My grandma bought a trailer on the county line and left it to mom when she passed and I suppose if I wasn’t locked up I could lay claim one day. The old widow that collected lot rent always told us they weren’t trailers they were mobile homes but that was about the dumbest lie I ever heard. Most of them weren’t attached to nothing but the cinder blocks boxed up underneath but that don’t mean they were going nowhere. When we were little kids we used to say that if you ran into the woods on the far side of the trailers the sheriff couldn’t get you because it was over the county line and out of his benediction. That was just a little kid lie. Truth was that about the only time anything got mobile in that home was when the sheriff came but he brought warrants not benedictions.
I damn near killed Jimmy Pickering because he said my cowlick made me look like Alfalfa. I didn’t know what a Alfalfa was but I knew it wasn’t nothing good by the way his friends laughed so I told him to meet me out at the chicken coop after school. He showed up because he was bigger than me and had more friends because he always wore fancy shirts with collars and a little alligator on them so they thought he was smart. I was smart enough to know that nobody in no collared shirt with an alligator was gonna get nowhere boxing me at the coop. I walked down there after the last bell and I got there first and started thinking about Jimmy and his alligator shirt and by the time he rode up on his fancy Huffy bike I’d got myself all dry-mouthed mad so when I tried to call him a fucker it came out fuffer and him and his friends laughed again. He took a swing at me and it clipped my jaw but I was ripe from my old man hitting me. I grabbed Jimmy by that fancy collar and started working over his fancy braces and I beat them until they ran straight through his lips. I got kicked out of school that year but when I came back Jimmy Pickering was done laughing.
Mom loved her Salem 100’s. She always had two packs on the sofa with a carton in the freezer riding backup. My sister moved out when she was sixteen but Mom said she just wanted attention. We never heard from her again so I guess mom was wrong. On sis’s way out she stole the carton out of the freezer while Mom was watching Law and Order. It was a good episode so Mom got down to her last half pack of smokes before she realized the carton was gone. She about lost her shit because she had been drinking all day and even though she said she wasn’t really drunk they’d put a breathalyzer on the car starter after Dad got busted on probation so she couldn’t go buy smokes. She started yelling at Dad about the car and my sister and all the other things he’d fucked up until he finally agreed to go on a smoke run. When he came home she raised holy hell because he’d bought her soft packs instead of boxes. He told her he’d go over to Village Pantry and trade them out but he never came back. Mom liked to call it the day she killed two birds with one smoke.
I got expelled my sophomore year for getting high with Mary Missler in the school parking lot. She was two years younger than me and ugly as sin but she had stole her sister’s car keys out her purse that morning before first period so I told her I’d take her to the school dance if she’d let me take us for a spin. Once we got to the car she chickened out and wouldn’t let me drive so I sparked up a big fat bowl and took my own ride. I thought she’d be scared of that too but she knew as well as me that we were never going nowhere so she took a hit and I packed it up again and we hot-boxed in there with the windows up for about an hour. I suppose I never saw the principal coming on account of all that smoke. He peeked in the car and saw me with one hand on the bowl and the other on Mary Missler’s tit but I never saw the inside of a school again so I guess we were even.
I was in the kitchen digging for fancy silverware when I found the Cap’n Crunch. I forgot all about my sliced-up hand from busting in the window and the gloves I’d forgot to wear and what I’d heard about silent alarms and dove in. I started stuffing it in my mouth but the corners of the yellow bits cut my gums so I got some milk but I didn’t have a bowl so I just poured it right into that plastic bag in the box and it made a God-awful mess but that was okay because I didn’t have to clean it up. When I was a kid Mom would have smacked the hell out of me for that but we never had no Cap’n Crunch anyway not the real stuff with the Captain in his blue jacket just that fake Crisp Crunch with the phony captain wearing a red jacket on the front and not a single crunch berry. The damnedest thing in life is that some kids get crunch berries while others get the Crisp.
I had a pretty good run busting into houses there for a bit once I started grabbing stuff sweeter than cereal. It went fine so long as I sold to people who paid cash and didn’t talk. Things like pain meds from an old lady’s bathroom cabinet or the shotgun from under her husband’s side of the bed were easy pickings. One day I got to digging through the back of a bedroom closet and found a lockbox. A lockbox to a thief isn’t nothing but a neon sign saying here’s the good stuff. I dumped the pillowcase I’d been filling with other junk and grabbed it instead. It popped open easy enough after a couple good whacks with the hammer but the jewelry inside was too nice for anybody I knew. I pawned it a couple towns over but the sheriff drove over the county line and found it and a card with my name and thumbprint so they pinned a slew of burglaries on me. I tried to tell my lawyer that the sheriff shouldn’t of done that but he said I didn’t know shit about benedictions.
I only did a couple years on the burglaries after good behavior but a couple is all it took. Once you catch a felony and have to check that little box on the application forms they’ve got you caught up good. I couldn’t pay my probation fees because I couldn’t get a job and I couldn’t make it to my meetings because I couldn’t get a car. Everyone I ran around with before prison was either still living at home or headed upstate. I tried to go back to Mom’s but she said the trailer park didn’t allow felons. I knew that place had more felons than not but I could tell by the tilt of her Salem 100 that she still had one more bird to kill. I ended up sleeping on Mary Missler’s couch for a while but she tossed me out for drinking all her Dark Eyes and trying to put my check in her box.
People always talk about stuff happening on the wrong side of the tracks but it went bad for me right on them. I’d been living out of an abandoned boxcar by the railroad off and on for a few weeks and it was starting to get cold. That’s the kind of living that makes you think you might just miss prison. You’d be wrong but you’d think it anyway. I was walking the tracks into town to try to bum some money for food or at least a smoke to warm me up when I caught tail of a little old man and his little old dog. I asked him for money because little old men are supposed to be nice especially little old men that have little old dogs but him and his dog acted like I didn’t exist. I told him I was just hungry but the only answer was his yipping dog so I said it a little louder but he looked right through me. I got in his face and he put his hands up like he was gonna give me a benediction but I wasn’t in no mood for blessing. Next thing I knew I was hitting him like he was Jimmy Pickering only he didn’t have a fancy shirt or fancy braces and he wasn’t swinging back.
My lawyer didn’t think I was too funny the first go around and the second ride was no better. Apparently attempted murder cases against old men and dogs were not his specialty. The prosecutor wasn’t in the dealing mood either so I got to see a real live trial just like Law and Order. The old man I.D.’d me and my lawyer said he was going to discredit him on cross examination but when it came time for that he just asked the guy if it was dark out that night and if he wore glasses and the guy said not really and no. I told my lawyer that I wanted to speak my own mind this time but he said that wasn’t a good idea on account of your prior felony record and you being an idiot. I gave the whole jury box my best hang dog look before they went out but no one would look me in the eye. They came back to say I was guilty after they had lunch on the State’s tab.
Three hot’s and a cot isn’t such a bad way to describe prison so long as you know the cot is buried under concrete. Concrete can weigh heavy on some but I pay it no mind. We’ve got a visiting area with a painting of a bridge on the wall with a little blue creek underneath and some trees and a big orange sun above and you can get a Polaroid picture taken in front of it when someone comes to visit. I got some pictures when I first got in but I’ve spent ten years in this box with another twenty to go so my visitor’s list is pretty thin these days. I don’t get to beat on Jimmy Pickering or feel up Mary Missler no more but there’s plenty of fights to be had and Salem’s to smoke if I want them. Sometimes old guard Stacy even giggles when I flirt with her. Plus if you cook the Ramen just right and hold your nose tight and keep your eyes closed it almost tastes like real Cap’n Crunch.