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4 P.M. COUNT Supervisor of Education Kyle Roberson 2014 National Endowment for the Arts Writer-in-Residence Jim Reese Copy Editor S. Marielle Frigge Assistant Copy Editor Lauren Janssen Design and Layout Stephanie Schultz Copyright Š 2014 by Federal Prison Camp, Yankton, SD All poems, prose, and artwork are used with permission by the authors, and they retain all rights to their work published herein. Except for brief quotations in reviews, no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the copyright owner unless such copying is expressly permitted by federal copyright law. Federal Prison Camp Yankton P.O. Box 680 Yankton, SD 57078 Front cover photo by Kyle Roberson Back cover photo by Todd Cowman

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Special thanks go to the following people for their help in the production of the 2014 issue of 4 P.M. Count: Dr. Beth Bienvenu and Katie Lyles Levy of the Office of Accessibility at the National Endowment for the Arts. Deltone Moore, Recreation Program Manager for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. J.S. Willis, Warden; Kyle Roberson, Supervisor of Education; Corey Uecker, Special Education Teacher; Dana Jodozi, Literacy Coordinator; Todd Cowman, Computer Service Manager; and the fine staff at Federal Prison Camp Yankton. S. Marielle Frigge for her continued guidance and support. Stephanie Schultz for her continued design expertise. And thanks to all of my new students. You guys are a talented bunch of writers-don’t ever forget that. Dr. Jim Reese

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TABLE OF CONTENTS 10 Terry McKenney ·Our Kitchen Table ·Up on Blocks ·Where I'm From ·Fence Posts ·The Baddest Car in the World 19 Patrick Hicks ·Letter 22 Flint Red Feather ·Growing Up on My Street in My Town Meant... ·Pine Ridge-Where I'm From ·Edge of the Bed 30 Joshua Russo ·How I Lost My First Prison Fight ·Post-Prison Plans: Become a Hermit 39 Debbi McCuin ·Letter 43 Joshua Russo ·National Players Theatre Review 46 John Masterson ·Anxiety on Pause 64 Maria Mazziotti Gillan ·Letter 66 Louis Bertrand ·Orange Crush 4

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67 Leo Dangel ·Letter 71 Jason Burton ·Man in the Box ·These Eyes ·Crazy Table ·Sweet Annie 81 Jamie Sullivan ·Letter 85 Edit Paz ·Grandma's Porch ·My School Story 88 Casey Hay ·Norm's Table ·Nova ·Single Stack Mack 98 Neil Harrison ·Letter 103

FPC Vocational Art Program Photos

117 Ray Hanson ·Off Like a Flock of Turtles 126 Todd Cowman ·FPC Yankton Transforms American Elm Tree 127 Ray Hanson ·The Eagle Project 135 Susan Kalsow ·Letter 5

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137 John Christian ·Let's Call Him Gavin ·The Inevitable 146 2014 Pencil Portrait Class ·Introduction by David Perez 163

Mark Adderley ·Letter

166 Donald Hynes ·I Was Told that She Came With the Building ·I Really Blew It This Time ·Busy Work ·I Always Avoid the Elephants 177 David Perez ·Last Time ·My "Big" Little Diego 182

Bernie Hunhoff ·Letter

186 Cory Kamerud ·Birthday ·Rabbits in the Snow ·A Better Man ·Dressed Like a Duck 204 Isaac Kimber ·Journey Through Reflections ·Who Would Have Known 216

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S. Marielle Frigge ·Letter

222 Johnny McBridge ·Young KATs (On the Corner) ·Lone Bidder 4 P.M. COUNT


224 Matthew McCauley ·Listening to Larry ·Carried With Me Forever ·Over the Phone ·Old Red Snapper ·Frosted ·Ryan 231 Michael Russell ·April Thirteenth ·B.O.P. Christmas ·Coming Home ·For Laurie ·Free Falling ·GOD ·How to Become a Great Poet ·Independence Day ·My Ending Dance ·My First Car ·The Songbird ·Visiting Day 244 Contributors

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INTRODUCTION It is my pleasure to present to you the 7th edition of 4 P.M. Count. This book is a collaborative effort between The National Endowment for the Arts, The Federal Bureau of Prison, Federal Prison Camp Yankton, Dr. Jim Reese (Artist-In-Residence), and the students and artists who contributed to this year’s edition. Here at FPC Yankton we strive to provide quality programming to the inmate population. We provide both academic and vocational education when preparing the inmates for reentry. We also encourage leisure and therapeutic activities that encourage personal growth. 4 P.M. Count is a publication created and published by our inmate population that meets all the aforementioned goals of our educational programming. Through their work on the publication, the men build literacy skills, both reading and writing, and also learn new things about themselves as they tell their stories. There is also the therapeutic component that helps them cope with decisions they have made, as they tell their stories regarding what brought them to their current place of residence. As readers you will get a unique and personal perspective that many people outside of corrections would never hear or understand. Other aspects of the publication include original stories, poetry, and artwork. Each of these pieces shows the incredible talent of the men who contributed to the publication. We are excited this year for the first time to include color inserts of some artwork created while the men participated in our painting classes and leisure hobby craft art programs. It is such a pleasure to see some of the hidden talents in our inmate population come out in such magnificent detail on their sketch pads, canvases, and journals. 8

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I hope you enjoy this year’s publication as much as the men have enjoyed putting it together. Sincerely, Kyle L. Roberson Supervisor of Education Federal Prison Camp Yankton Federal Bureau of Prisons

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2014 NEA Writer-in-Residence Jim Reese is an Associate Professor of English; Director of the Great Plains Writers’ Tour at Mount Marty College in Yankton, South Dakota; and Editorin-Chief of Paddlefish. Reese’s poetry and prose have been widely published, most recently in New York Quarterly, Poetry East, Paterson Literary Review, Louisiana Literature Review, Connecticut Review, and elsewhere. His book ghost on 3rd was a finalist for the 2010 Milt Kessler Poetry Award. Other recent awards include a 2012 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award and a 2012 Distinguished Public Service Award in recognition of Reese’s exemplary dedication and contributions to the Education Department at the Yankton Federal Prison Camp. Since 2008, Reese has been one of six artists-in-residence throughout the country who are part of the National Endowment for the Arts' interagency initiative with the Department of Justice’s Federal Bureau of Prisons. His new book Really Happy was just released by New York Quarterly Books in 2014. For more information visit: www.jimreese.org

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Photo by Jamie Ridgway

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Our Kitchen Table Terry McKenney The table in our kitchen was oak; it was a nice table as tables go. As a child, I would spend every holiday sitting at that table listening to my aunts and uncles telling tall tales of their deeds and mishaps as children growing up dirt poor in north Texas. I remember one Christmas my mother got the idea that we were going to roast chestnuts on an open fire like in the Christmas Carol only we didn’t actually have an open fire; we had an oven. That Christmas is still remembered throughout my family as "The Christmas Pat blew up the oven!� Let me tell you something about chestnuts; when you get them hot they explode so violently that they will blow open the oven door and then ricochet off all of your aunts and uncles and even your grandma causing a lot of ducking, yelling, bright red burns and great big bruises. I remember once when I was a small child; it had to have been very early in the morning because it was still dark outside. I heard loud noises coming from the kitchen so I got out of bed and went to see what was going on and as I walked through the doorway. I remember seeing my father lying on his stomach on the kitchen table screaming and there were several small boxes on the floor and several little bottles of merthiolate setting on the table next to him. His back looked like raw hamburger and my mother was digging chunks of potash out of him with a little paring knife and tweezers while the blood and merthiolate ran onto the floor. (Potash is a highly corrosive potassium compound used in fertilizer and medicine.) I remember my mother yelling at me to go back to bed. I was terrified; I thought my father was going to die. My father was a potash miner in the late 1960s. He was in a mine cave about 750 11

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feet down and several miles out along a horizontal tunnel when the ceiling collapsed, starting at the far end of the tunnel coming toward where my father was working, causing him to be blown head over heels more than 200 yards down the shaft and around a corner in the dark. He later told me, “It was like being shot out of a shotgun filled with rock salt.” My father was the strongest and bravest man I have ever known. He went back down into that mine two weeks later and had a heart attack when he stepped off the lift. He was that scared and yet he still went back down into that mine so that he could feed his family. Our kitchen table was also a place of answers where my every infraction, no matter how small, was dragged out and then broken down into a thousand ways that it was my fault, and it was always my fault. This is also where my mother would vent her anger at my inability to learn mathematics, ruining her plans for me to become a lawyer. I can still feel her hot breath on the side of my face, smelling like cigarettes and coffee; her voice filled with frustration while she whispered over and over again, “How simple this is," and "You can’t be this stupid,” all the while not understanding that numbers looked like some weird design or a foreign language to me. After my father’s heart attack they started taking in foster kids; this all started because I had two friends that were in foster care and needed more stable homes. So my parents, both having huge hearts, stepped up and took them in. All the kids in the neighborhood pretty much lived at our house anyway, so my mother jumped into foster care with both feet and before long they started taking in the severely abused and neglected kids that nobody else wanted because their physical and emotional needs were so extensive from the horrors inflicted upon them at the hands of the people that were supposed to be protecting them in the first place. Before long there were so many kids living at our house that I just kind of faded into the background; eventually they moved me into the master bedroom so I had my own bathroom and outside entrance. 12

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By the age of twelve, I was smoking pot, getting drunk, and staying out all night. By the time I was thirteen, I was sticking needles in my arms, having sex with adult women, selling dope and running wild. Our kitchen table was where I sat down at the age of fourteen and verbally abused my mother until out of sheer frustration she finally told me to leave beacuse she couldn’t take it anymore, and to be quite honest I don’t know how they put up with me as long as they did. My father passed away in 1988; my mother passed in 2011. I’m now fifty-one years old finishing up an eighty-seven month sentence in federal prison for drug trafficking. I gotta tell you that today I would give anything if I could go home, sit down, eat dinner, and have a conversation with my mom and dad just one more time at our kitchen table.

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Up on Blocks Terry McKenney Donnie was my cousin. He was real crippled up from a drunk driving accident so he spent a lot of time just sittin' on his porch drinkin' beer, smoking pot and shootin' at the ground squirrels in his front yard with his B.B. gun. He also taught me how to hunt rabbits, drink beer, and catch fish. Now if a person was so inclined as to be passing judgments on other folks I reckon it would be pretty safe to say that Donnie was a drunk, cuz he liked to drink, a lot. He would have a beer in one hand, another'n stuck tween his legs, and two more tucked into the chair right beside him and he’d keep his foot propped up there on the cooler. You know I always kinda figured that he kept his foot up there on that cooler so he could keep track of how much everybody else was drinking so in case it started to run low he could restock his chair. Oh and Donnie didn’t have no driver’s license neither 'cause they took it after he went and got his-self sixteen D.W.I.s. I stopped by Don's trailer one afternoon and he was sittin up there on the front porch wearin a Molly Hatchet t-shirt and lookin' a whole lot like Jesus drinkin' a beer, and before you ask, cuz I know your thinkin' it, no, I ain't never actually seen Jesus drinkin a beer, but I’m just sayin' that when Donnie had his hat off and his hair down he looked just like one of them pictures of sad Jesus that they sell down there at the flea market on Saturday afternoon-and he was drinkin' a beer! So anyway I pull up in the driveway, and right there in his front yard was this Ford pickup truck sittin' up on blocks with no wheels on it. So I asked Don, I said, “Hey Don, whose truck is that?” He smiles real big and says, "It’s mine, I bought it." “Now what’n the world’d you go and buy a truck for? 14

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You know you ain’t got no driver’s license.” ”Hell, I know I ain’t got no driver’s license; but it was a good deal. I couldn’t pass it up.” “A good deal, huh? Well where’s the wheels?” “I took 'em off and put 'em in the shed.” “Put 'em in the shed? Well why’d you go and do that?” He says, “Well you know I just figured that if I got drunk enough to wanna drive it, by the time I got the wheels back on it and got it down off the blocks I’d be sober enough to know better.”

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Where I'm From Terry McKenney I come from the land of murder and mayhem, roughnecks and miners, potash and oil. From the land of enchantment where the smell of sagebrush and salt cedars drift through the air on warm desert nights like a slow moving river carrying with it false whispers of peace and serenity. I come from the place where tourists see utopia and the locals count the syringe caps in the gutters. Where white trash is a lifestyle and trailer parks are considered upscale living. I am from the "Keep your mouth shut do your time" kind of place where two-legged rodents of the human variety vanish into thin air-often. Where I come from the boogieman does exist. I know this because I have seen him digging through the trash cans and grinning at me through my window at night. Through my veins runs the blood of Ireland, Scotland, and England. I come from an odd mix of horse thieves, misfits, and redneck backwoods good ol' boys. We come from the mountains of Tennessee, the hills of southern Missouri, and the plains of west Texas. We mind our own and stick together, God, family and friends. Where I’m from is a pretty good place to be from.

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Fence Posts Terry McKenney We was all sittin' out in my backyard one night wasted cuz we’d been drinkin' and partying all day when Don decided he was gonna get up and go home. Well now you know I tried to talk him out of it cuz I knew he was way too drunk to drive but oh hell no he’s gonna leave anyway so I just said, “Alrighty then see ya, Don,” and about thirty minutes later here he comes walking back up and says, “Hey Mike, you got any fence posts I can borrow?” “Fence posts? What do you need fence posts for?” “So I can fix your neighbor's fence so his sheep don’t get out.” “So his sheep don’t get out? What’d you do, run over the fence?” “No,” he said. “I did not run over the fence, my truck run over the fence right after it run over me.” “Your truck run over you?” “Look if you’re gonna keep repeatin' ever' thing I say this is gonna take all night.” “Take all night? What’s gonna take all night? Don, are you OK?” “No I’m not OK. I just told you I been run over by a pickup truck.” Then he pulled up his shirt and sure enough, tire tracks. Then he said, “Look here, my hat blew out the window so I stopped to pick it up and then when I backed up I backed up too far so I had to pull back up and then when I leaned out I fell out and then my truck run over me and now it's stuck in your neighbor's fence. So do you got any fence posts I can borrow or not?”

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The Baddest Car in the World Terry McKenney

There’s this guy back home named Rod; he’s my best friend and in the late 70s and early 80s he was the coolest guy in town. Everybody liked him, and I tried to be just like him. He had this car, a 1970 plum crazy purple, 340 T/A Challenger with a Six Pack. It was the baddest car in the world (in my world anyway). As a kid I stayed out on the streets a lot; I didn’t want to go home so I walked around all over town. Rod would see me walking and pull over and pick me up. A lot of who I am today is because of those nights spent in the back seat of that car just cruising around and jamming to Foghat, Nazareth, and REO Speedwagon. That’s where I developed my love of fast cars and loud stereos, and then one night I got to drive it. Rod looked at me and said, “Terry, let's go cruise the drag. You drive.” Oh yeah, this was a dream come true. Not only was I hanging out with my idol, I was gonna get to drive the baddest car in the world. It was 1978, I was fifteen years old, and I had finally achieved cool status. We had the windows down, the stereo was blasting out Jailbreak by Thin Lizzy, and people were looking at me and I just knew they were all wondering, “How did he get to drive that car?” We pulled up next to a carload of pretty girls in a jacked up 1973 Monte Carlo. Rod looks over at me and says, “When the light turns green, stand on in it.” Oh hell yes! The light turned green and I stomped on the gas pedal hard. The tires started smoking, the front end came up, and we took off like a rocket on rails and in my head I am screaming, “THIS IS SO FREAKIN' AWESOME!” Up ahead of us there were cars stopped at the red light so I let off the gas to start slowing down, only the gas pedal stayed on the floor and then I panicked and stomped on the brake and that caused 18

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us to go sideways. Then the car caught traction and we hit an elevated driveway and launched into Sir Burgers' parking lot at about eighty miles an hour. We were six feet off the ground when we hit their sign pole. In less than ten seconds I went from being the second coolest guy in town to being the dumbass that wrecked Rod’s car. On a Saturday night, on the main drag, in front of everybody, I had totaled the baddest car in the world.

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Patrick Hicks Patrick Hicks is the author of eight books, including The Commandant of Lubizec, This London, and Finding the Gossamer. His work has appeared in some of the most vital literary journals in America, including Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, The Missouri Review, Prairie Schooner, and many others. He has been nominated seven times for the Pushcart Prize, been a finalist for the High Plains Book Award, and also the Gival Press Novel Award. He has won the Glimmer Train Fiction Award as well as a number of grants, including ones from the Bush Artist Foundation and South Dakota Humanities Council. He is the Writer-in-Residence at Augustana College and also a faculty member at the MFA program at Sierra Nevada College. His first collection of short stories, The Collector of Names, is forthcoming with Schaffner Press.

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Photo by Jamie Horter

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A Letter from Patrick Hicks Gentlemen,

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Thanks for your letters, and I’m really grateful for all the kind words you had. It’s always a pleasure chatting with you about writing, life, and that point where these two big concepts intersect. I think this is my third or fourth time speaking with you at FPC Yankton, and I was particularly pleased to share the stage with Maria Mazziotti Gillan. Isn’t she amazing? What she had to say about being honest in your writing is so very true. Even for a fiction writer like myself (we’re supposed to make things up), I still believe that writing should in some way illuminate reality for us. I guess that’s why I was so pleased to hear that my novel connected with many of you. Although it’s about a fictitious death camp in the Nazi empire, it meant a lot to hear that you saw the Holocaust in new and important ways. But enough about me. I’m writing this on the eve of Christmas Eve, and it occurs to me that this must be a hard time of year for you. Many of you have children and I suspect you’d give anything to watch them open presents. Even if children aren’t in your life at this particular moment in time, the idea of being safe and warm with family must make your current situation all the more challenging. I don’t know why I’m saying this exactly, but maybe I wanted you to know that someone on the outside has paused to think of you all. As I grow older— and as I watch my son grow up—I’m slowly beginning to realize that family really is the only thing that matters. Everything else is just fluff and fireworks. So, I hope you’re with your families again soon. Forgive me for saying it, but maybe that would be a good writing prompt for you? Writing a poem or short story about being with your family around a Christmas tree (if you celebrate this Christian holiday) might bring about some powerful images. If you were to create such a poem or story, it would temporarily transport you there. I 4 P.M. COUNT


believe that words are a form of time travel and when we’re invested in a story, when we get swallowed up by the words, the present moment falls away and we live in imagination. By stringing words together you can exist elsewhere. And best of all? Whatever you write can be shared with mothers, fathers, siblings, children, and extended family. I hope I don’t sound too arrogant or know-itall here. I’ve got demons and problems of my own to sort through, but writing has helped me to navigate the landscape of my soul. Maybe it can act as a compass for you too? That’s what I’m hoping for, anyway—that the sense of exploration and liberation that I get from words might be of some use to you. And with that, I wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a peaceful New Year. Patrick 23 December, 2013

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Growing Up on My Street in My Town Meant... Flint Red Feather

Growing up on my street in my town meant…. You were courageous standing your ground, being tough Yet loving and compassionate, looking out for each other’s family Protecting the sanctity of marriage. While having the heart to endure in the Face of poverty, enemies, and being looked down on, or judged For being born on the wrong side of the track. Surviving when all else fails Never giving up. When loneliness and sorrow crept in comfort and encouragement Weren’t ever far away, you only needed to reach out and another took your hand.... But, those values were never learned nor did you hold to them, on my street in my town You looked out for number one, you ate when no one else did, and fighting was a norm You took sides or you left the block. You robbed your boy before he robbed you; these were the codes we lived by Growing up on my street in my town meant…. Running up to the window of a car pulling up to make a sale, before You're home, selling cocaine all hours of the night to people you didn’t know, While selling, holding, hiding, and partying. 23

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You would line up, cook on a spoon, and smoke away Always tweaking, ever paranoid but willing to do it again and again without care Feeling so untouchable, jumping from cars with bats, fighting mobs of guys Entering our block because a family member picked a fight on the wrong side of town. Beating someone down or getting beat up, was an everyday occurrence, Always strapped with a bulletproof vest that was bought from a corrupt tribal cop. Standing guard against rivals filled with jealousy because their women came to party and hook up Belligerent drunks threatening to stab everyone, cops knocking on doors, coming in and Hauling everyone to jail, calling you by name, you could always find a drink, smoke a Joint or snort a firefighting line of cocaine, fighting each other‌. Growing up on my street in my town meant‌. Extended family, not your own, neighborhood kids hanging around, because their own Families were too drunk to cook or put food on the table, bills not paid, dirty clothes, Many times there were thirty plus people waiting to eat like a soup line, bodies In rows on the floor like sardines asleep, we lived in small two bedroom houses, given To our tribe in the fifties, because they were condemned houses from Ellsworth Air Force Base. They were named igloo houses, cheaply made, blemished gifts, but we called them homes They were a promise fulfilled by the U.S. government singed in the early treaties, homes filled with fatherless children and deadbeat dads 24

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Young mothers always threatened with neglect. Waiting for monthly commodities, considered rash INS in the early days on the reservation, hundreds Of years earlier, which hasn’t changed since, this was my street in my town. Only silence where families once lived, prison now holds them and feeds them. Our street is peaceful, our neighbors are content, the police force is relieved, our rivals satisfied We no longer are a threat. It’s a place that no longer holds emotions hostage, it no longer causes pain, scars, hurts, hate. No more jealousy, broken homes, or destroyed families or a place for long parties late into the night. No longer feared, dreaded, or avoided is our street, Once our street welcomed President, Bill Clinton; now it only welcomes tree growth, weeds, plants and wild flowers, it’s a place for birds to nest, dogs to roam and mark their territory as we once did Silence replaces drunken laughter, shouts of hate, or the sound of man slapping his spouse. The ground that once drank in the spilled beer, wine, whiskey, tears, urine, only drinks in the rain. Our street welcomes the rising of the sun no longer will the sounds of sirens, or the footsteps of tribal cops sound on our street at nights, only the sound of nature, squeaks of bats, or the bark of dogs, and the rustling of the leaves in the wind, Today eight years later our street holds only memories, dashed dreams, lost hopes, and broken promises of long ago…. This is what it meant to grow up on my street in my town.

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Pine Ridge-Where I'm From Flint Red Feather

I emanate from an ancient place once called "Turtle Island," otherwise known as the United States of America, which many indigenous peoples once called home. I am from the place where Manifest Destiny left deep scars of the presidents' faces carved into "Uncap Make" (mother earth). I come from a place of broken treaties, lands taken when the earth gave birth to gold, a place called the Black Hills of South Dakota. I originate from buffalo hunts and war parties where dancing was a sacred way of life; I am from the Great Buffalo Nation. I come from the place where sage is spiritual and sweet grass braids our prayers with the creator; I am from the Great Plains. I am from humble CA’s (vision quests), Sundances, and inipis (sweat lodges), where long hair is worn proudly as a sign of honor and is a symbol of strength to my Lakota Oyate (people). A place where "Chiefs" are men of honor and not a sports logo. I am from the place that holds to the hope of a prophecy of a white buffalo calf waiting to be born, a place awaiting the fulfilling of that prophecy and the return of our ancestors and the Great Buffalo Nation. 26

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I am from a culture that lives by the medicine wheel teachings, the four directions, and a balanced way of life, from the dream keepers to the story tellers. I’m from "the people who scatters," the Oglala Lakota from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, often called the prairie dwellers, from wild turnips and dried meat. From the line of descent where the first ancestors of mine received the name of honor I carry. It’s the place where a feather is dipped in blood, where respect, honor, and bravery are given when presented with a "Red Feather." The name my tunkasila (grandfather) received at birth and wore with pride and dignity two generations before it was handed down to me. I am from a land that no longer recognizes the sole of my feet, but one day will feel the weight of my prison number, where family pictures linger no more and the color red slowly fades from my feather. A place where memories are all I hold, of where I'm from.

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Edge of the Bed Flint Red Feather I don’t understand how he can just get up and walk away after telling me he’s going to town we both know what that means. I can’t believe he we would do this again! It’s always the same things, excuses and lies, so he can go get drunk, and I know he flirts with other women. But, what can I do, I love him! I can’t take this anymore! I need to talk to him; he needs to know how this makes me feel. But he never listen’s to me when he makes up his mind, but I have to try something. As I walk down the hallway I wonder what made him want to leave; was it me? Did I do something? I wonder what makes him do this. I walk up to the door and into the room as he sits on the edge of the bed tying his shoes. I wonder to myself how we got this far apart. It’s as if we are strangers under the same roof; I feel so anxious and frustrated with him. I stand at the door waiting, then I slowly turn and shut the door behind me and I pause facing the door for what feels like a lifetime as I think of what to say and how to say it. Besides, I don’t want the kids to hear us talking about our problems; they're too young to have to go through this. I force myself to turn around and face him; I realize I need to, for us, for the kids. I look at him as he finishes tying his shoes and looks up at me. Our eyes meet and I speak, "Geez, Tom, why don’t you like to talk to me? All you want to do is go and hide in that bottle, not taking responsibility for all you do and say, all you want to do is drink, you don’t even spend time with me or the kids. I don’t understand why it’s so important for you to get so drunk you can’t walk straight or remember who you were 28

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with or what you did the night before. "It hurts me to feel so neglected, lonely, carrying the load myself while you live wild and carefree. Don’t get me wrong, I realize you had a tough life but so have I. We aren’t perfect people but I hoped after we got together things would be different and you would want to change; I never thought it would be like this. I was and am still in love with you. I know you’re a special man and have great potential but you’re throwing it all away and for what-so you don’t have to feel the pain and hurt, the full load of reality? "I lay awake late at night crying and thinking about us, the kids, and the life we live, and how your drinking is affecting us as a family, all the arguing, fighting, lies, the cheating and deception that’s hidden under this roof. I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life. We go through this all the time when you’re not happy or when things get hard. Life will always be tough and things from the past should teach us to do better not build walls and hold everything and everyone at bay. "All I want is for you to talk to me, but that’s hard for you to try, I don’t know why, you don’t tell me anything. Whatever happened in the past that hurt so bad for you to live like this, I wish you would talk to me about it. I know it will help you heal from it; just trust me, let me in, please, Tom! "I get so tired of talking to myself, and I’m never part of your decisions and when I inquire, you blow up at me, telling me to stay out of your business when you are my business. I don’t get it! Sometimes I feel I’m in this relationship alone and the kids and I don’t matter. "It scares me to even think of what you do outside this home and with whom, but I love you enough to say what I feel; I can’t take it anymore. I work all day while you sleep all day long; when I get up in the morning I clean up your mess, all the empty beer cans and the mess at the kitchen table. You even left the front door wide open while the boys slept on the couch. I don’t even know how you made it home last night; did you drive drunk again? You 29

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know that scares me! "Tom, you act as if you don’t care but I know you do, I see it each time you realize you want better, you quit and go cold turkey for weeks at a time, but it’s only a matter of time before you become a crabby sober drunk and you get so tense, irritated, and mean. You need help, the kind I can’t offer you; I know you don’t like to ask for help, but please, for me, for the kids. Get help! I’ll even go with you! "I love you dearly but I’m out of answers. I don’t know what to do anymore. If we don’t get help soon, Tom, you’re going to lose us. I can’t wait forever for you to change, but I will support you in any way I can so we can beat this addiction. I know it’s hard but I’m willing to stand beside you through this. For us, for the kids, please let me help you!" As I stand there in front of the door, he sits with his head down as if he’s thinking about what I said, then he stands up, stares at me with this look as if nothing will change. He rolls his eyes and moves towards me and I step to the side as he opens the door, walks past me down the hall and out the front door. I can hear the car start up and my heart hits the floor, broken, as I drop to the edge of the bed I think, "Do we matter more than the alcohol and other women?" I cup my face in my hands and begin to cry.

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How I Lost My First Prison Fight Joshua Russo At the end of a tense and somber four-hour drive through western Iowa into South Dakota, I embraced my mother and brother in an emotional farewell. With a dramatic pivot and an eighties music-themed montage playing in my head, I turned my back on the free world and entered Federal Prison Camp Yankton. My first home inside the confines was in a basement room which housed eighteen people via bunk beds. Only twelve of the eighteen beds in my first room were currently in use. I began digging through the contents of the welcome kit given to me by the bureau of prisons. Two large mesh laundry bags contained my new wardrobe, which consisted of four khaki shirts, four khaki pants, boxers, socks, soap and razors. My feet were encased in two steel-toed boots that were approximately one and a half sizes too big, weighed four pounds and were exceptionally uncomfortable in every way possible. I began to sense that in prison functionality was more important than comfort and style. I paused momentarily in search of additional toiletries, but to my dismay deodorant and shower shoes must not have been considered a necessity. I wondered what I was supposed to sleep in, but that was a problem for later. Unfazed, I began to put the aged and stained bed sheets on the one-inch thick mattress which I found lying destitute on my top bunk. After making up my bed, I surveyed the scene and introduced myself to a couple of my new roommates who were scattered throughout the room. Most began the conversation with a knowing smirk and some form of presumption-"I’m guessing this is your first spot." Someone told me that I still smelled like McDonalds, to which I replied, "That’s strange, I haven’t eaten McDonalds in a long 31

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time." The room was quite a mixed bag of fellas, that much was clear. The area was the very definition of diversity in age and race. I began to sense that I was the only individual there for a white-collar crime. I realized that I was the only white person in the room at all. Later in the afternoon I followed the crowd to dinner and spent the remainder of the evening surveying my new surroundings. People kept asking me if I was from Chicago and for the life of me I could not figure out how they knew. My guess was that they had somehow received an advanced scouting report on all new inmates and I felt a momentary sense of pride that people seemed to have anticipated my arrival. Later I was told that the last three digits of my prison ID number represented the district my case came from and no one in any way, shape, or form had awaited my entrance. My first night in prison I did not sleep. I feel foolish saying this now, having been in Yankton for over a year. However, that first night I expected the worst. Actually I didn’t know what to expect. At 10:00 p.m. I stood when everyone else did. Afterwards, as I lay my head on that uncomfortable pillow, I listened to the soothing sounds of rap artist E-40 that were blasting through my cellmate’s headphones. Someone had told me that the basement of the unit that I was in was the location for disciplinary inmates, which honestly made me slightly afraid. I did not know what "counts" were or when they were, and every time the officers came into the room that night, I made eye contact with them from my top perch as if to tell them, "If you’re here to look in on me, I’m still doing okay, thanks for checking." Prison, I decided, was going to be a very humbling experience. My stay in the basement was not to last and after five days I was moved upstairs to the third floor of the same residence hall. This time, I was moved into a seven-man room. I met a new but similarly diverse group of characters that would be my roommates in our sixteen by ten area. The housing unit is a historical relic, preserving the rich culture 32

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and tradition of Yankton College. However, this meant that there was no air conditioning and up on the top floor the heat was at times unbearable. In lieu of air conditioning, the rooms all have very powerful ceiling fans, which hang from the relatively low ceilings. The fans are constantly set on the highest speed setting. Occasionally the fan, coupled with an open window, would provide a breath of cool fresh air into the otherwise sauna-like room. Within the first hour of being assigned to my new room, I had made up my bed and had put my sparse collection of belongings into my locker. I was issued my own chair made of thick plastic which had my bed number painted on the back of it. I began to use my chair to clean the areas that I could reach on the wall next to my pillow. In my five days of prison I had become accustomed to the idea of using pink disinfectant all-in-one cleaner for virtually everything. While on top of my chair I figured that I would show my new “bunky” (the person with whom I share a bunk bed) and my “cellys” (persons whom I share a room with) what a nice gentleman I was and do some cleaning. It was the Friday night of the Labor Day weekend. Spirits were high on the compound and everyone seemed to be enthusiastic for the three-day holiday festivities. It was my first Friday night in prison, my fifth day. The heat was stifling that evening, nearly unbearable and the fan’s motors were on full overdrive in a futile attempt to cool the humid room. I stood atop my plastic chair, working up a sweat as I cleaned. As I finished wiping the top of my locker, I momentarily lost track of where I was in the room. I turned to dismount the chair and pivoted away from my locker towards the center of the room. WHACK THUMP THUMP THUMP The wooden fan blades struck me in the middle of the forehead with brutal force. I had dismounted directly into the deceptively low-hung fan. I momentarily lost all sense of surroundings and the room began to spin. Dazed, I collected myself and looked around for witnesses. Surely 33

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someone had heard the sound. But my new roommates were nowhere to be seen. I recall being slightly impressed with myself for sticking the landing even while falling off the chair. But before I could get too excited about landing on my feet I felt the warm blood begin to ooze down the side of my face. I quickly opened my locker and tried to find a towel. However, in my panic, I couldn’t and instead grabbed a pair of boxer shorts. I looked into the mirror which hung on the inside panel. On the side of my forehead blood poured from a two-inch gash. The cut was a direct wound, deep and true. I was bleeding profusely so I headed to the bathroom to gauge the situation further. Immediately I deemed that the damage was stitch-worthy. What was worse, I had three huge lumps running straight across my forehead from where the individual fan blades had whacked me across my dome in cartoon-like fashion. Things did not look good. Having been in prison for only five days, I felt like crying, calling my mom and telling her that I was ready to come home and to come and pick me up where she dropped me off. But I bit my lip and headed downstairs to the officer in charge of the unit to tell him what had happened. The officer seemed slightly taken aback to have a profusely bleeding person standing in his doorway, holding a pair of underwear over his blood-spattered face. Finally he sent me down to medical. The walk from my housing unit to medical seemed to take hours and I tried to hide in embarrassment as my fellow inmates gawked and pointed in my direction. Blood poured down my face, soaking the boxers. I don’t know what I would think if I would have seen a brand-new guy walking around with blood drenched boxer shorts covering his face. But I probably would have pointed and laughed, too. I was met at medical by a lieutenant who seemed to be in charge of discipline and dealing with any incidents on the compound. He immediately suspected that someone had beat me up and I spent the next fifteen minutes explaining that I hadn’t even been in prison long enough 34

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to make any friends, much less enemies. The ceiling fan was the culprit. The fan blades were the only guilty party involved. Finally after examining my wounds a little more closely, he saw the pattern of the gash, lump, lump, lump across my forehead and began to come around. The lieutenant took pictures of my wounds, which was now epically bleeding in a scene reminiscent of William Wallace in Braveheart: blood gushing down my face as though I just had survived an epic battle. He then began to call the medical staff to come in and administer treatment. Since it was 8:00 p.m. on a Friday night, all of the qualified medical staff presumedly was out partaking in Yankton’s rousing nightlife scene. After forty-five minutes, he was finally able to reach a nurse who arrived shortly after 9:00. As luck would have it, unfortunately the nurse was not licensed to give stitches. “No problem,” she said. “We’ll just glue it together. Stitches would be best, but glue will be just as good.” After a few minutes of searching the office, she came back and reported that she could not find any glue. “No problem,” she said. “We’ll just butterfly bandage it. That’s definitely just as good.” She retreated back into the office to grab the bandages. After a few minutes of searching, she came back into the room and announced that she could not find any butterfly bandages. “No problem,” she said. “We’ll just tape it up and wait for the doctors to arrive in the morning.” So she taped it using four strips of narrow white tape. I was told to borrow some ibuprofen from my new roommates to help with the swelling and to ice the wound to help with the scarring. This is when I realized that I had just received my first prison scar, five days into my prison bit. Around 9:30 p.m. I returned to my room, to the astonishment of my cellys. After I left, the officer in charge had come up to the room, demanding to know what happened; he did a shirts-off upper body check on my 35

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roommates to make sure that none of them had pummeled me. He also inspected the ceiling fan for clues. I then told my shocked roommates the story of how I was felled by our ceiling fan. After telling them the tale of my folly, I made light of the situation by highlighting my tremendous clumsiness and fall from the chair. I casually remarked, “Well, at least I will have my first prison scar. Please don’t give me some terrible nickname like 'ceiling fan head' or ‘fan blade.'" Their eyes immediately lit up as they knowingly glanced at each other around the room. From that day forth, I have been known to many a person across the compound simply as “Blade.” When asked why that was my nickname, I usually will respond with, “Because I’m good with a knife.” But no one believes me. Why would they? I got beat up by a ceiling fan.

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Post-Prison Plans: Become a Hermit Joshua Russo

After I was sentenced to federal prison, I decided that I once I was released and back in the free world, I was going to disappear from the face of the earth. After my incarceration, I planned on moving to the woods and becoming a loner. I did not want to see anyone, talk to anyone or interact with any other human in any way. I did not want to be responsible for anything, to be accountable to anyone and I did not want to take anything from another person. I decided that the best course of action to not be a burden to anyone else, to not hurt anyone else, was to move to the woods and become a hermit. I planned on sitting in the woods with cans of pork and beans and a fire that I had built myself. I would catch fish from the river. I would be a vagabond who was answerable to no one and responsible only for himself. No one would depend on me and no one would be let down when I disappointed them. I would learn to live off the land and to fend for myself. I would be one with nature. I would befriend the animals of the forest. I would bask in the sweet sounds of nature and gaze up into the night sky full of stars that shone a brilliant bright. I would rely on the woods for everything that I needed. I would have no money, which would have been how I wanted it since money was the source of all of my problems. When people would stumble across my home (which I envisioned as a rustic log cabin which I built with my own two hands) I would be friendly and welcoming to them. I would offer them coffee and perhaps a piece of whatever fresh catch I had caught in the morning. Or if I had really honed my skills as a hunter, perhaps a piece of venison from the deer that I had killed with my bare 37

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hands, or potentially with some sort of weapon that I had fashioned out of wood. As a rugged outdoorsman hermit, I believed, those are things that I would be able to do. My guests would sit patiently in suspense as I told them stories of my life journey. They would glance at each other in disbelief as I regaled them with the tale of the youthful hubris that led me to prison. And before they left, I would impart to them words of wisdom. My cautious guidance would warn them of the dangers that await them in the world, such as the evils of greed and the pursuit of money without regard for morals. I would want these strangers to leave my log cabin saying, “Wow, that guy was really interesting and surprisingly not crazy at all.” Before I came to prison, my plan was to get lost in the woods and never come out again. To a man at the bottom, this seems like a viable option. But the biggest problem with that strategy is that I hate the woods. I can’t stand camping and don’t really even enjoy the outdoors. I am not a skilled craftsman nor have I ever whittled anything. I have never owned a knife much less fashioned an entire log cabin with my bare hands. Nor have I ever killed a deer. In fact, I have never even caught a fish in my entire life. The thought of being dirty and unable to shower is unappealing to me. I don’t know the first thing about survival or living off the land. In reality, I would probably just get picked up by the police for trespassing because I don’t know of any woods anywhere where that isn’t the most likely outcome. I would be hauled out from my log cabin (which would really just be a bed sheet hanging from a string that I tied to two trees) in handcuffs. I would be dirty and smell very bad. I would also be emaciated due to the fact that all I had eaten in weeks would be some berries that I stumbled upon or perhaps some bugs. I would be tired, hungry and lonely and probably pretty happy to be rescued, even if it was by the police. Before I came to prison, I wanted to disappear off the face of the earth and move into the woods to be a 38

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hermit. But now I’ve decided that I would be better off just facing life. It seems easier.

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Debbi McCuin Dr. Debbi McCuin is a dedicated wife and mother of two. Having always known she wanted to impact children's lives, she spent twenty years teaching in the primary grades of public school. In pursuing a graduate degree in counseling, she learned the value and impact of combining social and behavioral opportunities for growth into what she was teaching academically. This later became the basis for her doctoral thesis as she studied the impact of teachers who believe in connecting their students' academic achievement with their social and emotional well-being. She now seeks to train teaching candidates to recognize and attend to the social, emotional and academic needs of their students at Mount Marty College in Yankton, SD.

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A Letter from Debbi McCuin To the Creative Writing Class of FPC Yankton,

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Thank you for your open, honest responses to the presentation I gave in your creative writing class this spring. It was with great excitement that I brought my interest and training in emotional intelligence to you. It just seemed to me that the skills of which we spoke in class this May were skills that everyone needs and that most people, regardless of where they are currently living or what their current situation is, could benefit from. Many of us realize that working to improve our “people skills� is a common sense way to look at the world. But we also realize that, even if we know about self-awareness and social awareness, and the importance of self-control and relationship management, we all need to become better practitioners of this knowledge. Through damaged relationships, difficult conversations, emotional anguish, and even legal ramifications, many of us are made painfully aware of the consequences of not using these skills well or consistently. Some of you even admitted to avoiding social encounters in order to avoid situations that would stretch your current capabilities. There is some greater good involved in that, as it is a sort of self-regulation, to avoid that which would lead to conflict or distress. But many of you were reassured by the truth of the fact that we all have differing levels of awareness and self-regulation when it comes to situations that involve other people. Training and awareness of emotional intelligence can provide many benefits to children and adults alike. Learning to become aware of the impact of your words and actions on others is the beginning step, one upon which all future growth depends. We can learn to identify and recognize emotions and more accurately perceive how we feel prior to responding to emotional and social stimuli. This leads to self-regulation, the ability to monitor and control our responses to social situations so that we 4 P.M. COUNT


set goals, control impulses and manage our stress and reaction to the stimuli we meet on a daily basis. Once these personal skills are mastered, we can learn to appreciate the diversity of someone else’s perspective, respecting the thoughts and perceptions of others, and developing a sense of empathy for someone else’s situation. This can lead to great communication, social engagement and cooperation, allowing us both to seek and offer help when appropriate as we build relationships and manage conflicts. Are any of us masters at this level of social awareness and relationship management? Well, some are better than others at various steps in this ladder, but there are very few folks around who can claim to be masters or experts at this level of self-control. It is something to aspire toward. It becomes a goal that can provide a sense of peace as we try to come to terms with and make right those previous mistakes and embarrassments of our emotional failings. How do we improve in these personal skills, many of you asked? Stay on that road that you have begun. Continue to read about emotional intelligence and the skills that come together to produce it. Read, and journal, and reflect, and set goals for yourself that pertain to increased awareness and self-management, so that you can practice these personal skills. Congratulate yourself on moments of self-control and social awareness, recognizing that these are steps toward the higher goal. Encourage yourself and others when you notice that you have made some progress toward becoming a kinder, more empathetic person. This doesn’t make you weak; it makes you socially aware. Remember, you can be kind and still command respect. So thank you for listening with interest and for engaging in the writing activities around the personal journaling I asked of you. I am honored that you trusted me to lead you down this path of self-reflection that can be so emotionally and socially intimidating. For those of you who wrote about the connection we had in class, yes, I felt it too. We have a common interest in becoming better individuals, more responsible for the emotional wake 42

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we leave behind us, and more capable of the kind of selfregulation that allows us to be contributing members of a society that values kindness and respect along with our differences. I wish you well as you endeavor to set goals for yourselves that are both personal and academic. I considered it an honor to come and speak with you and listen to your thoughts and hear your reflections afterwards. With great regard, Debbi McCuin

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National Players Present Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors

The idea of a professional theatre production company performing Shakespeare at a prison sounds like a satirical comedy written by the English playwright. However, in April America’s longest-running touring company, National Players, visited FPC Yankton on their sixty-fifth Anniversary Tour to perform The Comedy of Errors for a captivated audience. Great confusion and hilarious antics describe the scene when one set of identical twins separated since birth and a second set of identical servants visit the same town on the same day. Separation and reunion is at the heart of The Comedy of Errors, which follows the twins through the day as everyone in the town tries to figure out why these people are all behaving so strangely. The talented group of performers thoroughly impressed the diverse group of spectators at FPC Yankton. Performing for an audience in which there is a high probability that the vast majority would be unable to either follow the plot or understand the dialogue must have been a daunting hurdle to overcome. However, the comedy troupe rose to the challenge and presented the play with dramatic flair and sardonic humor, entertaining even attendees most unfamiliar with Shakespeare. Using a mixture of high and low comedy, the actors connected with the audience in ways that would seem improbable. The challenge is the use of physical comedy to evoke humor while developing the characters enough 44

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so that the audience could follow along. The comedy also included the bits of dramatic irony and satire which Shakespeare's plays are known for. The production of The Comedy of Errors itself was no small feat. National Players is a self-contained production company, consisting of ten actors who carry its own sets, lights, costumes and sound around the country. For over seventy performances, the troupe has memorized lines for three different plays-Macbeth, The Comedy of Errors, and The Odyssey. Upon entering Nash Gymnasium, the audience of nearly two hundred spectators was transported to the streets of sixteenth century England. The performers introduced themselves and gave some insight into the demanding production during a Q&A session after the performance. Later, many spectators were pleased to be able to welcome the actors themselves. All acknowledged that they had never performed in a prison before but were pleasantly surprised by the reception they received. Regardless of background and experience with stage performances, the National Players performance was well received and thoroughly entertaining. One hopes that future performances will be held at FPC Yankton. Joshua Russo

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Photo courtesy of National Players

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Photo by Todd Cowman

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Photo by Todd Cowman

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Anxiety on Pause John Masterson “Don’t go home,” the text read. It came time stamped from my neighbor and a good friend across my cell phone with the telltale tone and vibration. My heart just sank, knowing what these words probably meant. In a short thought I had at that very instant, it could have been one of two things. For my neighbor to go to the trouble of sending me the text, it was serious, I was sure. What I hoped had happened was that my girlfriend at the time was hammered and belligerent, as she had been a lot during that time frame. She was an alcoholic who had recently relapsed; her boozing angered me and was quickly spiraling out of control. Drama with her daughter and a recent suicide attempt led me down that path of thought. I told myself that she was on some sort of rampage at the house and my neighbor was going to follow up with news of that sort. But in the back of my mind I knew what my neighbor was telling me in those three short words. Ultimately, I was unsure what she might be getting at, so I replied, “What do you mean?” A quick response came. “There are cops all over your house!” She responded as my heart rate instantly shot up to pre-heart attack levels. It was now unlikely that the text message had pertained to my girlfriend, as I had hoped. I had lived in the same house for a long time, and had known this neighbor for quite a bit as well. It was very unlikely to be some sort of joke or mistake, no matter how much I wished it were. The words reached me as I was settled in to my work day in Mount Pleasant. I was working as a systems 47

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technician for a wide format printer company and I was covering all of eastern Iowa. I was often working for large engineering and architectural firms, government offices and power plants, the kinds of places that need blueprints on paper and technical support in that area. I was routinely a couple hours from home. I was almost always commuting somewhere, then coming home, only to have to return the following day. On this particular day, I was working at a smaller engineering firm. I realized I was the one that these police officers were after. My immediate thought was that they had followed me to work and would be simultaneously bursting into this office to get me, just like some overbudget Hollywood movie. I glanced around and everything appeared to be normal. I crept toward the door expecting to see the makings of a raid outside. I saw nothing out of the ordinary and went outside toward my truck and lit up a cigarette. I sat down in the seat and took a few long drags of the smoke to try and calm myself. I made a call to my neighbor to get the details of this breaking news. She answered on the first ring. “Johnny,” she said simply. “What’s going on?” I asked her. My heart was beating hard enough to blur my vision. “There are about fifty cops outside your house in full military gear, uniformed cops and cars on every street, with guns drawn. There is even a tank thingy,” she reported, apparently looking out the window and seeing an armored personnel carrier the military gave to local police stations after 9/11. I sat silently, my mind reeling and heart beating 200 beats per minute, still, as she gave me the play-by-play. I knew why they were there and offered up nothing, even though I know she knew the cause of it. “Now they are bringing Girlfriend outside and she has your dogs,” the report continued. “I just got home and they were everywhere; I couldn’t get through because they had the alley blocked off. I just wanted to let you know, I’m sorry,” she said sadly. “Whose little red truck is that?” she 48

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then asked. “It’s my dad’s,” I told her, wishing that he hadn’t been visiting at that particular time. “Oh, yep, they are bringing him outside now, too. I’m so sorry Johnny,” she offered sweetly. “It’s OK,” I lied, cussing in my mind rapid-fire. “They aren’t going to find anything in there,” I continued. I knew that there was nothing for them to find-in the way of contraband-in the house. I also knew that wouldn’t stop them from harassing my sister, my visiting father and my live-in girlfriend, then completely trashing the house and exposing my secret criminal enterprise to everyone within one square mile of my house. “I hope not, they look determined,” Neighbor replied. “Thank you for giving me the heads-up though, I appreciate it,” I said. “No problem, let me know if I can do anything,” was her reply. “Send me a text when they leave, if you would,” I said finally, as I ended the call with visions of my sister, father and girlfriend under the control of some unknown law enforcement agency. I sat in silence, my mind thinking horrible thoughts. The anxiety crashed into me like a rogue wave onto the breakers. I pondered possibilities and reasons for the raid. There had been a lull in business recently as the harvest approached. The only thing I could think of that might have gotten anyone in any trouble at the house that day wouldn’t have even been a jailable infraction. A ticket and fine would have been the extent of it. As I sat there, chain smoking a few cigarettes, I managed to calm down by telling myself that they had nothing on me, which at the time, they didn’t. Calls to my girlfriend and father weren’t answered. I finished a cigarette and then I was able to go back into work like nothing had happened and finish up for the day. I did just enough to make them happy for the day, as I was going to have to come back first thing in the morning. If anyone 49

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could have seen an imaginary heart monitor hooked up and displaying my real heartbeat, they would have called an ambulance. Anxiety of the worst kind was setting in and it was going to be a long ride home. Cold sweat, nervous hives, and lung cancer that I didn’t yet have from all the cigarettes I would smoke that day left me in a daze as I drove the two hours home after working for another hour. As I quietly pulled into town, I stopped at a gas station and purged any real and potential evidence from my truck, then bought more cigarettes and a drink, and filled up my gas tank. I was avoiding going home as I hadn’t yet received the all clear from Neighbor. I finished the pit stop and continued home, expecting the worst. Not ten minutes from home, the text from Neighbor came, followed quickly by a call from my father. I answered it, “Hey Dad,” just like always. “Johnny, I’m at the house and the sheriffs just left here. They served a search warrant on you,” he said, sounding pretty nervous himself. “The DEA was with them, and they were looking for money, drugs, and guns. They didn’t find any drugs or money, but they took your rifles and stuff from the closet,” he continued, “and they almost shot Cali [my dog]. What’s that all about?” he finished questioning. “I know they were there, the neighbor called and told me. I’ve been driving home from work for the last two hours and I’m almost home. I’ll be there in five or ten minutes,” I said as the same adrenaline that made my heart beat so fast caused my voice to shake and crack as I said it. My father must have sensed it. “OK,” he replied, then added, “I love you sonny boy,” he said in an unusually endearing voice. My father and I end every call saying “I love you,” but this time there was that certain dread in the air. Like it needed to be said this time, not as a formality, but to be meant and felt. I got home and my sister, my father, and my girlfriend were sitting in my kitchen among all my belongings strewn every which way. There was total 50

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destruction. There were mounds of crap strewn from every drawer, closet and cupboard, in every room. Even the bathroom floor had the towels and contents of the cabinet strewn about. Beds and couches were flipped over, bedding strewn about. They took all the pictures off the walls for some reason. My simple fire safe that held my passport and other documents was pried open and the contents thrown about haphazardly. The small amount of cremated remains of my mother and aunt were out and opened up from the safe, in an apparent check to make sure they weren’t drugs. Cards, trinkets, and other smaller items that I had saved throughout my life, all of enormous sentimental value, were nowhere to be found. All the food was taken from the shelves. Even the vacuum cleaner had apparently been searched. It was just a total disaster. All of this and they found nothing except my legally owned and purchased guns and a piece of paraphernalia. This of course was just a ticket and finable offense; hardly worth trashing the entire house over. No arrests were made, no tickets issued. “They kept asking me where the drugs and money were,” Girlfriend was saying. “Why didn’t you tell them to bring in a dog instead of ripping the place to shreds,” I asked. “They said they couldn’t because we have a dog and it could throw off scents and confuse their dogs. They said to just give us the money and drugs and they won’t have to tear up the house,” Girlfriend said, “I told them there wasn’t any drugs or money; they wouldn’t believe me, so they took me outside and tore up the house.” My girlfriend obviously knew more than she said, but fact is, I was never stupid enough to keep drugs where I sleep. Other than the relapse, crazy drunken behavior, and lying because of the booze, she is a good girl. She honestly didn’t know where I kept my stashes. It continued this way for an hour or so, questions, replies, and comments being passed around the table. They all knew I was into something, but I never let anyone in on what I was up to. I successfully kept my businesses separate 51

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from family, and they acted like I wasn’t doing anything illegal. What got me was that there were a couple of DEA agents among the raid party, who, my family said seemed to be directing the sheriff ’s posse and posing most of the questions. I knew what that meant. It meant that this was a federal investigation and that money and drugs didn’t necessarily need to be found, and that did nothing for my already immense level of anxiety. My father and sister left after helping pick up a while, leaving my girlfriend and me. We cleaned only the bedroom that night, but it didn’t matter; I didn’t sleep much, and the last time I remember looking at the clock it read 5:22 a.m. in block red digital numbers. I lay awake smoking cigarettes in a chain and pilfering my girlfriend’s anti-anxiety meds, and at some point I lost consciousness and was awakened by my alarm clock as it read 7:00 a.m. Immediately my thoughts went to the raid of the previous night. The anxiety rejoined me without a moment to spare. The film that covered my eyeballs was fierce and caused blurred vision. There was enough tension stored in my bones to build a house and I felt like a big pile of crap. I considered calling in sick, then realized I’d have to sit idle all day with my thoughts; and that, I didn’t want to do. So I got up and took a hot shower, popped another pill, stopped for coffee and hit the road. On the commute I thought of all the what ifs. What if my job finds out? What if I’m hauled away by the DEA at any moment? What if I am fired today? What if the police showed up at my job site looking for me after I left? My mind went on like this in the silence of the drive. I must have pondered every angle of my predicament. My situation with my girlfriend was also strained. We hadn’t been so friendly in the last couple weeks already. The alcohol had become a problem for her, she was in serious danger of losing her daughter, and didn’t appear to be slowing down any. On the contrary, she was mainlining a fifth of vodka before most people go on lunch break. She had attempted suicide recently and had become unstable at 52

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best, psycho at worst. I don’t think we were even sleeping together anymore. What is this going to do now? She would no doubt be spectacularly hammered by the time I returned tonight and the fight would be on, even after the recent events of the raid. It had come to a head and this trouble of mine was going to give her ammo. Between the two problems, I again worried myself into danger of checking out with a heart attack. Somehow I managed to get my work done and stopped for lunch at my favorite Mexican restaurant, having not eaten for the better part of two days. I hammered a beer as I ate to take the edge off. During lunch, a call came in for service at another client; a major farm implement manufacturer up the road a ways and across I-80 to the west. I made the call and told them I would be there in an hour or so. I paid the check and hit the road. Shortly after, I remembered reading and hearing that mandatory minimums for drugs can routinely be five or ten years. I had also known people who went away on drug charges to federal prison. The thought nearly caused me to lose my lunch. Luckily, I managed to calm myself. This time, I turned on the radio at least and I drove through town toward the interstate. As I drove, it occurred to me that I was most likely facing a federal conspiracy charge and was going to go to prison. In the federal system there is no probation or deferred sentences and such things, like there are in the state. I knew if I were charged federally for drugs, I would be going to prison. Period. This revelation did nothing for my nerves, but I was resigned to fact and started to accept it, since I couldn’t do anything about it. I calmed myself but I was still pale as I looked in the mirror and my fingers were starting to turn yellow from nicotine stains. After all, maybe they had nothing, maybe nothing would happen and this worrying would be all for naught. You're reading this now, so you know that isn’t the case, but it’s truly how I felt. I used that excuse to get on with my life for the next several months, but it was a horrible, anxiety-filled time, punishment in 53

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itself. It was hardly the time it should have been. Instead of living, I became reclusive and wasted my last few months of freedom. I was busy wondering what prison was going to be like. I approached the interstate overpass and off to the right I saw one of my favorite things. What I saw are not many people’s favorite thing, two hitchhikers. For some reason I love picking up hitchhikers. Where most people will avoid hitchhikers like the plague, I have endangered myself and shot across lanes of traffic while stabbing the brake to pick them up. The only time I don’t pick up hitchers is when there is no room in the car. The reason I think I have a need to pick up hitchers is because while growing up, my dad used to hitch to Seattle from Iowa at least a few times, and it was way past the hitchhiking glory days. Tickets for the two thousand plus mile journey were expensive and he just didn’t have the coin, or loved the adventure, or both. It was the early to mid-nineties and the media were in the middle of scaring all would-be ride givers with tales of axe murdering and such. The movie The Hitcher is one that comes to mind, with images of the hitcher outside the window with a severed head. OK, maybe that happened once, but I know it was far from the norm. My dad would relay stories of standing in interstate ditches with his thumb out and struggling to get a ride. Other times he would wait all day to get a ride fifty miles up the road. Other times he got lucky. The thoughts of him standing in the rain, with nobody daring to stop for him, who wouldn’t hurt a fly, kind of stuck with me. So today I pick up hitchers every time I see one and I am still alive and well. Another reason is that my beloved Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Tony were on their way to the University of Iowa Hospital in Iowa City on August 28, 1978, as my aunt was in labor with my cousin, who also doubles as one of my best friends, and they stopped to pick up a hitchhiker. It seems the man was visiting a loved one and a newborn baby at the same hospital, and my uncle even gave the man twenty 54

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dollars for a return bus ticket. They went out of their way helping that stranger even though my aunt was well into labor. She was the toughest lady I’ve ever known. Well, that hitcher wrote in to the Quad City Times thanking them for their good deed. They saw that letter some time later in the editorial section and clipped it. It turned up among my aunt's things after she died. I read it at my aunt’s visitation and it inspired me. I’ve thought about it each time I picked up a hitcher since. Almost exactly thirty-four years later, late August 2012, I picked up a guy, with his thumb out, also on I-80, just after sunset, after getting gas on my way to California, with that very same cousin who was born that day, thirtyfour years earlier. I took the man from Lincoln, NE, to Cheyenne, WY; it seems he was headed up north from there to visit an ailing mother. My cousin protested my stopping to pick him up, but I did anyway and shortly after we all chatted like old friends and peeled off over four hundred miles. We had a blast on that vacation. My house was raided two months later, which brings us back to this hitchhiking tale. So, I put my anxiety on pause and I stopped for these two hitchers as well. It was a man and a woman, late twenties, early thirties. My age more or less, possibly hippies or drug addicts. They both were a little grungylooking and skinny; not that I was intimidated or anything, but I did profile them in my head as I sized them up. The man was tall with a good amount of beard growth and a baseball hat. The woman was brunette, curvy yet skinny and head and shoulders shorter than the man. They both carried packs like mountaineers or transients the world over. The man flicked a cigarette butt as he approached the passenger door of my truck, a Chevy Avalanche, a four door with truck bed and plenty of room. They were at the window in a flash. “Hello,” the man said, smiling. “Hey guys,” I smiled back at them invitingly, “where ya headed?” 55

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“Cedar Rapids,” he said to me, as he glanced over to his woman companion. “I’m not going that far but I can get you a little closer if you want,” I offered, then specifying, “I can drop you at the junction of 218 and I-80, about fifteen to twenty miles south of Cedar Rapids.” “Sure, we appreciate it,” as Man motioned to Woman to join, with a smile. “I think your packs will fit in the backseat, or you can stow them in the bed if you want,” I said, “your choice.” They happily dragged them into the backseat. The man hopped in the front and the woman climbed in back. They offered their names along with some pleasantries, but under the stress of the time, I can’t remember their names. I do remember asking them where and when they started out on their journey. They told me they had started four days earlier in Joplin, MO. Joplin is way in the southern corner of the state. They had only managed to cross one state in three full days’ time, now well into their fourth. I noticed a familiar smell after a few short seconds. The smell of dirty hippie—not the completely off-putting, foul urinedirty hippie, but the “I make my own deodorant and follow the Grateful Dead,” dirty hippie—and I had experience with the latter, so it wasn’t a problem. It was just refreshing to have companions during this stressful, anxious, criminal dilemma of mine. At least they would help ease my mind a bit, at least for the next hour or so. I also believed that my helping them would earn me karmic favor with whatever gods might be milling about. So they were in, and we were off. I was kind of lost, wondering what prison was going to be like, kicking-or attempting to kick-my malevolent girlfriend to the curb, and having the biggest dilemma of my life. You could call it a full-blown nervous breakdown. It was a perfect time to pick up hitchhikers. So we started off north toward Cedar Rapids. I had immediately found out they were heading to Cedar Rapids by the side of the interstate there in Mount Pleasant, but as we moved along and entered the freeway, my questioning 56

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led me to find out that they weren’t headed to Cedar Rapids at all; it was just the next largest city. They were really headed to Green Bay, WI and planned to stop in Sabula, IA. It’s a little river town between Clinton and Dubuque, about sixty miles or so from my house, I estimated. They had plans to work for a dairy farmer near Green Bay and had some friends in Sabula. Upon some friendly prodding I discovered that—like most hitchers—they were flat broke and had planned on trying to panhandle a little in Cedar Rapids for some cigarette and food money, because they were running low on both fronts. I nodded along and lit up a cigarette, and the man asked me if I minded if they too smoked. I told him to “smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em,” which they only barely did. He pulled out a crumpled package of Pall Mall 100’s, and I noticed there were only four or five left in the pack. He passed one back to woman and that made three. Being a smoker myself, I knew it was not nearly enough for a journey to Green Bay, Sabula or Cedar Rapids. The next fifteen or twenty miles we sat mostly silent save the radio. The truck was without voices but noisy with thoughts. Finally I broke the silence. I started to tell them that I was working and had to travel out of the way west for an hour or so to go on a service call and if they skipped Cedar Rapids, I would instead take them with me to Davenport, a city of comparable size. I told them anything they could do in Cedar Rapids they could do in Davenport, and it was closer to Sabula. I told them it was also on the river and a straight shot south of Sabula. I told them simply that it would be much easier to get a ride from Davenport as well. They weighed the change in itinerary by looking at each other and tilting their heads, mostly communicating psychically; only a few words were muttered as if in secret. They were sold. They would go with me while I worked and wait in the truck, after which I would take them with me home to Davenport. We were all on the same page and the truck went back to silence. I remember wondering what they thought about me. They must have thought I was 57

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strange. I remember thinking: maybe I should tell them the story so they don’t think I’m taking them to my cabin in the woods to cut their heads off or something. It didn’t sound the greatest in my head. Yeah, I’m a big time drug dealer and the feds raided my pad yesterday. I’ll be in prison this time next year. So if you were wondering why I seem so depressed, why I’m chain smoking and breaking out in hives as we are driving, that’s why. I decided against it and we drove on in silence. We pulled up to Large Farm Implement Manufacturer and I told them to wait, and that I should be less than an hour. They shrugged it off as no big deal. They were happy to be moving toward their goal. I even took a calculated risk and left the keys in the ignition and the radio on for them. I briefly considered that they could ride off while I was off inside the offices working, but I made them out as hippies who wouldn’t defile their karma like that. They wouldn’t dare. Or would they? I'm thankful they didn't. My judge of character is still mostly intact. I quickly discovered while inside working that I needed a part that wasn’t on my truck. I would have to visit the warehouse in Stanwood to get what we needed. I shut the printer down for the day and informed the client I would be back in the morning to finish. My work went that way a lot. Drive back and forth between the same places every other day, waiting, fixing, and waiting. I came out and told my new buddies we would be on our way with one new caveat. We now had to stop in Stanwood on the way. They just shook their heads, not knowing where the hell Stanwood even was. I assured them it was more or less on the way when a new thought crossed my mind. I could leave them off at DeWitt at the junction of US 61 and US 30, even closer to Sabula. We pulled away and before entering I-80, I hit the gas station. I needed smokes and a drink. I pulled in and started to go inside. “What would you guys like?” I asked. “We don’t have any money,” Man said, embarrassed yet direct. 58

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“I do,” I fired back without thought. “What would you like?” I said again, smiling. After a second of pause, “I’d like a coke,” Man said. “Fountain or bottle?” I asked. “Bottle is fine,” he said. “And you,” I said, looking in at Woman. She was smiling wide like a child. “How about an O.J.?” she said shyly through a white smile. I raised an eyebrow and spoke with the uptalk of a question, pausing between words for effect, finding my escaped subtle humor, and looking back and forth between them with each word, “Candy, smokes, jerky, cash register?” and finished with a coy smile. “No thanks,” Man said. But I sensed his hesitation. Now, I know they had no money and I watched them smoke their last cigarette twenty miles back. I also knew they were hungry. The reason behind going to Cedar Rapids was to panhandle for money so they could buy food and smokes. I picked up the drinks and three packets of beef jerky. That’s what I eat for a snack usually, beef jerky. But while I stood at the counter I remembered the thought I had earlier when I profiled my riders as hippies. I put it in my mind as “Grateful Dead parking lot hippies”, and if you have ever been to a Dead show, you see signs for vegan this, vegan that. “VEGAN BURRITOS FATTER THAN YOUR HEAD,” I recall seeing more than once. I realized my friends might not want beef jerky at all. I went back and found three packets of peanuts and three candy bars, covering my bases so to speak. At the counter I ordered two packs of smokes for me and two packs of Pall Mall 100’s for my riders. I went back out to the truck and hopped in. I reached in and put my smokes in the console along with my soda and a beef jerky. I passed O.J. to the woman and Coke to the man. Then I pulled out the two packs of cigarettes for the riders and passed one to Woman and one to Man. The look on their faces is hard to explain. It was part confusion, 59

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part elation, and part Christmas morning, as Man just sat there kind of looking at the fresh package, mouth kind of hanging open. I glanced back at Woman and she made direct eye contact and had the most grateful smile of thanks I have ever seen to this day. They both said an honest word of thanks and then I smiled them both in the face, as I passed the sack of snacks back to Woman. “Snacks,” I exclaimed. “Pick a winner,” I added, as nonchalantly as I could so as not to make them feel weird. I said it like I bought hitchers snacks and smokes all the time. I watched curiously to see what she would choose. Then she took out a bag of peanuts as she never quit smiling and passed the sack up front to Man. I still was interested as I backed the truck out and continued along our way. He chose a candy bar. Vegans, or at least vegetarians, I knew it. I smiled to myself as I piloted us along I-80 towards Stanwood. I remembered thinking that I had never bought so much for the ten or fifteen dollars that pit stop cost me. The genuine smiles were worth every penny. Then as we travelled down the road half an hour or so, I started to tell them about stopping in Stanwood at our warehouse, so I could pick up a part I would need in the morning. I informed them that it was on US 30 and that 30 more or less went to Sabula, by way of Clinton, IA. They assured me it was quite fine. “We didn’t get a ride all day Sunday and slept in a field just off the highway,” Man said. “We are just happy you picked us up,” Woman added, then continued, “we can’t thank you enough.” It had occurred to me long before this, many times with my own father and other hitchers I had picked up over the years, that it must be very hard to hitch these days. Today it was certainly nothing like On the Road and the glory days of hitching, easily getting a ride and then drinking, smoking and laughing the whole way; Kerouac and Cassady long gone and long forgotten. It’s a cool coincidence that, in that book, Jack even spends time in Davenport, IA, drinking cold beer, eating apple pie and 60

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hitchhiking on out of there. I even heard a while back that a guy was hitching around the west writing a book about hitchhiking, probably a big Kerouac fan, and some wacko in Montana shot him. The hitcher lived, but what does that say about us? John Waters, the famous movie director, also hitched from the east coast to the west coast and just published a book about it. Now, if you are familiar with John Waters in all his glorious flamboyance, now imagine him trying to hitchhike. Talk about getting axe-murdered giving rides to hitchers; even I, loving hitchers, would hesitate picking him up. Waters succinctly said, later in an interview, “I’ll never do it again.” My current hitchhikers and I made our way to the warehouse and soon enough we were continuing on, east on Highway 30. They were going to have a few options, I was thinking to myself, but daylight was running short on this crisp November day. The time had come to finish the itinerary. “I can either drop you off in DeWitt, or I can take you with me to Davenport. DeWitt is closer, but Davenport is bigger. I don’t think you have any shot of getting a ride from DeWitt tonight,” I said plainly. “Whatever you think is best,” Man replied. “Yeah, you have gotten us this far,” Woman added. “OK,” I said simply. I guess I would decide when I got there. I felt they had no chance of getting a ride farther toward Sabula from DeWitt, with the approach of sunset. So I told myself I would take them with me to Davenport. I considered briefly that I would even put them up for the night, and then take them out to Highway 61 in the morning when I left for work. Surely they would get a ride and make Sabula by that next day before sundown. I had thought this, but had momentarily forgotten that my house was thoroughly trashed by the raid. It was possible that Girlfriend had gotten the pieces picked up by now. It was also possible that the house was still completely trashed and she would accost me while slurring, both verbally and physically, the second I showed up. I quickly decided that was no option at all. So I was back to leaving them in 61

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approaching cold and darkness along one of the highways between here and there. I wasn’t going to do it. “I’m just going to take you all the way to Sabula,” I informed them, as the exit for DeWitt approached us. “No, just let us out here, you have done quite enough,” Man told me. “It’s only another forty miles or so. If I leave you here, you will never get another ride tonight. So we are going to go the rest of the way and you’re going to be there today, in one hour,” I said as I looked to them, the setting sun lighting us from behind. “You don’t have to do that,” Man said, feigning anger as he said it. “Yeah, we got blankets and a little tent,” Woman said, patting one of the packs. “I know, but I’m just going to take you the rest of the way. You’ll be there tonight, and really I don’t mind. I should have realized I should just take you the whole way to begin with. Besides, I’m in no hurry to get home,” I added cryptically. After I said it, I just looked ahead as the Davenport exit went by, then the DeWitt. The man was looking at me, but I only gazed forward and drove on. I said nothing more. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him turn and glance back at the woman with a half-smile, then turn back and sit heavily again in the front seat. “What are the chances,” he questioned, almost with tears in his eyes, expecting no answer and getting none. I only looked over at him and smiled, then turned slightly, as Woman met me halfway with a smile of her own. The sun was just about fully set as we pulled into the beautiful little river town of Sabula. I had Man tell me where to go. Sabula is so small, I could have dropped them anywhere in the town and they would have had no trouble making it the rest of the way. I was going to get them to the house after going this far. I was content to stay as far away from my life as possible. I had gotten these two souls to their destination that just a few hours earlier must have 62

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seemed like it was still a world away and yet they had no idea that my journey was just beginning. In short order, after a couple of failed streets and a U-turn, we found the place. It was an antique store with a full residential dwelling on top. I pulled into the little driveway that doubled as a parking lot during business hours and put the truck in park. “All right, guys,” I said as simply as I could, “you’re there.” “I don’t know what to say, bro,” Man said. “Yeah, thank you so much. You are a true kindred spirit,” Woman said, touching my shoulder from the back seat. “It’s quite OK guys, I enjoyed your company,” I said. “Well, we have nothing to offer except our most sincere thank you,” Man said and Woman agreed. “Do unto others,” I said, half quoting the golden rule, “you helped me too,” smiling wide. “I do have a favor to ask,” “Anything,” the two replied in unison. “Can I take a picture?” “Of course,” they replied in stereo, with smiles big and bright. So it went that they dragged their modest packs from the back and I lined them up in front of that antique store and snapped their picture as they stood arm in arm. I didn’t have to tell them to smile as they were beaming the biggest brightest smiles. Then after the quick photo opportunity, we said our good-byes. “Good luck, you two,” I said, as they approached me. “You’re the greatest,” Man said, shaking my hand with a proper grip and eye contact. “Thank you again,” Woman said, as we shared a quick hug. “You’re welcome, guys,” I told them both, as I smiled. “Good luck on your journey.” They gathered up the packs as I hopped back in the truck and backed out of the driveway. When I got back out to the street, I parked and waited for them to make contact with their friends. As I sat, I noticed the bag with 63

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the snacks on the floor. I thought that they might come in handy for them and I aimed for them to take them along. First, I grabbed at my pocket and slid a twenty dollar bill in the bag and honked for them, as I waited for them to make contact with their Sabula friends. I rolled up the plastic bag and it was obvious what it was; I held it up in view. I motioned for them to come back, and Man trotted up to the truck. After slight encouragement Man agreed and took the bag of snacks without looking in it. After one last thank you and handshake, Man joined Woman again as they walked around to meet a man standing toward the back of the building. I put the truck in drive and drove away as they waved, still smiling like idiots. I hoped they discovered the money later on when all hope had vanished again. When straits were dire and they had become desperate. She would reach in to get some peanuts, wondering where their next meal and pack of smokes would come from, and she would come out with the twenty dollar bill and smile once more. Sometimes I wonder how Man and Woman’s trip ended up. I always think about how they tell the story. I like to picture them working for a Wisconsin cheese monger, fat, well paid and happy. I think a lot at night about the random encounters I have had over the years and wonder how those people tell the stories. Do these people think about these things as fondly as I do, or am I forgotten? It’s basically what prison is, nonstop thinking. Thinking about your past and maybe wishing you had done things differently. I feel that this is just one of the things I got right.

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Maria Mazziotti Gillan Maria Mazziotti Gillan is a recipient of the Association of Writers and Writing Program’s 2014 George Garrett Award, Poets & Writers’ 2011 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award, and the 2008 American Book Award. She is founder/executive director of the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College, editor of the Paterson Literary Review, and director of creative writing/professor of English at Binghamton University-SUNY. She is the author of twenty books. www.mariagillan.com

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A Letter from Maria Mazziotti Gillan An Open Letter to the men in the Poetry Workshop at Federal Prison Camp Yankton: To all of you who wrote to me after Patrick Hicks and I read our work and answered your questions at Yankton Federal Prison, I want to thank you for your focused attention during our presentation and for your intelligent and perceptive questions. I also want to thank you for your insightful letters and for your openness to my work as well as for trying to understand your own lives better through writing. I loved reading about your personal stories and about the way the poems connected with your experiences and relationships. I was moved by your letters and by your willingness to be vulnerable. I'm glad that so many of you related to the poem about my son. I'm amazed always about how alike we all are under our separate skins. That's what I love about poetry; it forms a bridge between us. So often we're afraid to talk about the things that terrify or sadden us and poetry lets us do that. I hope many of you will keep writing and exploring your feelings through words. It really does help, doesn't it? Sincerely, Maria Mazziotti Gillan

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Orange Crush Louis Bertrand Fionna and I are walking in the sand on the Gold Coast, just south of the lighthouse in Diamondhead, Waikiki. The sun’s setting a vibrant red-orange. Sharp lava ravines and plateaus jut through the sand from many years ago. Precariously we navigate the warm terrain under our feet. The sea’s breezes tease her hair and make my shirttails dance. Such a beautiful day we had. I feel her delicate fingers reach for my hand. She subtly pulls me close and places her cheek on my shoulder as we both inhale. Permanent smiles from the sea’s mists are etched on our faces. The rotation of crystal-blue waves thrashing the shore makes it feel like we’re on a roller coaster zooming through space. Fionna wispily whispers, “I don’t want to go home.”

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Leo Dangel Leo Dangel taught at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, MN, until his retirement as an emeritus professor of English. He now lives in Yankton, SD. His poems have appeared in many anthologies and periodicals including Great River Review, The Midwest Quarterly, North Dakota Quarterly, Commonweal, Paddlefish, and Zone 3. Among his five books of poetry are Home from the Field and The Crow on the Golden Arches, Spoon River Poetry Press. His most recent book of poems, Saving Singletrees, WSC Press, won a Nebraska Book Award.

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A Letter from Leo Dangel To the class of Jim Reese: Greetings, Thank you all for your kind letters. I greatly appreciate your thoughts about my poems and the play. I especially liked the many detailed descriptions of your own experiences, some of them very different from my own, and how you compared those experiences to what you found in my poems. I think we all share a lot of common ground. I’ve learned as a writer the value of thoughtful honest responses to my work, and I’m always grateful for them, whether they come from friends or strangers. I’m glad to try to answer some of your questions. Did I give the director or players any suggestions on how I thought the poems should be performed? I didn’t. The director and the players are experienced professionals and are artists just as poets are and need some freedom to do what they do. They sometimes presented poems in ways that were different than I would have read them. But a stage performance is a different thing from a poet giving a reading. There were some poems I would have read in a more understated way than the players performed them. An understated or more quiet reading probably wouldn’t work in a stage performance that needs to be more lively to get through to a theater audience. The players did remain completely faithful to the wording of the poems, which they didn’t change. I was pleased with the result. I also had nothing to do with the music, which was I think a big plus for the play. Here’s a question I’m often asked: Is Old Man Brunner a real person? I have often been told by readers that he’s just like someone they know, a father, a neighbor, an uncle, so for me that makes him real, though he’s not identical to anyone I knew. 69

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A little more than a year ago, I was the featured poet with about ten of my poems in a journal called Third Wednesday. They asked me to write an introduction to my poems, to sort of introduce myself and say something about how I write. I’ve included that introduction following this letter. Thank you again for your letters. Sincerely, LEO DANGEL, FEATURED POET IN THIRD WEDNESDAY, FALL 2012 ISSUE In a college fiction writing class, I wrote stories set in the rural Midwest, where I had grown up on a South Dakota farm. My stories contained some realistic details, which were little more than background for sensational events—a shooting, a barn burning, even a grave-robbing. About ten years later, after I started teaching at Southwest Minnesota State University, I turned to writing poems using the same regional setting but with a focus on the ordinary details of farm life. I remember reading at that time a William Kloefkorn poem, #29 in his book, "Alvin Turner as Farmer." In the barn milking, Alvin Turner, the poem’s speaker, conducts a kind of ritual as he squirts a stream of milk from a cow into the mouth of a begging cat and concludes, “The meaning all is here—/ here in the barn and the milk.” I had squirted milk from cow to cat and was delighted to see this experience in a poem. There’s just something poetically appealing about this different way of delivering milk—sending it flying through the air directly from source to mouth—efficient and yet circus-like. Kloefkorn’s poem remains one of my favorites because it so vividly confirms that universal “meaning” can be found in ordinary things. Except for a few summers during my college years, I haven’t lived on a farm since I was eighteen, but Midwest farm life, in all its down-to-earth-plainness, filled my 70

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childhood and youth. I feel naturally bound to that past and find Wordsworth’s line a good fit: “The child is father of the man.” My poems are still mostly rural and influenced by the memory of a particular time and place. In a few of my poems a rural connection isn’t explicit, but I like to think it’s beneath the surface like ground water in a well. —Leo Dangel

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Man in the Box Jason Burton For twenty years now, I have been living in a box filled to the top with drug dealers and users. I was pulled into this box by the sheer force of addiction, the flaps of the box pushed down and sealed to perfection with clear packaging tape, leaving me with no way out. After realizing I was stuck with no clear way out, I began to travel to every corner and through every seam, only to come to the conclusion that I was trapped inside a vicious square box. This box was filled with no meaning and no purpose other than to feed the addiction of money and drugs. I was so high for so long that I forgot I was in this box. It felt like somebody poured floor-stripper over my heart and stripped away my feelings, because at times I just did not care about anything at all. There were times that through the fog and the haze my situation became clear and at those times I remember praying to the ‘DOPE GODS’: "If you’re there, please take a razor knife, cut this clear tape on my box, drop in some more dope, then hurry up and tape me back in so I won’t have to listen to my loved ones asking me to please come out." I was walking around in my box one day and in the distance, something shiny caught my attention. I continued on my journey toward this shiny object, talking to others who were trapped with me, as I got high along the way. My drug of choice, methamphetamine, has a way of playing tricks on the mind after being awake for too long; so I got this crazy notion that maybe, just maybe, this shiny object really wasn’t there. However, after years of travel, I was only a few feet from this shiny something; I walked slowly, almost tiptoeing, quietly I crept up and BAM! There it 72

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was right there in front of me! My heart was beating and pounding in my chest, my mind was racing, and I was sweating and pissed off all at the same time. Some jackass packed a mirror in this box with me and now I was face to face with what I had become: addicted, self-centered, helpless, and alone in a place known as rock bottom. Nobody was around because I’d pushed everyone away. The only jackass was me for being such a selfish prick! That was reality and it hurts. The pain of this reality no longer has the power to keep me contained in this box. The drug no longer has power over me; I control my freedom, and my God controls my body, His temple. Using makes nothing better, but at the time it sure felt like it did. By the grace of God I’ve been clean and sober for almost eight years. I have spent the first half of my life screwing it up. Now I will spend the second half rebuilding myself and all the relationships with those that I love, gaining trust and being a father to my children, a husband to my wife, a son to my mother, a grandson to grandmother and a brother to my sisters. Right now, for today only, I can say, “I’m happy with the man I see in the mirror.”

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These Eyes Jason Burton

Darkness, Kindness, Hatred, Light.

These eyes have seen a story in the making, a beginning with no end; epic roller coaster is what comes to mind, endless track of ups and downs. These eyes have seen addiction like a military sniper sees its one-shot one-kill through a high-powered riflescope. These eyes have seen the unemployed; families in turmoil, families destroyed. These eyes have seen prison gang mentality, violence, disrespect and outright brutality. These eyes have seen and survived the streets, cars, rims, speakers, "beats." These eyes have seen hate, these eyes have seen love, these eyes have lived everything in the paragraph above. Past, Present, Future, Goals. As I sit here in a federal prison in Yankton, SD, my heart soars with cherished moments and aches with indescribable pain when I think about missed opportunities. I am a father; I have four beautiful children: Alexis, nineteen years; Alyssa, fifteen years; Jase, nine years; and Isabella, seven years. I have worked my way down in security levels; I still have forty months left to serve. I’ve been in prison almost eight years and yet as crazy as this sounds I feel blessed and free of the bondages that once held me in a darker place. Around the beginning of my sentence, I attended a Christmas church service and a volunteer from a local church that had come to the prison for the service asked me, “Are you OK?” He added, “This must be hard being here for Christmas in this prison and locked in a cell at night.” I said, “I would rather be in here 74

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right now at this moment walking in the light then out there, as I was walking in the dark!� At that point in time, that is how I felt in my recovery; I felt safe in that prison cell, away from the drugs and the chaos that once ruled my life. I have come a long way mentally and physically since that time, as a person and as a man, and I feel comfortable with who I am as a person and ready to move into the next chapter in my life. Getting off the methamphetamine is a total life-changing process for me. I have the intention to speak to children at schools and anybody who will listen, such as drug courts. Numerous things could come out of doing this; maybe, just maybe, I can get through to somebody. If I can save one person from going down my road, that is great, but the main thing is for me to be accountable to others. This, in turn, helps others and me and we all fight this together as one. If I could go back and change any chapter in my life’s story, would I? Would I change my trials and tribulations? Would I change the man I am at this moment? Would I change my future goals to reach out to children and people who struggle with addiction? Would I change what these eyes have seen? As I write this today, I believe I am a better man than I was yesterday, so how can I regret my path and my journey through this life? I would not change anything these eyes have seen. This epic roller coaster and everything these eyes have seen have transformed me into the man I am right now at this moment. With pre-dated, hardlearned lessons and experiential knowledge to share with others, I will keep this story of my life and use it to help others edit theirs.

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Crazy Table Jason Burton The good, the bad, and the just plain ugly: these are the things that have happened at my dining room table. from prison politics and survival instincts to family matters. I want to share my journey with you through this never ending crazy table. Mom’s table, mom’s veggies; what I would do for those godforsaken vegetables right now! The table in my life changes with prison security levels as I progress through this 168-month sentence. I started at a medium/high level federal prison where racial slurs and prison politics were the focus point in my everyday life. I am not a racist person or a gang member, but rather a low-level drug dealer who sold drugs to support my many addictions. I am not a violent person, nor am I innocent. I'm paying my debt to society for being a criminal, a person who struggled with an addiction to methamphetamine. I am just trying to do my time and make it home to my family in one piece. We, as humans, learn to adapt. Adapting to a simple dining room table is now part of survival. I arrived to the medium/high level prison during mainline, also known as "chow time." As I walked to my assigned housing unit, inmates lined the sidewalks asking all twenty-five of us, "Who we ride with?" meaning, what gang? I answered by saying "Independent," meaning I am not a gang member. I made it to my unit, dropped my bedroll on my bunk and headed towards the chow hall, not knowing what to expect. As I waited in line, I visually scoped out my surroundings, and I could not help but notice the segregated areas of the races. I saw the whites and headed toward my destination; set my tray down on 76

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the table, sat down, and instantly about fifteen white dudes stood up. A big, heavily-tattooed guy said, “Are you a family member?” “A what?” I asked. “A family member,” he said again, clearly irritated by my question. He says, “Aryan brotherhood, Aryan Circle, Aryan Nation or a Skinhead.” I stood up and said, “No, I am not.” He said, “Well, then, you cannot sit here.” I turned around and saw some people waving me over. I sat down and a friendly white guy from Missouri explained the seating situation: the rules and regulations of my new kitchen table. He said, “These six tables here are for independent whites, those tables over there are for white gang members only. Those tables over there are for Azteca’s, and if you walk through that section they smash you on sight, no questions asked.” At this point, I am thinking to myself, "Great, my life for now revolves around this crazy table." I learned right away where I could sit and where not to sit, and how to get to my destination without causing a riot. I could no longer walk through certain areas, and I had better be ready to stand up and tell members of another race who tried to walk through our areas to walk somewhere else, or be ready to fight if they did not listen. The table situation seemed overdramatic to me, but to others it was a way of life." I remember thinking to myself, "Mom’s table, mom’s veggies, what I would do for those godforsaken vegetables right now. Dropping to a low-security prison changed my table. Sex offenders were avoided when possible and the races tried to keep separated, but at times, it did not always work out that way. Everything was a lot more lenient. The prison politics and overall mentality of the inmates was different. Here at the minimum-security federal prison camp in Yankton, SD, my table changed once again. The politics are all but gone and the goal here is to get home. Most of 77

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us realize that this is not our life and the ultimate goal is in our grasps:, to go home to our families. By no means am I saying race issues do not exist; they do and I am sure they always will, but our mindsets are different here. It seems that educating ourselves and being a part of the community bring hope of a new life once released. When I think about my family table growing up, I can only smile. I hold onto the hope of being at this table again, the memories never forgotten by time. For example, when I was ten years old my fifteenyear-old sister Jenny ran away from home. My mom’s weapon of choice in our younger years was a leather razor strap, thick leather and scary as hell. Jenny decided within days that her survival odds on the streets were not good, so she came home. My mom was ready and she chased my sister around our kitchen table and beat her so bad I cried! I cringed for each strike she took from that belt. We can all laugh about it now, but it sure was not funny then, especially to my sister’s butt. There was another time I was sick and had my best friend over for dinner. I threw up at the table. My mom, ever the hostess, said to my best friend, “Jay, would you like some more spaghetti?” I am sure under different circumstances he would have loved more. It was our wonderful table where I would hang sheets from table to chair, from chair to window and back to the table, to make a fort. My little hut where I could hide. These are the table memories I will cherish and carry with me for the rest of my life. Few take the time to think about the ever-changing table, this table that affects one in so many ways. This table can define a person. This table is real, this table we live around, sit around, eat around, and adjust to. Mom’s table, mom’s veggies; what I would do for those godforsaken vegetables right now!

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Sweet Annie Jason Burton I sit here visualizing your beautiful face, beautiful eyes and lips. A voice sweet, comforting, and always understanding. Lying next to me, arm wrapped around me, head on my chest and the familiar smell of your hair. We would lie there molded to each other. I would slide your hair behind your ear and at those moments there was nowhere in the world I would rather be. Some people do not believe in love at first sight. However I have no choice in this matter; when my eyes first met yours, love at first sight happened to me. Flawless in beauty inside and out, in your presence I was mesmerized. Tangled in your love web, I knew at that moment somehow, someway, I must have you, that you and I were meant to be together. My plan to win your heart worked and in August 2005, our first baby, J.J., was born. In October 2007, eight months after my arrest, our princess Bella was born. This road has been bumpy due to my addiction and legal problems, but somehow we never lost faith in one another. We never lost focus on what we wanted: a family with each other. In January 2008, our wedding took place in the Polk County Jail; you and the preacher on one side of the glass and me on the other. Not exactly the fairy-tale wedding I wanted for the woman of my dreams, but with the visitation phone in hand I read my vows to you. We believed we could make it through any sentence handed down by the federal Courts. We believed in a love so strong between us; we cherished the fact that nothing could tear us apart. The years have slowly passed with many roadblocks. There have been times when we lost focus. There have been 79

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resentments, like me not being there for you and the kids. I understand, Annie, but together we have made it this far. We cannot lose focus on the love that held us together for almost eight years. With three and a half years to go, we have come too far to give up on each other. Ten months ago, you were diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. I cannot even begin to imagine what you are going through, but as you know, the fundraising benefits that have been held in your name and the support from everyone has been outstanding. Everyone believes in the same strong, courageous woman I fell in love with. I am sorry for not being there for you and our children, and I feel helpless. It is the worst feeling I have ever had and I am serious; it hurts and I must live with this heart-wrenching indescribable pain daily. I married a fighter, Annie, and you are tough. You have courage, a strong mind, and a strong heart. These are the reasons I fell in love with you in the first place. These attributes are now fighting this cancer for you. Everything is going to be OK; I know this in my heart. I do not see you with no hair or waiting to get, as you joke, the stripperboobs you have always wanted. I see the beautiful woman I married. I see my wife, the soon-to-be cancer survivor, the woman of my dreams. Always know in your heart that you are not alone. I know it seems that way at times, but trust me, you are not. I sit here visualizing your beautiful face, your beautiful eyes and lips. A voice sweet, comforting and always understanding. Lying next to me, arm wrapped around me, head on my chest and the familiar smell of your hair. We are lying there molded to each other, I slide your newly grown-out hair behind your ear, and I whisper, "The nightmare is over, the cancer is gone and your husband is home. I LOVE YOU!"

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"Sweet Annie" Drawing by David Perez

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Jamie Sullivan Jamie Sullivan has in recent years published poetry in Flyway, Sow’s Ear, Tiger’s Eye: A Journal of Poetry, Plainsongs, The Briar Cliff Review, and Miller’s Crossing.

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Photo by Jim Sullivan

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A Letter from Jamie Sullivan Creative Writers,

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Thanks to Dr. Reese for inviting me to your class, and thanks to you for welcoming me and responding to my reading in your letters. I enjoyed sharing my work with you and am happy that some of you at least liked the poems. In situations like this I often feel compelled to say something important. But, I have gradually learned that such compulsions usually produce, after a struggle with writer’s block, tiresome truisms and terrible prose. Let me start, then, with some of your questions and comments. John objects to the speaker in one of the poems crumbling a joint in the wind and wants to know what my position on marijuana is. Spending your life walking dead drunk or floating along on pot is not a wise choice. I admire people who swear off all intoxicants. Our brain is surely our most precious organ; why are we so eager to shock it, singe it, dunk it in toxins? Flint comments on the poem about my neighbor who lives in a trailer court, saying that he has lived in a place like that. The truth is I feel a little awkward about that poem; I’m not sure talking to someone across the fence gives me the street credibility to imagine his life. “Write about what you know” is an old adage for writers and I may not know enough to get to the truth in that poem. On the other hand, writing is often an extension of our imagination; writing can be a way of creating empathy in yourself and your readers. Maybe I don’t know much about anyone else’s life, but I want to know more, and want to experience it through imagination. Matt asks an interesting question about the difference between flash fiction and poetry. To some extent the difference is simply a matter of what you decide to call your work. And, to some extent, how it is arranged on the page. Good flash fiction, like good poetry, often includes 4 P.M. COUNT


a pattern of imagery and tension between several layers of meaning. On the other hand, much narrative poetry, if rearranged on the page, would read like flash fiction. Casey, thanks for sharing the poem. The rhyme seems natural and unobtrusive; it works well. Some poets still use rhyme at least occasionally. I think they like the formal structure—having a clear means for deciding when to end a line or a stanza. The poem does a fine job of communicating the longing for some of life’s simple and natural pleasures. The words are effective because they are specific and concrete. Write more poems like this. Michael, I also like your poem a lot. You do a great job of catching the splendor of a thunderstorm (Is anyone so dead he or she doesn’t respond with excitement to a thunderstorm?). It’s natural to connect the clouds of a summer storm that seem to rise to the top of the sky with God, but the last line was an intriguing surprise. Great poem. Keep going. As for your comment about poetry that few people understand, that’s a tough one. Maybe the most appropriate response would be a couple of sentences that no one, including me, could make sense of. I’ll take it as a matter of faith that serious poets are trying to say something meaningful and perhaps what they are saying can only be said in the words they choose, difficult though they may be. The obvious problem is that this poetry locks out almost everyone except a few hundred other poets who understand, think they understand, or are trying very hard to understand. It’s worth remembering that this kind of ultradifficult poetry is very unusual in the history of poetry. Poetry has existed for thousands of years in cultures around the world because it describes the human experience in memorable language. Don’t waste time on poems you can’t figure out. Move on to poets you like. Louis (and several others) commented on discovering and committing himself to writing. One of the best feelings a writing teacher or writer can have comes 84

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from the knowledge that he or she has encouraged others to value their writing. My thanks for letting me know that I have made some small difference. Writing is unlikely to make you rich or famous or to get you out of prison, but it is a powerful tool in understanding yourself. Writing means getting things out in front of you so you can see— and evaluate—what ideas or feelings have been driving you. Writing is a way of taking something that exists only in your head and heart and making it external, visible on a page or screen where you and others can examine it, be moved by it, learn from it. I started out hoping I would find something important to say and didn’t quite get there. I’ll let Martha Graham, famous dancer and choreographer, speak for me: “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy . . . that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it.” Thanks again and best to you all. Jamie Sullivan

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Grandma's Porch Edit Paz I remember that at a very young age I used to look through that window. When storms would approach the ranch I used to like it because I could feel the cool wind hit my face and the breeze would make the aroma travel towards me. I could smell the coconut scent of the sea salt from the coast line. As I rocked in a of tranquility, the wind lifted the storm to its peak and flashes of lightning illuminated the sky. The woody meadow came to life as tree branches thrashed against one another. I would wait for my grandmother to bring me a cinnamon coffee with a warm piece of sweet bread to enjoy the heart throbbing scene of Mother Nature taking its course. That’s grandma’s porch.

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My School Story Edit Paz When I was nine years old my mom and dad taught me what was good and what was bad. One day I came home from school early. As I entered the house my mom asked me why I was home I replied to her, “Mom please don’t get mad.” “What did you do?” asked my mom. “You did something bad didn’t you?” “Yes,” I replied. “Tell me son,” said my mom. I started to explain that the teacher may visit to tell her that I kicked him in the stomach and threw a brick at him; but I was sorry to say that I missed. I also said some bad words to him, grabbed my backpack, jumped out the window and ran as fast as I could all the way home. My mom looked at me and asked. “Why did you hit your teacher?” I told her that there was a new kid at school today named Sergio that sat next to me in class; I asked him if he lived close by. He said he lived about thirty minutes away. So I asked if he would like to come over and have lunch with us. Just as I had said that, the teacher called Sergio to the front of the class and snatched him by the sideburns and lifted him off his feet. As soon as the teacher let go of him, my friend started crying and ran back to his seat. The teacher then looked at me and said, “Lallito come here!” I quickly said, “No,” but he told me again to come to the front. So I stood up from my desk and slowly walked towards my teacher. As soon as I got close I warned him, “Don’t pull me up like Sergio.” But it was no use, he grabbed me by my side-burns and as soon as he went to lift me up; POW, I launched a kick that nailed him right in the stomach. 87

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This was how everything started. I thought my mom would be furious and would punish me. But to my surprise, I was wrong. She only said, “Son, you know better than to do that. You must to listen to your teacher.” As she said that, my dad entered the room, obviously hearing what was said between my mom and me. “I don’t want to hear that you are being bad to your teacher; let this be the first and last time that I hear that!” he said. “OK dad,” I answered. After that we all sat in the living room and waited for my teacher to show up. He never did. He also never mentioned that incident to my parents. The next day at school the teacher apologized to me and Sergio and all three of us grew to become good friends after all.

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Norm's Table Casey Hay After school, I would go straight to my grandmother’s house, change clothes, then go next door and sit at the table of two bachelors. The table was an old art deco two-leaf oval table with chrome legs and formica top, covered with a plastic tablecloth. On the table was a glass jar of pickled herring and a block of Swiss cheese under a glass dome. The father, who was in his eighties, gave me the job of cutting the cheese into thin slices with a wire. “Wipe that wire clean between each slice,” he would say. The old man talked about the Great Depression and the good old days on the family farm when they had no money, but always had food to eat. He talked about his lovely wife who died much too young. The old man died the following year, but Norm, his son, left the table unchanged. Norman took up where the old man left off, maybe because he had no children of his own. Once again, I found myself eating pickled herring and thin slices of Swiss cheese. Norm’s stories were different; he told stories of serving as a medic in General Patton’s Second Division and he even showed me the shrapnel wounds on his legs. Norm would place a box of 8mm. picture cards on the table, and for hours I would insert each card into a hand-held viewfinder which brought those black and white images to life. Norm described each picture in detail, the time of year, the names of bombed cities, and types of planes and tanks. My favorite picture was of Norm in Paris. In that picture, he sat on a downed German fighter plane that had slid to a stop in front of the Arch of Triumph and in front of the plane was an old K-model Harley Davidson that Norm rode while stationed in war-torn Europe. As the years passed, the stories told at the table 89

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grew darker. Norm told me that he had gone to school in Garrison, IA, a German community. When the United States entered the war, truckloads of young men from other towns came to Garrison to fight, calling the young German men traitors because they had not enlisted. The young men of Garrison and other German towns had a choice: leave their families and farms and go to war, or be labeled as traitors. Norm never heard of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome). He spoke of “demons” and he fought the demons by drowning them in Everclear mixed with Four Roses wine. Les Alpers, a regular guest at Norm’s table, was a decorated war hero who fought Rommel in North Africa. He described having to run for his life when the sand chewed up the bearings and the tracks seized, leaving his tank an easy target for the Germans. Les Alpers was the only man I’ve ever seen match Norm drink for drink. Norm broke out his old squeezebox, and both Norm and Les sang old marching songs until the sun came up. When Les died, the funeral director had to call the VFW and request volunteers to carry his casket. Norm had lost his last war comrade and from then on Norm drank alone. One day after school, I rushed over to Norm’s house and walked in the door without knocking; I closed the door behind me and immediately knew that something was wrong. Norm had closed the blinds, lined up rifles by the front door, and sat at the table with a German Ruger in his right hand and a bottle of liquor in his left hand. I sat down at the table and tried to talk to him, but he was somewhere else. On another occasion, Norm cut himself from his left shoulder diagonally across his chest with an old bayonet. Pictures of bodies piled high next to shallow graves lay on the table. Norm described a fanatical leader who wanted to rule the world and how this leader had killed millions of innocent people (Norm was in the first wave of US troops that liberated Auschwitz). Tears streamed down Norm’s face, getting lost in several days’ growth, and between his 90

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fingers was a lit cigarette with a three-inch ash. I watched and waited. At any moment, the ash would fall from the cigarette and mix with the booze and ash that already covered the table. Norm crossed his arms on the table and his head fell. As Norm slept, I put the pictures and guns away and cleaned the house. When Norm awoke, he smiled and said that he was hungry. For a time Norm would be his old self; he visited the old vets at the county home and volunteered at the local hospital, but inevitably, Norm’s demons would return. On Christmas Eve of 1984, I called home from Arizona to wish my mother a Merry Christmas. She told me that Norm’s sister had called. Norm had died in his sleep. Indeed, Norm’s demons had won many battles against him over the years, but they failed to win the prize. Norm died peacefully in his sleep, instead of drunk with a pistol in his hand. His faith in God was his sword and shield to the end. Victory.

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Nova Casey Hay Inspired by Raymond Carver’s “The Car” Fourteen years old walking through shoulder-high hybrid corn, pulling tassels with blistered and bleeding hands. Dew drips from long razor-sharp leaves while the hard sun delights; its rays torment the body and fills the mind with doubt. “Don’t give up now boy,” said the foreman, “in three weeks you’ll have a pocket full of cash.” For the low price of 200 dollars, I buy a 1970 Nova that I stash in the timber. We pack clothes, tent, and camping supplies into the trunk, and leave notes for our parents: GONE CAMPING—BACK IN TIME FOR SCHOOL. I pass her a Camel, turn up the radio, pop the clutch and we don’t look back. Asleep at the wheel I drive the Nova into a deep ditch. The Amish man with a team of horses who pulls the car out of the ditch. The car with a fence post hole in the trunk— the car with a blown tire— the car with stolen tags—the car wanted by the law. We spend our days hiking and swimming and our nights on a blanket by a fire. The police officer looks in the rearview mirror, smiles, and shakes his head. On the long ride home, our parents are at a loss for words for the first time. 92

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The impounded car—the car my mother sells—the car I never see again.

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Single Stack Mack Casey Hay After taking a joy ride in an old semi when I was in the sixth grade, I just knew that one day I’d be on the big road, hauling freight in an eighteen-wheeler. In the summer of ‘79 I worked as a farm hand; most mornings I walked the bean fields pullin’ button weeds and thistles, leavin’ them to die in the hot sun between the rows. After dinner, Roy, the old farmer, told me to hook the hay rake up to the 4020 John Deere and rake hay for the rest of the afternoon. Roy stated that he had to run into town, and that he’d be back around six to drive me home; in other words, old Roy had a bar stool in town with his name on it. Roy also owned a trucking company, and next to the barn was an old cab-over Kenworth; the temptation was more than I could take. I climbed up into the cab and sure enough the keys were in the ignition and conveniently located on the dash were directions to start the engine and release the air brakes. When I walked up to the tractor there was a cat lying in the shade under the rear drive tires; I thought to myself that surely the cat would move once the engine fired up. I followed the directions and that big diesel came rattling to life and black smoke poured from twin chrome stacks. I released the air brake and rolled backward… oh hell, in the mirror I saw the cat that was resting under the drive tires flopping like a fish out of water. I pulled forward a few feet, reset the air break, and killed the motor. Obviously, the cat hadn’t moved when the tractor fired up and its head was as flat as a pancake. I grabbed the cat by its tail and headed for the machine shed for a shovel. Moments later I was back in the cab and after some grinding I found that elusive gear and pulled out onto the gravel road. On the doghouse (the engine cover between 94

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the two seats) was an eight-track tape of Waylon Jennings’ “Outlaw” album; I put the tape in the player, turned up the volume, ground some gears, and headed for the highway. When I returned to the farm, I parked the semi in the same spot I found it, jumped up on the John Deere and spent the rest of the afternoon raking hay and dreamed of rolling down the highway in an eighteen-wheeler of my very own. Roy showed up long after I’d finished raking hay, drunk of course; he drove me home. In the summer of ‘82, Brother Bob called and told me to meet him at the Hawk-I Truck Stop in Iowa City. We fueled up the tractor and ate a big meal at the truck stop buffet. After eating, we got into my car and drove a few blocks to the Red Stallion, a country bar with live music. I was only seventeen years old at the time, but I was already a regular at the Stallion. At closing time Brother Bob and I staggered out of the bar, got into my car, and drove back to the truck stop. “Hey little brother,” he said before getting out of the car, “what are you doing for the next couple of weeks?” I thought for a moment and replied, “Not much of anything, why?” “Well,” he said, “you wanna drive truck, don’t ya?” “Of course I do.” “Then park this four-wheeler and climb in the truck, cuz I’ve gotta get this load to Connecticut and I’m runnin’ behind schedule,” he said as he unlocked the truck. I replied, “You know mom’s going to be as mad as an old wet hen when I call and tell her that I’m with you out on the road.” “She’ll get over it,” he said. I parked the car in visitors parking and climbed in the cab—on the driver’s side. At that point I was wondering if Brother Bob had lost what was left of his cocaine-and- alcohol-fueled mind, because neither of us was fit to ride a bicycle, let alone drive an eighteen-wheeler. He told me to adjust the air in the seat so I could fully depress the clutch pedal, then I 95

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adjusted the mirrors so that the trailer tires were visible in the lower inside corner of each mirror, and finally I fired up the engine and let the air build. I pushed in on the red and blue buttons on the dash that released the tractor and trailer brakes and dropped the fifteen-speed Fuller transmission into first gear and eased out the clutch. A few moments later we were rolling eastbound on I-80 and as far as I knew, I hadn’t run anything over—but the night was still young. Brother Bob popped in AC-DC’s “Back in Black,” and cranked the volume. “Wake me up when we get to Chicago,” he said, as he climbed into the sleeper. I was wide awake all night. When the sun came up I could see Chicago in the distance and the road seemed to get rougher as we got closer to the city. At one point, to my surprise, the steer tires came off the ground and when the tractor came down it shuddered and shook and I thought for sure that we were about to die. Brother Bob stuck his head out of the sleeper and said, “Hey little brother, time the distance between the cracks in the pavement; first the steer tires will hit the crack, then the drive tires, and just before the trailer tires hit the same crack, tap the brake pedal and then the steer tires will stay on the ground.” If I wasn’t driving, I was cookin’ the log books in case the DOT pulled us in for an inspection. I studied for the driver’s exam and memorized all the major interstates on the map. Very fortunately, Brother Bob had a copy of the DOT exam—complete with the answers. After a few weeks Brother Bob dropped me off in Iowa City, with a detailed plan on how to go about gettin’ a chauffeur’s license. Elizabeth was an integral part of my elaborate scheme. She and I met on the dance floor at the Red Stallion, and we soon became regular dance partners. She had just moved to Kalona, IA from Goshen, IN (both towns were Amish communities), where she had been raised Old Order Amish. I asked Elizabeth, “Why did you decide to move to Kalona?” She stated, “I stood up during Sunday services, and 96

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confessed my sins before the congregation.” “Sins,” I laughed, “what did you do, get caught riding in a car or something?” “No, I had relations with a married man, and for that I was banished from the Goshen community.” “You’ve got to be kidding, who was the lucky feller?” “An elder of the church,” she said, smiling shyly, “you should have seen the looks on all their faces.” “No wonder you were banished,” I laughed and asked, “What happened to him, did he get demoted or anything?” “Nothing, the Elders feared that other girls would confess as well by sending me away they sent a message to the other girls to keep quiet or be banished as well.” It wasn’t long before Elizabeth agreed to help me get a chauffeur’s license. At the driver’s license building, Elizabeth and I waited for the oldest woman working the counter to become available; surely this was not the first time an “Amish man” had asked her for a driver’s license. When the woman became available I approached the counter and informed her that I wished to get a chauffeur’s license. I explained that I was born on the farm in Goshen, IN and had no birth certificate. The woman stated that she had seen many cases similar to mine and was happy to help. Elizabeth and I sat down and waited while the woman completed the paperwork. Elizabeth, still having some semblance of Christian values, could not tell a lie, and when the woman asked Elizabeth if she was indeed my cousin and if everything I had stated was true, Elizabeth said not a word, but vigorously nodded her head and signed the paper. By noon the following day, I had taken both the written and the driving tests and in my wallet was a Class A chauffeur’s driving license, stating that I was twenty-three years old. A few days later, Elizabeth and I drove to a nondisclosed location in Iowa, where I applied for an over the road truck-driving job. I had the answers to the DOT exam, so I passed with flying colors. The trucking company called 97

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the 800 number that I’d given as a reference and waiting at the other end of the line was my Brother Bob, who verified my fictitious driving history. That same day I gave Elizabeth a hug and kiss goodbye and climbed into the cab of a brand new cab-over single-stack Mack, destination: Atlanta, GA.

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Neil Harrison Neil Harrison’s most recent stories have appeared in Platte Valley Review, Paddlefish, and Pinyon Review. In addition to a chapbook, Story (Logan House 1995 & 1996), his poetry collections include In a River of Wind (Bridge Burner’s 2000), Into the River Canyon at Dusk (Lone Willow 2005), and Back in the Animal Kingdom (Pinyon Publishing 2011). He recently retired from Northeast Community College, where he taught English and Creative Writing and coordinated the Visiting Writers Series.

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Photo by Kathleen Donnelly

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A Letter from Neil Harrison To Dr. Reese’s Creative Writing Class:

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My thanks to you guys for the letters, and for welcoming me into your classroom. I appreciate hearing your thoughts there in Yankton and again in your letters. Letters, like stories, poems, or journals, offer us a chance to see our thinking process at work. I had a writing teacher years ago tell me that we don’t really know what we think about something until we try to write about it. I believe that. I think that’s why writing is a lot harder than talking, but it’s also why writing tends to offer a far more accurate picture of what we actually think about something than simply talking about it does. We tend to take a lot for granted in conversation. No doubt that’s why we get into arguments so often. We imagine the other person is hearing what we’re thinking, but they’re really only hearing what we’re saying, and that’s often just a very small part of what we think we’re getting across. It’s the human dilemma—trying to communicate thought through language. The problem, as I see it, is that the human mind moves at warp speed when compared with the tricycle velocity of language. In conversation, our audience has to try to decipher our racing thoughts from just those few words we offer as clues. For those of you who do crosswords, imagine trying to fill in all the blanks in a puzzle as fast as you might respond to someone in a conversation. And then imagine the next puzzle, and the next, on and on, coming at you as fast as the back-and-forth responses in a conversation. It would be a totally frustrating way to try to do crosswords. And when you think about it, it’s a pretty frustrating way to try to communicate. No wonder so many conversations end in argument, with both sides totally puzzled as to why the other doesn’t get a clue. That familiar line, “You’re not hearing what I’m saying,” would probably be a lot more accurate as, “You’re not hearing what I’m thinking.” 4 P.M. COUNT


But writing is different. Since the audience you intend to communicate with isn’t there to respond, there’s no one to interrupt your translation of thoughts into words. You have time to consider the accuracy of your writing, and time to make those additions, deletions, and alterations that might more clearly reflect your actual thoughts. Because writing leaves you alone with your thoughts, and hopefully without interruptions, it offers a unique opportunity to consider what you actually think about things. And in this go-like-hell-even-if-you-don’t-know-where culture, that’s one opportunity I’d rather not miss. Flint, thanks for the fine letter. And I’m glad you found things to relate to both in the book and in the class. Ernest Hemingway wrote about the importance of what you leave out of a story, how it’s sometimes more important than what you put in. And that may have something to do with the crossword-puzzle effect I mentioned above, how words that come too fast and furious can leave a reader confused and frustrated. Hemingway believed, and I agree, that economy in writing can be a great virtue. And in this culture, where people all too often seem pressed for time, that may be a major reason for the present popularity of flash fiction. But what’s left out can also open a story up to interpretation, making a very short story seem much larger than its actual word count might suggest. You mention reading a lot, and that’s a major part of being a writer. You might want to check out some flash fiction collections to see how those very short stories come together. Michael, I appreciated your letter. And I’m sorry you missed the class. But I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the book. Reading is a great and economical way to travel. Happy trails! Cory, thanks for the letter, and I really appreciated the video of “We Can Make Believe.” You’re a great musician. Keep writing those songs! Casey, it’s good to hear that you enjoyed In a River of Wind. You obviously have some great stories of your own. And your letter is very well-written, so don’t worry about 101

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writing. Just start a story and let it go where it needs to. And keep reading. It takes time, but the process itself will teach you what you need to know. John Christian, thanks for your letter, and for your attention to details in the stories. Louis, I appreciate your letter, and yes, “everyday realities” sometimes do get in the way of writing. But they also inspire some future stories, so keep at it. Terry, I’m glad to hear you made some connections with my works. Thanks for the letter, and I’ll give Happy and Lucky both a pat or two for you. Isaac, I appreciate your letter. Like most things, converting thoughts into words gets easier with practice. Keep writing. John Masterson, I’m glad you could relate some of the characters in the stories to people you know. And it makes sense when you think about it, because at some level, we’re all related. Jason, thanks. I appreciate you mentioning how important the story that introduces a poem is to you. The former Nebraska State Poet, William Kloefkorn, was a master at telling those stories. You never knew where the story stopped and the poem began. Ask Dr. Reese if he can show you guys one of the videos he has of Bill. Matt, yes, I believe writing is always therapeutic. Whether we realize it or not, we’re always writing about some part of ourselves. Those words, those characters, they’re all coming out of us, all part of who we are. We can learn a lot about ourselves in our writing. Don, I appreciate your letter, and I’m glad you enjoyed the class. Lewis, thanks for the letter. You guys are a great audience, and maybe we’ll see you again. Paz, thanks for the letter and the good wishes. And take care. Josh, I’m glad you enjoyed In a River of Wind, and thanks for your appreciation of the reading there. Yes, I think the poem and the poet’s mood are closely related. I 102

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believe poetry is meant to communicate a feeling, not just a message. And feelings and moods seem inseparable. So, yes, certain moods would seem to offer perfect opportunities for certain poems. Thanks for the good wishes for the future, and I wish you the same. There was one letter with a signature I couldn’t make out, and I’m sorry I can’t make a personal response, but thank you for your letter. I appreciate it. It was great meeting you all in Yankton, and my thanks again to you all for your letters. Thank you, Jim, for the invitation. And you all take care, Neil Harrison

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FPC Vocational Art Program Photos

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Inmate Woodwork Left to Right: D. Feauto, 1st Vice Commander Post 186, Dr. W. Thompson, Commander Post 186, S. Diaz, woodworker, C. Guerra, woodworker, B. Hegge, Maintenance Foreman, K. Roberson, Supervisor of Education. A recent community service project was completed that used the talents of inmates on the institution’s General Maintenance crew to build a rocking motorcycle. The material for the rocker was donated to the institution by American Legion Post 186 and built by the two inmates pictured with the help of several others within the shop. This project is an ongoing effort to assist inmates in finding ways to give back to the community. In this instance they donated their woodworking talents to build this rocker, which will be raffled off by Post 186 to fund scholarships in their community. At the time this book went to print, Post 186 had already raised over $1500 in raffle ticket sales.

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Inmate Artwork

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Landscape Image

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Inmate Woodwork

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Landscape Image

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Lane Anderson

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Rodolfo Gutierrez 111

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Leisure Art Class

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Leisure Art Class

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Richard Mellor 114

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Richard Mellor

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Rodolfo Gutierrez

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William Miller

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Off Like a Flock of Turtles Ray Hanson This is not a story of hardship and finger-pointing. Yes, I had difficulties in life: both of my parents drank excessively and I also had personal challenges like dyslexia. However, I made my choices. The crimes I committed were of my own doing. I don't blame my teachers or my parents for anything that happened in my life. As a matter of fact, my father is my rock, my hero, and my friend; further, some of the teachers, later on in life, became my inspiration. I was born and raised in a small farming town in Wisconsin. Someone that does not live there may describe it as beautiful with lakes, rivers, and breathtaking wilderness. However, I found the town to be suffocating, boring, and pointless. There was nothing for a kid to do: no roller skating rink, no teen night club, no arcade窶年OTHING! I guess if you wanted to become an alcoholic, then you were in the right place; there was an enormous number of taverns. Nevertheless, that's the little town I grew up in. My dreams were much different than those of other kids in school; Joe wanted to be a doctor, Sally a lawyer; however, I wanted to be a rock star like Tommy Lee from Motley Crue. In the second grade I was diagnosed with dyslexia. I was taken out of my school and put into a special ed program for kids with learning disabilities (LD). In the 1980s, teachers didn't know what to do. I tried so hard in school, but learned slowly. I brought my spelling words home every night and my sister made flash cards with the words on them; I stayed up late memorizing them. The next day I would sit down to take the spelling test and not be able to spell one word. When I looked at the word "was," it appeared to me as "saw" and vice versa. It was so frustrating 118

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to look at a word that I knew ten minutes ago but could not recall; every time I saw a word, it was as if I had never seen it before. School is a progressive platform; one thing builds on the next. When I did not understand the first things that were taught in class, there was little chance I'd get the next. My primary schooling was over almost before it began. By the time the school system caught my LD, I was already two years behind. I survived the sixth grade by watching and listening to other people; I became a master at reading people's body language. If someone read a paragraph orally from a history book, I understood it and didn't forget it. Still, my memory didn't help me with spelling; I could not get the words to stay in my mind. I do have some bad memories about things teachers said back in grade school. For example, I was told, "You cannot be that dumb," and "With your IQ, the best you can hope for is a low-paying factory job"; but the most painful and damaging thing I was told repeatedly was, "You're faking, there is no such thing as dyslexia and you're just lazy." Anyone who spends ten minutes with me knows I'm not lazy; as a matter-of-fact, I'm a workaholic. My teachers didn't know me and they did not understand my LD. I hate quitting anything, but dropped out of school in the nineth grade; it was devastating. I chased my dream of becoming a professional musician until I was eighteen, when my girlfriend got pregnant. Shortly after that we were married and had three more children, and I stopped expecting to ever learn how to read or write. During my late twenties, I was introduced to a highly addictive drug known as "meth." At the time, I was working as an operator-engineer in the construction industry. I found that using meth made it possible for me to work longer hours, but after just a few times of using this powerful drug, it consumed my life. Meth is expensive and, at the time, I could not afford to buy it. I purchased pills that are used to make meth 119

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and gave them to individuals who were manufacturing. In return, they supplied me with the drug. Soon, I was the one doing the manufacturing. I was arrested the following year and sentenced to eleven years and six months in federal prison, six years in state prison, and eight years of probation. Less than three years had passed between my first use and when I had lost everything of value: my friends, my family, and my freedom. I thought I would spend the rest of my life in prison; I gave up hope. At the beginning of my prison sentence, I was thirty-three years old and still unable to read or write. One of the teaching staff in prison said, "Ray, today you have an opportunity; are you going to continue your criminal ways or are you going to choose a new path?" That day, I promised myself that I would get my body, mind, and soul in order. My prison life started in FMC Rochester at the end of 2004. On my second day I was called to the education department. A prison guard told me that I would be starting school the following day. I literally laughed out loud at that. He said, "What's so funny?" I replied, "I don't have time for your schooling—I need to figure out how I'm going to do all this prison time." He replied, "Well good for you, I will see you in the morning" and shut the door in my face. I thought to myself, "What an ass. Who does he think he is?" I was scared to death. I thought school was going to be a waste of time; I told myself that I would go to class and just sit there doing nothing. As time went on and the drugs started to clear from my brain and body, I began to learn. It was humbling to walk around a federal prison with nursery rhyme books teaching myself how to read. The officer was relentless; he pushed me every day to better myself. I was stubborn as a mule. And do you know what? He just would not give up on me. I would ask myself, "What does he see in me that no one else has?" He told me over and over that I was a natural leader, but that I led people down the wrong 120

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path. Learning was still a slow, painful process. At the end of 2005, I thought about quitting. Somehow he found out, called me a lazy SOB, and asked what kind of man would quit on his kids for the second time. I was upset for a few days by his harsh words, but during that time I thought about it. He was right! I had failed my children in a big way. I started thinking about what I could do to help them have a better life. The only thing I could do was educate myself and hope my children would see the change. In 2006, while still in Rochester and after a lot of hard work, I received my GED. My parents and children came to my graduation that was held in the basement of the prison chapel. It was quite intimidating for my parents with all the razor wire and prison guards, but the kids took it in and looked happy. They all were proud of the transformation that was taking place. When I got to sit at my family's table, my son Dylan said, "Dad, we walked in the tunnels to the church‌ it was cool." In Rochester, tunnels ran all throughout the prison. My mom told me she could not believe I was learning how to read; she was happy for me. I explained to my family that I was not finished with my education and I had a lot of work ahead of me. That's the last day I saw my mother alive; RIP mom, I love you! I was grateful for the opportunity to earn my GED; however, it would not have been enough if had I stopped there. I still could barely read and could not look up words in a dictionary because I could not spell. When I asked how to spell a word, the teachers would say, "Look it up it the dictionary." Now that is just stupid—if you can't spell it, how do you find it in the dictionary? I would look all day for "was" in the dictionary and not find it because I was looking up "saw." Nonetheless, my re-education transformation continued. At the end of 2007, I was transferred to FPC Yankton where I enrolled in a college program through Mount Marty College. The only thing I could sign up for that summer was turf class. I thought to myself, "Turf class 121

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my butt, I bet the teacher has the inmates cut the nice grass out in the yard." Boy, was I wrong! I went to the horticulture office the following day to ask a few questions. I informed the professor that I was very interested in taking his class but that I was dyslexic and read at a slow pace. The professor said to me, "Mr. Hanson, my turf textbook is at an eighth grade level; I can teach anyone this material." I said, "Great," picked up the book, and went back to my room. During my first class, I thought the horticulture teacher was speaking a different language. I had no idea what he was talking about, and to top it off, I could not keep up with the reading assignments. In the beginning I paid people to read my homework to me, but it was not long before the professor found out and assigned me a tutor to help with the reading. By the end of the first month of turf class, I knew college was going to be a steeper learning curve. I was no longer able to learn at my own pace. Things moved fast in college, but Mr. Horticulture kept a close eye on me. At least once a week, he called me to his office and quizzed me on the material. I think I surprised him with how much I knew. Most of the time I could answer anything he asked; I just couldn't write well enough for anyone to read it. Mr. Horticulture was the second teacher to take an interest in me and take time out of his schedule to help me learn. He did not give me special treatment and it made me feel like I was part of the class; this was a new feeling for me and I am grateful for his help. Mr. Horticulture told me he had a person willing to help me with my writing. There was so much homework in my English class that I didn't learn much at all. I did everything in my power just to finish my homework on time and didn't have time to study or comprehend anything. This was very overwhelming for me. I was doing OK in college, but inside I felt as if I were drowning. This went on for about another year. During my second year in horticulture classes, I started feeling a bit more comfortable. I was reading all of the 122

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assignments on my own, but still needed help with spelling. The prison and the college allowed me to obtain an electric dictionary for dyslexics call the "Franklin." The Franklin dictionary allowed me to type in words phonetically, just as they sounded, and then the hand-held Franklin gave me five or six words it thought I was trying to spell. From that point I could highlight what word I wanted, push the "dictionary" button, and see if that was the word I was trying to spell. The Franklin was amazing. This machine changed my life overnight. For the first time, if I was taking a test and did not know a word, I could look it up in a matter of two seconds. The second thing to help with my spelling was the computer. I was given a tutor to teach me the fundamentals. I never had a computer at home and did not know how to turn one on. I spent hours and hours working and learning; I understood right from the start that the Franklin dictionary and the computer would be a game-changer for my spelling and college classes. At this point I was studying about eight to ten hours a day. I became obsessed with learning. My first hurdle in this re-education process was learning how to cope with my dyslexia and finding out how I learned. My second major problem was finding money to buy books and pay for classes. When I was first enrolled in college, I did not have money to buy my own books so I borrowed them from my classmates. Sometimes I found old books and read them. But I was only treading water; I had to find a way to get my own books or my college career was going to end. My first thought was to ask my parents for help, but they did not have the money. Besides, my past spoke volumes: I couldn't be trusted and I didn't follow through with what I started. As time went on and I was almost finished with my first college degree, my friends and family started to note the change and got behind me. That was a good feeling; I was earning their trust. There were three people that paid for my college: my father, Raymond Hanson; my friend, 123

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John; and another friend, Don. Without them I would not have finished college. I cannot thank them enough for helping to change my life. In 2010, I received my Associate of Science in Horticulture degree. Armed with the new talents of being able to read and write, and with the money to move forward in college, I was a force to be reckoned with. I signed up for two more college degrees—Business and Accounting. All of the teachers played a big role in re-educating me, however, there were two teachers that changed me as a man. They were my business professor, Mr. Gross, and my psychology professor, Mrs. Lincoln. Mr. Gross made learning fun, but also expected a lot from his students at all times. In prison it is easy to lose connection with the outside world. Mr. Gross knew that and would make his students talk about current events at the beginning of each class. If I were going to stay involved, I had to start watching the world news; something I had never done before. This is how I learned about politics and how politics/ laws can affect business in a blink of an eye. Mrs. Lincoln, for her part, taught me how to use my dyslexia as a strength, not a weakness. She told me that I approached problems differently than others and that I looked confident and comfortable in my own skin. During the first week of class, Mrs. Lincoln said, "Okay, you're dyslexic! You're not comfortable reading out loud and spelling. Those are the things you're weak at, right?" I said, "Yes." She went on to say, "Then stop focusing on what you're not good at and focus on your strengths." This waslife-changing. She was so right; up until that moment, all I did was focus on my weaknesses: reading and spelling. Now, she wanted me to focus on what I was good at. I'm a talented person: I play three instruments, paint, draw, and have excellent communication skills. From that day forward I have never viewed my dyslexia as a "disability." I now refer it as "my beautiful gift". Mrs. Lincoln had me do a paper on dyslexia and while researching that paper, I found 124

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influential people that had dyslexia and still succeeded anyway. People like Tom Cruise, John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, and Nelson Rockefeller. If they can find ways to overcome dyslexia, so can I; and I did. In 2011 I finished my A.A. in Business, in 2012 my A.A. in Accounting, and in May, 2013 I received my B.A. degree. I graduated with a 3.65 and because of that GPA and outstanding community involvement, I was accepted into the Kappa Gamma Pi National Catholic College Graduate Honor Society. I also was chosen to be the valedictorian of the inmate section of the Mount Marty College graduating class of 2013. The feelings I had when I walked across the stage at graduation with my friends and family in the audience cheering for me were amazing. I was so proud of myself for seeing this through. I showed off my diploma like it was one of my children. What a cool feeling of accomplishment! I had worked so hard at this and now it was there, in my hand, and no one could ever take it from me. Except for the births of my children, it was the best feeling I have had in my life. It is hard to describe what being able to read means to me. I can enter into other worlds and read other people's points of view. I can go to the moon with Neil Armstrong or see what it would be like to be the CEO of General Electric through Jack Welch's eyes. I also love to read the Bible, but my favorite writer is Jon Krakauer. Reading his true-life adventure books like Into Thin Air and Into the Wild is my way to go along on these journeys and I get so involved that I lose track of what day it is. I dream of one day going on an adventure like his. Reading allows me to enter the rest of society. For the first time, I feel as if I'm prepared for life. I welcome challenges and cannot wait to lead my children and others down the right path. It is quite ironic though, a man that could not write a short time ago is now writing a story. That's serendipity at its finest. Because of the progress I have made, my children now talk of me as someone they want to be like; they look up to me. I know great things are 125

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waiting for me out in the free world. I have options. I might go back to college or start my own business; either way I am prepared. The one thing I do know for sure is that this is not the end of the story, this is the beginning.

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FPC Yankton Transforms American Elm Tree

Todd Cowman

In July 2014, an inmate at Federal Prison Camp Yankton completed a sculpture from the last surviving American Elm tree at the camp. The tree was planted between 1954 and 1964, when Yankton College occupied the land, but recently the tree had become infected with Dutch Elm disease. Rather than cutting down the infected tree, an inmate who participates in education-based art classes at the institution requested the opportunity to use the tree to create a sculpture. The finished sculpture displays an eagle, with a fish in its talons, returning to a nest constructed of wood trimmed from other local trees. The project was finalized with additional plants and landscaping surrounding the tree.

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The Eagle Project Ray Hanson It was mid-summer, 2013; the sun was out and I was having lunch with my friend, Paul, when Al from the horticulture department sat with us. Paul and I were wellknown in our prison community as good artists. Al said, “Ray Hanson, I have a job that I believe you would be good at.” I thought to myself, “Ho boy, why is Al buttering up to me?” We were told that the horticulture professor was looking for people to do a chainsaw carving of a tree that had died in the prison yard. That afternoon, Paul and I talked to the horticulture professor to see what he had in mind for the project. He asked us to put together a presentation of what we proposed to carve and he would submit it to the warden for approval. Paul had some experience in small wood carvings; I, on the other hand, had none. What I did have was a creative mind and years of experience with chainsaws. When Paul and I went out to look at the tree, I identified it as an American Elm—Latin name Ulmus americana. This type of tree is a hardwood and not the best for carving. We did a lot of research on hardwood carvings and, to be honest, I was intimidated by the amount of effort required for a project like this. From here, Paul and I bounced ideas off one another about what we thought could be carved into the tree. When considering a project like this, it is important to let the art-form speak. For example, we looked at the shape and size of the tree to see what would fit into it. Anything can be cut out of wood, but it might look forced and unnatural; however, allowing the shapes to align properly to the contour of the tree makes it feel warm and natural. 128

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A couple of ideas we discussed were a bear standing on his hind legs or a pack of wolves jumping up to get some food. However, the one we liked best was an eagle with a fish in its claws, landing in a nest to feed its young. To me, the eagle represents freedom and all that America stands for, while the eaglet symbolizes re-birth or the rise of the next generation. That night, Paul drew a rough sketch of the eagle on paper and carved a clay-model eagle’s head. I went to work on carving a small-scale model of the eagle and fish, out of wax, to submit to the professor and the warden. These 3-D models allowed everyone to see exactly what it was going to look like. There were three or four other people working on ideas of their own for the carving, but in the end, Paul and I won approval. This is where things got difficult. Paul and I are prisoners, both serving ten years in prison, and have no authority whatsoever. The warden and his staff were going to put a lot of trust in us; some of the tools were potentially deadly. This was an enormous project. The tree was thirty feet tall and five feet wide at the base. We were going to be working with numerous Bureau of Prisons departments. For example, the paint shop put up the scaffolding and we got the chainsaws from the garage. Therefore, everything had to be done in sequence. At first, I could feel tension from the different departments; they didn’t know what to think of two inmates asking for help. But as time went on, I believe the department bosses started to trust us and got behind the eagle project. From there, we were given a budget for the special tools we needed; then came the litany of training classes. We took a fall-protection class, a chainsaw class, and a safety class; you name it and we took it. After a lot of logistics work in late September, we erected the scaffolding around the tree so that we could start carving. All the planning had been done and now we were going to see what we were made of. I felt liberated, happy, and ready to start the carving. The first day was devoted 129

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to figuring out the size of things, making chalk marks, and measuring repeatedly to make sure that the dimensions were right. There is no going back once something is cut incorrectly. At first, we had to find out how to work together and it wasn’t long before we got a pattern down. I ran the chainsaw, but for most of the time I could not see the other side of the cut. Therefore, Paul would stand on the opposite side of the tree and tell me when to stop. In the beginning, the work was slow, but it wasn’t long before we had a good system down. Paul and I wanted to make the carving great for several of reasons: there seemed to be a large number of prisoners that wanted to see the project fail; another was that the staff had put trust in us, something not done easily in the BOP system; but the biggest reason we wanted to succeed was to push ourselves to become better artists. It took us four weeks to rough-cut the shape of the eagle and fish. Each day we could see more and more of our vision. It was nice to hear people walk by and say, “Oh, I see it…there is the head and the tail.” This spring, Paul will do all the fine detail work, as I will finally be back home with my family. The carving will be here for many years, and I hope that people enjoy looking at it as much as I did making it. I felt privileged to be involved and would do it again in a heartbeat.

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Susan Kalsow Dr. Susan Kalsow is currently the training and development manager for Bank Midwest and previously served as VicePresident and Dean for Academic Affairs at Mount Marty College. She has ten years of college leadership experience including Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs at Buena Vista University where she began her college career as a graduate instructor in educational leadership. Other roles at Buena Vista included Field Experiences Director and Dean of the School of Education. She began her professional career as a junior high English teacher and coach. After obtaining her masters she worked as a curriculum director and regional education agency consultant. She is also a trainer for Fierce Conversations and has worked to integrate leadership concepts into the education of all Mount Marty College students. She is married and has two grown sons.

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Dear FPC Mount Marty Students, It was truly a pleasure to have the opportunity to share the foundational concepts and the confrontation model from Susan Scott’s Fierce Conversations. Thanks to all of you for your attention and genuine interest in the content. Your participation that day is not the most important aspect, however. Being able to build your decisions on solid principles, and having tools to use to confront issues with others will be the most important aspect of your learning. There are three other conversations that you could study from the Fierce Conversations literature including the team, delegation, and coaching. I hope the FPC officials continue to consider the option of training for staff and inmates in the near future. You have made an important decision to advance your education, and I believe you can use education to change your lives for the better. Many of us who have dedicated our lives to education believe that there is great hope in learning. The Mount Marty faculty members share an enthusiasm for changing lives and often share their love of their work with you. After my afternoon with you, I understand. One of our senior leaders on the Yankton campus attended the training in January and said it was not about learning the Fierce Conversations concepts, but it was about using the concepts. My best hope for all of you is that you find principles and tools to use that improve the quality of your lives now and upon your release. Best regards, Susan Kalsow

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Let's Call Him Gavin John Christian Her frantic voice shouts, “My water just broke!” ER twenty-five miles away. Moon is shining brightly in the winter night’s cold. Red and black two-door Eagle Talon whizzing like a bullet. My nervous driving is attentively fierce; hospital hill sighted on the horizon. The wheel chair squeaks down the long hall. Family arrives with gifts of smiles and hugs. The doctor says,“Keep pushing!” Little screams illuminate the room with raw emotions. Parents and grandparents are made. I cut the cord with a single snip. She proudly cuddles him. New eyes curiously looking upon us. A precious boy was just born. Eyes filled with love looking at me as she says, “Gavin, let’s call him Gavin!”

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The Inevitable John Christian The folklores I have heard weigh heavy on my mind as she and I enter his chambers. Mysteriously, people disappear when they are summoned here, and rumor has it that myriad lives are destroyed within these premises. Hair on my skin rises and chills crawl through my body as I remember friends who came here that I have never seen again. There is truth in these tales. The entrance is a gauntlet of light brown wooden benches. I touch the first row on my left and get a sensation that some unknown evil entity is lingering about, yearning to feast on the misery of all who sit there. She has no choice but to sit there, so I do not mention the presence I am sensing. I continue scouting the room while walking slowly towards the front. There is nothing pleasant about this place. It feels like I stumbled into a furnace. A stench of an unfamiliar odor lingers on the air, and the dark brown carpet appears burnt. There are no windows, disallowing all rays of sunlight to enter, permitting only the shadow to cloak the room in hatred. This place seems dystopian, and I get deja vu, like in a past life I had been here. Somehow, something is letting me know, I just passed through the gates of hell. I head to the massive rectangular table up front where numerous people before me fought desperately for their lives or submitted to brute force. As I make my way, I notice three people on my immediate right flashing their ghastly smiles towards her and me. I then turn around and see her sullen frown anchor her more deeply into those awful benches. Her highlighted brown hair is in a ponytail, fully revealing her pale Korean complexion. She is wearing a yellow trench coat that complements her green eyes. Even though I am about to greet persecution, her beauty 139

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seizes my attention like the stars on a clear autumn’s night, brewing regret within me. I should have surrendered to her ardor. She attempted seducing me out in the hallway; she passionately expressed her intention as our eyes locked and she amorously pressed her lips to mine, right before we entered this room. Gazing into her eyes takes me to last night when I tell her that the inevitable is upon us. My dreary words to her, and her love for me, clash like hot and cold fronts, producing a cataclysmic storm inside her heart. She tightly grabs hold of me and unleashes a biblical flood of tears that Noah himself could not have survived. She shrieks like an angel blowing into the apocalyptic horn, signaling our Armageddon as the revelation of my fate crashes into her world like a comet, obliterating everything. I am powerless in preventing this storm, so I just hold her until it weakens, then build her a temporary dam of reassurance to contain her flood of feelings. I wanted to tell her everything will be OK tomorrow, but instead of lying, I just keep embracing the vise grip her hands have on my body until our passionate kisses override all other senses, and the comfort and pleasure of our melded naked bodies allows us to forget this night's calamity. I hold her until she escapes reality by passing into the peace of her dreams. As she lay peacefully with her head on my chest, memories of bad choices animate me. A person cannot do something wrong and expect it to fade into oblivion without repercussions. I knew someday my past would eventually dictate my future. Just because I decided to put an end to things did not mean it was the end of things. I sigh, knowing there is no excusing my audacious actions— twenty-twenty hindsight shows clearly that I was wrong, but that does not make what is coming right either; my actions were not horrible enough to justify its righteousness. Besides, a person can change on his own, punish himself by dwelling on his wrongs, learn and grow to be a morally good man, and never regress to bad ways; their godimpersonating book designed to act like a cynic omits these 140

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redeemable traits, yet they hold it infallible. Eventually everyone has an epiphany and changes in one way or another. Mine derived from a moment of realization that the path I walked ends in devastation; is that not the critical lesson I needed to learn? She gasps and rolls over, derailing my thoughts. I ponder on our future relationship for the remainder of the night because I can barely sleep. I am up at daybreak and get her up early. As we dress and prepare for what is coming, we are speechless. However, the looks and touches we give one another speak louder and carry more meaning than words could ever express. When she mouths, “I love you,” I realize I am back in this frightening room. I mouth, “I love you too,” and her full lips force a smile. She cannot conceal her feelings from me. I know her too well. The look she gives reveals her soul, and I see it is in pain. Surely, she thinks the same about me as I carefully force a smile back, attempting not to reveal my true feelings, because I do not want to see another emotional storm rain down tears and rupture the dam that is relying on my waning strength for support. I am troubled by my bleak future making her feel like life is over, like we are over, because I must go, so I muster up vigor to successfully conceal my emotions—my last gift. I am Atlas, carrying her world on my shoulders for the time being. We knew the prophecy—my leaving—just not its effects, once it came true. Time progresses rapidly as the room alters its appearance. I suddenly realize I am standing with everyone as a man with scales enters this dark room, commanding instant authority like he is the king—of darkness. His throne of power towers above everything, making this massive table seem small. His black cape matches the room’s shadow perfectly, and his punitive demeanor seems to fuel the room’s animosity. Observing his wrinkly old face causes me to believe he struck a deal with death for immortality. By the icy look in his eyes, I know people cower before him, praying and begging for his decision to be merciful. Order is brought about, and then the 141

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beginning of the end sets the inevitable into motion. At first, I try to listen as my wrongdoings are stated for the record, but my mind tunes inward as the chaotic rhythm of my heart beats faster and harder, feeling like something imprisoned inside of me is banging off beat on a steel door, wanting desperately to escape. I know it's anxiety. Today affects not only me, but also everyone I love. It shames me how I hurt the heart of everyone who cares for me. Watching sadness form in their eyes then run down their checks while their lips quiver, or seeing her, how she trembled violently in my arms as grief overcame, will eternally torment me like a soldier who has PTSD. Anger begins boiling my blood for being such an ignoramus, yet, simultaneously my hearts begins playing bass to a blues melody while fear is on the drums. The coming changes scare me the most. Not going away, but the inverse effects going away will have on everyone’s life—the worst of their kind, the ones unrealized, until they happen. This craze inside me is battling for dominance over my expressions, but my face stays blank, and envisioning the story her eyes are telling right now, as she listens to them, revitalizes my composure. She relies on me still. As sweat trickles down my body underneath my suit, I continue hiding the nervewracking nature of this moment, as if I am emotionally catatonic. My eyes close, I inhale deeply and slowly as the scene shifts again. Another man emerges from out of the room’s shadow to advocate his cause of my condemnation. Every word this accuser speaks against me is like a lash from a whip, striking with a precise point, tearing the innocence from my flesh. He portrays me in the worst possible light: scum. One who spreads white pestilence throughout the earth; one who sucks the blood from society’s veins; one who contaminates all the good in life with just his mere presence. His voice has rancor, and his words are vindictive, but he performs his solo perfectly with no interruptions, he sings just for me. His clever forked tongue is working hard at sealing my fate. He sings 142

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for retribution in wanting to sink my soul into the abyss, drowning my autonomy. He did not write his persuasive lyrics, but he surely named them on my behalf—Your Final Judgment. His melody ends on a low note. She and I are the only ones not giving a standing ovation. The focus of the man with scales turns directly to me after listening to such grand performance, “Do you have anything to say for yourself?” Stunned, shocked, and confused, his simple question caught me off guard. “Sir, I, uh…," but the cat viciously paws at my tongue every time my mouth opens. What is there to say anyway after you have been expertly cast into the role of an immoral villain? I broke the decrees of men, yet, somehow I feel a dangling thirteen-knotted rope might be more reasonable than what seems to be an eternity of isolation and mental anguish set forth as the punishment that’s about to be imposed. Is this not cruel and unusual, I wonder? Were my actions truly hideous, or is my portrait being tinted too darkly, resembling the devil? I contemplate all the latent reasons for this draconian punishment, and figure the ones of practical significance spawned from somewhere outside of me, though they affect me like I am responsible for all hell on earth; the root of all evil, the One fallen, in the flesh. I am not Lucifer. I have no desire to prune or poison humanity’s tree of fruitfulness no matter how dark the shadow cast over me. I have done many good things too, does that matter not to those who judge me? Not being able to change this evil perspective in which I am being portrayed intensifies my anger. I notice everyone is pointing their fingers and watching me, judging me—that’s the bad guy—as I stand here in silence, lost in the depths of my own thoughts. I instinctively turn around to look at her, my angel. She is slouched in those wooden benches, tormented from the accuser’s invidious words that lacerated me, and sorrow is settling into her soul. Death has kissed her heart. Our eyes interlock as I seek her reassurance that I am not satanic. 143

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Her womanly intuition of my worries overwhelms her rational senses, so she empathically shouts her affections for me at the room in hopes of conquering such hatred. “You cannot cast him away; he is not evil, for I could not love anyone evil. He gave me the warmth of his shoulder, as well as his home, in desperate times. He showed me what a true friend is like which rejuvenated my faith in people after divorcing life. He thawed my heart by giving me reasons to love again, for which I will always love him. He loves me unconditionally, despite my flaws. I know he made mistakes, but what about the good he has done, especially for me. No! He is not evil, for it is rather you, demon, who is sinister. You lurk in the shadows of this room, but I still sense your presence, and your desire to gorge on havoc you exquisitely scatter on all who enter these chambers so they stand marinating before you, like they are merely a steak you wait to devour, and may you choke to death on the first bite, you foul being." I smile, knowing in my heart of hearts that she will stand by me, proud, regardless of what they say. He authoritatively orders her to sit quietly or endure the wrath of his tremendous power. I turn back around. He is now glaring at me with a cold malefic look. He flashes it to her then back to me. Her compassionate words of defiance on my behalf disgust him. I am getting angrier as his ember eyes and devilish smirk radiate his jurisprudence in harsh retributions. He is anxiously waiting in anticipation for any pathetic excuse of justification I can conjure up, for he has heard them all. Trying to justify my actions is the last thought rushing through my mind. I am not easy to sway into remorse when under pressure, and the growing rage in my heart forbids me to do what they want, to repent and accept this hellacious punishment. He expects me to comply with formalities by being silent as a corpse as they orchestrate my funeral, but I am still breathing and the fire in my eyes still burns. I must give him a piece of my mind. I stare into the yellow eyes of the cat, and then kick him hard‌. 144

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In the midst of all the ruins my verbal onslaught caused, I make out insolence and imprisonment as the gavel slams down with a loud bang, and then I hear her scream. I turn, only to see her darting towards me like she is running for her life. I extend my arm to welcome her by my side, as I would have if we were at an altar, but she collapses on the scorched carpet. I rush to her despite my heart telling me resuscitation is futile. She is dead, and her spirit has moved on. The room entombs her body like hungry wolves after killing an helpless creature. I kneel by her in silence, knowing the truth inside my gut that her sorrowing heart murdered her. I bend down and grip her lifeless hand then softly kiss her forehead, wipe her teary cheeks and close her eyes. I whisper in her ear, “My love, you will never know how sorry I am for this day. I understand now, how the excruciating pain you were enduring was terminal, and how unbearable it was to live with, and why it inevitably took you from me." The room’s shadow lifts as everything begins incinerating from hellfire. I realize not everything is what it seems, that I am not where I initially thought I was. A dragon-like tail hits my body like a spear, completely penetrating my torso, and pulls me nearer to the shadows. I cannot resist this immense force. I see a glimpse of her, my angel, but the three minions latch onto her and pry her eyes open with their claws. More demons manifest themselves and grab hold of my ankles, shackling me where I stand, forcing her to watch as my body cooks in the fire. She screams from smelling my burnt flesh. Talons tear into the meat of my back and rip the skin and bones off my spirit. Darkness consumes my body. A light shines down, blinding the demons. It intensifies as it gets closer to me; I can feel its warmth. God is about to save us. Then I awake abruptly to a flashlight shining directly onto my face through the sheet as the guard shakes my bed in order to see skin to make sure I have not escaped. I give him a look of resentment then glance at the clock, which reads 3:28 a.m. I am sweating profusely from this nightmare. 145

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Same one I have had for forty months. I take a deep breath while rolling over to my left side as the flashlight disappears into the night’s darkness, leaving only the moon to shine through the blinds and the dim floodlights to guide one’s limited path. I cannot help wondering how our lives together could have been, and how much I miss her.

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2014 Pencil Portrait Class David Perez I learned to draw portraits while incarcerated in FCI Beaumont, TX. I was inspired by another inmate who drew portraits with graphite pencil, and his work was fascinating. He had seen me drawing characters out of magazines. That was something I did to pass time. He said the way I did my shading on my characters was very unique, and suggested I should try doing portraits. I immediately took his advice and started drawing portraits. This new type of art came to me very naturally. It was a God-given talent. While in Texas I was given the opportunity to teach the pencil drawing class. By this time, I was regularly helping people already. I figured this would give me the chance to help even more people. I learned that just as various people see life from different perspectives, they also see art from different perspectives. I also learned art is subjective. It is not right or wrong, but welcomes many different opinions, and can involve people from all walks of life. After my transfer to Yankton, I saw a lot of beautiful artwork in the education department. I thought it was amazing that they displayed the work from inmates in the institution. I soon met one of the artists and he was also the instructor of the Portrait Drawing class. He explained the curriculum of the class which I thought it was great. I always feel there is more to learn so I signed up for the class. Soon the instructor informed me he was leaving, and he felt I would be his best replacement. Because of my art skills and drawing abilities he asked if I would be interested in becoming the next instructor. Of course I couldn’t turn that down since I thoroughly enjoy sharing my talents. Yes, I took the opportunity and became FPC 147

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Yankton's new instructor. I have enjoyed helping others discover their talent in art. It has been a great experience for me to witness in every class individuals just like me who never thought they had this talent, put their energy and time into a piece of paper and end up creating beautiful pieces of art. The only thing I do is teach them some techniques as a guide, and everything else is their own creative work. I often think about that artist in Texas, and quietly thank him for inspiring me. By learning that skill I never thought I had, I now try to pass on that legacy or gift to others. Drawing is a way for people to express themselves in their own unique ways and to create something that will bring joy to both the artist and viewer. It has given me the chance to express beauty in the way I see things and I love that feeling. It is my hope that others can experience this, too.

Estevan Mendoza

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Carl Johnson

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Eddie Paulino

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Eddie Paulino

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Eddie Paulino

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Eddie Paulino

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Eddie Paulino

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Eric McPeters

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Jaime Garcia

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Jaime Garcia

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Jeff Lamkins

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Jeff Lamkins

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Jeff Lamkins

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Jose Garcia

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Jose Garcia

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Paul Kimmons Sr.

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Mark Adderley Like the famous Cat, Mark Adderley was born in Cheshire, England. His early influences included C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien and Ian Fleming, and adventure books of various kinds. His teacher once wrote on his report card, “He should go in for being an author,� advice that stuck with him. He studied for some years at the University of Wales, where he became interested in medieval literature, particularly the legend of King Arthur. But it was in graduate school that he met an American woman, which led him to move to the United States to marry. He has been teaching writing and literature in America ever since, and is now an associate professor of English at Mount Marty College in Yankton, SD. He is the author of a number of novels about King Arthur for adults, and of the McCracken books adventure stories for young readers.

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Photo by Landon Alexander

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A Letter from Mark Adderley To Professor Reese’s Writing Class at Federal Prison Camp Yankton:

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First of all, I want to thank you for the wonderful reception you gave me when I read from my novel, The Hawk and the Huntress, earlier this summer. I suppose what impressed me so much was the remarkable sense of freedom in your comments, both face-to-face in class and in the letters I received from you later on. You know more than I do about freedom, because yours has been temporarily taken away from you, and I think we never really know something until it’s been taken away from us. I know my home, England, better than most Englishmen know it, because I can’t just walk down to the pub or eat roast beef and Yorkshire pudding whenever I want to. The main point I try to make to the students in my writing classes is that they have to take charge of their own writing. They can’t let anything else interfere with the freedom they have to express themselves and communicate with others in their writing. Grammatical errors are only a problem if they interfere with the writer’s efficiency in expressing him- or herself or in communicating with others. So, go ahead—break the rules of “grammar” (more often not grammar at all, but merely “usage,” the customary and arbitrarily-decided rules of “good” language). But, if you break those rules, you have to do it deliberately, and because you want a particular effect. You can’t break the rules just because you didn’t know there was a rule there. This is why I’m in favour of self-publishing, as I told you when I was in your class. Self-publishing gives me freedom—I don’t have to accept anybody else’s ideas about the content of my writing or the appearance of my cover. I’m in charge of it all. I know there are rules. Someone recently told me something fascinating about what color fonts to use on the front covers of books. He said that, since I’m writing books with similar titles, the words that differ 4 P.M. COUNT


from title to title should be printed in a different color. That way, I emphasize both the differences and the similarities between the books. It was a brilliant suggestion. But I’m awfully glad that I would have been free to reject the idea, if I’d chosen to. Freedom doesn’t mean always rejecting the rules, I think. It means working creatively within the rules, bending them where necessary, in order to reach people who need to hear what you have to say. There are higher rules than the rules of grammar! And I think that’s ultimately the point I want to make here. We’re all free to reach people, to change lives, to improve the world, even if it’s in only a little way. That’s why we write. We don’t need publishers to achieve that. We need to define our audience and do what’s necessary to get our message through to them. That’s what we can do now, which has never been possible before, not since the invention of the printing press. When I self-publish, I break the rules of the publishing establishment, but I’m obeying the rules of something much higher and more important than them. I’m obeying the laws of Truth, and the truth, as you know, will set you free. Thank you for all the comments you made in the letters you wrote me. One of you wrote that there wouldn’t be flies buzzing around the dead horses in January. You’re quite right. I’m going to correct that as soon as I come out with a new edition of The Hawk and the Huntress—hopefully, that won’t be long! Others were very encouraging, hoping I would continue writing the fantasy books, and not just devote myself to the children’s books. Thank you for that encouragement! A new fantasy book will be out very soon, and I’ve started writing another. So your comments have been very important to me. Keep writing! Use your writing to explore yourselves and your world. Hopefully, we will meet again some day. Cheers, Mark Adderley 166

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I Was Told that She Came With the Building Donald Hynes

One of the things I enjoyed about buying old buildings in the city of Detroit was the history that existed within each one. Even though I rarely discovered that history, I knew it was there, behind the walls, above the ceilings, or beneath the floors. Occasionally, I learned some interesting facts about certain properties, like my fifteen-unit red brick apartment complex on Hoover near Seven Mile Road. I found out that the FBI arrested a serial murderer in apartment seven, forty years ago. How cool was that? However, the majority of the time a building’s history remained hidden. It was incredible for me when I purchased the old Cadieux Chateau Apartment Complex near I-94, on the east side of Detroit. It looked like the last standing structure in a war zone. Not only did it come with history, but living history, in the form of a widow. The previous owner told me that an old woman came with the building. She had lived in apartment seven since 1945, following her husband’s return from the Second World War. Her name was Annie; she was originally from Ireland, and she’d been living in her small stuffy secondfloor apartment for fifty-two years. There were only twelve units in this bleached white brick structure. The Chateau was a three story building with two thirty-foot white Roman pillars that supported a high front porch. Before I purchased Annie’s home, I had not actually met her or inspected the unit that she lived in. She was ninety-four years old when we finally met, following my becoming her new landlord. She invited me in for my first look at her place, after comparing the name on my driver’s license with a letter from her former landlord. 167

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She told me she had been paying the same rent for the past thirty years, which was way less than half of what it should be, and she didn’t expect it to change either. Who was I to argue with this purpled-haired saint? I was surprised to discover that she still had that distinctive Irish accent after all those years. The curvature of her spine appeared restrictive, but she seemed to move well as she spryly walked throughout her antiquated apartment. I don’t remember ever seeing such a large black rotary dial phone before. Her furniture was from the 1940s, but looked new, being tightly wrapped in seemingly bullet-proof plastic. The thick green-patterned carpet had been in place for forty years. The color has been worn where paths from the kitchen, bedroom, bath, and living room were. However, the carpet itself was still sound and thick. It must have been woven with steel fibers. Annie always asked me to visit and chat during my weekly walk-throughs. She loved to feed me oatmeal cookies and tomato soup. She introduced me to her seventy-year-old daughter, who had long ago been resigned to the fact that her mother would never move away from the rundown, dangerous area. She told me that Annie refused to leave because she wanted to die in the same apartment as her husband died in many years earlier, right there in apartment seven of the Caudiex Chateau Apartment Complex. I was amazed at the picture quality of her 800-pound RCA black and white television. She explained that the good reception was due to the fancy antenna she purchased in 1979. Annie informed me about multiple homicides and drive-by shootings that have occurred in the past ten years or so near her building. There was no elevator, but Annie walked down the stairs from her second floor apartment and shopped at the liquor store across the street twice a week. She said all the neighbors looked out for her, and she’d never had a problem. She shared all the gossip about the current tenants 168

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and warned me about the ones I should be aware of. She was a wealth of information. She was proud to tell me that no one has ever sold crack from her building. Did she say crack? I was amazed at how mentally sharp she was. She called herself a good Catholic and owned the biggest Bible. She kept it on the old table near her plastic couch. I teased Annie often, saying things like, “You better not bug me about getting you some new carpet anytime soon.” She sternly responded, "There’s nothing wrong with this carpet, so don’t worry about it." Even though it has been over ten years since I sold the Chateau, I’m sure she is still alive, paying the same rent, and endearing herself to yet another landlord. I can’t wait to get back to Detroit one day and pay her a visit. I wonder how many landlords, since the big war, heard those familiar words, "An old woman comes with the building."

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I Really Blew It This Time Donald Hynes Diane was not only the new girl in class, but the prettiest. She had bouncy blonde hair, and all the boys wanted to get close to her. But I had a head start, because she was also my new neighbor on Bramell Street. We were only thirteen, but for some reason we were alone one night, at the street corner, underneath the flickering yellow light cast by an antiquated Detroit streetlamp. It was a hot, muggy weekend, and our clothes were wet. Her red tank top stuck to her body like a motor city paint job. The white shorts she wore burned my eyes, as they stood out against her tanned legs. I was lying on the grass with my hands behind my head, as I did my best impression of someone cool. She stood and walked in slow circles around me, all the while, smiling and flirting. I became nervously excited, as she stepped over me every so often during her voyage. My eyes were glued upon her the entire time, mostly upon her smooth, radiant face. We really chatted about nothing, but I just knew that I would somehow make an impression on her that night. Her light green eyes suddenly sparkled in mid-sentence as she got the silly idea to play a prank on me. She planned on jumping as high as possible over my belly, and then pretending that she was going to stomp on it. As she lifted off the ground like a NASA rocket, I had no idea that she only intended to spread her feet at the last second and harmlessly land one foot on each side of my body without so much as touching me. Nevertheless, I reacted by instinct, as my knees and head came forward, and my stomach muscles tensed. Without even the slightest warning, the gas from my Mother’s baked beans, the gas that I held hostage for nearly an hour, saw an opportunity to 170

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escape. And escape it did, at the speed of sound. There was a sonic boom. Then several nosy neighbors turned on their porch light. Then I realized that the sulfur aroma that occasionally breezed in from the Ford factory wasn’t so unpleasant after all. Then I heard the laughter of a pretty girl, then silence, and then I was alone.

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Busy Work Donald Hynes When I was eighteen, I thought I knew the meaning of life. I thought I would be content with my hospital job and its health insurance. I thought I should drop out of the community college. I thought I was going to marry my high school sweetheart Teri. I thought my future was clear. When I was thirty, I thought about how naïve I was when I was eighteen. I thought my real estate business would flourish. I thought my wife Angela was a stranger. I thought my future was murky. Now that I’m fifty-three, I think about how foolish I was when I was thirty. Now I think about how short life is. Now I think that my life is just full of things I do before I die.

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I Always Avoid the Elephants Donald Hynes My boot camp began in kindergarten and lasted until the eighth grade in the Detroit Public School system. I was a good soldier, trained hard, and was prepared for the battlefield that I would one day be fighting on. That battlefield was Cody High School. Cody was the most dangerous west side district school in Detroit. I was ready and willing to brawl where my older siblings spilled their blood, yet returned home safely. Surprisingly, my marching orders changed just before I was to attend Cody. My parents told me that I would be attending private school. Private school? I had never heard that expression. Was that a school that nobody knew about? I was only familiar with the words, public school or school, and I thought they were expressions that could be used interchangeably. Private School was a new concept to me. My new school was Temple Christian, a K-12 institution, and was located in Redford Township Michigan, a small suburb west of Detroit. This school was partially funded by a megachurch with the same name, and was completely different from anything I’d experienced. We had to attend several summer meetings, just to learn how to transition from public to private school. We purchased notebooks, paper, and study materials before the semester began. I thought that was bizarre. Previously, the only way I prepared for a semester of public school was to do pushups, jumping jacks, and learn new knife-handling techniques. On my first day of private school, I actually learned important educational stuff. I loved it. The only thing I learned at public school was how to stay alive and hang onto my lunch money, sometimes. 173

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Unfortunately, it didn’t take me long to become a terror at the new school. The kids there were nerdy, slow, and passive. They reminded me of a group of lethargic flies living in a refrigerator. Sad to say, I immediately became somewhat of a leader and a trouble-maker. I did some bad things that year, but the worst occurred at Temple Christian’s annual ninth grade class trip to the Detroit Zoo, which wasn’t actually in Detroit, by the way. It was eighty degrees and sunny on an April day when our caravan of two red buses pulled into the parking lot of the zoo. Mrs. Monty was our ninth grade English teacher and head chaperone. She was probably in her twenties, but at the time I thought she was fifty or more, and round as a bowling ball. My posse consisted of Tim Basset, Jeff Edmonds, Ronnie Johnson, and me. We were under the watchful eye of Mrs. Coughman, the thin, snooty study hall teacher. However, I quickly distracted her at the first exhibit by pointing at some ostrich eggs. As she turned to look in the direction of my finger, I heard her say, “Ohhh….” I then gave a hand signal to my crew and we disappeared into the crowd. We kept our eyes peeled for any sign of the Temple staff as we approached a large concrete cave. I glanced at a nearby brass information sign, and then ordered, “C’mon, boys, let’s check out the elephants.” There were three lumbering silver beasts inside the exhibit that could either enter the cave or walk outside by a dirty pool of water. There were prison bars between the people and the elephants. I told the guys, “I bet those cages are to keep people out. Those elephants could easily trample down these bars if they wanted.” They got dumb looks on their faces and made me think they didn’t believe me. All the animals really needed was a little motivation, I thought. You should have seen how big the boys' pie holes got when I pulled a firecracker and matches out of my pocket. Jeff sounded like a big chicken when he said, “Don, you’re gonna get in so much trouble.” 174

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I slowly replied, “No, I’m not. We’re in this together.” I handed the matches to Jeff and told him to light it as I pushed the wick in his face. He hesitated until he realized I wasn’t kidding. When the sparkling black string laced with gunpowder started to sizzle, I threw it toward an elephant named Baby. It all happened so fast. As usual, I didn’t think about the bad consequences that might have occurred. As the lit firework flew end over end toward a pile of grassy hay, we started to run for an exit. Somehow, we got turned around inside the cave and became lost in the crowd of witnesses. I expected to hear an explosion bounce off the cave walls as we ran, but it never happened. I found out later that a zoo worker was in the animal’s pen and somehow extinguished the explosive. When I finally saw the sunlit tunnel, I knew we found our escape route. Unfortunately, the zoo’s staff had evidently been trained by the FBI. In our path stood an angry-looking zoo man who faced us and gave the evil eye. He wore a green khaki uniform and yelled into a radio. I quickly turned around and saw two more workers blocking a retreat back into the cave. We were trapped. As we were being corralled like cattle, I whispered to the fellas, “Don’t say nothin', just keep your mouths shut. They won’t know who we are.” The zoo keeper immediately yelled, “What school are you boys from, and who’s your teacher?” I knew he couldn’t crack my crew with his harsh tactics. However, even before the worker’s words became an echo, Tim hollered out, “We’re from Temple Christian School and our teacher is Mrs. Monty.” Instantly, Tim and I were no longer friends. They took us for our first interrogation inside the head zoo office, which looked like a hut from the Gilligan’s Island TV show. Everything inside was made of bamboo and the walls were covered with straw. Strangely, it smelled like paste. I suppose our inquisition was performed by the head zookeeper, a short bald man with animal poop on his 175

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pant leg. From a nearby window I heard a woman’s voice outside on the PA system say,“Mrs. Monty from Temple Christian School, please report to the zoo office near the lion exhibit”. Mrs. Monty’s face was bright red as she entered the office about ten minutes later. She glared at me in silence. I really thought that since the firecracker didn’t explode, everyone would say something like, “No harm, no foul,” but that wasn’t the case. The little man reprimanded us, screaming with an uptight voice. I remember hearing something about crushed people, fires, and yada yada yada. When I thought he had finally finished, I pondered his words and concluded that he had made some valid points. Before we all left, he made one last comment: “You kids are banned from the Detroit Zoo for life.” Life? I thought that was excessive. Upon our return to school, the principal, Mr. Becker, questioned us also. He was a soft spoken-man whom I grew to admire. I broke down and confessed to throwing the firecracker. Jeff and Ron lied, and said they didn’t’ see anything, they only ran because we ran. However, Tim ratted us all out, and then testified that Jeff lit the firecracker, and I threw it. Jeff ended up getting kicked out of school for lying, but I only got suspended, and nothing happened to Ron. Tim probably got free chocolate milk or something. I wish I could say that was the end of the consequences, but it wasn’t. The principal later announced there would never be another ninth grade field trip to the Detroit Zoo, or anywhere else for that matter. I’m sure during the past thirty-five years, there has been many a ninth grader who has cursed the firecracker guy. Oh yeah, when I became a parent I planned never to take my kids to the Detroit Zoo, because after all, I was banned for life. However, when my daughter was eight, she begged me to take her to see the animals. I had to pull myself together and take the chance. As we stood in line to 176

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purchase our Detroit Zoo tickets, beads of sweat formed on my temple and my hands trembled. I kept looking for a poster with an age enhanced photograph of my face, warning the cashier to push a button if I’m spotted. I was certain there was a picture of me taped to the cash register. To my relief, the ban had apparently been lifted, because I got into the zoo without incident. We had so much fun that day that we actually purchased a one-year pass that we used often. Today, when we swing by the Detroit Zoo, I must say, I stay away from the elephant exhibit altogether. I let my wife and kids go it alone. I've heard that elephants live a long time, and possess even longer memories. I didn’t know if Baby would remember me or not, so just to be on the safe side, I always avoid the elephants.

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Last Time David Perez It was a noisy Sunday morning in the prison visitation room in Beaumont, TX. My family and I were laughing, having a good time, and eating snacks from the vending machines. The visiting room was crowded with many other visitors also spending time with their loved ones, too. There were several kids running around, back and forth, having fun in the children’s playing area. Dad and I were reminiscing about all the fun we had roosterfighting, horse-racing, hunting, and fishing together. Those were the good old days. I fondly remember one time when my father and I were fishing on a beautiful lake in Mexico. It was late in the afternoon and there was a light breeze across the calm blue-green water, perfect for bass fishing. We went to the lake dock, which is on the north side of the lake's peninsula. We got in a little boat that I prepared earlier with everything we needed for the day. My dad got in the boat first; he sat in the back and I in the front. As my dad was about to start the motor, I told him, “No, let’s stay on this side, close to the embankment. I’ll use the oar and row us out about fifty or sixty yards away from the peninsula.” Soon I told my dad, “Let’s try here for a moment.” After a minute, I turned to my right and I saw a big bass jumping out of the water for a dragonfly. I yelled, “Man dad, that’s a big fish! I’m going to get him.” Now my dad was behind me facing northeast while I was facing south. In my excitement, I forgot to put the brake on my reel and the line dropped behind me, between us. I swung my pole with the spot in my mind and I heard, “Shit! Shit! Stop! Stop!” and then “You’re supposed to catch the fish, not me, dumbass!” 178

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It turned out that in all my excitement, I hooked the back of his head real deep. “Come on David; get this thing off of my head.” I cut the line of the minnow and I grabbed the hook with needle-nose pliers, but it was a difficult situation. As I was pulling, the only thing I saw coming off his head was his skin. I said, "Dad, this isn’t working.” So he grabbed a knife, “Here, make a cut that will work.” I said, “No dad, I’m not doing that. We need to go to town so the doctor can do it.” My dad said, “For what? He is going to do the same thing.” So we went, and yes, the doctor did what my dad said. The good thing is that it was his friend and didn’t charge him. We laughed and laughed. The stories we shared that day were numerous, but the very next story, which happens to be my favorite, brought us all to tears and laughter. It was late in the afternoon on a hot sunny day. My sisters, mom, dad and I were heading over to my aunt’s house for a barbeque. On the way, we stopped at the grocery store to buy the things we were going to need. Once we got to the house, we parked right past the garage entrance. This way we all could enter straight in to the back patio through the garage. We got out of the car and each of us helped carry some of the groceries. It was much easier going through the garage entrance to get to the back patio. Along the way, my dad says he forgot something and returned to the car to get it. All of a sudden, we hears, “Oh man, look at this! I can’t believe that one of you wasn’t paying attention to where you were walking. One of you stepped in some dog shit and walked across the garage floor without even noticing it. What is wrong with you guys? Thank God it wasn’t a snake or else I would be rushing one of you to the hospital.” My mother, sisters and I all looked down at our shoes with distaste. Thankfully, mine were clean 179

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and I gladly said so. Then my mother and sisters all simultaneously said, “Mine too!” Then with a smirk I said, “Well, dad, there is only one person left and that is you. Thank God it wasn’t a snake.” Sure enough, it was dad standing there in shitty shoes. He said with a slightly frustrated growl, “How did this happen? It had to be because you were all distracting me.” Then my mother said, “No, no, no. Excuses, excuses! The one that needs to pay attention is you.” My sisters and I started to laugh as my mother said, “Now, get some soap and the hose, and start cleaning up your mess.” Then we all laughed and made fun of him. As the day went by in the visiting room, I could see my dad getting sick to his stomach. He needed a cigarette. I asked, “Are you OK, dad? I think you need a smoke.” “Oh no, I’m OK, it’s just that I’m tired of sitting all day.” But I know my dad way too well. This is a big sacrifice, its torture, and he needed a smoke. So I told my family it had been a wonderful weekend, but I thought it was time for them to head on back home. I told them this because I did not want to see my dad going through those withdrawals. That was the last time I saw my father before he passed away in 2009.

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My "Big" Little Diego David Perez My mom, my sister, Diego, and I were on our way back to the states after spending a wonderful weekend in Mexico; Diego was our little family dachshund dog. Oh boy did we spoil him! We would always take him with us everywhere we went. He was one intelligent and funny dog, and as long as he was accompanied by one of us, he would always act as if he were a pitbull. He would bark, growl and act mean. For a little dog, he thought he was much bigger than he actually was. We were driving in traffic very slowly coming back; that’s the way things got on the border during the weekends. Diego could not stay still. He was looking out the back window, then out the side, mouth open, tongue hanging, barking. Then he came to the front, got on my lap and looked at me, then out the window, and barked at the car next to us. As we approached the U.S. Customs Station, I stopped and waited for my turn. In the meantime, I put Diego in the middle of the front seat between my sister and me. I said, “Diego, stay here, and don’t move.” He lay down with his head between his paws, acting very innocent. I made my way to the border station booth, and I stopped in front. A tough-acting U.S. Customs agent approached the car, rested his hands on the door, and then lowered his head to the window. As he started to ask his first question, Diego turned and jumped towards the window and barked loudly. The U.S. Customs agent’s eyes bulged out as he jumped backwards with his hands up in the air while screaming, like he was being chased by a grizzly bear. He stopped to calm himself down as other officers ran to his rescue. “What’s wrong? What’s wrong?” they asked. They 181

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said something to one another, but I couldn’t hear what they said. But the one that jumped back said, pointing at the car, “That stupid dog jumped at me!” The other officers looked at my “big” little Diego, and started laughing. I grabbed Diego, “No, No, Diego.” My family and I couldn’t help but laugh. On the other hand, the U.S. Customs agent was now furious and exclaimed, “Let me see his papers!” Then he demanded, “You better have them in order!” I responded, “Yes sir.” I quickly handed him the papers. He looked at them, and then he looked at me and gave them back. “Next time, you better make sure he’s in the back or someone’s holding him. Have a nice day!” he said. I politely responded, “Yes sir, you too.” Then Diego, my sister, mom, and I smiled and we drove away. Ruff!

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Bernie Hunhoff Bernie Hunhoff writes for South Dakota Magazine, a publication he founded in 1985 after working as a journalist for dailies in Watertown and Madison. Along with journalism, he has been active in agriculture, economic development, conservation, history and historic preservation, and politics. He frequently speaks on South Dakota’s history and culture, and on the virtues of life here in our prairie state. He and his wife, Myrna, have two children and four grandchildren.

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Photo by Katie Hunhoff

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A Letter from Bernie Hunhoff

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I am now going to violate the most basic principle of my profession. I am going to write about something about which I know little to nothing. And why would I do that? Because once a year I make a two-hour visit to the federal prison in the middle of my hometown of Yankton, SD. Sister Cynthia Binder invited me to speak to her prison classes for a number of years, and more recently the English prof and poet Jim Reese has been doing the same. I often speak to some group or another — farmers or historians or Chambers of Commerce — and I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I usually don’t reflect much about the experience once it’s over. But those two hours at the prison on Douglas Avenue—just two hours out of the 8,760 we all live in a year—and my mind keeps reaching back for the conversations that occurred. Why do those two hours stick with me? Two reasons. Number one: I guess the layman (meaning, in this case, someone not spending 8,760 hours a year locked away) might surmise that prisoners would be the first to cut society some slack on right and wrong. But I’m always intrigued by an innate sense of social justice among many of the prisoners. And, unlike many Midwesterners, they don’t hesitate to express it. Publishing and writing (for South Dakota Magazine) has been my livelihood for the last thirty years, but I’m also a citizen politician, a state senator for Yankton County. I’m one of the few progressives/liberals still being elected in South Dakota, thanks to an independent streak that I share with my fellow Yanktonians. They seldom if ever become perturbed about the positions I take in Pierre as long as they believe we share the ultimate goal of making the state a little better. So in speaking to other groups about town I 4 P.M. COUNT


seldom face any serious questioning. Those outside the ornamental steel gate of our minimum security prison are less concerned about ideology; they just want government to work for their family and their community. Whatever it takes. Make it work. Prisoners are guaranteed three meals a day and health care. And they don’t worry about the roof leaking. They have the luxury (in prison, a luxury?) of taking a Big Picture view of the issues of the day. That’s not a bad thing. It just seems ironic to me that the guys in the lockup are more apt to express their social conscience than those who haven’t broken the law (or been caught). Which leads to the second reason why I keep reminiscing on those particular two hours of every year: exit strategies. I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to a prison class at which the subject of “How do I get back in to the workforce?” doesn’t arise. And once it has risen, I can see the wondering in the eyes of all the men. Sometimes you can read some pain and worry in their wondering. Who will give me a job? Should I list “prison” on my list of experiences? Do I try to make excuses? Explanations? Should I offer to work for free as an intern to get a start? Should l get character reference letters? Should l just lie on the resume? I wish I had a good answer for them. I think about it a lot. Even though South Dakota and many other states are experiencing workforce shortages, most employers are admittedly going to see a prison sentence as a red flag. That doesn’t mean they won’t hire prisoners or ex-cons. Along with the federal prison, Yankton also has a state penitentiary trustee unit and the prisoners there often work in manufacturing plants by day. Those employers have discovered that prisoners can succeed when given a second chance. So I tell the prison students that they need to be honest, but also put the best possible spin on their past. Explain that you’ve changed, if you have. Tell what you 185

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learned from your mistakes. Search out employers who aren’t perfect, who believe in giving a man an opportunity. They exist. And if you can’t find anything, then be your own boss. Buy a fifty dollar lawnmower and be a lawn man. Be an independent contractor and deliver the local newspapers. Wash windows. Learn to be a plumber. Have you tried to find a plumber lately? Do something. Anything. And soon you’ll have a more current work history. That’s what I tell the prison class. But I know the answer isn’t satisfactory, and maybe that’s why I think throughout the year about those two hours. Good answers are tricky when realities and ideologies clash.

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Birthday Cory Kamerud Forty-four today and where has it all gone? Locked up in jails and prisons since I was twenty-one. The genuine article of a wasted youth. Never reaching the destination, but I ask, “Have you?” Much of life lived while looking through a dirty lens, Thinking I had things so hard with no clue what that meant People closest to me helped to clean off the debris From my covered eyes to help me with the truth. Eight years for five hits, and the system I blamed. I took responsibility and would not cooperate. Thirteen months and then released, sent back for screwing up, Twenty-five months, then was free, but not quite free enough. Four years supervision, but made it just six months, Back again for thirty plus, since I kept messing up. In two years I find myself back again in cuffs Based on what someone said, I guess it was enough To convince a jury to take twenty years of life. One of them said guilt is something I could not deny, Or why would I be sitting behind the table over there, With my lawyer by my side, in the defendant's chair? When it is time to pay the piper, I always pay my due, But this time they were wrong; it didn’t matter what was true. Even when the lies were proved to a court that must be fair, Powerless I watched as no one seemed to care. 187

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These lies changed my life; I was bitter and felt cursed I learned to live day by day, and made better out of worse. I read libraries of books, as the years passed me by. Learned much about the world, as well as me, myself and I. It took longer than I thought, to finish my degree, Glided to the podium, parents so proud of me. I still have years left although they’ve gotten their pound of flesh, From my bruised and bleeding hide, but I’ve got much more left. At this you might just roll your eyes, and think my life a waste, With opportunities squandered, but it’s not a simple race. I’ll reach the end when I am ready, so few of you who plan, See the journey is more important, maybe now you’ll understand.

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Rabbits in the Snow Cory Kamerud Kenny is old but an undetermined age. Some say he looks like a homeless Jesus. Long scraggly hair and a greying beard drapes down his chest to his belly button. We run into Kenny in the unlikeliest places; when you least expect it he appears, And drops some Kenny jewels of wisdom on your unsuspecting ears. Behind the burger place, as the sun says goodnight, Kenny appears and walks toward a tree. Like a magic trick, he removes his treasure from the crook of two branches unseen. A rusted coffee can, no one else could see, did he put it there long ago? We stare in disbelief as he digs through the can saying, “I pulled a rabbit out of the snow.� They say Kenny was in Vietnam, and with all the things he saw, It seems he never really came back: now his mind is bruised and raw. Nothing he told us made any sense, but we talked to him anyway, Pretended to understand the words that only he would say. It might have been the drugs we took, but sometimes he made sense I would see a brief moment of clarity in his eyes, like he recognized me. There were days when he would answer, and others when he 189

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would not. I told my friend, “I often wonder if we are all poor Kenny’s got.” As this was many years ago, I’m sure that Kenny’s gone home, Not to a place via government check, or veteran's hospital, Nor a jail cell or ward bed, but I hope that God has let him go, To a place in heaven where he can pull rabbits from the snow.

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A Better Man Cory Kamerud Some people see church as a place of refuge, which is more the case in prison. The Human Services Center in Yankton, SD, houses inmates and patients, and all residents went to church services together. We prisoners sat on one side, patients sat on the other, and we were not allowed to talk to them. Although I had to get up early on a Sunday morning, something few inmates wished to do, I enjoyed going each week. A friend and I were in the church band and the longer we played the more people showed up. One day as I played on stage, I saw her. She was sitting in the third row and her red hair stood out in a sea of brunettes and blondes. I don’t know if anyone else would have seen her as I did, as I could not take my eyes off of her. I had to be subtle, because if I looked too long I might find myself on a bus back to the penitentiary. As I sang, I couldn’t help but realize she had noticed me too. The next Sunday, as the pews filled; I watched her head for the front row. I knew I could not talk to her. Inmates can get into trouble for what they call reckless eyeballing, as silly as that sounds. It is an attempt to discourage us from becoming attached to regular people, which makes sense. But it was too late, since I was attached as soon as I saw her. When we began to play I looked to see her blue eyes aglow, and her whole face lighted up when our eyes met. She was always with a friend and another boy who looked familiar, yet I couldn’t place him. The third week, after we had played, the pastor said, “I have a surprise. Heather is going to come up and sing us a song.” I had a name for the face I gazed upon so affectionately. I railed against myself and feelings I knew could never be shared. After services, I was back in the 191

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pastor's office briefly, when Heather and her friend stopped in. “Hello, Cory,” she said, and my heart melted. “Good morning,” I replied. I stood mesmerized and I listened as she talked to the pastor, the conversation irrelevant, so consumed by this young woman in front of me. I saw her again the next week, and the one after that, our eyes sharing more than words could. The next week she did not attend church. Her friend told me in passing that she was done with treatment and had gone home. My dream crumbled because I knew that I would never see her again. It was more than a bit foolish to feel this way. And what could an angel such as this want with me. In February 1993, I was released on parole, and I dated a few girls through the cold winter and the rebirth of spring. I saw a girl named Kelsey that sticks out in my memory. I often wonder how different my life might have been if we had stayed together. I always drank and did drugs to overcome the awkwardness of social situations. I thought that if I found a woman that made me feel whole, I might not need such social lubrication. One day I ran into a younger kid whose older brother went to school with me. He asked me, “Do you know a girl named Heather?” At first I didn’t know who he was talking about. I had my light bulb moment when he said she was in Yankton for drug treatment. I replied, “No way!” because I could not believe it. “She is asking all over town about a guy named Cory, who plays the guitar.” He said. I asked him, “What is she doing in Aberdeen?” “She’s living with John Adams,” he said. With that, the pieces clicked into place. I had once had a huge crush on Candace Adams, and John was her little brother. He was a skater who wore baggy pants, and kind of a nerd. Years later, Candace was very serious with my bass player Don. I felt like Don and Candace were like my family, and it wouldn’t be right to steal away her brother’s girlfriend. “You never saw me,” I told him. 192

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“But she’s obviously nuts about you, dude. Why wouldn’t you want to see her?” he asked. “Besides, she’s freaking hot!” “It’s not like I don’t want to see her. I want to see her, but not if she is still with John. I can’t do that to him.” I said. In Aberdeen, she had wasted no time in seeking me out. Sometime that summer, I started feeling really depressed. My love life was spotty and my job was horrible. I was talking to my mother about it, getting frustrated and freaked out. Mom said that if I was so dissatisfied with where my life was going then I should consider going to college. She offered to pay for my first semester’s tuition and room and board. School started in the fall and I moved into Kramer Hall. I remember in Psychology, one of the professors said, “I want you to look at the person to your left and now to your right. One of these two people will not be here by the end of the semester.” “Well, that won’t be me,” I muttered. But of course, it was me. I wasn’t very serious about my studies. I think I went to only about a month of classes. The damn shame is it cost my parents around two and a half thousand dollars. What a crappy investment that was. However, the universe had plans for me. A few weeks later, I was walking through Lakewood mall with Troy, when who do I see? It’s Heather walking toward me, with her boyfriend no less. What do I do? Do I turn around? It’s much too late for that. She sees me, and her smile takes up her whole face. “Hello Heather. What’s up, John?” I say. We talk for a while, but it is very uncomfortable. I am no rock star, but for a moment, I felt like one. Imagine you are with your wife, and Brad Pitt or Jim Morrison walk up and begin to talk to your wife. As far as she is concerned you don’t exist anymore. I am sure that is what John felt like. As soon as Heather saw me, he no longer existed. Despite my honorable intentions earlier, I gave Heather my phone number while John stared knives into my head. How did I think this was going to end up? 193

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The next day Heather called, and asked if she could come over to my dorm room. I didn’t see the harm really. I was not going to get involved with her as long as she had a boyfriend. She came to visit and had brought a friend. Heather said that Joan came with her because she was the only one John trusted her with. One of the first things Heather asked was for me to sing, so I grabbed my guitar and played a song I wrote for her-and as soon as I did, she was eating out of my hand. Men know the look in a woman’s eyes when whatever they are doing is working. Well, what I was doing had Heather working overtime. She often came to my dorm room, asking only for me to sing for her. She met my friends and was soon part of the clan. But we were just friends; we hadn’t even kissed, even if I knew deep down there was something else going on. One day she asked me, “Why can’t we go out sometime?” “Heather,” I began. “You live with John and I can’t do that.” “But I know you care about me, and you know I care about you, “she said, “I don’t see why we can’t be together?” “Someday, maybe,” I replied, “but not now.” A week later, she had it all figured out. “Look, Cory,” she said. “What if all of us go to the Dry Dock this weekend? It’s not a date if it is all of us. If the group goes, then my boyfriend wouldn’t care, because I wouldn’t be alone with a guy. It will be just us friends going to a dance.” “OK, OK,” I conceded. “That sounds innocent enough.” The Dry Dock was a bowling alley that changed into a dance hall, and had karaoke in an adjacent room. Heather begged me to sing her a song, and I eventually acquiesced. While I was waiting, she went to the bathroom. There were a lot of hot college girls there who looked at me with disdain. I didn’t care, since I was there with the girl I really wanted. When they called my song, I couldn’t find Heather, 194

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and my friends hadn’t seen her. When I went up to sing "Kissing a Fool" by George Michael, I noticed the hot girls up in front of the stage perked up as I sang. Troy told me that he heard one girl ask, “Who is that guy?” Suddenly, those girls were paying attention to me. When I ended the song, the whole room erupted with applause. I left the stage with a smile and was about to pass where the stage lights dimmed, when Heather walked out of the darkness, grabbed me, and planted a big kiss on my lips. The crowd went wild. We went into the dance in each other’s arms. While dancing we started kissing. The D.J. noticed and shined the spotlight on us, and the crowd cheered. This was the best night of my life. Since she couldn’t stay at my dorm room, Heather and I stayed at Dave’s for a few days. We were inseparable, basically together every waking moment. It was as if I was not whole when she was not around me. For those couple of days, I was truly content for the first time in my life. Being with Heather seemed to make every unsatisfying aspect of my life seem trivial. Unfortunately, I was still smoking pot and on parole, which is monumentally stupid. When my parole officer called me in for a urine analysis, I came up dirty, and had to spend the weekend in jail. I think my parole officer said something about how quickly I could go back to prison. Over the weekend, Heather went back home to Rapid City. When I got out of jail, Dave and I started looking for a house, and we found one on the south side of town for three hundred dollars a month. It was kind of run down; the basement floor was bowed up from water damage, the carpet was a seasick green color, which reminded me of my parents' apartment when I was three, but it was perfect for us. During the week we got moved in, and that weekend Dave and I drove to Rapid to get Heather. I will never forget walking up the stairs of her folks' house. I was so nervous to meet her family. Rhondi Heather's mom, and Heather’s stepdad Mark warmed right up to me. They made me feel like a part of the family. Mark 195

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was really the only father that Heather ever knew. She showed me a senior picture once of her real dad. I guess that getting your girl pregnant while still in high school was too much for her dad and he bailed. She had never met the man, which was totally his loss. Heather’s twin brothers treated me like a rock star. I think they knew how much I meant to Heather, and were happy she found someone who made her happy. We stayed the night and then went back to Aberdeen. We were both so hopeful about our future together. We felt like we could take on the world. However, neither of us was having much luck finding work. It seemed like Heather spent all her time going to the mall with her friend, and I wasn’t much better. I don’t know what I expected. She was just out of high school and had spent a portion of her senior year in juvenile drug treatment. I remember watching her sit on the couch one day, reading a book, thinking, “What a waste of a day.” As the years have gone by, every time I lose myself in a book, I think of her reading that day. We had fun in that house for a while, but I could tell that something was eating at Heather. Whatever our dream had been, we were not living it. Then one day everything changed. Heather came and told me in the kitchen that she was pregnant. I was excited, but hesitant. What kind of a father could I be? I could barely take care of myself. I started to tell her as much. I didn’t get far, when she went upstairs with tears in her eyes. I didn’t want it to sound like I wasn’t going to be there for her, or that this wasn’t the biggest day of my life. I think she took what I said as, “Oh, that’s great! What the hell are we going to do now? I’m not ready for this. I don’t think I can handle this.” I wonder if she didn’t think that I was about to do what her real dad had done and leave her to deal with having a baby all by herself. Her friend came downstairs a little while later. She said, “Cory, Heather is upstairs crying her eyes out. She thinks that you don’t want the baby and are going to leave her.” “But that’s not true! I love her, and I don’t ever want 196

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to be without her. I wish she had let me finish.” I said. “Should I go get her?” she asked. “Would you?” I asked, “I need to tell her something really important.” When she left the room I looked around. I was wishing I had a ring. I had wanted to ask her to marry me for months, but we didn’t have any money. On the counter I saw a loaf of bread. I tore off the bread tie and started twirling it around to make a ring. Just then, Heather came downstairs and into the kitchen. I said, “Heather, listen. I love you. I want you to have this baby. I am happy and I’m not going anywhere. I don’t want us to ever be apart.” I got down on one knee and said, “I have wanted to do this for a while, but couldn’t afford a ring. All I have is this, and my heart. Will you marry me?” She grabbed me up into her arms and told me, “Of course I will marry you!” We held each other for a while and cried our eyes out. “I’m sorry.” I told her, “I was a little scared, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love you.” “I thought you were going to leave me,” she said. “I will never leave you.” I said, “I can’t bear the thought of it.” Two days later, Heather came back from the mall, and was very excited. She gave me a small jeweler’s box. Inside was a Black Hills gold cross. “It’s an engagement present.” She told me. She showed me the inscription on the back that said, “Cory – Love, HJK” or Heather JoAnn Kamerud. I loved the cross. I had never had anything like it. But inside I was thinking how irresponsible it was. I almost asked her how much it was, as stupid as that would have been. All I could think about was how much food that necklace could have got us. Today, it is my second most prized possession. One day Heather said, “I wish you would quit smoking pot, Cory.” “Don’t worry about it,” I told her. “I’ve passed a half a dozen of those tests.” “But Cory,” she pleaded, “I am afraid they are going 197

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to take you away from me!” I was not worried, because I had everything under control. But, within a month, I was on my way back to prison for a dirty urine analysis just the same. I had promised that I would never leave her, but because of my decision, I ended up doing just that. Heather wrote me for a little while, but I could tell that she was bitter about having to go through the pregnancy alone. I suspect that this was a disturbing version of history repeating itself, since her mother had to go through having her all by herself. It wasn’t as if I had bailed, but since I wasn’t going to be around, the end result was the same. I had promised her the moon and could not even stay out of jail. At one point she wrote me a Dear John letter. I remember one part of it in particular. Heather wrote, I found someone who is there for me. He loves me and he loves our baby. Lose the necklace and burn in hell. Heather I was so taken back by that and remember sliding down the wall after mail call and laughing. It hurt a lot, but I was more confused than anything else. It didn’t even sound like her. The things she said in the letter bore no comparison to our relationship. We did everything together and she was acting as if our past was a minor bump in her life. That necklace was the second to the last thing she ever gave me. The last thing she gave me was Cierra. Cierra was born in the July of 1994. I was in prison for the birth of my daughter. Heather was so pissed at me for having to do this alone that she didn’t ask me about baby names or even put my name on the birth certificate. I had not heard from her in months. I knew when she was due and kept telling friends, “I’m a dad.” And the next question was, “Is it a boy or a girl?” And I would reply, “Got me, but I think I’m a father.” While on work release at Yankton Trustee Unit, I 198

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got a job waiting tables at Pizza Hut. At one point I wrote Rhondi, Heather’s mother, and asked if I had a right to know what was going on. I gave Rhondi my work number and said Heather could call me anytime. About a week later, I was at work when the phone rang. “Pizza Hut, this is Cory speaking. What can I get you tonight?” I said. “You told me to call you,” the voice answered. “Who told you to call me?” I asked, confused and not getting it. “It’s Heather,” she said. “You told me to call you. Is this a bad time?” she asked. “No,” I said, flustered. “Of course not. I just can’t believe it’s you.” She told me she was doing fine and wasn’t with that guy anymore. We talked as long as we could and I told her to call me again in a week. After a few calls she told me she met a new guy who was going to be a cop. I didn’t want her with anyone else, but I realized that at least my daughter would grow up in a stable environment. However, I got the impression that her heart wasn’t in it. As if she was just doing what she thought was best for Cierra. But at least we were talking, and she sent me a Christmas card with a picture of my beautiful daughter in it. When I called her from the prison, it was costing around seven or eight dollars per call. When I would try to cut the call short she would make sure that I understood that she wasn’t done talking to me, as if she somehow knew we didn’t have much time left. It looked like we were going to be able to work things out and talked about my going to a half-way house in Rapid City so I could be a bigger part of Cierra’s life. In February, around 2:00 in the morning, I was woken up by a guard who told me to come to the office. Heather’s stepfather was on the phone and broke the news to me that Heather had been coming home from work and rolled her car in the hills. I could hear Heather’s mother wailing in the background, and the whole thing still seems 199

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like a horrid dream. When I went back to my room, I tried so hard to cry, and couldn’t. I wish that I could have, because I’ve shed more tears than a whole funeral over the years. The year before, during a funeral visit, an inmate escaped and was in hiding. As a result, only direct family members were allowed to go to funerals. They did not care that we had been engaged or that we had a child together, and this did not help me put closure on this chapter in my life. Mark and Rhondi brought Cierra to visit me in Sioux Falls when she was thirteen months old. It was amazing to see this little human being playing in the dirt without a care in the world. I showed the necklace to Rhondi, and told her how it was the last thing Heather gave me. She said that it wasn’t the last thing she gave me, and looked over at Cierra. When I was released on my suspended sentence in 1996, even though I had two jobs, I was miserable. From inside prison, with no help from staff, I had spent six months getting grants and loans and being accepted to the Conservatory of Recording Arts in Tempe, AZ. When released, my parole officer wouldn’t let me leave the state. Soon I started using drugs again, finding nothing to stay out of prison for. My goals of being an engineer were kaput, and the only woman I truly loved was gone. I went to visit Heather’s grave with her brother Ronny and Cierra, who slept in the car the whole way. Cierra was two years old and it was only the second time I saw her. The next time I saw her she was six years old. I would have made that six-hour drive to Rapid City every month, if I had known that soon I would be doing twenty years in prison, and wouldn’t see her again for a decade. I tried to reach out every way I could to make sure she knew how much I loved her, and that I would do anything for her. But the biggest regret of my life choices is that I wasn’t there to raise her and support her like a father is duty-bound to do. I will not take anything away from all that Mark and 200

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Rhondi sacrificed to raise my little girl, but some things you are supposed to do yourself. I suspect that I will never get over the loss of what Heather and I shared, regardless how brief it was. And I fear sometimes that every relationship that I have will be subconsciously measured by that love. I have heard that the brightest star shines half as long. Certainly, Heather was one of those stars. As the years have passed, I have watched Cierra grow up in pictures, and I see more and more of her mother in every one. This year it is especially haunting, because Cierra is the age Heather was when she died. My daughter is half of someone she will never know, and so her loss is far more tragic than mine. However, it is a testament to what a beautiful human being her mother was that Cierra has been told stories all her life about how much love her mother shared with so many, in the brief time she was with us. And I, for one, am a better man because of her.

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Dressed Like a Duck Cory Kamerud It was 1988, and I was not going to graduate on time, so I went back to school to start my second senior year. I knew I had to finish high school, and besides, that is where all the girls were at, and what else does an eighteen-year-old boy think about? My second senior year was my favorite year school, as I had started kindergarten young, so I was younger than most of my classmates. Most of my peers in my second senior year treated me better than the first one, since they saw me as an upperclassman. The four cliques at my school included the Jock/ Preps, the Motor-heads, the Stoners, not to mention the Floaters who hung out with everyone. Motor-heads spent all their time at a place across the street south of the school, where there was a little joint where they could order food while they tinkered on their classic cars. The Jocks and Preps were into sports and fashion, and you can imagine what the Stoners were into. I was taken in by a girl named Kirsten, an adorable creature that was on the cheerleading squad. She was nice to me even though I was not in her clique, and I could tell she liked me, but I knew our friends wouldn’t understand. I got the courage to ask her to the Valentine’s Day dance; though I doubted that she would go to a school function with me, she said yes for some unearthly reason. At the dance, there was inescapable magic between us, and we kissed each other while everyone stared. I was crazy about her, and she inspired me to write my first good song on the piano. I was in a heavy metal band, so this was unexpected. It was not hard to understand, since before I found metal, I loved bands like Chicago and other love songs they played at the roller rink 202

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for couple skates. Although I used to write these sappy songs all the time, my friends would have crucified me if they had known about these sentimental musings I had squirrelled away. The school talent show was coming up, and I entered it to play the song I had written for Kirsten. I told her about it and asked, “How would you feel about coming up and sitting next to me when I perform this song I wrote for you.” She said, “I would love to. No one has ever written a song about me before.” The night of the talent show, I was ready to play. I practiced after school every day on the grand piano that was in the band room. The night of the show, a few minutes before I had to go on, I started looking for Kirsten. I saw one of her friends and said, “Have you seen Kirsten?” “Yeah,” she said, “She’s in the dressing room.” I ran back behind the theatre, down the hall to the dressing room. I was in for a shock, when I found that she was wearing a huge chicken suit, getting ready for some act the cheerleaders were going to perform. “I am getting ready to go on,” I told her, “Are you coming?” “I want to,” she said exasperated, “But I can’t go out there like this!” I went out to do the song by myself, sat down at the piano, and said, “I was expecting some company for this song. I wanted to sing it to who inspired it, but she is backstage dressed like a duck.” After the laughter died down, I said, “This is for Kirsten, and it’s called 'Hold on Tight.'” When I finished the song, the crowd was flabbergasted, and I got the only standing ovation of the night. They could not believe that the infamous metal dude wrote this flowery composition. If you have ever watched American Idol, you’ll recall when cranky Simon would say, “I just don’t think you are Idol material.” This is comical, since I have seen home movies of this performance, which 203

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is what it reminded me of, and I don’t think I was all that good, but I am seldom satisfied with anything I do. When I went backstage, I ran into Julie, a sophomore friend from art class. Jules hugged me and had tears streaming down her face. All I could say was, “Where’s Kirsten?” because I wasn’t even sure if she saw it. Julie said, “She’s looking for you. She was backstage for the whole thing.” I ran into Kirsten in the hallway and she was crying too. She told me it was beautiful and that she loved it. I was never as happy as I was moment our lips touched. Anyone in love feels compelled to shout it from the mountain tops. I had declared my love for her to the whole school and it seemed they had approved. However, time and fate proved to be a cruel playwright. It was about a week later that Kirsten told me that we couldn’t see each other anymore. Her mother had forbidden it, and was threatening to take away her car. Seriously? Yeah, I get it, I’m no football star, or future Harvard grad, but I’m not someone who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks either. I came from a respectable family, with a dad who is a doctor. However, my rock and roll reputation preceded me, her mother saw me coming, and figured I was trouble. Despite everything, we remained friends. When she moved to California, I would occasionally call and talk to her mother instead, who was always a sweetheart. It always made me wonder if Kirsten didn’t make the whole thing up. She made it seem as if she wanted nothing more than to be together, but when school was out and she was eighteen, she instead started seeing my friend Bob for the summer. I guess that is what I get for falling in love with a cheerleader who was dressed like a duck.

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Journey Through Reflections Isaac Kimber I feel the earth’s gravity pulling at my feet as if they were made of solid stone. As I continue to walk, I sense an eerie feeling as if someone or something wants to deter me, inform me of something terrible lying ahead. I feel like every angel in heaven is watching, waiting to see if I will quit or continue fighting for my life. I find myself thinking of all the evil that has transpired prior to this moment. That is all I need to encourage me to do what I must. I have seen so much, lost so much, and hurt so much. The circumstances I put my family and myself through will ultimately serve a higher purpose, and God will shine His light on us soon. However, I must do my part. My dad showed me this when I was still too immature to understand, but I never forgot his teachings. He set an example for me, which enabled me to evolve into a man—the man I am today—and the man that I will be the day I die. My dad does not know how much he has helped me, probably because life was not the best among our family, but after this task is complete, he will understand. They will all understand. I am conscious of the irritating sound I am making as I continue this treacherous journey. While trying to occupy my thoughts with something other than the puzzling obstacles I am facing, I begin thinking of the circumstances leading up to this disastrous journey. It does not take long before I am lost in these thoughts. My dad had a powerful influence in my life. He taught me to "treat people how I want to be treated," that "practice makes perfect," and “if there is a will, there is a way.” He was right when he said that “misery loves company,” and I am thankful he gave me so many examples 205

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to live by. Although my life was never perfect growing up, my dad taught me to be appreciative for my life, because it could have been worse. My dad taught me that love would cover a multitude of sins; that with family and love, you can be rich instead of poor, happy instead of sad, and thankful instead of ungrateful. He showed me how to search for joy in a world overflowing with envy, greed, and hate. I recall childhood memories as if they transpired yesterday. I remember playing Nintendo and taking turns on our favorite game “Islander.” I remember when my dad used to pitch to me for batting practice and the look on his face when I broke my first wooden bat. It was because of the relationship I had with my dad that I had hoped and prayed that one day God would bless me with a family and children of my own, then I could show society that my dad did a good job raising me by the way I raised my children. I wanted to play a major role and be a positive influence in somebody’s future just as my dad was with me. Not only was he the number one dad in the world, he was also my best friend. As I find myself in the middle of a dark and gloomy field of uncertainties, I realize I had been daydreaming and lost in thought. I suddenly become aware that I am alone, lost, and afraid. I think it is bizarre how my memories cause me discomfort; thoughts of my childhood have always given me anxiety. My journey has ironically created more questions than answers, causing me to feel as if someone tossed a live grenade into the chaos already existing inside my head. When my superior informed me of my mission, I delayed like someone letting a tooth deteriorate and decay until the onset of infection before having it extracted. I need to begin the excavation if I want to complete my task, but I know if I am to be successful, I have to do it unaided. I become aware of the heavy smell of dried leaves and ashen terrain as it crunches under my sturdy work boots. The fog threatens to overwhelm me as if I am a claustrophobe sitting in a small elevator filled with smokers. I feel like I am walking through the remains of a thousand 206

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fallen heroes who watch me as if expecting me to tell their story. I have my own story I need to tell, but I feel as if I have a better chance of having it orchestrated by their bones. I bend down to examine the earth by running a hand through the crusty surface beneath me. I take a pinch of the ground between my fingertips before deciding it is time to begin. I then realize how unprepared I am. I have no gloves, flashlight, or even a clue as to how important this endeavor has ultimately become. The durable wooden shovel, with the rusty metal handle and spade, is well worn but it will have to do. I glance at the shovel, then while gazing at the star-filled night above me I say a silent prayer. I stand deftly while snatching the shovel, and placing my feet firmly I swing down forcefully to break the cold soil. The ground fights defiantly as I plunge, stab, and thrust the shovel with tremendous force. Each pierce allows me to pull back and toss the broken and defeated earth behind me. The procedure quickly develops a hypnotic, trance-inducing rhythm—stab, scoop, and heave, stab, scoop, and heave. Before long, I am thinking of the life I have lived, the friends I have lost, and the family I have hurt. My dad went to federal prison for conspiracy to distribute marijuana when I was a kid. I recall knowing he had to go and it felt like I lost something inside of me when he actually left. He sat me down beforehand and explained to me what he expected of me. He reassured me that he loved our family, and how he did not want to leave us, but he had to. He told me I had to be strong for my siblings, older sister, younger sister, two younger brothers, my mother, and for him. He told me it would not be easy, but that he knew I could do it. He told me that from then on, I was the man of the house; I was eleven years old. During the beginning of my dad’s incarceration, he had big plans of what it would be like upon his release. He would make amends for his mistakes to my mom, my siblings and me, and we would be a family once more. 207

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However, fate had other plans, and my mom could not handle being a single mother of five children on welfare while my dad was in prison, so she left him. I am not aware of the reason why my mom left him; maybe she thought my dad was incapable of changing or possibly she could not forgive him. I have always wondered what would it have been like, had they stayed together, and I still wish they would have. Shortly thereafter, a new man came into my mother’s life. Because of the sixty-month sentence my father had to serve in the federal bureau of prisons, he was unable to save our family. This would dramatically alter my dad’s hopes and dreams. My dad’s plans would have to change. Therefore, my two brothers, two sisters, and I would live with my dad upon his release. When my dad was finally released, I was fifteen and living with my grandmother on my mother’s side. Strung out on methamphetamine—I had been using drugs since I was thirteen—I no longer wanted to live with my father, let alone have anything to do with him. I was ashamed of who I had become. I knew in my heart that I had let my dad down. When he came to my grandmother’s house to take me to live with him, I refused to go. We then began to wrestle, as I cried and screamed that I did not want to live with him. I knew if I went to live with my dad, I would have to change my ways—using drugs, hanging with friends, and running the streets. I thought it would be the end of the world. In theory, I won our fight because my dad was on probation, and he did not have time to be arguing and fighting with me. In reality, refusing to live with my dad was one of the worst mistakes of my life, second only to the first time I used meth while running the streets while he was gone. While shuffling through my thoughts, a splintered piece of wood digs deep into the flesh between my forefinger and thumb, savagely snapping me back to reality. I am breathing heavily and my hands are stiff as a corpse whose blood turns cold as rigor mortis sets in. Faced with 208

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defeat, I feel like an old man who realizes his mistake after coming off the porch once more. Becoming aware of the tightness in my lower back, I reflect that maybe I should have stretched. It is too late, so I bend down on one knee in order to remove the sliver from my hand with my front teeth. I rip off a strip of my shirt, and wrap this first wound my new foe has inflicted. I am proud of this wound, like a young boy who receives his first band-aid after falling and scraping an elbow. As I commence anew, it does not take long for me to find my previous rhythm. Before long, I am back to the hypnotic, trance-inducing formula of stab, scoop, and heave. I remember my dad trying to be a positive influence in my life after his release from prison, but he did not realize how bad my situation was. Maybe he thought I was just acting up because I wanted attention or perhaps he thought I just needed a little guidance. He would try to have productive talks with me, and he set an exceptional example of how my work ethic should be. He encouraged me to stay out of trouble but he did not know how badly I needed help. He did not know I was—and had been—addicted to methamphetamine since I was thirteen. Whenever I was hungry and asked my dad for a few dollars so I could grab something to eat, he never let me down. I have no memories of him refusing me, even if it was his last dollar. When he was in prison, instead of mom and us sending him money, he would send us money from the miniscule pay he earned from working his prison job at thirty cents an hour. I cannot say that my dad ever denied me anything because if he ever did, I do not remember. With each passing thought, a hole slowly begins to form around me that I will soon be standing in a grave of my own making. With every unspoken word flowing in the back of my mind, I find myself closer to the answers I had sought. I can feel the muscles in my back and shoulders ripple and tense with the effort of each stab I feel my biceps curling into solid knots as I stab, scoop, and heave each pile of raw earth behind me. I can feel the sweat forming before 209

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its absorption into the once white t-shirt I was wearing. Such work has always been exhilarating to me. I can work, think, and know that I am truly getting something accomplished. I began thinking of a later time in my life when my father and I had another fight, one I am even more ashamed of, which happened when I was twenty, the year of my arrest. One of my brothers was about fourteen and living with my dad; he ran away and was scared to go back home. After being missing for days, he showed up at my grandmother’s house where I was still periodically staying. I felt bad for my brother because I knew how strict our dad was, and I hated seeing either of my little brothers upset. Somehow, my dad got word of my brother’s reappearance, and when he showed up at the front door looking for my brother, he brought the Billings police department with him. I could not believe what my dad was doing to us, especially after all the cops had put our family through. They were always chasing my uncle or locking him up, and I felt like they had been harassing me all my life. Now my dad was actually bringing them to our house. We decided it would be best for my little brother to go back home, so he went back to stay with my dad and the cops left without incident, but at this point, I was infuriated. The next conversation I had with my dad could still bring me to the verge of tears many years later. Blinded by a lifestyle of constant drug abuse, I was full of evil, envy, and hate—just as he had warned me. Assaulted by the memory, I drop the shovel and stumble to my knees. I feel nauseated, and before I realize it, I am retching. I start contemplating why my past always seems to haunt me, and why regrets from the mistakes I made in my youth threaten to overwhelm me. I stagger onto my feet and grab the rusty old shovel again with dirty callused hands, causing blood to escape down the handle as if fleeing a foe, running from me as if I were the stranger who brings darkness to an unsuspecting community, the 210

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very person my loved ones fear most. However, just as I know I must breathe in order to live, I know I must keep digging. To stop again is to lose the battle I know I must win. I must not waver, falter, nor fail. I must overcome. My thoughts are overwhelming but I know what I must do. I must carry on. Seconds, minutes, and hours pass like the years I spent suffering in prison. As days, weeks, and months come and go, how long have I dug now? I remember I had been in Yellowstone County Detention Facility for less than a month when a soon-tobe codefendant and I got into a squabble, and I took a trip to the Special Housing Unit (SHU). I was in one of the SHU’s cold, dank, and lonely cells when finally I became completely broken down, and God led me to give my life to Christ. I felt the burden I had been carrying for years suddenly lift off my weary shoulders, and slowly my life began to change. Soon after that life-changing experience, I heard from my father, and he told me he forgave me. While in the SHU, I began reading the Bible every day and it was as if God was speaking directly to me through the words of each sentence. One night while praying and crying out to the Lord, I asked that He would speak to me and give me a sign. I vividly remember being startled when it sounded like He answered me, as I suddenly became aware I could hear voices of numerous individuals throughout the jail ventilation system. Nevertheless, my strength, courage, and faith in God continued to increase and as I continued to read my Bible, my prayers were becoming much more powerful. As my day in court came near, I knew that I was going to get out of jail. I had promised God that I would change my ways if He got me out of the mess I was in, and God answered. The day before my motion to suppress hearing, my attorney came to see me. He told me he believed we had a good chance of winning, and that the court offered me a plea agreement for three years’ probation because I was a first-time offender, but he really wanted to fight and 211

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believed we could win instead. I asked him, “What will happen if we lose the motion to suppress?” He responded, “You will likely get five years, and have to actually serve one or two of them in prison.” Therefore, I asked him, “What will happen if I take the plea bargain?” He replied, “You will likely get out today!” To me that was a no-brainer, so against my attorney’s wishes I took the plea agreement. We went into the courtroom, went through the process, and a few days later—around mid-March, 2004— my mom picked me up at the county jail. I smoked one of the few cigarettes I had on the way home and when I got there, my little sister and a few friends were waiting for me and they had the alcohol ready. We celebrated my freedom that night. A few nights later, I was using meth again, and just like that, I had turned my back on God and broken my promise. I believe God had that preordained to teach me a lesson: “Never make promises you can’t keep.” On June 17, 2004, the feds came to get me. When I answered my grandmother’s front door, multiple agents raised their guns at me, and I turned as if to flee. I had a feeling they would shoot me right there, but instead I was immediately slammed to the living room floor with a gun pressed firmly in my back. I recall taking two deep lungfilled puffs off the cigarette dangling from my lips. I looked up to ensure they did not harm my grandmother, as if my look alone would protect her. The agent used my gesture as a signal to turn my face into the carpet where I used to play as a child. I remember the cherry flying as I attempted to watch the spectacle, thinking I would see the house go skyrocketing into flames about me, but a forearm and elbow held my face firmly to the ground. I remember looking through the backseat window of the cop car at the dirty green and white paint flaking off my grandma’s house. The picture burns in my mind as if permanently stamped in my memory. 212

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The whole situation seemed hopeless when a cold breeze lifted me to the tip of my toes, and sent a threatening shudder through my body. The realization struck me that I could not give up. Whatever happens this night would be the determining factor of life and death for me. I began digging frantically, each blow sending jolts through my bones. I was already feeling sick from exertion but I could sense that if I did not find what I was looking for, it would not matter anyway. Then I hit something with more resistance, something solid that made the sound of a hollow wooden trunk. I knew I had come to a turning point, and I began scraping away while using my shovel as a scoop now. As I continued to brush the cold earth aside, I decided it would be better to smash the lid to enable me to reach the contents. I lifted the shovel high above my head, allowing the moon to reflect its white light back into the endless outer space. I swung as if I had the force of a thousand titans, shovel barreling through the splintering wood and leaving a jagged hole in its wake. I reached inside, retrieving the tattered envelope and briefcase from the bottom of the wooden box. I knew what was in the briefcase, but it was the contents of the envelope that intrigued me most. Eloquently written in the center was my name, “Isaac N. Kimber� in a flowing cursive hand I once knew well. I could feel the night's chill seeping through my skin but I had to know what this letter said. I ripped the seal and extracted a neatly folded paper. I began reading and almost instantly turned to tears. It was from my grandma. She wrote it with the intent to have it given to me after she passed but mistakenly, my family buried it with her ashes. In the letter, she told me that she forgave me for always being such a troublesome child. She told me she would always love me, and that she knew how much I love her as well. She told me not to worry about what life will be like when I get out of prison. She said that she would not be mad with me if I went to go stay with my dad in Arizona, and that everything would be all right. She told me not to worry about her or the rest of the family, that in order to 213

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help them I first have to help myself. Lastly, she told me she knows about my plans and that she knows I can do whatever I put my mind to, and that she will be rooting for me in heaven.

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Who Would Have Known Isaac Kimber I Who would have known that in this world I’d be all alone? In search of love, and a family I could call my own. All my old friends are gone, so now I got my back against the wall. I pick up the phone, but it’s a shame I have no one to call. What a lonely life, but it’s different at night when I sleep, because I have these dreams where I’m finally free, I’m finally a King, and I finally found my Queen. Where the angels sing, just to see her smile, it’s the most beautiful scene. It quickly turns into a nightmare, because when I wake up, I’m all alone and no one cares, this isn’t fair. But it’s the hand that I was dealt. When I look back on my life I see the suffering I’ve felt. So many broken dreams. Hopefully one day I’ll be free. But until then, I pray to God that He will give me peace. II Who would have known that I’d be gone, faraway off in prison? Somewhere locked down for my mannish living. I bet when we were younger you probably had that vision That’s why you could care less now whether I’m dead or living But I don’t blame you; I wish you would say the same too 215

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We could be the same two, saying look where our love done came to You still my main boo, even though you changed, I changed too So let’s turn to page two, because I hope you’re in my page two You were my number one, so you will always be my number one I remember when we first separated and I figured that my life was done Now look what I have become and how I treasure what I have become That’s why I thank you for your love and how you always shined like the sun You are a part of me; you might even be the heart of me Because of you, look how I’ve grown and how my heart is free.

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Sr. Marielle Frigge Marielle Frigge holds an MA in scriptural theology from the Washington Theological Union and a PhD in theology and education from Boston College. She taught religious studies at Mount Marty College in Yankton, SD for thirtythree years. Sister Marielle authored Beginning Biblical Studies (Anselm Academic 2009) from extensive classroom experience and comprehensive scholarship in scriptural studies. Beginning Biblical Studies, Revised Edition, was published September 2013. Sr. Marielle also serves as associate editor and book reviewer for The American Benedictine Review, a national scholarly journal dealing with topics of Benedictine and monastic interest, and continues to write and speak to various audiences.

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Photo by Sr. Mary Kay Panowicz, OSB 4 P.M. COUNT


A Letter from S. Marielle Frigge Dear Members of the YFPC Creative Writing Class of 2014:

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First of all, thank you for letting me come to your class; I realize I’m not known as a writer of personal essays, poetry, and memoirs such as you write in your class. I thought Dr. Reese invited me because (A) I’ve been copy editing 4 P.M Count since it began six years ago (B) I put together a brief style sheet to help you write in standard English (C) some of my writing has been published. As it turned out, Dr. Reese shared some of my book Beginning Biblical Studies with you, and so many of your questions were not about writing or editing or standard English, but about the Bible and religion. So secondly, I want to thank you for so many interesting questions and your patience with my responses; some questions really require more than “twenty-five words or less” responses. For those of you who wrote simply to thank me for coming, I enjoyed it greatly and would happily return for similar purposes; I also thank you for a good time! It’s wonderful to hear genuine questions—questions that are rooted in life experience and a quest for “more” in life. Several of you remarked that you felt I didn’t “dodge” any questions. I’ve never thought that serves any good purpose; I believe that a legitimate question on any topic deserves a reasonable answer. One major reason I shifted from teaching English to teaching Scripture and theology is that when I taught high school, students would come to me with questions about the Catholic faith, even though that wasn’t my teaching area at the time; I assume they asked me because I’m a Benedictine sister. Whenever I asked if they brought up their query in a religion class, the consistent, almost universal response was something like, “Well, yes, but he said ‘because the church says so,’” or “She just told me ‘that’s the way it is, we’ve always believed that.’” Those didn’t sound like helpful responses, so I thought I might do more good by teaching 4 P.M. COUNT


theological disciplines. After graduate studies, that’s what I’ve been doing for more than three decades. Actually, all of my experience in teaching and responding to numerous questions about God, the Bible, Catholicism, and religion or religions leads me to two major responses to your many questions. First, I will deal with a few select questions (there were far too many to answer here!); these lead to my second response, which tells you why I’ve been copy editing this journal. The few questions I’ve chosen to answer have nothing to do with who asked them or how they were posed or “how good” they are. Actually, in a number of cases, several of you asked the same basic question in various ways. The questions I’ve chosen for brief (and so necessarily inadequate) response were selected for these reasons: 1. The question deals with one or more issues commonly misunderstood by many people today, and/or are discussed, often publicly, in inaccurate ways by those with little or no expertise in the matter. 2. I suspected that the question might have something to do with the fact that you are currently incarcerated, and have you asked yourself if you are capable or worthy of Divine care or forgiveness (or perhaps have been told that you are not!). I freely acknowledge that I cannot know your motivations—but I want to respond to such concerns anyway. Focusing on a few commonly misunderstood areas, I chose the issue of “gender” in God and questions concerning books that “didn’t make the cut” for inclusion in the Bible. As for whether God is He, She, or It—in one sense, the answer is simple: God is beyond human reality and so is beyond gender. Our limited human language is the only means we have to speak of God or the Divine Other or whatever one names Ultimate Reality. At root, all our language about “God” is metaphorical; even our best 219

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attempts at describing the Divine or Divine activity are stammering, stuttering claims that somehow God is “like” some element of our human experience. This is what the Bible does, for example, with images of God as “Father” or “Mother” (and yes, there are feminine images of God in the Bible). A biblical author who writes that God led the Israelites as a “column of cloud” by day and a “column of fire” at night (Ex. 13:21-22) attempts to indicate that God’s presence is clearly made known in some way, but, like cloud or fire, always remains beyond the grasp, let alone control, of human beings. We can never say that God simply “is” parent or fire or smoke or any other thing we know in daily experience; there are always more ways in which God is not “like” any of them. God is always “more” than human beings can describe; all our attempts to describe God in human language are inadequate. But as humans, we can’t stop trying! As for why Christians of the first few centuries did or did not accept certain books into the Bible, I begin with this clarification: it was not a “cover-up.” Recently this view was popularized by Dan Brown in his novel The Da Vinci Code (remember, a novel is fiction!). In this mystery novel, Brown suggests that the early church excluded certain books because it wanted to hide the “fact” that Jesus didn’t die on the cross, but married Mary Magdalen and their offspring are alive and well today in parts of the British Isles. (Clearly, this is not a fact; even unbelieving Roman historians wrote that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified under the governorship of Pontius Pilate.) Similarly, recent discovery of an ancient manuscript of The Gospel of Judas elicited claims of Christian “coverup” in the secular media. Why, they asked breathlessly, had the book been found hidden in the sand near the remains of a monastery? What dastardly plot had those ancient monks been hiding? Numerous print and electronic media suggested that this gospel account “contradicted” the New Testament by presenting Judas as helping Jesus to carry out God’s work, rather than betraying him. 220

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In fact, this and many other ancient writings “didn’t make the cut” for one or more of these reasons, which early Christians used in evaluating which material was “sacred scripture”: the writing departed from essential, normative Christian teaching; the text could not be traced to, or was inconsistent with, teaching of earliest apostles who actually experienced Jesus Christ; the book was not consistently used among Christians for prayer and/or teaching. A common reason for excluding a work from the Christian Bible was that it contained views colored by one or more Greek philosophies that judged the material world as evil. Such an idea clearly contradicts John’s proclamation that in Jesus Christ, the Divine Word “was made flesh” (John 1:1, 14). From the above, you will, I hope, understand why I say that some questions require more than a brief, pat “answer.” Regarding questions asked or issues raised that relate to why I have been volunteering to copy edit this journal, I will try to be brief but to the point. Several of your questions or comments related to “men of God” (and perhaps “women of God”) who expend considerable effort judging and condemning others. Some of you described feelings of shame, hopelessness, inferiority, or rebellion because of such efforts. Of these feelings, I recommend rebellion. Regardless of who preaches it, you ought to rebel against any portrait of a “Christian” God who is more interested in condemnation and punishment than in unconditional mercy and compassion. Anyone who reads, studies, and prays with the New Testament—all of it, not selected verses or bits of verses—will find what the first letter of John says so succinctly: “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Read all four gospels and you will see that many people, including many “religious people,” who witnessed the words and deeds of Jesus were repeatedly horrified because he reached out to everyone, regardless of ethnic, gender, religious, or moral background. He particularly appalled his contemporaries when he proclaimed God’s forgiving, merciful presence to known, public sinners, even before 221

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they gave the slightest hint that they were aware of having done wrong, let alone asked forgiveness. Jesus was “God’s first move”; the next move was up to the one who encountered undeserved but ever-present divine love in Jesus: one could say “It can’t be” and remain alienated from self and other and God, or one could humbly accept and respond in kind. Anyone who truly experiences him- or herself totally known and still totally accepted does not try to take advantage of it, but attempts to respond in kind. Jesus saw every human being as a son or daughter of God, and challenged each person to accept that description and act like one. That, in brief, is why I am happy to play a small part in getting your writing published. I read all submissions several times, and in them I have observed the selfreflection that occurs in your writing. I have seen growth in self-awareness, in taking responsibility for illegal and/ or immoral choices and actions and their consequences. I have read of regret for past and present, but hope and plans for a better future. I have also seen lack of self-awareness, denial of responsibility for choices and actions, blaming circumstances or other people for choices that led to incarceration. But wherever you are in your journey toward becoming a self-aware, responsible, contributing member of human society, you are, I believe, a son of God. You can come to realize that, and act on it. The Bible tells me so.

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Young KATs (On the Corner) Johnnie McBride I knew some young Kats who use to hang on the corner. They would look out for the hustlers who slang on the corner. Then one day something had changed on that corner. The young Kats now wanted to make change on the corner. So they hollered at them Hustlers who slang on the corner. But the Hustlers who slang thought they were lame on the corner. They told those Young Kats yaw can’t sell a thing on the corner. If we catch yaw we gone make it rain on the corner. The young Kats knew what they had to bring on that corner. They got some guns and let bullets sling on that corner. All you seen were dead bodies lying on that corner. All you heard were ambulance and police sirens on the corner. Baby mammas, mammas, and sisters crying on the corner. Save them, save them please, they are dying on the corner. But it was too late; it was their end of time on the corner.

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Lone Bidder Johnnie McBride I haven’t heard from my friends since I came to prison. Got more time than I deserved, but it’s unheard of me snitching. Someone put a baby in my missus now my missus gone missing. Then my son doesn’t really know me he just sees me in pictures. Since my mom touched down she hasn’t touched that pen. She paroled out and violated now she’s right back in. I haven’t heard from my pops he’s trying to work out his marriage. My little brother is focused on school trying to catch up his credits. My sister got pregnant and gave birth to my niece. She’s busy chasing her baby daddy while he’s running the streets. My grandma just retired she’s my heart and my soul. She’s too old to write now so I’m bidding alone.

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Listening to Larry Matthew McCauley I can recall years ago sitting in my garage across from a man that is very dear to me. His name is Larry. He is a Vietnam veteran, ex-North Carolina state corrections officer, and a proud husband and father. He has a genuine kindness about him. I, on the other hand, was not that great of a person. I was in a failing marriage, was losing my job, and was a meth addict. It was an addiction that I’d been fighting a losing battle with for several years. I came to Larry for advice on several matters I was struggling with in my life. He was more than willing to listen and attempt to counsel me. While sitting one hot summer day, in my stale-aired garage, I came clean to him. I explained how I felt that no matter what I did in my life nothing seemed to work out for the better. I told him how I’d become ashamed of the man I let myself become. That I couldn’t stand the thought of life anymore. I won’t forget the stern talking that came moments later. Larry sat for brief minute staring at me, cigarette in hand, silent just staring. “Matt, what is wrong with you?” he said. I sat thinking, damn I just told you. Then I replied, “I don’t know how to get clean.” His response was as clear as a sunny day. “If you don’t figure out a way to get sober and get your life back on track, you’ll lose everything. Drugs are going to take your health, family, money, freedom, and anything else you claim to value. Open your eyes. You need to figure this out. Matt, I like you, but you’re losing yourself.” I sat for a moment, and then blurted out, “You don’t understand.” Boy, what an idiot statement to say. To tell a man that’s been through war, divorce, and sickness that he 225

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didn’t understand. He simply stood, looked at me and said, “You’re right, I don’t understand. How can you just quit, not just on yourself but everyone else that loves you?” Then he smiled and told me to think about it and to call him tomorrow. Call him tomorrow. I’m pretty sure he knew, I knew, and that garage knew what was going to happen next. I never called; I figured that I knew best. And that I could get my addiction under control on my own. Roughly eight months later my world came crashing down around me. I got arrested and then convicted to a 120-month federal prison sentence. Larry was one of the few who wrote a letter to the judge on my behalf. Nothing fancy or sugar-coated, just an honest, straight-to-thepoint letter about his perception of me and my situation. Since coming to prison I’ve had only a few brief phone conversations, along with a couple of letters sent back and forth from Larry. Even though I was completely blind to what was being said to me that day in the garage, I see now that Larry’s wisdom and insight was spot on. I did give up and in turn lost all that I claimed to love so much. Larry, I was wrong and you did understand. My pride and ignorance helped lead me here. I didn’t do much with the critical conversation we had in that garage on that hot summer day. But I am learning from it now, and I understand what you where trying to tell me all those years ago.

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Carried With Me Forever Matthew McCauley Received before you could crawl on the floor. Three green letters running vertical, the initials of a little girl I greatly adore. Three green letters now graced by a shoe. In black Celtic knotting, a heart at the bottom A symbol of how I feel about you. This canvas has aged, grown old. The ink is faded, no longer so bold. At times I think I’m the only person who knows what these symbols mean. An engraving of sorts. Three green letters held in a shoe, bound by a heart. All this done, so it wouldn’t feel as though we were ever apart.

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Over the Phone Matthew McCauley I’m calling you on this Saturday morning wondering why you haven’t answered the phone all week. Is it because you don’t want to tell me what the doctors said at your appointment Monday? In all honesty your not answering my calls already tells me what those doctors said. Please, today don’t push that number five, don’t accept my call. I love you and need you more than words can say. So please don’t pick up that phone, please don’t share your test results with me on this day. If you answer, pretend like everything is OK. I’ll act as though I didn’t know why you haven’t been answering my calls. If you pick up please just tell me everything is gonna be OK. Reassure me that you’re not going anywhere, and that nothing’s going to change. I needed you when I was just a child and I still do till this day. You’ve always been the constant in my life; the one thing that’s never gone away. Please don’t tell me over the phone that everything I know is about to change. Mom, I need you and I can’t bear the thought of you going away. So please if you’re gonna pick up, just say everything’s gonna be OK. Tell me things like, “Matthew don’t worry, I love you, and you’re not going anywhere.” Mom, I beg of you please, don’t tell me about the part where you are gonna lose your hair. Mom, please don’t answer your phone today, and I’ll walk away pretending like I didn’t care. I’ll act as though no tears have run down my face. And I won’t let you know about how my heart feels heavy, like it’s about to break. You won’t see my bottom lip quiver or my hands shake. Mom, I pray that you won’t tell me the dreaded news over the phone today.

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Old Red Snapper Matthew McCauley Uncle Terry, I remember you in the yard with the lawn mower in your hands. The smell of fresh-cut grass, with a hint of exhaust fumes coming from that old noisy red snapper. I had never seen a person take so much pride in something that to me seemed so menial. Your diligence to make sure that old mower had a full tank of gas. And the oil level was right where it was supposed to be. Your persistent instruction on how fast to push the mower and which direction to mow was at times overwhelming. I can hear your voice over that mower still to this day. “Matthew, slow down, this isn’t a race.” At those moments I never understood why that grass was so important. Or even why I needed to take my time cutting it. After all, it was only grass. Well, Uncle Terry, I’m starting to understand now. That it’s not just the mowing of the grass that you were attempting to teach me. Or even the maintance of that old red snapper. You were simply trying to teach me how to slow down. How to take pride in a task as small as cutting the grass. Most of all you were showing me patience, persistence, and the love you knew I desperately needed. Thank you for everything you’ve done and continue to do for me. I want you to know I will always admire the man who, despite all I’ve put him through, still takes the time to tell me, “Matthew, slow down, this isn’t a race.”

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Frosted Matthew McCauley Two and a half foot wide by four foot tall frosted window that I stare at in the hall. I wonder, what’s on the other side of you? Why were you put in this stairwell wall? Barely any sunlight gets through you at all. You don’t let me see the stars or even the moon. Something tells me that you and I will have this relationship for a while. 'Cause neither I nor you are leaving this place anytime soon. I look at you and wonder. How could I have let myself become frosted cold and hard? And if I were to break, would it be like a window shard? You see at times, I can’t see a life for me, through my eyes. The things they call the windows to our souls. My life seems as bleak as the concrete block wall that keeps us both confined in this hall. Frosted window, we share the wee hours of the night. A bond that just doesn’t seem quite right. Frosted window, you stay so solid and square. And from what I’ve seen of you, you’re not going anywhere. At last I found a friend that I’ll let see me frown. The way I see it, frosted window, you and I are forever bound, so long as we are both on these prison grounds.

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Ryan Matthew McCauley I am ashamed of my shortcomings in life. I surrendered my sorrows to an addiction of white. Yes, I let my failures define me and in turn my losses blind me. When I’d leave to go get high, I knew it often made you cry. Masked my anger and pain because I’d flushed our life down the damn drain. I hurt you, I left you and for that I’ll be eternally sorry. I’m cold, I’m dark, and life all of a sudden doesn’t seem all that starry. I was mad at me, and didn’t know what to do, as time went on all my life’s problems ended up being taken out on you. You say, “You’re my daddy and I’ll love you forever.” Then when you’re gone I’ve asked myself, “Could I be mad if your love was never?” I’ve put you through hell, through things I’m sure you’ll never tell. While even though I was out chasing that rush, I want you to know, that just thinking about you makes me blush.

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April Thirteenth Michael Russell As the showers fell, the world washed away All that we are or will ever be has changed April is for life, spring of pure hope This isn’t a month for taking, but for giving Why then must you go, and so very, very soon And still the rain falls, and the breeze is pure Yet you go, you leave us, you’re gone But the flowers are coming, my brother The birds will be singing and greenness abound The crops will be growing, the ice of the ponds Where are you going my friend my dear boy? You have future nephews and nieces and such You have children to father and a woman to love You have those who love you left here to their pain And still the rains falling and time just stands still This isn’t the season to leave us at all You’re gone like a whisper, like smoke through a keyhole You’ve vanished with the echo of last words to be heard We’ll miss you our brother, our son and our kin Our hearts are glass broken and shards are all scattered Till a day in spring or fall or another season come for me I know I will hurt on this day every spring

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B.O.P Christmas Michael Russell Living memories of Christmas past Loving dreams of visions last A smile, a laugh, a special look Saved in mind, my pictures took Forever there, to see, to watch Of family mine, I love so much

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Coming Home Michael Russell To close, so close to you, gentle love Your glow sparks embers in my soul Little fleeting, sharp piercings of fire Oh, they sting my flesh to contentment So close, too close be your eyes my love Right through my soul, gazing onward Cheering my heart to awaken in bliss Right there, right at my heart is yours Beating in rhythm with its clone in truth Fast drumming, for excitement reigns now Passed through the time of great strife This is our time to be so close, too close

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For Laurie Michael Russell With my eyes wide open, I smile at you Though I see you not, the gesture’s true The distance cuts my heart so thin Your persistence in love heals my heart again Please stop awhile in your daily tasks Just check the breeze for my love I ask I sent it in truth, with a look and a smile To hold you for now, I’ll be home in awhile.

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Free Falling Michael Russell The dawn awakens him in an instant. His soul is tortured and eyes wet with tears. A cruel, nightmarish reminder of all he’s lost. Not by choice does he reminisce but by dream. To slumber these days means to risk going there. It was a place of happiness once, a home with life’s truest gifts. A family full of love, a wife with apron, spatula in hand, smile and sparkle. Children with brace-filled smiles and carefree ambitions. Peace and serenity reign and life is good. He stands next to her with the serving plate, ready for the hamburgers and hotdogs to be transferred from the gas grill to the plate. She’s smiling and all is beautiful in his world. Flash forward but two years in the future. His wife is now standing next to the front door. The spatula she held in her hand has been replaced by a suitcase. She has a look of disgust and defeat. No sparkle, no smile, just anger. Children dressed down in shadows. Their dark and gloomy clothes match their hopes gone by. Their eyes are now vacant and their faces no longer smiling. Lost love and broken spirits hang cruelly overhead in a dark cloud that storms constantly and despises sunshine. The dawn has brought to light all that he had left cloaked in darkness. All he dared not admit and labored to hide has surfaced. His family is leaving, lost to a fix, lost to a promise turned lie. They’re lost to a false pleasure that cunningly offered itself to him somewhere between the glitter and frown of his life. The pleasure turned to panic, to scramble, to addiction. The entity of false crystal pleasure became his God. Nothing on earth, short of prison or death, can stop him from serving it. He will bow down to it and offer it sacrifice, his wife, his children, his happiness both past and future, his freedom, his soul. It’s happy to take all he offers, but it wants his life. 236

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GOD Michael Russell In the midst of thunderstorms On the clouds of a deluge Spending time, watching Just watching all that shines All that glitters and sparkles Through sunlight’s shimmer Flashing beauty below I see all that is and will be From here, on a storm, on a cloud I ride heat lightening to your land And I ask if you love me?

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How to Become a Great Poet Michael Russell So, I’m supposed to write a poem I’m told to search my inner soul To pry out old gut-wrenching feelings That’s what readers want, real inner turmoil That’s what gets to them, something heartbreaking Like the loss of hope or faith or the scars of my childhood Something they can identify with That’s how to write to become a great poet Throw up your soul and stare at it awhile Then write something about what you’ve seen No matter the hurt, no matter the pain I guess I’m not ready to be a great poet yet I keep it all inside

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Independence Day Michael Russell The gentle rain is tapping, tip, tip, tapping our tent I have been lying awake for an hour now, just listening The sound soothes my soul and calms my heart Tip, tap, tap, tapping, gentle rain on our tent I inhale the summer rain-soaked sweet breeze deep into my lungs The taste is wonderful and arouses my waking senses Close to me and warm is Laurie, my love, the angel I married Tucked in close to her is our five-month-old son, Nathan They are a vision of serenity, peaceful as they lie there Sleeping all the while to the tip, tap, tapping of the gentle rain on our tent Little Julie, our five-year-old and her seven-year-old sister Anna Snuggled up in their Barbie sleeping bags in the corner of our tent Little Mike, age three, sleeps contently on the other side of me, Safe wrapped up in his Thomas the Tank Engine sleeping bag. The gentle rain still taps, tip, tip, tapping all the while as I just lie here I’m content to be a father on this Fourth of July morning. I hear the older kids; they’re awake in their tent next to us. Terry, my oldest son, will turn fourteen next month and his little brother Justin who is ten are wrestling around and laughing. Amanda who is twelve wanted to sleep in the minivan last night I hear the sliding door slam as she runs for the park 239

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bathroom I assume Somehow, in the serenity of the morning I experience an epiphany of sorts At that moment in time I realize something profound, I have never been more Happy than I am right now, right here on this Independence Day I am more Content, more at peace with myself than I have ever been and quite possibly Could or would ever be again. So I listen, tip, tip, tap, tapping as the gentle rain taps our tent.

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My Ending Dance Michael Russell And of that day, near or far When you come to my ending dance When your heart breaks but once And it’s a yearlong break Will you return to my grave? But once in a blue moon? Or, could you return twice? Maybe early on a few times But will you still come to see me? As summer turns to fall and fall to winter Will you tend to my grave? Brush the snow from my headstone and say a prayer? And when your day comes, will you come find me? Somewhere between angels and daddy Somewhere by Chris and Butch Will you seek me out? Even if I’m not easy to find? After you’ve seen Thelma and Don, Sharon and Kate After you’ve made your rounds Come, my dear, to find me please I will be at the feet of Jesus Praying for you and the kids

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My First Car Michael Russell A '68 Chrysler Newport, bought from you, sweet little old lady. Sixty thousand miles and only one hundred and twenty-five bucks. I couldn’t believe my luck. Not a ding of a scratch on her. She was turquoise blue with a three eighty-three Mopar engine. My brothers called her a boat, I just called her mine. It took a full two weeks’ paychecks to buy her, and now I have wheels, four motorized wheels for the first time in my life. AM and FM stereo and I immediately install a brand new Kraco cassette player that I bought from the Holiday Gas Station for thirty dollars. I add big stereo speakers to the back seat of my car, speakers I removed from my sound system out of my bedroom. I tuck the wires under the carpet. I finally own a car! I drive by Laurie’s house. She’s out front on her lawn. I don’t look at her, just drive slowly by with all four windows down. "Paint it Black," by the Rolling Stones is blaring from my newly installed stereo speakers. I circle the block, but hesitate to go down Laurie’s street again so soon. I wonder if she noticed me. If I go down her street again right away, I may seem pathetic and over-anxious, obvious even. Oh, what the hell, I drive down her street again anyway. "Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday" is playing now. Laurie’s on the curb now, waving for me to stop. She wants a ride! Cool!

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The Songbird Michael Russell Envision a songbird huddled in the cold Frosted branches on a neatly trimmed hedge Winds from the north seek all in its anger The songbird squints his eyes and dreams A better day, a warmer wind, a sweet aroma Others that left him will be coming home again For now, he tucks up in the hedge and dreams His feathers ruffled and his heart in waiting

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Visiting Day Michael Russell So you feel your heart is full So you know the light of love Your last sweet kiss, it took its toll My lips can’t get enough I memorize the love you gave Each kiss, each hug, each smile All love you left with me I save It holds me for awhile So sleep my love and dream of me I’m all in love with you I’ll close my eyes and dream I’m free I love the things you do

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CONTRIBUTORS Louis Bertrand is an enthusiastic new writer who enjoys telling a good story. Born in Inglewood, CA in 1970, Louis grew up in the deceptively calm streets of the greater Los Angeles area witnessing his share of psychedelic-hypnotic history. Although he has had an illustrious twenty-two-year career as a machinist, Louis has been steadfastly infatuated with a desire to write. His work in 4 P.M. Count is his debut to the world of published print. Jason Burton was born and raised in Des Moines, IA. Burton is a painter by trade and is currently enrolled in a 6000 hour apprenticeship program to further his skill. He has a lovely wife, four children and two stepchildren. Upon release in 2018, Burton plans to work with anyone who struggles with addiction. John Christian escapes the reality of confinement by creatively using the freedom granted through rhetoric, allowing his volcanic mind to erupt molten words that will incinerate senses if approached incautiously. These are his first publications, which he explicitly wrote and devotes to his family, hoping to reconcile any resentment left lingering from the hurtful effects his incarceration had on destroying their relationships. Raymond W. Hanson Jr. was born and raised in a small farming town in Merrill, WI. He has a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies from Mount Marty College. Among his many blessings is the love he receives from his father, four children, and grandchildren, who are waiting for his return home. Raymond is going to start a small business in the asphalt industry, and plans to do public speaking on how important education is for our youth.

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Casey Hay is from a rural community in southeastern Iowa and father of two children. Mr. Hay was a residential and 4 P.M. COUNT


commercial sub-contractor, over-the-road truck driver, machinist, and he enjoys restoring classic cars and old homes. Hay graduated from Mount Marty College in 2013 with an AA in Business Administration. Donald Hynes, a Christian father of two, was proudly born and raised in Detroit, MI during the turbulent Motor City sixties. He graduated from a private Christian high school, and then dropped out of college after two years. He has owned several businesses since 1982, most recently a property management company in the city of Detroit. He has discovered through Yankton prison’s creative writing class that he enjoys expressing himself through words in the form of true short stories. Cory Kamerud was born in Mankato, MN in 1970, and is a self-described music aficionado, having taught himself how to play multiple instruments, composing music for almost thirty years. He started writing poetry in eighth grade in order to capture a girl's attention. His work can be found on YouTube, and he looks forward to releasing numerous albums after his release in 2017. He has gone beyond the norm to better himself since his incarceration, receiving an AA in Business Administration from Mount Marty College, finishing an 8000 hour apprenticeship in Digital Pre-Press, and currently records the reading of books for the South Dakota School for the Blind and Disabled. Isaac Nathan Kimber was born in Billings, MT in 1983, and after obtaining a GED at the Atlanta United States Penitentiary in 2006, he is scheduled to graduate in May of 2015 with dual-major Associate of Arts degrees in Business Administration and Accounting through Mount Marty College of Yankton, SD. After serving a 180-month sentence in the Federal Bureau of Prisons and upon his projected release in October of 2016, Mr. Kimber plans to relocate to Tempe, AZ to live close to his dad, obtain ASE certification, and start an automotive detailing business in hopes that he 246

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will one day be a productive citizen of society. John Masterson is an adventurer who was born and raised in Davenport, IA. He was caught up in the green rush and served twenty-four months at Yankton Prison Camp. He looked at his incarceration as a learning experience and made the best of the time. Upon his release in December 2014, he returned to Iowa. At the time of this writing he planned to do a little writing on a memoir, continue having adventures, and live life to the fullest. Johnny Dewayne McBride Jr. Born and raised in Hobbs, NM, he moved to Odessa, TX when he was fourteen, after his father discovered he was drifting to the street life. At eighteen he committed a federal offense and received a ten-year sentence to serve in a federal prison. During his incarceration he received a GED and discovered writing to be therapeutic. Writing poems and songs about his life, good times and bad, Johnny entered a creative writing course to improve his writing skills. Matthew R. McCauley was born on May 2, 1979 in smalltown Iowa. He is a carpenter and tree trimmer by trade, and also holds a strong connection to nature and outdoor living. 4 P.M. Count is Matthew’s first attempt at putting pen to paper and trying to build on a hidden desire to explore writing. Terry McKenney is from New Mexico; he has a daughter that is the light of his life, an awesome son-in-law, and seven grandkids that he adores. Terry is fifty-one years old. He has been a helicopter mechanic in the army, a truck driver, iron worker, and professional tattoo artist. His hobbies include building custom motorcycles and classic muscle cars. Edit Paz was born in Phoenix, AZ and grew up in Jalisco, Mexico. He has recently begun writing short stories about his life growing up with his grandparents that he loves with 247

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all his heart. David Perez is from McAllen, TX. He has recently begun writing short stories about growing up, and wants to continue writing his memories and share them with his loved ones. Flint Thomas Red Feather, age 42, is an Oglala Lakota, from the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota. He has recently begun writing short stories and poems, and has been working on an autobiography, one he can leave for his children and generations to come. He is a high school graduate from Rapid City Central High School in South Dakota. He has received certifications to further his career in HVAC, including the 410a, a certification to handle refrigerant that has a higher pressure than most, and the 608, the EPA certification which will allow him to handle, sell, and buy refrigerant. He also received a certification as a 50-horsepower boiler operator. Recently he has achieved his GED certification at the Yankton Federal Prison Camp, in Yankton, SD. In August of 2013, he helped co-found an alcohol and drug abuse meeting based on his Lakota traditions. Mr. Red Feather has poured his heart into his work and writings to help him understand his life and how he treated those around him. He is learning how to change his former behavior and become the man his family, friends, will look up to and trust in; writing has helped him to heal in this process. Michael Russell Sr. was born in Cheyenne, WY and is the middle child of thirteen, proud father of seven children, grandfather to many beautiful grandchildren, and husband to his lovely wife Laurie for the past twenty-eight years and counting. Michael went to grade school in New Underwood, SD and high school in Spearfish, SD before relocating to Husker Country, Lincoln, NE, in the late seventies. These are his first published writings. 248

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Joshua Russo was born and raised in Cedar Falls, IA; the oldest of four children to two loving parents. After graduating from the University of Iowa in 2004, he moved to Chicago, IL where he worked in the financial industry.

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2014 4 P.M. Count  

The 2014 edition of 4 P.M. Count

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