The Rubber Biskit Road Show Presents, "Never Say Never: An Epic Journey - Volume One, Part Thirteen: No Wire Hangers Ever
In Part Thirteen of Never Say Never: An Epic Journey - Volume One The GYPSY relives two tragedies from his past; one his mothers fault and the other the fault of others. Gypsy learns his first and most difficult lesson in the short sightedness of his mother and bureaucracy.
Join The GYPSY as he takes you on an Epic Journey into his life, the life of his family and the life of his mother; Shirley Elizabeth Hummel, who suffered from mental illness her entire life.
Shirley's story is not an easy one to hear. At times you will be uncomfortable with her situation. Other times you may laugh or fill the warmth that all to often eluded her. You may even find yourself angry and horrified at the situations and tragedies that drove Shirley further and further into her illness. The one thing you will not leave with is ignorance.
The telling of Shirley's story will educate and inform you. You will come away with an understanding of the highs and lows that mental illness plays in the sufferer as well as the family, friends and acquaintances of the mentally ill.
Each Tuesday On The Rubber Biskit Road Show The GYPSY will present a new chapter of his novel "Never Say Never: An Epic Journey - Volume One"
Next Weeks Episode: Houston We Have A Problem
I'm The GYPSY and You're Not and This Is The Rubber Biskit Road Show Presented By Artist Alley Studio Featuring The Artisan, Handcrafted and Branded Creations of The GYPSY and Mad Hatter. Visit Us At www.ArtistAlleyStudio.com
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CHAPTER TWELVE – NO WIRE HANGERS, EVER
Wednesday July 24, 2013
There are times as we move through life that we are made to feel our age. We never want to feel as if we are growing older but growing older we do. We make every effort to ignore the fact until one day we are forced to accept and embrace that fact. This apparently had been preordained as my day to accept and reconcile myself to that inescapable fact; I have grown older and the world has moved on.
As I entered the Capital City Bank to get change for the parking meter I looked around the lobby. What a change had come to this classic Tudor Style brick building. My last visit to this building had been when I was 9 years old and it was still a bus station. We, my mother, sister and I were taking a trip to Kansas City, Missouri to see the Christmas Lights at the Country Club Plaza. Mom loved the lights and she had tried to make it a Christmas Tradition to make the 60 mile journey every year to see the annual spectacle.
I can still remember standing in the gift shop picking out 2 comic books for the trip. One comic featured a cartoon version of comedian Jerry Lewis and the other was about a rotund, near sighted superhero named Herbie. Herbie dressed in red long johns, bath towel for a cape and wore a plunger on his head. His super power was the ability to float through the air while eating a Turkey drumstick. Ah, those classic comics.
Mom busied herself picking out a new romance novel, what she saw in that type of pulp fiction I never understood. My sister who was 3 at the time and did what she always did when made to wait for something to happen, she whined. It was her super power, with that whine she could make the nastiest super villain drop to his knees holding his head in pain and pleading for her to stop. The only thing my sister was missing was a pink tutu, gunny sack cape and an Easter Basket on her head to complete her superhero costume.
As I walked up to the Bank Teller I smiled, “Good Afternoon, I was wondering if I could get a couple of dollars change for the parking meter.” The Teller returned my smile and said, “Yes sir.” I handed her the two saw bucks and while I waited for her to count out the change I remarked on how different the building looked from when it had once been the Greyhound Bus Terminal.
The Teller looked at me with a quizzical look on her face and said, “This was a Bus Station?” I could hear someone out of sight laughing as I looked at the Teller trying to determine if she was joking, she wasn’t so I explained. After hearing my story of the Bus Terminal she said, “You are kidding right?”
The unseen person that had laughed now confirmed my story, “Yes”, the disembodied voice said, “It was a bus station for years before it was closed.”
The Teller handed me my change and said, “It doesn’t look like a bus station.” I said, “That’s because it’s a bank now.” I heard the invisible person laugh again as I took my change, thanked the teller and headed out the door.
As I walked across the street to feed the parking meter I shook my head in disbelief. I would not have been so shocked by the bank teller's lack of knowledge of the previous use of the building if she had been a twenty something digital age airhead but she wasn’t. She was a forty something mature woman and old enough to know what the building had once been and that was when it hit me; If the Bank Teller is just 40 years old that makes me 16 years older than her. I am old enough to, theoretically, be her Father. Oh my Gawd, when did I get old?
I fed the coins into the horizontal voracious mouth of the steel gray monster that guarded the sacred asphalt on which my steed rested. I walked away knowing that if I failed to feed this one eyed sentry on a regular basis that I would find my steed tagged and held captive for a hefty ransom by the monsters master, a nasty and vicious troll who roamed it’s domain on a magical horseless chariot and whose weapon of choice was an enchanted box which spit out undefeatable pieces of paper.
I opened the door to Oddfellow's Fine Books and Collectables and found myself instantly transported to a shop in downtown Topeka in the 1930’s. The scent of musty tombs and volumes assailed my noise and generated within me the same sense of euphoria I had experienced earlier in the day when I had entered the Topeka - Shawnee County Library. The aroma of the wood pulp that is the body of a book is one of the most invigorating smells in the world. It is a scent that holds the promise of mystery, laughter, tears and knowledge. Adventure and horror are contained within the aroma of the pressed pages and more than a million dreams waft their fumes into the nostrils of the human brave enough to explore what lies between the covers of each enticing volume.
I am not a Bibliophile but I am a fan and appreciator of the written word. No word ever written or read upon a digital screen can ever hope to replace or capture the essence or sheer feeling of holding a book within your hands and the turning of a page.
The Proprietor and Grand Wizard of this magical dungeon is Brandon Rison. He is a gregarious man, broad of face and broad of smile. Brandon is a studious listener and knows within a twinkling of an eye where each and every volume within his domain rests. I was here to meet this dedicated shop owner and his Queen Martie.
I had become acquainted with Brandon and Martie through the Facebook group, “Topeka History Geeks”. I was one of the original members of this group having been referred by my friend Dee Poe who is also a native Topekan and who knows that I am a history buff especially when it comes to my hometown. I had been looking forward to a face to face meeting with these two people that love Topeka as much as I do.
Martie was at work but Brandon informed me that I would be able to meet her on Thursday evening when she would be in the store to host a Twitter meet and greet. I made a mental note to return on Thursday but in the meantime I would enjoy a brief visit with Brandon.
As Brandon and I spoke I looked down into the glass display case I was leaning on, it held several vintage comic books many of which I recognized as I had once had them in my own collection.
I remarked to Brandon, “I sure do miss those books; I had each and every one of them once upon a time. Got them cheaply at a bookstore that was once a block east of here.”
Brandon grinned, “Yeah”, he said, “I know who you mean, I would like to take his wax pencil and shove it up his… he devalued a lot of comics by marking his price on the covers.”
I laughed, “Yeah, I had a few of those.”
Brandon pointed out a comic in the upper right hand corner of the case, “That one…” he began, “Is the first appearance of The Scarecrow”, I finished. “There was one in the Golden Age…” he said, “But this is the one from the Silver Age” I concluded. It is fun to meet a fellow Geek.
I told him that I had also had the first appearance of The Riddler as well as two irreplaceable comics that I had found for only a nickel in the used comic bin of the aforementioned book store.
“What happened to your collection and what were the two irreplaceable comics?” Brandon Asked.
Shirley was excited, James was coming home today. She would never call him Jimmy again, her boy was a man and he was coming home, he would be James to her from here on. Shirley had spent the last week getting the little house in Weston, Missouri ready for his return; she had cleaned it from top to bottom even giving his room an extra going over. Shirley had never been a great housekeeper; her mom was a great housekeeper managing a full time job, 3 meals a day, volunteer work and church duties. Shirley had never understood how her mom had handled all of that; it was all she could do to handle just the normal day to day challenges of living.
Shirley looked up at the clock, almost 3; James should be here by 4. A good neighbor, Eddie Pepper, had headed down to KCI to get James from the airport. James had been gone 6 months and Shirley wondered how much he had grown, she was so proud of him. At 17 years old, even before finishing High School, James had got a scholarship from the USDA to study Forestry and Wildlife Management. He would be stationed at the Forestry Service Camp in Nemo, South Dakota and on off duty hours he would finish his High School Credits and take college extension classes at the nearby Job Corps Campus.
Two weeks back James had called and told Shirley that he wasn’t sure he wanted to continue with the scholarship. “It’s a lonely life mom”, he had said, “When you are not on a watchtower you are trying to control a fire that some fool started. I’m tired of inhaling smoke and still trying to maintain my grades.”
Shirley, even though she missed James greatly, had tried to talk him out of coming home. But he was adamant, “Mom, I love being outdoors and I love it in South Dakota, I just don’t think I am ready for everything this involves at this time. I want to come home in time to start my junior year there at West Platte High.” Shirley had said she understood and now James would be back home in just a few minutes.
Shirley lifted the lid on the crock pot and inhaled a lungful of the slow cooking pot roast. It was James’ favorite meal and though Shirley could barely afford it with most of the food in the house being commodities she had splurged on the roast, potatoes and carrots for this homecoming dinner. Patty ran into the house, “Mommy, I see them coming down the road.”
Shirley wiped her hands on a towel and hurried to the front of the house, just as she pushed the screen door open to step out onto the tiny concrete porch.
Eddie pulled his small yellow Datsun Station Wagon into the driveway and there in the passenger’s seat was her son, her James. Shirley ran out and grabbed him as he was getting out of the car. Giving him a big bear hug she sobbed, “I missed you son.” He pulled out of her grip, his cheeks slightly red, “I missed you too Mom, it’s good to be home.”
Shirley grabbed him again and gave him another hug, “I love you James.” she said as she gave him a kiss on the cheek.”
He extracted himself from her grip again, “I love you too mom, want to help me get my bags out of Eddie's car?”
Shirley started to move towards the back of Eddie’s car to help with James’ luggage but Eddie was already unloading it. “I got it”, he said with a grin.
Eddie Pepper was a tall and lanky Viet Nam Vet. A retired Navy Seal Combat Instructor his hippy-like long sandy hair and bushy beard were in sharp contrast to his cold steel gray eyes. Quick with a laugh and quicker with his fists the heavy suitcases were no problem for him. James carried one of his suitcases up the steep stairs off the kitchen up to his bedroom with Eddie and his mother following with the other two suitcases.
James and Shirley thanked Eddie for his help and Shirley tried to hand Eddie two dollars for his trouble. “Put your money away Shirley, it was my pleasure.”
Shirley didn’t argue every penny was precious in this home. That was another reason she was glad that James was home, she knew that he would go back to work in the Tobacco fields in off school hours helping to offset the household expenses.
“Hey Bud”, Eddie said to James, “Don’t forget that game of pool you owe me.” James laughed, “I’ll just embarrass you.”
Eddie said his goodbyes and left.
“I am so glad you two hit it off”, Shirley said, “I was hoping you would.”
Shirley had always tried to see that James had a man’s influence in his life since he had basically grown up without a father. Shirley had met Eddie and his wife Sherry after James had left for South Dakota when Sherry had responded to an ad Shirley had placed in the paper for a babysitter for Patty while she worked.
James looked around the room, “The room looks cleaner than when I left it” he said.
Shirley beamed, “I’ve been cleaning!”
James smiled, he knew that his mom was not a good housekeeper and knew that this could be classified as a major accomplishment for her. James never understood his mother‘s aversion to picking up after herself. His sister had apparently inherited the same gene that dwelled within his mother so he had always been the one to try and keep the house clean.
“Looks good”, James said as he headed for his closet to get some hangers for his clothes.
Shirley was opening his suitcases as James opened the closet door, looking down at the floor of the closet he said, “Mom, where is that big box I had in the closet?”
Shirley looked at him quizzically, “What box?”
James feeling his anxiety level starting to rise said, “The one with all my comic books in it.”
Shirley smiled, her face lighting up with pride, “Oh that box! I burnt them.”
James had to shake his head to make sure he had just heard her right. With as much patience as he could muster he said, “Excuse me? You burnt my comics?”
Shirley oblivious to James’ anxiety and rising anger said, “Of course I did, you are a man now, you don’t need childish things like comics.”
In a state of shock and desperately trying to control his anger James crossed the room and sat down hard on the edge of his bed. Feeling sick to his stomach he said through gritted teeth, “Mom those comics were very valuable, especially two of them. I was saving them as a future investment for my retirement fund someday.”
Shirley thought James was talking nonsense, “Comics are not valuable, they’re comics. Don’t be silly you can’t invest them, how much would a comic be worth?”
James cleared his throat and fixed his mother with a stare that told his mother he was very upset and very agitated he said, “The two you burnt are two of the rarest, most collectable and most valuable comics in the world. Both books were not mint but were in very good condition. Both books just sold at auction for a price well above their cover price.”
Shirley was getting upset; this was not how she had envisioned James’ homecoming. They were supposed to be happy and celebrating. She could not imagine why he would be upset over her getting rid of his childish things now that he was a man.
“OK, so what were these oh so valuable comics you are so upset about and how much are they worth, five dollars, ten dollars?”
James looked at her and swallowed the rising gorge from his stomach back down. This was not how his homecoming was supposed to be, they should be happy and celebrating. But he knew that what he was about to tell her she would never believe. He also knew that somehow he would have to get his mother to understand what she had done and he knew that it would be an almost insurmountable task.
James stood up and walked across the room and looked into the closet. In the back of his mind he had hoped that he had just missed seeing the box. He said a prayer that his mom had pulled some sort of sick practical joke and that the box with the comics was still there. It was not.
James turned and looked at his mother, sitting on the edge of his bed, looking at him uncomprehending. How was he going to get her to understand the consequences of her actions, she never understood. How was James going to explain that it wasn’t the monetary value of the comic books, though that was considerable and important, it was something more than money, something that no value could be placed upon. His mother had acted on impulse, just as she always did and just like always the consequences of her impulsive actions had dire consequences. The comics were James’ last physical connection he had to his home, his beloved Topeka and now his mother had ripped that connection from him just as severely as she had, 2 years before, ripped his home from him.
Jimmy had just finished reading his newest Batman comic and slid it into the protective sleeve. Jimmy had been a Batman fan since he was 6 years old. He had purchased his first Batman comic the day his mother had given him fifty cents and told him to go to the store and pick out some comic books to read for their bus trip to Kansas City to see the Christmas lights at the Country Club Plaza.
He had purchased a 52 page Superman Spectacular for twenty five cents, a Batman and Detective Comic for a dime each leaving Jimmy with five cents for 3 pieces of bubble gum and two Pixy Stix. Within the first two pages of the Batman comic Jimmy was hooked and now 9 years later he had a sizable collection of comics.
Shirley did not have enough extra money to give Jimmy an allowance so he added to his comic book collection by combing alleys and trash cans for pop bottles that he could return to the store for a nickel each. Money received at Christmas and on his birthday got him a plethora of comic book delight. As Jimmy placed the precious comic into his big box of comics he heard his mother pull into the driveway of their small home on southwest 29th by Shunganunga creek. He heard the door of the old Rambler open and close, looking at the clock he realized his mother was home from work early.
As Shirley entered the house Jimmy could see that she had been crying. “What’s wrong mom?” he asked her.
Shirley looked at him and said, “I slapped that little brat and they fired me for it!”
Between Shirley’s crying and self-incriminations Jimmy was finally able to piece together what had happened to cost his mother her job.
Shirley was the head maid of a motel that was located at 29th and Fairlawn just a few blocks from their home. The motel was owned by the downtown Ramada Inn and was used as a hideaway for the rich and famous. Whenever a celebrity came to town they would check into the Ramada Inn then be shuttled to the small nondescript motel. This kept them out of the prying eyes of the press and public. Shirley, as the head maid of the motel, was the only service worker permitted to enter and clean the celebrity rooms. She was also charged with acting as a gofer for them. If they needed something Shirley would go for it. And it was in this role as gofer that Shirley had lost her temper and her job.
Celebrities came to Topeka for a multitude of reasons. They might have a concert at the Municipal Auditorium or Fairgrounds, They might be in town for a guest appearance on the local TV station to promote some TV show or movie they were in or as a spokesperson for some product they were promoting. But most celebrities that stayed at the motel were there waiting for admission into the Menninger Foundation Clinic. Whether from psychological, drug or alcohol problems the motel served as a way station on their road to the clinic.
Shirley had always shared stories of her interactions with the numerous celebrities she encountered with Jimmy and Patty. In most cases her stories were positive and she had found the celebrities open, friendly, polite and approachable. Not so with the celebrity that had checked into the motel 3 days ago.
He was a young boy and he was a brat. His parents were nice enough but he was uncontrollable and that is why they were in Topeka. He was scheduled to be admitted to the clinic for behavioral modification. The boy was the featured singer and youngest member of five brothers who were the hottest musical group of the day.
Yesterday Shirley had told Jimmy, “He is the biggest Prima Donna I have ever seen. He acts as though the world owes him. He is the one bad apple and he is spoiling the whole bunch. Once they check him into the clinic I hope it is the twelfth of never before I ever see him again and that’s a long, long time.”
The song references by Shirley had made Jimmy laugh but what had happened today was no laughing matter.
The boy’s agent and parents had asked Shirley to keep an eye on him while they went to Menninger’s to sign the final papers for his admission. They reminded her not to say anything about where they were as the boy thought he was in Topeka for a concert performance at Forbes Air Base. Shirley assured the parents that she would not say anything and she would keep an eye on him.
Shirley busied herself with cleaning his room while the parents and agent were gone. The boy laid back on one of the two beds playing with a transistor radio and complaining that there weren’t any good radio stations in Topeka. Suddenly he said, “I want a candy bar.”
Shirley, who was busy cleaning the bathroom said, “OK, just a moment please, let me get done here and I will go get you one.” This was not good enough for his highness and he demanded, “Stop what you are doing and go get it for me now!”
Sighing Shirley came out of the bathroom and asked, “What kind of candy bar do you want?”
He shrugged, “I don’t know, what’s good?”
Shirley said, “I like Mars Bars and Snickers.”
He got up off the bed and approached her, “OK that will be good.”
Shirley managed her best customer service smile and said, “Which one, Mars or Snickers.”
He shrugged, “Not my job to figure that out, that's your job.”
Shirley gritted her teeth, “OK, I’ll need some money.”
Sneering he said, “Use your own money Bitch!”
Shirley slapped his face and lost her job.
Shirley suffered from migraines and anxiety attacks and she could feel both coming on. She asked Jimmy if he would fix dinner for his sister and himself so that she could just go to bed and forget about the day. Jimmy assured his mother that he would take care of things and Shirley headed off to her bedroom. Shirley sat on the edge of her bed and asked Jimmy to bring her bottle of tranquilizers from the medicine cabinet. Jimmy retrieved the medicine and opening the bottle Jimmy took out one of her tranquilizers and handed it to his mother along with a glass of water. Looking at the bottle in her sons hands she thought, What the Hell, I’ll take another one tonight. I just want to sleep right now.
“Jimmy please give me one more.” She took the pill from her son and popped the two tranquilizers into her mouth. Taking a big drink of water she handed the glass back to Jimmy. “Please put it up.”
Around 8:00pm Jimmy was getting his sister ready for bed when he heard the phone ring. His mother kept the phone in her bedroom next to her bed. He heard her fumble for it and in a slurred, sleepy voice she said, “Hell-Hello?” There was a pause, “Jack? Oh Hi Jack.” Jack was Shirley’s current boyfriend. “What?” (Pause}, “What?” (Pause), “I-I-I’m OK, tired.” (Pause), “Got Fired. Want-Want to sleep.” (Pause), “What?” (Pause), “Took my pills, my pills.” (Pause), “I don’t know, sleepy, bye.” Jimmy heard his mother hang up and did not think any more about it.
The next day was a school day so after getting his sister to bed Jimmy got ready for bed and lay down to read for a moment before going to sleep. Suddenly the sound of sirens and red lights filled the small house. Jimmy jumped up out of bed as the front door was kicked open by a Shawnee County Sheriff’s Deputy. Everything past that point happened so fast that Jimmy had a problem understanding what was going on.
When Jack had hung up from Shirley he had called the Sheriff’s Department to report that his girlfriend had taken an overdose of sleeping pills. The little house sat on the west side of Shunganunga Creek and was outside of the Topeka city limits so the Shawnee County Sheriff’s department had responded.
The children were rounded up by a Deputy as the ambulance crew and two more Sheriff’s Deputies were struggling to place Shirley on a stretcher. Though drowsy Shirley was putting up a good fight. She did not know what was going on or why these strangers had broken into her house and were talking nonsense about an overdose. No one was listening to her and she was feeling trapped and frustrated.
“Please“, she screamed, “what are you doing? My Children, my children.”
As they wheeled Shirley out into the living room she saw Jimmy and Patty standing next to a Deputy. “Jimmy, get my address book, my address book.” Jimmy looked around and spotted his mom’s address book on top of the piano he snagged it and handed it to her. Shirley grabbed it and trying to focus quickly flipped to the page where her brother’s phone number was. “Here!” She shoved the book towards the Deputy standing by the children, “Here!” she said again.
The Deputy stopped the Ambulance crew by the front door and took the book. “What’s this?” He asked.
“That’s, that’s my brother's phone number, Karl his name is Karl. Call him, he will get the children.”
The Deputy looked down at the book.
“Please call him”, Shirley cried, “Have him get my-have him get my children, please promise.”
The Deputy reached out and put his hand on Shirley’s shoulder. “You calm down now, it will be OK. You go to the hospital so they can tend to you. I’ll call your brother and take the children over there myself.”
Shirley tried to focus on him, “Why-why are you doing this to me?”
The Deputy smiled, “Your boyfriend was concerned because of the overdose of pills you took and he called us to help you.”
Shirley screamed, “I didn’t overdose, I didn’t overdose, I didn’t overdose…” she kept screaming over and over as they wheeled her out the door and to the waiting ambulance.
After the ambulance pulled away, lights flashing and siren blaring, the Deputy had Jimmy and Patty get dressed. He walked them out to his waiting car.
“Where are we going?” Jimmy asked.
The Deputy smiled as he placed the children into the back seat of his cruiser, “I am taking you to someplace you will be safe.”
As the Deputy slid in behind the steering wheel Jimmy said, “So we are going to my Uncle’s house?”
The Deputy did not answer as they pulled out of the drive. He reached for his mike and keying it said, “Unit 22 in route Juvenile Detention Center with 2 children, boy 15, girl 9 ETA 10 Minutes.”
Jimmy was scared; he had never been so scared in his life. He knew what Juvie was, it was the place for child criminals and he did not know why he and sister had been brought here. The Sheriff’s Deputy had lied to his mother. Instead of Jimmy and Patty going to their Uncle Karl’s home they were brought to the place where they lock up criminals. Jimmy was no criminal and neither was his sister, why were they here?
When they entered the facility Patty was led away down a right corridor by a matron. Patty was crying and kept calling for their Mother, “Mommy, Mommy” came her plaintive wail.
The Deputy put his hand on Jimmy’s shoulder, “Your sister will be OK.”
Jimmy pulled away from him, “Where are they taking her and why are we here?” He demanded.
The Deputy smiled, “Your sister is being taken to the girl’s side, and you’ll go to the boy’s side.”
Jimmy was getting angry, “But why are we here? You told my Mom that you would take us to my Uncles. This is Juvie not my Uncle Karl’s place.”
The Deputy shrugged his shoulders as he said, “Your Mother is sick and cannot make good decisions. We will decide where you and your sister go, not her.”
Jimmy was led down the corridor by a guard and the Deputy to a pale green room. Within the room was a long table with several pieces of paper on it, a small sheet of glass, a tube that looked like it could hold toothpaste and a miniature roller. Against one wall was a white screen with measurements and lines crossing its face. A camera was set up in front of the screen and leaning against the tripod was a small board with letters and numbers on it. The Deputy grabbed a clipboard off the wall wrote something on it and hung it back on the wall.
“See ya later Alex, he’s all yours.” The Deputy said as he left the room.
Alex looked Jimmy up and down sizing him up. “OK Kid”, he said, “Don’t give me no shit and I won’t give you no shit.”
Jimmy was confused, “I’m not giving you shit, and I’m not giving anybody anything. I don‘t even know why I‘m here.”
Alex walked around to the other side of the table, “You don’t know why you’re here?” Alex mocked him, “You don’t know why you’re here? You fucked up asshole that’s why you’re here.”
Jimmy could feel tears starting to form in his eyes, “I haven’t done anything wrong”, he choked out, “my mother…”
Alex cut him off, “A little late to be calling for your mommy now dumb ass. Should have thought about that before you fucked up.”
Jimmy didn’t know what to say so he just dropped his head and shut-up holding back his tears. He would not let Alex see him cry. Jimmy had to think, there had to be someone he could talk to. He decided to just go along with Alex and maybe he could find someone later on who would listen to him and tell Jimmy why he and his sister had been taken to Juvie.
Alex squeezed a black paste from the tube onto the glass panel and started smoothing it out with the roller. “Ever been fingerprinted kid?” Jimmy shook his head no. “Well today is your lucky day kid. First time for everything and for punks like you it probably won’t be the last.”
Alex fingerprinted Jimmy and then took his mug shots. He then led Jimmy out the door and down the hallway. Stopping in front of a heavy steel door Alex produced a large key; placing it into a slot on the door Alex turned the key, with a loud clanking sound the door swung open.
Jimmy looked inside the cell, on the floor was a vinyl covered mattress on which rested a wool blanket and an uncovered blue ticking striped pillow, a single dim yellow light in a cage high in the ceiling illuminated the chamber.
Alex shoved Jimmy into the room, “Take off your clothes and hand them to me, leave your underwear on.”
Jimmy looked at Alex who could read the question of why in the boy’s face. “Because, you won’t need them.
We’ll wash your clothes and we will give you some more clothes in the morning. Nobody in here is allowed to keep their own clothes. Clothes belong to everyone, no one owns anything in here, and you gave up that right when you got your punk ass thrown in here.”
Jimmy took off his clothes and handed them to Alex. As the cell door closed Jimmy laid down on the cold vinyl mattress pulling the wool blanket up over his face to block out the amber light he cried himself to sleep.
Jimmy was awakened by a kick to his butt. Startled awake he looked up to see a different guard standing over him. The guard dropped a shirt, pants and slippers on the floor in front of him.
“Get dressed, breakfast” was all the guard said.
Jimmy hurriedly got dressed into the clothes that smelled like too much bleach. “I think this shirt is too small.”
The guard snorted, “We don’t have any Taylor’s to do a fitting for you now follow me.
Jimmy followed the guard out the door and down the hallway.
“After breakfast you will go to class and be there until lunch. After lunch you will go back to class and stay there until dinner. After dinner you will help clean the day room. After the day room is cleaned you can watch TV until nine at which time you must return to your cell. If your attorney shows up or it is time for you to go to court you will be pulled out of class, If you cause any trouble or start any fights with any of the other boys we have punishments that will ensure that you do not do that again, we have no patience for tough guys in here. Any questions?”
Jimmy cleared his throat, “Yes sir, why are me and my sister in here? The Deputy was supposed to take us to our Uncles house.”
The guard came to a stop and turned to look at Jimmy. Jimmy was large for a 15 year old standing almost six foot tall and weighing in at 175 pounds he was able to look the guard in the eye.
“You don’t know what your crime is?” the guard queried.
“I didn’t commit a crime and neither did my sister. My mother was taken to the hospital and she asked the Sheriff’s Deputy to take me and my sister to my Uncle's house and he brought us here.”
The guard whose name was John studied Jimmy’s face for a moment as if trying to discern if he was kidding or making something up. John had heard every bullshit story from the delinquents that were brought into this prison for children but this was something new.
“Go have breakfast”, John said, “Follow the rules I gave you and I will look into this.
Jimmy thanked John and entered the day room.
Jimmy did as he was told; following the rules John had laid down to the letter. He did not interact with the other boys staying to himself. He wasn’t here to make friends with these kids, already hardened criminals at a young age they were not people Jimmy cared to know. Jimmy kept a scowl on his face and avoided all eye contact.
He was an avid reader and loved animals, and watched every single animal show that came on TV, especially Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. How many times had he heard Marlin Perkins, Jim Fowler or Stan Brock warn against looking a predator in the eye?
To Jimmy these boys were predators so he reasoned that using his size, silence and an unreadable demeanor would keep him safe and he was correct. None of the other boys made any effort to approach Jimmy and that was fine by him.
Early in the day Jimmy asked one of the Guard’s or Councilors, as he found out they were called, about his sister. He was told that it was none of his business what was going on with her and to get back to his studies.
Jimmy waited patiently most of the day to hear from John but the “Counselor” had not returned to tell him anything. It was late in the day and Jimmy was helping to clean up the day room when one of the Councilor’s approached him and said, “Follow me.”
Jimmy set down the duster he had been using and followed the Councilor out of the room; he could feel the eyes of the other boys on his back as he walked through the door.
Jimmy was led into an austere room. The walls were painted a pale green, on the wall to his left was a large mirror taking up most of the wall. Jimmy had seen this type of mirror before and knew it was a two-way mirror. A heavy gray metal desk occupied the center of the room with a chair on either side of it. The chair closest to Jimmy was empty; the chair on the other side of the desk facing the door was not. That chair was occupied by a woman that was just as austere as the room. She was reading through a file folder in front of her. Without looking up from the folder she instructed Jimmy to sit down and the Councilor to leave. Closing the folder she looked up at Jimmy as she removed her reading glasses.
“My name is Miss Evans, I have been appointed by the court to be your mother’s protective guardian. I am also the protective guardian of you and your sister.” She drew her tight little mouth up into a semblance of a smile that reminded Jimmy of the Dr. Seuss character, The Grinch. Jimmy studied her for a moment as she continued, “I need to ask you a few questions…”
Jimmy cut her off, “You’re a social worker.” It was a statement not a question.
“Excuse me?” Miss Evans asked.
“You are a social worker.”
Miss Evans cleared her throat, “Yes I am, now let’s get to those questions.”
Jimmy’s mother hated social workers, hated them with a passion. Shirley had been forced to deal with them for years because of her need for help from “Aid for Families with Dependent Children”, Welfare. Shirley called social workers Bureaucratic Moron’s. Shirley had her opinions and this was one she was very vocal on. “They are poor little rich girls whose mommy and daddy send them to college to get a degree to contribute something to the world. They have no idea what it is not to have, to be poor. The only social they know is the parties at their sororities and the only work they have ever done is to order a servant to lift a silver spoon to their mouth. They are nothing more than debutants waiting for the golf stud at the local country club to take them away from the unwashed masses.”
“Has your mother ever physically abused you?”
Though the answer to that question would be yes Jimmy ignored it and asked his own question. “Where is my mother?”
Miss Evans cleared her throat again, “Now Jimmy I need you to…”
He cut her off, “I said, where is my mother?
Miss Evans fidgeted in her chair, “Your mother is fine she is in the hospital.”
Jimmy fixed her with a hard stare, “Why?”
Miss Evans again cleared her throat again, “That isn’t important right…”
Jimmy said it again, “Why?”
Miss Evans was growing visibly more uncomfortable, she was not used to a child being this direct with her. She had always been able to intimidate anyone she spoke with, especially children. This child was having no part of her game, she had to get the control back so she decided to quickly answer his questions then get answers to her own.
“Your mother took an overdose of sleeping pills and tried to commit suicide. She was taken to Santa Fe Hospital to have her stomach pumped and for observation. The courts have decided, based on your mother’s previous mental history, to make her a ward of the state for her protection and the protection of you and your sister.” Miss Evans smiled with satisfaction. There, that should shut that little brat up. “Now let’s get back to those questions.”
Jimmy sat back in his chair and folded his arms over chest. So that is what this is about, they think mom tried to kill herself because she lost her job.
“Has your mother ever physically abused you?”
Jimmy leaned forward and rested his hands on the table, folding them he asked, “Did you read her pill bottle?”
Miss Evans looked at him, “What?”
Jimmy repeated his question, “Did you read her pill bottle?”
Miss Evans cleared her throat, “Uh, no but that’s not rele….”
Jimmy shook his head, “No it is relevant. Mom has been on the same tranquilizers, not sleeping pills, tranquilizers for years. My mother suffers from migraines and anxiety; I have read the bottle and I know what it says.”
Miss Evans tried again to gain control, “This has nothing to do…”
But Jimmy cut her off again, “It has everything to do with everything. The dosage on the bottle is one to two tablets as needed. Not to exceed 4 tablets a day. My mom very seldom takes more than one tablet at a time but sometimes, like yesterday, when she is really upset and just wants to sleep she will take two tablets.”
Miss Evans did not like that this kid was dominating the conversation and she wasn’t going to tolerate it any longer. “She took more than two tablets.”
Jimmy sat back in the chair again, “Really? Did she? How would you know? Were you there?”
Miss Evans cleared her throat, “No but…”
Jimmy laughed, mocking her, “No but nothing. I was there, I got a glass of water for her, and I took the two pills out of the bottle and handed them to her. I saw her take them and I took the pill bottle back to the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. You have to walk through my bedroom to get to the bathroom. Mom’s room is at the back of the house and if she had got up and walked to the medicine cabinet I would have known it. She went to sleep and Jack woke her up less than an hour later, she was groggy, you would be too if you had just taken two tranquilizers and gone to bed. What you people did was wrong from taking my mother to the hospital to bringing me and my sister here. No wonder my mom hates social workers.”
Miss Evans became visibly flustered and Jimmy heard a laugh come from the other side of the mirror. “You need to let me, my mom and sister go home and leave us alone.”
Miss Evans again cleared her throat, she had never had anyone talk like that to her, this child was supposed to be meek, mild and intimidated, she had to gain back control, and she had a job to do. He‘s a child he has no idea what he is talking about. “I’m afraid it is not that easy, now let’s get back to those questions.”
Jimmy cleared his throat imitating the now flustered Miss Evans, “Will we go before a Judge?”
Miss Evans nodded her head, “The Judge will go off of my recommendation but yes, he will want to talk with you and your sister.”
Jimmy smiled, “Then I have nothing else to say to you Miss Evans, I’ll say it to the Judge, I‘m sure he‘d like to know the truth and how me and my sister have been treated like common criminals in here instead of being taken to my Uncle's house like the Deputy promised my mother he would do.”
Miss Evans suddenly realized what that meant. If this brat told the Judge what he had just told her about his mother only taking the recommended dosage of her pills she would be branded a fool and might even lose her job. She was the one who had ordered the children to the detention center and she was the one who would be held responsible for not sending the children to their relative’s home. She had to put the fear of God into this kid and she had to do it now.
Standing up from her chair and leaning forward on the table in her best intimidating manner she yelled, “Listen here you little bastard…”
Jimmy stood up, looked her in the eye for just a moment and walked over to the mirror. “I have nothing else to say to her.” He said to his own reflection.
The same Councilor that had led him into the austere room led him out of it and back down the corridor to the cell Jimmy had occupied the night before. Jimmy stripped and handed the ill-fitting clothes to the Councilor. Lying down on the mattress Jimmy covered himself with the wool blanket but did not fall immediately to sleep. He lay on his back looking up at the yellow light, thinking. At some point a fitful sleep overtook him.
Jimmy did not know how long he had been asleep; all he knew was that someone was roughly shaking him awake.
“C’mon kid get up, I said get up.”
Jimmy rubbed his eyes and looked up; Councilor Alex was standing above him. “Here, put your clothes on.”
Alex dropped Jimmy’s green denim jeans and tye dye shirt on the floor along with his Ked tennis shoes. His socks were missing. Jimmy’s jeans had little white spots all over them that had not been there when they were taken from him and they smelled like bleach, everything in this place smelled like bleach. Jimmy’s tied dyed cotton t-shirt seemed to have shrunk as he pulled it over his head.
“Where are we going?” Jimmy asked.
“Just hurry it up asshole, time to go.”
Alex grabbed Jimmy by the arm and lifted him up off the floor as he was tying his last shoe. Alex shoved Jimmy out into the corridor and led him up the hallway.
Though there were no windows in the hallway Jimmy could tell that it was still dark outside.
He would never have been able to explain to you how he knew it was still dark outside, he just knew. Up ahead in the corridor a clock near the ceiling jutted out from the wall. Though its stark white face which was encased in a round steel gray casing shone like a floating snowball in the hallway it was difficult to make out the position of the hands in the dimly lit corridor. A few more steps closer and Jimmy straining his eyes to see made out the time as 5:07. Five O’clock in the morning? Why did this jerk-off wake me up at Five O’clock in the morning?
At the end of the corridor there were two heavy steel doors side by side. Each door had a small narrow window in it. The windows were double pane and between the panes of glass was a piece of chicken wire. Now why on earth, he thought, would there be the need for a security window in an opening no bigger than six by twelve inches? I want to see the skinny little fuck that could squeeze through that. For the briefest of moments Jimmy had found something amusing in this dark and terrible situation he had found himself in.
Alex unlocked the door with his oversized key. Opening it up he stepped to one side and with a smile said, “Please sir after you.”
Jimmy looked at him more frightened by this sudden change in Alex’s demeanor than in anything else this hateful “Counselor” had done to him thus far. Jimmy took a hesitant step forward and peered out into the lobby of the Juvenile Detention Center. Standing in front of the large security desk were two figures; His Mother and his Sister.
His Mother had been filling out some kind of form attached to a clip board when he came through the door. Patty saw him first and tugging on her Mothers skirt said, “Mommy it's Jimmy.”
He ran to them and hugged them both in turn.
“Jimmy, are you OK?” Shirley asked.
But before Jimmy could answer Alex walked up smiling. “Mrs. Stewart, I just want you to know what a fine boy you have here. We are so happy that we had the pleasure of looking after and keeping your children safe for you.” Alex offered his right hand to Shirley but just before she made contact to shake it she spit in his face.
“Fuck you Mother Fucker. C’mon children let’s go.”
Shirley took both of her children by the hands and led them to the big glass doors that separated the gray and pale green interior of the building from the fresh air of the exterior. Shirley stopped at the door and without turning around said, “Are you going to buzz us out Bitch or do I have to do it myself?”
The matron behind the big desk pressed the button, with a loud buzzing sound and a click the door unlocked and Shirley led her children out of the detention center.
Once in the car and heading safely away Jimmy said, “That guy treated me like shit.”
Shirley nodded her head, “I know that’s why I refused to shake his hand and spit on him.”
Jimmy looked at his Mother, “But how did you know?” His Mother smiled, “A Mother always knows.”
On the trip home the children related to their Mother all that had happened. Shirley listened to their stories attentively until Jimmy told her of his confrontation with Miss Evans. Shirley nodded her head and said, “Ah that explains it.”
Jimmy gave her a quizzical look, “Explains what Mom?”
Shirley said, “Wait till we get home and get something to eat and I will tell you guys everything.”
Shirley had fried up some eggs and fixed toast and jam for them all. They ate and after putting their dishes into the sink Shirley poured herself a cup of coffee and sat down in her favorite chair in the living room. The children sat on the couch.
“When the ambulance took me away”, Shirley began, “I heard the driver talking into his microphone and saying that I was an attempted suicide. I started protesting but they wouldn’t listen.” She looked at her children, “You know I didn’t try to kill myself right?”
Patty nodded her head and Jimmy said, “I know Mom, I am the one who handed you the pills, I told Miss Evans that.”
Shirley smiled and continued, “The attendant that was sitting next to my gurney taking my blood pressure said that Jack and the Deputy both told them I had tried to kill myself with an overdose of pills and that is what they had to go by. I said, ’But I didn’t overdose, don’t my word mean anything?’ The guy said my word meant nothing because I was the attempted suicide and I would say anything. Two witnesses had said I tried to kill myself and now they had to follow their orders.” Shirley took a sip of her coffee and continued her story.
“They took me to Santa Fe Hospital and put me into the crazy ward.”
Jimmy interrupted her, “The crazy ward?”
Shirley nodded, “Yeah, the Crazy Ward where they put people that are crazy like me.” Shirley crossed her eyes and stuck out her tongue making the children laugh. She sighed, “Anyway, they put a long tube down my throat and into my stomach and pumped it out.”
Patty said, “Yuck Mommy that’s nasty.”
Shirley said, “Yes it is.” She took another sip of her coffee. “They locked me up in a room where they put these leather cuffs on my arms that were tied to the railing of the bed so that I wouldn’t hurt myself. I laid there for a long time”, Shirley’s eyes moistened, “I thought you children were safe with Karl, I didn’t know…”
Jimmy looked at his Mother, “That’s alright Mom, not your fault.”
Patty left the couch and climbed into her mother’s lap. At 9 years old Patty was starting to be too big to sit on her mother’s lap any longer but Shirley let her. Patty laid her head on Shirley’s shoulder and she continued her story.
“A Psychiatrist came in and asked me a whole bunch of asinine questions. I told him several times that I did not try to kill myself and all the ass wipe would say is, ’We know what’s best for you.’ At one point I asked him what they had pumped out of my stomach and he said not much of anything. I said, ’So what does that tell you moron?’ He said that it didn’t prove anything, that I could have digested the pills into my system by the time they got to me. I said, ’Then I would be dead now and not have to listen to your bullshit, right?’” This made Jimmy and Patty laugh.
“Around noon yesterday that Evans Whore came into my room and informed me that she was my court appointed guardian that is when I found out what had happened to you and your sister.
I told her to take you guys out of there and over to Karl’s house. She told me that I no longer made decisions for you two or myself as I wasn’t responsible enough to care for myself let alone my children. She informed me that she would be taking care of all my decision making from here on out and that she would see to it that you children would be put into a decent and loving home. When I asked her what that meant she said that she was placing you two into the Foster Care Program.” Shirley looked at the floor, “I exploded!”
Jimmy had seen his Mother lose her temper before, he had been on the receiving end of it several times suffering abuse at her hands. She would often swing a broom at him when she was in one of her rages; she had even broken his ankle once when he was eleven years old as she had been beating him with the broom. He had lied at the hospital and said he had fallen off the front porch stairs but he never thought that they believed him. Of course Shirley was always sorry afterwards and Jimmy always forgave her. He could only imagine what had happened when his Mother lost her temper with the snooty Miss Evans.
“If I hadn’t been tied down I would have ripped her apart.” Shirley said gritting her teeth.
Jimmy had no doubt that his Mother would have. For all her faults the one thing Shirley always was; Protective of her children. Many people had found it their bad mistake to be on the shit end of the stick when it came to this Mama Lion protecting her cubs.
“I started screaming at the whore, giving her a piece of my mind when they came in, held me down and gave me a shot that put me to sleep. I slept until almost three O’clock this morning when Evans Whore showed back up in my room with some papers for me to sign.”
“What papers Mom?” Jimmy asked.
Shirley took a big drink of her now lukewarm coffee and heaved a heavy sigh, “Basically it is my agreement that Evans Whore is my and you children’s legal guardian for the next 365 days. I have to go to outpatient treatment at the Family Services Clinic to talk to a Therapist every Thursday for the next year. If I fail to make even one appointment or try to kill myself again I will be committed to the State Hospital for an indefinite period of time and you children will go to Foster care. I will be re-evaluated after one year to see if I am responsible enough to be your Mother again instead of the Evans Whore. Oh yeah, and I almost forgot, you have to see a Therapist too Jimmy.”
Jimmy was puzzled, “Why?”
Shirley let out a small laugh, “You apparently scared the shit out of Evans Whore when you had that confrontation with her. All she said to me was, ‘I have determined, after my interview with your son that he has anti-social behavior and aggressive tendencies. I have ordered therapy for him also.’ So now we both have to go because you stood up to her.”
Shirley put Patty off of her lap and stood up, “Come here.” She said to Jimmy. Jimmy left the couch crossed over to his Mother and she gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you son for what you said to Evans Whore, it kept me from being committed and you children from being taken away from me. I Love You.”
Jimmy gave his Mother a kiss on the cheek and said, “Love you too Mom.”
Late that afternoon a knock came on the front door. Jimmy went to the door and opening it up found Jack standing there.
“Hey Jimbo how’s it going?” he said cheerfully.
Shirley came up behind Jimmy, shoved him to one side and slammed the door in Jack's face. That was the last time they ever saw Jack.
Shirley had found a job rather quickly after the Motel incident. A new discount store called Woolco was opening on Fairlawn Road and they were looking for experienced retail workers and she fit the bill. The manager, who was younger than Shirley had been very understanding of her situation when she explained that her and her son had to attend therapy every Thursday. He arranged her schedule so that she had Thursdays and Sundays off. Shirley did not know how she would feel about a split schedule but it was better than losing her children. Shirley fit right in to the fast paced retail environment of the store and soon the manager had her working the customer service desk full time.
Shirley would come home from work and tell the children stories of what had happened to her that day. One day Shirley came home from work laughing and told Jimmy that she had not been able to stop laughing all day.
When Jimmy asked why she said, “You know that fruit that I told you about that I work with.”
Jimmy said, “The queer guy?”
Shirley laughed, “Yeah him. Well he came into work today and was complaining that his ass hurt because the guy he had went out with last night was too big. He said he was ripped and he had to wear a pad because of the bleeding.”
Jimmy screwed up his face, “That’s gross Mom.”
Shirley chuckled, “Oh wait, it gets better. I finally got tired of hearing him talk about it and reached into my purse and offered him one of my Tampons. I told him that this was less bulky than a pad and he was used to having things shoved up his ass so this shouldn’t bother him.” Shirley broke out in a peel of laughter. “He hasn’t talked to me since.”
Shirley liked working at Woolco not only because she enjoyed the work but because she got discounts on things she purchased, like clothes for the children. It had been years since Shirley had been able to buy the children new clothes. Most of the children’s wardrobe had come from the Salvation Army and other second hand stores. But now Shirley was able to buy the children new clothes and that made her extremely happy.
Shirley and Jimmy kept their Therapy Appointments religiously going to Family Guidance Counseling Services at 21st and Clay Streets every Thursday. Shirley would go off with her Therapist and Jimmy would go off with his. Jimmy did not understand the reason for the meetings with his Therapist, they seemed useless. He would go in talk about what happened at school or home the previous week, answer a few inane questions and then sit in the waiting room reading magazines and waiting for his Mother to finish her appointment. Jimmy didn’t want to go but he knew he had too.
Shirley and Jimmy had been diligent in doing what they had to do to keep the Evans Whore from descending on their family like a starving Harpy to feed on their bones. Yes they had been diligent about their responsibility all the way up until May 25th of 1972.