The rest of the visit was thankfully non-eventful but I cut it short anyway. Christian was waiting in a rental car in the parking lot and the idea that Dad was almost certain to get busted with his hidden sticks of gum was weighing on my mind.
“Okay, Dad, I have to leave now so we can get to the airport,” I signed.
“Okay,” he replied, “But be sure to pick up the bag I left for you with the guard.”
Inmates are only allowed so many papers in their cell due to fire safety regulations. Rather than throw the stuff out, he bagged them up in an empty onion sack and authorized me to take possession.
“Sure, no problem,” I said but I was thinking otherwise. How long would it take to get this bag? How far into the strip search would it be before I could leave?
The woman guard couldn’t have been nicer but she couldn’t have been slower either. Never had I felt such an intense difference between my current New York state of mind and the Texas way. She was hospitable and pleasant and slow and I was brusque, impatient and hasty.
With each step (filling out a request for the bag, her going to retrieve the bag and me signing a receipt for the bag) I envisioned where Dad was in the strip search process. “He’s got to be in the room now. He’s probably undressing. He’s definitely being searched by now.”
After an excruciating three-minutes I headed out to freedom with Dad’s sack of possessions. The curiosity of its contents was surpassed by my urgent desire to get off the prison grounds. Since running across a prison yard isn’t prudent, I walked as quickly as I could so as not to draw attention by the guards in the towers.
I got in the passenger seat of the rental car my fiancé Christian was driving and quickly said, “I think I'm busted. Let's get the fuck out of Dodge!"
Christian had been patiently waiting in the car, passing time reading the paper, writing in his journal and listening to music. He wasn’t in the same frame of mind I was and was moving in Texas time.
"Seriously!” I shouted. “Start the car we have to get the fuck out of Dodge, NOW!"
“Okay, okay!” He shouted back and drove us to the main prison gates. The car inspection went quickly and we were on our way.
With my illegal escapades safely behind me, I told Christian about the visit. I told of the guy with the shot off face, the new tattoo Dad was sporting, Dad’s overwhelmed reaction upon tasting the gum, him stashing sticks of gum in the hiding places in his shoes and getting caught chewing gum by the warden.
“The guards are sure to search him more thoroughly now. Right now he’s either in trouble or really happy. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”
A few weeks later, we received a letter from Dad.
“After you left. Surprised? I still have them because I know sure it’s safe with mine. I keep one, 4 things I tried offer one for 4 stamps But they say too much, then I offer two stamps for one stick. Only one of them got it. Other three I decided to give 2 inmates for I owed them. Good paid.”
He wasn’t caught, made a few cents, paid off some debts and had another stick left over to enjoy. Success!
As for next time, there will be no gum from me. He’ll have to settle for a What-A-Burger. Now where can I stuff that?