I have to begin by apologizing for seeming to fall off the map. However, in my defense, during my hiatus, I have been enrolled in two separate colleges. The first in which I received an undergraduate certificate in criminal justice and am now firmly on track to completing my first year at Ohio—Go Buckeyes! So along with living in front of my typewriter, on more than one occasion I have actually fallen asleep with a textbook still clutched in my grasp.
In the midst of successfully navigating my quest for a higher education, as promised along with giving financial support to the named charities on my website, I have also successfully raised funds for a host of other honorable causes. If I was free, no one would blink an eye, but coming from one in my position, the recipients are usually amazed that someone in my position would go to such lengths in order to help others. Or, after becoming aware of my past, question how I honestly changed from what I once was to the person I am now. It originally took an entire chapter to explain, so for brevity’s sake, I instead naively respond “that’s what decades in prison was supposed to do.”
Then through these charities, I have also inadvertently formed relationships with some of the most honorable and dedicated human beings who walk the earth. Men such as Staff Sergeant Jim Willig, a humble Super Bowl ring recipient, and one of the founding fathers of the United States Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots program. I was blessed to form a friendship with him after their warehouse of toys was stolen—toys which I donated funds towards replacing.
However, in the midst of this crisis, I am not reaching out to you in order to narrate a portion of my recent academic accomplishments. Nor rattle off a list of dedicated individuals from a host of charitable organizations. Instead, I’m writing as I watch this pandemic grow from a blip on the morning news to something of biblical proportions. I, like so many of you, have struggled to find a way to help those in need.
In my case, unlike the gazillionaire philanthropists or large charities whose organizations bear crests and family names, I don’t have a war chest of funds to feed those that are no longer employed through no fault of their own. Or unlike the free, I can’t utilize my time in helping to ensure our elderly are not forgotten. Or even create something simple, like our nurturing mothers and sisters are, by tirelessly sewing masks for those on the front lines.
However, I can “and am” offering anyone who is interested, a free online copy of The Fourth Side. At the very least, it might temporarily alleviate the monotony of what life has become for many of you. This from someone who knows firsthand how mentally damaging idle time can be to one who formerly led a busy and productive life. This after being removed from everything we once knew as normal, and separated from our loved ones in a desperate attempt to preserve lives.
The pandemic is not only affecting those of you in the free world. It officially entered the New York State prison system on March 17th, when staff at Sing Sing tested positive for the virus. On the same day, an officer in my facility tested positive as well. Prisons were, and continue to be, a hotbed for the spread of outbreaks. Close contact is simply unavoidable, and it’s impossible to self-isolate, wear a mask, or even utilize something as simple as hand sanitizer.
From a personal perspective, I feel as though I am trapped on a burning rooftop, and the flames are licking at my feet. My grim reality is those symbolic gun-towered walls and razor-wire fences are in place to keep your garden-variety killers in. Neither were designed to keep microscopic murderers out.
At this moment, half of the cell block I reside in is quarantined, multiple inmates have been hospitalized, and you can cut the tension with a chainsaw. I am not exempt from the stress, either, and became visibly irate when we were held in our cells late, which caused me to lose precious time outdoors. Running late is a small thing, considering the issue at hand. And unbeknownst to me at the time, the Warden was on the phone as well, which put my call home in perspective. She had to inform a fellow convict’s family that his soul was paroled, but his empty vessel was left in the prison. I was calling to check on my perfectly healthy, but aging, mother.
Now those metaphorically created flames I just mentioned instantly became all too real. So real, that for the first time in my life, I publicly admitted to being deathly afraid that I am in prison. If you decide to read The Fourth Side, you will soon read the convict code on protective custody, a place I would never fathom exploring. However, in this instance, if I was certain I could escape the wrath of this barbaric bug, for the first time in my incarcerated existence… I would run to it.
In the course of helping both charities and individuals alike, I am often asked if I need anything. Never once have I accepted the offer. I didn’t think it would be proper to include my needs in anything related to Zap Tales, an obvious pseudonym which allowed my readers to focus on the stories—and far more important, the charities, not who created them. Zap Tales was always about just wanting to share a story, while being afforded the opportunity to help others, not create a self-serving soapbox to stand on.
Because Zap Tales has always been about the content and the charities, each of you, the readers, have acknowledged me as a human being that formerly made some horrible choices, not a faceless number or former newspaper clipping. I was embraced, nurtured, and what I consider most important, guided by total strangers. Simply by telling a story, I was given a chance to redeem myself to humanity while balancing my soul. All while sharing and expanding on our common goal of helping those in dire need… especially the children.
Now, in an ironic twist of fate, I have to go against my personal convictions, as I am in dire need, and I’m humbly begging for help. I am asking each of you to please sign the attached petition. And, for those that would like to do more, an added click and simple message to the attached links will give someone without a voice a virtual bullhorn.
Please share this, and The Fourth Side, with your loved ones, friends, and neighbors…