Jacko Chessman, California career criminal, at the Flyaway bus ticket window, mulled over his last two decades in the Golden State.
“I adore Southern California,” said Mr. Chessman, who served twelve of the last twenty years behind bars.
“Truth is, our worst lock-ups beat most world-class resorts. You got the best climate on the planet and the most fun things to do right here. I played tennis, made free cell calls and boned some amazing foxes behind bars.”
Here the 5 foot 10 man ran his slender fingers, with ragged nails, through salt and pepper hair, hair which appeared tattered against a frayed white collar. “I’m going to miss this place but a fellow has to do what he has to do.”
Jacko paid for his ticket in cash, then tucked it into the pocket of his off-white cashmere sports jacket. The jacket needed cleaning. He squinted up at the soft blue sky and smiled the smile of a man at peace with the moment, if not the world.
Tiny crinkle lines radiated from the corners of his light blue eyes. “Twice before I got this far, but I couldn’t bring myself to get on the bus.”
He parked his suitcase on a worn waiting room bench which smelled of stale lemon polish. He shook out a Camel from a hard pack, slipped it between his thin lips, and touched the flame of a throw-away lighter to the cigarette. Took a long drag and took his time exhaling.
“My grandfather said that one day they’d make a law outlawing tobacco and the coppers could toss you in the clinker for grabbing a smoke. Some cities in California, you can’t smoke in them now. Imagine that.
“As soon as the crime rate started to tumble, I knew it was time to split.” He pulled a many-creased newspaper clipping from his pocket. “Look-it here, murders down ten percent. Lowest homicide rate in fifty years. Not just in California. All across America. Rape down almost that. Ditto for aggravated assault.”
He smoked in silence for a few more minutes, then crumbled the clipping and flipped it into a wire garbage container. “Bingo. Dead center. Big fine for littering. Yeah, I’m going to hate to leave America. All my friends have mostly gone. None of us fellows left now.”
He sighed. “Can’t say I didn’t see it coming. You think it’d be easy to score a few Benjamins for an old grifter like me, you’d be wrong — hell, who’re the coppers going to look for? Good old Jocko. Stand out like a thumb on a hand with no fingers. I should have tucked a few more bucks away but I thought the sweet pickings would last forever.”
He lit another cigarette. The smile was gone from his face. “Saw it coming with the dot com collapse. Then the real estate bubble. Then the damn financial catastrophe. It was so obvious. How the hell can anyone boost anything?
The lawyers and stock brokers and MBAs got it all. And, what they didn’t get, Congress did. Wasn’t jackshit left to liberate. Goddamn unfair.”
The bus arrived. He got on. “A fellow had a chance before the boys and girls in suits sucked up everything. They didn’t leave a crumb.”
The door of the airport bus hissed shut.
Jacko would be on a plane by midnight, headed for a place where a fellow at least had a chance.
Yes, Tibet still had a few honest people. Best of all the lawyers and the MBAs couldn’t stand the altitude mixed with the odor of yak dung.
The few times the suits went there was to talk to holy men. A fellow could probably do all right there.
All a fellow needed was an altitude adjustment.
And here is my latest novel. It’s about a religious nut. Me.
(You should be 18 to read it.)