Once upon a time

a sordid and gut wrenching tale, of lies beatings, and more lies, with drugs, fast driving, as well as slow, inconspicuous driving.

Monday, July 03, 2006

A brief composition of my life

It was 97 balmy, degrees in July, and it had rained hard the previous day.
The humidity was so high, that birds would not leave their twigged nests. The sky was empty, the only exception to this, were several buzzards circling an Orange grove, far off in the distant horizon, as I sat, leaning back on my elbows, on the front step of our house, dreaming of peanut butter, chocolate, and monsters.
A musical sound came from a canary-yellow, plastic shrouded, GE Model, transistor radio, which was playing an oldies station in the kitchen. The song was entitled, “Memphis”, by Johnny Rivers. I listened from the front porch- keeping rhythm by rocking my 4-inch, rubber sole, back and forth. I could hear my eldest brother, Eddy singing with the radio sound.

“Help me, information, get in touch with my Marie/
She's the only one who'd call me here from Memphis, Tennessee/.
She could not leave her number/but I know the place to call/
Cause my uncle took a message and he wrote it on the wall...

A long, black, leather belt hung ominously on a .16 gauge nail, which was driven halfway
Into the door, which acted as a belt hanger, in my Fathers bedroom.
To my Father, it was where he hung his belt, but to all of his offspring, it was a sadistic reminder, of blind obedience, and cruel intentions.
A fan sat spinning at a medium speed, as my father (John, -Johnny to his friends), lay in bed, reading the newspaper…adrift with his own demons, in the evening, after dinner.
The heat from southern Florida in, July heat was drawn through the screened, window, and became a cool zephyr, as it rolled away the burdens, humidity, and stress, from a days work, in South Florida.
I and my 5 brothers and sisters lived in a 3 bedroom, paint-faded, white house, which was rented to my mom and dad, from the same man who delivered our mail. I knew this, because my Father had once called our Landlord, to repair the septic tank, and the mailman arrived, made the necessary repair, which involved a lot of digging, and left. He had made this comment, during his laborious struggle. “ Women! “ I looked on in wonder.
It was Saturday July 18, 1970 in Lake Wales, Florida. ”Momma Told Me Not To Come”, by “Tree Dog Night” was at the number one spot, on the music charts.
It was around then, that I was diagnosed with Perth’s disease. It was because of this condition, that I earned nick names such as, Frankenstein, Hop-a-long", "Peg Leg", “crip” and an assortment of others. I wore a harness around my waist, and a strap of leather that over my right shoulder, to support my left foot, on which there was a clasp attached, which fastened to a strap, that hung from the back of the harness, which was also wrapped around my waist. This was to provide complete support for my right leg, which was suspended in the non-bending, orthopedic brace.
I was the 4th of six children. It is said that, “middle children are the well-adjusted ones”.
I have two sisters and two brothers, who might disagree with that statement.
My mother worked at “E.B. Malone”, a Mattress factory, and it was her job to fire-test the mattresses, (as far as I knew) to see if they would burn any more than they were supposed to. I think the maximum is two inches, but unfortunately, sheets do not have to adhere to the same standards as a mattress from “E.B. Malone”.
She never smoked a cigarette in her life, (that I know of) but as irony would have it, she died of cancer, on November 28th 1974 at the beautiful age of 46, whereas my Father smoked “Kool Filter King” cigarettes continuously, and lived to the terrible age of 78, and died without his legs.
No one except a funeral home worker, a government liaison, and myself attended his funeral.
There is no greater sadness, than when there is no sadness at all.
It was said, that my Father was a “wonderful dancer”, and I know, it must have been true, although I had never seen him, “cut-a-rug”, as he would say. I had the same DNA gene, that was responsible for the ability to dance well, but it would be 25 years, before I learned this information.

My fathers’ job was leaving our home in the morning, with a lunch box, wearing a white, short sleeve, button down, collared, shirt, dark slacks and black leather dress shoes. I was never for certain what his occupation was. I was certain of one thing though. He liked to drink Jim Beam whiskey, straight from the bottle, play guitar, (while singing old Hank Williams songs), erstwhile becoming, verbally abusive to anyone... but especially those whom he loved.
I suppose that in my Fathers mind, he thought, “ There's nothing like physical and verbal abuse, to let those whom you “love”, know how much you really care ”. My Mother blamed World War Two on his “condition”. I blamed her for caring too much about her children, and also the inability to leave him. But like many women, during the early stages of “Women’s Rights”-she had no place to go, and no way to pay for it, when she arrived, to a place that never existed for her.
My Father took cursing to lacrims flood, with add-ons like, "Lilly-livered," yellow-bellied", & "pussel-gut”, before launching into what I call, "catastrophic cursing'. I've seen him make more than one-person, break into tears, just by shouting obscenities at them. Never underestimate the power of words.
I had never heard my mother say one single curse word, or any word of degradation for that matter.
It is my opinion that, it is what one holds inside, that will kill you, and what you let out, can permanently scar others. My Fathers hobby and side profession was raising purebred German Shepherds, which he would take for a walk every afternoon when he came home from work- all 4 German Shepherds.

None of my Fathers dogs required a leash, and would stop dead in their tracks, when they heard his voice they would either sit, or return to my father’s side, on command. My father used a technique for training dogs, was so effective, that people would often times marvel, at the same blind obedience, that his children had.
Therefore, none of my father’s dogs ever required a leash. His equivalent of a leash were
3 golf ball sized stones, in his left hand, and he could launch them with tremendous force, and great accuracy. Whenever any dog, would stray more than 20 yards, or so, one could hear him shout, “Hear me!” from a half a block away. Translated, that means: “That is too far away from my voice”; “You need to return to the perimeter immediately, or you will experience severe pain.” He never said it twice. If the dog did not respond, he’d lift his right knee up to his midsection, in like a professional baseball pitcher, as his upper body tilted slightly backwards. This was the equivalent of a term commonly used in baseball, called “the wind up”.
The sound of the stone, leaving his left hand, made a whizzing sound, as ripped through the air, followed by a thump, of the rock, connecting to the flesh, and bone of it’s canine target. Immediately following the throw,
One could hear, the screaming sound of a dog that would come running back to my Father.
My Father said, that he was shouting apologies, for not listening.
The landscape of my front suburban yard was like a well-trodden playground, with black dirt and formidable roots. From the front porch, one could see 3 giant oak trees, one at each corner of the house, and another, that sat closer to the road.
A rope hung from a limb, about 30 feet off the ground, with a large knot tied in the bottom to swing on.
The oaks trees under tentacles seemed to reach to the sky, as they eddied across the yard, like a slow moving plague, as if to say, “Free me from this burdened soil…. this cold and darkened, wonderful growth”. Black sand, and dark brown roots, covered my front yard, at 308 Lime Avenue.
Across the street was alive, with rows of hibiscus, which grew wild, and some sandspurs, cacti, and a Cumquat tree, as well as wildflowers, which also thrived. Several yards further, were millions, and millions of orange trees, on which hung, billions of orange orbicular fruit, which were surrounded by miles and miles of ginger-colored dirt roads, and a lake, where my Father walked his dogs.
It was on such a day, while my Father walked his dogs, around 6:00’clock p.m., that my sister younger sister was jumping rope in the front yard. It was a plastic white tube, with a pink stripe, that circled it, from one plastic handle-grip to the other plastic handle. I asked for it, and she said I couldn’t use it, and said something else that infuriated me, so I picked up some sand in my hand, and threw it in her face. She started crying from the temporary blindness, which I had caused. “That’s what you get!” I said, in vengeful anger.
She went inside to get the sand out of her face, and I picked up the jump rope. A few seconds later she came back outside and snatched the jump rope away from me and slapped my back with it.
This is what my father saw, when he rounded the corner onto Lime Avenue, with his dogs.
We were both unsuspecting of his presence, as he walked his casual cadence, up to where we were.
“Give me that!” he said, to my younger sister, snatching it away, he folded it in half, and rolled it up on his left hand. I knew what was coming, and froze in fear, as I saw the urine start flowing down my sisters legs, and puddle at her feet. He grabbed her by the arm with his right hand, in the middle of Lime avenue and began swinging the jump rope, like he would the black leather belt- each time, leaving a red whelp that would swell, and bleed, as he kept on beating her, she dropped to the asphalt, and slung her free arm around to protect her body, but it was also met with the same painful onslaught, as red whelps formed on her arms- she cried out more, as my father lifted her urine stained, body off the asphalt, and held her in mid air, to continue beating her. With every stripe he put on her body, he would also say some words that he thought she should hear, while being beaten. Like this. “Don’t you ever even think? That you can just pick up anything! And hit your brother! Because I will beat your ass! Until it wont hold shucks for shit!! And he would then, ask a question, as if this were an obedience quiz. “DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME? But in extreme pain, it was hard for Charlotte to say anything, but sounds of torture. “Ye, ye ye yes... sssir Yes sir”, she whimpered, and tried to catch her breath. “Stop crying! My Father demanded, but tears were inevitable, so he picked her up by the arm again, and beat her some more, until she made only heavy breathing sounds, as she gasped in shameful pain, as I stood there in silent agony. I watched helplessly, as the tricklets of blood, oozed from her whelps, and then slowly ran down her wet, and whelped covered, legs.
My father did not feel that his job of punishment was complete, unless you cried for your life, and stopped crying on command. I could do it, but the girls did not fare as well.
One would not know that Charlotte was, in his own words, his “favorite of all the children”.
This was the one he loved the most.
She never told him, that I had thrown sand in her face first, and I never told him either, because we both knew that no one should ever be punished like that, for anything, that they may have ever done.
I carried the guilt of her beating, and protected her from anything and everything from that day forward.
That day would come, but not now.

It was in August, a month later that she announced, as she always did.
“We’re going swimming!” my Sister Rita shouted, from the living room, “Everybody get ready! ” and the sound of running feet on wooden tongue and groove floors, drowned out the monophonic speaker, which I was listening to, but that didn’t matter now.
It was a wonderful feeling to be free from the confines of the house, moreover to be in the water was to be free. It was one of the free summertime luxuries that we always looked forward to.
I made my way to the bedroom, and my mother assisted me, in removing the heavy metal, orthopedic brace from my right leg. If I had the option to walk to the Lake, with the brace and wooden crutches, it would have taken me much longer to get there, and besides, there was no public place to change. So, to arrive with the rest of my siblings, my brother Eddy carried me on his shoulders, to Twin Lake.

With towels over the back of our necks, and an inflated tractor tube, we set out barefoot, across the burning asphalt of Lime Avenue, and the hot, black sands of the orange groves, through which we would always make a short cut, as they all ran from shade to shade, until we emerged on an orange colored dirt road, which overlooked Twin lake. I would roll up my towel and wrap it around my brothers’ forehead and he would gallop, as if he was a horse, and my towel was the reigns.
Years later, after I died…the second time, it would be called, “Twin Lakes Boulevard”. It was from here, that we could see the whole lake, as well as bright sheet metal roofing that covered the pavilion; from which a dock stretched it’s wooden planks to the lake.
Unlike my front yard, there were no roots, only white, sugar sand, and cattails by the waters edge. Eddy sat me on the inner tube when we were in the water, and he would push the inner tube out, about 30 feet into the lake, where we were the diving judges, as my other brothers and sisters did their best dives from the end of the dock.
Then, games of hide and seek, in dark greenish brown water would ensue.
Most of the time, after an hour or so, a curious alligator’s head could be seen about 40 yards away.
We made a game of seeing who could get the closest to it, without it going under.
If it went under when you were about 30 feet away, panic would set in, and everyone would swim to shore, as if their life was in peril of being torn to shreds by an alligator of gigantic proportions.
It was exciting to say the least.
On this particular day, I was sitting atop the water on an inflated, tractor-trailer inner tube.
The sun began drying the water, from the blackened tube, as it began to get hot on my legs. It was habit to reach down between my legs and splash more water onto the tube, but this time I slipped in through the middle, without so much as a splash, and began sinking, deeper and deeper into the root stained water of the abyss.

It was something that I would repeat in my personal life years later. I heard my sister Rhoda scream from the dock, as I watched the sun drenched water over my head fade, and it became cold and dark.
I felt a thumb and fore fingers grasp my right hand tightly, but slip away as I sank more, as if being pulled by an unseen force.
Darkness was all around me and I had to breathe, or I had already taken a breath, I don’t remember the sequence, but I remember being able to breathe, when I inhaled under water. I was curious how I was able to breath under water. At that point I no longer panicked.
I thought I would simply, walk out of the lake, on my own two feet.
Again, I felt someone touch the tips of my fingers and was gone.
Then, a small trickle of light appeared over my head, as I looked upward for my salvation. I felt myself move toward it. Was I swimming? It appeared that I was heading toward the brightened surface of the water. I heard something.
It was a radio, but not the music kind; it was the official sort of radio that one hears, from ambulance or police car. In this instance, it was an ambulance.
I was confused, but I kept moving toward the light. I felt a hard pressure on my chest, pain, then water spilled from my mouth choking, I gasped for air. I felt cold concrete of the pavilion foundation on my back. I opened my eyes, and saw the exposed rafters overhead, another gush of water sprang, my head rolled to the side. An ambulance sat on the orange, sandy road not far away, with its lights spinning, and flashing. I heard the squawking radio noise, and a few of the local neighbors gathered outside the pavilion staring at me.

The uniformed ambulance people, as well as, my brothers and sisters loomed over me. “We thought we lost you there, for a couple minutes.” Said the paramedic, as he continued to assure me, “You’ll be all right”, as I looked closely at his white starched shirt, looming over me. He could not have been more wrong, or more right.
Often times, life is full of dichotomies. The sum of who we are rests not on our ability to survive, moreover, our ability to believe, that we will survive, that we are here with a single-minded purpose.
I did believe, but that would soon change.
At this stage in my life, I looked up to, and admired my elder brother Eddy, whom I was sure, pulled me from that watery grave.
Often times, the truth will change the most inherent feelings that there are between siblings, and close family. Tension between my Father and Eddy grew more intense, as Eddy matured.... as much as he was allowed.
My Father gave his infamous, “This is my fuckin’ house!” speech, for the last time to Eddy.
The truth was, it was a “rental”. My Father believed that “possession was 9 tenths of the law”.
I stood out of sight, as the shouting continued. I heard my brother say something, to the affect of “leaving”, and watched him walk through the kitchen, and into his bedroom.
My brothers’ bedroom was the room on the back of the house, closest to the hiway.
His room was where everyone threw their dirty laundry, as the washing machine was immediately outside that room. Eddy had left his A.M. F.M. portable radio playing, on a country radio station. The music eerily crept into my ears, that day in August, as I crippled my way through the kitchen, and hesitated to listen to the rest of the song, before entering through the doorway of what was recently Eddy’s’ bedroom. ... Marty Robbins sang.

“ It was over in a moment, and the crowd all gathered 'round
There before them lay the body, of the outlaw on the ground,

Oh, he might have went on livin,' but he made one fatal slip,
When he tried to match the ranger, with the big iron on his hip, big iron on his hip.”

It was almost like a strange anthem, or a psychotic soundtrack to Eddy’s way of life. It could easily have been that, of “”Pink Floyds” –“Dark Side of the Moon.”
It was during this part of Eddy’s life, that he had somehow managed to acquire a horse, which he named, “Red Man”.
“Red Man”, was a quarter horse, and ate all the grass in the back yard. My brother had tied him with a long rope to a lone Chinaberry tree, which I climbed in the evenings, and watched Mr. Sterns walk home from the package store, and we would wave at one another for hours on end.
He had only had the horse a couple of weeks, and then on that day, after the “my house” speech, I watched him as he saddled his horse one last time.
I had seen him saddle his horse before, but this time it was different.
A silent, sedated fury launched this vessel. He rolled up a blanket, and secured it to the horse’s saddle, which he had slung over “Red Man”, fast enough to startle the 2-year-old quarter horse.
It was a recipe of actions, which I shall always remember.
He then, went back into his bedroom, and brought out his Remington .22 Caliber hunting rifle, and laid it horizontally across the blanketed horses hips.
I watched curiously, and asked, Where are you going’ Eddy? His walk had a sense of urgency, as he reached for the saddle horn, with the reigns wrapped around, and put his leathered boot into the stirrup of the horse saddle. With a tug at the reigns, he spun the horse around to face me. Tilting his tan cowboy hat upwards, he leaned forward, propping his forearm on the saddle horn, as if I were far below him, and replied, “I’m heading out to the Country.” he said, as cars zipped by a few feet away, on hiway 60.
Good bye, I said, to which he replied,” “Don’t say, Good bye,” It’s bad luck. Say, see ya later”. So I said, See ya later Alligator, to which he replied”, after while crocodile.”
“Red man” made a brisk gate across the hiway, “clop-clopa-clop-clopa-clop clopa” and headed west over hiway 27. It was evening time, and the sun had started setting. Shades of orange, sepia, purple, pink, and blue filled the western skyline. It was like the end of an old western movie.
He turned and shouted, “Don’t watch me leave. It’s bad luck!” I turned around to go back inside.
Hmm, I thought, “the country” was Yee Haw Junction, which was in the other direction.
Besides, I knew then, that at the end of Hiway 60, was the Bartow County Hospital.
As a child, I found a hospital visit to be one of the most humiliating, and painful events that there was, outside of a public beating. No matter what the condition or ailment-you could count on two things. The first thing was being probed up the anal cavity with a glass tube, inside which was mercury...that’s right, a deadly poison.
This was modern medicines method of determining, a child’s body temperature.
Insane by today’s standards, but I knew it was insane, by my standards back then.
The second was having a needle stuck in your buttock, which always hurt. I still hate shots to this day.

Often times, in my pre-school and elementary years, there were children who would sneak up behind me and pull my crutches from underneath my arm pits, and watch me flail my arms wildly, as I fell earthward, trying to unsnap the heel claps to regain my balance. Most of the time I never managed to get it unsnapped, in time to keep from hitting the earth. Once a boy named Jerome Stewart chased another boy down, who had taken my crutches and ran with them.
Jerome brought them back to me. Jerome was my friend, whom years later, would retired from the United States Navy.
No one wants to be friends with the crippled boy. They were either scared of me, or hated me for being different. It was if they though that they would get a disease, from being around me, but it were they, who had the disease, not I.
Everyday I dreaded school, for what it had to offer. I was so exhausted, and humiliated from being the victim of scorn. Every day was a new pit of shame, which I’d crawl into without a sound. I complained to my mother, who would complain to the teachers, and school board, but it made no difference, in fact, now the school staff at, Polk Avenue Elementary were growing indifferent to my social calamity. My Mothers soft, consoling wisdom was this, in my time of sorrow. “Sticks and stones will break your bones, but words can never hurt you”. She was right, and she was wrong. But it was the only words I knew, that did not hurt to know.
She wanted me to learn patients, and understanding, by over-looking the words that others would say. Instead, I learned “words”, so I could demean those who would bring me shame. But that would be 20 years later. It’s not the right thing to do, but it was better than tears. More often than not, I would always walk away, after the physical jests and jeering. I could hear the voices behind me, “Oooo look he’s limping home to Momma” or “Whatcha gonna do about it! Crip!” or “Ooo look he’s scared”, and “Cry for me baby, cry for me”. Children are the cruelest, and most insensitive people on the planet.

For reasons unknown, my mother began driving a school bus. Sometimes we rode home together. This was because of this, that blood was shed, and tears were cried.
It was third or fourth grade and I was in the cafeteria having lunch. I could carry a tray with my hands if I clasped the crutches tightly under my arms. After lunch, I made my way to the return tray, before going outside, to the playground. Keith Mabry “accidentally” knocked my tray out of my hands, and ran outside, as a teacher said, “You come back here Mr. Mabry and pick this up!” A green pea rolled to a stop against the wall, as another teacher began picking up my lunch debris. The other kids were laughing until Ms. Dorothy Oliver, who was the Principal of Polk Avenue Elementary said, “Quiet!” as she was a feared woman. She had a wooden paddle, with holes drilled in it, for maximum velocity, when swinging at ones buttock. It really did make a startling sound, like a firecracker going off, and then a screaming-crying child would lament the harsh reality of his or her actions
{It is my belief that girls were never paddled, but that’s only the author’s opinion}.
Jerome walked in front of me, and opened the door, as I made my way out. The next thing I heard was this. “Your mommas fat, and she drives a school bus”. Then, he made a strange face at me, and ran off and climbed onto the jungle bars. Afterwards he ran to the black tractor tires, which were halfway buried into the ground. Kids would jump from one to the next. He was running all over the playground, and I just kept moving toward him. It did not matter if he saw me or not. Finally he saw me crutching towards him, and came to meet me, which made the next turn of events so much easier.
“What are you going to do? He asked, “Get mad or something? Pushing me backwards thinking quickly, as this had happened many times before, I slung my crutches around behind me, and caught myself from falling. I lifted myself, back upright, and just stood there, somewhere between anger and tears. I could take it no longer. My anxiety became fury, and my angst became evil. It was (at the time) a good trade.
He turned around, to walk away, and I swung my right crutch, with all my might at his head. Back then, there were butterfly nuts that secured the middle wooden leg extension of the crutch to its outer legs, which held it together.
It was the butterfly nuts wing part, which ripped through hair and scalp, as it ricocheted off his monstrous-evil head. He screamed and grabbed his blood-laden scalp. The same scalp that covered the terrible brain, which he used to think of those hurtful, degrading things, which he had said. Tears fell, blood was shed, and pandemonium had begun. For once, I felt justified. A strange jubilation swept over me.
His agony was my relief, and his pain, my comfort. He quickly spun around, crying in fear, and lifted his left arm in protection, as if I were going to continue thrashing him about the head, with my wooden weapons of destruction. I did not want to continue beating him, but I did think, that he deserved one good whack in the head. Some, more than others. So, I just watched his grief and child like mannerisms, as he screamed, “I’m gonna tell my mommie on you, you hurt me.” Etcetera, and so on, and so forth.
Just as the euphoria of what I had done, had given me a certain peace, the reality of what I had done, gave me anxiety. There was screaming, from the other kids, who saw the blood-soaked head of the evil Keith Mabry. Teachers ran wild, and I was whisked into the Principals office, for what I was sure would be a severe ass whipping’, or “corporal punishment” for the politically correct.
Instead, they must have considered the consequences of beating a crippled child, and called my mother.
It was said, that my mother had English, Choctaw Indian, and Irish in her ancestry, but I’m not sure if that matters now. Only to say that we’re all (as far as Anglo-Saxons in America) mixed-breeds.
My mother, Nettie May Dawson Richards, arrived at the school, after many minutes of waiting in nervousness anticipation, of the beating that would make the paddling at school pale by comparison.
She walked into the office and looked at me, as I looked toward the floor. She went into the principals’ office and after what seemed like 30 minutes, my mother walked out of the principals’ office with several of my teachers, and we went home for the rest of that day. On the ride home, she asked me what happened, and I told her. To which she replied, “Son, what other people say about me can’t hurt me” and added, “Are you alright?” Yes, Mam, I replied.
I almost lost my bladder, thinking about my Fathers reaction when he came home. The rest of my brothers and sisters came home later, and as we ate dinner, my mothers first words were,” I had to go get Mike at school today,” she said, in a discouraged tone of voice. My Dad never looked up, he just shoveled another fork full of Lima beans and corn bread into his mouth, and picked up one of the three glasses that were sat in front of him. He had a glass of water, a glass of sweet tea, and a glass of buttermilk. Some times I’d watch him crumble up the fried cornbread into the glass of buttermilk and drink it, while chewing at the same time.
“What for?” asked my Father, after swallowing, and taking another drink of sweet tea. “He hit another boy at school, who had to be rushed to the hospital...,” my mother said, before being interrupted. “How bad was he hurt?” my Father verbally injected.
“Dorothy Oliver said, the boy needed stitches,” replied my mother in a calm tone. My Father finished his meal, and got up from the table, as my sisters began taking away the dishes. I could feel urine running down my leg, when the sound of belt loops popping filled the air, as he unbuckled his belt, and whipped it off his waist. “Mike”, he said. Yes Sir, I replied. “Go hang this up, I want to talk to you”, he continued, without anger. I went to his room, and hung his belt on that .16-penny nail. He took his white button down shirt off, as he walked into the room, wearing his undershirt. The fan was on high, so he adjusted the speed so he wouldn’t have to talk over it, and sat down on the side of his bed and said this.
“Son, never lie to me, never steal from anyone, and remember nobody can ever hurt you more than I can, and if I find out that you let someone hurt you, I’ll beat your ass, till you don’t have an ass to beat. Now your Mommas upset, and she’s expecting me to punish you for what you did to that boy, but I’m not. I’m proud of you for standing up for yourself. Now go change your pants, and let me see you climb that rope”.
It was over, and he never even asked what happened, or why I did what it was that I did. This was the same man who said this, while in a belligerent state of drunkenness.
“I’ll cut a man 3 ways – long, deep, wide, and continuously”.
It was true. I had seen my fathers’ white button down shirt covered in blood on more than one occasion, in the laundry, but he never appeared to be harmed.
On Sunday morning the rest of my family would get ready for Church, but I would stay home with my Mom. I could not attend services because my brace would not allow me to sit back in a pew, without hitting the one in front of me, and when leaving, I couldn’t walk down the stairs to get outside.
I was just in the way, so I watched a church service on T.V. with my mom.
It was a religious show, which was filmed in Tulsa, Oklahoma at Oral Roberts University.
At the end of the show, Oral Roberts would ask, that any viewers with any condition, put their hands on the television screen, and pray with him, as he asked God, to heal those in need. I did this every Sunday for over a year, but my leg never grew back out, to the same length as the other one.
I never became angry with God for my condition. This was just another day that I’d have to live with.
I never felt that I was different from anyone else, but I was. One late day, after school, my mother loaded me, and only me, into the 58 ford automobile and we drove south on Hi-way 27, until we reached a dark green army surplus tent. It was quite large, and was sitting in the middle of a cow pasture, on the left hand side of the hiway, which was surrounded by palmettos, cactus, and sandspurs. As we parked the car and walked in, I looked at all the medical apparatus hanging from the ceiling. There was a wheel chair, a hospital bed, some crutches, and a brace or two. The crowd was standing, and singing gospel songs, when we arrived. I was feeling slight panic. After much yelling, and sweating from the minister of the gospels, who was standing behind a makeshift pulpit, I heard the request. It was the same one that Oral Roberts had used.
“If there is anyone here today that needs the anointing of the Holy Spirit or needs the healing hands of God, please come forward”.
My Mother stepped out in the trodden grass aisle and made her way forward, and I wondered what was wrong with her. She leaned over and whispered something to the minister, who asked me to sit down in an unfolded metal chair and remove my brace. I did. He then asked me to prop my feet up in the chair in front of me. I was embarrassed, because I had to remove my pants first, in order to remove the leg brace. My mother complied with removing of my leg brace, and I felt the coldness of the metal on my legs.
The congregation, now on their feet, made their way toward me, and began praying. They made sounds that no man could understand, and hands were all over my legs and head. I felt the knee of my right leg buckle ever so slightly, and lifted it to keep from pushing the chair back, as the hands lay softly. Clapping began, and cheers of Halleluiahs rang out. As the pastor folded a small clothe, which he had anointed with oil, and put it in my hands. ”Keep this with you”, he asked, as he folded my fingers over it. I did not say a word.
“Get up and run around this tent for us”, he gestured towards the exit. I did as he requested, as my mother shed a tear, as I saw her raise a handkerchief to her eyes, as she looked to the ground.
I thought I was healed, why was she not happy? I wondered.
Looking back, I cannot understand how it was that I did not step on one single sand spur or cactus, or for that matter, a cow pie.
My mother asked me to put the brace back on, but now it no longer went to my hip.
In fact, now my foot sat on the bottom of the brace-no longer suspended.

The following day we had a scheduled monthly visit to see my Doctor in Lakeland, Florida.
It was along drive, and it usually ended with my brace getting an adjustment after some x rays, and sometimes-new arm pads for my crutches. I usually only had 1 or 2 x rays, but this day I had three.
I was sitting on the Doctors table, when the X rays arrived that had been taken earlier.
He looked at them hastily-the same way he always did, but then, as if frustrated by incompetence, raised them back up the light and said, “I’ll be right back”, as he left the room. The door to his office opened shortly thereafter, and an X ray technician walked in pushing a wheelchair, and said, “The Doctor thinks he has the wrong X rays, so we’re going to shoot some more”.

I sat in the wheel chair, and was rolled back down the luminescent hall to the cold x-ray room. A second set was taken, then a third. I was wheel chaired back to the office, and waited with my mother. The Doctor walked back in, and asked me to walk.
He had not asked me to walk since my first visit so long ago. So I walked to the window and stopped.
“Walk back”, he asked, so I walked back.
“Sit here”, he beckoned me towards a chair. I sat down as he squatted down and looked at my bare feet, from both sides, then he held my feet with both his hands, as he declared. “He appears to be fine”, and he added, as he looked back at me, you wont need these anymore, he said, as he picked up my crutches. It seemed like my family took it in stride, as if it was pre arranged.
One day my mother came home with a cloth wrapped around the top of her hand. She said it was a patch of skin cancer that was removed. I knew nothing about cancer and had no idea what lay in store. It seemed like a few months past and she was in the hospital for a day or two. The she was in the hospital for a week or two. Pretty soon my whole family was making daily trips to Bartow County Hospital to see my mother.
She was on Cobalt treatment.
It is my belief that Cobalt Treatment was as much a part of what caused her death, as the Cancer itself.
At the beginning of the hospital stays, she had one breast removed, and returned to work in less than two weeks.
A few months later, she had to have the other breast removed as well, which caused her great agony of mind, body and spirit.
Yet she continued to work, struggle to feed her family, and nurture as best she could, in spite of my Fathers inability to stop drinking. The more sick my mother became, the more drunk my Father became. They both felt guilty for each other’s pain, and she grew to hate my Father. My brother returned from the Navy, and everyone was happy to see him, but knowing he came home to take care of us was a sad reminder that our Mother was in the hospital with cancer. Bills started to pile up, and my Father did not earn enough money to support all of us, so brother took us to a new house. I had never known any other house but the one I grew up in. Moving was a drastic change, but one that I would become accustomed to. It seemed like every day after school my brother would drive us to Bartow to see my mother.
My mothers’ hospital room was on the ground floor with a window, which had no screen, and could be opened from the inside out. Perhaps a caring hospital worker or my older sister rolled her bed to the window and opened it. The hospitals visiting policy would not allow anyone under the age of 18 to go in to visit.
Instead, we would go to the window, and Eddy would lift me up to see the tortured smile on
My mothers tear stained face, and I would hold her vein-punctured, hand, which had been severely bruised from the many times blood had been drawn, or intravenous needles were stuck into her.
She would commend me on my child like feats of obedience, and make comment on my stature.
“Boy, you’re bigger now than you were yesterday, you’ll probably eat your brothers and sisters out of house and home”. I’d lean through the window and give her a hug as we said; good-bye and my brother would sit me back down on the ground. He’d then pick up my little brother, John and much the same with my younger sister, Shondi. It became habit to run to the window where my mothers’ room was when we would arrive at the hospital. It was on such an occasion that I heard my mother say something, in a way I’d never heard before.... in a tone she’d never used before, she said,
“GET OUT!! “ I don’t want to ever see you again!!! GET OUT!!” and then, I heard my Fathers voice say, in a soft burdened voice, “Good bye Nettie”, and heard her begin to cry. I knew that she could not see me, and I felt my Mothers-World collapse. A feeling of deep sorrow and remorse, for what would soon be, a broken home, swept over me.
The rest of my brothers and sisters came around the corner, as I was walking back to the car, to wait in my own silent desperation, Shondi stopped, as the rest ran by and asked, “Are you ok, Boot Dink?” She always knew when I was feeling bad. We were the closest of any of my brothers and sisters, when we were young. I don’t recall what I said, and walked back to the window with her.
I stood behind the rest of my brothers, and sisters while they each took their turn to share in the jubilation of a visit to their sick Mother in the hospital. I hesitated so long because I didn’t want to see the tears in her eyes, and know why. I felt like she would know, that I knew, just by looking at me. Mothers have that power you know. It made me saddened, and I did not want her to see me that way, so I waited for the rest of my siblings, and made my visit short, before she knew why I was not myself.
Thereafter, we were not allowed to see her at all, only my oldest brother and sister Ellen were allowed to see her. It was on this “new rule” day that my brother Eddy came out of the hospital and said this, “Your mothers dead”.
It was November 28, 1974 at around 6: 00 p.m. I was 12 years old and the sunset was not so beautiful, the trees and grass seemed to weep as if to join my sisters, in Lacrima.
It was if, he had separated himself from the reality, that she was also his mother.
That was the last time the window would be opened for me. The pain was complete, and I could not fathom losing her at all. We walked back to the car and the tears kept flowing, as my brother drove East on Hwy 60, to and stopped, at a small roadside bar, and went inside, as he said, “I’ll be right back”. Within a moment he was getting back into the car with a six-pack of Coors beer. It was enough for each of us to have one. “The bible says, “Give strong drink to him who is of heavy heart,” my brother announced, as he passed the canned beverages around the car. I really don’t think that is in the bible, but maybe it’s biblical.
I did not like the taste of beer then, nor do I now. We drove back to the house in Golf View Park, and walked silently our separate ways. I wondered down the dirt road in front of the house that we had moved into. My Father had moved into a small trailer, on the other side of town, in Jamie’s Trailer Park and slipped into a drunken oblivion.
I continued walking down Azalea Avenue, till I reached the end, and turned around and walked back to the house, only to find it empty. All the rest of my brothers and sisters had disappeared into their own private despair –I was alone.
I went to the only room that had any semblance of comfort, and sat down on the bed, in which my mother lay in for several months, before she went into the hospital. I leaned over and rested my head on the surrogate pillow, as if to be comforted by someone who was no longer there.
The next day was Thanksgiving, and all my relatives, from Sebring, Babson Park, and Yeehaw Junction, came to our house, with more food than I had ever seen in my lifetime. There was not enough room for it all.
I wondered how anyone could eat, in such a time of despair, and loss, but eat they did. I felt it was a sign of disrespect and would not participate, although I managed sneak a piece of Pumpkin Pie without anyone else being privy to my covert, sweet tooth, delight.
The following day, the funeral was held at Marion –Nelson Funeral parlor, and everyone put on his or her best clothes to attend the service. A Limousine pulled up in front of our house, and we walked in silence to get into this really big shiny car.

I felt guilty for being excited by being in a Limousine, when I knew it was going to the funeral home. We arrived at the Funeral Home, and the driver quickly stepped out from behind the wheel, and opened the back door. The first thing I noticed was the red carpet, and was confused, because I associated “red carpet” with “celebrity,” and here I was walking on it, in my penny loafers with no pennies, my pale blue, and white, bell bottom plaid slacks, and my canary yellow button down shirt.
(It was the only “dress-up” clothes I had to wear, that were clean, so don’t laugh).
The large double doors were opened and we made our way inside.
The furnishing were French Victorian, with pleated, and polished leather; a Crystal Chandelier hung like majesty, in its dimmed grandeur in the foyer, which was eddied by large flowers from E.B.Malone.
(The Mattress Factory for which my Mother had worked).
My cousin Theron Farmer and his family were there as well. It was the only time I had ever seen shoes on his feet. He would not wear shoes again for 8 years, at which point in time he had a job.
A minister stepped behind a podium, and said some eloquent words, for the “dearly departed;” followed by a representative from E.B. Malone Mattress factory, who spoke more kind words about my Mother, and her work ethic, and purity of heart. Maybe it was because all the rest of my family was crying, but up until now I had not shed a tear.... then the water fell from my eyes for what seemed like an hour. Inconsolable sadness...tragedy, pain, angst, and the horror of loss, filled me with the most dread, of anything I had ever felt before. It was if time had stood still, and this could not be passed. It was grief multiplied and squared. My mind just seemed to shut down, and my body felt numb.
After the funeral, and burial we came back to the house on Azalea Avenue. My brother enrolled us in school, and my oldest sister, moved to Pascagoula, Mississippi.

I lost focus on what was important, and my grades fell. I was not encouraged to study, and felt like nothing mattered anyway, so why bother. I did not make friends easily, and I could not be found guilty, of being a social butterfly. I went to school and came home.
At first I thought my brother was just a mechanic, doing some mechanical work, but in fact, he owned all the junk cars, which were starting to accumulate in our yard. One day I came home to find a quarter horse tied to an oak tree by the side of the house, then the following day, a chopper sat in the front yard. Every day it was something new, and more junk cars. Eddy took on a role as a father figure, and became consumed with the same obedience issues, which he inherited from my father. Often times, there are those who must, at all costs, have complete “control”.
It is the author’s opinion that people like this; need medication, therapy, and maybe love.
Whatever happened to “humility?”
It seemed as if every day after school, I was made to remove an engine, or drop a transmission. Perhaps I would be stacking tires in a different location, which I had previously stacked them in, or maybe I would be finding a new place to stack the car batteries, or just cleaning and assorting tools in their proper place. I did not have “work clothes“ at this age, and so my school clothes became stained with black grease spots, which would not wash out, no matter how much they were washed. In school, everybody thought I wore dirty clothes, and I was back to square one, with the name-calling and jeers about my hygiene. Other students would hold their noses, as they walked by, as if I did not bathe. I was too embarrassed to tell them that these were the only clothes I had, and the conditions in which my clothes became this way, but it would be much like, a man holding a smoking gun, and saying, he “didn’t pull the trigger”.
At one point even the Coach at Roosevelt Middle School said to me,” Richards, Don’t your family have a washing machine?” Yes, Sir, I replied.
“Do you wash your clothes?” he continued, as the other pre pubescent boys laughed.
Yes, Sir, I replied in a quiet tone of voice.
“Do you use detergent?” he asked.
Yes Sir, I replied.
“What kind? He continued.
Tide, I replied.
“Well, you may want to try another brand, Richards. Now run some laps with the rest of those young men”.
I ran and ran, as if to run away from all the old anguish that I was feeling again. I was faster than any other kid in school, but did not have the financial capacity to participate in sports, as there was no money for the uniform, and no transportation-besides my older brother had me doing too many things at home, so I did not have time either.
Little by little, the things that were once a part of my family’s poor legacy began to disappear.
A cheap painting was gone, then another piece of furniture, then another, then another.
My brother bought sleeping bags and announced that we were going to “Live off the land”.
I had a very bad feeling about this, but had no opinion in this decision.
We went to a place called, “The Mines”, where crystal blue waters and white sand, as far as the eye could see prevailed.
It was a Silica mining operation, and natural springs were made from the mining. Some of these natural springs were huge lakes, where on any given weekend, there were cars everywhere, bonfires and music blasted from the car radios.
It was from this episode in my life that I developed hatred for Hot Dogs.
We had hot dogs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
My skin burned from the sunshine of the south Florida sun, and at night I could not get into my sleeping bag because of the painful discomfort of burnt skin.
The mosquitoes were terrible, and even though it was 70 degrees at night, I’d have to get in the sleeping bag to keep from being bitten, because if I were to get bitten, I would slap and or scratch the skin where I was being stung, and that would cause even more pain. Sometimes, I would get in the water and stay there, till I could no longer stay awake, then return to my sleeping bag, and pray for sleep. I have no idea what my brother must’ve been thinking.
A couple of weeks passed, and eventually we returned home, to more of the same control issues that my Father had. Eddy had met a woman named Christina, while he was in the Navy, who moved to south Florida from Morton Grove, Illinois to be with my brother.
She acted as a cool stepmother, and an emotion buffer, between Eddy and the rest of us.
She was truly a godsend.
Eddy was concerned about us all, not being able to protect ourselves, when he was not around, so he enrolled Penny (my older sister) in a Karate class, and Chris and I in a Judo class, in Lakeland, Florida.
I liked being able to get away twice a week, and the feeling of dignity I had, when wearing the starch white “gi”, or Judo uniform. My instructors name was Frank, but in the Dojo he was, “Sensei” -
(Translated, “One who has gone before”).
The introductory class was easy. I just did some push up and leg stretches.
After 6 months of training I felt like I could easily, throw anyone over my hip, and onto the ground below.
Frank had a Son, who was 3 years younger, and 1 foot shorter than myself- he was a “purple belt.”
Sensei, asked, “Would anyone care to show this young man what they have learned?” I quickly raised my hand in anticipation of tossing this little guy on the mat. “O.k. Smiley, he said, “Get up and come over here”. I stood and bowed before walking onto the mat, (so as to show respect), as was the general guideline for approaching an opponent or stepping onto a mat, or into a Dojo. Frank backed off the blue mat, which was about 40 square feet.
I looked at my opponent, and bent at the waist, and lowered my head as to show respect, and thus began the match, as I rose up again. We locked arms and struggled, pulling and jerking in every direction-off balance, I fell, and rolled, he was now on top of me, and I was in a conundrum, and suffocating. I slapped the mat to concede.
“Thank you”, Frank said, as he approached us. My opponent released me from the burden he had put me in and I had a new found respect for the Purple belt. “You see what I mean by, size does not matter?” Frank asked.
“Yes Sir, Sensei “, said a few of the students. I just stood there with my Gi askew.
“Sit down Smiley”, he said and I walked across the mat, feeling a little bit more humble. Another student patted me on the back, as I sat down, which was just a little bit of reassurance. As if to say, “He does that to everybody”. I had received enough instruction, to qualify for a promotion, to “Yellow belt”. I was excited about that, as Frank also announced a National Tournament to be held a month later, in our Dojo in Lakeland.
“If you are interested in competing in this tournament, there is some paperwork to fill out in the back of the Dojo”. After class I signed up. I was not going to allow myself to be intimidated by a smaller person who penned me down. I was better than that, and I knew it. I would prove it.
The matches were arranged by weight, not degree, so in theory I could be fighting a Black belt.
I was concerned, but no scared. I worked out harder and became focused for that day. When the day of the tournament came, it was on a Saturday afternoon. It looked as if there were people from all over the world at this location. There must have been at least 400 participants in this tournament. I waited and waited, and watched match after match until my name was called. It was the weight division that I qualified to “spar” in. I was introduced over a public address system (like everyone else) and loud speakers, bellowed out my name, for all to hear.
I walked to the mat and bowed as I went to listen to instructions and meet my opponent.
Oh crap, I thought, a “Brown belt”. That’s the one before “Black”. Oh well, I’ll do the best I can, I thought as I bowed and locked arms. I went for a hip toss, but he quickly countered, with a sweeping leg motion, meant to throw me forward. I countered, by hopping on one leg, over his leg, and spun back around to face him.
He pulled me violently to his right, and I countered by allowing his own weight to shift my way, as I countered-We both hit the floor with a mighty whoomp! He grabbed under the calf of my knee, but I did a kip up, and was standing, before he could pin me. Again, we did the same moves over again, and I expected this would be a draw, as neither he nor I, was making any progress. Then, without any hint or movement, that I could counter, he was on top of me, and I was moving in every direction, to keep from being pinned.
I saw something white hanging down beside my head. I grabbed it to get leverage, so I could hoist myself from the calamity, which I was now in. A whistle blew, and I knew that meant a disqualification.

I wondered what my opponent had done to be disqualified, but didn’t ask. I bowed, and went to get some water. Christina met me in the hall and made a comment about my match, which she thought was funny, but I was out of breath and could not hear for the P.A. system announcing another fight. At the end of the day Christina had won second place for her weight category, and received the “Blue ribbon of Excellence”.
I did not win anything. I learned I was disqualified, but did not know what for. I felt bad for not winning and worse for being disqualified. Christina tried to console me, by offering me her ribbon, but that was a slap in the face, as far as I was concerned, because I did not win it-she did.
On Monday the following week we went back to our scheduled Judo class.
“Hey Mike, look on the billboard in the front office. They got your picture there, from the tournament last Saturday” said one of my fellow students. I quickly made my way to the sensei’s office and there I was.
A white thumbtack held the picture of the incident in question, on the card boarded wall of notices and announcements.
I was there on the mat, another opponent was trying to pin me, and Sensei’s pants were pulled down to his knees, as I had used them to heave up, by grabbing the leg of his Gee.
I had to laugh.
It was truly funny, the expression on the referee’s face, as I pulled his pants down to his knees.
I walked back into the Dojo and everyone had a good laugh at my expense.
It was not a hurtful laughter, as they were laughing with me, as we talked about what that referee may have thought about me.
Frank said, “You did a great job smiley. Next time I’ll make sure my pants are on tighter”, he continued as a few laughed including myself. “The rest of you guys made me proud”. I am not disappointed with any of the students in this Dojo with me here today”.

He went on about integrity, the importance of a training regiment, and dedication, as I drifted off, into dreamland. I liked the sport, but not the speeches. My older sister Ellen was promoted to a green belt but was more advanced than your average green belt. She had hands, and feet like lightning bolts, but she did not compete. We had a physical fight, about a month after this event that ended with me going to the hospital.
It was an argument about who would wash the dishes. It had been marked on the calendar, to avoid thing like this, but she thought that the calendar had been compromised, and it had, by Shondi (who did not want to participate in learning a martial art) she erased my initials, and put in hers, so the days were messed up.
I had to go back, and erase what she had done to make it right.
Ellen was convinced I was wrong, and we started fighting. It lasted 2 seconds.
I pushed her up against the refrigerator, and she gasped for air, and I thought I had knocked the wind out of her. She opened her eyes, affixed on me and made a forward kick that broke my hand, as I tried to block it.
I had to wash dishes anyway, and afterward my brother took me to the hospital, where they did an x –ray and found that my thumb had been broken.
I still hold a lot of respect for her to this day.
My younger sister Shondi and I always rode the bus to and from school. Everyday when we would get off the bus at our bus stop, in Golf View Park, there was one kid, who in childish jest would throw rocks at us. We thought that he was playing, so we would run together through the wooded field and escape. The rocks always missed us, and perhaps that was what made him angry.
It was just another day getting off the bus in the afternoon. Shondi and I sat close to the front so we could get a running head start. It had become a game. The bus stopped. Shondi got out of the bus first and I looked behind me to see James Medlock, and his friend Eddie Dawson, who also got off at the same stop. Behind Eddie, in the rear of the bus was Jerry Johnson giving me that “You-better-run!” look, and I smiled, as he made a face. Shondi was several feet in front of me running, and I caught up with her, and passed her by, on my way to the shelter of the woods, leading to my house.
Aghhhhhhaaaa! , I heard a scream, and turned to see Jerry Johnson holding a handful of hair, which was attached to my sisters head. He had grabbed her long brown hair, and jerked her to the ground from behind, as she started crying, I started walking at an urgent pace to help her up. I reached down and took her hand in mine and lifted her from the ground. As tears fell she started running home. I didn’t.
This was the day I would repay Shondi, for the beating that she had taken for me so long ago.

I walked across the orange, dirt road and got into Judo sparing position, as he laughed, and said sarcastically, “Oh no he’s going to kung Fu me. Does baby want to fight”? He continued. “Go ahead give me your best shot” and I’ll..........” That was all the time he had to speak, before I punched him about the stomach, and face approximately 12 times. As he fell, I continued punching him, as he slid down an allied fence that surrounded the house on the corner, where we got off the bus.
Now he was crying, and gasping for his breath. My anger was not full, but I felt compelled to honor my sister.
I beat him till he screamed like my sister had screamed. He begged through blood stained lips, for me to stop beating him.
“Damn Mike, I guess you showed his ass” James Medlock shouted from the paved road, a few feet away. Eddie spoke up and said, “I don’t think you have to run anymore.” as he let out a chuckle. I walked away from the mindless act, and turned to see Jerry, walking in the opposite direct, holding his stomach, bent over slightly. I realized then, that it was not a game to him at all.
He wanted to hurt us, for no reason. Now he had a reason not to.
That was the last time, I would defend her, and the last time I would fight.

My older brother had a friend, named Terry Hederson, who convinced Eddy to move with him to Mississippi, and get jobs, as ship builders, for Ingles ship yard, in Pascagoula, Mississippi. He started rebuilding the engine in a 1972 green dodge pickup truck, which would eventually, be driven to Mississippi. He then, designed a camper shell, from scratch. He wanted to use as a camper, to secure our belongings (what was left of them). All of my belongings fit snugly inside a pillowcase. He also put locks on the back door, to prevent theft. It was during this time that I developed an inner ear infection, which was painfully uncomfortable.
I rode in the camper, and my other brothers and sisters were riding in separate automobiles with Terry.
I remembered waking up, and it was dark in the camper shell. I pushed against the door and found it to be locked. I panicked and began calling out, Help! Get me outtalk here! I’m locked in here!! Help!!
This went on for 10 minutes or so, and my hands were hurting from beating against the wood fame door.
Finally, my brother opened the door, after removing the pad lock and asked in an angry tone, “What’s your fucking problem?” to which I responded, I have an earache. “Don’t be such a cry baby.”
He snapped, and walked away.
I could smell the vomitious salt water, and odorous shrimp boats, which had been out to sea for weeks, and it almost made me want to throw up. We moved into a run down trailer in Escatawpa, where the tap water is brown, and marshes prevailed, right out side of Moss Point city limits. It was here, that I saw the very thing that had held me captive, in the darkness, upon our arrival to the soon to be flooded city of Pascagoula. It was the wooden camper topper, which Eddy had secured to the pickup truck, which was now sitting on the side of the road. It was flipped up onto one side, and appeared to be slowly sliding into the brackish water. I felt, a sort of, relief upon, seeing it’s wooden, demise.
After that my life became a non-memory, of moving from town to town, in and out of schools too numerous to mention. In time, my sisters joined a religious denomination, which practiced the teachings of Jesus Christ, and attended a seminary school in Pensacola Florida. My older brother and myself moved to North Carolina, and soon I found myself working for the United States Forrest Service, (the Tusquitee District) in Murphy, during Jimmy Carter administration. 1982

My brother wanted to move again, this time to Atlanta, Georgia but I was tired of moving, and it seemed like we were running from one town to the next, so I met this man, who was a friend of my brother Eddy, who agreed to let me live with him, as long as I shared all the expenses involved in maintaining a small trailer, next to WCVP A.M. 600, where he was the Disc jockey, known as Billy Jones. He’d say on the air, “I’m Billy J. are you ready to play?” not”.
Billy was upbeat and funny, like any D.J. I suppose, and we were hardly ever there at the same time, so it was a good arrangement for both of us. After I clocked out at 5:00 p.m. form the USFS I would go to the station and watch Billy on the air. On Saturday I would come in to the station and watch him broadcast “Kasey Kaseem’s American Top 40” which he performed with ease. The radio station owner, Sylvia Blakemore, offered me a job cleaning, and out of obligation for hanging around so much, I accepted. It was not long after that, that she asked me to read a promotional add, for the “Cherokee County Museum”. I did, and she asked me, if I wanted a job doing that. I jumped at the opportunity, because it beat the hell out of sweeping the floors, and dumping the garbage.
Billy Jones had left for the weekend to go to the Oktoberfest in Helen, Georgia with a female friend and I had known that his step Son, David Brown, (who was known on the a.m. airwaves as, “Dr. Brown”), worked for WCVP on the weekends. He also started to produce his own show called, “ROCK TRAX”. David’s exacting memory recalled,
“We met on New Year's Eve, when 1981 became 1982, at Brian’s house. I had just turned 15, and was a junior at Murphy High School. I started working at the radio station before then, in October, which means the first Dr. Magic reel-to-reel likely came out in spring”. This is where we became friends, and formed a rock and roll band called, “Dr. Magic”. It was the first part of his D.J. personality name, and the second part of mine. Later Dave went on to college, and moved to Alabama to study seminary, and I moved to Marietta, Georgia.
In 1985 I married. In 1990 my son was born. It was in September the 23 at 10:35 a.m. I slipped from the roof of a condominium called, “Covered Bridge,” (off of Powers Ferry Road) and was hanging from the heel of my construction boot, about 35 feet from the ground, over a rock garden patio. It was supposed to be easy money.
Having a child cost a lot, and I needed to subsidize my income, so when my neighbor Rick, asked me if I wanted to earn 50.00 bucks I gladly agreed. It was a beautiful Saturday morning and I kissed my newborn Son, Forrest on the head, as left apartment A-7 at “Powers Ferry Plantation.”
It was a simple chore. All we had to do was clean out the drainage gutters, and bag it. After we were there for about an hour Rick said he had to go home and check on something and left me there.
I didn’t panic as I hung precariously above the ground. I knew that I could reach to ledge with my hands, without bending my knees, which would have put more inertia on the ledge causing me to fall headfirst to the ground. However, no sooner had I thought this and I was free falling.
I had a ladder that was only about 8 to 10 feet long.
The buildings were 30 to 35 feet high. My dilemma with the vertically challenged situation, called for creative thinking. So, I put the ladder on the lowest floor and climbed up it, thereby cleaning out the gutters there.
Then, I would pull up the ladder and place it on the center point or apex of the roof and lean it against the center of the next floor and climb up it.
It seemed to be effortless for the first hour or so. I must have been short sighted as I climbed up to the rung that was too high, and the bottom of the ladder kicked out, as my right leg went through the second or third ladder rung and I tumbled sideways, and then, the ladder slammed into my groin, as I flipped backwards.
The sound of aluminum crashing precariously over the edge of the roof was an alarming sound, but more alarming was the fact, that I was now falling. My well thought plan, for recovering from the current circumstance, meant nothing now. I don’t remember hitting the ground, but I do remember the burning and stinging sensation that I felt on the left side of my head, as blood spilled across the white rocked garden, and I thought angrily, “Who in their right mind, has a rock garden!” As I thought this question was answered, by a man who came from behind a sliding glass door of the condominium where I had fallen. “I heard the ladder, and saw you fall from my living room,” he exclaimed as he continued. “I called 911. Are you all right? He asked. If I had been in a better state of mind and body I would have said this.
I weigh 160 pounds, and I just fell, headfirst from 35 feet onto a rock garden, and there is blood squirting from my skull. What do you think? Alas, sarcasm was far from me, as my life was fleeting.
I remember saying this. Can’t breathe.... water. I woke up in an ambulance, then in Kennestone Hospital.
I remember having the tongs screwed into my skull, which was painful, but did wonders for my sinus congestion. I woke up 5 days later and had no idea where I was, what happened, or who I was.
I was in the Intensive Care Unit at Kennestone Hospital, with weights hung from the halo, which was secured to my skull. I had broken C3, C4, and C5 vertebrae. My breathing had stopped because the part of the brain, which causes ones lungs to inhale, is at the very bottom of the brain and at the tip of the spinal cord. I had what is referred to as Traumatic Brain Injury or TBI.
During my recovery a man dressed in black came to visit me. He walked around the hospital bed and put his

Hand on my hand and began praying. He then left, without many words at all. I asked my wife who that man was and what church he was from. She looked shocked for a second and replied, “That was your brother, Eddy.” It was then, that I knew I was in a bad way. I started trying to remember things ...anything and there seemed to be nothing to remember. I was angry, confused, and depressed. Through much rehab, I was able to walk again. You would have thought it was pure magic, the way Doctors and nurses would stand in awe, when I would just move one foot. I could feel my legs but I could not make them move, so when the day came that I started moving both my feet in a walking motion, there was much exuberance. A man who claimed to be from the New England Journal of Medicine visited me and asked me some questions. According to him I was a very rare statistic, having suffered the same injury 99 44/100ths of the people would have been paralyzed, if not dead.
To me, that was of little consolation. I hated it, when a Dr. or nurse would say, “You’re very lucky”.
I would answer, No, “lucky” would be, if I had died, or “lucky” would be, if I won the lottery. “Lucky” is not breaking your neck in 3 places, and not knowing if you will ever be able to function again.
This is NOT “lucky”!
I went home with a cane, a neck brace, and severe depression, after having cervical fusion and spending many days and night in the hospital. I could not return to my job (which required manual labor) and that left my wife to support a child and me. This took its toll on our marriage. One day my wife walked into the den where I was sitting with Forrest and said, “Mike, I can’t be married to you anymore” I asked why? And she said, “The man I married died, when you broke your neck. I don’t know who you are anymore.”
My memory loss was her excuse. I would have thought that she could have been more creative.
I soon recovered enough to walk without assistance, but neck and back pain plague me to this day.
I found an apartment in Marietta, and we separated. I secured employment with a Communications company, installing Category 5 cable, in public schools. I found it to be laborious, monotonous and the people around me were questionable at best, not unlike most jobs I suppose. Then, one day I was looking through the classified ads section of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution and found a great job with great pay. This company was traded on the New York Stock exchange, and a friend whom I’d known from my hometown of Lake Wales worked there. In fact, he interviewed me. I was hired, and soon began racking up Delta Sky Miles. I traveled all over the United States, installing predictive dialers and a Unix based software application. This is where I met Dick, who wrote code for the same company, and was proud of his Greek heritage. He claimed to be a member of Mensa. An associate told me to stay away from Tony, because he was “bad news”, but I thought that they were just intimidated by him and gave it no second thought. I would later regret not taking that associate seriously.
Having been shrouded with Christianity from being raised in the south, and knowing the difference between right and wrong.... I went terribly wrong. So wrong, that I simply called it, The End.

It was the end of everything. It was not unlike any other day. My co-workers and I would race onto Ashford Dunwoody Road and exit onto I-285, for what I called the, 280-500 Race Home. Whoever reached I-75 first won-in my mind. I’d stop in at the “Philly Connection” on Powers ferry Road, for a cheese steak and go home and watch “Seinfeld”, take a shower and go to sleep, but instead I had several margaritas with my friend Dick after work.
On the way home I stopped into a 24-hour grocer called, “Kroger” on Powers Ferry Road, not far from where I had once broken my neck. I had to urinate immediately, but had to wait to use the bathroom. While I stood outside waiting I met Glenda Smith, an accountant for Dekalb County. We made light conversation and she asked me out to lunch the next day. She was unassuming, and a sort of happy-go-lucky personality, and so we had lunch to next day at “Fridays”. She invited me over to her condominium, introduced me to her good friend, and business partner...cocaine.
I knew that cocaine was bad, but I never thought I would be the junkie person, the addict, or a druggie.
As the days went on I made regular visits to Glenda’s condominium to purchase cocaine...not for resale but personal consumption. It was frustrating to have to wait for her clients, who were a business priority.
Snorting cocaine made me feel as if I were part of the whole universe. I had never felt that good in my entire life, and I had to feel that way again, and again, and again.
Now when I went to work, I carried a demon in the passenger seat, and a monkey on my back.
I once had to call her, to deliver me an “eight ball” to work, so I could stay awake, because of an all weekend cocaine binge. I shared my current state of affairs with Dick, and he said, that “snorting coke was passé’, and that he had to “cook it”. I asked him if he meant “free basing”, which I had heard that Richard Pryor (a prolific comic of tragedy) had caught on fire by “free basing.” “Come over to my place tonight and I’ll show you” he said. He had closed all the blinds and pulled the curtains as if he was afraid of being seen. I didn’t get the paranoia. He took an empty baby food jar and put a small portion of baking soda in it with the cocaine.

He then began to heat it, and stir it a bit. After a few minutes he had a small golden colored wax-like rock, which melted into smoke when it was heated again. He put a small portion in a glass tube with a piece (copper scrub pad) of “chore-boy, as a filter and lit it. The smoke billowed from his lungs, and he became extremely paranoid, as he stared continuously through the peephole glass at the front door. Then, he would silently, and slowly pull back a small portion of a curtain, and stare through the blinds, as if anticipating an intruder. It was starting to become disturbing to me when he turned off the television. “Hey, that was Seinfeld you just turned off”. He gave no response. I told him, “If that’s the way it makes you feel, I don’t want it”. My cocaine-induced exuberance was asking me to, get the hell out and do something! While Tony’s crack filled paranoia, was requiring complete silence and anonymity. After about ten minutes, he walked back to the kitchen, where he had left the rest of the rock and the pipe. He sliced a small portion of the rock off and handed it to me, while he said, “I take no responsibility for what you do after you hit this, but take my word for it; it’s ten times better than snorting.”
I thought that feeling better was well, feeling better. I thought I was immune, and that I could just stop whenever I wanted.
In the nights that followed, I saw cash and cocaine exchange hands many times before I ever thought about quitting, or trying to quit and resume my normal life. But normal never returned. Monday morning I arrived at work feeling rested from not having done any coke, or crack that weekend. My nerves were slightly frayed and I thought it was the coffee.
I walked into my workspace when our shipping and receiving person greeted me and said, “Dude, there’s blood coming out of your nose”. I immediately quipped, Damn sinus infection, Thanks Rich, I said, Hey don’t mention this to anyone, or they’ll think I’m on cocaine! And we laughed heartily, but I could see a value of disbelief in Rich’s eyes, as I turned away, and headed for the bathroom. I wondered if I had a brain tumor. I became depressed beyond depression. But I didn’t stop as planned. The following Saturday marked the beginning of “the end” for what use to be my life? This is when I started to die-the living death. I recalled what Tony said, and did not recall having felt anything for the rock, but decided to give it another try. A curiosity became an all consuming possession, which had me telling lies to my co-workers, and using alcohol to mask the guilt behind the lies to my friends and family-and worst of all-myself. I thought that my life was in control, but I could not have been further from the truth. Unlike snorting cocaine, crack had to be constantly redone. One hit after another. - Over and over and over and over and over, etc. And if it ran out, you had to get more immediately, regardless of the cost or time of day. Crack causes one to cling to the darkness and silence, a heightened sense of paranoia that borders on insanity or a type of schizophrenia. Dick started coming over to my place, and we smoked and smoked. I never stopped.... I couldn’t. Weekends became weeks, then months.
I was usually late to work on Mondays, because I could not pull myself away from the pipe. I began making excuses why I could not come in to work. After getting stopped in a roadblock, in the same area of Marietta where we always went, we decided to go somewhere else. The police had confiscated a brand new pipe and some “Choir –boy” brillo pad.” I don’t recall the officer’s name, but I did not have anything worth being arrested for so they let me leave, but not without being screamed at for 5 minutes or so. “YOU NEED HELP”! Screamed the Marietta police officer. “I want to hear you say, that you are going to go somewhere, and check yourself in to a hospital where they can help you!!! SAY IT!! He shouted, and I told him that I would check into a local psychiatric hospital. I thought about what he said, and how close I came to going to jail. I then, decided that I did need help. There was a Mental Hospital on Atlanta Road in Smyrna, Georgia, that was only a couple of miles or so, from my apartment. I went there, and told them that I was suicidal and an addict.
By law, they have to hold a person for 24 hours, if they are suicidal, but there is not a program for crack addicts.
After 24 hours, I convinced myself that the 24 hours had breathed sobriety into my new found, addiction-free life. But my body had other plans, as I dialed Tony’s number on my cell phone.
We need to make a run; I said as he replied, “I thought you checked yourself in to rehab”. Well, I checked myself out. Let’s go and I hung up the phone after arranging to meet him at my place.
Misery loves company. We drove around I-285 and got off at the “Bufford” Hiway exit. Home of the “Bufford Hiway Flea Market”, in front of which was a large parking lot, which was sparsely filled with homeless, addicts and legitimate patrons. There was what Tony called,” La Eme” or Mexican Mafia. Who are we looking for I asked suspiciously, “Mexicans who are under five feet tall, and do not speak English” he replied. Why under 5 feet tall I asked, to which he replied, “One must be a certain height to be a police officer, and that height is over five feet he replied. Soon we found such a small tattooed individual. Dick spoke Spanish to him and we found out that he was a crack dealer, and proceeded to use his services from that day till 3 weeks later, when he had to “re-up” or go get some more. He trusted Dick and I, because Dick spoke his native language, and I said nothing. We drove west on Buford Hiway, until we reached these 2 story apartment complexes. They were painted a faded eggshell white, which was chipping from the 4, 2 story columns, which sat in front of each set of buildings. It looked as if the architect wanted to reflect southern values, by making the place look like a Plantation, as white shutters were screwed into the sides of each window, that a sheet hung over from the inside.
African and American children played games of shoot’em’ up in the parking lot, behind the late model vehicles which scarcely covered the long absent yellow lines, of designated parking space. A black rought iron and rusted banister traveled the length of the upper floor, and people sat in chairs on the narrow walkway and stared down at us as, I reluctantly stepped from the car. I told Dick to lock the car, but he said, “I’d rather not have them break my windows, as well as stealing my radio”. We walked through a hallway that separated the apartments and I could see where lights once lit this now darkened hallway. We took another set of stairs in the middle of the building to a second floor and I felt nauseous and nervous. The unnamed crack dealer gave a knock on the door, which was unlike a typical knock. I knew immediately that it was a setup, or a legitimate coded knock for security reasons. The door opened and we entered. A violent smell of feces and what I thought might be rotting flesh attacked my senses. I saw at least 12 men. They appeared to be of Hispanic origin-what, with the Spanish and dark skin. I’m just sayin’.
They were standing around and sitting on everything that could be sat on. I tried not to make eye contact, but they saw me, as I looked at the coffee table on which sat a 9-millimeter. One man sat alone on the sofa, and was the first to speak. The dealer replied something in Spanish, and walked into the bedroom. I heard muffled sounds that sounded, as if he was getting smacked up a bit. It was unnerving to know that could easily have been me. Dick said some words in Spanish, and the conversation went back and forth. The large Mexican/American man on the sofa removed a newspaper, on the corner table, which revealed an Uzi. My eyes widened, as he laughed. Dick said something else, and he reached under the sofa, and pulled out more crack than I had ever seen. Conversation was exchanged again, and silence gripped the room.
Dick sat the 100.00-dollar bill down, and picked up the one rock that fit the description, as a hundred dollars worth. The large Mexican leaned forward, and said the same thing again, which I did not understand, but I did think that we were not leaving that place alive. The door was opened for us, and I walked nervously, but not too fast, back to the car, which surprisingly was not broken into. We got into the car, and Dick said, “We’re never doing business with them again”. Why not, I asked. “They wanted to offer us all of that crack that you saw for taking some bodies out of their apartment, and following them to a place to dispose of them”.
“Are you serious?” I asked. “Yes”, he replied. We drove back around the perimeter (I-285) in silence, and never spoke of it again. I developed a sense of crack-radar and we just found it anywhere we looked. It was always in the most dangerous parts of town.
Whenever I traveled (before it got this deep) I would simply ask any nefarious stranger, or street person, “Where can I go, to get shot, mugged, or killed?” They would send me straight to it.
I felt as if, I was on a mission-guided by my own demon, who said nothing.... just pointed an invisible hand that only I could see.
We went to other questionable areas in and around Marietta, Georgia, and continued our spending spree, as time slipped by like so many a falling star. All things have their end, and money is no exception.
I eventually pawned all of my most prized possessions, which could not be replaced, that included a 1942 Hamilton, wristwatch, which was given to me by my an old friend and neighbor Jimmy Cox, on his deathbed.
I had managed to spend over 12,000 dollars in no time at all, and overdraw my checking account...all for crack.

I quickly lost weight, and unplugged the phone, because I could not tolerate the sound, nor could I carry on a conversation. My eyes looked as if blood had been poured on top of them. I scared myself when I looked into the mirror. I went days and days without sleep. At work, I saturated my eyes with “Visine” (eye drops) to no avail, and made frequent trips to the executive john, to snort a line, so I could make it through the day.
I saw this as clever, but others saw right through it. I was a fools fool.
My supervisor, whom I had known long before I started working under him, called me into a private office.
I could not lay my way out of this. “I’m sorry I have to fire you, but it’s for your own good,” he said, with tears in his eyes. He continued, “Sometimes you have to get knocked down, before you can get up. He continued, “I want you to go to the nearest clinic and get help”. “Don’t worry, the company insurance will pay for it”. I hung my head in shame, feeling filthy and disgraced. I left in tears and drove to Charter Peachford Psychiatric Hospital, which was only a couple of miles down I-285. I was on the brink of collapsing when I walked into the hospital and told the attendant that, I needed help, because I was a crack addict, and wanted to die. I filled out a 3 page document, only to have a hospital representative tell me that, they had no program to help crack addicts. I left, and started driving home, after being awake for 96 hours. I did not remember driving the 16 miles around I-285 or merging onto the 120 loop, but I did hear the screaming horn, as I crossed over onto oncoming traffic.
I awoke looking in a forward direction that indicated I was on a head –on collision toward another vehicle.
I swerved, and thought that the vehicle would flip over, but I didn’t, and a collision was avoided. It was around 5:00 p.m. when I arrived at my apartment. I fell asleep and slept till 5:30 p.m. the next day, when the phone began ringing. I wondered why I had plugged it back in. I answered it.
“Are you up?” a familiar voice asked. “Hey, I’m sorry you lost your job. I’m coming over to cheer you up”.
I wanted to ask him if he had a rock, but realized that cell phones are easily monitored. Hey, I asked, and he interrupted “don’t say it. I’m pulling into your parking lot right now”. Dick’s gate seemed to exude a type of nonchalant “better-than-you” attitude. I unlocked the door, and he walked in. I was depressed, angry, and I had a monkey on my back the size of my pseudo-friends ego. He walked into my apartment with no expression, as I said sarcastically, I feel better already, as I walked into the kitchen and sat down at the table, where an empty glass pipe lay, and stared at it. “Could you use a hit?” Dick asked. Are you kidding, I replied, I’m dead already.
Dick dropped a 100.00-dollar rock on the table and my demon said, Thanks. The insanity began immediately and ended about two and half hours later. He asked me, if I could remember the code to his car. I said sure.
He told me the code, and asked me to get what was in the driver’s side door panel out. I said, Ok and went to his car. I saw a brown paper bag and retrieved it. I dumped it on the kitchen table and out fell a zip lock bag that was almost completely full of cocaine. I was delirious with excitement as I held it like a precious jewel. We cooked and smoked, and cooked and smoked. It was like a horrible merry-go-round that I could not get off of.
Two weeks later, we were out of cocaine and thereby having no crack. Tony was not affected by the economics of the situation as he was a contractor who wrote code for 150.00 an hour, and made his own hours, so no one questioned his absence. I had filed for unemployment and received my check the same day we ran out. We drove to an area in Marietta where young black youth would sale you crack cocaine and you would get more for your money, rather than buying cocaine and cooking it, but it was a little more dangerous. I bought 200.00 worth and Tony did as well, but that only lasted till midnight. “Do you want to make a run?” Dick asked. I’m broke, I replied. “You fly, I’ll buy” he said. The only people out past midnight in this area of town were cops, dealers or crack addicts. I was nervous and kept trying to think of what to say in the event a cop should pull me over. I turned down a darkened road, and eased down to the bottom of the hill. At least ten men and young boys, who all dealt in crack, each offering a better deal, soon surrounded me. We made another at 1:00 a.m. then, another at 3:00 a.m., then 5:00 a.m. At 8:30 a.m. we exceeded speeds of 100 miles per hour to get back to my apartment. We never spoke, which we though would bring bad karma. We called it, “stealth mode”.
When we arrived back at my apartment I jumped out and ran inside. Tony walked at a fast pace. He liked to act as if everything was under control - until he hit the pipe. Our sick and paranoid behavior continued for 3 months. “We need to stop” Tony said one day right out of the blue. “I know it, and you know it. We’re both broke”. He opened the front door and placed the glass pipe on the cement on the cement walk way and stomped on it-shattering it into a million slivers of crack stained glass. My mouth fell open and I slumped down to the floor as what felt like my life source vanished. “I’m sorry”, he said, “It’s for your own good”. Hmm I thought, where have I heard that before? I wanted to strangle the life out of him, but I knew he was right. He closed the door and walked away. I sat in the darkened, silent apartment, as I had put blackout lining over all the windows.
A knock on the door shattered the silence. Tony had left!!...Was this the police!!! My mind raced then my question was answered as I unlocked the door, and reluctantly opened it. Dick walked past me as he looked down at the carpet. A large black man wearing a Mr. T starter set walked into my apartment. Without expression, Tony turned and said, “Meet Miami. I found him in the parking lot smoking. Miami shook my hand as I wondered if this was a set up. “ I brought a little something over for you,” he said as he tossed a 50.00 rock on the table. I learned that he was the dealer to the many street vendors. So he decided to cut out the middleman and just set up shop with Dick and I. Miami reached down into his incredibly large pants and pulled out a zip lock bag full of crack cocaine, and laid it on the table. “That’s for when you finish that”. Miami said. I wondered why but did not ask. By now Tony had lost his resolve to quit, as he made a pipe, using an empty toilet tube paper roll. Miami reached again down into his trousers, and pulled out a rock worth about 300.00 and repeated, “This is for when you finish that”. Tony just kept right on smoking, as did I. “I hope you don’t mind. Miami said casually. I took the liberty of inviting a couple of young ladies over here. They arrived, as Tony left, and they both stared like starved animals at the crack on the table. They were around 20 to 25 and it looked as if they had died a long time ago. They raised funds in an altogether promiscuous fashion, in order to support their habit. These were the one whom we shall refer to henceforth as “crack whores”.

They did not want money for sex; they wanted “crack” for sex. Miami ordered both of the girls to the bedroom, and followed them into it. He left the door open and asked me to join him. I said, No thanks, as I took another hit. I heard the sounds of grunting and smacking, so I walked into the hallway to look into my bedroom. As one of the girls was giving the other one oral pleasure-the other was giving Miami what he wanted. “You want a girl?’ Miami asked with a glee like expression.
No, I replied.
”What’s wrong?” ”You want a boy?” “I’ll get ya a boy, if that’s what you want”, he shouted beyond the hall, as I walked away, back to the crack table in the kitchen.
After having smoked for what was going on my 14th day, I could not have had sex, even if I wanted to.
As days turned into weeks, Miami was always there, as crack whores came and went.
Strange people came and went at all hours of the day and night, and Miami would sale them crack and or cocaine. Whenever he would run out of smokes or booze, I’d go to the store and get him some more. That was my job, and in return, he supplied me with crack cocaine. It seemed like a fair deal, until Tony showed came back to my apartment about 3 weeks later. “Can’t you see what he’s doing?” Dick asked. “He’s using crack to make you his personal slave,” he said angrily. My body and mind had a conflict of interest. I started remembering things, like when he made me stop smoking, long enough to eat a hamburger, which he had bought for me. “You gotta eat, “ he said. That’s when I realized, that he was keeping me alive so he would have a place to deal his “crack.”
Tony left, and I went back to smoking more crack. More people came and went from my Marietta, Georgia apartment at all hours. I was up for 22 days the first time, and 26 days he second time, due to my dedication to crack. I fell asleep, after Miami left to get more crack, and slept for about 14 hours. When I awoke at 4:00 a.m. my guilt, and shame, for my life, and all it’s disturbing lies, pierced my soul. I thought the only restitution was death.
As I wallowed in the black tar of my guilt, I cried for what I had become and for myself. I was no longer a man or human. I was just some flesh and bones that housed a demon, with whom I could no longer do battle.

It was time to die.
I took a bottle of bourbon from the refrigerator and filled a glass of water. I retrieved the last six or so pain killers from the bathroom and chased each one with a drink of water. I began drinking the bourbon and chasing it with water. I then waited for that eternal sleep-an end to the chaos that had become my so-called life. I don’t remember how long I was oblivious to my surroundings, but I was now awake...sort of.
I awoke in the bathroom floor, and almost dried vomit was sticking to the side of my face, which I had apparently slept in. I stood up, turned to the medicine cabinet and looked at my horrible reflection. I was no longer human, as I peeled chunks of the almost dried vomit off my face, and threw up some more. I was unsuccessful, but I did get that “just died” smell in my apartment. I took a shower and began cleaning my apartment, and threw away everything that resembled my habit. Later that evening as I sailed away on that euphoria of depression, there came a knock at the door. If it was Miami, I was going to tell him to leave, but it was my pseudo-friend Tony, who just came over to give me a two-hour dissertation on sobriety. Although I had cleaned everything thoroughly, it still stank. He walked in and put his hand over his face, as he squinted, he said, “My god, what died in here?” I responded I did, to no avail. I listened as he exuded the characteristics of what it means to no t be a crack-head, i.e. sobriety 101 No book required.
His recommendations only made me feel worse. He told me, “You need to get into rehab “right now! But I told him that they would not accept me, because there is no rehab program for crack addicts. I felt the insatiable appetite for crack cocaine seizing me again, and told Tony that I needed some smoke. He left, I thought to get some crack, but instead he contacted my friend Jim, who fired me, (“for my own good”) and told him I needed help. Soon the phone rang, it was my old friend Jim from the company that I was fired from. “Listen, he said. I don’t know who the fuck “Miami” is, and I don’t care how big he is! But I’m coming over there right now and kick his ass! And have you both thrown in jail!! Ten minutes later he called again, from his car, saying “If jail is what it takes to get you straight, then jail it’s gonna be. If I didn’t care about you, I wouldn’t waste my fucking time”. He told me that he was “coming to see me, and that I should not leave.” Ten minutes later “Miami” showed up at my door. I told him that my friend Jim was coming over and that he was brining the law. He gave me about 100 dollars worth of crack and left. I waited all night, and the phone rang at 6:15 a.m. I reluctantly answered it. Jim, said that, “he had never asked his family for anything in his life, but he told me that he asked his brother Mike if he had “a place I could stay, until I got “straight” again”. Mike agreed to allow me to stay in the abandoned log cabin that was on his farm in Unaka, North Carolina. Jim told me to meet him in Kennesaw, Georgia, at a place where we once worked out every day. I told him I’d meet him there by 8:30 a.m. I packed some clothes, loaded my pipe, and nervously drove to the designated location. He met me in the parking lot and asked me to follow him to a gas station across the road where he pumped fuel in my Chevy Blazer. ”How long has it been since you used”? He asked, with a tone somewhere between seriousness and grief.
I was sick of all the lies, and I knew I couldn’t sink any deeper, so I told him the truth.
Five minutes, I replied, as I looked over my right shoulder, at the demons, which seemed discouraged.
I continued, I ran out, while I was sitting in the parking lot waiting for you.
He dropped his head as he continued pumping the gas, and said, “I want you to drive straight to my brothers house, and don’t stop for a damn thing”. He continued, “A full tank will get you there”. You wont be needing any money”. The drive was nerve racking and desperate. I was almost relieved when I arrived at the home of Mike and Jo Ann Archambault.
Mike Archambault was a friend of my older Brother Eddy and he knew me, but not too well.
He was not disrespectful, or judgmental, nor did he speak of my addiction.
When I pulled into his driveway, a woman I had never met before greeted me. It was his wife Jo Ann.
I thought to myself. She knows I’m a crack addict, and she probably thinks, I will kill her in her sleep and steal anything that’s not tied down to buy crack. As I stepped from the vehicle, I saw the screened door open, as I grabbed my meager luggage. “Mike said you were coming. You must be the other Mike. She continued in a light hearted, & humorous manner, “It’s going to be confusing around here with 2 Mikes, she added, It’s hard enough just keeping up with one Mike” she said, as she let out a shallow galumph, and a welcome smile covered her face.
I really appreciate you opening your home to me, in lieu of my circumstances, I said with my head hanging slightly low, so she could not see the toll that all the drugs have laid to my face. “Come on in” she said, you can set your belongings in the basement, there’s plenty of room down there, with a bed and T.V. She continued, “We have a satellite dish and 500 channels to choose from”. That’s great, I said as I stepped cautiously down the steps leading to the basement. It was colder down there, and there were no windows, therefore darkness was always present. This made me sleep for a long time.
Mike woke me up, after I had slept for 2 days, and he took me with him to drop off some Black Angus cattle, somewhere in Tennessee. As we drove through the mountainous terrain of gorge, and peak, he said this. “You look like shit”. He then, let out a hearty laughter, as if to say, “Been there - Done that.” In fact, he had sown some pretty wild oats in his own time, but that’s his story. Let’s continue.
In my time there, I learned the importance of choosing your friends. It’s always proper etiquette to be polite to everyone, but there are those who are among us, that do not have anyone’s best interest at heart.
One needs to know the difference. This is no easy chore, given the nature of being polite.
I also learned how to drive a tractor, haul hay, castrate bulls, and the grand finale is the “AI” or Artificial Insemination. This involved slipping your whole arm up a cow’s anus, but not before putting on a long plastic glove. {That is more information than I really wanted to disclose}.
I also, cut fields of grass to make hay, then the next day, I would fluff the grass, (so it would dry completely) and several day later, Mike would roll the grass into hay rolls, which I would spear with the tractor and take to the barn. None of these feats ever made it on my resume’. After the first week, I was moved into the cabin.
No, it was not a log cabin, in the traditional sense, like one would imagine a “quant” log cabin in the wood. It was in fact made from logs, with a traditional roof, but there was no insulation except under the floors, and it was falling down, in a myriad of tangled forgotten efforts.
It had a wood burning stove, and electricity, but a portion of the summer had been spent cutting down trees, for firewood in the winter. Followed by splitting it with an axe, so it could dry and burn.
The lack of insulation was modified by an old stained glass window, which had a series of 6 inch by 10-inch glass panes. It went from the floor to the ceiling, and was 8 feet tall and 4 feet wide. I had taped a piece of cardboard over one of the 6-inch panes at the bottom left, which had been busted out. Again, no insulation effort had been made to secure the elements against leakage. In fact, one could easily look between the window and the log wall that it sat inside of. The winters in the foothills of the great Smokey Mountains can be quite unforgiving. Some mornings it would be colder in the cabin than it was outside. There were usually snow-covered mountaintops, which looked beautiful, but when night fell the temperatures would drop. I would make fires that were so hot, I would have to go outside, or to the bedroom, but by 2 or 3 in the morning, I would be cold again, in the bedroom, and get up and move to the living room/kitchen to finish sleeping.
It was here, that I started my memoirs, The “Chronicles of Crack” or my version, “THE END”.
I sent it to my friend David Brown, who had enough courage to print my story, in “The Lake City Reporter,” where he was currently the Editor, in a small town, with the same name.
There was so much more of the story, that had been edited out, that he said, that I should “write it as a book”, but I didn’t take him seriously, until I received a copy of the story, that he printed on my behalf.
I was ecstatic. Now I knew I had to write it.
A few weeks later the Automatic transmission, stopped being “automatic” on my Chevy Blazer after 287,000 miles. The cost to replace it was more than the vehicle was worth, so I opted to purchase another car instead. My only problem was that I had no money.
Meanwhile, I had started assisting Mike with his Communications business and after several switch installations, I had saved up enough money to buy a car. Mike went with me, to downtown Murphy and we looked at used cars. That’s what one buys after a bankruptcy, and a trail of unpaid debt.
I respected Mike’s knowledge of vehicles, and asked him which one seemed to be the car for me.
He simply grumbled, “Ask the salesman which one he drives home at night.” As it turned out, the salesman drove a 1988 Chevrolet Caprice. It was maroon colored, with soft, red, velour interior, electric windows, with cruise control and air conditioning. The radio was questionable at best, but “beggars can’t be choosers” as they say. I thought that the radio would not be a priority.
Often times, “the worst kind of ride, beats the best kind of walking.”
On weekends I’d drive down to Riverdale, Georgia and pick up my Son for the weekend. He liked the cows, the tractor, and playing on the rolls of hay, and shooting his bb gun, but he didn’t like the 3 hours and 45 minute drive that it took to get there. The drive made for a very short weekend. I continued working for Mikes Communication Company and saved some more money, but most of it was spent on, catching up on unpaid debt, food, gas, and insurance. At times I wondered if I was being paid fairly, because the money always disappeared so fast. As it turns out, I was being paid fairly, and the same thing happens to millions of other hard working Americans every payday. That’s life, or at least my life.
On one particular Friday, as I passed the “Grizzly bear Trading Post” on the outskirts of Murphy and was heading south to get my son for the weekend, my car started overheating. There was no place to get water and I had long since passed the “Grizzly Bear Trading Post”. I slowed down and rolled to a stop at an intersection, across from a lone gas station, which had gone out of business a long time ago. Two old men sat in rocking chairs in front of the abandoned station, and looked on, as I was the only thing happening that day, in that particular location. My radiator had developed a pinhole-sized leak, which I had not seen when checking the oil. By the time the red (idiot) light came on, it was already too late, my block had seized, and the motor had given up the proverbial ghost. I did not have the car two months.
I did not have a cell phone. That’s right. I did not have a cell phone, so I had to ask the old men for permission to make a long distance call from their private phone, which was attached to the wall just inside the door of the gas station which did not sale anything, and the garage part of the station was long since abandoned. Gentlemen, I asked sympathetically, is it possible for me to use your phone? As you can see I am broke down a long way from my home. I carried on, the car overheated and I just bought it two months ago. One of the old men turned to an empty coffee can, which sat beside him and picked it up with his thumb and bent index finger. He gently guided it about a foot off the ground, and spat. I heard the sound of liquid splashing into liquid and he sat it back down. As the can touched the concrete, the other old man said, “I’d like to help ya son, but you can’t make no phone calls on that phone.” before he continued I thought, in a mocking way, “You can’t use no double negative to tell me that”.
He then pointed, about 200 yards and said, “You can use that there pay phone boy, if’n you need to call sumbody”. I looked to the payphone, and said thank you, as I made my way towards it. I called Mike (collect) and my Son as well, to explain my situation. An hour later Mike showed up, and he towed my car back to his barn, where he had an air compressor, refrigerator (stocked with beer), wood burning stove, a set of bucket seats (as well as the complete back seat) from some vehicle, and just about every tool that one may need on a farm. We stood in the barn, and looked at the hood, from whence the problem came. Mike observed in a gruff tone of voice, “Well, you just got the damn thing paid for,” and continued, “I guess you’ll have to rebuild the engine. There’s a “Chilton manual” over there, he said, as he pointed to a shelf with books of car know-how. I guess so, I reluctantly conceded, as I remembered the worst days of my life were spent on working on cars. Now I had to dip in my savings for another engine and parts, parts and more parts. A new block from the parts store was 350.00 dollars, but they would have to order it, and I would have the shipping fees which were as much as the engine. Mike said, “You ought to call your brother and see if he’s got an engine you can have, and he continued, If he’s got one, I’ll go get it for you”. You’d go to Florida from Unaka, North Carolina to get an engine for me? I asked. “Sure he said, and continued, there still hay that needs to be cut, and some more over by the creek that needs to be fluffed ”. I smiled and said, I’ll call’em. I walked up to his house and called Eddy. He answered the phone like this, “It’s you’re dime, and my time, tell what I got on the line?
Hey Eddy, I said to which he replied in a more excitable tone, “Heeyyy!! Little brother. What can I do you for? He said jokingly. Well, I bought this 1985 Chevy Caprice, and I managed to blow up the engine. I was wondering if you had anything that I could throw in it? I replied.
“I’ve got a 1997 engine out of a truck. It’s a 305 he continued, and it has an aluminum block, because it was made in Canada, that will mean, it’s lighter and runs cooler, and you’ll have more horsepower, because the truck engines were stronger, because they had 202 heads, and your Caprice has 194 heads”.
He went on, the engine seized up on this truck, and the “O” rings scratched the walls, so you’ll have to have it bored out at an engine shop. He continued, You’d need a “4 core radiator,” a transmission cooler, and an RV cam, with some umpf! ”. What’s “umpf?” I asked. He continued, “Just tell the man at the parts store to order you an RV cam, with some umphf, and he’ll know what you mean”.
He had an engine all right, but it was already blown up, and I could not understand why he was giving me an engine that was already blown up. I was not disrespectful and was in fact grateful, that I had a brother to help me, but I could not help being frustrated. I never knew my friend Mike had left, to go get the engine. I thought the engine was a loss, but a couple of days passed and Mike showed up in his Diesel Dodge dually, with an Engine from my brother Eddy, in Pensacola, Florida. I was a little dismayed, and Mike seemed a little bit happy, because of my confusion, no doubt. Mike got up in the back of the truck, and with his bear-like hands, he heaved the engine to the back of the truck, as if it were a small toy. We wrestled it onto the ground, and into the barn, where I began the disassembly process, as Mike lit a menthol cigarette, and offered simple suggestions, and favorable hints, about my current undertaking. “The nearest machine shop for boring the heads, and giving it an acid bath, is in Blue Ridge,” he said, as he exhaled smoke from the menthol cigarette .
The following day we loaded the engine up and took it to Blue Ridge Machine Shop, in North Georgia. A few days later, I received a call from the machine shop, and the guy said, “Looks like you can go .30 over and it’ll be fine”. Translated-The piston walls have been compromised to such a degree, that it needs to be bored out 30/1000ths of an inch, in order to achieve a smooth operational surface. I agreed, and a week later, I had a brand new “looking” block, with my first initial, and last name stamped on it.
As we lowered the engine block to the barn floor, Mike asked, “What color are you going to paint it?” Well, I replied, I never thought about painting it. I just want to put it together, so it runs right.
“You gotta paint it. He continued, “You just spent the money to have it bored, specked-out, and acid washed and you’re putting new parts in it”. “You really need to paint it.”
I said, Ok I’ll paint it.
“What color?” he asked.
Blue, I replied.
“Why do you want to paint a Chevrolet Blue? He asked.
Well, because that’s the color that I want the engine to be, I replied.
“Blue is a Ford color,” he touted.
I responded with a stroke of genius. So.
“Ok, it’s your car. Paint it what you will.” he said, as he walked away.
The engine puller was one of the biggest investments. Everything else was just as the “Chilton” manual said...almost. I went to the parts store to order my cam, and asked for one with “a little umf”,.
He knew exactly what I meant. I also ordered a “4 core radiator, as well as a Transmission Cooler.
My brother, also insisted that I put in “real gauges” in the car, instead of the “idiot lights, that are from the factory in the dash. He said, that “They don’t tell the temperature. They only say, “H and “C”.
He continued, “You also need to know your oil pressure, not when it’s so low that it’s running hot”.
So, with this new found information, I installed 3 customized gauges. One for water temperature, another for oil pressure, and transmission temperature. After about 3 months of working, on and off, I asked a neighbor, Harold Thrasher, to assist me in installing the new 1997 engine, because Harold had rebuilt many motors, in the time he had lived in Unaka, North Carolina, as he was a racecar driver.
We finally reached the point, that the car could be cranked up.
The mufflers had not been connected yet, and the sound was loud. Disturbingly loud, as smoke filled the room, as it burnt off the silicone lubricant, that was used to slide the pistons into the cylinders.
There were no shouts of joy or celebration –only a few smiles. “Mike’s nephew Brett, who stood outside the barn drinking a beer, made the comment over the noise of the car, “You better turn it off. I think it’s gonna blow up again!! he shouted, as I laughed and switched the car off (just in case he was right.).
I created quite a resume, and was contacted by a large corporation in Roswell, Georgia. I went to the interview and was hired. I had trouble finding an apartment, as I had left a trail of bills behind me, as well as a bankruptcy. I contacted an old friend who did not know of my previous life, and he agreed to let me stay with him and his wife. (They have since turned their back on me so I will not allow their name to be printed, but you know who you are). I moved in, and things were going pretty good. I saved about 5000.00 bucks, and was ready to start looking for another apartment, but then it happened. I had fought the feeling, but could sense my demon calling to me like an old lover.
“Just one time. Just get a 20.00 and no more”. “That’s it. One rock and that’s all” he said.
After dinner, I announced that I was going out for a drink, and pulled my Caprice from the driveway, in Cartersville , Georgia. I had never been to “Cartersville” before, but I knew that I would find “it”.
I drove straight to the lowest quality of town, where I found the cheapest Motel around, and pulled into the parking lot, which was right in front of the rooms. I turned the car off and waited. I had seen some people lingering around, and my demon said, “Looks like you found’em”, as he unsnapped his safety belt, and turned on the radio, which I turned off as a young African American approached the Caprice.
“Is this car for sale?” he asked.
No, I replied.
“You a cop”, he asked.
No, I replied, I’m an addict, and I’d like a dove.
After much ado about the legitimacy, of whether I was a cop or not had passed. He walked away, and into one of the rooms. He told me to drive off, and come back. I circled the block and returned.
He walked out to my car and got in on the passenger side. “Where’s my money? he asked, as he clutched something in the palm of his left hand. I anxiously, handed him a 20.00 dollar bill, and turned my palm over, in which he dropped the rock in. I stopped at a local convenience store, on that side of town, where I could purchase 1 piece of “Chore-Boy”, a glass rose stem holder, and a piece of close hanger, and an adjustable lighter, for 4 dollars. The Indian man knew what I wanted, and he had done this transaction a thousand times before. It was wrong, to do that kind of business, but I was glad he did that kind of business.
I made haste, back to the house of my friends and pushed the small bag, down in the crotch of my khakis. I went inside and announced that I must retire for the evening. As I told them, I was exhausted from a hard days work, and had to leave early in the morning, to beat the Atlanta traffic.
It seemed reasonable, and said, goodnight. In my nervousness of being heard, I turned on the shower, in the bathroom, which was inside my bedroom. I also turned on the bathroom fan, as I burnt the “Chore-Boy” and packed it inside the glass tube, which had held a small artificial rose. The 20.00 was gone in less that 5 minutes. I turned off the shower, and went to bed, wanting another hit. I finally fell asleep around midnight, and was up the net morning taking a shower by 5 a.m. and leaving for work by 5:30 a.m. The company flew me to New Orleans (before Hurricane Katrina) to do an “on-sight” survey of a Central Office. The company for which I was employed, told me not to bid on the project,” just show up”, as we were only there to be seen as a competitor. I spent less than 45 minutes at the location in question and left after every other Contractor was gone. I had done my job. I then, took my limousine to

Emeril’s Restaurant in Downtown New Orleans for lunch, as my flight was not scheduled till 3:00 p.m. that same day. It was just another typical day for a large corporation. I pretended to not want to go looking for “it” again, but when I landed in “Hartsfield”, my mind was only on one thing. Going back to that seedy hotel in Cartersville, and getting some more. This went on for about two weeks. Every day after work I’d get a “dove” and that was all. As the days went on, I’d sneak out again and get some more. On Friday, I would use “Friday” as an excuse to go “out for the night” and buy 100.00 dollars worth, and stay up all night long. When Saturday came around, I’d act happy, content and ever so helpful. This was a mask I wore, to cover the guilt, that I was starting to feel all over again. I made it through another week without buying any crack, to rid myself of the feeling that I was addicted....again.
However, addiction NEVER leaves.
It was March 12th 2001 at around, 8:30 at night, and I made an excuse to leave again, buy now I was starting to think my “friends” were suspecting something, but it was too late to care about that now. I drove to the motel and spotted a cop car sitting in the parking lot, where I was going to be going; so I drove past and turned at the light. I looked into my rear view mirror, as I watched him pull out of the parking lot and start heading in my direction. He pulled up behind me, as I waited at a stop sign. I had North Carolina License plates on the car, and was thinking that he might pull me, but the light changed and I drove off. he followed me for about three miles as I sweat bullets. I knew that he knew something was going wrong, but he turned off at another light. I went about another mile and turned around. I went back to the motel. It was now around 8: 45 p.m. and I went up and knocked on the door. I was beckoned inside by my crack dealer, whose name I never knew, and never asked. “They been watching my place”,. he said as he invited me in. Yeah, I saw the cop sitting in the parking lot. He followed me for about 5 miles, I said.
“He’s hurtin’ my business, huffed the crack dealer, as he continued his tale of woe. “He already ran off 20 or so of my regular customers and it’s startin’ to really piss me off. The he told me to be extra careful going home, as he handed me 40.00 dollars worth. I was starting to buy more, and more frequently.
I pulled out of the parking lot and the coast was clear all the way to the red light.
One of the perks of living in a small town. I drove to the intersection and stopped at the red light. I saw some headlights to my right and another car approached from the opposing road at the intersection.
It was a cop car. It couldn’t be the same cop, I thought, but what if it is? I wondered. I had my blinker on to turn left, and as the light changed to green, I turned left-putting myself directly in front of the cop car again, but it was the only way I could go. Blue lights flashed behind me, I swallowed the crack. The officer asked me to step out of the car after he looked at my drivers license. “North Carolina!” he said, “Why are you in Cartersville, Georgia?” He asked. My job transferred me here, I replied. “Do you mind reciting the alphabet for me? He asked. I recited them perfectly without a slur or slip. “Stand on one leg and count to ten”, “he asked. I stood on one leg and counted to ten, and continued standing on one leg, until he told me to put my leg down. I never tottered or lost my balance. I saw the frustration in his eyes.
Then, he asked “Why didn’t you stop at that red light?” to which I replied, I stopped at that red light.
“It was red when you drove through it”, He snapped, and I retorted, The light in front of me was green when I turned. He walked back to his car after asking me to turn around and spread my legs. He said a few words over the radio, then came back and searched me. “We’re taking a trip downtown”. He said, as he slapped handcuffs on me. What for I asked, “Oh just some paperwork and a drug screen”. I had never been arrested before in my life, and did not know the standard operating procedure. We arrived at a building about the size of a small economy car, and he handed me a bottle and said, “Pee in this for me”.
Do I have to? I asked.
“It’s either that or lose your license for one year”, he replied. I said, Ok. and went to the confined area to urinate. I came out of the room and handed him the small bottle of urine, and watched as he dripped it on a small white device which changed color to show deposits of drugs in ones system. The color changed, but not in my favor. “Looks like you’re going to jail”. He gloated, as if he’d just captured one of the FBI’s most wanted. He pushed my head down to get into the car and asked me as we drove to the “Maximum Holding facility for Felons awaiting a prison to go to, or a court date. “Why’d ya take the test?” the cop asked, in a you’re-so-stupid-kind –of –way. I simply replied, Because you asked me to. He shook his head. This was the first and last time I would see officer P.A. Little, after he wrote Citation number, “15984” on “03/12/2001” at “2105 p.m.”
I was arrested for “Failure to yield to a stop sign,” Possession of Cocaine,” and “Driving under the influence”. The “influence” had long since past. I did however, have some leftover waste in my urine.
That by itself, was enough, to make a charge like, “POSSESSION OF COCAINE” stick.
To the other 2 offenses, it was my word against his.......and I wasn’t even from Cartersville. I am not denying, that I was not guilty, only that, I was not guilty of any of those things.
I was a flight risk, so they held me from March 16th of 2002 till May 5th of 2002 I served my time in a two level 60 by 30 foot room. My own personal space was a 8 foot by four foot cell.
There were cells on the top floor, and cells on the bottom floor. In all, there must’ve been around 40 cells in one block. In each cell, there were 3 inmates, but only 1 set of bunk beds. One of the inmates had to sleep on a mattress pad, on the floor, and at the end of the bunk was a toilet. Those who were convicted of murder, were the most angry and resentful. They were awaiting a prison cell, that was reserved for them for life, and therefore, had nothing to lose, inasmuch, they were not to be messed with. There were also rapists, kidnappers, and thieves. I stayed on the top bunk, and did not eat for the first two days, as the food was absolutely dreadful. Then, at lunch, on third day, another prisoner spoke up and said, “You better eat something white boy” He continued, “Cause if you don’t –you gonna get weak, and somebody’s gonna fuck you in the ass, and nobody will save you poor ass”. I started shoveling the fowl excuse for vegetables in my mouth, as sinister laughter rang out on the empty block walls.
I tried to avoid making eye contact, and spent most of my time writing long, depressing letters of woe, to my friend David in Lake City, Florida. Who was my only visitor, during my stay, at the maximum holding facility. By the time May 5th came around, I thought that I’d been forgotten. I hated the orange clothes but thought that justice was true, and that I would get what I deserved for all the crack smoking I had done. I was not disappointed when the judge sentenced me to time served and 9 years of probation, a 5000.00 dollar fine, and my driving license was suspended for one year.
My car had been impounded for 3 months, and that was expensive to get out. When I tried to crank it, it would not crank up. The mechanic on duty was a staunch Christian, who had to deliver the message of Christ to me, but all I wanted was my car fixed.
It was the electric fuel pump. They did not have the right size, and put one on, that delivered too much fuel to the carburetor. It would idle, but flood, unless I stomped it to the floor. I idled to the hotel.
One is damned in America, if you don’t have wheels.
I was told in a letter, which was given to me, when I was released, that I was no longer welcome at the residence of my former friends. The letter concluded, that my belongings had been put in a storage facility, and the address was given along with the phone number for same. It ended with, “Good Luck, Call me in 10 years, if you’re still alive”. I could not harbor resentment, because this is the “seed I had sown”, and the crop I had grown”. This is what I brought on myself and held no one else culpable.
Alas, I realized after calling my ex-wife, that I would never see my Son again.
I was the “felon-crack-head”. She hung up on me, and asked that I never call again, or she would call 911 and violate my probation.

As part of the “First Time Offender Act”. “One should abstain from any appearance, or act of “evil” fore the duration of the probation. If this criteria is not met, the felon will be retried, and sentenced to no less than 15 years-mandatory.” This was enough incentive for me to never call that fucking bitch again. Of course I use the term, “fucking bitch” loosely, so as to not offend that fucking bitch. I checked into a Hotel (on the nice side of town) that sat beside an Applebee’s Restaurant & Bar.
It was less than ¼ mile to the major interstate 75 and I contemplated the relevance of jumping onto the freeway, as I could never get a Class A security clearance again, and my former job was long gone.
I was alone in a hotel room, and death was the only doorway, which I thought would open to new possibilities, as I cried and cried. My so called, “friends” just seemed to vanish in the wind. I was too embarrassed to call my family because I did not want them to know the state of affairs which I had fallen prey to. The only person I could call was Dave. I owed him a “Good-bye”. This would be my last phone call. He answered the phone, and said that he was at a conference in Athens , Georgia.
I explained how I no longer had a reason to live.
I could never see my Son again.
I could never get another job, with a felony on my record.
Even if I did get a job, I could not drive to it, without violating my probation.
I’m fucked, I said. I’m done with this life. I’m moving on.
“You’ are not moving anywhere.” Dave said. “I’m coming to Cartersville after I leave here, and you’re coming back to Lake City, and live with me Sharon and the kids.” He said, in a matter-of-fact type of voice. “Wait for me”. I waited and wondered how this was going to work. He arrived and checked into a room because it was after 5:00 and I had to get a change of address from my probation officer. The next day I applied for a change of address and was granted that and a “Travel Permit”. I was now free if only to go to another State.

We devised a plan, for getting my car to Lake City , Florida. It was a weak plan at best, but the only plan we had. I would drive in front of him, (so my tag could not be seen) but he could not keep up with the speed which the electric fuel pump demanded. We drove about 70 miles, and I decided to just leave the carat a road side bar. To me it was by far a more superior car, than anything built in a factory today. It was a necessary thing to do and I had no choice. I did give me great grief to lose that 1985 Caprice with a 1997 rebuilt aluminum block truck engine,(bored .30 over) with a 4 core radiator, transmission cooler, liquid gauges, and an RV cam, velour seats complete with a.c. and a nice stereo which also had some umpf. It was almost like saying good bye to an old friend, or in this instance losing my car.

I parked it in a parked in the lot, and started getting my things out, as I spotted a man walking out of a bar . I shouted, and asked him if he had a car?
He said ,”No”.
I asked if he wanted to buy one cheap?
He said, Is it yours?
I said, Yes it is.
I pointed to the engine, with a flash light which I had in the glove compartment, and said,
That’s my name on the block Richards, and showed him my drivers license.
“Show me the ownership papers” he asked, as I pointed to the chrome plated valve covers.
“How much you want for it? he asked, as I mentioned all the work I had done to this car.
How much do you have? I asked.
He ran his hands through this jeans pockets and came up with 26.00 dollars and some change. I wrote a sales receipt.
He said, “My wife is not going to believe this!”
“Why are you selling this car to me?” he asked.
I explained, that I was on probation, and did not want to go to prison for driving it, and added, I just got unlucky, and you just got a really good car.
I took the rest of my meager belongings, and packed them in Dave’s mini van, and we drove off down I-75 south. I don’t think I said two words for the entire trip. I felt empty and lost, like I had already died. We arrived late, and I slept in the basement of Dave’s house. I didn’t know it then, but the next day I would meet Elvis. In the knowledge of knowing I was somewhere that was unfamiliar to me-I woke up early and had some coffee with Sharon his wife. “You look better, when you’re not wearing orange”, she remarked as we sat in the kitchen. Orange seems to fight with my skin pigment, I remarked, in a I still have my sense of humor sort of way. That same morning, I assembled a new resume’ and headed for the nearest business, on foot. It would not be the same if I did not tell you that everything was up hill, for 3 blocks. I was almost out of breath, and sweat had made my white shirt, stick to my chest, and back. The first business I saw, was a National Food chain, which echoed southern sentiments.
The mangers name was Elvis. He bore no semblance to the “legend”, but only that of a tall, skinny man in his late twenties.
Elvis was in the building.
He met me in the front of the store, and I knew right away that I was overqualified. We walked to the back of the store, as he made small talk. We sat down, in an upstairs office surrounded by stock and merchandise, and he said, Mr. Richards you are over qualified for the position that we have open, what did you do for the company that you worked at before?, he curiously asked.
I performed site surveys of Central Offices, and wrote detailed specifications, using a software called, Paradox Nine, which was used to show the implementation of broad band equipment for any given area.
He stared blankly, so I continued to elucidate on my previous job.
Essentially, I went into a C.O. and identified available addresses like the B.D.F.B. (for available power) and I would find the MDF (Main Distribution Frame) and measure the distance to the “Cage” (or area where Broad Band Equipment would be implemented) once everything was identified, I’d catch the next flight back to Atlanta, and make sense of all that information, from my office. Then, I would send it to the main Office, in Ohio, where they would make a schematic of same.
“Well, he said, this does not even come close to that, but we need somebody in the Photo lab”.
I was scheduled to start the next day. Then, I walked back home and called, the Columbia County Correctional facility to find out who my probation officer would be.
He was a middle aged man named Jerry Jewitt. He was courteous, and fair. My probation fees, just happened to be in the same amount, as my previous fine. 5000.00 dollars.
So, this escapade that I had allowed myself to be pulled into, had so far cost me
10,000 dollars, a nice car, the loss of my son, a good paying job, and a whole lot of dignity.
It wasn’t worth it. I wish I had known then, what I know now. Everybody says that. I mean it.
By the way, I will give you the secret to how to quit smoking crack, before you finish reading this book.
My friend Dave told me that, “he and his wife once purchased some bikes, which they were going to start riding in the evening, after he got home from work. He said, “they rode a few times, and then stopped riding altogether, but I was free to ride one of them if I should choose to do so”.
Now, those bikes leaned against the side of the brick wall, under the car port. That night we went to a store, where I purchased a chain to lock up the bike with. The next morning I started peddling to work at the Photo Lab, in this national grocery chain, which was the closest business to where I lived. After several months Elvis called me into his office and said , “I have never in my life had as many complaints about any employee as I have about you, but you do a good job. I don’t want to ever hear another complaint about you or I’ll have to fire you”. I left his office and was disturbed by what I thought was some kind of small town conspiracy. I knew I was better than this grocery store. My legs were becoming muscular and my overall health was in better. I could now ride further , so I inquired about a position with a company that provided technical support for another nationally acclaimed computer builder.

I applied, and for one more dollar an hour, I was hired. I worked from 2 p.m. till 11:00 p.m. In rain, at night and rain in the day-I peddled and dreaded my existence. I was taking a prescription drug called, Viox, for my arthritic back, due to the cervical fusion which I had. I soon developed blood in my stool and had abdominal pain, which I thought was an ulcer. I was wrong. As I continued peddling my bicycle, the “Law of Averages” kept building up, but not in my favor.
I was hit by 3 cars, on 3 separate occasions, and one was documented by the Lake City Reporter. The reporters name was “Sam”. That was short for Samantha Sinclair, who just happened to be passing by the scene of the third accident, where I was waking up from the unconsciousness, which was caused by a large truck that pulled past the double white pedestrian crossing lines, as I peddled downhill-fast. I was wearing a backpack in which I carried a change of clothes, deodorant, and a towel.
After peddled 6 miles to work, I needed to change clothes, bathe from the sink, and put on deodorant as well as change into clean, unstained clothes. The back pack cushioned my fall, but the fender connected to my head-hence the temporary unconsciousness. I awoke to the sound of two paramedics extending the legs of a gurney, as they wheeled it towards me, and bobbled over the rough asphalt. I’m ok, I said and repeated several times. They took their gurney back, and disappointingly walked away and drove off.
My bike was ok, but I did not feel like peddling anymore. “Sam” offered me a ride to work, and I accepted.
When I arrived at my place of employment, (you remember, that really big computer manufacturer, technical support center?) no one seemed to notice the bleeding arm, knee or hand. To everyone else there, I was just the guy who rode the bicycle to work everyday, who was not from Lake City.
It didn’t take the nerds long to search through the databases, and pass the information along.
People, how they do love to talk. “Ya know, he was dui, with possession of cocaine”.
They had no idea whom they were casting judgment upon, as do the majority of most. I have always believed that what “the Bible had say about it, “You shall know a tree, by the fruit it bares”,(Mathew 12:33) and also the old colloquialism, “I just call’em like I see’um”. My fruit was hung out, for all to see. I rode the bike every day for a year, and on My the 5th I was allowed by the Department of Transportation to apply for and receive a drivers license. However, there was an 850.00 charge for same because of the “felony” in question. I paid the fees, and purchased a small late model, red ,2 door used car which, after 4000.00 dollars one year, died. But not before the final payment. Meanwhile, I had started attending Church services with David and his family, Ian, Jessica, Noel, Allison and his wife Sharon. I made new friends and met Dr. Berry Bunn, who worked for a local Community College, and also taught a class. One day after services, he asked me if I had my Bachelors Degree, which I responded, No. He then asked, “Why don’t you take some classes out at the College, and finish it?” To which I explained, I ride a bike 14 miles a day, and the College is 8 miles in the opposite direction which I ride for work. He smiled, and looked at my friend Dave, as we stood out in front of the Church after a service that morning and said, “That sounds like a cop-out to me”, as he looked back at me. Dave joined him in his mockery of my situation, “Yeah, I suppose if I needed a good excuse that would be it”, and added in a mocking quote, “I can’t go to College . It’s too far for me to ride my bicycle “, “Yeah” he continued, “That would work.” Dr. Bunn could see the frustration building through my plastic smiling mask. “Ill tell you what. I drive a truck to work, and added, “If you can ride to the college in the evening, I’ll load up your bike after class and give you a ride home. Dave’s house is on the way home”.
Alright, ok, alright, ok, alright, ok, alright, I’ll take a class at night, I said as if to be goaded into it-which I was. My first class was a pre-requisite for College classes, which Dr. Bunn taught. I found it very informative, and a powerful tool, as well as entertaining . The class had such a profound affect on me that after I finished it, Dr. Bunn whom I now called, “Barry” asked me to come back to his class, and elucidate on the fundamentals that I had gleaned. My speech was about 30 minutes long, and occasionally, during my speech, Doctor Bunn would let me know, when I would digress into stand up material, as I often do. Later my friend Dave received a promotion and was moving back to Alabama. He asked me if I wanted to go with, but I told him I had some classes to finish and he wished me well. I moved into the dorm at the college and by now I was driving again, so that was no longer an issue.
The school decided to renovate the dorms, and I had to find a place to go. I decided to get an apartment, and had enough money, but the apartment complex has it’s own standards. This meant I could not live there, because I had a felony on my record. That’s right, a felon is not allowed to get a home, a loan, vote, or own a fire arm. There’s a whole list of things which a felon cannot do. So, I had to adopt new standards for my new found life style. My probation officer reminded me that 9 out of 10 felons go back to jail after the first 5 years out of jail. Given the standards by which one must live, I am not at all surprised that a felon would end up back in jail. When all of your rights are taken away, you are shunned by society and forced to do a job like janitor or grounds keeper, when you are capable of living life to the fullest expectations which you aspired to. To have everything taken away, is more than the average person should have to deal with. It was no wonder I ended up in the Emergency room.
I called Janice Irwin, who was the Disabled Student Services Coordinator, for whom I worked part time.
I explained that I had no place to go, and could not get an apartment, because of my record.
(My first time offense) She said, “I’ll come and get you at the dorm, and you can stay in my Sons room till you find a place”. Ms. Irwin had her hands full with 3 boys, crippling polio, a walker (to get around), a dog and was also a single Mom. Her two youngest boys wreaked havoc and stayed up late every night of the week. Discipline was not too high on her agenda. Not by my standards anyway. I arrived at her place uncomfortable, as I unloaded a box of personal belongings and placed them in the garage.
Ms. Irwin was cordial, and tried her best to make me feel at home, although it was quite futile, due to my independent nature. My room had two single beds and had a child –like feel about it, which made me even more uncomfortable. I thought I might be ungracious, or even contemptible to allow myself to feel like that, but I felt just like that. I was in the wrong place, and I knew it.
This is what happens to your life, when you allow yourself to be taken to “the end”.
I awoke before anyone, and began calling trailer parks. I called trailer parks because I stereo-type.
I’ve always seen wily, and nefarious characters walking about in trailer parks.
I remembered my Father had moved into a trailer park, after my Mother died, and he was also one the afore mentioned. However, I was still damned. My Father was not a felon, and they kept doing “back ground checks” and calling me back with the bad news. However, when they did not want to say, “We noticed a Felony on your record”, they would just say, “Your over-all screening did not pass”, or “We don’t have a vacancy right now”. When in fact, I knew they did. So I set my sights a little lower and started calling “ROOM FOR RENT” by the Day week or month.
A new furious paced search to find a room to rent began. It was the first phone call I made. It was too easy. I found a comfortable room to rent, which was fully furnished. The owner of this 4 bedroom doublewide trailer was a short woman, who drove a semi tractor trailer.
Her name was Joyce Sutton. She was a kind woman, who did not tolerate anything!
No one could have visitors. There could be no smoking, or noise of any kind. The place was full, but one would never know it due to the complete silence rule. I moved in, and none of the rules bothered me. I went to work, came home, got something to eat (out), watched TV, and went to sleep. Every day my stomach hurt more an more. I would take an assortment of ant-acids. My medicine cabinet looked like I had every stomach ant acid there was. I came home after working late, and held my aching stomach as I drove home. Oh, God this hurts, I thought, as I walked inside and collapsed onto the bed. I reached to the bedside table, and drank some “Pepto Bismol”. More pain...
I was getting weaker and hurting more, so I drove to the local hospital called, “Shands at Lake Shore”.
I held my stomach as I crumpled into a seat in front of the woman who was to admit me in the Emergency room. “What seems to be the problem”? she asked as I leaned forward holding both arms over my gut. I think I’m dieing, I said.
To which she responded, “Of what may I ask?”
Stomach cancer, I snapped.
“Why stomach cancer she asked?”
Everybody in my family dies of cancer. I must be my turn. I said, before I passed out,
I woke up in a hospital bed, in a room. I was wearing the “ass-less gown” and laying still. I was no longer hurting and that was a good thing, but I now had to use the bathroom, and pressed the nurse call button, to help me out of the bed. The nurse came into my room and helped me up, only to notice a rather large spot of blood where my ass had been. She said, “I’ll get someone to change these sheets for you, and call the Doctor.” While I was in the bathroom I heard someone pulling the sheets from the bed.
As much as I tried-I could not defecate, so I flushed, and walked out of the bathroom to find a woman changing my bed linen. I felt suddenly weak and put my hand on the broad arm of a chair which was in the room. Suddenly the room was filled, with the sound of water being poured onto the floor. I felt the warm water....it was blood and it was squirting out from my anus and spreading around my feet. The woman changing the bed linen scream and then said, “Oh my God”. Then, followed that with this, “HELP!! I NEED SOME HELP DOWN HERE!! SOMEBODY GET IN HERE NOW!!!”
By now I had this thought. This is the most embarrassing, and the most disgusting way to die.
I heard the running feet, as the blood had spread about 6 feet away from me, and continued to fall freely, like water from a sink. The woman who answered the emergency cry said this, when she saw my blood-covered legs, as I stood in a puddle of blood, which continued to pour out from me. “Oh my God”.
I keep hearing that, I said, and continued, It does not instill confidence at the moment.
One must always have a sense of humor. I did not feel any pain, when my lower intestine decided to rupture, but I was overcome with weakness. That was the last thing I remembered, before I awoke in the Intensive Care Unit, with a Colostomy bag attached to my side, and a tube down my throat, and one up my nose, as well as 18 pumps and assorted bags hanging around, like the laboratory of a mad scientist, or at least what I thought might be in a mad scientist laboratory.
One was pumping the bile from my body. That was the one that was stuck down my throat, via my nasal cavity. That was the one I decided in my post-surgical/ drug enhanced mode, to pull out .
That was a mistake. Then, they had to put it back. That was unpleasant, and I shall spare you the details.

I also had a “Foley catheter” and a morphine pump. The morphine stopped my bladder from functioning like a bladder should, but that didn’t matter because I had a Catheter. However, it became a big issue when they decided to remove the catheter. My bladder continued to fill, and fill until I was in excruciating pain. The nurse in charge of my care told another nurse to put the catheter back in. Therein lay the most unforgettable pain imaginable. The catheter had been inserted a few days prior, after it was removed, I had become swollen and inflamed along my urinary tract. When the nurse began pushing the tube up inside my penis, the pain defied imagination. As the pain of my bladder becoming more and more full increased-I had to wait for a Doctor to call in a shot, that would allow the Foley to be reinserted without said pain. Finally, the shot was given and my Foley was reinserted, then came the sweet relief of an empty bladder. Two nurse and one assistant stood in the room for the procedure to take place. As my bladder emptied, I heard a comment that was almost stupid. It went like this.
“Wow! You really had to go. I’ve never seen that much in a bag before”, as they switched bags

Doctor Robert Pendrak performed the “Lower (G.I.) Gastro-Intestinal take down.
After I awoke from surgery, a nurse walked into my room and said, “Everybody is calling you the one % er”. What’s that? I struggled to say. “That means that you have a 1% chance of living for 24 hours. “Your body has just suffered a tremendous shock”. “You went into septic shock, and most of your lower intestine had to be removed”. She continued, “We counted over 300 Ulcer polyps which were in your lower intestine that had not burst yet”. She then asked, “Who do you want us to call?” She asked in a very soft tone of voice. I made a motion for a pen, with my intravenously fed right hand . She quickly left and brought back a pen, and a pad. I could not move any part of my body except my hand, which was strenuous to say the least. I wrote, “Joyce Sutton” and gave her number, because I knew she would have access to my address book, and also that rent was due. She must have started calling my friends and family in order of addresses, because Jim “Archambault” was the first to call the hospital, and was angry, because they would not let anyone but “family” speak to me. He told me that he told them that, “we were closer than bothers”, but concluded that, “the woman who answered the phone was a real bitch; for not letting me talk to you.” He then asked, What can I do for you Mike? Just say the word and I’ll make it happen...whatever you need, just say the word”. Those words almost made me cry. The man who started me on my path to sobriety, at the risk of being ostracized from his family and friends, was now asking ...what more could he do to help me in this.... my final hour. I spoke slowly, and painfully as I struggled for each letter, of each word, and each breath. I said this. Jim, You live and then you die. Now it’s my turn...I don’t need a thing, but thank you for talking to me...it meant a lot. Saying that , must have taken it’s toll on my body because I don’t remember anything after that.
I recall over-hearing my Doctor, (who later lost his license to practice in the state of Florida) make a comment on my condition. All I heard was this “...heavy drug use”. I wondered if all the paranoia from the crack I had smoked, had caused the polyps to accumulate , or was it the anti-inflammatory which caused them to accumulate? Maybe it was the State imposed stress that caused them to grow.
I can never know for sure.
Later, my friend David Brown called, and said, “We’re coming down there, so you can’t die yet.
and continued, After you get out and you are able to walk around again, we’re going to do something that we’ll both remember for the rest of our lives”. What’d ya have in mind? I asked . He could hear the agony in my tone and replied, “Get some rest, and we’ll talk about it later”.
my sister called, and told me that she would be there, if I wanted her to. I told her not to bother, and that I’d be o.k.
24 hours passed, and now I was promoted to “2 percenter”.
The nurse who was there during the daytime, asked me if I wanted anything? I told her I wanted to die with some dignity, and requested some pajama pants, in stead of the “assless-gown” that they make everyone wear. I also requested a t-shirt. Later the next day, she brought me some pajama bottoms, and a T-shirt. I thought this went beyond being a nurse and was pleased to know that there were such people still on the planet. I spent a eighteen days in the Intensive Care Unit, and 14 in a regular hospital room.
A “Home Health Care” professional gave me a ride home, and helped me walk inside. I had no appetite, and now there was a bag attached to my side. It was called a Stoma pouch. It was degrading to know that feces was pouring out of my side without any feeling. My side would just get warm, as it filled up.
A home health aide would come by my place twice a week, to change my stoma pouch. There was an adhesive that allowed it to stick to the skin, but not allow the skin to be torn off, which I would (or the home health aide ) apply. Maybe I forgot, or maybe I didn’t cover the entire space where the stoma was to be placed, but on one painful day, as I tried to remove the old stoma pouch and put a new one on , some thing went wrong.
As I pulled at the edge, my skin started ripping from my stomach, in a layer that was thick enough to be quite painful. Now I understand a little bit more about the expression, “skinned alive”.
After what seemed like an eternity in bed, I was able to walk in a couple of weeks...but slowly.
Although Joyce Sutton was empathetic to my needs, she gave me a deadline on rent.
After six weeks I was scheduled to return to the surgeon, and have my Colostomy Take Down reversed.
Two more weeks and I returned to my old job, but now I had diarrhea at every bowel movement.
The company for which I had done support for, had started a new division, and they put me in a position as an financial support agent. That job lasted 2 days. I saw how Dell Computers interest was far beyond what I considered normal, interest rates, and told the customers, that they should not do business with a company that stole from the common person, by using exorbitant interest rates.
I was warned by the manager, and sent home the first day. The second day, I told the manager that I did not need his job anymore. I said it, in my own special way. A way that went above and beyond, the call of reason. I spoke words that were pure and simple to understand.
If my Father had been alive, he would surely have laughed, until tears flowed from his saddened, and cruel blue eyes.
Later, I'll tell you about the trip to Las Vegas. I'll have to call Dave for the details, because I don't remember that much.