My interest in becoming a writer started around my twelfth birthday. My mother gave me a book, “Little Men,” by Louisa May Alcott.
Kevin Fletcher sat on the edge of the bunk and waited; his eyebrows furrowed in deep thought. A nervous twisted knot roiled within his gut. The thin mattress, already stripped bare, reeked of stale blood, emesis, and urine. He gazed up at the bars to his cell, now closed for his protection, instead of imprisoning him within. He was unaware of the approaching footsteps, and instead, dwelt on the feeling of dread that encroached from beyond the prison walls. The jangle of keys stirred him from his thoughts, and he looked up as Jordon Brown approached his cell door with two other guards at his side.
The warden ordered the shorter guard holding the keys to open the door. Kevin sucked in his breath and held it for a moment. Brown, a harsh man with nerves of steel and an unflinching eye, stepped into the cell as soon as the door slid open. He did not ask the other two men to enter with him. It was unnecessary. Their job was to escort only. He looked upon Kevin for what seemed an eternity.
Brown remembered the first day Kevin entered the prison. The boy seemed barely old enough to take care of himself. He recognized the features of a growing athlete in the boy's build, but that was not going to save him in prison. It would prove to gain him a bigger target. The warden never questioned judgments passed on the guilty. His job existed to reconcile them with the society they had violated. Yet, Brown sensed something different about the brown-haired boy with the dark, frightened eyes. He did not belong in an adult prison.
The child within Kevin Fletcher disappeared, long-buried in the violence of the prison gangs inflicted upon him. His eyes were still dark, but no longer frightened. The soft tone of his arms gave way to muscles taut with the condition not only to survive but to conquer, as well. His brown hair was starting to grow back, which he kept shaving off for years to keep other hands from using it against him. The round, smooth face of youth was now square-jawed and shadowed, with a three-inch scar to mark him.
Jordon Brown allowed a smile to escape one corner of his mouth. “The board voted in your favor, Fletcher. You’re a free man.” The smile, subdued due to the harshness of his profession, somehow reached his eyes.
Kevin was expressionless. “Then it’s done?”
Jordon Brown’s voice softened just a little. “You’ve come a long way. You will get a bus ticket home and a list of some people to contact who can help you readjust to life outside the prison. The world has changed tremendously in the last ten years. Come on, young man. We’ve got some paperwork to fill out.”
Kevin stood up to follow Jordon Brown out of the cell with a slight nod of his head. He paused for a moment to scan over his cell before exiting. He was not reminiscent, though. Too many nights, he spent wishing for solitude to escape the violence. The cell trapped his soul in a way few men could understand. The last two and a half years turned into a nightmare.
Jordon Brown advanced with an air of triumph. The prison corridor was stifled. They turned the heaters on the night before for a raw March blast. Even in southeast Texas, nature could play a trick now and then. Kevin walked alongside the warden at a brisk pace. With a heightened sense of awareness, he fixed his eyes on a distant point. He tried his best to ignore the catcalls and whistles from the other prisoners behind their cell doors as the two of them went by.
“What are you going to do?” Jordon Brown allowed a hint at compassion to inflect his conversation with the young man.
“I don’t know. I didn’t expect to make the cut this time.” Kevin said with muted respect.
Jordon Brown glanced Kevin over briefly as he nodded to a guard posted at the electronic door. “It might have happened sooner if you had not got caught up in that Perez mess.” He searched for some sign of guilt from the young man and was dismayed.
The door slid open for them to pass through to the outside. When they started walking through the prison recreation area, Pablo Sanchez whistled for Kevin's attention. The young man's countenance faltered into pure hatred as he turned to look at the dwarfish punk who had made his life miserable for the last ten years. He fought the urge to launch into the creep with fists flying when Pablo blew him a kiss and winked with a malicious grin. Kevin’s eyes filled with treacherous hate as he forced himself to look away.
Jordon Brown noticed the interaction between the two men. The sudden change wrought upon Kevin disturbed him. As they both turned away from Pablo, a crowd of prison gangsters gathered around the young man. A hand cupped over his mouth to silence him. There was a look of terror in his eyes as the crowd swallowed him whole. Kevin forced himself back into his emotionless state but found no satisfaction in knowing that prison justice avenged years of suffering.
After they entered another one of the prison buildings, this time into the property room, Jordon Brown studied at Kevin with genuine concern. “Was Sanchez one of them?”
Kevin was cold and emotionless when he lied. “No.”
Jordon Brown studied Kevin for a moment as he signaled to a guard to unlock an individual property locker. Kevin waited patiently, still as a stone statue.
“Do yourself a favor.” Jordon Brown’s tone of voice softened. “Get rid of those demons that are hurting you before they put you back in the system.”
Kevin offered no reply as the guard gave him his civilian clothing. He paused for a moment to gaze at his shirt. Jordon Brown recognized the conflict but remained silent and watchful. Kevin lifted his civilian shirt to remember the feeling of the fabric between his fingers.
There was a brief hint of pain in Kevin’s eyes long enough for Jordon Brown to take notice. “You won’t keep those demons at bay forever,” he said in a commanding tone. “If you don’t find a way to deal with them, they will take over your life.”
Kevin set his clothes on a table and started to undress from his prison uniform. The guard left the room to give him privacy. Jordon Brown stepped toward the door but stopped when Kevin began to speak.
Kevin tried to be casual, but the nervousness betrayed him. “I can beat them.
Jordon Brown offered a slight nod of his head. “You don’t need to do it alone.” He stepped out.
Kevin finished removing his prison uniform shirt and then approached a dressing mirror. He put on his civilian shirt with quiet determination. He buttoned it with care and made sure it fit neatly upon him. He studied a scar on his chin and traced it with a finger. He stared at the reflection in the mirror with extreme intensity and watched as the prison-hardened man became a boy of sixteen who was in the process of shaving.
Kevin was always careful when shaving in front of a mirror. He paid close attention to detail. Normally his hands were steady as he pulled the blade across the peach fuzz beard he had only recently sprouted. Today they shook with a slight tremor, as he appeared to be frightened.
Momma’s face entered his reflection above the sink. Carla Fletcher watched her son shave. He looked into her soft, brown eyes and hoped to find reassurance from her. She was always so beautiful, but that morning, her beauty seemed flawless. That reflection would always be the one to haunt his future dreams when he needed to hang on to his dignity. She seemed just as frightened as he was.
Carla Fletcher tried to force a nervous smile. “Take this shirt, honey.” She presented the shirt that she wanted him to wear. “You’ll need to make a good impression on the jury. They are good people, son.” She said it as much to ease her fears as well as his.
Kevin, with barely enough facial hair to shave, trembled on the verge of crying. “I don’t want to go to prison, Momma.”
Carla was already crying as she lovingly stroked his hair. “Oh, my precious baby boy, I don’t want them to take you away from me, either.”
Paul Fletcher entered the doorway of the bathroom. A prominent figure in the community was the type of man who commanded respect and authority by how he carried himself. Everyone in town respected him for his leadership and his stand on family values. His love for his family was evident. He stood straight and tall as he gazed upon the other two in a disapproving manner.
“You cannot escape from this, son.” He hid his pain well as he seemed almost bitter to his son. “None of us can. You are almost a grown man. It’s time to step up and take responsibility for your actions.”
Carla pulled Kevin into a protective embrace. “Let him be, Paul. Can you not see he is already suffering enough?”
Paul gave his wife a severe, almost scolding look. “This is something that I can’t help him out of this time. Kevin made a serious mistake and took a life. The whole town will turn against us.”
Though torn by his emotions, Kevin struggled to fend off the storm brewing between his parents. “Dad... Please don’t do this.” He turned to Carla with a tremulous voice. “Momma, he’s correct. I do not want this any more than you do...but Robby is dead because of me. I have to pay for what I did to him.”
Paul placed his hand upon the boy’s shoulder, the most affection that he could muster in the face of the circumstances. “Be strong, Kevin. Hold your head up and take it like a grown-up. I am sure the judge will take your age into account with the sentencing. You might get two years in a minimum-security facility and probation.”
Kevin watched with trepidation as his parents exited the restroom. He felt frightened as he turned back to the mirror to wash the remainder of the shaving cream from his face. He then reached for the shirt and put it on. As he was putting it on, he watched his reflection in the mirror. He finished by straightening out his sleeves and making sure they were fastened properly.
In the present in prison, Kevin adjusted his shirtsleeves and looked around the bleak room one last time. “I’m ready now.”
Jordon Brown entered the room. “Privacy will be something you can get used to again.”
It was a cold, gray, and misty March day. Kevin and Jordon Brown went through the gardens and landscaped areas. That greenery attempted to dispense with the dark aura of what went on behind the gray walls. Both men seemed withdrawn and huddled themselves within their coats against the chill in the air.
Jordon Brown could now be a caring individual. He began to speak as if admonishing probable future actions. “I don’t want to see you here again, Fletcher.”
“I’m not coming back.” Kevin offered with cold finality.
They advanced to a prison transport van. Jordon Brown stopped the young man just before he entered the van and offered a handshake. Kevin, reluctant to shake it at first, reached out with caution.
Jordon Brown added an air of warmth to his demeanor. “Few young men have passed through these gates and made something of their lives. You are young enough to rebuild your life. The odds are going to be stacked against you for a long time. I sincerely hope that you do okay. If you need someone to talk to...”
Kevin scanned the van over as he was getting in. “Is this the same van?”
Jordon Brown smiled. “You can blame a tightening budget and increase pay for the guards.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Hey, it was only two years old when you first arrived.”
Kevin nodded to the warden. “You know you cannot help all of us.”
Jordon Brown paused as he was closing the door. “If I helped just one man onto the right path...then maybe I did something right.”
Jordon Brown closed the door and stood at the drive as the van started to pull away. He watched until the van pulled out of sight and then turned to go back inside the prison.
Continue reading Kevin's Homecoming - Chapter 2
- Kevin's Homecoming - Chapter 2
In Chapter 2, Kevin rides a Greyhound bus and encounters an elderly woman who senses he is troubled and reaches out. He shuns her, then confesses he is an ex-con guilty of murdering his best friend. As he turns away from her, he unwillingly delves in
© 2020 Eddie Dollgener
OLUSEGUN from NIGERIA on October 31, 2020: