In Solitary

A single tear fell
And slowly rolled
Across her face
Cold by its journey’s end

Pets in prison


The heavy metal doors clanged shut behind the woman, wearing no makeup or jewelry.

She was there to see her boy.  He had requested that she look as plain as possible when she visited.  Regardless of best her efforts, lonely men still leered through the glass windows as they shuffled past.

She didn’t notice; she stared at her son.  His blonde hair was shorn close to his skull, its shape so familiar to her hands.  He had gained weight, filling out his orange suit for the first time in months. She guessed that he had been working out, too.

She was happy to see him alive and sober, yet, she felt guilty at her surprise that he hadn’t disappointed her in some new way.  He was finally free from drugs and a life on the street.  On the inside, he was exposed to a different set of dangers but she knew where he was every night, more or less.

“What’s new, kid?” she asked, afraid her voice would crack with emotion if she said more.

Grinning, his blue eyes sparkled with excitement.

“Ma, my taffy business is going really well.  I’ve come up with a new flavor, chocolate and strawberry.  I can’t make enough of it, the guys like it so well.”

“That’s great, buddy,” she exclaimed.

“Remember that praying mantis that I told you about last time?” he asked.

“Of course, how is it?” she inquired of his temporary roommate.

His face fell as he explained, “She died a few weeks ago.”

Smiling again, he continued, “It’s ok because she must have been pregnant and now there are a bunch of praying mantis babies in here.”

In spite of herself, the woman laughed out loud, and covered her mouth when she remembered that she was still upset with her son.  She couldn’t help but to imagine the tiny flashes of green crawling and praying as they pleased.  It meant there could be freedom in a place of bars and shackles.  New life and nature are possible even in a sterile place that focused on constantly reminding its residents of their past.

Her son nodded in agreement.  “That’s a good idea, but some of the guys rounded up the babies.  Now, they’re selling them as pets.”

“Really,” she asked and went on after a second of consideration, “I would definitely have one as a pet.”

“Where would you keep it?” she asked curiously.

Sadly, he patted his shoulder, “Right here.  That’s where it would ride.”

“Why don’t you buy one with some of your taffy?” his mother asked, suddenly indignant that the others might have something that her son did not; it was just a maternal reaction.

“No ma, it wouldn’t be right.  It would just be taken from me.”

She was crushed by his conviction.

Taffy Man

ImageHe’s just 20 and he will likely spend the next five to 10 years in prison.  Of course, it all depends on his behavior and if the court system finds his missing paperwork that actually sentenced him to rehab and then to have his case reconsidered in a year.  The missing paperwork is yet another mishap in a long line of “whoospies” and “my-bads” in his life that may or may not have led him down the path of crime, with landmarks like juvenile detention and DUI’s marking the way.

Is life unfair to certain people?  It  certainly seems to be the case for this young man who happens to get caught in wrong doing at every turn.  He’s the kind of guy who can’t speed without getting a ticket, show up late someplace without being asked to leave.  If he makes a new friend its with a guy who just robbed a bank and is looking for trouble.  It’s as though a little dark cloud hangs over his head and follows him throughout the day.  We all know that no one is owed anything in this world, including a fair shake at the future.  Fortunately, he’s a good student of life and never has expected anything except more bad luck, which he was bound to receive.  Plus, his resourcefulness and likability were just enough to get him out of one scrape and into the next making his life seem a little more fair.

Since being sentenced to prison, Young Fella, as I’ll refer to him, has been able to use his strengths and experience as an entrepreneur in a most inspirational way.  From age 13, Young Fella was a successful pharmaceutical and holistic product distributor (drug dealer).  Soon after relocating from the county jail to the state correctional facility (prison), he was taken under the wing of an experienced business man who was also wise in the ways of prison culture.  He was an old timer in Young Fella’s new living situation.  Old Timer recognized a fellow entrepreneur who was in need of direction and help and he offered a piece of advice with both business and personal application.

Sagely, Old Timer explained, “Kid, you’ve got to have something they want in here, other than your ass.”

As any good student in the pursuit of knowledge and thereby the keys to his freedom, Young Fella asked more questions. “Like what? What can I possible have that they would want?”

“Young Fella, I like you.  You remind me of someone I haven’t seen in 20 years. I hope to see him real soon when I get out next month.  If you’ll make the most of it, I’ll give you my business.  Teach you everything you need to know about it and let you take over when I’m gone.”

Without any better offers on the table and with a sound head on his shoulders, since entering the vivid world of sobriety, Young Fella agreed to the apprenticeship.

Soon, Young Fella had a job in the kitchen with Old Timer a few hours a day, but his real job, the true business, involved taking a few pinches of this and tablespoons of that back to his cell.  Collecting ingredients in the right proportions took time to not draw suspicion and to maintain his job but Young Fella was clever and made it work.  Under the careful guidance of Old Timer, Young Fella perfected his own version of Old Timer’s recipe.  He memorized every aspect of the business, like who could help with extra ingredients and which guards were more cooperative than others.  He slept very little while he was an apprentice and tried to lay low until he he could have something that the others would want.

Finally, Young Fella was ready.  He knew his craft and Older Timer was confident that his legacy would be continued.  Old Timer made it clear to the other men where to go for their craving and that he was leaving the business to Young Fella.  It didn’t take long for the men to begin to trust Young Fella and to seek out his product just as frequently as Old Timer’s.  They came to trade cigs, socks, other snacks, toothbrushes and stamps, all hoping just for a taste.

When it came time for Old Timer’s release, he left the business in Young Fella’s capable hands with his full blessing.  Finally, Young Fella could do something that he was good at and it was respectable.  It was something that he could do when he got out in a short five to 10.   Young Fella had something that others wanted, and he had something that he needed, a sense of self-worth and a new identity.  For now, he had all the time he needed to create new recipes, tweak his products, and dream of the future.  He came in as a lost kid and was called Young Fella; but now he was proud to call himself, Taffy Man.