And now, for something completely different…

I didn’t have anything to post for an editorial blog this week so I figured I’d share some of my writing with you all. This story was published in Divertir’s collection “Under The Stairs”.

If any day in my life had ever mattered, it was this one. After thirty years in the pen for murder, I was finally getting out. Truth was, I was innocent. I know they all say that, but I actually was and it took thirty years for the law’s technology to catch up to the modern age to prove it. Funny how it’s supposed to be “innocent until proven guilty”. I guess the subject matter changes something in a jury’s point of view. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying what happened to that kid was right, but I was put away long enough to get bitter about it.

Johnny Two-Fingers told me that things out there wouldn’t be like they were in here. Innocent or not, everyone would always wonder. He told me that I’d never get a job and I was better off just staying in the pen. I told him to fuck off. I had a wife waiting for me, and she’d been waiting since I went away. Sweet gal, she came to visit me once a month and tell me how everything was going back home. Her name’s Cecelia. Mine’s Marcus, by the way, for what that matters. Marcus Douchene. Yeah, I know, it has “douche” in it. Real classy. Keep laughing.

Anyway, I got all packed up, which consisted of folding my blankets at the foot of the bed, and making sure I was shaved, clean and looking damn pretty. Everyone cat-called at me as I strutted by their cells, though, for the most part, it was good-natured. I’d been in there long enough that most of them knew by now that trying to fuck with me was a bad idea. Before I’d ended up in here I had been in the ring a few times and hadn’t done too badly. I got in trouble for fighting when I first got in here, but over time and with enough broken noses people learned to leave me be. I’m a nice guy if you aren’t trying to shank me. Honest.

It was spring on the outside and I had my wife’s face dancing in my head when I sat down in front of the board. Most people would think that I’d be grinning like an idiot, but I just couldn’t conjure up a smile for these fucks. They all looked like the back end of a toad dressed in Armani. You ever seen a toad in an Armani suit? They’re still slimy, still bulging-eyed, and still hot under the collar. I’ve never seen a toad in an Armani suit, but I can guess what it looks like.

They stared at me for a long time and eventually started asking me all the questions. I don’t really remember most of them. Eventually someone mumbled an apology for keeping me in the pen for so long, but none of them actually thought I was innocent. Or, to use slick legal-talk, “not guilty” since they never judged you as “innocent” anymore. Maybe they didn’t in the first place.

While I was trying to figure out if the apology was actually going to make them sick, one of them croaked to the guards that I was to be given back my stuff and taken out. Cecelia was picking me up, she’d told me in the last phone call. She’d been so happy she was crying. Honestly, I was more nervous than excited. Trying to remember what it was like to not wake up to the sound of the buzzers and all that was going to be rough. Old dogs and new tricks and all that. But hell, I was going to be out. What else mattered?

They shoved my stuff back into my arms with more muttered apologies and I got dressed in my street clothes. In prison you get used to getting dressed and undressed around other people. Privacy isn’t something that you really get unless you’re in solitary and then when you have it, you really don’t want it. Anyway, I got dressed and was escorted outside where I could see a car waiting at the “pickup” lane.

That was about the time I started smiling and once I started I couldn’t keep the grin off my face. I never could around Ce, she just had that effect on me ever since we met. She got out of the car and ran over, wrapping her arms around my neck and I got to do what I’d spent thirty years wanting to: I picked her up and spun her around like she weighed nothing, planting the biggest kiss you could imagine on those sweet lips of hers. Suddenly, thirty years felt like barely a week and we were newly-weds again. The wrinkles I’d developed at the corners of my eyes and around my mouth didn’t matter, neither did the gray in my hair.

Cecelia kissed me back and giggled until I put her down, though her arms stayed glued to my waist. God, they felt good. I kissed her again for the hell of it before she shooed me off and we got in the car to head home. I told her I had a stop I wanted to make before we got there and she gravely nodded. We’d discussed this before.

The graveyard was quiet as… well… a grave. No better way to describe it. The trees were blooming as we drove along the bumpy dirty roads to the little grave marked “Liz” and I got out of the car. I knelt down on the little grave. “Daughter”, it read, and then two dates. She’d been twelve. I patted the headstone. “Hey, kid. Look… I just wanted to say that I’m gonna find him. The fuck that did this to you. I’m not much more than an old man now, kid. But it still isn’t fair what they done to you.”

I nodded singly and turned back to see Ce leaning against the car, giving me that radiant smile she gave me when I was doing something good. I felt my mouth pull into a grin and walked over to sit down in the seat.

“C’mon, sugar, let’s go home,” I said, and she nodded, turning the key. The car pulled away from the grave and immediately my cop mind started spinning, remembering the details of the case. Yeah. I was a cop, once upon a time. I was the one that found the girl to begin with. I don’t know how they pinned it on me, but something told me that finding out was going to be a pain in the ass.

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