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The Courts – Part Eleven

 

Our court appearance seemed like an all-day affair. Just as we had arrived, Lola took me into her office and tried to pep-talk my unpeppy mind. I was terrified. Meanwhile, my parents were both ordered to take a psychoanalytical test, where they both passed with lying colors…I mean flying colors. This was in Jays plan, and he, and his carefully molded accomplice, aced it. My mother, to no one’s surprise, stood by her man’s word. More about this test later on in the story.

The courtroom must have used an acre of trees to garnish its walls, benches, and judges throne. It smelled lemony-fresh with wood cleaner. Otherwise, it was a large, official-looking room. An enormous Mississippi State Seal was the centerpiece of the room. There were several cases before ours, in fact, ours was the last case the judge heard. I sat with my parents and watched my mother’s frazzled nerves in action. She held a paper towel and wrung it through, and around her fingers so many times that it disintegrated into small balls of cotton that fell to the floor.

After hearing numerous cases of crimes committed by delinquents, it was our turn to face the judge. Two tables were set up. One table for the accused, in this case it was I who was the accused; Lola represented me, and the defenders; my parents and their lawyer.

Each of us were called to the stand to tell our side of the story. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have lied my ass off in certain circumstances, but in this most important of all the circumstances my life had seen at that time, it was pertinent that I told every last drop of the absolute truth…as hard as it was, I did just that. “You gotta do what you gotta do, and you gotta do it good, gurl!” I told of all of the torment, the abuse, the cruelty that my father had put me and my family through.

As I spoke, I glanced at Jay and saw the familiar laser beam eyes that burned my soul, I was sure I could tell what he was thinking, and it wasn’t pleasant. I avoided looking at my mother, it was just too painful. I quickly looked to Lola, where her soft smile, and approving nod of her head kept my lips moving to the tune of the truth. It was she who had my best interest as her priority, and no one else.

My father was called to the stand. He pulled off the concerned, loving father role as good as Harrison Ford pulled off his role as Dr. Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones, Jr. It was sickening, but the judge listened carefully. Jay put all of the blame on his criminal son, who had no respect for anyone in authority. He made me look like the bad apple that he so desperately wanted to make into apple sauce.. Numerous runaways, of which he left out the reason why I ran away…of course. Stealing. He brought up every delinquent-sounding action I had ever done. “We just don’t see why he behaves this way,” he said. ”We give him everything he needs to survive in this world.” He was a pro on the stand. My stomach turned.

What a crock of shit, but it seemed as though the judge was buying it. I mean, I guess I can’t blame him. There he would sit, day after day, listening to story after story of kids gone wrong, kids from a good family who just refused to submit to the lawful ways of society. But my story was so different. The judge did not know this. All he had to go by was the hours’ worth of testimony from a scared teenager and his halo-donning father. Oh yeah, the testimony of his mother, too.

It is still difficult, after all of these years, to close my eyes and think back on this occasion. I can remember, clear as day, as my mother was called to the stand. I had a glimmer of hope that she would break the silence and come to my rescue. Shortly, I would realize that the glimmer came from a piece of broken mirror, swept into an unassuming skeleton-filled closet.

“Mrs. Pruett, please raise you right hand to acknowledge your testimony before this court is true,” the judge asked.

My mother, without even looking at me did as she was instructed.

“Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”

“I do, your honor.”

I sank into my chair as my mother lied, under oath, to protect Jay and to make me look like it was I who was the culprit responsible for making our fucked up family fucked up. Lola rubbed my knee. I wasn’t that surprised to hear her lie, but to actually hear it come out of her mouth hurt me more than I had expected. As God as her witness! It was an unimaginable feeling of defeat and betrayal.

As she spoke, I thought of the olive oil and speaking in tongues, I thought of the countless Sunday morning church services we attended, I thought of her praying…the prayer I was taught as a child….”Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord, my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord, my soul to take.”…I thought of the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father which art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not to temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.” The power, as it was, was Jay, not some Divine Being, looking down on a mess of a situation. Jay was the evil, and he tempted her into submission. A living, breathing, vile, devil, capable of dismissing a person’s faith to suit their own demented soul and its prime directive- To rule.

I held the hurt of my mother’s denial in my heart for many years, even though I understood why she did it. The hurt would follow me throughout my twenties, thirties, and a few of my forties, and would set the stage to all that made me an insatiable party boy.

The court session went on.

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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 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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(Part 18) New Orleans, 1986

“Hey kid, ya best not be makin’ any moves on my girl!” Billy smiled, as he walked through the threshold of the tiny apartment. He looked healthy, strong, sexy and well, ‘well’.

“We’ve had time to screw eighty-five times, as long as it’s takin’ your cute little butt to get back.” Dotty gave me a wink.

He made himself a plate, sat in his comfy chair and began by tearing a hole, with his toast, into the yolk of his sunny-side up eggs.

“So whadaya think Shawnny Boy? Wanna give it a go tonight?” He waited to ask until his mouth was full.

I was so naïve, so young. I wanted the money, I was just unsure of the crime. Maybe I could get my own apartment, support myself and get a real job.

“Yeah, sure, why not” I said, all gung ho, but really, I was scared. I thought again of what the guys told me about The Corner Pocket.

Dotty wanted to cut my hair, so I let her. She cut the mohawk, that I had become so accustomed, from the top of my head and assured me that it would be “better for business”. She also tied my T-shirt into a knot, at the waist, to show off my stomach, which, at this time, was more of a hollow pit than muscle. She told me it would “lure them in”. She helped me get the knot tied just right.

They brain-stormed all sorts of information to me in preparation of the coming night. Many “Do this’” and a lot of “don’t do that’s”. They gave me one-liners to say to prospective ‘John’s’ and amounts of monies to charge for different things.

Fear fought excitement as I took it all in.

So, it came to be, later that night, after the hub bub of the last tourists of the square, Billy and I stood about a block from each other. He seeking a busy night and I, the great beast of the unknown.

The cars began to circle, slowing to catch a closer glimpse of me, as they passed. My heart pounded much faster than the cars drove, but I remained, cool, calm and collected-looking, hiding, nicely, the anxiety that I truly felt. I looked over to get approval, a thumbs-up, from Billy and he was gone. He was a professional, after all.

Finally, a car that I’d seen pass me several times, came to a stop, right in front of where I was standing. The passenger’s window was rolled down. I stood, like a statue, until he motioned, with his hand, for me to come over. I went to the vehicle and stuck my head into the belly of the beast. I was shocked to see a little, skinny, old grampa-looking character, with his schnitzel hanging out of his unzipped polyesters. I followed the instructions given to me by the couple. A few questions were asked, answers given and we drove away, beast and boy. I was to be digested that night.

I woke, the next day, under the old oak tree. I didn’t have the nagging headache of a night of beer drinking, or even a begging, empty stomach, which, normally I had when waking up under that tree. What I did have was much, much worse. Shame. Disgust.

I refused to let my thoughts wander about the goings on of the previous night’s events, but I just couldn’t do it. My mind was damaged. The thoughts remained. It brought some comfort, when I pulled from my pocket, two twenty dollar bills and a few fives. I had some cash, but I felt the old man, who bought with it, my innocence, took away from it, a piece of me that was invaluable. He made me feel much the way my father did, like I really wasn’t worth a cent.

I walked the narrow streets of the Quarter, towards The Corner Pocket on St. Louis. I wanted to see it for myself. I avoided it, the whole time I had been in New Orleans, after what the guys had to say about it. I made it to the bar and walked past the front door, without stopping. I looked back a couple of times, as I walked away.

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