Chapter One: Nineteen and Life:
My name is Phillip Evans and I am going to prison.
I grew up in a rough neighborhood. I don’t really remember my parents really being around in my life. My mom died and my dad drank and lay in bed all day collecting welfare checks. As a result, I ran away from home. That old drunk probably didn’t even notice that I was gone.
I ended up living in a run-down apartment with a bunch of other kids. The roof leaked when it rained, the building was hot during the summer, and cold during the winter. The dust and broken windows and locks didn’t help us much either. Still, we all made that old apartment our home. A few of the other guys and I acted like big brothers to the little kids that end up getting dumped on us. In fact, we lived by a system that kept us all together as a family. Nobody over twenty-one could live with us. The older guys had to take care of the children. Plus, no babies cold stay with us either. We all struggled to get by. Most of the girls worked odd jobs to help buy food. When they didn’t make enough, the other of us… well… turned to crime as a means to survive. Some of us stole what we needed while others got too greedy. I was the former and that’s probably why I ended up going to prison. That night ended up like this:
One of the little kids got sick and we couldn’t afford medicine. I know this story is clichéd, but this is how it happened. I went with four other guys to break into one of the nicer drugstores outside of the city to steal medicine. At first, I wasn’t too keen on the idea.
“We’ve never been outside of this neighborhood before,” I told my friend, Charlie.
“We don’t have choice,” he said. “Will’s fever is getting worse. We can’t afford to take him to a doctor and the clinic around here is useless.” I looked back at that red-faced curly-haired boy panting in on the couch under thin blankets. Two of the girls did their best to change the rags on his forehead.
“We’ll be in and out for this job, right?” I asked.
“Of course!” Charlie said. “Come on! We have to get going!” I dropped my shoulders and followed Charlie and three other boys out of the apartment. We were supposed to break through the back, grab the medicine we needed, and hurry back before sunrise. I wanted to take the bus to the drug store, but they thought it would be too risky.
“How many years have you done this?” Ralph whispered in front of me. “We’ll attract too much attention if we took the bus.”
“But Ann Arbor is a long way away,” I said.
“This was the best that we could do. Now don’t ask any more questions!”
I lowered my head, clinching my fists. “Alright.” The cold October night air didn’t settle my nerves. I tried to think about little Will back on the couch. We were doing this for him. We’re just going to get the medication and leave. No one’s going to hurt, right? I held my breath until we made it Ann Arbor. By then, my feet began to ache. That night was quiet with virtually no people in sight. I still looked left and right until we made it to the Drug Co. Store. Ralph picked up a crowbar and pried open the lock and chain on the back doors. Charlie would keep look at in the back alley as Ralph, Jay, Pete, and I crept inside. This heist was supposed to be short and easy.
“What do we grab?” Jay asked as we walked up and down the aisles.
“Just grab it all,” Ralph whispered. “We don’t have much time.” We loaded black garbage bags with pills, chest pads, Robitussin, cough drops, and bottle of other medicine. As we loaded up on almost all of the medicine on the shelves, I began to feel better. Maybe this won’t be so bad. What was I so worried about? However, my worried were reconfirmed when we heard the toilet flashing and a door opening. An elderly clerk turned his head and noticed us. Ralph whipped out a water gun that he had painted black.
“Don’t say a word, old man!” he shouted. “Don’t move!” The old man tilted his head as he reached into his pocket. We panicked, thinking that he was pulling out a real gun or a phone. I rushed forward and tackled. I don’t finally remember the next thirty seconds. I give I don’t know my own strength. When I got up, the old man wasn’t moving.
“Let’s go!” Ralph shouted. I pressed my fingers into the old man’s neck.
“No,” I said, shaking my head. “He’s… He’s dead.”
“What did you say?” Ralph said.
“I killed him! He’s dead!” I said in a high-pitched voice. Jay had to drag me away as we ran away from the drug store. The whole time, I was in a daze. That old man was dead. How could I have killed him? I maybe a thief, but I didn’t plan on killing anyone. How could I have done it? Jay smacked me on the arm.
“Hey!” he snapped. “Snap out of it! Keep it together, man!” I could barely say a word. The old man’s blank eyes in my head made me shiver. My hands shook as my sides. How could I? How could I? The guilt wouldn’t let up even after we made it back to the apartment. Once Will got his medicine and everyone went to sleep, I slipped away and turned myself into the police. I only told on myself, keeping the others out it. They arrested me and charged me with murder. I plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter. They slapped five to ten years on for a sentence.
So, here I am now in the back of a van on my way to prison. I was ready to accept my fate and do the time. However, my plans changed as soon as I head a faint whisper in my head on that rainy night in February.