Brandy… makes my heart race, my body warm, and my mind numb. I could really party with brandy…
“Hidee ho Mr. Dunn.” Mr. Stifleman says cheerfully as I walk into session. What a goof ball. He looks goofy too. Mr. Stifleman is my therapist. He is tall and lanky with a long face and bushy eyebrows. He lets his mustache grow down off his chin and curl up at the edges. He even pulls at it when he thinks. Every kingdom needs a jester. This is my kingdom.
“How is ADITLO.” He says as he leans back in his leather chair. The legs are worn down and rounded as he lifts them off the floor in his makeshift rocker. “ADITLO” is his saying for “a day in the life of”. I’m supposed to spill my guts.
“Good.” I say. Good to keep it brief, make him work for my words, then I’ll feed him a few lines and sit back to watch the show…“I met a cute girl today.” I bait him.
“Is this the same one as the other day?” He asks, taking the bait.
“No, I said I met her today. For a guy who is supposed to listen, you don’t do a very good job.” I slam.
“That is a hurtful thing to say.” He replies. “How might you express yourself in a more positive manner?” Mr. Stifleman asks but I know the damage’s been done. I can tell ‘cause he shifts his seat and comes unbalanced. He leans forward now, all four feet on the floor, with his arms on his desk.
“When I have to repeat myself I feel like I am not being heard.” I say on cue. Mr. Stifleman smiles, he looks proud of himself and of his pupil.
“You’re Dad,” He asks. “does he hear you?” Crap. I knew this was coming especially with my visit tomorrow.
“Yah he hears. My Dad’s great. He’s the only person who’s ever heard Me.” …My Dad used to let me smoke and we’d get drunk. He talked to me like a man. I was The Man. Just thinking about how great it used to be makes me wish session was over.
“Do you have any plans for tomorrow?” Mr. Stifleman continues to press.
“I’m not planning on stealing any cars, if that’s what you mean.” I accuse.
“No, that’s not what I meant. I mean, do you know what you are planning on saying to him?” He asks. Mr. Stifleman is so easy to shake up. If I keep him on the defensive then there’s less of a chance of him hitting any sore spots.
“I plan on saying hi.” I say.
Mr. Stifleman looks at me. There is that stupid mustache twist he does. He leans back in his chair again. “Tell me about this new girl.” He says finally.
“She’s a hotty, couldn’t keep her eyes off me this morning. I could really get into her…Pants that is.” I smile smugly. Mr. Stifleman continues to pull at his mustache. I get away with saying more in session then in other groups. I keep waiting for lectures but all he does is twist the mustache. If I had my knife with me now, I’d grab it and cut it off.
“What happened to your interest in the other girl?” He asks.
“Oh, she’s still a hotty. I had her drooling over me after exercise, real wet. Her pants will fit nice too.” I smirk.
“Have you talked to either of these girls?” Mr. Stifleman continues.
“Of course, they’re in my group this month.” I say.
“Do you even know their names?” He asks.
“What’s in a name? Babes like men who treat them like they are, chicks, I like my chicks southern style, hot and spicy with fat drumsticks and smothered in oil.” I say.
He stops twisting his mustache and leans forward. “That sounds like something your Dad would say.” Mr. Stifleman says. “How do you really feel about these girls?”
“They’re o.k..” I say. I ignore his comment about Dad. He’s just trying to get a rise out of me. The new girl with blue eyes and blond hair is even kinda sweet but she’s way too lean for my tastes. I like the other one. She’s got just enough cushions for comfort. “I was even supportive of them in group this morning. “ I say. I don’t tell him how one of them smuggled in some brandy or our plans of getting together later and partying with it.
“This reminds me,“ Mr.stifleman says,“ the monthly group rotation starts next week. I am signing you up for Anger management again, seeing that you were suspended from the last one for fighting… So how have you been getting along with Mr. Frost?” He asks.
“Fine.” I say. “The Jack ass is leaving tomorrow any way. He’s only been here six months. I’ve been here for eleven, ever since me and my Dad got busted. It’s not fair.” I say. The conversation is starting to piss me off. “Jack off” got busted for the same thing as me. So what if he stole food. What’s the difference between stealing some bread and fencing goods? Me and Dad used the money to buy food. If anything me and Dad worked like real businessmen, not like that petty theft bum, we were pro’s. Dad said we were part of a righteous system. What we stole had to be replaced which made the economy better and then when we sold it, we kept the pawn guy employed… regular business men and I heard that “Jack shit” ran off. When the heat came down on me and Dad I gave up quick and easy. I’ll never admit I was too scared to move. Dad though, he moved, left me in the dust and they were heavy on him for that. They didn’t get him though ‘til three weeks later. Mr. Stifleman once asked me how I felt about my Dad leaving me behind like that. Hell, it’s not like we were at a baseball game together. Dad always says you have to cover your own ass, run – don’t look back. That’s the only way to stay ahead. My Dad really knows the circuit. He’s the man.
“It’s good to see you expressing your feelings.” Mr. Stifleman says. “You’ve made a lot of progress. In another month you’ll have your care plan meeting. Have you been thinking about your options for placement?”
“I don’t need no frigin placement.” I say. Some choices I have anyway. With Dad in the pen I can either stay with my bible thumpin Aunt and Uncle or foster homes. “I can take care of myself.”
“That’s not an option. If you haven’t made a decision by this Friday, then the decision will be made for you. Is that what you want?” is Mr. Stifleman’s reply.
“No.” I say.
Finally session is over. I have some time before supper to find Brandy. I check out the common room but she’s not there. Neither is the new girl.
“Hi Rocky” says Peaches in her fruity little voice. Peaches reminds me of my cousin. Not her annoying habit of clinging to any one that smiles at her but her size. She’s the youngest kid here and small for her age so she looks even younger. I wonder if she’ll ever grow any bigger. My cousin has reddish hair like hers. I guess that’s why I made the mistake of sticking up for her once when Wally, the girl version of me but twice as big, decided to pick on her. I never hit a girl before but she swung first. We came to a mutual understanding. Now Peaches thinks she’s my friend no matter how mean I am to her. She’s kinda like a little puppy.
“Hey squirt, don’t bug me I’m looking for someone.” I say.
“Who ya looking for?” She asks.
“The new girl.” I say.
“Well if you’re looking for Miss Summers, she’s gonna be late, I saw her with her mom and dad. They looked real fancy. Not like my mom and dad. I wonder if they’re rich. Do you think they would want to adopt me?” she asks.
“You have to be an orphan before you’re adopted.” I say.
“What if my parents died? Would they adopt me then?” She continued. I decided to change the subject.
“I’m not looking for that new girl.” I say. “I’m looking for the other one. Is she in the girls ward?” The boys and girls rooms were on separate wings with the common area in the middle and the meeting rooms down a third hall kinda like a big T. The girls ward was off limits to boys and vice versa.
“I was gonna stop by her room to say hi so I’ll go check for ya.” Peaches says. She’s off down the hall in a half skip.
I hear Mr. Drumards booming voice from behind the med counter. “Don’t run in the hallways!”
I can’t help but see my little cousin in Peaches. The last time I saw her was… the week after the Christmas before last. We made the trip ‘cross town ‘cause they said they had some gifts for us and we needed some cash. Me and Dad had made five huge scores before Christmas but the media made such a fuss, calling us the grinches that stole Christmas… my Dad loved the publicity. All those kids that we stole from got new stuff from the t.v. station and donations. We actually did them a favor but the stuff we stole was so hot that our connections wouldn’t take it until it cooled off a bit. My niece was so excited she kept skipping around the house. She gave me a really cool Jacket that she bought herself with her own money. It was really nice and must have cost over fifty bucks. We got ten bucks for it at pawn. It bought us some cigarettes. The other stuff, toys and junk, a skate board, a portable c.d. player and a few sets of nice cloths all went for under twenty. We blew through that in a week on booze. The real money came from my Aunts Jewelry box. My job was to keep them distracted while Dad was “Napping” from all the “overtime” he had been working. My Dad’s great at lying. The next day my Uncle came to visit my Dad and my Dad started yelling at him. Then my Dad started accusing me. I knew it was an act but he grabbed me hard and threatened to beat the shit out of me if I had stolen anything. He did such a good job, I was really scared. After that they never asked about the stuff again. I saw my Uncle again at my hearing. He stood up for me. I was surprised. He said all I needed was a chance to be around some good role models… I wonder what’s taking Peaches so long when I hear the seclusion bell. When that happens, unless we’re in session, group or a meeting we have to go to our rooms. I guess my party’s gonna wait.
My room is boring. There’s nothing in it but a bed attached to the wall with a rubber mattress on it. A desk was built into the wall too with some drawers under them. I’ve a room by myself ‘cause they caught me stealing from the adjoining room one time. They never found the loot I had gathered before they caught me. I got a retainer from this one kid. He cried for a whole week before they got a replacement. That one was easy ‘cause he left it on his desk during the day. I knew they would get him another so I never felt bad. I stole a bracelet from Mr. Steward. That was tricky ‘cause he only took it off to help us kids do dishes if we were on restriction and so I had to take it real quick and slick with everyone milling around after meals. I actually got on restriction on purpose so I could grab it. It looked kind of like a dog tag and had a bible verse on it. When I sharpened the metal edge it made a great knife. I gave it to the Brandy to borrow though. That’s what I’ve decided to name her, ‘cause she smuggled in the brandy. I hope I get it back tonight ‘cause I’m planning on giving Jack a little going away present. The last little treasure I have belonged to him. I didn’t really steal it. When Jack first arrived he had this Black book that some other kid tried to tear up. I saw Mr. Drumard throw the cover away but Jack made such a fuss about it, the rest of the book got put into his locker in the office. I grabbed the cover out of the trash when the staff wasn’t looking. It was the cover to a bible. On the back side of it is part of a letter written by Grandpa Frost, the first few lines had been ripped so I couldn’t read them but whenever I get to missing my Dad I read what I can. I pull it out and read it now.
….. life is not always easy. It will have its ups and downs as you know too well. When you think about your Mom and Dad, bear in mind, I lost them too. With Gods’ help we will get through this together. It’s not what life takes from you but how you take what life gives you and use it to make life better. In this book you’ll find what you’re looking for. You just have to open your eyes. I pray God will fill the hole in your heart. He can if you just let him in. Remember I am here for you and I love you. God loves you too and when you’re ready you’ll find him here.
Love Grandpa Frost.
I didn’t know any bible verses so I wrote the one that I found on Mr. Stewards Bracelet at the bottom of the page, John 3:16. I don’t know why but it makes me feel strange whenever I read it.
I wonder what caused the alarm. Usually it’s a fight but I didn’t see one when I came onto the boys ward. Maybe Wally on the girls’ side got in a fight. It seems to be taking an awfully long time to clear. I am so bored I fall asleep.
When I wake it’s time for supper. I get in line behind Little Dicky. “How’s your new retainer working out?” I ask him, a private joke just for me.
“O.K.” he says. “They readjusted it so it’s not rubbing my mouth raw anymore.”
When we get to the serving counter it’s burnt Lasagna and runny pudding. “What happened?” I ask. “Did the cook go on strike?”
“We had an emergency.” Mr. Drumard growls back. “Just be thankful it’s not cold oatmeal.”
“Some Emergency, ” Wally says from behind me. “They took three girls out of here, two in ambulances and one in a police car. It was cool.”
“Who?” I ask.
“Those two new girls and Peaches.” She replies.
“What happened?” I ask, “Not that I care but it sounds like it was fun to watch.”
“Well, I didn’t really see what happened. All I know is they took Peaches out in an ambulance, and the other one that came in last week, out in cuffs then later the ambulance had to come back and take the newest girl out, you know the goody two shoes with the blond hair.”
“Cool.” I say but my insides feel like they’re shaking. I feel sick to my stomach. All I can think about is the knife I Gave Brandy. What happened? I don’t bother with supper. I ask Mr. Steward to be excused. I say I’m sick. He walks with me back to my room.
“One of the girls from your morning group was found with a sharp piece of metal this afternoon.” He says to me when we reach my door. “It was a bracelet that I lost a little while ago.” He continues. I don’t make eye contact. “It had been sharpened by someone into a knife. Would you happen to know anything about it?” He asks.
“No.” I lie. “and if I did I wouldn’t tell. I’m not a rat.” I say.
“A rat is someone who lets a friend get hurt just to save their own skin.” Mr. Steward says. “I know you’re not a rat. If you want to talk, about anything, I’m here.” He says.
I decide to go to bed early but it doesn’t help. I keep dreaming about Peaches being put into an ambulance, cut up by my knife, or Brandy, was she drunk? The new girl…?
I wake up to the breakfast bell. We have thirty minutes from the first bell to be in the cafeteria. I get there late. Breakfast is getting over. When I walk in I see Jack. I hear him asking a group of girls about the new girl. He calls her Swan. The Jerk thinks he’s a big shot giving out knick names just ‘cause he’s getting out today.
“Swan?” I say. “You mean dead duck. That new girl she did herself yesterday, from her wrist to elbow. They should have done a strip search when they let her in. Boy that girl knew her stuff.”Jack looked at me with a horrified expression. I can lie better than my dad and it feels good to cut him deep. I didn’t even need my knife.
“Mr. Frost. Your case worker is here.” Mr. Steward says. One less Jack in the box.
Morning exercise goes by in a haze. Ms. Sweetsir calls me in for group. It’s just me and Little Dicky.
“I can’t go into detail about what happened last night,” Ms. Sweetsir says. “However, if you know anything about the sharpened piece of metal or the brandy that was found you need to tell us. Our number one priority here is to keep everyone safe.” She says.
“Is Miss Bligh dead?” Little Dicky asks. “Was the piece of metal my retainer?” he continues.
“Don’t be stupid!” I yell. “I have your retainer you weasely piece of shit.” I confess; anything to change the subject.
“Why did you take my retainer?” He whines.
“”cause you have a little dick that’s why.” I yell at him.
“Mr. Dunn that is enough!” Ms. Sweetsir says.
“Why? Isn’t this group all about telling the truth? Don’t the ground rules say no one gets in trouble as long as it’s the truth? The kids nicknamed him Little Dicky ‘cause he has a little penis and no matter how much he pulls on it in the shower it’s not going to get bigger!” I say. Little Dicky breaks out in tears. What a pansy.
Ms. Sweetsir grabs me by the arm. She walks me out into the hall where Mr. Drumard’s stationed as support staff. “Mr. Dunn needs a time out.” She says to Mr. Drumard. He points to a hard metal chair in an open area of the hall. I sit down with a flop. Ms. Sweetsir goes back into the room to baby Little Dicky.
My free time before lunch is spent watching staff search my room for any other stolen goods. Mr. Steward finds the bible cover. “What’s this?” He asks.
“I found it in the trash can.” I say.
“It has Mr. Frost’s name on it.” He says.
“I found it in the trash.” I say.
“and your hand writing at the bottom?” He asks. I stare at the wall.
“Am I going to be able to visit my Dad today?” I ask.
“You came clean.” Mr. Steward says. “That takes a lot of courage. You won’t be getting any consequence and even if you were, you would still be able to see your dad.” He reassures me. “Now get ready for lunch. You have a busy day ahead of you.” He smiles.
“What about the cover?” I ask.
“I think Mr. Frost might like this back.” He says. “I have a bible in my car you can have. Why read the cover when you can read the book.”
“Sure” I shrug. I’m not in the mood for lunch. Anyway last time I went to visit my Dad Mr. Steward bought me food at McDonalds. My Dad never took me out to eat anywhere before, not even through the drive through. I want to save my appetite. I felt bad about what I did, not just the bracelet but his car. I couldn’t help but notice he left the keys in it when we got in. I told my Dad about it and he said it was the perfect opportunity to blow the joint. I heard Mr. Steward got in trouble for leaving the keys there but he didn’t press charges even though I totaled his car. That’s what kept me out of jail. I just got more time here. My Dad would never stick his neck out like that for me. “You got to watch your own ass” that’s what he would say.
‘”You ready to go.” Mr. Drumard said.
“You’re driving me?” I ask.
“Not if you’re going to waste my time talking about it.” He says. “I just want to warn you not to try anything stupid with me or you’ll see yourself in a prison cell right next to your old man.” He growls. “You’ll be there soon enough anyway.”
I don’t bother saying anything back to him. He’s not like Mr. Steward. Mr. Drumard is more like my Dad.When we get to the prison we check in and Mr. Drumard gets ready to leave.“You’re not walking in with me?” I ask. “Mr. Steward stayed with me until I was able to meet with dad.”
“I’m not a baby sitter.” He says. “You act out here and they have guards that’ll give you a real shake down. Mr. Steward will be in to pick you up when your visit is over.” He walks out without another word. I go through the rest of check in alone.
As I follow the guard down the corridor I stop. “Where are we going?” I ask. “My Dad is in general population.”
“Not anymore.” He says and keeps walking.
When I reach Dads new cell area, instead of being led to a visitor’s room I sit at a table with glass between us.“Dad, what’s going on?” I ask.
“Hey there’s the man!” he says. “Did you bring me any cigarettes?”
“No.” I say, “I’m still at that Youth Foster.”
“Yah? You still there? Well when you get out send me a carton of cigarettes.” He says.
“Why aren’t you in general population?” I ask.
“Oh hell, I got in a fight and the guy pulled a shaft but I got him with it instead. It was self defense, nothing to worry about. So did you get more time for that car deal we talked about?” he asks.
“Yeah Dad, I did. I crashed it.” I said.
“ohwhoya! You’re the man! You show the jerk hippies who’s the boss! You keeping up with them finger light skills of yours.” He asks.
“A few things.” I say. “There’s not a lot to pick from.”
“Well, when I get out we’ll get back to business. Nothing can keep pro’s like us down, Not me and the man!” he chuckles.
“When you getting out?” I ask.
“Oh, I got to go to trial about this murder thing first, but I’m not sweating it. I’m covering my ass. You know how it is.” He says.
“Yeah, I know.” I say.
“Next time you come to visit bring me a carton o.k.”
“Yeah.” I say. I get up to leave.
I hear Dad say to the man in the next booth, “That’s my boy, he’s a chip off the old block, just like me. He’s The Man.”
No. I am not The Man. I don’t want to be like you dad, I think to myself. I want to be like Mr. Steward, like Grandpa Frost, like my Uncle. I approach the outer doors. I am not “The Man”. The door closes behind me.