Since writing Potholes Of The Soul or I should say during it, I almost pulled the plug on my typewriter forever.
To be honest, from working on my memoir, dealing with the daily struggles of prison life, and my on-going fight to once again be free, I had a serious case of writers block. This turned into an even bigger case of the “ I don’t care’s” – the kind which whatever you try to do, you wind up frustrated and quit before saying, “ I don’t care.”
Unlike many other writers who can simply create stories at will, I’m just not that gifted. My brain can only create things of value after something jars it. But when my newest fan wrote that Potholes made her shed a tear, I knew I had to tell a Tale – one that I never intended on ever repeating. And if anything, I wanted nothing more than to make as though it had never happened.
As I conveyed in Potholes Of The Soul, there really is not much to care for, let alone cherish in prison. Yet one sunny morning while raking up pieces of paper in my sandbox of a yard, out from beneath the litter a rather large bullfrog appeared. OK- now you might be thinking I’m just telling stories to entertain you. If I didn’t see it first hand myself, I probably would think the same thing. After being in prison for close to two decades, this is the first one I had ever seen – after assuming I had seen everything there was to see.
To truly confuse me, the prison yard is eclipsed on three sides by twelve story buildings of one cell block on top of another. Then, beyond that, is a forty-foot gun towered wall that completely surrounds everything. So how it appeared in this sand-clad citadel was puzzling to say the least.
Where it came from, or how it appeared here I will never know, but after it leapt in my direction, I mistakenly thought it was trying to attack me – I really did. I managed to actually grab it, and place it in a rather large puddle, which is actually just the over-flow from a running spigot. The same kind you would attach a garden hose to, and similar to the one your greaseball neighbor is washing the driveway with as you read this.
It seemed content enough and getting hydrated, but the only problem was everyone wanted to adopt my new web-footed friend. Several even offered to pay me (of course in cigarettes) to bring it into their cells. This was almost tempting, until I heard that its new home would range from a desolate cardboard box, to a tiny peanut butter jar.
No dice, the frog remains outside !
My associates and I agreed – we just couldn’t allow anyone to put him in a cage like the ones we had. This is the plus side of having several murderous coworkers. They were not going to let anyone even contemplate frog-napping the little fella either.
So, for several weeks, to the amazement and joy of us all, this bug-eyed creature has managed to entertain us just by doing what frogs do. It sat patiently in its puddle, and simply waited for someone to drop an insect into the water. Then, as it did, it devoured them as if it was on a Broadway stage.
Now after watching this for a while, we came to the conclusion that it might have been put in prison for a reason, as it simply waits for the chance to kill things. This little green bastard was a legitimate two-ounce tough guy, and I even had to wonder if it was giving me the evil eye the one day. I’m glad it remained loyal enough though, as there is no way I could have written I got into a knife fight with an amphibian.
The only consolation to it’s murderous ways were at least it ate what it killed. But then again, so did a few of my neighbors (allegedly). You have to wait for the book for that story.
At any rate, it was far unlike the half-frozen luna moth I found prior. As a matter of fact, they were as different as Mike Tyson and a graceful ballerina. Yet, they were both something to nurture, even if it was just for a brief moment.
But there is still that missing portion of the moth’s story I intentionally left out. By thinking I was saving it from freezing to death, I might have done to it the last thing I would have wanted done to me. By bringing it in my cell to defrost – I locked it away from the things it knew and loved. It was only after doing as much, did I quickly realize some things just shouldn’t be put in cages – moths included.
After I gently warmed it up within my callused palms, it began to slowly open and close its wings as if testing them. Then, as carefully as it could, it began to flutter as though life had again surged through its frail body. The final act of the elaborate performance was making circular laps in my cramped cell. To be honest, it was by far the most beautiful thing I ever saw between these frigid steel walls.
I can only pray that one day I will be able to convey the emotions behind witnessing this, but like the humility I found when I thought I was dying, watching it gracefully glide through the air was absolutely humbling – and breathtaking all at once. The best way I could describe it in one word would be “angelic.”
Now I was certain it was a soul passing from one place to the next – and I longed for nothing more than to understand its message. Since that brutal winter’s day, when something deep inside me snapped, and my actual soul shattered along with it, did I gain an ability to see things far differently than most can – or I had previously. At first I assumed either I finally lost my mind, or since I was devoid of most emotions for so long, they all somehow became enhanced.
I assure you I’m not claiming to have some higher power, or the ability of speaking with animals like Dr. Doolittle, and if anything it might be a curse. Yet without trying to sound totally insane, these are the same senses we all possess, yet for the majority of my existence, I was far too sightless to realize it.
Now I can finally see – instead of simply looking. I can feel – without needing to touch. And more often than not, I can understand – without having to ask. Psychiatrists or experts might just have a very long name for this, and a matching medication, or I might have turned into a misfit product of my own environment – just another convict with too much time on his hands. I wouldn’t be the first.
Yet with whatever had occurred inside of me – or whatever you choose to call it, I honestly marveled at this animal for hours. I was amazed at everything it did as it fluttered from one spot to the next. I was in awe as it searched for the right spot to perch and rest before taking off again. It was only after I thought it had landed for the night did I close my eyes to sleep – quickly forgetting they are called luna moths for a reason.
During its nocturnal travels, I heard it flutter under my metal sink. It then intentionally entranced me as I felt it land on top of my covers. I was careful not to move and break our bond, and smiled at the thought of it perched upon my chest. My only concern was it landing in my open toilet and drowning – but not my moth. It was a survivor destined to have another chance and just couldn’t do something so foolish. And it didn’t.
Yet the following morning, when I rose, this once tranquil scene changed dramatically. Now intently staring at me from the top of my television, was what appeared to be just two hollow eyes. It looked as though it fought a fierce battle through the darkness. Pieces of its once magnificent wings were strewn about the cold cement floor almost as if demons used them as confetti, after ripping them off its body in chunks.
I would swear on everything precious to me, it stared at me for a second or two more, making certain it had my attention, before flying through my open cell bars. It could have left at any time, yet it patiently waited for me to rise. Maybe it was still trying to relay its message – the one I just couldn’t grasp.
It launched itself forward as it struggled valiantly to fly. It only made it across the narrow tier – maybe ten feet – before crashing into a closed window with a thud, and fell directly on top of a scalding radiator. I stood speechless, holding the bars, and pondered everything it went through – and everything it overcame.
Its soul was frozen to the core – and with a caring touch it thawed. It battled through the darkness, and the strange things contained in it. Then, when it finally saw the light, it mistakenly thought it could once again be free.
But as its antenna drooped onto the hot metal – and its now lifeless remains began to turn brown – I finally understood its message…