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The Courts – Part Nine

 

A cordial introduction welcomed the two of us into her office. Lola’s strong, firm presence prevailed her petite structure. She was in control as she spoke:

“Mr. Pruett, do you know why I asked for this meeting to take place today?” She asked my father, as his forced smile began to dissipate into a stern look of power.

“Shawn has been telling you lies, and you want me to defend myself and my actions towards my son,” he responded, changing the position in his chair and crossing his arms.

“Well, Mr. Pruett, let’s talk about your actions towards your son,” she pushed, as she scribbled something onto a lined pad of yellow paper.

“And what actions do you speak of, Miss Murphy?” He spoke in a sarcastic tone.

I was still as fruit in a painting, trying my hardest to become an unnoticeable piece of décor; a fly on the wall, even. I was aware that it was inevitable that I would have to speak at some point. I did not want to be there, but I was.

She went on to describe some of the behavior I had confided in her about daily life under his roof.

My father looked at me before he spoke, “He is embellishing these stories and is not being truthful to you.”

And then, the moment I tried to hide from came.

“Shawn, will you tell me the story of what happened the night you spent with your neighbor?” She peeled my response from me, causing my still life painting to turn into a surreal one. I went on to recant the incident, as she nodded her head to me in protect. I looked at the floor as I spoke.

“Well he didn’t tell you that he stole a pack of cigarettes from me, did he, Miss Murphy?” He unfolded his arms and repositioned himself in his chair again. The tension was tight in the small office. He went on, “He didn’t tell you that he skipped school again, did he now, Miss Murphy?”

“Mr. Pruett, physical punishment is not an acceptable means of correcting this sort, or any sort, for that matter, of behavior from your son,” she told him.

“I never laid a hand on that boy,” he lied.

“Shawn, will you take a seat in the waiting area, please?” Lola asked, excusing me from what I knew would be a toxic environment soon.

I had to walk right by my father. Like I had before, I felt his searing stare burn a hole in the fragile protective covering Lola provided me as I left her office. I made myself to the small waiting area and sat, nervously, on the plastic molded seating. On one hand I was relieved not to be sitting in that office, on the other, I knew that in no time I would be faced, in the confines of a moving vehicle, with my father and his fury.

After only a short period of time, I heard the quiet of the waiting area change into a verbal commotion coming from Lola’s office. The sound waves moved as an oil pump, with the upside a loud, muffled argument, and quiet lulls on the down. Serious business was being played out between the aggressor and the protector.

The meeting ended quickly, with my father bursting from the office door. Lola followed him, yelling out, “Mr. Pruett, this meeting is not finished!” She tried to stop him.

“Watch it be,” he responded, “Let’s go, boy,” he told me, as he walked briskly by me without a glance.

I looked at Lola afraid. I would rather have been booked into the detention facility again, than go with Jay. “Go on, Shawn,” she told me, “and mind your P’s and Q’s, I will see you soon. We’re gonna get to the bottom of this mess, I promise you that.”

“Shawn, let’s go!” My father called out as he walked out of the building.

The eye of the storm had passed, short as it was, and the stage was set for the next phase. It would start with yet another long ride home.

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The Courts – Part Six

After my stint at the detention facility, I was released into my parents’ custody. Jay had a satisfied look about him, as one may have after winning the biggest prize at the carnival, when they arrived to pick me up. It gave him great pleasure to know I was troubled. I do not know why, but it did.

The court ordered two monthly meetings with Lola. Generally, my mother would take me. Jay wanted nothing to do with it. During these visits, we would discuss life issues, and such things. As usual, the first few weeks spent with my father was bearable and I had nothing derogatory to say about him. Of course, you should realize that Jay knew our family life would be under a microscope while the courts had their finger in the pie and was on his best behavior. Luckily for me, his best behavior wouldn’t last very long at all.

During one of these meetings I was scheduled to see a psychologist, where I was diagnosed with acute and severe depression, self-esteem issues, and suicidal tendencies. I don’t believe this was a surprise to anyone.

Noting this, Lola recommended me to be a participant in an upcoming study. Jay signed the consent form, I’m sure the pen moved against his will, but he signed it, none-the-less. It was a trip for at-risk adolescents with esteem issues, and was funded by a Mississippi university. The group was headed by a professor of psychology and her team of students. There was a mix-match of subjects, six of us, if my memory suits me, all having and dealing with their own issues.

We could tell, right off the bat, that this was going to be a fun trip and quickly became a unit. To my elation, Lola was one of the social workers on the team. We were on our way to Tennessee to go camping, where we would participate in some esteem-boosting exercises. We drove a large white van, with a trailer holding all of our camping gear. During this trip “Don’t Worry Be Happy”, by Bobby McFerrin, was a hit that we quickly owned. When the song played on the radio, the volume was turned up, and we sang it out loud. It sounds so tacky these days, but it is how it was.

It is through this study where I would climb a mountain and repel off of the same mountain once I reached the top. Yup, little ‘ol me climbing a mountain. Take that to the bank and cash it, will ya! We also went spelunking during this trip. My memories are happy of these times and my main memory is that climbing the mountain was easy, but I froze when it came time to repel, though. I can still hear the calls from my camaraderie’s:

“C’mon Shawn, you can do it!”

“But I’m afraid I’ll fall!” I cried out in fear.

“We won’t let you fall!”

“You’re safe!”

“C’mon down!”

“Just take the first step, don’t look down, just do it!”

“…but.”

“We know you can do it or we wouldn’t have brought you all this way, c’mon Shawn!”

I finally made it down the mountain, and to the awaiting praises from all of my peers; my friends. If you are dealing with your own esteem issues, go climb a mountain!

The trip came to an end and my life resumed, somehow better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Courts – Part Five

Eventually, I was assigned a case worker, Lola, who would turn out to be the staunchest supporter I had ever known. She would also become that special kind of friend anyone needs when going down a yellow brick road; corroded and crumbly.

She began slowly working with me to get to the root of the problem that had sent me to her. She was tough as a Marine Corp. drill sergeant, yet had a gentle, almost motherly quality about the way she counseled me. We began our visits at a sterile, stainless steel round table with five welded chairs around it. They were inmate day room tables by day, and councilors offices afterwards.

I was so nervous at first, and I told her I was. Even through unspoken words, though, it must have had to have been clear to see.  She told me, “You can put a Band-Aid on any old wound, but to be completely healed of it, a lot of honesty, and talkin’s gonna  have to happen,” and went on with her deep southern drawl, “Plus, as part of your court-ordered visit here at the detention center, you are forced to talk,” she reminded me; teasing-ish.

One thing was for certain, I was to the point where I would no longer accept the treatment I was receiving from Jay. It was time to finally come through and tell of the years of abuse, both physical and emotional (Just as before I had done, but to deaf ears.). He’d gone on too long getting away with it and I was through taking it. I was going to use this medium to finally break free from the man who bludgeoned my soul, my well-being, my self-worth and my trust.

I slowly and shyly began from the top and told her of the turmoil’s of life at my house under the control of Jay; the abuse, the name-calling, the alcoholism and all of the horrors that came with that. I told her of the denials my mother faced and how my father had brainwashed her into believing the treatment we all received was normal, and as it should be.

I let her know I was aware of his abuse for some time, but felt like the signs were ignored by the very people who could have helped me. She believed in me and turning the other cheek was not on Lola’s menu at that time. Her rosy cheek caught the fluorescence of the lighting and sparkled like glitter, on my hope. I finally had someone on my team. I can’t begin to tell you how safe it made me feel. The stainless steel table/chair combo became what I looked forward to each day I was locked up. Hard as steel, but a comfort like nothing I’d yet experienced.

Of course we talked about my behavior and how it infected a relationship that was prone to infection from the very beginning. I told her of New Orleans and Houston, but, somehow, she understood. Some of my actions she obviously was opposed to, but, she whole-heartily felt me.

Life for me at the detention facility was bearable, and I looked forward to the meetings I had with Lola; not so much for mealtimes. She promised me she would take care of me and I believed in her. Like all humans, the more time we spent with each other the more she learned and the more we bonded.

Even though I broke the law and got myself into that mess, the reason behind it all, would soon come roaring out.

 

 

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The Courts – Part Four

After the embarrassing process of redressing from my orange lovelies to the clothes I wore when I arrived had finally been accomplished, I was escorted to the waiting room of the get-out-of-jail area. It is where Jay waited, all prim and proper, with the concerned look of a concerned father masking his caring demeanor with sparkly ‘I gotcha’ eyes that only I could decipher. The look in his eyes, which I fought hard to ignore, were like laser beams burning tiny holes in the part of my skin he glanced. I felt his gaze move upwards and then down my body and could feel his distaste.

His body language spoke volumes; everything about him being there to pick me up were the tell-tale beginnings of a toss-and-turn nightmare that would soon begin. I would have nowhere to hide. My mother was not there, if she had been, it would have made a significant difference in my comfort level. Without her there I was more afraid than ever, but, then again, I knew she would have been even more of a wreck than I was, at this, the beginning of a long trip home. I was glad she wasn’t there. Sad and glad.

If my memory suits me, upon first sight of me, he said something like, “Have a nice little vacation, boy?”, or something of the sort. The officers at the desk got a good laugh outta his comment. Meanwhile, all kinds of answers to his question swirled around my mind like hungry dolphins swimming around their Sea World tank at feeding time. Sheer panic and fear kept my mouth sealed as tight as it might be if a spoonful of poison were trying to be introduced into my system. I said nothing. Jay was a poison no tight lips could escape, and the lurking shark, whose presence took away every ounce of appetite the dolphins once had, smiled wide with pride. Still, his question was a taste of the misery that my failed shenanigan would manifest.

When we made it to the truck, and to my total dismay and fright, he opened the glove box, made an ordeal about removing his Smith and Wesson, and then proceeded to remind me of his readiness to use it. He tucked it firmly inside his jeans. He was like a child with his guns. They were like toys for him. He had a license to carry them; a license to kill. Really, I think he was hoping he would get to use it. His tactic worked and I sat motionless; expressionless. I was scared of what he might do.

It was a grueling eight hour drive, sandwiched between Jay and a heavy-set friend of his who he must have brought as a stronghold of some type. My fathers truck was a Ford F-150 manual transmission bench seat.  If you’ve never been so unlucky as to be the third passenger sandwiched between two others with a long metal gear shift between your legs, you should take this bit of information as a lucky strike on your part. To make it even more uncomfortable than it already was, the factory AM/FM radio was turned off…the whole time. He knew with music, I would be able to take my mind away from the things he wanted to make sure stayed, right where he wanted them; in a place of ponder.  He knew I was in trouble, and so did I. This, I am sure, brought him great bliss. Silence makes self-condemnation torturous.

I doubt a minute passed that I didn’t think of escape, but I couldn’t, he made absolute sure. The whole drive consisted of complete silence, or worse; “You’re a bad kid,” or “You done fucked up, son,” or “Now you’re a criminal.”, or “Just wait until they get their hands on a pretty boy like you in prison,” spat with delight from my father’s cruel mouth.

I was driven directly to the Pascagoula Juvenile Detention Hall, in Mississippi, given the orange jumpsuit again, and thrown into a cell, a prisoner; lonely and scared. I think I cried for three days straight. I ate nothing and drank the bare necessity of water. The guards were not nice, as they are not supposed to be, I was in juvenile detention, after all. A bad kid. A menace to society, who was on a path of the no-gooder. If only they knew the reasons for my delinquency, maybe they would have been more sympathetic, but, at this point, in the eyes of the law I was a criminal. Jay basked in all of the glory of my demise.

 

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The Courts – Part Three

During this time, my father was still active duty in the Air Force. He would generally be gone by the time I woke to go to school, and wouldn’t get home until a couple of hours after I arrived home. I treasured those few hours; I knew that within only one hour, or so of his arrival home, he would be drunk. Once I heard the garage door open I would rush to my bedroom to take refuge from the hell I knew would soon be cast upon me.

Now, let me just remind you; Jay was not a happy drunk, in fact he was quite the opposite. He was a mean and nasty drunk and somehow seemed to have a knack to make me the mouse in his eye of the tiger. Every time he got shit-faced, I would be a target practice for his amusement. He’d find something to hone in on me about. Whether it be that the dishes were not done to his satisfaction, I left my shoes in the living room, I forgot to do something he told me to do…whatever he came up with wound up being a nightmare I would have to bear.

My mother dare not interfere, which, as you already know, was for the betterment of the incident. It still hurts to know that she was petrified of him, so much so, that she too was a trapped and caged animal unable to make the decisions to change it all, once and for all. I knew it was all fucked up, but I could do nothing to convince her to leave the man who brought so much grief and terror to our family. She, it turned out, was more afraid of him than I ever had been. She always believed that God would work things out. God never did.

Once, I remember her going through the house with a bottle of olive oil, anointing, his stash of vodka, or whiskey, beer, or whatever kind of alcohol he had in the house, speaking in tongues. She truly believed that the power of the Lord would save the man who was not a savable man. I could see the hope in her eyes; I could smell the disappointment that would come of it. I felt so sorry for her.

Just as I knew it would before I bound the bus to hell, the life I lived became unbearable. Name-calling, back-handed; lip swelling smacks, belittling, and bullying were as normal for me as it had been always. Drunken nights of his sick amusement on my behalf became the normal, once again. I knew all of this would soon be my reality before I boarded the bus back to Mississippi. I could go on and on of the wrongs that man bestowed upon me, but what’s the use? I should just leave it as simple as I can. He was inhumane and cruel towards me and a father no one would be happy to claim.

Escape plans muscled their way into my tortured mind. I had the hardest time realizing that my mother watched it all happen and did nothing. My options were limited: Kill myself and submit my torturous life to an unknown reality, or get the fuck outta there as quickly as possible. I was a God-fearing kid, so the latter would have to work itself out. Where there’s a will, there’s a way…Nanny used to tell me that, I think it may be in the Bible, but I’m not sure.

There was a gas station that my mother frequented on her way to work. All of the attendants knew her well. Plans were made with a girl from school who I was friends with, to drive me to the Biloxi Greyhound Bus Station one evening after dinnertime. It was my time to escape. You gotta do, what you gotta do, after all.

I called the little convenience store, pulled off an Oscar winning portrayal of my sweet mother’s voice and told them that I would soon arrive with a sixty-dollar check. I bought a carton of cigarettes with part of it, gave my friend a little gas money, and had just enough for a ticket back to Houston. Following the old adage, “Desperate people do desperate things,” I was outta there. Jay had been beating me up, tormenting me and making my life a living hell. I was a captured cat in a cage bound for euthanasia. It was the only chance I had to get away. Yes, I broke the law, I think you may have too, if you were in my shoes. Freedom, this time would turn out to be but a brief moment in time.

I took the Greyhound Bus back to Houston and went directly to my friend Kyle’s house. His was the only place I felt safe, I trusted him and his family. Knowing my mother would be worried sick, I called her ‘collect’ to let her know I was okay. It was the mistake that warrants this part of my story. Upon receiving the call, and most assuredly at my fathers insistence, my mother told the operator I was a runaway. I quickly hung up the phone, thinking that if I hung up, the call couldn’t be traced, you know, like they do in the movies. Damn movies, they lie!

The next morning I was awakened by two Houston Police Officer’s. I mean they had full guns drawn; the whole bit. It was very scary, as you might imagine it would be. I was taken downtown and to juvenile jail, where I traded my clothing for an orange jumpsuit, awful plastic sandals and a blanket. I stayed there for about a week, until my father came to pick me up. Jail seemed like a better alternative.

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The Courts – Part two

Shortly after my arrival, and as promised, I was enrolled, once again, into Hillbilly High. You should know, first off though that my parents decided to buy a house in Van Cleave, right before I began the ninth grade. It was, to me, like a potato sack filled with red bricks, dropped directly on top of my soul; to them, their dream home. It would also prove to be the worst ‘new kid in school’ experience I had ever experienced, and I experienced a lot of them.

So, there I went, on my first day, all awkward and shit, kinda effeminate, but definitely different, walking into this new school out in bum-fuck M-eye-crooked-letter-crooked-letter-eye-crooked-letter-crooked-letter-eye-hump-back-hump-back-eye. All of the kids had gone to school together since kindergarten, and ‘Ta-dah’, there I was, a strange kid in a strange place. No confederate flags, no cowboy boots, a mullet, or even a truck. I was just some sissy boy, wearing some faggety-assed Calvin jeans, feathered hair, riding the yellow bus to school, donning huge red and swollen pimples, and dreadfully shy. I was a target right away.

I resumed my classes quickly, and I soon became the topic of tabloid royalty. Just as in any small town, the first person to spread the big cheese is like a demi-god, so naturally, and immediately upon my re-admittance, questions were raised as to my whereabouts during the time I had been away. Several classmates became close to me, to get the dirt, but I told no one the truth. I made up some sort of BS rigamaroar, just dim enough to where I knew the rumor wouldn’t be nearly as juicy as they’d have liked it to be, and I’d be spared ridicule. It wasn’t their business, and I don’t believe they would have taken too kindly to the truthful answers to all of their questions.

Of course thinking back, maybe I should have told the truth as to where I’d been, what I’d done, and whose company I kept. Controversy sells, gurl! But I didn’t, and still, just as before, the bullying continued. Every new day brought with it just a little more isolation. If it wasn’t the kids at school, it was Jay, or, many days I’d get it from both ends. Misery was upon me and happiness was only a fresh and fantastic memory, seemingly never obtainable again.

“Welcome back, fag.”

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The Courts – Part One

 

I was numbed by the fact that I was on a bus headed straight for the torment I thought, for sure, I had finally escaped. The long bus ride home gave me time to reflect on the world that was really out there, a world where freedom was possible. I thought of all of the cruel and sickening shit Jay had done in the past and cringed at the fact that I would soon be under his roof to endure whatever he threw my way. I thought of the promise I made my mother to enroll back into Van Cleave High School; and the bullying red-necks of whom I would soon be surrendered. I even thought of life with a dad who loved me, cared for me and wanted, more than anything, for me to succeed in life, but I knew better. That was not meant for me in this life. I knew that the moment I arrived home, I would be captured again.  My capturer knew he would have me right where he wanted me; in a prime position. No car, no escape. That, I felt, was meant to be my life.

The moment the bus crossed from Louisiana into Mississippi, my heart rate increased and my palms moistened into a clammy mess. The Magnolia State was a scary place, and I just rolled right back into it all. There was no room for positive thoughts, I knew Jay far too well. Not even the love of a mother could ease my worried heart. Cedrique’s last words to me helped a little, and even made me smile, “You gotta do what you gotta do, gurl, and you gotta do it good!” If I were to take anyone’s advice at this point, it would most definitely be Cedrique’s.

As the bus pulled into the Biloxi depot, I saw my parents standing and waiting for me outside of their car. Across the Highway were the white sandy beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. A boat was but a dreamy non-exist. I coyly raised my hand in wave through the bus’ scratched window, and forced my weary lips into a reserved, but upturned smile. Seeing my mother soothed the pain of the sight of Jay; she was the reason I agreed to come back, not him. First contact was sweet and cordial, like beautiful wrapping with a huge bow, covering a box containing just-squeezed shit; warm and moist. I was scared knowing that I would be back in such an environment; back in his lair. How long the bow would remain tied; a mystery, but from past experiences, it wouldn’t be long before the present was torn opened and the proverbial fan turned to the ‘on’ position. For now, though, ice cream, lollypops, and peaches with cream.

As we drove the curvy country streets to a small house, deep in the woods, a depression, long controlled by the luxury of freedom, was cast upon me. The closet’s door, that I finally came hop-scotching out of just weeks ago, opened up for me to crawl back inside. Walking into the house for the first time, the stale scent of thousands of smoked cigarettes gave me a headache. Memories raced through my mind, I was a scared, nervous wreck. I lit a cig for relief.

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