2019 4 P.M. Count

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4 P.M. Count 2019


4 P.M. COUNT 2019 National Endowment for the Arts Writer-in-Residence / Editor-in-Chief Jim Reese Copy Editor

S. Marielle Frigge

Design and Layout

Stephanie Schultz

A Publication by Federal Prison Camp, Yankton, SD. All poems, prose, and artwork are used with permission of 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 author. This book is not for sale. Federal Prison Camp Yankton P.O. Box 680 Yankton, SD 57078 Cover drawing by Jacob Reagan

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Special thanks go to the following people for their help in the production of the 2019 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. Warden J.W. Cox and staff at FPC Yankton: Cory Uecker, Dana Jodozi, Seth Hinz, Michelle Robbins, and Kenny Kulhavy. 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 11

Christopher Warren ·Jerk on a Bike ·Gifted Table ·Disconnected ·Yellow Invaders ·Our Freedom Dream

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Adam Lawin ·Why Mom’s Best Friend is Captain Morgan ·So You Want to Be a Movie Producer? ·The Jig’s Up

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Michael Murphy ·What is a Human Being ·The Brush Pile ·Tarzan Boy ·Don’t Let the Sun Get in Your Eyes ·Surf Was Up--Way Up ·Just Pull the Strings

77 RJH ·Steady Supply ·What I’ll Take Home ·How to Be Cool ·Crossroads ·Not Again ·Fires ·For Mom 85

Marquise Bowie ·Hey Black Man ·All American

89 Roberto Valdez ·The Greasy Pompadour ·How to Be Cool ·Bad Choice Ink 97

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Dog Program ·Essays by Tyler Sutton and Donald Hynes

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101 Shawn Chamberlain ·Waiting 103

Ken Workman ·Keeping the Spirit ·How to Be Cool ·I Wait

111 M.S. ·The Love I Dreamt Of ·Are We Not Men 115 Visiting Author Letters ·Jamie Sullivan ·Sister Marielle Frigge ·Neil Harrison ·Patrick Hicks 128

Isaiah Brown ·So Confused

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Dennis Cockerham ·My First Plug ·Family Affair ·Living on the Edge

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Richard Hill ·Alone ·Rockstar Life ·Twenty-Three

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Past Covers

151 Artwork 176

Bulletin Boards

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Photo credit: 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.

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2019 4 P.M. Count class photo Photo credit: Jim Reese

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INTRODUCTION BY JIM REESE Did you know around seventy million Americans have some sort of criminal record? That’s almost one in three Americans of working age (White House). Ninetyfive percent of those incarcerated are getting out of prison (Bureau of Justice). “Do you want them educated or not?” That’s what our former warden, Jordan R. Hollingsworth, used to ask. “These guys are coming to a neighborhood near you. Do you want them educated or not?” He taught us to prepare men to be better people. 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. 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 8

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incarceration is teaching these men something. Is just locking someone up doing that? Statistics say no. Statistics 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. 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 guys’ 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. Mark Twain once said, “The two most important days in 4 P.M. COUNT

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your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” 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 who are in that same boat. My students at the prison can do their time productively and walk out richer for the show. We have uploaded the last few issues of the journal online. To read the 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 issues 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 is the Federal Bureau of Prisons publication of Making Changes. This publication highlights programs, events, inmate reentry stories, and more to showcase 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 twelve 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 people are 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, Jim Reese, Ph.D. NEA Writer-in-Residence Federal Prison Camp Yankton, 2019

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Bureau of Justice Statistics “Reentry Trends in the U.S.” https://www.bjs.gov/content/reentry/reentry.cfm “Criminal Justice Fact Sheet.” NAACP, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, donate.naacp.org/pages/criminal-justice-fact sheet. Ingraham, Christopher. “The U.S. has more jails than colleges. Here’s a map of where those prisoners live” www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/01/06/ the-u-s-has-more-jails-than-collegesheres-a-map-of-where-those-prisoners-live/ Office of the Press Secretary. “FACT SHEET: White House Launches the Fair Chance Business Pledge.” National Archives and Records Administration, National Archives and Records Administration. https:// obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/04 /11/fact-sheet-white-house-launches-fair-chance- business-pledge Rand Corporation. “Education and Vocational Training in Prisons Reduces Recidivism, Improves Job Outlook.” https://www.rand.org/news/press/2013/08/22.html For more information about Jim Reese and his work visit: www.jimreese.org

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Christopher Warren Christopher Warren is in the final year of his 175-month prison sentence for mortgage-related fraud dating back to the 2008 financial collapse. He has been incarcerated since 2009 and looks forward to leaving prison having vision and hope for a redemptive life going forward. Over the past eleven years he has earned multiple college degrees and spoken publicly at different levels of schools in multiple states about the power of positive and negative choices. He is returning to his family’s hometown of Sacramento, CA.

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JERK ON A BIKE Nonfiction

Jason pushes his Suzuki GSX-R 750 up to seventy miles per hour. I pursue on my black and flame, limited edition, heavily modified, Yamaha R-1. We are running as hard as two F-4 Phantoms over unauthorized and enemy territory; but, in reality, we are two almost-adults racing in a residential neighborhood with a posted speed limit of twenty-five. New prison-looking schools and crosswalks and single lane roads, all sardine packed with breeding huts and minivans. This isn’t my turf, its Jason’s hometown, so I’m flying not only stupid but also blind. Jason drifts wide left into the oncoming lane and I know he is going to catch a helluva grip, so I follow his line. He banks hard at fifty and his knee almost touches. I bring my R-1 down to follow, knowing he is a far more advanced rider than I, in an area he knows well, and hoping that I don’t jack up this cornering maneuver and lose my legs to a wheelchair. The corner literally sucks me in, the bike slams me out; my heart rate jacks farther north. We come up abruptly and run the afterburners to just under a hundred inside of five seconds. I see the red light snap on from his brake light. I try to react, brake, my bike begins to lock up. I have no choice but to release and fly by Jason with about two centimeters of room. I feel more than see his helmet whip by mine in reverse. I want to ask him what to do, for him to help me; but there is no time, there is no help, I am way out past the realm of control and on my own. I am running out of road, and have maybe five seconds left when I see a sharp right turn available. I got this. I throw the bike horizontal again and hit the gas to give me the grip to save myself from myself; more power, more grip. It works, I don’t crash, I am alive. I bring the bike up, extremely proud of myself. Then my eyes see terrible news. Thirty feet ahead of me, looming like a Russian 4 P.M. COUNT

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anti-aircraft battery, is a stop sign, and behind the stop sign, a perpendicular thoroughfare five lanes wide (twosuicide-two) and my bike pushing well over sixty. I slam the transmission a gear down without using the clutch and hear the engine wail past thirteen thousand rpms. I simultaneously grip the right handle brake and apply the right-side foot brake. These actions, the corresponding lurch, and my fear, all cause me to lose proper form on the bike. I appear to be sitting almost straight up, leaning backwards and to the left, instead of tight, down, tucked. The center of gravity evaporates, the tires go beyond being locked up, the bike seizes spastically and the stop sign moves from in front of me to behind me. What must have been less than a five-second ride played out before me like a two-hour feature film: my mission, should I choose to accept it. No skill. No maneuvering. Just a jerk on a bike living or dying on dumb luck. I skid through the first two lanes, a tan blur of a sedan slamming on its brakes to drive right behind me-maybe a foot between me and his rear tire; a crow nearby watches intently. My bike and I are separated, both on the ground, sliding through the suicide lane: almost there. But in comes a MiG-29 from the opposite direction, also known as a minivan, and I think it’s a Town and Country, and I would swear it was an in an inverted, negative G-force dive. I curse myself for thinking about the model type of minivans at a time like this. The driver-pilot heroically pulled that one move, from the movie Top Gun, when Maverick dropped his flaps and hit the brakes; my Yam-a-ham and I slide right by the front grill and smash into the curb. Not one of those gentle rollers, but the squared-off ones. Blunt and sharp pain registers all over as my limbs flip around like a Ridiculousness video gone bad, and my bike performs a simple two-roll somersault into a patch of dirt before a noise barrier wall protecting another neighborhood. The dust settles, the crow flies away, Jaspers dead, mission accomplished, I am alive. I get up and, with a bad limp, run, run, run away, my broken chariot to be picked up later in the day. 14

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GIFTED TABLE Nonfiction

The table is small. It is metal. It doubles as my step to get on the top bunk and is about twenty-four inches squared. One time at around two in the morning I tried to get down from the upper bunk a little too quickly, slipped, and tore a huge piece of skin off my shin on the edge of that table. At one point in history the table was white, but now, more like a fancy vintage paint at an uppity hardware store. Maybe something like “century-old barn whitewash.” It was a place to eat for one, but shared by two-the other person would have to sit on the metal toilet to eat his meal; or if the lower bunk guy was a real philanthropist, he might roll up his mattress and allow me to use his metal slab as a seat to eat there. There were no chairs for this table, that was for sure. Just those twenty-four inches of vintagely whitewashed metal sticking out of the cinderblock wall in the seventysquare-feet cell. The table was like me, beaten, uneven, with ridges and edges that weren’t coming out anytime soon. That table would hold my Calculus II book with no covers or spine because prison officials had to remove the book covers and spine(for safety, they said); the now almost looseleaf text would precariously sag half over the table’s ledge, threatening to separate and turn into 800 individual pages of maddening formulas and theorems. I tried to learn under miserably low light on that table at one in the morning once while a cop was banging on the cell door next to mine, screaming “one man per bunk,” over and over again; me sitting confused until, slowly, awareness crept over my face, a mixture of trepidation and amusement. That table would hold my paper pad and my collection of pencils and contraband pens as I would write letters to mom at home, or kites to women in the kitchen, or incessant questions to priests in robes, or essay drafts for schools serving inmates and military members deployed. 4 P.M. COUNT

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Each envelope sticking out the cell door, waiting to be picked up by C/Os on their next count. There was power to be found in those twenty-four square inches. It was freedom when I was surrounded by walls. It was the vehicle to learning, sharing, feeling, achieving, and seeing. Sometimes I would grip its solid ledge with my hands, pull my knees to my chest so my butt would come off the ground, and start doing mini pullups. The table took my abuse and offered me access to truths now unavoidable. Once I would put something on that table, a letter, a lawsuit, a plea agreement, an indictment, a newspaper article, it was there. It had to be dealt with. The table stopped me from running. It’s where I could read the Wall Street Journal and the Sacramento Bee; Mandela and McCain; Willard and Smith; where I could write pieces printed in an anthropology journal or in a local recovery tract. It is where I could write good essays and dreadful ones; it’s where those essays would land back with professors’ ubiquitous red ink; it is where I would struggle to be original and find only trite or tortured prose. That table held the paradoxical and mixed bag of my attributes simply, and more truthfully, than my extravagant L-shaped desk ever did in that office tower on the thirteenth floor. That jail table held no expectation, it held no judgment, it encouraged no dishonesty, it did not air pretense. Those metal tables in each cell that I lived in for almost four years, that chunk of metal was there for me, before my hair started thinning and going grey and before the fifteenyear bid started grinding me down, putting lines and cracks on my face. That table, all twenty-four by twenty-four if it, was my home, my kitchen, my lab, my card table, my step stool, my hiding spot, my photo shelf, my prayer closet; all that I had, it held. I used to think to myself how horrible it would be, and how inhumane it would be, to be in a prison yard where they didn’t have tables in the rooms that you lived in. Now I live in a room built for four but packed with twelve and no table in sight. I sit on a bunk missing, wishing for, that piece of metal that scarred my shin and gave me my first-ever prison scar. A small price I paid for such a powerful table. 16

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DISCONNECTED Nonfiction

“Ma’am, what seems to be the problem?” This is always how it starts. It seems like a simple enough question. But this is technical support for dial-up internet service providers circa 2000. This question might lead me down a five-minute easy fix and off to a smoke break, or it could lead me onto a frustrating, maddening, almost life-threatening two-hour phone call in which I and the “ma’am” will have circular discussions ad infinitum. But at this point in the call, the possibilities are endless, the world is my stage, and life is like a box of chocolates. “The internet is broken,” is what comes across my headset speakers. This is not a great start, but it could be worse. The poor woman wants to be online, and can’t, so she thinks the internet is “broken.” Now, in fairness, she is paying $19.99 per month for a very suspect 56.6k connection. Suspect in that my employer, a small, regional ISP with less than 20,000 customers, provides customers only an average 24k baud pull-down at a 56k price. But still, the woman’s initial suspicions that the internet is broken may be overstated. “What is happening when you try to connect, ma’am? Are you hearing dial tone? Are you hearing the loud noises?” “No son, I am telling you, the internet is broken.” “OK. Ma’am, can you please describe what you are looking at right now?” “What does that have to do with anything? I’m looking out the window over my kitchen sink at my garden talking to you because the internet is broken!!” I hear the tension in her voice spilling out as the octaves grow higher. I can tell this might be one of the big ones. In the business we call them the whales, and post the longest telephone calls of the week on the wall. The highest score gets a couple of breakfast burritos, but if you get on the wall too much, 4 P.M. COUNT

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the boss takes away some vacation time for not being productive enough. No joke. “Ma’am, I am going to need you to go to the computer, sit in front of the monitor, so we can go through some things now.” I say this in my most adult voice even though I am eighteen and it’s a Saturday and I am but a part-time worker at this ISP pulling down fourteen bucks an hour to take this call. Looking at her customer information on my screen, I see that she is in her late fifties. “Oh. OK. So does that mean my computer is broken? The internet isn’t broken?” “No ma’am. The internet is not broken. I am on it right now as a matter of fact. And I want you to join me there. So let’s go check out your computer.” I hear pitter-patter foot movements and can just imagine the potpourri, the floral pattern couches and the gaudy faux gold-plated legs on the glass coffee table. Somewhere in the house I can see stale See’s candy box and a cat-sized dog with bow ties in her hair. “OK, I am at the computer.” “Is it on?” “No.” Oh dear God. “OK, lets power it on. Turn it on for me, and turn on the monitor too while you are it,” breathe Chris, breathe. Woozaaa. “All right.” Silence. I am not the customer service tech that is going to ask how a customer’s day was going. I’m eighteen and a total jerk. I’m not going to talk to this woman or any of the customers about their life or any other nonsense. This place is not my mission, it is a paycheck, and I want my break and a Red Bull and a Marlboro Light and I can already sense this woman is going to keep me from all of them. So I sit in silence, looking around the room. The customer service center is maybe twenty cubicles (used) haphazardly dropped around a room with thin, dull, beige walls between the connecting rooms and a glass wall looking out into the strip-mall parking lot. 18

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In one connected room is the fifty-degree room with the server racks; and in the back, our break area with vending machines and ash trays and ping-pong/beer-pong table. My eyes drop back to the screen, remembering I am on a call still. If she thinks the silence is awkward, she doesn’t say so. “I am at my desktop, I see the picture of Jax-it’s my desktop,” like I know who that is. “Please open Internet Explorer.” “Oh, I don’t use that. I use Netscape. It’s the future. My son tells me all the time that Microsoft is going to go bankrupt because their owner is a fraud and that Netscape is going to rule the roost.” Great. Another son leading another mom down the wrong path. I hope he’s not managing her investments and her internet browser choices. I am going to have to remember not to say anything contrary to what I imagine this noob is telling grams. “OK, open Netscape and you should see the dial-up screen appear” “Yes, I see it,” she starts, stops, and silence. I don’t hear the modem engage. “Hit connect, ma’am.” “Oh, yeah. Sorry.” I hear her breathing, the din of the other techs on the phones, and clicking, but no dialing, no white noise of a handshake, no dice, no joy. “Nothing happened.” Yeah, I knew that, grams. I sit and think-more silence for her. The difference between a two-hour tech support call and a ten minute tech support call has to do with intuition. The manual on my cubicle desk is going to tell me to go into Windows settings and check the TCP/IP settings and configuration of her dial-up connections, and then try to re-install modem drivers if that does not work. That will take me on a multiple re-boot journey with grams (I don’t even know if she is a gramma) that I don’t want to take. I think back to what I know. I think about the clicking. It seemed much too loud. “Ma’am, how many phone lines do you have in the house?” “Oh, just the one,” a smile breaks across my face. 4 P.M. COUNT

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“Ma’am, you can’t use the internet on the same phone line you are using to talk on the phone. You have to choose-talk or dial into the internet.” “Oh, OK.” “All right, have a nice day.” I can already taste the first drag. “Waaiiitt….what if it doesn’t work when I hang up and try to dial in?” “Call back and we’ll see if we can fix it. Just ask for James…it’s no problem, it’s what we are here for.” The smile gets bigger, I look over and see James at another station, diligently working on the promotion he won’t get, simply because the firm simply isn’t growing-it’s dying. DSL and cable internet are on the way, and future for this place is bleak. “Bye.” “Bye.” Another day, another internet connection saved from its owner. Out the door. Light. Inhale.

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YELLOW INVADERS Science fiction

It is cycle of remembrance 30221, and the inter-galaxy military transport vehicle Negative Existence approaches what the humans call the “Milky Way Galaxy,” specifically, the quadrant that contains their planet Earth. The first captain1, Zero-One, looks across the data fields in front of her and programs a future stealth-orbit flight plan around the humans’ primary star with an intercept for their planet, Earth. The indigenous, dominant life form (aforementioned humans) have not yet developed dark matter detectors so the Negative Existence will not be detectable by their current level of technology. “Zero-One reporting to command.” The protocol bores the captain with its unbearable routineness. “Command, go.” The rough response of a labored voice returns. She hears the response, but there is no speaker in her ear, or around her, or even in her. A benefit of being the universe’s apex predator. Their inter-body communication range is close to two thousand human meters. “Our timeline is in the four milli-cycles to orbit. Recommend we stimulate pods for resuscitation, enculturation, and enshielding.” It’s another planet to dominate, another remembrance cycle on the remembrance calendar, but it’s the same procedure. Zero-One has done it herself over six hundred times. And it’s not like she is doing anything spectacularly unique; the processes are pulled from the pages of the tome Colonizing and Dominating Inferior Planets and Life Forms, First Edition, Cycle of Remembrance 18201(its currently in its 614th edition, but Zero-One is the proud owner of a first edition, hardback, signed). It was written right after their people, the shape-

Each Tikkan-operated interstellar vehicle has three first captains that take rotating shifts.

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shifting, internally telepathic, incredibly smart, and physically weak Tikkans, had defeated their rivals (whose names cannot be spoken and who have been struck from histories of the universe forever) in a multi-generational, multi-planetary system, megadeath-filled war. The text itself has been a cornerstone for universal expansion of the Tikkans and the colonization of over eighteen thousand planetary systems and either the removal, destruction, or enslavement (witting or unwitting) of over four thousand planetary apex species. “Affirmative. Initiate appropriate sequences,” the order comes in. As she works the information and control systems, Zero-One reflects on the last time she was in this planetary system. The larger, red planet was their mission, and the COR was 23014, and the red planet had more that the Tikkans needed for an affordable housing construction project in a different galaxy. The life form on Mars at the time had been prodigious, with large cities, basic technologies, underground water and a matching underground agricultural system. The conflict had been brief. Zero-One was not a captain then; she was merely an under-officer, a human-Western rank of roughly a lieutenant. The battle might have been pitched for the red planet apexers, but was pretty routine for the Tikkans. After it was all over, the native Martian apex species (and all other life forms, too) were destroyed and buried kilometers under the red surface of ashes. Zero-One laughed to herself about the humans’ futile attempts to spend so much of their resources to “study” a planet that had already been destroyed. The humans literally had no clue what they were looking at, a planet ravaged by an invading Tikkan force. Back in that remembrance cycle, the humans did not exist as they did today2. Zero-One had recently made a habit of studying the apex species on Earth, these humans. They border on absurdity and irrationality, but had a recent 2

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Each Tikkan “Cycle of Remembrance” is 12 human solar based “years.”

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rapid ascension after many generations of floundering. Humanity was almost getting impressive. Much less impressive then they presumed for themselves, but still. Some species make it, others don’t, Zero-One muses to herself. All sequences beginning to run, it’s time to see the boss in person. Spinning out of her chair, she walks out of the com and nav center down the hallway to General Fifteen-Twenty’s office. The hallway is dimly lit with recessed lighting in the floor pointed at the walls, devoid of art or markings. The Tikkans never cared for excess lighting, and their optical nerve endings, set well to the side of their heads, take a long time to adjust to brightness. Zero-One stops at a seemingly random place in the hall and waits. An unmarked door recesses and slides to the left. ZeroOne steps in with slight trepidation and anxiety despite the fact that she has been one of Fifteen-Twenty’s captains now for many hundreds of cycles. Fifteen-Twenty does not, never has, and never will tolerate failure, or a lack of operational competence, breeding insecurity and fear in his direct reports. He is big, old, nasty, and part of the old believers3 that were there in the great battle of 18201. The general simply exists as an unchallengeable pillar in the Tikkan political spectrum. As Zero-One steps into the room she sees FifteenTwenty in his command chair that is three meters tall and two meters wide. His body fills almost the entire thing, dwarfing Zero-One by maybe a ratio of three to one. Tubes rise out of his arms and back pumping medicine in and taking toxins out. The temperature hovers around zero degrees Celsius. Cold for Zero-One, but necessary to keep the general alive. Fifteen-Twenty should have been dead

“Old Believers” are designated as Tikkans who believe in a transcendental, supreme being, that may, or may not, be related to the Tikkans, but is responsible for the creation of the universe. The faith is currently out of favor in the dominent social culture, the byproduct of being the universe’s apex predator for such a long time period. 3

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two generations ago, but was kept alive because of his power, which was probably rooted in secrets he held and the things he had seen. “We are ready to commence shortly, general,” Zero-One speaks boldly, having to assert herself even in something such as speaking, as she is one of only twelve female first captains in the entire fleet (in which there are 1,739 male first captains). Sometimes, unintentionally, she crosses some invisible line and causes offense. “Our assets have been in place for some time on this planet,” is all the general offered in response. What? Zero-One silently thought, holding what the humans call her “poker face.” What? This can’t be. Assets? It had been Zero-One’s belief that the Tikkans hadn’t deployed to this system since the Red Planet mission, and had just kept surveillance on the humans from afar. “And what have our assets been doing to prepare?” she inquires. “We have been creating internal dissent amongst the more powerful populations and geo-political infrastructures. The dull-brained humans will be distracted with this internal conflict as we begin to put down our soldiers and prepare for full invasion. The humans will be getting ready to self-destruct and it will make our job much easier,” the general grins, which is odd, because the Tikkans don’t have teeth to speak of, so it is seen as somewhat of a bad habit. “OK. A political disruption to distract attention away from our scouts and beachhead movements. Great. Will I be corresponding with any of these assets? If so, I will need their names.” It was not a statement, but really a question. The plan sounded unique, creative and effective. Zero-One admired the old guard for still being able to think on their feet. She wanted in, and it was worth the risk. “Of course. CNN and Fox News.” Zero-One snorts a laugh, “Give me the Maine and I will give you a war,4 is it then?” The general smiles that toothless smile again, proud 24

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of his disciple’s breadth of knowledge of human political history. He thinks to himself: she will be good, and this planet will be easy.

This is a quote attributed to William Randolph Hearst, a tycoon of the newspaper era of journalism that saw the rapid rise in “yellow journalism,” which involved the reporting of sensationalist stories and/or completely biased reporting in an effort to sell more newspapers and make more money. It created fractured social environments. This quote purportedly was W.R. Hearst telling U.S. Government officials to send the USS Maine down to Cuba and he could handle getting the SpanishAmerican war started. While mediums have changed, this form of “journalism,” part of Hearst’s legacy, still remains with us today, even if more nuanced. 4

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OUR FREEDOM DREAM

Nonfiction

Other people’s standards and hopes for our lives hang on us, chains breaking our collar bones and bruising our skin. Large patches of black and purple, spreading on skin like the oil slick in the Gulf after the Deepwater Horizon. We must unchain ourselves. We ought to turn our hearts inward first, and then turn our hearts upward. Diligently work to not care about and forget about what others think of us, our goals, our desires, our past, our thoughts, our ambitions. Work a nine-to-five; work week in, week out; work that job on the streets; work that job on a prison yard; work a school room; work an out date; work a retirement date; work an office tower; work a guard tower; work a marriage. Stop. Answer two questions: what do we want from life for ourselves? What gifts do we want to give to others? Without an answer to those questions, life is futile and strains to create purpose no matter where the job is, where the work is. None of it will matter. We will simply remain recyclable copper-tops. We need to pull up the deeply rooted anchor of unpurposeful living. We will stop telling people what we do for a living. Instead, we will tell them what we live for. Of extreme importance: we will see reality as it truly exists. We won’t buy what they are selling. The leaders of this culture all worship cash and likes and views and popularity and power. We will not follow their lead; won’t drink their toxic brew; won’t follow the herd. What we will do is cut our own path with boldness blended with humility, strength tempered with discernment, the audacity to act paused for analytical caution. Accept our world as paradoxical and irrational. Reconsider, reconsider, and reconsider everything. We know what to do. See the leeches as they lurk under the surface, looking to live off our blood, our life, our spirit. We must liberate our soul from the things they told us to 26

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carry even though we don’t ever remember making that clear choice. Free our spirits to engage with a God they tell us doesn’t exist. Are we Mr. Andersons, clones, cogs in the system? A robot, a battery? Do we prefer comfortable illusion or uncomfortable truth? No, we will follow the white rabbit and take the red pill. The real us, the Neo, is inside of us, dormant, waiting to for us to engage in the fight, to rip free and vanquish the monotony-born death that they issue. We know why the caged lion dreams; because we have finally seen the cage. Now we will rip the bars from their hinges and live victoriously free.

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Adam Lawin Adam Lawin is from Waterloo, IA. He has a BA in Biology, with an emphasis in Biomedical Sciences, from the University of Northern Iowa. He was an industrial chemist before being indicted for conspiracy to distribute MDMA (ecstasy). When released, he wants to write professionally—both novels and screenplays— and hungers to live his own Hollywood dream of starting a production company and producing feature films.

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WHY MOM’S BEST FRIEND IS CAPTAIN MORGAN

Fiction

“Get your butt moving, Little Johnny.” Clay swept inside their home as the yellow school bus muddied the sky with diesel and lurched down the road, kids screaming excitedly out the windows. The seventh grader slung his backpack off carelessly and tracked his mud-covered shoes through the mudroom and down the basement steps. “We’ve got to get this next flush picked before mom comes home.” “You’re dragging dirt through the house,” Little Johnny protested, sliding in behind him. His wispy blond hair stuck to his forehead and he swiped it out of his large green eyes. The ten-year-old shut the door, twisted the lock, and took a final peek out the window to see if anyone was watching. “Hurry up, Johnny!” his older brother called as he jumped off the last of the basement steps. But Johnny slipped off his Spiderman shoes one at a time, placed them neatly next to the door, and took care to avoid his brother’s mud-prints as he descended the basement flight. Clay was squatted down in front of their bed; a thick tangle of burnt-orange curls was trying to pull itself away from his ears. His lips were plump, his fingers were plump, and his face was almost perfectly round. The other kids made fun of Clay for being fat, and even now he seemed to be winded. He bent under his bed, presenting a plumber’s crack, struggled and grunted with effort, stretching all the way to the back, and emerged pulling out a clear plastic moving tote. “Are you going to help me or not?” Clay gestured across their bedroom, his cheeks wobbling with the nod. “Grab the fan.” Little Johnny’s eyes cast down as he ground his sock into the carpet. “Mom said the next time she caught you she was going to stuff you in the oven and crank the dial all the way 4 P.M. COUNT

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up.” “Yeah, well, mom’s full of empty promises. Now are you going to help me or what?” “I don’t want to get stuffed in the oven….” Johnny frowned uncomfortably. Clay pushed himself awkwardly to his feet. “I’m not going to let you get in trouble.” Johnny’s lips tightened into a fine line. He pictured the way his mother’s face reddened when she was screaming in Clay’s face. How thick cords of muscle strained along the length of her neck. How the spittle flew from her lips and landed on Clay’s trembling cheeks, and how Clay was too frightened to swipe at it until she was twenty steps out of the room. It was stupid to be doing this. Why couldn’t they, for once, just try and obey her rules? Clay laid a comforting hand on Johnny’s shoulder and offered a reassuring smile. “C’mon. It’s an older brother’s job to protect his little brother.” Little Johnny was still unsure. “What if mom comes home?” “You’ll hear her car pull in the driveway.” The promise met Clay’s eyes. Johnny sighed, his tiny heart heavy with defeat. “Fine….” “Good!” Clay’s cheeks got fatter when he beamed a smile. “Now go get the fan.” Little Johnny had been there when the older kids flagged Clay down as he was getting off the bus. They pulled up riding cars instead of bikes, their hats worn backwards, flashing cool-kid head nods, and a “What’s up, little man?” Johnny watched as Clay literally melted in their hands. The thirteen-year-old had puffed his chest out like he had one, and his chin had been lifted three inches too high. They gave him instructions and a black ring of magic mushroom spores, and said, “You seem like a kid who’s too cool to care about rules.” “I am,” Clay had boasted. 30

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“Good,” the high schoolers had told him. “We’ll buy anything you can grow.” And now Clay, the outcast—desperate for friends—had spotted his golden key to the Cool Kids Club, and was determined not to let it slip from his hand. He would have delivered anything they wanted. Johnny thought it was just another prank when they told him what the mushrooms grew out of. This was the first flush he and Clay were about to harvest. His older brother couldn’t be more proud. “Just come here and take a look at this.” Johnny was there when they went out to the farmer’s pasture and shoveled cow patties into the plastic tote, mixed in hay ripped from a bale, added water, and mixed with their hands. He remembered how ripe it smelled then, and now backed away in anticipation, clamping his fingers tight over his nostrils. Clay lifted the tote’s lid and a rancid odor, ripe and pungent, slapped Johnny in the face. It was like being trapped in a closet while a bag full of dog turds was set on fire. Just like that… only much, much worse. “Oh my god.” Johnny gagged, his stomach hurled into his mouth with a splash, both hands clamped tightly around his lips to keep the sickness from exploding out. “Don’t you dare throw up in my room,” Clay warned, though both their beds were in the room, and the closet held the clothes of both. Johnny forced the acidic bile back down, retched, and swallowed again. His eyes watered; his tongue was left marinating in sour milk. He looked around the bedroom for things he could use to lick the taste away. A wall, perhaps. Or the bottom of Clay’s shoe. “Stop,” Clay scolded him with indifference. He grabbed the Febreeze from the dresser and squeezed two misty clouds of fragrance into the air. “You’re making a scene.” “It’s getting worse. This whole basement smells like the sewer, Clay. You think she’s not going to notice this?” Little Johnny coughed roughly. “We’re so dead.” 4 P.M. COUNT

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“We can’t get in trouble for this. It’s no different from growing flowers.” Clay marveled at all the little golden mushroom caps sprouting up from the hay and rot. He twisted a mushroom at the root and plucked it, handing it to his younger brother. The younger brother flinched away. “I’m not touching that.” Clay pushed the mushroom onto him, pointing. “Put it in front of the fan. They want us to dry them.” Johnny backed away another step, just out of his brother’s reach. “C’mon. We get them all in front of the fan and the smell will go away.” The ten-year-old knew that was a lie. They’d have to burn the house to the ground to get this stench to go away. Johnny kept his small hands as far away from the lonely little golden mushroom as he could. Clay pushed and pushed, and finally breathed out a puff of air, defeated. It was going to take both of them to get the flush of sprouting mushrooms picked and dried in time. If he couldn’t get Johnny on board…. This was his chance to be someone. He tried diplomacy. “We’re brothers, right? And brothers have each other’s backs.” He held the mushroom out again, palm up and unthreatening. The forced smile was sad and desperate. Little Johnny hesitated, and relented with a sigh. Brothers did have each other’s backs…. Clay’s smile was a flash of teeth between two pork chops with a set of dimples. His curly auburn hair bounced merrily when his greedy hands dove back in the moving tote for another two fistfuls of ‘shrooms. “We’ve got to hurry. Now put them in front of the fan.” Little Johnny piled fleshy caps and stems on the floor, spreading them out like cookies on a baking sheet, and aimed the old box fan to blow over it to wick the moisture away. They twisted and plucked for twenty minutes, creating a spread of fungi the size of the Johnny’s classroom desktop. 32

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All the while, the noxious fumes were left barreling unhindered out of the tote. When Clay smelled his fingers, his nose wrinkled up. He swiped his stinking fingers back and forth on his shorts, and used his knee for leverage when he pushed himself to his feet. “That’s the last of them.” “Where are we going to put all of these when we’re done?” Johnny asked. Clay stood over them, marveling at how many there were. “I have no idea….” They whipped around, wide-eyed, towards the basement steps as an old car backfired as it wound up the driveway. “Fudge,” they choired together. The car door slammed shut and both boys began to panic. “She’s home!” Clay exclaimed. “Go stall her.” Clay slapped the cover back on the tote. “What am I supposed to say?” “Get her out of the house.” “I can’t do that.” “Do you want us to get caught?” The answer was no. That was actually the worst outcome possible. Johnny sprinted up the stairs before his mom opened the door, leaving Clay running laps in the basement, frantically dousing the air with clouds of Febreeze. But even up here, in the mudroom, it reeked like grandpa dying of a heart attack with a colon full of spoiled eggs. Their mother walked through the door and tripped. She looked down, saw the backpack tangled round her feet, and flushed darkly. “Seriously? Again?” she cursed and pushed a fall of hair out of her face. “Clay, get up here!” Their mother had a nose that was flat and broad, and sat crookedly on a face of sun-leathered skin. She had fleshy dark bags drooping under bloodshot eyes, and a blue vein pulsing along the length of her temple. No one called her “pretty” without it sounding half-hearted and forced. She had a sharp jaw and a sharper temper, and when Mom got home you got the heck out of her way. Instead, Johnny interrupted her with a child’s innocent 4 P.M. COUNT

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smile and tugged at her hand. “I want to show you something outside.” “No, baby,” his mother’s voice sounded like she had dreaded coming home. “I just got off work and I want to—” Her nose wrinkled viciously as if a fly had flown up one nostril. “What the heck is that stench?” She asked the room as if the stink could talk to her. “I don’t smell anything,” Johnny promised her. His mother’s finger was under her nose, blocking air from getting in. Then she let the finger fall and tasted the scent of the house again, choked, and stifled a dry heave. “Oh my god,” she said, flinching away. The horrible smell was still there. “Did you guys track crap through the house?” “I don’t know,” Johnny responded. His mother was looking around him for the source. When he tried to step in front of her, she pushed him away. “Do you know how hard I work to keep this house clean?” she demanded of her youngest son. Half the time the toilets weren’t flushed and there were fresh stains waiting to be discovered, clothes left littered across couches and tables, toys abandoned, front doors left wide open, junk food crumbs ground into the carpet like they worked at it. And nobody in this damn house knew how to put their dishes in the sink. She had to scrub and vacuum and mop before she even earned a moment to herself. Why would today be any different? “No,” Little Johnny answered truthfully, and saw from the brief narrowing of his mother’s eyes that it wasn’t the right answer. His mother looked over his shoulder and spotted the damp brown shoeprints trailing down the stairs. “Oh my god, you did! Where’s your brother at? Clay!” “No we didn’t.” He pleaded with her to believe him. “Johnny, there’s an Oregon Trail of crap trailing down the stairs.” She pushed past him. “Oh my god, it’s frickin’ everywhere. What did you guys get into? Oh, you’re getting a whooping if you tracked this upstairs.” She took the one 34

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half-step up the upper level and studied the floor, only slightly less furious that the prints weren’t zig-zagging across the kitchen and into the living room. This was why she had given her sons their own level to destroy. Banished them both to the basement where they didn’t’ have to be seen, and called down to them only when food was ready. She glared down at Little Johnny. “You’re telling me that you can’t smell that?” “I didn’t know what it was.” “Where is your brother?” “I don’t know....” His mother pushed past her son and started down the stairs. “Clay, get up here!” “He’s not home,” Johnny called after her desperately. He saw the rage radiating off of her and began to sweat. If Johnny couldn’t get her to stop, Clay would get the beating of his life. “OK, OK! We’ll clean it up! You can go back upstairs!” It was even more rancid in the basement, like an outhouse had been dumped over on its side. A path of filth was trudged and smeared across the carpet. Their mother never hit Johnny the way she did his brother, so Johnny again pushed himself into his mother’s way. He was only as tall as her waist but weighed just enough to make him impossible to ignore. She couldn’t do anything but stop or run him over. When his mother juked left, he stayed with her. And when she went right, he went right. She huffed and barreled through him. Johnny threw his small body around one of her legs, gripping on for dear life. “Please, mom. Don’t go in there.” His mother took a step and dragged the other, forcing him along. But she tired quickly in just a couple of steps, and was left breathless in the middle of the basement. A sheen of sweat glistened across her brow. “Clay, if I find you before you find me—” her beltabout-to-be-pulled-from-the-loops voice boomed out. “I’m 4 P.M. COUNT

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giving you ‘til the count of three.” “Mom, I’ll clean it up!” Little Johnny begged of her. “One!” “Mom, he’s not doing anything!” “Two!” “Mom, please...” “Thr-” The bedroom door swung open with Clay standing in the way, sweaty and terrified, but cursing her. “I was sleeping.” Johnny volleyed looks between mother and brother and back, and released the vise on his mother’s leg. His mother wrenched her foot away, gave Johnny a final disapproving look before turning back to her oldest son. “Clay, why does my house reek of the wrong end of a warthog?” The thirteen-year-old felt brave when he should have been silent. “I don’t know. Maybe you forgot to clean up this week.” Their mother’s face reddened “What did you say?” Clay was almost as tall as she was, but she could still bring herself up to look down on him. “Mom, leave him alone. He’s not doing any—” Johnny started. “You shut up!” she snapped, a finger darting in his direction. The bags beneath her eyes made her look crazed. Then she returned her glare to Clay and looked down at his mud-crusted sneakers. “Give me your shoes.” “Whatever,” he huffed. He slipped them off so she could bring them to her nose. They smelled of wet earth and dirt and rotting leaves, not like an illegal black-water dumping ground that choked the rest of the house. She dropped the shoe from her flat, broad nose, and looked at her youngest son quizzically, studying his features for the truth. When the ten-year-old’s eyes dropped away, shamed, her eyes glinted with recognition. She sniffed at the air; it smelled even worse in their room. Her sons had brought home something dead and stinking. Her eyes narrowed sharply in determination. 36

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She threw open the closet door and peered inside, dug around in the clothes; the brothers shared a horrified look as she kneeled next to Clay’s bed, lifted the duvet and stretched an arm in up to her shoulder. But she emerged with empty hands. She gave both her sons a measured look, spotted Clay stealing a glance to one side, and followed his eyes to the only other bed in the room—Johnny’s bed—a little twinsize with red and gold Iron Man sheets. Clay’s eyes went wide with fear; he knew he had just given himself away. Their mother frowned, crossed the room on her knees, and reached under Johnny’s bed. The plastic moving tote was heavy with weight when she pulled it out. Little Johnny’s throat clenched so tight he couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move his hands, couldn’t get his legs to run away. Why had Clay put it under his bed? He promised that he wouldn’t let me get in trouble. His mother sniffed at the container and scowled. The tote was definitely the source. “Clay, what the heck is this?” “It’s not even under my bed,” Clay protested. Their mother turned on him. “Do you think I’m stupid?” “Mom, it wasn’t me. I swear!” “Do you think I don’t know this was you?” “I’ve never even seen that box before!” Johnny remained silent, his face was fright, his tiny limbs were trembling. His mother opened the lid, paused, reached in and pulled out a fistful of mushrooms—studied them in her hand, and let them fall as her red cheeks flushed purple with anger. She turned, shot daggers at her oldest son, rose, and began unclasping the belt at her waist. Clay jabbed a finger in his little brother’s direction. “Johnny helped me!”

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SO YOU WANT TO BE A MOVIE PRODUCER?

Nonfiction

In the eighth grade I became highly obsessed with drug culture, immersed in music videos with rappers leaning on million-dollar cars while they fanned out money and swiped it into the air. Model-class women draped from both shoulders, swaying hourglass figures, eyes narrowed seductively, firm breasts pushed up to their chins— the promise of easy sex. I wanted that. I wanted to live that life—The Life. I wanted that companionship. I wanted girls dripping off both elbows like polished diamonds, foreign cars, twentythousand-dollar rims— I wanted to create a mountain of drugs so high you needed an oxygen tank to summit the peak. I wanted spare bedrooms you couldn’t walk through because thousand dollar bills were stacked floor to ceiling, hoarder-style. I wanted to be a King! And most importantly, I wanted people to stop making fun of me because of the trailer park I grew up in…. In high school I began selling Mexican ditch weed, graduated to breaking into cars—checked off my first felony. Went to college, dropped out of college, started again. Paid rent to sleep on my best friend’s couch; moved back into my old man’s basement. I was broke, poor, depressed, balding, smoked cigs and chewed, borderline alcoholic, walked around in dingy shoes and wrinkled shirts, and was still the same loser I had been since the eighth grade. But at twenty-three I tried ecstasy for the first time…. BOOOOM! I exploded into a vividness of colors I’d never experienced before. Sound bypassed my ears and played straight to my brain with a clarity that makes a Bose stereo system sound like Walmart trash. And the instant connection with strangers—I had walls knocked down, self-doubts melted away. I talked to people, touched people, 38

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loved and felt loved. How can you be depressed when the world shows you how beautiful it is? Screw selling picks and shovels; I had struck gold! This was the drug that would make me rich. It sold itself. “Molly” was dripping off the lyrics of every song. College kids sported “Can you find Molly?” T-shirts. Flat-bills embroidered with “Where’s Molly?” above the brim. It was everywhere you looked and people were desperate to get their hands on it. But I couldn’t find it locally. I wasn’t with the in crowd. So I typed into my computer, “Where can I buy drugs online?” and Google graciously spit out “Silk Road.” Silk Road was a dark web drug marketplace that openly sold drugs in the same fashion as Amazon: Look at the picture, read the reviews, click and buy, and wait for it to be delivered to your door. The first of its kind, it flouted the law, defiantly existing in the face of law enforcement with that attitude of “What are you going to do about it?” It was three long years before they figured out how to take it down. Silk Road was the site that showed what could be done, and gave birth to all the other sites like it that now exist. And I had stumbled into this chamber of gold by accident, wideeyed and excited. I bought under one user name and sold under another. Sales took off like a rocket ship; instant access to hundreds of thousands of buyers—filling hundreds of orders from the comfort of the couch, binge watching “The Walking Dead” off Netflix. It was like a high-intensity videogame to me. My account balance rolled over like a tachometer. Three digits turned to four, four turned to five, five to six. Zeros kept tagging themselves to the end, and I was getting a toecurling Big-O every time I logged in. The kind that leaves you just wanting to stay twisted into the sheets and bask in the scent of sex in the air. I couldn’t get kilos shipped in fast enough. They were coming from Germany, the Netherlands, Canada, Belgium. Two and three chemists at a time. It barely brushed my doorstep before I had it sold. A feeding frenzy! The forums 4 P.M. COUNT

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were ringing with my name! None of my friends knew about my secret life. I had the expensive cars and the twenty thousanddollar vacations. I had the five-thousand-dollar bar tabs; I paid thousands of dollars more just to get my group of friends past the velvet ropes while all the other morons were standing cold and angry in hour-long lines that twisted around the block. I had all that and I had nothing…. I was surrounded by fiends whose mouths watered when I walked in the room and flashed me fake smiles so I’d get them high. Fiends who disguised themselves as friends, but came when the drugs did and left when the supply went dry. My mountain of drugs never bought me The Life. I was spending by the thousands and not the millions. I didn’t have a twelve-car garage lined with Lamborghinis; was never able to afford a mansion in Beverly Hills. Models weren’t coming out of the woodwork half naked to sway in front of me like hookers. And I wasn’t throwing Parties of the Year. What did happen was Homeland Security booted in my front door a week before finals my senior year. I was caught with 1.3 kilos in my old man’s basement—another three hundred grams in my car. The feds watched and waited, took six months to indict me, came and arrested me at work the day before Christmas Eve. In the meantime I had switched towns and gotten a job as an industrial chemist; my life was middle class and boring. Standing in court, I pled guilty. The judge handed me twelve years and called for the next guy in her assembly line of justice. I was just another face in the crowd. I was nobody. I was taken into custody and reduced to a number. Inmate 13375-029. Now I wear that number with incredible pride. It’s one more thing they can’t take away. I found out that drugs were never going to buy me The Life. The Life, as I envisioned it, existed only in the fantasies of my imagination. Half of Hollywood is on anti40

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depressants, the other half islanded in the middle of their entourage, not knowing which of those fake-smiling a-holes they can trust. I am still determined to create it… and to live it. The Life. In prison I began writing, creating dystopian worlds filled with characters as dysfunctional as I am. To date I have written seven books. I’ve written stories to explore what would have happened if I would have never imported from overseas, and instead synthesized my own X in some backwoods lab. I’ve written stories to explore what would happen if I were to go back to dealing the second they let me out these doors. In my stories I have partied and I’ve screwed, run coke across the Mexican border, hunted for the Holy Grail in France, come face to face with velociraptors, been billion-dollar rich and desperately poor. I’ve been the people that I’m afraid of, and I’ve been the people that I envy. That is why I write. That is why I tell the stories I do. I am determined to see my characters live The Life on the big screen. I’m going to first get my novels published; then I’m going to turn them into films. Not as a director or an actor, but as the one who owns the rights to the story: the producer.

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THE JIG’S UP

Fiction

Clay raised the bottle to his lips, slobbered on it like someone who opens their mouth too wide when they kiss; chugged, and swiped away escaped streams of sugared-up liquor with the back of his hand. “We should do something crazy tonight.” As a kid, Clay was chubby with a ‘fro of tightly wound red curls. The only thing that changed as he grew up was that his heavy cheeks began to sag and his muffin top spilled over his jeans. It was no longer cute to be as large as he was. But when he was drunk, he was skinny and cool and daring. Johnny was unimpressed. “We’re going to bed, Clay.” They weren’t kids anymore. They’d escaped from their mother’s house like it was a penitentiary, moved into a ramshackle townhouse infested with bedbugs and roaches, scrubbed and bug-bombed the place until the walls stopped crawling. Dingy but lovable, Johnny then asked his friend, Mathias, if he wanted to take the third bedroom and cover a share of the rent. “You guys suck.” Clay drunkenly staggered forward, trailing Johnny and Mathias. He roared out a burp. “There should be a rule that if you live more than a block away from the bar, you should be able to drive yourself home.” Mathias kept his dark eyes studying the street ahead, but spoke to Johnny. “He doesn’t know when to stop talking.” Everything about Clay annoyed Mathias. His stupid humor, the way he belched out at the top of his lungs, the way he’d purposefully run off every interested girl they’d talk to just because the coward didn’t have a single man-bone in his body to flirt with them himself. He hated living with the slob. He was loud and lazy and nosy—always making an extra effort to notice things. Mathias felt the need to complain. “I don’t go to the bars so I can play baby sitter. That’s not fun for me.” Johnny ignored them both. 42

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Over the years, Clay had protected Johnny in his own way, becoming the punching bag for their mother’s rage. Taking the beatings meant for them both. The beatings had done what they were supposed to do: they broke him, reduced him to half a man—he flinched at quick movements, said things to get the punches to stop. They sapped every ounce of bravery right out of him; now he could only play at being brave by being the loudest one in the room. It was that sacrifice that created the loyalty that Johnny would always feel towards his older brother. The three men walked along the curb, two ahead and one behind, passing under a lane of streetlights in silence. A lonely car cruised by at their six—there for a blip and gone—once again leaving them in the dark and calm quiet of the night. Clay caught sight of his drunken reflection in the driver’s window of a parked car. The large man stopped awkwardly, arms swinging like limp noodles, and admired himself through a blurry gaze. Clay saw his own sagging round face and frowned sadly, then leaned in close, cupped his plump hands to the window, and took a deeper look into the car. “Hey, Little Johnny.” Clay’s call was muffled against the window. “Come take a look at this.” “Don’t call me that.” Johnny wasn’t so little anymore. In fact, he was a short man who despised the word little. His forearms were thick with muscle, veins sprouted down the lengths of his arms. He walked with a slight puff to his chest, and a perma-scowl. “Get away from there before somebody sees you.” The drunken brother scoffed, leaving two greasy handprints as he pushed himself off the window, and moved along. “Where is your sense of adventure?” The night’s shadows hid the flush that came over Mathias’ dark skin. He wasn’t happy. “I’m not getting arrested because he feels like being an idiot.” Johnny looked over his shoulder; Clay toddled along after them a car-length back. “We’re almost home.” 4 P.M. COUNT

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Mathias spit on the ground. “It was stupid to bring him with.” Clay caught the glint off the window of another parked car, and was lured to it like a moth to flame. He ripped at the door handle, but his fingers slipped when the locked door didn’t give, and a hollow thud of the handle slamming was loud enough to wake the neighbors up. Johnny and Mathias whipped around. “What is your problem?” Johnny hissed, looking at each of the surrounding houses in turn, for lights to be flicking on. “Stop trying to break into cars!” “One of these doors is going to be open.” Clay staggered along indifferently, swiping his dirty fingers on his jeans, put the bottle to his lips, and found hiccups after another chug. “You guys (hic) are lames….” “No one wants to do dirt with you, Clay,” Mathias spat at him, his patience thinning quickly. Clay stopped in the streets, brows furrowed under his curly mop of hair, suddenly offended. “Why not?” “Because you’re a—” Mathias started to say. Johnny shot him a look that cut the ending off in his throat. “What? He is.” “Because I’m a (hic) what?” Clay asked, the wrinkles on his forehead made him look more wrinkled-Sharpei than man. When both men walking in front of him ignored him, he demanded an answer more loudly. “Because I’m a what?” A car rounded over the hill in front of them, headlights drawing nearer. A streetlight kissed the blue-and-red light-bar mounted to the roof. Johnny gestured with a nod; Mathias frowned, shoved his hands deep into his pockets, and drifted from curb to grass, giving the cruiser a respectful berth as the headlights grew brighter. Johnny began to call over his shoulder. “There’s a co—“ He caught a glimpse of Clay just as he was winding up. A shrill crack split the air—glass shattering. Clay had launched the liquor bottle at a parked car at point blank range; both bottle and window exploded together. Johnny and Mathias whipped around to find shards 44

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of glass still sprinkling down like snowflakes and tinkling on the ground. Clay’s fists pumped the air, ecstatic and victorious, a toothy smile painted across his face. He announced to them as if it were some big freaking joke: “Too late, jackoffs. It’s already a conspiracy!” Tires screeched to a halt, the cruiser’s cherries popped on, its siren chirped. Johnny and Mathias shared a horrified look as they were bathed in flickering red, white, and blue. The joyful Clay sobered instantly, the smile free-falling from his face, as he was blinded by a spotlight so bright it froze him. “Clay, run!” Johnny called out, already two steps into a full sprint, Mathias at his side as they raced up the nearest yard. Clay took two clumsy steps and found his momentum—quick-footed with fear—and chased after his brother through a dark patch of grass. The cruiser’s doors kicked open and two uniforms took chase, their boots clicking along the pavement and whooshed through the grass. “Stop. Police!” The shouts were distant. A passing window lit up next to Johnny’s head as they flew through a narrow side yard. He followed Mathias over a fence, hurdled a bush, got twisted around in a child’s swing set, and hopped an old wooden privacy fence, landing in a dark field. Johnny chased after Mathias, making a final dash through the neighborhood park, and slid to a stop in the shadows of the tree line that was allowed to grow along the Cedar River. The pudgy Clay trailed farther back. “Johnny, wait up!” He wheezed a breath. “Wait up, guys!” Clay pulled himself over the splintering wooden fence, caught the sight of the two Maglites chasing him, got scared and fell, landing in the dark field with an awkward thud. He arrived to the park late, calling out his brother’s name, but had lost Johnny and Mathias in the pitch black. Confused and desperate, he cut across the park in the wrong direction and threw himself into a thicket of bushes. He squatted there, rustling the leaves, desperate to hide himself. 4 P.M. COUNT

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The bushes rustled as Clay meerkatted above the leaves. “Johnny?” he called out in a harsh whisper, his curly mop of hair popped over the top of the hedge Johnny had begun to hiss at his older brother when Mathias interrupted with a hard tap-tap-tap to the chest. Mathias nodded towards a uniform entering the park. The officer had found his way around the wooden fence, Maglite on and searching. The radio chirped on the first cop’s breast as a second officer flanked in from behind—panting—his bright flashlight beam announcing he was there. From the tree line along the river, Johnny willed his brother to stay calm and quiet. But Clay was frightened and fidgeting, and on the opposite side of the park. He instinctively whimpered when getting in trouble, became stricken with anxiety, piddled lightly in his pants, and twitched persistently to keep from soaking himself through and through. He was a grown man who still wet himself. The beatings had done that to him too. Clay kicked the bush that hid him, and the whisper of leaves carried all the way across the park. In the woods, Johnny winced, and Mathias mumbled something under his breath that sounded like “stupid white boy” in Johnny’s ear. The rustle attracted the cop’s attention. They turned in tandem, and both spotlights fell on Clay’s bush, lighting him up. His eyes were as wide and white as his face. One officer snatched Clay out of hiding and slammed him to the ground, while the other wrenched his arm behind his back, cuffed cold metal to his wrists, and read him the Mirandas. With a knee on the back of Clay’s neck, the first officer dropped his missing jaw line to his chest and radioed dispatch to let them know they were bringing one suspect in. “Moron’s busted,” Mathias observed from his hiding spot within the trees. Johnny’s mouth tightened into fine line. He didn’t like how Mathias had said it with a hint of satisfaction. “Just figure out how we’re going to get him out of jail.” 46

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“Let him sit. It will do him some good.” Johnny frowned. “I’m not letting him sit in jail.” “I’ll give you the money, but I’m not going there to bail him out,” Mathias said. “He’s ruined enough of my night already.” Johnny nodded. That was as big a favor as he could ask for. “And I want to be paid back,” Mathias added. “You’ll get your money.” Johnny looked on from the shadows as his brother sat cuffed on the ground. Clay’s high-pitched voice came ringing out, a mix of fear and defeat, calling into the darkness. “All right guys, they caught us! You can come out now.” Mathias shot Johnny a look, glaring. “What did he just say?” Johnny was too in shock to meet Mathias’s eyes. “He’s not that stupid….” By the thicket of bushes, the first officer yanked Clay to his feet, Clay kicking and slipping as he struggled to push himself up. The second officer stood guard by his side, squinting through the dark suspiciously. His flashlight beam moved with his eyes, slow and deliberate. “Guys, you can come out now,” Clay hollered out again, his own glistening eyeballs searching desperately for his friends. Mathias hissed at Johnny. “Tell him to shut up.” Johnny glowered and harshly whispered back, “Do you want me to stand up and tell him, or should I send him a text?” “He’s going to get us caught!” “He’ll give up soon.” But Clay wasn’t giving up; he saw the three of them as a team. Maybe his friends couldn’t hear him. “Mathias… Johnny… The jig’s up, fellas. They’re taking us to jail!” Johnny slapped his own forehead with the meat of his palm. “He just said our names….” “Shut up, shut up, you fat moron,” Mathias whispered harshly at the leaves. 4 P.M. COUNT

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The rounder officer left Clay standing there, smiling as they dangled him like bait. This was too easy—if it worked. His partner took two steps towards the river, shining the light to pierce the shadows. Johnny and Mathias ducked down as the light traveled over them. The partner took another step towards the tree line, then stopped. “Come on, guys,” Clay belted louder. “You’re only making this harder on yourselves.” His high voice carried through the air. “Give yourselves up!” He paused to scan the breadth of the park, confused as to why there was no answer coming back. Where were his friends? “I’m going to slice his throat,” Mathias promised, looking to the woods behind him for places to run. Johnny frowned as the circle of light passed over them again. “Just stay put,” Johnny warned, softly. “They have no idea where we are.” “They’re going to find us.” “Don’t lose your cool—” Mathias found a spot. “Screw this. They’re going to have to catch me.” He took off and bolted away on his hands and feet, slipped down the hill towards the river, and was lost. The trees rustled in the woods behind Johnny and the beam of light flashed back. The bottom dropped out of his stomach, he was seized by the impulse to run. Clay was becoming more desperate. “Johnny…Don’t make me go to jail by myself, man.” The officer took another step towards the tree line, looking directly in Johnny’s direction. He swiveled quick glances between Clay and where Mathias had disappeared. Screw this. I’m not getting caught because of that idiot’s mistakes. Clay was on his own. The instant the cops looked away, Johnny took off like a greyhound and lost himself in the trees. The two cops searched a second more before their faces went from amused to scowling. Their patience gone, they pushed the older brother towards the black-and-white. “I don’t know where they’re at, officers,” Clay told them 48

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as they eased his head down and ducked him into the back of the squad car. “Maybe they went back to my house. We can stop there on the way.”

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Michael Murphy What makes up the physical and mental character of Michael Patrick Murphy? He is a wellseasoned individual (seventy years of age) who loves a challenge and the adventure that accompanies them. Being able to tell many stories relating to past adventures is one of his gifts, the gift of gab. Now, instead of telling these stories orally he would like to develop a

talent of writing them down. In both the short-term and longterm, education and knowledge will help Murph pave the way to a fulfilling life.

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WHAT IS A HUMAN BEING?

Nonfiction

Aside from physiological factors, a human being is a form of life with a mind and soul unique to itself and to no other form of life on Earth. Back to the original question, what is a human being? This depends on a person’s status and who has the authority to judge or classify him or her and make it stick. Classifications handed out by society can often be confusing and unfair. Throughout history the tide of power has ebbed back and forth regarding who had the right to condemn the unique qualities of others; it’s the power to freely and legally label individuals or groups into a category said to be undesirable or subhuman. Once identified as socially unworthy or conveniently blamed for the root of a hardship or malady borne by the ruling class, these singled-out unfortunates are readily persecuted and become scapegoats, barred from everyday society or even exterminated if feasible. As long as it’s unobjectionable to the influential policy makers and their conforming followers, it prevails with no way to put it in check. A real human being reaches out with a helping hand to those who mean no harm to their fellow human beings. Not a human being who wields a pair of handcuffs, shackles, imprisonment, or overwhelming military might to control people merely different from the ones possessing the power. Differences and diversities regarding cultures, religions, political systems and parties, national origin, skin color, gender, etc. Where do some humans and civilizations reach a point in their existence where hate of others consumes them and they cannot appreciate diversity? Some believe in selfishly killing or putting another person in chains to ensure themselves a stable paycheck and expected retirement plan. Believing, somewhere in their twisted minds, that their self-righteous and hypocritical promotion of failed policies, that enrich but a few, in an 4 P.M. COUNT

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ugly and obsolete system of subjugation of its own citizens, is a noble course of action. This is not to say that a person has to totally agree with those who differ, but one can be able to respect and agree to disagree on conflicting issues. Mankind has evolved and survived by using advanced intellect over other more primitive species on the planet. The time has come to employ this brainpower to take the initiative to cohabitate, and live in peace, in this shrinking world of globalization. Is this even a possibility? Every individual has a family, dreams, and the ability to prevail through hardships placed upon him by non-caring individuals or entities. Environments can quickly change and the once downtrodden can eventually rise up to take their turn at having control over their past oppressors. Hopefully, a new page will be turned and revenge is not on the agenda, and forgiveness is at the top of the new order’s program. It is well past the time where societies and sovereign nations need to understand the pain and suffering endured by those who shoulder the weight of their biased policies of persecution and exclusion. Somebody needs to be a pioneer and take the lead to cultivate the first generation in history to commit to world peace. This will take an understanding and ultimate acceptance of diversity in all of humankind. Then, and only then, can we enter into a millennium where a lasting period of great happiness, sharing, and human perfection is at the forefront. As the population of our planet rapidly increases, coexisting with neighbors may be the only formula for the human race to continue. A modern society has the ability to cultivate its potential to provide for and accept others who are less fortunate, do well for these downtrodden, and eliminate individual promotion or selfishness, which does not fit into the equation for respecting others. In today’s climate of global turmoil, wishing for peace may approach the realm of the impossible. Needless wars have to become obsolete. Killing or threatening to kill 52

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people to force their unwavering compliance to a narrowminded set of ideals is archaic and short-sighted. Death and destruction of other people, their lands, belongings, and heritage creates an endless cycle of retribution, with no solution in sight. The human race needs to stop blowing things apart and start appreciating the earth and nurture our universe as a whole. Those in control need to encourage an inspired conscience towards others; otherwise they will not be able to rise above the animal plane.

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THE BRUSH PILE

Nonfiction

Brush piles are always good candidates for burning, with their mountains of branches and other woodland litter that’s been collected and stacked up over the dry season, just waiting to be torched off once the rainy foothill weather sets in and the brush has seasoned. I have set fire to many brush piles over my years, when I cleared and developed acres of wildland property in the redwood forests of central CA. One brush pile that I set fire to sticks out in my mind, and I will never forget that incident. This brush pile was huge, a collection of vegetation that I piled up for a couple of years while I felled dozens of large oak and madrone trees to increase the panoramic view from my house, which was situated on twenty-six acres of steep to rolling terrain. My son Sean, who was ten years old at the time, and I, decided that this particular day was the day to light up the brush pile. We dragged over a hundred feet of water hose down the hill to the edge of the pile, turned on the water and everything was ready to go. Not rocket science; throw a road flare into the bottom of the mountain of wood waste and let it rip. Babysit the fire and water down the real hot spots to control the fire and spray down any runaway embers. This was a huge pile so we had to be careful to not let it get out of control and run into the surrounding forest, which was closer than I liked. I got complacent the year before and the mound of brush that accumulated was a lot bigger than I was used to. But I had plenty of water pressure and with my past experience with big brush piles I had no real worries. What could possibly go wrong? The road flare was tossed and the brush pile that filled the fair-sized ravine came to life. It was a lot drier than I had planned for, but no problem. All Sean and I had to do was direct a steady stream of high-pressure water at the 54

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heart of the blaze and it would throttle the flames down a bit. Everything was working fine, but a slight wind came up and the fire started to slowly work its way to the far side of the pile. I told Sean to get all the slack out of the hose, as I needed a little more hose to chase down the flames as they wandered up the hill and away from us. Sean moved back up the hill and pulled hard, extra hard on the hose to get all the slack out of the hose and then the water pressure stopped completely. He pulled so hard that he accidentally broke off the hose bib riser at ground level. That stinking PVC pipe should have been galvanized steel. I was now out of water and the fire really started to take off. It was rapidly marching its way up the hill toward the thick forest and our house. I ran up and checked out the broken pipe and was a bit concerned about how I was going to fix this disaster. I had no repair parts on hand, or so I thought. Time to engage the MacGyver part of my brain; no time to panic. Sean was looking at the growing flames and getting really nervous. He said, “Dad, what are we going to do?� I told him to stay calm and get me that leaf rake from the lawn while I switched the hose to another hose bib at the end of the lawn and added another length of hose. Once I switched hose bibs and stuffed the full length of the round handle of the rake into the end of the broken pipe, which to my surprise stopped the major leak, we were back in business, and not a second too soon. The fire was right at the edge of getting into the undergrowth of the forest. It was hard to remain calm, but there was no time for worry, just time for action, trying to avert a forest fire. The rest of the day went fine and I believe on that day my boy learned to stay cool in the face of seemingly unsurmountable odds, and to hang in there and tackle any problem head on. To this day when I bring up this story, Sean beams and brags with a sense of pride that we hung in there and luckily prevailed.

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TARZAN BOY

Nonfiction

In the innocent and laid-back year of 1963, what should I, a lanky, freckle-faced, fourteen-year-old boy do for excitement on a slow day? How about launching myself through the air and diving into deep water from one of the highest diving spots around my hometown of Santa Cruz, CA? Now that was something that will definitely pick up the pace of the day and break my boredom, something a few of my friends and I did when the notion struck us. Usually this happened when the surf was flat and the fish were not biting. Let’s see; we had the wharf, thirty feet to the water, and the pile driver on the municipal wharf, fifty feet to the water, and the railroad trestle over the San Lorenzo River, where the top towers sixty feet above the river below. We had all done high dives from these places dozens of times in the past, so we are willing and confident in our plan to do our daring feats from the railroad trestle on this day. It was a beautiful day for attempting any or all of these daring feats of bravado that only a few numbskull teenagers with more guts than brains would attempt. My diving friends and I, even at an early age, were gifted with a sense of adventure to satisfy our adrenaline junkie genetics. My friends Bob, Scott, and I eagerly made our way down to the railroad trestle. We were in the mood; we just had to see what we felt like after we arrived at the scene. Chickening out was not an option, but occasionally chunks of driftwood or rafts of seaweed got pushed up into the river by an unusually high tide from the nearby ocean and crowded out the diving spot. To hit the water from sixty feet was wild enough; no one needed the added hazard of logs or thick layers of seaweed to complicate matters. During these summer months the river’s current was almost nonexistent. So once the driftwood or seaweed moved in, it pretty well stayed put 56

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until the next significant tidal flow, which could have been hours or days away. The word of our planned adventure had gotten out to our close friends and we all met up by the roller coaster at the boardwalk, only a few hundred yards from the trestle. It was late morning on a weekday in the summertime and there were not many people who roamed around the area. However, tourists started to make their way down from the local hotels and motels and milled around the boardwalk, but there were no real crowds of out-of-towners like those who showed up on a normal weekend. The Boardwalk slowly came to life. The old wooden roller coaster dove and raced around its curves while the nearby Wild Mouse clicked, rattled, and clacked as it switched directions, terrifying the riders. At the other end of the boardwalk, a half-mile away, I saw the huge Ferris wheel as it slowly turned. It looked like a toy from this far away. The smell of the carnival-style treats being cooked at the Boardwalk’s concession stands filled the air. The smell of hot dogs, cotton candy, French fries, onion rings, and saltwater taffy made my friends and me hungry. Later, after our diving adventures, we usually grabbed a tasty snack here at the boardwalk. We all had friends who worked the food stands at the boardwalk and they always took care of us with either free food or larger portions than normal. Being a local in a hopping and popping beach and tourist town like Santa Cruz did have its rewards. We were amped up and needed to focus and prepare ourselves for the planned dive. The trestle was three hundred feet long and had an attached four foot wide pedestrian walkway, complete with wooden handrails that ran its full length at the railroad track level. It stretched on the upriver side of the trestle from riverbank to riverbank. Our friends and other onlookers crowded onto the wooden walkway, but we three divers walked the train tracks and railroad ties to the middle of the trestle. It was for us to walk out onto the trestle’s tracks at this time because the only freight train 4 P.M. COUNT

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had already come through town in the early morning and was not scheduled to return to the rail yard in Watsonville, twenty miles away, until the late afternoon. The middle of the trestle was where the water was deepest and about thirty yards wide, twenty-five feet deep and clear. As I looked into the water, I saw the light sandy bottom, and it looked like there were no obstructions or seaweed on the surface or underwater that I needed to be concerned about. Now the challenge began. The old steel girders were over a foot wide and reinforced with metal straps crisscrossing back and forth between the solid steel, a perfect ladder to the top of the trestle. We each picked a beam and climbed the forty-five degree angle beam to the top. It didn’t take us long to climb up, maybe a minute or so of careful little steps, handgrips, and pull-ups to reach the top. As we all arrived at the open air above the river, we were greeted by a bunch of laid-back pigeons and seagulls. They looked at us and probably wondered what these nuts were doing up here. These humans don’t have any wings. Don’t they know it was a long way down? Sorry, little birdies, we had things to do; get out of our way, shoo! The birds reluctantly gave up their place on the trestle and quickly jumped up and flew off to find another spot not being invaded by divers who wore tight surf trunks and Chuck Taylor high-tops. The departed birds lost a couple of feathers as they launched and sprinted through the air. These feathers floated almost motionless, suspended in the uplifting currents of the light sea breeze that circulated around the steel beams of the trestle. My old black and white Chuck Taylors, laced up tight and snug, were ready to go. Chuck Taylors were the only real style of sought-after sneakers in the early sixties. They were considered real cool, the coolest. If you were anybody you had at least one pair. I had one pair and today they were in for a thrill of a wet ride. The swim trunks I wore were not the regular baggy, Hawaiian-print surf trunks that I dressed up in at the beach on a regular basis. These snug trunks were just tight enough 58

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to keep from being pulled off by the rush of water when I ripped through the rivers surface. For insurance, and a little added support, underneath my swim trunks I wore a pair of red Speedos. A slight breeze blew in from the ocean, a quarter of a mile away. The smell and taste of the salt air refreshed and energized me. We were blessed with this breeze; it disturbed the water’s surface just enough to let us see the water and gave us some degree of depth perception of where the surface was. When the water was too glassy, I carried a small can of gravel up and threw out a handful to mark the water’s surface before I dove. If I lost sight of where the water’s surface was and a high dive’s timing of the very critical entry point could be thrown off, a fun event could turn into a disaster in a hurry. As we all stood on top of the trestle, we looked at each other with a blank yet inquisitive stare, wondering who was going to be the guinea pig and go first. I nervously smiled and stepped forward and said, “I’ll go, no time to waste.” If we spent too much time up here in plain sight, the local cops would see us on top of the trestle, where we were not supposed to be. Then they would corner us like a bunch of treed raccoons and order us to come down. Usually they would arrest any wild youths and take them to juvenile hall for trespassing, fine them, and then call their parents to come and pick them up. We were always pretty slick and never had a run-in with our friendly police force. We were locals and all of our families knew or grew up with these police officers. But some of the newbies on the police force couldn’t have cared less about our connections and gave us no slack whatsoever, so we were vigilant and kept an eye out for them. Some divers, mostly out-of-towners who did not understand or respect the danger involved, had been seriously hurt or even paralyzed after they dove off this trestle and hit the bottom. This trestle was owned by the Southern Pacific Railroad and the railroad company had put 4 P.M. COUNT

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up “No Trespassing” and “Deep Water” signs to keep people from doing just what we three were about to attempt. I got set up in my favorite spot, a smooth area between where the beams were riveted together, totally away from the protruding rusty rivet heads. These rivet heads were big as walnut shells and not easy to stand on. This tricky footing could throw me off balance and hamper a clean start as I leapt forward off the trestle. I stood facing upriver with the toes of my Chuck Taylors out over the front edge of the black and rusty beam, sixty feet above the river. I took rapid, deep breaths; hyperventilating calmed my nerves and built up my confidence. I twisted my body back and forth while I swung my arms around to loosen myself up. Really more show than necessary, just part of psyching myself up as I closed in on the big plunge. The people gathered below on the walkway cheered me on, not too loud but I could hear them. They sounded like they supported a successful dive but what they really wanted to see was a wreck. A belly flop or other disaster that would give them something gruesome to talk about. It’s sad but we all know that people love to see an accident. I looked down at the crowd from well above them and all I saw were sets of shoulders and faces that stared skyward in my direction. Two of my friends stood by at the river’s edge, acting as lifeguards; one on shore opposite my splashdown spot while another was downstream, just in case something went wrong. One never knows; we just played it safe. I gave the river below one last glance, clapped my hands loudly together, and yelled, “Let’s go.” Maybe these extra dramatics would scare the butterflies out of my stomach that always seemed to show up just before blastoff. Now it got serious; I took a deep breath and held it as I started to lean forward; the game was on. As I leaned out it didn’t take long before gravity took over and I passed the point of no return. Just a slight crouch for a little added spring to make sure I cleared the wooden walkway forty feet below. Keeping wood splinters out of my body was a high priority. As I fell 60

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forward and got past the point of no return, I momentarily looked upriver, out at the distant horizon of trees, houses, and city streets. I reminded myself not to look down at the water too early; it would make me flip forward, a bad thing. A back flop from this height could be lethal. I launched out and extended my arms out and away from my side in the old Johnnie Weissmuller, Tarzan-like swan dive we all watched on our black and white TVs as youngsters. Toes pointed and feet together, back arched, ole Tarzan made it look easy with his grace and speed. I had tried to copy and develop this technique of his into a choreographed, smooth, deliberate, and coordinated movement. Little did the crowd below know of the fear running through my mind, as I forced myself to concentrate on doing this dive as perfectly as possible, not only to look cool but to stay in one piece. A third of the way down the sound of the air rushed by my ears and became noticeable; I slowly swung my head down and looked for my entry point into the river. My body followed my head, and before I knew it, I was nearly vertical and got ready to pierce the water’s surface. I was going sixty miles an hour, my swim trunks starting to flap and slap against my thighs. The distance to the river went by fast at that speed. I exhaled and took in a fresh recharge of air needed for my underwater excursion. It was time for me to extend my arms in front of me and I pulled my hands together, made two fists and got ready to punch an entry hole in the water. In addition, I had to remember to tuck my chin into my neck so the top of my head and not my face or forehead hit the onrushing water. The entry was one of the most critical factors of a dive from heights such as this. To hit the water head on from sixty feet up without breaking the water’s surface would be like diving into sand, not a pretty outcome. In an instant, the noise and sting of the impact with the surface followed by the rapid mixing of air and water surrounded me. I was now underwater; a layer of air covered my body like a thin film and followed me into the 4 P.M. COUNT

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depths where the sunlight dimmed and the water felt much cooler. I arched my back and spread my arms and legs to keep from going too deep and hitting the bottom. At fifteen to twenty feet underwater, my downward momentum slowed and then stopped. I anxiously kicked for the surface while I blew air out of my mouth in excitement. I popped out on the surface, yelled out “Yeah,” and waved. The onlookers cheered, I felt great, and the adrenaline rush was still coming on. Sometimes the boost of adrenaline gave me a few seconds or even a minute or two of the shakes so I tread water for a while until that possibility passed. I had to keep the impression of being macho and unafraid; I couldn’t appear shaken in front of my friends. I slowly swam towards shallow water, and left plenty of room in the middle of the river for the next daredevil. On that day in 1963, I made it happen, and pulled it off with style. Tarzan would have been proud of me. I probably did this high dive from this railroad trestle over a hundred times, each dive as much of a thrill as the dive before.

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DON’T LET THE SUN GET IN YOUR EYES

Nonfiction

San Francisco, eight o’clock in the morning, the ocean’s fog had retreated offshore and the city’s air was crisp and fresh. The commuter express train that I was working on had just pulled out of the station and was headed the fifty miles south to San Jose, with a few stops in between. I had already worked my way up from San Jose for three hours and was doubling back to San Jose without a break. I was a brakeman on this passenger train operated by the Southern Pacific Railroad. Usually twenty people got on or off at each of the dozen stations along this rail commuter route that stretched for fifty miles between San Francisco and San Jose. Stations such as Santa Clara, , Palo Alto, Redwood City, San Carlos, etc. The train zipped along at seventy miles an hour, then slowed down as quickly as possible and dove towards the passenger boarding platform. Brake shoes smoked and squealed as they pushed forcefully up against the solid steel wheels that brought the train to an action-filled halt. Big double doors on the side of each passenger car opened on my command when I pushed a big red button labeled “open doors” that was activated with a big brass key that I carried on a small chain hooked onto my belt. A rapid exchange of comers and goers took place and it was all over in a quick minute. I gave the engineer a highball sign; a wave high over my head meaning it’s all clear, and I hopped back onboard and closed the doors behind me. The engineer got the train back up to full speed two minutes later. We would repeat this exercise many times on our scheduled run. On one occasion as I sold or took tickets, answered questions from travelers, or just flirted with the attractive ladies, I was approached by a young man dressed quite casually and wearing wraparound sunglasses. He wanted to know where he could find the restroom. It was two cars ahead and I told him to look for the 4 P.M. COUNT

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stainless steel door on his right with the sign on the door that read RESTROOM. He thanked me and disappeared up the aisle and through the automatic sliding doors that separated the commuter cars. A passenger plane’s bathroom was large compared to these phone booth-sized spaces in a train car with its small sink, mirror, and toilet. I hoped he understood the simple directions. A few minutes’ later as I made my rounds, the guy who asked where the bathroom was walked up to me and said that we had a problem. His sunglasses had fallen into the toilet and he wanted me to retrieve them. I told him that wasn’t my responsibility and he needed to figure out a plan on his own and that there was no “we” regarding this matter. He went into a long spiel about how he was on his way to work and still jacked up from smoking a big fatty with his morning coffee. He had a valid point; his eyes resembled the ones on those bug-eyed goldfish. He relentlessly pled his case that he needed those sunglasses to hide his eyes from his boss. I finally surrendered a bit and felt some of his pain as I had been in the same situation before in my teenage years. I relayed to him my suggestion to pull his sunglasses out of the toilet. I said, “Go back in the bathroom and locate the paper towel dispenser on the wall.” He nodded along as I explained. “Grab a handful of towels and carefully reach down into the toilet and fish out the sunglasses, got it,” he nodded again. I wished him luck and he was off. He left and with quick steps proceeded back towards the bathroom with his important mission at hand. Two minutes passed and the train started to slow down and head into the next station. I went forward towards my position at the exit doors and saw the young man going for my exit door. He had miraculously retrieved his sunglasses and displayed them proudly perched on his nose. He gave me a double thumbs up signal of approval and looked happy. He thanked me for the advice and was glad he had 64

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found them because this was his stop. He was a happy camper; I was always there to help the travelers. But in this case, I just couldn’t tell him about the streaks of blue liquid that ran slowly down his cheeks towards his wide smile. As he exited the train I politely said to him, “Don’t let the sun get in your eyes.”

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SURF WAS UP-WAY UP

Nonfiction

Its 1967, and the Beach Boys, Mamas and the Papas, or Jimi Hendrix tunes played on the radio or my eight-track tape player. Monterey, CA hosted the first Monterey Pop Festival that has since turned into a much celebrated annual event. The war in Vietnam haunted most young men of draft age in the 1960s, and war protests were the flavor of the month on many college campuses. But despite all the turmoil that I had to face there was always the challenge of the ocean and the waves that it dished up. February 1967, Valentine’s Day to be exact, was a clear and crisp winter day in Santa Cruz. The sun shined bright; the air temperature was an energizing fifty degrees while a slight offshore breeze meandered through the groves of tall eucalyptus and cypress trees on the inland side of West Cliff Drive. I heard that the surf was really pumping so I loaded up my gear and drove down from where I lived and parked my car under a tall and wind-twisted Monterey cypress tree. I was ready to go if the waves looked ridable. I got out of my ‘57 Chevy Nomad wagon and studied the impressive surf that had finally made its way down from the frigid and stormy waters of the Gulf of Alaska, thousands of miles away. I wondered if I, along with just a few of my big-wave riding friends who were all grouped around near me, were up to the challenge that this day offered. A winter swell of this caliber really picked up the pace at this particular surf spot called Steamer Lane. This major surf spot was named for how far the waves broke offshore, out in the shipping lanes used years ago by the steam-powered lumber schooners that plied this coastline between San Francisco and Santa Cruz. On this particular morning the waves that broke well offshore over Third Reef were as tall and massive as three to four story buildings. When the tide was just right these deep-water waves, a mile out from the sheer 66

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cliffs along this portion of West Cliff Drive, were ridable, at least by some of us diehard surf nuts. The land portion of this area that poked out into this part of Monterey Bay was called Lighthouse Point, a wellrecognized landmark of Santa Cruz. There was also a large rock used by sea lions as a refuge and resting spot off the tip of this peninsula. When I surfed Third Reef, I used the lighthouse and Seal Rock for reference points to put myself in the correct location over the deep rocky reef. On that day the surf was up, way up, and I had the guts and ability to challenge these huge waves. There was not a soul in the water at Steamer Lane. Some of my friends had already geared up and were ready to be the first ones in the water and surf the smaller inshore waves at Second Reef. This happened while my Third Reef compadres and I planned to surf what others were afraid of, Third Reef, and it was really smoking. As we watched, I concentrated on what the ocean revealed to me about these waves. Waves of this size and speed needed to be studied to determine some manner of predictability. As I observed a large set roll through Third Reef, my throat clogged with apprehension, even while I stood on solid ground a mile away from the action. I took my time and tried my best to decode some of their habits but I knew that the ocean had a conscienceless mood and should not be trusted, even when I thought I had it all figured out. My friends and I had made up our minds to go for it. I slowly and methodically slipped into my full-length O’Neill wetsuit. This wetsuit eased the sting of the cold water, fortyfive degrees cold, but never controlled the spine-chilling fear of what I had to face over Third Reef. We all waxed up our boards and after a little nervous chatter headed away from our cars and walked the short distance across West Cliff Drive. On this day I had chosen my longest and heaviest board, a solid balsa wood big wave gun, eleven feet long, designed by infamous large wave rider and surfboard shaper Pat Curran from Hawaii. A gun 4 P.M. COUNT

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like this one was built for speed and was narrower than the average run-of-the-mill surfboard, and speed was what I needed to survive out in those conditions. This gun looked more like a large water-ski than a surfboard. Some of us called these guns, used in the largest of waves, “elephant guns,” and this was definitely an elephant gun. This board also had an extra layer of fiberglass which gave it more strength as well as extra weight. Big wave boards needed to be heavier so they wouldn’t be blown off the wave and the extra layer of fiberglass made it harder for the tons of falling water to break a board into pieces. I made my way through the crowd of onlookers, mostly tourists that gave me curious stares but not much more. Some of my other surfer friends and high-school classmates gave me a discreet smile and thumbs up. From here on out it was all business. I told myself to keep my head on straight and pay attention to the task at hand. Concentrate and stay focused; this big-wave excursion was the real deal. That was why there were only six of us out there over Third Reef. Lots of spectators watched us, but only a few players were out there in the game. I quickly reached the edge of the cliff where the stairs and rock path down the cliff began and started a slow and cautious trip down to the water. I stepped into the ankledeep, ice-cold ocean and let my bare feet get used to the shock. This pause at the water’s edge gave me the needed time to settle my nerves as I psyched up for the challenge that awaited me a mile offshore. I never wore wetsuit booties, gloves, or even a hood. I remember the throbbing ice-cream headache that I would get after I pushed through a few walls of cold whitewater when I paddled out into the lineup, or when I had to duckdive or turn turtle to get under a wave’s surging foam as it approached and ran me over. This pause at the water’s edge gave me the needed time to settle my mind as I psyched up for the challenge a mile offshore. There were just a few surfers a half-mile in front 68

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of the stairs where I had put in. They were busy surfing a smaller break much closer to shore over Second Reef that also went by the name of Middle Peak. My final destination was Third Reef, a mile or more offshore. I fought my way out through the six-foot-tall whitewater of Middle Peak. Hello anticipated brain-freeze skull banger. Then we all formed up and took the long and safer course out to Third Reef, skirting the kelp beds that grew in deeper water where the water was calmer. Twenty minutes later we had arrived at our destination, Third Reef. I rested my arms, exhausted from the long paddle and they gradually came back to life. This small pod of daredevils was finally in place to do what most of those spectators on shore thought was either crazy or impossible. Up close, the speed, depth, and scale of these mountains of water confirmed what Third Reef was all about. I was just seventeen at the time but had surfed since I was twelve. Not a ton of experience, but enough. This alone ranked me as a novice, but combined with my attitude to push the envelope and try to perfect everything I attempted, I was in my domain, a realm where I always had confidence in myself to take a chance and push ahead. We floated around on our surfboards in the neighborhood of the great white sharks. As I sat up on my board, an eleven-foot-long big wave stick, I often wondered if one of these great whites cruised by in the depths and looked up at my silhouette against the bright sky. It wasn’t a scardey-cat thing, just something that lingered there in the back of my mind. I made sure my legs never dangled down underwater and trolled for whatever lurked there. Seal Rock, a small island off the tip of Lighthouse Point, was only a half mile towards shore from where I was perched on my board. Seal Rock was where a bunch of sea lions congregated and the great whites shopped around that rock for some “fast food.” For the chance to ride one of these rare waves I threw the dice and ignored any shark phobia. Never said I was smart, just a teenager with more courage than brains. Also, I considered that the odds were 4 P.M. COUNT

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in my favor. In the 1960s shark attacks didn’t happen very often along this part of the West Coast, and there were no reports of surfers being bitten by a shark at Steamer Lane. We were all out in the middle of an ocean, no doubt about it. The crowds of people that lined the cliffs and watched the action looked like a small multi-colored picket fence. Plus, cars, trucks, and vans appeared like small toys scattered around a playground. The silence of this offshore haven was broken only by small ripples of water that lapped against the rails and deck of my surfboard. Occasionally the smell of wood smoke from a driftwood bonfire on It Beach, over a mile away, drifted offshore and livened up my senses. Every now and then a big ole fat sea lion, on its way to or from Seal Rock, surfaced. It would exhale and let out a rush of air mixed with seawater while he gave us the eyeball and looked us over. Then after its curiosity was satisfied, it wiggled a big set of whiskers, gracefully arched over and smoothly slid back into the deep. Big brown pelicans soared effortlessly down the coast and weaved through our small flotilla, using hardly a single wing beat to move themselves along, capturing the breezes and uplifting air currents off the swells and waves to propel them through the air. I watched these pelicans with their long beaks and large pouches as they flew so low and just in front of a wave’s face that I thought their wingtip closest to the wave was going to snag the water and cartwheel them into the sea. While I watched the menagerie of sea life around me, I waited patiently for the big waves to appear. It wasn’t long before these monstrous waves marched into view, and it was a magical event. Something quite strange and mysterious would happen. My mind sensed but could not see what came between me and the horizon. My intuition was teased into focusing intently on the distant horizon that had changed ever so slightly. At this time in life my vision was better than most; youth had its perks, a bonus for this day’s task. This once flat and straight line of a horizon slowly took on a new personality. The ocean had grown, expanded 70

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upward. I was the first to see the large set as it made its slight turn from well offshore and started its path towards my small spot over Third Reef. This wall of liquid energy was being pushed skyward by the rock-bottom thirty feet below it. As these waves advanced they started to block out the distant horizon and made one of their own. The wave crests undulated and developed more definition as they got closer to me. This incoming set was definitely big enough to break over third reef. My adrenaline started to come on strong. Butterflies in my stomach and a little bit of lightheadedness came over me, but this spell of fear-induced nausea quickly passed and I got busy fine-tuning my position in the takeoff zone. The only thing that could hold me back on that day was fear and common sense. As a young man I possessed neither. I was, “Young, dumb, and full of aplomb.� Strange, in retrospect, how that rang so true for me and most of my younger friends. In big wave riding, nobody wants to catch the first wave in a set. A set can consist of usually five or even seven waves. Taking off on the first wave and wiping out left a stranded and boardless surfer stuck inside the break for the duration of the remaining waves of the set. Getting relentlessly pounded by twenty-foot walls of growling whitewater was not acceptable. Besides, if I was unfortunate enough to have lost my board during a wipeout, the following waves would guarantee that my board would be demolished against the ragged shoreline. As the set marched towards us we all scrambled to set ourselves up for a good takeoff spot. We all paddled and pulled hard to get farther outside, and the sprint was on. So far, this was the largest set of the day. I was ahead of the pack and I scratched over the first wave of the set, and from my elevated position, as I made it over the tall crest, I could see the rest of the set and what was in store for us. This lineup had some real monsters in it and they were quite impressive, even viewed from afar. Except for the sounds of our physical exertion there 4 P.M. COUNT

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was a quiet in the air. From here on out all my moves needed to by well-planned and calculated to catch my wave. However, once on the wave, spontaneity would take over as I found out the wave’s temperament and other peculiarities. That was what made the adventure of big-wave riding such a challenge. Being at the head of the pack gave me the unwritten rule of first dibs on which wave I wanted in the set. I had my sights set on the fifth wave. It was definitely the largest and possibly the last one in the parade. It turned out not to be the last; it was so large that it had hidden the two large waves that were behind it. I paddled as fast as I could and hoped that my wave would hold up and not break until I got into position. If this mountain of water collapsed in front of me I would have to abandon my board and dive for the seafloor, frog-kicking down into the dark and cold depths, hoping to escape the insurmountable power and turbulence above. I gambled that it would keep its shape and not break. As I closed in on my wave I spotted a ten-foot wide brown mass of kelp floating the base of this mountain of saltwater. This raft of kelp slowly drifted up the face of my targeted wave and looked small, like a brown bug splatter on the windshield of a truck. I imagined what I would look like when I streaked across the same face in short order. Finally, I arrived at what I had determined to be my optimum takeoff spot. It looked good. I stopped, leaned back hard and pulled up the nose of my board and swung it around towards shore. The crest of my chosen wave held up nicely and the lip had just started to feather a bit. The slight offshore breeze had smoothed out the small chop, steepened the wave and it looked just right. I told myself, “Let’s get it on.” The crowds onshore, and my nearby surf buddies, wanted to see some action. What most of the people onshore really want to see was a disaster, the more horrific the better, for them, obviously not for me. I was lying prone on my surfboard and started to pull my arms frantically 72

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through the water towards shore with all my strength. As I paddled I turned my head left and then right and checked out how the wave looked, especially the feathering lip. Would the top of this monster hold up until I got out of its impact zone? Before too long this big wave gun, built for acceleration, got up to speed. The wave caught up and had me in its grip. Now I was fully committed, no turning back. I was suspended on the face of this giant wave and it was a steep drop-off below me. The angle below increased rapidly and I immediately started to slide down the steep face and quickly picked up speed. I was now part of this mountain of saltwater. God bless this elephant gun. I popped up and stood on the board. I looked up and saw the crest of the wave turn white with foam. The crest threw out over my head and started to show its teeth. I dropped in from near the top of the wave and my forward motion down the wave left me temporarily weightless. It was like I had just jumped off a forty-foot cliff. On the way down the face the wind speed really picked up. I had to lean well forward, semi-crouched to stay balanced over my board. At this speed, forty miles an hour, too much trapped air under my board could easily lift this gun out of the water and make it spin like a Popsicle stick in a tornado. Also, if I leaned back I would have fallen off, quickly turned into a swimmer instead of a surfer. This near free fall left very little of my board in contact with the water. As long as the tail and skeg—surf speak for rudder—stayed in the water, I controlled where I wanted to go and would not side-slip out of control. That would have resulted in a horrible wipeout at this stage of the ride. I neared the bottom of the wave where the steepness flattened out a bit and my board was now planted solidly back in the water, and I made a bottom turn to the right. I was immediately catapulted forward by the speed and angle of this wall of water. A wave of this size usually travels at close to twenty-five miles an hour. I chose my line, and 4 P.M. COUNT

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quickly moved away from the wave’s churning lip as it cascaded out and over my head. I moved along as fast as this speedster I was riding could travel, probably hitting fifty miles an hour as I sped down the line. I had never before ridden a board this fast in the monumental energy and force of this wave. But everything went in my favor; my guardian angel was with me on that special day. I believed then and still do that one should never travel faster than a guardian angel can fly. My guardian angel was “bookin’ hard” on that afternoon. This wave dared me to stay put and play chicken with it. It wanted so bad to get in my pocket and then kick my ass. But I had pre-planned a safe path away from the airborne tons of water that crashed and turned into a deluge of foam right behind me. The blast of wind from the impact zone nearly launched me off my board. This was also where a habit of being crouched down at the right time was crucial. I could have reached out and touched this backstop of churning energy at any moment, it was that close. This turned out to be a fantastic ride. My drop in went as planned, I didn’t stall at the bottom and get sucked back into the wave as it collapsed. The right hand wall seemed to take a breath and held up. I faced a clean and tapered shoulder with no sections that broke in front of me or hampered my getaway. I was able to cut back a few times, and teased the wall of churning whitewater that chased me down the line. I played with the big right wall of steep water, threw in some smooth turns, pumped up and down with my legs to gain some speed, and continued to do a little run and gun down towards the tapering end of the right side shoulder. Then after a minute the hairy part of this challenge was over. I ran out onto the right shoulder and smoothly pulled up and out. I slowly lay down on this speed demon of a surfboard and tried to decompress, taking a deep breath and calmly paddled outside of the break. Despite that, my blood still raced through my veins as I was definitely jacked up. I got high on the power I was playing with and the danger of 74

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my situation. The adrenaline, the juice, was hard to fight. It pushed me and others that day, past moments of doubt and caution. I relaxed and reflected on what I had accomplished. It was a great day at Steamer Lane because the “Surf Was Up—Way Up.”

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75


JUST PULL THE STRING

Nonfiction

It was the summer of 1972 on the beach in Santa Cruz, CA. The sun was out, the surf was shoulder high and the sand hot on my bare feet as I scurried down the beach towards the water, surfboard tightly tucked under my arm. It was nice to be back where I belong, in my hometown, away from the ongoing conflict I was involved with over in Southeast Asia. I guess it was my generation’s turn to do our patriotic part of our country’s history in the making. I was surprised to see one of my friends, Roy, coming out of the water. I hadn’t seen him since I graduated from high school in 1967. I yelled out,” Hey Roy, long time no see.” After high school Roy went into the Marines and spent quite a bit of time over in Vietnam. We now talked a little, very little, about our tour over there and I could sense that he really wanted to keep things from over there to himself. This I could understand so we just scratched the surface about our experiences and left it at that. As I talked to Roy I noticed a pretty bad scar on the left side of his shoulder. It looked like an awful burn, so I asked if he had caught a splash of napalm of Willie Pete (white phosphorus) or whatever. This was where the conversation became of interest. Roy told me that the U.S. Marine tattoo there on his shoulder bothered him after he woke up to the fact that he had done horrible things to people, things he didn’t want to be reminded of. So one night, in a drunken state, he cut around the tattoo’s edges with an exacto knife and pulled the outer and inner layers of skin off in one pull with a pair of vise-grip pliers. OK, Roy, good story I said to myself, and then just looked at him and said, “Bummer; it must have hurt like hell.” “Not bad,” he said, “but after that night it took a while for the doctor to fix me up and keep it from getting 76

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infected.” I figured the story was pure fantasy and just nodded and let it go at that. A couple of months later a bunch of us guys got together and went abalone diving up the coast from Santa Cruz. It was always fun to meet up at one of our houses an hour before dawn. It was Roy’s turn to host the get-together so we all met at his place. We all fixed a group breakfast, loaded up all the remaining gear, and headed out up the coast. As I made the last pass through Roy’s house and came down from upstairs he yelled out to me, “Hey Murph, grab my weight belt out of the hall closet there for me ,OK.” “Sure, no problem, Roy,” I said. I opened the hall closet door and the deep walk-in closet was darker than the inside of a cow. “Hey, Roy, I can’t find the light switch.” Roy said, “The light string is hanging there, just pull the string.” Ah, there it was, right in front of me; I gave the string a yank; yes, let there be light. Tucked in the corner was the weight belt, all thirty pounds of it. As I picked it up and swung around to leave, something on one of the closet shelves caught my eye. There in a jar of clear liquid, probably alcohol, was Ray’s tattoo. Semi-curled up like a pork rind. I could still make out the tattoo’s dark ink on the pale skin, a globe with an eagle that stood on top of it with spread wings and the words, “Death Before Dishonor—Semper Fi,” below the globe’s design.

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RJH RJH served a lengthy prison sentence for drugs at FPC Yankton.

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STEADY SUPPLY Whisper sweet nothings in my ear, That’s who I am without you here. Who needs friends when I’ve got you? You make me cool and tell me what to do. Credit keeps me in the land of plenty, But deep inside, I feel so empty. Magic mirror, please show me The newest gimmick on TV. Don’t cut me off or tell me I’m done, No way I’d ever have this much fun. All I need are some brand-new toys. That’s my recipe to feel some joy. Up to the limit on all of my cards, Budget is broken into glass shards. Happiness coming in steady supply, Tell me the next thing I need to buy. And until I can’t, I’ll never ask why.

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WHAT I’LL TAKE HOME When I leave here no one will go with me; I’ll be going to Pennsylvania while they stay here or go somewhere else. I get to leave these peers behind, and I truthfully thank GOD for that. The men I’ve sojourned with have all contributed in ways known and unknown to my development as a more mature human being. I thank GOD for that as well; but if I had to take them all with me.... Well, I would politely extend my middle finger to the sky and patiently wait for an answer. If I had to take all the victims, tough guys, con men, hustlers and mega-gangsters I met over the years home to meet Mom, then surely GOD would have some explaining to do. Therefore, it’s only right that I let go, drop that baggage off at the yard before I roll out, and leave it here. That said, I’ll keep the good and carry it out. We are not all bad in here, just as no saint is all good. My hope is that some of the positivity sneaks out with me. There have been so many positive people—inmates are people—and positive interactions that I’ve benefited from while inside. Even interactions with negativity that somehow magically generated a positive takeaway while I’ve been here; and it’s those people, their influences I’ll take home to meet Mom. It’s time for me to focus on choices, solutions and lessons learned rather than conditions or contributors.

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HOW TO BE COOL So you want to be cool, ergo you are currently not cool; but you are humble enough, or desperate enough, to seek out guidance; so this is where I come in. For starters, scrap that image you held of yourself five minutes ago. Part of being cool is knowing it and this knowledge isn’t based on fact or experience, but don’t jump to the conclusion that I am talking about opinion here. If you are cool, you know it; and everybody else can take their opinion and file it right alongside the morning toilet paper before they fax it to the mayor. This is a state of being and just because you don’t hold with the opinions of all the critics doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk, or even that you are one—although occasionally it doesn’t hurt. No, the critics are just not considered. Hey, I’m busy being my ultra-cool self, which unbelievably doesn’t leave a lot of time for weighing up commentary from the world at large. Next up, once you know you are cool, you have to make a conscious and consistent effort of not putting this attribute on display. Life is not an archery contest that you show up for and put ten shots in the black from one hundred feet for the world to see, thus dispelling any doubts. That is not it at all. Now that you know you are cool, go live your life; do the best you can unapologetically, and stop seeking out advice or approval from people like me or anyone else for that matter; because if you go looking for acknowledgment, you’re probably missing out on your cool life.

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CROSSROADS Choices, choices I hear voices. Some say Yes, Some say NO. At the crossroads, which way to go? I could go left, I could go right. If I choose wrong, then cost me it might. A day, a week, or months or years, Time is something I hold very dear. Some choices pay off, some choices cost. Time away I have personally lost, Away from family and all of my friends. New choices lead forward to try it again.

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NOT AGAIN Living flame consuming all fiery light from wall to wall. Air depleting, hot as hell actions that I know too well. Now once again I’m satisfied; but when it’s done I’ll wish I died. I doused the walls and lit a match burnt down the house, an itch to scratch. Oxygen dwindles, I start to die no time to cry or dare ask why. In this inferno, I now stand destruction wrought by my own hand. Dead-end road, no place to go that’s all folks, enjoy the show.

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THE FIRES IN MY LIFE There are always fires in my life, it’s a constant theme; sometimes I feel they may run rampant and destroy everything. I panic and look for ways to put out these fires while I focus on everyone and everything around me rather than myself. I have jumped through hoops, walked a thin line and done all sorts of acrobatics in my vain attempt to smother or control those flames around me. Those fires burned me many a time on the road to this realization that the fires I see around me are a quaint summer campfire compared to the infernos that rage within threatening to consume every bit of fuel I can give until nothing but ash remains. This fire keeps me warm, mostly, but it turns oppressive and sweltering all too often; and just as the living room hearth is vital in the winter months while sustaining life, when unchecked and run amuck it leaves nothing once the boundaries are lost. This fire inside has fed me so long that I desperately want to deny the conflict at hand; but, as reality looks me in the face, it’s obvious, if I don’t win this battle it will destroy me. So, I set off to conquer my demons, lest they win this battle I cannot afford to lose.

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FOR MOM It’s 4:00 p.m. and the sun is shining. I’m in prison, but I’ve stopped whining. At least when I talk to her that is, Gratitude is currency, all the rest is fizz. She’s out paddleboarding, more skilled every day. So happy she’s happy, what more can I say. I’ll be home soon and we can go out together. I give thanks every day that she gets good weather. When I was young how I loved her so. Now that we’re friends I truly do know, Just how much this person means to me. Together on the horizon, My reason to be free.

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Marquise Bowie Marquise Bowie is first and foremost a Christian. He is a work in progress. This is his fifth time in the creative writing class and he has learned from the many individuals who’ve taken the class that have shared their stories and Dr. Reese. Marquise is the proud father of two wonderful girls, Marquissa and Marquia. He tried to bring stories from a lost black man’s perspective to a man that was found and healed by grace. He’s going back to Minneapolis, MN to start the next chapter of his life. Stay tuned. His life and stories are in dedication to Lynn Bowie, his biggest fan and supporter, his mother. God bless all who take this class. It can help you grow if you listen with your heart.

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HEY BLACK MAN

Nonfiction

Hey black man, I don’t think that you should go down that road. Education will take you a lot further than the dope game; life consists of more than name brand clothes. Peddling poison might make you feel popular and accepted, but only your brains and hard work can open doors and opportunities. Do you realize what your ancestors went through? They had to toil extra hard for everything that they ever had and some weren’t even allowed to go to school. That gang stuff that you’re involved in is just as bad as the Ku Klux Klan. But there you are, mad at the police because you got caught selling drugs; so what, somebody told on you. I’m not saying that that’s right. Excuses, excuses, now you blame it on the white man. There are better things that you could be doing with your mind. Ask one of them brothers who tried to ball until they fell and spent decades in prison with nothing to show for it. It doesn’t add up, stop wasting your time. Stop and think for a second before you pull that trigger; you only give other people a reason to claim that you’re ignorant. So pull up your pants, comb your hair and go get a job, you’re a grown-ass man. You can’t live in the basement forever, playing video games all day while freeloading off your mom, hope is not a plan. These things I say to you are in no way me trying to tell you what to do. No my young brother, you see these things I have to constantly tell myself because before I was the man I am today I was just like you.

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ALL AMERICAN Growing up basketball was my favorite sport, but I was back and forth to jail, in and out of court, although I think I would have been great at football too. Being all five foot six with some good hands my shifty feet made me a blur among the trees. I had no problem getting to the rim at will in high school, but at forty-three I rely more on my jump-shot; these wrists are still young. Had I known more people like me could have made it amongst the giants, short people that is; like the second Isaiah Thomas and Nate “Tiny” Archibald. That would have made me work harder in class and on my craft; instead I chose a career that wouldn’t last. I could have lettered in sports too. Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball and desegregation was outlawed a decade before I was even thought of. Minneapolis, Minnesota is where I was born and raised. The United Stated is the soil where I have always resided; it’s the country I love and represent, I often wonder why is it so divided? American born, American made, young black men are at risk. Why is the continent Africa added to my status like an asterisk? Some wonder why blacks don’t stand up when the national anthem is sung and when the flag is being displayed. That too is an American right, isn’t it, or did something recently change? Protected by the Constitution just like everything else; although at the time it was written blacks were slaves or three-fourths of a human. They couldn’t even vote for themselves. That’s clearly a double standard, right? 88

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So not until America is great for all can it truly reach its full potential and be considered America the great!

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Roberto Valdez Roberto Valdez spent his early years in his hometown of McAllen, TX, drawing, reading comic books, and playing video games. By his teen years he had learned the art of screen printing, computer-aided design, advertising design, photography, and even developing his own film with the use of a darkroom. For the last twenty years he has resided in Chicago, IL, successfully creating and marketing various forms of art in all mediums ranging from painting, illustration, threedimensional sculpting, and computer-aided graphic design. His plan for the future is to continue marketing his own brand and resume work on his own comic book series.

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THE GREASY POMPADOUR

Fiction

It is a dark and stormy night during the full moon and a strange man came to town reeking of cheap petroleum grease and blasting the rockabilly sounds of Zombierella and Guitaracula in what resembled a type of Gothic Batmobile straight out of that sixties television show. With the tremulous sound of his stereo speakers blaring across Highway 66, bats and other creatures of the night steer clear of this daredevil as he blazes through this dark highway at ferocious speeds. The driver then notices a sign up ahead for a dancehall called “The Loch Ness Monster Surfing the Black Lagoon.� Arriving at his destination, he jumps out the window while his Gothic ride parks itself. This man kicks in the door to the dancehall. On the main stage the Werewolf has his bass pounding, the Mummy has the drums beating, and Dracula has his guitar screaming when the zombie women in miniskirts go wild with anticipation as this wild creature sways its hips like some mad Elvis incarnate. Was this man a long-lost relative of Eddie Munster or some other somber ghoul looking to seduce the women of Earth? No, ladies and gentlemen, this greased up Frankenstein is not here to seduce your women; this man is on a quest to find more petroleum hair grease to style his wicked pompadour.

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HOW TO BE COOL

Nonfiction

How dare you say you’re not cool? Let’s say you are buying your clothes at Walmart and you got those worn-out sneakers at Payless. What if you had all the money in the world but were so cheap that you’ve neglected yourself in order to save a fortune in your bank account? What if you discovered that being the coolest person in the world depended on your wardrobe, your haircut, or the music you listen to? What would you change? Now we’re not saying you should change who you are; just look for ways to accentuate yourself. Open yourself up to new things, a new outlook, or a new you. You may need a pedicure; yes, do so now. Your feet have become talons with claws, those nails have to go. Get a tattoo. No, don’t get that tramp stamp you always wanted; get a dragon or something that represents change, like a koi becoming a dragon. Don’t get that tribal tattoo, you’re not a tribesman. You are a unique individual and self-expression in any manner will make you look cool. Get yourself those five-hundred-dollar Nu-Rock shoes you always wanted; none of your friends is wearing them. It’s also quite possible that a three-dollar pair of shoes from the thrift store may be the right thing. So what is cool? It’s not about being like ol’ Joe next door; don’t follow fashion trends. Not a single person who mimics Britney Spears or Lady Gaga is unique; they are just pawns of the fashion industry, promoting a style meant for the masses. Just be cool, be yourself, revel in it, and create trends by being you.

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BAD CHOICES: PERMANENT INK

Nonfiction

People walk into the tattoo shop inquiring about tattoo work, saying, “I’ve heard of you and you have gotten good reviews on Yelp.” They ask if we re-use any equipment such as ink or needles, to which I respond, “Nothing is ever re-used; all our ink and needles are disposable and are discarded appropriately. All used paper towels and inks including equipment barriers are disposed of in red-labeled biohazardous waste containers and all used needles are disposed of in red biohazard sharps containers that cannot be removed, all these biohazard containers will then get disposed of by a company that collects biohazardous waste. Before and after the tattoo process all areas with possible contamination will get sprayed down with the chemical solutions cavicide or madicide, which kill all possible contaminants and viruses. I personally use Eternal Tattoo Ink, with a few select inks manufactured by Intenze Ink, both top of the line sterile tattoo ink brands. Same with my needles, I use Eikon’s top quality tattoo needles, which I buy in large quantities. Each comes individually packaged in a blister pack with a sterilization date and expiration date; these have been properly sterilized in autoclave machines. Every year I have to get training by OSHA on the handling of biohazardous waste in order to renew certification. I believe in producing good, clean quality work as my name and reputation are behind it.” I use an Eikon power supply, their Green Monster tattoo machines, and also a limited edition Aaron Cain liner plus a few select Fat Joe modified tattoo machines for color work among others I keep for backup. As a professional tattoo artist, I am confronted with a few problems regarding permanent ink. The tattoo process can be a life-altering experience for 4 P.M. COUNT

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the person getting such work done and is a permanent branding that cannot be removed with ease. There are current methods being employed by skilled tattoo artists for covering up and/or removing tattoos, which can be rather painful and very costly. As a tattoo artist, I have a moral responsibility to help customers make the right choices when it comes to tattoo art. There are things that I will refuse to put on anyone, regardless of age or status. I am into the art of tattooing for the purpose of beautifying the skin, not permanently scarring the skin with gang, suggestive or racist slogans; they will definitely get refused by me if there’s a probability they may impact the client in a negative way. Most business done by the motto “The customer is always right” does not apply to tattooing. I refuse to tattoo without first having a consultation to discuss the project we will be working on, the consequences of getting such tattoos, and the pain factor involved, because tattoos on certain body parts may have high pain sensations in those specific areas. I also clarify the correct spelling of names, and dates of birth, anniversary, or death. Another problem that I am confronted with is that sometimes people will want to get tattooed just for the sake of having a tattoo, possibly because all their friends have them. If you come and ask me the generic question, “What do people usually get?” I may respond with, “I don’t know, maybe pink elephants?” The two biggest mistakes people make when they get their first tattoos is that they either get them too small or they just choose the wrong design, only to decide later on that they should have gotten something else instead. My suggestion is to take enough time in choosing a tattoo. Speaking of regrets, make sure your “No regrets” tattoo is spelled correctly instead of making the mistake of getting “No regerts!” I also refuse to work on clients under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicants. Let’s say you are eighteen years old and you want to get 94

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your girlfriend’s name tattooed on your neck. This situation presents two problems. First, the tattoo would be visible on the neck, which brings a certain type of stigma that may prevent an eighteen-year-old from getting a job. Many people, especially employers, may judge you by your appearance as they judge a book by its cover, especially a young man with no job experience. The second problem with that is that the relationship may not be permanent, no matter what you may think now. You cannot own a girlfriend the way that you own a coin. A relationship’s fate between couples with separate desires and ambitions will eventually be decided in due time. I have seen couples that had been married for many years decide to get their names tattooed on each other, only to have them covered up later. Re-think your ink. Do not make bad choices, because tattoos are forever. I know this from experience. I myself have about seventy percent of my body covered in ink and have received mixed expressions from different individuals. People who are quick to judge may believe that I could be associated with gangs which I’m not or that I am this or that, but that’s OK. I can live with that. Will you be able to live with your tattoos for the rest of your life?

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MAN’S BEST FRIEND By: Tyler Sutton Prison is not the place where you would expect to find a best friend, or eleven best friends. And to top that off, prison is the last place one would expect to find love and/ or affection! I have found all the above to be plentiful since I have been in the F.I.D.O. Dog Program here at Yankton FPC. The idea of getting in the dog program was appealing from the start but I was not accepted immediately; in fact, it took me six months to get in the program. Fate has a way of lending a hand at the right time sometimes, as it did in this instance. I was really having a bad day, feeling sick of prison, sad, lonely and frustrated to name a few of the thoughts and emotions on this particular day-the day I was told I would be the next person to enter the dog program. I must confess that this was one of the better days since being incarcerated. The next best day was when I got my first dog. A truly great feeling, in a situation where great feelings are rare. The mission is to get troubled or abandoned dogs from the local humane society. Train them in basic obedience and a list of commands, give them lots of love and affection, socialize them with both people and other dogs, and get them prepared to be adopted to a forever home. This process is supposed to take approximately two months for each dog. We feel like we are saving these dogs from who knows what: the possibility of not being a good fit for anyone since they are troubled and likely their behavior brought them here and made them undesirable. Being bounced from home to home and returned to the shelter again and again, thus stresses and traumatizes them to the point of no return, or of eventually being euthanized. We are only ten men and one mentor trying to save one dog at a time. And we are doing just that! To date the program has had fortytwo graduates placed in new homes. We are proud. 96

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Another perspective is that these dogs are saving us, one man at a time. Who has a dog in prison? Me! That’s who. I truly know that these dogs have helped to save me and made my days better. They have given me comfort in one of the darkest periods in my life. I cannot tell you how many times I have felt so sick of everyone and everything around me. The dogs have been my peace of mind, my strength and even my sanity. When I did not feel like dealing with anyone, I have always had a dog to be there for me. They have been loyal, loving, affectionate and always there for me. Finding this in prison is rare to nonexistent. These dogs have truly been this “man’s best friends.”

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YANKTON DOG PROGRAM By: Donald Hynes I would like to share with you why I joined the Yankton Dog Program. Well, the humble, altruistic truth is that it was all about the dogs. I pitied abandoned, abused or otherwise unwanted dogs that were in desperate need of not only training, but care, love, and attention. OK, OK, who am I kidding? It was not all about the dogs. It was about me too. I have been a dog lover my entire life. Before I went on my prolonged, forced federal vacation, I lived with a dog for over thirty years-not the same one, of course. And then my life, thanks to me, took a serious U-Turn and I ended up in prison. I never imagined that I would be able to live with a dog again, or at least not for 220 months. But thanks to the Yankton Dog Program, my best friend, the dog, now sleeps right next to me. I would have joined the program about one year earlier, when it began, but I feared my childhood allergies to certain dogs might be a problem. However, after interacting with the numerous dogs that frolicked around the prison for over a year, I could not hold myself back anymore. I finally joined the program and have not regretted it for a moment, and have sneezed only 4,564 times. The program has become mutually rewarding for me and my dog, each of us. In addition to the good times we share, most of my fellow inmates love to pet and be around my dog, too. I get a kick out of that. It gives the men nearly the same joy I get from my dog. I say nearly, because as I mentioned earlier, I get to live in the same room as my dog. The Yankton Dog Program’s vast video training programs have taught me a lot of skills I will use with my own dog when I leave prison in the next year. The program certainly came around for me at the right time, two years before I get to go home. I am thankful for the Yankton Dog Program. It will always be one of my fondest memories. After their eight-week training course, my dogs 98

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usually becomes well-mannered, mostly, and trained, mostly. They are ready to fit into a dog-loving family. There are certainly mixed feelings of joy and pain for me when they finally leave the prison to go with their new family, but overall, I am extremely happy for them as I prepare myself for the next dog.

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Ricky Walker and Nella

David Frye, Spanky, and Chad Root

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Luke Lowe, Tyler Sutton, Grant Carman, Guss

Back row, left to right: Chad Root, Cory Uecker, Grant Carman, Donald Hynes, Luke Low Middle row: Tyler Sutton Front row, left to right: David Frye, Ricky Walker, Jeremy Corkill Dogs, left to right: Spanky, Brock, Berkley 4 P.M. COUNT

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Shawn Chamberlain Shawn Chamberlain was born and raised in Nebraska. He graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1996 with a B.S. in Physician Assistant Studies. After his conviction in 2016 he founded Plano PawsÂŽ. Plano PawsÂŽ is an all-natural pet supplement manufacturer that currently exceeds seven figures in revenue per year. Shawn is excited to be released from Yankton Federal Prison Camp in May 2020 so he can innovate and develop more pet products. He plans to continue his philanthropic endeavors by donating a portion of proceeds to dog rescues and shelters in need all over the world. Creative writing has helped him understand how valuable writing in a gratitude journal can be for him and his business. Shawn also plans to publish bi-weekly blogs on his website PlanoPaws.com to educate consumers on all things dogs.

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WAITING I’m waiting…. Waiting to get the hell out of here. Federal Prison Camp, Yankton, SD. Waiting to get back to my life in Texas. Life with friends and family. Life with Casey and Murphy, my two golden retrievers. Waiting to get back to work. Waiting to make a difference in dogs’ lives all over the world. Waiting to rescue Plano Paws®, the startup pet supplement brand I founded after my conviction for conspiracy to commit health care fraud in December, 2016. Waiting to turn Plano Paws® back around. Waiting to change the world one pound at a time. One for One is our motto, Treats for a Cause™. For every bottle of treats sold, Plano Paws® donates proceeds for one pound of dog food to a rescue or shelter in need. Waiting to help dogs. To save more dogs’ lives. Dogs’ lives in China, Haiti, Mexico, and the United States. Waiting… Waiting…. May, 2020 cannot get here fast enough. I just hope Plano Paws® can hang on and survive until I get out. Waiting….

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Ken Workman Ken Workman is fortyfour years old and from Key West, Florida. He has been writing for a little under a year and tries to make the most of his time at FPC Yankton by cultivating his writing skills. He has written works of fiction, nonfiction, and creative nonfiction, and aspires to write full-time someday. These are the first of his works published.

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KEEPING THE SPIRIT

Fiction

On a magnificent spring day, the sun’s rays were a Persian kitten against the skin. The fragrance of lilac and mint juniper wafted from the caress of a warm breeze, which petted waves across a field of vibrant green grass. Active in song, a precession of robins, sparrows, and starlings industriously gathered food with the fleetness of planes in a dogfight. A family gathered to enjoy snacks and refreshments after their grandmother’s funeral. As the family matriarch, she was a well-loved woman, who held the family together and in line, like a pearl necklace. Her passing was a devastating strike to the family’s harmony. Seated at a picnic table, her two grandchildren watched the other children in the adjacent playground. A terrifically hot debate erupted over whether the slide or the swing was the most fun. “The slide is the best. It’s such a rush to slide down quick, like a hare into its den,” said Bobby, a portly lad due to his insatiable penchant for sweets. “No, the swing is better. You can swing higher and higher until you almost touch the sky,” the prissy Sue snapped back, ever ready with her bratty rebuttals of selfimportance. As the quarrel raged on, their mother drew near with some juice and a plate containing two small gingersnap cookies. “One cookie each for now, you don’t want to spoil your supper,” she said, always concerned with the well-being and health of her children. “OK,” they acknowledged in unison, eager to return to their escalating debate. “You’re stupid, no, you’re stupid,” they continued before turning their backs to one another in disgust. Bearing witness to their wicked behavior, the mother gave them a stern look and then a smile before walking away. They turned around after several minutes to find one cookie on the plate. With the speed of a cobra’s strike, the children lunged for it, each drawing back a half. “Hey, that’s my cookie,” shouted Bobby as Sue held her 4 P.M. COUNT

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cookie half far from his reach. With his fists clenched and teeth gnashing because of his little sister’s pretentiousness, “You think you’re special, and always feel the world is your due.” “No, it’s mine,” protested Sue, “you already ate yours. One cookie is never enough for you, fatty”; her eyes narrowed as she stuffed the half cookie into her mouth, sickened by her big brother’s greed. “You ate my cookie,” Bobby continued. “There’s nobody else here.” “There was only one cookie,” Sue said matter-of-factly, placing her hands on her hips. “I swear on all of Fluffy’s nine lives.” Upon hearing this and knowing how much she loved her cat, Fluffy, Bobby believed Sue. “Mom must have given us one cookie so we wouldn’t ruin our supper,” Bobby said. “It’s one of her tricks to make us play nice,” added Sue. “She’s always up to something.” Because gingersnaps were Bobby’s favorite cookie, he dashed toward his mother, hoping his protest could elicit another. Feeling equally entitled to another cookie, Sue trailed in hot pursuit. “Mom, mom, you gave us only one cookie,” Bobby panted, out of breath from the vigor of his sprint. “You didn’t want us to have too much sugar before supper.” “No Bobby,” said their mother, “I gave you each a cookie. I promise.” “You’re fibbing! It couldn’t have just disappeared. Sue swore on Fluffy she didn’t eat the cookie, and now the plate is empty,” Bobby barked, lacing his arms across his chest. Thinking he could not trust his mother or sister, he started to cry. “You don’t love me,” he blubbered. Sue, equally upset about the situation, also started to cry. “I swear on grandma’s soul that I put two cookies on the plate,” their mother said in a fruitless attempt to calm her wailing offspring. “One of you ate the other cookie and now you’re trying to guilt me into giving you another. How could you do this to your mother,” she said burying her face in her palms. Cornered, distraught, and heart pierced by 106

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the shards of broken trust, she too began to cry. Desperate under the strain of such tragic times, their eyes constricted at each other as they seethed, despondent. The normal cohesion of the family as a single entity that shared multiple vessels was lost. Then, as if by the hands of Moses, the clouds divided, revealing their grandmother’s spirit floating down to them. Unable to endure seeing her family fight, she said, “Why are you against each other so? You’re family. Each of you believes the other is lying, when all the while a hungry starling stole the cookie. Without knowing the truth, you declare war against one another.” Upon hearing this, the family realized the foolishness of their ways and ran into each other’s arms. Their anguish turned to joy as they remembered that trust, loyalty, and not making false assumptions are key elements to all relationships.

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HOW TO BE COOL

Creative nonfiction

So, you want to be cool. Being cool is not for everyone. Being cool takes a lot of work. It requires more narcissism and self-absorption than you may possess. You must guard against becoming wrapped up in how others see you as this can distract from you the fact that this is your world in which they live. So for all of you average people reading this, do not bother wasting your time, or mine. A good start for beginners is to come off loud and forceful. In doing this you will not only seem important, but the result justifies the means. First, make wherever you are seem extremely boring and unworthy of your attendance, so as not to seem common or humdrum. When people ask you something directly, be indecisive and vague with your answer. This, combined with using unnecessarily big and fancy words, will make you seem deep and complex. Never allow your chin to drop below ninety degrees. The lesser people around you want to be part of something greater than they are, so do not disappoint them. Next, when you are standing there waiting to talk, listen to people carefully so you do not miss opportunities to interject how you have already done the same thing, only better. Do not seek to understand, but to be understood first. You save time by not listening to their inferior ideas. Don’t speak except to identify weaknesses that prove their ideas will never work. In doing this, you protect them from failure. If you convince people not to try, they will fail on their own terms and retain control, which ultimately is your control. When they are successful, avoid acknowledging their accomplishments. This only detracts from the status you are cultivating. Learn to be the foremost expert on everything. This is always a crowd pleaser. Do not allow not actually knowing what you are talking about to get in your way. You can 108

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exaggerate, brag, mislead, and distract people from the real point. Remember to poke holes in what people say. This is not only how you help them improve, but is always welcomed with open arms. Do the thinking for them. People will love you for it. Once you have their attention, you can corner them with your undeniable logic and force them into seeing things the right way, your way. When the debate becomes heated, having them give up is proof that you were right. Doing this in crowds provides an added effect through public defeat. Gossip about people as often as you possibly can. This not only builds trust with people, but also inspires them to trust you with their secrets. Learn to make jokes at the expense of those around you. You want everyone laughing at them, not you. You are much too cool for anything like that. Quickly take offense at all challenges and contradictions. Blow your top! This will fend off many of the attacks that discredit your captivating rants and tangents. It also helps to complain about everything. People love to hate things. They do not have nearly enough troubles of their own already. You need to take life completely seriously if this is going to work. And, above all else, under no circumstance, attempt to “just be yourself.” Not only is this path the easiest to maintain, but it prevents others from becoming too comfortable and discovering the real you. Now start by throwing this down and saying, “I already knew all of this.” Remember, you are the expert.

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I WAIT

Fiction

I am serene, but not. Patience has cast aside its virtuous cloak. He and I are now mortal enemies. He relentlessly chases me through a dream where I am not asleep. Time has also joined the crusade against me. He is the little devil on my shoulders. The little angel long since was sent packing. The seconds tick past with the impact of a meteor, slow as a blue moon’s return, yet at a sprinter’s pace. My outof-breath thoughts hopelessly try to keep up as I oscillate aboard this speedball rollercoaster. Restlessly exhausted, here and there simultaneously, I exist in a multiverse only perceived. Alone I sit as the walls breathe with me. I look side to side, then back to the floor. Nothing entertains my mind, nothing distracts my thoughts, nothing breaks my solitude. The monochromatic box is my world entire, abundant space infinite, devoid of access to escape, movement permitted only in my mind. They enter. It is time. My quaking legs join the realm of abandonment as I stand. Strength’s absence creeps through me. My mind screams for my legs to return. They do not respond. They grab my elbows before I plunge to the floor. A wail, “Get hold of yourself,” echoes through my chasm. “Come on, you’re gonna be OK,” they say, hoisting me up. The soles of my drunken feet do not find the floor. My toes, insteps, and feet’s blades circle and flop like fish. My Flintstones patter to keep up as they drag me. My wet tissue existence carried to the next room where my chair is the bull’s-eye. “This is a mistake,” I want to protest. My speech is a ghost unheard even in my head. The deafening fortissimo crescendo of the pounding kick drum in my chest is my only communication. They do not speak my language. The veins of my forehead and temples keep the beat. They know 110

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the song. The white coat approaches. His lips mouth, “Just try to relax.” The leather straps hug my flesh. They calm the outward tremors, but the reverberations inside increase. Sweat stings my eyes. The elastic band constricts my arm, primed for the turkey injector. The broth plunges. Afterimages chase everything. The crowd’s eyes muddled with fear expand in a cocktail of excitement, empathy, and sadism. The dark’s nebulous arrival is warm, quiet, loving. I am welcome. A melody of ceaseless notes resounds. It is not music, yet familiar. A pinhole of light pierces. Its screaming entrance surrounds me. I watch the film of my life. It is a mere blink from a speck of dust. Youth, adolescence, and adulthood are a seamless mesh of events, no longer pleasant or sad, good or bad. All answers are here, but no need for questions. I am imperceptible to the expanse except for an unexplainable connectedness. The light grows brighter as a weightless energy propels my featheriness forward. The translucent cloud parts as I continue beyond. A silhouette stands before me with arms wide open. The image rushes into me in a flash. Light, sound, existence, sucked into a vortex. Murmurs emanating surround me. I look to see where the tapping is coming from. My numb face betrays feeling, as a procession of tears and sweat populate my shirt. They stream downward as characters on the matrix emulator. Is this rescue, redemption, resurrection? Am I in the company of angels or devils? Unable to communicate, I wait. My chair is center stage. Blurred figures part to reveal the white coat. Two turkey injectors remain untouched, full. “A sneeze later would’ve been too late,” he says. You have been pardoned. The DNA results don’t match. We’ll have you out of there in a minute. I’ll give you time to count your blessings.”

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M.S. M.S. was raised in California. He has a wife and four beautiful children. He always had a passion for writing but never put his thoughts down on paper for others to read. The creative writing class has helped him confront his fears. M.S. would like to dedicate his time to helping the youth better their lives. He would like to work with other organizations to help educate the youth and give them an extra edge to life’s bumps and curves. Once M.S. returns to his family he plans on continuing his writing and concentrate on restarting his restaurant business.

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THE LOVE I DREAMT OF Why have you left me? Left me all alone. I always dreamt of love before I knew what it was. Blurry dreams that I could remember only in fragments. Piecing them together one day at time until I completed you in my mind. Tall, slender, athletic. Long, curly dark hair, olive skin. A smile that brightens a room. When I saw you from across the way amongst a crowd, I said, that is love, the one I dreamt of all my life. You not only captured my eyes and my heart but also my soul. Then I truly knew what love was. The smiles can no longer be seen. The laughter that echoed throughout the house can no longer be heard. No more pulling or tugging on sheets. Waking to a big cold empty bed. 4 P.M. COUNT

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Late night chats about nothing. Silent understandings. The walks on the beach, kicking and splashing like little kids with no concern in the world. The scent of love is fading away. I walk into the closet, trying to remember what it smelled like, not wanting to forget. The scent of freshly baked bread spreading throughout the house. The passion you put into your meals. The smiles you put on other faces. They ask me why I love you so and I say to them, that is love. I always thought what would be a world without you. A dark, gloomy world all alone. I dreaded those days, and now I say I have seen a world without love.

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ARE WE NOT MEN

Nonfiction

Smuggling a bottle of whiskey and a box of cigars into my backpack, readying for my Boy Scout summer camping trip. We are told to meet at the old church parking lot where we normally have our weekly meetings. The bus is there and the crew is already loading the other backpacks. I give a nod of approval to my buddies Nik and Dimitri, and get one back that all is good. The sound of excitement on the bus penetrates deep down into my bones. We arrive, and there seem to be hundreds of buses and thousands of scouts at this year’s annual get-together. Our site for this year is called Backwoods. Each camp was set up with about a dozen cabins, constructed with only three walls, each having two bunk beds. I think to myself.” Never mind the mosquitos, what about the bears.” There is a fire pit in the center of the camp. The latrine is one hundred yards down a path away from the camp. We run off like a pack of wolves to the nearest watering hole. The bottle is passed around and the cigars come out, turning boys into men. One spits out the whiskey like a fireman’s hose coming to life. The other chokes, as if he is in a room full of smoke. One bends over, readying for the worst, another cups his hands to gather some water, trying to wash out his mouth. The rest of us are giggling and laughing, rolling around in the grass. As fast as they came, the men have gone and the boys are back.

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Visiting Author: 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. His first book Pack of Lies is forthcoming from Main Street Rag. Photo credit: Jim Sullivan

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A LETTER FROM JAMIE SULLIVAN Response to FPC Letters, Summer 2019 Thanks for the kind comments and reactions to my reading this summer. At this kind of reading I always feel like a stand-up comedian watching a poorly constructed joke roll into a quiet room, spit out a spark, and die. When a line or a poem gets a response of any sort, it feels like a beat of life. My thanks again to all of you for giving me a few more pulses of life. You were attentive, receptive and appreciative. Often enough that is the only-and the bestreward a writer gets. Poetry and writing in general are mysterious in interesting ways. All of us are swirling in spoken language all the time; we live in it, soak it in, produce it and usually pay little attention—to the words themselves. My grandfather, whose schooling in Illinois stopped at sixth grade, never thought much about language though he wielded it with great force. He couldn’t have known the difference between a predicate nominative and a hooded merganser but when he wanted his sons back in the bean fields, his words were swift and solid as galvanized fence posts. He did, however, respect those who artfully arranged language; he was a faithful reader of the Woodford County Journal and knew what it meant to influence others with a carefully constructed argument even if the issue was nothing more momentous than how often to mow the ditch weeds. Writing, poetry in particular, starts when we begin to notice these popping, snarling, soothing words, notice that some linger, some can be strung together in a windy rattle, and some sink right into us like nothing ever has before. Our consciousness is a sea of sensations waiting for words—bloodworms, lampreys, anemones waving into 4 P.M. COUNT

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the dark. Written words are our snapshots, tracer bullets, footsteps. Sometimes a new creature will appear, drag a golden eyestalk before us and recede in a ripple. Sometimes something will appear from within ourselves—maybe the old many-headed fear that we are nothing, are loathsome and unlovable. The words give texture and shape to what we cannot yet grasp. Or face. Writing lets us investigate. Lay it all out. See what is there. And then push an idea until it bends into something else, curls in on itself, or spirals out in delicate new branches. Will writing make you money? Probably not. Will it make you smarter? I don’t know. My sense is that it will, but I have no compelling evidence that it does. What I do know is that writing adds new hues of color to the world, it fine tunes us, increases our appreciation of complexity, and expands our perception of the immensity of being. Thanks again for your comments on my reading. Best of luck to you, with your writing or whatever else you choose to pursue. Jamie Sullivan

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Visiting Author: 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 thirty-three 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 includes 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 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 put oneself into 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. 120

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Always, the fundamental purpose is communication; 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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Art by Roberto Valdez

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Visiting Author: Neil Harrison Neil Harrison’s poetry publications include a chapbook, Story (Logan House Press, 1995 & 1996), and the collections: In a River of Wind (Bridge Burner’s Publishing, 2000), Into the River Canyon at Dusk (Lone Willow Press, 2005), Back in the Animal Kingdom (Pinyon Publishing, 2011), and Where the Waters Take You (Pinyon Publishing, 2018). His fiction has appeared in various journals, most recently in Pinyon Review. He formerly coordinated the Visiting Writers Series and taught English and Creative Writing at Northeast Community College in Norfolk, Nebraska, where he presently resides with his third wild, wooly, and often wet drahthaar, the Happy Dog. Photo credit: Jim Reese

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A LETTER FROM NEIL HARRISON To Dr. Reese’s class at FPC Yankton: Thank you all for your letters in response to my visit, and for welcoming me into your classroom there in Yankton. Having retired from teaching some six years ago, I’ve come to miss the interactions with others that the classroom always offers, so I very much enjoyed our time together there. And I appreciate the feedback you all offered on my presentation. It’s always important to know how well we are communicating with others. And the workshop environment you have there is a perfect place to get such feedback and to help you hone your written communication skills. I do hope that some of what we talked about will prove useful to you in the future, as you continue writing both there in your class and long after it ends. I’ve been reading some of the great stories and poems and admiring the beautiful artwork offered in the 2018 edition of 4 P.M. Count. I’m always impressed with the degree of talent exhibited by the writers and artists whose works are published there. It’s a great journal and an important part of the educational experience that FPC Yankton offers, and I hope that you are all pleased and proud to have your works represented therein. Dr. Reese told me there’s not much time before the 2019 edition of 4 P.M. Count is due at the printers, so I’ll try to get this written up and sent back to him right away. I’m happy to have a letter of mine included in such a fine publication. I hope you all find a time and a space that allows you to go inward and discover the voice that resides there. I believe it will aid you in your experiences with writing and with life. Thank you all again for the warm reception there in Yankton and for your letters. And thanks to Dr. Reese for the invitation. Neil Harrison 4 P.M. COUNT

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Visiting Author: Patrick Hicks Patrick Hicks is the author of nearly a dozen books, including The Collector of Names, Adoptable, and This London—he also wrote the critically and popularly acclaimed novel, The Commandant of Lubizec. His poetry has appeared on NPR, The PBS NewsHour, American Life in Poetry, and his first novel was selected for National Reading Group Month. He is the recipient of a number of grants and fellowships, including awards from the Bush Artist Foundation, the Loft Literary Center, the South Dakota Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He was recently a finalist for an Emmy, and he is the radio host of Poetry from Studio 47. A dual-citizen of Ireland and America, he is the Writer-in-Residence at Augustana University as well as a faculty member at the MFA program at Sierra Nevada College. His latest book is Library of the Mind: New & Selected Poems.

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A LETTER FROM PATRICK HICKS Gentlemen, Thank you for your kind letters about my recent visit to Yankton. I appreciated your patience with the rather long essay I read—it’s only the second or third time I’ve read it in public—and I’m so pleased to hear that it made a connection in some way. What more could a writer ask for? In your letters, many of you asked about creative non-fiction and how you might turn your life stories into publishable pieces. The first step, of course, is imagining a reader and trying to see your story from outside of yourself. That is to say, when writing nonfiction (or even fiction for that matter) it’s always best to put the concerns of the reader before your own. For me, writing isn’t about impressing the reader with a big vocabulary but, instead, it’s about capturing their attention. For that reason, I tend to use a narrative voice that is welcoming, honest, and compelling. No one likes to be talked down to, and we all want to be met as equals. It’s the same in writing, I think. A reader who feels as if a writer respects his or her intellect and concerns is far more willing to keep turning the pages. It’s too easy to get caught up in what you want to say as a writer but, really, the more important aspect is what the reader is going to hear. I try to imagine a stranger in a faraway place, and if I can get her or him to care about what I’m talking about then I’ve written something of possible worth. You’ve all got stories worth hearing and sharing, and I hope that if you’re interested in writing, you’ll find the voice and rhythm to the words you need to speak. I believe that writing helps us to frame what we’re thinking with more precision and clarity, and if you can get ideas down on the page they become somehow more real. The best writing, at least for me, is full of bravery and raw honesty. We have 4 P.M. COUNT

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this idea in society that writing is somehow a luxury, but I totally refute that. Writing makes us better thinkers, better communicators, and it forces us to consider the world from someone else’s perspective. For me, this is the good stuff. This is the stuff that makes us all better. Thanks again for the letters. You guys were an excellent class and I wish you only good things on the road ahead. Patrick

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Isaiah Brown Isaiah Brown was born in raised in Omaha, NE. He writes music and values spending time with family. He always looked at writing as a form of art for him to get out what he needed to say and convey how he might be feeling at the time, or something that’s relatable to someone who is close to him from family to friends. What he tends to put on paper is not only just to reflect and express his life, but it’s also for the ones who don’t have a voice from male to female who have the urge to speak on how they might be feeling but can’t. Every story or piece that he creates is different and has its own meaning and reaches introspection.

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SO CONFUSED She said her hearts been broke an I can tell too/ She is very down to earth just lately been in a bad mood/ she just had a baby she’s working and plus she goes to school/ she struggle with having money this week was noodles and can food/ No matter what she’s determined in she not trying to lose/ settle for less I think not she keep her something to do/ just got a raise at her job them prayers been falling through/ she know the devil a lie and god always tell the truth/ was out shopping and seen a friend that she knew from school/ that got to talking exchanged numbers this man seem coo/ weeks pass by and things seem to be running smooth/ But if feel too good to be true/ so what did she end up doing/ well she went through his phone one night but that’s what he never knew/ until this same girl called backed and as soon as he found out he hit her and now her face bruised/ she looking deep in the mirror wondering what to do/ ready give up on life she feeling so confused.

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Dennis Cockerham Dennis Cockerham has been writing poetry since the age of fifteen. His poem, “Never Far Away,� was published by The International Library of Poetry and can be found on page 101 of The Truth of Light. Dennis is an advocate of rehabilitation and recovery. It is his desire that his experience, strength, and hope may in some way help others.

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MY FIRST PLUG

Nonfiction

I don’t know if most people can look back on their lives and see exactly when that defining moment happened. 1985. I had recently been released from one juvenile detention or another. This time I was released to the custody of my mother in Norfolk, NE. There was always an unsettled type of air in this arrangement. My mother harbored and lived with the idea that I blamed her for leaving me to be raised by my grandparents. I was thirteen years old and not capable of deciphering such psychological dysfunction, but that did not stop the brainstorm of self-guilt from making our living conditions uncomfortable. So, I hit the streets. By this time I was adept at knowing where to look, who to talk to, and what to say in order to blend in to most street crowds. After just a couple of days, I found him, and only a few houses down the street from where my mother lived. His name was Gill. And Gill became what I would call today my first plug, hook up, or main man. Nope, Gill did not peddle heroin, meth, or weed for that matter. He was too broken just like me. But he was creative. Gill introduced me to huffing gasoline. He had me sneak over to my mother’s house and grab her gas can for the lawn mower. It was one of those taller metal cans with the metal adjustable nozzle, as well as the yellow air breather cap on top. When you went to pour gas you would flip that open so that the gas would flow more freely. Mine ended up being set up a little differently. A rag wrapped around the nozzle and I ripped that yellow cap clean off. I would inhale the fumes while my finger covered the breather hole until the can was indenting. When I could not get any more air to come through, I would release my finger. Whoosh! The first gasoline bong, choke included. A 132

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couple rips off that baby and all other feelings faded away. The world became a better place. I didn’t go anywhere without my gas can: Main Street, the parks, or in the stores. As you can imagine, this did not go unnoticed in the town. My mother was forced to take some sort of action. Knowing that direct communication with me would probably not be successful, she found Gill. As the story goes, Gill found me. He sat me down and he told me that I needed to listen to him. You have to understand in my world this was my guy, so I listened. He told me that I need to stop huffing gas. He explained I could possibly die, and there was even a chance that I could get lead poisoning. I heard what Gill told me. I took his information very seriously. As soon as I left Gill I went to my mother’s house, found fifteen cents, and I took that and my gas can up the street to the convenience store. There, I rinsed out the can with a nickel and then I filled it up with ten cents of unleaded! That’s right, I had thought it through. Dying was one thing, but walking around with lead poisoning was something completely different! SIDE NOTE: I eventually switched back to regular. Even then I knew, no addict likes the cut stuff.

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FAMILY AFFAIR (Dad) “Explain the pain— virtually insane. My best thinking, it got me here.” (Daughter) “Why so intense? Regret at my expense. But my better thinking is making it more clear.” (Son) “Always thought life was perfect to myself I was lying Understanding accomplishment finally it’s time.” (Mom) “Yes. We are moving forward no longer the insanity. We have lost so much. Finally we have gravity.”

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LIVING ON THE EDGE Don’t fall Don’t jump Then why am I even here I am not comfortable Yet familiarity is found in this fear The edge is not a limbo Some place in between It is its own destination The needle point for a dope fiend Confusions and questions The paradox of choice The fact you don’t hear me You won’t give me a voice Therapeutic reasoning That watch doesn’t tick All is make-believe Yet yours I should pick Too high The rail is too thin This one I ingest And the one I am walkin’ One more step Slowly inhale Smoke in my lungs The wind in my sails Just climb down A decision of will Funny to me You think that still 4 P.M. COUNT

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Repetition alone Can’t create what is real I think what I thought And I still feel what I feel The edge of this ledge I call my home My way of life And I walk it alone

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Richard Hill Richard Hill was raised in Ironwood, MI from the ages of two to eighteen. He has always been a creative, artistic person but never when it comes to words, so he decided to attempt to expand his abilities and let you glimpse his life through his first attempt at writing. His son Issiah was diagnosed with cancer just before his second birthday and ended up living in the Ronald McDonald House in Minneapolis for about a year. After his son Issiah lost his battle with cancer Rick planned to take a long road trip camping along the way from Tijuana up the California coast until he arrived in Canada. Unfortunately his 1987Audi Quatro didn’t survive the trip and ran out of steam in Las Vegas, NV, where he remained for the next twelve years. After that he was a professional club kid and VIP host and partied full time till he ended up back in Michigan in 2012. That was where he was living when he got in trouble with the feds for a drug trafficking conspiracy. He is now in the middle of a twelveyear sentence and currently learning the art of leather craft and creative writing.

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ALONE Surrounded by people, everywhere I go, I am Never Alone. Surrounded by people, everywhere I go, I am Always Alone. It’s hard to describe how I can feel alone, When I am never actually alone. I have a family, but they are far away. My son is in Heaven & I am on my way. I am surrounded by people, As soon as I open my eyes, Every second of every day. I am alone, I am never alone. I am surrounded by people twenty-four hours a day, Rarely a second of silence to have my own thoughts. There is always someone talking But hardly ever someone to talk to. There is always someone listening But never someone to listen to me. I am never alone, I am always alone. I need a woman to hold and to hold me, too. Someone to love unconditionally, Someone in my life that I Want to be there, Rather than all of these people that I’m Forced to share the same air. I want a woman with curves and curls, A girl that I can buy pearls. I want a woman to dance with, Someone to just sit and soak up the sun. I Miss My Son. I don’t wanna be alone.

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ROCKSTAR LIFE I am from the land of pools Hot tubs Hot summer days Five star dining Neon nights Dance clubs with VIP service A pair of sunglasses Distressed True Religion jeans And Stacy Adams shoes After-hours parties Women in G-strings Poolside in gated communities I am from the desert valley Streets lined with palm trees Red Rocks Mountains on one side Sunrise Mountains on the other side I am from the beats in the streets The first Friday of every month Where the art is alive Dyed, tattooed and pierced on bodies Kids in the clubs every night of the week Worldwide DJ’s like Lil Jon, Steve Aoki Bad Boy Bill and Superstar DJ Keoki Turntables and base bins Strobe lights and disco balls Guys and girls dancing I’m from Backwoods parties Powered by generators out of the back of a U-Haul With barrels of beer and tanks of nitrous I am from the House that Jack built Sunday night mass till 6:00 a.m. At Club SRO on Flamingo Ave. From the night clubs to the day clubs To the after-after hours pool parties 4 P.M. COUNT

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Then repeat it all Again and again. From Minneapolis and Chicago Underground raves To Las Vegas Casinos Strip clubs Topless pool parties From the music that moves the masses To the street fashions that set the trends I’ll be there Sometimes fashionably late But usually till the end B‘cuz the beat goes on & on & on…. Long after I’m gone

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TWENTY-THREE

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On that snowy afternoon, on April 29, I was the happiest I’ve ever been. I was young and in love. I’d made mistakes in my life, was dumb, emotionally scarred and afraid of commitment, but on that day, the future was the twinkle in the eyes you hadn’t even opened yet. We didn’t know all the pain that was then ahead of us. On that day, as I studied you while you slept, your pointy left ear to match my own—nature’s way of making sure I knew you were mine—you were healthy, your tiny hands strong enough to hold the entire hope of my world. I was nineteen then. This year, you would have turned twenty-three. As I think back today on my time with you, I appreciate how surrounded by love you were. Between your mom, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends eager to love and dote on you, there was never a problem finding a baby sitter, but most of the time, I didn’t need one unless I was working, which I did way too much to try to give you the best life I could afford. I just loved spending time with you, teaching you anything and everything. I enjoyed watching you grow so very little every day and even enjoyed clipping your fingernails so you wouldn’t scratch yourself in your sleep. I gave you your first haircut. In fact, I gave you all of your haircuts until your hair started falling out from the chemotherapy just before you turned two. Then I buzzed both our heads, lathered them up and shaved them with the most expensive razor in the store—only the best for my little boy. You were proud of your clean new head and so was I. Your hair didn’t grow back like mine, but every couple of days, when I shaved my head, I’d still put shaving cream on and pretend to shave yours, too. We were in this together. Around that same time, “Austin Powers” came out and, with our shaved heads, you were my mini-me to my 4 P.M. COUNT

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Doctor Evil. But you weren’t just another me. As far as I was concerned, you were gonna be an improved version of me. You were gonna beat this little problem we had to deal with and then you were gonna grow up and show everyone that you were capable of anything. My mom tells stories of me when I was a toddler; I was a handful to put it nicely and gave her plenty of headaches while growing up. Starting before I could walk or talk I’d cry till I puked on her if I didn’t get what I wanted. Then as soon as I could walk, I’d climb the fire escape to the roof of the apartment we lived in and run around till she would coax me close to her and bring me back inside. Then there was the time we went to Disney World when I was about two years old and ran across a bridge away from her the second she turned her head, which reminds me of the one time when you disappeared at the Fourth of July parade. The parade was a big deal in our small town of Bessemer, MI, where we lived. Both sides of the main street were packed with people watching the marching bands, classic cars and clowns throwing candy. I got distracted by a cute girl and when I looked back down, you weren’t there. I looked all around, but couldn’t find you. I started to panic, stepped out into the parade to get a better look at the sidewalk where you just were. The sidewalk was as packed as it could be, with rows of people and busy foot traffic going both directions. You were just gone. I started yelling for you, ran down the block, hollering your name, ran back in the other direction, but couldn’t find you. By this time I was in full panic mode, thinking somebody stole my beautiful baby boy. Aside from worrying about you, I started worrying that the people who took you wouldn’t know how to take care of your medical needs. I ran back down the block to where it all began, asking people along the way if they saw someone carrying a small, bald, crying two-year-old boy. None had. When I finally made it back to where you first went missing, you were just sitting there on the curb, eating a piece of candy. You looked up and said, “Dad, where were you?” My heart 142

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was about to beat out of my chest. I picked you up, gave you a big hug and was able to breathe again. The next day, I took you to K-Mart and bought a leash for you. Not a dog’s leash, but a tether that velcroed around your wrist. Whoever thought of that was a genius! It didn’t take you long to get trained to use it. As soon as I took you out of your car seat and placed your little feet on the ground, you’d put your hand up in the air for me to strap the leash to. I’ve always said that raising a child is a lot like raising a dog, which some people take offense to, but you’ve got to pay a lot of attention to them when they are young or else, later in life, they will make your life a living hell. Raising a kid—as well as being a kid—can be hard enough, even in a good situation. The relationship between parents and children should be fun, but must also have trust and respect going both ways. It’s not an easy balance to achieve, but you and I did, and it made for a truly happy family. Raising you in your condition taught me a lot. There were many times when you had just finished a chemo treatment and were supposed to be sick from the chemicals in your body, but I could distract you by keeping you entertained and doing fun things. There were times when you didn’t want to take your medications and would spit them out. I’d explain to you that it didn’t taste good and I knew you didn’t want to do it, but everybody has things in life that they don’t want to do, but they have to. I told you that I would never ask you to do something that wasn’t good for you and that it didn’t matter how many times you spit it out, I was gonna give you your medicine again and again ‘til you held it down. And then, we could go do whatever you wanted. It wasn’t easy for me to enforce those rules—with everything you had to go through, I just wanted to make you happy—but I stayed consistent and after a while, you didn’t fuss or question me. If I said you had to do something, you did it and trusted I wouldn’t lie to you. You knew I meant what I said, so it didn’t pay to cry and try to get away. 4 P.M. COUNT

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You had been in and out of hospitals for almost half of your life just after your third birthday, when my cousin, Nick, asked if you would be the ring bearer at his wedding. We of course agreed to this magnificent honor. Cancer wasn’t going to stop you from doing anything, so it sure wasn’t going to stop you from being a part of this wedding. We had to drive up from Minneapolis the day before the wedding since you had been in the hospital again because your cancer relapsed after your bone marrow transplant. You were in rough shape and the doctors didn’t think you’d live another six months. We had to have a portable morphine drip to control your pain. Despite the morphine, I could see on your face you were in serious pain, but you were a trouper and handled your job as ring bearer wonderfully. You walked down the aisle with the rings tied to the pillow and though you weren’t able to stand for the entire ceremony, you didn’t fuss or cry at all. Afterward, you just wanted to sit at the bar and sip a Cherry Coke before leaving early with my mom. You passed a short time later, on September 10, 1999. After we put you in your final resting place, my heart hardened and I felt numb to life, my only motivation being to try to block out the pain of losing you. The problem with trying to block out the pain with drugs and alcohol is that I ended up blocking out all reality; drugs don’t just block the thoughts intended. Every time I sobered up, there I was and there you weren’t. Even after all these years, we may not be tethered at the wrist anymore but we are still connected in our souls. You are always in my heart. I love and miss you, Issiah.

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PAST COVERS

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STUDENT ART

Art by Beckstrom

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Daniel Connelly

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Dustin Massey

Gabino Garcia

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Art by RJH

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Art by Jacob Reagan

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Art by Jacob Reagan

Lony Gatwas

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Art by Pedro Rodriguez

Art by Roberto Valdez

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Property of FPC Yankton

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Art by Roberto Valdez

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Art by Roberto Valdez

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Art by Tyler Sutton

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Art by Roberto Valdez

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Art by William Walker

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2019