After two days in jail, Top Dog came to visit me. “Damn Dog, I told your ass to stay out of the Bermuda Triangle.” The local hang out in the park downtown was known as the Bermuda Triangle. From the center of the park, you could head in any direction and find food, shelter, drugs, alcohol and not to mention, the local jail. “I put $150 in your jail account.”
I needed this money so I could buy cigarettes, soap, toothpaste and a toothbrush. If you didn’t buy these items, the county jail would provide you with the Bob Barker bullshit brand supplies. Bob Barker toothpaste tasted like medicine and the soap would dry your skin like a baked pretzel. Back then, you could still buy cigarettes, but the catch was you couldn’t get matches or a lighter. Lighting a cigarette took a little ingenuity and a little bravery. You had to take the cellophane from the pack of cigarettes and stick a small piece in both the left and right side of an electrical outlet. Then, with a piece of tissue paper, you’d connect the two pieces of cellophane. An instant 120 volt spark would light up the tissue, and allow you to light your cigarette. The trick of course was to do this without touching the cellophane, or your ass was lit up. That’s a mistake you only made once.
Top Dog asked me, “Are you okay? Shy Shy came by the other day looking for your ass.”
“Hell, these couple days have been a cake walk,” I told him. “Shit, I needed the rest. I have to appear in court this Friday. I’m hoping to get out on Free the People Day.” This was a designated day when homeless people who had spent a few nights in jail on bullshit charges such as trespassing, open containers, or panhandling would be released with time served.
“Man you can’t get out on Free the People Day, you have a probation violation,” Top Dog told me.
“I know the system has cracks in it, so I’m hoping that they fuck this up.”
On Friday morning, I found out that the system did have cracks in it. The judge gave me probation again, not knowing that I already was on probation. That afternoon, at about 3 o’clock, the detention officer practically walked me to freedom, so I thought. I was dressed back into my street clothes, but handcuffed and walked to the probation office. I was hoping to get a different probation officer, because if Mrs. Jones saw me there, she would send me right back to the jail.
In a small waiting room, the officer sat me down in a wooden chair. He removed the cuff from my right wrist and handcuffed it to the armrest of the chair. I sat in the room by myself for just a few minutes. The door opened and to my disappointment, Mrs. Karen Jones walked into the room. I said to myself, “Damn, there goes my last crack in the system.”
“I knew we would meet again. You have two charges. One is probation violation, and the other is trespassing,” she told me politely. “Mr. Caldwell, you’re going to the D.O.C.”
“What’s the D.O.C.?”
“Department Of Corrections. In short terms, prison,” she told me as she walked out of the small room, leaving the door open.
“Fuck the D.O.C.” I said to myself. I looked down at my left wrist, which was cuffed, and the other cuff was locked to the wooden chair. I thought, “Shit, just as there are cracks in the justice system, there will be a crack in this chair.” I broke the wooden armrest off with my free right hand. I jumped to my feet quickly and ran to the door. Looking to the right and left down the hallway, I saw that the coast was clear. I wrapped my jacket around the handcuffs that were still on my left wrist, just incase I met someone in the hallway. Swiftly, I walked to the nearby elevator and pushed the button for the 8th floor to confuse any pursuers as I went and ran down the stairwell. As I opened the doors to freedom, I smiled and said, “Pop goes the weasel.” Never looking back, I gave them the finger as I walked away.
Running in and out of alley ways, watching for cops, I headed south out of downtown. I reached the tracks that ran close to Top Dog’s lady friend’s rooming house. About ¼ of a mile down the tracks, I reached her house. I walked to the side of the house and tapped on the bedroom window.
“Hey, who the fuck is tapping on my window? Ain’t no drugs here!”
“Jewel, this is Lead Dog. Open the damn window.” I leaned against the side of the house next to the window. It was like time had stopped. My heart felt like it was beating a mile a minute. All of a sudden I heard scuffling and the window opened quickly.
“What the fuck? Oh shit, my Dog!” it was Top Dog. I quickly stepped in front of the window, out of breath. Not saying a word, I showed him the handcuffs. He reached and pulled me in the window. He pulled so hard that he almost dragged me across the hardwood floor. I fell on top of him, knocking Jewel to floor as well. “Damn, what are you doing with these shackles on?”
“Well, I didn’t get Free the People Day, but I did get probation,” I told him.
Top Dog shoved me. “Get the fuck off of me. And Jewel, get your ass in the kitchen and get me a small knife.” We walked over and sat on the couch. Looking confused, Top Dog asked, “You got probation again?”
“Yeah, remember, I told you the system had cracks.” Jewel walked in and handed him the knife.
“Okay, okay. Explain these fucking shackles then,” he said as he grabbed the cuff. “Jewel, go back in the kitchen and grab us a couple beers.” He attempted to pick the lock on my hand cuffs with the kitchen knife. “This shit won’t work. I need some bolt cutters.”
“I broke a wooden chair and simply escaped,” I told him.
Shaking his head and waving the knife, he said, “I should cut your damn wrist off. What in the hell were you thinking? Jewel, bring us some damn beer! Damn, that girl is slow as hell,” he yelled angrily.
“Calm down. Calm down. Man, this shit ain’t that serious.”
Jewel walked back into the small, cramped room. “Here are your beers,” she said as she handed us each of a forty of Ol’ E.
“Damn, Ricky. You are like a brother to me. Man, they will lock your ass up and throw away the key. You got warrants for probation violation, trespassing, and now an escape charge.”
“I know, Dog,” I said as we embraced.
He took a deep breath. “Okay, let’s get those cuffs off.”
“What’s the damn hurry? Hell, I’m not planning on going anywhere.”
“Yes, the hell you are. You’re getting the fuck out of here.” Top Dog stood up. “I’m going to Ray’s Body Shop down the street. I’ll cut those silver braces off and we can mail them back. Cause you don’t need another charge; stolen property.”
Smiling, Jewel said, “The two of you mother fuckers are crazy as hell. What about damaged property?”
“Bring your ass on Jewel. Let’s go get some more beer and some bolt cutters. Relax, Lead Dog. I gotcha.”
“Anytime. Now lock the door,” he said as the two of them left the house.
I locked the door and sat back down on the couch, thinking to myself, “Damn, did I do the right thing? Did I fuck up more? Dog was right. What in the hell was I thinking?” I couldn’t go back and I couldn’t stand still. I could only go forward. I needed money and lots of it. I reached in the ash tray pulled out a wooly and lit it.
I was out of jail and out of my mind. But I wasn’t free.