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Authors: C.L. Wells

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Utopian Day (4 page)

BOOK: Utopian Day
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Why are so many of them
sad?”

J.T. walked up beside James and looked at the same
sculpture. His eyes were pointed at the carved sculpture, but he
was looking somewhere else. Somewhere in the past. When he spoke
next, his voice was subdued and his tone echoed not so much guilt
as acknowledgement.


Because I'm a thief,
James.”

James looked up from the sculpture into J.T.'s eyes
and the man met his gaze, looking intently back at him.


I stole from people. I took
things from them. I stole their money like it was mine to take.
Only now, I realize I was taking a lot more from them than that.
From some of them, I was taking their hope, or a chance to buy
medicine for their sick child, or their college fund. I never
thought of that before I came here, to Utopia. I carve these images
as a type of amends. It's a way to remind myself that what I did
hurt real people so I won't ever do it again.”

James looked down at the sculpture he held in his
hands. He began to think of his mother and about how much he missed
her. Tears began to well up in his eyes as he spoke.


That's what happened to my
mom.... She had cancer. The doctors told her it was incurable and
that she might live another year or so, but that was it. She found
out about this experimental drug she could get in France that might
help stop the cancer. She was going to take the money out of her
retirement fund to go get the treatment, but right before she was
going to get the money out, they told her the money had been stolen
by one of the fund managers. They eventually tracked the guy down
and took him to court, but they told Mom the class action suit
could take years to settle before she would see any of the money.
After that, it was like the life was sucked out of her. She knew
she wouldn't live that long. She died on my fourteenth
birthday.”

J.T. reached up and put one of his big hands on
James' shoulder.


I'm sorry, son.”


Yeah, thanks,” James replied as
he reached up and brushed away the tears that were threatening to
cascade down his face.

J.T. waited another moment before he continued in a
more upbeat tone.


We'll need to get to work soon,
so I better cut to the chase. You need to pick a hobby. This
workshop contains just about anything you need. If you want to
paint, learn to play the guitar, build bird houses, create pottery,
take photographs, whatever. Take a look around the place and pick
something. Your counselor will want to know what you pick – it has
to be approved, as I'm sure you are aware. I'm going to head over
to work to get ready. We've still got a few minutes, so look around
a little before you come over.”

With that, J.T. headed back out of the building.

James began walking up and down the aisles of the
warehouse. Just like J.T. had said, there was a little bit of
everything in there. He saw some machine shop tools, a ping-pong
table, art supplies, even a stack of jigsaw puzzles. He heard the
automated voice announce that there was fifteen minutes before the
work day began and decided to go back to the front of the warehouse
by way of one of the aisles he hadn't yet explored. About half-way
down the aisle, he saw twenty or thirty bicycles stacked closely
together. The sight suddenly brought back a childhood memory of
being with his dad.

On his seventh birthday, his dad had bought him a
brand-new bike and taught him how to ride. That summer was probably
the best summer of his life. He and his dad would ride down to the
playground almost every Saturday. That was also the last summer
he’d ever seen his dad. Shortly after that, his mom had gotten
cancer for the first time and his dad had left for good. He
abruptly turned away from the bicycles and headed to the door.

Chapter Seven

 

The next day, James went through the daily routine a
bit more smoothly as he began to assimilate into the scheduled
existence of life in his new prison home. He had reviewed the
weekly schedule posted on the wall in the diner and seen that today
there was a group session after work. The manual was fairly vague
on many of the topics it covered, and mention of the group session
was no different. It simply stated that : “The group session is
designed to assist the inmate in facing and overcoming the
challenges of life in the prison environment and in preparing them
for returning to normal life as a fully functioning member of
society.”

After dinner was over and the cleanup was complete,
everyone headed out the door to yet another building James had not
been to yet. The building appeared to be a well-cared-for
19
th
century house. The wooden siding was painted a
colorful yellow and the large windows revealed period rugs,
furniture, and decorations on the inside of the house. The group
ascended the steps onto the spacious wrap-around porch and James
noted the ornate carving on the porch railing, spindles, and posts
– all painted white.

They filed inside and the women grouped together and
went down the hall while the men in the group entered the first
door on the right. James followed along. The room was spacious,
with twelve-foot ceilings and a large oriental rug laid out on the
wooden floor. There was a circle of chairs in the middle of the
room and a water-cooler in one corner. Bedsides those items, there
was nothing else in the room. Everyone took a seat and began
talking among themselves as James looked around silently, taking it
all in.

Moments later, from the back of the room, a door
opened and a man in his mid-forties entered, wearing a tweed jacket
and dark-rimmed glasses. His hair was coiffed to perfection, but
didn’t totally eradicate the slightly nerdy aura he emanated. He
was looking down at a computer tablet he was carrying as he crossed
the room and sat down in one of the chairs. When he looked up, he
quickly scanned the group and fixed his gaze on James.


Ah, James,” the man said with a
smile. “Welcome to your first group session.”

The man reached out his hand and noticed James'
reluctance to respond.


It's o.k., this is one of the
locations in which the monitoring software is not programmed to zap
you.”

James reached out and shook the man's hand. The man
then settled back in his chair and addressed the group.


Hello everyone. Let's jump right
in. As is protocol, since we have a new member of the group, we're
going to start with principle one.” Turning to James, he continued.
“James, this is a twelve-step group somewhat akin to A.A. I could
go into a long explanation, but you'll catch on soon enough. Let's
introduce ourselves; then I'll read the rules and the first
principle and we can begin sharing.”

He looked around at the whole group before he
continued.


My name is Greg, I struggle with
commitment issues and insecurity.”

When he stopped speaking, everyone but James spoke
in unison.


Hi Greg.”

J.T. was seated to Greg's left, and continued the
introductions.


My name is J.T.. I struggle with
stealing and pridefulness.”


Hi J.T.,” everyone but James
replied.

When it came time for James to introduce himself,
Greg interjected.


James, you don't need to tell us
what you struggle with today if you don't want to. You can just
tell us your name and something else about yourself if you
want.”

James felt strange telling everyone who he was when
they already knew, but he did it anyway.


My name is James, and as you all
know, I’m the new guy.”


Hi James,” everyone
responded.

Once the introductions were completed, Greg clicked
on his tablet and began reading. He read some rules about not
interrupting and not trying to tell someone how to fix their
problems, as well as a few others. The last sentence, Greg read
very slowly and deliberately, as if he were reading to a small
child that might not understand the sentence if he read too
quickly.


We admitted we were powerless
over our destructive, compulsive behaviors and that our lives had
become unmanageable.”

He looked up from his tablet and took a look around
the room.


Who would like to begin sharing?”
he asked.

Samuel spoke up.


Hi, my name is Samuel, I struggle
with anger and desire for revenge.”


Hi Samuel,” the group
responded.

This time James joined in the response. Samuel
continued.


I think I'm beginning to forgive
my father for never being there, for always working and not
spending time with me. I realize now that he grew up in a
dysfunctional home too, and part of what drove him to work so much
was a feeling that his value in life came from his bank account. I
think he neglected me not because he didn't love me, but because he
felt so worthless himself that he felt he constantly had to be
working harder to make money in order to feel that he had any value
as a person.”

When Samuel was done, everyone but James said in
unison, “Thanks for sharing, Samuel.”

The meeting went on with everyone but James
eventually sharing something. Some were just as forthcoming as
Samuel. James noticed that Greg didn't give any advice, nor did
anyone else. They just listened. It was a strange feeling, being
listened to. James couldn't recall the last time someone had really
listened to him like these men were listening to each other. They
weren't making jokes or wise-cracks at what each other were saying.
They were just listening.

Later that night, after James was back in his room,
he was laying on the bed and thinking over what had transpired at
the group session earlier in the day. He had never experienced
anything like this in prison before. He felt a glimmer of hope that
this might actually help him break out of the destructive lifestyle
he had been in for so long. Maybe he could find a different, better
way to live. Maybe, just maybe, he wasn't doomed to follow the road
he had been on to the bitter end. Maybe he could learn to
change.

He closed his eyes and began to think about what a
different life might look like as he drifted off to sleep.

Chapter Eight

 

Laura woke up in a cold sweat as her body
involuntarily sat upright in her bed. She had been dreaming of Paul
again. She hadn't gone more than a few nights since his death
without having the same nightmare over and over. Only, it wasn't
just a nightmare... it had really happened.

She got out of bed and went to the bathroom sink to
rinse off the cold sweat with some warm water. She looked at
herself in the mirror and began to cry. She vowed to herself that
she would never allow herself to be in a position to feel this
emotional pain again. It was tearing her apart inside and she
wasn’t sure how much longer she could take it without having a
nervous breakdown – or worse.

The scene played out again in her mind. One minute,
she and Paul were sitting across from each other in a booth at the
diner here in Utopia, laughing and talking. He had reached his hand
across the table and gently caressed hers. They’d looked into each
other's eyes, each letting the other know how much they cared for
one another in a silent conversation. Then, suddenly, Paul's
countenance had changed. He began to make gasping sounds and fell
out of the booth onto the floor. His lips began turning blue as
Laura slid out of her seat onto the floor. She grasped his hand and
shouted out, “He's having an allergic reaction! Someone give me the
epi pen, now!”

Malcolm had run around behind the counter to the
medicine storage unit, a secure refrigerated unit where any
emergency inmate medicine was stored. Malcolm punched in the code
on the keypad and tried to turn the handle to open the door, but it
didn't turn. Malcolm frantically punched in the code again, but
still the door wouldn't budge.


Where is the pen!? He's dying
here!” Laura yelled as she watched the life ebb out of Paul's face
and his eyes begin to glaze over. She grasped his hand in hers and
looked into his eyes. “Hold on, Paul, help is on the
way.”


The code isn't working!” Malcolm
shouted back. He shouted out into the air as if to an unseen
entity, “Security! The code has been changed! What is the current
code to open the medicine cabinet!?”

A nervous human voice came across the loudspeaker,
“Ahh, I'm checking now. Hold on!”

Malcolm could hear papers rustling in the background
as the guard frantically searched for the needed code. Precious
seconds later, the voice returned.


Try 7238!”

Malcolm punched in the code, ripped open the door,
and grabbed the epinephrine pen. He tore around the corner, slid
onto the floor, tore the top off the pen, and slammed the needle a
bit too forcefully down into Paul's leg in order to deliver the
life-saving medicine. It was only then that he realized Laura was
no longer frantic, but that a steady stream of tears were flowing
down her face.


He's gone,” she said, holding his
hand against her face as the tears continued to flow.

Just to be sure, Malcolm checked for a pulse, but
could find none. He began trying to administer CPR. A minute later,
the on-staff EMT threw open the door to the diner and quickly moved
in to assess Paul's condition himself. He saw the pen, but asked
anyway.


Did you give him the
shot?”


Yes,” Malcolm replied.

BOOK: Utopian Day
10.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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