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Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

87_ym_littlejimmysspecialdays_hstanton.jpg
Art by Henry Stanton 2021

LITTLE JIMMY’S SPECIAL DAYS

 

By

 

Tom Barker

 

 

          Fred Jenkins and his nine-year-old son, Jimmy, sat at the kitchen table glaring at each other.  Jimmy’s intense facial expression was an indicator of his hatred. Fred was on his fourth 16-ounce Miller Lite.

          “Goddamn, I ain’t gonna sit here with you looking at me like I’m a cockroach or something like that. I’m gonna finish my beer on the balcony.”

          The swaying man walked to the sliding glass door.  He held the beer in his left hand and slid the door open with his right. As he stepped out onto the balcony, his right foot scraped the metal track and he lost his balance.  Off-balance, Fred started falling forward, knocking over a chair and falling against the black metal railing.  One hand held on to the railing and the other hand had a death grip on the beer.

          Little Jimmy’s heart raced, and adrenalin pumped through his body.  This is it. I’ve been waiting for this to happen, Little Jimmy said to himself.  The 65-pound boy put his hands out in front of him and ran to his unsteady father. Jimmy slammed into his father’s back at full speed, pushing the man over the railing.  Jimmy watched him flail his arms like a windmill in a desperate but futile attempt to grab something on the way down. The man hit the concrete six floors below with a splat, still holding the beer can.

When his father’s head burst open on the pavement, Jimmy went in and picked up the phone.

          “9-1-1,” the soft female voice said. “Is this an emergency?”

          "Yes, ma'am, it is."

          “How old are you?” She asked.

          “I’m nine”

          “OK, young man, what’s your emergency?”

          “I just pushed my father off the balcony.”

          “What?” The dispatcher’s voice rose as she asked, “Is he injured?”

          “No, he’s dead, I’m sure.  Yes ma’am. I’m sure he’s dead.”

          “What’s your name?”

          “Jimmy.”

          “Is your mother there?

          "No ma'am, she's not."

          “Where is she?”

          “She’s dead.  My father killed her.”

          “Oh My God.  Don’t hang up.  Please don’t hang up. I’ll send someone to help you. I know your address.  It’s up on the screen.  Open your front door and sit down somewhere they can see you.  The police are on their way.  Keep talking until they get there."

          The horrified dispatcher turned to a gray-haired dispatcher on her right and asked, "Why would a nine-year-old boy kill his father?" 

"Huh, I don't know."

xxx

 

Rachel Jenkins, the thirty-one-year-old mother of six-year-old Jimmy, sat on the sixth-floor balcony of their ten-story apartment building.  The balcony provided a perfect platform for her to watch the sun go to rest in the evenings and rise in the morning.  She enjoyed the panoramic beauty of the valley. She gazed at the patches in the trees and saw the high school where she and Fred met. She saw the church where they married and the hospital where Little Jimmy was born.  

Alone, as usual, Rachel reflected on her life with Fred through the rearview mirror of her mind.  She and Fred were now roommates, not lovers. Fred no longer held her tight or caressed her hair or snuck a kiss and a pat on her butt when Little Jimmy wasn’t looking. In the early years of their marriage, when the leaves fell off the trees, he often said, “Look Rachel, that’s where we were married.  Remember that day.”  That was before the slow travel down the path to destruction made Fred a monster.

Rachel knew Fred's spirit was broken by the comparisons to high school friends’ success. Fred was living in a prison of his own making—a point she heard his father tell him the last time they spoke to each other.

     “It’s just not fair.  I was smarter than my friends were,” he told his father.

  “It’s not their fault.  They learned to control their liquor and you never did.” The old man said. Fred never forgave the kindly man for that remark.

Fred didn't go to his father’s funeral.  He finally agreed to let Rachel go, but she couldn't take the baby.

A shadow crossed her face as memories of Fred and his love for Jimmy returned. She forced a smile. She was getting good at this. Once, years before, Fred spotted the hospital where Jimmy was born from the balcony.  "Look, Rachel, that's where Jimmy was born.  That was a special day. He was the first male child on Dad’s side of the family.  He will carry on the Jenkins name.”

          Where is that Fred now? She asked herself as memories of what had been and what was now filled her thoughts.   Slowly Fred had dissolved into an apparition of who he’d been.  Fred was a hard-drinking mean mockery of the man she married.  He spent his time cocked and ready to explode at any annoyance.   Last Friday was the worst example of Fred’s bad behavior.

          Fred came in from work late.  His staggering walk and smell of liquor confirmed Rachel’s suspicion that he’d stopped off at a bar on the way home.  He began haranguing her immediately. His blood-shot eyes blazed with rage.

 "Did you pick up my suit at the cleaners, like you said you would?" His words slurred together. There was acid in his voice.

          “No, I didn’t have time.  I’ll get it tomorrow.  They’re open on Saturday.”

          “God damn.  Talk.  Talk. Talk, that’s all you do.  Can’t you ever say you’re going to do something and then do it?”

          “Oh, my God. Fred, please, Little Jimmy is in the den.  He can hear you."

          “What?  He knows you can't be trusted to do what you say you're going to do. He knows you just talk and talk.” 

With that outburst, Fred threw his half-empty beer can at Rachel, striking her in the head. She screamed and stood in stark disbelief as trickles of blood slid down her face.  She saw Jimmy run into the kitchen. Dead silence.  His frozen look of shock and disbelief said it all.  He looked at his dad and ran to his room.  Rachel suspected he crawled under his bed.  That was always where she found him after his dad’s outbursts.

          That night at Jimmy’s bedtime, Rachel stopped at Jimmy's bedroom door and heard him praying. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she heard Little Jimmy say, “God, please help us.  Why do mama and daddy scream and holler at each other?  Why does he hurt Mama?  He told me she makes him do it by not doing what she says she will do. Does Mama make him do it, God?  God, please help us.” 

Rachel sucked in her breath and sobbed quietly as she tucked Jimmy in and turned off the light. Maybe Fred will be different Monday? She told herself. Surely he won’t act like that again.  Little Jimmy is so excited. He calls it his special day. They were going shopping for his school supplies on Monday.

xxx

 Monday morning, the effects of too much alcohol and too little sleep were evident in Fred’s face. "I'm so sorry and promise to do better," he said before leaving for work.  A sad smile twisted across her face. Rachel knew his acts of contrition snowballed into more and larger lies and false promises. I just don’t know how much more I can take. This has to end. I'll end it if I have to.  She waited for Little Jimmy to come into the kitchen.  

Rachel slowly drank her coffee and reviewed the list of what a first-grade student needed:  #2 pencils, crayons, glue sticks--what are these, she mused?”, a box of tissues-Jimmy will need this. He sneezes all the time. Need to get him checked for allergies, but Fred says that costs too much and he’ll grow out of it—pink eraser—Why pink? Fiskar scissors—Huh? Pencil case, ruled spiral-bound notebooks and pocket folder.  Good Lord! She thought, Fred, will hit the ceiling at the cost.  But Jimmy needs these things, and he is so excited about going to school. It’s a special day for my little boy. Fred will understand.

She heard him coming down the hall at a fast clip. He burst into the kitchen at exactly 8:30.    He must have set that travel alarm I bought him at the Dollar Store last week.  Jimmy said he had to have one now that he was going to school.  The blond-haired boy with sparkling blue eyes and a constant smile splayed on his face popped into his chair and turned to his mother, making French toast, his favorite all-time breakfast meal.

“Where are we going first?” Jimmy asked and bounced in his seat grinning from ear to ear.

"Whoa, Jimmy, calm down.  Target, I think we'll go to Target first. But we have to wait until ten o'clock when they open."  She rubbed the top of Jimmy’s head vigorously and poured him some orange juice.

 

As Rachel drove into Target’s parking lot, Jimmy pulled his list out of his pant’s pocket.

"Do you have your list?" he asked, waving his smoothed-out list in the air.

"Of course, I do.  Calm down, Jimmy, you’re going to knock someone or something over,” she cautioned.     

Jimmy ran through the door, barely waiting for it to open.  His mother

followed as he scrambled up and down the aisles, pointing to the things he needed.

“There. I need that,” he said.  A few steps down the aisle Rachel put the pencils in the basket. He pointed again, “There are the erasers and notebooks.”  He picked up his pace and continued pointing to what he needed.  Rachel felt a sense of pride. Her polite young boy didn’t pull anything off the shelf.  She had taught him well.  I never had to scream and threaten to knock the shit out of Jimmy to get him to behave as Fred does, she thought.

Finished at Target, they moved to Penney's.  Rachel had a surprise.  She had seen a backpack in Penny’s that she knew Jimmy would love.  It was only $14.99.  Fred would not get mad this time, After all, it will make Jimmy happy, and it is his special day, she thought.  When she pointed at the Mickey Mouse backpack, Jimmy could hardly contain himself.

"That's it! That's it.  Remember, the one on the Disney Cruise.  Can I get it to carry my stuff to school?”

"Of course, you can have it.” 

Rachel remembered the Disney Cruise last year. Fred was drunk most of the time.  “This damn boat doesn’t even have a casino, but they do have bars. You guys do the Disney thing and meet me at the lounge,” he said every day after dinner. Jimmy saw a similar backpack in the ship's store and wanted it, but Fred said it was too expensive.  “I’ll order it online when we get home.  They’re cheaper online,” Fred said.  He never ordered one.

xxx

The shoppers returned to the apartment, ate, and waited for Fred. Jimmy set out all of his new supplies and the backpack on the table for his dad to see.   About an hour later, Fred came in swaying visibly drunk and carrying an 18-pack of Miller Lite. Rachel held her breath as Fred bee-lined to the table.  Fred swept it clean with his hand and screamed, "How much did this shit cost me?" Stunned silence enveloped the room.   Jimmy started crying and picking up his treasures.  Fred grabbed them from him as fast as he could.  Rachel yelled, "Jimmy, run to your room and stay there."   The shouting continued.

"Dammit, bitch, you spend all my hard-earned money on bullshit."

          “Me? You drink up everything you make,” Rachel screamed.

          “I’ll whip your ass,” Fred yelled as he hit Rachel in the mouth.

She put her hand to her bloody mouth and garbled out, “I can’t take it anymore. I’m going to kill myself.”

"Talk! Talk! That is all you do and say.  Do it bitch, bitch kill yourself," He screamed, opening the balcony’s sliding door. “Go ahead, bitch, jump off the balcony you love so much.”

Rachel raced to the rail, stopped, and turned.  She calmly said, "I want to say goodbye to Jimmy."

"OK, bitch, I'll get him."

 

Fred ran to the bedroom and yanked Jimmy out from under the bed, “Come on, Jimmy.  Your mother wants to say goodbye.”

When they reached the balcony, Rachel sat on the railing.  Rachel and Fred locked eyes without feeling.  She looked down into the abyss of death before her.  Fred held the struggling Jimmy's hand and made no move toward her. She turned and waved to Jimmy and said almost in a whisper, "Goodbye, Jimmy, mama loves you."  She leaned forward and hurtled to her death without a scream.

          Jimmy weakly waved and sat on the floor, crying, "Mama. Mama." 

          “Damn, I didn’t think she would really jump,” he told the terrified little boy. “Shit, what do I do now?”

          Fred calmly walked to the refrigerator and pulled out a Miller Lite and popped the top and dialed 9-1-1.  

          “911. Is this an emergency?” the dispatcher said.

          “Yeah, I guess it is.”

          “Well, what is your emergency?”

          “My wife jumped off our balcony.”

          “Is she injured?”

          “I guess so.  The balcony is on the sixth floor.”

 A long pause and then the dispatcher said. "Give me your address and I will send the police and EMS.”

          Fred gave the information, opened another beer, and waited.

          Little Jimmy sat on the balcony, crying and waiting.

xxx

          Little Jimmy, now ten years old, finished his story and looked up at the kindly-appearing juvenile court judge. She rubbed her fingers through her grey hair and then addressed Little Jimmy.

          "Jimmy, I know that losing your mother, under those circumstances, was a tremendous blow.  However, Jimmy, that does not excuse the intentional murder of your father.  What you have now is a special day to redeem yourself and cope with your problems.  I am going to give you the opportunity to set your life on a new path.  I sentence you to twelve years.  The first nine years will be served in a state juvenile facility.  While there you can take advantage of the opportunities to receive counseling and get your high school diploma and maybe even learn a trade. After you’re released when you turn eighteen, you will be under adult supervision for the remaining three years.  Jimmy, don’t you see that this is a special day for you. A special day to turn your life around and make your mother proud?”

          "Yes ma’am, thank you for this special day," Jimmy responded. “I will learn a lot, I’m sure.”

          Little Jimmy did learn a lot in the juvie institution.  He was going to be another state-raised criminal.  The first thing he learned was that the staff and the older boys sexually abused the younger boys.  Screams in the night taught him that.  Dope was available if you had the money.  Money was no problem.  Parents and friends supplied most of the boys with canteen money. The older stronger boys took it from them.  Classes were a joke.  Jimmy did get this GED because he paid the tester. The money to pay the tester came from shaking down the weak. 

Jimmy cliqued up with the white “Go Get Em” gang.  Jimmy was a respected killer who showed no remorse.  He carried a homemade shank after his first rape.  Little Jimmy, now known as “Ace” was left alone. The other gang members recognized a budding tush-hog who would kill again if provoked.  Ace learned how to “hot wire” a car and pick a lock.  Two street-wise gang members showed him how to get in the bottom of a safe—the weakest part.  The gang members practiced “till-tapping” and purse snatching. 

Ace had learned the secrets of the city's underworld when he was released at eighteen.  All that Jimmy learned came to naught six months after his release. He got busted for stealing a car. His probation was revoked and Jimmy was ordered to go to Holman prison for the remaining three years of his sentence.  Ace was promoted to crime college.

An enforced eerie cemetery silence lay like a funeral shroud over the train platform, as prisoner number A50894 looked down the track.  A lone flickering three-bulb metal light fixture dangled from the roof and cast a dim light on the surreal scene. Nine shackled and chained men and two teenage boys sat with Jimmy on a concrete bench in the open-sided gunmetal platform staring down the tracks. The sour smell of sweaty and unwashed men mixed with the odor of feces and urine.  The solemn group of wrongdoers was together in a common purpose—a ride on the Midnight Train to Holman Prison. Two men in red-scarlet jumpsuits sat apart from the group with two shotgun carrying guards watching them.  These walking dead men had an assigned date to ride the lightning sitting in Yellow Mama’s lap—the state’s electric chair. Four other hardened and dead-eyed men were sentenced to life without parole under the "three strikes" habitual offender law.

"Watch out for them,” a guard told Jimmy. “Them double dangerous men got no regard for human life, theirs or anyone else’s.”

The two seventeen-year-old black gangbangers on the bench were tried, convicted, and sentenced in adult court for armed robbery.  They, like Jimmy, were state-raised felons who graduated into crime high school.  

Prisoner A50894 looked forward to one more special day.  In three years he would lose the number and become Ace again.

Little Jimmy was a faded memory.


Tom Barker is a well-published national and international expert on police misconduct and crime. His publications include scholarly books, textbooks, nonfiction books, fiction short stories and novels. One of his short stories Foul, Evil, Deeds is a fictionalized account of the horrific 1963 Bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church. His recent books—2020 publication date- include Aggressors in Blue; Exposing Police Sexual Misconduct—Palgrave-- and Law Enforcement Perpetrated Homicide—Accident to Murder. His short stories are based on real events. Little Jimmy’s Special Days is based on a fictionalized account of a sad event he knew of when he was a Birmingham, Alabama police officer in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  




Henry Stanton's fiction, poetry and paintings appear in 2River, The A3 Review, Avatar, The Baltimore City Paper, The Baltimore Sun Magazine, High Shelf Press, Kestrel, North of Oxford, Outlaw Poetry, PCC Inscape, Pindeldyboz, Rusty Truck, Salt & Syntax, SmokeLong Quarterly, The William and Mary Review, Word Riot, The Write Launch, and Yellow Mama, among other publications. 

His poetry was selected for the A3 Review Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for the Eyewear 9th Fortnight Prize for Poetry.  His fiction received an Honorable Mention acceptance for the Salt & Syntax Fiction Contest and was selected as a finalist for the Pen 2 Paper Annual Writing Contest.

A selection of Henry Stanton's paintings are currently on show at Atwater's Catonsville and can be viewed at the following website www.brightportfal.com.  A selection of Henry Stanton’s published fiction and poetry can be located for reading in the library at www.brightportfal.com.

Henry Stanton is the Founding & Managing Editor of The Raw Art Reviewwww.therawartreview.com.








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