General Flash Fiction posted February 21, 2010

This work has reached the exceptional level
The Mind is ... The Heart is ... Prison is ...


by Jay Squires

The author has placed a warning on this post for violence.
The author has placed a warning on this post for sexual content.
What I remembered first, nine years, seventeen days earlier, was the shriek and my sprint toward it. In a shadowed place between the dorms, the larger figure on top turning a bewildered face, scrambling, turning, reeling. A missed blow caroming off his shoulder, and another that found the angular bone of his jaw, a mist of alcohol left behind his twisting sprawl; his bellying the grass, writhing.

And, looking down at her, I had only a blurred sense of the other scuttling, crablike, on his hands-and-knees, somehow finding his feet and lurching off into the darkness. She was motionless, but her strange sea-green eyes followed me. Her mouth and nose were bloodied; her flowered blouse ripped and pulled to the side, peek-a-booing her breast. Somewhere, far off, I heard a siren. She whimpered as I gently tugged her skirt, wadded at the small of her back, down over her buttocks and smoothed the skirt-front down to cover her thighs. Her eyes anchored to mine.

I couldn't remember when memory ended. I know I'd been considering whether to attempt the pleasantly illicit adventure of pulling up her torn panties that hung off one shoeless foot when a sharp, white pain launched my oblique slide into darkness.

Jamie -- that was her name -- was a vegetable. At the trial, the doctor asserted that while her brain functions tested normal, her speech loss and paralysis must have been the body's mode of coping with her savage attack. Her eyes locked eerily on mine.

They entered my journals as evidence. As a writer I'm nothing if not honest about myself to myself. They were meant for no other eyes. Yet their private truths helped publicly convict me.

That and sundry other things. My past was spotty: Drug possession at eighteen; nabbed at twenty, lifting a six-pack from a 7-11; and worse ... an arrest for stalking my former girlfriend. Everything circumstantial, but this last one, especially, didn't set well with the jury.

Prison was not as unpleasant as I'd have thought. Some there didn't like me. Some did. Fortunately, those who did were greater in number and body mass. I was left pretty much alone with my writing. The guards loved me. They gave me a notebook three days a week to write on, returning it and the pen at each hour's end. I invented intricately plotted scenarios concerning the torturing of a man I named Herman. Each session was more graphic than the previous. I never revealed that Herman was the one I was doing time for.

I didn't dare write about Jamie. Had there been a more divine distancing, I might've carved with words the meaning behind her engraving eyes -- how those eyes, in their helpless vacancy, possessed my solitary nights ... Why I strangely embraced them. Without the focus on paper of thought-wedded-to-word, my imagination tethered itself to a flotilla of vagabond images: the image of her firm, white thighs, the torn panties, hanging from her bare foot like the flag of a vanquished country. Those same eyes that possessed me now justifiably convicted me. No, not me, but the maleness of me! At the trial, her mother called me an animal and spat. Animals, we, yes! The image of the bewildered attacker floated by. "There, but for the grace of God go I ...." In my heart, I was as guilty of the crime as he. Jesus affirmed it! A strange peace blanketed me. I smiled. I had the advantage he denied himself. I was able to physically atone for it. Oh, sweet penance!

But something was happening in the other's life I wouldn't learn about until later. Seven years into my sojourn (and oddly traceable to the day of my epiphany) ... on the dirt floor of an enormous tent in a small town, Roger Reynard lay on his face, in the presence of 900 believers, and he bawled. Crucified by memories, he wailed, "Jesus, I've sinned and am not worthy of your love. A man's in prison for the rape I committed." Then, falling into profound silence, it was there, he later confessed that Jesus told him what he must do.

Still, no one believed him. Painfully he discovered when the judicial system speaks, it resists mightily any retraction. Roger was not a poor man, but it exhausted all his considerable assets to enlist the best legal minds to work with the only focus being to bring the scales of justice to right balance.

Two years, seventeen days later, two prison doors in two states opened. Through one Roger Reynard, beaming, at peace, entered. Through the other, I departed with a Federal apology and a hundred thirty-two thousand dollars in a brand-new account.

I knew I should have been happy ....

Flash Fiction contest entry


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