In the Doghouse

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 “I think we are drawn to dogs because they are the uninhibited creatures we might be if we weren’t certain we knew better.”  George Bird Evans

I thought I had seen the last of Jimmy, but then he called me from jail. It was the downtown jail. It was the Cuyahoga County Jail, or the Corrections Center, or the Justice Center, depending on who you talk to. Everybody you talk to says you don’t want to be in that jail.

Last year a U.S. Marshals Service report detailed “inhumane” conditions in the center. There is an ongoing investigation that has so far resulted in criminal charges against a dozen-or-so jail employees, and there’s an FBI civil-rights probe going on, too.

The last time I had talked to Jimmy, months ago, was when I found out, two weeks after it happened, that his mother had died. We didn’t talk long that time.

Jimmy and his mother never got along. Whenever he was in AA, he worked it, but she was in AA for life, always preaching to him about it. He always said he didn’t have an addiction, but he was wrong.

Jimmy’s dad was a Cleveland Police Department detective. He used to sit outside Brian’s family home in Little Italy off Mayfield Road and spy on his father, audiotaping everything that went on, and photographing everybody who came and went. He followed him all around town. Wherever Brian’s father went, Jimmy’s father followed, like a faithful dog, keeping him under surveillance. Brian’s father was one of the lawyers for the Mob.

Brian and Jimmy grew up together. They were friends. They were best friends.

When jimmy’s mother was on her deathbed, she asked to see him. He went to the hospital. When I found out she died, I immediately broke my vow of silence with him, and texted him, saying I just heard about your mom, I’m so sorry about sending my condolences so late.

He texted me back. It was a meme from “Friends,” of Joey Tribbiani, shrugging it off.

“Oh, fuck you, back to silence with you.”

When Jimmy called me from jail, he called on a telephone that’s made available for jail bird use on a daily basis. The phones are coinless collect phones. No incoming phone calls or messages are accepted for inmates, for any reason, ever.

“What did he do?” I asked JJ, one of his kids.

“He’s an idiot,” said JJ.

JJ is in the Marine Corps, the same as his brother, Alex. Their father wasn’t in the armed services. He was in the brig, though.

“I know that, but what did he do?”

“He said he’s been trying to call you, but you won’t take his calls.”

“First of all, he’s an idiot. Second of all, I didn’t not take his calls. Third of all, what number is he calling me from?”

I don’t pick up most numbers that I don’t recognize. That’s just the way it is. Who needs the aggravation?

I found out it was a number ending in 0000. I went to my phone and checked. There were a ton of calls from that number.

For a long time, Jimmy wouldn’t take a lot of jobs, because they didn’t pay as well as the jobs he did for the union. If they didn’t pay, he went his own way. I told him, “Some money coming in is better than no money coming in.”

He said, “No.”

He finally went to work for a local landscaper. But in no time, he had the brilliant idea of stealing all the equipment, mowers, blowers, hedgers. He tried to sell it all to Freddie, Brian’s brother.

“It’s got to be hot, no thanks,” said Freddie. He hung up on him.

Jimmy didn’t even try to ask Brian. He knew that wouldn’t have gotten him anywhere.

While Jimmy was stealing the stuff, he was being caught on surveillance video, and then he was being caught by the real thing, the police.

Jimmy always claimed his family life was horrible. Except it wasn’t. I was telling everyone what Jimmy was saying about his family, and I don’t think his family appreciated it, at all. They were, like, “He’s an addict. He’s full of shit.”

Of course he is.

Jimmy’s dad’s partner on the police force, who is my girlfriend’s father, said “Jimmy was coddled his whole life.”

I had been waiting to get a phone call about Jimmy. When it was JJ on the phone, I thought, he’s either in jail, or he’s dead. Those are the two only things I expected, because I am the closest thing he has got to family.

“Dad’s in jail,” said JJ.

“At least that’s a better place for him than the grave,” I said.

“I’m going to be coming into town, can I hang out with you?”

“Of course.”

But he was all over town, found the pick-up truck Jimmy had stolen from him and his brother, sold it, and we didn’t see him in the end.

“Don’t worry, I’m coming back,” he said.

He’ll be coming back to see his dad, sooner or later.

Jimmy’s brothers are sick of his shit, he comes from a big family, and one of them, a prosecutor downtown, got down on Jimmy, and had him locked up on the roughest floor of the Corrections Center. “Let him sit there and rot.”  Then he piled it on, trumping up kidnapping charges against him. Some young kid was helping him, and the video shows him getting into Jimmy’s truck, then getting out, walking around, and then getting back in, all on his own.

Somebody said the brother was going to find a way to add on armed robbery, although I don’t know how that would be possible, since it wasn’t like that.

Brian said Jimmy should just sit there until they bring everything down to a misdemeanor and plead.

Before Jimmy finally got me on the phone, from jail, I got a letter from him. He wrote me about where he was, what had happened, and then threw out that God had moved into his life.

He threw a curveball at me.

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Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction by Ed Staskus.