Dustin's Release from Prison
Sixty miles to the West of Tucson Dustin Clooney lay awake in the bottom bunk of his cell, unable to dream or to sleep. His number had run out and tomorrow he was scheduled for release. The three year sentence had seemed like thirty but at least his role as jailhouse lawyer helped pass the hours. And he'd even managed to shave a few months of time off the sentence of at least a dozen inmates in exchange for cigarettes and a few lines of blow here and there. It never failed to amaze him just how incompetent a defense the guys were given at their trials. Almost every one should have been reversed on appeal, but a judge rarely will admit to a mistake. Their egos are close in size to a doctors and could in fact fill an auditorium.
Dustin stared vacantly at the springs of the bunk above him and wondered what his next move might be after his release. He could still practice law in California but could no longer afford to live there. He could go back to Tucson where things were cheaper but the felony charge would preclude his obtaining a license to practice law in Arizona. And he had his poor mother's issues to deal with on top of everything. He tried to comb is mop of salt&pepper hair with his fingers while his mind touched on a hundred and one things, not the least of which was finding a woman who would stand beside and behind him.
If only he hadn't gotten drunk that July night when the moon was full and so bright that a person could have hiked from Sabino Canyon to Mt Lemon without a flashlight. If only he hadn't then stolen some guy's classic '49 Mercury and taken it for a joy ride around the foothills, but most of all, if only he hadn't gotten caught.
Hitting a speedbump at 50 was a surefire way to get noticed by a cop, and then of course he was loaded, had no registration, or insurance which lead to the predictable next scene - a holding cell at the 29th street county jail.
As defense attorneys go, there were few sharper than Dustin. He chose to represent himself while a wet-behind-the-ears public defender sat next to him to satisfy the court. Dustin was doing an exemplary job of defending himself until he began to mouth off at the judge's rulings which only served to increase her denials of his objections to prosecution's statements. Being of Irish descent and of short temper it wasn't long before Dustin was hurling insults at the judge in the form of expletives and threats. What might have been a six month sentence morphed quickly into three years. The ancient adage that cautions against self-representation still held true in spite of Dustin's brilliant legal mind. He wasn't bothered by a prison sentence half as much as he was by losing what should have been an easy case.
Dustin Clooney, an only child, made his way home to his mother's from the Tucson, Arizona State Prison having just been released. He was given back his possessions and $100.00 that he used for his first decent meal in 3 years at a Bob Evans restaurant and for a bus ride home. The bus dropped him off several blocks away from her pristine adobe home in the toney Sam Hughes neighborhood of Tucson. It was a small dwelling with a much smaller guest house but dripped of Spanish Colonial charm. Dustin's dad had thought the home to be impractical but purchased it anyway because his wife loved it so much.
Dustin's father died from a massive stroke a year after Dustin had been imprisoned. The State of Arizona had permitted, after a busload of paperwork, his attending his father's funeral, but only handcuffed to his police escort and accompained by three DOC officers. After the ceremony in which a priest unknown to his father spoke a number of cliched and conforting words, Jason hugged his mother with one arm which wasn't handcuffed, promised her he would look after her when his term was done, and bade farewell to his dad. The rockhard Arizona ground precluded him from throwing dirt on the coffin. It pained him greatly that his father's last memory of him would be as an inmate in an orange jumpsuit instead of a lawyer in a 1200 dollar suit. But on that sorrowful day he vowed to get his life back somehow.
As Dustin waited in the cheery kitchen for his meal to be prepared and served he withdrew his mother's letter from his pocket and read it again. The letter was puzzling.
I am excited and happy you will be released next week. I am well and can’t wait to see you home. I am hoping you will be able to help me with your lawyer skill to answer this troubling letter I got from the bank. I don’t understand it. They are saying something about foreclosing the house, selling it, and throwing me out. I have done nothing wrong and I have been paying my mortgage out of the pension money from your Dad and my Social Security. I'm very upset and I think its just awful that a bank would do this to a poor old widow.
Can’t wait to see you.
Dustin mused that unlike himself his mother was a completely honest person. She had long ago given up on encouraging Dustin to attend Catholic services. Although Dustin didn't think much of the Catholics, or of any religious organizations, he had tried to appease his mother for a brief time by attending church with her. He couldn't accept what the preacher was saying about salvation and a need for repentance. Who needed salvation? Repent from what? It was hard enough to just get by without the malarkey of being sorry for every twist and turn, having to feel guilt over every other insignificant act and thought. People needed to grow up a quit being wimps, and cease using outmoded church dogma as a cructh. Finally, he one day told his mother it was good for her to go to church if it gave her some peace, but church life was not for him. he sought a different drummer to march to.
It was probably a simple matter of gathering up her canceled checks and presenting them at the bank for a swift apology from bank, and the foreclosure nonsense would stop. Dustin wondered why his mother had not seen this easy step and hadn't already settled the matter. Of course, he thought, she never was much good about money issues, and since dad died she was basically left floundering with respect to that.
After a breakfast of eggs, potatoes, toast and chorizo, Dustin broached the foreclosure letter with his mother. Dustin assured his mother that he would take care of the problem and that she was not to worry. "Oh I hope you can, son. It would just kill me to lose my home."
"Don't worry," he spoke with repressed rage, "That will never happen." He vowed to release total mayhem should the greedy incompetent bastards at the bank take the home.
He collected the prior year's canceled checks and he then called the bank making an appointment to discuss the matter; an appointment was set up for the following morning at 10:15 at the bank. Dustin could hardly wait. His mother brought him a recent copy of the Tucson Weekly paper, always her son's favorite. It was written by real people for real people to read, and never pulled punches. In the classified section Dustin's eye was drawn to small display ad for "OUTMATES. Support group for families of inmates. Meets each Wednesday at 7:00 PM at 500 N 3rd Avenue. Sponsored by AFSC." He made a mental note of the meeting and considered that it might fit into his future business plan.
The following morning Dustin's mother drove while Dustin enjoyed the view as they traveled through the neighborhood and U of A. his recent release made him feel like a tourist in his own town. As they cruised along 6th street Dustin feasted his eyes on things he hadn't seen for three years - beautiful young college girls.
Halfway on their journey Dustin noticed the ‘Pet Store & Paws Emporium’ was still open for business in a shopping center they were passing and he asked his mother to pull in for a minute.
Dustin jumped out of the car saying, ""I'll be right back. I want to pick up some turtle food."" Dustin's mother was perplexed at Dustin's request, but said nothing. She had learned long ago not to question Dustin's sometimes exotic behaviors; finding out what he was up to was generally worse than not knowing. But a turtle? He'd never even spoken of turtles since he was.
six or seven years old.
Dustin shortly returned to the car with the small bag of turtle food semi-squashed into his left trousers pocket. His mother asked if he'd gotten what he wanted and Dustin replied only that it was an easy boost. As she drove his mother wondered why Dustin wouldn't pay for something so cheap, but wisely decided not to question him. Dustin always looked for ways to get what he wanted without paying for anything. It was that attitude of his that had landed him in jail for car theft. Even though Dustin had explained he had no desire to keep the car permanently and had only wanted to drive around in it for a day or two the court was unimpressed. Dustin represented himself in the case, always a bad idea, and he was sentenced to 3 years for what should have been a six month term after he cursed out the judge. Before Dustin’s sentence was pronounced his mother remembered him saying, ""You fossilized old fart bag. You have no concept of justice or fairness. The best thing you could do for the public is to kill yourself, you inept fucking douchebag!"
The judge remarked that Dustin's language could be improved upon, that it was always unwise to represent oneself even if one were a lawyer, and then handed him a three year sentence like he was handing out a bag of onion rings. Additional expletives flew from Dustin's angry mouth as the court officers lead him away shouting and cursing
His poor mother sobbed into her handkerchief and his dad just shook his head slowly in an attitude of disgust and profound disappointment. They both found themselves wondering where they failed as parents.
When they arrived at the bank they had to park at a meter in the street. The bank hadn't provided enough parking spaces for their customers, but they had gone out of their way to provide a huge parking area for the executives. Dustin noticed with anger the sign above a gate leading onto the premises that stated: "Authorized Bank Personnel Only. All Others Will be Towed!" Although it was already 10:00 in the morning, Dustin saw what was probably a bank executive enter the lot and pull into a covered shelter made of concrete walls. The shelter was at the side of the bank, isolated away from people or possible trespassers. Several large signs above the canopy declared the area for employees only.
While Dustin's mother put a quarter in the parking meter Dustin observed the man parking his Bentley Continental Supersports next to an Aston Martin DBS. Dustin watched the executive exiting the car. He was slightly bald and overweight. His unbuttoned jacket, red tie and briefcase gave the man an air of self-importance. Dustin counted 20 parking spaces in the enclosure, only four of which had cars parked. The other two cars were both top of the line Porsches. He wondered how many other expensive cars whould be parked there, all of them paid for by ripping off depositers. I'd love to just rob the bastards, he thought.
Dustin and his mom entered the bank. Dustin commented, ""You can tell by the furniture and upscale furnishings of this place that the creeps working in here have stolen a lot of money from poor folks."" They went to the receptionist and frowning, Dustin stated, "We're here to see the Mr. Holloway bag of shit regarding this notorious bank's criminal attempt at still another fraudulent foreclosure."
The receptionist raised an eyebrow at Dustin’s remark, but was not surprised. Most of the customers she directed to one office or another had issues with the bank and she had already heard most kinds of complaints. She called Mr. Holloway's number and when he answered, said, ""Mrs. Clooney and Mr. Clooney are here to see you sir.""
As Dustin and his mother entered Mr. Holloway's office Dustin was disgusted to recognize Mr. Holloway as the executive he'd just seen arriving at the bank lot in his Bentley , and stated, ""Guess you had to get up early today to see us. Made you miss your beauty sleep."
Mr. Holloway ignored Dustin's comment and began, ""Please have a seat. I understand, Mrs. Clooney, I understand you are here to discuss the impending foreclosure of your home. And I take it, you sir, are Mrs. Clooney's son? Would either of you care for some coffee?"
Dustin's mother took a chair and asked for her coffee, black. Dustin shook his head no and remained standing while Mr. Holloway exited the office to get a coffee for himself and the mother. He returned shortly and sat at the front of his desk sipping his own coffee while Dustin's mom took a brief sip of hers. Dustin, having consumed two pots at home was already sufficiently wired.
"Well, folks, how can I help? I assume you are here to discuss the pending foreclosure against you, Mrs. Clooney?"
The way he said it with his slight smile irritated Dustin, and it wasd all Dustin could do to remain cool for the moment. He'd like to punch the man hard enough to send his head down to Mexico.
Dustin's mother produced the canceled checks from her hand-bag and handed them to Mr. Holloway saying, ""These are my canceled checks from the bank for the past year. You will see that the checks were cashed on time and that the mortgage money was received by your bank. I don't understand why you are making this problem for an old woman who has done nothing wrong."It's very upsetting I'll have you know." Dustin felt his adrenaline pump prime itself.
Mr. Holloway examined the checks and his puffy florid face became slightly redder. He was clearly embarrassed.
""I can''t understand this. Your checks make the case. It looks here like the bank has made a mistake. Some problem in billing or accounting. I’ve no idea how t his happened. I’ll see what I can do to straighten this problem out. On behalf of our bank please accept my apology."
Dustin could hold back no longer. "So you admit to a grievous error of incompetence resulting in actions to start a fraudulent foreclosure against my mother. You will do more than, as you say, ‘straighten this problem out’. You will have the buffoons that created this travesty fired. You will pay my mother, Mrs. Clooney five million dollars for her troubles or I will personally see you in court. You will write a solemn apology to my mother and have it printed in the Tucson News. You will also eat this bag of turtle food!"" And with that Dustin reached into his pocket, grabbed the small bag he had filched from the pet store, and slammed the smelly little bag onto Mr. Holloway’s desk.
Mr. Holloway angrily rose from his desk but stopped dead cold and silent, when he saw the murderous look in Dustin's eyes. He realized with sudden clarity that he was instants away from being brutally attacked and severely injured, perhaps fatally. He stammered, ""Mr., Mr. Clooney! I assure you we will take care of this matter!"Please don't resort to violence."
Mrs. Clooney gathered up her canceled checks from the desk as the two men stared at each other. The executive was thoroughly frightened by Dustin's demeanor. Dustin turned to help his mother out of her chair and reached for the little bag of turtle food that he placed back in his pocket. With no other words spoken Dustin and his mother left the office and walked the short distance to exit the bank. Fuckin assholes, he thought, I really should just rob the place. It's what they deserve.
Arriving outside Dustin ran up to Mr. Holloway's car and placed the bag of turtle food under the driver's side windshield wiper.
As they drove home Dustin remarked, ""I think I scared the living shit out of that bastard." His mother replied, "Yes, dear, you did. You scared it out of me too.!"
(Link to "Jailhouse Rock" music video)