Left Behind (VI)

3 02 2008

And then one day, Jon stopped receiving any letters from Kenny. It stopped almost as suddenly it started. Montana for months after kept wondering, while watching the night sky, if Kenny finally found the world he wished for. Montana for the rest of his short life lived with this constant amazement and a gratefulness that fate had not been cruel to him.

In Kenny’s small apartment, there was a table which rested its one side with the window pane. It had something scratched out by a knife. In some ways it reminds me of a custom in prison, etching out ones deepest desires of freedom on its walls, so that the next person will have a bit more courage.

It was a simple sentence which read,

One day, gonna fly through this pane, to freedom.


Left Behind (V)

3 02 2008

$600 per month
6.00 am to 10.00pm

Kenny stared at the sign for a long time. Behind the shiny glasses of McDonalds, letters painted in yellow, gave him a way to start out once again. He had no social security number, no IRS, “no nothing”, as Mr. Stevens said, but McJobs are like that, often “no nothing” does equally well. Kenny realised his battle has started.

“So Mr. Richards, keep in mind, that I have got a business to run”, said Stevens
“Oh yes sir..absolutely, I will try my best to deliver”
“You better be good Mr.Richards, I am already running low on numbers”
“You will not be disappointed, Mr. Stevens”




“Grandpa, there is a letter for you”, yelled Samantha from her porch,
After a moment too long, Jonny arrived on the door.

“Jonny Montana?”, asked the young delivery boy, 18 hardly.
“Yeah it is”
“A letter from some Kenny Richards, sign here please”, handing over the pain to the old man.

“Old Bastard!”, muttered Montana excitedly. He took the knife and cut the envelope.

Dtd: 7th Jan 2008

Hello, Montana

Seasons greetings and a Happy New Year. How is life keeping you? And how is the young lady, Samantha. Tell her, she is beautiful and she will grow upto be a charming lady. And yeah, Montana… keep the log fire burning, it keeps you warm against the Northampton winds at this time of the year.

Hey, Jonny, thanks for that day, for comforting me in your home. In Ohio now. Today I received my first paycheque in as many years. I am working in the local McDonalds . Feels good you know. And yeah, before I forget, I have sent some money for you, keep them. The next time I am ‘broke’ I know where to look for.

Montana with his old hands pressed the edges of the torn envelope close and the mouth widened. Montana peered inside and found two hundred fifty dollars inside.

“Schmuck!”, he cursed. He read on

You know, its hilarous at times how the fellas at work handle the goofups I make. Once, a customer asked me for a Latte, I couldnt serve it fast enough. You know it was hilarious to see him, thumping and fuming. And crazy me, you know for a moment I got so startled, that the latte mug slipped. Poor guy, left cursing at us. [Thats another story, that Mr. Stevens was too upset.] But sometimes guys, whoops cant call them guys, gotto call them customers, Mr. Stevens insists. Yeah the customers are too harsh. There is this young girl, you know, 22 around ,works along with us. A guy came upto her, one day and asked for a burger. She just missed on serving sauce… and man! the noise that young punk created. Jenny almost was on tears. I walked upto her and told its okay, he is a punk. Jonny boy, you know it feels great to console somebody. Four decades of prison, numbs things you know. But I guess you should do it too. It feels good.

Lunch time is almost over. We get a long break of around 15 minutes. Really long, given that I dont eat much. They just allow us some pasta for lunch. But believe me, it finishes long time before our lunch breaks. And so we chit chat for some time. Thats the best time of my day. I like hearing to Jenny and May talking their heart out about trivial things. And there is a guy here, Chris. Poor fella, likes Jenny but she doesnt even give him a shit. Yeah, gotto run, boy…

Your friend,


Jonny felt helpless, in ways he couldn’t fathom. Kenny was just 6 years younger to him, yet had to work harder to keep himself going. A swift tug of luck here, a pull there and life becomes awry, he thought.

And to Jonny it was evident that McD store had the workers of Ohio mines as its loyal customers. People perennially in hurry, people rushing along to catch up with life. People to whom trampling on others didn’t look bad. And Kenny was fighting with his slow hands and weak vision. For the first time in as many years, Jonny felt an ocean of grief grip him.

Kenny as the days passed, got more and more distressed with the inhumanity of world around. And he seeked refuge in those letters which Johnny sent and loved talking about their old days, in his own. Anything as long as it didn’t talk about the present day.

Hey, Montana, Date: 15th Jan 2008

Received your letter just now, Yeah it does feel great to talk to old friends. And sort of it doesn’t seem all that great. You see, what I mean? All these years, down living in the death row, contemplating about when am I gonna go back, when can I start all over again, and all you get is this. Seems hilarious at times. Its sort of a joke gone awry. Each day, I prayed for freedom and at the end I am confused sort of,whether its all that fine with me.

Anyway, you remember, Dawson? He used to read a lot in his days. Loved his books… You know Montana, once he told me- “Kenny, when you set a bird free from its cage, you know what it does? It turns back” I couldnt understand why those birds do it. Now I can understand it. I am thinking a lot these days. But it feels awful. Cant say how awful it feels, boy.

Ohio these days seems to be a different place altogether. I never saw places like these before. And in ways, it tells me, how small I am in this universe. In jail, the story is different. The toughnuts even had that something when talking to me.

I just feel at times, how inadequate I am for these times. Only if I could stop this gnawing pain inside me.


Jonny often at times talked to Samantha about things like these, yet it was more of a catharsis act he was performing. Samantha understood Kenny’s pain and Montana’s helplessness, yet she herself could do even less. She reasoned with Montana, that this last battle, Kenny has to fight alone.

The letter often carried a sense of foreboding and almost always felt something heavy whenever Jonny received them. Jon often wondered if he poured his sorrows into his letters. Yes it did carry his longing for a humanity which slowed a bit and cared a little more, but he often sent his memories of the gone days along with his letters.

Kenny knew it too, and he felt he could understand what is going to happen next. But one lingering doubt in his heart stopped it from being a strong belief. He just bid his time.




Left Behind (IV)

30 01 2008

Kenny took one last breath of the Northampton air and took the bus to the life ahead. The local FM was on.

“These are good times, blue skies, dark nights,
baby… see that you take me, wherever you go.
Baby, see that you save me… a seat next to you”

Kenny let out a lonely smile come to his face, and looked at the arduous road ahead. On the way to Ohio, after 50 years and world just seemed too deliriously fast.
A Goth girl took the seat next to him, all black leather and and a small shiny silver-ish box on her lap and two white wires snaking up to her ears. To Kenny it seemed that she was tethering somewhere in between an orgasmic joy and a head jerking sickness. Kenny looked at her with all the amazement he could muster and the girl kept up at her devotion to her punk star. Suddenly the girl opened her eyes, conscious of a gaze on her. But Kenny couldn’t help.

“You got a problem, Mister? “
It took a fraction of a moment more for Kenny.
“Noh, I was just…”
“Didn’t see a girl before, old man?”

Kenny just smiled at himself and for a moment felt lucky he has been left behind.

“Its okay, don’t mind” , letting a friendly smile do its job.

“Kenny! “, yelled Scott from the road.One more shout and Kenny appeared on his porch, and let a short sharp whistle reach out to Scott. It’s summer in Ohio, and surfing was the best thing a teenager could do. Kenny put on a blue tee on his lanky body, and hopped in his bike. He didn’t have a surfboard. But he loved seeing Scott roll on his board. Sometimes, he would surf on Scott’s blue board and imagine himself touching the blue sky. He loved when the white waves took him along, threw him on another one. And he imagined himself as a conqueror, riding on the blue board, dressed in blue tees, making his way through the blue roaring waves.

“Hey man! wake up!, Ohio is here”, a huge burly guy called Kenny.

Kenny for a moment disoriented, instantly feeling the burden of 60 years.

“Ohio, is it?”
“Yeah man! wake up… hurry along ol’ man”
“Thanks, just managed a shuteye”
A song seemed to be blaring out of radio.

I always knew that I liked this place
You don’t have to look too far
to find a better living place
I feel life while walking down its street

Kenny rubbed the sleep and the waves away from his eyes and got down of the bus.The song of the road seemed to fade away,

The world keeps spinning round and round
this is where all those comes down down, down
Say I love this town, oh yeah I love this town

Kenny had to find Lana and his life again. Ohio was bigger than Northampton, and more dreadful. Kenny found himself strangely disoriented and afraid seeing the skyscrapers and the unending milieu ahead.

“You know what, Richards, why these guys serving time over here feel tough to move back into that world. Its all because, they are somebody out here, boy. He has got friends, he believes he has got a sense of belonginglyness.”

“You mean belongingness”

“Yeah, belonginglyness. Out there nobody knows him, and everybody has forsaken him for good”

“Al , dear ol’ Al “, and he let out a smirk come upto his face. That winter, Al was killed trying to escape. It was a bad plan gone awry. But for the sheer will for freedom, Al almost made it to the compound wall. The next day, even police couldnt identify his face for sure.He jogged his memory, and tried to remember the way to his home. Took another bus and reached the ranch. It was a huge ranch even in those days. But a whole lot many houses have popped up, almost as if sprayed randomly across the panorama. Kenny hobbled his way to the outhouse. With what seemed, Lana has moved away. Or passed away. He went downhill to the nearest neighbor around 600 feet away. Maslows, read the nameplate. He wagered it will be a perfect American family.

He went upto their porch , but hesitated a long time. He stepped forward on the porch to ring the bell, once and took a step back. Hands, tucked inside his pants, betraying apprehension and hesitation from every pore of his body. A young lady, of around 24, opened the door.

“Hello…”, Kenny in his best pleasing tone, that forty three years as a jailbird allowed.

“… I was looking for the Richards family, was just wondering if you know anything about them. Remember the Richards lady, Lana”

” Ohh, yeah… they used to live uphill”, quickly adding seeing the lady change her face from suspicious to puzzled.

The lady’s face instantly seem to lit up.

“Uh huh… the Richards family I see. But dont know much about them. Soon after their elder son, got acquitted, the Richards elders died. With some Lana Gabors still living there till we came, she passed away soon after. She had a son, Mike. A hopeless chap, must say….”

“… Wait a minute, are you a friend of theirs or something like that, didnt you fellas keep in touch?… ” added the lady seeing the hopeful face of Kenny go dead with despair.

” No, nothing like that, I am Kenny, cousin of Lana”

“Aah I see… Kenny… Oh my God!, is it Kenny Richards? The Kenny Richards, the Monster of Northampton?”, her face become horror stricken, yet a faint sense of doubt remained, to see the monster in such a humbling form. Yet instincts are what drives us. She slammed the door shut on Kenny’s face.

Kenny, dejected, started out on the uphill road and when he reached, Kenny gave one last look to his home, and took the long ride back to Ohio.


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Left Behind (III)

30 01 2008

Present day, 2008

“So, Richards, this is the moment, then”. The Warden mouthed as he half-expectedly waited for something profound to come out, from the man.

A nod. Eyes downcast, a silver beard and a frail frame. Forty three years of jail has given him a lot of things to carry home. Forty three years in death row has taken away, too. Now he walks with a slight bent back, and eyes devoid of any life. Lt. Evans flanking him, handed over his belongings, and a pen.

Kenny took that in unsure hands and signed away an identity taken from him long back.

“Mr. Franklin, all these years, I prayed for my freedom. Now I am not sure if I prayed for the right thing” Kenny said, with his eyes half misty and half reminiscent.

“Its okay,Richards, you will do just fine”, said the Warden, glancing at Evans, unable to look towards Kenny.

Kenny Richards, 63, walked out of the Northampton County Jail on that day. A blue denim shirt, a gray loafer and had all been what he took. He glanced back at what had been his home for so long. Franklin looked from his window, two stairs up, slightly puffing his cigar. The Warden for one fleeting moment, felt that he was looking at him through his rheumatic eyes. And then Kenny turned back trying his best to pace with the life ahead but then he was gone.

Kenny faltering steps fell unsure on the new world. Everything seemed to change. World suddenly seemed to be a distant place and its people all of a sudden indifferent. Al these years, Kenny felt a mortal fear. Today for the first time he felt a fear of being alone.He remembered all his friends, his family, his sister and Tina. His eyes got misty and a drop of tear rolled down from his left cheek. Ohio was far, but he has got to make one final trip. Who knows, his cousin Lana may be still there.

Northampton, it was, even 43 years back. Today it looked to him as the entire world has moved leaving him behind. But Kenny wagered, Montana won’t change. He will be still the same man, even 43 years after, if he is alive. He walked to the downtown part of the town, looking for his old pal. Yet each time a car zoomed past him, it gave him shivers. He cursed, he muttered, he whispered but still it took him more than the old Richards to walk in this town.

“Yes, may I help you?”, a petite girl of 16 years opened the door to Kenny.

“Young lady, is it where Montana lives?”

“Montana? No..nobody lives by that name here…”

“Who is it Samantha?”, a voice frail and withered with the ravages of time spoke from inside.

“Dunno, grandpa, somebody asking for Montana”, replied the girl half-unsure and half-concerned.

A frail figure hobbled from inside, with a stick held tentatively in his hand. The stick seemed to cling to him, yet the old man seem to despise it. Kenny for a moment prayed for the ghost of a chance.

“Jonny Montana is it? ” Kenny’s tone suddenly a lot more hopeful and expectant.

“Yeah boy, it is. This is Montana”, Montana’s voice betraying the surprise and joy of an unexpected company.

“This is Kenny, Montana… remember me?” Kenny smiled, Montana’s fading eyes lit up.

“Its a long story Montana, they have taken 43 years of my life. I served time for something I never did. And each day I passed as my last. Jonny boy its horrible “. Kenny took a sip of Earl Grey and managed a sniffle. Montana nodded.

“I understand Kenny, life had been unfair. You cant fret over it now, Kenny. You got a second chance boy, live it”, Montana assured the defeated man, and assuaged some more.Kenny seemed to understand.

“Maybe I will, stay back in Ohio, Jonny. My nephew must be a big man now. Wonder what he does for a living. Lets see, what can I do up there.”

“Montana I needed some money… to go home”, hesitating words from a proud Kenny. Kenny sighed in his heart what all his sentence has taken from him.

“… you see the nickels and pences of those years don’t go these days.” Kenny spoke with a embarrassed smile.

“Yeah, yeah Kenny boy. I always borrowed from you, didn’t know you would remember those things all these years”, said Montana with a toothy grin.

“Wait.. let me get you some”



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Left Behind (II)

29 01 2008

43 years ago, 1965

Kenny Richards, loves his beer. Carlton is his favorite. He let a sip of the translucent brownish liquid quench his thirst,

” Hey, Smith, where is Lee? Doesn’t seem to be around eh?”

“Yeah, went to his shrink, that old fart thinks he’ll get pregnant”, the bartender replied

And both men, laughed off at an otherwise crass joke.

He took another swig of the drink and let Smith tend to his customers.

” Busy busy day”, Kenny replied and got up to pay his bills.

“Hey Smith, here is the bill, keep the change”

The middle aged bartender let out a smile and he swooped his share with a swift move.

Carla was there and Kenny let a smile come up to his lips. She was sitting with two of her friends, brunettes.

“Hey there beautiful, whats up?”

“Heyy.. Kenny, what a surprise. Yeah doing great. Oops I missed out, okay she is Ruby, my colleague at the school and she is Dallas. Ruby,Dally, meet Kenny”

“So ladies, enjoying the drink?”, he edged around the table and made himself comfortable.

“Kenny, you got all the moves, bastard” thought Kenny

Twenty minutes later the three girls were animatedly giggling and chatting up with Kenny. Kenny once heard some wise man say, the leader in a group is not the one who does the talking, its the one to whom everybody talks to. Apparently Kenny was having the best of both worlds.

A twenty something guy, loves to have fun, simple innocuous and innocent fun. A bit of flirting surely classified as one in his list. Got a family, a dysfunctional one, 50 km down Ohio, Logan is the place, and he was half way around his world from Ohio. Northampton to be precise. Works in the local mine in the day and spends his evenings with his girlfriend. He loved his life, the life loved him back.So Kenny’s life, was divided between his day job, Carlton, a bit of fun and Tina.

This evening with Carla, did seem to be going great.

“So, Kenny boy, what did your boss say, when you kicked him on his rear”, giggled Dallas.

“Got late!”,part panic, part sober.

Boy, Tina is gonna roast your ass alive, you are running an hour late

“Gotcha go ladies, Nine o’clock show time!”, Kenny took his keys and made a dash for the door, leaving three giggling ladies, part eying his return and partly envying the lucky lady.

“Cool guy, must say”

What followed this was repeated a million times, a written and rewritten another million times. Interpreted, torn apart, picked for any loopholes. But nothing was found convincing enough to prove otherwise. Kenny Richards, aged 21 ,was found guilty for first degree murder of Christina Anderson aged 20, Jim Matthews aged 6, and Laura Matthews aged 4.Instrument of murder, a 6″ butchers knife and a garrote. Victims died in absolute pain.The Matthew kids often came down to Tina’s home when their parents ran late. Apparently this was one of those evenings. Kenny’s footsteps were found all over the place, Tina was 2 months pregnant. Everybody thought they knew the truth. Kenny was given the moniker of “Monster of Northampton”. The entire country was shocked and media reiterated the evidences. Sheriff investigated with a know-it-all-attitude, media portrayed with a cant-happen-any-other-way-stance, and the jury passed the judgment as an open-and-shut-case.

But the truth was, Kenny didn’t kill.

Kenny Richards was on death row, to be killed by electrocution.


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Left Behind (I)

29 01 2008

The warden held the judgment in his one hand and took a drag of his cigar as he looked at the blue sky outside. He let his eyes drift away, and fall on the inmates enjoying themselves with a relaxing game of football. Brown rugged ground below, the blue clear sky above, and a puff of smoke rising lazily. A million questions, a thousand thoughts of sympathy and anguish. He let his cigar smoke roll away and wished if he could do just that.

A knock on the door. The man swiveled in his chair and let him know that he can come in.

“Lt. Evans, you know what has to be done”, a pain ringed in his voice.

“Yes, Sir, I will take care of it”, a firm resoluteness.


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