Scene 3

carny copy

Massive, old prison in rural Texas.  45 miles out of San Antone’. Long rows of triple tiered cells. Dirty off-white paint flaking off rugged steal bars. Lobo’s 6’ x 9’ home. The inside of his cell is decorated with fantastic art. Wild, psychedelic paintings with a grotesque edge, surreal futuristic sketches of Apocalyptic scenarios. Dark, bloody martial arts battles set in space. Together a gallery presented by f a brilliant, yet tormented pysche.

Lobo is a “½ breed”. ½ Japanese, ½ Caucasian.  His mother and father were missionaries to China living in Nanjing, during the invasion by Japan in the late 30’s. His father was killed, his mother raped. He was the fruit of that violent union. During the occupation they hid out with the relatives of loyal parishioners deep in the country.

After China regained it’s relative sovereignty, they attempted to reestablish themselves in the city. It didn’t go well. His mother and he were shunned as a symbol of their disgrace. Lobo grew up ostracized for his heritage, picked on like on ugly scab on the face of China’ ravaged nation. He was constantly bullied, mocked, tormented. Children can be in many ways much crueler than there adult counter parts. As if they have the freedom to project and act out their parents rage without social conscience or consequence.

When Lobo was 10 they ‘escaped’ to San Francisco via Australia. Unfortunately, they arrived in the U.S. several months before the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor. Lobo bore the likeness of his father, which didn’t bode well for him during WWII. Sentiment in America at that time was ardently anti-oriental. People assumed anyone that looked Asian was Japanese.  Potential spies, enemies of the country, murders of their children. Such passions were necessary, and in some ways encouraged to stir up patriotic fervor. Why else would one endure the sacrifices of war and death if not for a grander cause, to defeat evil and the devil incarnate. Japanese/Orientals were easier to identify than were Germans/Europeans. Americans needed a convenient and proximate target for their rage, pain and frustration.

Although they escaped the U.S. “camps, Lobo and his mother were generally cast-off. In many ways it was worse in America. In China they retained the comradeship of their friends and previous parishioners who shared in the struggles of the Japanese invasion and the aftermath. They had a small circle of deeply loyal folk who respected, honored and helped them. In the U.S. they had no such community. They were just faces in the endless waves of immigrants that washed ashore in and around the war.

His mother was forced to work 6 days, 12 hours a day at an oriental laundry- a “sweat shop”, in order to make ends meet. Lobo was expelled from school after school for his constant brawling. He had been the target of constant persecution… most of which was quite undeserved and unfortunate. Some of his troubles, however, were well earned, as he had developed quite a chip on his shoulder. He mostly wandered the streets in solitary exploration.

When he was 14 his mother died. She had been worn down by life and work… and sorrow. She contracted a particularly virulent strain of influenza during an epidemic of such. Her gentle and kind spirit stayed aflame even in her darkest, most painful hours. She was Lobo’ solitary solace and hope. Without her to garrison the tender, warm places of his heart, the hard, evil elements came rushing in to fill the vacuum.

His boredom, loneliness and anger soon forged an independent, tough, street smart young man out to cut his mark into the face of society. It wasn’t long before Lobo the victim became Lobo the victimizer. The world had screwed him, now he was out to screw them back. He had the right. He was just in personally re-balancing the misplaced Karma. Take back what had been stolen from him.

*As a side note, I have worked for several years marketing educational material to the criminal justice system. In my journeys I have had the opportunity to talk at some length with many professionals who work in prisons. I have also had the ‘good fortune’ to rub elbows with those incarcerated as a result of everything from petty theft to heinous serial killing. I have been amazed that prevailing attitude of the prisoners I’ve run into has generally been one of entitlement. Most believe themselves the victims. It seems ironic that the victimizers of society think they are really the ones that have been wronged.

In defense, I believe criminals are developed or grown in the soil of tremendous hurt and pain. I also believe that most of them have been grossly abused and mistreated in life. However, more times than not, personal responsibility is something very evasive to them. They justify their misbehavior by blaming others. They believe they are righting some cosmic wrong. Entitled to somehow get back what was inappropriately taken from them. That they are simply victims of circumstances and society…

Lobo’ cell mate Mo, short for Mohammed, was a well muscled, fiercely black man with an ominous persona (ex-Panther). He had been imprisoned in the wake of the Detroit riots for Mayhem, assault and conspiracy. To make an example of him they gave him a total of 43 years in prison. Really, it was more a matter of certain agencies of the government eliminating through pseudo execution or banishing through long-term imprisonment certain “antagonistic elements” and enemies of the people.

Mo gives his Lobo a final brotherhood handshake, strong and warrior-like. Then jerks him close to hug him. Mo almost tears up, but hangs tough. “I’ll be followin’ on your heals real soon. Those AACP? folk are raisin’ quite a ruckus. Our last appeal has a real good chance of comin’ down.” Lobo nods in hopeful acknowledgment. He too is choked up, unable to find words to bring closure. Too much to say. Too many feelings. Not enough crayons in his box to color the picture “good-bye” to his beloved friend. Mo cautions, “Be careful out there. Watch your back and stay out of trouble.”

Lobo finishes gathering his illustrations– well crafted compilations of fact, fantasy and fiction. He conspicuously leaves several pictures. The most prominent of the remaining sketches depicts two ancient warriors fighting shoulder to shoulder in an urgent, violent struggle, amidst the bloody fray and carnage. Presumably extracted from the Biblical narrative illustrating Jonathan and David’ relationship… best friends as well as brave, skilled comrades in battle. As Lobo leaves, they both find themselves glancing at the picture, suspend their gaze a moment in private revelry, then lock on to each other one more time in silent affirmation.

The apathetic, overweight guard waits casually in the hall. Lobo exits the tomb. They wordlessly make their way down cell block “D”, tier 3. As they do, some on the block offer various versions of good-bye, ranging from hopeful mutters to sarcastic murmurs. Most attend to their own business with relative indifference. Prison breeds a thick apathy. Dense, like water. Blinding, like fog. It protects and shelters the inmate from the gnawing, lonely pain. It is respected. As they march on, other prisoners from outlying blocks, give stabbing, jealous ½ glances as they pass. Through two sets of heavy, slow moving security doors.

One bald headed, abundantly tattooed, chip-toothed gentleman makes an obscene overture. Lobo just ignores it & continues on. Obviously simmering with unresolved rage, as he touches a prominent scar on his obese, unshaven face, remembering a fight with Lobo. He suddenly spews out a tirade of vile accusations about his experiences punking Lobo, the condition and treatment of his various orifices- real or imagined -topped off by references to his mixed blood line and heritage. His cell mate parrots along accompanied by a chorus of whoops and hollers from the surrounding pens. Another set of security doors.

A waiting area. Final barriers to Lobo’ freedom in sight now.

Outside the prison. High walls crowned with layers of barbed wire. Early 1900’s vintage. The mere sight of it a deterrent to crime, so it was designed. Oppressive. Depressing. Foreboding. Beyond the gates, freedom at last? Hierarchies of guards and prison officials take turns processing their piece of Lobo’ release. Lobo shuffles along in muted anticipation.

The huge double gates each take turns creeping open, then shut again. The final cold clank of steel. A contemptuous guard exercises his last ritual of dehumanizing control.

The tongue of the great gray whale.  Lobo is spewed out onto the shores of liberty. Not torch to greet him. Just assorted poisonous insects and reptiles of the South Texas desert. Lobo takes a moment. Just stands and releases a tad the accumulated tension of the last 13 years. A thoughtful reflection of things past and things to come. Life winds its way through the hot sand like a rattler leaving only a crooked trail of memory behind. From what and to what is unknown. Just the paths of life. The next meal. Fellowship. Survival.

A short jaunt to the highway reveals a band of uncaring asphalt extending infinitely in both directions. Barren landscape interrupted by an occasional cactus. Tumbleweeds. Sparsely scattered plants desperately cling to life in the sterile void. A coin flip establishes the favored direction. With art work tied together in a hand made brown paper “portfolio” and tucked neatly under his arm, he resolutely proceeds down the highway… Toting all other noteworthy possessions in a small, cloth sack. Lobo Hitchhikes… Then Walks. Tries hitching again. Random cars and occasional trucks speed by without slowing.. Walks and walks… Fiery days and frigid nights. Walks some more. Dark clouds drag across the sky. Finally, a Big Rig stops to picks him up. Dylan’s cracking voice chants, “Like a Rollin’ Stone.” The angry rumble of the semi necessitates staccato exchanges. Then silence. The jogging and jerking of the cab slithering along the expanse.

Lobo parts ways with the generous Trucker at the fork of rural route 63 and Highway 10, about 100 miles out of San Antonio. Driven by an essential hunger, Lobo goes from store to store down the dusty main drag of Two Tongue, a defunct mining town, seeking work. Hunger makes establishing priorities a simple matter. Find work or beg. Lobo’ never begged and doesn’t plan to start anytime soon. Lobo resolutely proceeds. No dialogue needed. People anticipate the stranger’ question and shake their heads in suspicious refusal. One receptive Hispanic lady leading a gaggle of children, motions toward the east, down the road, after Lobo gestures about his need and briefly refers to the contents of his brown bag, in answer to her initial query. Finally, a lead.

Lobo strolls expectantly up to the makeshift sign signifying the entrance to the Carnival, which is bustling with activity. He asks people who, where and what. Everything is still communicated in silent gestures accompanied by the continuation of Dylan’s verse. This time through the loud speakers. Lubricant for the set-up crew. “Like a rollin’ stone.”

Sweaty carnival laborers point him to Buster. The exchange of body language between them tells the tale. Buster plays the “big boss”. Lobo gives his brief opening pitch. Buster responds with curt replies and instructional pedagogue. He fires questions at him. Lobo nods, shows art work. Buster seems mildly interested but maintains his cloak of arrogance, skepticism and condescension . Suddenly, Buster interrupts the rough conversation and simply walks off, motioning for Lobo to follow. As Lobo keeps pace, a few steps behind, he looks around at the decrepit conditions… dated deco illustrations and gaudy ornamentation . They tread the well worn path to Agnes and Butch’ hutch, passing the preoccupied accountant struggling with arms full of papers, along the way. Lobo’ mixed emotions evident upon his face. Curiosity. Apprehension. Calm detachment. Resolve. A new chapter of his life is unfolding. Hmm.

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