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4 P.M. COUNT Supervisor of Education / Publisher Kyle Roberson 2016 National Endowment for the Arts Writer-in-Residence / Editor-in-Chief Jim Reese Copy Editor

S. Marielle Frigge

Assistant Copy Editor

Katelyn Hamil

Design and Layout

Stephanie Schultz

Copyright Š 2016 by Federal Prison Camp, Yankton, SD All poems, prose, and artwork are used with permission by the authors and artists, 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 Cover photo by Stephanie Schultz

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Special thanks go to the following people for their help in the production of the 2016 issue of 4 P.M. Count: Dr. Beth Bienvenu and Lauren Tuzzolino of the Office of Accessibility at the National Endowment for the Arts. Deltone Moore, Recreation Program Manager for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Outgoing Warden Kizziah and incoming Warden Hudgins; Kyle Roberson, Supervisor of Education; Cory Uecker, Special Education Teacher; Dana Jodozi, Literacy Coordinator; 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 editing. 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 15

Making Changes Reprinted with permission from the Federal Bureau of Prisons

17 Frank Constant ·Waiting for the Good Part, nonfiction ·Smoking Tattooed Man, nonfiction ·Count Time, Count Time, nonfiction ·She is Not a Morning Person, nonfiction 26

Adrian Gunn ·Abandoned Son, poetry ·The Hate That Hate Produced, poetry ·The Great Equalizer, poetry ·The Most Beautiful, poetry ·Unbreakable, poetry

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Sara Henning ·Prelude and letter

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Pencil Portrait Class: Charcoal Drawings

59 Jeff Cronenbold ·Lucky, fiction 73 Borden Barrows ·Gloria, poetry ·Perrin, poetry ·Story of Bob, fiction 98 Marcus Long ·Letter 100

College Students Visit and Reflection 4 P.M. COUNT

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117 Chad Hartzler ·My First Love, nonfiction ·On The Hill, poetry ·Prison Rec, nonfiction 127 Chad Sloat ·Waitress Treachery, poetry ·Red, White, Boom!, poetry 131 S. Marielle Frigge ·Letter 134 Mr. Wolfe ·An Object of Summer, poetry ·Regarding Those Who Fearlessly Use the Word Irregardless, fiction 138 Johnny McBride, Jr. ·Destiny, poetry 140 Neil Harrison ·Letter 145 Artwork 149

Wooden Tractor

150 Brett Keller ·Reentry Starts Here 152

Great Plains Writers’ Tour

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Welding Program

157 Isaac Kimber ·A Past Worth Living For, nonfiction ·I Remember, poetry ·What Are You, nonfiction 6

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178 Shawn Merriman ·Michelangelo and the Rise of Savonarola, fiction 189

Community Service Project

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Leather Craft

193 LaVar Fletcher ·Tears of Joy, nonfiction ·The Reason, nonfiction ·This Incident Changed Me, nonfiction 203 Marquise Bowie ·A Window, nonfiction ·Growing Pains, nonfiction ·My First Love and I, nonfiction ·Neglected, nonfiction 219

National Players Review

223 Mike Murphy ·Where Are You From, creative nonfiction ·War is Not a Game, poetry ·The Phantom Shark, nonfiction ·Monkey Boy, nonfiction ·Maggie the Magnolia, poetry ·How to Drive a Car, creative nonfiction ·Going to the Zoo, creative nonfiction 237 Jamie Sullivan ·Letter 240 Warren McKeithen ·No Shoe Closet, fiction 242

Lifelong Learning

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2016 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, SD; and Editor-in-Chief of 4 P.M. Count. Reese’s poetry and prose have been widely published, and he has performed readings at venues throughout the country, including the Library of Congress and San Quentin Prison. His third book Really Happy was published by New York Quarterly Books in 2014. In 2015 Reese received an Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award, and in 2012 a Distinguished Public Service Award in recognition of his exemplary dedication and contributions to the Education Department at the Yankton Federal Prison Camp. Since 2008 Reese has been one of six artistsin-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. For more information visit: www.jimreese.org. Drawing by Dallas Rusk.

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WRITING FOR TRANSFORMATIVE JUSTICE AND HEALING ON BOTH SIDES OF THE FENCE Right now, there are approximately 2.2 million Americans behind bars. The United States accounts for five percent of the world’s population, and twenty-five percent of its inmates. Each year, more than 600,000 inmates are released from federal and state prisons, and another 11.4 million individuals cycle through local jails. Around seventy million Americans have some sort of criminal record— almost one in three Americans of working age (White House). From 1980 to 2008, the number of people incarcerated in America quadrupled from roughly 500,000 to 2.3 million people. Combining the number of people in prison and jail with those under parole or probation supervision, one in every thirty-one adults, or more than three percent of the population is under some form of correctional control (NAACP). There are 1,800 state and federal correctional facilities and 3,200 local and county jails. To put these figures in context, we have slightly more jails and prisons in the U.S.—5,000 plus—than we do degree-granting colleges and universities. In many parts of America, particularly the South, there are more people living in prisons than on college campuses (Ingraham). WHY SHOULD WE CARE? Chances are really high that crime has affected you, your family or your extended family in some capacity. As a taxpayer, I know I don’t want to pay money just to lock someone up. I would hope incarceration is teaching these men something. Is just locking someone up doing that? Statistics say no. Statistics 4 P.M. COUNT

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say two-thirds of men will reoffend within three years, unless they receive some education and/or vocational training. If those services are utilized recidivism rates go down. I think it’s crucial to mention a 2013 RAND Corporation report that found strong evidence that correctional education plays a role in reducing recidivism: The study concluded that every dollar spent on prison education translated into four to five dollars worth of savings during the first three years, post-release. The article states: Prison inmates who receive general education and vocational training are significantly less likely to return to prison after release and are more likely to find employment than peers who do not receive such opportunities, according to a new RAND Corporation report. The findings, from the largest-ever meta-analysis of correctional educational studies, suggest that prison education programs are cost effective, with a $1 investment in prison education reducing incarceration costs by $4 to $5 during the first three years post-release. ‘We found strong evidence that correctional education plays a role in reducing recidivism,” said Lois Davis, the project’s lead researcher and a senior policy researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. “Our findings are clear that providing inmates education programs and vocational training helps keep them from returning to prison and improves their future job prospects.’ Researchers found that inmates who participate in correctional education programs have 43 percent lower odds of returning to prison than those who do not. The estimate is based on studies that carefully account for motivation and other differences between correctional education recipients and non-recipients. Writing for Transformative Justice helps amend lives 10

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on both sides of the fence. As we know, a crime doesn’t just affect the perpetrator and victim. It affects families and communities. Scholars define Transformative Justice as a general philosophical strategy for responding to conflicts. Writing for Transformative Justice includes accountability, knocking that crow off one’s shoulder and writing the truth. It’s an act of coming to terms with the burden that a person carries with him or her. It’s a means of healing and a restorative response to conflict and crime. “I would add that it’s a strategy to allow inmates to reflect inward about how their actions have affected others. It’s a partnership between the student writers and the program facilitator [Dr. Reese]. Students open up and accept instruction in reflective writing that allows each of them to make positive changes to their lives and perspectives,” says Kyle Roberson, FPC Yankton Supervisor of Education. For the past nine years I have been one of six artistsin-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. Through the FPC Yankton Writer-In-Residence program that lasts for nine months and currently has sixteen inmates participating, I teach inmates to communicate through writing, using this theory of Transformative Justice. “This program has helped in [my] healing process,” said inmate Bowie, who added, “I’m grateful for the opportunity to share part of (my) personal story in hopes that others can learn from (my) mistakes.” You can lock a person up and let him out after so long. Maybe during his incarceration you teach him a trade— that’s great. What you also have to do is help him tap into the emotional instabilities that brought him to prison in the first place. Writing, art, and more importantly, education in corrections, helps open that door. If a person never comes to terms with himself, one more angry person will be released back into society. This has been the most rewarding teaching experience I’ve ever had. It’s made me a better professor. It’s made me a better person. I really feel I am making a difference in these 4 P.M. COUNT

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guy’s life—or helping make a difference. My students at Mount Marty College, where I am an Associate Professor, benefit, too. My creative writing classes work together at both locations to workshop their creative writing. MMC students visit the prison once a semester to see what an education program looks like in corrections and to work with other creative writers. They get feedback and opinions on their work from inmate students who take their classes very seriously. Everyone benefits—and he or she is learning a lot more than just how to make his or her creative writing better. There’s a large empathy factor that comes into play for all the students participating. All of the students take this experience with them for their future endeavors. One can read about these interactions in this year’s journal and also view a few pictures of them reading their work together at Mount Marty College’s Great Plains Writers’ Tour event. Mark Twain once said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain said and wrote a lot of great things and I’m glad this particular quote was brought to my attention because I really feel like what I’m doing at the prison is what I have been called to do. I’m human, I’ve made some mistakes in my life. I wish I could take them back, but I can’t. There are a lot of guys at the prison that are in that same boat. Heck, we’ve all made mistakes. My students at the prison can do their time productively and walk out richer for the show. This year I asked my students to write a sentence or two about how the class has affected them. This is what they had to say. Chad Age: 38 The creative writing program at Yankton FPC has helped me come to terms with a lot of issues dealing with my past. It has given me a chance to better my writing skills and helped me strengthen my familial relationships. This class truly helps heal the damages caused over the years by reflecting and writing about the emotional demons inside 12

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us all. Frank Age: 62 The creative writing class has help me to unlock a bottle of stories, events, and emotions that have shaped my life. I’ve learned to communicate these via the written word in ways that I believe have impacted the reader. That makes me feel productive and gives me a greater sense of purpose. Shawn Age: 53 The creative writing class at FPC Yankton gave me the chance to tell my story, to put my life in perspective, and to chart my future. Chad Age: 48 The creative writing class has been a blessing to me. In the past I have struggled with the rigors of this world. Through my newfound interest in writing, I have found a positive outlet to deal with the emotional, physical, and spiritual issues that I encounter each day. Adrian Dr. Reese’s creative writing class at FPC Yankton has been a source of therapy for me. Through writing, I’ve been able to open my soul to a river of emotions which have obviously flooded, overwhelmed, and guided my past behaviors. Before this class I have never been able to touch on many of the feelings I have placed on paper. I will forever remember the beginning of my healing process. Borden Age: 54 For me, the program has been beneficial in a great many ways. Primarily, however, it has allowed me to open up. I have always been a private person who hid his dreams deep inside. The opportunity to write about some of the experiences that brought me to prison in a safe environment 4 P.M. COUNT

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has allowed me to finally leave them behind. J. Age: 54 This creative writing program has given me the excuse I have needed to write. I have always wanted to write but never actually pursued my dream of being a writer. Taking this course has made me put the words on the page and has opened my eyes to all the possibilities that words can reveal within me. Warren Age: 55 I spent two terms in the creative writing course. Our time in prison has been greatly enhanced by this freedom of expression. You’re able to hurt, heal, rest, and renew your self-esteem while challenging the future and challenging yourself to be better than the past. I recommend this course as a form of therapy for the soul. Well, at least that’s been my personal experience. Take the class. LeVar Age: 38 The creative writing class is a good class to take, because it allows you to challenge yourself to write things you normally wouldn’t write. It allows you to be around others who enjoy writing to where you can get a better understanding of other types of people. Some of the different videos Dr. Reese shows are very interesting, informative, and I learned a lot of new things that I can take with me once I’m through with the class. Mike Age: 67 Dr. Reese and his tutelage of the creative writing class has been a wonderful experience. Dr. Reese has helped me as an individual look back into my past and be proud of my accomplishments and path through life. Having communication skills is paramount to becoming successful in life and being a productive part of society. Dr. Reese has 14

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inspired me to get the “crow off my shoulder” and to open up and write thoughts down on paper. Hope to take the class again if offered. Also I enjoy being in the midst of articulate people. [Name Unknown] The ability to express oneself in writing is uniquely human. This class helps one find and explore those expressions. This year we were able to upload the last few issues of the journal online. To read the 2014, 2015, or 2016 issue of 4 P.M. Count please visit: www.issuu.com and type in “4 P.M. Count” in their search engine (issuu is the largest collection of free-to-read publications from publishers around the globe). Another book of interest that featured our program this year was the Federal Bureau of Prisons publication of Making Changes. This publication highlights programs, events, inmate reentry stories, and more to showcase the various ways the Bureau supports inmates in making a successful transition to the community. To download and read this visit: https://www.bop.gov/resources/publications. jsp I am honored and grateful for being the National Endowment for the Arts Writer-in-Residence at FPC Yankton for the past nine years. I believe all people want to do the right thing—to live healthy, productive lives—to give to their communities, even if they’ve failed at such endeavors before. If given a chance to learn, lives can change. All of us make misdirected decisions, but that shouldn’t restrict anyone from the right to an education, or a right to a second chance. Sincerely, Dr. Jim Reese, NEA Writer-in-Residence Federal Prison Camp Yankton, 2016 4 P.M. COUNT

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WORKS CITED Ingraham, Christopher. The U.S. has more jails than colleges. Here’s a map of where those prisoners live. https:// www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/01/06 NAACP. CRIMINAL JUSTICE FACT SHEET: WWW. NAACP.ORG/PAGES/CRIMINAL-JUSTICE-FACT-SHEET. RAND, Education and Vocational Training in Prisons Reduces Recidivism, Improves Job Outlook: www.rand.org/ news/press/2013/08/22 The White House, Office of the Press Secretary. FACT SHEET: White House Launches the Fair Chance Business Pledge www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/04/11

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FROM “MAKING CHANGES” REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS

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Frank Constant

family.

Frank Constant has enjoyed writing throughout his life. His first published poem was written in kindergarten. He was an editor of his high school newspaper, and he continued his passion for writing as a journalism major in college. He has written and performed more than 150 one-man dramas for his church. Frank plans to continue writing when he returns to his home and

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WAITING FOR THE GOOD PART I had just wrapped up a call on my cell phone when someone with a large buttered popcorn and a box of Dots leaned over from the row behind me, and whispered in my ear “Shhhhhh! Can’t you see the movie has started? As long as you are here, you should probably pay attention!” “I’m waiting for the good part to come.” I whispered back, turning my head slightly to the left so he could hear me. “It never comes in the beginning. When the good part comes, that’s when I’ll start paying attention.” I could sort of feel him shrugging his shoulders as if saying “OK, have it your way.” I knew the opening sequence of this movie didn’t really warrant my undivided attention. And so I waited. And I half paid attention but I was more focused on the good parts that I knew were coming later in the movie. Not so much what was happening right here, right now. I knew that my movie would begin getting really good in a little while. Like when the guy, actually the star of the movie, gets his college degree. Then the movie would really get going. Once he was done with college. I was distracted for a moment by some kid trying to suck the last little bit of his Jumbo Mountain Dew up through his tiny straw. Give it a break, I thought, and wanted to remind the little monster that they have free refills when you buy the jumbo. Because of the noisy kid, I missed the graduation part. No big deal because now he was working on getting that awesome job. The one that he would hopefully turn into a career. A great career! And of course, then he would get the girl. But that still wasn’t the good part, the part when the kids, and the house, and the nice cars, and the vacations, and the promotions, and the country club, and more promotions came along, which was sure to take place any minute. When those things started to happen, now that’s when the movie 20

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was going to get really good. So I waited for that part. I drummed my fingers on the arm rest and thought, how boring. But I knew in my heart that quite soon the good stuff was going to start flashing across that screen. Probably right after another promotion or when the doctor said that the biopsy was benign. I still wasn’t all that pleased with the movie, so I killed some more time. And I thought about some things that the writer of this screenplay, this movie, could have done differently. Like this part right here where the star becomes the villain and the FBI comes, and the federal prosecutor and the judge and the courtroom, and the tears from his family and the separation and the pain he caused. I wanted to tell the projectionist to just fast forward through that. It just kept playing for what seemed like ninety months. Wearing khaki for ninety months. Who wants to watch that? I would have rewritten all that if I could, but it was too late for that. So I waited for the next part. The better part. Because I knew that once the big party came, the one with the gold watch and the pats on the back and the world travels and the fishing poles and the grandkids and Winnebago and the “all the time in the world” part came. That’s when it was really going to rock! What a climax! That’s when I would be engaged. That’s when I would really start paying attention. When it started to be like it was supposed to be. Then all of a sudden, the lights went up in the theater and everyone started getting out of their seats and heading for the exits. As I was looking around, the guy behind me tapped me on the shoulder. I turned my head to the right this time and leaned back again saying, “What’s going on?” In my peripheral vision I could see his index finger pointed toward the screen where it said: The End.

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SMOKING TATTOOED MAN The prison camp I live in is quite uncommon. It sits fenceless, for the most part, in the middle of a residential neighborhood, middle of a town, middle of flyover country. I am walking to the prison gym to work out. I need to cross the street and I come to the curb at the faded markings of the crosswalk standing in front of my chow hall. There is traffic approaching, so I wait. A rusty beater of a car slowly drives by two little kids bouncing around in the back seat. The guy driving, maybe their dad, tattooed arm hanging out the window, burning cigarette pinched between a couple of his fingers, no wedding band. There’s a woman passenger her head turned leaning into the back seat she appears to be yelling at the bouncing children. Or instructing them not to stare. Not to stare at me; the prisoner. I am predicting they are all on their way to the muffler shop. Or they should be. I’d give anything to trade places with that guy. I cannot believe I am jealous of Smoking Tattooed Man. Not jealous of his car or his cigarette or his kids or his companion. His car is a piece of crap. I quit smoking three years ago. Cold Turkey! When I came to the first prison prior to this one. 22

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Little kids? Been there, done that. The woman is not my type. Plus, I’m married. Happily. I think. She ended our last phone call with “I love you too.” That’s always a good sign. Right? I see her only once a year because of the travel distance between us. It’s a full day driving plus the motel cost. She has to take time off work. It’s really hard when we have to say goodbye. Smoking Tattooed Man goes where he wants, when he wants, and with whom he wants. Smoking Tattooed Man is free. My memory of freedom is fading, just like the lines on this crosswalk. His car passes and I hold my breath as I enter the cloud of blue smoke that follows. Exhaust and tobacco combined. I watch as Smoking Tattooed Man flicks away his cigarette, just as quickly as I flicked away my freedom. I want to yell out to him “You lucky son of a bitch!” But I cannot do that. Prisoners are expressly forbidden from making contact with the public.

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COUNT TIME, COUNT TIME People in this prison, for the most part, wear either khaki or blue. I wear khaki. People in khaki count days. People in blue count people in khaki. I’m looking for something to count other than days. Other than this stolen time that I don’t want to think about. Drawing an X through each square on the calendar at the end of the day is not an option. Not an option for me. I don’t want to celebrate the passing days of my life by marking a black X through them. “How much time you got left?” someone inquires of me while we stand in line for chow. Only in prison or when you have a terminal disease is that question valid. Two hundred and eighty-two cinder blocks make up the walls and 187 tiles on the floor in my room. Eighteen swerving wires support the sea green mattress over my head. It’s always eighteen. Every single night. Forty white lines on the black dial of the combination lock that secures my stuff. Zero actually gets a line, which is interesting. A guy sits down across from me with his tray of Fruit Loops at breakfast. “When you going home?” If he sits here tomorrow, he will probably ask me again. What else is there to talk about? Two milks, one piece of fruit, one donut, four seats at the table. Four-hundred and ninety-four steps from the door at Durand Housing Unit, which is where I live, to the door at Ward Hall, which is where I work. On the third floor; sixty-nine steps up from the basement, the last sixteen of which will really get your heart pumping. Those steps are almost vertical. Lying in bed, I count between forty-nine and fifty-one beats per minute resting heart rate. I like counting my heart beats. Maybe those sixty-nine steps have something to do with that. Five-hundred and forty-seven strides around the walking track. I even counted calories for a year. Grams of protein too. Only eleven emails received this week. Hey, people are busy. 24

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Or they forgot about me. I’m sure they’re busy. “How much time did you get?” the new guy in my room asks. Three bunk beds, six bunks, three upper bunks are still empty. There were 800-something inmates when I got here. Less than 500 now. I wonder if there are really one hundred vitamins in this bottle? I should check to make sure. Yep. Exactly one hundred. Yes, I washed my hands. At a hundred vitamins per bottle, that’s a bit more than three and a half bottles a year. For me then, twenty-one bottles total if I take one a day. In the hall of my housing unit and waiting for the restroom I stare at the ceiling. I wonder how many little holes in that white metal plate covering the speaker above my head. I stare up at the ceiling counting the holes and the red light comes on telling me to return to my room. All I can hear is “Count Time, Count Time.”

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SHE IS NOT A MORNING PERSON Mid-morning and my dog Hanna and I have been up for hours. Hanna is now lying under the kitchen table at my feet. I hear footsteps coming down the stairs and my wife shuffles into the kitchen, zombie-like in her fuzzy pink slippers, wearing one of my long blue flannel shirts that I don’t remember giving up. Her hair is pulled back from her freshly washed face, and it’s way too early for contact lenses. Her thick glasses are perched on her nose, helping her still sleepy eyes navigate the kitchen. The dog rises from the floor, does a long stretch and moves to greet her. Closing in on four decades together, I know better than to try to engage her in any meaningful conversation at this hour. “Morning,” I say. “Morning,” she says, her vocal cords not wanting to go to work just yet. She likes the sun to get good and warm before she has to talk. She pats the dog on the head without further comment. I watch her move to one of the cabinets and remove a bowl and a coffee mug. World’s Greatest Mom is today’s selection. She pops a coffee pod into the Keurig and pulls the toaster out of the center island and plugs it in. She gently deposits some silverware on the kitchen table, not wanting to make any noise. She tears open and dumps an envelope of instant oatmeal into the bowl with some water, punches the keypad and the microwave comes to life. Soon a quarter cup of frozen blueberries from Costco will wait patiently near the toaster. From the fridge, she grabs a tub of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. The fake butter will soon be meticulously painted, with Vincent Van Gogh accuracy, on two slices of whole wheat bread that are now in the toaster going through their transformation. The smell of crispy crumbs on the bottom of the toaster fills the kitchen along with, I’m guessing, cinnamon and brown sugar oatmeal. The microwave calls to her. Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! 26

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Using a couple of paper napkins, she carefully grabs the steamy bowl with one hand. The blueberries plop into the hot oatmeal and go for a spin with her spoon, quickly vanishing into the whirlpool. She collects what has now become toast and it all comes together just to the right of today’s Daily Herald, which I have laid on the table for her. She glares at me over the top of her glasses. With a bit of a frown her blue eyes say, “What are you looking at?” I shake my head, shrug my shoulders, and look to the dog for some support. I must be staring. I have been watching her morning routine since long before there were Keurigs, Costcos, and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter tubs. Most mornings I missed her performance. I was already at work when all this was taking place. With the exception of a couple of kids thrown into her routine for around twenty years, it’s hardly changed at all. Watching it this morning was pure pleasure. I feel extremely lucky to have this front row seat. It’s like a favorite movie, one I could watch over and over, even though I know how it ends. Tomorrow morning the performance will be repeated. The only difference may be the coffee mug selection, flavor of instant oatmeal, and the fact that I won’t be here to watch. Tomorrow, I self-surrender to begin my ninety-month sentence in Federal Prison.

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Adrian Gunn Adrian Gunn was born in Cleveland, OH, and raised in Texas. The former nightclub owner is a father of three young men and a precious little girl. A survivor’s son, his mother is his inspiration; he has dedicated his life to making the lives of the youth and of those less fortunate better. As the founder of Global Sports Consultants, Mr. Gunn helped young men and women gain collegiate scholarships to schools all over the country. He has been a sponsor and a coach for youth sports for much of his life. He also assisted with the annual Bob Knight basketball camp. To show he has learned from his past mistakes, Mr. Gunn is set on making his past his passion and his mess his message.

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ABANDONED SON You left when I was old enough to remember your face, Young enough to not quite separate the difference of who you are from what you are. Not remembering the day you walked out the door, I remember looking at it and not seeing you enter through it anymore. Processing the holes in the wall on the stairwell, thinking, my father did that. Because you left your signature all around, I learned to forge a sign before I even learned how to write. I heard your name in the neighborhood more than I ever saw you in the hood. “Hey, that’s Ben’s son. Come here, little man, what’s good?” Down at the pool hall on the days I was in your care, rare, but I was in your care. Who cares who we were with, what you were doing, or how we got there. I was with you. Again, unable to differentiate the hero from the destruction and despair left behind by you everywhere you went. You went, but never returned home. The sightings became less and less frequent. 4 P.M. COUNT

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The promises became more and more cheapened, as I grew to expect nothing from you. And as I became a man, I learned to forget that signature I learned from you before I learned to write because I understood early on that nothing about that was right. However, things lingered in my subconscious as I’d fight the blood flowing through these veins. Blood stains whenever I see red, I fight. Life’s plight. But God has a sense of humor. Those things I came to despise about you I also came to despise about myself. Hanging the fruit too high, the only thing strange about this fruit was that I was hanging myself. The truth died somewhere between conception and birth. The only solace I have is that this isn’t God’s work. You weren’t born into slavery. You bought into it. First, by not believing that you were good enough for this earth. The story they sold you. Next, believing that I wasn’t either. The story reads like a sign on a merry-go-round. 30

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The father has a son Abandoned. Now that son is on the run, forced to abandon another son. Cyclical. Round and round and round. Only this is no fun. Years gone by. And, though we long ago moved from That apartment, That neighborhood, That state, That world, I can tell you that the hole in the wall on the stairwell has never been filled. I could also tell you that I became something you were not. That I’ve been a better father; more stable, or that I have never run. I never bought into the master’s game, or that my children don’t live the lives of Abandoned Sons. I could tell you so many things, but, then I would, for sure, be carrying on one of your traits. Liar! So, I will not lie. I will take responsibility for the part I have played. And I will jump off of this merry-go-round and land on a blade, willing to do whatever it takes to Stop. This. Cycle. 4 P.M. COUNT

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So, as I sit here in my government khakis, digging up the memories so I can recite this, I pray that my children are at peace. And, I pray that you are praying the same thing for me.

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THE HATE THAT HATE PRODUCED No more of the same old clichés. I need that Harriet Tubman underground mix. The one that spawned a revolution like the black fist 1970s in big afros, sittin’ on picks. Olympics, Mexico City, on the podium, tightly clenched. Truthfully, I’m tired, but I know I cannot rest ‘cause when I rest they call me lazy and when I run the truth becomes hazy. So, I look for my space or a book with my face or, at least, a face that looks like mine. But, in that space sits the shattered dreams of Dr. Martin Luther King and the million who later marched. Through the streets of the north and across that bridge in the south, crowds of hate met the hopeful. Water hoses for the parched? But, the water is too dark. The people, searching for a leader, get lead that can be read by a meter ten miles away. And they keep telling me things are better today! Today, Our twenty-first century, still set in the nineteenth century economy. Prisons have replaced cotton fields, for as far as the eye can see. The pickin’ is in session. Recession; Just another word for the black man’s depression. I know, my white brethren felt it, too. 4 P.M. COUNT

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But while you were underemployed, taking up a spatula in place of those tools my brothas were not just sitting around, they were being turned down for that same Mickey D’s gig, even after sixteen years of being in school. But, I digress. This is really about us; all of us. Just how do we navigate through this international circus? Where gun sales are up and book sales are down. Where the most popular presidential candidate is Bozo the Clown. Our elected officials reward us for their government overreach With rhetoric and lies in speech after speech. So much talk about solutions, while financing third world revolutions. But, I cannot just rest on Black Lives Matter while brown lives scatter through the desert in search of a better life. Life marked when the little, hungry, five-year-old Hispanic girl in the trailer park with mud around her lips where beans and salsa should drip cries one suggestion, “Feed me!” There is no red tape around her face. I know what you’re thinking. Damn, just another angry black man! Angry? No. This is just the way I look. Angry is the Hall of Famer with a knife, hiding in the bush. Angry is the system that couldn’t put him away for murder no matter how hard they tried. 34

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Only fourteen years later, before a judge; frazzled, shackled, and shaken. Lost pride. Angry is what he is right now! Me? I’m awake. Enlightened. Standing in my government khakis so that I can recite this! I’ve made some mistakes! Redemption, the goal, I’m hoping I might reach. In the meantime, they throw us in death camps. That’s right! Much like Auschwitz, but they disguise them with names like Cabrini Green, the fifth ward, or South Oakcliff. Pardon me for my political incorrectness. Allow me to correct this. Six million Jews sent to the ovens to die! But history doesn’t hide the fact that they died, who did it, nor his reasons why. But just who is killing the young black man? Is it you? You? How about You? Who is killing my kind? Sure, there is something to be said, even if it is misled, for black on black crime. Whether it be a misinterpretation, the miseducation, or political misrepresentation, let us not MISS the fact that we are still in camps. Do you remember the one about little black hiding underneath his hood, whose only crime was that he wasn’t in the hood as he walked to the corner store and paid for a bag of Skittles with HIS LIFE? The killer claimed the ground he stood.

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It ain’t right! As much as I would, periodically, like to behave with the innocent exuberance of a twelve year old boy playing cops and robbers, I cannot. I cannot because I know that story—shot by cops. I cannot because I have the anxiety of a grown man, a husband, a father having the life choked out of me. I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe. I sat still and still, I rest, not in peace. Never in peace. I cannot allow my little boys, whenever they are alone, to take an evening walk. It is sad, my twelve-year-old, who enjoys riding his bike with friends, and dreams of being the next big pop star, has to sit with his parents for “The Talk.” Today, the evil shifts shapes. The enemy was once easy to recognize with their white sheets and cross burnings. This is the devil our grandparents would warn our parents to stay away from. White flowers. Black dress. Open, tear-filled, eyes. Closed casket. But, by no means, get it twisted. There has been enough time to organize. We have always been participants in our history. What happened to those Freedom Riders is still a mystery. Twenty-first century, iphones, ipads, I die! So, this time THE REVOLUTION MUST BE TELEVISED!

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How can you say today is any better?! What about tomorrow, you ask? I leave that for the positive thinkers, the turn the other cheekers. I’m far too much of a realist. Disappointed, jaded, sometimes I just need my enemy to feel this! I’m a student of history and you know what they say, to see what the future holds, we must look at yesterday. Yesterday, Dr. King, as he began to change his philosophy, said, “Riots are the language of the unheard.” So, as cities and towns continue to burn, I ask only one question. When will we be heard? Now, I must apologize for my aggressive stance. I’m trying to make sure these words do not fall flat. But these words would mean everything if you were black and you had to witness your child lying on his back in a pool of his own blood. We can be better. We can stop the cycle. We can avoid being the hate that hate produced with one word, Love. Live it! Mean it! Speak it! Be it!

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THE GREAT EQUALIZER My time is spent in ways I never would have imagined not so long ago. In fact, a lot of things have changed in the last few years. You see, I’m inmate number 13192-023, housed at a Federal Prison Camp. The government gave me my number and my time. The government imprisoned my body, not my mind, so my mind is able to go wherever it pleases. I allow it to travel. I read books, magazines, newspapers, anything I can get my hands on. I have learned about places I’ve never been and even more about the places I have been. I have learned how to prepare certain dishes and what culinary traits are particular to certain areas of the world. I have learned more about the world of finance and touched on the art of romance and how to properly love a girl. I have thought about my life before prison, and, often, I think of what my life will be like afterward. No amount of lifting weights, playing basketball, or communicating with family and friends will ever replace my freedom. You see, I am doing time. 38

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And, I believe, I have used my time well. In all of my contemplating, I have discovered something I never realized about time. Time. Is. The. Great Equalizer. Do you realize that time is the most gangster of resources? Why? Because no person controls it. The most powerful person in the world cannot get back time. Rich people do not get more time than poor people. White people do not get more time than black people. And, if you live in the suburbs, you get no more time than someone in the hood. Have you ever noticed that when you begin to use time in opposition to what you were put on this earth to do, the Universe has a way of fighting back and putting you in a space that forces you to see your life for what it is? Think about it! Time is weaponry, an ally and an enemy. Used to your advantage, it can create life, new and refreshing. Wrongly used, it can be menacing, suffocating. Did you know that you and I each have 86,400 seconds per day?

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Ask yourself this question: Have you wasted more of your seconds than you’ve used to create a wonderful, proud life? Also, How many years have you been locked up? How many of those years has your mind been free? Free from hypocrisy? Free from mockery? Free from the plummeting value of life? How many of you will truly go home free? When you get home, how many imprisoned minds will you stumble across, doing the same things they were doing when you began your bid? Most important, how many of you are still talking about the very things that brought you to this place, this TIME in your life? Are you still talking about the dope game, about Cadillacs with big rims, about the big booty girl down at the strip club? Where is your mind? How are you using your time? 86,399. 86,398. 86,397. 40

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THE MOST BEAUTIFUL The most beautiful, you are. I stare. I can’t help it. I’ve never seen such a spectacle in my life. I try to look away so that I’m not so obvious, but with my head veered downward my eyes pop up and snap directly to a gaze. You. Are. Amazing. I know you’ve heard this all before, but I cannot stop the adjectives from falling from my tongue. I only speak before my breath is gone; breathtaking. Yeah, I’ve been with others. I’ve spent time in some of the most exotic locales; hidden paradises on the big island, secret coves off the west coast of both Canada and Mexico. Caves in the Caribbean and caverns in the southwest. And, yes, I’ve been blown over before; completely smitten was I. And, speaking of I, I prefer those beautiful blues over luscious greens any day of the week. I want to come back to you. When this is all over I must come to you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you; near you. It seems as though my heart finds its perfect rhythm whenever I stand near you. How can that be? I saw a picture of you the other day. You were standing majestically in the background. I wondered, after all of these years, are you the same? You must be. You have to be. In a recent conversation with a friend, I was asked, “Do you miss the falls?” I closed my eyes tightly, took a slight breath, and with the excitement of a thirteen-year-old girl, whispered, “soo much.”

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UNBREAKABLE I want everything to be all right. I know how messed up things are. I sense the awkwardness without the presence of a soul in the room. I feel the heaviness, the burden of ten thousand bricks on my back. I sense the doom. I’m so aware, but I wish I weren’t. My head throbs along to the beat of my heart: THUMP, THUMP, THUMP! My breath, seemingly gone, surfaces with shallow insistence: HUUUH, HUUUH, HUUUH! Where does this road end? Where do I get a chance to get off of this gravelly route and catch the bus to happiness? Or is this just the lane I’m destined to take? Stuck. Surely, there is a place for me somewhere better than this. What wouldn’t be, couldn’t be, better than this? This emptiness. I’m so alone. Alone in my mind, physically alone, I’m one lonely soul. My heart aches. My chest physically pains. I’m having trouble deciphering boredom from loneliness; today, tomorrow, again and again. It is cold here; too cold to breathe. It is dark here; too dark to pray. I know too much, yet, I know nothing at all. My existence is temporarily permanent. I have no choice except to stand tall. I cannot break; unbreakable. No doctor for me. That’s an expensive fast-casual stay. I’ll stay a head case in case I decide to head another way. Soon enough, the loneliness will evaporate, the boredom will decay. Happiness will come to light. Alas, a smile. It’s been a while. It’s been a while since I’ve looked up, but things are looking up. I see things I couldn’t 42

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see. I broke chains that were once unbreakable. First, through a crevice small streaks shined. Now, things are brighter. I battled the storm, now I’m on the other side. I have a story to tell, but I’ll never tell a soul; no. Sunshine and happiness make me truly unbreakable.

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Sara Henning Sara Henning is the author of A Sweeter Water (2013), as well as two chapbooks, Garden Effigies (2015) and To Speak of Dahlias (2012). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in such journals as Quarterly West, The Cincinnati Review, Witness, Meridian, Crab Orchard Review, and RHINO. Winner of the 2015 Crazyhorse Lynda Hull Memorial Poetry Prize, she is currently a doctoral student in English at the University of South Dakota, where she serves as associate editor of Sundress Publications.

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PRELUDE TO READING Writing about our relationships, conflicts, fears, regrets, and hopes—the stuff of our lives—is sometimes the best way to come to understanding, and, if we are lucky, acceptance of the choices that made us who we are. Undoubtedly, many of you in this room have felt this way during your experiences in Dr. Reese’s creative writing class. I know because I had the joy of reading through your 2014 issue of 4 P.M. Count, and I was moved by many of the stories and poems that dealt with so many heart-wrenchingly beautiful topics, for instance, parents who passed away while you were still incarcerated, to whom you never got to say goodbye. Wives you have had to learn to live without these years, how when you miss them, you really miss the little things: the smell of their hair, the sound of their voices. Your children who are missing you right now, as I stand here in front of you, grown or still young. The regrets that haunt you from times past, when you could have, or should have, been better men, made better choices, quit messing up. You might be thinking, those are the things of my life, lady, things I have to live. You can read them while enjoying a cup of tea on your couch in the evening, wrapped in a blanket and sighing at sadness you’ll never know. You don’t know a thing about any of it. You don’t live my life. And you’re right, I don’t. I won’t pretend to know what it is like for the walls of this prison to close in on you, to live without being able to hold the people you love, to have to obey the rules of the institution or suffer grave consequences. I won’t pretend to know what it is like to have your life taken away from you, months or years where you live in quiet desperation, or what it must be to try to get work when you have a felony on your record. No, I’ve been a college teacher for twelve years, and this past April I earned my doctorate in English. It may feel like our lives are very dissimilar and that kind of dissimilarity certainly affects the 4 P.M. COUNT

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way you learn to trust someone else, especially when you are writing your dark times and hard thoughts. When you are writing them while expecting, maybe, your empathetic audience of mostly law-abiding citizens to judge you. Still, I know a thing or two about hard times and darkness. When I was two, my father killed himself. He had fallen farther and farther into drugs after suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder from his wartime in Vietnam. The drugs, as many of us in this room might know, severely affected the way he made choices and thought about what mattered in his life. With two children under the age of three from two different women and sleeping most nights in a third woman’s bed, my father suffered under a worsening drug addiction to LSD and marijuana, as well as a life full of regrets. When he died, my mother couldn’t afford us anymore and we had to move back closer to her family, who didn’t really take us in. We struggled, living at poverty level, choosing between necessary things. We lived around her family, her father a liter-of-vodka-a-day alcoholic who went into blind rages. I watched my mother work two jobs and never find happiness. Even now, I watch her die of stage 4 colon cancer, knowing her two or three packs a day smoking habit, poor diet, and consistent neglect of her body’s needs contributed to her first detection three years ago—culminating in a nearly nine-pound tumor in her uterus. I knew the shame of never having nice clothes or shoes, being looked down upon because my family didn’t have any money and I didn’t have a father, of being embarrassed to bring my friends home to our tiny duplex located in the less-than-savory part of town. I knew the shame of getting out of my mother’s house as quickly as I could, which meant running around with boys, and then men, who were addicts like my father and grandfather, shacking up to pay the bills, then staying quiet when they abused me. I knew the shame of calling cops who would photograph the bruises and contusions on my body while locking away a man who always found his way back into my 46

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life, of turning to alcohol myself, flirting with a dependency that a time or two ended me up in AA meeting after AA meeting. These stories that I am telling you very much informed the poetry I would come to write. My first book, A Sweeter Water, concerns my father and the struggles of growing past a broken childhood. My second book (which has yet to find a publisher), Surface Normal, concerns my grandfather’s alcoholism and penchant for myriad forms of abuse, as well as the closeted homosexuality that fueled his rage through its enduring repression. My chapbook, Garden Effigies, explores much of the domestic violence I encountered growing up and in some of my formative relationships. I’d like to read poems to you from these collections today with the hope that we can widen our discussion about writing, life, and their crucial intersections.

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A LETTER FROM SARA HENNING To All of the Wonderful Inmates at the Yankton Federal Prison Camp, First of all, I’d like to tell you about how much I enjoyed coming to visit you this past April. Thank you so much for your respectful attention and for asking so many great questions. Your genuine interest in creative writing and your desire to write your way into self-growth was apparent in every word you uttered, in every question you asked, and in every insight we came to collectively during our time together. I have been giving poetry readings for the better part of a decade, and I can say with all honesty that you were one of my favorite audiences. You listened to me with your hearts open and your minds engaged, and I walked away from our time together a stronger poet and a better teacher. For this, I will always be thankful. Secondly, I want to encourage you to keep living past the choices that brought you here and to always remember your worth. You are not incarcerated men, you are men. You are fathers and sons. You are husbands, boyfriends, and widowers. You are articulate, witty, and soulful men capable of living past shame and longing by writing your way back into your best selves. I want you to own your stories and make them palpable on the page. I want you to sing your stories, shout your stories, feel your stories as they move through your guts and your lungs. These stories are what prove to us that we are real. They weave us into the larger human tapestry of experience and remind us that we are not alone. I remember the first time I wrote my story after years of writing poems others wanted me to write. At the time I was writing—and being praised for writing—poems full of technical accuracy that had no soul. Full of experimental language, they were stillborns on the page. Then one day, 48

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I wrote a poem about my dead father called “God Knows the Difference Between the Living and the Dead.” Because it would expose my family’s shame, it was a poem that had lived with me a long time that I feared writing. It reminded me that many years of good grades and schooling couldn’t erase my roots. Despite my fear, I kept writing poems that reminded me of who I was: the daughter of a drug addict, the daughter of a womanizer. A girl who would always bear the formative scars of poverty and dysfunction, but who would commit herself to teaching others the skills necessary to discover themselves. Ironically, once I wrote through my fears and came to own my story, I became a better writer. My first book of poetry got taken by a publisher and the editors of respectable literary journals started asking to publish my submissions. Instead of feeling exposed or shamed at poetry readings, writers came up afterward to share their stories with me. As I came to own my story, I could better hear (and appreciate) the stories of others. Speaking of the stories of others, I want to thank those of you who sent me personal letters—Marquise Bowie, Borden Barrows, Chad Hartzler, Adrian Gunn, Chad Sloat, Frank Constant, Isaac Kimber, Michael Murphy, Shawn Merriman, and Johnny McBride. You are so insightful, articulate, and the hours I spent reading and re-reading your letters brought me intense joy. Marquise, I am glad that my visit could give you permission and confidence to keep writing your story. Please, if you continue to need permission and confidence, remember what a strong and capable man you are. Borden, it thrills me that my visit provided you solace. Best of luck to you as you continue to find healing. Chad H., I am so happy that you found my visit to be a rewarding experience and that you enjoyed my positivity. Remember to smile, even when things feel hard. Adrian, let’s both keep writing poems to find those lost loves and to fill those emotional holes. We will both be better and stronger people for doing so. Chad S., thank you for admiring what you call the raw, genuine, and powerful parts of my work. Now it is your turn to write poems that are 4 P.M. COUNT

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raw, genuine, and powerful. Frank, it delights me to know that you found my reading and presentation so engaging. Thank you! Isaac, I know deep in my heart that you are already becoming your best self, and I hope you keep writing through the process. Stay strong! Michael (Murph the Surf), get that crow off of your shoulder and write those stories down. You are a smart and compassionate man with such a rich life to share. Shawn, no matter who we are, we all need to remember where we come from and where our journey has taken us. That is the stuff of writing, the real stuff. Johnny, when we grow up knowing right from wrong, but we are taught to do both, it is easy to make the wrong choice. It sounds like you are making good strides now, and I applaud you for it. Let’s both work on keeping our heads up, OK? I want to leave you with some cherished words from one of my favorite writers, Virginia Woolf: “Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.” Since the day I started writing my story—the day I truly became a poet—I have put my faith in Woolf ’s wise words, and I hope you will as well. Every single one of you has a story to tell, so tell it. What are you waiting for? Warmly and with Best Wishes, Sara Henning

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PENCIL PORTRAIT CLASS: CHARCOAL DRAWINGS

Andrew Leurhing

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David Kraus

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Philip Lochmiller

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Philip Lochmiller

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Philip Lochmiller

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Philip Lochmiller

Rashan Jones

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Rashan Jones

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Rashan Jones

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Rashan Jones

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Sergio Diaz

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Jeff Cronenbold Mr. Cronenbold grew up in Cape Girardeau, a small town beside the Mississippi River in the southeastern corner of Missouri. The language and culture of rural Missourians, and the land itself are what influence and inspire his writing. It is through telling their stories that he finds his fictional voice.

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LUCKY I had packed nearly thirty pounds of muscle onto my lanky frame that summer after high school, so when the old man asked me to help him do his route, I figured he really needed help from his strapping young grandson. I was obviously capable of doing most of the heavy lifting, and since he was already getting well up into his sixties, it seemed pretty likely he was no longer quite up to it. Of course, I would have never said as much; the old man did still have his pride. Early the next morning, we made our first stop in an alley behind a rural Piggly-Wiggly. The old man raised the trailer door, pulled out the sliding ramp, and together we entered the ice-cold trailer. He picked up a menacing meat hook, demonstrated where to hook the quarter beeves, and how to best carry one and keep it balanced. He made it look very simple. Confidently, I hooked one, swung it up on my shoulder, and then shambled like a rum-soaked Navy boy on shore leave over to the ramp. I plunged headlong down the incline, then stumbled and fell to one knee in the alley. Immobilized and frustrated, I had become a statue of Sisyphus. Something heavy clanged the ramp onto the bumper. I turned to investigate. My frustration was replaced by abject terror. Like a deer in the headlights, I watched him barrel down the ramp. His eyes grew large as he recognized the catastrophe waiting below. For a split-second everything stopped. He appeared to flicker in and out of focus as he levitated over the ramp. His movements became a series of auto-shutter photographs as time crept incrementally forward. He planted his feet firmly, shifted the beef down, and extended his arms. He spun the beef past my chin. I felt its chill. He used the momentum of the spinning beef to change direction, and pirouetted away as if he were Mikhail Baryshnikov, assuming Baryshnikov ever pirouetted while 62

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flying down a narrow ramp packing 200 pounds of frozen steer in order to avoid crashing into his idiot grandson. He flipped the beef back up onto his shoulder, and nonchalantly strolled into the market. I watched him in wide-eyed wonder, and began to laugh. All my previous illusions concerning the physical superiority of my youth, or that the passage of time had somehow diminished his powerful body, were forthrightly and permanently dismissed. Carefully, I brought my other foot forward and stood up slowly. I crow-hopped the beef back into balance, and followed him, slowly shaking my head. I eventually got the hang of handling the beeves as we stopped at other markets and butcher shops along the route. I also gained a full appreciation for how hard the old man worked every day. Between stops, we talked about all my adventures of my summer spent working up north. After that, I asked him, “So how are the Redbirds playin’ this year?” “Just wait ‘till you see our new first baseman. This kid absolutely crushes baseballs! His line drives just seem to jump right outta’ the park! He’ll get a hundred RBIs, hit thirty to forty homeruns, and still bat over a .300 average, and since he’s only twenty-one, he might do that for the next twenty seasons.” “Ah, come on? You’re makin’ him sound like the next Jack the Ripper, or even Stan the Man.” “Now I ain’t takin’ nothin’ away from Jack Clark, when he got one it went a country mile, and Stan Musial was the greatest Cardinal ballplayer of all time. But if he stays healthy, this kid Albert Pujols could be the best all-around hitter to ever wear ‘the birds on the bat’ uniform.” “I saw him in the all-star game; he took a Roger Clemens ninety-seven mile fastball off the wall in deep center for a stand-up double, then hustled around third with two outs and scored on a single. And you’re right, Pujols sure looks like a great young ballplayer! He might even help us hang a few new pennants up over at Busch Stadium,” I added. 4 P.M. COUNT

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The old man picked up his tin of Skoal from the console, and placed a dip under his lip, then head-motioned that I was welcome to partake as well. I smiled, knowing that in his estimation I had passed over a threshold, no longer to be subjected to stern looks regarding the use of tobacco by a child. I brushed my pocket, and felt the Marlboros there. However, since still unsure of the exact boundaries of this new relationship and not wishing to dishonor him in any way, I politely declined his offer and gazed out the open window to avoid further temptation. We were traveling a crumbling blacktop, shadowing the mighty Mississippi River as it slowly uncoiled itself down into the delta. Stagnant coffee-black water surrounded the elevated road. A cloying odor, like rotting apples combined with decayed fish, permeated the air. A legion of towering amazon sentinels, with swollen trunks made pregnant by endless cycles of flooding, silently reproached our trespass into their primeval nursery. Only bald cypress survived the harsh conditions here. Some of them carried swaddling blankets, crudely fashioned from the mottled green-gray Spanish moss that draped from their lower branches. Occasionally, usually at dawn or dusk, the dappled sunlight filtered down through the thick canopy, played upon the drifting river fogs, and painted those moss blankets until they appeared to resemble the death shrouds of wretched spirits condemned to wander over the dismal landscape. This primitive land of fogs and shadows had never truly fallen under the dominion of man, relegated instead to be ruled over by the hordes of poisonous water moccasins that endlessly patrolled among the cypress roots and by the leviathan alligator gars that lurked below the water’s surface. Although this great alluvial swamp was a place of nightmares and vipers, it also teemed with wondrous beauty. Iridescent wood-ducks, as opulently adorned as Cleopatra’s jewels, nested there. Great blue herons stalked the banks on number two pencils, scanned the shallows with sunflower eyes as large as wheat pennies. Their long elegant necks bowed forward like feathered cobras as they 64

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speared frogs and small fish with deadly precision. Majestic bald eagles dived into the murk from colossal aeries, and then returned with fish held in razor talons to nourish the chicks. Except for a scant few feathers that appeared randomly pasted upon them by petulant children, the scalded-pink eaglets greeted their parents standing openmouthed, as if incessantly complaining. This ancient swamp was familiar, mainly because every spring and summer the old man and I sculled a flatbottomed john boat among the stumps for hours, while catching the best-tasting fish that God had ever seen fit to devise. “So how’s the crappie fishin’ this year?” I inquired. He replied, “Well, pretty good I guess, but I only got part of the freezer filled up, bein’ as how all your fish went uncaught, what with you up bein’ north and all,” he added. ”Maybe if you’d like, we might throw a few crappie fillets in some hot oil this evenin’ when we get home?” “Yeh’ well, I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen more than enough beef to last me. Some fried crappie sounds real’ good. I mean, if it ain’t too late, and if you ain’t too tired.” He laughed, “I ain’t never been too tired to fry up a big mess of crappie. I’ll call your grandma when we get up here, and see if she might whip us up a batch of hush puppies to go with ‘em, and maybe put up some cucumbers and onions, and slice up a couple of garden tomaters.” I suddenly became aware of the fact that we had not stopped for lunch. “That sure does sound like a mighty fine plan to me.” “Last stop,” he said, as he pulled over and then set the parking brake. On a slightly elevated ridge stood a white shotgun shack, last painted so long ago the clapboards had faded to gray. A mouth-watering aroma of cooking meat, hickory smoke, and thick sorghum molasses emanated from a crude grill, constructed of scavenged rip-rap stone. Nearby, a group of older black men, all clad in faded overalls, congregated. One man turned thick slabs of succulent pork ribs with a long pair of tongs; another used an old wooden4 P.M. COUNT

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handled brush to slather them with a generous coat of sauce. The others milled about, while dispensing free advice and occasionally passing a quart-sized mason jar. Approaching the grill, the old man asked me, “You hungry? I mean it sure don’t look like much, but this little juke-joint here has the best barbeque I’ve ever tasted! That’s mainly on account ’a Mr. Williams here, and his homemade piquant barbeque sauce.” Mr. Williams replaced the brush on a rusted hook built into the grill. “I’ll have you know, that recipe’s been handed down in my family since long before the Civil War. As a matter of fact, my ‘Williams Old Plantation Sauce’ has won the gold medal for the last four years runnin’ at the World Championship of Barbeque contest that they hold over in Memphis.” Mr. Williams signaled for the mason jar and took a swig. He shook his head like he was being swarmed by invisible hornets. “Now this here,” he exhaled sharply. “Now this here is a whole differ’nt kind ’a sauce altogether.” He winked at Grandpa, and then with a sly grin, tried to pass the jar over to me. “Care to have a little snort with me, young man?” I stepped away, shaking my head, my hands held up to push it away. “Nooo! Sirrr!” I replied. Everyone, except for me, erupted with laughter. Mr. Williams turned to my Grandpa, “Hey, Dub, This young fella’ here has gotta’ be your grandson, am I right? I mean ‘cause he sure as hell ain’t no internal revenuer!” That really got the crowd rolling. I found myself laughing too. “That’s right, Mr. Williams, this here’s my grandson Jeffrey, and he ain’t here to bust up nobody’s still. No, he’s just here to pack a few beeves and hogs, just tryin’ to help his ol’ Granddad out some.” Granddad replied. I think I may have stood up just a little bit taller. Mr. Williams cocked his head slightly, and slowly rubbed his chin with one hand as he carefully deliberated. When he finally arrived at his decision, he said, “Well, young Jeffrey, you could probly’ do your very best by just 66

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tryin’ to not let yourself git’ runn’d over while yer’ a packin’ all them beeves and hogs. ‘Cause old Dub here, he is just about as stout as an old Missouri mule.” I flashed a quick (how the hell could he possibly know about that?) look over at my Grandpa, who only shrugged, and then replied, “Yes Sir, Mr. Williams, that is certainly true, but I’m also pretty sure that me and old Missouri mules got more in common than only that. You see, I’m just about as smart as an old mule, and nearly as good lookin’ as one.” With a broad smile, he added. “Say, Mr. Williams, how’s them ribs today? ‘Cause me and my grandson here, we been drivin’ all over and workin’ hard all day, and just waitin’ to tackle us a slab or two!” Mr. Williams replied, “Well, Dub, I guess we’ll just have to let young Jeffrey here be the judge.” “Fair enough, Mr. Williams, fair enough,” Granddad nodded. He turned to me, “Well, your honor, whad’ya say we get that truck unloaded and then have us a little rib dinner?” “Yes, sir!” I called out, while nearly running back to the ramp. We hurriedly unloaded three half-hogs, along with some cases of ribs and some pork shoulder roasts. We then made our way over to a long picnic table with a large platter piled high with meat, along with several place settings where Mr. Williams and the men were already waiting. Mr. Williams greeted us and handed us both a plate. “You’ll be glad to know that I have picked you and Jeffrey some fine slabs. There’s baked beans the missus’ sent in that big yeller crock along by that big pan of cornbread, and them Tupperware bowls are filled with tater salad and some coleslaw. Now you boys be sure and eat your fill, and there’s cold drinks over in the barrel there.” He paused, “Oh, and I’m givin’ you one last chance on that ‘shine, young Jeffrey?” “Thank you kindly, Mr. Williams, but if it’s all the same to you, I think I’ll just stick with one of these Yoo-Hoos,” I smiled, as I reached into the barrel filled with ice and a variety of beverages. “Very well, young man, very well, that’s more than likely 4 P.M. COUNT

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to be your wisest choice in the matter.” As we sat in the shade with the other men and enjoyed our feast, all the older men shared their stories about some monster catfish that got away, and a few that didn’t; an old tale about whiskey stills one had once run, and on at least one occasion also run away from; and even a stretcher about a great big water moccasin that didn’t bite, and a little bitty ex-wife that did. They all laughed uproariously at their own misfortunes, and teased one another without any mercy, but without any malice as well. This only seemed to prove, after all, that not even that mighty river ran quite as deeply as their friendships did. We finished our plates, and as we slowly made our way back to the truck, I turned back and profusely thanked Mr. Williams for what was undoubtedly the finest barbeque I had ever tasted. Standing at his grill, he turned his head and nodded. His attention had already returned to his pursuit of culinary perfection achieved daily, beside a little shotgun shack, on an unmarked country road, in the middle of an uninhabited swamp. As we pulled away, I turned and watched him until he disappeared around the bend. I was pretty certain that just like that little juke-joint out in the middle of nowhere, there was also a whole lot more than just what meets the eyes to Mr. Freeman Williams III. Riding back in the truck, the combination of torpor from our heavy meal and exhaustion from packing tons of beef soon had me fast asleep. It was only after he turned the key off in the packinghouse parking lot and I sensed the absence of the engine’s vibrations did I begin to awaken. I vaguely heard him setting the parking brake. Then he said, “Well Jeffrey, there is kind’a somethin’ else that I been wantin’ to talk with you about.” Suddenly, I was very wide awake. “Yes, sir,” I replied, my voice sounded as thin as a ribbon. He turned to face me and waited for my eyes to meet his. He exhaled deeply. “Well, I guess the place to start would be the war. I know I’ve really never talked about it much, but back during in the war, I fought over there in the 68

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Pacific against the Japanese. And the Japanese, well they fought us like all hell; they even whipped us pretty good for a couple of years. We finally turned things around at the big battle of Midway. “I saw a movie about Midway; our Navy sank three of their big aircraft carriers, and then their airplanes couldn’t land, and so most of them just crashed down into the sea,” I interjected. He continued. “Yes, that battle pretty much won the war, but the Japanese didn’t quit, not by a long shot,” he added, “No, they made us fight for every danged island, all the way back to Japan. We’d land on some little rock and they’d be dug in or else hidin’ back in the caves where we couldn’t bomb. We’d have ‘em outnumbered ten to one, and they’d fight us down to the last man. We’d go in them caves to clear ’em out, and there’d be little piles of bones from where those guys was so starved out they was eatin’ the cave bats. Sometimes they’d be out of ammunition, and come runnin’ and screamin’ out of them caves, tryin’ to fight us with only their Samurai swords against our machine guns.” “You mean kinda’ like those kamikaze pilots I watched in that movie?” I asked. “Yes, exactly like that,” he nodded. “Anyhow, we drove ‘em back, and kept on drivin’ ‘em back, until finally the war had come to the first real Japanese island, a place called Okinawa. Now by then the Germans had already surrendered in Europe, and we had pretty much taken back the whole Pacific. So the Japanese Emperor had to know the war was lost. President Truman called for surrender, but the Emperor refused, and so we invaded Okinawa. That battle was some of the fiercest fightin’ of the entire war. Most of it was hand to hand combat, and both sides took a massive amount of casualties. For thirteen weeks we threw everything we had at ‘em. Eventually, we wiped out every last man on that island, all the way down to the eight- and ten-year-old boys. Only the women and small children were still alive. They had retreated back to some high cliffs that faced the ocean, and couldn’t retreat any further. With the 4 P.M. COUNT

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battle over, we pulled back and just watched and waited. Then our air corps flew over and dropped thousands of little paper fliers written in the Japanese language.” “What did the fliers say?” I asked. “They said that the battle was over, they didn’t have to be afraid anymore, that no harm would come to them or their children, and that they would all be given food and medical care by the Red Cross. Then some cargo planes came in low and they parachuted some jeeps, along with some pallets of supplies. Two APC ‘ducks’ disembarked from a ship and landed on the beach. Out popped a bunch of Red Cross nurses, so then all us GIs started cheerin’ like it was the World Series, ‘cause we hadn’t seen any females for months, and especially no American girls.” “Well, after all, you fellas were all red-blooded American boys, right?” I smiled. “That’s right, so anyhow the nurses were all there to drive the jeeps. That was in the rules for the Red Cross, no soldiers and no guns. Some corpsmen loaded the jeeps with all the food and medical supplies. The nurses got in ‘em, and started ‘em up and began to move out. When they started to get closer, the Japanese women started pickin’ up all the children and then throwin’ ‘em off the cliffs. Some others held on to their own babies and jumped.” “What? They did what?” I gasped, “Oh My God! That must have been horrific!” “Yes, it was terrible, so terrible.” His voice trailed away, as if he were someplace else. He stared out the window. After a moment, He looked up again, as if surprised to see me. He started speaking again, his voice a whisper. “There was GIs cryin’ all up and down the lines.” Tears ran down his cheeks. I placed both my hands on top of his hand resting on the gear shift, and said nothing. He looked down at my hands resting on his, and gave me a tight smile. He took out a handkerchief and wiped his tears away. He continued. “So after Okinawa, we were in this huge armada, dozens of warships waiting to invade the main island of Japan. We waited offshore for eight weeks building 70

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up the forces; even the brass were talking about how tough that invasion was gonna’ be, probably even worse than Normandy. Well, the USO radio news kept talkin’ ‘bout how the big brass was negotiatin’ with the Japanese to surrender. But us guys who had been fightin’ ‘em a long time, we knew better. And after Okinawa, I guess Truman must have known it too. He unleashed the most terrible weapon the world has ever known: the atomic bomb. The atomic bomb was the only way to force the Japanese to surrender, and to finally end that terrible war. “It must have been awful, what you had to go through.” I said quietly. “Well it wasn’t just me you know, it was all us boys that fought in that war, and we were all boys after all, most of us not much older than you are. But what I want you to know isn’t the ‘what’, so much as the ‘why’ of it all. You see the ‘why’ isn’t in the movies or even in the history books. I need you to understand the ‘why’ we had to drop those bombs.” He waited. I thought over everything he had said for a moment. I answered. “I understand we had no choice in fighting that war the Japanese had attacked us first. That in order to force them into surrender, we had to completely destroy their military and not only that, we had to break their will to fight, and that could only be done by using the total devastation of the atomic bombs.” “That’s right. That’s why we had to do it.” He nodded and picked up his tobacco and put a dip in his mouth. “After the surrender, I was in the occupational forces, stationed at Hiroshima.” “Hiroshima!” I gasped. ”You mean the Hiroshima? Where the bomb hit?” “Yes, I was there. The city was completely leveled for miles around. Over 100,000 Japanese civilians were dead and of the Japanese that survived the blast, many were burned so badly that their skin literally turned black and just peeled off of them in sheets, and they were all so sick you could just see it in their eyes, and some of them took 4 P.M. COUNT

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weeks or even months to die.” “Weren’t you scared? I mean, even just to be there?” I asked. “Well, anyone could see how destructive the bomb had been, and the Japanese covered up from head to toe anytime they had to be outside, so we knew that they were plenty scared. But us GIs, I guess that we believed that after everything we had seen, and all that we’d already been through in that war, what was there really even left to be afraid of? I mean we were all just so happy that the war was finally over, and that we had all somehow made it through it, when so many other good men didn’t.” He stared out his window. “Are you OK, Grandpa?” I asked, barely above a whisper. “Well, you see, that’s the thing. A few months ago I started feelin’ pretty sick and I couldn’t seem to shake it, so I went to see the doctors down at the VA hospital, and they ran a bunch of tests and asked me a lot of questions, and finally after I told them I had been over in Hiroshima, they nodded and then they knew right away, and so they told me, that now I have cancer inside of my blood, a rare form of leukemia.” I interrupted. “You know they’re coming up with a lot of new things nowadays, new and different treatments, for a lot of different cancers. Maybe we could try….” He placed his hand on mine, and slowly shook his head to quiet me. He paused. ”This kind of leukemia is caused by radiation poisoning. There’s nothing they can do. There is no cure for this kind. That’s one of the reasons why I asked you to come today. Well, one reason was just to spend some time together, but the other reason was that I wanted to ask a favor of you?” “Yes, sir.” I said. I stared into his eyes, then added, “Anything.” “So when my time comes, I want you to promise me you will look after your grandmother for me, and just be there for her.” He waited. 72

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“Yes, sir, I give you my word.” He smiled, and nodded his acceptance. I cocooned my arms tightly around me, and shivered, and then began to rock back and forth. I felt as if I just witnessed the sun come tumbling down, then falling out of the sky. “Grandpa,” I implored. Tears streamed down my face as I trembled. My grandfather wrapped his powerful arms around me and hugged me. I sensed all of his strength and all his love flowing into me. Finally, I calmed enough to stop shaking. “Damn that war, and damn that bomb!” I spat out, overcome with anger and bitterness. He said, “Well you know, I’ve been all through it myself these last few months, and at first I was pretty angry too, but then I realized somethin’. You see, that war got a lot of good men, millions of good men. I guess it finally got me too. But of all of those millions of good men that terrible war got, I must have surely been the luckiest!’ I leaned back and looked up at him without comprehending. He continued. ”I mean, I was so very lucky to be able to spend all these wonderful years with your grandma. I was so lucky to get to help raise your momma, and your Aunt Rhonda and Uncle Alan. I was so lucky to walk my darling daughter down the aisle, and to dance with her on her wedding day, and to be able to teach you and Alan how to fish and how to hunt. I was lucky enough to see the births of all my strong healthy grandsons, and all my beautiful sweet granddaughters. You see, no one else, of all those millions of good men, got any of that. No one else was as lucky as I was! No one else got to spend fifty years with our family.” I nodded slowly and tried my very best to return my very broken smile back to him. He nodded and then reached over, and wiped away my last remaining tear, and then he ruffled my hair. Suddenly I felt like I was eight years old again, headed out to go fishing with my grandpa. He started to gather up his things for the ride home. We locked the doors, then as we started across the gravel lot, 4 P.M. COUNT

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toward his pickup, he slowed and turned to me, “So I was thinkin’ that maybe if you want to, maybe this weekend we could load up the johnboat and do a little crappie fishin’, and maybe your uncle Alan could come with us.” “Yes, sir” I replied. “I would like that; I would like that very much.” This story is dedicated to my Great-Grandfather, Herman Walker; to my grandfathers, Francis ‘Frank’ Duncan and Walter ‘Dub’ Niswonger, all decorated veterans of World War II; and to all the brave men and women of our greatest generation. “All of you gave something; a great many of you gave everything.”

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Borden Barrows Borden Barrows, a husband and father, spent his childhood along the New England shore, and as an adult lived in New York, Florida, and California. He is currently involved in the RDAP (Residential Drug Abuse Program) and works in the talking books program at FPC Yankton.

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GLORIA I watched you sit for hours at that table, playing hand after hand of solitaire. Allowing game after game to absorb your day after day, what were you waiting for? The table was unsteady at best, scarred and marred by neglect, cigarette burns scattered about, rust spots on the chipped chrome legs. It fit in well with our family. There you sat, in our dark kitchen, flipping cards and waiting. Playing a game for a single person who has nothing better to do with her time. Did you really think things would change? That someone would come along and rescue you, take you away to a better life? Were we that terrible? Did we somehow hurt you, just by being ourselves? I wondered how many cards you flipped. How many games you played sitting at that table, smoking cigarettes one after another, stubbing them out in your overflowing ashtray. All the while flipping those damn cards. And when I shut my eyes and think back, picturing you playing your waiting game, I realize you looked under the piles. “I’m just seeing what’s coming,” I can hear you saying. 76

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But that’s who you were. You cheated Dad out of a marriage. You cheated me out of a mom. Turns out you cheated yourself, at a simple game of cards.

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PERRIN You were like a magician, at least in my memories. Your ability to look at the world, to imagine it at its best, to set aside its evils. But that was your great failing too. Wearing your pleated day dress, your perfectly pressed apron and that blond hair helmet. I always worried your hair might shatter like spun glass. Thank God for VO-5. Did we really need Fluffernutter and frosting on our brownies? You certainly thought so. But you believed in excess: sweets and treats, cutesie names, your unconditional love. And then turning a blind eye to your husband’s perverse ideas of fatherhood. When it all finally fell apart, you never looked the same. Your nails were chipped, your pressed dress disheveled. Turns out our perfect family was what shattered. You asked us to forgive him. Begged us to speak to him, even though the court forbade it. But you were seduced by your own denial, a magician caught in her own spell.

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STORY OF BOB The following is an extraction from a longer piece entitled “Once Around the Carousel.” The trail Bob MacCalaster left worming his way through life began in Youngstown, OH. The year was 1928. He entered into the world through a room in a boardinghouse for women employed by the local “entertainment” industry. The ceiling’s pitch made the room effectively smaller than what would one day be his daughter’s closet, and in lieu of a door, a sheet hung across the jamb – deficiencies that a vent running up from the kitchen easily outweighed. The airway kept the small space warm and continually smelling of chicken and dumplings. Bob’s mother, Dahlia Jacobs, gave birth on a cot with stains proving it had known this duty in the past. Beside her for encouragement sat her roommate for nearly three years, Sally Krenwinkle. And directing the blessed event was Ruth Cushing, a local midwife. A small woman well past sixty, Ruth had tended to hundreds of births over the years – several in that very room. This one, however, piqued her interest. A versatile woman, Ruth had tried her level best six months earlier to purge Dahlia of the circumstance to which she now attended. To her credit, Ruth did everything in her power to rid the world of Bob. “Mr. Carson, I done all I know how,” she told Leonard Carson, proud owner of Northeast Ohio’s slickest comb-over, and proprietor of the Emerald Palace, the speakeasy and gaming establishment where Dahlia worked. “God knows that poor darling gave up enough blood. I have no idea why she didn’t let go of that baby. I surely don’t.” But Bob-to-be proved a survivor. Despite her valiant efforts, Bob found a perch, clung tight, and avoided a bayonetting from the business end of Ruth’s knitting needle. Now, five months later, he came into the world, very 4 P.M. COUNT

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much on his own terms. Bob slid into his place in Youngstown society at nine plus pounds. Ruth’s estimate, as the boardinghouse didn’t exactly qualify as an obstetrics ward. Bob evidently held no grudge against the women who conspired against him. He came forth with a full head of slicked-back black hair, blue eyes, and appeared to be smiling. “He’s mine?” Dahlia asked, holding up a fistful of her curly, sweat drenched red hair as evidence. “Pretty sure,” Sally said, laying him face down on Dahlia’s chest. Dahlia had arrived in Youngstown three years earlier, after fleeing lower Appalachia at her first opportunity. The Gilded Age had never quite arrived in her family’s swath of America, and they remained poor. “Dirt floor poor,” Dahlia would later tell friends. In truth, the Jacobs family moved frequently, usually in response to problems her father Lester created, and their living status often rose to that of a wood-planked floor. However, it always stayed beneath the luxurious standards of indoor plumbing. No stranger to hard work, Dahlia helped her parents eke out a living from as early an age as she could. She helped in the garden, in the house, and worked alongside her mother in the cotton fields when the family headed south during planting and harvest seasons. Her mother was only sixteen when she gave birth to Dahlia, and bore no more children. She did, however, undergo a series of miscarriages, usually the handiwork of Lester’s fist. “The Good Lord just stopped putting babies in there,” Dahlia’s mother told her. In God’s defense, the success rate ran unpleasantly low, and her parents were not doing a bang-up job with the one he initially bestowed upon them. Lester Jacobs, ostensibly a coal miner, more often embodied the role of an angry drunk. He possessed a strong back, limited mind, foul mouth, and unbounded ability to foster hate. His overall contempt for humanity rivaled his penchant to blame others for the myriad of wrongs he accused the world of sending his way. His list of those 80

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plotting against him included: Yankees, blacks, bosses, police, the government, and soon after the family settled somewhere, his neighbors. Lester typically spread his vitriol quite evenly. Unfortunately, he slung the anger’s resulting violence at his wife, and after she’d grown old enough to absorb her fair share, at his daughter Dahlia. With bales of red hair, blue eyes, and the fair skin to match, Dahlia grew up to be a big girl—five feet, ten inches tall and country strong, but still able to be prettied-up when the need arose. Lester set his sights on her shortly after her thirteenth birthday, taking a more direct interest in his daughter than the Bible recommended. Throughout her life, Dahlia had seen her mother beaten senseless in every way imaginable, and decided if a man was going to use her, it should be nominally on her own terms. She darn well wanted more in return than harsh words, the occasional black eye, and in time, his child. Dahlia knew another girl who escaped to Youngstown, and rumors came back that she was getting by. So, one night as Lester lay passed out on Dahlia’s straw pallet, she took twenty dollars in crumpled bills from his pants pocket. Leaving it to her mother to settle accounts, Dahlia Jacobs set out into the world at fifteen. Youngstown of the mid-1920s was booming. Steel mills and heavy industry owned the day, with an exceptionally seedy nightlife taking over after sundown. Speakeasies flaunted their existence, operating without even the semblance of a front. On any given night, a person could walk into a nightclub, watch a show, and have a drink with the mayor, chief of police, and a wide variety of underworld figures, often all sitting together at the same table. A young girl arriving into this environment did not have to work hard to lose her way. In Dalia’s case, passably pretty, with a figure that knew how to fill out a dress, it happened in the train station. Mrs. Shirley Perkins, who managed a girls’ boardinghouse, made it her business to meet incoming trains personally, particularly trains coming up from coal country. She spotted the obvious runaway immediately. 4 P.M. COUNT

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Mrs. Perkins assured Dahlia she could find her work at one of the local “Socializing Clubs,” and until Dahlia started, she would be more than welcome to stay with her girls in the boardinghouse. Mrs. Perkins’ girls made Dahlia feel at home instantly, and setting morality and self-esteem issues aside, she enjoyed her life in Youngstown. The girls shared meals, clothes, and life’s triumphs and setbacks, all assuming a role in their quasi-family. The older, like Sally, looked out for the younger; the strong watched over the weak. They wore beaded dresses, cut their hair short as the fashion decreed (except for Dahlia, whose red curls were assessed as far too valuable), and danced the Charleston until dawn. The girls’ nights of dancing on a parquet floor to a band in tuxedos ended in one of two ways. They could return to the boardinghouse, an aesthetic downgrade as it originally served as housing for railroad workers. Their other option, if arrangements had been made with Mr. Carson, was to spend the night with a gentleman in one of the plush rooms above The Emerald Palace. Dahlia met Bob’s father, Robert Fitzsimmons, eighteen months prior to Bob’s arrival. A big, good-looking man from a well-heeled family in Chicago, he fell in way over his head venturing into Youngstown’s nightlife. For those from Chicago, the Ohio mill town amounted to a serious step down civility’s ladder. Robert however, had always feared venturing out in his hometown, afraid that anything he did might leak back to his very conservative, very religious parents. Robert worked as an architect, having studied engineering at Notre Dame. He arrived in Youngstown to inspect the production of steel for the firm he worked with, McAlester and Partners. Sending Robert on an inspection trip became something of a joke within the firm. Inspection trips were necessary. Left unchecked, foundries notoriously cut corners with building collapses the inevitable result – a bad outcome for a firm’s reputation. Still, the firm’s partners treated the trips as a reward. Everyone knew the mill 82

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owners in Youngstown took young engineers out on the town the night before inspections. Their hopes that a strong hangover, with the intense heat and noise of the foundry, would make for less than thorough inspections was a timetested strategy. In Robert’s case, his colleagues considered the inspection trips and the debauchery they entailed wasted on him. After the first night they met, which coincided with the loss of Robert’s virginity, he began contacting Dahlia before coming to town. He would send a Western Union to the boardinghouse telling her the date and time of his arrival, sometimes accompanied by flowers or a small gift. He even started taking time off from work and coming on weekends to be with her. Getting permission from Mr. Carson to spend the night at Robert’s hotel, Dahlia collected money, telling him, “I need to pay for someone to replace me at work.” The money went to Mr. Carson, and without much else to do, Robert took her shopping. The relationship’s opaque nature left everyone happy, and even under duress, all involved would have dubbed it something less than prostitution. Robert called Dahlia his girlfriend, and she introduced him as her boyfriend from Chicago. The arrangement left no external scarring and allowed Robert to feel the part of a Gatsby. When Dahlia realized she was pregnant, she harbored no doubts of the offending party’s identity, or the solution. The girls had suffered through a slow couple of months, during which Robert visited several times. And they at least tried to “dodge the stork” as they jokingly called it. Nonetheless, accidents happened. As for what she intended to do, no confusion there either. Many of the girls had used Ruth Cushing’s services. After a few weeks rest, they were all up and about, right as rain, dancing with a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other. As for the moral considerations, she washed those from her mind. The idea of abortion weighing out evenly against there being no marriage, no proposal, and no legitimate prospects as far as the eye could see. 4 P.M. COUNT

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A month after the procedure, Bob-to-be was still most definitely alive, and now actively kicking. Ruth however, made it clear she neither could nor would help Dahlia terminate her problem. “There’s nothing else you can do? You can’t try again?” Dahlia pled, wanting the child cleared from her womb like the ashes from a stove. “Oh, no dear child, there’s nothing we can do now. I am, after all, a Christian woman. No, all we can do is wait and pray for the best. Don’t worry dear; I’ll be with you when the child comes. I’ve brought many a baby into this world.” The Emerald Palace lacked anything in the way of a maternity plan for their entertainment girls. Mr. Carson paid Ruth for her original services, for which he already felt cheated. Therefore, when Dahlia came to him asking what she should do, she encountered the harshest of Dutch Uncles. “…and, I’m afraid you’ll no longer be able to stay at Mrs. Perkins’ house, that is, unless you make arrangements with her directly,” Mr. Carson said with his back turned to Dahlia, as he looked down on the bar and gaming tables from his second floor office’s balcony. “But where will I go? What can I do?” “That is entirely up to you, my dear. You’re a smart girl, aren’t you? I’m sure you know better than to try and make this my problem. Maybe you should go back to your family and have your baby.” “But I can’t. I don’t even know where my parents are,” she said, tears starting to fall. Her emotions began wearing on Mr. Carson’s notoriously thin patience. “That too, is none of my concern,” he said, tapping a button on the floor with his toe, signaling one of his men to come in and escort Dahlia out. For the rest of Dahlia’s pregnancy, Sally and the girls at Mrs. Perkins’ took her under their collective wing. With her bed no longer paid for by The Emerald Palace, she slept in whoever’s lay empty. And when the girls were taken out to dinner, they had their untouched meals sent over to Dahlia. 84

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Mrs. Perkins pitched in too, by ignoring what were clear violations of the boardinghouse’s rules. Sending letters to “boyfriends” constituted a cottage industry for Youngstown’s entertainment girls. The clubs paid living expenses and not much more. Therefore, shaking down the men they met amounted to their primary source of income. The girls spent their afternoons doing each other’s hair and make-up, thinking up sob stories and tales of desperation. If a particular story worked well, the other girls tried it on their “boyfriends,” keeping careful lists of stories so as not to duplicate their efforts. The cows back home can die only so often, and the cotton crop realistically fails but once a year. Overall, they painted a grim picture of the state of American agriculture. Playing on men’s sympathies hung as a balancing act for the girls. When complaints filtered back to Mr. Carson, especially from influential politicians or someone connected to one of his various enterprises, there would be hell to pay. In most cases, it amounted to little more than Mr. Carson demanding the money for himself. Every so often though, a girl crossed the line, a line they unfortunately had no ability to see. On a couple of occasions, girls were “sent back home,” never to be heard from again. At forty-three, Sally Krenwinkle was the eldest of the group’s big sisters, and on the downward slide of her career path in Youngstown. She more than made up for her loss of youthful zest by offering her impeccable writing skills to the other girls. Sally’s prose flowed with passion, and her penmanship leapt from the page as a thing of beauty. She helped many of the girls with their letters, taking twenty cents on the dollar from whatever they received. Most of Mrs. Perkins’ girls lacked anything in the way of formal education; Dahlia’s consisted of nothing beyond short stints in one-room schoolhouses. The men being played knew the girls they met weren’t geniuses. In many cases, naiveté was their defining charm, and their writing should realistically resemble a child’s. Still, the delicate, if unlikely, handwriting 4 P.M. COUNT

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of an educated woman, dabbed with the scent of perfume, always got the best results. Dahlia had asked Robert for financial assistance twice, and both times he came through like a champ. A man of tender heart, he lived in desperate fear of his Youngstown escapades coming back to haunt his untarnished life in Chicago. Sally Krenwinkle took out her best fountain pen, her finest stationery, and began to compose. She used strategically misspelled words, just the right amount of perfume, “not too much silly, you’re pregnant,” and a smudge from tears. Once done, she declared it her finest work. The letter told Robert that Dahlia was pregnant and didn’t know where to turn, that she loved him and desperately needed his help. At the bottom of the page, Sally listed three arrival times for trains from Youngstown. It definitely qualified as the kind of trick Mr. Carson told Sally not to pull, the type she saved for the most desperate of situations. Based on the response, Sally’s “I’m pregnant, with arrival times” letter became an instant classic. One week after she sent it, Dahlia received a letter from Robert by special courier. Written on heavy unlined paper, in the perfect block letters of a draftsman, were two simple lines: “It is best if you not come.” and “I am terribly sorry.” The note came wrapped around two hundred dollars in cash, more money than Dahlia ever imagined having at one time. Robert never returned to Youngstown, always begging out of further inspection trips, occasionally paying other engineers to take his place. He quickly married a good, upstanding girl of his parents’ choosing, and considered himself lucky, taking to his grave the knowledge that he fathered a child in Youngstown, OH. When her son remained in the Bob-to-be stage, Dahlia intended to put him up for adoption. Certainly not the first in her current line of work to get pregnant, Dahlia knew of an orphanage in Pittsburgh that other girls had taken their babies to. Nuns ran the home and so long as the girl bringing the baby looked remorseful, they asked no 86

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questions. “Are you sure you don’t want me to come with you?” Sally asked, as Dahlia packed to leave, only a week after giving birth. “No. I got myself into this; I suppose I have to get myself out of it.” “I just don’t like the idea of you traveling alone. Well, I guess you won’t be alone,” Sally said, reaching out and touching the baby’s cheek. “But you’ll be coming back alone. That’s what worries me.” “I’ll be fine. You stay here. I’ll be back in three days. Promise.” Setting out for Pittsburgh, Dahlia had been nursing the baby since his arrival, and everyone but she recognized the growing attachment. The girls spent much of their time in Mr. Carson’s casino, and all set the odds of Dahlia coming back somewhere south of fifty/fifty. Sally originally argued in her favor, but changed her mind after looking through the belongings Dahlia left. Her three favorite dresses and all the jewelry Robert gave her were gone. So too was Dahlia. By the time Dahlia got off the train in Pittsburgh, she had convinced herself to stay for two weeks, rationalizing it as being in the best interest of her still unnamed son. Using the money Robert gave her, she found a boardinghouse in a nice part of town. It was a very different living situation from her home in Youngstown; the owner, Mrs. Taylor, was a wiry, older woman with a tight bun of gray hair. Her face appeared cold and pursed, but to those who knew her, it betrayed a warm heart. Even with all her time in Youngstown, Dahlia remained an unaccomplished liar. She tried to think of an elegant sounding name when introducing herself; and remembered Robert’s business card, but not his last name. “I’m Dahlia, Dahlia McAlester, and this is my son Bob. We’d like to stay a short spell.” “Oh, well, that will be just fine,” Mrs. Taylor said, sliding a registration book towards Dahlia. Sally had done her best to teach Dahlia to write, but under the stress, Dahlia 4 P.M. COUNT

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stumbled and added letters to her new last name. From that day forward, she and her previously unnamed son became MacCalaster. “Surely, you could not possibly be traveling alone with such a young child. Where’s the dear boy’s father?” she asked, cooing into Bob’s blue eyes. Was she travelling alone? The question brought a pause, and again Dahlia scrambled for an answer. People posed similar questions when she traveled north originally, and she gave a modified version of what she told them. “I’m afraid we are all alone, Mrs. Taylor; his father passed away. It’s just the two of us now. I came here to try and find my late husband’s family.” Mrs. Taylor reached out with hands craving to cradle an infant, and took the newly named Bob. “Well, let’s get you settled into a nice room on the second floor so you and my friend here don’t have to walk up too many stairs,” she said, noting Dahlia wore no ring and carried only a single satchel. All signs in her mind that Dahlia was either withholding something, or more probably, lying entirely. The idea of turning them out, however, never crossed Mrs. Taylor’s mind. “And you’re in luck. I believe there’s a bassinet down in the cellar.” The obvious differences between the two boardinghouses struck Dahlia at first notice. At Mrs. Perkins’, in a front room with threadbare furniture and paint peeling from the walls, the girls practiced bawdy Sophie Tucker songs at an upright piano in the afternoon, whereas Mrs. Taylor’s parlor contained fine furniture, beautiful carpets and papered walls. A bookshelf held volumes of classics, and on a side table, Dahlia saw a spread of highbrow magazines. There was a Victrola in the corner, but the surroundings gave her the suspicion the machine was incapable of playing jazz. Of course, in Youngstown, Mr. Carson or one of his associates paid the girls’ rent, and men came and went at all times of day or night, while at Mrs. Taylor’s house, the girls all came from better circumstances. They worked at offices or in factories. And other than the occasional plumber or electrician, Dahlia assumed Bob 88

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to be the first member of his gender in twenty years to successfully venture past the sitting room. Dahlia made a good show of looking for her mythical dead husband’s family. She also walked by the address for the orphanage. Some days she carried Bob past several times, but Dahlia held her boy tight to her chest. After a couple of weeks, when she grew comfortable with Mrs. Taylor, she let the charade fade and asked if she could stay. “I think I’d like to stay here longer than the two weeks we spoke about when I first got here,” she told Mrs. Taylor. “Why, that would be fine, my dear girl,” responded Mrs. Taylor, diplomatically waiting to say anything else, desperately trying to keep Dahlia from telling another lie. “I’ve talked to some of the girls, and they said I could get a job doing polishing work at the enameling plant where they work.” “And what of our little friend here?” Mrs. Taylor asked, holding Bob, who slept in her arms. “You know, maybe I could watch over him during the day, just while you’re at work, of course.” “Would you? Would you do that? I’d help you out; I’d do chores when I got home at night. I mean, when I get back here after work.” Mrs. Taylor, who had become borderline possessive of Bob, thought the plan perfect, and for the first year the arrangement went off without a hitch. Dahlia’s factory job took little out of her, and she helped with household chores at night when she got home. Living at Mrs. Taylor’s was the happiest she had ever been. Shame ceased running roughshod over her other emotions, and she no longer shied away from mirrors. She lived as something between staff and a resident, but all the girls treated her like a little sister. Politely, everyone remained silent on Dahlia’s past or the details of Bob’s origins. The girls lived in something of a sisterhood, the way the girls in Youngstown did, except they didn’t need the bonding to block out the things Dahlia now tried to purge from her memory. One of the girls, who worked as the schoolteacher, even began teaching her to 4 P.M. COUNT

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read, write, and do basic math. Then came the crash. The Great Depression struck Pittsburgh like a sledgehammer smashing crystal. Overly dependent on the steel industry, the city’s prosperity relied on the nation’s building and expansion. By 1930, unemployment plagued the entire city, and Dahlia, along with twenty-five percent of the male and nearly all of the female work force, was without work. As a child, Dahlia may not have learned her ABCs, but she received an advanced degree in poverty. Surrounded by it since childhood, she understood the grinding effect scarcity placed on people and their families. She went to bed hungry many a night as a child, with no reason to imagine conditions improving the following day. So, when her savings ran dry, and it became obvious Mrs. Taylor was going without so she and Bob could eat, Dahlia looked for other options. Dahlia married the first of Bob’s stepfathers just after her son’s second birthday. Jerry Palouski lived in Polish Hill, an adjacent, working-class neighborhood. Ten years her senior, Jerry worked for a local butcher and met Dahlia when she began running errands for Mrs. Taylor. The word most commonly coming to people’s minds when they saw Jerry was thick. Physically? Of course. Intellectually? Certainly. Even his accent, which he picked up from his immigrant parents and the neighborhood he grew up in, was thick. He worked as a butcher’s assistant, did construction during the boom years, and like most able-bodied men in Pittsburgh, Jerry put in his time at the steel mills. Neither kind nor cruel, he saw their marriage as one of convenience rather than a pact bound and tied together by love. He did have a job though, and a willingness to take in Dahlia and Bob. A Yinzer through and through, from May to September, his beloved Pittsburgh Pirates reigned as his sole concern. On summer afternoons, Jerry sat in a frayed wing chair next to his apartment’s lone window, listening to games on his prized possession, an RCA radio. He focused as a man 90

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listens to a great lecture, unwilling to miss a single utterance for fear a kernel of information might slip past. Functionally illiterate, Jerry nonetheless could quote statistics for any player on the team from his slow ingestion of each game. Should Jerry miss a game, which much to his consternation happened on occasion, he sat in the same chair, studying the box score from The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Taking approximately the same length of time it took to play, Jerry imagined the game. Play by play, he relived it inning by inning, deciphering the words and numbers, adding them to the totals he kept in his head. Once the season ended, on through to April, like the bear of a man he was Jerry went into a hibernation of sorts. His survival instincts slowed him down, telling him to stay reasonably drunk, and as warm as possible. A year after they married, in the trough of the depression, Jerry lost his job. In those years, a man stood little chance of finding work again. He became like a downed animal on a mass migration. Given up for dead, the rest of the herd would silently walk around him, as they pushed forward in hopes of making it to greener pastures. When the baseball season ended, Jerry left the only city he’d ever known. Never having ventured more than twenty miles from the confluence of the city’s three rivers, he went south, intent on joining one of the New Deal’s works programs. Jerry had earnestly promised to send money as soon as he found work, but after three hard-fought months, Dahlia lost faith and filed abandonment papers. No one in Pittsburgh ever heard from him again. Whether poor, simple Jerry was dead or alive, or ever found the works projects, remained unknown. Perhaps he went hobo, riding the rails with Woody Guthrie. Or maybe, overshooting his target in Tennessee, found the Pirates’ spring training camp in Florida and mistook it for heaven. In Mrs. Taylor’s opinion, when Dahlia moved back into the boardinghouse, Jerry simply got lost. Mostly, she was pleased to have Bob, who by then had started calling her Mrs. Momma Taylor, back under her roof. 4 P.M. COUNT

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Dahlia’s second go-round with holy matrimony came about more from desire and lust than circumstances and convenience. Zeke Erskins had grown up a couple blocks from Mrs. Taylor’s. Good-looking, save his jug-handle ears, he was tall and lanky, hyperactive and loud, and never called Dahlia anything but Red, creativity being one of the patches Zeke’s gene pool seemed to lack. Dahlia liked him though. They had fun together and he made her laugh. He liked to drink and dance, and equal to all his other qualifications, he held a steady job at the city’s power plant. “Zeke, I’ve known you since you wore diapers. I may have even changed you a time or two for all I can remember,” Mrs. Taylor told him and everyone else in the sitting room one evening when he came to pick up Dahlia. “And if you try and get fresh or forward with one of my girls, especially young Bob’s mother, I’ll skin you myself. Then, I‘ll go and have a talk with your grandmother. You understand me, young man?” “Aw, Mrs. Taylor, what’d you take me for? I’m just takin’ Red to the pictures.” “All right then, what theater are you going to?” “We’re going to the Savoy, up by the University.” “Well, that’ll be just fine. Elizabeth and Duncan’s boy Willy works there as an usher. And Zeke, you just remember, that boy’s a lot more fearful of me than he is of you. Now you two go along and have fun.” Mrs. Taylor’s dressing down of Zeke tickled Dahlia to no end. Certainly, it came as a far cry from the standard marching orders issued when a man came to take a girl out for the night in Youngstown. “We can always go somewhere else if you want,” Dahlia said as they walked away from the house. “You’re crazier than I am, Red. That woman will definitely check up on us. I’d never be able to look my grandmother in the eye again.” After a quick courtship, Dahlia was married off again. This time, Dahlia and Bob were living right down the block above Zeke’s aunt and uncle’s bakery, a situation Mrs. Taylor 92

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found much more to her liking. Sadly, Dahlia’s marital bliss proved short-lived. She and Bob had been with Zeke for three months when a knock on the door ruined everything. There had been an accident at the power plant and Zeke was gone. Dahlia and Bob were settling into what felt to be a real life. Bob had even started calling Zeke “Papa.” For the first time in his life, Bob had a male influence, and fate chose to snatch it away. Dahlia picked up Bob, and, crying the whole way, carried him to Mrs. Taylor’s. “You poor thing, I heard what happened,” Mrs. Taylor said, taking Bob from her arms. “What’s going to happen to me, to my son?” “Well dear, you’ll just have to move back here and try again.” Dahlia received Zeke’s death benefits from the city, and giving the money to Mrs. Taylor, moved back in. While Bob liked Zeke, for him, the boardinghouse was home. He returned to what he’d grown to expect, a life of near constant mollycoddling. His mother, Mrs. Taylor, and the other residents all eagerly fawned over him, reading him stories, giving him baths, tucking him in at night and fulfilling his every whim. For two more years, Dahlia and Bob lived in the boardinghouse. The Depression, if anything, got worse. The American population looked on as authorities in Washington tried combinations of fixes, hoping and praying to stumble on something to bring the country out of its malaise. Unemployment became routine, eating away at people’s meager savings. The economy was insatiable, taking, taking, and offering little in return. Dahlia had given Mrs. Taylor everything Robert gave her, and what she received as Zeke’s widow. And the few times she found work, nothing lasted. Not knowing what else to do, her thoughts again turned to marriage. Dahlia had met Austin Harrison even before she married Zeke. They shared a past of sorts, both coming out of the same area of the rural south, Appalachian coal country. They provided each other with comforting 4 P.M. COUNT

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touchstones: the accent, certain mannerisms, phrases here and there, that both Southerners dearly missed. For Dahlia, a part of the attraction also came from the pull, no matter how horrid the prior acts, that draws a woman back to a man like her father. Already fifty-one when they married, Austin’s face, his skin, his very being, showed the wear and tear of someone for whom working in Pittsburgh’s steel mills came as an environmental upgrade, and he certainly already had the cough. However, for Pittsburghers, living where snow fell in a gray slurry and transparency was not an inherent quality of the air, respiratory problems were defined as having stopped breathing outright. Anything less and you were just a complainer. While Austin’s health fell short of ideal, he made a good living as a foreman at one of Mr. Carnegie’s steel mills. He also owned his own house. Dark and meagerly furnished, the single story dwelling leaned into a steep hill, but it had a proper bedroom for Bob. No longer did Bob and his mother share a bed as they did at the boardinghouse, or a mat in the corner, the arrangement at Zeke’s single room apartment. A toddler living under Austin’s roof created problems from the start. All but impotent from a mining accident as a young man, he remained childless through two prior marriages. For Austin, a woman in the house meant having someone at his disposal. Bob also demanded a good deal of attention, having grown spoiled by the women in the boardinghouse. From the start, friction led to sparks, and as time went on, the sparks ignited a myriad of unrelated resentments. Prior to their marriage, Dahlia never saw Austin drink. Prohibition had been the law, and while many people, Zeke for instance, flaunted their disregard for the Eighteenth Amendment, Austin had not. Far from a teetotaler, his drinking just went on behind the closed doors of his home. It took less than a month for Dahlia to see him change. Austin could have a couple of drinks and everything remained fine. He would be funny, looser, even playing 94

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little games with Bob. Inevitably, he’d reach a plateau where the landscape changed. It’s the point Tennessee Williams described when Brick says he’s waiting for, “…the click in my head that makes me feel peaceful.” It is a release many drunks seek, providing them with the freedom for a far less stable version of themselves to take the reins. This version is unrestrained by the simple rules of decency, one that feels no necessity and no responsibility to stay within the bounds of social norms. Dahlia knew everything about these men—men like Austin, like her father—who drank solely to hear that infamous click. And she knew that click’s effects, saw them many a morning on her mother’s bruised and swollen face, and felt the click’s consequences in her own wounds, after having made the choice between rape or a beating. Everything in Dahlia and Austin’s otherwise tranquil home would be fine. Then, the pendulum would suddenly swing and their life would turn violent, most often arising out of some indiscriminate fault Austin found in Bob’s behavior, the misdirected jealousies of a grown man towards a small boy. Dahlia defended her son, the way her mother had for her, absorbing the brunt of Austin’s anger until he pounded it out of his system. Once the episode passed, wheezing as he tried to gain a full breath, Austin would pass out. The next day brought the predictable denials, followed by apologies, and vows never to let it happen again. There would be days without drinking, and slowly destiny returned, until after a month or so, came the inevitable next time. A little more than a year, or ten good solid beatings, after Dahlia married her abuser, Austin’s health failed in earnest. His coughing fits, more prolonged, ended with large, bloodied clots of phlegm. With his health declining, his drinking picked up, as did his frustration and corresponding anger. Dahlia begged him to see a doctor, but they both grew up with coal miners. Both knew exactly what it was and how little could be done. When Austin 4 P.M. COUNT

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finally did see a doctor, he received narcotic cough syrups that left him light-headed and weakened. It quickly got so bad he could no longer safely work at the mill. The day after one particularly disturbing night, when Austin had tried lashing out at Dahlia but could manage to do little more than slap at his wife, he came home and told Dahlia he’d lost his job. “Bob,” Dahlia said, taking her son by the hand, “I want you to go play in your room. Mr. Austin and I have to have a grown-up talk.” “Did we do something bad, momma? Is Mr. Austin mad? I don’t want him to hurt you, momma.” “Bob, just do what I say and go to your room.” Her son safely out of harm’s way, Dahlia took a bottle of cheap whiskey and two glasses from a glass-fronted cabinet. Sitting down with Austin at a small kitchenette table pushed against the wall, she poured two stiff drinks. “What are you going to do, Austin?” she asked, then drank her glass in one shot and refilled it. “I don’t know. I’m going to get another job at one of the other….” His wet, guttural hack erupted before he finished his sentence. Watching her husband cough, Dahlia drank a second glass in a single shot, trying to muster her courage and hoping to dull the pain she foresaw coming her way in the next few minutes. “Well, I doubt anyone’s gonna hire you now, not with your health the way it is,” she said, slipping into the syrupy southern accent she had spent eight years trying to hide. “I’m a goddamn foreman,” he choked out, before downing his own drink in an attempt to suppress the coughing. “Plenty of mills need me.” His emotional frustration, and the small amount of talking, brought forth another coughing fit, this time culminating in a huge ball of blood he spat into a saturated handkerchief. “Austin,” Dahlia drawled, her voice fully reverted to its Appalachian roots, “you know, with your health like this, darlin’, you’re of no more use than a negro.” 96

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“What did you say?” he growled, stunned, momentarily not coughing, teeming with racist rage. “It’s just that…. Well darlin’, a black man can put in a hard day’s work; and you can’t even do that anymore.” They were both from the south. Dahlia knew what she was saying, exactly what it meant, and what would happen next. “You dirty little whore!” he said, lunging at her and missing with his first swing, but connecting with his second, a harmless blow glancing off the back of her head. His exertion, too much for his lungs, produced a huge spasmodic hack, spraying bloody phlegm all over the shade of the one lamp in their otherwise sparsely furnished living room. Then bent at the waist, he panted and gagged with his hands on his knees. “Just look at you, no use to anyone.” Dahlia laughed at her choking husband. “You ain’t never been a man in the bedroom. Now you’re no use to nobody. Useless as a field hand with no fingers.” Still desperate for air, Austin lunged again, and Dahlia once more easily avoided his fists, laughing in his face. As Austin came staggering back, Lester Jacobs’ daughter drove her knee, with its twenty-five years of pent-up anger, into her husband’s crotch. Collapsing like a headshot buck, he gasped for air, choking on the blood from his lungs. As he lay balled up on the floor, Dahlia took a small pillow from the couch and placed it under the head of her semiconscious husband, then hurried to the kitchen. Returning with a long-handled spoon, dishtowel and his glass toppedoff, Dahlia knelt beside her husband. Gently, she lifted his head and poured the glass of whiskey down his throat. Again, he erupted. This time, whiskey mixed with blood spewed forth, splattering Dahlia in the face and covering the front of her blouse. Dahlia took the towel, and almost lovingly, started wiping off Austin’s face. Then, she shoved a corner of the damp rag into his mouth. As he gasped for a clean breath, Dahlia straddled him hard, her full weight expelling what little air his lungs still held. Using the wooden spoon’s 4 P.M. COUNT

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handle as a ramrod, she continued pushing the towel in further, forcing it down his throat. Convulsing beneath Dahlia’s weight, Austin’s arms and legs flailed wildly. Every time he opened his mouth trying to find a breath, Dahlia held his scruffy hair, pulled his head back, and shoved in more of the towel. Pushing harder, deeper with the butt end of the spoon, she applied pressure to the towel clogging his throat. It seemed to go on forever, but he stopped moving in under a minute and was dead in less than two. Still sitting atop her husband’s chest, Dahlia pulled the soiled dishrag from Austin’s throat, both she and it covered with blood, whiskey, and vomit. She then looked up and saw the innocent blue eyes of her son. “What did you do, momma? What did you do to Mr. Austin?” Bob asked, too shocked to cry, looking at his blood-splattered mother. “I told you to stay in your room, Bob.” “What happened to Mr. Austin?” he asked, inching closer to where his mother knelt over the body of her motionless husband as she attempted to clean the bloody bile out of his three-day beard. “Bob, go back to your room. I don’t want you to think about any of this. I have to go fetch a doctor to look at Mr. Austin.” “He’s not moving, momma. He’s not breathing.” “I know, Bob. Now look at me,” she said grabbing the boy, one hand on each shoulder, bringing her face, still splattered with blood, vomit and the stench of death, inches from his. “I had to help Mr. Austin die. Bob, I never want you to tell anyone what happened, what you saw. I don’t want you to think about this ever again. Do you understand me? Never talk to anyone about this.” “I understand, momma,” he said, trembling in shock. “I guess we have to move back to Mrs. Momma Taylor’s again, don’t we?” “That’s right, Bob, now go put on your shoes. I’m going to take you next door to Mrs. Haverhill’s. I have to get the doctor to look at Mr. Austin.” 98

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Dahlia wiped herself clean and changed. Taking Bob by the wrist, she walked to a neighbor’s, where she explained Austin had collapsed. She then walked to the office of the doctor who prescribed the cough syrup, and virtually dragged him to Austin’s small house. “He’s gone, dear,” the doctor told the grieving widow after little more than a cursory glance. “But he was just having a drink and started coughing. Then he fell down. I tried to help him, but….” She didn’t finish as she let the tears fall. “I’m sure you did everything you could. We both know he was very sick. It was just his time.” Dahlia faced no troubles from there, the doctor determining Austin’s cause of death as advanced lung cancer. Austin had worked at the mill for seventeen years. While still in the throes of the Great Depression, the country’s fight for workers’ rights was a very active movement, particularly in an industrial hub like Pittsburgh. As Austin’s window, Dahlia received one hundred dollars for every year of his service at the mill, a death benefit from the insurance policy he carried as a member of the union, and the proceeds from the sale of the house. “Of course, you two are going to move back in.” Mrs. Taylor told Dahlia. “I need someone to help me with everything. I’m getting too old to keep this place up alone.” “But what about Bob? He’s getting too old to share a room with me and a bathroom with all the girls upstairs.” “Of course, you’re right, dear. Bob will live on the ground floor with me. You can clear out the back storage room and our boy can stay there. He’ll need some privacy. I think we should plan on you staying here. Maybe like me, marriage isn’t for you.” And there Bob MacCalaster lived until he went away to college, cared for by his mother and Mrs. Taylor in a small apartment on the ground floor, and his ten to fifteen aunties living upstairs.

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Marcus Long Marcus Long, PhD, joined Mount Marty College as the eleventh president in 2015, after serving more than twenty years in a variety of higher education administrative positions at two institutions. From 2007-2015, President Long served successively as vice president for marketing and communications, chief of staff to the president, and vice president for administration at St. Louis College of Pharmacy, one of the oldest and largest colleges of pharmacy in America. He and his wife, Lisa, have twin teenage sons, Alex and Andrew.

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A LETTER FROM DR. MARCUS LONG Thank you all for taking the time to write after my visit to your creative writing class in May. I greatly enjoyed spending time with your creative writing class, and I’m glad you found my comments useful. No matter what our past has been, we all have redeeming values and we can positively change the world. The college exists to provide people—young and old, and from a variety of backgrounds—with an education and critical thinking skills so they can enjoy productive and enjoyable lives. As I reflect on the violence that has taken place around the country I pray that all of us could consciously work toward understanding the perspectives of others. I completely understand that many people have to be separated from society because of their actions, but I also believe that as a society we should do everything to give them the tools to succeed when they rejoin society. I pledge to continue working with prison ministries until I see some results. I appreciate the ideas about how to make MMC’s FPC program even stronger, and I’ve already started visiting with people in academic affairs about possibilities. Like you, I am trying to do the right thing each and every day. Anyhow, blessings to you on your journey and best wishes for continued success. Thanks again for taking the time to write. Marc

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ABBY KEFFLER REFLECTION: INMATE CHANGED MY LIFE I told myself I would walk into the room, sit next to another person and learn to draw. I would do all of this without nerves eating away at me. I had created a mantra, “Be positive, Abby. They are just like everyone else.” As I entered the prison, they asked for my driver’s license, I signed the book to receive my visitor’s badge, and got the rundown of what to talk about and what not to talk about: don’t talk about your personal life, don’t give them your contact information, you can’t leave anything for them, if you get uncomfortable with their questions let us know and we will talk to them, but don’t worry, they know their boundaries. I was walking through the halls and my nerves were on the rise. “They are people just like me, don’t worry,” I told myself time and time again. In all reality, they were not quite like me. I was able to walk away from this facility in a couple hours to return to my own dorm room, while each person I saw was wearing the same colored khaki uniforms with a white tag above his shirt pocket with his name on it, and he would return to his assigned room within the fences. I entered the art room, and hesitantly I found a seat in the back of the classroom. There was a man already working on his shading. I pulled out the hard plastic seat next to him, when he immediately stood up, greeting me with a smile and switched the chairs. He had been sitting in a padded office chair, the adjustable kind with wheels on the bottom. I thanked him as I accepted his kind gesture as he offered me another favor, his art supplies for the next hour. I looked around the room at my classmates, wondering how their experience was with their new art partners. My attention was drawn to the lady on the projector screen that was teaching us all how to draw a 102

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nose. I thought it was nice that I had the opportunity to learn alongside my new partner. I have loved to draw but I have never been particularly good at noses. The video ended and my partner delved right into conversation with me. In fact, the first thing he said to me was, “I suck at drawing.” He looked worried once he found out I was a Graphic Design major. It being their second class, I asked to see his work from the first class. He had two perfectly round and excellently shaded spheres on the page in his folder. I could tell he was proud of them and he thoroughly enjoyed the class, even if he claimed otherwise. My partner introduced himself as “Standinsky” but said I could call him “Inmate,” because according to him, its what everyone else calls him. This was a harsh reality to me, because everyone should be recognized by his or her name. I refused to call him “Inmate” and I explained that I did not want to be grouped into the same category as everyone else. As the hour went on we conversed about a variety of topics, and I laughed more in that hour than I had all day. One of the last things Standinsky said really stuck with me. He told me that I seem to be smart, “the honor roll type of student,” who has a lot of friends; I thanked him for his compliments, then he continued to tell me not to screw it up. He encouraged me to chase any dream that I have and to do it full force with the power that I have resonating in my heart. I thanked him for sharing his art supplies and helped him pack them up as the class was dismissed. I never would have guessed I would walk into the prison and leave with a changed heart after only an hour of drawing noses with a man who once was a stranger. This man is a person who I think I could call friend, but I will probably never see him again. I wish him all the best in the coming years. If I were to see him again, I would make it clear that he changed me in a way that is hard to explain. The greatest lesson I learned did not have anything to do with the noses on the pages; it was that each person is human and each has a background and history. Give each person you meet a chance, because that stranger might fill your life with laughter when you expect much less. 4 P.M. COUNT

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LEVI GOMEZ REFLECTION: THE UNIVERSITY OF PRISON: MY JOURNEY INTO THE HEART OF INMATE EDUCATION “It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.” This ingenuous quote comes from the South African revolutionary and former president Nelson Mandela, famed not only for his political activism and peace organization (along with more than 250 honors which followed including the Nobel Peace Prize) but also for his twenty-seven-year stint in some of South Africa’s most controversial prisons. Perhaps never has a quote been more relevant than in the chaos of the United States’ criminal justice system, which serves a quarter of the world’s imprisoned population today. I had read the statistics, I had listened to the plea of world leaders, and now it was time for me to see the truth for myself, and as mixed as my emotions might be until they settled, the truth of such prejudice was all but questionable. I had taken a course with Mount Marty College’s Dr. Jim Reese on Crime Film and Literature which would in turn give me the chance to meet with incarcerated felons at the Yankton Federal Prison Camp who were admitted for mostly harmless white collar crimes (if that is how you define harmless). Dr. Reese, who offered courses at this very prison for the inmates, had ensured our safety and proposed such a fervent interest in the visit to the camp that few might’ve been reluctant to do so. The first visit I had experienced a few years back in another of his courses was fine as I met with men who used art to formulate their own opinions on prison and the outside world from their 104

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cell room, yet it wasn’t until my second visit to the prison that I truly formed an admiration for felons who write like butter on bread with blank sheets and yellow pencils, who express stories and emotions with as much conviction as any writer could ever hope to achieve. So much so that I even contemplated entering the prison as an inmate myself. This might seem foolish and ignorant—it is simply my way of saying that given the time these men are forced to face with long years ahead of them, they are in turn forced to educate themselves in the turning of pages and scratching of pencils rather than to stare at the same three walls which will accompany them every morning and every night. I believe that I should admit before going any further that like most people (or perhaps not, especially in times like today) I have never been to prison other than as a standalone bystander, waiting outside the compound observing curiously through those chain-linked fences and barbed wire headdresses, at what the concrete walls held within or kept without. I’ve never been inside such prisons as Folsom other than the occasional live Johnny Cash song beating through my headphones, or even seen the dusty blacktops of San Quentin, but honestly who would. You hear enough about these places to know that sometimes a visit isn’t even worth it yet this very curiosity made it all the more significant. In college, my mother was given the opportunity to even meet with such incarcerated felons whom she affirmed were ordinary men with extraordinary memoirs; college graduates and intellectuals who made all the wrong choices for all the wrong reasons and made sure she knew it. From a young age I was always interested in perhaps getting my turn at meeting these prisoners; my opportunity had not only come, but with a second chance at getting as up close and personal with prisoners as the code of conduct would let me. When I first arrived in Yankton with my family inspecting the town we must have driven the blocks surrounding the Federal Prison Camp a dozen times wondering what in the hell it actually was. Soon we noticed 4 P.M. COUNT

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what looked like guards in ties walking about the sidewalks beside well-kept lawns and men in matching tan uniforms who walked freely beside them. I would later discover that these weren’t exactly “freemen” but the very inmates the prison camp served to hold. The same prison camp with bordered fences that resembled three foot hurdles and burgundy brick that accented the greenery in all the finest ways a painter might portray a country barn. I could not believe that a prison could look finer than most things the very town it resided in had to offer. Now fast-forward four years and I would no longer be looking at the prison through a back seat window but from within the very walls its burgundy structure had to offer. I could never before see in those walls, and now I was looking from their windows out into the world the same way every prisoner might have done, wondering when the only day that’d ever matter would come. Our tour around the grounds seemed short as the prison itself is not large in proportion to state prisons; however, it was still difficult to believe that with its open facilities and mannerly inmates it was a prison camp. Sure, it might be at the federal level, but that didn’t change the fact that these men are forced to serve years in this institution as opposed to the freedom that lie streets away, opening into a world away from their own. However short the tour itself might have been, our meeting with the inmates, my most interested concern, would last much longer as we met in a room full of desks and waited for the professors to begin their presentation. The classrooms resembled rooms no different from my very college and soon each of us were sitting at a desk towards the back of the room awaiting the men to enter subtly in different clusters. As one by one and then two by one entered I wondered what they might have been doing prior to their meeting and why some were later than others. Nonetheless each took his own seat at a desk unless it was already occupied by a student. Each desk was equipped with a single chair except for mine, which had a rather comfortable looking desk chair that I would in turn 106

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offer to the first man that might take it. Slowly each inmate started at the front and worked his way back until there were so few chairs that several more were forced to occupy seats near the students. It seemed that they were as hestitant toward us as we were to them, and then finally an older man came upon me with a question I had been waiting to answer. “Is this seat taken?” he’d pointed to the empty seat beside my desk. “It is now,” I responded with a grin. I was pleased to be the only student that shared a desk with one of the inmates, but then I became disheartened as some of the larger men were forced to occupy a single desk with two and sometimes three of them at a time without so much as giving each other a hiss. Each came in with his own folder and notebook and soon my neighbor rested his on our desk and I read his name inscribed at the top corner, yet for the sake of privacy we’ll call this particular guy Greg because he reminded me of a Greg I knew personally. Greg was an older gent who graduated high school in arguably the greatest (and most controversial) year of our century, or at least I believed, in 1969. A military veteran from the “golden age” of the American counterculture which held many of my favorite contemporary artists, writers, and musicians alike which would later coin my favorite phrase, “I was born in the wrong generation.” Greg was a California boy such as myself. As soon as I let him know that we were neighbors even beyond the desk he asked “What part?”, to which I quickly responded, “Los Angeles.” Then he went further, asking which part of Los Angeles (which meant he was a real Californian who knew the difference), and I was reluctant to reply as it wasn’t advised by the institution to give any personal information such as that, but I told him, “Whittier,” which although not exactly my hometown was close enough to the actual thing. He responded with delight, as he had been through there and was from Santa Cruz. As we progressed in our discussion talking under our breaths as films were displayed 4 P.M. COUNT

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at the front, we spoke about our favorite musicians such as the Grateful Dead and Doobie Brothers and how he snuck into the Monterrey Pop Festival whilst waiting in line for the restroom when Janis Joplin cut the men’s room line. He called her on it but met her casually cool reply, “When a girl’s gotta go, a girl’s gotta go”; only then did he realize who he’d just given his resentment to. I was soon becoming envious of the man, but then I remembered which side of the desk he was on. On one side a young man was there for a summer course for college credits and was going to a Burger King after to get a burger and shake, which would later lead to a bar and chat with some friends over a few pints. On the other an older man sat for twelve years and watched the days turn into night and hours turn into years. I became angered with my envy and held every word we shared with one another with as much attention as the last. There was more to the man’s story but I had less than an hour to hear it. Soon it was the inmates’ turn to read aloud their own work and before anyone could volunteer an older man raised an excited hand with haste and a smile when he was picked. Greg would look at me and say, “Now when you hear him speak think Joe Pesci.” As soon as the man spoke I got what Greg meant, but the giggle soon turned into silence as Joe caught my attention with each passing word. I could tell you his whole story now but the words coming from me could never give the verses the justice they deserved. It was so good, almost too good, for how real it became in my mind as he described to me the numbers of random objects the prison had to offer, whether it was the bars that separated his room from the hall or the number of peas in his Tuesday lunch tray. His numbers alluded to the question the story served to provide; how much time did he have left to serve? Once the end came near, the question was never answered and I was taken by his work so extensively that I almost beat myself up for why I hadn’t come up with that. The answer was I couldn’t, and I was damn lucky I couldn’t. I was never 108

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forced to replace counting minutes with inanimate objects that diminished as more counts were made. The work was ingenious, I believed, and that made me question the morality behind education in these institutions. Here you were forced to either do time, or do something productive with your time. These men in the classroom chose the latter and I believe that has made all the difference. I believe education is of the utmost importance. I would go so far as to suggest that inmates should be required to receive an education. My eyes have seen the potential of education. It reminds me that men and women are full of positive potential with as much soul and creativity as the very people who put them in prison—us.

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JAMES REEVES REFLECTION: THE CAGED BIRD SINGS There are a lot of words that can be used to describe my experience at the prison. Fun, creative, inspirational, and humbling are the ones that come to mind right away. It was fun because I enjoy art. It was inspirational because the art everyone created was very good. It was humbling because this prison is a cage. It isn’t a cruel and scary place where scary people go to be put away forever and ever. I was a visitor to this cage and was delighted to have witnessed the song, in this case the art, which the prisoners had to show us. There might be a faint lingering of regretful sadness in the song, but what I witnessed from the men that sat down and drew with us was mostly hope. I wasn’t scared to go to the prison. It is mostly because it wasn’t my first time visiting the prison for a class. The first time I honestly thought that an inmate was going to get mad over something and there was going to have to be an intervention of sorts. Every bad scenario was coming to me all at once and so I nervously sat next to my inmate and made a very forced conversation about writing. This time was the opposite. I sat down and talked to my inmate for some time, though both of us were pretty serious about what we were drawing. He was drawing his daughter and I was drawing the nose of some female model who I thought could be Beyoncé. The inmate talked about his daughter and how he had asked her for a picture of herself but instead got a selfie. He went on to tell me the difference between a selfie and a picture, though he said the selfie did capture more of her realness. What he was really trying to get at is that it is easier to draw someone in a photograph that has natural lighting verses a selfie from a phone that provides the perfect lighting. I decided to tell him how most of the 110

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human race, including myself, take selfies. I told him, “You simply get your phone at the right distance and angle, then you got to strike the pose you want. It could be a go-to pose or a new pose, but the point is to look like a model or as close to a model as you can. Then the third part is to rapidly press the capture button on your phone till you got about fifty identical pictures of your face. The final part is looking through them all and deleting all of them but the one you think is the best. Finally you’ve got to stare at that picture for at least two to five minutes and if it survives that, then that is THE selfie you want.” I might have exaggerated that a bit but he thought that was funny. I was glad to make him smile because of how much he was helping me with my drawing. He was under the impression that I was new to art, which was OK. That was what I was going for. If I told him, “Oh yes, I am very good at art. Last year I won first prize in an art contest at my college,” then he probably wouldn’t have helped me out as much. I am glad I kept that a secret because I did learn a lot about drawing from him. Every artist has a particular manner of drawing things. He had a lot of shading techniques that I have never heard of before. I am glad I got to work with him because we got to do art together. Two artists, both really good at what they do. We ended up teaching each other. I didn’t feel like I was talking to a prisoner, it felt like I was just talking to another human. His art was the song I heard that day and it was beautiful.

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KATIE HAMIL REFLECTION: WRITING FROM BOTH SIDES OF THE FENCE Walking into the prison, I’ll admit I was a little nervous. Not so much about the people themselves, but about the experience I was going to have. What would it be like? Would it change my perspective? I was also excited. Excited to have another pair of eyes read my work and to help make it better. Excited to help make their work better. As we followed the administrator around the campus that was formerly Yankton College I was astonished by how beautiful and well-kept the grounds were. Grass was neatly mowed and flowers bloomed everywhere. Near the center of the campus was a tree carving of an eagle. Around the eagle was a nest made out of fallen twigs and tree branches. I could tell a lot of pride was put into that sculpture. Finally, we walked up some stairs and into a computer room. By this point my heart was beating a little harder in my chest. We lined up at the back of the classroom and were partnered up in groups of two and three. I was surprised how quickly I was put at ease. The inmates I was put with seemed to be good friends and joked around with each other. I felt comfortable and soon I joined in on the conversation. We talked about books which was awesome because usually when I start talking about books I am promptly ignored. They read through my paper and gave me some really great suggestions. These included adding more slang to my dialogue, worrying a little less about standard writing conventions, and adding more descriptions to give my story a sense of time. Dr. Reese wasn’t kidding when he said that they critiqued like graduate level writing students. The feedback I received was phenomenal. I was able to make my story a lot better because of them. In the end I don’t think I helped my partners nearly as much as they helped me. I 112

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workshopped two of Borden’s poems, but I didn’t have a lot of suggestions. I had a few possible changes, but both poems I read through were already good. Going to a class where suggestions flow freely as they did that day in the computer room would be awesome. Most of the inmates were not afraid to speak up and they voiced their opinion in a helpful manner after a story or poem was read. The communication was great. There was certainly a sense of camaraderie. When it was time for the sharing sessions to begin, I listened carefully. Two of the stories caught my attention. The story about waiting for the food and the smoking tattooed arm man were both very well written. I enjoyed this time very much. Seeing their expressions and hearing the fluctuation in their voices, I could feel the emotion as if it was something palpable. I could tell that the creative writing class meant a lot to this group of men. Overall, I left the prison feeling a lot lighter and much more relaxed than I was going into it. I realized that these are people just like me and that everyone makes mistakes. I think in my head I knew this and I had definitely been told this, but I hadn’t necessarily had the means necessary for me to decide. Going on this trip made up my mind for me. I could see the passion that they had for improvement, not only in their writing, but in their lives. This meant a lot to see that the inmates were trying to choose a better path for themselves.

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QUINN KOENEN REFLECTION: PRISON VISIT Before arriving at Federal Prison Camp Yankton, I remember being excited to finally experience the inside of a prison. Television has done its best to dramatize the reality of what it’s like in prison and what the typical inmate’s personality is, and those interpretations are almost always wrong. I wanted to compare that view to the real thing, and I wanted to experience what the inmates were really like first hand, especially at a minimum security prison such as that in Yankton. Most inmates in those types of prisons are on their way out of the criminal justice system so they are on their best behavior so that A) their release isn’t jeopardized and B) because they’re trying to better themselves and get their life back on track. My initial reaction to walking onto the prison compound was pretty neutral. I started to get nervous only when it was time to meet the inmates face to face. The only thing that made them visually intimidating was the khaki uniforms. That made them seem like they were all the same person and that they were all in for the same reason, which I know is not true at all. I also think that they were a little nervous to meet us too, and that made a few of them a bit hesitant to talk. When I sat down next to my partner I didn’t know what to say at first, but he was very friendly and that put my mind at ease. As soon as I had drawing materials in front of me one of the inmates walked right up to me and started to show me a creative way to trace the outline of the nose right onto my paper. I was surprised that he wasn’t shy about showing me what to do and that he was so eager to share what he knew with me. My partner, Nick, and I were both beginners at drawing faces so we both were going through the process of drawing and shading noses at the same pace, while attempting to give each other tips now and then on different methods that worked for us individually. We chatted for the whole 114

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duration of the class, and we had a good time comparing our drawings to each other and against other groups in the room. Overall, I really enjoyed my visit to the Federal Prison Camp Yankton. I really liked getting to know the inmates a little bit. I know in my head that those guys are just regular people who just made a mistake, but actually meeting them and getting to know them face to face is much more gratifying. I can actually say that I have first-hand experience whereas most people cannot say as much. Upon arrival the gentleman who met us at the checkin building told us that the inmates are used to interacting only with each other and people who are an authority figure. He said that talking with us during the drawing class would be very therapeutic for them and it would help them re-learn how to interact with people in the community again. I was proud that I was allowed to help those inmates, even if all I did was draw and talk with them for two hours. I had really positive experience, and I can’t speak for my partner, but I’m fairly certain that he had a good experience as well. I would recommend that other groups go and take the drawing class at the prison with some of the inmates because I think it’s as experience that everyone should have. There are a lot of misconceptions about people who are in prison and I think that those unknowledgeable people need to be put in the same room and actually talk to the inmates in order for them to fully realize how wrong some of those misconceptions are.

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JAMIE KONRAD REFLECTION: MAKING A DIFFERENCE CAN GO BOTH WAYS When you think about going to a prison, what do you think? Do you become nervous, anxious, scared, or maybe excited? Now imagine someone tells you that you are going to a prison to sit in a room amongst a handful of inmates and take a class. If you were someone who already felt nervous or anxious, I bet you’re really feeling the pressure now. I often think that before people visit a prison, they forget that they aren’t the only ones feeling uncomfortable. Yes, an outsider going into a building full of people who have done wrong can be intimidating; however, I think it would be far more uncomfortable having outsiders come in and look at you and immediately feel judged. I’ve visited a couple of different prisons while pursuing my education at Mount Marty College. When people ask me my thoughts about it, immediately assuming I am going to say how much I hate it, I usually surprise them with saying how much I enjoy it. Somehow prison visits give me a weird type of satisfaction. I think I go in expecting to make a difference and in the end, the inmates are the ones that make a difference. I’m currently a senior nursing student at Mount Marty College. Over the past three and a half years of my education, I have had the idea of treating all patients equally drilled into my brain like a screw into a two by four. No matter a person’s age, race, gender, religion, etc., a nurse must treat patients with the utmost respect one hundred percent of the time. Although most nursing students will say they always treat all of their patients with respect, that theory can very well be tested as soon as you set foot onto prison grounds. 116

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Tonight I found myself in this very predicament. Tonight I visited the Federal Prison Camp Yankton. Although most guys here are serving time for embezzlement, fraud, drug dealing, etc., we still needed to have a sense of self-awareness in case a situation was to arise. The goal for tonight was to take a drawing class with the inmates, giving them a chance to interact with humans who didn’t work or live within the prison gates. Upon arrival, we went through the whole process of getting checked in, and were given a brief rundown of the rules and how to interact with the inmates. We were told what is appropriate and what isn’t. We then were brought into the room where class was set to take place. Upon entering the room, we found it filled with inmates, with empty chairs placed in between them. We were told to find a seat next to an inmate, and they were instructed to share their supplies with us. I found a folding chair that was open and took a seat between two inmates. As I sat down, I was handed a piece of paper. Almost immediately, the guy to the left of me had stuck out his right hand for me to shake as he introduced himself as Tim. As any normal person would do, I stuck my right hand out and returned the handshake and introduced myself. He then was kind enough to give me a handful of pencils and told me to help myself. As I turned to my right, the inmate had gotten up and went and sat next to a student who was sitting alone. It was nice to see the hospitality that the inmates provided. Throughout the course of the class, I interacted with Tim, complimenting him on his stellar drawing skills. His ability to freehand the structure of the human nose had far outweighed my ability to even trace a nose from a piece of paper that I was given as a guide. Throughout the course he shot me some pointers on what I could do to improve my drawing. By the end of the hour and a half class, I had become a step under a professional at drawing noses. I have to agree with what the educators at the prison told us prior to entering the class. The inmates are a 4 P.M. COUNT

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different type of student, as they are eager to learn. This is far different than if you were to go to a college campus and visit with a bunch of college students. I enjoyed my time interacting with the inmates during the drawing class. I felt like having us there was a nice change for them. Although people can sit back and look at the inmates in a negative way for committing crime, I like to keep my feelings about what they have done at the door and give them the benefit of the doubt. Most of them are just people who have made mistakes and are currently looking for a way to better themselves and improve in ways that will help them to become productive members of society. I believe second chances are appropriate for people who really work for them. While participating in the class, it was evident that a lot of these men just wanted to become better people. I also strongly feel like activities such as this will only help me become a better nurse in the future.

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Chad Hartzler Chad Hartzler was born and raised in the small farming community of Somers, IA. He is the proud father of two boys, Zach and Derek, and a daughter, Kallie. Chad’s parents divorced when he was very young, and they later passed away before he reached the age of twenty. The traumatic events in his life, coupled with a selfish mentality, led him down destructive paths. A gambling addiction plagued him most of his life and eventually contributed to committing a criminal act, for which he is now serving a fifty-one month sentence at the Federal Prison Camp in Yankton, SD. Chad arrived at Yankton broken and ashamed. Through his faith in God, he asked the Lord to heal him completely: emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Over the course of his twentyeight months on the compound, Chad has lost 140 pounds and has obtained his A.A. degrees in Business Administration and Accounting. Many of the emotional wounds that once plagued him have been healed with the assistance of a new-found interest in writing. Chad’s focus is on non-fiction writing; he shares his life stories with a desire to encourage others who also struggle with the rigors of this world.

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MY FIRST LOVE Baby, I fell in love with you the moment we met. From the instant our paths crossed, I knew there was something different about you. I felt the excitement you generated, and the intrigue of your mysterious ways stimulated my every being. I studied you carefully, wanting to know you more intimately, so as to discover everything about you. I spent many sleepless nights captivated by the allure of your beauty, and I fantasized about the things we could accomplish together. The feeling you initiated in my soul was exhilarating. It had a compulsive nature; I couldn’t get enough of you. We began our affair with casual meetings, and soon parleyed those moments together into weekends away, always looking for action. Steadily, we grew close, closer than any other relationship I had or ever desired. In time, my passion for you caused me to move all-in, committing to you exclusively, best friends and lovers. We kept our relationship quiet, not wanting to attract too much attention from those who would not understand. Some had questions, but concerns were never shared; others kept comments to themselves out of respect or indifference. At times, our relationship seemed very one-sided, I investing everything I had and more, while you returned very little. You were the willing recipient of the vast majority of my time, energy, and money—lots and lots of money. I recall one trip in particular when things unraveled. We were in Las Vegas, a place we loved to frequent. After a long weekend of chasing dreams, you walked out on me. You took all of my money and left me alone, broken and ashamed. You didn’t even leave me enough money for a plane ticket home. After two nights sleeping in the airport, hoping you would somehow come back to get me, I humbled myself and called my step-sister, who helped me get home. 120

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In spite of having to deal with the raw emotions associated with your deserting me yet again, I continued my pursuit of you. I just could not let you go. It seems you were always willing to give me another chance, and vice-versa. Many times you gave me just enough attention to keep me at your beck and call, entrapped by my fascination with you. It did not matter to me, as I craved any time we could spend together, and I was willing to play the fool over and over again. Even when life happened and we grew apart, taking a break for a year or two more than once, I always found my way back to your open arms. You were seemingly always there for me. When work weighed me down, you picked me up. When my parents passed away, you were there to take my mind off the pain. When other women broke whatever part of my heart you failed to occupy and those relationships crapped out, you took me back, over and over again. You were never judgmental, and you always knew just what I needed to make me feel alive again. There have been, however, others to whom I tried to give my heart, specifically, two wonderful women. But girl, you broke the mold, and with it, any possible intimacy I might have desired with either of them. They knew where you stood with me, at least they should have. The reminders of our relationship were always in the forefront of my life, and if they did not know, they should have known just how deep my feelings were for you. Maybe they thought my love for you would pass completely, or they could possibly fill the voids in my life better than you could. In retrospect, it was a sure bet that they would always play second fiddle to you, my first love. I remember well that one time in 2004, when I sought some professional help following one of our breakups. I was having trouble getting past some of our unresolved issues. I felt defenseless in the plight, and was trying to rescue yet another damaged relationship, remnants of our failed years together. And yet, as I sat alone in my car in the parking lot of 4 P.M. COUNT

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that Lutheran Church, understanding fully the hurt our relationship had caused everyone involved, I dialed your number, just to hear your sweet voice, and you readily took my call. That other relationship eventually folded, and I once again found my way back to your waiting arms, the place where I felt secure. We have grown older together, you and I. The years have become decades and that new-love feeling we once shared has given way to something entirely different. We no longer communicate, seemingly miles apart, our paths leading in opposite directions; reality is that our time has come and gone. Lady, please know I had to let you go, once and for all. Although you seemingly filled every part of my heart, I finally came to grips with the understanding that we were no good together; our relationship was not healthy, our future not in the cards, all odds against me. We had some great times, you and I, and I will always have some stories to share. But while I recall some of those good memories, I am also reminded of the bad, and to my chagrin, the bad heavily outweigh the good. We tried to make it work, but it wasn’t meant to be. I can tell you, letting you go has not been easy; it is a process rather than an event. This past March fifth was the five-year anniversary of our final days together, in Las Vegas, having one last go-around. The realization is this: Left in the wake of my lust for you are two failed marriages, hundreds of thousands of dollars lost, and fifty-one months away from the people I love most in this world. I am reminded daily of the price paid for my love affair with you. Nevertheless, I am encouraged. If left alone to deal with my obsession for you, I would surely have resumed my pursuit of you once again. It is by the grace of God that I have resisted the temptation to rekindle our relationship. For my own good and for those closest to me, it is the right decision, and one I am committed to with all of my heart. So now, my old love, I continue my way forward. I can 122

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now embrace the wisdom gained from our years together, and just maybe provide some help to others imprisoned by their love affair with you. Good-bye forever, Lady Luck.

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ON THE HILL Surrounded by rows of corn, dressed in various shades of green Just a few miles south of Somers, Iowa Lies my very own field of dreams It is a hot humid night, 1986, mid-summer The conference leaders are coming to town And it’s my turn to toe the rubber Our diamond is in pristine shape, with dusty white chalk on the lines Each blade of bluegrass is trimmed to perfection The outfield fence, faced with ivy vines Smiles all around, as optimism fills the park tonight Coach quips, It’s the size of the fight in the dog not the size of the dog in the fight The reddish-orange sun sinks low in the west, and will soon be a thing of the past The player intros are complete and my heart is beating fast My grandparents relax in their lawn chairs just right of home plate My younger brother roams left field My dad absent, because of his date I wish he was here to see me wage battle against this potent team Was his presence too much to expect I guess it is so, as it seems

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The umpire brushes off the plate, and with conviction shouts “Play Ball” Although I feel a bit inferior On this hill, I stand tall One by one, inning by inning, the batters come and they go A four-hit, one-run game I’m throwing It is indeed a masterful show Nighttime has taken over, under the lights, it is getting late My arm is beyond tired And I am tempting fate It’s the top of the seventh, and if we can protect this slight lead Three more outs left to record Then a retreat to some beer and some weed I’m really not proud of it, my chosen ways to cope An attitude of defeat since mom passed away And with it, much of my hope Although tonight I should be satisfied, I am indisputably sad For all I really wanted Was to share this moment with dad A quick glance over at coach and I peer in for a sign Lance calls for the curve It’s definitely strikeout time I wonder if it was worth it, he probably won’t remember her name I know when I grow to be his age Only prison will keep me from my boys’ games My best pitch of the night, off the plate toward the outer part That takes care of the Crusaders But not my broken heart

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PRISON REC Six well-seasoned men, ranging from forty-something to what is best described as retirement age, sweaty and winded, wage battle between the lines of a weathered basketball court. This court, like the warriors who grace it, has seen better days. But on this bone-chilling winter evening, the hardwood plays host to men determined to bring some semblance of normalcy to their lives. It’s called rec-league basketball; simply put, it is a threeon-three competition intended to be a cardio workout for the men who partake, but in a greater context, these games become much more meaningful. These men play hard, maybe even harder that they did when they were mere pups, some men yearning to hold on to yesterday, while others seek to reclaim it. Casual observers mill around the venue clad in plain gray sweats and black, steel-toed boots. They pause briefly to witness the melee; like passers-by gawking at the carnage of a recent accident, unable to turn away, they pay their respects and continue on with their business. The weightpile beckons, another means to massage the fragile psyche. These competitive basketball games serve as a barometer for mid-life manhood for inmates at Yankton Federal Prison Camp. Many on the compound wrestle with an internal question: “Am I good enough?” It’s a question I myself have struggled with for much of my life. Some men used to gauge their self-worth by the tailored Armani suits they wore and others by the Harley-Davidson motorcycles they used to ride. CEOs associated power with the size of their bank accounts and their dominion over workers, while drug dealers relied on club affiliations and their Glocks, tucked handily in their waistline. For now, everyone is relatively similar in prominence, relegated to four sets of khakis and a green knee-length coat. Besides the recreation leagues, there are few ways to 126

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gauge one’s self-worth in prison. Some days the answer to the question, “Do I have what it takes?” comes in the form of a Dear John letter unexpectedly received at mail call, or a phone call home. I find occasional moments of encouragement in attending education classes in the Forbes Building. Some inmates seek affirmation playing cards in a housing unit game room. Today, the answer is found within the confines of Nash Gym, in the context of a basketball game. These games can get rough, and they aren’t for the faint of heart. Courage can be defined in circumstance, and pride can be easily bruised. In this league, whatever it takes to succeed is the generally accepted means. An occasional forearm to the back seems appropriate to many, a shoulder lowered to gain an advantage is expected. There will be no uncontested layups permitted in this league; you earn everything you get. That includes respect. The play can be unsettling to some: those who are unaccustomed to the physical style of a prison game. Most players show restraint when referees miss calls or a player gets too aggressive; some can’t control themselves, berating the volunteers in charge of bringing order to the game, an event intended for entertainment and exercise. Rarely do things get personal, but when they do, manhood is tested, and this is not the place to show weakness of any kind. Whoever said it is not if you win or lose, it is how you play the game, never participated in this league. All who don a jersey hold winning and losing in deepest regard, because in the joint, you always measure yourself against the next man. Figuratively, not much else is equivalent when comparing life here to that on the street, but what is common is men seeking to prove themselves in the throes of competition. No board room or street corner to control here, just the guy you are guarding. As the game progresses, sweat escapes from their pale skin, soaking the plain white tee-shirts worn underneath the generic uniforms. In this league, players are identified only by the numbers they wear, eight digits long, the last 4 P.M. COUNT

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three separated by a dash, a designation paying homage to each one’s home. Time on the floor has a healing effect for me and the others who play. Being down, for any length of time, leaves us all in a powerless state; the strife in our lives carves away at our waning souls. Many days we deem ourselves useless as the struggles of life attack the people closest to us, and due to our incarceration we feel shackled in our ability to intervene. The weight of my absence bogs me down, rendering me unable to leap for a rebound or rise for a jump shot, my Nike high-tops encased with cement. The kids are struggling in school; a loved one just passed away; my wife files for divorce while seeing someone else. I feel insignificant, unable to participate in any meaningful manner. The reality of the season we find ourselves in spawns a defeatist attitude, for which we have little response. Motivated by the frustration of controlling very little in our lives, the basketball game becomes a quest of sorts, a way to prove that we are relevant, we are valuable, and we can triumph. At the end of the contest, win or lose, the weary gladiators gather near their respective benches to extend each other a fist-bump, a show of goodwill toward the night’s exhibition. If there are any ill feelings, this is the time to dispatch them. Like a dirty towel tossed in a hamper, so too must any spiteful attitudes be discarded. If issues are allowed to fester, they will eventually lead to an altercation, resulting in more time away from those we love. In reality, we are just playing a game. At the end of the day, we are all in this season together, trying to make do the best we can, sharing commonality in our circumstance. The lessons learned on this court will prove valuable someday, as we all check back in the game of life.

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Chad Sloat Chad Sloat is an aspiring writer who was born and raised in Kansas City, MO. The eldest of four children, his early foray into the creative writing world outlines many of his real life experiences both inside and outside of prison. While currently serving his sentence in Yankton, SD, Mr. Sloat is furthering his college education by pursuing his MBA. Upon his release, he plans to rebuild his entrepreneurial empire while also endeavoring to write his first book.

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WAITRESS TREACHERY I wonder if she ever tires of seeing the transformation Where both brows raise and eyes widen The head tilts back as if to say “Hey, that’s mine, right?” The body settling in and centering on the cleared space The arms resting idly at the sides waiting to pounce The silverware unrolled and framing the recently cleared space The hunger pangs subsiding in the stomach because relief is steps away The feeling inside is more profound than anticipation Everything you thought you ordered is only twenty steps away Until she pivots Everything you didn’t order now being enjoyed by someone else The feeling inside is more profound than betrayal The hunger pains re-emerge as if on steroids The silverware is cast aside in frustration The arms crossed, exposing white knuckles The body dejectedly slumped The head tossing side to side as if to say “Sure, go ahead and feed the fat guy first” Where both brows furrow and eyes squint I wonder if she ever tires of seeing the transformation

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RED, WHITE, BOOM! Oh Bomb-pop oh Bomb-pop How I love your blue bottom, red top and un-dyed midriff. The curves of your casing allow for maximum contact with the sweltering heat I wonder if I should throw you in the air between licks just to take full advantage of your awesomeness Your constant drip all over my Idle hand is corralled only by the sticky hastily torn wrapper The slurping noise clearly annoys those nearby, as I strain to inhale every last drop. Icy cold and refreshing, my patriotic tongue can’t lick you fast enough so I attempt to stifle melting with a bite. & BOOM!

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Photo by Brooks Hegge The hillside design has been a horticulture student project since the early 1990s. Each year the Landscape Design students submit their design ideas for selection by the warden. The number of plants in this design included 5300 individual plants from six plant varieties. This year’s design took on the Summer Olympic spirit and was even featured in a KDLT news story. Each year the community anticipates the design, which is usually coordinated to be in full bloom about the time of the Riverboat Days parade, which travels right past the design each year on Douglas Avenue.

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S. Marielle Frigge Marielle Frigge, OSB, holds an MA in biblical theology from Washington Theological Union and a PhD in theology and education from Boston College. She retired as professor of religious studies after 33 years at Mount Marty College in Yankton in May 2012. Since then she continues to teach and speak in various venues, including her own and other religious communities, the Avera Health System, and various local and regional communities and ecumenical adult education contexts. Sr. Marielle authored Beginning Biblical Studies (Anselm Academic, 2009) and a second, revised edition of her book was published in September 2013. Sr. Marielle also writes biblical commentaries for Liturgy Training Publications in Chicago, and serves as associate editor and book reviewer for The American Benedictine Review, a national scholarly journal dealing with topics of Benedictine and monastic interest.

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A LETTER FROM S. MARIELLE FRIGGE WHAT I SEE AS BENEFITS OF ONE-ON-ONE SESSIONS FOR MEMBERS OF THE WRITING CLASS There are several major benefits I see in having individual tutoring sessions with a copy editor in the process of finishing pieces to be published in 4 P.M. Count. The first is a chance to meet the specific needs of each person. The educational background of the men in the class spans a broad spectrum, from those who have not yet completed high school or a GED to some who hold graduate degrees. So my guidance can be suited to each one’s needs, ranging from clarifying spellings and meanings of three different words that sound the same, e.g., there, their, and they’re, to discussing tone or word choice for the writer’s intended audience. When I explain the why of a particular grammatical “rule,” a writer will often say something like, “Well, I saw that rule on the style sheet, but I didn’t know why it was that way.” Once the why becomes clear, a writer often quickly begins to see for himself where further corrections are needed. I always emphasize the practical importance of an ability to use standard English; a recent study indicates that fifty-eight percent of employers immediately discard a job application or resume that fails to do so. There are also benefits, I believe, that can carry over into the men’s personal lives. I repeatedly stress “audience awareness,” the writer’s ability to analyze, understand, and place oneself in the reader’s cultural, intellectual, and emotional context. Such awareness ought to guide any writer’s choice of content and how that content can be most effectively presented to the designated audience. For example, if one is writing a piece for the general public, prison slang or acronyms are not likely to be understood. Always, the fundamental purpose is communication; 134

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writing is not only about “expressing myself,” though that is part of the purpose. Good writing always truly communicates to an “other.” The writer who consciously attempts to communicate to a specific audience must take his particular audience into account when choosing content, point of view, voice, tone, and vocabulary. Regarding audience awareness, one of the men remarked, “It’s good to practice thinking about ‘the other’; not doing that is one of the big reasons I am where I am.” In addition, any good writer who wishes to communicate clearly must be consistent in all details, including use of capitalization, abbreviations, acronyms, numbers, time references, etc. Learning consistency can be an advantage in personal relations as well as in the workplace. There is another benefit not directly related to writing skill, but, I believe, a very important one. Tutoring sessions offer an opportunity for each prisoner to be treated like an individual human being, a person. I know from their writings that in their highly routinized and regulated life in a federal prison, some can begin to “identify” as simply “a prisoner” or the number on their clothing. One man asked me during a tutoring session, “Why do you do this? After all, we’re criminals.” I responded, “That is true, you are a criminal, or you wouldn’t be here. But I believe you are more than that: you are a human being, a person, created in the image of God. How will you learn to act like a person without being treated as one?”

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Mr. Wolfe Mr. Wolfe is an inmate at Federal Prison Camp Yankton.

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AN OBJECT OF SUMMER I am the ubiquitous iPhone. I have a lens, microphone, speaker, memory, and an owner. This summer I am enjoying a day at Waikiki beach with my owner. I’ve enjoyed many trips with her. She loves to travel. She takes me everywhere, yep everywhere. The things I have seen, heard, and memorized. WOW! I have a diamond-studded protective cover which is my sunscreen and bathing suit. I am sleek getting sleeker—not getting older—I am getting newer! My owner rarely sees the beauty of nature, the beauty of summer, on her own. But I experience it and can’t get enough. My eye has become her eyes. My ear has become her ears. I am her window and headset to the world. She needs me to communicate. She and her friends rely on me, only on me. There are only two things I wish I had, taste and smell. Soon, soon.

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REGARDING THOSE WHO FEARLESSLY USE THE WORD IRREGARDLESS One day, while meandering through a park, I overheard a conversation between a guy and a gal seemingly on their first date. First dates can be revealing. My ears awoke to their conversation somewhere toward the end of their conversation. I heard her say, “Regardless, I believe in standing for the truth.” He retorted, “Yes, but what is the truth? Irregardless, truth may not always be true. My truth may be different than your truth.” Rather than focusing on the substance of the conversation, the word ‘truth’, Miss Smarty-Pants said. “Did you just say irregardless?” Mr. Thinks-I-Know stated quickly and confidently, “Yes.” She quizzically contorted her lips. “Don’t you mean to say ‘regardless’?” “No. Irregardless.” “But doesn’t that mean ‘with regard’?” she asked with a rhetorical snarkiness. With a twinge of frustration, he defiantly said with a smile “Irregardless of what it means, I am saying that without any form of regard whatsoever, with no regard, regardless, truth may not always be true.” “Stop! I heard it. Now you just said regardless. But before that, you said IR-regardless. What do you intend to say? You are not making sense. Without regard is regard… LESS. With regard is IR…regard…LESS.” Mr. Thinks-I-Know became more defensive. He questioned her. “Well, then what does ‘NOT IR…regard… LESS mean, Ms. Smarty-Pants’?” “Obviously, it means without regard. “Not…ir… regard…less is a triple negative.” With emphasis she uttered 138

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the sounds of ‘not’, ‘ir’, and ‘less.’ Applying basic algebra, a single negative is negative, a double negative is positive, and a triple negative is negative. So, a quadruple negative is positive. Duh, simple math.” “Regarding your last comment, a single negative is negative then.” Mr. Thinks-I-Know consented. Ms. Smarty-Pants was finally getting somewhere with Mr. Thinks-I-Know. So, with a high degree of intellectual force she exclaimed, “Yes! To save our relationship could you stop using any and all forms of the word ‘regard’?” While continuing their slow meander around the park, he seemingly complied without skipping a beat. “Sure. Irregardless of this insanity, let’s get back to the issue of truth.” She stopped, then looked at him, I mean really looked at him, deeply. “You obviously aren’t equipped to look at the truth. You mean ‘regardless.’” ”That is what I said. What do you think I said?” “IR…regard…LESS.” “No, I said regard…LESS.” One could see her frustration sweating through her skin. “Regardless, I’m running late. I have to go back to work.” As she started to walk off she yelled, “That is how you use the word. Regardless means without regard!” He shouted, “Don’t you mean irregardless?” It was as if he never even participated in the conversation. I could hear them both whisper to themselves while shaking their heads, “Some people never learn.” I continued my walk through the park and heard many conversations between couples. Regardless, this is the conversation that stood out.

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Johnny McBride, Jr. Johnny McBride, Jr. is an inmate at Federal Prison Camp Yankton.

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DESTINY Praying for peace, freedom, and equality Fighting for justice judges judge righteously Another son murdered another crying mother Black lives matter black men muster Time to unite start living right Stop living wrong living to die Birthed by black bonded by blood Teach to think learn to love Respect our women raise our children Protect our own earn our living Honor our parents love our neighbors God willing we will be favored

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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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A LETTER FROM NEIL HARRISON To the students in Dr. Reese’s and Dr. Sullivan’s writing classes in Yankton: Thank you all for your kind and generous responses to the time we spent together there in Yankton. I very much appreciate your sharing your thoughts on writing in the class and in the letters Dr. Reese sent me. The letters are evidence to me that you are all quite good writers. Very few of the students that entered my later composition classes at Northeast Community College wrote as well as all of you do. It seems that somewhere in their earlier years of schooling a lot of students lose their love for words and the creative aspects of language. And that’s sad, because as small children all of us were word magnets, fully focused on learning language and the creative use of words. We seemed to sense the power that words carried, and we seemed to understand even then that language is what makes us uniquely human. The importance of language in our lives is undeniable. Everything we see around us began with thoughts that were expressed in words, giving us the ability to create each and every man-made part of the world we now find all around us. And certainly many of those man-made parts have been misused by those who have come to understand the power of language and who have become quite skilled in its misuse. But if we wish to counteract their negative effect upon our species and continue our educational evolution, perhaps we need to step back and acknowledge the relevance of a few significant words from the past: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him: and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1: 1-4, King James Version). 4 P.M. COUNT

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Only through words, through language, can that life which is “the light of men” actually shine and warm us all from within. Many of the college students I worked with, even those who wanted to be writers, didn’t really like reading and didn’t consider it all that important to their education. But I recently read this quotation by philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, and I wish I had had it to share with my many students back when I was teaching: “The limits of my language are the limits of my mind. All I know is what I have words for.” As Wittgenstein’s words make clear, in order to expand the limits of our minds, in order to educate ourselves, we need to expand our language. And reading widely and writing regularly are the most readily available ways to do that. Every new encounter that we have with words expands the limits of our minds, and afterward, neither our minds nor the imagined limits of our world are as small as before. In other words, expanding our language is the key to expanding our thoughts and evolving mentally. Eric, I appreciate your comments, and I hope you find the connections you’re looking for, perhaps in the work of an author or two whose writing you can really relate to. I wish you the best. Borden, Thanks for your thoughtful letter. It often takes some bit of time and distance to write with candor. But in the meantime there’s nothing wrong with writing fiction. I believe that we often get closer to the truth in fiction than in nonfiction, since that subtle censor, self-consciousness, finds less reason to intrude upon our thoughts. Adrian, Thank you for your thoughts on the class and on my poem, “The Word.” As the comments above might indicate, I consider John 1:1one of the most important passages in the Bible, especially for writers. Chad Sloat, I agree that people really need to unplug from their technological devices more often and spend some time outdoors. And I understand how easy it is to go on automatic to make the time pass faster. There were plenty of opportunities for that in any number of the jobs 144

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I’ve had, and in the army as well. But at least in the infantry we also had plenty of opportunities to get out there in the natural world. Isaac, Thanks for the comments in your letter. And keep on writing and reading. As with all skills, as long as you practice, you’ll continue to improve. LeVar, Thanks for your thoughts concerning writing through the dark stuff, because we all have plenty of that to work with. Sometimes a bit of distance in time and place lets us see things from a little different perspective. And then, even in the darkest stuff, we can see a little light. And if and when we do find that light, even if it’s just a bare sliver, we need to celebrate it for all it’s worth. I wish all of you that light. Mike, Very insightful comments. Keep that positive, proactive attitude. People will be drawn to it, for there’s a dearth of such energy in the world these days. Just keep reading and writing, and what you have to share will soon come clear. Marquise, You’re right, it’s often the problems that we don’t want to talk about that others really need to hear. And sharing our stories can help others as well as ourselves realize that we’re really not as alone in the world as we often feel. Also, I really appreciate your suggestion about me trying to write a book for children. And because all of us have a great deal in common, I think that’s something all of you should try as well. Frank, Thanks for your comments. And I believe you’re right—“We get what we think about, whether we want it or not.” Which offers a pretty good incentive for all of us to watch carefully what we tend to think about every day. Chad Hartzler, I appreciate your comments and your questions. No, I don’t have an agent. Poetry really doesn’t pay enough to warrant one, unless the poet becomes quite famous. I work on a few poems and maybe workshop them until they feel right to me, then send them out to some journals. After I’ve had some of them published and have written enough of them for a book, I look for a publisher 4 P.M. COUNT

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who might be open to work like mine, whose requirements, like subject matter and number of pages, seem to fit the manuscript I have to offer. Then I submit and hope for the best. As for workshops, I’ve been in several, each with four or five people. You can basically share your work at any stage, though if you’re already quite satisfied with a poem, you might not appreciate some of the feedback offered. And it’s always up to you, the author, to decide what feedback you might use to edit the poem and what you might reject. But you’re right, workshop feedback can be an important tool in helping you determine how an audience might respond to your work, which parts might need more work and which parts seem to work quite well as is. Gerry, thanks for your thoughts, and I really appreciate your question about poetry as an appropriate vehicle for writing humor. I think you’re right, most people don’t expect to laugh when reading poetry. And it does seem that a lot of poetry is sad, dark, or philosophical, but there are some really humorous poems out there. I’ll include a copy of David Lee’s “Race Hogs” with this. Ask Dr. Reese to read it to the class. Lee is an amazing writer, able to incorporate both tragedy and comedy into his work, something we should perhaps all endeavor to do, as both seem necessary to any completely human story. Once again, I really appreciate the letters from you guys and the time we shared there in Yankton. Thanks to all of you, and to Dr. Reese and Dr. Sullivan for arranging the class. You all take care, Neil Harrison

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ARTWORK

Clark Sloan

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William Miller

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William Miller 4 P.M. COUNT

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ART 100 MMC Students


WOODEN TRACTOR

Legionnaire Jacobson, General Maintenance Foreman Mr. Hegge, inmate craftsmen Olvin Garcia-Huertas and Lynn Bower, Unit Manager and CSP Coordinator Mr. Edwards, and Post 186 Legion Commander Dr. Thompson In their third year of working together, FPC Yankton and American Legion Post 186 worked together to build a rocker to be raffled off as a fundraiser for the Legion’s scholarship program. The Legion has stuck with a rocker theme each of the three years, with this year’s being the tractor pictured above. The inmate craftsmen are given some liberty to add unique details to each of the projects that are not necessarily part of the plans; they added a dipstick and threaded lug nuts to this particular project. They take great pride in knowing they are building something that gives back to the community. Dr. Thompson stated, “What a great use of the men’s time. We are thankful to the prison and the warden for allowing the inmates to participate in community service projects.” When this publication went to print, almost $1200 had been raised. 4 P.M. COUNT

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Reentry Starts Here

By: Brett Keller, Reentry Affairs Coordinator Due to the ever changing needs of offenders coming into and leaving a correctional setting, the task of enhancing reentry programs can be challenging. The goal is to break down the barriers offenders may face when reintegrating back into society. When looking at enhancing reentry programs, it is important to set realistic goals that are within an offender’s reach. The ultimate challenge is to reduce recidivism while keeping the costs of correctional institutions down. One challenge is finding programs which include the offender’s family throughout the correctional process. In an effort to get families involved from the beginning, some districts of United States Probation Offices (USPO) have partnered with Bureau of Prisons staff to get the family involved while the offender is waiting to be designated to a correctional institution. These programs provide an opportunity to discuss the process of preparing for 152

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entering a correctional institution. The forum educates the participants about the various reentry programs available for the offender while incarcerated and expectations throughout their correctional journey. In the end, these forums get the family involved before the offender reports to prison, while the offender is in prison, and when transitioning back to their communities. Another on-going challenge has been to ensure offenders’ release from prison with some form of identification such as a certified birth certificate and a social security card. One way to motivate offenders who have these documents is to assist them in getting a valid driver’s license before they return to their communities. Transportation is an ongoing barrier for offenders when trying to get employment. By obtaining a valid driver’s license, the offender is now being proactive in checking the status of his license and working toward paying off financial barriers which may hinder his transition from prison while searching for employment opportunities. In essence, three barriers are addressed while incarcerated: release without a form of identification, lack of transportation, and failure to address financial matters. In the end, reentry programs may not deal with all the barriers released inmates may face, but enhancing programs and developing partnerships with other agencies can reduce the barriers to make them more manageable and less stressful while increasing offenders’ chances of success. Getting offenders and families involved at the beginning stages of their correctional journey sets the stage for reentry.

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Great Plains Writers Tour “Sharing the stage with people from diverse backgrounds was both a joy to participate in, and a gift to experience as an admirer of creative writing.” –Aimee Huntley While waiting for my turn to read my story in 4 P.M. Count about my son, sitting on the stage with all eyes on us with an inmate on either side of me, I was so nervous I felt nauseous. I leaned towards the gentleman on my right side and said, “I am sooo nervous!” He said something like “Why? You have nothing to lose.” He was right, you have faced and lived through impossibly difficult situations and yet there I was. I managed to read through the piece, stopping only one time to recover my voice and composure. After the reading, audience members shared they had observed some of the inmates wiping away their tears. I had been concerned they might feel like I was judging them for the decisions that had culminated with them being incarcerated. I gathered my courage and spoke with the inmates, asking them if I should share the story with my son. Every single man said, “Yes!” They were emphatic that he needed to hear it. Due to his immaturity and emotional state at the time, I didn’t share it with him but I am thrilled to report that he has made great strides this last year gaining a level of self-confidence that has changed him and his behaviors. I have begun to have a real sense of hope for him. I am writing an update to our story and will be sharing it with him as soon as I have it completed. —By Jullie Weiland

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WELDING PROGRAM

Bonsai tree by Franciso Ponce

Summer 2016 graduates from RTEC (Regional Technical Education Center). American Welding Society certified welders. Pictured left to right front row:Charles Littlejohn, Joseph Havey, Abelardo Aranda, James Fazier; Back row: William Miller, Brian Forbes, Francisco Ponce, Andre Means, Jesus Gonzalez, Oscar Rangel-Flores 4 P.M. COUNT

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Horse by William Miller

Scorpion by Joseph Havey

The welding program is a new relationship the prison has developed with a local resource, the Regional Technical Education Center (RTEC). Students selected for this program are near release and are provided the opportunity to learn a new trade that will enable them to land living wage jobs. The program is over one hundred hours in length and students who complete the program are American Welding Society (AWS) G1 certified welders. During the program the students learn to weld using different techniques and how to use other shop equipment found in manufacturing. RTEC works closely with local agencies and municipalities to find “real world� projects the students can work on to expand their welding and manufacturing skill sets, building everything from tool cribs to park benches and bicycle rakes. They have also welded and repaired aluminum soccer goals for the local parks department and school district. The small artistic pieces pictured are simply used to practice different welds and have a little fun in the process.

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Isaac Kimber Isaac Nathan Kimber was born in Billings, MT, in 1983. He obtained his GED in the Atlanta United States Penitentiary (USP) in 2006, and graduated in May of 2015 with dual-major Associates of Arts degrees in Business Administration and Accounting through Mount Marty College of Yankton, SD, while incarcerated at the Yankton Federal Prison Camp (FPC). Mr. Kimber served a one-hundred-eighty month prison sentence with the Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBOP), before recently being released in either DeKalb, IL or Billings, MT. Mr. Kimber hopes to pursue a career in the automotive industry, earn Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification, and become a productive member of society. Mr. Kimber vows not to forget the hardships he has endured, and always to take full advantage of the second chance at life God has given him.

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A PAST WORTH LIVING FOR By the time I reached twenty-one, I seriously needed help. I had been using drugs and alcohol since I was thirteen, and I knew it was either prison or death for me. On my twenty-second birthday, May 11, 2005, the judge hit the gavel and declared that I deserved to spend the next 180 months of my life in federal prison. He was right, I did deserve it, and I was finally about to receive the help I needed in the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). At this point, I had been incarcerated since June 17, 2004, and I finally wanted to change. Although I was still having some major difficulties due to the extensive criminal training I endured as a juvenile, I was sober now—for the longest time since I was a kid. Therefore, my people skills required an overhaul, as I had already been in numerous physical altercations since my initial incarceration December 9, 2003. I had previously served approximately three months in the county jail before being released on probation in March 2004. Upon my release, I immediately went back to my old ways so it was fortunate for me that the feds came and apprehended me that early June morning. Now, although I have not accomplished all that I wanted throughout my incarceration, my time in prison has helped me develop into a more responsible, confident, and passionate individual. While I was growing up, the only time I had an ambition to do something positive with my life was when I wanted to fulfill my dream to become a mechanic. My dreams never had a chance to be fully attainable, which I believe was due mostly to my weak foundation. When I was in the fourth grade, I remember curiously asking my mom if I would ever be able to attend college, and her telling me that we were too poor. Around that same time, I remember my dad driving me to school in his green two-door Ford LTD while he smoked a joint with me in the car. He hot 160

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boxed the car so prolifically that I was probably higher than he was; I wonder if I learned anything that day. In fifth grade, shortly after my dad went to prison, I had a P.E. teacher who claimed to have been friends with my dad in high school. I thought he was cool until one day when we were on a field trip playing softball at the park and he and I had a physical altercation. This happened while he was pitching, and he became frustrated when the catcher threw the ball to him and it rolled past him to me as I played shortstop. A few of the children laughed at him as he stuck out his hand and told me to give him the ball. In hindsight, I guess he wanted me to walk over to him and gently place the ball in his hand, but instead I tossed it underhand to him; that is when he blew up like a hand grenade. The next thing I knew he had me by my collar, yelling and screaming as he shook me like a rag doll. My brand new Nike Chris Webber shirt ripped at the collar, and my lip busted and started bleeding. Tears started streaming down my face, and I was so embarrassed I took off running back to the school, which was a few blocks and a field away. My P.E. teacher rushed back to the school to apologize to me, and he told me that if I did not tell on him he would buy me a new Chris Webber shirt. Taught at an early age not to tell on people, I wanted to believe him; after all, he had been my dad’s friend in high school. I really just wanted my Chris Webber shirt back though, so I agreed not to tell on him. As time went by, I would get promises that he had not forgotten about me when I asked about the shirt, and that he would get it for me soon. Then one day when I asked him about it, he plainly told me that he was not getting me a new shirt as he looked at me as if I was crazy for asking. It was then that I lost faith in school and began to look warily upon my teachers. Not that much later, my mother, two brothers, two sisters, and I all moved in with my Grandma Vickie and favorite Uncle Mike at my grandma’s house. We were already living on the south side of Billings, MT, but now 4 P.M. COUNT

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we were living in what people called the ghetto. When I was not running the streets I spent a lot of time around the yard taking old bikes apart, fixing them, and putting them back together. After I got familiar with the tools, my uncle would call me if he needed a certain wrench or socket while working on his various vehicles. I was like a tool hand for him, and he was a father figure to me. However, I wanted to learn more. In the seventh grade, after being encouraged in school to start thinking about what we wanted to do with the rest of our lives, I remember telling my mom that I wanted to be a car mechanic when I grew up, but she replied that I was not smart enough to be a mechanic. While my dad was still in prison, my mom left him, and she found a new boyfriend. Eventually, my mom and my other siblings moved out, while I, on the other hand, would stay with my grandma and uncle. My uncle knew a lot about vehicles but he struggled with drug addiction so I could never take learning from him to the next level. Usually I would find myself in a negative environment because drug abusers would be going or coming, while tools, parts and cars would be doing likewise. Before long, my friends and I were using drugs as well, and my dreams of becoming an automotive technician began to fade away. Instead of pursuing my real ambition, I lost all interest in school, and I focused my time and energy on fighting with others, chasing girls, and breaking the rules. In middle school, after numerous suspensions in the seventh grade, I had caused my school so much hell in my first year that in the beginning of the eighth grade when I got into another physical altercation, they gave me the boot. Therefore, I was forced to move in with my mom and other siblings in Billings Heights and to attend a different middle school. By this time, I was already using and addicted to drugs. I was addicted to meth and I would get high and stay up for days at a time without going home or checking in. At my new school, I showed up only periodically so when I 162

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started getting in trouble there as well, I decided to stop going altogether. I could not stay away from my friends on the south side where I felt wanted. Therefore, I eventually moved back in with my grandma. One day toward the end of the school year while I was walking past my old middle school, the principal who had kicked me out happened to see me and decided to come outside and have a talk with me. He asked me how I was, and what I had been up to lately so I told him about dropping out and moving back in with my grandmother. He then informed me that he would see about allowing me to come back to school. Miraculously, he got me back in school, and I even passed the eighth grade. I decided to see what high school was about, but after a few weeks or so, I quit for good. I never thought I would attend school again, and I did not care one way or another. From that point forward, it was partying, running the streets, and being a hoodlum. Thankfully, God had other plans for my life, and it would not be long before the law stepped in, and my life would be changed forever. A few years after giving up on school, I tried to get a job at a telemarketing company. During the job interview, the interviewer asked me to read a few sentences from a flash card but as I tried, I could not pronounce the words. I stammered and stumbled through the words as I attempted to read to her, and this was one of the most embarrassing experiences of my life. After that, my self-esteem was so low that I never even attempted to obtain a driver’s license because I was too afraid of failure, and I did not think I was smart enough to pass the written test. I was afraid of the embarrassment I would experience if I did not pass. I tried to work again a few years later when I was about nineteen. My uncle had been released from federal prison, and had a job detailing cars at a local auto auction. My uncle talked to his boss for me, and he was confident that she would give me a chance if I went in and applied. I was living with my mother at the time, and I really needed a job. I was ready to give it a go, I was eager to show my family 4 P.M. COUNT

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and friends that I could, and would, one day become a man. I applied for the job, and just as my uncle had promised, I was hired. My job consisted of performing the detailing of different makes and models of cars and trucks, and I learned how to do everything related to the job of detailing vehicles. I really enjoyed the work; I felt it was the closest that I could come to my old dreams of being a mechanic. I was even offered the opportunity to work in the auto body shop there if I got my GED, but I did not think myself smart enough to ever be able to pass the GED test. However, whether it was de-trashing, buffing or waxing, it did not matter to me because I enjoyed doing it. It reminds me of the Gecko commercial where the lizard says something like, “If you do what you love for a living, you’ll never work a day of your life.” That is how I feel about working on and around cars, and that is how I felt about detailing them—I loved it! Not to mention driving all the different makes and models of vehicles around, especially when you consider that at thirty-three, I have yet to obtain a driver’s license or own my own vehicle. The only downside to working at the auto auction was that it was on the verge of being a hostile environment. There were close to ten individuals working at the auto auction who were all residents at the Billings halfway house. A few of those employees were women, and the rest were men. Not surprisingly, there was a multitude of hormones running wild in our workplace, due to mass separation of males and females in our country’s prison systems. The women working there were a little older (mid to late thirties) but they were cool and fun to be around. One of the male employees from the halfway house was a person I knew from the streets who I had problems with in the past. He was now working as one of the supervisors. He and I had an old beef, but in this instance, we tried to let bygones be bygones. For the most part then, our beef was a nonissue. One day, however, while assigned the job of wax removal, we got into an altercation because we were having 164

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a slight difficulty getting all of the wax removed due to excess water from snow melting on the vehicles. My supervisor was always complaining about the excess wax but would not address the real issue, which was getting rid of the melting snow in the washing process. Therefore, it seemed to me that he was just trying to give me a hard time by continuously sending vehicles back to me to redo. I was a young knucklehead back then, so by this point I was fed up so much that I went and confronted my supervisor. I felt like he was on some “I just got out of prison, I’m a tough guy” stuff and it seemed to me that he thought he could intimidate me by getting in my face. I knew he was only acting tough so I tried to brush it off and go back to work. However, as I was getting into one of the vehicles, he tried to slam the door while my leg was still hanging halfway outside the car. He then attempted to walk off as if he had just showed me how bad he really was. I was not going to let him bully me though, so I jumped back out of the vehicle and we squared off, cursing at one another and in each other’s faces. I guess we both knew that it really was not worth it to get down right there in the shop because we ended up both walking away instead. I had had enough though, and I decided to quit. A few months later, I was back to using drugs. I ended up selling meth to supply my habits, and before I even realized it, I found myself caught up in a major drug conspiracy. That is when I earned my fifteen-year prison sentence. As a result, showing my family and friends that I could and would one day become a man was going to have to wait. On May 11, 2005, I received my 180-month federal prison sentence on my twenty-second birthday. Prior to my incarceration, I felt like I was as dumb as a box of rocks, and I probably was. I had to relearn how to read by sounding out words while attempting to read the NIV Holy Bible while I was in the county jail and federal holding. During my first years of incarceration, I began to look in other directions for entertainment. I started listening to talk radio and keeping track of world events, and before long I began 4 P.M. COUNT

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developing an interest in education, politics, and business. In 2006, I obtained my GED while incarcerated in the Atlanta United States Penitentiary in Atlanta, GA, and in 2015 I graduated college with dual major associate degrees in Business Administration and Accounting through Mount Marty College in Yankton, SD. However, looking back, one thing I really value most from my prison experience is the work ethic I developed throughout the various jobs I have had. When I arrived at the low-security level Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Waseca, MN in June of 2005, I was kind of in a state of shock. They gave me fifteen years to think about my failures but sometimes I wondered if half of that time would have been more effective. However, I knew if I wanted another chance at life, I had better make the most of my time. I was in the beginning stages of change so I struggled in areas that needed improvement. One of these areas was that I always worried about what others thought of me. I wanted to fit in, and I tried to be cool with everybody but I quickly learned that no matter how hard I tried, I could not please everyone all the time. I was moving in the right direction though. I started my first job in the recycling department of Food Services; I enjoyed what I was doing, and I got along well with my supervisor. Doing time was not easy though, and one day I got in a squabble in the cafeteria. In one rash decision, I threw away all the progress I had made. It was November 2006 when I was placed in the Special Housing Unit (SHU). I would never see the Waseca, MN yard again. After sitting in SHU for a few months, I was placed in transit. It was approximately a month- long journey before I reached my designation, United States Penitentiary (USP), Atlanta. I had heard stories about Atlanta but now it was supposedly different. It was in the transformation stages of becoming a medium-high facility as opposed to the higher security level penitentiary. Nevertheless, I was there for disciplinary reasons and I was a long way from Billings MT; I was a long way from home. The system had it figured out: 166

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I was a knuckleheaded screw-up, and they were going to teach me a lesson. My experience in the Atlanta penitentiary was not what I expected. For the first time in my life, I finally felt like I was among people who I could relate to and who would accept me for me. I did not experience the awkward sensation I was used to feeling around people, which enabled me to excel in my environment. Before long, I had a job with responsibilities as a cook, I earned my GED, and I completed a forty-hour drug treatment program. I was getting my life together, and this was obvious by the progress I was making. I was not perfect but I was definitely growing. One day however, I got in a confrontation with an officer there. I felt he was showing favoritism to a couple of my co-workers, and before long, I snapped. We had a confrontation and I was again placed in SHU. For the next couple of weeks I had a lot to think about, and I knew that I needed to get back on track. I knew I was close to throwing it all away again, and for that, I was disappointed in myself. This experience helped me to find out who I truly am, and what it is I want out of my life. After sitting in the SHU for two weeks, my case manager paid me a visit to see what the problem was. I told him I wanted to take responsibility for my actions, and that I was ready to move forward. For punishment, they took my phone, visits, and commissary away for fifteen days and let me out of SHU. This was in December of 2006. When I was released back on the compound, I apologized to the officer I had the confrontation with, and due to my previous work I even got another job in the kitchen. The other food service staff asked me to come back and work for them because they knew I was a hard worker and took pride in what I did. In my new position, I would have to come in only once or twice a week to clean the fryers. This was a perfect job because it gave me free time to stay out of the way and stay out of trouble. I did this for a few months, but then I finally was interviewed 4 P.M. COUNT

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for a UNICOR job. In the federal prison system, UNICOR is the best place for inmates to work. Some inmates get paid hundreds of dollars doing jobs ranging from sewing to designing templates on the computer. My first UNICOR job was as a mattress builder. It was high intensity work but considering I was a healthy twenty-three-year-old, it was actually fun. We built mattresses that were sent all across the world from Iraq and Afghanistan to anywhere in the United States. I did this for over two years, and it helped me to improve and continue developing a strong work ethic. Shortly thereafter, I also began taking an electrical vocational class, and I started to see that I could do anything I put my mind to. I learned how to install receptacles and three and four way light switches, and to troubleshoot electrical circuits. However, after staying in Atlanta over three years and staying out of trouble for the majority of my time there, in May of 2009, my case manager decided I was ready to go back to a low-security facility. I had no choice in leaving, so instead of completing the vocational electrical program I had to start thinking about something else I could do, which brought me back to my childhood dreams. I asked my case manager if I could be transferred to somewhere that offered a vocational automotive program but I was told that wherever I ended up would be my new home. Then I was back in transit. I was designated to Englewood, CO, which was closer to Billings. Once I arrived, I continued to stay out of trouble while working first in food services and then in their UNICOR. We made shorts for the United States Air Force, and I learned how to do numerous stages in the sewing process of making them. I began a taking Business Vocational Training class and everything was running smoothly. I worked UNICOR and participated in the vocational business class for a little more than a year until my case manager was ready to send me to a minimumsecurity level Federal Prison Camp (FPC) due to my good behavior. I traveled from Englewood, CO, to Yankton, SD, on 168

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an unescorted furlough. Englewood let an inmate from their FPC deliver me to the Greyhound bus station in Denver. I had a six-hour layover so I walked downtown to the McDonald’s up the street. It had been a long time since I felt that free, and it felt like I was finally reaping the benefits from trying to better myself. I spent close to nineteen hours traveling in society to reach my new home in Yankton, SD. My second day in Yankton I got a job in the electrical department. Soon thereafter, I began the electrical apprenticeship program, and I enrolled in the college program to try to earn an Associate of Arts degree. I began taking classes, and I logged in 1400-plus hours in the electrical apprentice program before realizing that I could not ignore my real passion, which was in the automotive industry and working on cars. I felt like I owed it to myself to pursue my dreams. I went to the institution’s automotive shop and tried to get a job but due to my lack of experience and no vocational training, the automotive shop supervisor would not give me a chance. Therefore, I decided to request to be transferred to an institution that offered an automotive training program but this too, proved fruitless and my unit team refused to put me in. I was heartsick. As the days, weeks, and months passed, I started to feel like instead of being rewarded for my good behavior, I was actually being punished for it. However, I did not give up and eventually I obtained a job in the automotive shop where slowly I found myself with an opportunity to learn more of the fundamentals skills of an automotive technician. I was fortunate to have coworkers with patience who allowed me to ask questions and who would take the time to teach me what they knew. I began to get valuable hands-on training that would enhance my knowledge and capabilities, which after four years of experience will further aid me in my quest to become a certified technician upon my release. I have come to look on this situation from a different perspective now. Yes, I have had my bumps in the road and my experiences in prison could have been better but I have 4 P.M. COUNT

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to remind myself that it also could have been a lot worse. The Yankton Federal Prison Camp is a beautiful place to do time—if one must—and the opportunity to attend one of the most beneficial college programs in the BOP provided through Mount Marty College of Yankton, SD, was truly a blessing. Now, because I had the opportunity to participate in and obtain dual-major associate degrees in Business Administration and Accounting—through a respectable college, with like-minded peers, and taught by sincere and intelligent professors—I am confident in knowing that my road to rehabilitation was for something more than just punishment. My dreams were reborn here, I have realized an opportunity to become the man I am destined to be, and I have grown to appreciate and cherish my time of incarceration. Now, I can look forward to the future, and I feel like I truly have earned something to live for.

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I REMEMBER I remember when it was just you and me, It’s like a dream But now, all I got left are my memories, Do you remember? I remember you back when there was no me I saw you walking by the swimming pool gracefully I was awestruck, telling myself, “She is the one!” But we were young, and it is hard to forgive, when what’s done is done. So now, I sit at this table, with this paper and pen Telling myself, “I would do it different if I could do it again.” I get a second chance at life But will I do what is right? Because what good is a second chance without you as my wife? I remember when it was just you and me, It’s like a dream. But now, all I got left are my memories, Do you remember? I remember the first time I saw you, You looked like a queen, and you deserved a ring. But now it seems like you have forgot about me. It has been twelve years now, Have you thought about me? I know your mom dislikes, dreads, and doubts me, And I never gave her reason not to Yet and still, she don’t know what all we been through I wish I could let her know Tell her I still got love for her, and that I’m still in love with you I could prove my love is true; 4 P.M. COUNT

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I still think about, and still pray for you Twelve years later, it is senseless; I needed prison just to learn how to appreciate living Now every day, exceedingly more I find it’s you that I’m still missing. I can remember when it was just you and me It’s like a dream But now, all I got left are my memories, Do you remember? I remember looking in your eyes Mesmerized by the reflection I thought it meant I was meant for you, And that you would be in my life forever Then, we lost our brothers, It was a storm we couldn’t weather I know you loved me, you know I loved you But we could have loved better I said some things that I didn’t mean, Right after I took it back and I threw the ring, Why did I throw that ring? There were times that I didn’t say enough, didn’t love enough But now, I miss my baby, feeling like I’ve been alone enough. I remember when it was just you and me, It’s like a dream But now, all I got left are my memories, Do you remember? I remember how I used to walk you home from school, We would sneak a kiss before I would leave you, You were so beautiful. You were the only person in my life that had ever truly showed me love, You were like an angel sent from up above 172

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If not for you, I probably would have taken my life a long time ago But instead, you taught me how to love and grow I wish I would have never let you go So now I ask myself, “Why, why did you lose your love for me?” I know I hurt you, you know you hurt me But I forgave you So why do you still hate me? They say what is done in the dark, is seen in the light, For all the times I did wrong, I wish that I could make it right I wish that I could go back in time, so that I could change my life Because I know if I could do that, I would have you as my wife. I remember when it was just you and me, It’s like a dream But now, all I got left are my memories, Do you remember? I remember Valentine’s Day, in the seventh grade Cupid hit me with an arrow, and I would never be the same Two dozen roses from my main girl, yeah, I still owe you I get nothing but rain, nothing but pain now, but I still adore you. I remember the last time I heard your voice, the last time I saw your smile, The last time I felt your touch, even though it’s been awhile I remember when it was just you and me; just us I remember each kiss, each look, each touch I remember when I used to fight for you We were both fighting demons Trying to prove that our love was true. I remember when it was just you and me, It’s like a dream 4 P.M. COUNT

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But now, all I got left are my memories, Do you remember? I remember the last time I saw you I wanted to ask, “What are you going through?” I could see sadness in your eyes As if you had heard too many good-byes Or were you just tired of the world, and all their lies? Yeah, I could see it in your face Too many tears, you had been stressing I wished that I could have taken your place Then you could have asked me, “What are you going through?” Just like I wanted to ask you Or maybe, you could have looked me in my eyes too Told me you still loved me And then said, “Maybe we should give it another try Boo” I remember when it was just me and you. I remember when it was just you and me, It’s like a dream But now, all I got left are my memories, Do you remember? I can remember when you fell out of love with me When our brothers went to prison, and you had enough of me I remember when I lost you; I wanted to kill myself, while another dude flossed you When I tried to get back in your life, yeah, I know it cost you You were living your life now, happily ever after While I was running the streets, same book, just a different chapter. Now every day it seems like it rains, every day, it seems like it pours Because I am still waiting for you to come back, I guess forever I am yours. 174

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I can remember when we used to walk and hold each other’s hands I can remember, to me that was living—just you and me While your mom, and both of our dads were in prison But now you’re gone, and all I have left are my memories, I remember…. I remember when it was just you and me, It’s like a dream But now, all I got left are my memories, Do you remember me?

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WHAT ARE YOU Who am I? Where do I belong? I have continually asked myself these questions throughout my life while struggling to fit in with society. Until recently, I have been unsure of which direction to go, what virtues to stand for, and how to adjust to exist in a world I do not fully understand: a society that, whether I like it or not, is highly driven by race, socioeconomic status, and one’s beliefs. I have struggled with my place in this world since my early childhood. Growing up in Billings, MT, my family and I were poor, on welfare, and dysfunctional. From my understanding, it was due to our “Section 8” housing assistance status that we repeatedly moved from one house and neighborhood to another. I attended five separate elementary schools, and two different middle schools—one elementary, and one middle school twice on separate occasions. I was never able to establish meaningful friendships or relationships with others, and even now, in my early thirties, I am unsure and uncertain of the status and quality of my current relationships with others. When I was a child, I was aware of dissimilarities from my peers. I was different. I did not look like the majority of other children who had pale white skin and straight blonde, brown, or occasionally black hair. I had nappy, curly hair, worn in the only style available to me at the time, an afro. The most intimate memories I have of my mom consist of her picking out my hair while I would try to be still and not squirm from the pain. My skin is not as dark as my younger sister’s or youngest brother’s, but my skin is far from pale, and I easily darken to a bronze hue in the sun. My whole life I have had people repeatedly ask me, “What are you?” and I would think, “What am I?” Well, I guess I am black and white. I never met my grandpa on my mother’s side, and all I know about him is that he was Irish, and my grandma called 176

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him Bucky. My grandma on my mother’s side was born and raised in Jackson, MS. She was born out of wedlock in 1933 to a black woman who had half Native American blood, and a white man who was married and had a white family. I met my great grandma when we went to Mississippi when I was five, but according to my grandma, my great grandpa killed himself, probably due to the pressures of society from fathering black children out of wedlock in Jackson in the 1930s. My grandma moved to Chicago, IL, where my mom and her two older brothers were born, before moving to Billings, MT while she was a still little girl. My dad’s parents met in Florida and later moved to Philadelphia where my dad and his two brothers were born. My grandma and her three sons moved to Montana when my dad was nine, and it would be two decades before he would see his dad again. On my dad’s side my grandpa was black, and my grandma is white. I never knew much about my grandpa but I think he married a black woman, and started another family after he left my grandma. I met him once when he flew to Billings from Philadelphia shortly before my dad went to prison. My grandpa later passed away, and I never had a relationship with him; neither did my dad. He never played a role in my dad’s life. Throughout my life, I have been mistaken for Puerto Rican, Cuban, Colombian, Dominican Republican, Mexican, and even various Middle Eastern nationalities. However, I have never felt accepted by either my black or white peers. When I was a child going to elementary school, I often would get involved in fights because of my race, or lack thereof. When I found myself going to a school in a predominantly white neighborhood, the first time one of the white students had a problem with me, it would often end (or start) with me being called a nigger. However, I was taught not to tolerate this, so I learned how to fight at a young age. When I found myself attending school in a more diverse neighborhood, the first thing I would be called when confrontation arose differed, depending on with 4 P.M. COUNT

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whom the conflict began. If the conflict was with a black kid, I was a cracker, if with a Mexican or Native American kid, I was either a nigger or a cracker, and of course, to the whites I would always be an N-word. As a result, I believe, I became violent. I would lash out and try to hurt people as my only alternative means of being somebody or making a difference. This would eventually earn me the respect of certain peers, who unfortunately happened to be the “wrong crowd� of people. The friends I would make often had similar problems. They came from broken homes, homes where abuse was the norm, where neglect was well known, and where positive self-esteem was nonexistent. Due to my experiences, the conditions I lived in, and the perceptions I developed, my self-esteem was negative and poor. In my childhood, if I finally made any friends, it would soon be time for my family and me to move again. Shortly thereafter, I would lose contact with all of those whom I had known in that past life, and I would be expected to make new friends. I believe this also hindered the development of my self-esteem. As an adult today, I have found myself failing to place value on others unless I have my own interest at heart. As I interact with people, I feel as if I know they will eventually leave me and not be in my life for long. The negatives that evolved due to my poor self-esteem far outweigh the positives. I isolate myself from others, which keeps me out of trouble. However, this also keeps me uninformed and alone. In addition, I am not comfortable around others, I am always on the defensive, and I am constantly feeling as if I have to defend or prove myself. This, in turn, pushes people farther away from me, and only serves to enhance my isolation. It is no wonder that I often feel like I am all alone and no one loves me. As I prepare for my November release in 2016, it is my hope that the efforts I have made throughout my incarceration to challenge my low self-esteem and criminal mindset will aid me in reintegrating into society. Now, I try 178

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to open up to others concerning my thoughts, emotions, and beliefs in hopes that this will bring me closer to the world around me. Instead of worrying about what I am, or what I am not getting from others, instead I think of what I can be to them, and how I can enhance their lives. This in turn, has helped me because now I have a sense of purpose and importance in other people’s lives. By looking within, I have been able to learn more about myself; I have found that opening up and talking about my issues helps me by repairing my self-esteem as well. I have made a commitment to continue enhancing my self-esteem by participating in value-adding activities, by surrounding myself with like-minded, positive-thinking individuals, and by being honest with myself concerning my past faults. I am going to attempt to look at the rest of my life as a way in which I can add value and importance to the lives of those around me and to those in my community. I now feel that, if I have a positive attitude and self-esteem, I can be someone, I can belong, I can be me: Isaac Nathan Kimber.

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Shawn Merriman Shawn Merriman is from Denver, CO. He is the father of four great kids. Michelangelo and the Rise of Savonarola is Shawn’s first novel. He’s presently working on the sequel, Michelangelo and the Bacchus Pretense.

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MICHELANGELO AND THE RISE OF SAVONAROLA PROLOGUE Florence 1418 – The Cathedral of Florence The wardens of the Opera del Duomo said it couldn’t be done. They said he was crazy. And when he did the impossible, they called him a lunatic and had him thrown from the cathedral. Now he was back; summoned not by the wardens, but by an agent of Cosimo de’ Medici himself. A triumphant Filippo Brunelleschi entered the chapel adjacent the cathedral’s central nave, placed his hands on his hips, arched his back and peered up at the centering device, a labyrinth of wood beams, posts, and joists used to support the dome during construction. A wry grin formed on his lips. While most Florentines viewed the tribune dome as a forerunner of greater things to come, Filippo saw it for what it was: the extreme limit of Florentine engineering prowess. His grin broadened to a smile. Constructing the centering device for this relatively tiny dome, with one one-hundredth the volume of the great dome, consumed half the trees the wardens allocated to the entire cathedral project and exposed the practical realities of timber supports. Trees only grew so tall, a beam can support only so much weight. Physics, gravity, and economic realities openly conspired against his detractors. Although the average Florentine believed the two projects were identical in nature and rejoiced at the opera’s progress, Filippo saw the effort for the fraud it was. Equating the two domes was as inevitable as it was irrational, akin to expecting a farmer who carved small boat hulls for his children to float on the local pond to construct a sea-going galleon. The wardens knew better. They knew the technique employed on the tribune dome could not 4 P.M. COUNT

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possibly scale to the giant dome or they never would have issued such a desperate announcement: Whoever desires to make any model or design for the vaulting of the main dome of the cathedral under construction by the Opera del Duomo—for armature, scaffold or other thing, or any lifting device pertaining to the construction and perfection of said cupola or vault— shall do so before the end of the month of September. If the model be used he shall be entitled to a payment of two hundred gold florins. Two hundred florins! Ten years wages for a skilled mason. Filippo shook his head. The announcement made it sound as if they were merely reaching out to the citizens of Florence for suggestions that may, or may not, be incorporated in the final design. The extravagant reward told a different story. After a century of delay and posturing, the wardens of the Opera del Duomo were no closer to a workable design than they had been when they started. Indeed, 117 years after laying the cornerstone, all they had to show for their efforts were a few walls and a pretty wooden model. Filippo rapped his knuckles against a clay pot, one of twenty-four spaced around the chapel like points of a compass. The pots were filled with sand and acted as bases for the giant posts supporting the dome’s centering device. Thirteen months from now, when the mortar cured, twentyfour men of questionable intelligence, if not the most financially desperate men in Tuscany, would trust their lives to fate, take sledgehammers in hand, and in unison strike the giant pots. The idea was simple enough: the sand supporting the centering device would stream out of the fractured pots, thus lowering the wooden framework to the floor, thereby relieving the centering device of its burden and allowing the carpenters to dismantle it safely. Unfortunately, the process seldom worked the way it was supposed to as more often than not, at least one, if not all, the men in the room were crushed when tons of wood deformed by the pressure of a settling dome came crashing down on them. 182

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Filippo shook his head. And that wasn’t the only risk. More than one dome builder suffered a catastrophic loss when his centering device got hung up, then came crashing down, buckling one or more of the walls supporting the dome in the process. Without a complete set of walls to support the load, a crash was sure to follow. “Messer Brunelleschi?” Filippo looked to the page standing in the doorway. “The wardens will receive you now.” “Tell me,” said Filippo, smiling as if he already knew the answer to his question, “Am I the last to present my proposal?” “You are,” said the page, his tone neutral, as if the question hadn’t the slightest relevance. Filippo took one last breath of pungent air and followed the page to the warden’s office. Walking as fast as his short legs would carry him, he rubbed the gold badge on his chest. Not that it mattered to a bunch of wool guilders, but the badge identified him as the ranking member of the goldsmiths’ guild. The room was still. All seven of his fellow competitors scowled at him, and disdain etched the judges’ faces. Only eight of the original twenty-seven competitors remained. Of the eight, only he had produced a viable design for the judges to review and every man in the room knew it or they would not have invited him to defend his proposal. Overflowing with confidence, Filippo fixed his bright brown eyes on the chief warden, bowed with smug indifference, then took his place beside his model and surveyed the room. Halfway through the table of judges he nearly gasped. There was no mistaking the exquisitely dressed man with dark hair, deep-set intelligent eyes, and a smile that seemed almost childlike in its sincerity. How had he missed him? Cosimo de’ Medici could walk the streets of Florence in a tattered beggar’s cloak and the people would have bowed to him. He was the most talked about, the most admired, the most recognizable man on the peninsula and 4 P.M. COUNT

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Filippo had all but missed him. Their eyes locked. Cosimo bowed his head in a silent greeting. Power radiated from Cosimo like the pleasing aroma of sweetbreads from a baker. Filippo didn’t know whether to bow or speak, so he did neither. “Messer Brunelleschi,” said the chief warden, relieving him of the burden, “we are all impressed with the many fine details and overall construction quality of your model.” Filippo allowed himself a slight smile. In a word, the model he’d constructed was magnificent, a perfect example of his craft and skill as both architect and builder. Not only had he built the dome using the same construction techniques he intended to employ on the giant dome, he’d gone to the extra effort of covering the outside of his brick dome with red terra-cotta tile and finished the exposed vertical ribs in white just as he would the giant dome. He’d even called upon his old friend Donatello to carve eight statuettes which he then positioned at the base of each rib. The effect was astounding. Not only did the statuettes enhance the dome’s beauty, they drew one’s gaze upward, forcing the viewer to take in the entire dome. Spectacular as the exterior was, the significance of Filippo’s model could only be appreciated when viewed from beneath. Of course, the interior was as finely finished as the exterior, a unique attribute in this competition, but not the most significant aspect of his model. No, what separated his model from every dome ever constructed was so subtle that very few ever noticed it even when standing under the dome. Less than a week since setting the final bricks, and long before the mortar had cured, ten men could stand shoulder to shoulder beneath his dome and they could do so because he’d built his model without any external support: no elaborate centering device or wooden beams, no joists, no wood of any kind, something none of his competitors had even contemplated. The warden’s impatient tone belied his contempt for Filippo as he continued, “Yes, in this all of the judges agree. Our concerns lie not with the design or workmanship but 184

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exactly how you propose building the largest dome in Christendom without any external support as it rises.” Filippo’s face flushed. “I built that model,” said Filippo pointing to the twelve-foot diameter dome he’d constructed, “using the same techniques I intend to employ on the giant dome. And you,” eyes blazing, he pointed to the warden, “watched me do it. The model speaks for itself. No elaboration on my part is required or forthcoming.” The warden lowered his head into his hands, rubbed his forehead with the tips of his fingers. “Messer Brunelleschi,” said a tall man seated next to the warden, dressed in the blue wool doublet of the wool guild, “I readily concede your model is extraordinary. However, it is but a model and hardly proof of your ability to build the largest dome ever conceived. On behalf of all the judges, I will ask you again. Should you win this competition, what strategies will you employ to build the dome? And how much lumber will be required to support the dome as it rises and the mortar cures?” Filippo sighed. They didn’t get it. The proof lay right in front of them and yet they refused to see it and no amount of explaining the process would help. Filippo turned his comments to Cosimo de’ Medici, “I will use the same techniques I employed to build my model. The process requires no lumber to support the dome in any stage of construction.” Jowls shaking, a red-faced chief warden shook his finger at Filippo, “You are impossible.” Filippo raised his voice. “Far from it. It is you who are unreasonable. You said it was impossible to build a dome, any dome regardless of size, without a centering device and yet I did and I did it before your very eyes.” He pointed to his model. “The proof is right there!” he yelled. “And still you do not believe.” The man started to say something. Filippo cut him off. “Six months ago I said I could build your dome without a centering device. You said I was crazy, that it couldn’t be done, and yet I built it while you watched and now you 4 P.M. COUNT

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steadfastly refuse to accept what you saw with your own eyes.” He looked around the room for support and saw none so he attacked. “Six men remain in this competition. He,” said Filippo, pointing to the competitor from Milan, “proposes to fill the entire Duomo with sand, then use sand to support the dome as it rises. I assume you already know all the problems with this notion.” Not one of the judges nodded. Visually exasperated, he continued. “Walls accommodate vertical loads. In fact, in book two of his ten books on architecture, Vitruvius claims a limestone wall can be built to a height of twelve thousand feet before collapsing under its own weight. I find that remarkable. However, leave a vertical wall unsupported and a strong breeze will blow it over. Now, imagine what thousands upon thousands of tons of sand subjected to the elements, rain, wind, snow, freezing and thawing, will do to your walls?” The faces looking back at him were as blank now as when he started. He held his hands out in front of him, pleading for their understanding. “Domes are more complex. Indeed, when contemplating domes, one must consider several unseen forces – hoop stress, for instance, has particular bearing here. The ancients understood this principle more clearly than we do today, which is why they removed the wheels from their chariots at night, or anytime they were at rest for more than a few minutes. To do otherwise left all the weight of the chariot concentrated on one tiny spot, pushing the wheels out of true and creating flat spots in what had once been a true circle. Domes suffer a similar phenomenon. However, unlike vertical stone walls where all the weight is pushing straight down, the base of a dome is constantly being pushed not only downward, but outward and unlike a chariot wheel which can be temporarily relieved of its burden, there is no way to remove the hoop stress borne by a dome; it has to be dealt with and merely building a thick wall to support it will not suffice. The force is unrelenting, it never tires and it never sleeps, it is constant. “He pointed at the judges, “While you may not be able to articulate the principle with eloquence, I believe each of you understands 186

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the principle well enough, which is why you allowed this competitor to build his unworkable model out of,” Filippo let his voice trail off, “wooood.” The man from Milan started to object but Filippo waved his hand and moved to the next competitor. “And this man,” Filippo laughed as he pointed, “this man proposes building a stone tower to support not the dome but the centering device. Revolutionary and utterly impractical, as it requires yet another foundation, an abundance of stone and more trees than you have at your disposal and because his proposal is so utterly preposterous, he too was allowed to build his model out of,” again Filippo lowered his voice, “woooood.” Before the man could object, Cosimo de’ Medici leaned forward, “I believe we are competent to judge your competitors on the merits of their design.” Cosimo’s voice remained calm, unflustered, devoid of contempt and yet Filippo heard the unspoken reprimand. Cosimo continued. “If I may, Messer Brunelleschi, given the importance of the project we now contemplate entrusting to your care, the request for further details does not seem unreasonable.” Filippo smiled. “Very well. I to propose a trade. I will disclose every element of my proposal, how each and every brick is to be laid, the exact pattern and size of each course, where and how every chain is to be installed, how I determined their needs, size and locations, the formula for my mortar, every detail required to construct your dome, going so far as to make myself available into perpetuity to answer any question, no matter how stupid or obvious they may be. All I ask in return are the details of the Medici bank’s agreement with his holiness the pope for each of his financial transactions, including fees and pledges, collateral agreements and promises of support for future needs.” Cosimo grinned. The others pounced. “We will not allow you to attack our esteemed guest. How dare you? You are to remove yourself from these proceedings forthwith,” screamed the chief warden, rising to his feet. 4 P.M. COUNT

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Cosimo raised the first two fingers on his right hand. “Trade secrets are tightly held for a reason. It appears in this regard, our businesses are not dissimilar. My competitors would love to know the details Messer Brunelleschi has requested.” Cosimo laughed, “The disclosure of which would be my undoing.” The uproar resumed. He’d won that battle but was about to lose the war. His eyes swept across the faces before him. A thin man, slight of frame, sat tall, uninterested in the argument going on about him, a silver tray of hors d’ oeuvres in one hand, a boiled egg from the tray in his other. Filippo raised his voice above the din, “I propose a compromise.” Everyone, the wardens, Cosimo, the competitors all looked at him in disbelief. “Building the dome will require an uncommon measure of insight and creativity. Whoever you choose to build the dome will have to rely on his intuition. He’ll need a keen mind for problem solving, things most men simply do not possess. Can we agree on this?” Heads nodded. “And your proposal?” asked the chief warden. “Simple problems such as building a dome require simple solutions.” He shrugged. “If I may,” he said, taking two boiled eggs from the silver tray. “Award the prize to the competitor who can successfully stand this egg on its end without the assistance of additional devices or support of any kind.” The reaction was instantaneous. An uproar, pointed fingers, accusations from everyone except Cosimo, whose eyes seemed to brighten, an odd mix of curiosity and admiration. “I am curious to see the solution,” said Cosimo, his voice barely a whisper. The wardens turned, the competitors quieted. “I am curious to see the solution,” he repeated a little louder, for the benefit of the competitors who’d been too busy yelling at Filippo to hear his initial statement. “I see little point to this childish exercise,” said the chief 188

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warden. “We all know it can’t be done. There is simply no need to proceed further.” “That’s what you said about my initial proposal and I proved you wrong just as surely as I will prove you wrong with this challenge.” The chief warden’s face reddened. Filippo continued, “I assure you that I can balance this egg on its end without the aid of any helpful device, just as surely as I can build the dome without any external support.” The chief warden spoke in a more subdued tone, “All we’ve asked of you, Messer Brunelleschi, is that you share your method for our consideration.” “The proof is in the model. You saw me build it. You watched it rise. You saw it with your own eyes. Now, securely cloaked in arrogance you ask that I reveal trade secrets, the sub rosa of my method, not just to you but to my competitors as well. This I will not do.” His tone mellowed, “Wardens, if you allow this simple competition to proceed, my reasoning will be clear.” “Be on with it then,” barked the chief warden. Filippo handed the egg to the nearest competitor, the man who proposed filling the cathedral with sand. The man took it, then held it to the light as if looking for a concealed apparatus of some nature. “If you don’t like that one, perhaps you find it unbalanced or unsuitable for some reason the rest of us cannot see. Feel free to choose another from the tray or, if you prefer, you can lay one of your own.” The man glared at him, then looked around for a place to balance the egg. “Quite right,” said Filippo, “we need a table.” He surveyed the room, pointed to a table in the corner, “May I?” The warden nodded with a sigh, “Quickly.” One after another, the competitors took the egg in hand. Some held it with their fingertips, pushing left, then right, until certain they’d achieved perfect balance only to watch the egg tumble. Each did his best; each failed, proclaiming the task impossible. 4 P.M. COUNT

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“It would appear that the solution is yours to reveal,” said Cosimo, leaning forward, his lips betraying the first hint of a smile. Filippo took the egg in hand, turned it around in his fingers considering it from every angle. “Complex problems,” he grinned, shifting his gaze from the egg to the wardens, “generally require elegant solutions.” He raised the egg to eye level, looked at it one last time, then brought the egg down hard against the table. The impact was firm, a solid strike, not enough to splatter the egg –only enough to deform the shell’s bottom without breaking the flexible membrane beneath hard outer shell, giving the rounded egg a new, flat bottom. Filippo removed his fingers. The egg stood on its own. “And sometimes they don’t.” The room grew instantly silent. No one moved. No one dared breathe. Then the room erupted. The smile on Cosimo’s face reached his eyes. No one but Filippo noticed; they were too busy flinging accusations of impropriety and slanderous barbs at Filippo. The wardens were indignant, the din of objections too diverse and convoluted for response. Filippo savored the moment. A Medici page entered through the door, then made his way around the room until he stood behind Cosimo. Lowering his head to Cosimo’s ear, he whispered. Cosimo nodded once, then leaned toward the guild master, whispered his apologies, rose from his seat and followed the page out of the room. Any hope Filippo had of winning the competition vanished with Cosimo. The guild master pointed to the two guards, then at Filippo, “Remove this lunatic from the hall. See that he is booted from the cathedral and I mean that literally. One of you will hold him while the other kicks him to the street. Use the east door. I want witnesses. Tomorrow, I expect to hear everyone in Florence talking about Messer Brunelleschi’s expulsion from the Cathedral.”   190

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COMMUNITY SERVICE PROJECT Inmates can crochet as part of an ongoing Community Service Project that serves hospital patients, nursing home residents, and hospice care recipients through Avera Sacred Heart Hospital. In the last twelve months, participants have provided 149-hand crafted items in support of the CSP Crochet program. The items produced include stuffed animals which are given to children in the emergency room, as well as lap blankets and shawls for nursing home residents and hospice care patients. There are currently thirty-three inmates participating in the program.

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Steven Pelz

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LEATHER CRAFT Through the Recreation Department inmates can participate in Leather Craft as a leisure time activity. Each student has to complete an introductory course and is then able to make special purchase requests for leather products he uses to create a whole host of items. Pictured is a lariat case built and tooled by the leather craftsman. Another craftsman cut, tooled, and created the bead work on the belts (following page). Other projects completed by inmates in the program have included backpacks, purses, horse tack, belt buckles, and motorcycle saddle bags. Developing healthy and productive uses of leisure time is an important component of correctional management and reentry.

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Shawn Burnette

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LaVar Fletcher LeVar Fletcher was raised in Kansas City. As a kid he loved to sing. He would sing for his church, and school programs, and he even formed a singing group while in high school. After high school, instead of going to college he went to the school of hard knocks (the streets). Ever since he jumped off the porch he has flirted with a criminal lifestyle. He also tried to balance out his life with a career in music for some legitimacy. He independently released ten original albums and three mix-tapes; he has collaborated with The WuTang Clan, GANGSTAR, Tech Nine, Big Boi (from Outkast), Janel Monay; and also was an artist on the most notorious, underground, independent record label in the Midwest: Major Factor Records. Not being 100% dedicated to his promising music career because he still engaged in a criminal lifestyle landed him in federal lockup in 2012.

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TEARS OF JOY I looked back behind me and there she was, crying. This set of tears wasn’t your average set of tears. These tears were streaming down over a pair of cheeks that were being lifted from the force of a smiling mouth. Happy was the feeling that was driving the force of this action. While she was smiling, and the tears were streaming, she was also shaking her head from side to side as if she didn’t believe what she had just witnessed. My lawyer was also sneaking looks at me in disbelief, but I already knew out of the gate he was not a believer. This free man that had nothing on the line except his name was the most scared in the whole court room. He had the nerve to tell me, “I don’t think we should bring up any objections because I wouldn’t want us to piss the judge off.” This punk that I had given twenty thousand dollars to, had my mama thinking that he knew what was best and that we should listen to him. I asked this scared grown man with nothing on the line but his name and reputation, “Don’t you work for me? Because if you do, I need you to do what I say.” Praise God I stuck to my guns and didn’t let fear stop me from speaking up for myself. If it was left up to my lawyer the judge would have sentenced me according to the guidelines of what weight they said I had. They had me at 467 grams of meth, but with my objections, not any proffering statements, 5K1, Rule 35, or safety valves, I was able to get the judge to dismiss 290 grams of weight on sentencing day. Less than 200 grams is in a different category than over 200 grams. At the beginning of October 22, 2014 I started at a level 29 in category 1 which merits eighty-seven to 108 months. With the 290 grams knocked off, that put me under 200 grams. I became a level 27 in a category 1 which merits seventy to eighty-seven months. On top of all that, 196

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I happened to be one of the first to receive the two points (for first time nonviolent drug offenders) from my district on my sentencing day. That made my level a 25 in category 1, and that merited fifty-seven to seventy months. The judge gave me sixty-two months and my mama cried tears of joy.

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THE REASON My life has been crazy. I went from being a product of the Nancy Reagan “Just Say No Program” to a thirty-eightyear-old inmate in federal prison on a drug conspiracy conviction. I’ve been both flat-ass broke and unhappy, as well as handling over a million dollars of my cash and I was still unhappy. It’s crazy though, because throughout my entire life money from drugs has been my main source of income. I went from being totally against drugs to loving drugs. I’ve touched everything from powder and crack cocaine, sherm, acid, mushrooms, prescription pills, and Mary Jane. I’m talking about everything from regular to popcorn, to my all-time favorite kush (Bubba Kush, Afghan Kush, Woody Harrison Kush, Purple Kush, Master Kush, Paris Hilton Kush, pretty much all kush). I’ve lived in mansions and I’ve been homeless. I’ve been shot at by people and I’ve shot back. I’ve been the mastermind of the robbery and I’ve been robbed. I have been poisoned and drugged, yet I’ve almost died from an overdose from drugs I took willingly. I remember one hot and humid summer night in August when I had smoked some K-2. I had smoked way too much because I felt my heart beating in my tongue. The air around me seemed to disappear, as I choked and gasped for air. I stripped out of the shirt I was wearing, thinking that would allow me to breathe better. It didn’t though. I fell to the pavement because I couldn’t breathe. It was like I was losing my mind. I was lying there flat on the pavement between two cars, gasping for air like a fish out of water. All I could do was pray to God to save me. I remember saying, “God, please send me some air. I feel like I’m dying here, LORD.” Believe it or not, as soon as I was done speaking to my heavenly Father, a cool breeze out of nowhere in the dead still, hot, humid night started blowing across my nose. As my senses started to return to me I began to thank 198

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God with tears streaming sideways down my face because I thought my life was almost over. I wasn’t crying because I was happy I could breathe again; I was crying because I knew the Lord heard me, and He acted on my behalf. I’ve had a lot of run-ins with death. I’m from Kansas City, a place where the citizens renamed it Killa City. I remember running up to my young homie, Maintain, while he was lying on the ground after he was put down by a Mack 11. As I got closer, I started to hear what sounded like running water. It was blood though, running out of the back of Maintain’s head with a force that I could hear as it hit the ground and trickled through the grass. This time stains my brain more than others because Maintain was a seventeenyear-old friend of mine who was at a twenty-one-year-old and up nightclub that I managed. Maintain had called me earlier in the day and asked me if he could get into the club even though he wasn’t of age. I told him, “You’re my l’il homie, I got you. Don’t even trip.” Every time I think about this it bugs me. If I wouldn’t have said that, he wouldn’t have shown up and got murdered that night right outside the club. I have a lot of friends that died due to violence, but his death sticks out and hurts me. Sometimes I wonder: out of all the crazy things I’ve been a part of, what’s the reason I’m still here? There has to be a reason. I’ve been a part of some terrible stuff in my life. I’ve done some terrible things. I acted like I didn’t have a soul or a conscience. There was a time when I looked at a woman and all I saw were dollar signs. I didn’t see a person with feelings or anything else for that matter, just money. If you couldn’t bring any money to the table you couldn’t sit at the table. I would make others feel less than human, I might treat them equal to a dog, depending the type of dog we are talking about. I am ashamed at how I used to act. How in the world can God save me? Why did I deserve to have my life saved? How did I gain favor in the sight of the Lord? There has to be a reason. I don’t want to go through any more near-death 4 P.M. COUNT

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experiences. I don’t want to be selfish or treat people like crap. I don’t want to deal with drugs whether it be using them, selling them, or promoting them. I don’t want that to be the story of my life. I don’t want to lead anyone else into a life of addiction and destruction. I don’t want to pretend to be happy. I’m looking for some peace within myself, not unrest. I should have been dead a long time ago. I should have been sent to prison years ago for a lengthy sentence, but it didn’t happen. Why? Do you want to know the truth? I believe with all my heart that God has kept his hands on me, protected me, and sheltered me from mental, physical, and spiritual harm. I believe that the years of prayers from my mother have always been heard by God. I believe that even before I was thought about, God had a purpose for my life. I believe that God allowed me to go through the things I’ve gone through, so I could identify with people. Now I can turn around and help these people by spreading the love and knowledge of God and His Son Jesus Christ.

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THIS INCIDENT CHANGED ME January 30th, 2013, was a day that changed my whole life. It was the day my friend Maestro was selfishly taken in front of my very own eyes. By the grace of God and His grace alone, I escaped that situation without losing my life. God must have a purpose for me. There has to be something He wants me to do for Him before I’m allowed to leave this world. If there wasn’t something He wanted me to do I believe I would have been murdered. On January 30, 2013, I was at the studio with my good friend and musical mentor, Maestro. Maestro was the engineer of my session. Maestro was a fifty-four-year-old man who had been in the music business his whole life. He was from Los Angeles, CA. He had worked with a lot of big name artists like George Clinton, Teddy Riley of Guy. He toured around Japan as Stevie Wonder’s drummer for three years in a row. Maestro was one of the best musicians I’ve ever worked with, and he got killed on January 30, 2013, for absolutely no reason at all. At 11:30 a.m. I was just getting ready to start my ten hour studio session. We were sitting there in the studio, waiting for Protools 10 to load up. Maestro was also on the phone trying to contact his landlord to discuss the fact that the carpet of the studio floor was wet from some type of leak. All of a sudden there was a banging sound on the structure of the building. Not really tripping on the fact of the noise, I continued to eat my sandwich. Maestro stood up to see what was going on. He went to the front door to see if anybody was outside, but returned to tell me that nobody was out there. I thought it was a little strange, but nothing to worry about. Maestro sat back down at his work station until it happened again: boom, boom, boom. This time during the noise I glanced to my right and saw something penetrate the wall, which caused the bottom of the studio sound 4 P.M. COUNT

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padding to detach from the wall it was hanging on. I set my sandwich down and prepared to get up and check out what was going on. Then Maestro motioned me to stay seated while he checked out the situation. Maestro passed me and headed to the vocal booth part of the studio. As he was stepping into the booth the sound happened again, but this time we both noticed the wall shaking. Mark leaned close to the wall and said, “Who is it?” Those were some of the last words I ever heard my good friend say because after that I heard two gunshots. Both of those gunshots spit bullets that came through the wall, and one struck Maestro in the heart. From the impact of the bullet hitting Mark’s chest he spun around and slammed his back against the wall. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget his facial expressions. Maestro had his hand directly over his heart and blood oozed down from where his hand was. The last words I heard him yelling were, “I’m hit, I’m hit.” His eyes told the story of a man that was dealing with death; his expression was full of confusion, surprise, and fear. What woke me up out of my state of shock was another round of boom, boom, boom. That was when I yelled, “Maestro, come on!” I took off running, not knowing what would come next and also thinking I was going to be shot. I ran to the front door hoping to escape, but when I got there I realized the door was locked with a deadbolt, and the only person who could open it was Maestro and that the key was in his pocket. I ran to the only other door in the studio, and it was locked too. I didn’t quite know what to do; I was truly scared to death. I turned around because I heard running footsteps coming from the same part of the studio I had just left. To my surprise it was my friend and he was running with everything he had left inside him, but he suddenly he came to a halt. It was like every ounce of life left in him was used up as he collapsed to the floor. As he was falling to the floor, I glanced up. I saw a man covered in white dust, crouched down in a ready position. He was slowly walking towards me holding a handgun. That was when I closed my 202

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eyes and rushed the locked door with my body; I hit the door so hard that the locked steel door came clean off its hinges. When I busted through the door I heard three gunshots. At the same time as I heard the gunshots, I also heard the sound of speeding, hissing air pass my ears on both sides of my head: whoosh, whoosh, whoosh. I remember thinking, please don’t let me get hit in the back of my head. By the grace of God I didn’t get hit and I made it down and across the street to a local tire shop. When I ran in the tire shop the employees were looking at me like I was crazy because I just busted into the shop. I immediately told them what had just taken place. That was when some of the employees jumped up to grab their weapons. We were the only studio in the area, but the people who used that studio are some of the most well-known recording artists in the entire Midwest. When I ran into that shop most of the people in there already knew exactly who I was. I remember telling them, “Call an ambulance, my homeboy is in there dying.” It seemed like within a matter of minutes the tire shop was crawling with police. Never in all my life had I been happy to see the police, but on that day, it felt good that they were around. Whoever called the police must have told them there was a shooting at the studio because they went there first. Then some different police officers came to the tire shop. When they walked in the door everybody in the shop pointed in my direction. The police officers walked up to me and asked me if I was OK. The first question the police asked me was, “What happened?” I told them the whole story and then the officer asked me, “So you two were the only ones in the studio before all this happened?” Out of frustration I yelled, “Yeah!” The police officer had a strange expression on his face, and then said, “What does your friend look like?” I told him what Maestro looked like and what he was wearing. Then he gave me another strange face. The officer told me that my friend was found dead on arrival, but he still had to ask 4 P.M. COUNT

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me a question. He continued, “Who’s the other dead guy in there?” I was dumbfounded because all I had seen was one other person with a gun. Then the officer asked me, “Well, where did you put your gun?” I told him I didn’t have one, and he didn’t believe me. He asked me, “So you weren’t shooting back?” I told him, “Hell, naw, I was trying to get the hell out of there.” Then he went on, “Are you sure you’re not just telling me that because you’re on federal pre-trial right now?” All I could do was shake my head at the cop because my head was spinning at the fact that that there were two people dead in the studio. I sat there wondering: did Maestro’s brother come there at the wrong time? He was the only other person with a key to get in. I was just sitting there tripping out. The cop was still talking, but all I could hear was wah, wah, wah, like the teacher on Charlie Brown. I knew that my life had changed at that very moment. My life and my music would never be the same.

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Marquise Bowie It’s amazing what can happen when love takes over. Mr. Bowie went from a man who was a selfish individual to a selfless servant for the Lord. God can take a mess and make a message. We won’t really know the power of our testimonies until we have been tested. I would like to say that the brother Marquise went into prison as a caterpillar and will come out as a beautiful butterfly, a work in progress, and he has definitely changed: metamorphosis. All his writings are created to help and inspire others to learn from his mistakes. Through reading, writing and education, dreams can be achieved. His new life is dedicated to his daughters Marquissa and Marquia Bowie, and his parents Lynn Bowie and Mark Mitchell. Much love to his sister Candy for all the support that she gives and to all his family and friends for the material from which he writes. Special thanks to Joy Brown and Sophia Hibbler. Thanks also to Dr. Reese for introducing new writers to the class and for sharing his gift of teaching. His biggest thanks are to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for finding him in his brokenness, but not leaving him that way. Mr. Bowie is representing the Southside of Minneapolis, MN, in a positive way.

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A WINDOW Growing up I looked at life through tainted eyes, seeing fatherless homes and family members struggle with drugs and alcohol. I wouldn’t have thought that I too would struggle with alcohol and be abused by drugs. I also couldn’t see that the way I was living would keep me out of my children’s lives. I didn’t purposely just up and leave them, but in reality I did, by the choices I made. Where I was raised, the things that I was doing were considered “regular” or “normal” due to my irrational thinking. I was only doing what I learned from the streets, growing up, and from what I saw in movies, a mere carbon copy. I wasn’t forcing anybody to buy the drugs that I was dealing; it was all about supply and demand, the American way. I had a couple of cars and an apartment, and a few dollars, you know, things one would need to be considered a “hustler,” but I’d be the first to admit, I wasn’t a major drug lord nor was I any “big-shot” in my opinion. I was probably the exact opposite; my clientele consisted of my aunts, uncles, and close friends of the family, a small circle of people that I knew real well. It was the family business and I was the heir. I felt like I was providing for my children, and in a sense I was; I made sure they had the finer things in life, like name brand clothes, and they looked good. I was basically just buying them “stuff ” like I thought most people making money tend to do when they showered their kids with gifts to pacify them, the same things that were done to shush me to keep me distracted from the fact that I was being neglected. Most people with financial problems where I’m from don’t think of how they made the money, they just focus on the fact that they are providing and everybody is eating, seeing that all money is legal. People dismiss the thought of teaching children how to work hard in an honest way, save money, develop leadership skills, and show responsibility. 206

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Most importantly, they avoid being active in helping their kids grow up the right way in healthy relationships from childhood to mature adults. I was there physically, but I wasn’t always there in the moment, and this was partly because of my upbringing as a self-centered, only child. I wasn’t always taught the right things by my older relatives; growing up I was so selfish, misguided, and delinquent. It was all about me, and this attitude followed me all the way into adulthood, even after having children myself. I was so blinded by and immune to the effects that the drugs and alcohol had on me and my family that I didn’t see how having a couple drinks or a couple puffs of weed was hurting anybody else, even though I have little cousins that were born crack babies. Some had other mental health issues due to drug and alcohol abuse. Then there is the fact that drugs had robbed me one way or another of a normal life and had caused turmoil in my family for decades. But I thought that I was bigger than the drugs; I wasn’t a junkie or dope fiend. I hadn’t ever been involved in any car accidents resulting in any major damage of property or caused any bodily injury to anybody. That was until getting a third DUI and being put in the police car had me thinking, “Why me? Not this again.” They pulled me over because I’m black, I didn’t even do anything. I was literally on the other side of the block from the apartment that I lived in when I got pulled over, and I had to piss real badly. So I told the officer that I had to use the bathroom, as if he would let me go, seeing that I was so close to home. As soon as I did, he just pulled off and took me downtown to the precinct. No breathalyzer, no sobriety test, nothing. He just left my car right there. I was in a daze and confused about the whole situation (aka drunk). Then reality kicked in. I was thinking how I had just let my family down, again, and how I was about to go to jail, again. He let me use the bathroom when we got there. Then later he gave me a breathalyzer, which he said came back over the limit. He then booked me into the 4 P.M. COUNT

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county jail. Looking back, I now see how this kind of situation hurts people, even if not physically. I have to quit playing the victim card and start seeing things from my loved ones’ standpoint. It hurts my children and family any time I go to jail, because when I (we) do time, they (our families) are doing the time with me (us) and the cycle never ends, seeing that most of the men in my family would rather be reckless and live comfortably in jail than be responsible and be at home with the family. I learned the hard way that being comfortable in jail is no comfort at all because somebody else is uncomfortable. I have come to the reality that I and most of my male cousins have been running cowards posing as men, leaving the women to do all the heavy lifting for the family, like working, paying the bills and raising the kids by themselves, and by my not being there for my children, I have failed my obligations as a man to protect and provide. To add insult to injury I have put a financial strain on my family because of the money it costs for bail, lawyer fees, fines, etc. Now I need their hard-earned money to help me call them, and live a semi-normal life in prison. In hindsight, I could have put that money up for a down payment on a house, a vacation, a college fund for the kids, or for anything other than wasting it due to my poor choices. It also left us with less transportation, with losing my driver’s license and getting my vehicle taken on a third DUI violation. I didn’t look beyond my selfishness to realize that every choice and decision that I make affects more than just me. These choices affect my parents, my children, and anybody else who may have looked up to me or loves me. But that’s what happens when you look at things through a broken window or tainted eyes. You see broken images or halftruths. And for the most part I saw what I wanted to see, versus how things really were. Looking at things through a window is all about one’s perspective. Many different people may be looking at the 208

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same thing and see many differences, depending on what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for trouble and your attitude is negative, then that’s exactly what you will see or find. If you’re looking for something beautiful and your attitude is positive, you will see opportunities, freedom, and a better life. One thing I have come to realize is, first you should make sure that your vision is good by getting a daily check-up from the great physician in heaven because you might not have that twenty-twenty vision that you think you have. When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change; you can also laugh, smile and be optimistic because the eyes are the window to the soul and laughter is the best medicine. I also came to realize that my heart wasn’t right, so my perception was off balance and when looking at things through a faulty vision system, things will never be as clear as they really are, at least in my heart and mind’s eye. You’re always in motion, but you decide everyday: forward or backward. So take the time and think before you act. One bad decision could be your last decision, and could turn your whole life upside down in a matter of seconds or minutes, and once the snowball gets going downhill, it’s hard to stop it. Think of the old car commercial about seat belts: “You could learn a lot from a dummy.” Get out of the arrested development state of mind and quit thinking only about yourself, and buckle up because life is a roller coaster. You have more influence on others than you may think, so don’t get stuck in neutral with tunnel vision. Lead by example because the world is watching. This also serves as a public service announcement.

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GROWING PAINS Big blocks of government cheese that didn’t melt all the way through is what we used for our grilled cheese sandwiches. Food stamps for allowance were my reward for not messing up in school. The first and the fifteenth of the month were the sacred days when us kids were on our best behavior. The Boys and Girls Club was where I spent most of my days as a youth, because we were guaranteed at least two meals a day in the summer; that’s what I call milking the system. House parties and get-togethers is where I learned about the birds and the bees, but it was more like learning about the bats and the roaches because the freaks came out at night. Every town has an Elm Street, but not a Freddie Krueger. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream, while I had nightmares and cold sweats waking up as a two-time felon in a prison cell as a three-time loser. Being broke and hopeless, how could I keep focus? I remember a friend of mine and I were going to the store, but we didn’t have any money. While there he grabbed a handful of Snickers bars and as he was about to stick them down his pants to make his Octopus purchase (steal them), he noticed that an employee was watching him, so he turned and faced the employee and asked, “How much for all of these?” It was free doughnuts from the church that we ate for breakfast, lunch, and sometimes with dinner whenever I slept over at my cousin’s house. It was our daily spiritual blessing, since we didn’t always attend church. To us this was just as good, and we figured a piece of the church was always in our bellies, but not always in our hearts where the church should have been. 210

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We took pride in self-mutilation; being creative in our brokenness, we pierced our own ears and made our own tattoos like the ancients of days. I wasn’t raised, I just grew up. Have you ever been so hungry that when you did have good food you ate so much that you threw up, not knowing when you would have it again? The next time I go by the wishing well I think I might have to make a deposit. I wished I was a little bit taller, I wished I was a baller. I threw ten cents in the well for my wish, but when I come back I’m taking out ten dollars because there is too much lead in our drinking water; we’re paying to be poisoned, and my wish didn’t come true. They say that life is beautiful, but to me it was pretty ugly. When I was younger I was so over sexualized and confused that I used to trade drugs to the older women for sexual favors. So I was actually paying to get accidentally raped on purpose. I was looking for love in all the wrong places. I got adopted by the juvenile detention center, since I was a delinquent, but I still stayed at home with my mom. How ironic. Although I dropped out of high school in the eleventh grade I still considered going to the senior prom; imagine that. Brushing my teeth with plain baking soda was just awful; now think about eating generic frosted flakes cereal with powdered milk, but with no frosting on the flakes, and no milk just water, it was more like faulty fakes, yuk, or what you know about wearing shorts for drawers? Momma always said, “If you hang around with nine fools, then you’re sure to be the tenth.” She also said, “When they were passing out brains you must’ve thought they said trains and kept going,” meaning you were SOS—stuck on stupid. As I was growing up, my mom was a single parent and at times a drug abuser, although a woman of many struggles in her life. I wouldn’t ever consider her a loser. My mother: I didn’t always like her, but I’ve always loved her. 4 P.M. COUNT

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My Pops was the greatest hide-n-seek player that ever played the game. Once he hid, you’d be better off trying to find a Muslim brother with a perm out eating a barbequed pork sandwich with a white woman at the million man march than you would finding my Pops. I used to look for him in broad daylight with a flashlight, to no avail. But through it all I still stand tall. I came out a little battered and bruised, dazed, and confused. With failures as my teacher and the world as classroom, I learned to bend but never break. The hurt that I endured growing up has helped me become a better man. The late great Frederick Douglass said, “It is easier to build strong children than it is to fix broken men.” Amen to that. Now my appreciation for life is greater, my mind is stronger, and I am determined to be the best version of myself. Life’s ups and downs come and go we just have to weather the storms. After every dark night, there is always a bright day. I believe that my best days are still ahead of me, and change is a process. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. I once heard a quote that rang true in my ear, “A coward dies a thousand deaths, and a soldier dies but once.” This, I still believe.

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MY FIRST LOVE AND I I don’t quite know how to tell you this because it is very painful to me, so I will get straight to the point. From the moment that you came into my life, you have done nothing but use and abuse. It started sometime in the mid-1980s, and the relationship has been rocky ever since. At first I had only heard about you. It was as if you were a myth or a ghost. I was around ten when you entered my life. You started out as friends of my parents and aunts and uncles. You hit the scene and literally took over my family. I hadn’t seen you yet, but I did start to notice that you were real through the trail of evidence that you left behind. You came through like a wrecking ball, leaving a trail of bentup lives because you used to blow people’s mind and gas them up with all these empty promises that you gave, only to leave them up in smoke craving for more of your attention through pill bottles, antenna stems, razor blades, and my roller coaster childhood. It was all your definition of amusement. You were like an undercover agent, unseen, but very dangerous. I blame you as part of the reason for my mom and me having to move from our apartment building on Thirty-first and First, the only place I had known as home. I also blame you for my pops not being there in my life. He broke up with my mom and me and spent all his time and money on you; at least that’s the story that I’ve been told. You kept me from going roller skating due to the financial strain that you put on my family, and I loved roller skating. So even though we had never actually met yet, you were still very controlling in my life. It wasn’t until seventh grade while in junior high that we finally met face to face, or had any personal encounters. And in all honesty your looks weren’t that impressive to me. A couple of my friends and I were walking down the street and found you lying on the ground; we took you 4 P.M. COUNT

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in like a long-lost family member that fell on hard times and required some much needed help. We had heard how beautiful you were when we were younger. They had more personal dealings with you, due to their brothers and sisters who had exposed you to them. We all spent some personal one-on-one time with you between us. You took my virginity that day and my life as I knew it has never been the same. I couldn’t wait to hit the streets running with you. At first you gave me joy and instant gratification. I showed you off and in turn you brought me money and things that I never had before, like confidence and a sense of power. I struggled at first because I still hadn’t really gotten the whole concept all together. We had a business situation going on, but I was on some personal stuff like a real relationship, I was too clingy, I didn’t know that you liked to get around and be flirtatious. That was part of your job. I guess I wasn’t good with communicating or listening, plus you were a harlot and I didn’t know what that was at that point. I learned about relationships from you, in a crazy kind of way. So while my older relatives struggled with you in a different negative, abusive way, the relationship that you and I had, from the outside looking in, was perfect up to that point. That was until you got me in trouble with the law and, at the tender age of sixteen, I was thrown in the juvenile detention center. I should’ve never taken you back after that, but because of the loyalty by default syndrome that I had, I gave in to your constant nagging and pestering. I was obsessed with you, to a degree. We had rarely been apart. I took you almost everywhere I went, which was not a good thing. You stalked me and broke the terms of my probation because I wasn’t supposed to be around you, or have any dealings with you. I bought the lies that promised more, so it was “Here we go again,” and because I was hardheaded, I went to jail again, but this time the consequences were harsher because at that time, I was eighteen, an adult. I spent a couple of months in the workhouse, an adult 214

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detention center, and received probation. And yet I still messed around with you behind everyone’s back, and against my own better judgment. I thought that I could do well by you, and somehow change you. You took a lot from me and my family, but in my greed all I saw were the benefits that came because of you. I overlooked a lot of your flaws and focused on the money, cars, clothes and attention from women, and all the other material things that you brought me. Seeing how you were using my family, I somehow thought that I was using you for them and getting revenge, in a poetic justice messed-up way of thinking. But as it turned out, I was the one being used. Then there was the time when I caught that DUI knowing that the three of us were a bad combination. Me, you and Remy Martin, we shouldn’t have been all together, and because of that I had to take random UA’s (Urine Analysis). So I really had to be careful with you, because had you gotten into my system, I would’ve really been in trouble. So it was almost as if the judge broke us up for real, for real. Even though you were still around daily, abusing my family and running wild in my neighborhood, especially with my mom; she really liked you and fell for you hard by this time. Seeing all of that firsthand, I still took you back when the probation had eased off of me. Now that’s pure insanity; I was doing the same things and expecting different results. It was as if I were addicted to you myself. And in a sense I was, just not the way in which most would think. “They say in more than one way cocaine numbs the brain, but all I could think about is how them funds once came.” So said Jay-Z, a famous rapper who also had a relationship with you. So no matter how much damage I saw you do, destroying my own family and countless other families in my community as well, I thought that I could tame or turn you into a good mate. I somehow imagined that I had the upper hand in our relationship. Oh how wrong and naïve 4 P.M. COUNT

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was my young mind. By now, to me we were commonlaw married. And with you and me together I didn’t need anybody else. With me as the supposed “brains of the operation,” you were to me like the first woman, like the president’s wife. We were supposed to be the first un-official couple of the “hood” like Will Smith and Jada, Bonnie and Clyde, Sonny and Cher, Ebony and Ivory, and be mentioned among the great couples in the world. We were meant to be, and the top is where we were headed (so I thought). With the birth of my first baby girl (outside of our relationship, of course), and the joy of that moment, with her mother as my backbone and you as my sidepiece, my spirits were high. Money stashed for a rainy day, a couple cars, and a nice apartment in the burbs. You couldn’t tell me nothing, but little did I know that the forecast had called for stormy weather, and not just a little rain. One day the police were chasing somebody through a yard while I was taking a leak in the alley. The guy ran past me. The police jumped out of their car and grabbed me and found your info in my back pocket and arrested me. With my prior background, they wanted to lock me up for seven years. I went to trial and lost, so they succeeded, partly. I got convicted of possession and got a later sentencing date. Seeing that I just had a newborn baby and wasn’t a flight risk, I was given the opportunity to get out for a couple of months to bond with my new family. While out, I talked to another lawyer who told me that I had a good chance to get the case overturned, but it would be costly. No promises though. That was all that I needed to hear. This was a no-brainer to me. I would rather be out of jail with little or no money temporarily, than be in jail with money long term. So at sentencing day with this new lawyer, he made his case for me for the charges to be dropped for lack of probable cause, but to no avail; the deputies took me into custody. So the judge did break us up, for the time being. I sat in the county jail for about a month, and to my delight the case got overturned by the Supreme Court in Minnesota, due to the police saying that they saw 216

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me taking a leak in the alley, and that I was not the one that they were originally chasing. I should’ve only been given a citation and then released. Man, I ducked a big one right there. That should have been it between us, or at least a wake-up call for me to leave you alone altogether. But times got rough, and it had cost me five grand for the lawyer. Trying to care for a new baby on a nine-to-five wasn’t something that I was used to doing, nor was it something that I was looking forward to. I had to make ends meet, and fast. My pride wouldn’t let me lay back. I’d rather have that fast quarter (fast money); forget that slow nickel (manual labor). I’d try this one last time to run this smooth operation without getting caught like a pickle in the middle (This is what my conscience was telling me). When the streets are calling, money is the answer. So while everybody else was moving, making money, I couldn’t just see myself standing still, being broke. I tricked myself again into thinking that I had to do this (without much resistance) and that this was for the family. But truthfully, I was in too deep and couldn’t stop. I was addicted to the hustle. I was really thinking about me, my reputation, and my wants. In hindsight I could’ve gotten a job and worked hard, but with my lifestyle, I had gotten accustomed to the finer things in life and living in the fast lane. We had chemistry that was undeniable and a history of making things happen, and quick. The streets and the game were missing us. I went all in on the flop, putting in all my chips. I was spending so much time with you that my girl thought that I was cheating--which I had been the whole time, just not in the way that she may have thought. I was living a lie to the fullest degree. I was driving in the dark with no brakes, a cold crash dummy, putting all my eggs in one basket. With music being a major motivation in my life, thinking back, that Kenny Rogers’s song describes it best: “You better to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run, don’t never count your money when you’re sitting at the table.” 4 P.M. COUNT

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With all this gambling that I was doing with my life, I never sat back and counted the cost of what I could be losing. Out of nowhere came the indictment, and it was too late to stop or swerve at the stop sign. Boom! Man down, mayday, mayday. I crapped out and there was no help in sight, because when the feds come to get you that was all she wrote! When I finally did come back to my senses it was almost eight and a half years later on a conspiracy drug charge, which carries a mandatory minimum of ten years. It has felt like being in a coma, and I’m just now waking up. Being loyal to something like a harlot was not a wise decision. It was like chasing the wind, grasping air. I finally came around to realize that everything that glitters isn’t gold. I never had any business messing around with you in the first place. You little devil. What I once thought was a promising union turned out to be a match made in hell. You were too much for me to handle, but at the time my pride wouldn’t admit that. I was under the impression that men ruled the world, but learned the hard way that, while it may seem that men rule the world, women are the ones in control behind the scenes. At times I feel like I lost everything and in a sense I did. But some of life’s best lessons are learned through pain and turmoil. This time I am glad that the judge broke us up for good, because we were never meant to be. We were headed nowhere fast from the beginning. Like the late great Whitney Houston once said, “Crack is whack.” I was just too caught up in the smoke to see it. Crack, I’m through with you, it’s over!

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NEGLECTED There is a fine line between love and hate, but love will leave you deaf, dumb, and blind sometimes. My heart cries out, because I sold my soul for the almighty dollar. I grew up in the concrete jungle where monkey business wasn’t tolerated. My home life wasn’t grounded, it’s no wonder I screwed up, I started out of balance. Raised by a part-time mom and an absentee dad, I learned that’s why you can trust a nail; it provides stability. A true hustler knows how to survive in a world that is set up for him to fail. I’m in prison physically, but my heart and my mind finally made bail. I once heard someone say that “love wasn’t nothing but two people feeling sorry for each other, and then hit divorce court to pay child support to your baby’s mother,” but it’s cheaper to keep her. I was all by myself, so the streets I roamed for wealth, born a king by the creator, but I had no throne. Earth is the place I dwell, but heaven is my real home. Who can you trust when you need someone to scratch your back? The people that say they love you are all on this new NASA program, astronauts, all spaced out of their minds on crack. Home alone like Macaulay Culkin with a house full of robbers and thieves, forced to make it on my own, momma’s baby, poppa’s maybe. A bastard child born out of wedlock, where were child services when I needed them? I’m just trying to make a dollar out of fifteen cents, a born hustler, from the cradle to the grave, trapped in a cycle of self-destruction. So I played the cards that I was dealt, sorry but the other player had a “get out of jail free card.” He was also a strange kind of hybrid, a snake and a bird, one who could sing a fine tune. Do not hate the player, hate the game; you can’t get mad when a snake bites you. They 4 P.M. COUNT

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are sneaky deceptive animals, not domestic pets; they are not to be trusted, and they belong in the wild, not in our homes. You may have many friends in the audience of your life, but not everyone deserves to be in front row, so make sure that you spray yourself with sucker repellent before you leave the house. Keep your enemies within reach and watch your friends, because they will smile in your face, while the whole time they want to take your place, back stabbers! Now I’m back at square one busted and disgusted, I sit alone in my four-cornered cell staring at what-could-havebeens and what-ifs. I feel so disrespected, I have no one to blame but myself, neglected.

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REFLECTION OF THE NATIONAL PLAYERS RENDITION OF SHAKESPEARE’S MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM I thought the play was amazing and fun. To see a live play in person was a wonderful experience. Considering that we are at a prison and most of the things that go on around here day-to-day are routine, it was good to have a nice laugh and see something different. For almost two hours I imagined myself in an auditorium and escaped my physical limitations. The play itself was educational. Shakespeare was a great poet. To see how relevant and powerful words were then and how much power is still in them four hundred years later is a testament to the quality of his work. Literature and poetry are part of education and history and it is good to have a glimpse to see how people entertained themselves back then. I like how it seems that a lot of the old poetry is coming back around like Shakespeare, and Hamilton, combining the new age with music and hip-hop because I can relate to that a little more with the added adaptation of two genres. As an African American coming from the inner city, I wasn’t exposed to this style of art growing up, so I really enjoyed the performance. To later learn that these actors are a self-sufficient “stage on wheels” gave me greater appreciation for them. They drive around the country to different venues performing for mixed audiences. They also set up and tear down their own stage scenery which only adds to their physical talents as well as their mental abilities, 4 P.M. COUNT

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they are multi-talented. Being in the crowd I felt engaged with the actors, and can only hope that they fed off of our energy, because they had the crowd in an uproar. When they all sang a song in unison, “These dreams are made of these, who am I to disagree, traveled the world and the seven seas, everybody is looking for something,� they even had the crowd singing along. They put a modern day twist to the story. I really like when the one girl did the half bending back thing like Neo from the Matrix when her lord was scolding her about something as if she was blown back by his commands when he spoke. That was awesome how she held that pose for what seemed like minutes. Then, topping it off with the meet and greet at the end was the icing on the cake. To actually shake their hands and thank them individually for the performance was a humbling experience. I hope they go on to do great things with their future acting careers. I am very grateful and thankful for the opportunity and privilege to have witnessed that. On behalf of the inmates here at Yankton, especially the creative writing class, I want to thank the warden for allowing this play to come to the Yankton Camp and giving us this opportunity. Thanks also to the staff for their help (whoever wrote A-Z on the sidewalk by the gym). Special thanks for the education department for all the programs it provides stressing education, knowing that education is one of the keys to staying out of prison, and to Dr. Reese for his patience while teaching and helping us strive to be better people, through creative writing and literature and for helping put this great play on display for us. Thank you all. Sincerely: Marquise Bowie

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Photo by Dana Jodozi

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Photo by Dana Jodozi

Photo by Kyle Roberson

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Mike Murphy Michael Patrick Murphy was born in the 1940s and raised in the 50s and 60s. Advancements in transportation, music, and alternate lifestyles took off at a rapid rate. Being a young lad in these times gave one the impression that there was no limit on what was possible. Teenagers of the 60s had the Vietnam War to deal with. Murph took on the challenge and went on many jungle excursions. Luck of the Irish was on Murph’s side and he was able to live to talk about this adventure. However, some stories, in respect to fallen comrades that are forever silent, are untold.

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WHERE ARE YOU FROM It is a quiet day and the serenity overwhelms you into a false sense of security. The surroundings are peaceful but you are in the middle of a war zone. The birds are chattering away and the monkeys in the tall trees are whistling and grunting, reinforcing their domination of their surroundings. No trespassers allowed today, not even a squad on patrol. We are just camouflaged intruders trying to blend in with the tall grass and thick shrubs of the jungle, below the towering canopy of the trees. Break the boredom of the moment with some nervous small talk, relieving the tension that dominates such a hostile environment. Where are you from, I ask the captain who is in charge of the patrol. Huntington Beach, California, he replies. Really, you say, do you hang out at the beach, surf or do anything involving the ocean. Sure do, he replies, I’m a regular beach rat, surfing as much as I can and chasing as many of those cute little valley girls that are wall to wall on the beach. How about you, the captain asks, where do you call home? Santa Cruz, California I respond, surely a place you are familiar with, Santa Cruz, also known as Surf City. Raised near the ocean, I chased waves and girls as soon as I was able to. How about those beaches and waves in South Vietnam, I add, are they awesome or what. Too bad there’s a war going on, like to surf a few of those swells coming out of the South China Sea without having to worry about some enemy sniper picking me off, talk about the ultimate wipeout. On this gorgeous day we are on a patrol looking for a lost fighter pilot in the thickest jungle that the country of Laos has to offer. I’m assigned to a squad of six green berets who live for this kind of covert action. The only reason that I’m included is the fact that I have trained a special tracking dog to locate lost pilots that our regular rescue helicopters and pararescuemen cannot locate. Hide and seek in its 226

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deadliest form. We all have on our game face including camouflage make-up and special tiger-striped camouflage fatigues to blend into the dimly lit jungle below the high and dense triple canopy of the tropical rain forest. We are all young men, mostly in our early twenties. Myself, I am just twenty and the oldest in the group is the captain at twenty five. These Special Forces troops are something else; all have completed multiple tours in Vietnam and now are stationed in Thailand as a reward for their previous battlefield experience. We are young and in great shape. The tropics with its high humidity and temperatures melts off any excess body weight that anyone has. In addition, the fact of carrying around fifty to eighty pounds of ammunition, food, water, or in my case, extra dog food, tends to thin one down rapidly. As rugged and seasoned these troops are, one thing strikes me as funny. The biggest and meanest of the bunch, a brother named Lester from Cleveland, is deathly afraid of snakes, and over here, in the shade of the jungle, the snakes are everywhere, underfoot and frequently coiled around an overhanging branch. Cobras, pythons, vipers, and banded kraits are companions in this beautiful and lush arena of conflict. Just telling Lester that you see a python hanging from a tree will get him excited. Do not tease him though; he is six-foot-four, about two hundred and forty pounds and chiseled like a bodybuilder. Lester is our best friend, for he carries the M-60 machine gun, a thirty caliber killing machine that can lay down a wall of covering fire that can save your ass in the heat of the action. Every one of us carries a few hundred rounds of extra machine gun ammo on belts slung over shoulders or wrapped around our waist, just like John Wayne in the movies. WE really think that we are bad asses but we are not looking for trouble, just looking for a downed pilot that is counting on us to pull his butt out of the meat grinder and get him back to the safety of the airbase. If trouble finds us though, we will deal them a blow that will allow us to prevail. We have to remember that we 4 P.M. COUNT

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are not the only ones looking for this pilot; the enemy is also on the prowl to find this prize. Opposing forces are not a bunch of rice farmers with pitchforks, but real professionals of the North Vietnamese Army, the N.V.A. Laos is a neutral country between Thailand and North Vietnam, and neither of us is supposed to be here, but oh well, war is war and all is fair. The N.V.A. is well-equipped and has all the latest gear to try to counter our pursuit of the pilot or any other mission tasked to us, here in their neighborhood. We want this day to be an easy mission, with no enemy contact. However, as trained, we are cocked, locked, and ready to rock, if needed. Now a search and track formation established by the patrol. No more small talk, silence from here on out. Hand signals and eye contact are the only means of communication allowed to help mask our presence. The K-9 and I are usually 200 yards or farther in front of the patrol. Lonely up in front all by yourself but the tracking dog needs to concentrate on picking up the special scent on the soles of the pilot’s boots, no distractions tolerated. Sergeant Nelson and I developed this special scent through trial and error and came up with a formula for our tracking dogs to home in on. A human cannot smell the scent but a good tracking dog can keep on track even in the rain. Dropped off by helicopter in the approximate location where the downed aviator’s wingman last saw the pilot’s parachute descend into thick clouds after safely ejecting from the burning plane, shot out of the sky by a North Vietnamese surface-to-air missile. Four hours of searching the area and finally, my trusty dog Fritz has alerted and picked up the scent. No doubt about it, he is on it now. Fritz pulls and pulls forward, steadily and cautiously heading east towards the tallest trees in the area. Now that the dog has a strong alert, the other troops close in on my location, assess the terrain, and make sure we are not walking into an ambush. Fritz and I still move slowly ahead and Fritz starts to raise his nose off the ground. Fritz is starting to lose the scent. This can mean that the pilot has been captured 228

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and is gone, or hanging high above the ground in a tree. A scent can travel for quite a distance before getting to ground level depending on the strength of the wind and the height of the person. Fritz knows more than we do and firmly sits down and looks into the trees. Fritz has spotted the pilot, and sitting down and not moving tells us that it is our turn to look. The captain scans the tree line with binoculars and there hangs the pilot, olive drab flight suit and harness draped below the trees canopy like a little elf Christmas ornament. Lucky for the pilot that his white and orange parachute is hidden amongst the branches so he is concealed from prying eyes of the enemy. Without Fritz, we would never have found the pilot. Fritz and I can now take a break. Notified of our success and location, air rescue with their Jolly Green helicopter and pararescuemen are on their way to extract the pilot once the Special Forces personnel get him down from the tree. Today, skill and a little luck have partnered up to provide a win-win for all involved. Comrades in arms risking all to rescue their brothers from harm. By the way, I wonder where the pilot calls home?

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WAR IS NOT A GAME War, the ultimate contest Where lives are only numbers on a tally sheet, a body count Keeping yourself off of this grim scorecard may require you to take a life This makes you a winner, everyone loves a winner In this case winner does take all, a zero-sum game Someone either loses, or is lost, for your side to prevail Games can be fun, we love to compete and test our abilities against one another Hit the baseball out of the park Throw a touchdown pass into the end zone Cross the finish line first, ahead of the slowpokes Eat more strawberry pie or hot dogs at the county fair eating contest Even taking a hot cutie into the backseat of your car Outthinking any opposition is the goal And, in some cases, to neutralize them completely Away from the war zone, back in friendly territory, you can laugh about the tough times Rejoice at your good fortunes or luck For you are still among the walking, talking, and breathing The strawberry pie and hot dogs tasted great Scored on the ball field as well as in the backseat of your ‘57 Chevy Nomad at the drive-in Take in a breath and appreciate the game of life that exposes itself before you Daring you to compete and win at any cost But choose carefully what undertaking you consider to be fun War is not funny and not a game to be taken lightly A life or death contest that can knock you out of the park Over the fence, forever lost in the high grass of the graveyard

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THE PHANTOM SHARK You all know that cold, haunting feeling that creeps deep down into your soul, while swimming offshore in the open ocean. Knowing that the phantom shark is hiding out there, just waiting for you. This imaginary shark, slowly swimming around in your mind, is waiting patiently for you, its next unfortunate victim, to come along. Looking for you are a set of dark and soulless eyes that show no feeling or conscience. Where this shark is hiding is the mystery that eats away at your comfort zone. You are scared to look for that dark shadow lurking in the depths below, and those haunting eyes that are searching for you. The shark can see you but you cannot see the shark. If the shark shows up there is no hope for retreat. You are at the mercy of this man-eating monster that can do whatever it wants to you. Is it going to be snack time or merely a bite out of curiosity or territorial claim? Those powerful jaws and rows of wedge-shaped, razor-sharp teeth will inflict lethal damage regardless of the reason. As a youngster, you have a wild and creative imagination that can dream up the scariest scenarios to deal with. A Great White shark crunching and chewing as it devours you in a sea turned scarlet with your blood is a constantly hidden fear while swimming in deep water. What a horrible and savage way to die. Even bumping into a submerged piece of seaweed or other debris while in this self-induced frenzied state can make your heart skip a beat. Even the playful antics of a seal tugging at your swim fins can immediately energize you to beat a straight line towards the beach and safety. Then one day you become older and wiser and leave these make-believe demons of your childish mind behind. Age and maturity eventually separate you from these phantoms. The appearance of tangible everyday concerns replaces these imaginary fears. Not much room left in your thoughts for the make believe. THEN somebody produces a movie named of all things, “JAWS.� Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water. 4 P.M. COUNT

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MONKEY BOY In the nearby park is a tree we all called the monkey tree. One fine summer day our little group of six neighborhood hooligans was on patrol through the park. We eventually ended up milling around under the shade of this majestic old monkey tree. This large oak tree was eighty feet tall with an equal spread of twisting limbs. All of us, little seven- or eight-year-old monsters, were looking for something to do. Why not climb this tree, let’s go, time to climb. The first limb, bent almost to the ground, made getting onboard easy. Boys and girls alike all scurried up to the first resting spot about twenty feet above the ground. Now the real climbing was about to begin. Hand over hand I started pulling myself up a little bit with each tug on the branch. Pushing with my old no-name sneakers to keep from slipping backwards. Higher and higher, I went until all the stragglers stopped climbing. I am now the only one crazy or brave enough to continue climbing for the top. Just do not look down, just grab and go, keeping my grip and balance. Five minutes later and the top is now within reach. A big fork in a limb is the farthest I can safely go. This upper branch is the highest one that can support even my skinny little frame. I reach the fork in the limb and stand up, holding onto the flimsy branch at my waist. My head and shoulders are in the clear air above the tree’s canopy. Sun is shining on my face and the summer breeze cools the sweat from the strenuous climb. Wow, am I this high, I am looking down at the power lines and down into the neighboring backyards. My friends, most of them still scattered in the tree, are chattering and playing grab-ass like a bunch of little monkeys. Maybe that is how this tree got its name. Basking in the feeling of accomplishment and bravado feels good. Now time to get down from this precarious perch. Will 232

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I freeze up and be stranded like a treed cat? Decision time, facing the hazardous backward trek down the twisting tree quickly replaces the joy of reaching the top. Sliding down the rough and sharp bark is not an easy task. Hang on and blindly feel with my feet and legs for each stopping point to rest. Glad I was not wearing shorts on this summer day. However, sliding down the tree is shoving my pant legs up to my knees, scraping a little skin from my skinny little bird legs. Down, down, down I go. Slowly and carefully, I descend, feeling much safer as the ground gets closer. Finally, back with my other friends sitting in the lower and larger branches, brings comfort. We all climb the remaining twenty feet back to the ground and share nervous laughter about our exciting climb. Now it is time to go home for lunch, and mom always has something good for us kids on these summer days. Like sandwiches, potato chips, lemonade, and maybe even an Eskimo Pie for dessert. Glowing with pride in my conquering of the massive monkey tree brings a spring to my step. Here I am, mom, the victor. However, mom is not happy; I ripped the crotch out of my pants and the deep scratches need tending to. Dad thought it was cool but he is not in charge of the scene at this moment. I take the scolding, with my pride of accomplishment still intact. To this day, this stately oak still stands in the neighborhood park. Now, whenever I visit my old neighborhood and pass by the old monkey tree, I have a warm feeling in my soul, remembering my childhood adventure this tree kindly provided to a young and adventurous boy.

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MAGGIE THE MAGNOLIA Late February and springtime is approaching But there is still that winter chill in the air Snow could appear at any time here in Yankton, South Dakota However, Maggie is an early riser Eager to beat all the other trees in showing off her springtime splendor before spring officially arrives Early March arrives, and her leaves are starting to appear and swollen flower buds are ready to burst Now it is mid-March and the flowers are starting to unfold and show their beauty, covering the branches All the other trees merely sit idle and jealously gaze upon the magnolia’s magnificent display Maggie, is discreetly tucked away in a corner, between a two-story brick building and a stairway Sheltered from the harsher elements of the surrounding wide open spaces It is now the first week of April An early spring chill is forecast and approaching from over the horizon Invading from the north, out of Canada The little fragile magnolia will challenge this threatening onslaught Predicted freezing temperatures can destroy her tender flowers and foliage Workers are trying to protect the magnolia with a makeshift fabric covering at the last minute High winds cancel this futile effort to shelter Maggie from impending ruin She is on her own, at the mercy of the elements The frigid weekend passes and Maggie has dodged the predicted cold wave Flowers and foliage are as beautiful as before No visible harm done by the chill 234

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Maggie’s beauty still captures the eye A magnificent display of life in early spring Her white flowers covering the delicate branches in a solid mass of white blossoms Near the end of April, Maggie surrenders her white blooms to solid masses of light-green leaves The vibrant show of white flowers is over until next year Maggie can now relax and blend into the landscape as just another tree To simply stand tall and observe It is the neighboring trees’ time to perform Mother Nature’s magic

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HOW TO DRIVE A CAR That magic day was finally here, the day to take the car for a spin around the block. My dad sat me down and gave me the usual speech about the responsibility involved and the safety measures needing to be addressed. The car was in the garage and ready to go. Out to the front of the garage we went, my father and I. My father gripped the garage door handle, turning to unlatch it and raising it to reveal the little jewel parked inside. Lucky for me the car was facing towards the driveway, no backing out required. Just get in and head down the driveway for the open spaces. My father’s warnings about looking out for people wandering out in front of me and for cats and dogs running into my path was in the front of my mind. In addition, I had to keep an eye out for cars backing out of driveways. Climbing into the car, I adjusted the seat so I could comfortably reach the pedals and steering wheel. Now I am ready to take command and embark on this long-awaited adventure. Here I go, heading down the driveway and nearing the roadway. Looking both ways and turning to the right, I am heading for open spaces ahead. Now on the straightaway, I can safely pick up speed and cover some ground. The neighbors are waving and the other kids on the block are looking at me with a bit of jealousy in their gaze. I nod my head, acknowledging their recognition. So far so good, apprehension replaced with the sense of joy and freedom, speed of my car creating a breeze through my new flattop haircut. Then all of a sudden up in front of me disaster looms; two teenage girls on roller skates are racing towards me and yelling for me to look out. I have to take evasive action immediately to avoid a collision, no time to play chicken. I start pedaling faster and race for the nearest driveway for safety, clanging the bell hanging above the hood and leaving little black skid marks on the pavement as I lock my legs 236

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on the pedals just in time. The girls on skates scurry by but not before they stick their tongues out to let you know that you are just a little five-year-old squirt and mean nothing to them, just an obstacle on their sidewalk. As they skate on and fade into the distance, it is time to regroup and continue with my excursion down the sidewalk, clangclang, clang-clang!

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GOING TO THE ZOO We go to the zoo to see the different animals from foreign lands all gathered in one place for our enjoyment. However, look around, who is watching whom. There seems to be a wider selection of oddities on the walkways than in the enclosures. The big cats, from within the comfort of their habitats, look out with a discerning gaze. The primates point at the visitors and gesture in their own secret language to each other, entertaining themselves with the endless variety of observers parading by. Some of the animals could care less. Elephants, energetically swaying back and forth in their enclosures, appear content, blowing dust or spraying water upon themselves with their long trunks as they enjoy the afternoon sun. Bears, impatiently competing for a spot next to a rock ledge to scratch their backs on, look upon us with their large dark eyes. Sit down, relax and observe who is watching whom; it may surprise you who is captive and who is captivated. We observe the visitors’ children that are jumping up and down and running in tight little circles like a bunch of little monkeys. Chattering and playing grab-ass at a breakneck pace to the amusement of the supposedly inferior primates behind the wire. We are all God’s creatures, some restrained behind a short or tall fence. We, with a little forethought, can use our mental processing abilities in a positive and proactive manner to counter this temporary loss of our physical freedom. We should use our supposedly primitive intellect to amuse ourselves with the antics of these narrow-minded and often contemptuous keepers that can range from the good, the bad, and the ugly. As aforementioned, who is really watching whom?

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Jamie Sullivan Jamie Sullivan received a B.A. in English from Creighton University in 1972, an M.A. in English from Creighton University in 1974, and a PhD. in English from Saint Louis University in 1983. He has taught a variety of writing and literature courses at Mount Marty College for more than 30 years and has published feature articles, essays, literary analysis, book reviews, and interviews. In recent years he has returned to his first love, writing poetry, and has published his work in twenty literary journals. Photo by Jim Sullivan

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A LETTER FROM JAMIE SULLIVAN Thank you for the kind comments on my reading earlier this summer. Any writer appreciates response to his or her work. Often enough that is the only reward a writer gets. Other kinds of benefits are less obvious. As I sit here in my living room the temperature is ninety and the city of Yankton is chip sealing the street, maybe forty feet in front of me. The acrid smell of bitumen permeates the house and the sound of dump trucks growling and sprayers, spreaders, steam rollers, and backup beeps is almost continuous. As loud as it is, the constant noise forces greater concentration, something I find crucial to writing. Writing brings a satisfying kind of order. My grass is long and punctuated with dandelions, crabgrass, creeping jenny. The bushes are disheveled, hanging across the sidewalk, grazing the windows. Volunteer mulberry saplings poke through the yew hedge. The interior of the house is unkempt with piles of newspaper, magazines, coffee cups, a shirt tossed over the back of a chair. My desk is cluttered with paper, letters, books, notebooks. The notebook itself is a tangle of ink, cross hatching, doodles, scratched out words, scratched lines, crossed out pages. And there in the middle of this messy world are a few lines, the sound, the images, the ideas carefully if imperfectly organized. That’s something you can do with written language. That’s poetry. A hall of windows carved in sound. Writing is also a way to find out what you think. Of course we can think without writing but probably not as deeply, as intricately, as critically. With writing we are not performing in the now as we are with speech. We can go back, find better words, delete sentences, change directions. With writing we can search beyond our first automatic responses, and beyond the thick second layer of what we’ve been told and accepted without examining, and then into 240

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ideas beyond what we habitually recognize. Part of this is simply bringing our inner self into the exterior world. Short fiction writer Santiago Nazarian says that he writes “to materialize an inner universe.” This is a place no one but you knows about and if you don’t tell us what it’s like in there, the world will have to do without. Putting some of this inner self onto paper or a screen also gives each of us a new perspective on it. That’s why writing can also be a way to examine and question our own thinking. We discover inconsistencies in deeply held ideas. We may notice odd obsessions (why do I return repeatedly to memories of a concrete stairway with weeds sprouting from cracks?). We may discover an entire concourse of thinking that repeatedly steers us to the same padlocked exit. That means it’s time for rethinking. Finally, as I am sure you know, writing—at least good writing—is hard work. It may not be spreading a pink rock aggregate across asphalt on a hot summer day, but it is work. The sweat you break while writing is evidence you are thinking. In the end writing may be more valuable than a resurfaced road, taking you places you’ve never been before. Thanks again for the comments. And keep writing. At times we don’t know what to write. At times we don’t know why we bother. If we keep at it, however, moments of clarity and insight come.

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Warren McKeithen Warren Mckeithen Sr. was recently released from Federal Prison Camp Yankton.

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NO SHOE CLOSET If I allowed you to put a closet inside of my shoe, please tell me what would you do? Would you bring other people in there, to drain out the oxygen, pollute the air? Will you relocate animals there with sharp teeth, to occupy the corners, bite my feet? Invite me to a dinner featuring a beef stew; share your life story so diverse and true? Take smiles out of the closet or no one is winning. Allow me to see them in the world and imagine their beginning. Not too much love in the closet because I know without a doubt, you must carry love with you. Love should be passed out. Keep war, lies, and weapons out and off the shelves; store peace, truth, respect for others and yourself. With a closet, people, animals, dinners, smiles, love and peace all in my shoe, I would never wear sandals and spend very little time with you.... No Shoe Closet.

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LIFELONG LEARNING: COMMENCEMENT SPEECH FOR THE 2016 GRADUATES AT THE PRISON’S ANNUAL RECOGNITION CEREMONY By: Louis Trevino Mankind is much like a brute stone. The fact that we are all born without skill or education makes us truly simple creatures. Pretty soon, we grow into adults and become overwhelmed with problems that drive many of us to make mistakes, some obviously worse than others. Today, I want you to see yourself as this metaphorical stone. From these same stones, artists have created beautiful works of art that are still admired today. To become works of art, though, the stones needed to be worked on before they could become something beautiful. For us it will take different tools, many hours of hard work, and a true dedication to get there. Use the example of our history’s great artists for your lives; had they not put hundreds of hours into their statues and transformed them into what they are, today we would never see them in all of their glory. If you begin to use the right tools and carve and polish the stone that is YOU, then you too can be transformed into a better person. We must begin to design, carve, and polish ourselves into great works of art, which all began as a simple crude rock. There is a way for us to create a work of art from a brute stone, but we need the proper tools to help us get there. Here, the tools we have will help lower our chances of recidivism upon release, and those tools come in various forms that can make us never want to stop learning. Today, I will mention three tools that will help keep you from coming back to prison and transform yourself into a better 244

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person: 1. Go to school and educate yourself. 2. Learn a skill that will help you in life. 3. Earn certifications that prove what you’re worth. Point 1: First, education is one tool that will help keep you out of prison. • By obtaining your GED, passing the • ESL classes, or graduating with an • Associates Degree, we have all begun our journey to a life of learning. Some of us don’t always feel that school is the best option for us; but, there are still other tools offered to help you succeed in life and keep you out of prison. Point 2: Learning a specific vocational skill is another tool, for example: • Plumbing, • Carpentry, • Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning (HVAC) • Welding, or the • Dog training program. With these acquired skills, you have now created a chance at a better future. But learning doesn’t have to stop there either. There are still more tools offered to keep helping you better yourself. Point 3: These final tools are the Pre-release classes such as: • National Career Readiness Certification (NCRC) • Residential Drug Abuse Program & Non- Residential Drug Abuse Program • Parenting Classes • Typing • Resume Writing • Creative Writing • Money Management Classes As for me, after I took a class, I developed a hunger for more learning. This is why I encourage you: just because you’re done with GED classes, even if you have graduated from college, or have finished your apprenticeship, continue 4 P.M. COUNT

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to learn, continue to hunger for bettering yourself, continue in becoming a better YOU! In conclusion, through tools like education, apprenticeship skills, and certifications, you can better yourself and further reduce your chances of coming back to prison. I would like to thank all the professors, staff, and my fellow inmates that continuously help us to become better people. My mission for you all is: Never stop learning, never give up on yourself. So, get the word out and encourage your peers to join in the programs that will give them the tools they will need. Congratulations to you all, and thank you for your time. Louis Trevino was born in Houston, TX and raised in Laredo, TX. He has served over ten years of his life in prison and will be released into the community shortly. While in prison, Mr. Trevino has taken hundreds of hours in pre-release programs and has attended Mount Marty College for forty months. He has earned 102 college credits and received a dual Associates Degree in Business Administration and Accounting; he also aspires to finish his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration upon his release.

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Pictured left to right top row: Edwin Alvarez, Chad Hartzler, Michael Schorn, Michael McClain, Jesus Alvarez-Mora, Ryan Anway. Second row: Christopher Depree, Lesker Bertrand, Benjamin Navarro, Todd Scofield, Louis Trevino FPC Yankton partners with Mount Marty College to provide educational opportunities to inmates. The college program encourages inmates from a wide range of academic backgrounds to continue pursuing their educational goals. Beginning in 1991, three inmates earned Associate of Arts degrees in Business Administration, and 300 inmates have earned more than 340 degrees to date. On May 14, 2016, eleven inmates were among the 2016 graduating class at Mount Marty College. The majority earned Associate of Arts degrees with double majors in Accounting and Business Administration, others earned Associate of Science degrees in Horticulture, Associate of Arts degree in Business Administration, and one student earned an undergraduate certificate in Office Management. Five of these inmate graduates began the college program at FPC Yankton after earning their GEDs and four of the graduates are the first in their families to attend college and earn a degree. 4 P.M. COUNT

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2016 4 P.M. Count  

The 2016 edition of 4 P.M. Count

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