Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Time Stamp

written by Suzanne Driggs

December 2012

Never a quiet place, the cell block echoed with the sound of the iron doors clanging shut, the low rumble of conversation and harsh snatch of arguments. Still, Drew recognized the limp-shuffle as his cell mate came down the corridor. Dave was a long-timer. He’d already done fifteen years of three life sentences when Drew moved in twenty years before.

He entered, old and bent, heading straight for his bunk. The trip to the medical wing wore him out these days.

“You remember the things we talked about?” Dave’s voice rasped and whispered at the same time.

“What’d the doc say?”

“Not much longer. They might keep my over there next time. That’s why you gotta tell me your…” Dave convulsed with his hacking cough.


September 1963

He’d taken off the suit jacket as he left the office. Just the short walk from the corner bus stop soaked his shirt through. The mail box at the gate held a couple bills and an envelope with a typed address.

Mr. Andrew Dwyer

Looked official, though the return address wasn’t a printed logo. He frowned reading it.

Drew Dwyer, 84682-075

PO Box 462

Represa, CA 95671

He’d reached the step to the porch. Glancing up, he noticed the door was closed. As he climbed the steps, he thought, “Lulu must have taken the baby on one of their walks. ‘I have to move’ she says; too hot to move today.” He sighed, and muttered, “Wish she’d at least left the windows open.” His hands left wet marks on the envelopes as he switched so he could fish the house keys out of his pocket. His foot bumped the door and it swung in.


The furniture was there. It came with the house. The baby clothes and toys that covered every flat surface were gone.

Leaving the door open, he stepped in further.

“Lulu?” Her name sounded loud without the baby shrieks and TV in the background.

His writing corner remained untouched. The stack of neatly typed manuscript still nestled in the paper box where he’d left it the night before.

Last night’s and this morning’s dishes filled the sink. He dropped the mail on the little kitchen table and turned to go down the hall; might as well put his jacket away. When he reached the closet, it stood open; only his clothes still inside.

Lulu hated it here, told him every day, at least twice, in the morning when he left for work and again at dinner.

He stripped off his shirt and slacks. Standing in his “wifebeater” undershirt and skivvies felt cooler. He looked around for his shorts and the vision of the bottle of Jack Daniel’s popped to mind.

She’d threatened to leave pretty much every day. It didn’t matter that he had a bank job with a “future” and his novel. Though with all the rejections, Lulu’s claim that he’d have more success robbing the bank than getting published hit closer to the truth than he liked. She was trapped and hated him, wouldn’t even be there if it weren’t for the baby.

He found the bottle, still half full and set it on the table.

“Baby girl,” he whispered and nodded to himself. He had to keep Lulu happy to have his baby girl.

One Flintstone jelly glass remained in the cupboard. Glass in hand; he caught a glimpse of the .45 on the top shelf. Stretching up to reach it, he pulled it down and set the glass and revolver by the whiskey, then flicked the small oscillating fan to life and slumped down in the wooden chair. He filled the glass as the fan’s breeze passed back and forth from across the table. The mail fluttered.

He took a swallow that drained half the first pour. It burned that sweet kind of burn, a little up his nose, then warmed his tonsils and made its way past the lump in his throat. The effort brought tears to his eyes… at least that’s how he wanted to think of it. He felt his brain contract and along with it, his vision narrowed so he looked down a dark sided tunnel.

Lulu had gotten the idea about robbing the bank. She started out suggesting it as a story idea. Maybe the hot days got to her, but she kept building on it and building on it till he thought she really believed he would rob his own bank. She said it proved he didn’t love her cause he wouldn’t listen. He sighed with the memory of her tear streaked face, eyes blazing.

“Not your own bank, idiot!” she’d screamed. They could buy their own house. No one would suspect him.

He’d have to remember where he put the bullets. He’d put them somewhere safe. There’d been a couple of times after getting a rejection and Lu screaming at him, he thought about being dead. But dead was forever and he’d never see Baby Girl grow up. No, he weighed the gun in his hand, maybe Lulu’s scheme would work; have their own place.

The fan turned his way again and the envelope with the typed address flipped toward him. He took another big swallow and then picked it up. Not legal size, and not that thick. It wasn’t one of his queries come back, rejected.

Why did they put his name on it? The only thing in Represa was the prison. Maybe some joke or a scam. Could it make his day worse? He was afraid of the answer. Huh? The post mark wasn’t Represa…Hanalei… Hanalei HI? He tore it open and unfolded the plain white paper.

Dear Drew,

You asked me to send this to you by Sept. 26, 1963. You were still at the penitentiary when we talked and made this plan.

He turned the envelope over and looked at the return address again. Did that look like a prisoner ID number? He went back to the letter.

I had told you that I’d figured out that I could choose what to do after I die. I decided to come back to my same life at a certain time with all my memories so I can change how I did things before.

That you’re getting this means I was right.

So you would know this is real, you told me three things that only you would know.

1. You were eight when your cat, Muffin, had six kittens. When you came home from school, your mother told you Muffin had gone to live in the wild with the kitten’s father.

2. When your grandmother came to visit, she always brought those little chocolate bars. One time you checked the dresser drawer right after she left and found a full bag and ate them all yourself.

3. The only thing that made you happy in your life was when your daughter came to see you.

The first two seem kind of bland, but you picked them.

So here’s the deal. Keep writing, keep submitting. When you feel sad, write about it.

Don’t worry about Lulu, robbing a bank won’t make her any happier.

Meet me at the Soup Plantation in Point Loma, Sept. 26, 2010 to celebrate. I’ll be the old guy with the big grin.

P.S. get rid of the gun.

Muffin. He combed his fingers through his hair. His thoughts drifted on the alcohol current… no… floated. Scanning the letter again the word “penitentiary” jumped out. He leaned back considering and noticed his writing corner through the doorway to the living room. The late sun coming through the window blinds cast shadow bars across the typing table.

“No, robbing a bank won’t make any of us happy,” he said softly. His brain relaxed and the light expanded in his vision. The same hot, dream-lost kitchen surrounded him but it wasn’t an ending here. He was just passing through.

Copyright © Suzanne Driggs 2010