2020 4 P.M. Count

Page 1



4 P.M. COUNT 2020 National Endowment for the Arts Writer-in-Residence / Editor-in-Chief Jim Reese Assistant Editor

S. Marielle Frigge

Editorial Assisant

McKenna Cooley

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 Roberto Valdez.

4 P.M. COUNT

1


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Special thanks go to the following people for their help in the production of the 2020 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; Michael McCabe, Supervisor of Education; 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. Thanks to the new addition to the 4 P.M. Count team, McKenna Cooley, for editorial assistance. And thanks to all of my new students. You guys are a talented bunch of writers-don’t ever forget that. Dr. Jim Reese

2

4 P.M. COUNT


TABLE OF CONTENTS 5

Hillside Design

6

Jim Reese · Foreword · Introduction

12

S. Marielle Frigge · First Notes for Creative Writing Students · FPC Yankton Style Sheet · FPC Yankton Value of Individual Tutoring

29

Adam Lawin · Writing in Prison · The Prius · Clay in Jail

46

Donald Hynes · My Princess · A Ruff Synopsis of the Yankton Dog Program

56

Michael Murphy · Ten-Four, What’s Your Twenty? · Never Give Up

68

Roberto Valdez · Santa Pat · The Night of Open Graves · Ghosts, Endorphins, and Blood

85 Noah Bergland · I Am You (poetry) · The Face of Addiction · COVID-19 · I Am You (prose) 102

Mr. Payment · The Carnival · Are You Ten Years Ago

4 P.M. COUNT

3


110

Mr. Workman · The Cure · Freedom of Change

127 Lorenzo Eaton · My Lowest Point · On My Block · No Way Out · Davis Park · Eighty Ninety Four 148 Artwork

4

4 P.M. COUNT


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.

4 P.M. COUNT

5


Jim Reese, editor-in-chief Jim Reese is Associate Professor of English at Mount Marty University. He is the National Endowment for the Arts Writer-in-Residence at Federal Prison Camp Yankton. His book of nonfiction, Bone Chalk, was published by Stephen F. Austin State University Press in December of 2019. A fourth collection of poetry, Dancing Room Only—New and Selected, is forthcoming by New York Quarterly Books in 2021. Photo credit: Bernie Hunhoff at Clay County Jail

6

4 P.M. COUNT


FOREWORD BY JIM REESE Dear readers, it’s been an interesting year. We’ve seen and experienced some unusual and frightening things. I believe if we continue to work together we will get through this worldwide pandemic. Through everyone’s perseverance, 4 P.M. Count will publish its thirteenth consecutive yearly perfect-bound book. I’m not sure there’s another prison publication in the nation that can say the same. If there is, please let us know, we’d like to find out who they are and share ideas. The staff of FPC Yankton has gone above and beyond to help maintain programming through alternative methods. I have, with the help of Cory Uecker and Michael McCabe, been able to correspond with my students by weekly lectures and writing prompts. It’s not ideal, but it is the world we are living in for the time being. These weekly lectures take an enormous amount of preparation, research and writing time. I’ve often joked with other professors and teachers who are teaching remotely, I feel like we are working twice as hard. And a funnier joke, maybe I’m smarter than I thought. When I have to write down all of my lectures, lesson plans, and ideas and then workshop the men’s writing from afar, I realize how much all of us know and have grown. How much we take human interaction for granted. Education is an amazing thing. Can you imagine a day without learning something new? I think that is what hell must be. Teaching remotely is an obstacle for us all. The last thing I want for any writer is another obstacle. But as I email thirty to sixty page packets each week to the prison I am reminded of what Ted Kooser tells me often, the number one thing you can do to become a better writer, is read. Read everything. Cereal boxes, books, comics, magazines— lectures from your professor. 4 P.M. COUNT

7


I’d like to thank the National Endowment for the Arts and the Justice Arts Coalition for rallying during this pandemic. “The Justice Arts Coalition (JAC) unites teaching artists, arts advocates, currently and former incarcerated artists, and allies, harnessing the transformative power of the arts to reimagine justice.” I, along with other teachers, have shared ideas via ZOOM on how to best execute our classes—to not give up when faced with adversity. Another very special person I’d like to thank is Sister Marielle Frigge. She’s the assistant editor for 4 P.M. Count. She has been working on the journal with me since its inception. We started planning on how we would publish this year’s journal months ago. When the weather was decent enough, we started walking (six feet apart)—to discuss ways we could see this publication through to fruition. We have decided to include some tools—“First Notes for Creative Writing Class” and the very concise and brilliant “4 P.M. Count Style Sheet” in this issue to help other prisons and their staff navigate through tough times. Thank you to McKenna Cooley for typing and editing assistance. And to Stephanie Schultz for your design expertise. Due to COVID, the absence of in-person tutoring, and conferences, some work could not be fully vetted/edited in time for publication. However, we are very excited to share this year’s work given the pandemic circumstances. As a team, we’ve come together again to win. Good game.

8

4 P.M. COUNT


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 4 P.M. COUNT

9


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 Univeristy, where I am an Associate Professor, benefit, too. My creative writing classes work together at both locations to workshop their creative writing. MMU 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 previous year’s journal. Mark Twain was attributed as once saying, “The two 10

4 P.M. COUNT


most important days in 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 previous issues of the journal online. To read the 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 issue of 4 P.M. Count please visit: www.issuu.com and type in “4 P.M. Count” in their search engine (issuu is the largest collection of free-to-read publications from publishers around the globe). Another book of interest that featured our program is the Federal Bureau of Prisons publication 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 thirteen 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, 2020

4 P.M. COUNT

11


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

12

4 P.M. COUNT


A NOTE ON THE STYLE SHEET BY S. MARIELLE FRIGGE As noted in the editor’s Foreword, this year’s edition of 4 P.M. Count includes the Style Sheet for the Creative Writing class in use for the last decade here at Federal Prison Camp Yankton. I have been copy editing this journal since its inception, and after a year or two began to believe that many of the men in the Creative Writing class could benefit from having written guidance on use of Standard English at hand. As anyone might imagine, many of these students have little or ineffective educational backgrounds. On the other hand, as I often emphasize, upon their release, these men will be job hunting, which will require writing applications, cover letters, and the like. Besides this practical reason, ability to use written Standard English can help students to communicate clearly and effectively in their creative writing efforts at present. The Style Sheet is certainly not exhaustive. I was guided by what I was reading, that is, I included elements of style that were most often misused or that caused confusion for some students. Throughout the class and in the Style Sheet, I emphasize two things necessary for both good writing and for daily life: an ability to communicate clearly, and consistency. In some cases, more than one rendering might be considered acceptable Standard English; in such instances, I designated one usage for the sake of consistency. Because more prisons at various levels across the country have begun or are considering writing classes, the FPC Yankton Style Sheet appears in this issue of 4 P.M. Count as a possible aid for such endeavors. In addition, it might help current students who are still in lockdown due to Covid-19 and unable to conduct in-person classes.

4 P.M. COUNT

13


FIRST NOTES FOR CREATIVE WRITING CLASS 1. In the beginning of this class Dr. Reese tells you not to worry about spelling and punctuation and grammar and so on, but just WRITE. This is an important beginning, helping you to find your voice. 2. HOWEVER—it’s not the end of the process of good writing—not by a long shot. 3. After you find your voice, and after you discover that you have something to say and can say it, you need to become more concerned about communicating well with your reader. A. Communication is always about two parties: • the one communicating (in this case, you, through your writing) • and the one/s you want to communicate something TO—your chosen “audience.” Audience awareness is an extremely important part of good writing that is too often ignored! B. Designate your audience: • other members of the class? • your teacher/s? • visiting writers? • your family? • the general public? (In general, assume this is your audience) • people who don’t think prisoners should be ‘coddled’ by having classes offered? • C. Analyze your audience: 14

4 P.M. COUNT


• what do they already know about what you want to say? • what do they not know? • how do they feel about what you what to communicate? • if you want to convince someone of something, what are their likely points of agreement at this point? What are their likely points of disagreement? How can each point be addressed effectively? D. Certain choices need to be made carefully before you begin a serious draft: 1) Time frame: past? present? future? Once you decide, be consistent; shift only for a good reason—a reason that you make very clear to your audience. 2) Point of view: • I/we: the writer is the actor/speaker, “I”, or one of a group, “we” • You: the writer is directly addressing someone/s (used least often) • He/She/They: Someone other than the writer is performing the action Again, make a decision, then be consistent or you will confuse your reader, damaging or destroying good communication with your chosen audience. 4. A good writing exercise might be to write a narrative in first person, then in third person, and assess which might be most effective for your chosen audience. Try the same with time frame. Try communicating what you have to say in prose and in poetry—which communicates what you want to say most effectively for your chosen audience? 5. These requirements for effective written communication are also of value to you as a person: 4 P.M. COUNT

15


A. Thinking through your choices and actions beforehand. B. The discipline of consistency (both words here are important!) C. Attention to and respect for the “other”—in your life experience, you might have been spared from some poor decisions if you had thought about others in your life, and how what you were doing or not doing might affect other people. D. Learning that “little things” can be extremely important. E. Experience in good communication.

16

4 P.M. COUNT


FPC YANKTON STYLE SHEET

4 P.M. COUNT

17


18

4 P.M. COUNT


4 P.M. COUNT

19


20

4 P.M. COUNT


4 P.M. COUNT

21


22

4 P.M. COUNT


4 P.M. COUNT

23


24

4 P.M. COUNT


4 P.M. COUNT

25


26

4 P.M. COUNT


FPC YANKTON VALUE OF INDIVIDUAL TUTORING WHAT I SEE AS BENEFITS OF ONE-ON-ONE SESSIONS FOR MEMBERS OF THE WRITING CLASS By: S. Marielle Frigge 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 in the reader’s cultural, intellectual, and emotional context. Such awareness ought to guide any writer’s choice of content and how that content can be most effectively presented to the designated audience. For 4 P.M. COUNT

27


example, if one is writing a piece for the general public, prison slang or acronyms are not likely to be understood. Always, the fundamental purpose is communication; 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 must have been convicted of a crime, or you wouldn’t be here. But I believe you are more than a “criminal”; 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?”

28

4 P.M. COUNT


Adam Lawin Adam Lawin is from Waterloo, Iowa. 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.

4 P.M. COUNT

29


WRITING IN PRISON Nonfiction

There’s something like a million books published in the world every year, and only a handful come from authors in prison. Why is this? Writing in prison sounds like a retreat. Ten years in a quiet room with no distractions and no responsibilities. Think of all the work that could be done. Or at least that’s what people tell me when they tell me how lucky I am to have all this free time to write. Outsiders speak of prison as if it’s some writer’s Eden. A place where you can sit around outside with the birds chirping, or find some quiet corner with an ergonomic chair and type on a computer for twelve hours a day. But that’s not reality. Reality is less fairy-tale and more B-rated horror movie. For this story, let’s skip forward into my sentence five years, past USP Leavenworth and FCI Sandstone, which didn’t offer computer access at all. Let’s start at FPC Yankton, ranked one of the Top 10 Cushiest Prisons in the BOP. At Yankton I was initially put in the Kingsbury dormitory, a three-story brick building that lacks air conditioning everywhere except the officer’s offices and the basement. For weeks on end in the summertime the rooms hover around ninety degrees. Relentless, musty, and everyone’s irritable--in this environment I get to write with sweat pouring down my face. My first day in Kingsbury I brought my notebook to a lounge on the main floor. There are two booths in the main lobby that get overflow air-conditioning that are accessible to inmate college kids who want to study. But there is no open space for inmate use until 6 p.m. If you want to write you have two options: Every floor has its own Trulinks/study room with kiosk-computers to email family with and study tables 30

4 P.M. COUNT


lining the walls. But these rooms are scorching hot, easily ten degrees hotter than the rest of the building. Or you can go to the library and write. But their air-conditioning was broken during my first year here. There was no escape from the heat. So I’d write in the stairwell sitting on the stairs, and during count I’d write with my shirt off in my room, hunched over a chair, glistening with sweat, seeing by the dim glow of a book light. I shared this room with five other guys--guys who liked to sleep until noon. A heavy blanket covered the window to keep out the heat, but it kept out the light as well. The worst part about living in Kingsbury was knowing that right across the compound was a vacant housing unit equipped with AC. But two months into living in Kingsbury, Yankton opened up that air-conditioned unit-Lloyd--and moved everyone in. Lloyd was like getting ice cream on a hundred-and-ten-degree day. Ice-cold dormitory-style living. It’s crowded, there’s no privacy, but it has a designated “study room” the size of an office with tables lining the walls. If there was anyone upstairs to thank then, I thanked them. I had an air-conditioned office to write in, only a few steps from my bunk. I wrote there when I came home from work at my job in the kitchen. I wrote there on the weekends and when the computer labs weren’t open, writing and editing by hand. On my days off I was in there after breakfast was served, a cup of thick black coffee in hand, and stayed until 4 p.m. count. And, yes, some inconsiderates would come in with their headphones blaring or have full-tilt conversations, and college students raised their voices over Accounting 101 problems, but it was still the quietest place on the compound. It was heaven. It didn’t last. Two months in and I came home from my kitchen job and everybody was staring at me, laughing at me. I had no idea what it was about. 4 P.M. COUNT

31


“They took away your study room,” someone said. “What?” I asked, confused. “Go look.” There was a new sign on the door that now said, “Quarantine Area.” The tables had been taken out and two bunk beds put in their stead. This was four months before COVID-19. It was a quarantine room for the upcoming winter flu. I was irate. Where was I going to write? It had been the only place in the unit that was semi-quiet. Dozens of displaced college students were sent looking for a new place to study and write. In Lloyd, the rear Trulinks room also acts as a game room where guys talk and shout and slap cards on the table. A speaker in the ceiling blasts out announcements every five minutes, summoning inmates here and there. Trying to concentrate in a TV room is like trying to write in the middle of a casino at rush hour. Horns blare, jackpot lights spring into action, people pound tables, followed by sudden bursts of excitement. It’s easier to concentrate in a trash compactor while the walls are closing in. Sympathetic to our displacement, someone on staff put a table in front of the case manager’s office next to the phones. I wrote there for a few mornings in a row before a new sign was posted: “Study Area only from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.” and a few days after that the table was gone. People were being loud. I went on the prowl for another place to write. After some searching I found a mop closet hidden in the corner that was large enough to house a fold-out table. It housed vacuums and dustpans, chemicals and cleaning rags. Push brooms hung on the walls. The orderlies complained on the first day--the table took up so much room they couldn’t get to their cleaning supplies. Then the “Beaders” got wind of the quiet spot and decided to make it just as loud as the rest of the unit. Stringing beads on thread doesn’t require you to be quiet any more than driving does. And no matter how much we 32

4 P.M. COUNT


tried to keep the place quiet, it never was. Sure, you can tell one person to be quiet, but then you have to tell every person to be quiet. And you don’t want to open that can of worms. In March, the coronavirus hit the U.S., a novel strain called COVID-19. The virus ravaged the states, overwhelmed hospitals, killed doctors, exhausted supplies of ventilators, masks, and other PPE. Every day I’d get emails from friends and family saying, “It’s really bad out here,” or “It’s madness out here.” There was no toilet paper on the shelves, tissue was sold out, hand sanitizer non-existent. By the end of March, the BOP reported only two COVID cases in the prison system. Rapist Harvey Weinstein had gotten it in a New York jail. A Latin American prison rioted over the virus. The complex in Oakdale, LA was completely ravished. One inmate died, sixty in quarantine, nine guards infected. The VICE news article came out on March 30, the whole BOP locked down on April 1. We thought it was an April Fools Joke. Fear in the prisons spread like wildfire. A seventy-yearold inmate called out to the Associate Warden, “You know that if I get the virus it’s going to kill me, right?” The father of the guy who lives in the bunk next to me died two months before he was set to get out. The mom of the guy in the bunk across from me died of natural causes. What am I supposed to say to them? I’m worried about my own elderly parents. I’ve lost my job, haven’t had a paycheck in three months. Fear and anxiety and false hope--this is the world I have to write in. A hundred inmates are on my floor. Now there’s nowhere to get away. There’s constant noise around me. The mop closet was taken over first by HobbyCraft guys, then by guys looking to do calisthenics. I’m now in the main lobby. With the prison locked down, I’ve lost any access I had to a computer. I’ve lost its speed and efficiency. And while creatives around the world are locked at home with MacBooks in front of them and cranking out contents by the truckload, I’m sitting at a noisy fold-out table on a hard 4 P.M. COUNT

33


plastic chair writing every page by hand. Editing is just as inconvenient. Two sentences need to be spun around? Rewrite the entire page. Single spelling error? Rewrite the entire page. Zigged when you should have zagged? Rewrite the entire page. One guy in my creative writing class said, “I’m not writing without a computer.” Another said, “I’ve been working my [butt] off for the last ten years. I’m using this time as a vacation.” A third said he can’t write outside of the secluded space he made for himself. And a fourth writes from 10 p.m. to midnight when everyone is in bed. Losing the computer wasn’t that big of a blow. For five years at Leavenworth and Sandstone I wrote by hand. And the computers here are approved only for class assignments, not recreational writing. If you want to write a book, get out paper and a pen. The only room open in Education on the weekends is the library, where everybody congregates. Sandstone’s library was wall-to-wall packed on the weekends, and Leavenworth’s library wasn’t even open on the weekends. I write out in the main lobby now, every day from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. or later, breaking for lunch and counts, getting less than half the work done that I could do with access to a computer. People say, “You’ve got all this free time. It’s easier to write in there.” There are people slapping cards at the table next to me. At another table they’re getting into a shouting match over a Scrabble score. Two industrial fans run full tilt to create the white noise we need to sleep in this open dorm. Other inmates are huddling around the lobby’s double doors that offer the only windows in this place to see sunshine and grass; every other window is fogged. They’re talking over the fans and the noise and the shouting. In the TV room I can see they’re watching a movie I’ve never seen before. Three guys have already come up and asked me to put the 34

4 P.M. COUNT


pen down and come play the board game Risk. My good friend Mike Murphy, who’s in my Creative Writing Class, came up to me and said, “Adam, I don’t know how you do it.” “What’s that, Murph?” “How you sit there and write with all these idiots around.” I look up at Mike and shrug. “I can’t just not write, Murph.” And I can’t. If I stopped writing just because it was too hot or too noisy I’d never get anything done. The temptation to put the pen down is overwhelming. It’s much easier to pick up a book or play cards or stare out the window with longing than it is to write. It’s much easier to say, “I worked hard at this for the last six years and I deserve a break,” or “I’ll wait until I get a computer,” or “I’ll wait until I find a secluded place that is the definition of tranquility.” Even right now I’m writing this because it’s a lot easier than editing my books by hand, rewriting the same pages over and over and over again. Prison isn’t the perfect writing environment. I live with a hundred guys in an open dorm. There are no quiet spots, no access to computers to tell the stories you want to write. That’s a privilege only people on the outside enjoy. If you’re not crazy in love with writing, you’re not going to get anything done in here.

4 P.M. COUNT

35


THE PRIUS Nonfiction

What goes through my father’s mind when he drives ten hours from Iowa to see me every month like clockwork? The first three years, passing through Des Moines on his Saturday journey south to Leavenworth. Then weaving through the snow-capped hills when I was transferred north to Sandstone, and the straight shot west along a flat stretch of Highway 20 when I relocated to the fenceless prison camp in South Dakota. How did those four years go for him, making that drive? Did he enjoy the change of scenery as he set his cruise control, not having to worry about missing a turn until he crossed state lines? What goes through my father’s mind when he wakes up at three in the morning to make sure he’s the first person in line at the visiting room, the first man to pass through the metal detector, the first man to get patted down, and, finally, the first man to get waved through? What went through his mind when he had to cut costs by foregoing a hotel room and the good night’s sleep that came with it, or when he was forced to trade in his SUV for a Prius, and became the butt of jokes by both friends and family? What goes through his mind when he looks up at the clock after seven grueling hours spent squatting on hard plastic chairs, knowing there was a five-hour journey to get home? And through all this, how does he manage to smile at me so warmly? What goes through my father’s mind when Wednesday comes and he knows he has to get the chores done early because he’s going to spend the weekend with his son at a place that allows one quick hug at the beginning and one quick hug at the end of each visit? What goes through my father’s mind when he wakes up Sunday with a tight, crooked back, worn sore by the hard visiting room seats and millions of highway bumps? I don’t know what goes through my father’s mind, but I know what goes through mine. My heart rips with guilt. My 36

4 P.M. COUNT


last memory of him in the free world haunts me every day. Before I went to prison, we hugged in front of the garage. We both hugged with tears streaming down our cheeks. He told me, “Son, I won’t be alive when you get out.”

4 P.M. COUNT

37


CLAY IN JAIL Fiction

Clay stood at the pay phone on the cement wall of the jailhouse, receiver to his ear, pleading with his brother, “They don’t feed us in here, Johnny.” “I’ll try and get you out of there, Clay,” his brother told him over the phone. “But your bond’s five grand and I don’t have it.” “I can’t be in here, Johnny,” Clay pleaded. “I’ll starve to death.” “You’re fifty pounds overweight. You’re not going to starve.” Clay put a hand on his big belly. His black and white jumpsuit was loose and baggy, and the Crocs on his feet were worn through the heel. “I don’t know how I’m going to sleep tonight, my stomach hurts so bad.” “You should have thought of that before you threw a liquor bottle through a car window.” “Can you at least put some money on my books?” “I can either do that or I can post your bail. But you’ll have to choose.” “Can’t you do both?” Clay asked hopefully. “Right now I can’t do either. How much cash did you have on you when they booked you in?” “A dollar in change.” “Buy yourself a couple of soups and stay out of everybody’s way.” “OK….” Clay answered, solemn. He clutched at his gut, mouth twisting in pain. “The bondsman owes me a favor. I’ll try and get you out by tomorrow morning.” “Love you,” Clay told his brother, but was met with a sudden click and dial tone. He stared at the beeping receiver, a sad frown on his pudgy face. He hung up and signed heavily, eyes cast on the floor, and raked a look over his new home. 38

4 P.M. COUNT


Striped inmates played Hucklebuck around card tables in one part of the pod, and in another they craned their necks up to watch “The Price is Right,” mouths agape. They had watched Clay from the moment he was buzzed into the unit with a bedroll under one flabby arm. Beyond the card tables, three vending machines sat next to a lone microwave. Clay was miserable and cold, and his stomach ached. He was drifting over, eyes lowered and curly red hair bouncing, when he noticed a pencil on the ground and picked it up, offering it to the score-keeper at the card table. “You dropped this.” The score keeper snatched it out of his hand. “Then let it stay dropped. Don’t touch my stuff.” Clay recoiled for a fist that never came, and when the man turned his back to him, Clay quickened his pace to the vending machines. What they served for dinner was criminal. A sandwich with green baloney, one slice of bread and one heel, a bag of chips and a few dribbles of juice. One mouthful of food. Their mother had beat him and bruised him and broken his arm, but she had never starved him. Even she wasn’t as cruel as that. Saliva pooled under Clay’s tongue as he peered through the glass at the rows of chips, sandwiches, candy bars, beef jerky, ramen noodles, and single-serve instacoffees. It sent him fumbling at his pen pocket to make sure the vending card hadn’t disappeared through some black hole. He looked over the Snickers bar and the XXL Beef Burger but one was two dollars, and the other five. Ramen noodles were fifty cents. He could buy two. Sliding his tongue wetly over his pudgy lips, Clay inserted his card and plunged the buttons. One noodle pack wound out, the other got stuck. “No, no, no, no, no,” Clay begged the machine, his instant noodles dangling at the end of its row. In bold red lettering across the glass, a sign warned, 4 P.M. COUNT

39


SHAKING THE MACHINE WILL RESULT IN DISCIPLINARY ACTION. Clay put a hand to the glass, lips pressed tight, willing the second noodle to fall. One pack wasn’t going to kill the painful twist in his gut. He gave the machine a testing shove, but it didn’t so much as rattle. Clay snuck a peek over his shoulder. A sheriff stood behind his desk at the head of the room, all buzz cut and scowls, staring into the computer monitor with a dozen camera screens. Determined, Clay threw his shoulder into the glass. The plexi let loose a resonant thud as it warped and sprang back. An entire unit of heads spun towards him, but the machine didn’t budge. Glancing down, Clay frowned. The legs were bolted on the floor. “Hey,” the sheriff shouted, and beckoned Clay with the crook of a finger. At the officer’s desk, Clay complained meekly. “My noodles got stuck.” The officer spoke up, “Do that again and you’re going to the hole.” Clay pointed across the pod. “But my noodles got stuck.” “Do I look like I care?” “No,” Clay admitted. “Then get away from my machine.” “But what about my noodles?” A stern look from the officer and Clay didn’t press further. Around him, other inmates stared watching, learning. Head low, Clay turned to beg for money. Someone in there would be kind enough to lend him fifty cents. But he watched, helpless, as another inmate stepped to the machine, inserted his card and dropped the ramen noodles out of their row, along with the one behind it. The inmate held up both packages for Clay to see, smirking. Clay’s cheeks drooped, defeated. A short line of inmates waited for the lone microwave oven, impatiently fidgeting. Clutching his only cup of soup, 40

4 P.M. COUNT


Clay filed in line. Two inmates fell in line after him, soups in hand. When Clay looked over his shoulder at them, they scowled in a way that made him never want to look back again. An inmate, razored-bald, stood at the oven, his juice cup spinning inside. The microwave dinged, the bald man popped the door open and pulled out a steaming cup of coffee. Next in line, Clay was stepping towards the open microwave door when the convict behind him shouldered him out of the way, shoved his bowl in the microwave, slapped the door shut, and cranked on the timer. Confused, Clay stepped back in line, stomach trembling, his jolly cheeks a flush of rose. Other inmates watched, vultures scenting blood. Why weren’t there other microwaves in the pod? When the microwave dinged, the guy grabbed his steaming bowl and sauntered off with a pimp’s limp. Salivating over the cold noodles in his hand, Clay stepped forward and put his bowl in the microwave. With his hand on the handle to slap the door shut, a man called out from behind. “Hey, man. I’m next. You just cut me.” “But I was....” Clay looked around nervously. “But I was next in line….” Hunger pains knifed at his gut. “Are you calling me a liar?” The man stepped into Clay’s face, sneering down. A scar stretched from temple to chin, pink and cruel. “No….” “Then get your bowl out of my microwave,” the scarred inmate said through clenched teeth. Sullen-eyed, Clay pulled out his bowl. The microwave hummed, cooking the other guy’s food, and the stench of mackerel wrinkled the noses of card players at nearby tables. Back in line, Clay looked over both shoulders and spun all the way around, asking the room, “Is anyone else in line?” He got blank stares for answers, and taunting titters. But 4 P.M. COUNT

41


nobody else claimed to be in line. Clay put his noodles on the rotating disk, closed the door, and eyed the well-worn buttons, confused. Which one did he hit? A man with a face of blotchy tattoos and hands full of Bicycle cards shared a conspiratorial look with the other players circled around, and called out to Clay. His voice was the deceiving kind of helpful. “You didn’t just put your food in there, did you?” Clay’s eyes flicked around nervously. “Yeah.” “What’s wrong with you? You can’t cook food in a cold microwave,” the card-playing man said. “You have to preheat it first. Everybody knows that.” “Yeah, everybody knows that,” another chimed in, gaunt and holding back titters. Clay volleyed glances between the microwave and the man. Everybody else had just stuck their noodles in. But maybe he was missing something…. “Preheat it?” Clay asked. “How do I do that?” Something cold moved in the card-player’s eyes. “Take the noodles out, spin the dial to fifteen, and let it run. It’ll heat up.” “Yeah, it’ll heat up,” the other echoed. “Okay….” Clay said, taking his cup out and setting it on top. “Make sure it’s nice and warm,” the card-player said. “That machine’s old. It doesn’t work like it used to.” Clay cranked the dial and let the microwave run. His stomach rumbled. Why did he have to wait fifteen minutes? The machine gave the clank, clank, clank of being on its last legs. The fan wobbled, off balance. The bearing squeaked. Another inmate fell in line behind Clay, waiting. His hands held a cup soup and his face held disagreeable scorn. A minute later another man fell into line, and another man after him, and another after him, each craning his head, impatient. What was taking so long? Sweat dribbled from Clay’s curly red hair and stabbed at his eyes. He swiped it away with pudgy fingers, and 42

4 P.M. COUNT


dried his hand across his thighs. As the clock counted from fifteen, restless grumbles began behind him. Behind him another pair of men fell in line, but Clay dared not turn around and look. The heat of their stares bored into the back of his skull. One of the men shouted at Clay, irritation dripping from his voice. “I think your food’s done now, homie.” Clay turned around. “It’s still got five minutes.” “Five minutes for what? You’ve already been up there for ten.” “It’s still preheating.” “Preheating? What are you talking about?” Clay stepped aside to show them the countdown. The microwave dial rolled over, counting down from four. Another inmate spotted Clay’s soup and pointed. “Man, that fool’s food is still on top of the microwave.” “It’s still preheating,” Clay tried to explain. “You don’t preheat a microwave, dimwit. You’re going to burn it up. It’s the last one we’ve got.” Angry shouts built up behind him, melding together. “He’s going to burn up the microwave.” “What’s wrong with you, white boy?” “This guy’s an idiot.” The card players at the table snickered and Clay darted a desperate finger in their direction. “He told me to.” The scarred convict slapped his cards on the table top and stood abruptly. “Did you just point at me, fat boy?” “No, I, I....” Clay stuttered, drying his clammy palms across his black and white jumpsuit. The men in line pressed in, cornering him. A Hispanic, portly and balding, and an angry man with fiery green eyes and skin as pale as bone. A broad-nosed man with copper skin, and another to his side, black as ink. And a dozen more behind them, brows furrowed in hate, all circling Clay, pressing forward. The microwave hummed noisily as he backed into it-clank, clank, clank. Desperate, Clay turned, yanked the door open, and 4 P.M. COUNT

43


shoved his food in. It was strange, the microwave didn’t feel any warmer when he stuck his soup inside. His cup spun on the disc, cooking. The clanking worsened into a rattle. “Hey, man. You already had your turn,” the Hispanic’s brow furrowed. “I had to preheat it,” Clay explained. Why were they glaring? They didn’t need to be so mad. “It’ll be done in just a few minutes.” “You’re done; you had your turn. Get in the back of the line.” “But I’m hungry.” “We’re all hungry, white boy.” The Hispanic pushed Clay out of the way, ripped open the microwave door, and threw Clay’s cup on the counter. Clay caught it before it fell off the edge. It was warm in his hands and the noodles had swelled in the water. The Hispanic threw his own bowl in the microwave and cranked the knob. The others pushed Clay away. Then the microwave popped sharply. The noise startled Clay--everything startled Clay. The fan in the back seized, a wisp of grey smoke rose into the air, and a tang of burnt metal filled the pod. Eyes flicked towards the microwave, inspecting. Clay took his bowl and stepped backwards as the other inmates crowded around the machine. “What happened?” one asked. “Magnetron cracked,” another offered. “What’s that mean?” “It’s broke.” He stood up and pointed at Clay, who was holding the last warm bowl of food in the unit. “That moron let it run without anything in it!” Clay gulped, his angry flush vanished and fists unclenching. “Come on, guys,” Clay pleaded, backing away as inmates closed in around him from all sides. “I’m hungry....” But still his nightmares closed in. The man to his left had the same wispy mustache as Clay’s mother, who constantly made a show whipping him with the buckle-end 44

4 P.M. COUNT


of the belt because he was a “bad, bad boy” who’d never learn. He got closer. And so did the skinhead to the right who was chubby and aggressive, like his elementary school bully who used to beat on him under the jungle gym. The one who once handed him a swing and told him to hang himself. He got closer. And a gang of men inched in, each lithe and toned, like the football players in high school that took turns punching him in the shower and laughing as someone else made a game of snatching his clothes and running off. They got closer. And a group of bearded and burly giants finally trapped him in for good, like the bikers at the bar last weekend who cracked pool sticks over his head so hard he hit the sticky floor because he clumsily stumbled into a man and drenched him with his own drink. Now the circle was closed, and Clay desperately looked around but found no place to go. Clay cried out before the first fist was even thrown, a shrill womanly shriek as the nightmares approached, drowning him in their shadow. A blow to the back of his head sent his vision flashing and he crumpled to the ground in a ball. Boots stomped down, skin pounded skin, and they swarmed him as lockdown sirens wailed.

4 P.M. COUNT

45


Donald Hynes Donald Hynes was a student in Dr. Reese’s Writing and Publishing class at FPC Yankton.

46

4 P.M. COUNT


MY PRINCESS

Nonfiction

The events of 9-11 tattoo a large portion of my memory, likewise, the events of October 2, 1998. The sunny Detroit skies created temperatures above the normal that day. When I arrived home at 1:30 p.m., I realized how absent-minded I had become lately, because once again, I left my gun in a locker at the precinct. Being mentally exhausted, I had looked forward to the solitude of an empty house and a cup of hot tea before picking up my daughter, Ashley, from school at 4:00 p.m. After firing up my wife’s antique stove under a pot of water I settled into the living room La-Z-Boy and turned on the TV. Several minutes later, as I walked toward the kitchen to check on the water, I clearly heard the local news guy say, “Northville Asylum.” I hurried back, retrieved the remote, turned up the volume, and saw a live feed of the Northville Psychiatric Hospital, complete with Michigan State police officers and crime scene tape. The news reporter said that three patients had escaped from the legendary Insane Asylum on the Hill. The authorities suspected that the escapees killed a nurse during the breakout. My stomach began turning as I intuitively picked up the phone and sat down, unsure of whom to call first. My mind raced while I waited for the anchorman on our old thirty-two inch Sony to announce the names. I shouted at him, “Who escaped?” Before I received my answer, the commercial break began. I started pacing around the main floor of the house. I glanced at the control pad of the newly installed alarm system and wondered if I activated it properly before leaving for work earlier. I planned on developing that habit from then on, as opposed to my recent habit of leaving the front door unlocked half the time. The alarm control panel looked complicated. I pushed the button that said “status” and the word “silent” popped 4 P.M. COUNT

47


onto the screen. As I studied the other buttons and lights, a slight draft from our old front window brought me a familiar fragrance. I looked around the room and thought, “Angela?... No way.” As I became more frantic, an unexpected sound from upstairs startled me. I looked up the stairway and thought about tackling her or running away. Instead, I managed to compose myself and said, “You’re not supposed to be here. You know I’ve gotta call the police now, don’t you? Talk to me! How did you get outta that place? What happened to the nurse at the hospital?” Angela didn’t answer as she strutted down the staircase, reminding me of a lioness in a slow pursuit of an injured gazelle. Despite my severe apprehension, instinct kicked in as my attention became focused on her legs. Wearing a fresh application of lotion, her thighs glistened through her pink negligee as the sunlight from the stair landing window pierced in from behind her. I stood motionless and anxious, but strangely, not overly concerned about seeing her faceto-face. She still mesmerized me. Her tight body hid the fact that she once gave birth to our daughter Ashley. Even at that nerve-racking moment, her flat stomach and firm uplifted breasts became an increasing tease as she departed the stairs and walked towards me. She carried a black velvet rope and wrapped it around her wrist as she pointed to a nearby wooden chair. Her sensual voice whispered, “Sit, Don.” I briefly hesitated before yielding to her command. She stepped by me, brushing her leg against my hip. While she strolled behind my back, she could sense my suspicious tension and gave my shoulders a gentle squeeze. The rope dragged across my forearm as she moved. After she completed a rotation around the chair, she lifted her leg and straddled my lap. My heart began pounding faster in anticipation, as her glossy lips started their approach to my mouth. I stretched out towards her. She stopped her descent before our kiss. My instinct continued to react, yet beneath my rumbling passions, I contemplated. What the hell am I doing? 48

4 P.M. COUNT


She then pushed herself away from my clutching hands, and stood between my legs before leaning in closer. “Relax, my prince,” she breathed into my ear. I could tell then that her condition had not improved at all. Nevertheless, I became filled with foolish excitement. She faced me and wrapped her arms around my neck. As she stretched forward, she pressed her breasts into my face. She then kissed my ear while reaching towards the wicker basket on the table behind me. I twisted around a little in order to watch her hands. From the corner of my eye, I recognized that she pulled out an item from inside that resembled a battery operated taser, like the ones I often confiscated from the streets of Detroit. As I pushed her away, she pressed the metal prods into the side of my neck. At least fifteen minutes must have passed when I tried to speak but my swollen tongue felt numb. A sulfur taste had invaded my mouth and nasal cavities. My thoughts were clear but I felt semi-paralyzed and weak. Duct tape secured my hands behind my back as I lay on the floor sideways. My legs felt heavy as timber. Angela sat in the same chair from which I collapsed and stared at me. “Don, I know you’ve been sleeping with my wicked stepsister. You must finally admit it,” she said. I’ve never been more frightened. I could barely manage a whisper. “We’ve been through this. You don’t have a sister. You’re sick, Angela. Please untie me,” I said. She stepped over to me and placed her furry red slipper on my throat. “Quiet!” she demanded. “For I will soon return to my castle where the lords are awaiting my glorious return. But first, I must get my revenge. I need to have your head on a platter by morning light.” I nearly fainted from being choked, but still mustered my remaining strength and attempted to scream, but a barely audible voice sounded out. She finally removed her foot. I strained but failed to roll my uncooperative body away from her. My eyes widened as I focused on the meat cleaver that she now held. “Please, honey, Please!” I begged. She ignored my mumbled appeal. She then positioned 4 P.M. COUNT

49


herself on my left side and raised her weapon. I moaned a dreaded expectation of doom. As her body began to propel the handheld guillotine towards my neck, I heard a squeak from the loose floorboard in the front hallway that leads to the room we were in. Angela turned and dashed into the kitchen toward the back door of the house. I then saw a police-issued Glock pistol extending into our living room, clutched by two outreached hands. “Detroit Police! Who’s in here?” a man shouted. I never felt so relieved. The officer then bent the corner of the wall and saw me on the floor. I immediately attempted to point my foot in the direction of her escape and said as loud as I could, “She went out there.” The officer exercised extreme caution as he made his way into the kitchen. Because of our floor plan, I could position myself to see much of the top half of our kitchen over the marble counter. The back door was now wide open. I assumed that once inside the kitchen he saw Angela as he looked out the window facing the backyard. As he got to the back door, it sounded like a bottle of pills hit the floor inside the kitchen, causing him to turn around toward the pantry. Before he could aim and shoot in that direction, Angela appeared and dumped the pot of boiling water into his face. The officer screamed and stumbled backwards. He dropped his weapon and covered his face with both hands. Angela shoved him against the refrigerator. He then extended one arm out, as if he had been blinded. Meanwhile, she snatched a knife off the countertop and swung it into the officer. The cleaver handle crashed into the man’s wrist nearest his chin but the blade continued forward just enough to rip into the side of his neck. I’m certain that the officer knew his life had ended before he hit the ground. As his blood pulsated into his uniform shirt, he slid down the fridge and disappeared from my view. I panicked even further, barely able to breathe, but somehow I managed to crawl behind the couch. I could hear Angela banging things around in the kitchen before she returned to the living 50

4 P.M. COUNT


room and called my name. A second later, the sound of her steps began to rush towards me. Everything from then on seemed to move in slow motion, as she pushed over the neglected stack of boxes labeled “Angela’s stuff.” When she got to the coffee table, she flipped it away from the couch. Its glass top fell out and shattered against the stone fireplace mantel. She then stopped and towered over me, reminding me of a runner waiting for the starting pistol. She stood five feet away and smiled as she held the cleaver above her head with two hands. Then she bolted towards me. As she began the down stroke for my beheading, an explosion rattled the old windows. She slowed down while making a short guttural sound. Regardless, her forward momentum kept her body falling towards me. She still held tight to the cleaver as it swung down toward my head. I turned away and heard a loud swoosh, just before the blade slammed and stuck into the wooden floor beneath the carpet, inches from my ear. Her bloody body initially collapsed onto my chest before twitching a couple of times and settling down against my side. I looked across the room and saw a second police officer holding a pistol with smoke curling out of the gun barrel. In hindsight, I really wish my marriage had ended the way I just described it. But the fact of the matter is that Angela simply divorced me ten short years after I came to prison, for practically no reason at all. She kept our house, money, and the dog, but in case she reads this story, I hope she also kept her sense of humor.

4 P.M. COUNT

51


A RUFF SYNOPSIS OF THE YANKTON DOG PROGRAM

Nonfiction

The writing professor asked me to compose a short essay about the Yankton Dog Program, known as Federal Inmate Dog Obedience. I detected that he wanted me to be serious for a change and not use any of my usual corny lines like, “We inmates teach our dogs to flee from the police.” So here goes. Yankton Prison Camp began its dog program about three years ago. It is the only prison I have been to in fifteen years that allowed dogs to legitimately live on the compound. When I vacationed at Terre Haute Prison Camp, some of the hunters there, who were also staff members, unofficially allowed us to feed and entertain a growing pack of forest dogs in an effort to keep them from reducing the nearby deer population. When the Yankton Dog Program began three years ago, I was hesitant to work with the animals due to my occasional allergies. However, I signed up as a dog handler about sixteen months ago and have not regretted it once, only twice, not really, despite ever-watering eyes and a bunch of sneezing. I think I learned somewhere that every one hundred sneezes negatively changes your projected life span by only six months, but my dogs have been worth it (NOTE: I just thought of a book I should write, Sneezing Your Way to a Much Shorter Life Sentence). We get our dog trainees from the nearby humane society and the dogs usually have issues. For instance, in some way, most of them have been beaten, neglected, or abandoned, causing them to be aggressive towards dogs or people as well as prone to bark, lunge, rip up furniture, and the like. The point is, we are not usually starting off with a well cared-for pedigree puppy. Therefore, it is a bit more of an exciting challenge to begin Yankton’s eight-week dog 52

4 P.M. COUNT


training regime from behind the starting line. This particular situation is probably the reason that our five habitually complaining inmates (every prison has five to 1500 guys like this) will tell people, when not asked, that the inmate trainers are not doing a great job because their dogs sometimes lunge or bark, etc. Regardless, I’m always quick to point out that lunging or barking is an improvement from when the dogs first moved in from the pound. Ultimately, our job as dog handlers is to take dogs from whatever temperament and/or other lack of good behavior they came here with and turn them into mostly obedient house pets with manners. Thankfully, most of the inmates and staff notice the positive changes in a dog’s behavior. The dog handlers quickly learn a new dog’s personality because we live side by side with them. Every dog has its quirks that we work with or around. However, we try to stay consistent in having daily dog training, exercise, and people/dog socializing activities. In addition, we make sure that a dog gets enough quiet time where people are not continually trying to engage them, whether the dogs seem to enjoy it or not. The dog program is well-equipped with the tools needed for dog training and care. We have a full library of training DVDs, each featuring different expert trainers, which we are required to watch and are tested on, to make sure we have understood their techniques. We have a professional doggy bath, along with a washer and dryer for the doggy blankets. We have tons of donated toys, leashes, and food. Not every handler trains exactly the same way, but in the end, our dogs are potty-trained and have mastered several commands, which include but are not limited to: Sit, Stay, Come, Drop it, Leave it, Touch it, Heel, and No. Overall, I think one of the most important things we teach is walking a dog with a loose leash so that the dog does not drag its owner. The best training tip I learned is that a dog is an animal and thinks like an animal, not like a human. Handlers must try to put themselves in the dog’s paws when 4 P.M. COUNT

53


communicating instructions. In addition, dogs must either be the pack leader or follow a pack leader. It’s in their nature to do so. In order to be a good handler, we must never allow the dog to do things that a pack leader would do. For instance, if a dog pulls on the leash, enters an area before a handler, or otherwise dominates the handler in any area, it will think he is the leader and the human just a flunky member of his pack. That is why we as handlers try to restrict the dogs from doing such things. I hope I shed some lime light on the Yankton Dog Program. From the description above, you can see why the program is more than worthwhile because not only does it provide an otherwise unwanted dog for a loving family, but all of Yankton’s inmates have an opportunity to either learn, love, and/or contribute to their community. Being a dog handler/trainer can be a hairy job at times, but in the end, everyone wins with the Yankton Dog Program.

54

4 P.M. COUNT


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

55


Michael Murphy Michael Murphy was a student in Dr. Reese’s Writing and Publishing class at FPC Yankton.

56

4 P.M. COUNT


TEN-FOUR, WHAT’S YOUR TWENTY?

Nonfiction

Senior year in high school, and the Christmas party at my friend Jimmy’s house rocked. We smoked and swigged down Red Mountain wine, a dollar forty-nine a gallon -- a great buy for a cheap high. Jimmy’s parents were away on a ski trip, and he and his older sister were house-sitting. However, as word got out, it turned into more of a houseraiding for forty friends. Music cranked; the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Doors, and Jefferson Airplane tunes rattled the windows. We danced in the front room and made out in the back rooms. Unfortunately, the neighbors in that upscale area didn’t appreciate the loud music after eleven o’clock at night. So guess what? A police cruiser decided to stop by and check things out. Luckily, my friends Ray, Bob, Dennis, and I were posted up on the party house’s large covered front porch, paired up with some local hotties. We saw the cop roll in and hit the brakes. Immediately, I cracked open the front door and sounded the alarm of law enforcement’s arrival at the curb. The partiers ran around and tried to clean up the place as fast as they could. Things were stashed and the booze found the fastest and most convenient hiding spots under furniture and the deep dark recesses of the nearest closets. Headlights went out on the police car, and the driver’s door swung open. The cold winter rain lightly coated the street, and a big burly police officer stepped out, stood up, and started to walk quickly up the walkway. Apparently he didn’t like getting out of his comfortable ride to get rained on. He tugged and adjusted all his official policeman’s leather gear and with thumbs tucked inside the front of his trousers, barked out, “Who’s in charge of this little gettogether?” 4 P.M. COUNT

57


Nobody on the porch around me volunteered a word, so he strolled up the front steps to the house. He then asked us if we could locate the owners of the house so he could talk to them. Still, nothing happened, we all played dumb. A bit perturbed, he knocked loudly on the front door and Jimmy opened the door and said, “Why, hello, officer, may I help you?” The smell of smoke wafted out onto the porch and the officer asked if he could step inside. He said there had been a complaint of excessive noise. And possible underage drinking. Jimmy tried to play it cool but knew that the party had hit the wall. His parents were going to kick his ass sideways when they got back on Sunday night. “Sure, come on in,” said Jimmy, with fear in his eyes, not knowing the outcome. The policeman stepped into the house and again reached down and adjusted his squeaky leather gear before he disappeared into the living room. The last thing we heard was Jimmy being asked, “Are there any adults at this party?” Ray and I decided to sneak down to the parked police car and look it over. Ray peeked through the cruiser’s side window and suddenly reached out and yanked on the door handle. The heavy door pivoted open and the car’s interior light suddenly came on. Surprise, an unlocked police car, and the shiny keys dangled out of the ignition. What’s going on here, a trap? We quickly looked for any backup police cars parked around the area; none were seen. Ray, in one of his crazy and unpredictable moments, pulled the car door the rest of the way open. I said, “Hey, what are you doing?” Without any response, he jumped in, started the car and took off down into the subdivision. He sped off and vanished around the corner. Oh, not good. I hustled back to the porch and told my shocked friends that we had to get the hell out of there and fast. The girls on the porch pleaded that all their coats and stuff were stowed inside the house so we all had to make our way into the house and into the middle of a mass interrogation. Once inside, the cop wouldn’t let us leave. He checked our IDs and asked a bunch of silly questions about 58

4 P.M. COUNT


our high schools, and who our parents were -- a bunch of small talk. In those laid-back days of the 60s and being raised in an old and a tight-knit community, everyone on the police force knew or probably grew up with our parents. That made encounters with the local police more civil than confrontational. The atmosphere had a comfortable feel to it, and the policeman simply told us to clean everything up, pour the booze that he knew we had hidden down the kitchen sink, and go home. While the police officer made his speech, our little group made a stealthy escape out the front door. In the middle of our exit, we bumped into a rain-soaked Ray as he staggered up the steps. “Ray, where’s the car?” I asked. He just held a finger up to his lips and whispered, “Shhh.” I told him that the cop, still inside the house, told us to go home. Ray lived a few blocks away so he said, “Cool, I’m gone, see ya.” But before we all could get off the porch and down the steps, the policeman came out onto the porch, saw that his car was gone and yelled, “Where’s my unit?” Dumb-ass Ray couldn’t leave it alone and blurted out, “What’s a unit?” The cop shouted back, “My car, who saw what happened to my car?” The policeman frantically made calls over his hand-held radio and made his way down to the street, hoping to find his car somewhere in sight. No such luck. We bailed off the side stairs of the porch and vanished into the night. On our way over to Ray’s house, he said that he had something to show us and for us to follow him. He said he had a surprise for us. The girls didn’t want to wander around in the drizzly dark, and one whined about having to pee, so we continued on a direct route to Ray’s house. Making lots of racket, we stumbled into Ray’s backyard where his mom intercepted us at the back door. She let us in and listened to our story of Jimmy’s party being busted by the police. Still, behind his mom’s back, Ray insisted that he had 4 P.M. COUNT

59


something to show us but the girls didn’t want any part of an excursion out into the dark. Ray’s mom welcomed the girls and said they could hang out, brew some coffee, and watch TV until us macho guys returned from our mysterious field trip. We quietly followed Ray the two blocks over to Westlake, a small lake about a quarter mile square and ten feet deep in the middle. There, a hundred feet into the water from the small boat launch ramp we saw a pair of car tail lights still glowing in the dark. They stuck into the air two feet above the rippled water. The car had gone over an underwater ledge and nosedived into deeper water. Bubbles swirled around the sides of the car while it slowly settled towards the muddy bottom. Electrical circuits must have finally shorted out because the tail lights suddenly went dark. Only the distant streetlights’ reflection off the car’s shiny chrome bumper gave a clue of what lurked offshore. He said that after he pulled onto the launch ramp he opened the door, put it into drive and let it go. But it went farther out into the water than he planned, but didn’t it look cool? No time to answer as spotlights started to sweep around the neighborhood and more police cars arrived in a hurry to look for the lost squad car. We eased away from the scene of the crime. I left the others and snuck back to where I had parked my car, down the street from Jimmy’s party. I wasn’t blitzed anymore and figured I could drive; the excitement of the drowned car had sobered me right up. I drove over to Ray’s and gave the girls a ride home. Our Christmas party had died in a watery grave. The next morning, police showed up at some of the partygoers’ houses and took them down to the police station to question them. I slipped through the net of the investigation by being at work early that next morning. Somebody, a little tattletale, mentioned to the chief of police that Ray had something to do with the disappearing vehicle, but Ray stood his ground and wouldn’t admit to anything. Ray got away with it and became a legend amongst his 60

4 P.M. COUNT


friends for such a stunt. Flash forward, thirty years later, as Ray sat in a bar and nursed a tall cold one. He started up a conversation with the guy next to him. The man said that he retired from a local police department and now taught criminal justice at the nearby junior college. Ray asked him his name, and after he answered, Ray recognized the man’s name, and told him in a teasing tone, “I know something you don’t know.” “Really,” the ex-policeman said, “what could that be?” Ray responded, “If I tell you an old secret, do you promise not to react . . . badly?” “I don’t know; go ahead, shoot; we’ll play it by ear,” the man sitting on the adjacent bar stool replied. Ray informed him that he was the guilty party who took off in his police car that rainy December night and parked it in Westlake. The guy went ballistic and grabbed at Ray, but Ray pushed him away and told him, “Chill out! A teenage prank that went bad thirty years ago should be laughed at, not fought over.” The ex-cop calmed down, Ray bought him a drink, and they finally both laughed at all the stupid details of the incident. He then described the fallout that he had to endure from his fellow officers the rest of his career on the police force. He constantly got ribbed with life jackets, swim fins, or snorkels being placed on the driver’s seat of his squad car when he went on duty. Or when he would answer calls from the dispatcher and they would acknowledge back, “Tenfour, what’s your twenty, glub-glub-glub,” like they were talking to somebody underwater.

4 P.M. COUNT

61


NEVER GIVE UP

Nonfiction

In 1964, when I was fifteen and a half years old, I bought my first car for a hundred bucks: a 1933 Chevy five-window coupe. I had discovered it parked behind a Flying A gas station in Gilroy, CA, fifty miles from my home in Santa Cruz. My mom dropped me off on that special day when I had planned to pick up the car and drive it back home. She stayed and helped me check out the condition of the car and elected to follow me. Being fifteen and a half years old allowed me to possess what in those days was called a learner’s permit. That little piece of paper let me drive a car, and made me feel like a real big shot. Yeah, Mr. Cool all right, but I still couldn’t carry any unlicensed passengers until I had an official driver’s license when I turned sixteen and passed the driver’s test. After I got this old car to our garage, I planned to strip all of the old running gear out of it and beef it up into a real hot rod: a wild high-horsepower street machine. Remember, those were the days of twenty-five cents a gallon gasoline and muscle cars. Before then, that over-the-hill buggy sat quietly behind a gas station and looked pretty sad. The original brownish paint was nearly worn down to bare metal, and the old dry, cracked tires hugged onto their rusty wire-spoke rims, but the engine cranked over and started: a good sign. The owner of the car and I met, money changed hands, papers were signed, and the car then belonged to me. I put more air in the tires, gassed up the tank and filled up the radiator; it had no radiator cap so I stuffed a red shop rag into the radiator’s filler located at the top of the car’s grille. Then I checked the oil and threw in a quart of fresh Pennzoil 30w to top it off. Eager to get started, I hopped in and sat down on the 62

4 P.M. COUNT


bare springs of a seat that had only dust for upholstery, turned the key, and let the engine purr for a minute or two to get warmed up. Then I took it for a test drive around the block, but not before I removed my Levi’s jacket and lay it down over the springs for padding. The test drive went well, everything checked out OK. As I came back around towards the gas station, I waved at my mom to pull out and follow me. We were on our way. However, up ahead, that old car and I faced a monumental challenge. We needed to travel up and over the three thousand feet summit of Mount Madonna, a route called Hecker Pass, which was noted for being treacherous even for an experienced driver. It was six miles of a steep, twisting two-lane road up a forested mountain, followed by a rapid drop-off down the other side into the flat land of agricultural fields near Watsonville. I learned to drive by using a stick shift and clutch so the three-speed on the floor, with its two-feet long shifter wasn’t a problem. The cloth roof panel rotted away years ago. I had an open sunroof with free air conditioning, a bonus, and at no extra charge. The little in-line six-cylinder engine chugged up the few miles to the top of the mountain pass. During the laborious climb I stayed well to the right at the passing lanes and smiled at the speedsters as they zipped past. I received some friendly honks and waves, accented with a highway salute or two from the shorttempered drivers who didn’t appreciate my unintentional road hogging. I pulled over at the summit into a large parking area to check things out one more time. Good to be extra cautious before I took this rickety car that hadn’t seen the open road in a while through the downhill part of the grade. I was a little concerned, but not afraid of what lurked ahead; the ignorance of my youth outweighed any fear. My mom parked beside me at the summit and reminded me to keep it in first or second gear all the way down the hill and not ride the brakes, and wished me luck. No traffic on the road behind me, so I eased out of the 4 P.M. COUNT

63


parking area and onto the road, shifted up into second gear, and started the three-mile slalom of meandering pavement down the hill. The first mile proved to be uneventful; then the fun began when the radiator boiled over. The blast of hot water launched the red shop rag up and into the airstream and back over the car; hot rusty water poured down into the open roof. The rusty water immediately rained down on my head, streaked my white t-shirt, and covered the windshield. That eruption blinded my forward vision so I quickly leaned my head out the side window to keep an eye on the road ahead. Hot water and steam trailed back across the worn-out paint job and swirled around the open window. It scalded and streaked my sunburned, freckled face, but I needed to stay focused on the road. I was in a tough spot, but what could possibly be done, nowhere to pull over; I had to hang on until I could stop or until I reached the valley floor a couple of miles away. The engine over-revved and second gear barely held down the speed as the hill steepened. I pushed on the brake pedal harder and harder but the speed increased. I was in trouble. I frantically hung on to the slippery radiator slimecovered steering wheel with a death grip. I reached thirty miles an hour, well beyond this old jalopy’s ability on that twisting course, and for me, its green driver, way out of my comfort zone. Then the brakes really started to fade, old mechanical brakes, just cables and rods, no hydraulics. I searched for and found the emergency brake between the seats and gave it a tug, all the way to the top of its travel, no help there, not even a hint of any braking. My situation rapidly deteriorated but I didn’t freak out. The right side of the grade, my downhill side, dropped off steeply, hundreds of feet into a deep canyon. I forced myself to ignore the abyss and took my attention away from the edge, looking straight ahead at the task at hand: the narrow and winding road. Before I knew it, the brakes had become totally useless. 64

4 P.M. COUNT


I hoped that I could still maneuver this old Chevy down the grade without any additional problems. Then, just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, the transmission, with an explosive bang, popped out of gear. Old transmissions like the one in that old Chevy have straight gears; we gearheads called them crash boxes, no synchros. Once it pops out of gear, it’s nearly impossible to get it re-engaged at high RPMs. However, I still attempted to get it back into gear and pushed the shifter on the floor with all the strength my right leg could muster up, over and up to the right, but no luck. After grinding away for thirty leg-numbing seconds, I continued my focus on the rollercoaster ride, on which I was merely a passenger. I pressed on and freewheeled down that grade and started to get a little scared. On the only short straightaway my mom raced up alongside me. She gave me a quick look, signaled something I couldn’t make out, and then another car came around an uphill curve and into the straightaway towards us. My mom quickly backed off, and pulled back behind me on our side of the road. I found out later that she was trying to get in front of me and slow me down with her car. My mom used to drive a logging truck in the Sierra Nevada Mountains during World War II, when she was sixteen, and was a pretty experienced and fearless driver. If anybody could have pulled off a trick like that, it would have been my mom. I figured out that I was totally at the mercy of gravity. No brakes, no transmission, and an overheated, steaming, and almost dry radiator. Besides, this old buggy obviously had no power steering, just steering by Armstrong tires. When I tried to hold the car on the road as I whipped around some really sharp curves, I drifted up onto the shoulder, up against the drop-off on my right side; good thing the shoulder had a two-feet high dirt and gravel berm. Those wild maneuvers threw gravel like a rooster tail into the air from a fast-turning ski boat. The airborne stones made a heck of a racket as they 4 P.M. COUNT

65


bounced and ricocheted off the metal fenders, running boards, and undercarriage. The gravel whistled through the air like buckshot, scattering in all directions. The ground squirrels that sunned themselves on the top of the berm or sniffed around the roadside for a snack or two ducked and ran over the edge for cover. An awful thought crossed my mind: what would I do if I came around a blind curve and suddenly closed in on a slower or stopped vehicle, or the scene of an accident? I would have no choice but to either ram into it or steer over the cliff and hope for the best. At that point, I would be in a hell of a mess, with no acceptable options for my survival. Something crossed my mind, but only for a second or two: I could jump, yeah, that might work. When I looked down at the road whizzing by, I scrapped that thought in an instant. There was absolutely nothing at my disposal to slow me down, at least not until I reached the flat farmland below, about a mile more down the asphalt ribbon through the trees. Would I be able to get out of this sticky predicament alive and uninjured? I drove on, no guardrails to save me from disaster and no seatbelts in this old ride. Luckily, as my speed increased to over forty miles an hour the curves started to soften a bit; there were just a couple of curves left before a long straightaway led to the safety of the farmland in the distance. The speed increased enough to where the front end started to wobble. I doubted that the tired old running gear that had sat idle for years behind the gas station would hold up much longer under the added speed and stress that the road handed out that afternoon. The final downhill stretch appeared as I exited the last long curve. I had miraculously made it through the worst of the downhill slalom, and there was no traffic ahead, just some slow trucks leaving a smoky plume of exhaust, creeping up the grade in the opposite direction. Speed picked up rapidly during that final downhill straightaway to nearly sixty miles an hour as the front end shook and shimmied like a belly dancer. 66

4 P.M. COUNT


When I finally reached the flatlands, excess speed bled off slowly, and my breathing and heart rate slowed down. The wobbles from the suspension stopped, and I felt in some sort of control. I released a deserved sigh of relief. I had no rearview mirror so I twisted my head around to look back and saw my mom giving me thumbs up, and then she pulled the palm of her hand across her forehead as she relayed a speechless message to me: “That was a tough one.” I coasted for a mile over a fairly level stretch of the country highway. By then I was doing only twenty miles an hour, so I tested the brakes and stomped down hard; miraculously, they came back to life. They didn’t lock up, but at least they started to take hold. I did a little fancy footwork on the pedals and double-clutched the transmission into third gear, then coaxed it back down into second. A mile farther ahead was a small country store with a large parking lot that wrapped around it on all sides. I cautiously headed in and came to a slow, gravel-crunching stop. Whew, what an experience. I got out and hopped off the running board and stood up next to my car, trying to look cool. I noticed that my legs trembled, the adrenaline had worn off, and the life and death struggle that I had faced on the way down the hill gave me a silent but visible reality check. My mom pulled in alongside me and we looked at each other in amazement, saying nothing. We both knew what I had gotten away with. Calm, but a bit shaken, I walked over to a water hose coiled up on the ground, cranked on the water, bent over and allowed the water to run over my head as I washed all the radiator crud out of my hair and off my face. I gulped down a big, cool slug of water, then filled the gasping radiator of that old warrior of a car. Mom got out of her car, held her hand up, and told me to stay put as she turned and disappeared into the market. A minute later she came out and handed me a bag of potato chips, a package of Twinkies, and an ice-cold beer, a root beer that is. She told me to relax and eat something before we headed for home. 4 P.M. COUNT

67


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, Illinois; 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.

68

4 P.M. COUNT


4 P.M. COUNT

69


70

4 P.M. COUNT


4 P.M. COUNT

71


72

4 P.M. COUNT


4 P.M. COUNT

73


74

4 P.M. COUNT


4 P.M. COUNT

75


76

4 P.M. COUNT


4 P.M. COUNT

77


78

4 P.M. COUNT


THE NIGHT OF OPEN GRAVES

Fiction

His heart is beating heavily, his breathing strained as the necromancer holds up a grimoire called “The Book of the Dead.� On this very night at the peak of the full moon, he has gone through all the preparations to conjure up a spirit to appear before him in a full physical manifestation. With all his might the sorcerer has called upon the spirits of the abyss to assist him with the task of bringing back his brother who has been killed in a terrible accident. Having just buried him only a week ago, the sorcerer has the belief that the spirit can bring him back from the dead and tonight he has undertaken the task of summoning up this otherworldly being. With everything in place during the planetary hour of Mars, he has called upon forces he cannot comprehend. One of the precautions in his grimoire is that the sorcerer must not leave the protective circle unless the operator wishes to wreak havoc upon himself. Within minutes of repeating the conjurations the room grows cold, temperatures dropping by many degrees as strange wailing sounds are heard. The area outside the circle is lit up by four candles on each of the hour quadrants, providing the only light in this dark dungeon, but one by one the candles are blown out by this mysterious force that is trying to arrive. Now, this unskilled sorcerer begins to sweat, as he has not memorized the long strings of verbiage in the conjurations that contain the names of power in a most bizarre language. He cannot read the invocations as the candles have all been diffused but one remains, and with shadows running rampant outside the circle the sorcerer magician begins to panic. He tries to focus on the task to complete his ceremony but with fear in his heart that it will be difficult to remain in control. He begins to fumble through the process of asking 4 P.M. COUNT

79


the spirit to appear before him just outside of the circle within the triangle. He repeats the request to have the spirit appear a few times until all of a sudden the windows to the dungeon crack and a dark shadow in the form of black smoke begins to swirl all throughout this dark dungeon. The spirit has arrived and begins its full physical manifestation. “By whose authority do you dare summon me, mortal human?” “I call upon you by the name of Tetragrammaton!” At this point, the room fills up with smoke coming from the incense burner and the air becomes difficult to breathe, so the spirit asks: “What do you desire? “ The sorcerer magician coughs as the air is too heavy with smoke, “I have lost someone to the other side” Cough, cough. “And he is now dead,” Cough, cough. “Please bring him back!” “Who is this you speak of?” Cough, cough, “His name is….” Cough, “Ellis,” cough. “Your wish is my command.” The spirit leaves and the room returns to its normal state. The sorcerer magician, exhausted, leaves the dungeon and goes to bed. Elsewhere, a rumbling is heard, a hand is seen digging upward towards the ground, and something crawls out of a grave. This creature is dragging itself towards the sorcerer’s home and comes into the house making it towards the magician’s bedroom. The creature flicks the light on and the exhausted magician awakes to find this creature dancing in the room and singing “A Mess of Blues,” which was originally performed by Elvis Presley. “I asked for Ellis to come back from the dead, not Elvis.” The magician then realizes that the dead creature is not Ellis but Elvis the King, and realizes how terribly his operation went and how he fumbled the whole operation coughing at the last crucial moment. This man has just resurrected Elvis from the dead.

80

4 P.M. COUNT


GHOSTS, ENDORPHINS, AND BLOOD

Nonfiction

Many years ago while trying to escape being indicted on international drug trafficking charges, waiting out the statute of limitations to run its course, a friend invited me over to work with him at a tattoo shop on Irving Park in Chicago. His description of it was all I needed to know. The tattoo shop used to be a funeral home back in the late 1800s and was currently haunted by spirit called Walter. Aside from that, the backyard had apparently been a graveyard. At the time, “Odin Tatu” was owned by Richie and we instantly became friends. He had mentioned to me the ghosts that lived in the tattoo shop and he brought me over to the basement and showed me where cremations and embalming were done. He had also told me of the time that Walter the ghost had pushed him down the stairs, but during the first few weeks, I had seen no ghosts. Richie had been a practitioner of Santeria the Yoruban religion with African voodoo roots. Richie used to love drinking and partying late at night and had invited me to his upstairs apartment to party many times, but I had a girlfriend at the time who was taking up a lot of my time, so it was rare that I would hang out with him. One night he had invited me over for drinks and I told him I wasn’t able to, so I decided to go home and I cannot recall what I was planning that night. The following day, I showed up to work and when I got there, the place was flooded with police. I asked what was going on and Nick, a friend of Richie’s, told me that he had passed away the night before. He died in his sleep. A few days later I attended his funeral. A lot of his friends showed up and talked to me about re-opening the shop under a different name and asked if I was interested in returning to work there and I agreed. 4 P.M. COUNT

81


The shop was re-named “Old Town Tatu” and after a few weeks, Nick was talking all about this ghost stuff and said that he did not believe in ghosts. At that very moment, a mask that was hanging on the wall flew off a few feet in the air and hit the ground. I still remember the expression on everyone’s faces. Everyone looked bewildered and shocked. Another time, we had just closed the tattoo shop and the lights to the upstairs apartment where Richie used to live were going on and off. We thought that maybe someone had broken in; when we got into the abandoned apartment to see what was going on and as soon as we got in, the lights went back to normal. There was nobody there, all of the windows locked and closed; the back door was also locked. Nobody had broken in. It was a ghost. Now, ghosts are peculiar beings. I say beings because they are embodiments of memories that are clinging on to something on the material plane, or so I read. If someone dies suddenly and has some unfinished business on this mortal plane, they may become attached to an object or a place. Most of the time they are in shock and do not know what has transpired so they are stuck in between worlds. I have had previous experiences with ghosts. When I was a child I began to hang out with a kid from across the street. I’d come over on foggy days and remember hanging out with him by a dead tree. I cannot recall the number of times I’d seen the boy, but I do know that I would see him from time to time. One day, my mother had been looking for me, and when I finally came home, she asked me where I had been, and I told her that I was across the street by the old house hanging out with the boy. She took me to the house and knocked on the door, and a lady had come out to tell her that she did not have a kid, that her son had passed away ten years earlier. After that my mother forbade me to go to that house again. One night as I was closing the tattoo shop, while I was locking the back doors and turning everything off, I heard a little girl crying, saying, “mommy” and she had repeated it a few times. But I heard it coming from the basement 82

4 P.M. COUNT


where the embalming area and crematorium had been, and I went to check downstairs, thinking someone left their child behind. There was no one there. I then heard the crying from upstairs and also checked there and there was absolutely no one in the tattoo shop. On another occasion, when we opened the tattoo shop, a co-worker from Tennessee, an ex-graffiti artist going by the moniker Debt, was pretty upset, saying that someone had tossed all of his tattoo machines’ supplies on the ground and his area was in disarray. He was furious. He then told me what had happened with his equipment being thrown around and I told him that I did not know who had done it. He was very adamant about finding out who it was. I had a solution, I told him we could check the security cameras. We rewound the video footage up to the point where we left and turned the lights off. As soon as the lights went out, we saw footage of a white ghostly figure that looks like white smoke floating around the tattoo shop and then it was flying around in the area by Debt’s desk. Everyone that was watching the footage was in awe as we all looked at each other and asked, “What the heck was that?” Did I mention that our tattoo shop was a part of the “Haunted Chicago” and “Ghost Tours” attraction? Shortly after that a few psychics came to do a paranormal investigation. Joe Caballero was working on a documentary titled “America’s Most Haunted” and they arrived to film and interview the shop. Not too long after that, the tattoo shop was contacted by “Ghost Lab” to do an investigation at the tattoo shop. A total of three television shows by different networks were filmed there. I believe that title to the other episode was “Haunted America” but I’m not too sure about the exact show. You can Google the “Ghost Lab” episode titled, “Under the Skin” which aired on televisions across the U.S. on cable TV. An entire crew came down with their lab to record, set up cameras, motion sensors, and temperature gauges. One night they had set up cameras and recorders everywhere and everyone was kicked out of the shop that night. Just 4 P.M. COUNT

83


one person was there recording and they proceeded to ask questions as to who was in the shop. One of the recordings that came back said the name “Walter” and it confirmed everyone’s suspicions. After further investigation the crew mentioned that the research they came up with was Walter, one of the persons working at the funeral parlor a long time ago. I cannot recall how long before that he had lived but they had documented that in the show. “Ghost Lab” had also found another recording which seemed to say, “Turn me on” which the crew believed to be Richie’s voice, the original owner of the tattoo shop who had passed away years earlier. One of the reasons that ghosts were drawn to the tattoo shop, according to the “Ghost Lab” crew, was that by having endorphins released as well as blood drawn, we were subjected to more activity by these spirits.

84

4 P.M. COUNT


Noah Bergland Noah Bergland was a student in FPC Yankton’s Writing and Publishing class.

4 P.M. COUNT

85


I AM YOU....

Poetry

The smell of Old Spice aftershave or a puff of smoke, these are two things I remember, I begin to choke. I remember the early days, when you would tuck me into bed. Sometimes when driving, you would point out imaginary Fred. The way I love my daughter is just as you always loved me. I watched you closely, not always learning the best things. I started smoking young. I wanted to be like you. Melrose is almost that age, I wonder what she will do? Once they were all gone, it was just you and me. You were hurting so bad, it wasn’t hard to see. I can still see you in your element, behind those steaming hot plates. That diner took over your life, I believe it led to your ultimate fate. You found a way to cope, it wasn’t talking to me. It was in that bottle, thank you for never getting mean. 86

4 P.M. COUNT


As your words began to slur, I knew the end was near. I didn’t know what to do, what came next was my greatest fear. You may have passed, but the pain did not. It lived on through me, I slowly began to rot. I have the same passive demeanor, and same short bouts of rage. You wouldn’t be proud, I am now locked in a cage. My daughter is about to turn nine and I’ve been gone since she was two. You haven’t been here either, so I guess I am just like you. I will soon have a second chance, one I wish you would’ve had. Your life was too short, but I’m proud to call you dad. I promise I will remember the good times, like when you would give me two thumbs up. I forgive you for the bad times, even when you didn’t care enough. Your body might be gone, but your spirit lives on. It lives on through me, because I am you.

4 P.M. COUNT

87


THE FACE OF ADDICTION

Nonfiction

I recently started to correspond with a teacher from the Minneapolis-metropolitan area who has been using my letters in her curriculum. She uses them to teach her students the consequences of their actions, whether that’s drug use or selling, being sexually active, or being mean on social media. My letters have helped them specifically to look at the effects of drug use and selling. I have shared my consequences and how they have reached much further than spending time in prison, although that has been the most direct. She asked, “What does addiction look like?” because she expressed that many of her students have the mindset that addiction is only for certain populations of people, and their mentality is, “It won’t happen to me.” So what does addiction look like, does it have a face? White people smoke meth, Black people smoke crack, Hispanics bring in cocaine from the lands of South America. These are a few stereotypes that we have been fed through Hollywood movies and TV shows. Well, I quickly proved a few of them wrong. I come from a nice middleclass family. I am a white male of decent height and decent build, educated, and fairly good-looking (at least I think so). Addiction doesn’t have a face. White. Black. Hispanic. Oriental. It doesn’t matter; addiction has turned them all out. You think it matters if you are rich or poor? Addiction doesn’t care how much you have or what your background looks like, it will suck you down all the same. When I graduated from high school and moved down to Minneapolis to attend college, the only drugs I had tried were alcohol and marijuana, and I can relate to the kids who think they are invisible. I thought I could do whatever I wanted: go out and party, have unprotected sex and never get an STD, drink and drive and never get a DUI or kill someone. I could get into a fight and not get seriously injured. I could experiment with any drug and have the 88

4 P.M. COUNT


self-control to stop whenever I wanted to. Boy, was I wrong. By twenty-five years old I had a daughter that I was never ready for; I had been dope sick from heroin multiple times even though it wasn’t my drug of choice; I was using any upper to get through the day-methamphetamines, cocaine, or crack-it didn’t matter, I was addicted to them all. I had plenty of places to seek out for help, even though many of them were sick of my antics, but when you are an addict it doesn’t seem that simple. In the depths of addiction, to quit using and get clean sounded harder than trying out for the Olympics and winning a gold medal. So how does anyone change that mindset? The sad truth is, some people will never get the message; they have to put their hand on the stove to find out if it’s hot. But if I can get through to just one, is it not worth it? What if someone hears this and decides, you know what, I am going to take this guy’s word, maybe drugs aren’t for me. That’s a victory. When I grew up, I knew about D.A.R.E. and I heard speeches from police officers who had seen firsthand the effects that drugs have on a community, but they never really made me feel passion about not using; it was their job and they didn’t convince me drugs weren’t worth trying at least once. I don’t know if a real addict coming to my classroom would have redirected me from my course to prison, but we will never find out. In all my years of doing drugs I didn’t hear any of the people who used with me really voice concerns about the use and none were really inspiring me to stop. Most people want you to do drugs with them whether it’s to share in the fun or share in the misery, because misery loves company. Not everybody who experiments with drugs is going to become a drug addict; most of the friends that I used to use with are married, have kids and work a decent job or even own their own businesses. I am sure some still use and continue to find ways to function, but even so, their lives are affected in some way, shape, or form, whether it’s a strained marriage, low productivity at work, or self-loathing or selfhatred. Some people are, however, predisposed to become 4 P.M. COUNT

89


addicts or battle with a mental health issue, and sometimes it takes just one use and one becomes a full-blown addict. I have met people who claim they are an alcoholic and have never tried alcohol. I don’t know if that is even possible, but I have to applaud the individual for not wanting to find out with a single use just to see. Prison has taught me a lot and one of those lessons is that addiction has no particular face. I have seen every combination you can think of regarding ethnicity, childhood or upbringing, and walk of life, I have seen it all. Every action has a consequence; if you don’t believe me, then go find it out for yourself. Good luck; I will be here for you when you are ready.

90

4 P.M. COUNT


COVID-19

Nonfiction

So, it appears that the novel coronavirus is all anybody is talking about out there. The news is consumed by it, markets are crashing, and people are buying up hoards of food and toilet paper. Why are they buying all the toilet paper? They are preparing for the worst, the apocalypse, which until now was portrayed only on TV or in movies. The Walking Dead has come to life, and for once it almost feels safer to be in a prison than out in the free world, where thousands are being infected by daily interaction. International travel is out the door and soon domestic travel will follow. Cities like New York and San Francisco are hot zones that I hear are on the verge of being quarantined from the rest of the world. It sounds like people are being restricted in their daily routines and forced to work at home; plans are put on hold, events are being canceled, and it’s starting to sound very familiar. It’s as if in these next few weeks, months, or even years, the world will be forced to live like us, prisoners or inmates. I have been sitting here for the last several years, watching the world pass me by as if I didn’t exist, and now I have to start preparing to get out to a world that nobody has ever experienced. Some bad things are happening but in the end I have faith it will make us stronger. Every time I make a phone call, I am asked to write a post about the virus; they want to know what’s going on inside here. Is it a good place to be right now? Or is it just a matter of time before it makes its way in and then we will all be infected within days? Well, the virus is all we are talking about as well. Once infected, how are we going to be treated? That is the biggest question: is it going to become our own personal hell with nowhere to escape the spread of the disease? Sick inmates piled on top of each other-that’s one image that comes to mind. I am not going to lie; some are expecting the worst situations imaginable. With some of 4 P.M. COUNT

91


the stuff we hear, we almost think that the National Guard is waiting outside, ready to start executing any infected inmates on sight. The typical prison nuts are talking about every conspiracy theory thinkable; my personal favorite is the Dems are responsible for this, in order to dethrone Trump. Not all inmates are updating their wills just yet; some are still hoping for the best. Any hint of encouraging news, and they are running through the compound with it and speaking as if it’s a signed bill, effective immediately: President Trump is releasing all of us. One rumor claimed any inmate with less than two years was about to be released, and by the end of the day that number had climbed to five. I didn’t believe it for a second, but something inside of me wanted to. I quickly pushed that hope down as I have so many times over the years and went on with my day. Am I scared? Yes, maybe not for myself, but I can’t help but think about my grandma, mom and all my aunts and uncles that are at a higher risk. Any time people are dying and we are forced to look at and think about the unknown, it can be troubling. My time in prison has forced me to prepare for this, because I have controlled very little in my life over the past six and a half years, so why break that habit now when it finally benefits me? Do I think the media is full of it? Not completely, but I think they are embellishing the situation. However, the government is taking certain measures and basing this information on the advice of people much smarter than I, and I am in favor of these measures. Let’s go through some discomfort now as a whole, to save the lives of the susceptible. One thing is for sure, I am very interested to see how this thing plays out, how long will it last; will it get worse before it gets better, and what will they do with the prisoners when this thing breaks out inside? My selfish side hopes they just let me go home since I am under six months, but I know better. The fear is real for some; I see it in the eyes of my buddy 92

4 P.M. COUNT


Chuck, who has started to wonder if this will affect his out date. They have stopped all furloughs or transfers, and that only leaves departures. As the days progress I can tell Chuck is worried less about his out date and more about the criteria that put an individual at risk. Chuck was watching TV the other night and informed me of his fears as he said, “Over the age of sixty, check; respiratory problems, check; high blood pressure, check; are you in prison, (confusion sets in) check; is your name Chuck, (wide eyed, he mouths the words, what?). I think I’m done watching the news.” I once wrote about inmates being germaphobes, and now one would think tensions would be at an all-time high. But to be completely honest, they’re not, or they could at least be worse. I guess they are saving that behavior for when it actually makes its way in. I thought for sure the homemade masks would be out, everybody would have their own personal “pink spray” bottles, and people would have picked their corners and fought off any intruders trying to come within six feet of them. That is not the case and I commend the inmates here at Yankton Federal Prison Camp for keeping their composure. So what are we doing as inmates to stop the spread of germs, just in case one of us gets infected? The reality is there is nothing we can do; if it gets in here, we are all screwed. We sleep in bunk beds, we share a room for two, with twelve to sixteen inmates, and half of that space is taken up by lockers. Every morning when my roommates and I are getting ready for work, we orchestrate a synchronized dance while getting dressed, brushing our teeth, filling our coffee mugs, and going in and out of the door too many times; the last one is according to the roommates that are still trying to sleep (sorry, Gucci). The TV rooms have more than a hundred people in them every night, the dining room has been broken up by units, as we are eating in shifts now, but that still means over a hundred people at a time are eating together. Everybody is stocked up on commissary, most are washing and bathing regularly and we are as good as we can be. 4 P.M. COUNT

93


The bureau is taking measures to stop the spread of this thing; they say they have a plan but just won’t tell us what it is, which makes it even more alarming. They have installed sanitizer dispensers next to all computers and phone rooms, and they have put out numerous bulletins with very basic information about the disease and ways we can prevent the spread of germs. One of those bulletins gives a five-step process in Spanish, and a six-step process in English. What is the additional step for English-speaking inmates? Step six is using a paper towel to turn off the faucet, which explains why I have walked up on numerous faucets left running throughout the compound lately. So far most of the measures that have been taken restrict only our privileges, and by “most,” I really mean all. First, they took away the Community Service Program, which had been my own piece of heaven over the past month and a half. I was going out into the community and enjoying getting away from prison for a few hours a day, but all good things must come to an end, and they did. Then they shut down visits, as soon as Trump ordered the National Emergency. The problem with that is the announcement came on a Friday afternoon, so they strolled in and informed everyone that visits were done immediately, not to be alarmed, but anyone who had traveled from far away was out of luck, so enjoy the weekend in Yankton. Wednesday or Thursday would have been a better day to announce this, but I am guessing the president wasn’t too concerned with prison visiting schedules when he made the decision. The staff sensed that tensions were high and to smooth things over they bumped all of our monthly phone minutes from 300 up to 500, and it worked because any talk of retaliation by the inmates disappeared by morning. All classes with outside instructors or professors have also been postponed; this includes college classes, yoga, creative writing, and the Welding and CNC programs at RTech. So what is next, closing education or the gym? I can’t wait to see them try to close the gym, because if so inmates are going to lose their minds. I am sure the staff realizes the ramifications that this could bring, and I hope, for their 94

4 P.M. COUNT


sake, they have something prepared. I recommend HBO or Showtime, because the fastest way to an inmate’s heart is more television programming; this is sad but true. That brings up the last and most severe measure, taking the TVs; I don’t even want to think about that, because that would mean WWIII is right around the corner. I have talked to numerous friends and family members who have given me updates on the different ways this virus has affected their lives or their take on people’s behaviors. Dacotah said, “Does it really take a virus outbreak to get people to wash their hands?” I was laughing hysterically throughout our phone call as she told me how dirty people are and how she has continuously observed people over the years go straight from the toilet and walk right out of a bathroom without washing their hands. My buddy Lars said, “New York is a ghost town-there is nobody anywhere. There are no lines, you can walk into any restaurant and get a table, and it’s amazing, unless, however, a bunch of people die, then I retract my amazing statement.” Last night I was talking to my buddy Lucas and he told me about his latest trip to get groceries. He said, “On the way to the store I didn’t see one car or person walking on the street, everything was closed and then I got to Hugo’s and the parking lot was completely packed. I called my wife and told her that there was no milk, eggs, or toilet paper.” He just walked out and when I asked why he didn’t load up on some other things he will need in the future, he said, “I am not going to contribute to hoarding.” So far nothing has gotten out of hand inside the prison. Everyone is on high alert, but we are still going on with our days the best we can. Dennis once told me, “You have no power in the future, only in today.” That’s what I am doing, living just for today. I can’t predict if the virus is going to hit us or what plans are if or when it does, nor do I have a choice whether or not I follow those plans. So, I am focusing on what I can control, and today that is who I chose to call with my extra minutes, what I decided to write about, and my recovery. I will keep you updated from the inside. 4 P.M. COUNT

95


I AM YOU....

Nonfiction

It’s amazing how the fragrance of something will take you to a place in your memory so quickly. I don’t smell Old Spice that often since it’s not a product I use, but every now and then my nose will come into contact with it and for a second I look for my dad. The same goes for a puff of cigarette smoke, something I catch a whiff of much more often. When I am walking on the compound and the wind carries the scent from the officers’ smoke pad, it hits me as if I am walking by the back of my parents’ restaurant and there’s my dad, stressed out, trying to get a little relief. That smell gets me thinking about him more than anything else in this world. It’s actually something I have grown to enjoy; maybe it’s my subconscious telling me how much I miss my dad. It’s always nice to think back to the days when I was my dad’s little guy. He used to come in and wish me good night, kiss me on the forehead and tuck me in, snug. Nothing could be sticking out; otherwise the monster under my bed would grab whatever limb was hanging out and I would be done for. He would always stop at the light switch, turn around and give me our signature two thumbs up, just to let me know how much he loved me. Then there was our imaginary friend Fred. I don’t know if I made him up or if dad did but I remember when we would be driving and one of us would point out Fred on a snowmobile or four-wheeler keeping up with us on the highway and all of a sudden, BAM! Fred just crashed into a light pole and we would laugh at how crazy he was. The unconditional love that I received from my father was without question, as he never left me wondering for a second whether or not he cared about me. Whenever he was angry with me, it was typically because I crashed or destroyed some inanimate object of his; snowmobiles, four-wheelers, motorcycles, golf carts, and vehicles all felt 96

4 P.M. COUNT


my wrath at some point growing up. He would always make sure I was all right first before he asked about his possession, which must have taken some self-control. He would walk into another room and release his rage through various screams filled with vulgar language. Even the times he was unable to control that anger and lashed out at me, he always made sure he came back after he cooled down to apologize and explain himself. These are all things I will certainly pass down in parenting my daughter, Melrose. As for watching him closely, I observed his every move; I looked up to him and wanted to grow up and be just like him. My dad could fix anything. He was a handyman and I regret not putting in time with him out in his shop where I could have learned so much. I guess that is part of growing up on a farm; you learn how to fix any problem. That was the early days though; eventually that shop became his escape and I didn’t want to go out there because I knew I wasn’t welcome. Not only was I not invited, but when I did show up, I could sense it, this was his time and he wasn’t looking to share it with anybody else. So I started going in there when I knew he wasn’t at home and I started to discover why: empty 1.75 liters of Smirnoff vodka and ashtrays full of Swisher Sweets. I understood then that he didn’t want me to see him in that light; I was too young. Previous to that, all I had ever seen my dad drink was O’Doul’s, a non-alcoholic beverage. I guess they eventually didn’t cut it; he needed a new edge, so he looked for something sharper. I didn’t start drinking at that time but I took note for a later date. What I did help myself to was some of his Swisher Sweets; I found those in the oil shed. It was another way to be like my dad; I thought he looked cool when he smoked and I knew if he did it, it must be something worthwhile. The first smoke was some cigars that I knew had been sitting there for a while because as I took the cellophane off, each of them started to fall apart. I did my best to keep them intact and smoked behind Larry and Linda’s camper on the shortcut between our houses. That 4 P.M. COUNT

97


became my usual spot until my uncle Steve eventually drove by as I fumbled to hide everything. I am guessing he knew what I was doing but he let me do it. My daughter is only a year or two away from the age I was then, and I couldn’t imagine her in that same situation. And maybe that is only because I haven’t been home the last six years to show her a bad example. I hope she makes better choices then my dad and I did. Morgan, my sister, was in California going to school, just living life; and Jesse, my brother, was down in the Twin Cities attending the University of Minnesota. My mom had decided to go back to University of Minnesota-Crookston and turn her two-year early childhood development degree into a bachelor’s degree for teaching. So that left my dad and me. He was in pain; it wasn’t hard to see. It was written on his face, specifically in his eyes and in his body language, but I was sixteen years old and didn’t know about pain or how I could help somebody overcome it. Now there is so much I would have done if I knew then what I know now. I want so badly to go back and help him work through some of those problems but it’s too late; he’s dead. Something it has done is created a dialogue between my mom and me. When I asked for her permission to share some of these intimate details of her life, I was able to find out that she was in a tough spot as well during this time. She was feeling suffocated by her life, both work and marriage, and she felt going back to school was the perfect escape. She described empty nest syndrome and the way she was feeling with all of us leaving the house. I reminded her that I was still there with two years left of high school and that I had to watch dad drink his pain away. She told me she was sorry and unaware. I knew she was telling the truth because I remember once asking her about dad and his drinking and she told me that my father doesn’t drink. Not wanting to tell on him, I played it off and changed the subject. My dad in his element was working at The Guest House, a restaurant he owned with my mother; he was an exceptional cook, another trade I didn’t spend any time 98

4 P.M. COUNT


learning from him. I can see him in the window, putting out food and ringing the bell to notify the waitresses that their order was ready. When I was young I would sit in a booth where he could see me from the window and if he wasn’t too busy he would come out and see what I wanted to eat. He knew I always wanted a number five: two eggs over easy, perfectly rectangular hash browns with a golden brown top cooked to perfection on a slab of ham and white toast. On the rare occurrence that I was in the mood for something else he would recommend pancakes and he would form them into Mickey Mouse or some other cartoon character. This was still at a time when I loved The Guest House, because it had the best cook in the world: my dad. Eventually it became something entirely different and so did my dad. He was no longer working for his future, as if he had lost all hope of having one. He was living for the day and wasn’t concerned about much after that. He cared about one thing only, getting his kids educated so they had options beyond running a restaurant. I know this is a fact because he told me. The Guest House eventually led him to his ultimate fate. It was in those late years of his life that he really started to drink heavily. He no longer had to hide his drinking in the shop because he knew I was drinking and smoking weed, so I guess he didn’t feel ashamed around me. He never got mean when he would get drunk, he never took his problem out on me and for that I thank him. He may not have showed me the best example of how to cope with stress but he at least didn’t drag me down with him, or so I thought. At the time when I was leaving for college I didn’t know my dad would make it only three more years, but as I look back now, I should have. I guess I thought whatever was going on with him was none of my business and I just needed to take his advice and get out of town. I did. When my dad died, his pain did not. It was passed on to me and instead of dealing with it, I buried it, only for it to resurface time and time again. It resurfaced every time 4 P.M. COUNT

99


I got into an altercation or when I failed at something in life, whether that was a relationship or a job opportunity. I coped with his death by turning to the same techniques that I learned from him, only my illness was a much more progressive one. In high school I would struggle with insecurities and feelings of being inadequate. Then I grew up and added failures in both my professional and personal life. My emotions started to compound and I began to hate myself; alcohol no longer cut it, so I moved on to more powerful medications. As my meth and crack addiction reached its highest point, my insides literally began to rot. There was even a time when I was bleeding out of my rectum and I thought it was hemorrhoids but it was my drug use. I was rarely eating, never sleeping and my use was out of control. It’s embarrassing to even share these details but that’s addiction: ugly and shameful. In so many ways I am just like my dad, easy-going and fairly passive. However, I have short bouts of rage that come out of nowhere and don’t last long, just like he did. I remember one time when we were going to church. I was ready to go so I was trying to set up my new landline in my room and I asked him if he could come upstairs. He came up there not knowing what I needed and realized I was setting up a phone. He yelled, “I don’t have time for this” and punched a hole in my door and ran off. I was standing there with my phone like, What did I do? He got his composure back, apologized and we were on our way to church. Now I am thirty-four and have been in his shoes, more times than I can remember, over even dumber circumstances. I held a grudge against my dad after he passed away, as if he abandoned me, didn’t give a rip about what he left behind and didn’t care to meet his granddaughter. He chose booze and cigarettes over us, just like I picked selling and using drugs over my daughter. Now look at me. I am sitting in prison. I’ve been gone most of my daughter’s life. She doesn’t remember the first two years I was home. So, like father, like son. 100

4 P.M. COUNT


My second chance is coming and I wish I could give it to him. I know he would rather I have the opportunity anyway, so I guess it’s up to me to make the most of it. I have forgiven my dad and I hope my daughter never feels those feelings towards me for not being there. Two thumbs up was our thing; it’s how we would show our love. We would gauge where we were at; if I was mad at him I would shake my head and give him two thumbs down and scowl. But most of the time we were in a good spot and we would see each other and simply flash two thumbs up. That is something we never grew out of and it lasted till the end. I realize now my dad always cared; he just simply lost hope and got lost and never found his way back. That is nothing I can hold against him. I won’t let this addiction kill us both.

4 P.M. COUNT

101


Mr. Payment Mr. Payment is a student in FPC Yankton’s Writing and Publishing class.

102

4 P.M. COUNT


CARNIVAL

Nonfiction

Every year in the month of April the carnival came to town. Flashing lights filled the small city park in the center of town. Big band music echoed between the buildings, and the smell of corn dogs and funnel cakes permeated the air. Warm breezes drifted throughout the fairgrounds, always hunting; it was midsummer rather than the earliest moments of spring. The fountain in the center of the town square shot jets of crystal clear water into the cloudless sky after a long and dormant winter. Frantic workers hustled to collect patrons to ride their rides. Gamers would try to sway a gentleman to attempt to win his girl a prize by throwing a dart or rolling a ball. These are the memories that often came when the carnival came to town. It was around 5:30 in the evening when my best friend Pip and I were wandering around the town, and we saw the first of many trucks come down Main Street. Pip stood about five feet eleven inches with bleached-blonde hair that hung to his square jawline, a cigarette in his hand, and a “Don’t mess with me” attitude. We were two outcasts against the world. Pip and I became friends when we were twelve years old a few years after my family made the move from Michigan to Iowa. We both came from broken homes and seemed to understand one another. Pip and I made our way down to the town square to watch as one by one the semi trucks pulled their trailers into location; gamers opened up their trucks and began filling their stock, and the ride jocks chocked tires and set safety fences. We watched as the workers prepped, placed, positioned, and maneuvered them all along the midway. Thirty-two rides and twenty-one games filled the outside edges of the square, while the food trucks and ticket booth stood center stage. The year was 1999 and I was just fourteen years old. We strolled around smoking cigarettes and talking to a 4 P.M. COUNT

103


few of the other kids that walked the park when a guy yelled at us to either get out of the way or give him a hand. We told him that we didn’t work there and weren’t allowed to help, but he just laughed. After a few moments he walked up and asked me for a smoke. I could smell the E & J brandy on his breath and the grease on his hands. He wore dirty jeans and a blue T-shirt with the logo of the show across the front. He stood about five feet ten inches with dark skin and braided hair with wisps of grey that seemed to make him look older than he really was. He had a slick smile and carried himself with an Old School attitude. So that’s just what I called him. I took a crinkled pack of Marlboro reds out of my jeans and gave him one. Old School smiled and sank to his knees as he took a drag off the cigarette. After he exhaled he looked up and we started to chat. After a while, he explained that if we were interested in making a few bucks, we could help and the owner would pay us thirty dollars apiece. Pip and I just looked at one another and figured that the old guy was just trying to trick us into helping, but soon enough the owner, Mom as we would come to call her, walked up and asked if we would like to earn some cash. Mom stood about five feet six inches with mediumlength black hair, hard eyes, and a deep-set smile that always made you think you were in trouble. She was a strictly no-nonsense woman who loved her show, her family and most of all her “kids.” With Mom, work always came first, but if you needed anything, all you had to do was ask and she would do all in her power to help. She was just that kind of person. Pip and I told her we were more than happy to work but told her we were just fourteen. She said she didn’t mind; after all it was just for a few hours. She told Pip and me to go and help Old School on his ride, and she was off. Old School was the operator of the Gravatron. The ride held about thirty-seven people, including the operator, and looked like a giant spaceship. When you got into the ride you stood against beds that were fastened to the wall and the ship started to spin. As the ride spun, the force of gravity 104

4 P.M. COUNT


held your body to the beds as they rose to the ceiling. The ride gave you the feeling that you were going to fly out through the roof, which only added to the excitement. Growing up, I always saw it as one of my personal favorites and that evening I learned to build it. The hardest part about setting up a carnival ride is running the power. Each ride takes about three or four cables that are about two-and-a-half inches thick and they’re about 400 feet long. You have to drag them from the generators to the individual boxes and then to the rides. The cables weigh about 300 pounds, so that in itself was a workout from hell. Two of the other guys working damn near quit right then and there. Pip and I though, we just grabbed the cables and kept on rolling. After the ride was powered we started the real work. The diamond plate steel floors twinkled under the deck lights as we lowered them onto the drive wheels. The three of us picked up the twenty foot long I-beam and placed it over the first station, as one by one we placed each tub into its numbered location. Sweat poured down my arms and chest, and I hoisted each 800-pound tub with the chain hoist: three master bolts in the floor and four in the head topped with r-keys and bolted in tight. One tub at a time till all were locked and secured. One by one we greased the wheels on the beds, checked to make sure all lights were bright and shining, and tested out the sound system. Everything was good to go. It was about 3:30 in the morning by the time we started the finishing touches on the Gravatron. The temperature was falling as dark clouds clustered the moonlit sky overhead and for the first time all day I was starting to wish I had worn my jacket. I climbed to the top of the ride and began to tie off the canvas that covered it when Mom called us down so she could give us our pay. She told us that we did a great job and if we were interested in helping again at the end of the week, we were more than welcome. We accepted and thanked her for the opportunity as Old School headed back up to finish. 4 P.M. COUNT

105


The next day the show opened at noon, packed with thousands of customers. The rides and ticket booth had lines halfway down the midway. Once Pip and I got to the booth, Mom stood behind the glass window training a new worker. She smiled and gave us each a bracelet and told us that it was on the house. We thanked her and rode the rides all day. We had to have ridden each ride about twenty times that day as we wandered the park. The show went on for a week. Every day we stopped by and talked with Old School and the others and every day we rode the rides for free. We ate our fill of corn dogs and funnel cakes and drank stale Dr. Pepper that always seemed to have a popcorn taste and every night Old School would let us walk through the safety checks and check the rides for what they called ground scores. A ground score was anything that was lost during the ride. Wallets and cell phones mostly, but loose cash, packs of smokes and cans of chew along with purses and drugs were other things found often. Most would be turned in to the lost and found but only items of importance. What can I say, we were dumb kids. Finally Sunday night came and we headed back to the Bayless Park. We figured we could earn a few bucks helping them tear down the rides. Once again I headed to the Gravatron and helped Old School disassemble it. For some reason it took us longer to take it apart than to put it together; still to this day I can’t explain that one, but that’s just how it was. I remember I was on top of the Tron removing the canvas top and Old School pulled the canvas. My left foot was still on it and I lost my balance and fell from the top down to the diamond plate floor. I busted my knee open and it bled like a sieve, but I just put some gauze on it and got back to work. After we were done Mom came up and paid us for the help and asked if we wanted to work for the summer. I reminded her that I was only fourteen, and she just nodded. She said that if I got a permission slip signed by my mom that I could travel, and I would be back home by the end of 106

4 P.M. COUNT


summer. She gave me the slip and the next morning I went to where my mom was staying and talked to her about it, told her I needed the money and I would be working. It took a while but she eventually signed it, and I packed up my belongings and headed for the show. It was the summer of 1999 and I was fourteen years old.

4 P.M. COUNT

107


ARE YOU TEN YEARS AGO?

Nonfiction

ARE YOU TEN YEARS AGO? Last night I finally got a hold of you after so many years of being locked away. We talked about the old times, the carnival days and the childhood that neither one of us ever had the chance to live. We talked about the drama and the beatings, the abuse and the tears. We talked about the trials and tribulations we faced throughout the years of our friendship, the girls that broke our hearts, and the friends who betrayed us. You and I spoke about our children and how they have grown, how your boy is playing baseball and your little girl is hell on wheels for a toddler. We talked about your new wife, your work and the life that you now live. We spoke of the gatherings and culture we were raised on. You asked about the future and what that holds for me but I hear it in your voice, that single question that everyone is afraid to ask: “BROTHER, ARE YOU TEN YEARS AGO?” Last week I got an email from my little girl. She told me that she missed me and that she is now being homeschooled. She tells me that life is hard because she and her sister are always fighting. I assure her that this is just what siblings do. She tells me it’s not fair and I ask her what she means. She explains that she is the only one that remembers me from better times and that she tries to tell her sister that I wasn’t always such a screw-up, that I was always there to take them to school, braid their hair every morning, play with them at the park, even go on camping and fishing trips. She reminisces about the horses I bought for her and her sister when they were small girls, too young to even ride. She talks about her new crush and it is hard for me to comprehend. For when I last saw her she was only eight years old and her sister was five. She has so much faith in me that I will come out and be the father that she wants to believe that I am, but I can read between the lines and within her fears lies the 108

4 P.M. COUNT


same simple question: “DADDY, ARE YOU TEN YEARS AGO?” My mother wrote me a message wishing me a happy thirtyfifth birthday and I stared at the screen for what seemed like eternity. I thought about the fact that it has been thirty-five years since a scared seventeen-year-old child gave birth to a child of her own. Lost in her own world of abstract views and codependency, she was bound and determined to raise her baby boy with love and security. She never tells me that she is disappointed in my actions or that she believes I am better than the person I had become. She just always tries to sound cheery and act like everything will be OK. She says she is proud of me, that she thinks that I didn’t deserve all this time, that everyone makes mistakes and that she knows I have learned from it. She says that everything will be better when I get home and start my life over. She says that she and my family will be there to help me any way that they can, but I can hear the words that go unspoken. The ones that she thinks can go unsaid, the question that she fears the most: “MY SON, ARE YOU TEN YEARS AGO?” As I stand here and stare at the man in the mirror, I don’t recognize the figure staring back at me. The cold blue eyes seem to remind me of a man I knew a long time ago, but the hardened facial features seem to have aged with the years behind the fence. I cannot help but hope that I have grown into a better man, that these years spent behind the wall have somehow transformed me into a productive member of the community. Part of me wants to desperately believe that I won’t fall into old habits and that I have learned from my mistakes, that I can be the man I was created to be -- a good father, a decent brother, a loving son and most of all, a respectable man. I pray that I can be a person that my family is not embarrassed about, a person that is not afraid of his past but a man who can embrace his future. So with all sincerity I ask you from the depths of my soul as I search every feature and detail of the man staring back at me from within the mirror: “ARE YOU TEN YEARS AGO?” 4 P.M. COUNT

109


Mr. Workman Ken Workman is forty-four years old and from Key West, FL. He has been writing for just over a year and tries to make the most of his time at FPC Yankton by cultivating his writing skills. He has works of fiction, nonfiction, and creative nonfiction, and aspires to write full-time someday. This is the second 4 P.M. Count featuring his work.

110

4 P.M. COUNT


THE CURE

Fiction

“Jeez, you look like an extra in a zombie movie this morning,” said Susan with a sigh. “Well, at least you’re clean-shaven.” Mike was a tall, handsome fellow with broad shoulders that always had a relaxed droop to them. His dark eyes suggested a mixture of passion and genius and were set deep in the canvas of a perpetual stoner’s expression. “C’mon, Mike, we need to hurry. The lab is ready and everyone is waiting on you.” Mike ran his fingers through his bed head of wavy, dark hair. “I haven’t had a wink of sleep in two nights,” he uttered in a groggy voice. “Mr. Roberts and his misfits of science can wait.” “Not them waiting silly, the world.” Susan took Mike’s hand and pulled him through the series of white-tiled corridors and on to the elevator. Standing in customary elevator silence, Mike swallowed the goose egg sized lump in his throat and turned to his companion sheepishly. “Susan it’s just that … I wanted to tell you-” “Stop right there! Get that thought out of your head. You’re coming home.” Susan straightened and smoothed the lapels of Mike’s lab coat before stopping to scratch at a mustard stain on his shirt. “Besides, you promised to cook me dinner tonight, remember?” Susan stepped back and tucked one side of her auburn hair behind her right ear, while allowing the other side to curve along the outside of her face where it stopped just below her jawline. She specifically chose auburn to complement the natural pigment of her crimson lips. Lips that were so vibrant she rarely needed to wear lipstick. “It’s going to work Mike, it has to. You bringing back the cure is all we’ve got. Now that the coronavirus has mutated, it’s spreading like a California wildfire. It’s been only three years and the death toll is already nearing a billion. If it continues to spread exponentially, the entire planet may 4 P.M. COUNT

111


be wiped out by 2026.” Eels coiled in their stomachs at the thought of their situation, while only faint breaths disturbed the silence as the elevator clicked past floor after floor. Susan glanced over, adjusting the smart pair of thin-framed spectacles that rested on her short pointed nose. “The alien technology is still a mystery to us,” Mike said, in a tempo quicker than his normally relaxed pace. “Even the guys at Area 51 know this whole thing is just a crap shoot.” “Relax, Mike, the first test went successfully, didn’t it?” Mike’s head fell and wagged like the pendulum of a sad clock winding down. “Look, Mike, I’ve worked with you for over fifteen years. You’re super smart, you’re the bravest and most capable person I know, and are the best scientist we have. You’re our best shot. Even if you do obsessively weigh every variable before making any decision.” “Susan, you know there’s only enough energy left in the alien ship’s power cell for one more trip. One mistake, one miscalculation, and I’m never coming home. I’ll never see you again.” Mike rubbed his face with both hands as if trying to wipe away the worried look, then continued. “Not to mention, what will become of the rest of the world.” As the elevator doors dinged open, Susan skipped out and beckoned. “If there’s anyone who can do this, it’s you,” she beamed, with her horribly overflowing optimism. “Now come on, you’ve got history to make!” The laboratory door opened and they entered a huge room walled in by equipment sprinkled with a galaxy of blinking lights. A littering of expressionless lab technicians in white lab coats performed a waltz across the ballroom floor like molecules being viewed from under a microscope. Robotic arms reciprocated between instruments, as sensors beeped in a rhythmic melody. The shiny green metallic paint of a spherical capsule that sat dead center in the laboratory glittered from the lights’ attention. A ramp at the capsule’s entrance led up to a single jet black leather chair that sat inside like a throne awaiting its king. 112

4 P.M. COUNT


“Oh, Dr. Brown, you finally decided to join us,” Mr. Roberts snipped. He turned to face them with a frown that consolidated the small features of his face around a large hooked nose at its center. Mr. Roberts was a squat man of middle-eastern descent, with a horseshoe of grayish-white hair that circled his bald head like the atoll left by a dead reef and a potbelly that tested the integrity of the buttons on his size-too-small shirt. “I thought you said you would have him here on time, Dr. Miller,” he chastised as his brows knit further and mouth pressed into a hard thin line. “We had to go over some, er, uh, last minute details,” Susan said, cutting Mike a sideways glance that forced them to fight back grins that hinted of a secret. “Nevertheless,” Mr. Roberts affirmed abruptly. “We need to get things underway. The time machine is ready and waiting, Dr. Brown.” After a lung-filling breath and exhale, Mike started toward the time machine, when suddenly, he was snatched backwards by his shirt sleeve. “Wait, don’t take another step,” Susan ordered. “Susan, relax, it will be okay,” Mike said. “I’m feeling much better about this now.” “It’s not that, look down at your feet.” Mike looked down to see a single, bright orange butterfly with black-trimmed wings slowly fanning itself on the floor. “You almost stepped on it.” Susan cupped the butterfly in her hands and showed it to Mike. “It’s a monarch. They’re my favorite type of butterfly, and they’re almost extinct.” “How the hell did that thing get in here? Kill it and let’s get back to work,” yelled Mr. Roberts. “No way,” Susan snapped. “We don’t need any bad omens on a day like this.” She tossed it upward and the monarch fluttered high into the expansive area above the laboratory. Mr. Roberts leaned forward coldly, pressing his palms firmly on the desk. “If you two are finished reliving the Nature Channel, I’d like to focus on the matter at hand,” he growled. “Or are you unclear about the gravity of our 4 P.M. COUNT

113


current situation? People are dying as we speak. We can save your precious moths after we save Earth. Are we in accordance, doctors?” “Crystal clear,” Susan muttered in a whisper from her low-hung head and hands clasped in front of her in the figleaf position. “Now, Dr. Brown, we’re sending you with this log book to document as much information as possible. It is imperative that you leave nothing out. You’ll also be equipped with this personal mini-recorder. It records most sounds within a hundred years, and films everything you face towards. Even if you do look like death warmed-over and reek of dirty laundry.” Mr. Roberts regarded Mike for a moment, making his best attempt at admiration, then shook Mike’s hand with an accompanying pat on the shoulder. “I can’t believe we’re sending someone into the future to find a cure for the coronavirus, and he looks like he just fell out of bed.” Mr. Roberts tried to shake the thought from his head as the two-inch heels of his polished shoes clicked against the hard tile floor on his way to take his position behind the control panel. “Don’t worry about him,” Susan said, stepping close to Mike and giving him a hug and kiss on the cheek. “You’ll be fine, I can just feel it.” “I hope you’re in the mood for spaghetti tonight,” Mike said. “It’s all I have.” He gave Susan a wink, then walked up the ramp and buckled himself into the chair. He gave a final salute as the door to the pod closed. Everyone moved to a safe distance as the countdown ended with Mr. Roberts’ hand smashing the bright red button. The time machine began to flicker, and in an instant it was gone. Only silence remained. Not a single set of lungs was in use for a full five seconds. Then, as quickly as it went, the time machine reappeared, and sighs filled the laboratory. Susan kneaded her fingers as the door to the pod opened. Mouths hung ajar as Mike exited the time machine in a slow deliberate stride, chest out and shoulders back. His wide smile stretched back 114

4 P.M. COUNT


to his jowls and rose up into the corners of his bright brown eyes. Susan lead the charge, with an awestruck Mr. Roberts trailing closely in tow. She surrounded Mike with octopuslike tentacle arms and buried her head deep into his chest. Mike cupped her head with his hand and planted a loving peck on its crown. Taking a step back to get a better look, she held Mike’s arms as she studied him closely. He was different. “Your hair, it’s so neat and combed. Look at your face,” she said, rubbing his newly-grown stubble. She leaned in to take a long hard sniff. “And you smell like lavender. Oh, my,” her breath suddenly hitched. “The stain on your shirt, it’s gone. What happened to you there? Are you okay? How do you feel? Say something,” she begged, bouncing in place hands clasped together, awaiting every detail. “I’m still tingling, and there’s a ringing in my ears. But aside from that, I feel great.” Mike gave his coat lapels a yank and followed with a mock gesture of brushing imaginary dust from his sleeves. Mr. Roberts stepped forward, jaw agape, eyes expanded. “Never mind that now,” he cracked, trying to regain his composure. “What do you have to report about the future? What about the cure for the coronavirus?” “I don’t know. My mind is completely blank. I can only remember leaving here, and then coming back.” “Damn it, man, enough of this Men-in-Black crap. We need to know the truth, Dr. Brown,” he demanded, hammering his fist into the palm of his hand. “What does the future hold for us?” “Sorry chief, I got nothing,” Mike said with a shrug of the shoulders and palms-up gesture. Mr. Roberts stared slack-jawed, taking it all in, then was compelled to ask. “Why would you leave the secrets of the future behind?” Mike beamed enough to light a room as he rode the lull and regarded the moment. Mr. Roberts put his hands on his hips and tightened his lips into a thin crease, tucked right down to a stitch. “What in the world could you have seen 4 P.M. COUNT

115


back there?” A smile sliced across Mike’s face wide enough to touch his earlobes as a peaceful look filled his being and he answered confidently, “I can only imagine.” Mr. Roberts stepped forward trying to process the situation. “Are you telling me that you traveled through time on a scientific mission to save the planet, and came back with absolutely nothing?” “What about your personal recorder?” Susan asked, unclipping it from Mike’s lab coat. “Quick, give it to me.” Mr. Roberts ran to the computer and plugged the device into the USB port. “It’s blank,” he roared. “There’s not a single image on it. Let me check the audio feed.” As he increased the volume, a light hum filled the speakers, and nothing more. Susan’s mouth lay slack, as she stared in disbelief. “Wait a minute,” she said, snapping her fingers. “What about your journal? Surely you made an entry that can help explain things.” The trio raced to the pod, hoping to uncover the mystery. They flipped the log book open, only to see the monarch fly out from between its pages as if it were a warm spring day. “What the hell is that thing doing in there?” Mr. Roberts hissed. There on the page, written in a beautiful calligraphy that glittered and seemed to move, was the following message: “The monarch belongs with you. Please get him home safely. Your decision to leave all you saw and learned behind was graciously accepted.”

116

4 P.M. COUNT


FREEDOM OF CHANGE

Fiction

Shadowed by inmates’ screams from outside the door, “I’ll be back for you in a minute,” the guard says to Maven through the small window of his prison cell. Maven takes a seat on the bunk of his paint-peeling, six-by-nine-foot cell. Resting his hands on his lowered head for comfort, he looks down at the worn pair of sneakers he calls the Frankenstein twins because of how many times he had to sew them back together. “What am I gonna do,” Maven asks himself, his mind a freeway of thoughts wondering what his next move would be. One thing in particular dominated his being above all others. Redemption. With his world entirely contained in the footlocker under his bed, scarce sunlight penetrates the translucent window sliver, as moldy air spews from the vent. Like most convicts, he envisions how his life could have been different. Even should have been different. Having most of his life still ahead, he wonders if it has become irreparable, unsalvageable, ruined. His prison becomes a realm that erodes the will of men as they remain trapped in a relentless struggle against the gravity of a forsaken world. It is a harsh place known for breaking the spirits of stubborn men. Prison changes men, willing or not. This is sometimes for the better, but more often, for the worse. The external and immediate changes, the hardening of men, are obvious. The inner, psychological changes, however, are more subtle, gradual. Maven was no exception. As time passed, this environmental programming made prison a place of security and familiarity for Maven. Life became simple here in a sanctuary that kept him safe from a world of decisions, responsibility, and conformity. A world where he never truly felt understood, or that he even belonged in. Today, however, for Maven, things will change. “Well, Maven, it’s been an interesting ride, but it looks like our time together has finally forked,” says Maven’s 4 P.M. COUNT

117


cellmate, School, entering the cell. School was short for Old School, a moniker he picked up in prison. Partly for his age, partly for the guru-like wisdom he was known for sharing throughout prison. “It sounds crazy, but a part of me doesn’t feel right about leaving. I don’t like the thought of getting out and leaving you stuck in this place.” “Aw, you’re just a little nervous, son. It happens to the best of us,” School says, in his mostly smooth, but slightly raspy voice. It was a comforting voice Maven found all too familiar. He always knew what to say to make Maven feel better. Regardless of their usual banter, Maven never could conceal how much respect he truly had for School. In fact, much of Maven’s self-respect comes from the tutelage and countless talks he and School had over the years. Through this mentoring, Maven strove to forge an indomitable spirit in the fires of his will. Refusing to break, Maven traded the uselessness of his despair for the more seductive intoxication and empowering benefits of anger. He used his rage and thoughts of redemption as the fuel necessary for the return trip from the Hades that had become his existence. “I feel like something’s missing,” Maven says, looking up from clasped hands dangling from the edge of his lap. Hands with scarred knuckles resembling sloppily drawn games of tic-tac-toe, from a lifetime of scuffles, had the prestigious mounting on the ends of cigarette-burned arms, where four neat little perforated puncture holes displayed the penalty his mother gave by way of fork for asking the wrong question at the dinner table. “Relax, you’ll be fine,” School says, placing a reassuring hand on Maven’s shoulder. “You’ve come a long way from the train wreck I met twelve years ago. How you’ve made it this far through life, without losing an eye or tooth, I’ll never know,” he added, giving Maven’s earlobe a playful tug of affection. “I guess I was a bit of a knucklehead.” “Whaddaya mean, was? You’re still a knucklehead, just a 118

4 P.M. COUNT


little older, and I’m reluctant to admit, wiser. Thanks to me if I do say so myself,” School says, stroking his beard while gazing up and to the side in a mock expression of arrogance. “I’ll give you that,” Maven says humbly. “Sometimes I wonder if you really do know everything.” “I’m not young enough anymore, to know everything.” Maven’s face, blanketed with a boyish charm, brings seriousness back to the moment. “I learned a lot from you, School, more than I could ever repay.” “You can repay me by staying outta here. Don’t go and piss away all you’ve learned.” School’s tone sharpens just enough for Maven to recognize the sincerity and cause his eyes to moisten, forcing him to look away. Maven wasn’t comfortable with someone caring for him. Growing up, he simply never got the experience. As an adult, whenever confronted, the feeling gripped his heart like a vice. It wasn’t that Maven didn’t have a big loving heart under his edgy, rough exterior. That he had. It’s just that the life he knew growing up had no room for feelings that could get a young boy with abandonment issues hurt, or get in the way of his doing what he needed to do to survive. Over the years, he felt his drawn and quartered soul became a cavernous home to the echoes of a graveyard of memories, peppered with the tombstones of his nightmares. He believed he never even had a chance at normalcy, and often felt the hand life had dealt him was cursed. It was a life he kept buried, until School showed up with his loving shovel. School was a natural teacher. Not only from the twenty years he had under his belt—compliments of the judicial system—but also from a life of harsh experiences. Recognizing himself in Maven enabled him to understand Maven, and get through to him so well. This connection riveted them together from the start. Taking a calming breath, School’s features soften as he reiterates. “Repay me by doing right, and by making better choices. Exercise wisdom and be conscious of your strengths and weaknesses.” “Easy with the fortune cookie riddles, Confucius.” 4 P.M. COUNT

119


“Look, wiseass, being smart is not always enough. The world is full of intelligent and talented failures. Being locked up is no way to live. You don’t want to end up like me, an old man in prison,” School adds, stroking the grey wool on his chin, their mirror’s pitiful polished-metal reflection helping keep the effects of time a secret. “Now I pee in Morse code, and if I want to call my friends, I have to use a freaking Ouija board. All I have to look forward to is getting out in time, to get myself a pretty little young thing on my arm, so I can be the butt of those cradle-robbing jokes.” “You don’t gotta worry about that, School,” Maven says, leaning back. “In your case, she’ll be robbing the grave.” “Awe, you ass, I had my pick of the litter while you were still trying to figure out why your friends’ parents kept saying you had the mailman’s eyes.” “Ouch,” Maven says, mocking a winced face of pain. “OK, so what’s your plan then, Methuselah? Go after ‘em with a Pez dispenser full of Viagra, until your back goes out?” “You’re a real piece of work, you know that?” “Hey, it’s a gift.” “Jesus Christ,” School says, with his hand across his forehead massaging his temples. “What am I going to do with you?” “Look,” School says, turning back toward Maven, “I want you to listen before we get too far off topic. It’s not going to be easy, son,” he says, with one hand on his hip and the other pointing for emphasis. “You’ve got a lot of work ahead of you.” “Yeah, I’ve been missing out on a lot being in here,” Maven says, the cadence of his voice revealing the sudden upward shift in his mood. “I owe it to myself to get out there and do some big things,” he continues, cupping his fist in the palm of his hand, while piercing the air with a laserfocused stare. “That’s not what I mean,” School snaps, reading the thoughts plastered across Maven’s face like a billboard. “Dashing out of here to get back in the game, or going 120

4 P.M. COUNT


looking for the guy that ratted on you is not the way for anyone to start out.” “Nah, School, you know that’s not what I mean. I’m going straight this time.” “Dammit, son, who do you think you’re talking to, Eddie Spaghetti? Don’t you think I know who you are by now? You’re like a child with chocolate on its face, trying to lie to its parents. You’re a smart kid, but thinking you’ve got everybody fooled all of the time is stupid. You don’t have half the things figured out you think you do. If you could guarantee to be right, just fifty-one percent of the time, you’d be in Vegas or on Wall Street making a million dollars a day, not sitting here in prison with me. I know you want to go after that guy, anyone would, but you have to leave that stuff in the past. I swear, just when I think you’re beginning to get it, you start sounding like the kid I had to set straight in this cell years ago.” School’s words take Maven back to when he tried to push his weight around with his new cellmate. A miscalculation that had him on the floor wondering how someone half his size, and old enough to be his father, was able to use his size and strength against him with such little effort. This encounter left Maven spellbound. Maven grew up tough, but wasn’t prepared for School. “If one doesn’t have a lesson to teach,” School would say, “A lesson one shall receive.” Being School’s training partner for so many years bestowed on Maven lightning-quick reflexes and pumalike agility. More importantly, Maven gained experience on how to maintain a level head during times of turmoil, an indispensable skill for the impulsive Maven, both in and outside the preverbal ring of combat. “Sometime you’re going to have to get yourself together, and stop trying to beat the system,” School says, turning to Maven. “Get this through that thick skull of yours. Society doesn’t owe you anything.” “That’s a bunch of bull, and you know it,” Maven says, looking up, the fire of his hazel eyes white-hot. “You know more about what I’ve been through than anyone. I didn’t 4 P.M. COUNT

121


create this life. I’m just dealing with it. What do you expect me to do, join the rat race, keep up with the Joneses? Work hard and save my money until some broad divorces me, and takes half the money and all the lovin’? Then what, I’m left old, alone, and too poor to get out of the bed? Screw that.” “I know you’ve been through a lot, but playing the victim only puts the responsibility to fix the problem on someone or something else. This leaves either the lack of ability or the willingness to change. When we can’t overcome this,” School says, walking over to Maven, “We become stuck in who we are. It makes about as much sense as banging your head against a wall because it will feel good when you stop. I’ve heard better logic on an episode of HeeHaw. And if there’s one thing you need in life, its change. Starting with your attitude, it’s time to use that melon for something good,” School says, faking a punch at Maven’s gut, making him flinch. “Chicken,” he adds, stepping back, his lip angling into a slanted half-smile. “I will, School. Hey, thanks again for everything. And don’t worry, you’ll be hearing from me again.” “Just make sure it’s not a return visit, or the next whipping will make the first feel like a game of pattycake. Take care of yourself son,” School says, opening his arms inviting a final embrace. Maven liked it when School referred to him as son. He was the closest thing to a father he had ever had. “Now get out of here.” Maven was grateful for all the words of wisdom that School bestowed upon him. Maven felt however, that without a dollar to his name, he would need to get something going. At least until he got back on his feet. He remembered waking up to cold rain dripping on his face while sleeping in the graveyard. Or on other occasions, when he had to use a knife to jimmy the lock of a park restroom, hoping the park attendant didn’t assist one of the morning joggers pounding on the door. Fresh out of prison, the fear of returning to this life was not something he could suppress, especially now back in a world of opportunity. A world he felt was owed him, and was there for the taking. 122

4 P.M. COUNT


“Holy cow,” Maven says, “I’m free.” Not far from the prison, Maven finds a garden hose to clean himself up. Having only one other change of clothes, he grabs a grey pullover shirt and shorts off a nearby clothesline and gets dressed. Throwing his soiled clothes in the trash, he hears a scraping pattern as a large dingolooking mutt comes around the corner of the house at about ninety miles per hour, jaws agape, slobber flying. “Oh no,” Maven spits, making a dash for a wooden fence. “YEEOW,” Maven screams as the mutt, barely missing him, grabs Maven by the shorts. “No, stop, sit, bad dog,” Maven pleads in vain straining to get over the fence. “Get off me, you mongrel,” Maven orders, yanking free and falling over the fence and into a painter’s setup, splashing powder blue paint all over. With the grey pullover hanging over shorts torn and looking like a skirt, and exactly half his face covered in blue paint, Maven stood there looking like William Wallace from Braveheart. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” Maven says, as the blue paint drips from his chin. “What next,” he snorts, walking across the house’s backyard. “There’s the enemy,” a voice shouts behind him, as Maven looks back to see two young boys dressed head-totoe in camouflage come around the corner of the house with paintball guns drawn. “Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop,” the paintballs burst against the fence around Maven, as he takes off running. “You little brats,” Maven yells, jumping the fence into the alley. Grabbing a newspaper from the trash, he flags a cab. “Take me to the bus station,” Maven says, spreading the newspaper across the seat. “No problem,” the dark-skinned cabdriver says in his middle-eastern accent. “Are you with the Blue-Man group in Vegas?” “Let me guess, you’re moonlighting as a cabbie on the off hours of your booming comedy career,” Maven hisses back. “More like blue-moon lighting in your case,” the cabbie fires back, cracking up at his comeback. “Hey, you have to 4 P.M. COUNT

123


be careful of the dye-packs when you rob the banks.” “Just drive, Chuckles,” Maven says, crossing his arms, having his fill of the conversation. Maven felt he had a good life before prison. He had his choice of women, a decent ride, and enough money in his pockets to keep a young man happy. Maven struggled with the thought of going straight. He didn’t know if he had it in him to live a crime-free life. He knew being in prison cost him everything, but felt redemption was the only thing he had left in life. With that on his mind for so many years, the seed grew into a redwood. Until School’s words showed him another way. School introduced Maven to an untapped strength in him that could overcome his dark side. He wasn’t going to let the time he just spent in prison just go unaddressed. A battle of good versus evil raged within his flesh and bones. Approaching the bus station counter, dressed in his dismal attire, Maven hands the ticket to the clerk, as a huge smile stretches across her face, “Feeling a little blue today my friend?” “Everybody’s a comedian today.” “I do my best,” she says, checking the bus’ schedule. “Sir, this bus won’t be here until eleven o’clock.” “That’s cool. Is there somewhere I can put my stuff and get cleaned up?” “The restroom and lockers are right around that corner.” After cleaning himself up, Maven tosses his bag in a locker and heads outside, taking the freshest breath he’s had in years. With time to kill, the tiger prowls his surroundings, Maven thinks as the gears of his mind start their rotation. Hungry, ambitious, and not wasting any time, he scans the area in search of the next opportunity to present itself. Gliding down the sidewalk as if the star of a Bee Gees’ video, Maven notices a curvaceous young woman in an all-white spandex bodysuit sashaying enough to give him motion sickness. From her downward tilted head, she glances upward, flashing him a seductive smile that keeps 124

4 P.M. COUNT


the straw of her slurpee clasped between her teeth. Look at this little vixen, Maven thinks, adjusting his collar and shoulders to maximum swagger. “Hey there little mama, I see that tractor beam look in your eyes. You don’t have to play coy with me.” A suck of her teeth and roll of the eyes quickly breaks their contact as she tosses her head back and exaggerates her gait to a full strut. “Aw, c’mon, Luna, that caboose is a werewolf maker if I ever seen one,” Maven taunts, giving her a playful swat as she passes. “YOU JERK!” she screeches, throwing her slurpee in Maven’s face. “Again,” Maven barks in shock, as the drops of red syrup populate the ground with a collage of Japanese flags. Maven is trapped in disbelief as the slurpee drips from his face, when suddenly, his eyes pulse to full expansion in a field of white light as a firm kick to his groin doubles him forward. “You’re a pig,” she adds, following with a slap that nearly knocked both eyes into the same socket. “OK, OK, get off me, Linda Blair. I was only kidding. Holy cow,” he says, checking himself and noting the kick was hard enough to leave the faint taste of copper in his mouth. Maven continues down the sidewalk and passes a homeless man sitting on a piece of cardboard, holding a cup. “Change, young man?” he says to Maven, raising his cup. “Sorry man, none at the moment,” Maven answers, but says to himself, change your life dude, as he continues on, his face painted with a look as stubborn as a dandelion’s root. After a few blocks, the searing heat begins to take its toll. Maven happens upon a soda machine outside of an appliance shop. Thirsty as a hot pepper taster in a sandstorm, Maven inserts his only dollar bill in the machine and presses the button. A cold soda comes tumbling out. But nothing else. 4 P.M. COUNT

125


“Where’s my change? Piece of junk!” Maven yells, smashing the coin return and shoving the soda machine hard enough for it to rock back and forth. “Hey, what’s going on out here?” the shop owner hisses as he storms out of the shop’s entrance. “This stupid machine stole my change!” “I don’t have anything to do with that,” the shop owner says matter-of-factly. “But this is the only soda machine in the area, and if you break it, all of us are screwed.” “But what about my change,” Maven pleads to no avail. “I said I can’t help ya,” the man snaps flatly, turning to the store entrance before pausing to look back one last time. “And what’s that red stuff all over your clothes? It looks like what needs a change, is you,” The man cackles, shaking his head on the way back into his shop. Change—change. All I’ve heard about all day is change, Maven thought, remembering his last chat with School, before noticing the sign in the appliance shop’s window. Next to a picture of an old refrigerator, where the sign once read: Need to Exchange this Freezer? Domestic Resque Can Help! Several small light bulbs had gone out, now leaving the only letters illuminating: “change is Free Dom.” With the stubborn look on Maven’s face changing to a sardonic one, he looks at you, head to the side and lips firmly pressed together, and utters, “You see what type of stuff I gotta put up with?”

126

4 P.M. COUNT


Lorenzo Eaton Lorenzo M. Eaton enjoys cooking, writing, bowling, operating heavy equipment and motivational oral speaking. He is from Chicago, IL.

4 P.M. COUNT

127


MY LOWEST POINT

Nonfiction

People say things that can hurt. They even do things that can hurt. I have experienced things while in prison, such as family or friends not having my best interest in mind. There have been times when I didn’t have anything in my locker to eat, no money on my books and no money to call anyone. Times had gotten so bad after the passing of my father who, no matter what, made sure that I had the things I needed while in prison. I was at my lowest point, and had to find a way to tackle all my problems. It seems as if I was in total darkness, experiencing terrible things while in prison. I was at the bottom, the bottom in which some people would feel that suicide would be the best way to go. An adversary had taken over my life and caused all sorts of disbelief. Previously, I had a home and, in my mind, I had some of the finer things in life. I thought the designer clothing and jewelry became something that I had to have during my criminal life. At the time of my incarceration, my father had taken control of those prize possessions. They were things I wanted in life, but God wanted something different. After the passing of my father, as in any dysfunctional family, those prized possessions became like products that people from local department stores give away for free. The first few years of my sentence, things were rough. I was at the lowest point and everything had happened fast. I always felt that there has to be another life besides this life, but what, I didn’t know. I also didn’t know what was required to get me there. That’s when God stepped in and allowed a brother to minister to me and help me along this journey. I found Someone that’s more powerful than any man on earth: I found the living Word of God through Christ. After battle after battle of dealing with being without, Christ had made his move to the point that my family started to help me on a journey that seemed to have a 128

4 P.M. COUNT


negative end. With the help of my brother ministering to me, the Bible itself and the emotional “Prison Break Daily Bread,” prayer has landed me a new beginning in life. I will always remember that whatever stones are thrown at me in life, there’s always a protective shield that awaits me to comfort me in time of need.

4 P.M. COUNT

129


ON MY BLOCK

Poetry

Chicago streets: the gun violence, the rapes, and neglect of children. These senseless acts will never stop. How can this stuff continue to keep happening? I notice a lot of it happens on my block. Loud music, gang banging, crime rates where it is easy to rise to the top. A sad moment for a person to be found murdered - shot dead on my block. Hopscotch, playing hide and seek, drinking icy cups, lighting firecrackers. listening to the sounds of the pops, “how many you need” coming from the person standing at one end of the corner Selling drugs on my block. Night falls, time for bed, as we lived in a building way at the top, sirens sound. Lights flash. A baby fell three stories down, something else has happened wrongfully on my block. Hold on officer I am getting my license out my pocket look-see it is nothing, just my watch. “Dancing Dancing,” that song by Michael Jackson played in my mind so much and would never stop, Break dancing, pop locking seems to bring smiles to faces of people that lived on my block. Tootsie rolls, now and later was the best candy to melt down on the stovetop, Double Dutch as they sang while taking turns having a block party on my block. Years come and years go sadly but I wish not, sometimes I wish the bad things should have never happened but the good times would appear back from the beginning on my block.

130

4 P.M. COUNT


NO WAY OUT

Nonfiction

1985, the sounds of the “Dukes of Hazzard” television show played as the kids hung around the tune to observe what seemed to be a new episode of the 1980s hit TV show. While hitting the TV on one side, getting the picture to show and eating government cheese, what seems to taste like a steak with the side of mashed potato? Mother in the next room sleeping. Waiting on what the kids hope for next was a chance of being happy and not being without. To the kids’ surprise they waited on something that never came. The next morning off to school hearing the gunshots as they ran toward a nearby tree for safety. Making it to school, eating breakfast seems to be one of the best meals of the day besides lunch. School had taught them a lot but not being at school like normal kids they were soon to be held back for poor attendance. Father was what you would say was a crafty and well-dressed person, but handled the streets like he handled money, kept it right beside him. His ways of thinking were just to benefit bringing home the easy way of getting cash. Mother and Father had their differences like any other couple I guess. The only difference was that beating mother was something that was pretty normal and it made it OK to do. Father always had a bad temper and when he got mad he would take it out on Mother. With a slap and then a punch as she screamed for him to stop, the kids watched in fright. Soon after to make things worse Father went to prison and Mother had to take care of the kids on her own. The kids missed Father and wanted to see him, but Mother would find a way to escape the terrible fright that she had built up inside of her. Mother had found a new boyfriend and she would marry him and live happily ever after with him. What surprised the kids was not only that he wasn’t their dad, but that he was white. This one day the kid’s found Mother asleep and they peeped through the keyhole and saw that same white man; he was laying on a 4 P.M. COUNT

131


broken piece of glass that had a razor blade next to him. The kids knew something wasn’t right about that because every time they saw that white man Mother was sleeping. There were times where they needed to eat but mother was sleeping like always and they had to cook on their own, not knowing how to prepare any food. The kids found that this is not how life is supposed to be, even though they weren’t old enough to know anything about life yet. Every morning they watched their favorite television shows the Brady Bunch and the Dukes of Hazzard. They watched on the wooden television that had static on almost every channel that continued working by the inside of the brown extension cord threads. There was the comfortable stained mattress and box spring that lay on the floor of the kids’ room, and they enjoyed the salty scrambled eggs that were cooked in a crockpot. Mother found it was best that she would head out for a time out on the city. She left what every kid would love to have, a book of food stamps. The kids loved food stamps, because with any purchase no taxes were charged. The kids always thought that Mother would work it out while smacking on packs of Now and Later candy. They knew Mother was the best mother that any kid could ask for, but before long she came stumbling in the door with the help of a total stranger. Mother looked as though she was the walking dead. The door closed behind her and soon she would be hidden in the room for the rest of the night. There was sharing clothes with brothers and preparing for school the next morning. To add a crease in the jeans they lay them under the stain-filled mattress, so by morning a crease would have formed. While off to school and during recess playing a game called “Off The Wall” with a tennis ball, they showed off the skills of height in front of the girls that were off in the distance playing “Double Dutch.” The bell had rung and the kids went off in separate ways to class, knowing that school was their way out from the torment they endured at home. They remembered being talked about by the other children in class, the smell of 132

4 P.M. COUNT


not showering or having clean clothes. The kids started to hate school, because no matter how hard life was for them, it seemed like things had gotten worse. The walk home from school struck like lightning, like being introduced to the worst nightmare on Elm Street. Saying goodbye to Mother as one of the kids cried for dear life, not wanting to leave Mother, they were forced in the car as it pulled off. They waved goodbye while looking out the back window at Mother in the grey Tempo, with tears rolling down their cheeks. On the way, they passed by the places they had known since they could remember. The nearby corner store and not before long their school, and soon out of their old neighborhood. Kids never heard from their Father and Mother until they got a lot older to reunite with them, to hear all of the lies of why they were taken. Father had years behind him far as being in prison and Mother married that white man and they lived happily ever after. The kids, whatever happened to them, grew up and lived in a society that was full of scary things and the nightmare on Elm Street continued throughout their lives.

4 P.M. COUNT

133


DAVIS PARK

Nonfiction

Davis Park is nothing more than a regular park, most people would think anyway. It’s a park that’s not a common park-at least to me it isn’t. The park is in the middle of one of Chicago’s busiest streets, Division Street. Division Street is one of the streets in Chicago where a lot of things happen. Now mind you, I lived on this street, but several blocks away from Davis Park. This street is where gangs have their all-out wars. It’s where the dope man makes his moves and where kids hang around the nearby candy lady’s house, Aunt Lea’s. Momma gone work it out, Momma gone work it out being funny while smiling and sharing a bag of penny candy that we had just bought. Sometimes after school my younger brother and I would hang out at Davis Park. We used to hang out with my best friends Mikey, Carlos, Snoop, P-air, and a few more guys. Mikey, Snoop, Carlos, and I were tighter than the rest. Carlos loved Tupac. You couldn’t say anything wrong about Tupac or it would have been an all-out war. Mikey, he was a spoiled kid, had the best of everything. He was slim and skinny with cornrows, but had a good heart and loved to show off his dunking skills, and would always compete with me on how many females we could ask out. One of my favorite moments with Mikey was how we went skinnydipping with a few girls one summer. He had on Scooby Doo boxers, and we laughed till we could laugh no more. Even the females that were with us laughed. Now Snoop was a bit of a character. The dude looked just like Snoop Dogg for real and was goofy and could sing his butt off. Mikey stayed a half block away from Davis Park, Snoop more like five to ten minutes walking distance, and Carlos more like twenty minutes driving. As I said before, we would all meet up sometimes after homework was done and soon be at Davis Park. The park wasn’t big at all. It has one way in and one way out. Anyone 134

4 P.M. COUNT


entering the park from Division Street would be standing in what they would call a swing set filled with what looks like mulch. Continuing through the park, one is welcomed by the fenced-in basketball court and soon after, the alleyway. On both sides of the park are two buildings, one a YMCA for the youth, and the other just a regular old building that was vacant. My brother loves that neighborhood. They called him Studda Man because he stutters really badly, but he loved basketball and played really well. That summer was like any other summer. I was out of town on this particular day, and was about to call it a night; there was nothing out of the ordinary. I got a call from Mikey, screaming and yelling, “Bro!” he said, “Studda has been shot!” I said, “Grow up Mikey, stop playing.” “Bro, I wouldn’t even play like that,” he said. I called my mom and she immediately found out what hospital he was in. I called Mikey back to ask him what happened while rushing through Chicago traffic. He explained, “Well bro, this is what happens. Studda and I were chilling at Davis Park and some of the other guys we knew pulled up on us in a limo, your brother was hollering at the guys and they asked us if we wanted to join them. I told them I’m good, I have to go in the crib y’all know how my mom be getting. So I went home and Studda went with them. I told him I’ll get up with him later and they soon drove off. Later that night I got word back that they got drunk and picked up some females, so I guess they didn’t want your brother to roll with them anymore. So they wanted to drop your bro off where they picked him up at. Now mind you it’s about 3:30 a.m. and your brother got mad and said he ain’t going. They get in a bad argument while dropping your brother off. They pulled up in back of Davis Park; the limo with the females was parked at the end of the alleyway as the four guys got out with your brother. Walking through the alley with the one pole light that shined on a nearby garage one of the guys said what’s up now and then another one. They both rushed Studda!” 4 P.M. COUNT

135


As he told me this, I’m speeding on over ninety in an eighty trying to hurry and get there. The phone dropped between the seats, I was swerving, missing cars in front of me, while reaching for the phone. The call had hung up. I then hit redial. My mom was calling in and said, “You won’t believe this, this boy done check himself out of the hospital! Where you at?” “I’m on my way,” I said. “Well you might as well turn around and go back at least we know his ass ain’t dead.” I said, “Mom, are you sure?” She replied back with, “Yes.” I said OK and told her I will call her back, she said OK. I called Mikey back and he finished telling me what happened. “Where did I leave off?” and I said, “When they rushed bro.” “Oh yeah,” he said. “So then your brother just went nuts. He whipped them both so bad to where one of them needed surgery. So after all that the other one pulled out a gun and shot Studda, hit him three times. I think he got hit in the butt, the arm and the chest.” I was so much in shock right then, so I then asked if he had seen him. He said, “Ain’t he in the hospital?” I said, “No he did a Tupac and checked himself out.” “What, are you kidding me?” “No I wish I was. So if you hear from him tell him to get at me ASAP.” “OK,” he said. “Be careful, love you, bro. Talk to you later.” The caller hung up. It was about seven in the morning and I got an unexpected call from my cousin’s house phone. I answered. “Hello?” and my brother said, “Hello.” “Straight up?” I said, “Did you call mom?” “Yeah,” he said, stuttering badly. “So what’s good? Is you OK?” 136

4 P.M. COUNT


“Yeah, I’m good, slide down on me.” “You have to give me a minute, I’m out of town.” “OK, I’m going to be right here.” “OK bet.” I got myself together and headed that way back in the middle of Chicago traffic. The phone rang and it was my other brother; they both were at our cousin’s house. He says, “Bro, you won’t believe this!” “What’s good?” “We sitting on Aunt Cathy’s porch and the police pulled up and asked us our names so we weren’t tripping. We did just that, gave them our information. Bro all bandaged up barely standing, but walked up to the police car and gave him his information, to find out bro had some warrants. So instantly I got tripping and telling the police bro been shot and they said they could see that and said he has a warrant, so we have to take him in.” I was blown away. I got a hold of my mom and told her, and all she could do was curse and say, “I rather for him to be there; at least I know he’s safe.” My brother had to sit for about six or seven months; his wounds had healed and he was soon to be released from prison. It was something about Chicago; I ended up moving like an hour and a half to two hours away from Chicago. I grabbed my brother from time to time and told him to chill with me. He came and he chilled, but something didn’t seem right, something was missing, something that he would never tell me, and we were very close. I asked him when he was coming back to the crib and he said he didn’t know. So I said, “Aw, OK bet. Well hit me up, bro, love you.” I knew the Chicago street had him tight and wasn’t letting him go without a fight. In April of 2009, I was shocked by the death of the famous Michael Jackson, my favorite artist. I had everything he had made from the jacket to the 1985 doll, the magazines, newspapers, you name it; I even had records. One month later while sitting watching television I got a 4 P.M. COUNT

137


call and it was my dear friend, Mickey, saying, “Brother, are you sitting down?” I said, “Boy, what do you want?” He said, “Studda got killed.” I said, “What did you just say to me?” He said it again. I then knew he wasn’t playing. I instantly called my mom to tell her. She jumped up out of bed saying she was going to call me back. At this time my phone was blowing up, and I was in so much discomfort, not wanting to believe what was just told to me. I walked outside, started my car and barely could move when my sister called saying, “Don’t go anywhere, just stay put.” She lives in Atlanta, GA. Soon after, while sitting in the car the mail was signed and sealed, I got a call from the doctor and that’s when I lost it. I screamed like it was my last time on earth. Come to find out the guy that my brother fought with a year earlier had seen my brother at Davis Park one hot afternoon. While my brother was playing basketball he was approached, and the guy demanded revenge. There were kids out playing and others hanging around. They then noticed the commotion at the basketball court with my brother and the guy and then it happened, he pulled out a gun. With really nowhere to run but toward Division Street. Shots went off and my brother was instantly hit seven times. Some say those bullets were for the seven surgeries that the guy went through a year earlier. My brother was found a few feet away from the main entrance of Davis Park. That year wasn’t the same for me; I mean we lost a great icon, Michael Jackson, and soon after my brother. I viewed my brother’s body because my mom was afraid to, and I hate that I did that till this day, because that was the last way I remember seeing him. It was so emotional it still bothers me till this day. Long after laying bro to rest, my younger brother was out chilling with Mikey on his block, and like any other night shots were fired like usual, but they were not thinking about them. They ran toward Division Street, my younger brother not knowing he was hit. Now mind 138

4 P.M. COUNT


you, at this time the guy who murdered my brother was still on the loose. My younger brother was shot in the arm, almost killing him, and when I got that call, that’s when I made way to retaliate. Mickey said, “No, bro, for some reason they are really trying to hurt you and your brothers. I hate to see something happen to you next.” I went to visit my brother while he was in the hospital; I knew my mom was going through something after this. I wanted to do what I thought needed to be done, but before I could the gunman was caught, booked, and was now being charged. I knew there had to be someone greater in this world that really loved me that day, I didn’t care about any of the gunman’s kids, grandmothers, aunties or cousins they-were going to get it. By this time I couldn’t imagine who wanted to hurt me or my brothers and I couldn’t wait until I saw this guy in court. By now I have been in many courtrooms, but hadn’t been at the time, when I was twenty-six. The main entrance is madness. I mean you have metal detectors everywhere and police officers double on almost every floor. Inside the courtrooms are sitting areas just for the public and they are seated away from any of the lawyers, prosecutors, or judges. In this case, we were separated from others by a glass door entrance. I finally got a chance to see this guy. His family sat on one side, me, my sisters, brother, and mom and dad were on the other side. His family was pretty large, but something was strange about one of the guys that sat on the other side. He would constantly go in and out the courtroom. As the trial went on they showed footage of the shooting; it was caught on camera and it was really disturbing to watch as my mom cried. I was so stuck on this guy that did the shooting, looking to see if I’d ever seen him around Davis Park before. Sad to say, I couldn’t say I did. Once again this same guy got up in the middle of the trial, but this time it has gotten really weird the way he 4 P.M. COUNT

139


paced back and forth out of the courtroom like that, so we decided to go check things out with the guy and into the bathroom he went and so did we. Well, he wasn’t on anything going back into the courtroom after several hours and days of testimony the trial had come to an end. We were then pulled outside into the hallway with the prosecuting attorney and he said, “How are you guys feeling? We have him and he will be going away for a long time; we are pushing for seventy years or better but it’s up to the judge. With that being said, I am so sorry for your loss, Miss.” He was talking to my mother, as she couldn’t stop crying. “Do any of you have anything you want to tell the young man or his attorneys?” My mom said she had nothing to say, at least not at this moment, but I spoke up and said, “I want you to let him know, tell him I said I forgive him and to keep God with him.” At that time we were led back into the courtroom and the verdict was read. They found him guilty and sentenced him to sixty-five years; he was only nineteen and my brother was thirty. I never knew who the guy was but that day was a really sad day. Not only had I lost my brother, but the other family had lost their son as well. Years have passed and I have branded my brother on myself. I put on the back of my arms the dates of when my brother was born and when he died. I also learned that life is so precious, and to take life as seriously as possible because it’s not promised to any of us. The bible says the devil knows his days are shortened and he is trying to recruit as many souls as possible. Please don’t let one of them be yours.

140

4 P.M. COUNT


EIGHTY NINETY-FOUR

Nonfiction

There’s nothing more terrifying in life than when I experienced almost losing my life. When something happened to me some years back, I knew something more powerful in this world saved me and four others that night because it wasn’t our time. This story affects me right now; today, I just don’t let it bother me. I still live my life as normally as possible. The party hadn’t started yet because the New Year hadn’t come in yet, although in a few hours my life would change and so would the New Year. It was the year of 2007 I will never forget my daughter, who is fourteen now, was only six months old at the time. She was a daddy’s girl when she was born; she looks just like me. No one knew how much she was my pride and joy and how I couldn’t ask for anything more precious in this world. Hearing her cry out for a bottle or a diaper change-those times I experienced as a parent are gone and will be missed. She was bowlegged just like I was as a child; I mean it looked like it hurt her as she played and ran. Her skin was so bright like I was as a child, you would have never thought she was mine or her mother’s due to our skin color being dark. All I knew was she was my baby and I wouldn’t have changed that for the world. This time of the year was really cold and all I knew was that I was going to have fun bringing in the New Year. During that year, Coogi, a clothing brand, was popular and I had everything you could think of when it came to the outfits. While getting dressed my sister-in-law and another friend came over and wanted to know where we were going for New Year’s. We all came up with the idea to bring the New Year in at a Chicago nightclub. Downtown Chicago nightclubs were a little too expensive, and time wasn’t on our side. We had three hours to get ready and be out the door, plus my newborn needed a babysitter. We asked my child mother’s mom if it was OK for her to keep the baby 4 P.M. COUNT

141


that night, while we went out for the evening. That plan didn’t work because she had to work the following morning, and she already had my sister-in-law’s kids. So we were forced to bring my six-month-old along for the ride. It took at least an hour and a half to make it to Chicago, depending on the traffic; time was not on our side so we had to leave soon. We were pressing for time but right before leaving, my brother decided he wanted to tag along. He told me that he wasn’t going to be drinking any alcohol. All he wanted to do was blow purple haze out the sunroof. It was cool with me so he became the designated driver. We had so many bottles of liquor and we were throwing shots back like Michael Jordan was taking in the NBA playoff games during the 90s. We were finally on our way to Chicago, singing some old songs that we had remembered. I was fresh and clean and you couldn’t tell me anything, everybody was looking really nice that night. Halfway to Chicago I was really feeling the liquor as it creeped up on me. At that time I was pretty tipsy and everyone with me besides my brother were also. We were driving in a ‘96 Pontiac Bonneville, the SSE version. Oh, the love I had for them cars back then. I was riding shotgun, my brother was driving, my kid’s mother was in the middle, with my daughter on her lap, and my sister-in-law and friend were on each side of her in the back seat. We were packed down but we made it happen. My mother lived on the West Side of Chicago and we decided to head toward her house for her to meet her grandbaby for the first time. We had finally made it to my mother’s, but with little time to spare I spoke quickly, asking her to keep an eye on her grandbaby until the club let out and without hesitation she agreed. At this moment I was about wasted. There were open liquor bottles on the backseat floor as we headed to the club. We decided not to go downtown; we wanted to keep it local, and went somewhere that had room to let us in. We made it on time before the ball dropped; we drank more and danced and took pictures. We had a ball. I was drunk and still my brother hadn’t picked up one drink, but he 142

4 P.M. COUNT


smoked the whole time. It was almost three in the morning and the club was getting ready to let out, so we started to head toward my mother’s to pick up my daughter. When we made it to my mother’s, I was so happy to see my daughter and was ready to get home and lie down. With a kiss and a good night/good morning to my mother, we headed toward Eisenhower and then the Dan Ryan. Soon we were on interstate 80/94, heading east toward Indiana. My daughter was sleeping on the knees of her mother in the back seat as we headed home. She was not in a car seat because there wasn’t any room for it. And now that I write this, I see that that wasn’t very smart. Thirty minutes had passed and the ride took us into a comfortable moment of relaxation and soon to sleep. I was very drunk and all I could remember was looking back at my daughter as she lay on the knees of her mother and asking my brother was he OK to drive as I slurred my words. I was soon awakened with the sound of terror and screaming that came from the back seat. I saw frost on the grass blades that were pressed against the glass of the passenger side window. We were in a ditch with the car tilted sideways, making it hard to get out of the passenger side of the car. I looked back for my daughter and was relived to see that she was still sleeping. At that time I was well awake. The alcohol that I had drunk must have left my body from being so scared. We had to act quickly before the cops came. We had to get the car seat out of the trunk and ditch the open liquor bottles. I was upset but happy at the same time, because we were all safe and we were able to go home that morning. It was about 4:15 a.m.; it had felt like I was asleep for seven or eight hours but I awakened to what seemed to be my last. Not before long, the cops pulled up asking if we were OK. The cop was pretty cool; he didn’t ask for any license or whether we had been drinking. He called for a tow truck and then escorted my daughter’s mother and my daughter and my sister-in-law to his car to stay warm. Not before long the tow truck had pulled up, and the driver had to winch the car out the ditch. I thought the car was OK to drive, but after the car was pulled out we noticed that it 4 P.M. COUNT

143


had three flat tires. The car had to be towed and I wondered what else could go wrong. It was too early in the morning to call for someone to come pick us up, and at that moment we had to figure out how we were getting home, which was an hour or so away if we were to drive. The officer told us he was able to take us to a nearby McDonald’s and we could figure things out from there. We piled into the tow truck, with the girls in the police car and headed towards a McDonalds’ that was about to open that morning. At the McDonald’s, the golden arch had just lit up and the workers were just clocking in, as we started to unload from the police car and tow truck. The cop made sure we were okay and soon was on his way back to work. The manager was nice and asked if we needed anything to eat or drink. We ordered and they prepared the food and then we began asking my brother questions. I asked him what happened and he told me he really didn’t know what had happened. He said while we were asleep the car had some issue with the steering wheel pulling left, and that’s when he lost control. He then went on and said that the traffic was five minutes behind him. That’s when the car did two three sixties and spun out of control and into the ditch. I found it all too hard to believe, because I knew my car and it was not pulling to the left. I felt he was lying, well I knew he was lying. The food came and we ate and now we had to figure out how we were getting home. The manager suggested we take the train to where we were going, but we still didn’t know how we were getting to the train station. After hearing what happened to us on the highway, one of the McDonald’s workers decided he would give us a ride to the metro train station. We piled into his little Nissan and headed toward the metro train station which was about fifteen minutes away. It was now 5:30 a.m. and we were at the station that had no one else there but us. We were hoping that the train would be there soon. We waited in a room that was closed off with glass, just trying to figure out when the train would arrive. The room had had coffee, soda, and change machines, and a long bench 144

4 P.M. COUNT


that would soon become our resting area. I couldn’t sleep so I stayed awake because I was worried about our safety and when the train would arrive. As I watched everyone sleep I was paying attention to the traffic of people that started to come in. It was a very cold Saturday morning. I then asked some people who had come in when the train would arrive, and they told me at 8:00 a.m. It was now about seven in the morning and we had been there for almost three hours waiting on the train. I knew my brother wasn’t being himself; it seemed he wanted to tell me something but didn’t know how. The train had finally arrived and we loaded onto it. My sister-in-law’s kids were with her mother; her mother had to work that morning and she was really upset, mainly because we hadn’t made it back home. Someone needed to pick up the kids. Still having the thought of almost losing my life a few hours earlier, in the back of my mind lurked a pain of knowing my brother wasn’t telling me the truth of what really happened. While on the train I got a little rest; I dozed off and was soon awakened by the conductor calling out the next stop. The two-hour ride home, due to having to make other stops, seemed to be taking longer than what I thought. I was tired but more frustrated than anything. My daughter was the strongest out of all of us. I mean she really didn’t cry and wasn’t a problem like most babies can be in a situation like what we went through. My mother-in-law had missed work because of what had happened and was really upset, in fact she didn’t care what had happened to us. The ride home in the car didn’t seem like we were even family; it felt so awkward it was like we were strangers toward each other. The conversation about the accident never came back up during the ride home. We had finally made it home and at that moment I was without a car. I had to get the money together to pay the impound fees. The car was basically in Chicago and I had to make my way back to get the car out of the impound. Once we made it home my mother-in-law blew up, not wanting to 4 P.M. COUNT

145


hear what happened. My brother went his way, but not long after was arrested for trespassing. He had not been back home for more than an hour and a half after that happened to him, and all I could think of was God didn’t like ugly. I was notified by some of the neighborhood guys that he was locked up and then I was trying to figure out how to get bond money to get him out. I think that the New Year wasn’t my new year because everything was going wrong for almost twenty-four hours. I was really shocked at how much I had to handle on my own. I thought that God had something out for me, because there was so much that was and I didn’t know how to deal with it. I was lost on what to deal with first and how to deal with it, especially with my newborn, the car being in the impound and how to get to the impound. I was out of answers at that time. My brother got out the next day, a Sunday. The impound lot was still adding money for storage and for the towing fees on New Year’s and I was already at $250. They charged by the day and that Sunday I was at $270 and still was short on all the money. I also had to get three tires because of the flats. What more could go wrong? That Sunday morning we attended church and my brother came along for the ride, but something didn’t seem right with him. I saw the look all over his face like something was wrong. The church service was amazing as usual but something made it even more special. The pastor of the church asked some of the congregation to speak about their New Year’s Eve and how they spent their New Year. This was strange because this was something I hadn’t ever seen before; they had to stand up in front of a full congregation. The craziest thing happened; then a few people got up and spoke about their New Year’s and what they did. This one guy stood up and was telling how his New Years went and out of the blue he said he was in a terrible car accident with his family and how they almost didn’t make it. I was almost in tears when he spoke, but not until my brother stood up out of nowhere and said what shocked me. 146

4 P.M. COUNT


He stood up and told what had happened during the ride coming back from Chicago. He admitted that while he was driving he dozed off behind the wheel. I think the guy who spoke up first made him feel some type of guilt. Besides, we were in church. God must have laid his hand on his heart to tell the truth and that’s all I was looking for. I felt so much relief even though I had already felt like that something like that had happened anyway. After he spoke he looked at me in tears, and as we hugged the crowd of people clapped as we sat down. I learned something that day; I learned that life can be a handful and it can also be a blessing. It was amazing how after my brother lied, God stepped in and put his hands on my brother’s heart to come clean and used other people to let him know who’s in control. I think that year I paid attention more to what was the right thing to do and how to understand what matters at hand first before bottling up emotions that were out of my control. I also found out later on who was really in control the whole time. It was something or someone with a greater power that’s not seen but is always with us.

4 P.M. COUNT

147


FPC YANKTON ARTWORK

148

4 P.M. COUNT


Artwork by John Adams

4 P.M. COUNT

149


Artwork by John Adams

150

4 P.M. COUNT


Artwork by John Adams

4 P.M. COUNT

151


Artwork by John Adams

152

4 P.M. COUNT


Artwork by John Adams

4 P.M. COUNT

153


Artwork by John Adams

Artwork by Jacob Reagan

154

4 P.M. COUNT


Artwork by Robert Asche

Artwork by Robert Asche 4 P.M. COUNT

155


Artwork by Kevin Myles II, assisted by Robert Asche

156

4 P.M. COUNT


Artwork by Robert Asche

4 P.M. COUNT

157


Artwork by Robert Asche

Artwork by Robert Asche 158

4 P.M. COUNT


Artwork by Robert Asche

4 P.M. COUNT

159


Artwork by Robert Asche

160

4 P.M. COUNT


Artwork by Corey Beckstrom

4 P.M. COUNT

161


Artwork by David Bern

162

4 P.M. COUNT


Artwork by Robert Asche

4 P.M. COUNT

163


Artwork by Robert Asche

Artwork by Robert Asche

164

4 P.M. COUNT


Artwork by Jacob Reagan

Artwork by Jacob Reagan

4 P.M. COUNT

165


Artwork by Jacob Reagan

166

4 P.M. COUNT


Artwork by Jacob Reagan

4 P.M. COUNT

167


Artwork by Jacob Reagan

168

4 P.M. COUNT


Artwork by Jacob Reagan

4 P.M. COUNT

169


Artwork by Jacob Reagan

170

4 P.M. COUNT


Artwork by Jacob Reagan

4 P.M. COUNT

171


Artwork by Jacob Reagan

172

4 P.M. COUNT


Artwork by Jacob Reagan

4 P.M. COUNT

173


Artwork by Jacob Reagan

174

4 P.M. COUNT


Artwork by Jacob Reagan

4 P.M. COUNT

175


Artwork by Jacob Reagan

176

4 P.M. COUNT


Artwork by Jacob Reagan

4 P.M. COUNT

177


Artwork by Jacob Reagan

178

4 P.M. COUNT


Artwork by Jacob Reagan

4 P.M. COUNT

179


Artwork by Jacob Reagan

180

4 P.M. COUNT


Artwork by Jacob Reagan

4 P.M. COUNT

181


Artwork by Jacob Reagan

Artwork by Jacob Reagan

182

4 P.M. COUNT


Artwork by Lester Moore

4 P.M. COUNT

183


Artwork by Lester Moore

184

4 P.M. COUNT


Artwork by Roberto Valdez

4 P.M. COUNT

185


Artwork by Roberto Valdez

186

4 P.M. COUNT


Artwork by Roberto Valdez

4 P.M. COUNT

187


Artwork by Jacob Reagan

Artwork by Jacob Reagan

188

4 P.M. COUNT


Artwork by Sareth Thath

4 P.M. COUNT

189


Artwork by Jesse Salmons-Rice

Artwork by Tyler Sutton

190

4 P.M. COUNT


Artwork by Roberto Valdez

Artwork by Roberto Valdez

4 P.M. COUNT

191


Artwork by Roberto Valdez

192

4 P.M. COUNT


Artwork by Roberto Valdez

Artwork by Roberto Valdez

4 P.M. COUNT

193


Mural by Bern, Valdez, Edwards

Mural by Bern, Valdez, Edwards

194

4 P.M. COUNT


Mural by Bern, Valdez, Edwards

Mural by Bern, Valdez, Edwards

4 P.M. COUNT

195


Mural by Bern, Edwards, Valdez

Mural by Bern, Edwards, Valdez

196

4 P.M. COUNT


4 P.M. COUNT

197


198

4 P.M. COUNT