JIMMY’S SPECIAL DAYS
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.
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.”
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.
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.
soft female voice said. “Is this an emergency?”
"Yes, ma'am, it is."
“How old are
you?” She asked.
man, what’s your emergency?”
pushed my father off the balcony.”
dispatcher’s voice rose as she asked, “Is he injured?”
dead, I’m sure. Yes ma’am. I’m sure he’s
“Is your mother
"No ma'am, she's not."
dead. My father killed her.”
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."
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."
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.
just not fair. I was smarter than my friends were,” he told
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
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.
you pick up my suit at the cleaners,
like you said you would?" His words slurred together. There was acid in
didn’t have time. I’ll get it tomorrow. They’re open on Saturday.”
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.
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.
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
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?”
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.
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."
drink up everything you make,” Rachel screamed.
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."
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.
waved and sat on the floor, crying, "Mama. Mama."
didn’t think she would really jump,” he told the terrified little boy. “Shit,
what do I do now?”
walked to the refrigerator and pulled out a Miller Lite and popped the top and
this an emergency?” the dispatcher said.
guess it is.”
is your emergency?”
“My wife jumped
off our balcony.”
so. The balcony is on the sixth floor.”
long pause and then the dispatcher said.
"Give me your address and I will send the police and EMS.”
the information, opened another beer, and waited.
sat on the balcony, crying and waiting.
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.
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?”
thank you for this special day," Jimmy responded. “I will learn a lot, I’m
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
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.
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
Evil, Deeds is
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
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 Review—www.therawartreview.com.