What Philip Did in Tulsa

“Well, since you missed the whole police investigation and trial and all that jazz, I’ll fill you in.” Harvey set the metal poker back into the fire pit with a steaming hiss and sat cross-legged on the bare floor in front of Philip, wincing as he bent down.

“Back’s not been too good for some time,” Harvey said. “Lot of things haven’t been too good. That’s what happens when you’re in prison. You feel like you age a decade for every year you serve. Once you come out, you feel rejuvenated at first, but it don’t last. Like when you was a kid and got the bubble gum from the little dispenser outside the store with the quarter you been saving. You pop it in your mouth and it’s sweet and wonderful, but five minutes later your jaw hurts from chewing and the flavor’s gone. All you’re left with is a gray, tasteless hunk in your mouth. That’s what it’s like being an ex-con.”

“I’m-”

Harvey hushed him. “Nope, don’t say nothing. I’m getting there. OK, we were talking about Miranda Hartley. See, I didn’t know the girl, but you obviously did. Long story short, nobody seemed to believe me that I never once met her while she was alive and kicking. They were so convinced that it was me what done them awful, horrible things to her, that it didn’t matter what I told ‘em. And since you were long gone by then, and the prosecutor fella didn’t have nothing but a re-election staring him in the face, well…”

Harvey stared off at the tools hanging on the far wall to his right. Big, iron tools designed for shearing and sawing and pulverizing. “Nineteen years. I was in there for nineteen years. On account of you. In the beginning, I couldn’t believe the things they accused me of. They shoved all them crime scene pictures in my face and said I did this. Said it was me sliced her up like that. Me that bashed her head into the floor so many times that they couldn’t identify her from pictures. That I ravaged her so terribly that…”

Harvey put his hand to his mouth and bit a knuckle. Philip felt the air leave the room, like they were suddenly in a vacuum. Harvey cleared his throat and went on. “I just couldn’t wrap my mind around how anyone could do them things you done to that girl. That a man could be possessed of such wickedness and violence as that.” He looked at Philip again, his eyes stony and cold, distant. “But I got over all that pretty quick. Prison does that. Changes you real fast. And it’s amazing, given the right combination of idle time and burning hate, what a man can begin to imagine doing to another man.”





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