As far as I knew at the time, when the police escorted me into the back of a waiting squad car and off of Bull’s property, those would be the last moments I would spend on the farm for a very long time. I had begun to settle into the idea that it would be the last time I would share some freedom with Bull for an equally long time. We rode in separate police cruisers to the county jail, were booked in separate intake rooms, and finally we were dressed-out in bright orange pajama’s and delivered to different cells at opposite ends of the jail.
I had been issued a thin mattress-roll, and I was disappointed to find that I would be laying it down in a corner of the common-room between the two bunked rooms on either side of it, as the four metal bunks extending from the cinder block walls were all currently being occupied by snoring lumps of orange-clad inmates.
I turned around to watch the jailer close the door. As he turned the key in the lock, his face appeared in the small, solitary window of the heavy, steel door and said, “Seems we’re a little full right now. Have fun sleeping on the floor!” He disappeared from the window, and I rolled my mat into the corner of the room, and slowly slid down the wall onto the negligible cushion of my makeshift bed. The jail was cold and uncomfortable, but when I closed my eyes several minutes later, I found the ability to sleep came to me without much effort. I slept dreamlessly for what felt like days, only waking for brief moments when one of my cellmates would announce that it was ‘chow-time’. I didn’t even bother to look at the trays of food that were quietly offered to me on several occasions. I responded only enough to tell whichever cellmate brought the tray towards me that they were welcome to eat it. My confinement companions were quiet and unsociable. I was extremely grateful for this blessing. As the first day turned into two, and day two turned into three, I had all I could do to lift my head from the ground I was sleeping on. I was left completely undisturbed until the second meal had arrived on my fourth day in jail. It was just after the five trays of food had come through the slot near the bottom of the door, that I heard keys rattling inside of the locked door, followed by the shrieking sound of its metal hinges. The door had swung open to reveal a large, grinning jailer standing in the doorframe calling my name repeatedly until I had shaken the dreary depths of dreamless sleep from my head. I sat up, and looked to the jailer, who simply stated, “Come on now, it isn’t THAT comfortable on the floor. The Sheriff wants to see you.”
I stood up and walked towards the door, where my escort was twirling a pair of handcuffs on the pointer finger of his right hand. “Turn around and put your hands behind your back for me.” I did as he requested, and was once again acquainted with the cold, tight grip of handcuffs. He allowed me to pass in front of him, where I paused and waited for him to shut and lock the door of the cell. The hallway we were standing in was loud with the ambient echoing voices of caged men talking between cells from behind heavy steel doors. They were telling jokes, spouting insults, and I was surprised to hear one guy singing ‘twinkle, twinkle, little star’ at the top of his lungs, accompanied by a loud chorus of protests from neighboring cells. As I was nearing the end of this hallway, a knocking sound near the vicinity of my head caught my attention, and I was surprised to see Bull’s fierce and fiery eyes staring intently at me through a tiny square window. He mouthed two words to me from behind the thick, scratchy glass.
I shrugged my shoulders, smiled at him one last time, and continued walking towards the end of the hallway, and towards the open door of a visitation room. I turned around when I reached the open doorway to make sure that I was going to the right spot. The jailer simply nodded once, and said quietly, “Have a seat. Sheriff Doyle will be right with you.”
There was a table in the center of brightly lit room. There was a chair on either side of it, and I quickly sat in the closest one. The jailer closed the door, and I was left alone. After several minutes alone, I heard the approach of footsteps in the hall on the other side of the door, and the sound of Sheriff Doyle’s voice speaking in fragments. When he opened the door and entered the room, I saw that he was speaking into his cellphone.
“You’re sure that I should O.R. him? …Mmmhmmm… yeah. …Oh he did? …It was?? Well, madam states attorney, I’m looking at the young man, right now… mmmhmmm… and from the looks of him, I wouldn’t trust him to microwave me a bag of popcorn… but if you say so, I’ll take your word for it. …Mmmmhmmm… okay… I’ll let him know that you’ll look forward to seeing him in court next week. …Mmmmhmm… alright then. Bye.”
The Sheriff sat down in the chair facing me.
“Well, young man… I hope you remember our conversation the other night about the opportunities that I hesitantly, and wisely I might add, give to individuals such as yourself to lie to me. Do you remember that conversation? I know there was probably an awful lot going through your mind that night, so I hope you do.”
“Yes sir. I remember.”
“Well, that’s good. Do you feel like you might lie to me if I ask you some questions?”
“Alright, tell me something. Would you consider yourself friends with Mr. Gunville?”
“Yes sir. He is one of my only friends.”
“My goodness, son… you must be a very lonely man. Not many people I know around here would ever stake a claim in that used-up dope cook. How is it that you came to make friends with him?”
“Well, sheriff… honestly, I started using drugs a couple of years ago, and we sort of ran in the same circles. My friendship with him began when I realized that there was more that we had in common than the ways we chose to beat ourselves up. I think he feels pretty similarly.”
“So, you started using drugs a couple of years ago, huh? Was that around the time that you lost your restaurant over in Ft. Justice? The state’s attorney tells me that your restaurant was the best place to eat in this part of the state.”
I was surprised to learn that the sheriff knew this tidbit of information about me.
“I suppose it was around that time that I lost my restaurant, yes.”
“Well, I suppose I could use this time to lecture you about how infinitely stupid it was for you to throw away your life for meth, and friendship with a guy like Bull Gunville, but I shouldn’t have to. You should pretty well have that figured out for yourself at this point. You sir, are a textbook example of how meth takes a talented, promising young life, and completely reduces it to absolutely nothing in a very short amount of time.”
“Yes sir. I suppose I am.”
“Your wife has been calling my office around the clock. Apparently she’d like you to know that you still have a home to return too. That’s rare for somebody in your predicament. She says you haven’t been there in months. Where have you been staying?”
“I’m not going to lie to you sir, I have been staying at Gunville’s farm on and off for some time. I have also spent time at Rhonda Donning’s house… or anywhere that I could. But mostly with Bull and Dayna at the farm.”
“Have you been cooking dope out there with Mr. Gunville?”
“No sir.” It was the first of many difficult lies I was about to tell.
“So… you want me to believe that your good friend, Mr. Gunville was manufacturing methamphetamine on the property that you were living at, albeit infrequently, and you never had any idea that he was doing it?”
“Sir, there are eighty acres of land out there. I would be lying to you if I said that I had seen everything there was to see on that property, or kept tabs on what my friend did while I was busy getting high or trying my best not to deal with my own problems. If you say that he was cooking dope out there, then it is news to me. It’s sad news too, because if I had known, I probably would have told him to take up a new hobby.”
“So that’s your story, huh? You don’t know anything about it?”
“Yes sir, that is my story. I’m really very sorry that I didn’t know earlier, because Bull Gunville IS my friend and I would have tried to make him stop… If I had known.”
“Yeah, I figured you’d say something like that. That’s pretty much what Gunville told me too.” He folded his hands and rested them on the table in front of him. He looked down his nose at me and continued, “But let me tell you something… I think you’re a dope cook. I think you’re an anomaly, because I don’t normally get the story wrong. I think you and Gunville have been cooking dope out on that farm for awhile now, and I think Bull Gunville is trying to protect you for some reason. But there’s one thing I know about dope cooks… They die or they get caught, but they never, ever change. You’re friend in that cell back there will most likely be going away for close to twenty years this time. He’ll be 60 years old when he gets out of prison, but do you want to know what he’ll do when he gets out?” He hesitated, but not with any intention of letting me answer his rhetorical question. “He’ll cook dope again… and so will you. Mark my words.”
Silence filled the room.
“But, today…” the sheriff’s voice which had been steadily becoming more agitated, suddenly returned to a benign, almost friendly demeanor. “Today the state’s attorney wants me to charge you with felony possession of methamphetamine for having that glass pipe in your hand when my officers executed the warrants that were issued for Mr. Gunville’s arrest. Even more aggravating to me is the current overpopulation of my jailhouse, and my inability to keep you in custody any longer. She told me to release you on an O.R. bond, which means that you will have the opportunity to call your wife in a couple of minutes, sign some paperwork and get the hell out of my sight. I can’t help but feel like I’m walking around with egg on face today because of you and Gunville.”
“Thank you sir and I’m sorry you feel that way.” I looked at the floor between my feet as he stood up from the table.
He exited the room, and I was left alone until the jailer who had escorted me to my meeting with Sheriff Doyle returned and asked, “So, do you wanna call your wife, or what?”
This work is the intellectual property of Jerome J. Panozzo