I’m Coming Home I’ve Done My Time


“Yo turnkey! Hey oh, today is day 30, I’m supposed to be getting out of here!” My words echoed off the jail cell bars so I tried again. “Hey! I did my time I want to get out of here!” Maybe yelling louder will help. “HELLO!! I WANT TO GO HOME!” But no guards came by and even if they did they would probably just stare at me with utter disgust and distain, the one thing they’re real good at. It was beginning to feel hopeless, like I was destined to be Lifetime TV movie about a young dude who gets locked up in a South Carolina prison for thirty days then ends up doing a life sentence in a prison run inbred cops. The other prisoners, most of which have never even seen me but traded insults with me all the time, had a sudden change of heart and supported my cause. When the cops fuck with one of us they fuck with all of us. Nothing like a little injustice from authorities to break down barriers creating a bond between the oppressed. Someone else started yelling on my behalf, “Yo, let Yankee boy out.” Another voice repeated the phrase and then another. Before long it was an out and out chant of a brotherhood of wrongly ain’t gonna incarcerated inmates enjoying any opportunity to piss of the guards. An ear shattering chorus of “Let the Yankee go!! Let the Yankee go!!” now shook the iron bars.
A loud clanging of a billyclub on prison bars brought a momentary silence, long enough for a guard to raise his voice. “HEY! Alla y’all better shut the hell up right now! I ain’t hearin no shit from y’all today the Braves is playin’. Y’all bess shut up right here and right now! Whicha Y’all started this mess and done ruined my game?” Just my luck, my old pal Billy boy, always ready to rumble with a man in handcuffs and a big fan of kicking Yankee ass. Fuck it come hell or high water I’m getin outta this shithole, “Me, I started it officer Billy. Your favorite long hair Yankee. I done finished my time and I want outta here now!” Billy walked up to do what he does best. He stared me down for a few seconds then spoke in his own special bran of condescend, “Now listen here Yankee boy, if’n its time to kick yaw stinkin’ long haired ass out this jail I be happier an a pig in a New Yoke City shit puddle but I ain’t no judge or no record keeper boy. So you bess shut your mouth now an let me get back at mah game. I’ll check with the warden bout your claim. Tell ya what though, if’n you done ruin my baseball game fir no reason I’m likely ta kick yaw ass sideways to hell boy! So yawl bettern be right son.” His dissertation contained the usual amount of greasy spit that accompanies his attempts at using the English language. I wiped my face, “Listen here turnkey, I beena counting every day here and the judge done give me thirty day and its been thirty day. Great day in the morning how much longer I needa stay here? I wanna git outta here.” Jesus shit, I’m starting to talk like them now!
I stood at the bars waiting patiently for Billy boy to return but he didn’t come back for over an hour. He walked up to me smiling, “Seems ain’t no one here today can look up to check yer story son. Now lookie here boy, heres what we gonna do, yew done gun shut yer trap an get on back to yer little home there and we’ll check it out first thing come morning.” To make sure I understood he put one end of the billy club between the bars pointed at my chest and slammed it right into my diaphragm causing me to gasp. The pain was a not so gentle reminder of how mean an sadistic he could be, especially with people in no position to fight back. He smiled triumphantly, gave me a sarcastic “Y’all have a nice day” and walked away loudly lecturing the lot of us on keeping quiet so he could enjoy the game. The rest of the inmates now stared calling the guards names and offering words of comfort to me. I’d gone from dumb shit dirty Yankee asshole to a prison guard whipping boy martyr and it wasn‘t comforting.
I paced my cell as the time passed slower than any of the past horrible thirty had. Dinner came and then lights out all my protesting in vain. I was here until tomorrow. Our living quarters were six tiny cells with a hallway so we could talk but not see each other. We amused ourselves many a time by “fishing” which was throwing cigarettes, or matches, or a candy bar in the hall and everyone else whipping their bed sheet from the little food hole at the bottom of the cell. The first to snare or fish the prize wins. Most nights I would sing a song by Taj Mahal, and old bluesy number about “I’m going fishin‘, yes I’m going fishin’ and my baby go in fishin’ too” It was stupid but our entertainment was kinda limited and my cell mates thought the song funny. I didn’t fish or sing that night as my mates tried unsuccessfully to cheer me up. They finally tired, offered words of support but I was already falling asleep.
First thing that wakes you up in prison is a breakfast, or a reasonable facsimile of a breakfast passed under the door. I wasted no time in letting the breakfast deliverer know I wanted out but he explained he was just a “trustee” a prisoner who kissed enough guard ass to get special privileges and easy work details. He had a rolled up magazine in one hand and he passed it under with my cold eggs, cold grits, and embarrassed toast “Here Yankee, its an EZ Rider magazine. Its contraband so if you get caught you on your own. Cain’t get ya outta here but leastwise y’all have something to pass the time. Errybody here is pullin fer ya boy, ain’t no one wanna spend no more time here’n they should.” It was small consolation.
When the cells opened into the common area my hopes were renewed. I called to every guard within earshot that I was supposed to get out but they absolutely did not care. This went on for two more days until I finally got a guard to listen in the afternoon. A young Christian man came to my aid in a twist of irony. “Jesus loves you boy. Whats yer name, I’ll check it out fer ya?” I gave him my info and as he walked away I wondered why he took this job. Maybe it was a family thing because he sure didn’t fit the mold of the rest of the turnkeys in jail. No matter, at least someone was listening, maybe my nightmare will end.
About an hour and a half later Jimbo, another law approved sadist came to our block. “Hilltop, Justin! Step forward.” It was here, it was over, I was getting out. Time to pretend to be a rehabilitated member of society. “That’s me officer.” He shot me an angry glare, “I know who you is Yankee boy! Get yer stuff, we gowin see da warden.” What? Warden? Did he say warden? I swallowed hard hoping this was only a formality, it’s not like I have a lot of experience being freed from a jail. I went to my cell, rolled up my excuse for a mattress, and said my good byes to my mates. Oddly bittersweet.
I sat in the wardens office with his secretary, or maybe grandmother, but Warden never showe up. After another 2 hours of processing the old woman finished my paperwork then handed me a big manila envelope. “There y’all go Mr. Hilltop, this is everything you done come in with.“ Inside they had stuffed all my worldly possessions, my wallet, an Oakland Raiders cap, and …..an that’s it? “UM, excuse me maam, where’s the rest of my stuff?” I was missing my sneakers plus about thirty dollars and change. Aunt Bea stared with deadpan eyes, “Cordin tar records Mr. Hilltop, this is allya come in with. Course if y’all like ta stay awhile an tawk at the warden bout it yer more’n welcome.” Sarcasm from Hooterville, the last thing I need. “yea, ah, I get it. How do I get the hell outta here?” Aunt Bea pointed to a hallway, “Ain’t no need fer cussin son, jess foller that hallway to the exit.”
It was seven PM, sun was going down, I was in the middle of Mayberry with no clue which way to go. Where the Hell is the scarecrow when you need to decide this way or that way in a strange world? I opted to go right, figuring it wouldn’t matter because either way there’s nothing but one long ass road anyway. Not even a street sign. Well, hope New York is this way, its away from here anyway. Even with the sun down it was hot. I crossed a small bridge and heard running water. I stopped to collect myself. Its getting dark, I have no idea where I am or which direction I’m heading. I have nowhere to sleep or eat. I am lost in Deliverance, South Carolina looking out over a stream and watching…OMFG.. Alligators! Can it get any worse? On cue, a cop car pulled up.
My mind was racing. Alligators below me, cops coming up to me, and jail not more than an hours walk behind me. Oh well, maybe They’ll put me up another night, better than being eaten by a gator. To my surprise it wasn’t cops, but cop, singular. The bigger surprise is it was the one who helped me get out. “You look lost son, whatch dewin here fer?” Not sure what he wanted, I answered politely, “Truth is officer, I had difficulty getting out and I have no money, no shoes, and I’m not sure if I’m heading in the right direction to get back home to New York. The cop chuckled, but not a mean chuckle, a friendly chuckle. “Well on if ya keep onna headed this away Y’all be in Georgia in bout an hour. But I tell ya what son, you want to git outta Carolina, we sure don’t need no New Yokers here, so Ima give Y’all a ride to the border, to Augusta Georgia an I’ll drop you off at the Salvation Army there. They likely to put y’all up fur the night an you can head on back to New Yoke tomorrow from Georgia, not South Carolina.” I stared at him contemplating the fact I had no other option. “Look son, y’all don’t look like a bad guy, and I’m a man of Jesus. I heard they let ya go late an it ain’t right, so the Christian thing to do is to hep my fellow man. Git on in the car and take my offer.” What could I say. A long way to home, starving and tired, much like the gators, and clean out of options “Yessir.” What new adventures am in store for now? I guess hitch hiking back to the city it is.

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