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  • 4. Jailbreak

    By Kevin Sampsell

    Some call him a bookseller.
    Some call him a publisher.
    But don’t call Kevin Sampsell either of those today.
    Call him the author of a harrowing new memoir, A Common Pornography. Or read this new story and realize that the man who wrote the line “I’ll start to screech in a high voice and recoil and figure out some crazy math in my head” may not be someone you want to pigeonhole. Not unless you want to
    end up in the Captain Vere
    Correctional Prison.

    I know everything there is to know about getting into jail. Trust me. This is going to hurt me more than it hurts me.


    It started with the parking citation. I just went into the store for a second. A loaf of bread and one of those new Snickers bars. Five seconds tops. When I get back out the ink is still wet on the ticket as it flaps under my windshield wiper. I look around and spot the bastard getting into his parking-enforcement buggy. The kind that looks like a fucking golfing cart gave birth to a dwarf. It’s got three wheels and a sign that says DO NOT FOLLOW, like you’d ever want to. He sees me coming and tries to get away by making a right turn at the corner. I get a good running start and drill him like vintage Lawrence Taylor. Piece of shit flips over like a bike messenger. I kick his midget wheels and smash his little walkie-talkie. Then I go to jail.

    They dress me up in some orange jumpsuit and trot me out in front of the judge so he can stare at me over his bifocals and mutter some law school psychobabble.

    They let me call my cousin Randy before they throw me in the cell. Randy’s not there, so I try to leave a message before getting cut off. Piece of shit machine. He thinks he saves twenty bucks a month with that thing. Only assholes think shit like that.

    When I get to see my view behind the bars at the Strom Thurmond Correctional Prison, I make the acquaintance of my cellmate, a wannabe rapper named Derelikt. He’s up in my grill about his hood and how I’m not welcome to buy a Hostess Fruit Pie at his uncle’s convenient store. His orange gear has been modified to look a little more street, and he’s got a headband holding back this crazy fro that’s about a foot high and has so much product in it I’m afraid it’d blow up if I burp. I tell him that I can do fifty pushups and bench-press twice his weight.

    He’s swaying back and forth right in front of me, rapping:

    I won’t hesitate
    if you get me irate
    (indecipherable) dinner plate
    until you learn to navigate
    (indecipherable) gay or straight
    I’ll make you my playmate

    I don’t understand half of it, but I know it’s not nice, so I knock him over and accidentally bang his head against the metal toilet. He scrambles to his feet and I push him again. He hits the toilet again. This goes on for a while and he keeps hitting the lip of the shitter and getting worse by the minute. Eventually he dies. Then I go to jail.


    I’m in the lunchroom at the Jeb Bush Correctional Prison when a posse of slackjawed hillbillies tries to cut me open like a watermelon. I swiftly sidestep them and then disarm them with a series of kicks and thrown biscuits, wet with gravy. They’re such a sad lot, they make me look like Jackie Chan. One dude deflects a dry biscuit off his rubbery chicken neck and convulses on the ground until his heart stops. Then I go to jail.


    Out in the exercise yard of the Pete Wilson Correctional Prison, I’m walking the circle and listening to the woosh of the nearby ocean over the high walls. I tried to climb the east wall last week but the cyclone barbed wire proved too tricky, even with a pair of stolen oven mitts. This place ain’t so bad, though. You can sit in your cell and listen to the waves and the birds outside and it gets kind of peaceful. As I walk, I start to hear a little buzzing sound. I look down and see a tiny remote control car make its way to me. No one else is outside. I reach down and pick up the toy. There’s a note attached. It’s telling me to come over to a red Port-a-Potty that I’ve never seen before.

    When I get over there, I swear I hear a voice. A woman’s voice. I open the door cautiously but don’t see anyone. In here, the voice says.

    I look into the pot and witness the face of the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. She’s smiling and motioning to me to come in with her. I sniffed the air in there first, to see if it smelled bad, but it didn’t. It just smelled like strong seawater, like the beach.

    Take off your shoes, she says. Those fuckers will sink ya.

    I take off my shoes and even strip down to my underwear for good measure. When I’m all the way inside (had to pop my shoulder out of its socket for a minute), she turns her back toward me and asks me to obliterate this huge pimple. I squeeze and squeeze and she screams and starts to sweat a little. We fall in love and spend the rest of the week having sex on a nearby island. We’re married in a quick private ceremony performed by the local voodoo priestess. Before our honeymoon, my new wife takes me to a big department store to buy some silk sheets. While I’m in the home entertainment section, I see my mug shot on about fifty screens. The colors are a little off on a bunch of them and my skin looks green or brownish. My face all over the place, sick-looking. Some security guy spots me and takes out his taser. He’s trying to be sneaky, coming up from behind, but I see his reflection in one of the TV screens, right next to my own reflection, which sits mask-like on top of my televised face. I quickly pretend like I’m looking at some computer equipment. When he’s about to zap me, I spin around and swing a computer mouse in his face. It works like you’d expect, quick and stealthy. I can’t help myself, though, and I start shouting and yipping and swinging the mouse around my head like a lasso. A sales clerk acts fast and comes at me with a box cutter. He is able to dodge my swinging mouse attack and cut me deep in the belly. The medics come and grant me thirty-two stitches and a couple of staples. Then I go to jail.


    At the Captain Vere Correctional Prison, I spend most of my time writing letters to my wife. I know her name is Kathy (or Cathy) but I haven’t learned how to spell it yet. I’m not sure what letter it starts with. So I decide to call her Athy.

    Athy has a cousin whose boyfriend’s stepfather has a twin brother that works for the security company that makes the keys for the prison. She uses her connections and delivers me a concealed key on one of her conjugal visits. I am able to retrieve it during an inspired session of oral sex. She even put it in a little pink envelope with my name on it. We plan to meet outside in the nearby Costco parking lot the following evening.

    The next morning at breakfast, I tell all the lifers that I’m good as out. Lifers don’t give a rat’s crap. They’re in for good. I tell them I’ll get one of their wives to pull the same trick, but most of them are gay now and won’t go down on a woman. Still, I give myself a tattoo to show loyalty to my prison brethren: a heart with a ball and chain around it.

    When I find Athy’s rusted-out Honda Civic the next day, she is asleep, with an opened family size bag of Doritos in the passenger seat. I wake her up with a key tap on her window. We embrace quickly and make for the exit. Once on the freeway, we are chased by helicopters and state troopers. We run over a strip of spikes and spin wildly into the concrete median. We flip over the barrier into opposing traffic and smash into a semi, which straightens us out. We continue to drive on our tire rims and find the nearest exit, where we lose our pursuit on a rural road somewhere in the dark. Unfortunately, we run out of gas and have to hike across a dirt field. Out of nowhere, we’re hit with spotlights and chopper blades are blowing dirt in our eyes. “Freeze,” someone yells.

    The way the cops are talking, I realize they’ve been tipped off. Goddamn stepfather’s twin cousin!

    In the back of the squad car, Athy and I stretch our arms from behind our backs. We hold hands and I realize I’ve lost my ring. Then I go to jail.


    I do a lot of thinking at the Julius Caesar Correctional Prison. I think about love and second chances and practicing yoga and the Denver Broncos’ playoff run. There are many things that are important to think about at this point of my life.

    This is the toughest prison I’ve ever been in; I even have a job, like I’m going to be here for a while or something. I’m in charge of popcorn and refreshments. That’s right: I have to make sure the kernels don’t get burnt in the popper before we start the movies on Friday nights. I’ve been contemplating making a device that’ll transform the hot oil into a burning chemical weapon, but they watch you real good here. And there are cameras. So I just hand out little paper bowls of popcorn and pour the flat generic cola in the cups. Last night we watched Rain Man. I like the part where Dustin Hoffman freaks out when Tom Cruise tries to get him on the airplane. I think I’ll do that next time they try to get me in jail. I’ll start to screech in a high voice and recoil and figure out some crazy math in my head.

    Yeah, someday I’ll do that. I’ll be like that guy. The cops will get embarrassed and start looking around, and people will wonder what they’re doing to me; they’ll point and say something like, What are they doing to that poor man? And the handcuffs will be put away. And the pepper spray will be reholstered. And I won’t have to come here anymore. Then you can stop listening to my problems.


    © by Kevin Sampsell. Used by permission of the author.

    Kevin Sampsell’s new memoir, A Common Pornography, is brand-new in bookstores this week. Check it here!

    Browse through it here:

    Watch my favorite trailer of the year:

    And learn more about Kevin—perhaps more than you thought you wanted to know?—at his blog . . .

    3 Trackbacks

    1. […] Fifty-Two Stories ‘break out’ a Kevin Sampsell short – Although I’ve still to catch up with the reading of them, it’s great to see that Harper Perennial are continuing their quest of dishing out quality FREE short stories every week on their Fifty-Two Stories website. This week they bring us Jailbreak by Kevin Sampsell, whose powerful new memoir, A Common Pornography, is out this week. I’ve never read any of Sampsell’s scribblings up to this point, but a story that begins with the line ‘I know everything there is to know about getting into jail’, has got to pique one’s interest, right? I’ll let you know what I thought of it, when I do eventually catch up. […]

    2. uberVU - social comments on February 9, 2010

      Social comments and analytics for this post…

      This post was mentioned on Twitter by SteffenRasile: 4. Jailbreak – http://clicky.me/B2f

    3. […] – A Sampsell short story (not in the memoir) from 52 Stories, “Jailbreak.” […]

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