HIME FOR CHRISTMAS

You mean to tell me you haven't renewed your license in all those years?" she demanded.

To tell you the truth," Arnold said, I just got out of prison." The clerk's attitude changed at once. She smiled.

Now I understand," she said. Let me be one of the first to wish you lots of good luck."

A week later, Arnold met the flamboyant Moon at Sky Harbor's Terminal Four for a flight to Tucson to pick up Arnold's personal belongings.

Moon, who lives in Prescott, had missed his flight to Phoenix. Moon wasn't stymied, however. He merely called for a charter airplane to fly up to Prescott and pick him up. He made it to Sky Harbor with minutes to spare.

Arnold was clearly excited. He wore a new Levi's jacket with a sheepskin collar and a blue-striped dress shirt. He looked the picture of health. He had spent his first week out of prison constructing bookcases for his father. I don't think I want to sit in the middle seat," he said.

Don't worry," Moon said. I have a special boarding pass that will get us on the plane with the women and small children. The plane is only going to be half-full, anyway. You can sit pretty much where you want to." The flight from Phoenix to Tucson consists of little more than a takeoff, a leveling, then a landing. The airplane was on the ground before Arnold became accustomed to being in the air.

Moon called for a limousine to take them to a car-rental place. He had called ahead for a Cadillac to be waiting.

I'm sorry," the desk clerk said, the only luxury car we have is a Chrysler." Moon's face fell.

Young lady," Moon replied, the only luxury cars made in America, I assure you, are the Cadillac and the Lincoln." I'm sorry to tell you this," she said, but all we have available today is a Dodge Dart." An attendant had already brought the offending Dodge from the parking lot and parked it by the door. Moon looked at the car with obvious distaste.

I can't stand Lee Iacocca," he said. But Moon decided to accept the car anyway.
I'll bring it back to Phoenix and dump it," he said. Then I'll pick up a Cadillac." The drive to the prison didn't take long.

Here it is," Arnold said. I spent the last years of my prison life in that building right there." Arnold pointed to a one-story building. Inside, he had an eight-foot by eight-foot single room with a small closet and a television stand. There was a bed and a chair. The communal bathroom facilities were down the hall.

It wasn't that bad," Arnold said. It was the kind of life I got used to living. I never felt I belonged in prison that long."

It had been such a long time. The year Arnold entered prison was the same year that H.R. (Bob) Haldeman and John Ehrlichman were convicted of conspiracy in the Watergate bungle. Saigon fell. Jimmy Hoffa disappeared. All in the Family was the top-rated TV show. Jack Nicholson won the Best Actor Academy Award for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and John Havlicek of the Boston Celtics was on the NBA All-Star team. Muhammad Ali beat Joe Frazier by a TKO in the 15th round in what we now know as the Thrilla in Manila." Arnold knows how much life has passed him by. But I realize I can never give that woman's life back," he said. She didn't deserve to die. I will always have to live with that." Moon and Arnold drove silently to the prison administration building. Arnold walked to the front desk. They were expecting him. A clerk presented Arnold with a check for $50. This is what the state pays every discharged inmate to help him get started with his life again. Arnold also collected an additional check for $90 for wages he had earned in prison at the rate of 50 cents an hour.

Arnold looked at the check for $50. That's not much more than three dollars a year, is it?" he said. He made no further comment.

The two men climbed back into the Dodge for the trip to the prison property room where his belongings were stowed. A guard brought the television set and the boxes out in a truck. Quickly, Arnold and Moon loaded the things into the trunk of the car.

They drove slowly away from the prison. A long chapter in Arnold's life was ending.

I remember what it was like that first day they led us new prisoners in through the main gate at Florence," he said.

It was in the middle of summer and blazing hot. They gave us new clothes and marched us in through the main gate while all the old cons sat around in the yard watching us. There had been a racial disturbance that day on the athletic field. I remember when they brought us into the cellblock, a burning bedsheet was tossed down at us from the fourth tier. Other inmates were tossing toilet-paper rolls, which came down at us in streams.

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
 

Around The Web

Loading...