Chapter 5 December 23, 1994, Christmas Eve-Eve
“Number 6079,” a stern voice announced from the free side of Ernie’s cell door. “Number 6079,” it repeated.
“What’s all the noise?” a half sleeping Ernie asked the voice that he now realized was a guard.
“Papers here say we are getting one of our numbers back today,” the guard said while shaking a hefty pile of papers back and forth in the cold prison air.
When he was first booked into prison, Ernie was given Number 6079. Prison protocol mandated that he be referred to only as his prison number throughout his stay. Therefore, Ernie had only been called Number 6079, and this had gone on for the past six months.
Because of this mandate, both the prisoners and the guards had developed their own slang term for when someone was getting out of prison. If it was a prisoner it was: I am getting my name back. When it was a prison official, like here, it was: We are getting one of our numbers back. The guard was acknowledging that Ernie was being let out today.
Still feeling extremely tired, Ernie sat up on his bunk. “Yes sir,” he said yawning. “They told me last week that today was the day.” He stood up and swung his arms back and forth to get the blood flowing and to stretch a bit. This rapid movement allowed his back to crack most satisfyingly.
He had been so excited last night that he thought he wouldn’t be able to fall asleep. So it was a surprise that he had slept at all. It must have been good sleep too, because here he was still trying to wake himself up. He bounced up and down on the balls of his feet.
“8:00 o’clock sharp. Out the door,” the guard agreed.
“Wow, is it 8:00 already?”
“Not quite.” the guard checked his prison issue wristwatch. “It’s five until two.”
“Two Ay Em? Then why’d you wake me up so early?” Ernie asked the guard.
“You have to clean this pig sty up before you leave. You know? We wanted to make sure you had the time to do so.”
Ernie had kept his cell spotless his entire stay. Looking around the 8 x 10 he could not for the life of him see what needed to be cleaned. Everything was in order. Perhaps the only exception which he saw now was a copy of The Turner Diaries which lay on the cement floor of his cell. He must have fallen asleep with it on his chest and it either slid off sometime in the night or when he woke up. Six whole hours and all he needed to do for clean-up is pick up one book? He leaned down, picked up the book and moved towards the shelf.
“What’s that you got there, 6079?” the guard asked.
“No shit, Sherlock,” said the guard. He spoke into his radio, “I am going to need you to open Number 6079’s door. We have a smart ass.” The cell door opened and the guard walked into Ernie’s cell.
“Hand me that fucking contraband,” he commanded. Ernie gave him the book. The spine had a prison library sticker adorned to it. Ernie had been using the check-out card for a bookmark. It was sticking a quarter of the way out the top of the novel making it doubly obvious that the book was not contraband. It was prison property.
Just as it was obvious that the book was not contraband, it was also obvious that Ernie hadn’t been woken up merely to clean his already clean cell. The guard pulled the bookmark out from where it was holding Ernie’s spot, and threw it on the ground by Ernie’s feet. “The only way I am going to let you give me back that number, 6079, is for you to clean up this fucking mess,” he reminded him.
Ernie leaned over to pick up the check-out card, and immediately felt a tremendous pain from a blow he absorbed just below his rib cage. He stumbled to the ground where he was then kicked twice in the lower back.
Ernie looked up at the guard who was shaking his right hand which now pained him after the punch he threw. “Look, Mother Fucker,” he told him. “we know you are mixed up with some heavier shit than what you got popped for. You better keep your nose clean on the outside because the next time – it ain’t only going to be a six month stint. Now clean up this fucking mess.” The guard swept his hand across the shelf knocking all of its contents on the floor and walked out.
While cleaning up the stuff later Ernie wondered if the cops really knew he was mixed up with some heavier shit. Ernie surely hadn’t told anybody in prison. He’d done good to keep his mouth shut. If he were a betting man he’d put ten to one odds on the fact that the police had nothing on him. It was more likely that every prisoner gets this little warning moments before walking out the door. Why would he be any different?
The personal effects Ernie walked into prison with had grown by one on his way out. It was a signed Judgment for Divorce. The Judgment was dated: September, 1994, about a month before his release.
Sure Ernie had figured that Julie had started shaking up with a new guy, but never thought she would move forward with the divorce. The Judgment said it divided up their things too. He got the house, but she got all the money. How can they do that without him even present? The answer is right here, he thought to himself, reading, “Present on behalf of the Plaintiff, Mr. Jerome Finestein.”
Leave it to a fucking Jew to weasel up a way to get a divorce granted without the other party present, he thought. Knowing that whore, this Jew Finestein is probably the guy she’s fucking. There was some silver lining though. The Judgment listed her new address in full: 30722 Winterberry Ave. That would take a lot of the guess work out. Now, I wonder how close that is to Kat Suchie’s house, he thought.