Chapter 12 Julie Newsome Green vs Ernest Tyson Green
Jackie was sitting on the cell floor crossed legged analyzing his graph paper while Ernie sat on his bunk. Another week had passed. To Ernie, it didn’t look like Jackie had gotten any further figuring out his Pente game. During that time Ernie finished his book, and started it again. He had also visited the library, but didn’t find any other books fitting his particular taste. This helped him to confirm his hypothesis: The Turner Diaries had made its way into the prison library by mistake. It was an oversight. This oversight was his gain. “You bout got that game figured out?” he asked Jackie.
Jackie looked up. “I wish I had some pebbles. This erasing ain’t gonna work.”
“They got zillions of them out in the yard.”
“Yea, I looked and couldn’t find what I needed. These here they got to be small enough to sit where the lines cross each other, and to be able to play right - they all have to be the same color for me and a different color for you.”
“How do you win?”
“You put down a marker on the board, then me, then you. First one to get five of their markers in a row wins.”
“Seems pretty infantile,” Ernie mocked. “You been fighting with that graph paper for weeks over tic-tac-toe? Whatever passes the time for you is fine by me, I suppose. Besides it keeps you quiet. Beats the hell out of you hijacking movie plots.”
“This ain’t no fucking tic-tac-toe. And I told you, I ain’t never seen that fucking movie.”
“You are right. My bad,” said Ernie. “Pente is five in a row and tic-tac-toe is three. And to my memory, the nigger in White Men Can’t Jump didn’t kill anyone. Apologies are deserved all the way around.”
“It bothers you don’t it?” asked Jackie.
“That a skinny nigga like me has killed a white-boy. And did it easy too, like pow, no problem.” He laughed. “And then his fucking wife, Kat Suchie the bitch’s name was, came to the park a few weeks later after I popped that nigga. And you know what this bitch did?” Jackie said. He was still laughing. A tear had formed in his right eye. He wiped it, and exhaled dramatically to catch his breath, before chuckling again. He powered on with his narrative unable to lessen his laughter. “She busts into the middle of a game, and was holding some bitch kid’s hand and dragging him from nigga to nigga on the basketball court. Asking each of em what happened to her husband. Hoping that once they saw the kid they’d soften up, Ya know? The bitch walks up to me, giving me this shit. This is Philly. He is a kid without a father. And you know what I do?”
Jackie waited for Ernie to acknowledge him. Ernie didn’t. “Well you’d like this.” Jackie said. “I told her one of those nigger jokes you love so much.” Ernie looked up at Jackie. “Yea, I said, ’Lady you need to look around. All of us is kids without a father.”
“You’re a fucking bastard,” Ernie said more to himself.
“But that ain’t the part that bothers you most. What really gets you is I got to kill a white boy, and you, one of those Adolf Hitler wanna be mother fuckers, ain’t.”
“Ain’t killed. No jews, and you certainly ain’t killed a nigga.”
It was true. Ernie hadn’t ever killed anyone. He challenged anyway. “How can you be so sure?” Ernie said.
“Because,” Jackie paused long for effect, “You. Are. A. Fuck. Ing. Pus. Sy. That’s why.”
Ernie immediately jumped up from his bunk and Jackie was up from the cell floor just as quick. Ernie had only stood up to get in Jackie’s face. This would show Jackie he had crossed the line calling him a pussy. If he really thought they were only going to stand up and look at each other with their fists balled up but still resting at their hips, he had Jackie all wrong. Dead fucking wrong. Because as soon as they were up, Jackie threw a punch as hard as he could landing a direct hit straight to Ernie’s jaw.
When Ernie came to the right side of his face was swollen two and a half times its normal size, and he was unable to open his mouth. Also he found he no longer had a cell mate. It would be another three weeks before he would be able to talk without slurring every other word. A man can do a lot of thinking in that time.
Nearly four months later Ernie would make his first friend while in prison, a kid no more than nineteen by the name of Luke Walker. Since Ernie’s jaw was completely healed by that time he figured he had no reason to tell the kid what had happened to it. To Ernie, the story was simple: That nigger Jackie snuck me in the jaw.
Besides, Ernie had more important matters to discuss with Luke. Matters dealing with Julie Green. Ernie planned to sit Luke down a week before his early release. He’d ask the kid if he wanted to make a couple of bucks. It would be the easiest money the kid ever made.
Arriving by hitch, Ernie was relieved to see that Baxton was a small town. From what he could tell it only had two restaurants: Yard Birds and Cross Roads Bar-N-Grill. Jackie had said Kat was a waitress. But a lot can change in six months. Either way that night, Ernie planned to start at Yard Birds ask about Kat and see if that’s where she worked. Yes or no, he’d have a drink or two to take a little of the prison edge off.
If it was a no, he’d eventually make his way to Cross Roads which as its name implied was directly across the street, and there he would do it all over again.
He had the driver he thumbed down drop him off at Yard Birds, and was glad he did because he struck gold before even having to walk into the place. There he saw sitting in its parking lot was Julie Jew Loving Green’s teal 1991 Mercury Tracer. Ernie was absolutely sure it was hers too. If the teal color didn’t give it away, the busted out rear right taillight certainly did. Not more than a week after he bought her the car, she backed it right into their mailbox. She promised that she’d fix it. Seeing it there in the Yard Birds parking lot, Ernie was not surprised she still hadn’t.
The car proved to be the source of many arguments during their marriage. Not only did Julie not fix the taillight like she promised, she never kept it clean either. To say it bothered Ernie that Julie had a brand new car she kept caked with dirt and disrepair would be an understatement.
Once after it was nice and dirty, he took his finger and wrote really big across the top of the trunk “FIX ME!!!” and drew a big arrow pointing down to the broken taillight. This only led to Julie cleaning the car, but not following through with her promise to take care of the taillight.
He wasn’t too surprised to see that the Tracer was washed in the parking lot. He figured she likely cleaned it up for her dinner date with that kike, Finestein. This was almost enough to make him walk right into Yard Birds and strangle her right then and there. But he thought better of it, and was glad he did.
From the gravel parking lot, he picked up a large rock, and he walked to the rear of the Tracer. Using the sharp edge of the rock he dug in deep into the teal paint writing “FIX ME!!!” across its entire trunk. Below that he carved a huge arrow. It pointed directly to the busted taillight.
After completing his masterpiece he walked across the street to Cross Roads Bar-N-Grill, where after asking if Kat was working tonight, he was sat down in her section. The night could not have gotten off to a better start.
Julie shared a meal with a Jew that night, but not Jerome Finestein like Ernie thought. Since the time school started, Mark Nelson had not shut up about Forrest Gump, and Mrs. Sampson said he was putting her through the same thing. “Do you care to see what all the hype is about?” she asked Julie that morning.
It was the first time Julie had ever been invited by a teacher to do something outside of school, and she felt no unease about accepting the offer. Because along with Mark filling her ear about this movie; he had also co-signed on Mrs. Sampson. It seemed whenever he had the chance he’d sing her praises. At this point she was convinced of two things: Forrest Gump was incredible, and Mrs. Sampson was in-comp-ra-bull. “Yea, and afterwards, maybe we can get a bite to eat?” Julie suggested.
About the same time, the waitress at Yard Birds asked whether they wanted any desserts a man in the parking lot recognized a teal 1991 Mercury Tracer. “Just a cup of coffee if you have any that is fresh my dear,” Mrs. Sampson requested, and Julie nodded at the waitress to show that she too wanted the same.
“Don’t take us long to brew her fresh,” the waitress replied. “Sides I’m ’fraid anything I serve you from that pot now’ll just be older than all get out.”
Julie and Mrs. Sampson looked at each other and shrugged. They were in no hurry and fresh coffee sounded nice. “We don’t mind waiting on the fresh pot if you don’t mind brewing it,” Julie said.
The coffee was brewed, and the two ladies discussed the movie. By the time Mrs. Sampson added sweet-n-low and cream to her first cup, Ernie’s masterpiece was completed. The ladies finished their coffee, each drinking two cups. The sun had set during that time rendering the parking lot a bit too dark for the ladies to notice any new imperfections on the teal paint job.
“What can I do you for, dear?” the waitress asked the stranger who had recently made his way down into her section.
The stranger looked up from his menu. He noticed that on the absolute edge of her right breast she wore a name tag. It read: KAT. She really took her time to put it right there, he thought. Yea, she did that on purpose. “Well, what’s good here?” the stranger asked her back.
“Chicken’s good. Lots of people order the ribs too.”
“Not terribly hungry. Not yet at least. How about a Jack and Coke to get me started.”
Three more Jack and Cokes later, Kat walked up to the stranger. He had been flirting with her for about the last hour and a half. It had been fun, so she hated that it was about to come to an end. Also she hated that she wouldn’t be able to get any of the tip he may leave. He had been ordering $5.00 dollar drinks one after the other. Now he was on his fourth and by the looks of it, he didn’t appear to be stopping. “Make it another, will you honey?” the stranger requested.
“I am sorry baby,” Kat told the stranger, “But my shift is bout over, I am gonna have to turn you over to Ms. Tracie over there.” Kat pointed. “Don’t worry baby, she’ll take care of you good as I have. Who knows, maybe better.” She winked.
“What’s it I done to scare you off?” asked the stranger before polishing off his Jack and Coke.
Oh it’s not you, honey. It’s just that the boss man don’t want us still on the floor once our shift is over.” She picked up the stranger’s empty glass. “I’ll make sure and tell Tracie that you want another before I head out.”
“But I won’t like Tracie near as much as I like you,” said the stranger.
“Oh come on now,” Kat blushed. “You don’t know that.”
“Why sure I do.” He smiled. “Well the night is still young, I’d be much obliged if after you clocked out you came and had one or two more of these things with me.” He pointed to the drinks.
“That’s a fine offer, but the boss man don’t let us hang round and drink after our shifts. Says he’d be God Damned if he watches us blow all our tip money on booze.”
“Well I’d buy em,” the stranger said. “So you could keep your tips.”
“That ain’t the point. I think he’s scared we will wind up embarrassing him if we drink here.”
“Hmm, I don’t know. Damn seems that boss man of yours has implemented a set of rules that have proven themselves to be a direct opposition to my objectives.” He smiled. “Now, if I didn’t know no better, I would say you are making up reasons not to hang out with me.”
“Well I am glad you know better,” Kat sharply replied.
“Well hmm. That right? Any ideas?” asked the stranger.
“Well if the offer is good across the street too, why don’t get a spot warmed up and wait on me over there.”
“How long you plan to keep me waiting?”
“Just long enough to finish rolling silverware, square away my tills, take a quick shower, and switch into a change of clothes. The shower and the change of clothes are already here in the back locker-room. So it really won’t take too much time.”
The stranger looked up at his waitress. “Ok,” he said. “I will meet you over there. I got to make a phone call first anyway.”
“Perfect,” replied the waitress. “What’s your name anyway, cowboy?”
“Big Ern, huh? I like it.” The waitress pointed at the tip of her right breast. “As you see, I am Kat,” she said.
Julie wouldn’t notice the scratch on her car until that Sunday two days later. When she got home on Friday night after dinner and a movie she went straight to bed, and on Saturday, she slept in until about nine.
That morning Julie pressed the play button on the answering machine blinking in her kitchen, and waited for her favorite duos greeting: “You have… one… new messages.” She laughed a bit at this every time.
To Julie it seemed like it was two different voices on the machine. Guy Number One begins, “You have.” Then there is an awkwardly long pause, before a totally different voice, the voice of Guy Number Two, says a number.
To explain this pause, Julie sometimes would joke to herself that here clearly Guy Number Two forgot his line. Sometimes she’d say that the spotlight was too bright for him. Guy Number Two was just too nervous to deliver his line on time. Show Biz aint for everyone, right? Number Two choked!
There was a time a while back when she was set on saying that during that pause Number Two was counting the number of messages, but had recently decided that wasn’t very funny. It was much funnier to say that he choked.
After Guy Number 2 gives his line, there is another pause before Guy Number One comes back to finish the greeting. No matter the number provided by Guy Number Two, the word “messages” is always given in its plural form. This was Julie’s favorite part. She’d joke, Guy Number One shows his true professionalism here. He knows that if he jumps right in there with his line, he will bring unwanted scrutiny to Guy Number Two choking. Number One only pauses to create some balance. And to Guy Number 1, I say Bravo, Sir.
She was playing with a few ideas on how to explain why the word messages was plural as the message on the machine started playing. It too had two voices: “You have a collect call from . . . Ernie Green . . . at Holmes County Prison. To accept the charges press one to-”
Julie pressed the delete button on her machine. Just then her favorite duo brought a satisfying greeting to her ear: “You have (Choked!) zero… new messages.”
It had been about a week since he had called, she thought, before going back to thinking about how to explain why Guy Number One always said messages plural. She stayed in the entire day.
Shortly after being told by the prison staff that he’d been granted his early release, Ernie decided it was time to proposition the kid. Sitting across from Luke in the prison cafeteria, Ernie asked him, “How’d you like to make a few bucks, Kid?”
“A few bucks would suit me just fine, Sir,” he replied.
Luke’s response pleased Ernie in more ways than one. He had thought he might be able to trust the kid almost immediately. It was the little things he noticed about Luke. Like how he stood up straight, and stayed to himself which was the same as saying he didn’t surround himself with niggers. Throughout his short time there it seemed Luke was always doing something new to surprise Ernie. Like just then when Ernie asked him about making some money; the kid looked up from his plate and made eye-contact with Ernie before he answered. To Ernie, this was a sign of respect.
And it’s not that Ernie would have felt disrespected or even thought anything of it had the kid continued to eat while they chatted. They were only allowed 15 minutes grub time after all, and most of that time was spent waiting in line. Normally everyone spent the little time they had shoveling food into their mouths while talking to one another. It was the expected norm.
This along with the fact that the kid had called him sir further solidified Ernie’s inkling that the kid was a damn good egg and the perfect candidate for the job.
Mirroring the respect that he had been shown, Ernie put down his fork and looked the kid in the eye. Ernie started, “I am getting my name back next week, Kid.”
Congratulations Mr. Green. Hmm so -” Luke started counting on his fingers. “So by my count the County is taking 6079 back six months earlier than she first expected. Now why would they do that for, Good Behavior?”
“Precisely. Kept my nose clean, kid. Same as you’re doing.”
“Thank you sir. Glad you can see that I am trying.”
“I would never put you in a position to dirty your nose ever, kid.
“I tell you sir, I am glad to hear it.” He got serious, “So what you got?”
“I am going to give you a phone number. All I need you to do is make a phone call for me every week,” Ernie said. “You don’t even have to say nothing. If they accept the collect call, hang up soon as they do. It’s likely they won’t accept. Likely they’ll pick up the phone hear it’s a collect call from County Prison and hang up. Now if they don’t pick up the phone, just let the answering machine get it. Hang the phone up soon as the Operator tells em it’s from the prison.”
“I believe I can accommodate that request for you, sir. What may I ask is the pay?”
“What you think is fair, Kid?”
“It’s only one call a week?”
“Now, I don’t wanna presume nothing, but something tells me you want these to go on right up until your former date of release?”
“Six months left, four weeks in a month. Four times six is twenty-four. That’s twenty-four calls.” Luke said. “How about a dollar per call, $24.00 dollars.”
“I think $24.00 is a fair amount.”
The two shook on it solidifying they had a deal. Before he was released, Ernie fronted Luke the entire amount in trust. Luke made his first dollar by making his first phone call to Julie’s house the same afternoon Ernie was released. No one answered the phone. He did as he was told and hung up the phone shortly after the machine picked it up.
With the exception of checking Friday and Saturday’s mail, Julie had no reason to leave the house on Saturday. The post office would be open Sunday, she figured, and more empty as well. She had been glad she had the foresight to forward the mail from her old house at Greendale to a post office instead of forwarding it to her new home address. It was a little thing, but provided a little piece of mind nonetheless. At least the bastard wouldn’t know where I lived, she thought.
Of course, she didn’t have the same foresight with her telephone number, and was scolding herself once again for opting to keep the same phone number when the telephone company set up her new line in Baxton. Whether it had been more convenient to keep the same phone number was tested about once every week. She’d receive a collect call from . . . Ernie Green . . . at Holmes County Prison. It was the worst.
Now six months after she had her mail forwarded, she rarely received any mail in her post office box.
“That your little teal Tracer out there?” an older man checking his box along the same wall as Julie’s asked on Sunday afternoon.
“Yea,” replied Julie flipping through her mail. Mostly junk mail with one letter from Ernie. Probably junk too, she thought.
“I hate to tell you what you already know. But at the same time, I hate for you to go around like that if you don’t know already,” said the man.
“If it’s about that taillight,” replied Julie, “believe me, I know all about that.”
“Oh I am sorry, didn’t mean to bother you then.”
Julie thought nothing of it until she walked outside the post office. There along the hood she saw where someone had carved “FIX ME!!!” across her trunk. She figured it was only a coincidence that Ernie had once written the same thing in dirt. There is no way it could have been him. After all, he was in jail. He had just tried to call her yesterday.
Later when she got home she read Ernie’s letter. It was the same old shit. He was extremely sorry and hoped that she had forgiven him, and just six more months until he got out. He can’t wait.