Short Stories

Overlooked (5)

August 13, 2015

weathered fence

Decisions, Decisions

 

The ride into town took a half hour and a bit, the driver stopping for a bale of hay on the way. He was going check on his horse at a local stable to be sure it had water and plenty to eat. The hot weather was hard on the four-legged beasts. Lon got out of the truck once in town, apologizing for not being able to pay for the ride; the driver laugh and told him to forget it, claiming it was his good deed of the day.

The clock on the wall outside the savings and loan building read 1:35, long past Lon’s lunchtime. Being absent from the prison mess hall would surely alert everyone; they’d realize Lon was missing; then all hell would undoubtedly breaking loose, the guards sounding the alarm and the warden notified. On the other hand, Lon didn’t always go to lunch if he pilfered enough food while working in the kitchen; he might not be missed. A slim chance to be overlooked, Lon needed to find a way for Arnold to collect him before trouble began.

Luck was with him. He stooped down to pick up a nickel lying right at his feet, enough to make a phone call. Now he had to find a pay phone and Arnold’s phone number. To the side of the Mission Street Drug Store he found a phone with an attached directory. He recited the alphabet to figure out where S should be in the book. It occurred to him, he didn’t remember Arnold’s exact last name; it might be Smith, Schmidt or Smithe or was it something altogether different? Lon’s memory wasn’t what it used to be.

Flicking through the pages of the directory he went down the list of all three names, none of them had an Arnold after them. There had to be a way of finding the number; it wasn’t a very big town, though the directory covered the surrounding area as well.

Someone should know him around town. He’d been working at the prison for many years, though Lon couldn’t say how many that had been. Searching the businesses down the street he saw a sign advertising mobile phone headquarters. This could be an easy solution to finding Arnold; they would surely have his number.

 

“How are you today sir?” said the woman behind the counter of the store. “Are you interested in a phone for you or a friend? We have our standard model and also some that will be arriving in a month, smaller with a better reception. ”

The woman gave him the once-over, noticing his shabby appearance, not particularly bothered by it; ranches and farms situated in the rural areas nearby. She was young, pretty and smart, almost as pretty as Jody not Judy from what Lon could gather. He got the impression she knew everything there was to know about mobile phones.

“We have some very nice ones,” she added. “But if you prefer to wait, we will have the smaller ones in a month or two.”

“Uh, no, ma’am. I just wanted to get a phone number of a fella.”

“I’m not sure we can help you with that,” she replied. “We don’t give out numbers or have lists of clients. Is your friend a Mobile South customer?”

“Huh?”

“What system is he using? There are a several in this area.”

“His name is Arnold,” offered Lon, baffled by her question. “He works at the prison, if that helps.”

“Why don’t you just contact the prison,” she returned. “I’m sure they will be glad to connect you with your Mr. Arnold.

He couldn’t explain to her why that was not a good idea; it might frighten her to think Lon was an escapee, even if he wasn’t dangerous. The clock on the wall now read 2:10. Time passed so quickly when you were free. Lon thanked the pretty woman and turned about to leave.

“Oh, sir!” she called. “You might ask the sheriff; his office is two blocks over and one block down on Honeysuckle Avenue.”

He made a mental note where the sheriff was in order to avoid it. Trying to get back into prison was becoming more difficult than getting out. He once fantasized about escaping decades before only to discover why no one else escaped regularly.

A cellmate of his said, “Minimum security, my ass, you couldn’t squeeze a fart out of this place with a shoehorn; we’re lucky to get air in and out and only with a fan.”

Lon didn’t understand what a shoehorn had to do with a fart but accepted his contemporary’s analogy. Prison was like that, funny sayings that made no sense to Lon. The odd thing about being in prison was how terminology changed. The pen, the slammer, the hoosegow, the joint and a bunch of these terms were thrown around the prison population. People on the outside, like his attorney, referred to prison as rehabilitation institution, a term Lon was not familiar with until he was actually being rehabilitated. It mostly involved some guy sitting a bunch of the inmates in a circle and asking them what they wanted to do. Lon only wanted to get out. He hadn’t read very much during his youth, so many words escaped him. Luckily the prison library had a dictionary, hard to find words when you can’t spell them.

He was becoming a little sleepy, the warmth of the day easing some of his aches. Off in the distance he spotted a patch of trees with grass around them, very inviting and offering some shade. He wiped his forehead with the back of his sleeve lifting off his favorite cap. One of the guards gave it to him on his sixtieth birthday; it was an old one the guard didn’t want any more. The guard called it his gangster hat. Lon didn’t know why it was called that but accepted the offer.

The patch of grass turned out to be a lovely cemetery with benches and flowers planted along the fences, fancy marble headstones and statues. The shade was welcome, Lon sitting his behind down on one of the benches. The heat of the day was oppressive; he left his hat off, letting the small breeze blow his thinning hair and cool his head. Whether it was the temperature or his age, Lon drifted off to sleep wondering if he could get back to the prison before supper; having missed lunch, he was becoming a little hungry.

While he dozed, several people visiting the cemetery noticed the old man on the bench looking penniless and sad. The tiny headstone near his feet was that of an old woman, dead several years. Passerby’s imagined the old man longed for his dead wife and felt sorry for him. A little boy dropped a quarter in Lon’s cap followed by his mother, who placed a five-dollar bill into it. Two hours later the cap was full of cash, the generosity of those visiting the dead heartwarming. Lon never woke up during this, though he was beginning to feel a twinge of hunger in his dream like state. His eyes opened slowly as the need for sustenance crept into his consciousness.

Stretching and bending, he worked the kinks out of his body; the bench had been hard and Lon needed a few minutes to straighten himself; old bones took a while to reset in the proper order. Twisting his neck to one side then the other he discovered his cap full of money. A miracle or was it an offering from God? He never spent much time thinking about God. The whole place was riddled with religious sayings on tombstones, prayers to the departed and wishes for future alliances with the Creator.

 

Manna from heaven, he thought. How on earth did this happen?

 

The angle of the sun created long shadows, cast on the ground like soldiers in line, suggesting the approaching evening. He must have slept a long time. Of course, his body felt the cramps that resulted from sleeping on the hard bench, perhaps better suited for short visits, not sleeping. He was no closer to getting back into the prison; maybe they would come looking for him in the morning or he could find put Arnold’s phone number before then. But would anyone believe he was not trying to escape, being gone for a better part of a day and night?

Folding the bills in his cap and scooping up the small change, he figured it was too late to make his way back to prison. Being in town, it was too far to walk and he might not get a ride from the nice man in the truck again. Flashing red lights further down the road caught his eye. Could this be Arnold looking for him? With some effort he stood and began to haltingly walk down the road toward the lights, anticipating the ass chewing he would get from Arnold. Maybe it wasn’t too late to get back into his cell; there was no real harm done.

To his disappointment the lights weren’t coming from a prison vehicle but a motel on the main road into town. The sun was now almost even with the rooftops, with a hint of color, the clouds giving off a wonderful display of pinks and purple. Lon thought this sunset seemed somehow special, being that he was on the outside watching it, instead of in prison. He’d never bothered to watch the sunset when he was younger and free, a pity no less. Enlightened with this situation he paused for several minutes until the sun was almost gone, the skies growing deeper with reds, purples and various shades of pink. Freedom looked and smelled good.

He hadn’t thought of it for those few moments but his stomach reminded him that he was in need of nourishment. Regrettably, it was chicken stew night at the prison, a dish Lon really liked; he hated to miss it. Fate presented another option; the closer he got to the motel the more he could see it had several small stores and a café. It had been a lifetime since he had sat anywhere but a bench to eat his meal, his companions adding little ambiance. Prisons didn’t like chairs because they could easily be turned into weapons, when inmates were squabbling.

 

How much will a meal cost, he wondered? Last time I bought food it cost me two bits; I’m not sure if I got enough money.

 

Counting the paper money first and then the change, he had forty-seven dollars and sixty-six cents. The sign in the window café had: Lunch Special, Soup and Grilled Cheese Sandwich $4.99 – Dinner Special $9.99.

He liked grilled cheese, even if the other inmates said the prison cheese tasted like mold. Soup and sandwich sounded pretty good but it wasn’t lunchtime. It would be wrong to have lunch at this late hour; that’s what they’d say at the prison. Dinner sounded pretty expensive but Lon was getting really hungry and decided partake in the Café Eats culinary offering, a strange but accurate name for a restaurant.

Two people were in the café when he entered, a small bell above the door ringing as he passed through. The place had the smell of food, several kinds, not unpleasant when one was hungry. A waitress in a powder blue uniform with white lace on the trim stepped up to him smiling from ear to ear, her perky disposition, welcoming.

“Hi honey,” she cooed. “You want a booth or counter?”

“Nah, miss. I just want dinner.”

“I can believe that,” she said giggling. “Where would you like to sit?”

This was an interesting question. For decades he had never had choice in where he sat, not that one bench was better than the other. Looking toward the booth near the window, he pointed.

“Would it be okay if I sit there?” he asked. “It’s a lot of room just for me.”

“Don’t be silly, honey,” she returned. “It’s early and we don’t exactly pack this place, mostly folks from the highway and hotel. You stayin’ at the hotel?”

“Uh, no,” he answered. Lon had the sense not to offer too much information about his situation. “Maybe I’ll have to, though, gettin’ late.”

“Well, let me make a suggestion,” offered the waitress. “If you pay with a credit card, Vern will charge you more for the room. If ya got cash he’ll knock five bucks off the room. It’s the off-season and he’s glad to get anyone to rent rooms.”

“I don’t got no credit card and only a little cash,” replied Lon. “You wouldn’t happen to know how much it costs?”

“Twenty bucks, cash,” she answered. “And don’t let Vern charge no more. He ain’t a bad guy but he takes advantage of people sometimes.”

The waitress handed him a menu before asking him if he’d like something to drink. He said, whatever she’d like to give him, options in prison were nonexistent. She claimed he looked like the beer type and rushed off to grab a bottle.

 

Beer, he thought. I haven’t had one in so long I don’t remember if I like it. Ryan was the last person to buy me a beer, though he wanted me to know I couldn’t drink it all the time, bad for business.

 

The menu was simple but had a considerable number of items when compared to his prison fare, one item scribbled on a chalkboard. LO Soup was common on the board because it meant ‘left overs’. The prison cook would dump the things from all the meals into a pot. Lon liked it when there were baked beans left over with heavy sweet flavor. Deciding now was going to be a challenge. In the end the Dinner Special seemed the right choice.

“What’s the Dinner Special?” he asked. “I think I might take that if it’s no trouble.”

“Oh, that’s a good one, honey. Hot meatloaf with mashed taters and gravy. It also comes with a salad and any kind of dressing you want. Phil makes a mean meatloaf and the plates are huge, lots of food, old-timer. Won’t leave here hungry.”

Lon picked up his beer feeling the chill on his hand. Even the at the prison the water was disgusting, the punch thinned out and never very cold; ice wasn’t allowed for safety reasons. Studying the beer, Lone Star was the brand name on the bottle, a big star on the label. His first sip caused him to make a face, the beverage bitter when one was used to watered-down punch. The second sip was better and the memory of beer came back to him; he remembered why he used to like it.

The food arrived, the waitress making a fuss over Lon, something he was not used to. She must have been bored since there was hardly anyone in the place. Looking down at his plate, Lon hadn’t seen so much food at one time, two slabs of meatloaf and a mountain of mashed potatoes, smothered in rich brown gravy, gravy that smelled like real meat not the bland stuff in prison. The salad was on a separate plate with mound of blue cheese dressing over the top, something he had never had before. He decided it wasn’t so terrible being free.

He began to gulp his food, like he did while in prison; the guards didn’t like inmates to doddle, taking up too much time. Lon never could understand the urgency since every prisoner had to be there all day and night. Maybe it was because the guards had to stand up during the meals around the perimeter above the mess hall. A few of them were a little on the plump side, not disposed to standing anywhere for long.

Part way through his meal the door rattled the bell again, a very large sheriff deputy strolling in, badge, gun and an assortment of leather pouches wrapped around his expansive waist. He scanned the café squinting his eyes when he spied Lon. Furrowing his brow, he stomped over to Lon with purpose, putting a scare into the old man.

“Are you him?” questioned the deputy folding him arms over his barrel chest. “It’s okay to tell me. How old are you?”

“Almost eighty-eight, sir.”

“Then you’re not him.” returned the deputy and turned away.

“Don’t you go messin’ with my customers,” warned the waitress. “What was that all about?”

“Some guy in the county just turned one-hundred,” replied the deputy. “That little old man looked old enough to be the guy. Was wondering if he was the one. No harm done, Elaine; cool your jets.”

It was unlikely the waitress was going to give him hell, though she pretended to be miffed, a game these two had played regularly by the look of it.

“Now how about giving your favorite deputy a big hug?” he added with a smile.

“Luke you know I’m savin’ myself for the right man,” she answered, slapping him playfully on the shoulder.

“I keep telling you, I am the right man,” countered the deputy.

“Oh, sit down before I tell your wife,” said the waitress. “I have no idea why she puts up with you flirtin’ all the time.

They laughed out loud, the situation obviously a pastime these two managed without any seriousness assigned. Though Lon thought it might be a good idea to go back to prison where he was supposed to be, being handled by some big deputy didn’t sound like a lot of fun. The deputy swiveled on the counter seat to face Lon.

“Eighty-eight, ya say,” said the deputy. “Damn old! What’s it like being so old?”

“Okay, I guess,” returned Lon, his mouth with mashed potatoes.

“You staying at the motel?” added the deputy.

“Yes, if I can afford it,” replied Lon with a shrug.

The deputy laughed, turning his attention back to the waitress.

“Eighty-eight, my, my,” muttered the deputy. “Elaine let me buy the old coot’s dinner for him. I figure living that long deserves something. For me, I want to die young and good looking.”

“You might get your wish about the first thing; bein’ good lookin’ gonna take a miracle,” she retorted.

Lon thanked him but thought it better to minimize conversation; too many questions might produce awkward responses.

The waitress and deputy were having fun laughing at each other’s jokes to really pay him any mind. Lon imagined this is how people acted when they were free. He slipped out quietly when he’d eaten his fill.

Being free after so many years was harder than people might believe. There were too many choices, whether it was food, places to stay or where to go. Even after having his meal paid for he worried over where he should go next; prison was where that was supposed to be but that wasn’t materializing at the moment.

Considering the time and his limited information, Lon had to decide about something on his own; prison always made your decisions for you. The motel was right there and he had plenty of cash, though that wasn’t going to last forever. The waitress was right about Vern; the owner tried to jack up the price until Lon produced twenty dollars in cash. Vern winced and mumbled something about ‘a bird in the hand is better than’, handing over a key to room number seven.

The key wouldn’t turn very well, Lon having to jiggle it a little. There was a storage room door at prison that had the same problem; that’s where Lon had to get his cleaning supplies. He should recommend graphite to Vern. The room smelled funny, like cigarettes and food. Still, it smelled better than prison, which had both odors plus the stink of men unwilling to shower often enough. Lon didn’t bathe too often but then it wasn’t so important when you didn’t do anything.

By the standards of normal travelers, the motel room was tiny, unless you’ve spent time in a prison cell where you can almost touch the walls on both sides at once. A bed made up with an ugly brown bedspread sat directly in the middle with one door to the bathroom on the opposite side. The bathroom smelled like pine disinfectant, the kind that kills germs and anyone who uses it. One chair and a small end table were all that filled the room. Lon took a deep breath, taking in the space available for one person, alone.

“There’s only one thing missing,” he said out loud. “Now that I think of it, I’m not even sure I can do that anymore. Still, I’d love to see Miss Jody not Judy lying on the bed, naked as a J-bird. Now wouldn’t that be something.”

Men talked about women when there was nothing else to do. Of course, talking about them didn’t help; when a man had a desire to have sex, everything else was a poor substitute, though some of the men performed sexual acts with each other to placate their need. For now, no one arrived with intent to do naughty things on or under the brown bedspread; he didn’t expect anyone to, the dream of female companionship nothing but a ghost fantasy. He was alone in the room, a huge room.

 

One Empty Bedweathered fence

Arnold was sure his day was going to be great until a terrible discovery changed all of that. Somewhere along the way he had misplaced an inmate. Assembling the former work crew he asked what happened to Lon Kirby. The men looked at each other as if trying to decide if anyone should fink on the old man; there was a code, after all.

“Did he come with us this morning?” asked Dennis the extortionist. “I don’t remember seeing him. I never really notice him anyhow; he’s quiet most of the time.”

Ox, a smalltime purse-snatching hood added, “The old guy was takin’ a whiz the last time I saw him; wandered off by the bushes across the road, I think. Figured he came back before we left.”

Everyone in the work detail disavowed any knowledge of Lon’s whereabouts, no definitive answer to where he might be. Arnold had a vague recollection of giving Lon permission to pee but his memory might be inaccurate since his mind was on something else. Now that he was off-duty, Arnold took his car back to where the work detail had been, hoping to find some sign of Lon. The old man wasn’t usually a problem and might just be waiting where he was left; it wouldn’t surprise him, dumb as a box of rocks. For the time being he will record the old man as present when the count was taken.

At the prison graveyard sight he found Lon’s prison jacket, a stick of Juicy Fruit chewing gum still in the pocket, hard to come by in the system. It was unlike Lon to leave something like that behind unless _____ unless he decided to escape. A thorough search of nearby bushes turned up nothing except trash, beer bottles and wads of ancient toilet paper. But what could an eight-eight year old man do once he’d escaped? He had no money, no place to go and no relatives or friends to hide him. The dirt road behind the prison cemetery provided no clues since several cars used the road obliterating any footprints that might have been there hours earlier.

It was a long walk into town, especially in the heat; unlikely Lon could do it without having to stop often to rest; that is where he must be now, on the road. Arnold followed the road into town stopping periodically to check the woods in the event Lon was hiding. The light was fading, no evidence of Lon anywhere along the way. Many of the businesses in town would be closed in an hour or so making inquiries impossible. Where could he be?

To make matters worse Arnold had a date with his almost, maybe girlfriend, who wasn’t an easy catch; that had been part of his distraction during the work detail. His date was smart, pretty and had her pick of men in town, making that well known to any trying to woo her. After months of schmoozing he finally got her to agree to a date with strong possibilities for sex later in the evening. Though picky, she was also extremely sexual, the few lucky men attesting to her dexterity in the Bedroom Olympics. Canceling now would be the kiss of death and the end to future bliss with Sissy.

 

I’ll poke around for a while to see if I can find Lon, he thought. If not, then I’ll get ready for my date. The old man can’t be far; he’s got to be around here, probably curled up under some tree sleeping. I’ll go on the date and figure out where my boy went tomorrow; I don’t want Sissy to be disappointed.

 

Asking around town turned up nothing as he suspected, many of stores closed for the evening. In a town like this, not much happened after three o’clock in the afternoon, some store owners closing by four, a few earlier. Arnold’s mobile phone rang, startling him a little. One of the night guards claimed he found one bed empty and wanted to know what was up.

“Yeah, yeah its Lon Kirby; don’t worry about it,” instructed Arnold. “I got the guy doing something special for me. He’ll be back by morning Hal.”

 

Hot Date

Sissy Jankovich was dressed to kill, her low cut dress barely restraining her perfect breasts, her short skirt covering only what was considered acceptable in the small town. The fashions in Europe had not caught up with the sense of decency of the town. She liked Arnold because he was tall and had a sweet face, not too smart or dumb. The fact that he made a good salary and had benefits didn’t hurt his overall appeal. She dated enough losers, who eventually wanted to borrow money from her, which would end a relationship faster than a door slam in his face.

She struggled as a beautician, making very little in a small town barely able to support its population. Women wanted her to create miracles that were impossible given their bad skin and plain appearances. A facial might tighten the skin but never change a fat face, or the nose that was too big or eyebrows that were too thick.

“How can I change a cow into a unicorn?” Sissy muttered to the other girl in the shop.

Thirty and getting older by the second, she lied about being twenty-five; there wasn’t much of a future in store for her unless she nabbed the right man, the handwriting on the wall when it came to genetics. Time was an unhappy event when it came to aging. All the women in her family spread sideways as they aged, Sissy fighting the inevitable on a daily basis. She looked forward to the time when she didn’t have to work out for hours and eat salads like some kind of rabbit. She’d never let herself go completely, but a slightly more relaxed lifestyle would not be so terrible.

Arnold wasn’t much of a conversationalist but that’s not why she agreed to go out with him. He told her he knew how to make a gal happy; she wanted to find out just how much. Men boasted about one thing or another, sex a subject most of them lied about. If Arnold met all of her requirements she might consider being Mrs. Arnold one day. Being showered with enough money to enjoy life and an adequate sex life was better than tinting gray hair with a blue rinse; the old women always lecturing her about getting older.

 

Arnold’s mobile phone rang again.

“Hal, I told you everything is under control,” said Arnold brushing off some lint on his trousers. “Don’t call me anymore.”

Life was easier when he was dating Madeline Kusak, who eventually ran off with Crash Montes. Crash had dark wavy hair and a macho attitude that exceeded all reason. He also ran Al’s Tire and Brake Service at the north end of town, a monetary edge Arnold did not possess. Sweet talk, four radial tires with a complimentary set of Yamasoto dinner knives, sealed Madeline and Crash’s love life. It wasn’t a terrible loss since Madeline was too skinny for Arnold’s taste, her sexuality hindered by some unknown religion she professed to have. Though willing, Madeline claimed sex should only be practiced during certain days following each solstice.

On the other hand, Sissy was perfect; he wanted everything to be perfect for her, even going as far as trying the new Cajun restaurant in town with their spicy food and funny names. Personally, Arnold didn’t like spicy food; it gave him heartburn. But Sissy had mentioned that she loved spice in her food and men, leaving him no choice but to suffer in silence. It was a little awkward, he being thirty-five and she twenty-five. He put the thought out of his head; lots of women liked older men.

 

The vacancy light rhythmically flashed, on and off in front of the Bent Oak Motel, Lon watching it from the window of his room. He belched a couple times, the seasoning of the meatloaf reoccurring, a hint of capers and red chili. Prison food wasn’t tasty but it also didn’t repeat on you hours later, bland being the season of the year. Yet the feeling of freedom was intoxicating enough to overlook the few discomforts he suffered. He would have had desert if he hadn’t felt so full. As a sweet gesture the waitress stuffed a piece of peach pie in a small container, saying he could eat it later; the deputy was paying anyhow.

Lon watched the sunset, the buzz of cars passing now and then. Soon all traffic stopped and the quiet enveloped the land as darkness descended. Prison was never quiet, not like this; someone was always yelling or playing their radio too loud. Modern correctional facilities allowed small personal items like radios, good if you enjoy it but not so good if the neighboring inmate plays it when you’re trying to sleep. You get used to it after a while, though it can still be irritating.

Small lights were popping on along the road, the town taking on a undisturbed personality, asleep, save some restaurants and bars continuing their trade late into the early hours of the next day. It wasn’t long before Lon felt the inclination to fall asleep along with the town, the motel bed a stranger to his body. Sheets were white and clean, better than the off-white wrinkled sheets in prison; they tended to be scratchy and gave him a rash sometimes. The pillow was made of some kind of spongy material, which felt odd at first. Before he knew it, his eyes closed, the peacefulness causing him to drift off to La La Land.

Dreaming was not a particular luxury for Lon during his incarceration, some claiming he wasn’t smart enough to have anything to dream about. In spite of others he dreamt of simple things only interrupted every so often by slight nightmarish dreams of being abandoned, which was only natural since his parents did leave without notice. Sweet things and smiling girls at the soda shop were the kinds of things his mind reenacted along with those very special nights and days with Jody not Judy.

It was uncertain how long he had been asleep when he heard someone in room next to his, room eight. A man and woman were talking loudly, both of them giggling, their muffled words impossible to make out clearly. The voices and sounds got worse once the couple decided to engage in what was apparently wild sex. A rhythmic pounding of the headboard against the adjoining wall kept Lon from going back to sleep, a sound not dissimilar to the one Ryan and Jody used to make. Shortly after, a couple on the other adjoining wall, room six, joined in with a symphony of moans and groans. It bothered him but he didn’t want to complain; that might invite unwanted attention. He was, for all practical purposes, an escaped convict.

Seeking a quieter atmosphere, he stepped outside to see if there was a bench or chair to sleep in. Lon figured the amorous couples might complete their act and go to sleep after a brief period of time. For now, he would find some place to curl up for a while, waiting out the sexcapades.

His memory titillated, the throes of audible passion brought back a few intimate moments of his encounters with Jody not Judy, decades before. Memory of her had faded a bit, though he recalled screwing her while Ryan was away. It hadn’t been love, that much he understood; it was only sex, which she confirmed after their first time. That had been fine with him at the time, though being in love with someone would have been nice.

With no chairs or benches around, he noticed several cars parked in the stalls. Wandering from one to the next, he discovered one was unlocked, crawling into the backseat of the car with a blanket he procured from his room. The seats of the car were comfortable; quiet had returned as he slept soundly, dreams of his youth and the things he missed out on.

Men in prison spoke of the things they did before being locked up. Some had traveled and been to foreign countries; others had spent time in one of the three wars that happened while Lon was in the clink. Women and sex was the most popular of all conversations, Lon having nothing to really contribute. He wondered what it would have been like if he never been put in prison. Maybe he would have been a war hero and brag about saving his company. Or maybe he wouldn’t be smart enough to be a soldier.

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