Like A Bat Out Of Hell Part 1

bat 1

 

 

 

I’m Coming Home I’ve Done My Time

J.T. Hilltop

I woke up feeling good as I looked over at my thirty scratches on the jail cell wall. Each day I made a new scratch. It was my countdown to freedom. They don’t supply you with calendars in jail so I had to keep track like some sundial making ancient Roman or something. My cell wall calculations were my oracle and they foretold that its time for “Yankee Boy” the now infamous New York jailbird in some South Carolina Correctional Facility to get out of this hellhole and back to….. Well I‘m not sure where I’m going yet but believe this my brothers and sisters anywhere is better than jail. I was ready to breath free air once again. I was finished with my 30 day stint for driving with a suspended license. Yea I know, major crimes division was all over me but the truth is they locked me up for that because they couldn’t make the marry-wanna charge stick and they had no real proof that it was me using a garden hose as a credit card for gasoline. Thirty days may not seem like much to you but when you can’t go anywhere, get feed cold instant shit grits four days a week, fill up on some bitter spinachy thing called turnip greens, and the highlight of your day is watching some dudes argue over the game of checkers it feels like forever. Not to mention it takes less than a week to lose your identity and fill yourself with a nagging sense of hopelessness. Besides all that thirty days without even seeing a female was torture for a 20 year old with hormonal overdrive syndrome.

So it’s time to alert the friendly guards so they can escort me to freedom. I was feeling a little bit New York cocky so I addressed my jailors in terms they are not especially fond of, “Yo turnkey! Hey oh, today is day 31, I’m supposed to be getting out of here!” My words echoed off the jail cell bars so I tried again. “Hey! Oh! I did my time I want to get out of here!” Maybe yelling louder will help. “HEY COUNTRY BOY 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 my own Lifetime TV movie about a young hippie who gets locked up in a South Carolina prison for thirty days then ends up doing a life sentence in a prison run by sadistic cops. The other prisoners, most of which have never even seen me but were happy to trade insults with me all the time, had a sudden change of heart towards me. Insults and trash talk were really just bullshit, spoken to sorta brighten up the day but when the cops fuck with one of us? Man 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 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 those 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 anyhow?” Just my luck, my old pal Billy boy, always ready to rumble with a man in handcuffs anytime of the day and a big fan of kicking Yankee ass. Fuck it come hell or high water I’m gettin 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 brand of condescension, “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 time you can believe that. Tell ya what now boy, if’n you done ruin my baseball game fir no reason I’m likely ta kick yaw ass alla way to hell boy! So yawl better be right quiet till then son.” His dissertation contained the usual amount of greasy spit flying off his unruly thick mustache. That vile saliva always seems to accompany his attempts at proper use of the English language. I wiped my face, “Listen here turnkey, I been 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 only been there thirty days but I’m starting to talk like him.

I stood at the bars waiting patiently for Billy boy to return but he didn’t come back for over an hour. When he finally did come he walked up to me smiling, “Seems ain’t no one here today can look up to check yer story boy. Now lookie here, heres what we gonna do, yew done gun shut yer trap an get on back to yer little home there ith alla the other law breakers here and I’ll leave a note ta have em 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 started 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 which, sad to say, wasn‘t much of an upgrade.

I paced my cell. Two steps at a time as that was all the pacing room I had. The minutes passed even slower than a watched pot. Dinner came and then lights out squashing all my protests in vain. I was here until tomorrow. My living quarter was tiny cell with all the amenities literally at my fingertips and once lights went out we had our nightly talk session, where we offer each others therapists help for the criminally insane. I remained silent because I was afraid my voice would crack and betray the fact that tears had welled up in my eyes. The inmates in my neighborhood tried unsuccessfully to cheer me up as I lay in silence. They finally tired. I fell asleep and dreamed about the beach.

 

DIVIDED HOME

divide

 

 

My mom always hoped I’d make something of myself and had her “list of idea’s” of what I could be. I doubt being an inmate at Rikers Island was even on the list yet it was a remarkably easy goal to achieve. Sorry Mom. But anyway I’m a product of my old boy, my Dad, a working class martini drinking, advice giving, home owner with a white picket fence and a two car garage used for storage. Most families had 2.5 kids which, if my algebra and biology lessons are correct is actually impossible, but my old man bucked the odds by having six kids all of which it turned out were boys. The starting lineup for a hockey team if we could skate. However, I would never make it in any sport. I guess you could say I’m the typical suburban failure. I was the youngest off those boys and my destiny was laid out at birth. I was mom and dads last hope at having a daughter so I came out of my womb a prepaid disappointment. An unwanted middle class kid in a town built on the hopes of a generation that survived World Wars and the great depression and were required to remind us about that at every opportunity. They fled the concrete jungles for a promise of a utopian society. Suburbia, the enchanted land just outside the reach of urban decay my parents grew up in where they could dream of an ideal future. They dreamed of having a girl and I totally fucked up their dream.

I didn’t have to be a constant source of disappointment if they just let me be who I was from the beginning. I’m a cook at a restaurant and love it which the folks could never understand. I did far better in school than my dumb ass older brothers so mom decided I would be a doctor or a lawyer. Dad wanted me to be a football star because I played with the older kids on account of my brothers but I hated sports. Maybe I hated them on purpose to further add to pops disillusionments for me but I would never attain any of the goals they set for me. I wanted to be a romantic, a poet, maybe an actor, or even just a chef. But I fell in with a crowd of buddies who only wanted to be rebel outlaw bikers so all the hopes and dreams mommy and daddy had for me went floating down the sewer system on two wheels where rats are king. That’s me, King Rat, the badass boy from Levittown. I earned my street stripes from shoplifting at the mall, smoking cigarettes and drinking beer, and being ready to rumble at the drop of a hat. Ready to fight over just about anything, even making up reasons to kick some ass. If you looked up teenage angst in the dictionary you’d find a picture of me and my crew. Suburban heroes, rebels without causes. But in truth we were suburban hoods, wannabes, not bona fide outlaws, just angry young teens looking to make sense of this so called utopian land that treated us so unfair. The suburbs, the new frontier of the fifties. Land of conformity. So all I can say is why me? Why the fuck am I sitting in a cell at Rikers Island feeling sorry for myself just because I grew up in a divided home?

Let me clear that up a bit, when I say divided home I don’t mean my parents split up, no no no. They had a fine marriage, but we had little money and one shitty loaf of bread and a pound of bologna had to be divided up between six kids and two parents. Yea, Pops wasn’t the thickest branch on his family tree, probably because he spent more time screwing mom and having kids than climbing any corporate ladders, so he only brought home enough bacon for a family of four that Moms had to stretch for a family of eight. So with Dad’s mediocre salary and a bunch of hungry kids we had to divide absolutely everything. There was never any seconds at dinner, sometimes I didn’t even get firsts. Being the youngest of six overactive boys I was at the bottom of the food chain. The wildebeest of the dinner table hoping to have enough time to graze a few morsels before the stampede. That’s how shit got divided. I ate dinner in like five minutes, wolfing it down before any of the older wolves finished and started to pick from my plate. We weren’t poor, just divided. I lived in a room divided by imaginary boundary lines set up by three older brothers, leaving me trapped in the crappiest real estate of a four bed suite the same size as a normal kids single room. Maybe that helped me cope with my current situation of sharing tight quarters with three other guys. Or maybe Mom and Dad were preparing me for my destiny but that’s what I mean by divided family.

Doesn’t matter, you play the hand your dealt and make the best of it. I was dealt the lowest card on the totem pole so I did whatever I had to do to get noticed, to be heard over the raging hormones of my big brothers. Johnny was the oldest so he got the benefit of being first in line. The newest clothes, the biggest dinner portions, and a monopoly on Dads time. Brian, or Legs was the next in line, the tall athletic son who used up whatever pride Pops had leftover from Johnny because he played sports. Jimmy, Bob, and Danny shared the middle child status where they existed in relative obscurity and devoted much of their time to teasing me or kicking my ass just for kicks. And holy shit could they kick! They happily and democratically divided that chore up pretty evenly. And then at the end of the line, at the bottom of the barrel came me, a virtual omnipresent bruise. Apparently when I was born the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck so I came out of the womb all blue. It earned me the envious nickname “Blueboy” which everyone called me for so long I’m not sure if anyone remembered my real name, Thomas. But that’s me with a nickname that stuck like Beaver Cleaver. Blueboy O’Brian, destined to a life of crime for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Just glad they didn’t call me O’Blueboy.

 

Levittown wasn’t a particularly tough town as far as suburban towns go, but it was a town where appearance was everything. Parents spent more money on giving the appearance of being well off than they did feeding or clothing their kids. Like half the kids around town we starved so the family could drive around in a new big Chrysler and dress in high suburb fashion. Us angry teens on the other hand didn’t give a shit about looking rich we only cared about how tough we were, like the street gangs of the big city. Another disadvantage for me, Blueboy was not the toughest nickname around but what could I do, it has always stuck. One benefit was having a nickname, because everyone who was anyone had a nickname. My best friends were Red, Snots, and Digger. Red with a full head of bright orange curls, Snots with his ever runny nose, and Digger, the braniac who tried top dig a whole in his back yard all the way to China so he could run away. When I really think about it none of them that much better than Blueboy, but no matter, we were who we were and we were four young lads with tough ass nicknames preparing for an island adventure. Rikers Island.

We started out our lives of crime on a small scale, just selling a little weed here and there and reselling some stolen items from the mall. But we were hungry for more. Digger had a BB gun and Red had an idea. We planned to rob a Dairy Barn Store in Bayside Queens. It sounded brilliant, Dairy Barns were isolated drive up stores that sold basically dairy items, but you could also buy cigarettes, soda’s, just about anything you might find at a 7/11 store. We would drive up in Slots Rambler and Red would hold the BB gun on the dude inside the store. Me and Digger would run into the store and grab anything we could sell while the unsuspecting cashier would relieve the cash register of its contents into a bag and casually hand it to Red. I sensed trouble right at the start. The Cashier looked at Red and said, “That ain’t nothing but a damn BB gun boy.” Red was quick on his feet, “Oh yea? You want I should shoot out one of your eyes with this high powered BB gun? Why don’t you just shut the fuck up and put the money from the cash register in a bag there and hand it over.” The cashier didn’t look very impressed as he pointed to a sign that said “Store under surveillance” about the same time Slott’s Rambler stalled out. I tripped as I entered the store and Digger fell on top of me. “There’s a camera right here you assholes. Who the fuck thinks robbing a Dairy Barn is a smart idea? You assholes are going down.”

Slotts tried in vain to get his car running, Digger and I scrambled to our feet and the dark of evening soon became drenched in flashing red and blue lighting. About that time I thought I probably shouldn’t have brought the bag of weed with me while committing a crime. “Put your weapon down and your hands up!” Red dropped the BB gun to the ground, Digger peed his pants, and Slotts finally got his car started and in a panic hit the accelerator while putting it in drive slamming into the fence four feet in front of him. We would eventually be tagged as “The gang that couldn’t drive straight” by the local newspapers but for now we just learned a few new legal terms. Intent, transference, and armed robbery

 

So anyway, that’s how I landed this all expense paid trip to the Island to include housing. I have three roommates. They look mean and nasty but I think they’re all nice guys deep down. Theres Shredder here who I assume works in an office, and Knuckles, who I’m a bit unsure of. The real big guy over there calls himself “Hammer” and he calls me Blue Balls instead of Blueboy which he thinks is hilarious. Tell you the truth I don’t really mind that…..”YO BLUE BALLS. GET ON OVER HERE ITS HAMMER TIME!”…oh, gotta go, that’s Hammer now. My culinary knowledge and training suggests he wants me to teach him how to make pie crust. Why else would he have brought such a large jar of Crisco with him? Until next time guys, peace out.

Blueboy O’Brian