Orphan Survival Stories Index |
I'LL BE BACK
GOD! The air smelled so fresh and clean as I took in a deep breath for the first time in three years, five months and 28 days. I reached over to set down the heavy cardboard box of legal papers I was holding. Then I turned around slowly as I heard the large prison gate close with a “crash” behind me. I looked up at the guard towers and wondered if I would ever be equal to the men standing holding weapons in their hands. They were normal people, who just the day before, would have shot me dead had I ventured near or touched the large barbed wire fences surrounding the prison.
Through the light foggy mist, I could see my probation officer looking out his office window at me. He did not move, wave or gesture, whatsoever. He just stood there staring at me, as I did him. There was something rather strange about that man, but I just could not put my finger on it. I raised my hand to wave goodbye, but changed my mind at the last second and rubbed my nose instead.
“To hell with this guy,” I thought.
Just yesterday, he had called me into his office and for better than 30 minutes, called me every name in the book. I sat there not saying a word, just thinking about how he came to the hospital where I worked; he talked, laughed and told jokes with the two fellows who had kidnapped Frank Sinatra Jr. He acted as if the three of them were best friends or something. He rose from his chair, walked around in front of me and stood there with his arms folded.
"Have you heard a damn word that I've said?"
"Yes, sir," I said looking up at him.
"Roger, you have been a pain in my ass from the first day you arrived here. You, my friend, are one of the brightest, most ingenious jailhouse lawyers that I have ever met. You have insight into the law that a legal attorney would cut their arm off to own. But you have screwed up your life so badly, that all this talent will go right down the toilet. However, I do have good news for you. You, yourself, will not allow it to go to waste and do you know why?"
"Because I am a genius?” I replied rather sarcastically.
"Hardly young man. You are far from a genius, more like an ass with a face. As I said, you will not let this talent go to waste, because as long as you have been in this prison and for as long as I have known you, you were the top legal dog in this institution. There is not one inmate or guard who does not know you and your reputation. You were the mayor of the city, the governor of the state and the savior of all these idiots who think they are innocent. They all thought you were their only way out. The problem here young man is that you need "THAT" to survive. You were nothing when you came here and you’ll be nothing when you walk out of those gates tomorrow. Because of that, you will be back. I promise you that. YOU WILL BE BACK," he hollered.
I sat there wondering what I was supposed to say. I do not know of one prisoner, out of 1,500 that he treated worse than he treated me that day in his office. After all, I had been imprisoned for buying a six-pack of beer at a teenage party. Yet, this strange person treated murderers, rapists and kidnappers as if they were his friends. A very strange man indeed and as far as I was concerned, he could kiss my writ of Habeas Corpus.
I walked out of prison on February 6, 1969 and I never did return, all because of that "stupid bastard," Mr. Dryer. He was a man who would not wave at me, though I waited for more than five minutes in the rain. I guess that gruff old son-of-a-bitch was smart enough to see just how screwed up this young man’s life really was. He knew a promising young life was about to be thrown away, not because of crime, but because of the glory of wanting to be something, somebody, so badly for the first time in his life.
I see now why Mr. Dryer did not wave at me. He might have waved at me with his mind, just not with his hand. I guess he knew me well. He already knew that one simple wave of his hand would have let this young man off the hook. It has taken me many years to realize just how much of a genius Mr. Dryer really was.