introducing the 'creative corner': a bi-weekly series of creative content by currently and formerly incarcerated people!: 'my hour' by Jeremy richard
We're excited to announce the launch of Creative Corner, a bi-weekly blog post featuring creative content made by currently or formerly incarcerated people! For our inaugural post, we're sharing a short story written by Jeremy Richard, who is currently incarcerated at Angola State Penitentiary.
It’s a cold winter day, the prisons steel bars icy to the touch. I exhale a foggy cloud of breath with a sigh and slump my shoulders at the thought of spending yet another lost day in this empty cell. The television has become boring, and with it, so have I. The only “getting lost” I’m doing these days is in my thoughts, memories. Hours spent dreaming about freedom. It seems as though I can recall every single day of my past life. My life before prison.
My stomach growls angrily as I count down the minutes until chow (prison slang for breakfast, lunch and dinner.) It makes me feel like a dog, one awaiting its negligent owner to feed it. And I pace, back and forth--a yellow plastic spoon in hand--from one end of my cell to the next. Even though it’s only nine feet to and fro, it’s still sort of soothing, calming.
Though I hate behaving like this, like an animal. It’s becoming something I can’t control as easily as I once did. A result of being caged in a box twenty-three hours a day for the past five years.
I find it simply fascinating that I have walked more miles in this cell than I ever did out of it. They say you never fully appreciate the value of something until that thing is gone. I find this to be true. For me, it’s walking ten feet without hitting a brick wall. You could say, I’m in a tight spot. If it wasn’t for my good humor, I would have lost a few screws long ago.
Breakfast arrives and with it, so does my favorite drink. This is a booze free facility, so I’ve had to substitute my drinking problem. I still have one but now, if I drink too much coffee, at least I won’t be found the next morning sleeping it off on my neighbor’s lawn.
The pancakes are dry and the oatmeal’s soggy but it’s all going to end up in my belly so who cares? I empty six packs of sugar on top of my oatmeal, whip it up, then add six more on top of that. I like my oats super sweet, my coffee bitter. Not using this many packs would be like breaking the law because I’ve been using this exact amount of sugar in my oatmeal for about three years now. I wasn’t like this before prison, but this place has either given me OCD, or gone into my treasure chest of hidden disorders to fish it out.
Now that my breakfast is finished, it’s time to wait on my owner, the correction staff, to bring the chains to take me and any other inmates who wish to go on a walk to the yard. We get a one hour yard three times a week.
Sgt. Loyd approaches my cell with a set of shackles and I greet him with a respectful and positive attitude just like I would were I in his shoes and he in mine.
“Good morning, Mr. Loyd,” I say, unconsciously tilting my hands in an attempt to make his job easier.
“Keep getting smart, boy, and I’m gonna show you a good morning,” he replies with a look I’m glad can’t kill me. Sometimes I think this place screws them up more than it does the inmates.
The lady in the control booth opens my cell door at his command, and I wonder as I trudge down the tier if she laughs at my pacing while watching me via the camera in my cell. I assure myself it doesn’t matter and continue on, down the familiar path that leads the way out of this building. A building that, give or take nineteen, maybe twenty, is home to over eighty other inmates who have been sentences to the grim reality of death, of which I’m not one.
I’m glad that yard-call has started in the front of the tier today. I’m in cell number 1. This means I get dibs on the yard pens, to pick the best basketball and goal. Some of them are in pretty bad shape. It’s sad this has become my life, but yard eighteen’s got the goods, so that’s where I’m headed.
On the outside, I may seem happy and content, but deep inside there is a bulging box of hurt and shame that weighs me down. If you pay close enough attention, you’ll notice the lazy drag of my feet across the concrete walkway and how my head hangs low. Behind my bright, engaging smile, a storm system silently brews. Not one with violent intentions, but one in search of relief. Like a bloated cloud heavy with the need to rain.
After the yard, Sgt. removes my shackles. I let out a joyful burst of barks. This receives a few questioning looks from the staff and my fellow inmates alike. The ones that don’t know me probably think I’m losing it, but those who do, know that this is just me making light of my situation. If you can’t do that, then your time will do you.
My first five shots are nothing-but-net, but there isn’t anyone watching so they don’t count. I miss the next ten before finally making another, and I notice I’ve been talking to myself the entire time. I should be embarrassed but most of the others are doing it too. So I say, the hell with it, and take another jumper. “Swish.” I had a few fans for that one. Let me tell you, a huge ego boost.
And for a moment, the razor wire and concrete is replaced by a wooden floor that’s been polished to a high sheen, with all the makings of a pro-court. There is only one lonely second left on the game clock and coach knows I’ve got the best long distance shot.
“Make me proud, Richard.” With the coach’s plea, my teammates know to get me the ball as soon as possible.
We’re down by two points but there’s not enough time to tie it up. It’s on me to win this thing. I take my position at the half court mark and shake out the tension from my hands. This is going to take my all.
Our team’s center, Jack, a seven-foot giant, shoots a bullet at me and I catch it, fighting back the pain from the sting of ball connecting with hand. I take two steps towards the goal and let it fly. A beautiful arc.
Time slows to a snail’s crawl. The only audible sound in the stadium is the pounding of my racing heart. The slow rotation of the ball in mid-air reminds me of the earth spinning on its axis. And I watch it, falling back...slow, slow, heading for the goal. Almost there, dipping towards the lip of the rim as the clock ticks its last second. Almost...Almost…
“Richard, if you keep blacking out, I’m gonna put you on mental health watch!” The yard sarge yells, loud enough to hurt my ears. He’s standing at the gate, waiting with a set of shackles in his hand.
I blink my eyes and take one last look at the threadbare ball as it gently rolls away.
My hour is up.
If you or someone you know is a currently or formerly incarcerated person with creative content to offer, please submit your materials to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll be in touch! We'll share the content on social media and always give credit to the artist(s) involved. Any type of submission--whether stories, poems, illustrations, music, videos or something else--are welcome!