Jim Meirose

So Now What Is The Truth?

               Okay, said the interrogator, rising. He motioned to the guard who was in the room.
               That’s all for now—take him back to his cell.
               Okay. Come on, Ray.
               Once back in his cell, Raymond slapped the concrete wall, his eyes clenched shut, his mind racing.
               —Jesus Christ Jesus Christ Jesus Christ what will my wife say how will she find out maybe they’ve already been to the house and told her she’ll see my car missing they’ll ask her about it she’ll say its at work that’s where Raymond is at work what’s wrong she’ll ask them and they’ll tell her I’m arrested and she’ll just be so upset and she won’t know what to do she’ll want to come down here I know to see me I know but where did Angie go after the police grabbed me I just saw her duck her head down in the car across the street when they grabbed me don’t tell me she walked home, don’t tell me she walked across town at three in the morning to get home she’s a witness to what I did and I told them I was at work with Angie and they’ll check the sign in sheets at the tower and they’ll know I was never in there tonight, and neither was Angie they didn’t think the car across the street from the drug store was mine, they thought it was just one of many cars parked across from the drug store in a line, that’s good for Angie or she would have been nabbed as well it’s good that she got away but what will she tell the police, they’ll go down to the tower in the morning to talk to her and will her story match mine I don’t know and what will she tell Massingill about why I don’t show up for work in the morning maybe she’ll tell him I am sick and told her to tell him I was sick yes that’s what will happen but these pills these God damned pills I have to have, I curse the day I took the first one and I curse the stupid idea I had to stop at the drug store and throw the trash can through the front window and go in looking for a big score of pills I’ve never done anything like that before in my life Angie needs pills too I told her we’re going to get enough pills to last for months if I do this and she said go ahead and do it and the cop shone the big flashlight in my eyes when I was coming out the broken window and I saw Angie ducking down in the car across the street all lit up with the flashing police car lights and it was really her idea, she said while we were at Findon’s why don’t we break into the drug store and I went along with it and oh my God what about when my wife learns what I did and that I’ve got this problem with pills, it’s bad enough she’ll have to dig up bail money I wonder what the bail will be for breaking and entering I’ve never been arrested before I hope she can get the bail together what if it’s a million dollars no it can’t be a million dollars I don’t want to go to prison they caught me red handed coming out of the window they know it was me smashed the window and went in I just have to stick to my story that I stopped to see what was what with the broken window in the drug store if I stick with my story I won’t go to prison I can’t go to prison I’d die in prison and I had to have the stupid gloves on thinking that if I had gloves on there wouldn’t be any fingerprints but now I have to tell them I had the gloves on because my hands were cold that’s a really thin lie the trash can has no fingerprints on it though the trash can and the locked cabinet back in the pharmacy that has the hard drugs that I was too stupid to realize that they would have the hard stuff locked up in a cabinet as soon as I saw that I took off to get out I didn’t have any way to bust the lock on the cabinet, I was dumb enough to think I’d just find the pills on the shelf back there and that was when I first kicked myself for doing this whole thing at all and Angie was hiding in the car across the street when the cops said get on the ground, get on the ground—and they handcuffed me and read me my rights and threw me in the back of the cop car Angie I don’t know how Angie got away because the cop car stayed in front of the drug store to watch it until it could be boarded up and the owner came down and she must have just slithered out of the car and snuck away through the yards of the houses across the street and got to the next block and got away that way and I hope she got home all right I hope they didn’t grab her if they’d have grabbed her they’d have told me they had a witness in custody but what’s my wife going to say when she finds out I spend the night with Angie at Angie’s place not at the towers it’s going to come out after they check the sign out sheet and interview the guards no sir, the guards will say—no sir, no one left this office around three o’clock in the morning and the handcuffs hurt I’d never been handcuffed it really hurts they were on too tight but they wouldn’t listen when I said they were too tight they just laughed and slammed the back door of the cop car over and in the morning the judge will set bail, and my wife will be there, mortified, and she’ll have to make bail and one by one the truths about me will come out to her as the whole thing unfolds I’m ashamed of the pills I really am ashamed my wife had no idea I had this problem I always made enough money to buy pills and she didn’t notice that the money was gone but now there’s less money now that she’s not working and I couldn’t buy pills, not at street prices, so breaking into the drug store when you’ve got the shakes for lack of pills is really what you have to do but she won’t understand even if she makes bail and we drive home to the house the silence between us you can cut it with a knife nothing will ever be the same between us but this will all be after I see the judge and it will be about the time Angie will show up at work and will she think to lie for me knowing like she does that they nabbed me or will she stay away from work afraid that the cops will show up there and pick her up I named her oh why the hell did I name her no but she doesn’t know that the judge will ask me why did you break into the drug store and my wife will be standing there, and I will lie like I’ve been lying and say I didn’t break into the drug store and the judge will ask are you an addict and I’ll say no and he’ll ask why did I have gloves on and I’ll say my hands were cold and he’ll say but God, it was eighty degrees last night, it’s the middle of a heat wave, you were trying to keep from leaving prints weren’t you and I will say no and I hope Angie will be up in the towers lying for me knowing that I would lie for her knowing that if the company found out I was arrested for this I would be let go, just like that, and I’d just be sitting home with my wife with her staring at her addict husband, fuming, wondering where our next meal is coming from—oh we’ve got money in the bank we could survive on that a while so that might be okay, but maybe she’s already been told by the cops that I was with Angie that night, and it won’t be the same between us it won’t able to be the same between us and I need to get a lawyer but that costs money too and I don’t want a public defender they are no good the TV shows all say that, I’m in a TV show now about a guy who broke into a drug store, such a low crime it’s not even exciting enough to be in the movies or on TV and I feel nauseous I feel I’m going to vomit I feel filthy they pinned me to the ground to handcuff me and my face was in the blacktop and I got all scraped up why don’t they give me medical attention they ought to give me medical attention and I do need a lawyer because I’m a criminal now, I’m not what I was before, not just Raymond, but Raymond the criminal who’s ruined his life by doing one stupid thing but I got to lie I got to keep lying like about the towers, I’ll just tell them Angie and me went to leave at three and there was no guard on duty, yeah that’s what we’ll say we’ll say we looked for him but he was not around so we just left guards need to go to the bathroom you know that’s probably what it was and my hands were cold, so cold, I put my gloves on and isn’t it funny how Angie even laughed seeing me put them on because it was hot out but I just felt like fooling around and it’s funny how we were driving along and I saw it—the drug store window was broken, and somebody needed to do something and I pulled over and went to look I left my cell phone in the car and I was going to go to the cell phone and call 911 but the cops just roared up and it all started, this nightmare—if only I could talk to Angie so our stories will match, that’s the only problem our stories will not match, don’t I get a phone call don’t I get one phone call, I could call Angie but no I don’t know her number by heart and plus they’re probably listening to everything that goes on the phones here— and I’ll just have to boldface lie and I need a lawyer I can get a lawyer, Ronnie my money man will know a good lawyer, I need a lawyer because I am a criminal oh I’d never admit it to them, or to anyone, but its true I am a criminal and nothing but bad things are going to happen to me for the next several days—but what about beyond that—trial—prison—I can’t go to prison I can’t imagine prison oh no I need to talk to Angie bad I need to see her before the morning but that won’t happen, I am lost, I am God-damned lost, a God-damned no good lost criminal without even any pills to take—how long will I be alone in this cell what are they doing what are they waiting for—maybe they’re picking up Angie, lord I hope not, I know Angie and I think alike she’ll lie for us, not for me, but for us, she’s such a good woman not like my wife she never ever understood me that’s what drove me to drugs that’s what drove me to Angie I’m innocent, she’s the guilty one, if it wasn’t for her none of this would be happening—yes it’s true it’s not a lie I am innocent, innocent—that’s what I’ll keep telling them, and everything will turn out all right and then I’ll be able to divorce my damned wife and Angie and I can be together—yes I am innocent, I am innocent, I am innocent—I’ve got a sickness that’s what it is I’ve got a sickness I don’t need punishment I need treatment—I’m sure they’ll give me treatment no prison no prison—I’m a sick man a very very sick man—
               The door opened.
               Raymond—come with me.
               The guard led Raymond back to the interrogation room. A different questioner was there.
               Sit down, he said. Raymond sat down.
               The questioner shuffled some papers.
               We spoke to Angie Roberts, he said.
               Raymond’s eyebrows rose.
               You did?
               Yes. As a matter of fact, we picked her up. She’s down the hall.
               You arrested her—
               No. We just asked her to come down to answer a few questions. Unfortunately, your stories don’t quite match. You weren’t at work with Angie Roberts. You spent the day and most of the night at her place. Isn’t that true?
               Uh—okay. Yes that’s true.
               You cheating on your wife, Raymond?
               No! Angie and I are just good friends.
               The questioner drew himself up in his chair and pointed at Raymond.
               Baloney! Isn’t it true that you and Miss Roberts are lovers?
               And isn’t it true that you left her house about three a.m.?
               Yes. That is true. But we’re not lovers. We were doing work—
               That’s baloney! She says you’re lovers. How would your wife feel if she knew you had a lover—that you were cheating on her—
               Raymond half-rose, but the guard standing behind the questioner took a step forward and Raymond sat back down.
               Well? How would she feel?
               She wouldn’t like it. But it’s a lie.
               Why would Miss Roberts lie about this?
               She’s—she’s got a crush on me. Always tries to get close to me, flirting you know—you know how women can be.
               So she’s just making it up?
               What time did you leave her place?
               Around two thirty.
               You drove toward home alone?
               And you stopped at the pharmacy around three, and you threw the garbage can through the window and went in—
               No! The window was already broken. I stopped to check it out and was getting ready to call 911—
               You stopped to check it out with gloves on?
               I—I didn’t want to contaminate the crime scene with my fingerprints.
               The questioner leaned back smiling.
               Well—that’s the first true thing you’ve said all night—you didn’t want to contaminate the scene of your own crime with your fingerprints. You threw the can through the window and you went inside—
               —looking for drugs—what kind of drugs you on, Raymond—Percocet? Oxycontin? Vicodin? Xanax? What were you looking for?
               I wasn’t looking for anything. I just went in—
               The questioner rose and pointed at Raymond sharply.
               Aha! You went in after all didn’t you!
               No—I—I didn’t mean to say that—
               No. Of course not. What you meant to do was lie, but you’re not even a good liar. You said you went in. Did you go in?
               Raymond sat silent.
               Well? Did you go in—it’ll be rough on you if you lie—
               Raymond put a hand on the table, palm down.
               I’ve had enough. I want a lawyer. I won’t answer any more questions.
               That’s because we’re getting too close to the truth! Isn’t it Raymond?
               No. You’re trying to twist my words—
               You’re twisting them yourself! All right—guard—take him out to a phone—is there a particular lawyer you would be calling Raymond? Or do you want a public defender—
               No. No public defender. I got to call my wife. She’s got the number of the lawyer.
               All right—take him out then. Let him call his wife. Good luck, Raymond.
               The guard brought Raymond out of the room and down to a phone up on the concrete wall.
               How do I call out?
               Dial nine and then your number. I’ll go down the hall so you can talk private. But I’ll be watching you.
               The guard walked away. Raymond hesitated a second, then bit his lip and dialed the number. A few seconds passed and then he spoke into the phone.
               Nancy? Nancy—I—
               He listened to a voice in the phone, then spoke.
               Okay—so you know then—the cops have been to the house and you know.
               He listened.
               Listen Nancy—I can explain everything. But I’m in really hot water—I need you to call Dan Simpson—
               Never mind what kind of pills I’m on—no—she is just a person I work with—
               I need you to call the lawyer and have him come down to the county jail—I need a lawyer—no, no—don’t hang up—Nancy!
               Raymond hung up the phone and turned to the guard, who was down the hall. The guard came up.
               Listen, said Raymond to the guard—my wife—she doesn’t have the lawyer’s number. His name is Dan Simpson. Would you have his number here—or is there a phone book I can use—
               Dan Simpson you say?
               I’ll see what I can do. For now, you go back in the cell—
               But I just need a phone book—
               No, you go back in the cell. You’ve had your phone call.
               I just get one phone call?
               Yup. Come on.
               Raymond wiped his sweaty brow—why don’t they have air conditioning in this damn place why don’t they—and he followed the guard, who locked him back in his cell.
               Once back in his cell, Raymond once more slapped the concrete wall, his eyes clenched shut, his mind racing.
               —I might have known that God-damned Nancy would act this way—sure she should have been down here by now, a good wife would have got me a lawyer when she was told her husband was arrested but she’s no good wife she told me Go to hell and hung up on me wait until I get my hands on her wait until I get my damned hands on her I’ll slap her silly like I do and why did Angie tell them we were at her place that is the truth how dare she tell the truth and we are lovers but why give that up to the police it’s not the police’s business how dare she tell the truth the truth the truth—it’s no good when you tell the truth it just gets you into trouble—but she did tell one lie she told them I left her house alone, good girl to tell a lie like that, good girl to tell a lie—for me, her lover—but no she’s not my lover, I told the police she is not and that is what’s true what I told the police is the truth not what’s really true—but prison, prison—there can’t be prison—
               He tore at his hair.
               Oh my God.
               And Raymond sat on his cot, put his spinning head in his hands, and wept.
               My God, my God, my God—what’s true?

Jim Meirose's work has previously appeared in Otoliths, and also in many other leading literary magazines and journals including Alaska Quarterly Review, New Orleans Review, South Carolina Review, and Witness.
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