“Let me have it!” gushed out despairingly as he grasped at the melting cherry Popsicle just out of reach on the cement floor, it’s scarlet image blurred by the tears in his eyes. The soaring August heat was rapidly turning the Popsicle into a heap of cherry slush. A brutal booted foot smashed down on his hand, splintering Tyrell’s slender fingers, as another boot swung like a wrecking ball into his teeth and nose, again, again...
“Hey, guys, Pumpkinhead wants his bloody Popsicle, should we let him have it?” Angelo snarled. Luke and Rodrigo, the two other prison guards laughed mockingly, and Luke scooped up the melted mass along with its wooden stick, while Rodrigo forced Tyrell’s bloody jaws open for Luke to cram it in, the crimson of the Popsicle mingling with that of his sanguine nose and teeth.
“Here ya go Pussy Pumpkin, don’t cry, here’s yer fuckin’ lickin’ stick!” sneered Luke, following with a hard right into Tyrell’s already broken face. Assailed by a flurry of blackjacks and heavy boots, gasping desperately for breath, Tyrell fell into oblivion. He would not come back. Ever. As they walked away from the bloody comatose heap of what once was a handsome man lying on the floor of the cell, Angelo queried the others “I’ve seen everything, but how in the hell did he get a Popsicle in here?”Rodrigo came back “It’s Black, he got it from the merchant, but it was still cold, we sure turned it into brake fluid*, didn’t we?”
“Dammit!” The boom of her fist on her desk echoed her shout, upsetting her coffee on the report she had just read. “Those thugs have gone too far this time! I’ll have their asses behind bars with the inmates they’ve been beating, and we’ll see how long they last! I hope to hell they get pounded to death like this poor guy.” Laurie Jones, the Santa Clara County Sheriff, had just finished reading the coroner’s report after the death of John Mark Pipkin Tyrell, a 31 year old homeless man who was Bipolar. He had been arrested for a minor drug paraphernalia offence a few days earlier and placed in the special needs section of the Santa Clara County Prison waiting for a bed to be free in a mental health facility. He was alone in his cell because of his condition, and had been found dead, lying in a pool of blood with a Popsicle stick in his mouth. The coroner’s report said that he had died from loss of blood after suffering blunt force trauma. His teeth and nose were broken and his liver and spleen were lacerated. Laurie Jones had seen too many reports like this, and now she was determined. She would arrest the guards who had done this and charge them with murder. Laurie lived for justice, it was her whole life. She wore her uniform proudly, and the 4 stars shining on each shoulder had been duly merited. It had not been easy for a woman to become sheriff. She had been sworn in as a Deputy Sheriff Matron seven years earlier, at the time the only peace officer status position that a woman could obtain.
“We absolutely have to get security cameras installed.” she said to herself as she stormed out of her office “I can’t believe it! They told me it would take 2 years and 2 million dollars! But I swear I’ll have cameras installed in that prison if I have to buy them myself! And it won’t take that long, and it won’t cost me millions!”
“Hello, Ms Ashley King?”
“Juliette Price Samson here, I work for the San José Mercury News. I got your name from Lucy Tyrell, Do you have a bit of time to spare me?”
“So it’s about John Mark, isn’t it? Sure, I hope it’s nothing too serious, I was just thinking about him the other day.”
“Yes, it is about John Mark, I’m sorry to tell you that he died last Wednesday, August 26th in the Santa Clara County Correctional Facility, apparently beaten to death by three guards.”
“He’s dead? Oh My God! On August 26th! It was a special day for us, the day we met 15 years ago, and I always remember it. He was such a sweet guy, but he could get aggressive sometimes when he didn’t take his pills.”
“That’s what the guards said in their statement, they were trying to get him to take his sedative when he got aggressive and started fighting them.”
“But beat him to death! He was sick, he wasn’t even a criminal! They certainly could have restrained him, three against one and he was such a frail boy. That’s ridiculous!”
"All three are in jail with no bail, the Sheriff arrested them and charged them with murder. He left a letter for you with a poem, he wrote it last Wednesday before the guards beat him up. He only wrote ‘Dear Ashley” on it, but his sister gave me your name and told me you lived in Greenacres, Florida. That’s how I found you.”
Tears rolling down her face, Ashley managed to utter a few more words… “Can you send me the letter by Whatsapp please Ms Sampson?” then she broke down sobbing.
“Of course Ms King, that’s why I contacted you. I’ll send it right away. Take care. I’m so sorry for your loss.”
When she’d pulled herself back together, Ashley opened up her Whatsapp to find John Mark’s last letter to her:
Wednesday, August 26th, 2015
My dear Ashley, you're the only one who’s ever understood me. After all these years I so wish that we could be together again. I know it’s not possible because of my condition. I think of you every single day, but today more than ever. It’s our special day, so I wrote this poem just for you. I hope you like it and remember just the good times we had. Try to forgive me and forget about the way I treated you. I do love you so.
Ashley my cherie, we share this special day
I wish I were free, every day I hope and pray
That your smile I’ll see, to smooth my pain away
Remember when we met, it was truly legendary
I played the thief, and stole a kiss from a fairy
And tasted your lips, the sweet taste of cherries
You were behind the counter, and I tried to steal your heart
But you stole mine instead, it was like a jumpstart
From that day on I wished we’d never part
But I’m under lock and key, and you’re so far away
And once again it’s here, the day you took my breath away
With the sweet, so sweet taste of Cherry Popsicle Day
I’m in a prison now my one and only, but I didn’t do anything wrong, I swear, I just shot a little bit of crystal, like we used to do sometimes. I was kind of a bad influence on you I know. But I’m going to get better. I don’t like taking the medicine because it makes my brain blank. They’re sending me to a hospital, I hope they can help me. I’m so tired of fighting myself. I just want peace. You remember when we got tattoos together and I got a Buddhist Om symbol between my shoulder blades to give me peace? I wish it would have worked, but it didn’t. Religions are all bullshit anyway. If there’s a God, why did he make me this way? It’s so hard.
Anyway, I have my memories of our good times, and I managed to get a Cherry Popsicle smuggled in. They wrapped it in some dry ice to keep it cold. They thought I was crazy, but they don’t care as long as you pay they’ll get what you want. It didn’t cost too much, I have a friend outside who had an ounce of crystal meth, and he agreed to help me get my Popsicle. I’m going to enjoy it now, and imagine that the cherry flavor is from your lips.
Take care of yourself,
I’ll always love you,
Fiction inspired by a real event that occurred on August 26, 2015, National Cherry Popsicle Day, in the Santa Clara County Correctional Facility, CA USA
*brake fluid is prison slang for sedatives