Lost roads to nowhere

Jarvis, Darrell

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"Lost Roads to Nowhere" (Non-Fiction 'Essay') By: Darrell Jarvis [ID] Lakeland Correctional Facility 141 First Street Coldwater, Michigan 49036 USA This is prison, the real thing. I dread to admit as these years dissolve I am losing motivation, determination and drive. I am being robbed of discipline, this same person who once ran eighteen-miles every day, all weather be damned, I still did that run. Prison has a way of diminishing one's resolve as it destroys a person to rubble, both mentally and physically in its design. Every word in these pages is true. Allow me to lead you through a garden of darkness as we follow this trail of misdeeds. "Biography" I was raised on a farm in Northern Michigan near the Mackinaw Bridge. I have served forty-six years in prison and know this justice system quite well. I am a long-distance runner who once powered 125 miles per week. I have dabbled in creative writing for many years. gauging this destination, with 63 years behind me it is now my autumn of life. Be it nature or nurture, most criminologists agree there is a solid correlation amidst poverty, crime, and a garden variety of other unbalanced fodder. I often ask, "am I a casualty of my environment..?" Wallowing in this social affliction, I was never a drug-addict and never an alcoholic. I did not go to the bars. I have no uncanny, amoral or insatiable habits, and have never committed any sex crimes which, according to national statistics, is rare in the wretched world of criminals. For we are the dregs of society, the underdogs most people don't want to know. There's a timeless beacon in the Amish community which holds a prized pearl of truth: "You need not summon the Devil," this doctrine warns, "for he will come without calling." Delving deep in malignant matters, if Webster's dictionary placed a picture next to the phrase "Jekyll-N-Hyde," it would be the mug-shot of my former crime partner, Jerry. This scavenger had a persona which was always smiling and debonair, but his gracious facade was only a well-polished scam. While in prison he conned every woman with whom he had contact, and married, then later divorced two of them. Laboring with his wish to be free, Jerry piloted the most riveting escape plan that I have ever encountered. Recently returned to prison with a lengthy sentence of robbery. Jerry, with a loathing air of fresh confidence, recruited the services of a friend about to be paroled as this lawless whirlwind shoved forward. In a diabolical gasp, Jerry, the defunct sociopath, showed his elusive profile as a suave narcissism and a gambler's fleecing intent gained momentum. Skillful as a surgeon's scalpel, the plot required that the parolee go to the home of Jerry's mother and kill her, which he dutifully did. Following this homicide, Jerry, with the atrocity of a determined mind, would apply for a "funeral visit" which must be approved by the Warden. Once on site, the parolee would pull a gun to out-muscle both escorting officers and liberate Jerry. As this dilemma unravelled, the parolee was stopped by the police in a traffic violation which somehow led back to the dead mother and a murder conviction for him. Though never suspected in this bizarre and selfish scheme, Jerry's request to attend the funeral was denied, and the murder of Jerry's mother was for nothing. This game of roulette proved to be hazardous for all concerned, and to my best knowledge is the only such case in United States history. Jerry, the epitome of a jailhouse-mouse, went on to serve almost three more decades in prison. Floundering from hepatitis with a tumor on his stomach the size of a watermelon, in the spring of 2002, Jerry was granted a "medical parole" and died a couple days later. Trying to articulate this litany of realities, my mind reaches back to an incident where myself and a co-defendant were separately being sentenced to life in prison on a murder case. Upon returning from the courthouse, as my crime partner passed my cell he stated, "The judge told me that if I had some money, I could get out of this." And the under-sheriff who was escorting my partner remarked, "The judge shouldn't have said that..!" Flaunting his greed and power, this was the same ambassador-of-arrogance who sent me to prison five years earlier for cashing bad checks. The under-sheriff, while guarding me after sentencing that same day, patted me on the shoulder as he laughed and said, "That's what they call 'all day,' isn't it...!" With a lightning bolt flashing in his direction, less than two years later and now the elected county sheriff, he was mortally wounded by a crazed gunman who, in the piercing claws of irony, had recently been released from a mental hospital. Then, in feudal response, a deputy shot and killed the attacker. Years earlier my mother dated this damaged individual. The fallen lawman, Duane Badder, was the second sheriff to die in the line-of-duty in the State of Michigan. Unprincipled, uncaged, and on the hunt, at 21-years-old, I gravitated from cashing bad checks to randomly killing human beings. With the Grim Reaper hissing from the shadows, I feel those eternal flames scorching my bones. At times it seems I've earned a doctorate degree in the "darkside of humanity." Feeling blood in his eyes and black-powder in his veins, like a Greek Odyssey kissing the gem-of-ruin, his life oozed karma as a death rattle fouled the air. Removing all chains of resurrection, here was a specter riding fast down the road on a collision course with fatality and beyond. Commanding life's throttle and letting all forceful things spark ignition, man's onslaught of good, bad and evil sputtered from this climax as I transformed into a road-rage wrecking machine spewing hatred, fury and failure. Relishing in my rot, what a master of malfunction was I, since most of my life had been a cannon-ball run with bad people and the bad seeds they sow. Attesting as it sounds, prison taught me how to be a criminal, how to hate, and how to kill. Immersed in this stew of blood, sweat and bones, our jurisprudence has no rationale in its overwhelming hunger to punish. There's a staggering divide between a teenager committing a frivolous theft as opposed to John Dillinger and real desperadoes. With no adversity or prohibition, an over-zealous judge will send youths to prison, while other avenues were readily available but ignored. Knowing it to be true, our system refuses to incorporate a safety net to prevent this spoil from happening. With Caligula's face carved in one pillar of stone and the Ten Commandments chiseled in another, our halls-of-justice mirror old Roman ruins leaving many silent wings to flutter. Clenched in the bowels of this decomposing beast, prison is the backstreets of Purgatory. With gestures overtly racist and fierce, we adhere the tooth-N-claw, the primitive code of the jungle, living in the eruption, one must maintain an alert eye with total awareness of one's surroundings and the imminent dangers herein, for lifeblood in these jails runs penny cheap, and destiny will call only once. Entering this smoky abyss, here be I astride that pale horse as its promise of death surrounds me. Prison, it has been said, does three things: It makes you bitter, very bitter. It brings you to the crossroads of life where big decisions must be made. Then it kills you. Prison is over-rated and under-estimated all in the same breath, and is thriving with ignorance and exaggeration. Yes, this chaos is real, and it's too late for me to benefit from change, for the true campaign must begin with properly raising the children. Triggering a roll-of-the dice, in a blueprint for disaster my nightmare started when an impressionable youngster embraced an older clan of rebels. This crowd included an uncle who was 15 years my senior, as three of us cashed bogus checks, while a woman friend went along for the ride, and my uncle, the cowardly buffoon that he proved to be, would only drink beer and drive the car as he pocketed some of the money as a fee from each check we cashed. Following our arrest, we were placed in a tiny lock-up beneath the county courthouse which resembled the Mayberry jail on the Andy Griffith show. After six weeks I pled guilty and soon felt the wrath of a sneering and calloused judge. Entertaining no vision of tomorrow, his hand did not hesitate with a fiery decree of justice. Even though most of the money was recovered by the police, and later went missing from the evidence vault, this old sage showed a cold indifference as he unleashed his portrait of fairness. Exhausted by this expedition called "Life," I suffer the conquest of a corpse gazing down on my avalanche of destruction. Standing in the haze of a rainbow's mist, I came to terms with my fate, renounced crime-N-bloodshed, and tried to make sense of this calamity. For here dwells a great remorse, a crippling conscience of shame, which gnaws at me like a lump of ravenous cancer. Anchored on the trap-door betwixt Heaven and Hell, there's a sobering adage passed down through the ages giving pause to all those who dare, "If you don't want to taste the fruits of sin, stay out of Lucifer's orchard." Perhaps I am that bruised apple, for it never falls too far from the tree. Believing this sensation, and with the tart juices of anarchy fresh on my lips, I am the son-of-a-serpent gone astray. Vowing a spell of ecstasy, my defiance permeated its dissolving principles and worth. Trying to decide which route to follow, good guy or bad, and should I pursue the diploma of decency or the narrative of whispering sins as I trekked through the badlands of yesterday and trembled at the prospects of tomorrow, knowing quite well that my mind was enslaved to depravity while my heart was a dead man walking. Be it technical or tactical with my deviant manifesto, I am consumed with this genesis of infliction. Evoking life's enterprise, I gained confidence to analyze the credentials on this speculative subject of myself. Untangling the grain of wisdom that I can harbor, and feeling ties to an ancestor of the seven deadly sins, I urge you to not embark a career of crime, for the only message waiting at the end of this road is a cold and lonely grave. In 1973, at seventeen-years-old, I was arrested for cashing bad checks. The money, several thousand dollars, was confiscated as evidence. With no juvenile records, I was sent to prison. As events unfolded it was learned that the money simply "vanished", and no investigation was done. I believe in this small county both the sheriff and prosecutor conspired to steal the money, and this is why neither official made any effort to locate the missing money or the thief who stole it. A few years later I over-heard this sheriff telling an official from another county that he was considering a lawsuit against a local news reporter who'd written a story about the "missing money", and this reporter had named the sheriff as the main suspect. The missing money, along with the lack of concern by the sheriff and prosecutor, told me all I need to know about law enforcement and the great American justice system. I've dissected prison. I know its dynamics. I know its soul-searching moments and insanity. I know more about these places than the warden. The officials claim they know how to run a prison, and what a pathetic job they do. But I really know the mechanics of prison, and the stagnant fumes of dysfunction fouling the air. Rumbling down this road of reflection, I got myself in here. It was I who sparked violence where two people were murdered. It was I who plundered that line of innocence. All this happened because I didn't like how my like was going. I robbed and killed with impunity. I had no regard for others, and little integrity for myself. In the first robbery a young woman was kidnapped. She did not plead for her life, however, in a moment of grief she gasped, "Oh, my little daughter", as she realized that she would never again see her child. As the years pass, those words of resignation spoken by a young woman in peril will haunt me forever. More than eighty-percent of these prisoners have committed sex crimes. But I am not one of them. That being said, I still feel tainted for the crimes which I did. Like the principles of a finely-honed art, I am now in my element and my skill. Languishing in this quake of misery with many grim tales to be told. My soul shuffles between an introvert and as madman. I do not like most people. I've learned that human beings are lizards whose dark deeds find no end. I associate with few prisoners, and enjoy my own company rather well, as I thrive in a battle of confusion, solitude and mystique. These winds encompass the free-world as well, but being in here, like sardines in a can, one cannot gain distance from the reptiles, since they flood this swamp of dissension to its brim. All this being absorbed, I once worked for a farm family in Northern Michigan who were genuinely honest and decent people. Prior to this job I had labored twelve-hour-days on my cousin's dairy farm where I earned forty-cent-per-hour, and was routinely treated like shit, and that's why everybody quit working for him. Seeking another job, I was sixteen-years-old when I began working on the farm of George and Marion Rose who, as life unfolded, proved to be some of the nicest human beings that I will ever know. But I have not encountered too many nice people in my journey. "I wasn't always a dirty criminal. In those early years I was honest and humble and kind. That's when I was young and still a good person, none of which I am today...!"

Author: Jarvis, Darrell

Author Location: Michigan

Date: September 1, 2019

Genre: Essay

Extent: 12 pages

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