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Bump'n the Curb's by Mark Anthony Given

for Brianna

    The penalty for laughing in a courtroom is six months in jail; if it were not for this penalty, 
the jury would never hear the evidence. -Henry Louis Mencken
                OF THE HUNDRED'S OF MEN I have met in jail or prison I may be seen four or five outside in the Free World. TOMMY WILLIAMS was one of them. Late 30's, pot bellied, balding white guy from Ohio somewhere looked like the smuck copier repairman that lived across the street you never talked too. By the looks of him, you'd never guess he had 23 old blonde bombshell wife that thought he was the Second Coming, could play any musical instrument you placed in his hands and was a professional magician who could make things disappear. Just the kinda guy I needed in jail.  The first time I met him we had just came back from our Road Crew '"Bump in Curb's," we called it, kinda like a modern day chain gang without the chains. I saw four or five black guys ganged up around this new white guy; I initially thought he was what you see real often in jail, Family Member or Partner Assault, usually, I guy fighting with his wife, you see it on COPS constantly. The jails are full of them. Them and Dead Beat Dad's.  Anyway, I get up there, and they're all saying," "Come on Tommy, one more time!" "Please!" "Yo, Mo, come see this!" Tommy sees me leaning on the wall waiting to see whatever the hell he's doing! I had no idea what it could be. 
          "All right, once more and that's it!"
         Not supposed to be smoking back here, but were "Trustee's" and somebody getting out tomorrow will hold up for it if need be. 
         "You guys are gonna give me cancer." A brand new Benson & Hedges 100's Menthol appears with the flick of his fingers that would sell for $10 in another part of the little hillbilly jail.
He light's it and inhales a big hit like savoring a bite of fresh apple pie. After a few hits he passes it around and half an inch before the filter, he says
          "Now watch."
         He's got the cigarette in his mouth, and he takes one of the black guys T-shirt, "No do mine, do mine," Somebody hollered, but Tommy ignored him and took the bottom of his T-shirt and pulling it forward and made a little hole in the bottom hand like a Well, and he takes his right hand, his left hand is under the T-shirt forming the little hole, he takes the last hit off the cigarette and puts it out in the man's t-shirt like it was an ashtray! He reaches underneath and shows like a little ball where presumably the cigarette is and turns it around like a knot and told the black kid to hang onto it. There's were maybe 8-10 people watching now and the kid's real smiling and jumping around the thing might explode. 
           After plenty of effects, Tommy says',
          "All right! Show us what you got!
The kid slowly unrolled it like maybe there was Gold in there or something, and as he unfolds it, I look around at all these black people's faces, me and Tommy and probably a few more in the 12 man Unit, I look back over as it finally reveals there is absolutely nothing there! Not even a smudge! I looked around, and I swear to you, I saw the color drain out of at least two of three pure black faces! They jumped back like they'd been scalded with hot water, and I thought I had just seen the super natural because I knew I just saw him crush that cigarette out and it was as if it had disappeared into thin air. He would empty his pockets, let you search him high and low, and that damn cigarette was gone.....
        THE JACKSON COUNTY Detention Center in bum holler Pascagoula, Mississippi was smack in the middle of New Orleans and the Florida State Line along Interstate 10, which has been the County’s bread and butter, along with Highway 90 which was the interstate before there were interstates. They can and do, take a half a dozen deputies and sheriff’s patrol cars, prop up a sign that said, “DRUG INTERDICTION STOP AHEAD,” along a long stretch of the interstate just across the Alabama, Mississippi State Line and just watch people go into panic mode. There was no Interdiction Stop Ahead, and they would wait up the road by the U-Turn and stop anyone making a U-Turn, you could see people slinging stuff out the windows. If you didn’t do any of that and were acting “Hinky,” they would follow you until you came to a stop at a gas station or wherever you came to a stop and “make contact,” and ask general questions and permission to search your car. Because they never pulled you over the Fourth Amendment never comes into play. they’re slick. The jail was packed! I met two guys in there who got busted in “Tony’s Discount Drug’s going in the hole in the roof like I did. Like the phony Drug Interdiction Stop, it was their Honey Pot attracting Moths to the Flame.  County Boy’s Got Something For Your Ass...
          MR. PENNY CATES drove the new big white county van with our hoes and rakes in the back and three bench seats and usually ten Jackson County Jail Inmates, with me almost always riding shotgun for some reason or another.  He looked a lot like a veteran Mississippi State Police Highway Patrol Officer which is exactly what he was until he staged his death and with law enforcement agencies from around the United States attending, Penny Cates showed up at his funeral.  He was the only one who thought it was funny and they fired him.  #pennycates

          "MAGIC" WAS THE NAME of Tommy's rock band that played along the Gulf Coast in the late 70's and 1980'2. He regaled me with stories of famous rock bands from the 70's he roadied, or guitar tech's for, he could do it all. I will never forget the time our road crew was at this little church/community center in a small community we were cutting grass and burning limbs, and at lunch the ladies feed us sandwiches’ and cake sitting at their tables and Tommy get's up afterwards and walks over to the old upright piano, and set down and knocked out a heartfelt performance of "Whipping Post," by The Allman Brother's, everyone was speechless! You can name any song he's knock out a riff to show you he could play it.
          THAT'S WHEN WE MET his bombshell wife and The LEGEND OF TOMMY WILLIAMS began. We were assigned different parts of the county every morning so we would know where we would be all day. The driver would stop at a convenience store every morning and let us get our Skoal and Kool's and powdered donuts and junk food. Tommy would call his wife, and she would bring whatever we wanted, usually Pot. I didn't get to see half the shit Tommy done because everywhere we went our handler was a former Mississippi Highway Patrolman who was a legend in Law Enforcement and Mississippi after he staged his own funeral of 100's of people, police from all over the country showed up for a joke! Nobody else thought it was funny and he was fired. This was years before, and his wife was probably related to old time movers and shakers, and he was still on the government tit somehow.
         THIS CRAZY BASTARD hollered into Wendy's drive Thru Window after we received our order and right before we pulled away,
         "The President's been shot!" And drove off at a high rate of speed. He was one of us after that!

          TOMMY HAD BEEN BRAGGING about his bombshell wife and the first time she showed up at that little church in the woods, more than a few were waiting. Only a couple knew about the Pot though and how they did the hand to hand Houdini would have missed. She pulled up in a white new Cadillac and smiling like a prom queen and looked like Tanya Tucker without all the makeup. Syrupy sweet Southern twang and never let on for a moment she had any idea how gorgeous she was. I was fuck'n floored, and I know the rest of our motley crew was too. Especially Penny Cate's. This guy could have been the President for Life of the Horn Dog Club! His eyes lit up just looking at her, and you would have thought Tommy was a visiting dignitary from the County Music hall of Fame the way Penny Cate's paraded Tommy around everywhere we went after that. Card tricks, rope tricks, Rings, make shit appear out of thin air right before your eyes.
         AFTER A FEW DAYS OF SEEING those damn cigarettes disappearing into thin air I would have given my left nut to know where that cigarette went too... I knew it had to be a trick and one day he stuck his hand right in my face pointing right between my eyes and said,
        "You don't see it, do you?
        Six inches in front of my face right under my nose and can't see it, and you can buy it any Magic store in the country for fewer than ten bucks. You probably saw the magician take a handkerchief and drape it over his hand, make a little hole and pull a hundred silk or nylon handkerchiefs’ out of it. Tommy could do the same thing except he would put things into and make them disappear, seen him dump a couple of packet's of sugar or even a little water, puff has gone into thin air. Once I knew what it was, I couldn't wait to get one, and they have a magic Store in the French Quarter in New Orleans.
         EVERY NIGHT OF THE WEEK while the cops were rounding up miscreants with phony drug interdiction units and drug store traps, we were in the Trustee Unit trying to burn the jail down smoking pot! How we were getting it in becoming a great concern with their restraints and search and capable takedown methods. Shiny handcuff's they wanted to try and wear out on its citizenry, not to mention fully charged bottles of MACE they were just itching to try on you after they were MACE'ed as part of their Training, and thought everybody deserved a taste of it.
        CAPTAIN CHROME DOME DONNER was a bald headed robot cop who slept in his perfectly pressed SWAT Uniform ram rod straight so he could rush out the door to get to work to terrorize pre trial detainees and his staff. Every time I saw him his head was shiny from slight perspiration and always pissed off about something or another. Every serious jail has got to have its own SORT "Search or Rescue Team, for Cell Extractions, search for drugs and weapons in the jail, etc., Chrome Dome was in charge of all that too, and when we would return to the Detention Center in the evening, the sally port would open and the jail brass, the K-9 Unit, SORT, SWAT, Road Patrol, Police Academy Trainees class they had in once in a while, and they all wanted to know 'Where the Hell 'That Damn Cigarette Goes.!" was waiting for us, but we were waiting on them....
        ONE AT A TIME they would lay hands on you as soon as you stepped out of the white county van, stripped, bend over, right into the Isolation Cells right across from "Control," and "Dispatch," which you could barely see them thru heavily smoked glass, but they were watching us rabid animals. I was with the last group into the last of the three isolation cells, four of us were lined up against the wall surrounded by dogs and the entire SWAT team making room for those in watching from Control.
        "Mr. William's under Mississippi Code extinguishing a lit cigarette out on an individual is a First-degree Arson charge carrying Fifteen years at Parchman Mississippi! But that's not what I am concerned with, 'what I want to know is where that damn cigarette goes?" I was standing right next to Tommy, and they made us stand there in just out jail boxer shorts with our hands on our heads, and I could keep from busting out laughing, but I was smiling...
        "Captain Chrome Dome, I mean Captain Donner, you can take me in that cell, put an Apple in my mouth, and I will make your cigarette disappear!" 
          THIS FAT POT BELLIED balding guy from Nowhere, Ohio had more Charisma than probably anybody I ever met and after I knew him a while, we were Celie's, I would stand back and watch people's face's as he did the same amazing Schick over and over and Penny Cate's had a waiting list of County District's Maintenance Barn's to get to where everybody wanted to know where that cigarette went.  Bombshell Wife showed up every day of the week no matter where like she was his Assistant, Card Trick's, Magic Rings, Slight of Hand and when you first met him he would light up with a smile you'd thought you shook hands with 'Lightning in a Bottle, but he looked like the office copier repairman, over weight, kinda geeky, rumpled nothing special clothing...... 
The damnedest thing you ever saw....

Copyright 2017 by Mark Anthony Given
All Right Reserved


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