Cell 152

VA 2nd place Award Winner- Short Fiction


Sam Scott, Author

Cell 152

1978 was the greatest year of my life. All of my memories from that year are of crisp, clear, blue skies. They smell like an open field and gasoline. They feel like a light summer breeze, and the grease of that old Impala. Every time I inhale now, twelve years later, 1978 courses through me, into my blood. And every time, he is there.

My most prominent memory of him is what got me here today. The two of us went for a drive, late October in Bar Harbor, Maine. The leaves were a mosaic on the wind, and the air smelled of pumpkin and ginger. I could never forget that smell, or that scene, no matter how hard I tried.

He and I drove smoothly on the newly paved roads of Hancock County, that Impala purring with every shift of the gear. The top was down, and the car rode with us. It wasn’t merely carrying us, but was one of us. We zoomed carelessly around the town, singing along to whatever came onto that old, scratchy radio. Neither of us had any reason to be worried, any reason to believe that we would be forever changed in the moments to come.

He was driving that day. I wasn’t allowed to drive the Impala, he loved her too much. If anything was going to happen to her, it would be his fault, not mine. And it was. It was all his fault, everything.

I saw the little girl, and I tried to warn him. He wouldn’t respond, drunk on pure carelessness and adrenalin, he couldn’t hear me. He wouldn’t hear me. I clawed at him, cried to him, screamed. It was no use. The little girl died on impact, she must have. The car rocked, and he kept driving, the first bump in the smooth afternoon snapping him back to reality. He knew what he had done, and he had let it happen.

After the girl, there was silence. The radio could not tempt us, the smell could not please us, and the leaves, those marvelous leaves, could not distract us from what we had just done. The two of us sat in something that was more than quiet. It was a pool of regret, a dark chasm of “God save our souls,” the first of Marley’s chains that had ever found us, and we knew they would never let go. The Impala no longer sang its song of the road, and the drive home contained some of the worst moments I’ve ever lived.

To this day I have no idea why he didn’t turn around. Why he didn’t go back and take responsibility for what he’d done. If he had, maybe the police wouldn’t have shown up on our doorstep that night. Maybe neither of us would’ve gotten a life sentence for manslaughter during a hit and run. Maybe we wouldn’t have had to leave our families, our friends, and our dreams for the slab of gray cement that is Hancock County Jail.

I’ve gotten to know Cell 152 pretty well in these last twelve years. It never had much to hide, and I think that some nights it likes listening to me talk. Talking to these gray walls, these sad, confining walls. That’s probably how I’ve spent most of my last twelve years. I know I’m losing it, and honestly, I don’t really mind it anymore. It’s all his fault anyway. Out there, I forgave him, but these steel bars have beaten the truth into me. Now I see things for how they really are.

This time, let’s cut to the chase. It’s 1978. I’d just graduated from Mount Desert Island High School in Bar Harbor, a happy, complacent little town in Maine. Bar Harbor had never seen a dark day, a sad day, until I came around. I did alright in school, but it’s not like I was the valedictorian of our graduating class. I dragged through high school sporting Bs and Cs, constantly having teachers screech at me for not using the mind that I was blessed with.

That summer flew by, quicker than any other. At the end of the break, before we went to college, I was over at my friend’s house to drink. His parents weren’t home for some reason, something more important than their son leaving them for the rest of his life. We got caught up in some game, table tennis, I think it was, and the alcohol never came out. We were having a good time, trash talking, play fighting, and having our own miniature farewell party.

I left early, the weight and the stress of school gone for the warm summer months. I wanted to enjoy a trip in my Impala, my beloved car, before I went away to Colby College, where the campus is so small, you didn’t really need one. I stepped outside and inhaled the cool autumn air. It smelled like pumpkin and ginger. The leaves fell around me, into the thick, dewy grass, and the sun warmed my skin as I stood. It was the last true moment of peace in my life.

Bar Harbor was a blur around me, and I was loving the purr of my car, the chill of the breeze, everything. It was all perfect. Everything was perfect, until a little blonde girl chased after her toy into the middle of the road. I saw her, I heard her, I even smiled at her, but for some reason that I will never understand, I didn’t process her. My mind didn’t realize she was there, until it was too late.

I was behind the wheel that day. I know it, whether I admit it or not. I came here, to Hancock County Jail, alone and mortified of what I had done. But I was a different person then, wasn’t I? I’m better now, right? He isn’t here anymore, now it’s just me, the one who tried to help the girl, who tried to save her.

Just me, alone, from sunrise to sunset. But then night comes, and he returns. Every night he haunts me, and I know he loves it. Every night he lays with me as I fall asleep. Every night he is here. Every night, Cell 152 listens to me scream, and every night, I swear I can hear him chuckling.