Thirteen foot six inches long, nine foot wide, nine foot nine inches high; one hundred twenty one and a half square feet; three hundred ninety cinder blocks. Bobby knew the numbers by heart, the result of a combination of boredom and obsessive compulsive disorder. He could count the ugly beige blocks with his eyes closed; pace the stark gray floor in his sleep.
As well as any blind man, Bobby knew the unforgiving cell that was his home. From the cold steel door with the slot through which his meals passed, to the mocking barred window that offered drab filtered light but no view, Bobby knew his world. And like the cramped steel desk which held his bible; or the stainless one piece toilet and sink that dripped all night, Bobby felt nothing more than a fixture within it himself.
The thin plastic mattress cracked and groaned with each movement. Bobby lay in his steel bunk, eyes closed, remembering. He remembered the last time he held Janie: three years, two months, one week and one day. He remembered the last time he talked with her: two years, six months; received a letter from her: well over a year. And he remembered the day Janie’s kid sister wrote. He could recall each line, every word. She told him Janie had moved to Las Vegas with Bobby’s friend Tommy Spencer. Now the only mail Bobby received was from his mother.
Bobby hadn’t seen his mother since the day he was sentenced. The prison was too far for the elderly woman to travel. And he didn’t want her to remember him wearing an orange jumpsuit, talking through a thick glass window.
Many of the old timers said visits make doing time harder, especially on family. It was his crime, Bobby would do the time. Then he could return home, home to…
The hollow sound of the heavy cell door being unlocked pulled Bobby from his thoughts. An unfamiliar voice called out. “Carson, get dressed! You have a visit.”
“Can’t be me. Must be another Carson,” Bobby replied, rising from his bunk.
“You’re 138-381 aren’t you?”
“But nothing, get into your jumpsuit.”
The guard snapped a pair of handcuffs on Bobby’s wrists. Holding him firmly by the upper arm, he escorted Bobby through cell block F.
The visiting room was deserted and dimly lit. At first Bobby didn’t recognize the face staring at him through the partition.
“Oh, Robert, it’s so good to see you.” His mother’s voice trembled and she wiped a tear. “I’ve missed you…”
“I’ve missed you, too. But what… my God… what are you doing here?”
The old woman smiled. It was a smile that reminded Bobby of his youth. “I’ve come to take you home, Robert.” It was the same smile that always said he was forgiven, no matter what mischief he’d gotten into.
“What… what are you talking about?”
His mother’s smile broadened and her eyes twinkled. Her face glowed in the darken room. Despite her tears, Bobby couldn’t recall the last time she looked so happy; so at peace.
“I can’t stay, Robert. But tomorrow you’ll be free; we’ll be together. I’ve come to take you home with me… home Bobby. I love you, honey.” She blew her son a kiss placing her hand to the glass.
“I love you, too, mom…” But she was gone. He touched the glass where her hand had been. It was warm.
Back in his cell, Bobby felt alive. He didn’t understand what was happening. He didn’t care. He was going home. Sleep settled over him like a comfortable shroud.
Early the next morning, the warden called cell block F. “I need to see Carson,” he said to the officer in charge. “Bring him to me.”
Several minutes later a guard tapped on the warden’s open door.
“It’s Carson, Sir,” the guard replied. “He’s dead, Sir. I called the doc. Looks like he died in his sleep… peacefully.”
“Oh… I see…” The warden sighed, glancing down at a yellow slip of paper on his desk. It was a phone message. Bobby’s mother had passed away at her home three nights earlier.
BJ Neblett is a regular contributor to Romance Magazine and eFiction Magazine. His books include Elysian Dreams, a contemporary romantic fantasy, and Ice Cream Camelot, a memoir exploring the early 1960’s, as seen through the eyes of a young boy. He hosts two blog sites: www.hereforaseason.blogspot.com for poetry and www.bjneblett.blogspot.com for his stories and other writings. BJ’s stories are featured in Northern Liberties Review, as well as Short Story Me. Presently BJ is working on a follow up memoir; a sequel to Elysian Dreams, and more short stories. BJ’s writings have been compared to Haruki Murakami and Isaac Asimov.