Saturday, July 23, 2011

Rushing the Row - Chapters 3 and 4

Chapter Three

The gray hair on his head and the lines which decorated his face indicated someone older than the sixty years that Jimmy Sullivan was. The thick hands and broad shoulders were signs of how much Jimmy worked out―about three days a week―since first being thrown into this prison cell ten years ago.

Right now he was standing by the bars of his cell, his right hand―sporting the same tattoo as his old friend Philip ―was hanging outside. “I always wanted to go back to Mexico,” Jimmy said, recalling a trip he took there before being sent to prison. He remembered it as being the best time of his life.

Standing beside the bunk bed in the cell was a tall, shirtless Mexican Indian nicknamed El Indio by the rest of the inmates. He was Jimmy’s cellmate for the past ten years and only Jimmy knew his tribal name, Diablo de la Noche.

El Indio―his chest bearing a huge tattoo of an Indian warrior―was a few years younger than his cellmate, but he could pass for forty, easy. Using Scotch tape, he was hanging a poster of Sheena Easton, in a provocative pose, to the cell wall. In his deep, peaceful voice he said, “Things will not be the same without you here.”

Jimmy’s focus was on the empty cellblock.  “I won’t be the same without these walls surrounding me.”

The towering Mexican Indian was pressing against the last piece of tape. “Six months I have left, old friend. Then I will be back in Nevada.” He turned to Jimmy now. “If by then things have not worked out for you, you are always welcomed at my home.”

Jimmy turned back and nodded, saying, “Thanks, Indio.”

“If you’d like, I can get you a job with Silvio Sollazo in Vegas. In a casino, maybe.”

“That won’t be necessary. My brother owns a bar in Philly and he got me a job cleaning there.”

“Are you looking forward to that?”

Jimmy shrugged. “I guess. It’s something. I mean, my brother is all I got.”

“You can always start a new life. If you want, I can make a few phone calls and you can be on my reservation in Nevada by next week. You would be able to find work. Find a place to live. Maybe even find a nice woman to share your years with.”

“I don’t want a new life. I could never be happy trying to start a new life. I enjoy the life I’ve been living.”

“Then, friend,” El Indio said, “you may as well stay here in this prison. Because as soon as you walk out of this prison you will begin a new life, no matter what you do. So enjoy it. But remember my offer.”

“Ready to go back?” the voice said from outside the cell.

Jimmy turned to see the prison guard waiting for an answer.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Jimmy said, unsure, not looking as happy as he should for a man being released from prison after a ten-year stretch. He turned back to his cellmate. “I’ll miss this eight by nine.”

“Good luck, amigo.”

“Have fun with your new friend,” Jimmy said, motioning to the poster.

El Indio glanced at the poster, “Sheena Easton is my greatest love. I have adored her since she first sang For Your Eyes Only.”

Jimmy held out his hand and said, “Indio, another time? Another place?”

The tall man grabbed his hand, shook it. “I will look you up when it is my turn.”

As Jimmy followed the prison guard down the cellblock, prisoners shouted their farewells to the popular inmate.

Responding to the callouts, the prison guard said to Jimmy, “You sure you don’t want to stay?” His eyes looking ahead, away from Jimmy, as he asked the question.

“As much as I’m gonna miss this place I gotta say I’m ready to leave. Besides, I’m tired of jerking off. After all these years my right hand needs a little rest, you know?”

The prison guard let out a chuckle.

They were walking through the gates now, exiting the cellblock. “So is somebody picking you up?”

“Yeah,” Jimmy said. “My brother, Harvey.”

Chapter Four

For the past two minutes Andrew Barry was looking for his other shoe. He usually kept them together in the closet, but this morning only the one shoe was under his side of the bed. His tired eyes caught a glimpse of something in the corner of the bedroom. There it was. The other shoe; he could see it now beside the hamper.

Andrew moved toward it. Slow. He didn’t want to wake up his girlfriend, Heidi, who was still sleeping. It may have been ten in the morning, but she worked as a dancer at a gentlemen’s club in Bensalem called Devil’s Den and her shift ended at two, so she was known to sleep until about noon. It used to be that Heidi would take the car once Andrew returned from work and drive herself, but since he was laid off a few months ago, he’d been driving her to and from work, just in case he needed the car.

Right about now Andrew was dead tired. He had a hard time falling asleep last night and it wasn’t until after three that he finally did. He wished he could’ve slept late, but he couldn’t. Today was pretty important, his old friend was being released from prison and he promised his friend’s brother he’d tag along to pick him up.

Andrew brushed his teeth, fixed his dark hair that was starting to gray throughout the top, and was now in the kitchen of the apartment he shared with Heidi on Knights Road, munching on some raisin bran.

A car horn beeped as he was finishing the last of the cereal. He dropped the empty bowl in the sink, opened the venetian blinds enough to peek outside, and saw the minivan parked along the curb. Sitting inside his minivan was Harvey Sullivan.

Andrew rushed to clean the bowl, not wanting to leave any dirty dishes for Heidi, and left.

They were on the ramp now, getting on I-95, heading south. Harvey was driving; at 250lbs and only 5’8” his gut was a couple of inches from rubbing on the steering wheel.

“You look like shit,” Harvey said.


“Were you up late?”

“Yeah,” Andrew said. “I picked Heidi up from the club.”

“I don’t understand why you let her dance like that.”

“Hey, my unemployment check is a fucking joke and soon it’s gonna run out anyway, so her job is what’s keeping us in our apartment.”

“Yeah, but she’s naked.”

Andrew chuckled, saying, “No shit. The reason she makes so much. She has nice tits.”

“That’s my point,” Harvey said, his eyes on the road, “you should be the only one looking at those nice tits. Not every guy who pays a cover charge. Not only that, but they probably rub up on her. Touching her in places only you should be touching.”

“She doesn’t do lap dances,” Andrew said. “Most of the time she’s singing or dancing on the stage.”

“Bullshit. I hear from guys at the bar about what goes on in those places. You pay the right amount and they go the extra mile, know what I mean?”

Andrew shook his head and adjusted his seat to lean back. He was through with hearing Jimmy’s younger brother lecture him. He watched the traffic on I-95, cars speeding past Harvey’s minivan. And Harvey was doing about sixty, Andrew thought as he squirmed in his seat, so he figured these other drivers were doing at least seventy-five.

Traveling on major highways made Andrew nervous to the point where he couldn’t drive on roads like I-95 or the turnpike. His palms would get sweaty and he would begin to feel like he was going to drive into oncoming traffic. He wasn’t always like this. It started about two years ago, he and Heidi were returning from Wildwood, around ten at night, he was driving, and without warning he began feeling like he was drifting off the road. They pulled into a rest area on the expressway and Heidi took over the wheel. Then a few weeks later they were going to visit his brother and it happened again. The stress was so much that he suffered a panic attack. That’s when he knew he had a problem. He refused to see a doctor until Heidi convinced him. The doctor told him the problem could’ve been caused by an emotional event in his life, something that could’ve happened as far back as when he was a kid, and the effects were only now surfacing. The doc prescribed him some pills, but Andrew tossed them―he didn’t like taking pills ―and decided on using his own method: he avoided driving on expressways. He could travel on them, as long as someone else was driving, like Harvey now. 

A few minutes of silence passed before either of the two men said anything. Andrew pulled down the visor to block out some of that glaring morning sun. “Hey, when was the last time you spoke to Philip?”

“Philip? Jesus…not since before Jimmy was locked up.”

“He called me this morning,” Andrew said.


“Yeah. Right before my alarm clock went off.”

Harvey was curious now. “What the hell did he want? I thought he was living in LA?”

“Probably is,” Andrew said with a shrug, “but he’s here in Philly, visiting. He wants to meet with me later.”

“About what?”

“All he told me was he had an opportunity.”

“Opportunity, huh?” Harvey shook his head. “Be careful with that guy, Andrew.” He turned to see Andrew nodding. “Philip can be a little reckless. We’re in different times now. We’re all different people.” He paused. “He’s probably the same old crazy bastard he was back then.”

“I know,” Andrew said, thinking about the night he saw Philip kill Roy. Harvey never knew Roy was murdered―as far as everyone else was concerned, Roy left his wife, running away from his problems―and Andrew wasn’t about to open his mouth.

“You actually gonna meet with him or what?”

“I don’t know,” Andrew said. “I’m debating. An opportunity is always interesting. You know, it’s easy to turn it down when you have a job and an income, but I’ve been out applying for five months and I can’t find shit. I can’t even get anyone interested enough to call me back. I’m tired of sitting around all day waiting for something to turn up. Right now I’d jump at the chance to make money.”

“Alls it is is a chance to land your ass in jail. He’s part of the reason Jimmy did ten.”

“No. Jimmy got ten because he was stupid enough to drive drunk with a couple of keys of cocaine in his trunk.”

Raising his voice a little, Harvey said, “He was moving the keys for Philip, who stole it from some idiot drug dealer. That was his opportunity to Jimmy. And look how it paid off for him.”

“Relax, Harvey.”

“Look, like I said, things are different now. People changed. I can speak for myself. I got kids now. I got responsibilities. Think about that before you agree to meet this joker. Think about your apartment, your stripper girlfriend―”

“Dancer, Harvey. She’s a dancer.”

“No,” Harvey said, sounding adamant. “If she was in the ballet she’d be a dancer, a ballet dancer. She shows her tits and twat to drunken jerks, she’s a stripper.”

“Whatever. Turn on the radio.”

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