A Different Prison


I look around for the keys, patting my pockets and scanning the ground, but they’re gone; that jerk stole my keys.

OK, maybe they weren’t exactly my keys– Mahoney agreed to go on this grift with me and dropped the keys on the way to the building. I picked them up and he chickened out, leaving me to forage in the apartment lobby for things worth stealing, leaving his car waiting for a new owner to take it on a new adventure.

The dumb galoot didn’t know any better, walking down the block for the latest hotsies to peruse at the newsstand, and he wasn’t going anywhere, so why not lift what he left behind? Better than waiting in soup lines and outside unemployment offices looking for some lost hope and a hot meal. Never again.

Some hot keys and a hot car were all I needed tonight.

Sean, the big guy in the lobby, his gimlet eyes on me all the while, finally found me as I crossed the pavement from Mulberry Place. He spied me with my bag of loot, hefted his giant gullet and ran. I shifted my loot over my shoulder and ran too.

The contents shifted as I ran, hitting my back, neck and ass. Precious metal things rang against my spine. What was in this bag, anyway? I had crouched in the apartment’s lost and found, spilling the spoils into my sack– Lost items, never retrieved, regardless of value– Furs, jewels, maybe some love letters, definitely some lost keys.

Forgotten by all, only remembered me. Was it worth it?

“Give yourself up now, Kenny!” 

Sean was a stubborn old mick, a wet blanket if anyone was. I ducked into the alley, settling on my stolen goods, waiting for the building security guard to pass by. Imagine my surprise when that Mrs. Grundy paused!

“Give yourself up, lad,” he called down the alley, only hoping I was there to listen and learn. “This crime isn’t worth it.”

Phonus balonus, I thought. Anything’s better than waiting in line for a relief that never comes, applying for jobs that are filled before you can come to prove yourself worthy. There was nothing great about the Great Depression, just a broken system you had to beat.

“Remember our chats in the lobby, my dewdropper?” Sean said. “Many a time’s I helped you flee your doll’s penthouse. I know what you’re really escaping.”

Agatha. I kept my sigh tight within me, staying silent while Sean passed me by. I remembered the nights I came home to my dame jobless, cringing under her genteel disappointment. We’d go for a dinner and a show and try to forget my failure.

I knew she loved me, but to Sean my old dame really meant nothing but a way to convict me. Either way I snarled at the boredom, the inevitability. 

I heard Sean pad away, back to the lobby of that protected, pure Mulberry Place.

I sat across the street, watching them smile at each other through the leaded diamond panes as she passed upstairs. I realized I was luckier than Sean, that old bored fat lug only good for guarding forgotten stuff in a vacant lobby. I had a life, freedom, choices, things I could refuse.

I counted to twenty, then saw a yellow cab pull up, glowing like a rescuing, forgiving beacon underneath the sodium street lamps. I hefted the sack across my shoulders and ran again.

I stumbled in, latching the door behind me. I leaned back, laughed, then suddenly smelled a familiar perfume.

“Kenny,” Agatha sighed. Our eyes locked in a gaze– Hers delighted, mine horrified.  “I was about to look for you….”

The dread filled me. My old flame locked in with her familiar look of love. She would forgive me all but trap me forever. 

She put her hand on mine. My sack fell away. As Agatha drew her soft arms around me, I muttered, “This is a trip for biscuits.” All for nothing. She drew me in, and I remembered my minor failures, the boring breakfasts, my hopes for escape.

It was a new world, with new possibilities, and I was trapped in old mistakes. Prison would be better than this. I prayed for Sean to let the coppers give me justice.

The sirens closed around me. My arrest was easy and clear, like eggs in coffee. I gave my dame one last kiss, thanked my snitch, and opened my arms to my new prison.

7 thoughts on “A Different Prison

  1. Your dialogue and word choices did a great job of generating energy and establishing 1940s/1950s for me. There were some sentences that I felt needed to be unpacked a little: “his gimlet eyes on me all the while” suggests to me that Sean watched Kenny slip into the lost and found and take the stuff, but “finally found” seems to contradict that. I wasn’t sure what “Forgotten by all, only remembered [by?] me. Was it worth it?” was trying to say. Was he wondering if remembering and stealing the forgotten items was worth it? Nice work creating a tone. I hope you keep working on this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Darn it, a typo! I meant the lost discards he was stealing, were they worth stealing if only he remembered them– Though dumb since he’s doing it to fund himself in some other way than a soup line or dead-end job. And I see the guard’s scrutiny doesn’t make sense since he failed to observe the actual theft (hand-waved that with the “no one cares” idea but see it doesn’t come off). Thanks for thinking this is worth working more on!

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  2. I absolutely adored this line, “I kept my sigh tight within me.” I felt it as soon as I read it. You did a really good job in grounding the story’s time with the words you used. There were a few I did not know, like gimlet, which slowed the pace for me. There is a lot going on here, though, and I got lost in the streets as he ran through them. I’d love to see more of his backstory if you ever revisit this and extend it. I think it has some good bones!

    Liked by 1 person

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