by K. Ray
An inmate released after time in prison adjusts to society
|Author's Note: This is a rough draft after multiple edits and much indecisiveness about which beginning and continuation sounds and flows the best. There are several 'versions' here in one place, each version including edits from the previous and exploring character/plot options. With any REVIEW, let me know what elements you like and why. As the main character develops in the plot, I plan to explore what technological advancements he's not used to after prison, what his thoughts are on the cultural/political/ideological changes in the world around him, and grow the character to be a force for change, gaining confidence that he's a good person who has a lot to offer, even if society looks down at his Felonious label.
Travis Bixon - 3rd person - version 1
Scene 1 - Nailbiting - Travis Bixon nibbled on his right thumbnail until the long nail finally broke off in his mouth. Disgusted, he spit the piece onto the sidewalk, then silently cursed. He checked the watch on his right hand - 9:42 -- then examined the chewed nub critically. Somehow, after less than an hour of freedom, the habit of biting his fingernails had returned. In prison, long fingernails were common because they were useful in countless ways known only to the truly desperate, plus they were the one tool the guards couldn't confiscate. It took Travis a full year to rain himself to let them grow, and he spent over three years after that without a single nail falling victim to his anxiety. If this habit could return so quickly, might other habits resurrect themselves? He started out at the nearly-empty lot and wondered what could be making his brother late. He checked his watch again - 9:44 - and his mind turned to Frankie.
Scene 1 - Nailbiting 2 - Travis Bixon chewed on his right thumbnail as he stared out at the parking lot of Lompoc FCI. He'd arranged transportation months ago, and he confirmed his release time with his younger brother just *days ago,* so where was he? He lanced at his watch for the umpteenth time, the watch he'd purchased from commissary in the first week of being locked up. He'd never worn one before coming to prison, but now he couldn't imagine how he'd gotten by without one. Even in the shower he did not remove it.
Scene 1 - Nailbiting 3 - Travis Bixon chewed on his right thumbnail as he started out at the nearly-vacant lot of the Lompoc FCI. He'd arranged transportation two weeks before his release and had confirmed his release time with his younger brother Dominic just last night. Where was he?
Scene 1 - Nailbiting/Habits compilation - Travis Bixon nibbled on his right thumbnail until it finally broke off in his mouth. Disgusted, he spit the piece onto the sidewalk and softly cursed. He examined the chewed nub of the thumb critically. Before coming to prison, he'd had a bad habit of nervously chewing on his fingernails. Over the last five years, he'd trained himself not to bite his nails, because they were one of the only tools a guard wouldn't confiscate, useful in countless ways known only to the truly desperate. Until now, he couldn't remember the last nail to fall victim to his anxiety. He'd thought the habit was dead, but he was looking at ragged proof that it had merely been sleeping. This worried him. Would other habits creep back into his life as well?
He checked his watch at a glance, then continued to stare at the empty parking lot in front of him. He'd arranged transportation with his brother months ago, and confirmed his release time only two days ago, so where was he?
Scene 2 - Frankie - He glanced for the umpteenth time at the watch on his right wrist. He'd purchased the cheap thing from the prison commissary during his first week of incarceration, now four years and six months ago. Thinking of the time, his mind wandered to Frankie, who always asked, "Are you left-handed?" Who, when Travis would say "no," would always respond, "Because you aren't supposed to wear your watch on your right hand unless you're left-handed." After years of hearing the same question and trying out a variety of answers, Travis had simply resigned to say, "I know, Frankie, but I like it this way, alright?" And it was always alright with Frankie, who wore a mischievous smile and favored his left leg when he walked.
He'd met Frankie the same place he met most inmates - in the chow hall - but the first time Frankie spoke to him was in the chapel courtyard. "Are you left-handed?" Frankie asked.
He was standing by the water fountain, just outside the chapel entrance. Travis was reading the Service Schedule posted on the bulletin board. "Nope," Travis replied, turning to Frankie.
"Because if you're right-handed you have to wear your watch on your left hand," Frankie stated. I wear my watch on my right hand, 'cuz I got Game.
Travis thought he heard something like a demand in Frankie's voice, and he didn't much like it. "Why?" He challenged. Grinning crazily, Frankie said, "Everyone does it that way. You're supposed to," drawing out the end of it like he was explaining a simple task to a child, but he didn't continue the conversation. He walked off with a limp into the chapel.
Scene 2 - Old Habits - The long nail of his thumb finally broke loose in his mouth and he spit it out, disgusted. He silently cursed. Over the years he'd learned not to bite his nails, discovering that long nails were one of the few tools the guards didn't confiscate and were useful in countless ways. He used to have, before prison, a bad habit of nail-chewing, a habit he'd thought he'd outgrown. The worst of it was he hadn't even realized he'd been chewing on the nail until he'd gnawed it off. Old habits died harder than he wanted to admit. This worried him. Would other habits creep back into his life? He put his head in his hands and began to pray: "Avinu..." (our father). Even if some habits did return, he'd picked up new, wholesome habits, too.
Scene 2 - Old Habits - He heard the door behind him open. "Bixon! You still here? You like this place, or what?"
Travis smiled at officer Mitchell, who came to stand beside him. "My brother's just running a little late."
"You sure?" Mitchell said. "If you wanna come back, we could figure out a way real quick. A little destruction of federal property, maybe.
There's a bush over there you could piss on. I could get you for indecent exposure."
"Naw, I'm good," Travis said, checking his watch again.
Mitchell lit a cigarette and held out the pack of Camel Wides. "You want a smoke?"
He did. He really did. But he looked down at his thumb and thought perhaps he shouldn't. "Nope. I was a big smoker coming in the gate, but I've been without for so long, why start again? Ya know?"
Scene 2 - Pickup - When he looked up, his brother's gold minivan came into view. He started to sweat. He sincerely hoped his pick-up instructions were followed. He'd had nightmares of this scenario ending with hordes of children piling out of the van, right in front of the prison. Since his probation agreement included a no-contact order, in the nightmare his patiently-earned freedom lasted less than two minutes. Now, as the van slowed down in front of the prison, his brother rolled down the window and popped his head out.
"Hey, bro. I'm here!" Travis picked up the gym bag containing the last five years of his life, strapped it across his shoulder, and jumped in the side door.
Pickup Note 1: Have bro driving a smaller car, and have him pick up his two boys and one girl, then have the youngest sit on Uncle Travis's lap, further examining his rehab. Or, have bro direct his youngest to sit on the lap of the eldest's lap, clearly not ideal, awakening fears of bro not trusting him, and making him question how much he trusts himself.
Exit Note 2: Have Travis decline cig (from whomever), giving illusion of his ability to retain self-control, until later (chapter 2) pit-stop when bro lights up his own and Travis asks him for one.
Exit Note 3: Mention that he's wearing clothes shipped to him, noting how tight they fit; outgrown.
Scene 3 - On the Road - After Dominic picks up wife and kids, he asks Travis if there's anything he wants to do before leaving California, like visiting the beach. Nope. So, they head on down the road. Travis keeps looking at his watch. One of the kids won't stop staring at him, and one has taken possession of his arm, moving it down when he tries to lift it to check the watch. He's claustrophobic after an hour. He asks if they can pull over for a bite to eat. Initially he'd declined a cigarette, but now as all shuffled out of the car he grabs Keven's arm and asks for one before he goes in. Wife asks Travis if he'd prefer a booth or a table. He picks a booth and she says she'll go get one reserved. The brothers talk and smoke. Dominic says something like," You're going to be fine." Travis finishes his first, and flicks the butt on the ground. When Dominic finishes, he deposits his butt in the ashtray near the door. Travis follows his example, retrieving the butt from the sidewalk.
At the table, menu choices are overwhelming, so Travis orders "the same" as someone else. One kid directs him how to eat, what condiments to use, wisely discerning that Travis, though an adult, needs help. They get through the meal and back on the road. Travis tries to get some shut-eye after Dominic turns on the radio. He doesn't wake up until Vegas, now about to head North to Cedar. They've stopped for gas. Travis gets out and inside he gets a liter of Pepsi and a roll of Rollos. He was given a debit card with the remaining balance of his commissary account, so he doesn't have to worry about borrowing any money. They arrive at the Cedar exit.
Scene 4 - Later
He sat on the bottom stair, looking up at the starry night sky and the hazy smoke of his cigarette, diffused by the soft, summer breeze. For the first time since his release, he felt unburdened. He was free. He let the breeze carry away the last 5 years from his mind and focused on the stars. He made a mental note to ask about a telescope he'd left with Dominic, the younger brother who took him in after the separation from Madison and let him stay until he was sent off to Lompoc. As he considered this, he also thought of other people he needed to see, and things he had to do.
At the forefront of his mind was Deborah, his ex mother-in-law. She had written Travis in prison after his wife had died and had signed the letters "your mother-in-law, Debbie." But, he felt death was too final not to acknowledge it by some distinction. He was getting angry just thinking of her and how she manipulated things. She loved control. Even though Madison's family and his family had never gotten along, his sister Rebecca had attended the funeral in his place. But, neither the obituary notice in the Spectrum or the funeral service program had mentioned his name. Debbie had neatly blotted him out of the picture. To have put his name next to Madison's would have raised polite questions about his absence. God forbid anyone find out her son-in-law was an incarcerated Felon.
GOGI. He put one hand on his belly and slowed his breathing, taking 36 conscious breaths that pulled life energy from the air and filled his whole being.