To Rekindle One's Innocence

To Rekindle one's Innocence

The blazing sun burned my eyes as the security guard escorted me to the gates. The handcuffs felt heavier than they had ever felt before. I squinted and took a deep breath as I followed him; it had been a long time since I had seen the outside world. Many prisoners have a difficult time adjusting and return back to Bellville not long after being released. However, I was determined. Going back was not an option for me.

Though politicians claim that their primary goal is to rehabilitate prisoners, their lack of efforts to do so obviate their true intentions. While those with superior intellect stood a chance to rehabilitate themselves, the average prisoner’s odds of becoming a functioning member of society were slim. Fortunately, I fell into the first category.

The taxicab driver was en route to my cousin’s house. It was the only choice that I had, despite being a poor one. I was unwelcome anywhere else and I was well aware of that. My cousin, Deckland, had an unhealthy habit. Being on parole and in an environment with him was not my most desired option, but my parole officer would have been less than enthralled if I had told him I was going to be living in a homeless shelter. I would have gone back to prison in no time and I knew it.

“What got ya in the slammer?”

I averted my gaze to the driver and reflected on the chain of events that led to my imprisonment. It was not a short story and it was not a story I particularly wanted to share with a stranger. I pursed my lips and looked away from him. One of the few benefits of being an ex-convict was the ability to instill fear in people. It seemed to come with the label.


Forty-eight hours in Deckland’s apartment were not forty-eight hours well spent. The risk of stepping on an infected needle was high, and so was he. When he was awake, he was manic. He was constantly in search of things. His frantic searches led to him breaking a lot of things, which led to hours of cleaning up the broken things. It was a cycle that never ended, but I did not have a way to confront him.

After a few quiet hours, I assumed that Deckland had left or had finally fallen asleep. I crept out of the spare bedroom in which I was staying and stepped onto the balcony to light a cigarette. I closed my eyes and inhaled the sweet nicotine, allowing myself to bask in the euphoria for a moment. Unfortunately, my moment was ruined.

“Sean, yer mother called. Thought ye might wanna know.” He lit up a cigarette as well. I could tell that he was no longer under the influence of any sort of drugs. Deckland did not partake in downers, and by the look in his eyes, he was most certainly not on stimulants. Though he was slightly more approachable, he had destroyed enough brain cells to be just as difficult to have a real conversation with sober.

“What did she have to say?” I inquired, hoping that he would have the ability to give me a straight answer.

“Heard ye were out was all. Wondered if ye were stayin’ with me. Told her ye was.” Deckland furrowed his brow and took a long drag on his cigarette before continuing, “Y’know she ain’ righ’ in the head ever since yer old man kicked the bucket. Jus’ always obsessin’ over that feckin’ stag.”

I shook my head. My father had passed away from pancreatic cancer not long before I was arrested. When he was younger, he traveled the world hunting game. He had spent his entire life trying to go to New Zealand to hunt red stag. It was my mother’s gift to him on his birthday the year we discovered he had cancer, but unfortunately, after he killed the stag, laws deterred him from bringing the mount back overseas. He was allowed to bring the skull and the pelt, but not a full-body mount. He was fairly upset, but he decided to settle for his second best option. He paid someone to make a statue that looked exactly like his trophy stag. That statue almost became some sort of idol in the household. My father had several pieces of taxidermy throughout our home. He had both whitetail and mule deer antler mounts, an antelope shoulder mount, a caribou, a red fox, some pheasants, a coyote, and even a black bear pelt. Although he had dozens of real mounts of which most outdoorsman would have been proud, he still seemed to value the statue above the rest. Around it, he hung numerous photographs of himself and the stag from the day that he killed it, along with generic photographs of the trip itself. The statue was like a beacon amongst the rest of the décor. I never understood why.

After my father passed away, my mother was having financial difficulties and asked an appraiser to come look at some of the art she had collected in the house over the years. To her dismay, nothing was of value, except the stag statue. The appraiser was willing to offer her five thousand dollars, but my mother refused. Considering that I was less of a sentimental person, I later stole the statue and sold it at an auction for close to eight thousand dollars. My mother had not spoken to me ever since.

“She won’ come here, will she? I ain’t got no time for the old bat to be at my place. Ye know she’ll turn me in, Sean. Ye gotta know that.” Deckland put out his cigarette, his hands shaking. I prepared myself for another one of his manic episodes.

“Don’t worry, mate. My mother isn’t coming anywhere near me. I can assure you of that.” It was the truth. I put out my cigarette in the ashtray and sighed. After I sold the stag, my mother had refused to speak to me. For the duration of my two year sentence, she never once wrote to me. She did not visit me or even attend my final trial. Her interest in me being released from prison was merely maternal. Despite her irritation with me and my actions, it was natural for her to want me to be out of prison and away from the environment that I was in staying with Deckland. However, for me to believe it was because she had forgiven me or wanted to see me would have been asinine.

Deckland narrowed his eyes before muttering, “Ye can’t stay here though, bud. I’ll open my home to ye ‘til ye get a job or somethin’ but ye can’ stay here real long. Too dangerous. Got enough people lookin’ at me withou’ my felon cousin stayin’ with me. It ain’ no hard feelin’s, mate. I jus’ ain’ got the time for a parole officer to be fishin’ ‘roun’ ‘ere and gettin’ the cops involved. I’m an immigrant, Sean. They ain’ gonna be easy on me.”

Though I wanted to say he was being his usual insane self, I knew that he was right. Staying with Deckland was not only endangering him, but endangering my parole. The environment was the perfect opposite of the sort of place that the parole board asked me to find. I had to leave and I had to do it as quickly as possible.


It had been six months since I had been in Deckland’s apartment. I spoke to him occasionally, but I did my best to keep my distance from him. Deckland was the only part of my family that accepted me at my worst, and that was exactly what drove me to stay away from him. Making room for enablers was the equivalent of putting myself in handcuffs and walking back to prison. I was too intelligent for such immature behavior.

Although being an ex-convict sabotaged a lot of my options, I had managed to become a fairly successful member of society. My standardized test scores interested a lot of employers. Many of them could not offer me a job due to my conviction, but one company was willing to give me the opportunity that I had needed. I wore a suit and tie to work, worked from nine in the morning until five in the afternoon, and I returned home to a decent apartment in the downtown area. My rehabilitation was appearing to be successful.

My socialization outside of work was very limited. My mother had yet to contact me, and I was quite sure that she never would. A few months after getting my job, I had made an effort to visit her after discovering that she was quite ill. She was just as stubborn as I could remember. Not only did she refuse to see me, but she did not even have the decency to say it to me. Instead, she asked Aunt Angela to tell Deckland to tell me that she was declining my offer. The immature actions of the sixty-eight year old woman fazed me very little. It had been expected.

”Ma said she tried, Sean, my man. Yer damned mum wouldn’ ‘ave it. She told her ‘bou’ yer work an’ bein’ clean an’ all that. Guess yer mum wouldn’ even listen to ‘er. Typical stubborn Irishwoman, eh? Wish ye well, mate. Stop by sometime an’ have a drink or two. Ain’ seen ye in awhile!” That was the first voicemail of many. I had given up on trying to contact my mother, but Aunt Angela believed in strong family ties and Deckland was desperate for someone willing to be inebriated with him in his uninhabitable apartment. The combination of these two motives led to both trying to speak to me fairly frequently. Aunt Angela wanted to host a Christmas get-together and hoped the entire family would be there. Passing along Aunt Angela’s messages gave Deckland an excuse to call me with said messages with the addition of his ulterior motives.

I was going home from my workplace when I saw a number of cars pulled over on the side of the road. Initially, I wondered if there had been an accident or if there was a detour, but I there was no sign of either. Then, I saw a balloon on a mailbox and realized that it was a yard sale. I rarely would go to such things, but considering I was still missing some basic necessities from my apartment, I decided I would see if there was anything that I wanted.

As usual, most of the people at the yard sale were senior citizens. Several of them were holding up shirts for adolescents, undoubtedly to give their grandchildren cheap Christmas gifts that they would never wear. I wandered towards the tables and eyed some of the items, but, unsurprisingly, nothing of interest was there.

I pivoted on my heel and was preparing to leave when I noticed a large, hideous statue out of the corner of my eye. I blinked and furrowed my brow in disbelief. There was not a doubt in my mind that it was the very same statue that I had stolen and auctioned off against my mother’s wishes. I rushed towards it, though I was not sure why. It was not as though someone else was going to want it. My only hope was that it followed the standard yard sale trend and was marvelously underpriced. I looked around the massive stag for a price tag before finding the small white sticker.


It was Christmastime and my mother still had not spoken to me. Aunt Angela attempted to arrange a get-together for all of us, but her constant nagging about the subject raised my mother’s suspicions and she declined the offer. Despite that, I chose to spend the holidays with Aunt Angela and Deckland. I had no other family or friends and it did not feel right to spend Christmas alone.

“I just can’t believe yer mum, Sean. She is so stubborn sometimes, the ol’ hag. I told her you were doin’ real good at yer job an’ that ye found a place of yer own and paid for it as an honest workin’ man. Told her ye were sober, which is more than some in this family can say.” She averted her eyes to Deckland and pointed a finger, “Ye know, William, ye could learn somethin’ from yer cousin.”

“Yes, mum. He’s a fuckin’ saint an’ I’m a sloppy addict. Ain’ Christmas without some mother’s guilt, eh?” Deckland bit into a cookie before twitching slightly. Aunt Angela sighed and rolled her eyes.

“Ye should be glad ye have a mother to give ye some mother’s guilt on Christmas. Some of us aren’t so lucky, William.” Though she may have been being slightly melodramatic, Aunt Angela’s concern was understandable. Deckland had gotten even worse since I had last seen him. It smelled as though he had not bathed in weeks and he was missing a few more teeth. His hair was long and greasy. A lot of mothers in my aunt’s situation would do as my mother had chosen to do and give up on him. Quite frankly, he was lucky that that had not happened.

Aunt Angela stood up to collect all the torn wrapping paper and throw it in the trash. Deckland’s eyes bulged and he pointed to a large, oddly-shaped present next to the tree and yelled, “I tol’ ye the FBI was after me, mate! That gift wasn’ there before. We opened all of ours, one presen’ per person like it’s always been. It’s obvious, innit? The FBI came in while we was all distracted by the holiday cheer an’ whatnot an’ they planted it. Sean, did I not tell ye? I told ye! They’ve been after me—“

Aunt Angela rolled her eyes and began approaching the present, despite her son’s cries of, “Get away! It could be a bomb, mum!” Though the tree and other presents had previously hindered the gift’s visibility, it had been there the entire time. Deckland’s hallucinations and paranoia frequently led him to believe that anything that he had not noticed had made some magical appearance linked to the FBI or the CIA. Aunt Angela examined the gift-wrapped object for a moment before quickly turning her head and looking at me with a bewildered expression.

“Sean, is this what I think it is?”

I nodded and shrugged, murmuring, “Merry Christmas, Mom.”