FIVE

THE JAIL CELL

 

 

Gideon had been a hero for less than three hours and was already tired of it. Proud, bearded young men had fiercely thrown their fists at the sky as he was ushered past them, partially blinded by the tiny rivulets of blood that trickled down his forehead and into his eyes, his body tossed about by a dozen hairy‑knuckled hands.

     "Right on, brother!" they screamed.

     "Power to the people!" they cried.

     'FREE GIDEON OR THE SKY'S THE LIMIT!' the hastily scrawled posters waved. The big cops attached to the hairy knuckles that were attached to Gideon growled and said:

     "You think they're gonna help you, huh?"

     And, "Goddamned commies!"

     And, "You're in a pile of shit, bub."

     And Gideon agreed.

     They placed him in a cubicle by himself, sandwiched between a large cell filled with bandaged, admiring students and a small cell with three old black men squatting on the floor, ignoring it all.

     The students cheered and shouted to him, crowding the bars to get close to Gideon. Finally they moved away from his cell, pulling their hands from his stinging back and their eyes from his bruises and he realized then that he really hurt and he still had not seen Carmen. He leaned back against the bars and tried to think, began to think, then tried not to think. He heard a noise behind him, then a voice like ripping cloth whispered, "Cap'n?"

     Gideon jumped, his arms flapping once, quickly, as his heart raced. He turned toward the sound of the voice and stared at a face so black it looked purple under the bright fluorescent light. It was creased like crumpled paper, the crevices disappearing into an eternity of black, all lines twisting their way upward and downward and sideways, forming an enormous traffic jam at the intersection of the man’s eyes. The eyes were pink rimmed with glazed, dark brown pupils. The bridge of his nose overlapped the nostrils like tight canvas and, from beneath the nostrils Gideon watched the old mouth open. A pink tongue licked parched, cracked lips before the old man spoke.

     "I ain't meanin' to bother you, Cap'n," the mouth creaked into a memory of a smile. "But I heered what hap'n out there today," he shook his head slowly. "That was a dumb fool thing ya'll done."

     "Yeah," Gideon said.

     "But, we's just talkin' back there," the old man thumbed toward his two friends. "And, we's just wonderin'," he paused as though building up nerve. "We's just wonderin'...I mean, ya'll ain't from here?"

     "No," Gideon said with a sigh. He didn't really want to talk about it. "We flew down from Minnesota."

     "On a airplane?" the old man was astonished. "Jesus, I ain't never been on one of them!" His eyes moved away from Gideon and concentrated on the damp ceiling.

     "How much was your ticket?" he whispered. Gideon told him. The old mouth dropped open then closed slowly. A quiet whistle slid over his teeth. "How many of you come down here?"

     "About ninety," Gideon said. "In our group."

     The old man was silent for a long time and finally, as Gideon started to turn away, said, "Why didn't ya'll just send the money?" He turned his back on Gideon and duck‑walked his way back to his friends. He began talking rapidly in low whispers.

     Gideon sat at the bottom of the world, listening to the sounds that surrounded him. The bragging and laughing and moaning in the large cell and the mumbles from the black men isolated him.

     "Shit, I thought niggers was crazy!" he heard one of the black men say. The other two laughed. Someone in the crowded cell began playing a guitar slowly. Gideon craned his neck to look for the musician but couldn't see him anywhere. A sweet, low voice, the same he'd heard from the podium the night before, embroidered itself into the delicate chords that flowed above the hum of the crowd.

     "My mama told me

     When I left her there

     Do what you want, boy

     'Cause nobody cares."

 

 

"Gideon Holley," the cop stared at him as he would've stared at a snake, opening the cell door cautiously. "Come with me." There was no sound coming from the next cell but all eyes watched him. Gideon stood up and his legs melted in fright. He sat back down.

     "Good tactic!" a male voice shouted from the group of students. Then came the chant, "Resist! Resist! Resist!"

     The cop pulled Gideon to his feet and dragged him out of his cell, pulling and pushing him down a narrow corridor that ended at a closed door. Gideon stopped at the wooden door, its brown paint chipped in some places and rippling like frozen waves at the banks of a pane of glass that announced in black letters, 'CLYDE PORTER ‑ CHIEF OF POLICE ‑ KNOCK FIRST. A burly arm reached around Gideon and knocked on the door.

     "Yo!" a voice from the inside boomed. The door was pushed open as a hand nudged Gideon from behind. He stumbled into the room, his knees making loud tapping noises as they smashed into each other. It sounded to Gideon like a woodpecker working at a hollow tree but he seemed to be the only one in the room who heard it.

     "Oh, mama," Gideon said to himself as he looked around the room. Behind the desk was a man who was obviously the Chief of Police. He was a short man with a large chest and muscles like bowling balls under the sleeves of a thin, grey suit. His hair was silver and his eyes were a frightening blue.

     Three men sat facing the desk, attache cases at their feet beneath folding chairs. Their faces were as vague as the dark side of the moon. They were the type that never wore ornamental smiles and seemed rarely to find the excuse for real ones. Faces that could bluff you at five‑card stud if you had three‑of‑a‑kind showing. Gideon was scared. He wanted to tell them he was sorry, that he didn't mean it. He wanted to swear he would never do it again and beg them for mercy. Gideon loved his freedom.

     "Gideon Holley," the Chief of Police grunted, "These gentlemen are from the American Civil Liberties Union." He waved a hand at them in a gesture that seemed almost obscene.

     "After you sign these papers," he rustled a stack on his desk, "you're free to go. Please wait until you're out of the building to thank them."

 

    Gideon stood in the airport facing flashbulbs and reporters who pointed microphones at his face while everyone else told them the story. Only once did Gideon have the opportunity to speak. "I don't know," was what he said.

     Other students had been slowly bailed out during the day and they filtered into the airport to stand around Gideon, corners of smiles hidden behind bandages, triumphant red eyes peering out from blue‑black sockets. Someone pushed through the crowd and took his hand. It was Carmen. She had a white bandage around her head and dried blood, the color of rust, was caked into her long, blond hair. Gideon knew that if it weren't for him she would be standing there without a scratch and so would the rest. He felt terrible.

    "You look terrible!" Carmen said, freeing his hand to wrap both arms around his waist. "I tried to see you in the cell, but by the time they finished wrapping my head you were gone." Gideon tried to calm his stomach.

     "So," Carmen continued, bubbling with happiness, "I've been asked to tell you that before we left the jail we unanimously voted you President of the Students in Defense of the Third World!"

     Gideon barely made it to the bathroom in time to unload his chicken dinner and beer out of the sight of everyone except a tall, thin man who turned away disgustedly and concentrated on polishing his fingernails.

Be the first to respond!

Leave a comment:

  •  

Mud Music

Like us on Face Book

Facebook -- http://facebook.com/Luckymudmusic

Be A Mud Puppy

Get The Latest News

Upcoming Shows

  • Mar 24
    Americana Cafe Sundays at Maggie's Musical Farm,  Youngstown
     
  • Mar 30
    WAM III at Maggie's Musical Farm,  Youngstown
     
  • Apr 14
    Americana Cafe Sundays at Maggie's Musical Farm,  Youngstown
     
  • Apr 28
    Americana Cafe Sundays at Maggie's Musical Farm,  Youngstown
     
  • May 24
    Florida Folk Festival,  White Springs
     

Book Lucky Mud

Maggie@Luckymudmusic.com