I Don't Wear Orange

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
Let me know what you think I meant by, "I don't wear orange".

Submitted: March 15, 2017

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Submitted: March 15, 2017



I Don’t Wear Orange 
by David Fox

Part One

It has been 25 years since that terrible day. Haphazardly I approach a stainless steel-processing table. A large female deputy sporting a crew cut speaks with a coarse tone, “Convict 256791 I have your property sheet. One brown wallet, one expired TCF debit card, one black address book, one grey lighter and $2.60 in cash. Sign the property sheet in order to receive your belongings”. With my hands and ankles shackled I sign the bottom page with an X. She continues, ”Convict 256791 you have served 22 years of a 25 year sentence for the charge of manslaughter in the first degree”. With my anticipation in full bloom the handcuffs are removed. “These are your discharge papers convict 256791”, she shakes my hand with a professional force. This time I am able to sign my name correctly, Joseph Wolfe. 

The discharge papers do contain my parole officers name and number. However, the only instructions are to stay sober, no fire arms or weapons, and keep my appointments with Tyler Jacobs (parole officer). Strange ? No mention of a halfway house. Ok! My time working as a social worker should serve me well. I know some homeless shelters might have closed since that terrible day but Harbor Lights through the Salvation Army is my best bet for tonight.

My next objective is obtaining a pack of Camel straights. I remember there was a bodega on the corner of Penn and Glenwood a short walk this time of year. Its 70 degrees not a cloud in the sky. The fresh air is intoxicating. I feel like a kid in a candy store. Yeap, I am in  luck. It appears my nicotine craving will be satisfied shortly. “What can I get you my friend”, a tall man with an middle eastern accent greets me. Like a heroin addict about to mainline I anxiously place $2.60 on the counter and utter the words, ”Camel Straights sir”. A look of disbelief took over the clerks face, then laughter,” I can’t even give you a puff for that.”

Halfway back to my temporary sanctuary Harbor Lights, I notice a place I once knew well. My specialty while employed as a social worker was connecting homeless people to short and long term housing. Kind of ironic don’t you think. Evergreen run by a non profit by the name of Catholic Charities would hopefully become my new home. I placed many clients with Felonies and Civil Commitments on their record into this safe haven. Evergreen is a lot better them some halfway house with a curfew. You miss a curfew in a place like that.  It could become a parole violation.

My trek to normalcy was far from complete. One thing I don’t understand  why are there not any pay phones? I have walked all over downtown Minneapolis. Nothing! Not only that !What’s the deal with all these portable TV,s. Every person seems to have one. Scores of people old and young staring at a tiny screen while they walk. Strange ! It’s a good thing I did not waste my $2.60 on Nicotine. My legs are tired. Its time for a short bus ride. My next destination is 1800 Chicago  {welfare office} my former place of employment. I’ll be sure to grab a transfer ticket. An even trade for a cigarette even nowadays.

Here we go almost cigarette time. A long brown haired man wearing sandals is hitting on young woman dressed in all black. I guess she likes Johnny Cash.  She seems annoyed at him. Never the less I can hear him bragging clearly. I am not out of place or too close because we are at a bus stop. “Loser !”, she shouts this once common phrase then walks away. The hippie kid lights a cigarette with a look of embarrassment. “What’s the deal with that lady.”, I softly catch his attention. After 5 minutes of shooting the breeze. I pull out an empty pack of cigarettes I found on the street while walking back from the bodega. Knowing his bus is due shortly I had to close the deal fast, “Ah I’m out. Is there a store around here?”. “I got you brother” ,he pulls out a yellow pack of cigarettes then  hands  me two cancer sticks. Sure enough his bus roars in seconds later. Grabbing my grey lighter which happens to be older than half the people around me. I complete my mission. Success at last!  

1800 Chicago has not changed a bit. Lookouts and dealers wait right around the corner. It’s the first of the month. Next order of business secure some benefits and call Tyler. Not in that order of course. My discharge papers are hardly a valid ID when requesting money from the county. Once again I don’t understand  the deal  with these portable TV’s. In the waiting room almost everyone’s got one. I guess their cheap. After all I am at a welfare office.  

Who is this guy? ,” Joseph Wolfe, I am Tyler Jacobs. I have a copy of your discharge plan". My question answered. There seems to be some sort of mistake. You were supposed to be sent to a halfway house but its not in your paper work. Do you have any relatives or friends you could stay with?”  This kid was obviously right out of college. He still has caring eyes without the cold attitude one develops in his line of work. I gave it to him straight ,” Well to tell you the  truth. Its been 22 years since I have had the privilege to walk outside. I will follow what ever orders you give me. I do not want to go back to the cage. I am willing to work, stay sober and out of trouble”. Tyler flashes me a sly smile,” Well I seem to have misplaced the form regarding the mistake  on your discharge papers. I am going to have to contact my supervisor regarding this issue, eventually." A unrelenting laughter consumes us.. Did I just laugh? Damn I have not laughed since that terrible day. This kid is alright.

Two weeks have past since my first meeting with Tyler. Today, I am lounging in front of my new sanctuary. Tyler got me into Catholic Charities (Evergreen), 100 dollars in food stamps monthly, 200 cash, and a subsidy for my rent. My first day at Evergreen I walked into the door smelling like a sewer. I spent a week at Harbor lights without a shower. I tried to sneak into a YMCA in order to clean up. I used to recommend my former clients this method a as a backup.. Obviously, I did not know what I was talking about. I almost got a trespass ticket, a parole violation. I spent one hour in the shower room in my new home. At  first  I showered with a blade at my side. The next day realizing my fear was unjustified a fellow resident handed me a pack of Camel straights as a welcoming present. Tyler really hooked me up. It usually takes a few months to have all this set up through the county. What I don’t understand is why he would stick his neck out for someone he does not even know?  I guess he is just a good kid.

Part 2

My first paycheck in 23 years! 242 dollars and 25 cents for only one week of work. Tyler hooked me up with a warehouse job close to Evergreen. Its only a five minute bus ride from my sanctuary. I will lose my food stamps. But my housing is secure. My first order of business a carton of Camel Straights. 

I am back at the bodega on Penn Ave, “ A carton of Camel straights, sir”. With a look of disgust the same clerk from before responds,” This is not a charity house, my friend”. Undeterred, I place a C note on the counter, “I am sorry sir it’s been a long day. I will throw in a free lighter with your purchase", understanding the clerk’s frustration I give him a nod thanking him for the lighter. As I walk out a young teenager with brown eyes and a Chicago Bulls hat approaches,” hey man I have not seen you around here before. You need some green? Some Rock? " Angry my nicotine fix has been delayed I reply in a nasty tone,” Man I don’t need that kind of heat. Just got out of the pen and I am on paper. I ‘m good on that." His eyes tighten piercing through me like a bullet, "Hey man your business is your business. Don't disrespect me! I only say that only once old man".  Trying not to make eye contact I quickly nod and walk away. In a flash, I am back home unharmed.

“We got six pallets to unload no time for cigarettes, Mr Wolfe. Those things will kill you. But if you continue with this laziness cigarettes will be the least of your worries”, Head Foreman Bill has his way about him. The day rolls by with uncontrolled regularity. Hours fly by and in flash my shift is over. "You look disappointed Joe. Time to go home if you have one", Bill smiles as I walk away. There was a time when I would have yelled and screamed like a little girl trying to act tough. It took me many years to realize temper tantrums don't do anything but make you look a fool. Even if you are able instill a temporary fear. Eventually, your bluff will be called. Anyway, I like the guy. He is just doing his job.

Halfway home riding on the 7 I hear a female voice with an emotional tone, "Joe, is that you ?" I glance at her without responding. "Oh I'm sorry sir I have you confused with someone else. Nodding without a word my heart crumbles. It was Sally Fienburg. She was a girl I used to party with back in the day.  Her husband was some kind of fancy doctor. Plastic Surgery if I remember correctly. He died from a heart attack after a night of partying. She lived in a huge house by Lake Minnetonka. It had a indoor whirlpool, basketball court, tennis court and a bunch of other amenities. She was my partner in crime back then.  She looks better now than she did back then. Maybe she sobered up. Maybe her seeing me put a bullet in the back of a man's head was enough to straighten her out. 

22 years since that terrible day. Sally was cutting up some "Snow" in the basement. The Finest Columbian Gold I have ever put my hands on. The system was simple. We were small time. A few ounces here.  Few ounces there. Sally had a lot of rich friends. I had a supplier no one knew but me. Sally, never met my contact. Sally's friends never met me. She only supplied 5 or 6 different people. They were all heavy users and had lots of money. Rarely would someone out of her circle show up at the house. Then it happened. A college kid from the U of M passed out in her house after one of her parties. Sally thought everyone had left. I showed up at my usual time. Just as Sally began cutting up the goods we were startled be an unfamiliar voice, "hey man that’s a lot of Powder. I guess Christmas came early for me!" This kid who I later found out was named Derrick hit Sally in the back of the head. She was conscious but hurt bad.. He stood about 6 foot-five inches tall built like a linebacker. Then he made his way towards me. He broke my nose knocking me down hard. Derrick thought I was knocked out but I was not. I  was still and quiet as a mouse while he made his way to the powder. I had a 22 in my boot. My connection gave it to me. He told me I would need it one day. He was right and wrong at the same time. With his back turned I put a bullet in the back of his head one shot. Sally was bleeding from her head. She saw everything. I can still hear her screaming. Without a second of hesitation I flushed all the Powder down the toilet. I called 911 while holding a towel on Sally's head. Yeah what a big man I was. A wannabe Al Pacino. 22 years of waking up from the same nightmare. That event played over and over like a tape loop in some run of the mill film school project. Yeah, I don't think she recognized me. 
Part 3

Its been five years since I saw Sally on the bus. Each day on my ride home from work I look for her. Hoping she will see I have changed. Knowing my presence would only remind her of that terrible day. Things have improved. Its not all a pity party. Bill promoted me to Assistant Foreman two years ago.  I have enough financial resources to find a market rent apartment. However, because of my criminal record I am unable to move out of Evergreen at this time. Besides its still my sanctuary. Tyler says he might be able to convince the judge to shorten my Parole. I am meeting with him shortly. I hope I am in the right place. 

 "Okay, your not making me see some shrink or something ? Were sitting in front of a doctors office? Why?", throwing Tyler a perplexing tone his expression turns very serious. A look I have never seen from him before, "There one last detail left Mr. Wolfe. This is your  last drug test. You past this test and you are 100 percent free. Free and clear. Your parole will end". A rush of anticipation as great as that day I signed my property sheet shoots through my veins. Tyler places his hand on my left shoulder, "this is not a regular urine test like we used to do every month at my office. This will be the real deal. Hair Follicle, Blood, and Saliva. This the most comprehensive drug test the law allows. The hair follicle test alone can go back months if not years. Its the only way I could get the Judge to consider ending your parole early. I have been working on this for a long time. Its also the reason why I have not tested you for any illegal drugs in the six months. That was also in my report to the judge. I want to show them you are a man of your word. You told me in our first meeting these exact words. I am willing to work, stay sober and out of trouble. If you have not been clean I need to know now, Mr Wolfe. Are you a man of your word? ". Understanding the serious nature of the conversation I looked straight into Tyler's eyes," I am a man of my word. I think you know that. Otherwise we would not be having this conversation".





Once I got the paperwork from the County discharging me from my Parole I tried calling Tyler to thank him. I even went down to 1800 Chicago Ave to thank him in person. The receptionist told me he transferred to another department. I never saw or heard from him again. When Bill retired recommending me for his position as Head Foreman his superiors were reluctant at first. But, like I said before, Bill has a way about him. Today, I am chewing on nicotine gum planting a rose bush in  my backyard. Some people don't even get one chance. I have had two. That is something I will never forget or take for granted. You know its funny! I paid 250 dollars for a Vintage Carmelo Anthony Jersey. A Jersey made like the one he wore when he was with Syracuse. Bright orange with Anthony's name printed on the back. Very hard to find. A week later I sold it for 50 dollars. The guy who bought it from me asked if it was stolen. I laughed and told him I don't wear orange. I don't think he knew what I meant. 


© Copyright 2018 David Fox. All rights reserved.

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