Submitted by John L. Lincicome.
The hallways were clean and crisp, the overhead lights fluorescent, everyone’s footsteps echoed down the corridor and heralded in a rational fear to those of us destined for the judgement of what was to come as we did the walk of shame, one step at a time.
I spose the echoing thing was just a normal sound in the “any” day for those familiar with those halls; the prosecutors and their staff, the ones bent on a career that took no hostages. The ones that’d all become quite familiar with the empty sound in the hallways of justice as they clod hopped to the set of double doors that visited entry to the courtroom. Especially if they were ever to rise above the juvenile justice system to seek their fame and fortune in the bigger scheme of things. Politically ambitious comes to mind, legal of education, bent on stuffs that have little to do with justice, and more to do with their selfish ambitions.
It was my second perp walk down them courtroom halls on the 1st floor in the old, multi-story, red brick building that was known as Remann Hall in the 60’s. The 1st floor was a home to orphan kids that a juvi-perp could spy from one of the second floor cells as they, the orphan kids, played around the pool down below at the rear of the building in the light and warm of a summertime day back in the 60’s. The cell that had the view was 301. I’d spent time in 301, but for the purpose of this story the cell that matters is 303.
After intake/booking was complete, and bein’ issued a pair of white, PE shorts and a white, short sleeved tee shirt, I remember packin’ my mattress and sheets and blanket and pillow that I was assigned through the bowels of the old place, escorted by Crater Face the jailer guy, to my new home in 303.
The hallways leading to that cell had the same echo quality on the 2nd floor as they did on the first, though there were sounds of anguished young souls in the backdrop of the place on the 2nd floor that no one could hear on the 1st floor. I know that for a fact. Don’t know if it was my imagination that locked in on those sounds, or my scared-dar. Don’t make no nevermind. Then. Or now.
Enroot to the 2nd floor digs the jailer and I walked. It was haunting, ugly if you will, eh? Everything echoed. Each time we got to a new doorway the jailer fella would pull out a key that was on a spring loaded thing on his belt, and the clinky jingle jangle of his keys echoed in the cement hallways. I don’t recall if there were steps or an elevator to the 2nd floor. Odd that. What I do recall next was that…
The cells on the 2nd floor in the old Reman Hall, the cells for the guys, were numbered 301 – 305. My 2nd go round, the root of this write, I was placed in 303 along with 1 other fella.
There were two metal bunks in 303, and presumably in the other cells, too. 301 for sure… A flush mounted single, 15 watt bulb incased in a light fixture in the cement ceiling that was never ever turned off illuminated the cell day and night, a wall hung, white, toilet with a built in sink on the back was where a fella did his business. There were three, chrome push buttons incased in the cement wall behind the plumbing affair to flush the toilet, or select warm or cold water for the sink.
There was a single window that measured about 2.5 feet wide by 3.5 feet tall that appeared to have once been a double hung window, but had been changed out into a picture window with a heavy mesh of latticed/woven threads steel on the interior side of it, at the long end of the cell. On the other end of the cell was…
The door to the cell. It was heavy and when the jailer shut that door, the sound of the slam echoed down the halls of the place, followed by the jingle jangle of his keys as they set the lock, and a moment later his footsteps as he walked, then the sound of his keys as they entered the lock in the door at the end of the hall could be heard. Creepy comes to mind.
The bottom bunk of the cell had a bed roll on it. The fella that called that cell home before me was still there, his name was Chris. Chris was about my age, similar height/weight/build and didn’t look tough on the outside, but had this insanity thing goin’ on in his eyes. Freaked me out a bit.
“You’re on top” he said just after the sound of the cell door slammed shut and the jingle jangle of the jailer’s keys and footsteps and the next door thing did their magic.
I threw my bedroll on the top bunk, and when I did the flat, sheet metal of the bed of the bunk buckled and the sound echoed in the cell and trough the corridors. I climbed up and on it and made my bed and wondered why the fella that was my cellmate, was in there.
After I was done makin’ my bed I sat on the edge of it and peered into the 6×10 cell that would be my home for the next few weeks. Peered at the fella, Chris, that was my cellmate. He was standing in one of the corners of the cell near the window. He was spitting into the corner of the walls then watchin’ it drool as it did its thing and ran down the inside corner of the cement walls. All the while he had his hands, both of them, in his PE shorts. Pocket billiards come to mind. Seemed like he did that forever. But, there came a time he stopped and turned, took his hand out of his shorts and asked;
“What cha in for?”
My truth was that I was charged with car theft. I was guilty of it, too. I told him so. Don’t spose I should-a-been so forthcoming’ with the guilt thing. His eyes betrayed his demeanor and he unwittingly visited that uncomfortable feelin’ unto me that comes just before the ugly stuff.
We got to talkin’ and stuff, about our used to be’s and the stuff that got us in the fixes we were in. Came a time he told me he’d been in there for months, and should-a-got out a long time ago. He was an angry, young white guy with a world of trouble behind, and in front of him, too.
Cam a time the talkin’ was done. Then there…
Came a time he ripped the sheets off his bunk, then tied one of them them in knots about a foot apart up the length of the sheet.
“Watch this” he said as he took the knotted sheet over to the toilet.
With one hand he gently eased one end of the knotted sheet into the bowl of the toilet never letting go of it, with the other hand he compressed the toilet flusher button thing on the wall. He let go of the sheet in short bursts as the toilet struggled to evacuate the sheet, but Chris wouldn’t let the toilet have the sheet all at once. He dolled out the sheet one foot at a time until the toilet jammed.
The water in the bowl crested the rim and began to flood the cell as he laughed outloud, proud of his accomplishment, hands in his PE shorts by then.
Came a time fella’s in the other cells down the hall were getting’ flooded and the hootin’ and hollarin’ started. It felt like a zoo…
Came the time the door at the end of the hall could be heard slamming open, then the jingle jangle of the jailer guy’s keys as they found violent friction in the lock of our cell door. Then the door slammed open and in a nano second their stood Crater Face.
Crater Face was in his late 40’s or early 50’s or so by virtue of my memory. He was the sort of fella that must have had a severe acne problem as a kid. And now, as an adult he was scary to look at, to me anyway. Or to be looked upon, by him, for that matter. Crater Face shouted an expletive or two at Chris as he entered the cell, and then manhandled Chris such that Chris’s hands were behind his back, then forced the kickin’ and screamin’ Chris kid out of the cell door, down the hall and out the other door. The other door slammed shut, but no jingle jangle of the keys, just the hoots and hollers of Chris and fella’s in the other cells that wondered what all the fuss was about. The sound of Chris bein’ taken away faded, the farther away he and the jailer got. Like a train in the distance.
Came a time some other staff people came up, and brought mops and buckets with ‘em. They opened the cell doors of the other fella’s and gave us all a mop and/or a job to do to clean it all up.
I thought of that day as I entered the courtroom on the 1st floor for the 2nd time in three months. Two convictions for car theft. While its true I stole them cars, it’s also true that the keys were in ‘em at the time, and I figured that should account for somethin’, eh? Mom was with me at both court appearances. The old man had other stuff to do. Besides, he figured if I got myself into this crap, then I had to get myself out of it.
“If it don’t belong to ya, leave the thing alone, Johnny!” he say it in a colorful sort of way when he was lit and mad and givin’ me the “what for” thing.
He was right. I learned that. Took me two go rounds at juvi, but I finally got “it”.
The door to the court room closed soft like. Then it opened again as others came in while mom took her seat somewhere behind where my place of dis-honor was at the defense table. My caseworker, Jim Christopherson was there. I don’t know if I had an attorney or not, all I remember is Mr. Christopherson was there, and a judge and some other people, and my mom somewhere behind me.
I was 14 the 1st go round, and barely 15 the 2nd go ‘round in that court room. On probation for the first thing, I wasn’t feelin’ too optimistic that I was gonna go home that afternoon. The alternative to home was Cascadia, or some such place that housed kids that did crummy stuff back then.
The adults all got to talkin’ and when all was said and done I got off with word of caution & probation until my 18th birthday, on the condition that I didn’t swipe no more cars and stuff.
I was pretty happy about that. Didn’t care much for the whole juvi experience, and all the worryin’ and gnashin’ of teeth when my head hit the pillow come the night times back then.
On the way home, mom was drivin’ her 1963 ford Falcon Futura, a car that would one day be mine for $100. She was happy/relieved, I could see it in her damp eyes. We drove the streets in the area and came upon the Holland Drive Inn near Fircrest. It was a smallish burger joint that had no inside seating, just a window where a fella ordered and paid and stuff.
“You hungry?” asked mom as she pulled into the place and shut the simple ford down ad into “Park”.. We’d never been there before, but had driven passed it several times.
“Yeah mom” I said.
She pulled in we two went to the window thing to order.
Came a time the order was done and I fetched it and brought it back to the car.
We ate in silence. When we were done I took the trash to the can in the parking lot.
“Is dad home?” I asked after getting’ back in the car.
“No” she said.
We never spoke of that day again. She never brought the whole thing up in anger or any of that stuff ever again.
Kid life ain’t easy no matter what you think.
John L. Lincicome lives in Tacoma and you can read more Kid Life stories on the You Know Your From Lakewood, WA If… Facebook Page.