See the Story Index for a chronological guide to all the stories.
Jamil and a stocky African-American brother came to my cell hardly ten minutes after I was released from the hole and admitted back into the general population.
Jamil had a stack of magazines that he set down on the writing desk in my cell. As soon as Tuna – my Samoan cellie – saw that, he stood up and walked out, saying, “Ia manuia,” which means “good luck” in Samoan.
Jamil nodded to the stocky brother, who was short and barrel chested, but had a baby face. “This is Rashid,” Jamil said. “Some folks call him Big Wheel.”
Rashid nodded at me and said salam, and this time I responded in kind.
“Take your shirt off,” Jamil said. “We’re going to armor you.”
“Excuse me?” I was incredulous. “I told you before I don’t need your help.”
“Akhi, we’re way past that now. We’ve been battling the AB for the last six months over what they did to you. We have one dead on our side and three on theirs.”
“La ilaha il-Allah!” I exclaimed. “I never asked anyone to do that.”
“We didn’t do it, brotha,” Rashid said. His voice was incongruously deep for his size. “AB decided that if they couldn’t get to you, they’d come after us. Half the Muslim brothers been transferred out, and a mess o’ the AB too, but it’s still on. We tried parylayin’ a truce but the AB ain’t havin’ it. We down to twenty men, and they thirty strong. But they used to have sixty. After you clowned ‘em, they had a bunch of walkouts. It’s wild. They hate you, Hassan. Plus, we in talks with the BGF. They might come in on our side. They got thirty men.”
The BGF, I later learned, was the Black Guerilla Family – another powerful prison gang.
I was stunned. A Muslim had died because of me! Laa hawla wa laa quwwata il-la billah. I felt numb. Jamil pulled up my shirt and I cooperated passively. He held a magazine against my chest and Rashid used a large roll of duct tape to secure the magazine in place by wrapping the tape all the way around my body. They repeated the process with the other magazines, covering my entire torso.
“It may not seem like much,” Jamil said. “But it’s effective.”
“Who was the brother who died?” I asked.
“Older brotha from New York,” Rashid said. “Khalid. They bum rushed him in the shower.”
“It’s not your fault, akhi,” Jamil said. “It’s the nature of the beast. He’s a shaheed and he’s alive with Allah. Wa la tahsab annal-latheena qutiloo fee sabeel-illahi amwaata.”
And do not think that those who are killed in the way of Allah are dead. I’d heard the ayah before, but somehow it was like I was understanding it for the first time. What was I so afraid of? Why had I feared Sarkis and Mr. Black? Why had I allowed Cutter to intimidate me? And do not think that those who are killed in the way of Allah are dead.
I completed the ayah. “Bal ahya’un ‘enda Rabbihim yurzaqoon. No, they are alive with their Lord, enjoying His provision.”
Jamil nodded at me and spoke to Rashid. “The brother has some knowledge.”
“What about you?” I said, pointing to Jamil’s stomach. He lifted his shirt, revealing one plastic dinner tray taped to his flat stomach and another to his back. Taped to the front tray was a long, sharp piece of steel wrapped with duct tape at the base. A shank, as these homemade weapons were called.
Rashid took something from his pocket and extended it toward me. Another shank.
“I can’t… I don’t believe in killing,” I said.
“That was you that waxed Cutter out by the gap, right?” Rashid said. “And the other three the day after?”
“Yes, but I didn’t kill them.”
“A’aight,” Rashid said. “Just throw down like you do. They probly gon’ come at us on the mainline, so keep yo’ back to the wall. When it go off, don’ half step.”
I looked at Jamil, who grinned. “He means don’t hold back.”
Rashid slid the blade up into his shirtsleeve, and we moved out. Just three ordinary inmates, going to breakfast. Except that all the inmates in El Reno seemed to know what was going down. Everyone gave us a wide berth.
I wondered how it was that the Muslims had suffered only one casualty, while the AB, with their greater numbers, had lost three men. I was to learn the answer before long.
We made our way out of the cellblock wing and onto the mainline, which is a wide corridor down the middle of the cellblock on the way to the chow hall. Jamil walked in front of me and Rashid to my side. The tension in the air was palpable. There was a heavy guard presence in the hallway, Was all this because of me? It was unreal.
“Stay close to the wall,” Jamil said.
There was a commotion at the far end of the hall, behind us. A white con was scuffling with a Mexican. The prison guards on duty hustled in that direction, while the many prisoners in the hall seemed to vanish. Suddenly the three of us were alone, still moving toward the chow hall.
“This is it,” Jamil said.
A door opened in front of us – a maintenance closet – and twelve members of the Aryan Brotherhood streamed out of the room, not even bothering to hide the shanks, clubs and other assorted weapons in their hands. I recognized the bald man from the first attack a year ago – the one whose elbow I had broken – and two of the men from the second attack. Among them was a one-eyed man with a tattoo of a spider on his face. I later learned that he was the leader of the AB in El Reno and was known as – naturally – Spider. Cutter was not among them. It turned out he’d been in a wheelchair ever since I whiplashed him.
Viking was also not among them. I’ll tell you more about him later. I think you’ll be surprised.
A chaotic melee ensued. Rashid shouted, “Allahu Akbar!” in a booming voice that rang off the walls and seemed to freeze everyone in their places for a split second. For an instant it seemed that his shout alone would drive the ABs back. Then one of them let out a wordless yell and hurled himself at Rashid, swinging a short steel pipe. Rashid moved into the attack, slipped inside the radius of the pipe’s arc, and drove his own shank into the man’s chest. I heard the distinctive sound of breaking bone and knew that Rashid’s knife had either pierced the man’s sternum or broken a rib. I’d heard that sound many times in war.
The ABs mobbed us, weapons slashing and swinging everywhere. I threw a man into the wall head first and his teeth snapped shut on his tongue, severing the tip, which flew through the air like a bit of sausage. Then I launched a kick into the knee of an AB who was about to stab Rashid in the back. Men grunted, cursed and screamed. The metallic tang of blood filled the air. I almost slipped on the blood and that might have saved my life, as a skinny white con swung a knife through the empty air where my neck had been. I recovered my footing, ducked low and snaked an arm between the man’s legs, then lifted him onto my shoulders and threw him into the other ABs.
I shot a look at Jamil and saw something that stunned me. He was ghosting. That was the name I had given to the elusive style of movement that I had seen Mr. Black perform, and had spent years learning to emulate. It was not the typical bob and weave you saw in boxing, or the irimi-style movement of Aikido and Jujitsu. A man would come at him and he would seem to disappear, reappearing behind the man. It was unmistakable, and in all my martial arts and combat experience, I had never seen anyone do it except Mr. Black, in the Tel-Az-Zaytoon camp the night he’d murdered Daniel.
Where could Jamil have learned it? No wonder the AB had lost so many men.
In that moment of distraction I felt an impact to my back. I launched a back kick without looking and heard a grunt. I spun into the man behind me, palming his face and digging my fingers into his eyes. He fell and I moved closer to Rashid, putting my back to his and fighting like a machine.
It was over in seconds. Nine men lay around us, three dead and the rest badly injured. Three of the ABs were limping away, one being supported by the other two. Rashid had a cut somewhere in his scalp and the blood poured down his face. Jamil clutched his throat. “Not a stab,” he said hoarsely. “I got punched in the throat is all.”
As for me, I was gasping for breath and felt light headed. I felt like I was about to pass out. I fell to one knee, fighting for consciousness. I couldn’t understand why I was so out of breath.
Jamil and Rashid wiped their weapons clean and dropped them, then helped me to my feet. We began to walk toward the chow hall, but I stumbled. Rashid caught me, then looked me over and said, “SubhanAllah.” He indicated my back. Only then did I see that I had two weapons embedded in my body. A screwdriver had somehow slipped between the magazines and was stuck in my upper back, and a shank made from a sharpened toothbrush was buried in my hip. I later learned that the screwdriver had punctured my lung.”
Inspector Katrina Sanchez sat in her car, sipping coffee. It was one in the morning. No doubt her husband had given up waiting for her hours ago, and gone to sleep. She hoped they would not have an argument the next day.
She looked over the flyer the young Indian man had given her. Silvertip Hapkido, it said. Hassan Amir, head instructor. She had actually heard of this instructor. One of the inspectors in her division attended his class.
She studied the image of Mr. Amir throwing another man over his hip. He was a handsome man. Broad shouldered and strong, though his hair was a tad long for her taste. Men should be men. That was one of the problems with the world today. Too many effeminate man, metrosexuals, and hipsters in skinny jeans… and the masculine men were either self-centered or irresponsible.
She thought of her husband Roberto. He was a blessing. Tall, a good earner, willing to lead, but also willing to let Katrina follow her passion. Yes, he complained about her hours, but who could blame him? She hoped fervently that she would never have to choose between her husband and the job. Doing work that made a difference in the world was vital. But her husband was her rock. Es cosa de dos, her mother would say. It’s a matter for two. Meaning life itself.
She brought her mind back to the case and considered the facts. One: Alice claimed she was stabbed by a man named Mr. Saleh, father of her co-worker Muhammad Saleh. Two: Muhammad Saleh was absent from his home. Three: he was possibly staying with his friend, Hassan Amir.
Sanchez turned on her dashboard computer and keyed in Hassan Amir’s name, checking for felony arrests or convictions in the last five years. Nothing came up. She accessed the DMV database and checked his license. The address given was down on Third Street, in an area that she could have sworn was entirely commercial. She ran a reverse check on the address, and learned that it belonged to Hammerhead Courier, the same messenger company that Muhammad Saleh worked for.
She had Muhammad’s telephone number, but if he were harboring his father then calling him would alert him and send him fleeing.
Returning to the SFPD database, she broadened her search to include misdemeanors, and got two hits. Hassan Amir had played a role in catching a purse snatcher four years ago. And last year he’d called 911 to report a woman screaming in an apartment on his floor. It had turned out to be a case of domestic abuse.
So Hassan Amir was a do-gooder. Perhaps the kind of man who would take in a friend in need, and his father as well?
The address given in the domestic abuse complaint was 640 Mission. The Palisade. Well. Someone was living in style. A martial arts instructor living in one of the priciest luxury towers in town? Another mystery. And it just so happened that solving mysteries was her forte.
Katrina Sanchez set her coffee in the cup holder, and started the car.
“Before we could make another move,” Hassan said, “the hall was filled with the sound of pounding boots. We were surrounded by the Special Tactics Squad, looking like futuristic soldiers in their body armor, helmets and shields.
“Lay down on your stomachs and put your hands on your head!” one of them shouted.
Jamil said, “We’re not resisting.” He laid down, and Rashid and I followed suit. We were all handcuffed, searched, and led away. The officers who took me away had to hold me up, as I couldn’t walk on my own.
I was taken by ambulance to Parkview Hospital in El Reno, Oklahoma. The wound in my hip was not serious, but the collapsed lung required surgery. I spent only two days at the hospital recovering, handcuffed to the bed with an officer outside my door as usual, then was transported back to El Reno and put in the hole. My back wound wasn’t healed and it bled through the bandages. I spent the first two weeks in the hole resting on my bunk, trying to ignore the pain. I used t-shirts as bandages. I’d wash them in my little steel sink and hang them on my bunk to dry.
I was sentenced to a year in the hole that time. Every day I thought about Khalid, the older brother who had been killed fighting my battle. I would not let his sacrifice be in vain. I would not wallow in self-pity and despair. I repeated Jamil’s words like verses of poetry: “Allah is still with you. He cares. You are here for a reason.”
Solitary confinement can be brutal. The federal government has tens of thousands of prisoners living in solitary confinement and many of them become permanently psychologically disabled. They become paranoid, they hallucinate and they harm themselves.
The ironic thing is that the guys who survive employ strategies that seen insane. I knew one guy who used his own blood to write complex math problems on the walls and solve them. Another guy composed plays in his head and acted out all the parts.
In my case, it was the Quran and martial arts that kept me sane. I memorized five Juz in that one year, and I developed many new fighting techniques, just practicing on my own on the cement floor, shuffling around barefoot so as not to make any noise, imagining my opponents and their reactions.
Also, Chaplain AbdulQadeer came to see me from time to time, and he was a lifeline. Those brothers who work in the prisons, they are my heroes forever, I’m telling you.
I will admit, however, that in the last three months I developed a habit of talking to a cricket.
Kadija laughed, then covered her mouth with her hand. “I’m sorry brother,” she said. “Your story is serious. The bit about the cricket caught me by surprise.”
“You mean an imaginary cricket?” Muhammad said. “Like Pinocchio’s cricket?”
“Pinocchio’s cricket was real, not imaginary,” Jamilah corrected automatically, then wondered why she was participating in such a ridiculous conversation.
“But he was Pinocchio’s conscience,” Muhammad pointed out.
Layth spoke up. “Actually he was a Christ metaphor. Jiminy Cricket – Jesus Christ. Get it?”
Kadija shook her head. “The Prophet Isa depicted as a cricket. Astaghfirullah. American pop culture trivializes everything. But how do you even know that about the metaphor, honey?”
“I do a lot of reading in the cab, between fares,” Layth said. “Oh, no I remember now. I got that bit of trivia from a Disney writer that I drove once. Sorry, Hassan. Please go on. What about your cricket friend?”
Everyone laughed and Hassan rolled his eyes. “I never said he was my friend.”
“Oh, it was a boy cricket?” Muhammad said, grinning.
Hassan gave him a mock glare. “Yes. His name was Napoleon. Can I go on now? Somehow the cricket got into the walls of my cell. At first it drove me crazy, chirping all night when I was trying to sleep. At the same time it was comforting to have a living thing keeping me company. I began talking to it. I’d carry on a conversation, pretending that the cricket was answering. Then I began to worry that I was going insane, so I stopped. Then I felt guilty that i was ignoring the cricket and hurting its feelings, so I began making up haikus for it. I’m not much of a poet but I studied haikus in third grade. Five syllables, seven syllables, five.
Cricket in my cell:
On whom do you call? I know
you praise in your way.
I composed them in my mind and memorized them, one after another. Until one day the chirping stopped and I cried. I worried that he had died of starvation, or maybe had deserted me. All that was after only nine months in the hole. Imagine spending years in there.”
“I can’t imagine,” Kadija said, shaking her head.
“I know,” Hassan said. “I can’t either, and I’ve been there.”
“I came out of the hole to find that the war was over. The Aryan Brotherhood in El Reno was virtually finished. That battle on the mainline had been the final straw. Some members had been transferred out, and others had abandoned the organization. Meanwhile, the Muslims had received several converts. Most surprising of all was that Viking had become Muslim. SubhanAllah. Allah guides whom He wills. Viking actually became quite devoted. I learned years later that after his release he went to Mauritania to learn Arabic and study Islam. He’s quite well known now. His name is Lars AbdulHadi.”
“SubhanAllah!” Layth said. “I know him. He’s an Imam in Minneapolis. I watch his lectures on Youtube. That’s incredible, akhi. Why did he become Muslim? ”
“You’d have to ask him. But your story is no less amazing, Layth. So yes, that was good news. And Jamil was fine. He was actually the Amir or leader of the Muslim jama’ah in El Reno, as I learned. The one bit of sad news was that Big Wheel – Rashid – had been transferred to the new supermax facility in Colorado. The BOP knew that we Muslims didn’t start the conflict, but there were seven men dead and someone had to be blamed. Cutter and Spider were charged with first degree murder, and Rashid with second degree.
The evening I was released from the hole I sat on the outdoor bandstand with Jamil. We had just prayed Maghreb in a jama’at of thirty brothers. The wind was blowing as usual, but a few hardy mosquitos braved the breeze to try to bite me through my army greens.
I swatted at them. “Where did you learn to move like that?” I asked Jamil, echoing a question that I had been asked many times.
He looked away. “Like what?”
“You know what I mean. I call it ghosting.”
He nodded. “I learned that from an African-American brother in the Leavenworth pen,” he said. “He said he learned it from a Chechen named Abu Kareem. But I don’t know anything about him.”
This is not an important part of the story, but in the years since then I’ve met two other men – both Muslims – who could ghost. One in prison, and one out. Their stories were identical to Jamil’s. They learned it from someone who learned it from Abu Kareem the Chechen. But none of them ever met Abu Kareem in person. So, just a little mystery there.
Jamil was a practitioner of a style of Jujitsu called Danzan-Ryu. I would say that Jamil knew a lot that I didn’t know, but what I knew, I knew better than him. So he became my Sensei, and I became his. It’s not allowed to practice martial arts in prison, but I put in a request to share a cell with Jamil, and it was granted. So Jamil and I would practice in the cell after lockdown. He also taught me to breathe zazen – to meditate, basically – in order to calm my mind before battle.
I’m sure Tuna was glad to see me transferred out. I had nightmares almost every night, and sometimes woke up screaming. He’d complained about it more than once, but what could I do?
A side effect of my sharing a cell with Jamil was that he too became aware of my nightmares.
“What is it you’re afraid of?” he asked me one day.
I thought about it. I usually didn’t remember the nightmares in the morning. But I knew what I feared. I began to tell Jamil about my past, and how everyone I loved had been killed. I spoke of my shame at being unable to protect them, as well as my confusion as to the reasons for their deaths. I told him about the slaughter I had witnessed in Tel-Az-Zaytoon. Was I being punished? Were they? If Allah loved us – the Muslims I mean – and we were His people, then why did we suffer this way? I told him about the horrors of Karanlik, which I have never discussed with anyone else, before or since, and about the despair that had led me to become a drug mule.
Worst of all was Lena’s death, and the fact that she had died in fear, murdered in cold blood. Did she call out for me in her final moments? Did she wonder why I wasn’t there to protect her? And where had I been, in fact? I’d gone out because we had an argument. I had abandoned her, just as she always accused me of doing.
Jamil was a good listener. He let me get it all out of my system, then he put his arm around my shoulders.
“You have a lot of questions, Hassan, and they’re good questions. And I’m not a scholar. But I have a question for you in return: Do you believe that Allah is the Most Just, and the Most Wise, and the Most Merciful?”
I nodded my head. “Sure.”
“Then you have to trust Him. You have to trust that His choices for us are not arbitrary or capricious. If you look at these issues through the narrow, periscopic view of this dunya, then the answers are elusive. But Allah’s view is vast and incomprehensible to us. His view includes Al-Ghayb and the aakhirah. His view includes not only what happened, but what would have happened and could have happened. You have to trust that Allah will give everyone perfect justice in the end. Not only Charlie, Gala, Daniel and Lena, and all those victims in the camp, but you as well. No one will be cheated or wronged. And on the other side of the scale, your uncle, your cousin, Mr. Black, and that drug dealer, what was his name?”
“Right. They will receive justice as well. They won’t get away with anything. Allah sees and counts everything. Nothing slips through the cracks. Allah’s reward is huge, and His punishment is terrible.”
“Tell me,” Jamil continued, “What happened to the son of Nuh?”
“He refused to follow his father and was drowned,” I replied.
“How do you think Nuh felt about that?”
“I’m sure he grieved,” I said.
“Yes, but do you think he despaired? Do you think he doubted Allah?”
“No… Of course not.”
“What about Khadija, the beloved wife of the Prophet, peace be upon him? The woman who he loved above all others, and who believed in him and supported him when others stood against him, and shared everything with him? How did she die?”
I thought to what I had read of the Seerah. “She died of illness or malnutrition as a result of the boycott against the Muslims.”
“Uh huh. Do you think that was a punishment?”
“No, not at all. She was a shaheedah.”
“And what about Ibrahim, the Prophet’s son? Do you think that either the Prophet or Ibrahim himself were being punished through his death?”
“No, of course not.”
“Then why did he die? He was even younger than your brother Charlie.”
“I don’t know,” I said.
“He died because it was the decree of Allah, for reasons that we can’t understand. Some things are beyond our ken. Everyone dies, Hassan. Some young, some old, some peacefully, some violently, but that’s only part of the story. We live on beyond the veil, and Allah gives us perfect justice and reward in the aakhirah.”
“Okay… but Lena was not Muslim. How can I accept that she’s being punished in the aakhirah, when she was a kind soul? And that she died in fear?”
“You don’t know any of that, akhi. Maybe she died courageously. She understood Islam, right? Maybe Allah opened her heart in that final moment and she went to Allah believing in him.”
“But tawbah at the time of death is not accepted. Fir’awn – “
“Fir’awn was insincere. He would have returned to corruption if he had lived, because he was taghoot, a false god. Do you know about the Jewish boy who used to serve the Prophet, sal-Allahu alayhi wa sallam? He became ill, and the Prophet went to visit him on his deathbed, and told him to accept Islam. The boy looked to his father who said, ‘Listen to Abul-Qasim.’ That was the Prophet’s kunya. So the boy accepted Islam and died, and the Prophet said, ‘Praise be to Allah who has saved him from the Hellfire.’… That was a deathbed conversion. It’s a matter of sincerity.
“The thing is brother,” Jamil continued, “You’re making negative assumptions:- Allah is punishing me. Allah is punishing them. I’ve lost everyone. She died a disbeliever. She died in fear. It’s unfair…
“Instead, you need to make positive assumptions, because we begin from the understanding that Allah wants good for us, and that He is Merciful and Just. So we say, Allah is strengthening me. Allah is testing me.
“As for the Palestinians, Allah took shuhadaa from among them, in order to honor them. Allah is purifying them in the dunya, in order to reward them in the aakhirah. And they have a role to play. If you help Allah He will help you, and make your feet firm. Events play out, until circumstances are right for Allah to bring about a change. And He will. Allah will not allow transgressors to continue forever. The Palestinians will have their homeland one day, Insha’Allah.
“About Lena,” Jamil continued, “she died bravely. She died with faith on her tongue. Positive assumptions. And if not, Allah will take into account the fact that she was a good soul, with a kind heart. The fact that such an unlikely match as you and her fell in love during a war, and that you found each other years later and thousands of miles away, that’s a miracle, akh. Allah doesn’t hand out miracles blithely. You have to believe there was a purpose behind it – one that transcends death itself.”
“What kind of purpose?” I asked. “She’s gone.”
“I don’t know, akhi,” Jamil said. “Allah knows. Maybe the purpose was to transform you. To soften your heart, to make your spirit strong, to bring you to your knees so that you’d be in a position to serve Allah. Or maybe for Lena, to take her out of that terrible state she was in when you found her in Turkey. Yes, she died, but there are things worse than death.
“Make positive assumptions about yourself, your loved ones, and Allah the Most High. It’s the only way to be a believer, and the only way to survive this darkling plain, swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight. That’s how Matthew Arnold described this world.”
“SubhanAllah, brother,” I said. I was stunned by Jamil’s eloquence, and by the truth that he was shining on me like a solar flare. “You’re very articulate.”
Jamil grinned. “Thank you. But I wasn’t always. I’ve been locked up since I was nineteen, and now I’m thirty five. I got my GED in here, then a bachelor’s degree in comparative religion and a master’s degree in anthropology. All by correspondence.”
“Wow. Ma-sha-Allah. What are you going to do with it?”
Jamil shrugged. “I don’t know. Write a book, maybe.”
I looked at him. “it’s not right that you’re still locked up.”
Jamil shook his head. “Tell me,” he said. “Who would you say is more successful in the sight of Allah, me or your uncle? Your uncle is rich and powerful, right? I’m not saying I’m any great believer, but what would you say?”
“Obviously you,” I acknowledged. “My uncle is corrupt and evil. I get it. I have to alter the way I measure failure and success, in life and in death.”
There were other incidents of violence down the road, but there’s no need to describe them here. Men killed and men died, but I stayed true to my intention never to kill again, and I never did, even when a few of the Muslim brothers accused me of being weak as a result. Jamil always supported me.
We had some good news a year later when we heard that the charges against Rashid were dropped for lack of evidence.
I lifted weights, practiced martial arts, memorized Quran, and began reading the books in the library. My English reading ability was rusty, but I improved. I taught an Arabic class for the Muslim brothers. Jamil and I had many long conversations about Allah, Islam, the suffering of the Muslim Ummah, and the hardships of life itself, and my understanding of Islam deepened and matured.
I grew into the name Hassan Amir. It was as if all my previous identities and masks fell away, and I discovered that Hassan Amir was who I truly was. I became myself, this man who inhabits my skin, who knows himself, who is still burdened by regrets – I think that’s obvious – but is at least real. There’s no despair in me now. I know that Allah is on my side. I know that He nurtures us, and I know that whatever befalls us or the people we love, Allah is just. He oppresses no one. Every man, woman and child is given his due, in the dunya or the aakhirah. These are things that I only came to understand when I became Hassan Amir.
With good time credits – and I know that might seem comical considering the battles I was in, but in the federal system up to sixty days of good time are awarded on an annual basis and cannot be revoked – and I was awarded ten months good time total – so I served just over seven years. I was released from prison on March 1st, 2002. I was twenty six years old. I was given a plane ticket back to San Francisco – they always release you to your sentencing district – and nothing else. I had a hundred and fifty dollars that I had saved up in my commissary account from my eleven cents per hour prison salary.
I’d been thinking a lot about what my father might have hidden for me, and that was foremost in my mind. I couldn’t imagine what it might be. An unpublished book? Maybe an autobiography or book of poetry? A letter for me, like a message from beyond? Some information about our family? Maybe even something about Boulos? Family photos? Whatever it was, I wanted to find out.
Somehow I had to get to Los Angeles, find my old house – which was undoubtedly inhabited by strangers – and dig up the cement floor in the garage. How I would accomplish that, I did not know.