Ruth Z. Deming Twisted Sister Fiction

FICTION — Seven Lean Years

image — leftofurban

Seven to Seventeen

Seven to seventeen years, roared the judge as I stood there, head bowed, penitent, knowing deep down, I deserved it, a respected family physician entering his later years. With good behavior I’ll be out when I’m in my early seventies. Wonder if my pecker will still work then.

The wife, who’s a nag and a harridan, with her long witchy-white hair, stood by me. What’s the saying? A fool is born every minute. I need her now.

She’ll send me care packages filled with food to trade with the other inmates, money, my Parliament cigarettes. Clothes are unnecessary, since we dress in spiffy permanent-press maroon fatigues. Actually the most comfortable clothes I’ve ever worn. And a choice of sneakers.  Won’t be wearing my five hundred dollar cowboy boots I order from Sonny himself in Laredo. He’ll wonder what happened to me.

The things I remember, the things I miss most. Is it fondling young Annie’s  newly sprouting thirteen-year-old breasts, as I give her the cancer breast exam. How tender, like soft figs, they were in my hands.

“Annie,” I say. “Just hold still. I’ve done this to many a young lass. Don’t feel shy.”

Shy she was and it really turned me on. In my white professorial garb with “Dr. Wm. Connelly” stitched on, I can’t help myself, pull her close and rub my old pecker onto her leg, stopping myself just in time.

She testified against me, the little bitch, swore to tell the truth, hand upon the Good Book. Had a patient once, a fifty-ish woman past the bloom of youth, wanted to know if a line of pink pimples on her fat thigh was the infamous Stevens-Johnson rash – “Not even close” I told her – then she goes and asks me if I believe in God.

“Are you crazy?” I snapped. “Of course I do! How do you think we got here?”

She smiled and seemed relieved to hear that. Wonder what Ruthie thinks of her churchgoing Doctor Connolly now.

I can still see the headlines screaming across the local paper: Family Doctor Guilty on Nine Counts of Deviant Behavior.

Look, I’m no Hannibal Lecter, a movie I shut my eyes through. I’m not obsessed with the fourteen patients I groped and fondled and made what the paper said were “lewd advances.” I’m positive they were asking for it. There’s something special about me. My wife saw it when we first met. A certain twinkle in my eye and the way I carry myself. Tall, straight-backed. Perhaps a little swagger like a rodeo rider. A born protector. Women love to be protected. Each of my Fourteen came willingly to my arms – Fern, Catharine, Wyn, Laureen, Brittany, Sammy, Mikaela, Zoe, Alex (oops! Alix with an “I”), Rain, A.J., Hannah, Willow, and Krystal.

My girls. Do they think of Papa in the middle of the night and cry out my name?

Well, as you can imagine a convicted pedophile doesn’t get much respect here at Phillips Correctional way out in the badlands of northwestern Pennsylvania. The wife has to drive six hours in her white Honda Pilot just to see me. My four kids? What do they know about life. Nada. They’ve forsaken me. I could care less.

 

Library

It’s the little things I miss up here. Like strolling into the Warminster Library on that new blue-green striped carpet. Oh, how we debated what kind to get. I’m on the board of directors – or was, I should say – but simply the freedom to go inside – we’ve got skylights that help light up the place – and choose any little thing your heart desires.

Me, I’m a mystery fan. John Sandford, Ross McDonald (and yes, “The Chill” did give me goose bumps), Catherine Coulter and the like. You can check out anything at the library. If our branch don’t have it – look, I’m talking like the inmates already – we’ll get it for you. Miss Jacqueline Washington, a Pennsylvania congresswoman, wanted some arcane volume on black people and the law. It took only two weeks to get it for her. All the way from the Duke University Law Library.

Libraries, the cradle of liberty and democracy.

“Good day, Dr. Connelly,” one and all would greet me as I strolled inside wearing my jeans, cowboy boots and a Stetson hat, originally manufactured right here in Philadelphia town.

Wonder how I’ll make a living when I get out of here. I have a very good idea, haven’t told a soul yet, but we’ll see what kind of man I am when I get out. Or if I get out. Our criminal justice system is among the worst in the Free World. Ask Martha Stewart.

 

Where are the fish now?

Before they assigned me to Phillips Correctional, they gave me a battery of tests. Wanted to know if I was violent, suicidal, mentally ill. Prison, I learned, is a place you can never be alone. A guard escorted me into a small windowless office with some jerk of a shrink – Burton L. Wasserman, MD, said the name plate on his desk – wearing mandatory suit and tie. I gritted my teeth in fury and broke out in a little jig for him. Just spun around in my maroon fatigues, did a few tap steps, then raised my arms above my head, and cried out, “Hey, I’m being followed. The FBI are coming to git me.” And  spat out a moronic laugh.

Nary a smile or nod passed Wasserman’s lips. I sat down and he questioned me. Me! The former head of Connolly Family Practice. I employed nine people in the office, a converted three-bedroom house, where patients sat in comfortable blue chairs and could help themselves to sugarless candy by the reception window, as they signed in. We had a huge water cooler – hot and cold Deer Run Water  – and, for the delight of adults and children alike, we had an aquarium filled with a dozen different fish and snails, which clung to the glass. My secretary, Mrs. Sally Hahn, was in charge of the fish. Angel fish, black mollies who eat their young if you don’t separate them and long yellow African cichids.

“So,” I said to the doctor after the test, “So, what’s the verdict? Am I nuts?”

“You’re one of the sanest men on record,” he said, standing up and calling for the guard. “I thought maybe you had bipolar disorder which might explain your hypersexuality. There’s not a trace. You’re sane as a bedpost. And, I can’t hold my tongue, Connelly. You’re despicable. No psychiatric code for that.”

Off to Phillips minimum security we go.

Ever shuffled along in shackles? Hands tied behind your back? Try it for Halloween.

 

Rolling out the Red Carpet

The Chaplain came in to see me. Just about every religion is represented except paganism. I am a Christian, so I chose a Protestant. Much to my surprise, Chaplain Rachel Hyatt is a woman.

“So nice to meet you, Dr. Connelly,” she said, grabbing my hand. We met at a small table in the red-carpeted library, a private room in the back. This is where the inmates do their research trying to get themselves free. Yes, even here in minimum security, we all want to go home quicker than you can snap your fingers or down the Oreos my wife sends me.

“Please make yourself comfortable with me,” she said. “Everything we say is in confidence.” She looked me right in the eyes. I nodded.

“I like you,” I said and thought “but I don’t wanna fuck you.” Of course I glanced surreptitiously at her breasts behind her black tunic with white collar. Couldn’t make them out.

“I’ll bet you want me to admit my guilt,” I said.

“Dr. Connelly, I want nothing of the kind. This is your visit and you may talk to me about anything you wish. Anything at all.”

I sat back in the chair and gave a little chortle.

“I sure miss my freedom,” I said, “and the food is terrible. Ever eaten it? Canned peaches, canned string beans, canned chicken noodle soup. Everything has a tinny taste.”

She laughed. “They all say that. You see, Dr. Connelly, prison is a punishment. You are being punished for the offenses you’ve been convicted of.”

Well, that shut me up. Silence filled the small windowless room like an infusion of carbon monoxide.

“Wrongly convicted,” I managed to say and then stood up, gave her a salute and walked out.

The worst punishment was hearing the ear-splitting whistle in the morning, opening my eyes and realizing where I was.

 

Begging for it

“Oh, they were begging for it,” I told my new companions, who wanted to know all about the offenses charged against me. What a sorry lot these buggers were. I have nothing against blacks – oh, pardon me! – African-Americans – in fact, I employed several people of color, including my former receptionist, the lovely Tiffany Madison. My office staff was kind enough to send me a greeting card during the first difficult days of incarceration. To a woman, they all believed I was guilty.

One inmate in particular is an interesting young man. We took a shine to one another right away. Charlie Durand had a black father and a white mother. He told me he was so mixed up about whether he was black or white, that he gave it up to God. God, in his wisdom, informed Charlie he was black. A little puff will do you, the Lord spoke to Charlie. The tiniest drop of blackness in your veins – and he’s half and half – makes you a descendent from the dark continent. Charlie grew up with great fears but never got doctored for them. One was the fear of getting a job. He just could not muster the courage, even though his white mother was a retired labor organizer with a genius IQ.

So what does my new friend Charlie Durand do when God tells him he’s a black man? He buys a big fat shiny knife at Walmart and starts robbing liquor stores at night. Flashing his knife. “Your money or the knife” he would tell them. And would request a bottle of Grey Goose Vodka, which a white girlfriend used to drink.

Is that smart? Is that what the son of a high-IQ woman ought to do?

Well, Charlie, who will be here another two years, is taking a course on how to be an automobile mechanic.

 

The Yard

Right away I see how it’s gonna be. The second day I’m there, we’re out in the yard doing exercises. This is what counts for freedom. Groups of forty men in maroon uniforms are let loose in the huge courtyard, the size of half a baseball field. I hear the fast dribble of a basketball and the metallic clang as it hits the rim.

As I wander outside and shade my eyes from the sun, four guys surround me. Have they planned this? I try not to worry. Minimum security. How bad can they be?

“Grandpa,” says a short fellow with tattooed arms. He comes up real close to me. I can see hate in his eyes. His breath stinks.

“Tell us again how they begged for it.”

The others laugh and crowd in on me. At six-foot two, I was taller than all of them but believe me I am not a fighter. They take turns punching me. Hard. Blows descend on my chest, which I quickly cover with my arms, then on my face, and on my privates.

I feel my hot blood pouring down my face. My lip is split. So this is how it feels to get beat up. Bravo, Jake LaMotta.

Covering my face, I tell them, “Very nice, you fucking cowards. Four against one.”  Of course that gets me a few more blows but I’m a tough old bastard and a good beating ain’t gonna kill me.

A guard finally meanders over, his billy club still holstered at his side.

“All right, boys,” he says. “Enough of this fun. Go on back into the yard, twenty minutes till the whistle blows.”

In the infirmary, as they cleanse the wounds on clean white sheets, I tell them the obvious. I walk in my sleep and walked into a wall.

 

Studio apartment with roommate

You’ll want to know what my cell looks like. Or should I say my studio apartment that I share with one Sam Jones. Concrete walls painted white. Two bunk beds. A stainless steel sink and toilet. A couple of bulletin boards where Sam has hung up family photos and a calendar with sexy black women in provocative poses. We each have a small chest of drawers and a tall shelf against the wall that we share. Jones, who completed his GED in here and is taking classes in “Hospitality,” has two more years left. The worst thing about him is he converted to Islam in the slammer and prays five times a day. I’m in the lower bunk and see him in the middle of the beige concrete floor, down on his hands and knees like a goddamn dog, praying to his Allah in his sing-song nasal voice.

I’m making my way through “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson, a black lawyer who defends people on Death Row. Found it on the “New Book Shelf” in the library. I read it before “lights out” at 11 pm.

Fantasy occupies much of my time. Fantasy and a review of my sixty-six years on this earth. Images of my childhood in Philadelphia pop up unannounced. A mulberry tree, no, three of them, we had on our large fenced-in property in Horsham, Pennsylvania. In mid-June those suckers would get ripe, their bumpy selves turning from white to deep purple. Our dog, Champ, a golden retriever, would lap them up with his long pink tongue. And Mom would make mulberry pie and mulberry jam.

“Sammy,” I yelled out one night from the bottom bunk. “You ever tasted mulberry pie?”

“Sure have,” he said. “Sweet as sugar. Mama used to make it.”

He and I would play a game.

“We’re eating it now, bro,” I say to him. “Man, this sure is sweet. And how about the crust. Really good. Not a bought crust.”

“Hey, man, the seeds is stuck in my teeth.”

We laugh.

“Sammy,” I say. “I like you. I wanna make a deal with you.” I tell him every time my wife comes to visit she’ll bake him one of her delicious pies – mulberry, peach, apple with the lattice crust – if he’ll have his Muslim friends protect me out in the yard.

“Deal!” he shouts from the top bunk.

“You’re a good man, Sam Jones,” I say.

I hear him sitting up in his bunk. It’s nighttime. And he claps those hands of his and mumbles, “All the pie I wanna eat. Every last crumb.”

And he lies back down. The bed squeaks.

 

Assignment for the wife

Marian comes to visit. We sit at a table in the Day Room. Light slants in through the barred windows on one side. She tries to hold my hand, but I pull it away. All’s I want to hear is news from home and if I’m still in the papers. She sits straight as a tree in her wooden chair, her white hair poofed up like Maude’s in the television show. She plays with her wedding ring, a real diamond, that she has cleaned periodically. Her eyes well with tears as she tells me what’s become of her.

“Billy, they’ve kicked me off all my committees. The art museum, the Barnes, the Please Touch” – at that, she looks up at me and smiles – “it’s horrible, Billy, I feel like killing myself,” she says.

“Well, I sure didn’t marry you so you’ll kill yourself,” I say. “Besides, who’s gonna make mulberry pies for Sammy? Here’s what you’re going to do to save yourself.”

I think for no more than five seconds and then I explain it to her. Those sad eyes look into mine.

“You promise to do it?” I ask.

She nods her head.

I kick her out before the whistle blows.

Good riddance.

 

Peace

I’ll tell you one thing and you can believe me or not. I’m a damn fine doctor. In my office, hanging on the wall over my mahogany desk was a framed photo of Philadelphia Magazine and myself, William T. Connelly, as best family physician five years in a row. And there I am, positively beaming, wearing my white lab coat, with my big shock of white hair and thick black eyebrows the wife insisted on dyeing.

Sunshine, I would tell my patients, is good for you. Not so’s you turn black as an overcooked pancake, but just enough to give color to your cheeks. Routinely I prescribed Vitamin D and calcium to just about everyone. To the elders, I added folic acid for their memories. God knows, I had dozens with Alzheimer’s and the various dementias, and good ole Dr. Connelly, the felon, would visit them in their assisted living facilities. Some of those nurses were goddamn beauties and would sleep with me in a minute, I knew.

At exercise time, the forty fine men in the yard were surprised to find a protective phalanx of black men surrounding me. I strode around like a conquering hero and then lay down on the green grass, hands at my sides, and stared up at the sun. Then I sprang into action. Sit-ups, only six, but the next day I’d do seven. Push-ups. Did ten of these while huffing and puffing. The forty fine men looked on, sniggering, jibing among themselves, then broke into a chant, “They wanted it, they wanted it.”

Over the next few weeks, they grew tired of this, and left me, more or less, in peace. Besides, I had things on my mind. Things that might surprise you.

 

Magazines

Ever seen an Olympic manual typewriter? Beautiful machine, sea foam green. My daddy taught me to type out on our farm when I was just six years old.

“Can’t get anywhere, son,” he said, “unless you know how to communicate.”

He was right about that. Every day I’d report to the red-carpeted prison  library, roll in a piece of white paper into the black Royal typewriter, and tap out what passed for my life story. The things my old mind drudged up. I’d type in a blast of rhythm, reminding myself of different songs – She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain – or My Darling Clementine.

I’d sit there and laugh and have a jolly good time. Didn’t tell a soul about it, but you know what? It was a form of therapy. When I was away from the library, my story was always on my mind. What should I write about next? What should I omit? Should I omit, well, all right, I’ll mention it here, when I was in med school at the University of Pennsylvania, I made a pass at Dr. Felicia Grasso, whose specialty was the human lungs. Me, lungeing at the lung doctor. Raven-black hair to her shoulders, size D breasts, and red lipstick that said “Kiss me.”

She slapped me across the face hard. Her red nails scratched my tender cheeks. Tears came to my eyes. Then she slapped me again for good measure. I slunk out of the room. Read her obituary in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Died in her sixties. To me, that usually means cancer. Hers was melanoma. Serves her right I thought at the time.

If “nymphomaniac” is the word for a female obsessed with sex, what’s the word for a male?  When I was six years old my weiner would get hard. Never shy, I walked into my father’s book-filled study at the farm and asked him about my penis sticking up all by itself.

“It’s called an erection, son, or ‘getting hard.’ It happens when you see a girl you like. Entirely normal.”

Our Uncle Charlie had a stack of dirty magazines at his house. Once, when I came over, I put a couple of them up my shirt before our family left for home. Wanted to look them over and see if my weenie stuck up by itself. Next time we went back to Uncle Charlie’s I returned them and my uncle said in front of everyone, “Billy’s gonna help me read my magazines and I don’t mean Time, Life or Look.”

He pointed to the stack on the floor.

My race reddened then and it reddened some sixty years later as I typed up the words in my book.

 

Favors

The boys at Phillips knew I was up to something in the library. Snitches were everywhere and it was impossible to keep secrets.

“All right, all right,” I said to Greg Mahoney. “I’m writing my autobiography.”

He laughed. “The Autobiography of a Louse,” he said.

“Something like that,” I said and attempted to get away from him.

“Not so fast,” he said. Another deal was on the way. Some cons wanted letters typed up to send home. And I was the man to do it.

“Sure,” I said. “I’ll do three a week.”

I became a paid amanuensis. Paid in real money, crinkly dollar bills, ones, fives and tens, which I passed along to Marian when she came to visit.

Now their secrets were revealed to me.

“Ed,” I said, when he dictated a letter to his wife, Fran. “My job is to type, not snoop.”

He scratched his neck and began to dictate the letter, slowly, hesitating for moments between sentences. Ed was the first of dozens – Jack, LeRoy, Malcolm. They all said the same thing. They had no imagination. No Nelson Mandelas or Martin Luther Kings here at Phillips Correctional. I usually ended up writing the damn letters myself. The men were grateful and began to respect me. I eagerly grabbed their crumpled up bills, so unlike the neat and crisp bills I got from Wells Fargo Bank and kept in an expensive rawhide billfold I bought from Sonny in Laredo.

Dutifully, I gave the wife all the bills and told her to deposit them immediately. Prison takes away your livelihood, whether you’re a physician or a thief.

Direct deposits of my prison salary went straight to my Wells Fargo account. The prison keeping up with the times through its direct deposits. Hilarious. All of seven dollars an hour.

 

Not quite the Tate Modern

“I did what you said, Billy,” Marian said at her next visit.

“Good girl,” I said and touched her hand.

“Where is it?” I asked.

In addition to her pocketbook, she’d carried in a large flat black bag which leaned against her wooden chair.

“Show me,” I said.

She lifted up the shiny black bag and lay it across the table. It was too big to fit on the table, so the ends stuck off a few inches.  Her hands trembled as she zipped open the portfolio bag. She pulled out three acrylic paintings. She held each one up for me to look at.

“You see, dear,” I said. “Isn’t this better than killing yourself?”

She laughed and wiped away a tear. She looked tired from the long drive and her white hair was mussed up.

“It’s so hard going home to an empty house,” she said. “I had no one to show these to, except for Jane Booker, my acrylics teacher. She said she liked them.”

“Of course she liked them,” I boomed. “They’re damn good.”

I told her I’d hang them up in my cell and to keep bringing me more paintings. “How about a portrait of your old man?” I said.

“My old man?”

“Slang for husband,” I said. That wife of mine was so naïve.

When I returned to my cell after the visit, Sam Jones was banging his head on the floor praying to Allah. I sat on the mattress of the bottom bunk looking at the blank wall ten feet across the room. I walked around Jones, took out some Scotch tape from my desk drawer and taped each painting to the wall.

“Whatcha got there, uncle?” asked Sammy.

“My wife’s taking a painting class. What do you think?”

I pointed to the paintings as he sat Indian-style on the hard concrete floor. The first was a still life of fruit, the second was a huge lilac bush and the last one was a baby girl with a pink ribbon in her hair. Our granddaughter Maxey I supposed.

“Man, she is good,” said Sammy.

“You can be married to a woman for forty years and they’ll still surprise you,” I said.

Now I had something other than black sex kittens to look at when I awoke in the morning.

 

Follow Your Bliss

“I don’t know how to say this, Chaplain,” I said when next we met.

Chaplain Rachel Hyatt was as cheerful as ever, doing her Christian ministry to the fallen Christians at Phillips Correctional. I stopped myself from saying “the bastards” at Phillips.

“Getting used to the food?” she asked.

“Well, my wife is a food maven and brings me and my friends her homemade goodies. I’ll tell you, I never appreciated her the way I do now. I love that goddamn woman.”

“Love is good,” said the Chaplain. “It’s what life is all about. The more people you love and who love you, the more you will grow inside. Are you familiar with Joseph Campbell?” she asked.

“Follow your bliss,” I said.

“Yes, and much much more.”

I told her our family listened to him on the Public Broadcasting Station, the six of us sitting in the den, our eyes fastened on the seventy-ish Campbell, who had married Joan, a dancer.

“And do you remember what his final message to the viewers was?” asked the Chaplain.

“Sure do,” I said. “Awareness. Awareness of being alive.”

“That’s right,” she said, nodding at me and looking at me with her sky-blue flashing eyes.

“I’ll tell you one thing I really miss in prison,” I said.

And I hummed George Gershwin’s “I Loves you, Porgy.”

“Yes, your choice of music,” she said. “That’s certainly something that makes us feel fully alive, doesn’t it?”

I drummed my fingers on the table, giving myself time to say the words. I needed time. They were the hardest words I ever said. But they came out like the blooming of plums on a tree.

“I was wrong,” I whispered. “Wrong, wrong, wrong.”

Neither of us said a thing. That awful silence filled up the library. Of course there’s never really silence in prison. There was always background noise like at a movie house where people are chewing popcorn and coughing and laughing. Now that was something I looked forward to. The movies. Seven more years. Wonder what the Regency Theater would be playing when I got out. Marian and I always shared the jumbo buttered popcorn in the red and white container. She’d also order Payday candy bars and I’d get the Good and Plenty licorice that stuck in my teeth. I’d pay for it all with my big wad of cash.

“Yes,” I continued, “I took advantage of all those poor little girls.” I didn’t mention that I started to cry myself to sleep, softly, very softly, as I sure didn’t want Sammy to hear me.

“Well, Dr. Connelly,” said the Chaplain. “This is real progress. You’re in the minority. Most people never confess. You’re a good man underneath.”

I thought of Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney in Boys’ Town.

Then I asked the most important question of all.

“Will God forgive me?”

“I have little knowledge of God,” she said. “Except he’s bigger than all of us, bigger than the entire universe with its black holes and quarks and parallel universes, and has been known to be a forgiving God.”

Silence again.

“Best to pray and ask for forgiveness, Dr. Connelly,” she said.

 

The accumulation of X’s

I’d wager that every single inmate had a calendar with the days crossed off. In my private practice, I advised my patients being treated for the various cancers and the 48-week treatment for hepatitis C, to buy a beautiful calendar and X out the days of their treatment.

If Sammy’s calendar was filled with his fine black foxes with their curvaceous limbs, mine was the polar opposite. The wife had brought me a calendar sold by our library in an effort to earn money.

Each page held a black and white photo of things that were no more. A horse and carriage clopping down Old York Road with a white farmhouse in the background. A saloon with a hitching post for the horses. A three-story hotel with a man and woman looking down from the balcony.

The month of September was just about over. Like an eager child waiting to get out of school, I put the huge black X across September 1 through September 16. Labor Day had no meaning in here. We always labored, every single day. In small letters on the calendar, I had written the “duty” I was involved with. The laundry with the hot steam presses, the infirmary washing floors, and the mess hall cleaning off tables and inhaling the rank smell of garbage in the trash containers.

Light, inviting light, shown through the windows of the mess hall. Light we could never reach.

Quite a universe we lived in. And like Jupiter and Mars, I, too, had my role. I suppose Jupiter and Mars had no choice where God plopped them all down and neither did I. I followed blindly, obediently, whatever I was told to do. So what if I detested washing floors with a wet mop and the stench of Fels Naphtha soap? Some day I would be free. I had learned to play the game. Get protection. Be sociable. Be vigilant. And don’t get into arguments with inmates or guards.

 

Sammy’s Diner

“A penny for your thoughts, bro,” I asked from the bottom bunk when it was nearly lights out.

“I’m visualizing my restaurant when I get out.”

“What does it look like?” I asked.

“You know all them shiny ribbons they have outside car showrooms? Well, Sammy’s Diner has all those shiny ribbons the cars and trucks on the highway will see from far away.”

“And the menu?”

He described the “Sammy Special,” a cheddar bacon cheeseburger and all the pies for dessert. Then we got to talking about cars.

“Think we’ll remember how to drive when we get out of here, Doc?”

“Oh, sure. Driving’s a cinch since we’ve got automatic transmissions.”

“What’s your favorite car, Doc?”

“Ever watched Rockford Files on TV?”

“Sure did. That copper-colored Pontiac Firebird.”

“They go for about fifty grand now,” I said. “Fifty thousand dollars, a tidy sum.”

“That’s what you gonna buy?”

“Nah. I think that after doing seven years of jail time I deserve a Maserati.”

“Maserati? What the hell?”

I told him the creator of one of the fastest cars in the world was named Maserati. He and his brothers were race car drivers in Italy, the early part of the 1900s, and invented this fast little number that was nearly unbeatable. Black was the only color I’d drive, I told him.

“Convertible?”

“Not a good idea. People love to slash rag tops,” I said, thinking of Charlie Durand and his wielding of the shiny blade that bought his doom.

“You sure know a lot, Doc,” said Sammy. “I’m gonna make you the best meal you’ve ever had when you get out of this shithole in seven years. Like the Bible say, ‘seven lean years and seven fat years.’”

We both sighed and drifted off to sleep, one more day crossed off under a big black X.

*

Ruth Z. Deming, a psychotherapist, has had her work published in lit mags including The Legendary, Literary Yard, Mad Swirl and Writing Disorder. She lives in Willow Grove, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia. She runs New Directions Support Group for people with depression, bipolar disorder and their loved ones. Her blog is http://www.ruthzdeming.blogspot.com/

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