The Easiest Day This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

August 27, 2010
“Firs’ day’s the hardest,” says a hard, heavily slurred voice. I turn around, my back to the bars, to see a grey man with wild, aggressive eyes staring back. “I been here fo’ twelve years, I’d know. A’ter a while, you can’t even re’mber what year it is.”

“It’s 2007,” I reply, not wanting to move any closer. “July.” The man’s eyes are fearsome, like they’ve seen too much, shining yellow in the dim light. Just my luck getting a cellmate I can’t trust. Then again, nobody in here is trustworthy.

He chuckled. “Almo’ thirteen, then.” He rises from the bottom bunk of the bed and takes a step forward. “Name’s Johnny. What’re ya here fo’?”

I raise my eyebrows. “They tell me I killed a guy. But I don’t think I did.” My story lost its emotion when they dragged me out of the court house. I’m tired of trying to make people believe. I’ve had enough.

Johnny laughs. “S’what they all say, kid. S’what e’erybody says.”

I sigh, and look around. The cell can’t be bigger than ten square feet. There is a small, barred window in the center of the wall opposite the door and a bare light bulb attached to the ceiling. On the side opposite the bunk bed stands a small desk and chair, big enough for one of us. In the corner, there is a dirty, chipped toilet. “You’ve spent almost thirteen years in this?”

“It’s wha’cho get fo’ killin’ a man. Except, unlike you, I got the balls t’own up to it. How old are you, kid? Can’t be o’der than twen’y.”

“Eighteen,” I reply, trying to contain myself. I’ve undergone months of accusations, but this time, I’m not going react. The last thing I need is a fight with someone I’ll be spending a good twenty years with. “I take it I have the top bunk?”

“Pretty observant, aren’cha, kid?”

Wincing, I climb the ladder to my bunk and try to get comfortable on the mattress. It’s so lumpy, so rough, but what did I expect? This is my fault.

“Why’d you flinch, kid?”

“What?”

“You flinched climbin’ the ladder. Why?” It’s more of a demand than a question, but I don’t want to answer and I hold my tongue.

He pauses for a minute, the silence become stranger and stranger. “You ju’ gonna fall asleep, kid?”

In an angry tone, I reply, “Well, I’m tired and there’s nothing else to do. So, yes, I am.”

“Suit cho’self,” he said, and disappears under my bunk.

Hours pass by before I finally doze off. The mattress is too hard to get anywhere near comfortable, and with Johnny snoring below, sleep seems impossible. I lay awake, thinking.



It was midnight, a Saturday. I was driving my friend Matthew home from a party when it happened. He was as drunk as possible without throwing up on my car, sleeping and snoring in the back seats. I could only imagine what his parents would think when they saw him: completely drunk, not even eighteen. Damn.

I was supposed to watch him, to make sure he didn’t get in any trouble. He wasn’t supposed to be like this. I told him to keep track of his drinking, but honestly, Matthew Parker has never once taken care of himself. He’s always relied on his parents, and me.

Then again, I wasn’t in the best shape either.

With everything blurred from alcohol, I looked back at him to make sure he was alright. Still asleep, his drunken snores floated throughout the car, wracking my brain. I shook my head and –

CRASH.

I screamed as the front window shattered, the glass raining on my hands and face. The sound of ripping metal drowned any sound of Matthew’s snored. I opened my eyes, and saw flames shooting out of the broken hood.

“MATTHEW!” I shouted. “MATTHEW, WAKE UP!”

I flung open the car door and dashed out already dialing the number. The phone rang three times, but on the fourth, I hung up.

Dropped the phone.

Looked at the car.

All I saw was a giant blaze of orange. And then there was Matthew.

Oh, S***! I thought. Matthew! God, please no…

I raced back to the car, and pulled the burning latch on his door. Locked, damnit. I swore loudly, and, in a panic, dove back into the flaming car. “MATTHEW!” I shout. He didn’t stir. “GOD DAMNIT MATTHEW, WAKE UP!”

Damn alcohol. He still didn’t move. I tried pulling him out once more, but he was stuck, his knee wedged under the seat. I yanked again, and again, and –

BANG.


When I woke up, everything was white. Was it a room? Was I blind? A figure over me, blurry.

“He’s awake!” she called to someone I couldn’t see.

My head hurt. So did everything else. “What happened? Where am I?”

“Overlake hospital,” replied the nurse. “As for the first question, we’re still not sure. There was a fire, that we can tell. Your car exploded. But the rest, only the evidence can tell.”

My head was pounding harder now. Why was I in the hospital? Everything hurt, like I was burning.

“Ma’am?” I asked the nurse. I couldn’t think straight. “Ma’am, am I on fire?”

She looked me with an expression of indifference and pity. “No, not anymore.”

My eyes widened. “Was I on fire?”

She sighed, scribbling on her clipboard, then looked me in the eye. “What’s the last thing you can remember?”

Outside the room, I heard a voice speaking frantically: a woman in hysterics. “Officer, this was that other boy’s fault! He killed my son! HE KILLED MATTHEW!” She was sobbing, but it didn’t make any sense. Who was Matthew? My head hurt so badly. And my back…

The second I left the hospital, I was arrested for drunk driving and manslaughter. I told the judge the only memory I knew, the one my attorney created, where Matthew was drunk and I looked back to check on him; in doing so, I lost control of the car. Five hours later, I found myself locked in a cell.



There was a car. My best friend and I were driving down a road when we hit a tree. There was fire, and someone was screaming, and then I was flung back and –



I sit up in a cold sweat, panting. I’ve had that dream before, so many times, but it never gets easier. I don’t know the passenger; I can feel that he’s important, that he means so much.

I roll over, shaking my head as if my nightmares could just pour through my ears. Don’t I wish.

“Y’all right there, kid?” asks Johnny with the same slur. I look over to see him sitting at the desk, writing something by lamplight. “You been murmurin’ in yo’ sleep.”

I lie down again and stare at the ceiling, my heart still pounding. “Johnny,” I ask. “What time is it?”

“’Bout six,” he says in a garbled voice. “One day down, thousan’s to go. Bu’don’worry. Second day’s the hardest. I been here fo’ thirteen years, I’d know. A’ter a while, you can’t even re’mber what year it is.”





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