Trash of the Gods.  Chapter 6. Junior Year, a chunk of life in 300 words or less.

Junior year I didn’t see much of Robert, I still hung out with Steve and the guys but Robert was rarely around, he had some girl friend junior year, Vicky, and he still had the heroine.
I still didn’t know about the heroine yet, but every time I did see Robert, his arms and legs were bruised. I would later realize these were track marks. Either I was in denial or really ignorant of the reality of the situation, or maybe I was too fucked up, in any case I just had no idea Robert really needed help.
 Some of the time, on days we’d actually see him, he’d be light hearted and warm, and I just thought he was super stoned.  
On other days he would just be out right vicious. It was as if he had to either fight someone or break something, he just lashed out at everyone like he had to destroy for the sake of destroying.
And he started to bully his friends, especially me.
That would be his days going through withdrawal.
And while all that went on; 
I was high and drunk most of the year.
I almost failed physics.
I got into a fight with a fat racist kid who was obsessed with Glenn Beck.
I almost dated a blonde republican girl who tried to get me clean. I didn’t get clean. She went back to her boyfriend. He looked very smug at me as he walked to her car one day.
That’s all I can remember from junior year.

 

Advertisements

Trash of the Gods : Chapter 1, The Painting

I originally met Robert in the sixth grade. Not even twelve and he was an orphan living with his Aunt. I didn’t know this about him for the first two weeks I knew him, I only found out about it when I told him a yo’mama joke and he punched me as hard as he could in the stomach.
I apologized, of course, when he told me his parents were dead from heroin overdoses and the matter blew over in a few minutes, but I’ll never forget the anger in Robert’s eyes that day, and the bizarre joker like laughter he had not two seconds after the fact as he pointed and laughed at my cringing from the gut.
I don’t think he was ever really mad I made a joke about his dead mom, I think he was mad that I exposed his soft spot. Robert was very kind and giving person, but he viewed the world as a prisoner does, one instance of softness and they’ll all be out to get you. That was Robert’s way of thinking. Because he never grew up with a mother, she had died far away, caring more about heroin than her own son. In a way Robert was probably more like his parent’s than he ever knew in the end.
Robert and I were sort of meant to be friends. Out of a sixth grade class of 60 from a Bukoskieaque Middle School, Robert and I were the only ones who actually seemed to like reading and learning. Neither one of us like our teachers or our school, but the one thing that kept us interested in school was the reading. The only problem was that Robert hated the books the school offered for our required reading, I thought they were okay but Robert pointed out to me how they were patronizing and low brow and stupid, how we were capable of reading better. I took refuge in our school’s supply of Agatha Christie’s and indulged on Hercule poroit, my dad watched those shows, and I wanted to be like my dad.  
Robert’s obsessions by age 12 were Brave New World and 1984, both of which I had never heard of yet nor would I read them until much later in life. That’s why I started hanging out with Robert, he was always so much farther ahead of the curve than I was, and all I ever wanted to do was just catch up with him.
It wasn’t long after middle school that Robert introduced me to pot and LSD. Ever the Huxley fan, “The doors of perception have been opened to you” he said the morning I woke up and came to school with my first acid hangover. He then flicked me in my third eye and walked to class as I rubbed my forehead, annoyed with him yet again.
I was only fourteen at the time, and I had developed a new obsession. My identity became marijuana and drugs I thought it made me a badass. Unbeknownst to me Robert had already tried cocaine and had a frequent supplier, our pot dealer Andy.
Andy was a fat piece of shit. The 26 year old guy with an ugly goatee that your mother warns you about. The 26 year old man who makes his living by selling weed to teenagers. The 26 year old addict who is so desperate for customers and company he gives a free supply of heroin to a teenager.
 Yet like a blind fool, I had no idea what was really going on, or if I did I pretended not to. I was so wasted most of the time it’s hard to remember what I felt and when sometimes.
Andy was the leading pot dealer to the druggie crew that hung out by the strip mall outside of school. This place became a hot bed for creepy drug dealers and malicious perverts harassing teenagers, and Robert and I were among the customers to frequent the place constantly. For most of the school it was just a place to score drugs then bounce, for the drug people like us, it was the place where you hung out.
Before long the place was a cop magnet, and everyday my friends and I found ourselves on the other side of the law.
One day the heat was on heavy, so Robert said, “My aunt’s not home lets go to my house.”  
I was a little surprised to realize that despite how long I had known Robert I’d never actually been to his house. I met his Aunt before, but for some reason Robert’s house was never our base of operations.
We got to Robert’s house, Robert and I with our friends Steve and Sam. Steve was sort of a living rally point. Everyone in the group had some kind of connection to Steve. He was that guy who might not be friends with everyone, but he was definitely cool with everyone. He wasn’t the most brilliant guy in the world either, a sort of simple mix of skater, punk, and metalhead. Don’t get me wrong he wasn’t stupid, just, simple.
Sam was kind of the opposite. No one outside of the strip mall drug circle really knew or cared who he was. He was the Ben Affleck in our Dazed and Confused, our Super Senior. He was the guy who could buy us pipes, papers, and cigarettes before anyone else. He always hung out with Steve, even when Steve got tired of Sam. 
 Sam clung to Steve like a helpless stray dog. Despite Sam’s extensive arrest record and dangerous profile, looking back on it I can’t help but feel that’s all he ever got to be in this life, a stray dog no one in his family or school wanted. But still, Steve welcomed him, that was just the sort of guy he was.
I had always known Robert’s house was within walking distance, but until now I had never thought it unusual that I hadn’t been there yet, despite how long we had been friends. When we got to the door, he unlocked to what seemed like the gateway to an episode of Hoarder’s decorated by a midwestern housewife. The shelves were clogged with figurines and grandma knick knacks. A TV hung in the middle of the room facing a box-crowded couch. Robert guided us around the corner to a room with a silk blue cloth drape hanging instead of a door.
Aside from the minimal privacy, Robert had a cool room. Tool, Fight Club, and Dr. Hunter S Thompson decorated the room. A copy of House of Leaves sat on his desk, opened and lying face down at the half way point of the novel. A couch faced his long desk complete with a TV and speakers. Despite everything clearly being taken from a thrift store or just picked up off the street, one had to admit it was a pretty awesome haven for a stoner.  
Robert grabbed a bottle of Jack, something that was always in supply on his desk, and had us pass it around as he packed his weed into Steve’s pipe. He passed it to Steve who started the bowl and started passing it along with the Jack. Robert put some Tom Waits on the speakers, and our tedious teenage conversations carried on. Steve and Robert would vent about their on again off again girlfriends, and Sam would offer advice as if it was solicited.  
I usually kept quite during these coversations, I was a virgin at this time. That was something I always tried to learn from Robert, he had none of the problems with women I had at the time, by the time I had slept with one girl, he had slept with twenty. Anytime I met a girl in the school I liked, Robert had no problem reminding me that I would be having his sloppy seconds. Needless to say, sex was an uncomfortable subject at the time.
As Steve was packing another bowl, Robert clapped his hands and gave a loud “Oh Shit!” and a smile as he looked at us wide eyed through his shaggy deep copper hair that was over its usual shave off. The sudden loud noise gave us a short instance of stunned paranoia that only stoners will understand. That half a second panic attack that stops your heart, then restarts it gently as you slowly exhale.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Now that you guys are here, I want to show you guys something.” Robert said as he stood up and walked over to the corner by his closet. He picked up a canvas that had been facing the wall and turned it to face us.
“Damn,” said Steve

“Oh Shit dude,” added Sam. That was all Steve and Sam could think of to say.
I was awestruck, I had seen Robert’s sketch books and doodles in class since middle school, but I had never seen him show me anything like this.
What Robert showed us almost didn’t even seem like a painting, but a photograph illuminated with psychedelic hues. Imagine seeing into your own soul, only to find strands of your DNA and it’s double helixes in a massive pool, so you look into a single helix, to see into your own make up, only to find space, and a dark blue cloud just floating in the corner. That is what I saw that day, a psychedelic portrait of the insides of our own construction, fixed with a dark blue cloud hanging in some distant horizon within.
“Rob,” I said trying to rack my stoned brain for something eloquent and complimentary to say. “That’s beautiful.”
He chuckled at my use of such flowery language and just said, “Thanks man.” Robert knew I had a tendency for such affectionate language, but Robert was not one to show such sentiment, he found it “gay.” Of course I think it was really because it was trying to protect himself from getting hurt again.
Steve and Sam took advantage of the opportunity and riffed me without mercy. I just shrugged and ignored them. “I have to remember to stop being so emotional around the guys,” I told myself.
Still though, I could tell Robert was pleased by the reaction he got out of me, he never stopped smiling whenever I talked to him the rest of the afternoon about my status on reading his copy of House of Leaves.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

 

TRASH of The GODS : Preface

The obituary didn’t mention that he was drunk, riding his bike down the wrong side of the street, when the SUV knocked him to the concrete. Robert was killed instantly and pronounced dead on the scene.
Robert had issues, to say the least. I think he wasn’t even 17 when he tried heroin for the first time. I always forget when his birthday actually was. All I know is he went from being my best friend, to a distant memory, to now, just gone, nothing. That’s what you are when you’re dead, you’re just nothing for the rest of eternity.
I learned about his death from Facebook. I found my newsfeed bombarded by my old high school friends and acquaintances, all of them mourning the tragic and sudden end to Robert’s life. When you think about it, it’s not fun to live in an age where you can get that kind of the news when you’re just trying to kill a few minutes on the toilet.
I hadn’t seen Robert for 2 years when I had heard the news. Last time I had seen him was at a chance meeting at a party when I was visiting home from college. I had cut off contact with him a year earlier after his addiction had taken hold of him to the point he was a different person. The Robert who was my friend was a kind, intelligent, yet disturbed individual. The Robert who I left behind after high school was so out of his mind that one night he drank a whole bottle of whiskey to his dome then apparently gave his girlfriend the worst black eye possible.  
Now he was a thief to. A junky, a thief, an abuser, and I hated him for all those reasons.
I wish I had helped. We all think of what we could have done or said when someone’s gone, I don’t know why we are so afraid to tell each other what we really think when we know we are right.
This is the story of Robert McKenna, my friend. My name is Will Martin, this is not my story. It was never my story, no matter how much I wanted it to be.
This story is about Robert, just like everything else, it’s always been about Robert.

Gramercy, The Journey of Jack Lewis. Chapter 11

Chapter 11 Portlandians

On the third day, the rain had not stopped, and Jack rose that morning in such a hungover stupor that he felt like he was rising from the dead.  He stumbled drunkenly into the bathroom and emptied his water-ballooned bladder.  He was groggy, he didn’t realize how strong those ales Nancy drank were.

Jack could tell that the place was empty, Nancy was nowhere to be found.  Jack thought nothing of it and proceeded to load bong hits.  Nancy returned fifteen minutes later with another twelve pack of beer and a few groceries, soaked from the storm still raging outside.

“We are in luck,” said Nancy.

“Why is that?” asked Jack.

“I just cashed my last check, and now I got hella beer money.”  Nancy chuckled and lit a cigarette.  He gave one to Jack along with a beer.  Jack reluctantly accepted, remembering it was blasphemy in his world to pass a free drink.

They resumed their past activities of shit talking trash tv while getting drunk and stoned.  Until after a loud crash of lightning and thunder, when the entire house went black.

“Ah fuck!” said Nancy with a chuckle, which made it hard to tell if he was seriously upset or not.

“Well let’s just drink and smoke.” Jack proposed.

They continued and jabbered on to twiddle the hours.  This time Nancy went on a tirade about how it’s unconstitutional to pay taxes, which didn’t sound quite right to Jack, but he decided not to challenge it. He was not in the mood for a debate; he didn’t care if he was right or not.  Jack liked Nancy, and he wasn’t about to instigate conflict by challenging his views.

The conversation then shifted to Nancy giving a thirty minute tirade about how stupid twitter was, and it ended with Jack admitting he had no clue what twitter was.  Nancy explained it to him as “stalking made easy.”  Then asked if he hadn’t heard about prisoners sneaking in phones where he got locked up.

“All the time,” Jack admitted.  

“That’s one of the things they do with them, they actually updated their facebooks and twitters with shit like, ‘Oh shit some nigga just got shanked and shit like that.’”  Nancy explained.  “Charles Manson actually just got in trouble for that, but it makes me wonder how the fuck he got a cell phone.  I mean a guy like him has to be pretty hard to get to.”

Jack pointed out that Manson did have a wife who visits him, and Nancy and him both had a laugh about how desperate that bitch must have been.  Then they both cringed a little at how crazy the bitch must be.

The conversation shifted back to an explanation of twitter.  Which led to a conversation about Facebook, which Nancy also hated, and from Facebook trends in general.  Which lead to a conversation about dub-step.  Jack admitted had no idea what it was, and Nancy immediately told him, “Good,  it’s the worst trend in music and it’s an embarrassment to guys like you and me who don’t waste our time when we get fucked up.  All dub-step is, is techno on ecstasy and acid.  It sucks.  It is the shittiest music genre ever.  It’s worse than country, hell with country you have to at least have enough intellect to come up with lyrics, shitty though they may be.  But with dub-step all you need is a mix-table and a laptop, hell you don’t even need the fucking mix table.  All you need to make dub-step is a laptop, mainly because any dub-step song you make no matter what you use sounds the fucking same.  The people who make dub-step don’t think so, they think they’re being fucking artists, and they get all pompous and bull-shitty about it.  Now every jerk off with a PC can “make music” while spanking it to Bree Olsen and then go around calling himself a musician.  It pisses me OFF!”

Jack had seen people in his cell block get stabbed, he heard them getting raped during quiet hours, and he had seen his father beat his mother to the point of death.  None of those things scared Jack anymore.  This reaction of Nancy’s, scared the living piss out of him, but like usual, he kept his composure and all he did was nod, and reply with, “I know what you mean.”

The time passed, Jack and Nancy passed the hours by drinking more beer, smoking more pot, and swapping stories.  Jack told Nancy about meeting Leonard Peltier and how many shankings he had witnessed, 75, and Nancy told him about countless nights of blurred drunken escapades that generally involved either a sardonic take on satanism or some anti societal bias.

The storm passed the next day.  Jack resolved it was time to leave his friend and carry on.  Around noon they shared one last beer and bong rip, and they parted ways.  As he walked away Nancy yelled out, “Remember you’re out and you can stay out. I know your girlfriend Bubba will miss you, but you’re a good guy, you don’t belong in jail.”

Jack said his thanks as he walked away, he felt bad he didn’t show more emotion because that was actually one of the nicest things anyone had said to him.

“A little kindness from a stranger can go a long way.”  Jack resolved to himself.  He knew he would miss Nancy just as much as he missed Fiona, Alex, and Kobe.  He wondered if they ever thought about him, but soon resolved that he didn’t care.

“I don’t need people,” Jack always told himself, “I didn’t need them in prison and I don’t need them now.”  Jack was very much in denial in regards to these matters.  Like anyone in denial he knew he was, but still like everyone of them he told himself he didn’t care.

It was immediately after he had this thought that a homeless thug came up from behind and bashed him in the head, and robbed him blind.

Jack didn’t wake up for nearly two days, when he woke up he had no shoes and no cash, not even his books.  Blood covered half of his face, some of it still wet and other parts drying to a deep red crust.  He was slumped in front of a free clinic, according to a homeless man, he got dumped in front of the free clinic when he was taken to a hospital and it was found he had no insurance.  They didn’t notice he was also an escaped felon.

Jack got his wound sewn shut after a three hour wait.  He wandered the streets circling block upon block, his beard dirty and stained with dried crusty blood, lost in a confused amnesia like daze.  For the first time in years Jack felt alone, scared desperate, and confused.  He was like a three year old lost in the supermarket looking for his mom.  He was clutching his dirty hobo hair on the verge of tears, lost in fear and anxiety.  As soon as the world started to spin, Jack passed out again.

Every few hours Jack would open his eyes, only for few seconds, and then suddenly they would close again.  Every time he opened them he saw something different.  First he saw what looked like the shadows of humans surrounding him.  Then he felt like he was being carried, moved , as if he was flying, he opened his eyes only to a bright beam of sun behind a form sitting next to him.  He still felt like he was flying.

He didn’t wake up until the next day.  It was to the smell and sizzle of fresh bacon.  He awoke with a start.  Could it be he was back with his college friends?

No, he wasn’t.  He immediately realized thathe was not in a beachfront house, but an apartment, that looked like it was decorated by Tommy Chong and the Grateful Dead. Tapestries with celtic knots and tie dye covered the windows.  Hendrix, Morrison, and Zeppelin posters decorated the rooms.  The person cooking in the kitchen was some hipster in a thrift store sweater, fitted jeans and a beanie with a strand of hair sticking out over one eye.  At the table was a pale kid with brown short hair and a lime green sweatshirt with the faded logo of some college no one’s ever heard of, he was strumming a baby blue nylon string guitar and singing about things he saw around the room. “Lamp, Lamp, Oh Oh I looovve Lamp.”  He stopped when he noticed Jack coming to.  

“He’s awake.” he told the guy in the beanie cheerfully.  

The man cooking turned around to show he had a thin beard and glasses.  He smiled along with his friend at the table. “Good, he looks way better.”

“Yeah he’ll be alright,”  replied the guitarist.

“Where am I?” Jack asked still delirious from his pulsating brain.  

“You’re in our apartment, we found you lying on the sidewalk with that bump on your head and that mutilated hand of yours and we thought “Wow, this guy needs help,” said the guy with the guitar.

“We were going to take you to a hospital but a guy lying knocked out outside of a free clinic doesn’t seem think you would have insurance,” said the guy in the beanie.  “So we brought you here, did what we could for your wounds, you know, cleaned them and treated them with this balm.”

“Then we laid you down on the couch.  You’ve been out for almost a day,” completed the guitarist.  “I’m Hal, and this is Conner.”

“Nice to meet you.”  Jack said, “I’m Jack.  Thank you, that was an incredibly nice thing of you to do.”  He was amazed, that was probably the nicest thing anyone had done for him, up to this point at least.  These two had such a happy friendly air that Jack couldn’t help but feel happy along with them despite his pain, which was thankfully starting to die away.

“How are you feeling?” asked Conner.  

“I’m feeling better, thank you.”  Jack replied.

“So what’s your story stranger?”  asked Hal after a dramatic strum.  “How did you get all these wounds if you don’t mind me asking?”  

Jack explained to them about the gash on his head and how the store clerk mutilated his palm.  There only response was “Damn that’s fucked up,” followed by a comical tirade by Hal about how bad guns are.  

Jack sat down at the table as Conner served the breakfast and joined them.  Jack also explained that he was homeless because he was an ex convict, and about his past thefts.  Hal sympathized.  “I was put on probation for Opium possession when I was in college.”

“Bummer,”  was Jack’s reply.  Jack remembered when he was first put on probation when he was seventeen.  Some bitch in school lied and told the cops he held a knife to her throat.  Jack got two years probation and had to see a counselor.  He faked his way through therapy then got busted again.

Jack enjoyed the company of these two.  They had the air of living cartoon characters who were only concerned with having fun.  Through their talks they revealed to Jack that they were musicians in a band.  The had been working a lot of local gigs for the last couple of years, to the point where they can even make a decent living off of it.  They had a few demos recorded but no official album.  “Our dream is to get a record deal,” said Conner.

“We are getting there,”  added Hal.  “Our gigs are getting bigger and bigger and a lot of people follow our shows.  So we already have fans.”

“We are going to be having practice soon if you want to hang out and listen,”  said Conner.  “The other members should be here around three.”

“I’m down.” said Jack, he felt the least he could do for these guys was listen to their music after they took him out of the cold, fed him, and treated his wounds.  

The two smiled and were happy to have someone to play for.  They spent the morning smoking a joint and playing Super Smash Brothers, waiting for the rest of the band to show up.  The other two members showed up and introduced themselves.  One was a long haired hippie named Seth, who Jack decided he liked immediately because he had as friendly of an air as Hal and Conner.  The other guy, was Jason, a non pot smoker but avid drinker who showed up with two bottles of whiskey for everyone.

The band got their stuff together and started playing.  They rehearsed their songs and covers, then worked on a new song for an hour or so.  Jack enjoyed their sound, they sounded like a return to the rock n roll of CCR in an indie band with synthesizers added to the mix.  Jason was a fantastic drummer, and Seth’s bass was perfect with Conner’s vocals and his guitar.  From song to song, Hal jumped from a drum to a keyboard to a rhythm guitar, and he did it with such ease that Jack was impressed.  When their practice was finished Jack gave them a genuine applause and praise.  

“We have a gig in a few nights if you want to come?” said Seth.

“I’d love to.”  Jack said

After the rehearsal, Jack spent the hours smoking with the members of the band and conversing.  Jason didn’t partake but he stayed and hung out while serving everyone whiskey.   While they got stoned, Seth and Conner began doing some half baked philosophy.

“You see I don’t think you can say humankind is good or evil,” said Conner as he toked up.  “I think that people are what their surroundings make them and what they choose to be.  You know, like good and evil aren’t really real things”

“That’s not a hundred percent accurate,”  interjected Jack, which surprised no one but Jack, he was never one for philosophy.  “I’ll agree that humans are not intrinsically or naturally one way or another, but good and evil are very real things.  For there to be people who are nice decent and good there has to be people who are pure scum.  I’ve been in Jail for a long time, I’ve seen both the most disgusting scum ridden piece of shit, and I’ve seen decent guys who just got a bad stroke of luck.  It’s half luck, half effort when it comes to making your own world or defining who you are.  But good and evil are very real.”

“Yeah but what defines good or evil?” said Hal, “Who’s to say what is good or evil?”

“Evil is the unnecessary harm of living things. Harm may be necessary at times, but people who profit or amuse or relish in the suffering and pain of others are evil.  I’ve seen these people.  I can say they were evil.  As for who creates the written in stone definition of the two, that’s completely up to the individual.  I said good and evil were real but I never said they were not relative.”  

Jack was shocked at himself.  That was the most eloquent and intelligent thing he had ever said.  The others nodded their heads and mulled it over, then Hal suddenly changed the topic to opium laws and Andy Warhol.  

Jack didn’t talk for a while after that.  He was confused, awe struck even.  He couldn’t figure out how a schmuck ex con like him, who didn’t even show up for most of his schooling, put together such an intelligent sounding thought.  Then he realized, it was the reading and the travel.  He was finally starting to see a world beyond that which he knew.

The gentlemen got more and more stoned or drunk until they were basically glued to their couches. They eventually passed out on the couches slumped in manners that would destroy their backs and necks the next day.

Gramercy, The Journey of Jack Lewis. Chapter 10

Chapter 10   Nancy

 

Jack walked and walked, depleted of memory or energy.  He felt weak, he needed food and needed it fast.  He was glad to find water fountains so he could drown his dehydration.  Jack hadn’t been in so much pain in years.  So devoid of energy and strength, he felt open and exposed, as if anyone could get him at any time if they wanted to, and it was true.  Any one could get him at this time, Jack was surprised that nobody tried.  Then again they already had.

 

Jack eventually found a mom and pop liquor store.  He walked out with his bags as full as if he had just gone grocery shopping.

 

He walked up half the block before the pop from the store, a sixty something Vietnam vet, fired and reloaded a shot from a small handgun, grazing Jack’s palm, taking out a healthy sized chunck.  Jack looked back and was lucky the old coots eyesight was failing him because he just dodged another bullet meant for his stomach, the last bullet was supposed to go into Jack’s spine.

 

Jack easily outran the bastard but now became aware of the sound of sirens behind him.  Jack thought the sound was coming from at least two blocks behind, and he saw a dumpster ten feet ahead.  He timed it just right and laid low in the dumpster as he heard the sirens pass.  He didn’t hesitate to see how far they were. He just grabbed his stuff and went in the opposite direction of the old coot and the cops.  His palm smeared blood on all his clothes and a big red deformed animal print was left all over the dumpster.

 

The cops hunting Jack would never find it.  They still thought Jack was in Boise.

 

Jack ran grasping his palm in horrific pain.  He took out the pimp’s shirt from his back back and tore a long thin strand of its fabric and wrapped it as tightly as he could around his  hand.  He choked off the bleeding, but couldn’t move a single finger except his thumb.  He could actually see the gap in his palm and see the pool of blood filling it in.  Jack wondered what to do, and he resolved to get the hell out of the city as soon as he could.

 

Jack got out of Portland in a matter of hours and before the day was over, he had entered Washington state.  Jack decided to continue his trek north, as far north as he could go.  Jack would do what it takes, but he resolved he would start a new trek in Canada.  It was far from the authorities and he could fight extradition easily. he wasn’t Leonard Peltier after all, what do the cops have to gain by putting one schmuck like him back into some already over crowded and diseased infested prison.

 

Cops only had the bragging rights to gain, saying they brought in a dangerous, escaped convict. It was all they had to gain by putting Jack back in, and it was all they wanted.  It was all the reason they needed.

 

Some of the guards at Leavenworth even hoped they would bring him back there, and in their hopes were already preparing their taunts and teases for the bugger.  One was going to take Jack’s chains off and leave the front door open and pretend he didn’t have his gun.Then if the bugger made a move for it he would bash his brains into the depths of his bowels.

 

That guard had a heart attack and died the same day he had the idea.

 

Another was going to dangle keys in front of Jacks cage like a game of keep away in an elementary school play yard.

 

Jack was completely oblivious about the fact that the law was going insane trying to bring him in.  The media hadn’t even mentioned the story since Jack first walked out which Jack also hadn’t realized it but that was six months ago.  It had been a whole six months since he saw Kobe Alex and Fiona, he missed them.  Especially the warmth of their home.

 

He decided to camp in a clearing under the stars when his energy was no more.  When he lied down to go to sleep, he could not help but find it a little funny that after he might have knocked up a girl he got shot in his hand.

 

By the time Jack reached Seattle he had finished Ivanhoe and was now beginning The Art of War.  He had been moneyless for days and had stolen every drop of food and alcohol he had when he ran out of goods from the old coot’s store.  The palm caused Jack horrific pain daily, yet with almost everything else Jack saw, he didn’t care.  He honestly couldn’t care less about the safety and cleanliness of his wound, he was more concerned with the lessons to be taught by Sun Tzu.

 

Jack still had no use of his hand except his thumb, but he still managed to get by alright.  The blood had thickened into an almost perfect circle, and had solidified as if Jacks palm had a big red circle in the middle of it creasing into the bottom edge of his pinky.  The streaks and lines on his gushy circle looked like a cross hairs of a sniper rifle.

 

Jack slumped in an alley behind a pizza shop, and stuck his nose in his books, but he was interrupted by the rain.  It started to come down in bucket sized drops, and the wind blew harsh like a tempist storm.  Jack consented to sit in the pizza place until they kicked him out.  He knew that since he couldn’t buy a slice they wouldn’t let him stay too long, but Jack just wanted to be out of the rain.  Now he started to miss his old friends even more.

 

He sat in the farthest corner of the parlor, a 21 year old covered in tattoos came from around the counter and asked if there was anything he could get him.  Jack told him he didn’t have any money and just wanted to get out of the rain.  The obvious death rocker told him it was cool, and he understood. He told Jack he could stay as long as he needed, or until they have a rush and needed the table.

 

Jack thanked the guy and returned to reading.  “The man’s generousity definitly conflicted with the bloody sea creatures and deformed mutants he had tattooed on his arms,” though Jack.

 

Ten minutes later another person, much older and probably the owner, came up to Jack asking the same question, but in a much more forceful irritated and rude manner.  Jack told him the same story, and the man asked him to leave.  Jack told him the other guy told him it was cool.  The man asked to be excused for a second.

 

In the back room he could hear them screaming and shouting.

 

“ITS NOT YOUR FUCKING RESTAURANT ITS MINE.  YOU GOT IT?” the boss screamed.

 

“FUCK YOU,” screamed the tattooed employee.  He continued knowing he was definitely fired after that outburst.  “HE’S JUST A BUM TRYING TO STAY OUT OF THE RAIN.  WHAT THE FUCK AM I SUPPOSED TO DO THROW HIM OUT ON THE STREETS?”

 

“YES!” screamed the owner back, soon following it up with a yelp of pain, a gurgling of blood, and a crash which was then followed by benign yelps of, “PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD JUST GET THE HELL OUT!”

 

Jack soon saw the employee storm out and throw his apron on to the counter.  He put on his leather jacket and walked out into the rain.  Jack followed after him.

 

“THANKS.” Jack cried out sincerely.

 

The tattooed death rocker had let his hair down since leaving, revealing curly untamed Tarzan locks. His combat boots were stained with paint, and like the rest of his clothes they were black.  He puffed away at his cigarette under a shoddy umbrella as he turned to face Jack.

 

“No problem!” he yelled over the traffic and wind.  “Don’t trip, it ain’t your fault, this was just a long time coming.”

 

After a brief pause the man made Jack an offer he couldn’t refuse. “You wanna come smoke some pot!”

 

Jack jumped on the opportunity and followed the man up four blocks to a townhouse that reeked of pale ales and pot.  When Jack stepped through the door it was like being back in Santa Monica, only with one other person in the house.

 

“I’m Jack by the way.” Jack said as they stepped through the door.

 

“Nancy, and if you make a joke about that I’m going to punch you in your crotch.”  He replied soon following it with a vibrant smile and chuckle.

 

“It’s cool,” said Jack, “I’ve been to the pen so I’ve heard weirder names. Trust me.”

 

“Oh,” he said following it with another chuckle, “No shit?  Well, whatever dude.  We’ve all had a run in with the law.  Do want a beer?”

 

“Sure.”

 

Nancy retreated and soon returned with two large pale ales.  “Yeah a couple of these fuckers, and they’ll put me in my place, and its a good place.”

 

They both chuckled and drank their beer, as they talked Nancy packed and lit a bowl in his bong.

 

Jack did think it was odd that a man with bloody skeleton tattoos and psychedelic sleeves would go by the name Nancy.  But Jack was fairly open minded for your self educated ex con. The guy could be named Pinky Mcgee and Jack wouldn’t have cared.

Nancy was different. He had the look of a death metal Marilyn Manson worshiper but the air of a friendly and good natured person.

 

Then the conversation somehow shifted to Charles Manson,  apparently although he thought he was a horrible person, Nancy admitted that Manson’s writing Helter Skelter was in some aspects true and should be given credit where credit was due.  “I mean he was right about a lot of shit, I mean, yeah, he’s responsible for killing innocent people and almost killing a president, but he was right about shit, like how everything is going to have to be destroyed before it can be rebuilt.”

 

Jack didn’t quite agree with what Nancy was saying, but he consented to give Helter Skelter a read.  He was slightly irritated over how he didn’t agree with what Nancy said about Manson, but Jack couldn’t think of anything to counter or prove him wrong.  He knew he was wrong but he could not figure out how to explain why, as with almost any other intellectual debate Jack had ever had remote involvement in.

 

After Jack was drunk on pale ale and high on Nancy’s home grown, Jack pardoned himself and said he did not want to be a mooch and consented to leave.  Nancy assured him it was no problem, and he extended an offer of his couch for a couple of nights. “This storm is supposed to last half the week, I couldn’t just turn someone out into this weather, even if I knew them or not.  I mean I trust you.  You’re not like a baby fucker or creeper,or anything like that right?”  Nancy followed it with his usual chuckle to reassure Jack that he wasn’t being serious, and it was just his twisted sense of humor.

 

Jack appreciated it. Jack had developed a twisted sense of humor since prison, and he was glad someone else had one two.  Jack had to admit, Nancy was brutal at times, but it was funny none the less.

 

Jack accepted and slept on the couch, both men had passed out into comas by seven, and had awoken by nine.  Jack arose to Nancy stewing a big can of baked beans over his stove.

 

“Just in time,” said Nancy, grab a plate and a coffee, and there’s some bread on the table.

 

Jack sat down and helped himself to a slice of the white bread on the table and put another on his plate. He then sat down as Nancy poured two big scoops onto both of the plates.  They ate quietly as the storm outside raged.

 

“I appreciate you taking me in dude,” said Jack after they had finished their beans and started nursing the coffee.  “I mean most people are less than open to..”

 

Nancy interrupted him with his palm and a shake of his head, “Don’t worry about it dude.  When all you’re trying to do is live your life, you shouldn’t be fucked just for that.  It’s super messed up that I actually had to fight my boss over shit like keeping someone from catching pneumonia or some shit like that.  I mean… what was I supposed to do be a dick and kick you out into the storm?”  He answered his own question with another chuckle.  “Hell no.”

 

Jack nodded in complete agreement.  After the meal they washed it down with some more pale ales and bong rips. Then Nancy put on a copy of the Big Lewbowski. Jack had never seen it before and loved it.  He loved John Goodman’s character, and knew he was going to quote him more than once.  “YOU’RE ENTERING A WORLD OF PAIN!”

 

“Classic,” thought Jack.

 

The two stayed up for a few more hours watching basic network shows as Nancy made fun of each sitcom and commercial.

 

“What moron would need that!”

 

“Isn’t it funny that someone can be as much of dick like Charlie Sheen, and they get ridiculously paid just for acting to a bad laugh track?”

 

“Why the fuck did Jim Belushi’s brother get a show again?”

 

All of which were followed by Nancy’s usual chuckle and smile.  All of which Jack agreed with as well and thought were funny.

Eventually Nancy couldn’t help but ask.  “So what happened to your palm there,” he took the voice of a crotchety old mining prospector “Ol buddy.”

 

Jack made up some story about being caught in the middle of some gang crossfire and was too poor to get health insurance.

 

Nancy sympathized, and said he didn’t have insurance either.

 

As the hours of the night passed, Nancy retreated back to bed, and Jack was left awake in the weed filled living room, furnished with an old leather couch and milk crates.  He sat on the couch until the start of dawn with his nose in a copy of Ivanhoe and Macbeth.

 

Jack was starting to think that Shakespeare was his favorite.

 

He slept for a few hours.  He was awoken once again to the sound of sizzling beans and bubbling coffee.  The rain still pounded outside, so Jack and his new friend were stranded for another day.  It consisted of downing pale ales and of Nancy giving an estate lecture on Rembrandt and Marcel Duchamp.  It also consisted of Nancy’s explanations of why he hated Aretha Franklin and Chevy Chase. Jack defended them, not entirely sure why seeing how he wasn’t a die hard fan of either, but he didn’t dislike them.

 

They mixed their pale ales and conversations with more bad television and Weed.

 

“I just thought of something,” said Jack. “That Helter Skelter book, you got a copy around here?”

 

“Oh yeah.” said Nancy as he finished his sixth beer.

 

“I don’t suppose you got a copy I could borrow, at least for my time here?” Jack asked, figuring he could probably read through the thing in a night or two.

 

But Nancy ecstatically responded, “Actually I got an extra you can have.”

 

Before Jack could even officially accept Nancy had already gone back to his room and reemerged with a little black book with red letters and handed it to Jack.

 

“Thanks,” Jack said nervously.

 

Jack was interested in the perspective of another convict, but he did have the feeling it wouldn’t be as insightful as Hamlet, or Moby Dick.

 

“No problem,” replied Nancy, happy to share something he enjoyed with someone else who wasn’t scorning him, or thinking he was insane for reading a book by Charles Manson.  Jack could appreciate Nancy’s enthusiasm, he could tell other people didn’t.

 

“Yeah, my mom gave me a copy for my birthday last year, but I already had a copy so you can have this one,” continued Nancy as he swung back more beer stumbling back into his seat and returning his attention to the rerun of Two and a Half Men.  Then he made a smart ass comment about a tampon commercial.

 

“They should have Carlie Sheen do one of those ads, he’d be perfect especially if they put them in during his show. Think about it.”

 

Jack chuckled as he took another bong rip, grateful to finally be sharing someone’s company again.

Gramercy, The Journey of Jack Lewis. Chapter 9.

Chapter 9  Don’t Dance With Molly

Jack was in an awkward spot.  He spent the next day trying to find this girl and her sorority.  He walked every path and every walkway of every street and of every-which way by, to , and through the school.  He saw her nowhere.  

He found the closest free clinic.  After a four hour wait, he saw a doctor and he found out that nothing was wrong.  He was relieved.  Jack decided to get the hell out of Eugene.

So Jack left the city where it was quite possible that the mother of his child was off binge drinking and enjoying menage a tuas.  

Jack was glad to be out of this town more than he was to be out of Sacramento or Boise, at least there he didn’t have a possible love child.

He packed and got out of there by checkout time and was back on a road in the middle of a green nowhere in a matter of hours.

Three days later he ended up in Portland.

He found a hostel and paid for a few nights.  His cash wad was getting progressively thinner and Jack resolved to get some money soon.

He thought about stealing some cash, but decided against it.  He was already on the run   and had crossed countless state lines.  He chuckled to himself and thought how it was the fact he was a fugitive from the law that was making him more law abiding.

The next day he wandered onto some street called Hawthorne which was just a block from the hostel.  The street was full of college hipsters, punks, hippies, and nerd punk hippie rockers, Jack decided.  He looked for any potential cash opportunity.  He eventually stumbled on one.

Apparently Portland has a huge problem with bank robberies.  There was a bank on Hawthorne that got robbed as he walked past.  The men ran out and jumped into a car only to have the paint bomb go off.  Except on the bag they didn’t manage to close which had a huge trail of twenties falling out of it.  The cops were so busy busting the guys in the car, they didn’t even notice the homeless hippie sweeping up the cash until both the cash and the homeless hippie were long gone.

Jack had made another thousand and couldn’t believe his luck.  He then wondered if this made him an accessory to robbery or if this counted as tampering with a crime scene.  Actually it was both, with the process of “staking the charges” Jack could be charged for both.

Jack didn’t know and didn’t care.  Jack was just glad that he didn’t have to worry about money for a while and he was glad to now have this time to read.  So after he went back to get his books he settled in a coffee shop with a large black coffee while reading his Shakespeare and Ivanhoe.

He didn’t like Ivanhoe as much as the others but he liked how it was like reading a Shakespeare play in the form of a novel.  It was different, and Jack liked that.

Jack walked back to his hostel.here he found he would be sharing the bunk with a hippie named Toasty.  They shook hands, Jack was polite but immediately decided he didn’t like the guy.  That changed when the guy asked the question, “You wanna do some Molly shots.”

Jack asked what that was and the guy told him, “Pure Ecstasy.”

Jack had heard plenty about Ecstasy, and had been with tons of people when they did it, especially back in 2005 when hyphy was blowing up in California.  He had never taken it himself though.  Out of curiosity he took two shots of Molly and water.

After an hour of impatient waiting, Jack started feeling better than he ever had before in his life.  He felt so ecstatic and happy.  As if he was climaxing at a nonstop rate.  He felt alone in his hostel.  He wanted to get out and be around people, and listen to music.  Jack hadn’t wanted to listen to music more than at this moment in his entire life.

He wandered the town in the dead of night, enjoying every sight he saw, even the people he saw passing by.  Jack loved it, he felt energized to an endless point, and he couldn’t understand it, but he loved everyone.  He felt like his life time of indifference has been a mistake.  He actually loved these people walking by him, and he just smiled and gave an emphatic hello.  Eventually he came across a house party full of college students, who were blasting good music.  Jack walked in as Superstition just ended, and Thriller just got started on the speakers.  Jack immediately walked in, not having to pay anything, and stayed on the dance floor until the cops came.

When Jack returned to the hostel, he rubbed the sheets like they were the last piece of cloth on earth, loving their texture, and wishing he had Ann with him right now, and Alice and Fiona too.

Jack didn’t feel half as happy the next afternoon, when he awoke to what felt like the flu and a hangover combined.

Still, Jack felt he had to take this in with the ecstatic joy he felt last night.  It was worth the trade off, and Jack was glad he was feeling something.

Jack resolved to get more Molly from the guy, but by the time Jack woke he was gone.

Jack thought it was for the best.  

He soon changed his mind about Molly as he felt like shit for almost half the week,  and after the woman running the hostel regaled him with all of the retarded things he said like apologizing for dropping his own cigarette.  After the woman was done laughing in Jack’s face about that night and Jack stormed off to her laughter he simply resolved, “Never again, it’s not worth it.”

Jack soon forgot about the Molly, recovered his state of indifference and recovered from his cluster fuck morning after disease.

The next day Jack felt much better, and felt ready to conquer the word.  However,  instead he resolved just to find a spot to read some more.

His plans changed when he saw a white windowless van parked across the street.

Jack got the fuck out of there with all of his bags.

The van eventually faded into nothing, and he was safe, but still scared stiff.

“The fuckers are on my tale.” He thought.

He continued to wander the city in paranoia and eventually settled on stopping at a bar to get a drink to calm his nerves.  He drank his beer while constantly peeping over his shoulder to make sure no under-covers followed him, and to make sure the van wasn’t waiting outside with a  swat team to beat him into submission, drag him back to Leavenworth and keep him there the rest of his life.

The van wasn’t an undercover cop. What was inside was a man raping his girlfriend at gunpoint.  Jack was so paranoid he didn’t even try to check somehow.

Jack felt ashamed, as if this desperation of his was pathetic, but sadly necessary.  It was run away from strange white vans, or be on your guard 24/7 surrounded by iron and concrete.  Jack knew he had made a few mistakes, but he also knew he didn’t deserve twenty five years to the rest of his life just for following instinct.  He didn’t deserve that kind of a life.

Hell, he started to realize he didn’t need the kind of a life had now, but he decided he would rather be running from the law instead of in its grasp.  At least when you’re on the run, you get the pleasure of outsmarting the law.

In its grasp, the law reminds you every single day you could never be smart enough to out run it, never strong enough.

Jack felt that by walking casually out of Lampoc he had been strong enough, and indeed he had.

He had no idea how pissed Judge Bachman was when he found out one of his convicts had escaped.  He prayed when that they brought him back, they brought the escapee back to him in his court, but when he found out it was Jack Lewis, he only remembered that cold lack of emotion, and he couldn’t help but tremble just a little.

If he had seen Jack now, in a state of drunken paranoia, he would have had his ego restored.  Jack was lucky he was only having a panic attack.

Eventually he was drunk enough to forget about it all, and stumbled out onto the street.

When Jack woke up the next morning he was in the middle of some intercity park, his bags were spread out and emptied on the grass next to him.  All his food and all his money was gone.  They only left him his clothes and his books.

Jack tried to figure out what time he passed out, and he was glad his books were still okay.  He simply repacked his books, grabbed his now empty bags and started looking for a place where he could get some food.

Gramercy, The Journey of Jack Lewis. Chapter 5

N2cover

Chapter 5  To Liberate and Learn

 

Eventually Jack figured out he was heading North.  It took what seemed like an endless stream of days and nights for Jack to reach Sacramento, and by the time he did he had run out of his cash.  So he had to resort back to shoplifting in order to eat.  He missed the hot showers and food he got from his friends, but he managed to sneak into campsites and public bathrooms and get himself cleaned up enough not to offend passers by.

In Sacramento, it was hot, dusty and uncomfortable.  The city was so hectic and everyone in a car seemed to have personal vendettas against pedestrians and none of the cyclists have a helmet on, because it would mess with their hair that intentionally looks messy.  Jack could tell these people riding on bikes were those upper middle class white kids who liked to pretend they were the victims.

 

Jack over heard one of these fake-ass punks while walking past a coffee shop.  The little guy said, “This is the worst time in history to be a middle class white male.”  Jack immediately punched him in the face.  He collapsed onto the ground in a screaming pile of pain, bellowing about his broken nose, while Jack turned his back and walked away.  The man’s group of friends were still stunned and speechless by what happened as Jack walked off.  Jack simply said, in his emotionless manner, “Suck it up.”

 

Jack walked off, and he wondered how he could get away with doing these things to people in public and not have to deal with a single cop.  This was the second time Jack had committed assault since he got out, and each time he had gotten away with it, Jack wondered why.

 

Soon he could not stop thinking about the police.  He wondered if the police were on his trail, and then he wondered if they visited his friends yet.  They knew his real name, they could give plenty of evidence.  Jack did worry that the cops would throw his friends in jail for aiding a fugitive.  He wondered if they had tried to find his parents yet.  Good luck trying to talk to the dead, Jack thought.  He choose not to worry about it, he especially did not want to think about his parents.  Instead he choose to drink.  It was a long blur of a binge that day.  When nightfall came he slumped in an empty alley somewhere on L street and passed out for the night.

 

He awoke the next day around noon to the clutter and oblivion of the city.  The beat of the government employees’ feet speed walking to the capital.  The click and clank of coffee cups being chugged by hipsters sitting on the patio of the nearby coffee shops.

 

Jack was specifically awoken by a quarter being dropped on his face.  Apparently when people saw him asleep they thought he was a bum and dropped some change next to him.  Jack felt insulted.  He was homeless, but he wasn’t a bum.  But then he realized this was these people’s idea of charity, he knew they meant well, but he also knew it meant pity.  This infuriated Jack.  Jack needed no ones pity, but Jack soon resolved that once again he didn’t care.

 

He walked out of the alley and up a few feet to an artsy fake hipster cafe.  He walked to the front and asked the hipster girl behind the counter what the change could get him.

 

“A small coffee, and a biscotti.  We are giving out free biscotti today,”  replied the girl behind the counter.  She had black hair and a tattoo on her forearm, she reminded him of Alice.  Jack missed her for some reason, he didn’t know why.  Jack rarely misses anyone.

 

Jack sat in the restaurant and nursed his coffee and a tiny piece of stale biscotti as long as he could.  He took full advantage of the free water pitcher.  He sat and watched the other people in scorn.  They all looked at him as if he was just another bum sitting in a free space to get warm.    Apparently, thought Jack, being poor and cold is still frowned upon by people.  Jack wished they were poor and cold, if only for a day, Jack wished they could only know what this feels like.

 

Soon he left the cafe.  He resolved to find a shower somewhere.  He wasn’t going to a shelter though.  He knew those places are full of people trying to get in.  It wasn’t worth it.  He knew it would mean a roof over his head and a square meal but he knew demand was high in that department, and it just wasn’t worth the effort.  “Sad when the help to the needy is indeed no help at all.”  Jack remembered that from a Sunday school his grandma took him to when he was little.  Jack didn’t think about church any more.  He didn’t believe in god any more, not because he was an atheist or anything like that, he just didn’t care.  Like almost everything, Jack just didn’t care anymore.

 

When Jack left the coffee shop at around two, he wandered the town in hopes of finding an open faucet, or something he could use to at least wash his face.  His listless wandering led him to the town’s underside.  He didn’t know how but he went from midtown to some place called Del Paso Heights.  He knew he was in a ghetto when he saw a sign that said.  “This is a gun and drug free zone.”  It wasn’t even next to a school or a church, it was just a sign on the street paid for by the city.  You can also tell a ghetto because they have chain link fences surrounding the entire front yard instead of white picket fences merely separating two lawns.  The lawns here either didn’t exist or had brown bald spots like a green and brown Dalmatian.  The roads in ghettos are horrible too.  Pot holes and cracks that stretch from one end of the block to another.  Jack had discovered that Sacramento had it’s own version of South Central.

 

As the night drew out, more of  the underbelly of the city became exposed.  It wasn’t long until Jack had lost count of the amount of prostitutes that he saw and had made him propositions.

 

He walked past the beacon calls of, “You wanna go out honey?”

 

“You looking for a good time baby?”

 

“Need a date for the night honey?”

 

“Come on sweet cock, everyone needs some tail on a Friday.”

That one was the funniest to Jack, he had been asked by hookers plenty of times and he always ignored them.  But this was the first time one made him laugh out loud, because what hooker would resort to calling a guy, “sweet cock?”  She must either be an amateur or desperate, or both.

 

Apparently someone thought the same thing as Jack, only they didn’t think it was funny.  In fact they were out right pissed.  Behind him Jack could hear some loud guy shouting and the girl screaming and crying.

 

“BITCH!”

*Smack!

“WHAT THE FUCK KINDA LORE IS THAT? “SWEET COCK!”

*Smack!

“YOU GIVE ME ONE MOTHER FUCKING REASON WHY I SHOULDN’T FUCKING KILL YOU, YOU FUCKING UGLY ASS BITCH!?”

Jack just heard the guy go on and on, beating her while the girl was just screaming, “NO DADDY, NO PLEASE I’M SORRY DADDY!”  Jack turned around, the girl’s screams wouldn’t even phase the guy as he brought his hand up for each swooping hit.

 

Jack started having flashbacks to when he was a five year old clutching his teddy bear in his closet.  Trying to plug his ears to the sound of his mom screaming as he heard the smack of his fathers palm on her face.

 

Jack didn’t hesitate.

 

Jack ran up to the guy and clotheslined him as he ran by, the guy hit the back of his head on a fire hydrant and cut himself, deep.  While blood gushed from his skull, the girl took advantage of the moment and hid behind two trash cans.

 

Jack showed the man no mercy.  He knew no one in a ghetto was going to call the police at one in the morning if a cunt like this guy was getting what was coming to him.  He curb-stomped his front teeth to shattered glass, broke half his ribs, and crushed his back foot so bad the guy was destined to be a club-foot the rest of his life.  When he was sure the guy had passed out from the pain, or maybe was even dead, he searched his pockets.  He found little balloons full of heroin, he looked at the girl who was now shaking and crying and putting her hand over her eyes.  The girl was pale and thin, Jack could tell she was a junky.

 

He searched the guy some more and found a huge wad of bills, ranging from small to big.  He counted it out and there was over 5,000 in one wad.  He searched some more and found another wad containing another 5,000.  He took all of the guys gold and silver chains and bracelets, and a real rolex.  He took his clothes too, just to punish the guy further, and he left him in the middle of Del Paso Heights naked, bloody, and unconscious.  As he walked away he could still hear the girl crying behind the trash cans.  Jack still wasn’t used to this thing he called emotion, but now he felt the life altering emotion called pity.  He took pity on the girl and walked back.

He took out the two wads of cash.  He kneeled down to be eye to eye to the girl.  She hesitated to look at him and she still had her arms raised in fear.  She was shaking horribly, and Jack could tell it had been a while since her last hit.

“What’s your name?” He asked as tenderly as he could.  That wasn’t Jack’s strong suit.

 

“Mary,” she said, even her voice was shaking.

 

“How many girls besides you did this guy have working for him?”  he asked.

 

“It’s me and five others,”  she replied slowly trusting him more, but still crouching as far away from him as she could.

 

Jack counted out six thousand of the ten he had taken from the guy, and he slapped it into the girls palm.  “There, a thousand for each of you.  I’m keeping the rest.”  He pointed his finger at her like a father discipling a renegade teenage daughter who was finally scared straight.  “Tell the girls that he got busted, and they need to get out of the business while they have the chance. Give them the money, and then take yours and then leave the girls and wish them luck.  Go to a shelter, or a mission, or fuck I don’t know where just find a place where you can get some help.  Oh, and, DO NOT SPEND THAT MONEY ON SMACK.  CLEAR?”

 

“Crystal,”  replied Mary.  She obviously had experience with men telling her off, she replied without even a second of hesitation.  She knew to respond and respond fast, he had been so kind to her so far, but Mary knew that he could turn at any minute, she wanted to be ready.

 

She had no need to fear, all Jack said next was, “Good. Run along.”  Before Jack could even stand up all the way the girl was already up  to the end of the block.

 

“Damn,” Jack thought to himself.  “The girl can run pretty damn well in heals.”

 

Jack wandered until he was in the area that was sort of in between the ghetto and the suburbs, near some mall on the edge of the heights and some street called Arden.  The area wasn’t the ghetto, but it definitely wasn’t the rich part of the suburbs.  An upper lower middle class place.  He got a cheap room at a Motel Six, and took a long hot shower.  The first one since he had left his friends.  Jack missed them but decided it was best not to think about it.  He decided to watch some TV as he dried.  The only thing on was a bunch of old fuzzy movies and soft-core porn.  Jack left it on some old Joe Pesci movie that he didn’t know the name to.  He laid on the bed and passed out immediately.  He didn’t care if it was in a Motel Six right next to a busy loud street that was only blocks away from hookers.  He was comfortable.

 

 

The next day he woke up around noon.  He walked to the front desk and gave him the cash for another night.  Jack couldn’t believe the schmuck behind the desk took the name he gave, Jack didn’t even believe the name sounded real, but apparently all these people care about is that you pay.  Jack thought he could bring a twelve year old Chinese girl in chains who was screaming rape and this pimple faced fuck behind the bulletproof glass wouldn’t care as long as he either paid for the night in advance or had a credit card.

 

Still, it was funny that the guy actually believed his name was “Lewis Carroll.”

 

Jack had finished the book as he was drifting along the highways.  He loved the book, he thought it was fun and psychedelic, yet it made Jack think in a way he never had before.  Jack couldn’t tell exactly how, but he knew the book changed his thought process for the better.  He wanted to read more, and he decided to buy some more books with his cash. So he walked to the closest book store and he looked at the classics section.  He hadn’t heard of a lot of the books and authors in this section.  Except for the few he had seen as movies that he did not know started as books, like Treasure Island, Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and Sherlock Holmes.  Even Dracula and Frankenstein.  He saw Shakespeare plays he had never even heard of like The Tempest and King John.    He settled on Moby Dick.  It was long so he knew it would kill plenty of time, plus Jack always regretted not reading it when he was supposed to in high school, but he decided that this would make up for it.  He also decided to get one of the Shakespeare’s he was supposed to read but never did.  He settled on Hamlet, he didn’t know much about Shakespeare, but he knew that Shakespeare’s supposedly greatest play was Hamlet.

 

The books didn’t even cost him twenty dollars, he still had thousands.

 

He thought about splurging on a grand meal, but decided against it.  He would make this money last and settled for a few cheap meals at fast food joints to make the money last as long as possible.

 

After a meal of Taco Bell and Motel Six tap water, Jack began to read Hamlet.  He didn’t stop until he finished, it took him all night and well into the next morning, but he was enthralled.  The story was so epic, so intricate and interesting that Jack didn’t want to put it down.  Plus Jack identified with Hamlet.  He couldn’t believe a book written so long ago could be so insightful.  But Jack knew how Hamlet felt when everyone in his world was against him, that was Jack’s world growing up.  His parents were against him, his teachers, his classmates, even his so called “friends” turned against him the minute the cops showed up.  Jack knew how Hamlet felt when he contemplated suicide.  Jack had lost count of the times he wanted to kill himself.  After his first arrest however, Jack learned to stop caring.

 

Jack felt a new excitement he never felt before.  He felt bad for making fun of all those people who told him reading was fun and opened new worlds to people.  Now he could tell they weren’t bullshitting, reading was amazing, he didn’t believe it at the time because he didn’t even know that books like this and Alice in Wonderland existed.

 

He resolved to make up for all the reading he didn’t do in school, or in prison.  He wished he took advantage of the book cart more in jail .  No matter what, he decided to start reading and learning as much as he possibly could.

 

That was it, Jack realized. That’s what these books were doing to him, they were teaching him, for the first time in his life he was actually learning something useful.  It wasn’t how to avoid getting gang raped or how to carve a fake gun.  He was really learning, it felt amazing.  Jack actually began dancing around jumping for joy and with ecstasy over his realization.  He was learning, he was actually learning.  He was the happiest he had been since he was a child.

 

Happy, Jack Lewis, who used to have the nickname “Stone Cold Jack,” was happy.   Jack wasn’t even this happy when he got out of jail the first time.  Jack was now ecstatic.  He almost couldn’t contain himself, his feet stomped so loud the people on the floor beneath him almost called the front desk.

 

Jack couldn’t wait to start reading Moby Dick, but Hamlet had taken out all his energy and his burst of joy had drained what was left of his strength.  Soon he crashed on the bed, but couldn’t sleep because he hadn’t eaten since 8 pm last night,  and it was already 11:30 the next morning.  He walked to Burger King and got a cheap but filling breakfast.  He saw a homeless man begging in front.  The man asked him for some change so he could get a bite.  Jack slipped the man a twenty and left before the man could thank him.  He yelled out, but Jack only acknowledged the man with a wave of his hand.

 

The man was so grateful.  Jack didn’t know it, but he was the first person in a week to give the man any money.

 

Jack went back to his motel room, after paying for a third,and he decided, final night in Sacramento.  He took the chains and jewelry he had taken from the pimp and laid them all on the table.  They consisted of one big gold chain, one thin gold chain, two slim silver chains, two silver bracelets, two gold bracelets, and the rolex.  Jack would cash them in at the nearest pawn shop tomorrow on his way out of town.  Jack also resolved to wash his one set of clothes before he left.  He hadn’t since he left his friends.  He changed into the clothes he stole from the pimp and took his clothes to the nearest laundromat.  He felt like a jackass waiting for his clothes in baggy south-pole pants and a King’s jersey.  Especially since we was now a thin white boy with a beard and growing hair.  He hadn’t realized how much weight he lost until he put on the clothes ,but besides the muscle he had basically made permanent since prison, Jack was starting to become wiry.  He was amazed that his fast food diet wasn’t putting any weight on him though.

 

When his clothes were done.  He went back to his hotel room and slept for his final night.

 

He woke the next morning, and walked out with his bags.  He wandered until he found a pawn shop, he got almost a thousand for the chains and the rolex.  Jack was surprised.  He had to remember this pawn shop, other places didn’t give you that kind of a deal.

 

Jack walked out of Sacramento.   He walked out the city with a sense of  scorn for its people, its elitist structure and nature, and its hot dusty weather.  But he would always remember the city as the place he found himself, the self he actually wanted to be and not the self his world had made him.  He wanted to learn.  That was it.  He just wanted to learn and he was going to do it.  For some reason, he felt he had this city to thank for it.