Jeremy Park unloaded his camera equipment from the KYDD radio station van and lumbered toward the security checkpoint: STOLLOCK PENITENTIARY
Of all the lousy assignments…the scum of the earth!
Jeremy was led to a small room to set up his makeshift filming studio. Two hefty guards walked in—a small shriveled looking man in prison garb shuffled between them—hands and feet shackled.
Jeremy studied the man. Whoa. He's an old-timer.
The skin was stretched tight over his bald head clearly outlining the shape of his skull. His face was pockmarked, gaunt and gray—the lips stained a nicotine orange.
“Get your eyes back in your head, comrade!” barked one of the guards.
Jeremy turned abruptly and pretended to adjust his camera.
“I've got orders to be in and out.” The guard looked at his watch. “So hustle it up, soldier. Roll the tape.”
Jeremy handed him the microphone.
“Prisoner #09936-063 for the Documentary:
'The IN crowd. What Price Will You Pay?'—for USA nationwide school distribution.”
Holding the mic for the prisoner...“Let 'er rip, Lenny, m' man. And remember—no cussing.”
Very softly the man spoke...“I loved her, ya know.”
Love? Jeremy wanted to laugh.
“Missy Taylor—my neighbor. We were in our first year of college together. She coulda been a model or somethin', ya know? Every guy wanted her. She filled my dreams and daydreams.
“But Missy hung out with a rough crowd. Her brother, nicknamed Bishop, had a gang of about six others and they made themselves known around campus. They were the IN crowd. Ya know what I’m sayin'? Real cool.”
Lenny twisted his hand awkwardly to take a few long drags on his cigarette.
“One day when we was walkin' to class, Missy put her hand in my jacket pocket, leaned on me and said, “Lenny, I don't have to be anyone but myself with you.” I knew from then on she was my girl."
Wow. I think he really did love her.
"She drank too much. I ignored it. She was caught shopliftin'. I looked the other way. I wanted to be with her, ya know?
"She called me up one night and asked if I would drive her and Bishop across town to the Kingsland Grocery. I didn't even ask why. I just did it because...it was Missy. Ya know?
"We pulled into the parkin' lot. Bishop and Missy hopped out and told me to keep the motor runnin'. I watched them walk into the store and I knew. God help me, I knew, and still I stayed."
There was a long pause.
Gees. Does he even know that he's crying right now?
The guard wiped Lenny's face with a handkerchief and said, "Wrap it up now, m' man."
“I kept my eye on the store's exit sign. I remember the sweat drippin' off my hands onto the steerin' wheel. Bish came flyin' out of the store. I could hear the alarms blarin'.
“Missy's been shot!” he screamed. “The clerk killed Missy!” He jumped into the car. "Go! Drive!"
Lenny was leaning forward, yelling into the camera—his chains rattling—eyes wild.
He's reliving it! Jeremy darted a glance toward the guard but Lenny continued.
“I couldn't move. Nothin' was registerin'. Red lights were pulsin' all around us. And...and then Bishop tossed his gun into my lap. I'd never even seen a gun before. I grabbed it to throw it out the window or somethin' when it fired. It just exploded in my hand and...and then I heard yellin'..."Officer down! Officer down!”
Lenny leaned back hard, the breath gone out of him.
He looks even smaller than when he came in!
Look—He's crying again!
"All my dreams were thrown in the trash that night. My future wiped out. You understand me? I'm a marked man. I'm a number. I'm a nothin'."
Watching Lenny, Jeremy had a flash of a memory from his own college days...just a few years back. A realization overtook him. But for the grace of God, that could be me!
Lenny's voice was thin. "I killed a cop, ya know? Bishop testified against me and I was given two life sentences. I've been in this hell-hole for thirty-seven years, and I ain't never, ever, ever gettin' out." He pointed his finger at the camera. "Think about it.”
The deflated, old man turned and nodded to the guards.
On their way out, a crumpled handkerchief was pressed into Jeremy's hand. “Wipe your nose, soldier!”
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