Hi there. My name is Lowell and I like to fancy myself a writer.
In addition to random articles on pop culture and sports, particularly the NFL and my Chicago Bears, I’ll occasionally post a short story or non-fiction essay. I set a goal for myself about sixteen years ago. I was a young teenager who had just discovered the world of literature and the joy of books as well as the ability and pleasure in creating with words of my own. The goal I set was to one day publish a book of my own.
Fast forward into the future and I’m about to turn thirty and have only published in magazines and journals sparingly. But I work for a publishing company, and one of the perks of that is that after a year I get to publish two books for free. Now, that could be considered cheating but when I think of that I also think of the age-old maxim used for centuries to guide souls on their way.
Here’s a piece I wrote about a month ago. I’d appreciate any criticism, praise, scorn, promises of sexual favors, monetary donations… you get the drift.
Enjoy, or not. Whichever. But first, look at this picture of my son as a zombie:
I still remember the look of surprise on her face as I slipped into the room. Her long, smooth leg shined as she rubbed lotion into the caramel-colored skin. She had just taken a shower; the room smelled of soap and hot water. When the door opened she stood up quickly, her dark eyes wide.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“Coming to see you,” I answered.
I could see her nipples harden through her t-shirt, and felt myself become even more aroused. The thought of being caught had been completely replaced with the thought of having my way with this girl. I stalked up to her and no more words needed to be said. We instantly embraced, our lips touching and quickly opening to allow our tongues to lock together in a furious battle. I moved my hand to her large, soft breast where it lingered for a moment before traveling down her torso and into her shorts. She gasped as my finger entered her and I gently guided her down onto her bed. She moaned in pleasure and then-
I jumped to my feet as someone knocked on the door, my hard-on replaced by a surge of fear and alarm. The authority of the knock told me all I needed to know. I was busted.
Shit! Oh shit! Shit!
Morgan had jumped up too, and stood there with a rather comical look on her face, almost as if something had just crawled up her butt. I frantically began searching around the room for a place to hide, as if hiding would work. They knew I was missing from my bed, and the fact that someone was knocking on the door this late at night meant they knew I was in here.
Shit! Oh shit! Shit!
Still, I weighed my options. I could hide under the bed, but the area was too small. I could barely fit. There was behind the bed, but that would be too obvious. I could try hiding in the closet, or the bathroom. I didn’t care where, I just needed to hide. Hide, not get caught.
Shit! Oh shit! Shit!
I heard the door open and my mind blanked. I ran to the nearest corner and tried to turn myself into a wall. It didn’t work.
“Where is he, Morgan?” It was Dan. Of course it would be Dan, as Helen was far too placid for the inevitable confrontation. Dan was nice enough but there was sternness in him, likely from his time in the service, and it produced a no-nonsense attitude.
“What? Who?” Morgan replied. I doubt she even knew she was lying. She looked so panicked and frightened she probably didn’t know the answer to the questions.
I heard the bathroom door open. Checking all his bases before he stepped fully into the room, Dan was. A glimmer of hope briefly ran through me. Maybe he’ll give up after he checks the bathroom. Of course that’s not what happened. A step further into the room was all it took for Dan to spot me, still in the corner, pressed as close to the wall as I could.
“Let’s go,” Dan said, his thumb pointing towards the door. “No more funny business.”
I tried to give him my best, aw shucks grin, but he wasn’t buying it. I gave one last look to Morgan, but she averted her eyes. At the time I merely thought she was embarrassed. Little did I know she was already plotting a way to clear her name from this fiasco.
Out the room and down the hall. I took a second to scratch my nose, but my real purpose would have been clear to anyone who had ever been a teenage boy. I wanted to smell the finger that had penetrated my girlfriend, to savor the scent of… not victory, no. My victory had been ripped out of my hands before it could be complete. No, the scent was of achievement. If only for the briefest moment, I had been in a vagina, and that was fucking rad.
Morgan smelled like strawberries, which is not something I ever thought I’d associate with a vagina. I savored the scent, but also regretted it. I knew that after tonight, I would never get a chance to finish what we started. They would have their eyes on us constantly, and one of us might even be moved to a different wing. My chance was gone
.Chris was back on his mattress, looking like a kid who had been scolded for trying to dip into the cookie jar. I knew it was his fault I. Did he rat on me? What went wrong? After all his big talk, did he actually turn me in? “Sorry dude,” he whispered as I was whisked past.
What was he sorry about? Was he sorry I got caught? Sorry he had told on me? I started to seethe at him. He better fucking hope he hadn’t ratted me out, else I’d make him pay, the fucking hippie wannabe.
“Take a right,” Dan told me, and I obliged him by going into the Day Room.
There was Helen, looking at me with such sadness and disappointment. How could you do such a thing? How could you end up such a bad person? Her face told a story her mouth couldn’t. She looked at Dan and a wordless conversation seemed to pass between them. It was apparently determined that Helen would go to the night desk and tell them about my transgressions. She left the room with another sad, disappointed look for me.
“Have a seat, Casanova,” Dan said and pointed to a spot at a table. Again, I obliged.
“What’s gonna happen to me?”
“I don’t know, and I really don’t care, Lowell. You know what you did was wrong, or you wouldn’t know to ask that question. You probably want to know how I knew?” He didn’t wait for me to answer. “Your partner in crime gave you away.”
I knew it! That little son-of-a-bitch!
“Now, no need to get to glaring so. He didn’t snitch you out, if that’s what you’re thinking. What happened is that he went to Helen to ask for those Aspirin, as I’m sure you know. And when Helen went into the utility closet to get them, he waved his arms behind his back as a signal to you, which you also know because you then went down to Morgan‘s room. What you don’t know is he didn’t see me sitting here in the Day Room, watching M.A.S.H. But I saw him. And I figured he wasn’t wiping away the stink of a fart.”
“Oh,” was my reply.
So Chris hadn’t ratted me out, but because of his stupidity I was busted. I knew the hand gesture was dumb when he gave it, and it had almost made me stay put. We had planned this out long enough that he ought to have known better. We’d gone through this step-by-step over and over again, and had it down pat. But he’d gone and ruined it, and for what? To tell me something I already knew!
Chris was new when I returned from my brief hiatus to LCJC and back. I forget what he was there for, but the fact that his mattress was on the floor instead of in his room meant he was on Suicide Watch. Suicide Watch was more for the nurses than any actual risk of suicide from a new patient, since the mattress on the floor outside the room made it easier for a nurse to come up and prep you for all the blood withdrawals they took during your first twenty four hours in the unit. That was the absolute worse part of being there at first; waking up every four hours to find a groggy nurse sticking you with a needle. To put it kindly, it sucked a dirty butt hole.
I was technically on Suicide Watch too, and I was glad of it. I’d never been more appreciative in all my thirteen years of life. Sleeping on a mattress outside my room and having a needle stuck in my arm every four hours was cake compared to the alternative, Lake County Juvenile Center. That was why I was in the damn mental ward of the hospital in the first place! Had I known this nefarious plan would have ended with me in LCJC in the first place, I probably would have just skipped the visit to Dyer and went straight to kiddy jail.
It was Popeye’s idea. We were sitting on the porch of my house, reeling in the news that a warrant had been issued for my arrest. I’d confessed to my part in breaking and entering, and now the promise that dickhole detective had made to me was broken.
“If you confess we can probably avoid any time in juvenile,” he’d told me as I sat across from him. “Everyone else has already confessed, Lowell. They told us you were there.”
If only I’d bothered to watch crime shows like Law and Order I would have known this was a basic interrogation technique. What happened instead is that I caved like, well, a naïve thirteen-year-old being interrogated by a detective for a crime.
That’s all beside the point. The point is I thought I’d receive, maybe not a free pass, but probation or even house arrest. I didn’t expect to have a warrant issued for my arrest.That was when Popeye, one of my older brother’s friends, came up with the bright idea.
“You know, a cousin of mine was once in the same situation. But instead of going to jail he checked himself into a mental hospital. They considered that the same as jail so when he was release they just let his ass go free.”
It sounded like a lovely plan to me. Lounging around with a bunch of troubled teens versus living with some of the most hardened and criminal juveniles from Gary and the rest of Lake County, Indiana. Give me the crazies any day of the week. Please.
That’s how I found myself sitting in the reception area, trying to gain admittance. I must admit I gave an award-winning performance. I had my spiel down pat.
“Well, about a month ago my father died of lung cancer. Last week my grandfather died of a stroke. Since then I’ve been feeling, I don’t know. Like life just isn’t the same. I mean, what’s the point? Everyone you love is going to die. You’re going to die eventually. I started thinking, maybe I should just take a shortcut and get it over with. You know? I just feel like life might not be worth living after all, but I know it is. I know I’m just down and out because of my dad and gramps, and I don’t want to kill myself. But at least once a day I stop and think, why not? Why not step into traffic? Why not take that knife and find the veins? Why not drink that Drain-O? It would be so easy, and that’s what makes it seem like a good idea some times. It would be so easy to just end the pain, end this pointlessness.”
I even managed to get teary-eyed. Jesus wept, someone give me a trophy!
Of course, I was admitted that very day. Screw you, LCJC, you ain’t messing up my pretty face! I mean, don’t get me wrong. I had just lost my father and grandfather within a month of each other. It was tough, but I was a kid. I missed them, my gramps most of all, but I wasn’t going to kill myself because of it. I had too much to live for. I finally had a great group of friends, I had two different girlfriends who let me have sex with them, I was living large and in fucking charge!
I didn’t want to ruin it all by going to kiddy jail, a kiddy jail that made some adult jails seem tame by comparison. I mean, I was going to be surrounded by murderers and hardcore gang bangers, as compared to the group of loser wannabes I hung out with. I wasn’t cut out for all that. I’d spent two years living in the projects of Gary; I knew what type of people I’d be around in LCJC. I wanted no part of it, so I took advantage of a system to try and skate my way out of the trouble I’d gotten myself into.
It did not work, as the cops eventually found me out. But after the drive from Dyer to the holding center in Crown Point, I found myself back at Dyer. I was denied entrance into LCJC until my Suicide Risk status could be removed. Since this was on a Friday and my shrink had already gone home, it bought me three more days at Dyer until I could be released on Monday.
Thus I found myself in the same place I’d been thirty days earlier, laying on a mattress in the hall on Suicide Watch. Only now I had a neighbor in Chris, and another girlfriend who was very glad to have me back with her for a few more days; a girlfriend who I planned on getting as intimate as possible with while I had the chance. Morgan was as blunt as possible about not having a problem with that.
“When are we going to fuck?” was how she put it at dinner that evening. Hence the plan eventually ruined by Chris and his excessive waving.
I probably should have known better, anyway. I mean, she was in there for supposedly having been raped, and yet she threw herself at me every chance she got. Since we had started calling each other boyfriend and girlfriend a week and a half earlier she grabbed my crotch several times and made lewd gestures whenever our adult supervision wasn’t paying attention. She practically gave me a handjob while watching the weekly movie the Sunday before. I like to think it was this that blinded me to what she was capable of. I mean, we were in a place for crazy teenagers after all.
The next day when I was summoned into the office of my shrink, who looked less than pleased to have been called in on a Saturday, I was more than surprised at how the meeting went. They brought Morgan in, escorted by Mike, who I liked well enough. Morgan wouldn’t even as much as look at me, and Mike could have skewered me with the daggers he was glaring my way. I thought that was strange. The anger and vehemence my shrink addressed me with was even stranger.
“We are very saddened and angered by your actions. Would you like to tell us what you did wrong, Lowell?”
“Yea,” I said, not quite as meek and nice as I had portrayed myself in the recent month. I knew how to play these people, and I had played them to perfection. Now, though, I was shedding that layer. I wasn’t letting them see the innermost me, but rather what I thought a badass gang banger like me should be. A smug, obnoxious little prick.
“Well?” she asked. She was nice enough most of the time, very sympathizing and desperate to prove to herself that she was good at what she did. Now she was all business and more. She was frosty and didn’t bother to withhold her disdain of me or this situation.
“I snuck into Morgan’s room last night.”
“Yes, which was wrong. But what else did you do?”
I wasn’t sure where this was going.
“Uh, I kissed her.”
“Yes, you did that and more. And I’m very disappointed in you, Lowell,” she said, and I could tell she was. I had betrayed her. It was bad enough I had lied about why I was here. All of our sessions together had been for naught. I’d been lying the entire time, and now here I was enthusiastically breaking the rules, and more, apparently.
I didn’t apologize, like I knew she wanted. I just sat there and stared at the wall. Finally, she sighed.“We should talk about the charges we will be filing.”
That got my attention.
“Charges? For what?” I asked, my voice rising. Morgan was actually older than me, so what the hell was the deal with this?
“For what? For sexually assaulting her, Lowell.”That took me aback.
“Wait. What? She never said no! She invited me to her room!” I turned to face Morgan. “I didn’t force you to do anything!”
I was angry. I was more than angry, I was fucking livid. How dare she try to say I forced myself on her! Did I force her tongue into my mouth? Did I force her to grab my cock all those times? What the fuck was wrong with this bitch?
“Is that true, Morgan?” the doc asked. Morgan hung her head in shame and did what she must have learned to do in situations to try and cool the heat on her. She started crying. “Morgan, is it true?”
“Yes!” she finally exclaimed and then burst into fake, pathetic tears in an attempt to garner any sympathy that might have been left.
Now a bit of satisfaction as the atmosphere in the room shifted dramatically. It wasn’t until it changed that I really noticed how much shit the Doc and Mike were ready to lay on me. The anger now coming from those two was directed firmly toward Morgan and relief washed through me. I was still pissed off, though, and wasn’t going to let her forget that.
“You said I tried to rape you? What the fuck is wrong with you?”
“That’s enough, Lowell,” the Doc told me. “You were still in the wrong.”
“Yeah, I might have been in the wrong, but I’m not a rapist!” I turned to Morgan again. “Is this what you do? String a guy along, mess around with him, make him like you and when it stops being convenient for you, you cry rape?”
“Lowell, that’s enough. You can go back to your room.”Mike escorted me out and he took no time in apologizing.
“I’m sorry, you know,” he said. He punctuated every other sentence with a you know. “You shouldn’t have been in her room though, you know.”
“I know that now, Mike,” I said, still seething. “I didn’t know she would try to say I raped her, though.”
“Well, kiddo, some people are here for more valid reasons than yours.” He let that sink in for a moment. “Just keep your distance from her, now on, you know? I know you’re mad at her, but don’t let it ruin your final days here. You got worries enough starting Monday, you know?”
“Yeah, I know.”
And I did. Monday would end my little vacation and would begin a month of hell for me. A month of walking lightly and trying not to offend anyone, trying not to make any more enemies than the color of my skin already gave me. A month of constantly looking over my shoulder, always waiting and watching for the inevitable sneak attack or outright assault. Would it happen while I was taking a shit on the toilet sitting open in the middle of the bathroom? While I was sleeping, reading, or playing Spades? Who would it be? A month that would feel like a year.
But I lived through it, and went on with my life. Moved out of the ghetto and had a relatively happy ending. I even ran into Morgan five years later. She was working checkout at the Valparaiso Wal*Mart and looked the same as she had as a fourteen-year-old, but a little taller and with a bit more weight on her bones. I didn’t even recognize that it was her until she greeted me with the typical, bored cashier greeting.
“Hi, how are you?”
My typical reply died on my lips as I looked up and our eyes locked. Her eyes widened in recognition, and I imagine her breath probably caught for a moment like mine did. But our eye contact quickly ended and we looked away, embarrassed. We had met, became friends, semi-lovers and then enemies over the course of a month in another time, another life. It didn’t matter on what terms we’d ended our relationship, we were both different people.
She went about her business, checking out the motley collection of munchies I’d grabbed. The last item on the conveyor belt created a grin on my face after I’d paid and walked away, bags in hand. Strawberries.
Strawberry Daze is © 2009 and forbidden from further use without the express written permission of the author. In other words, don’t fuck with my shit!