Visiting Hours

by PHEBE JEWELL

By the time his mother got out, TJ would be in some shithole in Afghanistan. The last thing he needed before he deployed was to drive two hours in pouring rain for a thirty minute visit. But he promised he’d see her before he left. Then get good and drunk.

When he told her he joined up, she said, “I thought you’d go to college,” her small hands nesting in her lap. He hated those hands. They seemed innocent and weak.

“Why, TJ, why?”

Why did you kill him, he wanted to ask, to see her eyes spark in anger before brimming with crocodile tears. Instead he shrugged.

War would change him, she told him. Release demons that would never go away. What a load of bull.

Halfway across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge the wind shouldered the Civic into the next lane. TJ jerked the wheel and pressed harder on the gas. The car hydroplaned, and for a second TJ couldn’t feel the road beneath him.

Careful. There was no hurry. What could they talk about? The weather? How Dad never hit him, saving his rage for her? TJ always left the prison wanting to break something. Maybe he’d get lucky and she’d be in Segregation. Or there’d be a lockdown and he couldn’t go in.

An abandoned car waited for a tow on the shoulder. There was that Navy bar in Bremerton. He could call when he got there, say he had a flat tire.

The exit for the prison was next. Now or never. He signaled, checked his blind spot, and sped into the fast lane.


About the Author

Phebe Jewell’s recent work appears in “Literary Heist,” “Blue Lake Review,” “Maudlin House,” “Dime Show Review,” “Nunum,” and “Sky Island Journal.” A teacher at Seattle Central College, Phebe also volunteers for the Freedom Education Project Puget Sound, a nonprofit providing college courses for women in prison.

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