Dark Side of the Moon

In the youth corrections system, do we fix 'em, or forget 'em?

Victor Alma (all names in this story are aliases) is not in his cell. In his place, on the floor, ceiling, every wall, every square inch, a kaleidoscope of turf graffiti. With smuggled felt markers, characters three feet large in that Olde English/Gregorian script wallpaper the little room: BLST (Barrio Libre South Tucson), BP XIII (Brown Pride--13th letter "M" for Mafia).

Then, like an apparition, Victor materializes out of the corner. He has been sitting on the loo, head bowed, the toilet's aluminum exterior also victim to the black lettering. As is Victor himself, tattooed head to toe in like felt-marker camouflage, blending into the walls transparently. "Yeah!" he trumpets, his calling card. A contemptible, gloating cheer. Think your third strike in a row at the Galaxy Lanes. He blows by me and parades across the unit floor, the frisky cock of the barnyard.

Here in Catalina Mountain School, kids like Victor put the fun back in dysfunctional. Or the uck back in fucked.

DRIVE AROUND ARIZONA enough and the state and federal penitentiaries becomes omnipresent: miles of razor wire in the distance, glinting like icicles, then, shimmering in the heat, a looming granitic edifice. Some lost capitol, perhaps. Planted, as if dropped from the sky. Hauled through the air by gigantic, throbbing super-Chinooks, lumbering across the endless cobalt ceiling, throwing shadows miles square. Cables as thick as trees attached to hundreds of buildings pressed from giant molds ...

On a much smaller scale, juvenile corrections, a satellite within this system, strives to revolve in an orbit of its own making. The two pulleys that allow these revolutions form a dichotomy of competing opposites that nonetheless are mutually dependent: treatment vs. containment. Although these are with secure institutions with all manner of automatic gates, head counts, lockdowns and response actions, it is by way of preemptive intervention that the state, in the declaration of one treatment program, hopes for "Safer Communities through Successful Youth." The key word being the preposition "through." As in, the means. By way of. The how of it.

It wasn't always that way. An abbreviated history of Arizona Juvenile Corrections would trace youth detention from dog pound to Last Best Chance, a flash point being the class action suit brought by the family of one youth--held too long in isolation--that would wholly rewrite juvenile corrections from "holding pattern" into "school."

Now, appropriate conduct and behavior management are the ideals. The failure or irrelevance of traditional schooling and dysfunctional/nonexistent parenting are replaced by state facilities in which different tools are distributed.

Its locus: behavior science and all attendant conduits--emotion, desire, consequence.

Its product: the architecture of doing The Right Thing.

As the JD population mushrooms, a diverse selection of personnel answers postings offering the opportunity to "enhance public protection by reducing the risk level of juvenile offenders." An interview process attempts to weed out the headbangers in favor of those who assume they possess a "passionate and intense desire to work with juvenile delinquents," as well as a finely calibrated bullshit detector. And most important--the El Dorado of it all, a Sisyphean endeavor--is the ability to convince kids of the cash value in pro-social thinking. As in citizenship. As in good.

A four-week training course indoctrinates new YCOs (Youth Correction Officers) to treatment strategies that, when presented, ring of '70s-era self-improvement workshops: "Life Space Interview," feelings validation, hypodermic affection, "Keys to Inner Visions." As cadets, we role played, practiced slapping cuffs on each other, performed slow-motion take-downs on gym mats, and wrote essays on the value of multiculturalism and solutions to crisis hypotheticals. (The Chinese character for "crisis," we were told, is a hybrid of both "danger" and "opportunity.")

Asked to define "juvenile delinquent," we lobbed in our individual references. Antisocial. Impulsive. Corrosive. Short-term thinker. Counter-dependent. Hostile. Contempt for authority. Power seeker. After chalking all of these on the board, our instructor nodded to himself, congratulated us for our accuracy, then erased everything.

"The term you are seeking, the description you must be appraised, ladies and gentlemen, is survivalist." This in big block letters across the board. "Whose core values are," he writes again, intoning, "lie, cheat and steal. Forget your image of some Montana militia bullethead dug in for the duration. These kids been doing it since their moms were first backhanded through the wall or their dads got shot up at a red light."

CATALINA MOUNTAIN School takes up as much space as a small high school: gymnasium, football field, classrooms, administration. The housing units skirt the perimeter in clusters--single-story bunkers with community shower, a living room full of plastic chairs, and a dozen cement cells with a dozen steel doors.

Some are for specific offenders, so the programming is exclusive and consistent. The Chesters, for example, the sex offenders, have their own unit in some schools. Here in Catalina there is Crossroads, for the budding junkies ("King Meth is my shepherd; I shall always want. He maketh me lie down in the gutter. He destroyeth my soul. Yea, I shall walk through the valley of poverty and will fear no evil, for thou, Methamphetamine, are with me. Thy needle and powder comfort me. Thou strippest the table of groceries in the presence of my family. Surely addiction shall stalk me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Damned forever.")

Agave is for the repeat offenders and the PVs--parole violators--as well as a handful of Chesters. Agave is pretty bleak. Where the other units might have ratty carpeting and second-hand sofas, maybe foosball or a big-screen TV, up here it's jailtown. Where the Wild Things Are. Father Flanagan never been to Agave--damn sure some bad boys here.

For the PVs, revolving-door kids, the cachet of serving time is evolving into resignation. It is becoming their work. ("What is called resignation," Thoreau observed, is in fact, "confirmed desperation.") Treatment then, "programming"--group therapy, conflict rez, one-to-ones--is inherently paradoxical because the repeat offender, for the most part, has already been through the routines. It's old news. Achieving plateaus of behavior, expressing victim empathy--yeah, whatever. Just gimme my fokking level so's I can get some privvies. They go through the motions as theater, tossing the programming lexicon back to us in withering sarcasm: "Yo, sir. If you might redirect that negative power talk as it is infringing on my comfort zone. Sir."

Home, a big steel room separated by 10 cells on either side. A 20-inch TV bolted where wall meets ceiling and encased in Plexiglas. Closed-circuit video cameras at every other corner (including some cell-specific for suicide watch), and enough flimsy, stackable lawn chairs and tables to accommodate the 20 or so youths who are placed here. No other furniture. No magazine racks, bookshelves, hanging plants or pinups. Just a big empty room with a clock and ESPN or the goddamn WB.

Automatic steel doors, three inches thick, slide open to the shower area and beyond one more to the isolation unit, an identical layout other than its single-slab "beds" as opposed to the PVs' twin bunks. Isolation is reserved for security risks--the incorrigibles: fighters, inciters, sex assaulters--then the requests (kids who fear for their person may ask to be secluded from the other youths), and the fresh arrivals until they get their formal unit assignments.

Both cell blocks are overseen by a glass-encased operations center. Mission Control. In here is an elaborate horizontal panel of master breakers and toggle switches that opens any door, any cell, operates all the cameras and VCRs, regulates the showers, hot and cold, hot and cold--Awright, git outa there, Beaumont! Now means now! You can scrape that soap off when you shave tomorrow ...

Most of us YCOs do not last long. Three months. Six months. Grind away for a year, maybe. Prison work can be summarized as stultifying routine punctuated, on occasion, by intensity--the isolated brawl, a mess-hall riot. Some live for those moments. Others go day after day dreading their possibility, all the while holding fast to the distant dream or ambition that will get them out of here and into something where human beings reside and real conversation takes place and a six-hour CHiPS marathon is not the highlight of the week. Of course, for these staffers, corrections was always a mistake. They have missed the point entirely.

Possibly you're born to work with JDs. The most effective staff members have an intrinsic rapport that cannot be taught or manufactured. The best have something to share: a card trick, hunting stories, an elegant never-miss three-point swish, the hemi 318 they were dropping into a flatbed.

The wanna-be-your-pal types, heart-of-gold college guys with some free-clinic experience, maybe have run an afternoon program for Parks and Rec--they are fresh meat. Only the fastest learners whose egos can take such decompression survive. The rest are eaten alive, emasculated, soul raped the first week they get their keys and radio. It's as if they all show up with tattoos on their forehead that say "Be nice to me." Hardcore deprived street reprobates like the boys of Agave know the do-gooders better than the do-gooders know themselves. (See Soul on Ice.)

MITCHELL BELIZE IS barely five foot and handsome as the Jackson 5 on an old Soul Train clip. Coppertop, they call him. (Virtually everyone has a nickname: One-eye, Pony Boy, Temper, Cocoa, Chipper, Gomez--some immediately recognizable, others deeply fossilized.) Mitchell was pimping Crenshaw over in L.A. and bringing home straight As to throw his single mom, an Air Force recruiter, off track. She got a transfer to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base to get her son off those streets, but Coppertop had already tasted the high life: hustling and scoring, throwing green around like the Mack, reading Samuel R. Delany and James Baldwin, filling dollar notebooks with sci-fi tales and epic rap operas, and getting arrested ad nauseum.

He made the rounds of the detention-lite alternatives judges assigned in deference to his youth until, during a Blood/Crip conciliatory Christmas service, he masterminded a particularly brutal retaliatory strike. Graduating, as it were, he rode a first-class ticket to the second-to-last stop on the bad boy express.

In Agave unit, Belize gravitates from displaced inquisitive intellect and near beatific altar-boy innocence--seeking out shyer kids and getting them singing along during chapel--to snarling, self-destructive gangbanging satyr. He dangles his intelligence, his potential, in front of new staff like bait, reels them in by elaborating his plan for reform, an organized, articulate chronology of mentors and publishers and charity. (Oh, this kid's going places. We've turned him around!) And you are nodding and agreeing and congratulating him until the realization that he has trick bagged your ass. The Boy Scout testimony, so compelling, slyly transitioned from Touched by an Angel sweet to debaucherous parody of everything you thought admirable and clean and correct. Then he's giggling and snorting in exaggerated class-clown ridicule, moon walking across the floor, high fives and guffaws, shredding your imperious, big-brother image entirely at your expense.

Throw open the main gates, the head of programming suggests, and only half these kids would run off. Some get their first toothbrush in here, she says. We have to show him what it's for.

"Miss" has worked with troubled youths for years, and her BS detector is tuned within a whisker. A short little thing, cute as a button, she steps into the ring with these guys like that gator wrassler on cable. Surrounded by grinning piranhas, all jabbering at once, she throws their complaints and insults back at them with the aplomb of a platoon hardass.

"Miss!" yells John Cochran, in her face, his blond crew cut trembling. "Staff keep shortin' me my phone, man."

"I'm doing that."

"What the fuck!"

"You've been cut."

"I'm a sophomore!"

"Not any more you are."

"What's this?!"

"You know 'what's this,' darlin'."

"That your trick bag, bitch."

"Uh-uh! Check that!"

A tall kid, Cochran is white trash from the south side, but seriously loyal to the Crip hierarchy. The original racial exclusivity attached to the infamous Bloods and Crips no longer exists. The point is protection of turf, unwavering loyalty to member code and strength in numbers.

Don Taul speaks up, politely. "Were you able to call my mom?"

Don is a pink roly-poly with curly hair--right out of Chester central casting. His only question in life is why he couldn't love the nine-year-old neighbor kid but a 50-year-old movie star could fuck some bimbo half his age in front of the whole world. "Someday, my feelings won't be a crime."

"I called your mom. Called your dad, too."

"That was a mistake."

"He asked how you are."

"Did you tell him?! Didja tell him all about me?" Don gets nervous and hysterical for a moment, then calms down. "Miss, you have to move Victor Alma out of here. He's toxicating the whole unit."

"He's what?"

Then Ramos butts in, eager to shock.

"Miss, you like gettin' that pussy ate?"

"Shut up, fool." That's Pico, his lieutenant, the pair of them sort of a hoodoo Cheech and Chong. They get high on the misfortune of others.

"No, she a woman. You a woman. You a woman, ain'tcha? What's up with going down?"

"Don't be talking to her like that."

"Like what?"

"Miss, that new guy give me no damn points and I'm up for review," complains Berra Koo, from behind the mob. He jumps up and down so he's noticed. Koo is an extremely angry Cambodian kid who hates all staff, adults in general, and does as he's told only in sullen, seething acquiescence.

"You were observed slamming those dairy boxes against the door of the mess hall. Again. What's up with that? Not the self control we expect from a junior."

"That bitch don't know me! He didn't see nuthin'!"

"Everybody see you."

"When y'all gonna let me back to school?!" explodes Garwood Beaumont, all 6-feet-2 of him.

"You don't want to go to school, Gar. You said so."

"I do want to go."

"You want to go."

"Yeah! Gotta get up at 6:30 with everyone else then just sit around all morning. Staff make me clean out the motherfucking fridge, wash all them tags off the walls--"

"You want to be in class, with all your homies, reading and studying and answering questions."

"All that!" Gar Beaumont is another Angry Young Man. Filled with a smoldering rage that remains unresolved, dangerous and unpredictable, he is like so many JDs who, despite the best Corrections can offer--the first structure their lives have ever known, real adults who give a damn--throw it all away because of gang honor or, more to the truth, carboniferous anger antecedents that may never be unearthed.

"Well, good. That's fine, Mr. Beaumont. Then you won't mind your first assignment."


"Write out for me 10 examples how your behavior affects others. Then, give me 250 words on why you, Garwood Beaumont, do not have to follow the rules. Finally, write me a poem. Write me a poem--not a long one and it doesn't have to rhyme--about how you got kicked out of school in the first place. That's your homework. Demonstrate for all of us that you are ready to return."

As supervisor of programming, Miss has the last word on how effective a certain intervention is to the unit as a whole as well as any kid individually. She is everyone's favorite sister, den mom and take-no-crap homeroom teacher rolled into one.

"I love my job," she confides. "Where else can a gal pushing 40 hear a dozen virile young men tell her she got a great ass? Every day?"

She can talk bureaucratese with the clueless Phoenix suits, tear staff down over some infraction so you'd wish you weren't born, yet explain reality to a punk as if his life were important and that fairness had merit in the universe.

Rudy Borrego stands before us for his junior level review. Of the four levels youths must ascend before their release--freshman, sophomore, junior, senior--they must at least attain the status of a junior or that release is postponed, time served notwithstanding. Rudy is not going down, but he's not going up either, and after he tolerates our reasons, he speaks his mind.

"If it is possible, Miss" he begins, choosing and pronouncing his words carefully with respect to this forum, "if it is possible I would like to get my pitchers, personal letters, personal shoes and my personal hygiene back. I've been robbed--stripped out--for over a month and I think you've got your point accrost."

Rudy was moved up to Agave from Crossroads as a screw-up. Crossroads, being more relaxed, allows the kids personal property: tennies from home, store-bought deodorant and, in Rudy's case, a stuffed rabbit he had become attached to. Fire engine red. Blood red.

Miss does not blink.

"I realize you are angry, Rudy, but saying you've been 'robbed' is making things seem like we did something wrong to you. After all, you are the one who caused all this."

She addresses him without hesitation. She is honest, sincere and concise. Acutely aware of the meager value her actual words convey, in fact it is her facial expression and tone that will evoke any potential commerce from this interaction.

"It has not been a month--and you do have your address book. You have clothes, shoes and hygiene. It's not like you are naked and stinky--"

"I didn't say--"

"--you just have state issue."

"You guys said--"

"You were sent to Agave, Rudy, to appreciate what was given you in Crossroads. It makes little sense to give you all you had there, here in Agave, does it? But pick two items and I'll consider it. Your bunny, however, stays. He was not tossed out, he didn't fight or disrupt or need negative attention. He will not go to Agave. And no, I don't think I, or Crossroads staff, got our point across at all. Your transfer was to teach you strength, appreciation and patience."

"All you teachin' me is punishment." Rudy has had enough.

"You were placed in this school as punishment, Rudy. Not for punishment. We don't inflict here."

"Nah ... nah ..."

"If you can stop complaining to me, your mom, and any and all staff you can corner--then I'll see patience. Get it? Write me back--"

"Write you--"

"Write me back, tell me off, whatever," she blows him a kiss. "Love, kisses, respect ..."

Rudy Borrego, disgusted, turns and hunches away muttering obscenities over the injustice of it all. Speaking to his departing form, Miss signs off. As much to him as to the rest of us.

"... and sincere hope for your future."

VICTOR ALMA IS TEACHING little Jamal Tate chess. They throw gang signs back and forth over the board to each other like deaf mutes. At 11, Jamal is the youngest inmate. Both his parents hither and yon, he graduated from shoplifting Safeway to purse snatching in the malls. Did 90 days for that in Shock Probation. Eventually, after he showed off a .22 magnum at school, the judge threw the irons at him. Poor Jamal. He might as well have been sharing a pet turtle.

In spite of how often he is slapped with a lockdown, Victor still commands a sway over the other youths that is mysterious and unnerving. He is the Agave alpha wolf. Lobo primero. Incommunicado with the rest of the unit other than mere minutes a day, he still runs things, starts shit, forwards orders like some chollo bin Laden. When the only two Bloods in the unit, Rudy Borrego and Tony Chacal, were attacked on the football field, we learned to our chagrin that Alma, in Isolation that week, had juiced the whole thing through body language and two-word communiqués at mess.

Unlike in adult prison, and in spite of their individual differences--Chesters, ethnicity, cultural sensibilities--juvenile populations get along fairly well together. Nor do they self-segregate themselves into groupings defined exclusively by race. In this, their society is more progressive than the high schools they left behind, where the parameters of beauty, athletic ability, etc. were all-powerful and unyielding.

Still, such community died instantly with the incubation of the gang virus--the Ebola, the Big Bang of their multicultural universe. This said, anger mismanagement is still the monkey on the backs of most JDs. Gangs, drugs, socioeconomics--these finally are only circumstances. They do not explain the fury, the profound white-hot seething resentments and tumorous wrongs that fester solutionless. Neglect, censure, abuse, jealousy, disparity--absolutely the usual suspects, but too far back to recognize. Which is why fights are so cathartic and anticipatory. Doing daily group and writing letters to their victims will never compete with body slams and breaking heads. Doesn't solve much but sure feels good.

And feeling good rarely happens in prison.

WE HAVE JUST FINISHED viewing Sabrina, a movie set in and inhabited by a class so far removed from these guys as to be extraterrestrial. But they embrace it at its most basic level: Guy gets girl. (Still, even they think Harrison Ford was too old for her.) Although it was against policy, someone had brought in the R-rated Braveheart. We had decided since it had been a productive week we would do something cool. Alma, blessedly, has been in neutral these past few weeks and the other knuckleheads have obtained an impressive number of points.

Just before it blows, it becomes obvious how it came together. Rotating pods had slowly been coalescing under our noses. Visits to cells for drinks from the tap were really to load bars of soap into socks, then hide them down crotches. Rudy and Tony, in the farthest corner from the TV, must have known all night what was brewing, but to let staff in would be like telling the principal you know who pulled the fire alarm.

On screen, it's the battle of Stirling. The English cavalry is charging down on the Scots, the wild-eyed but steady William Wallace imploring them to hold back ... hold back ... until his front line grabs up hewn timbers axed into spear-tipped lodgepoles that the English steeds ram into, full throttle.

I overhear Flores express sympathy for the horses' fate and am about to compliment him--quasi-sincerely--on his "positive victim empathy" when Gar Beaumont rises with a start, his chair skittering into the wall. Belize brushes by me and grabs up a table. Gar is wild-eyed, too, just as patient, and clearly on the precipice of some moment. The room has squared off.

There are only two of us on the floor and a third in operations. I move center stage and ask in an annoyed tone, "Hey, what are you guys doin'?" In the first rush anything not nailed down takes flight, and the crude sock blackjacks disintegrate on impact. At least half the room flies by us to pounce on Rudy and Tony, self-isolated in the back, waiting for the charge. The other half separates into factions that boil against both doors.

I fumble with the radio, my voice a hoarse squeak: "Agave! 10-24!"

A hand pulls at my keys, then the radio is knocked loose. In operations our partner, frozen at first, stumbles backward as a cooler full of ice crashes against the glass. I retrieve my radio with one hand while deflecting a thrown chair from Flores. The low-risk kids are staying put or have moved to their areas. But they are only 10 percent of this crowd.

Our control has evaporated and that thrilling knowledge whips through the unit like a severed power line, a dancing snake, sparks and gases, sizzle and spit.

The other YCO wades into the roiling mass trying to reach Tony and Rudy. Beaumont appears to take a crack at him but gets taken down instead. Greased in sweat, he manages to slither free, literally rolling away like a rodeo clown. The YCO staggers, rests against the wall, then slides down to his butt, bleeding from a head wound.

I'm screaming now, "10-51! 10-51! Staff down!" The kids ignore us. They just want us outnumbered, distracted, immobilized. They won't touch us if they can help it. They be jammin'. Fighting is the best time of all. It overwhelms all other recreation. Nothing can compete with it. Not sex. Not even freedom.

Alma and Cochran are going at it. Big smiles. Sweeping, full-house meathooks to each other's head, backing, weaving across the floor. The mob, agitated as electric worms, parts for them as one, as if from telepathic command. The two gladiators, locked together like lovers, tornado the length of the room. Beaumont wades in on Rudy, whose blows only glance off his glistening dome like chisel chips.

Security has filled the control room, but the doors won't budge since the strategically placed brawls in the doorways keep them sealed. In response, someone hits every auto switch in panic. But this serves only to unlock all remaining cell doors, which some kids have closed intentionally for protection.

Ramos and Pico drag Donny Taul blubbering from his area. They pants him, squealing like hounds on a fawn, kicking and stomping him mercilessly. Security finally bursts in, followed by an Emergency Response Team. Still, it's two of us to take down one youth and most resist, actively trip us up, pelt us with ice. For many, it is the first time we have attempted to restrain a kid for real. We go through the moves in slow motion until they wriggle free like feral kittens and skip away yelping and hooting. Belize, living it up, stands in the middle of the room, center of the vortex, hands outstretched above his head in glorious Crip sign, pumping them like Ali. Party on.

The riot deconstructs around me in flagellation and abandon as I wander through it untouched.

A youth has a chair over his head to throw, but I manage to grab it away and set it aside almost in afterthought. He darts off unperturbed.

There is Beaumont under some half-dozen officers, then cuffed, then dragged into his cell like a bagged wolf. Three ERTs shield Rudy and Tony with their bodies. One has blood down the front of his shirt, though this is nothing compared to the kids' condition.

The upper hand returns to us. We are 4 to 1 over youth now and it has become a matter of reorganizing each cell and transferring the primary bad boys next door to Isolation.

The movie is still playing. The Brits have been slaughtered and the blood-spattered Scots are jabbing their swords in the air and whooping it up. "Someone turn that damn thing off!"

The clamor in here: a lunatic's casino. All the youths are still pumped and frenzied but locked down or cuffed and rolling on the floor; they can only scream in fury and triumph. Arias of exultation. Excoriating us, howling turf shibboleths, bemoaning their own fate, but finally just venting the still wound-up energy that needs to be released, bled out like some possession. Detonated, in raging, toxic incantations.

While security concentrates on the cell block, they already got us in back in operations for review. We check each other out and congratulate ourselves and generally behave like we're back in the locker room after the big game. The tapes are rewound and all eyes study the monitor. We see a frozen image of the youths of Agave watching the movie--while we watch them watch the movie. Hit play. Cut to Victor Alma. Languorously, he moves through the room finally sidling up to Jamal Tate, who is by himself along the west wall. Taking the 11-year-old by the arm, he gently leads him to Tate's own cell. He whispers something and then, to our astonishment, slowly slides the door closed.

"Oh ... Ohh! This is good--"

"Who's this guy?"

"Look at this--"

"What's this kid's name?"

"That's Victor Alma."

"Shit. The ringleader."

"Oh, yeah."

"He locked that kid out?"

"For what? Safekeeping?"

"Do you believe it?"

The tape replays the highlights, and we cheer like hockey fans seeing the kids spun, slammed and cuffed in dizzying efficiency. Clearly, some of us relish these opportunities, since if there was ever a time to give it to that little prick who's got it coming to him, well ... . Besides, they tougher than all this. What are we going to do? Yank their privvies? Put them in exclusion? Erase their points? Don't mean nothing--'cause they pulled it over on staff. On the adults, authority, the law--the whole chump show. For the juvenile in corrections, that makes life worth living. That's reason to get up in the morning. For all the motions of appropriate behavior and attending school and completing Keys to Innervisions, pulling off a coup like this is the apex, the meaning of life.

On the Isolation side, the worst of the worst yelp like coyotes, that electronic, cult-like chorus of--in their case--despair and impotence.

Beaumont, cinched down in full body restraint, slams himself against the door screaming like a train whistle. "Whoo! Whooooo!" They pee on our boots from under the door and holler the details of our babies' and wives' debasement. Then, like spinning the dial of a tuner, they're apologizing, accusing, crying, begging for a snack, ice, any spare cartons of milk, c'mon, c'mon, be cool ...

THE NEXT DAY EVERY CELL in Agave is stripped and dismantled. Underneath Mitchell Belize's mattress there is a notebook. It must have all the pornographic sketches or personal letters. But no, it is full of prose. It appears to be a story he had composed.

In the future, Mitchell imagines, our most vile criminals are sent to the dark side of the moon, where earth is never seen. The blind side. Perpetual darkness, a deserted lunar plain, 10 trillion stars one spends a lifetime counting.

A character remarks, "Know what you need to raise a healthy kid? One adult who's just crazy about him. Unconditionally. That's the magic wand, bud."

In his story, an escape transpires. The goal--only to traverse to the "earth side." To be able to view the blue marble. An embraceable view.

On the last page they sit together in the fine lunar dust, their air supply venting to exhaustion. The beautiful world, suspended in black ether, looks back at them. They do not reach out to each other.

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