a reason. Something caused it. Things do not happen out of the blue just because you can’t figure out what you did to cause it.” All of this made sense but he had never thought about it like this.
      No one had ever talked to Jamie about why things happened in his life. He handled things in his day as they happened. He knew he needed to have more self control over his anger because he learned it could mess up his day.
     Jamie never thought much about these things up until now because he was always busy trying to dig himself out from under some problem. He didn’t always think about why it happened.
      The main problem was he didn’t think about what caused his problems until it was too late. What was done was done. It was hard to wrap his head around figuring out why it happened.

Sometimes one thing led to another and that made something else happen. He could see it looking back but he couldn’t see it looking ahead. But it made sense if he made different decisions it would cause different outcomes. But how was he supposed know what to decide in a split second when there was no time to think about how it might work out?
      Sonni’s letters made him think about things he never thought about. He didn’t know to think about his life in a deeper way. He was told God oversaw everything and he tried to pray for the right thing to happen. He could plan and change things in anyone’s life if he wanted to. He could bless people with good things. His family was not the type who went to church every week or anything like that, but he assumed everyone believed in God and would go to heaven.
      He always began or ended a letter hoping the receiver would be blessed or that he had been blessed. He didn’t think about what he was writing. It was automatic thing he wrote in his letters.
     If everything happened for a reason, then what could he do to change all of this for himself so he could go home? How could he know what to do?
      Jamie repeated this over and over in his head. It was like one big giant puzzle. It was starting to make his head hurt. All along did he deserve to be in here? From the time he was born it was God’s plan? Did God plan some things but not all things. That didn’t make sense so he didn’t think so.
      Did he have a choice or was he supposed to end up in prison no matter what he did? He was told God gave people free will. What happened if that messed up His plan. Did He have to make a new one – for everyone? He was expected to believe things that didn’t make much sense. But that was faith, right? He believed because it was all he knew.
      Having so much time to think about this yet have no one to talk to is difficult. Jamie was brought up to believe in God and you were supposed to pray to him when life got rough. Did God want his life to be this way? This was too many questions.
      You reap what you sow. That phrase was in the Bible, but he never really thought about it. Growing up they weren’t really a Bible reading family. The pastor here said he should trust God to take care of everything. These two ideas were so opposite from each other.
      Jamie went to church every week. He was trying to do the right thing. He wanted to hear the message. Did it change anything? He believed in God because it was what he was told to believe by people who were smarter than him. He didn’t think to question it.
      Going to church didn’t change anything in his life. The prison chaplain pushed it on the men. In reality, this man wasn’t very nice to those who said they didn’t believe and didn’t want go to church. That seemed hypocritical to him.
      So why did he believe in God? What did that belief do for him that made his life better? What prayers did God answer that he could say for sure happened because God made it happen? Growing up, hearing God made the world, and when we die we go to heaven is a pretty powerful reason to want to believe. If everyone learned the same thing it was easy to go along with it. No one had any different ideas. Believe, or not believe, was pretty much it.
      Where would he be if he wasn’t in prison? Jamie would like to believe he would be home taking care of his family. He would have a job, but he didn’t have any idea what that would be or what he was qualified for. He did have a job for a while. He worked for a cleaning company that cleaned offices and schools. One day cleaning supplies came up missing. He got blamed and was fired. He didn’t do it, but that didn’t matter. They had someone to blame. Why would he risk his job by stealing cleaning supplies? No one thought about that.

     He went to church every Sunday. He even sent off for Bible studies. He didn’t go to church just to get of his cell. He wanted to hear the message. He was searching for answers, trying hard to figure things out. He wanted to make sense of things, but somehow it wasn’t working.
      Not knowing what was going on at home was getting to him. Day after day he waited and prayed a letter would come, and it rarely did. But then, just when he was ready to give up, he would hear the mail person call his name. A letter would come, his mind was eased, and he would feel better for a while. The emotional seesaw took its toll.
      Soon the cycle would start again and his anxiety would slowly build until he couldn’t sleep. Weeks and months went by. The hardest part about this was not knowing what was happening.. Why was he kept in the dark? His mom said some things at her last visit about maybe being sick but she didn’t exactly say what was wrong, or if anything definite was wrong. He had no way to find out.
      Jamie was scared to death something was going to happen to his mom. He didn’t think he could handle that in here. His mind was thinking crazy thoughts. He couldn’t think straight.
      On top of that he was worried about his own family. It was all his own fault. He wasn’t doing so good. This was all because he wasn’t around. No one thought he needed to know anything. So he sat and stressed every day and could not stop himself. He wrote this letter to Sonni:

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Hello Mom, 8/20/09

First I want to thank you for the love and support you’ve given me even though you didn’t have to. I’m real thankful for it. Well, I’ll get to the point of what I’m saying. It’s rough when I sit here waiting for mail and I don’t get any from nobody but you. So I’ve made up my mind to just do this time and put everything else behind me. This way I won’t have to stress myself out. I’m not giving up on my family. I just have to do this because I’m hurting myself. I know something is wrong. I can feel it.
I’m not saying I’m going to go off and get in trouble. I’m going to end my letter here. But before I do I want you to know I’m still going to keep my promise and stay out of trouble. And thank you for the book, mom. It was good.

Love, Jamie.

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Living in silence was hard for Jamie. He couldn’t deal with it. It made no sense. When it became too much for him he lashed out. Depression surfaced easily. Maybe his family thought if he didn’t know what was going on he wouldn’t worry. It was just the opposite. He did worry, because he didn’t know. Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t. He wrote many letters hoping he would get an answer back but no one wrote. Sonni’s letters were all he had to lean on. They were his lifeline. She promised she wouldn’t disappear.

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The Second Time Around – The Visit

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The Visit

It was July 2009. Jamie knew if he didn’t make parole he’d be staying until 2023, and he wouldn’t make it that long. He couldn’t wrap his head around being stuck in here for that many years. He needed to be home where he could take care of his family and raise his son. He had to stay focused on that. Morgan needed him home. She had to do everything for the family and it was too much. He was no help in here.
     His first parole hearing wouldn’t happen until he was here for eight years. He had five to go which wasn’t even halfway. Doing the entire seventeen years would be impossible. He couldn’t do it. It was too depressing to think about.
     Learning to keep his mouth shut and staying out of trouble wasn’t easy. It was his own fault. He wasn’t used to letting people get away with constantly disrespecting him. These guards were always mouthing off at him, trying to get him angry and pressing his buttons. He wondered if they were trained in how to be a jerk. Even when he was minding his own business they liked to throw their weight around like some kind of underpaid ass.
     They would go on and on until he couldn’t take anymore and got sarcastic back. It didn’t matter if they started it. If he let himself get into it with them they had enough reason to write up a case on him. That was the reason why they did it. They weren’t the ones who were going to get in trouble. Right or wrong he was always in the wrong. Even if he tried to explain what happened, no one would listen to him.
     He got mad at himself every time he let them get to him. The best thing to do was ignore them. Look away, but it wasn’t easy. They knew what to say to be insulting.
     Ignoring other inmates who wanted to mess with him was hard, too. If he dissed the wrong dude it could get him hurt real bad. Jamie could take care of himself but he’d be written up if he got into it with anyone. So far he had only been written up twice this year and he wanted to keep it that way. He had to make it another seven months. Then he’d be raised back up to population and could work on getting a skill and study for his GED. He felt he’d come a long way. Now, if he could only keep it up.
     Tempers were high for everyone. The heat brought out the worst in people. There was no AC and no let up on the heat, even at night. There was no way to get away from it as long as he was in Texas, so he better get used to it. Everyone here was in the same boat, even the guards.
    He got regular letters from Sonni. He didn’t understand why she cared, but he was glad she did. He didn’t know her well enough yet to realize this was just how she was. If someone needed help she would do it.
     Jamie was glad to have someone to write to. He knew his writing and spelling wasn’t too good, but who knew, back when he was going to school that he would need to write so many letters?
     It was hard to keep all this stuff inside his head and not go crazy. He needed someone to write to about what was going on. Most of all, he needed to know he mattered to someone. Would she keep answering his letters? If he told her everything about him would it put her off? She told him she would always be there for him. It was hard at first to have that trust because he had been let down before. Did she know if she know about his past or what he had done? Maybe then she wouldn’t like him or want him around her family.
     Jamie wasn’t the one who did the robbery at the club that got him arrested, but knew his friend had a gun in his backpack. He showed it to him. He thought he was joking about robbing the club. He was guilty of being there and that was all that mattered to the court. He couldn’t blame nobody else for what happened. He could’ve run when he saw what was going down, but friends don’t leave friends behind, do they? Maybe he would have if he had known what was going to happen. 

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When Sonni wrote to him about Key West she made him feel like he was part of her family. She wrote about her employees and what it was like working in her store and dealing with the people coming off the cruiseships. Morgan worked there with her until the baby was a year old and decided to move back to Texas.
     Key West sounded like beautiful place, with palm trees and blue water. Lots of music. And fishing. He’d love to do some fishing in the ocean. It was different from any place he’d been, but then he really hadn’t been anywhere other than East Texas. He wished he could see it some day. When he was growing up he dreamed of being a truck driver so he could go all across the United States and see everything. That was probably out of the question now.
     What helped him most of all when writing a letter, is having someone to talk to about how much he loved his family. He liked to see the words. Sonni wrote back with every detail she knew about their lives. Any little thing Jamie could picture in his head was priceless to him. He felt close to them even though there were many miles between them. It helped him get through the rough days.
      Even though his family knew where he was, there was no way they could fully understand what he was going through. The conditions were horrible, but it was the effect it had on him mentally that was worse. Having one person who took the time to try and see things through his eyes was often the only difference between making it and giving up. Sometimes he pulled himself together because he didn’t want to disappoint her.
     The visit, that one visit he had with his family gave him something to think about and remember every day. The memory of everyone laughing and talking to him over the phone in the booth helped him get through many nights.
     Could they tell how close he was to losing it? Could they see on his face how much he wanted to give up? He tried to hide it. Behind his smile he was crying.
     Their time together that day was too short. It was gone in a blink. It was a small bandaid on a big wound. Morgan said she still loved him and told him not to give up hope. No matter what, they would always have a son together. Time could never take that away no matter what happened.
     Morgan promised she would write as soon as they got back home, so he would know they were okay. Next thing he knew they were waving goodbye and blowing kisses.
     He closed his eyes and lived that day again from beginning to end, pausing at his favorite places, rewinding and playing it over again. He had every moment engraved in his head. With so much time on his hands with nothing to do, reliving that day was his favorite thing to do. It helped him forget reality.

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When his family walked into the visiting room and Jamie laid eyes on his son emotion grabbed him in the chest. He was overwhelmed with love. He couldn’t stop thinking, “This is my son. This is my son.”
His son was growing up without him. No one could understand what it was like to be in a place like this, thinking everyday about a little boy he couldn’t see. They would never be able to get back the time they missed.
Would his son grow to love a man who was never there? His son, this smiling whirlwind of energy was what gave him hope, knowing he was waiting for him to get out. Jamie wanted to pick him up and swing him around. Hear him scream with laughter. Tickle him and laugh with him. He was dying inside. Not having his family was breaking him.
It had been hard for him when he had to grow up without a father. He watched his siblings go off to spend weekends with their fathers while he stayed home. He pretended it didn’t matter, but it did.
He and his mama didn’t talk about it, but that didn’t mean he didn’t wonder who he was. He had nothing to go on. There were no pictures to look at. His father was cut away from him completely. Was that good or bad? Did his father wonder what he was like?
Was it better for him to not know what his father looked like or where he was? He couldn’t miss someone who didn’t exist. But what did exist was knowing he didn’t have a father. Maybe he was being selfish, but he wanted his boy to know he was there. He wanted him to know he was loved. Nothing could ever change that. Jamie didn’t want to be this empty space in his son’s head where the thought of him was supposed to be.
To have so much love and not be able to show it because he could only look at them through glass was so cruel. The craving to wrap his arms around them was almost more than he could bear, but he didn’t want them to see that. He covered up the tears in his eyes with a smile. He wanted to touch him but couldn’t, so he wrapped his arms around his chest and held on to himself.
Little Jamie ran across the floor. He stumbled and fell, laughed and picked himself up. He ran back to the counter in front of the glass and laughed again. He knew he had an audience and ran off again. 

     Jamie watched him run. It grabbed his heart in a vise. He had screwed up so bad. It ripped him up not being able to watch him grow. Here he was, so close, but he still couldn’t reach far enough to touch him. He wanted to hold him, smell him, and kiss his skin to make sure he was real.
     He could tell Little Jamie knew he was his father just by the way he looked him in the eye. When he took off running he stopped, turned around and looked back at him to ee if he was still watching. All Jamie had to do was give him a frown and point at the chairnin front of him and he went right over and sat down.
     He didn’t know then that it would be another five years before he saw his son again, and when he did, he son wouldn’t know him. Not really. He shied away. He stared at his hands and would only answer a question with yes or no.
     It felt so good to see and talk to his mom. He was too far away for her to come visit on her own. He missed her. She asked if he needed anything. He asked if she could help him get a fan. She told him when she got home she would send him the money. It cost twenty-two dollars and he had no other way of getting money.
     Some states paid inmates a small amount of money to work, anywhere from ten cents an hour to maybe a dollar an hour for skilled labor. Texas won’t pay any amount of money for work no matter what the job was. They said they would give good time off your sentence, but they usually found a reason to take it away, even if they had make it up. The prison wasn’t above seeing up an inmate with false charges.
     The afternoon sped by. Toward the end everyone but Morgan went off for one last trip to the vending machines. The kids sure did like to feed it quarters. The older kids had grown so much. In his heart he was acutely aware of the time he was losing with his family. Would he ever be able to make it up to them? Would he get home before they were grown?
     Morgan sat in front of him silently as they looked each other in the eye. He didn’t know what to say to make it better.
     “Every day I miss you so much,” Jamie began.”This isn’t the way I wanted it to be for us.”
     “I know. I miss you, too.” He could see tears in her eyes. They put the palms of one hand on the glass and matched it.
     “I don’t expect you to wait if you find someone else.”
     She shook her head. “There isn’t anyone else,” she assured him with a little laugh. “When would I have time? Besides, who would want a woman with three kids?” She laughed again, trying to make light of it.
     “I would,” he answered back. “I plan on making parole and coming home in five years, but that is still a long time. You can talk to me if you do meet someone.”
     He paused and searched her eyes. “Please don’t hide anything from me because you think I’d be upset.”
     “Promise me you’ll write,” he added. “I don’t think I could stand it if I didn’t at least have your letters. No matter what happens I’ll always love you.”
     “I promise,” she lowered her eyes when she answered.
     “Will you write when you get home so I know you got there safely?”         She nodded her head.
     “If you’re still there and waiting for me when I get out, I promise,” Jamie paused to let it sink in, “the second time around I will make it up to you.
     A guard came over and told Morgan, “Five minutes. Wrap it up,” and walked back to where he was standing and folded his arms over his chest.
     This was the hardest part, saying goodbye. When would he see them again? How many times could he say the words, I love you? They were going to walk out of the room and a guard would take him back to his cell. Now all he had left were the memories of the day to think about.
      Jamie was more than glad they had come. It was better than he had hoped for. He had hope again. Everything was going to be okay.

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Over time Sonni became like a mom to him. She signed her letters, Love, mom. Jamie needed family. He needed encouragement that he could make it, and he needed to understand who he was. Sonni helped him make sense of what was happening to him. She said he brought this into his life. There were lessons to learn. He didn’t quite understand what she meant by that. But he knew if he didn’t have plan he wouldn’t make it. In the Fall, after the visit, he wrote her this letter:

wh jamie2

Dear Mom,
How are you? As for me I’m okay. I’ve been kinda upset. It’s been three months and I’ve only gotten one letter from Morgan. I’m trying to not let it get to me. I think she found someone else. I’m trying to control my emotions. I’m learning to have self control over my temper. So my days are going a lot better now.

I stay out of trouble by staying to myself. I have time every morning and evening in the day room for two hours. The rest of the time I’m in my cell. That’s because my custody level is G4 line 5. I am almost to where I’ll be in 24 hour lock up, if I get one more major case. If I make it seven months I’ll be put back in population. Then I can go to school and learn a trade and go to the library.

Thank you for caring about me. Yes, you can send books but you have to send them from someplace online. You can’t send them. We can also get magazines and puzzle books.

I have to go now. I forgot to say happy birthday. Write back soon, love,

your son

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THANKS FOR READING

New YouTube Music Video For Jamie’s Book

I recently posted the chapter, poetry and music for the title, “Can Anybody Hear Me?” , one of the chapters in the book, “Inside The Forbidden Outside.” Last night I uploaded the music video. Little by little I work through finishing all the parts.  I can actually see light at the end of the tunnel ( way down at the end and around a corner.)

 

I have posted some chapters over time of the rewrite, but I haven’t given links to be able to read them with any continuity. I’m going to post them so anyone who wants to can read the early part of the book, to hopefully create enough interest to want the finished product when it is completed.  You can subscribe to ITFO News at the and get info on other chapters and music published.  I will depending on readers to help share what they like. 50% of the profits go to Jamie sso when he gets out of prison he will have a cushion to help get his life started and also to help write sequel to this book.

This book will end before he is released. The sequel will about the process of getting, and the difficulties, mentally, emotionally and actually living in a society who has already prejudged him as a person.  Our society is not very welcoming. There is often so little we can do to help the people who have been abused in our prisons.

But the one thing people can is to support the efforts being made to help them be able to stand up when they get out.  If I thought for one minute that he was a threat to society in any way I would not be doing this.

These chapters do not start at the beginning, and don’t entail what happened to put him in Juvenile detention from late 16’s through 21.

Waiting . . . too long

Looking Into The Crystal Ball

How Much More Can I Take?

The Falling Rain

The Smith Unit – Prison #1

Can Anybody Hear Me?  ( The post before this one )

 

 

Can Anybody Hear Me? ITFO Book Chapter

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Last Note 2 sm

CAN ANYBODY HEAR ME?

“Put your shirt back on,” a female guard barked at him. Jamie and other inmates were being led back inside after working in the fields. “You can’t walk around like that.”

     “I need to cool down. I’m on seizure medication,” Jamie tried to tell her so she would understand. She cut him off mid sentence.
     “I don’t give a crap what your excuse is,” she fired back. “Put your goddamn shirt back on,” then turned and started in on another inmate.
     “Yes ma’am,” he replied with all the respect he could muster. No point in pissing off a guard. He couldn’t win that fight. He was learning he had to show respect and not expect any in return.
     Jamie continued down the hall until he reached his cell and went inside hoping his cellmate wasn’t there. He wanted to get some rest. His cell door was unlocked during the day, but in the evening all the doors were locked at the same time after the guards did the count to make sure they weren’t missing anyone. They needed to know everyone was in their cell and no one was someplace they shouldn’t be.
     He knew there were inmates who sold drugs and hid it in places outside their cell so they couldn’t get caught with it. Sometimes it was the guards who smuggled it in for them. You could get any kind of drug you wanted. Hooch was made, too. They could distill just about anything and make it into alcohol. Most of it tasted pretty nasty, but if it got you drunk that was all that mattered.
     He tried it a couple times but it wasn’t for him. If they got caught making it, so what. They were already locked up. They might do some time in solitary, but it was worth the chance if they wanted to get a buzz.
     General population – gen pop – his classification, meant he wasn’t confined to his cell and had more liberties than other classifications. G2,G4, G5, ad seg and solitary got lower and lower with less and less liberties. Some of the dudes couldn’t even leave their cell to go to chow, and had to be cuffed and in leg chains if they went anywhere. That wasn’t fun. They had a food tray shoved through a slot in their door. He never wanted it to get that bad. He needed to be able to at least walk around.
     It could be dangerous outside his cell, but it could be dangerous in his cell, too, if someone had a beef with him and came looking for him. He could never let his guard down. Having eyes in the back of your head could save your life.
     Prison rules about how to show someone respect wasn’t the same in here as it was in the free world. Some of the dudes were lifers and had nothing to lose if they hurt you. He always had to be careful. Someone could be carrying a shank. There were lots of things that could be turned into a knife. Stabbings weren’t uncommon, especially among the gangs.
     He could go hang out in the day room if he wanted, but he was too tired to do that right now. Besides, he was really grungy and needed to clean up. It was hot and stuffy, but it was like that anywhere he went.
His cellmate wasn’t there and Jamie was glad. They pretty much ignored each other. It was easier that way. He didn’t want to get to know him or be friends. He was an asshole with a bad attitude most of the time. He did nothing but complain and Jamie was tired of hearing him blame everything that happened in his life on someone else.
     He stripped off his clothes and wet his towel in the sink. He did his best to wash down his body using a small piece of soap he had left. Not until after the first of the month would he be given the meager supplies the prison was obligated to give him.
     They gave him a small tube of toothpaste each month, and every three months they gave him a new cheap toothbrush with bristles that fell out. It only had a three inch handle so it would be hard to file down into a blade. Much too small for a man’s hand, too.
     He got three little soaps, smaller than the soap you got in a motel room. It was made here in the prison and had lard and lye in it. It could take your skin off if you left it on too long. These the bars had to take care of all his cleaning. His body, the clothing he handwashed or cleaning his cell. It didn’t last long. Right now he needed to clean up as best he could. His skin was sticky with sweat. He felt dirty.
     Jamie would sweat rivers down his chest when he was outside. In this heat and humidity he was always soaked. Working out in the fields was some of the worst heat he ever felt.
     It was back-breaking work even on a cool day. Constantly bending over and pulling up vegetables was hard as hell on his back. He was constantly bending backward and rubbing the muscles in the small of his back. He never got used to it.
      When he bent over and his head hung down, the sweat ran into his eyes, and it stung. He tied a piece of cloth around his forehead but once it was soaked the sweat dripped anyway. It was hot and humid in East Texas, but West Texas was a different kind of hot. It sure felt like the sun had to be closer to the earth. When it beat down on you, and you got fried crispy like piece of chicken.
     Jamie knew what the slaves must’ve gone through long ago when they were forced to work the fields. Prison guards, slave owners, they were probably the same.
   Funny, now that he thought about it. They had overseers that probably walked the fields with whips and dogs just like the guards, except the guards had guns. Slave owners wouldn’t shoot their slaves because they paid a lot of money for them, like cattle. They needed their money’s worth out of them.
     All of them here in this prison were owned, just like slaves were. There was little difference between now and then except the slaves had their women to go to at the end of the day for comfort and he didn’t, not that he’d want Morgan to be here. But he did wish he could see her and little Jamie once in a while.
      “Stop it,” he argued with himself under his breath. “Just stop it.” He tried not to think about her all the time because it made him depressed. He tried to push it out his head.
     Jamie rinsed out his towel and hung it to dry by putting it over the round metal stool bolted to floor near the toilet. He stretched out on the lower bunk with his feet hanging over the end.
      Because of his epilepsy he wasn’t supposed to work in the sun. There were side effects from the medicine that sometimes made him feel bad. When he was overheated it could bring on a seizure. He wanted to be able to go outside so he rarely talked about it. Outside he could pretend he wasn’t here. In his mind he was able to start walking and keep on going. For a short while he was free.
    Jamie had felt like he was about to keel over and needed to cool down. That was why he had taken off his shirt. And he wasn’t naked, neither, no matter what she thought. He still had on his tank which was completely soaked.
      Coming inside wasn’t much relief. There was no air conditioning. If it was 105° outside, it was going to be 95° inside. All he could do was sweat. Playing cards or watching TV made him sweat.
     He wrote to his mom to see if she would send some money so he could buy a fan, but he didn’t hear back. Maybe she’ll send a letter later, sometime next week. It was always next week. He gave her excuses why she didn’t write. He never gave up hope. He didn’t care if she sent any money or not, he just wanted to hear from her. Was she okay? He loved his mama whether she wrote or not. He wished she would write.
    The field he worked in was huge. They grew a lot of different vegetables. Guards rode around on horses holding rifles. It looked like a different time in history. They had attack dogs walking around with them, too, in case one of them tried to run, which would be really stupid. There was no place to run except across the field and no way could anyone outrun those dogs in this heat. They’d probably drop dead of heat stroke.
       Even though it was stifling hot he still liked to go outside. As long as he could see the sky he felt free. He knew Morgan was seeing the same sky he was. Maybe they were both looking up at the same time. That was a new thought. He’d have to ask her to look up at a certain time. It was one thing they could do together.
       He had been here now for close to two years. In a way it seemed the time had gone by fast, and other times it crawled in slow motion. He tried to stick to himself and stay out of trouble. All he had to break up the boredom were Morgan’s letters. He daydreamed a lot. He would picture walking out of the prison and walking up to her with open arms. She was his family, her and the kids. They were all he had. To be honest he felt unloved by his family. He felt they didn’t want anything to do with him and that made him depressed and stressed out.
    Now, maybe it was his imagination but it seemed Morgan wasn’t writing back as much, and was taking longer between letters. He knew she was busy and all, taking care of three kids wasn’t easy, but she used to always find time, even if it was just a few lines.
     Maybe he was reading too much into it. He was afraid of losing her. What if it was over between them and he was by himself. What if he had no one to go home to? Sometimes when he thought about the years ahead he wanted to give up, but he couldn’t. And he had to make it. No matter who leaves him he always had his son. He couldn’t give up on him.
     His head started to pound. It was rocking back and forth between his temples. With one hand on either side if his head, he pressed. Not knowing what was going on really screwed with his head. He curled over and put his head on his knees. The pounding blood only made his head hurt worse. This is why some dudes went batshit crazy when they were locked up.
     Was anybody out there? Did anyone think about him in here all alone with nobody? Did anybody care? If he screamed would anybody hear?
      Today was his son’s birthday. Jamie bit his lower lip to keep himself together. It was heartbreaking to not be there. He never got to hold him. He would never get this time back.
     Jamie managed a smile as he pictured his son in his head. But why hadn’t she written back yet? He was starting to get worried. He sent a birthday card and put a letter for her inside. This was probably the longest he had gone without hearing from her. Maybe she had something she wanted to tell him but didn’t want to say it. Maybe she was seeing someone.
     Even though it scared him to think he would lose her, he understand the reality of how many years he could be gone. He had a meeting with the parole board when he reached five years, but if he didn’t get it they would probably put him off for another five.
     Jamie couldn’t give up on the hope of being released. But if he wasn’t, he knew he would be locked up too long to expect anyone to wait for him. Why would anyone else commit to being alone if they didn’t need to? It was a long time to ask someone to wait. He told Morgan in a letter she could talk to him about anything. If she wanted to move forward with her life he would understand. They could still write to each other and she could tell him about Jamie. But to not at least write? He couldn’t stand that.
     He thought he was the type of man who would want the mother of his son to be happy, not depressed and stressing. He wanted her to leave the stressing to him. But if she did find someone else he wanted her to say goodbye, not just stop writing and make him worry.
     It was easy to let his mind go crazy with all the possibilities that could go wrong with him locked up. It was hard to stop thinking about it.
     He closed his eyes. He was all twisted up inside worrying about not knowing what was going on in the world outside. There was nothing he could do about it. Not even make a phone call to find out. He had no numbers to call. No one registered their phone because it was too expensive, he guessed. He just had to wait.
      He fell asleep. He let go of the worry. His brain stopped spinning and he relaxed.
   “Mail,” the sound bounced inside his head.  “Mail.” Jamie was suddenly wide awake, listening. He didn’t jump up, but he still hoped there was mail for him. His head felt better. The pressure was gone. He could hear the cart being wheeled down the hall and soon come to a stop at his cell door.
     “Cummings,” was called out. “James Cummings, here’s your mail.” The inmate who delivered the mail reached in and handed him a letter. Then he turned to continue walking down the hall.
     “Thanks,” Jamie called out after him and looked down at the letter. He had expected it to be from Morgan, but it wasn’t. It was from her mom. Her mom?
     He sat down on the bed and stared at it for a few seconds. Why did she write? She had never written to him before this. Was it bad news? It had to be bad news. Did Morgan get her mom to write and break up with him? It looked like a card, but it wasn’t a holiday or anything. Finally, he ran out of excuses and starting opening the envelope.
     At that moment, before he had a chance to finish opening it, his cellmate walked in, pissed off and cussing up a storm. Jamie didn’t know why and wasn’t interested in finding out. The sound of his voice was instantly bringing his headache back again. He had to get out of here.
     He got up and headed down to the day room, hoping to find an empty table. He wanted some privacy to read and think. There were two tvs tuned to separate sports stations. If it wasn’t sports it was soap operas. They loved the soaps. People got hurt if they tried to change the channel. It wasn’t worth it. The old timers always got first dibs.
       He found a table and set the envelope in front of him. He looked at it again, front and back. She sent it from Key West. It was a card. A generic one. Nothing special. Did she just sign her name or did she say anything? He opened the card to see she wrote up the whole inside. He settled back to read:

Dear Jamie,

I should have written before, but time flies so fast some days. I have been very busy at the store. I thought of you many times these last couple years. I should have written before now. Morgan fills me in with how you are when I ask her. I know it has been very rough for you and I’m sorry you were moved so far away from your family. It would be easier if you could see them.

I miss not have Morgan and the kids here. Little Jamie had only turned one year old when they left. One day they were here and the next day they were gone. I asked her for your address.

I know she wants to come see you but she can’t afford it. Traveling with the kids would be hard. I told her if she could find someone to go with her I would pay her expenses and also pay for a motel. She asked your mom to go with her and she said yes. I’m sure she will write and tell you the weekend they are coming. You will finally get to see your son.

Write back if you want and I’ll answer your letter.
Take care, Sonni

Jamie sat there not knowing what to think. He closed his eyes and one tear rolled down his cheek.

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Can Anybody Hear Me?

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CAN ANYBODY HEAR ME?

Can anybody hear me?
Is anybody there?
Can anybody tell me
How I’m supposed to bear
The never ending silence
of no one in my head
Yet chaos on the outside
makes me scream instead

Who am I to talk to?
Who can understand?
The pain of never knowing
The thoughts of another man
I wait beside my cell door
For mail to call my name
And hope I’m not forgotten
I’m lonely just the same

Did anybody listen?
To the cries they heard inside
Did anybody wonder?
If my hope for life had died
Did anybody hear me?
Did you wait outside my door?
Or did you leave and walk away
You’re not waiting anymore

by Sonni Quick. ©2018

http://sonniquick.net

Subscribe to artist mailing list ( separate from ITFO News mailing list) at above website

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How Much More Can I Take – ITFO Book Chapter

Last Note 2 sm

How Much More Can I Take

Jamie lost track of time. He tried to mark the days by tearing threads out of his blanket, but he no longer knew what a day was. When did it begin and when did it end? It felt like he had been in the hole for a lot longer than he probably was. There was no way to know the time of day. That was intentional, adding to his disorientation by deliberately keeping him off balance. If the system could break him mentally it was an added bonus for them. People who work in a miserable setting enjoyed causing misery to others.
     The grunge on the tiny window high up on the wall only let greasy light through. It was worse than the times he spent in solitary when he was in juvenile detention, and that was hard to deal with. He didn’t know how to process what they did to him. If adults can’t wrap their head around that kind of deprivation, how could a kid?     

Those memories and the scars it created were carved images in his head he could never forget. This time he felt like there was no hope, like everything good in his life was gone and he was never getting out. He wanted to crawl inside himself. The feeling of despair was complete.
     The only thing that broke up his day was when they brought food. Most of it was the same, and too awful to eat. He didn’t eat. He didn’t know if he was being served breakfast or dinner and doubted it was being given to him at normal eating hours. No one answered his questions or told him what time it was. He gave up asking.
     Jamie laid there. He knew he lost weight and he also knew he stank pretty bad. Showers were out of the question. He wasn’t sure which smelled worse, him or the room itself.
     One day it was over. Just like that. He had no idea they were going to let him out. He heard the lock turn in the door and it opened. They said his time was done. The guard threw clean clothes at him and he was taken to the shower. Afterward he was taken to a dorm similar to the one he was in before, but smaller. A bunk was pointed out. He guessed he wouldn’t be beating up anyone else after this.

<<< >>>

A few months later, a guard came to the cell door and called out his name. His son has been born on July 7th, 2006, at 4:20 A.M. Finally, his son was here and he was okay. He was relieved.
     He knew it was going to be a boy and that his name would be James. Jamie might be in a bad place right now being locked up, but the day he found out his son was born felt like the happiest day he ever had in his entire life. He was beaming.  He was a father! That caused a smile to spread over his entire face. Jamie laughed. He couldn’t help himself. His cheeks hurt from grinning so big.
     Morgan had sent him one of those pictures they take at doctor appointments of the baby when it’s still inside. Jamie knew his son would be beautiful, because Morgan was beautiful. She also sent him a picture with her big tummy. Sometimes he took out the picture and stroked the growing mound with his finger, wishing he could feel the baby move and stretch. It made him realize how much he was missing.
     He might not be able to be the kind of father he wanted to be, but he would do his best. He tried not to think about that. Not today. He was going to be happy on this day.
Little Jamie was planned to be born on July 7th. Morgan and her mom drove to Miami the day before and got a hotel room because they had to be at the hospital early in the morning. After taking her to a room on the labor and delivery floor, one of the nurses gave her a medicine to start the labor. The medicine didn’t work. More than twelve hours later Jamie Jr. showed no sign of being born.
     The hospital where the doctor worked was a four hour drive from Key West. Morgan didn’t want to go into labor and not be able to make it to her doctor. If she had the baby in the Key West hospital she would get the doctor on call. Someone she didn’t know. She had problems with the delivery of her last baby. If there were more problems with this one they would fly her by helicopter to Jackson Memorial Hospital, which wasn’t the right hospital, either.
     Jamie didn’t realize how tense he was about the upcoming birth until it was over and he was able to relax. Not knowing what was happening and being out of the loop was the hardest to deal with.
     A lot of the dudes in his dorm were grinning and quite a few congratulations were going around. Even a couple of the guards congratulated him. That surprised him. He guessed hearing about a new baby allowed them to act human for a change.
     Jamie told everyone. This day would never come again and he wanted to make the most of it. It was the first time in more than seven months he had something, anything, to be happy about. Good things didn’t happen very often when you were locked up. Any reason you had to smile was a big deal, even if that reason belonged to someone else.
     He thought about his family. He missed them. He couldn’t share this with them. He was gone for four years when he was in juvenile detention and he did those years alone. He hadn’t been free for long before this happened. They weren’t there for him then, either. He didn’t feel like he was a part of his family for a long, but he still missed them. He wanted them to miss him, too. He felt like an outsider. Nobody told him nothing about what was going on in their lives.
     He needed his family to help him get hygiene and stamps and other things because he was not able to get any kind of job to make money. They don’t have jobs at jails. Not ones that pay you. All you do is wait, sometimes for years. But maybe when he gets sent off and settled they’ll give him a job.
     Jamie didn’t care what the job was, he didn’t want to be a burden on anyone. Even if it only paid twenty- two cents as hour, like he heard many jobs in prison did, it would still add up to dollars he could spend.

<<<  >>>

Some dudes had problems with their baby mamas and couldn’t see their kids. Jamie was glad it wasn’t like that with him and Morgan. She would never keep Jamie Jr. from him. He didn’t have to worry about that.
     Since he was let out of solitary and back in a dorm he was able to make a phone call to Morgan. She told him all about their baby. He stood there, still grinning, listening to all the details. He wasn’t happy, though, hearing how hard it was for her in the delivery room.
     “It wasn’t easy, Jamie.” Morgan told him quietly. “I had to have a c-section at the last minute. The doctor found the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck three times. They didn’t know that until they tried to take him out. That’s why he wouldn’t go down the birth canal. His vitals were dropping. The doctor had never seen a cord wrapped around a neck like that. Without surgery he would have died. He was lucky. We were all lucky”
     Morgan sounded tired. He wished he could’ve been there with her. She must have been scared. Healing from surgery, taking care of a newborn by herself, as well as the other kids, would wear her out. He was glad she was with her mom so she could help her. Now more than ever he realized how much he screwed up by going out that night.
     “I’m sorry I wasn’t there to help you,” he spoke quietly. Jamie’s regrets would become a pain that never healed.
     “More than anything,” he said, “I wish I could be there with you right now. Hold you in my arms with little Jamie between us. I want to protect both of you, and I can’t.” The anguish in his voice made his throat tighten.
     A fifteen minute jail call goes by too fast. There was never enough time to say all you wanted to say. The sadness in his heart after he hung up overshadowed the happiness he felt when he dialed her number.
     Reality hit hard. He didn’t want to think he wouldn’t be able to raise his son. He would miss every first – first laugh, first step, first tooth, first birthday, second birthday and more after that. He would miss it all. And little Jamie would miss having a daddy.

<<< >>>

He found out he was finally being moved. They couldn’t have sent him any farther away from home. Was it on purpose? There were a hundred prisons they could have sent him to. They had to choose one that was clear across the state where no one could visit if they wanted to? East Texas, where he was from, was had hills, pine trees and red dirt. West Texas was flat, a desert.
     There was no way now his family could come and see him. They had the perfect excuse. Making the drive in one day was impossible, especially with kids in the car. It looked like he was on his own for sure.
     Texas was a huge state to travel across. He had never been any farther west than Huntsville. Now he was being to sent to Smith Unit in Lamesa. By car it took about eighteen hours. By prison bus it would probably take four days. They wouldn’t take a direct route. They’d zigzagged to different prisons, picking up inmates and dropping others off. It would be a trip through hell.

It was summer and scorching hot. Even though there was air conditioning on the bus, it wasn’t strong enough to keep it cool from the heat of the sun scorching the metal of the bus. Having so many unwashed bodies inside that stank didn’t help, either.
     Through the entire trip across the state, Jamie wore the same white shirt and baggy elastic waist pants he put on the day they loaded up the men who were being transferred. He wouldn’t be able to take another shower until after he was processed when the bus arrived at the prison. No one cared if the inmates missed a shower, and no one cared how they felt about riding on the uncomfortable metal seats on the bus. Suffering was part of their sentence. They deserved it, right?
     After all the red tape was taken care of and he was assigned to a cell block, he should be able to make a phone call to Morgan and see how she and little Jamie were doing. He didn’t know then it would be weeks before he was allowed to make that call.
     Prison was going to be a lot different than jail. Jamie didn’t know how different, but he was going to do his best to do it right so maybe he could get out early. He also hoped maybe after awhile he could request to be moved closer to his family. If Morgan moved back to Texas he would do that for sure.
     Seated on the bus, the inmates were separated from the guard and driver up front. There was another guard and a dog in the back to keep them in line if needed. The guard had to deal with the stink right along with them.
     Guards and drivers changed a few times when they stopped at prisons along the way, exchanging some prisoners for others. The guards got to walk around and stretch their legs. The prisoners weren’t so lucky.
     The men had to sit silently and wait for the driver of the bus to start the engine again. He wasn’t allowed to let the engine idle if the guards weren’t onboard. They were standing outside having a smoke. The AC wouldn’t go on again until the engine kicked over. Jamie felt sweat drip down the side of his face. It was going to be a long, uncomfortable ride.
     The seats on the bus were hard like a city bus, not a Greyhound bus. There was no padding anywhere. The seats didn’t go back to make it possible to sleep or even relax. They were straight up and only came as high as his shoulder blades. There was no way he was getting comfortable. No way to sleep without dropping his chin to his chest. Because he was a big guy he couldn’t move his arms. either. The bus was made to make sure the men would be miserable.
     It was impossible for Jamie to stretch out his legs, so circulation was cut off at the knee. He couldn’t even cross a leg over his knee to get in a different position, and relieve one foot from hanging straight down. He knew his ankles and feet would swell. The heat made it worse.
     The guards were never amused by complaining. It was pointless, anyway. There was nothing they could do. He knew it was going to get worse the farther west they drove, when it became a drier heat. It sucked all the moisture out of his mouth and throat. He felt dehydrated and craved water. They weren’t given enough water. Less bathroom breaks that way, he guessed. But if anyone asked for water they just might make them wait even longer. Anything to make them feel worse.
     It was impossible to do more than doze off for a few minutes of light sleep. The whirring sound of the tires, as they turned on a road that was hot enough to melt rubber, was enough to lull the men into a stupor. Problem was, if they started falling to one side, the person next to them would give them a shove with their shoulder to tell them to straighten up.
     Jamie was cuffed to the man beside him. “I gotta piss.” The man nudged him. “We gotta get up,” he said almost in a whisper. This wasn’t their first trip to the toilet.
     “Guard, we need to go to the back of the bus,” he said loudly over his shoulder.
     If one man needed to use the john, they both had to go. Peeing was one thing, but it wasn’t much fun if you needed to sit and take a shit. No matter how hard they tried not to, sooner or later they all had to take a turn sitting on the seat.
     The guard came and unlocked them from the bus seat, but not from each other. It was hard for two connected people to do anything that took co-ordination.
     The guard returned to the back of the bus and stood near the door-less restroom. There was no privacy. Jamie and this other prisoner made their way to the back by walking sideways past the seats. When the other inmate stood inside the small closet-sized restroom, Jamie stood outside the doorway, and looked away, with his arm inside attached wrist to wrist down near this dudes privates. He was trying to give him a little privacy. He didn’t want to picture his wrist and hand participating with this stranger relieving himself.
     “Damn, it stinks in here.” Jamie muttered under his breath, trying not to cough as the dude finished up. Since they were all cuffed no one could easily clean up after themselves. There was pee on the floor, and anywhere else it splashed. The toilet seat was kept up out of respect for those who needed to sit, but it was still a mess. Forget washing your hands. How could you? After a couple days the smell was overwhelming. All they did was spray Lysol around the cubicle. Mixing with it was the heavy odor of a port-a-potty type toilet, along with body odor, making it hard to breathe. The men sitting in the back had it the roughest.
     Jamie desperately wanted to wash up. Splash water on his face and neck. Put on deodorant to mask his smell. He wished he had his property. That was supposed to arrive in a later bus, he was told, so no one else had any deodorant, either.

The only good thing about traveling on this bus was being able to see outside. There wasn’t much to look at but he could still see the horizon pass by. He supposed some people liked living in the West Texas desert but it sure looked boring to him.
     It was almost exciting to see a billboard and read the advertisement of some business trying to sell something. Insurance, an attorney office or a number to call if you feel suicidal. But there was also a high point knowing you were outside the walls and you could watch the day go from morning to night.
     Once he got to the Smith Unit he would be on the inside, and the outside became forbidden territory. The free world. A place he wouldn’t be able to live in again for a long time.
     “Hey, you got any family?” Jamie whispered to the dude next to him.
     “Shut up. No talking,” came from somewhere behind him.
     After a minute or so he heard a whisper, “Two girls. Three and five. You?”
     “Baby boy,” he whispered back. He glanced to the right and saw him nod. “Sorry, man.” He knew Jamie would miss the time of his baby being a baby.

     It felt to Jamie as though they were never going to get to the other side of Texas. It felt like an old Twilight Zone TV show where a scene was supposed to be real life, but you found out at the end it wasn’t. You never got to where you were going. The bus kept traveling down the highway. It didn’t get anymore unreal than that.

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ITFO Newsletter – Issue #17

This issue is focused on the progress with my book, music and music videos that have been created since the last issue went out. I’ve had much enjoyment doing this and I hope you take the time to listen, watch and read. It will only be through your support that this will be successful when I am done. Go to the link at the bottom to pull up the actual newsletter and also pull up any back issues. Have a wonderful day!

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Reach For The Stars

 If You Land On The Moon Look How Far You’ve Gone!
Today’s issue of ITFO News is dedicated to what is happening behind the scenes of my writing – music and the book. 2018 started out with a bang. Everything that all needed to be done at the same time landed on my lap.  I enjoy being busy, but what I really need are three sets of hands (or someone who wants to work for free doing the many things that have to be done)

There is so much to be done between writing blog posts and keeping up social media. I begin spinning plates when I wake and keep going until I fall off my chair around 5 AM.

I’ve been writing and recording music for the book I’ve been writing for 3 years. It’s been rewritten, rearranged, chapters deleted and added to: Inside The

ITFO Newsletter Issue #16

Chapter – Looking Into The Crystal Ball

Last Note 2 sm

(Sonni’s note:  It has been awhile since I posted any chapter edits so I thought for Christmas I would post one. This is fictionalized from the facts as I know them. The thoughts and descriptions are my own. Below is the music I posted earlier to go on the next album with this chapter. Subscribe to ITFO News to keep up with what is happening. Merry Christmas!)

LOOKING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL

Thoughts were racing through Jamie’s head. 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. What could they do to him? He had no idea but he had a feeling this was going to be a bad day. 
     A black man like him, born and raised in Texas would get as many years as they could give him. Racism is alive and well and Texas ranked with some of the worst. He had nothing to do but talk to other men waiting for their court date, too. Some had been waiting for years. He knew he was probably going to get locked up no matter what he said but he wanted a chance to tell the court his side of the story.
    Looking around the room at 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 who would listen and help. He did not go out that night with his friends so he could rob a club. He went out to party and have a good time. He wasn’t the one who had a gun in his back pack. He didn’t even know this friend had a gun until he talked about it in the car. He thought it was a joke. He didn’t think the dude was serious. If only he had done something to stop him.
     Morgan wrote 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. He knew an attorney who would take a deposit and pay off what was owed. 
     It sounded kinda hokey to him. She they trust him or do nothing? They should have done nothing because the friend and the money disappeared. Morgan lost money she needed for herself and the kids. 
     He knew his mom didn’t have any money to help him, so Morgan sent money she earned working at her mom’s store.  He would feel better if he could at least see her. That wasn’t going to happen. She was too far away. 
     Jamie’s life was falling apart. He had no control over what happening. He wasn’t going to see his infant son when he was born. He wanted to be a father more than anything but he could kiss that goodbye. He wouldn’t be able to hold him or be the kind of dad he had wanted, too. He couldn’t break the cycle of being raised without a father.
     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. Everybody did, he guessed. It was the only thing to believe in and he didn’t know anyone who didn’t think  God was up there overseeing things. Have a blessed day and all that. He had no reason not to believe, but he didn’t think God had done much to bless him. He prayed desperately since this happened but it didn’t do no 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 gang up on you,” he whispered to himself. He wasn’t about to let that happen.
     Even though Jamie was supposed to be in court today nobody talked to him about it. He was scared. He could hear his heart beating in his head and it echoed in his ears. He leaned against the grate covering the window. Hooking his fingers into the metal he stared outside, looking down at the sidewalk where he saw Morgan that first day when she brought his meds. He watched the seconds and minutes of his life pass by. He could see people coming and going as if it was just a normal day. 
     Clouds were creeping across the blue sky. It wasn’t normal for Jamie. He wanted so bad to leave the building and walk out into the day and be free. Could he change what was happening? Not likely. It took all of his willpower not to hit the window with his fists.

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“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.
     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 hesitated. Nobody told him someone was coming. Would he help him? There wasn’t much time. He had been in the jail for months, why was he coming to see him at the last minute? He slowly walked toward the guard.

“We don’t have all day.” The guard barked. “Get a move on it.” 

     Jamie turned around while he put cuffs on his wrists. There was no going anywhere outside this cell without cuffs.
     The guard gave him a small shove to get him walking. Looking down the hallway, the door to a small holding cell 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 ever seeing him before today.
     A skinny man with acne scars spread across his cheeks was waiting for him. 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 looking like he had hair. Poor dude, it was no wonder he was a public defender.  Maybe this was the only 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 at all like he was in the helping mood. 
He swept his arm in a gesture over the table telling 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 trip 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 with the silence but he wasn’t  going to let it show. The attorney took his time, letting his gaze wonder from Jamie’s head to his hands as if he expected him to jump up any minute and attack him.
      It wasn’t the first time a white man looked at him like that, assuming all black man were born violent. 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 speech. “You don’t have many options.”

     Son? He called him son? Was he talking down at him? Before he could say anything else Jamie chimed in. “I want to explain what happened. I didn’t . . .” 

     It was all he managed to get out before this man, whatever his name was, put both fists on the table, leaned over and looked him dead in the eyes. 

“I am 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.” The attorney paused for a few seconds. “You need to listen to me.”

“Tell your story to someone else,” he continued.

“All you need to know is . . . the District Attorney has an airtight charge against you and if you’re smart you’ll listen to what I have to say.” 
     The attorney paused again after he drilled that statement into Jamie’s head. He broke eye contact to open his briefcase and take out a few papers. He laid them on the table in front of Jamie.

“You need to sign your name admitting to guilt.” He put his finger on the line where Jamie was supposed to sign.

“I’m here to offer you a plea of forty years. You will only be going to court to admit to the judge you are guilty of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.”

     Jamie looked up and stared him, stunned. This man was trying to scare him and it worked. Was he serious? Forty years? No way would he agree to that.

“They have you dead to right. You ran out of a club after robbing it at gunpoint,” the attorney emphasized, rapping his knuckles on the table several times. 

“The money was found with your friend in the car you were driving. There is no defense for you.”

     Jamie stood. He could feel his anger rising. ” I am not going to agree to that.” It was hard to keep his voice from shaking. “I didn’t do it. I might have been there, but I did not have anything to do with what my friend did. That is why I ran.”

     He knew it didn’t matter. He had already been tried and found guilty. Nothing he said now would matter. Being there at the club made him an instant accomplice. But he couldn’t go down without a fight. Forty years would end his life.

“I want to go in front of the judge. I am not pleading guilty.” 

     The attorney 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. He shrugged, but he didn’t make a move to take him back to the cell so Jamie sat down. There was no point trying to talk to the guard anyway. He didn’t know anything. They waited together in silence. The guard moved and stood at the open door. Twenty minutes later the attorney walked back in. 

“I have another option for you. I sincerely advise you to take it. It is the best you are going to get.” The attorney put his briefcase on the table, opened it and took out a different set of papers. “There won’t be another one,” he added.      
     It was obvious this attorney wasn’t going to waste anymore of his precious time. Most likely he had other inmates to intimidate. Jamie wondered if he got paid a flat fee for every signed plea deal he accomplished because he certainly wanted this signed and delivered as fast as he could. He didn’t care what was best for Jamie. His motivation was his paycheck.

“You’re lucky,” the man continued. “The DA must have a soft spot for you.” Sarcasm dripped from his words. Jamie took a second to wonder why he disliked him so bad, or did he talk like this to every client he was paid to intimidate?

“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 and the state’s money, they will slap on extra charges. You’ll end up doing fifty to ninety-nine.”

“What charges?” Jamie demanded. The attorney ignored him.

Jamie was upset. “What about wasting years of my life?”
      He was being railroaded. He knew it and the attorney knew it. One case finished and on to the next sucker who couldn’t afford to pay a real attorney? Did he enjoy making sure every person assigned to him ended up pleading guilty?

“I need time to think about this,” Jamie told him. How could he agree to give up the rest of his youth in five minutes? 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. If he had known what his friend planned to do he would not have gone. Yes, he and Morgan needed money but he just got out of juvenile detention that year after four years of being locked up. He didn’t want to get locked up again on a felony charge with a baby on the way. Did they offered all of them the same deal? He needed answers, but there was no one who was going to explain them.
     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 said. I’ll be back for your answer.”
      How was Jamie supposed to know what to do in five minutes? Where was the attorney going when he left the room? Who was he talking to? 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 that was not going to happen no matter what he said in five minutes. Why? Wasn’t he supposed to defend him? Wasn’t that his job? He guessed not when the DA wanted it to end another way. This was justice?
     Right or wrong didn’t matter. No one was owed justice no matter what the wording said on the Bill of Rights. There was no way for him to come out of this without paying with many years of his life. He was screwed no matter what answer he gave. If he fights it, he loses more years.
      Jamie started to stand but the guard shook his head and 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 was seventeen years? He couldn’t imagine. It was almost as long as his whole life up till now.
     Should he take a chance and go to court? Maybe give up his whole life? At least he would know he tried. What other charges they could add? They could make up anything they wanted and knew he didn’t have an attorney who would fight them.
     Jamie 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 all thought of raising him. If he did all seventeen years he would be almost out of high school. They wouldn’t know each other, not really. 
     Morgan would 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 paroled. 
     So many unanswered questions were running through his head at the same time. His five minutes were over. He heard the heels of the attorney’s shoes as he neared the open door. As he walked back into the room he asked, “What’s your answer?”

Jamie looked down at the table, and at the same time reached out his hand for the papers. The attorney smiled.

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