The Ghost of Alma Matterson
Chapter 6: Firewall

Peter Matterson handed the paperwork to the prison guard. He heard some discordant chatter through an intercom. The guard checked records on his computer terminal, then pulled a small metal box from the lockers containing Peter's personal items. 

There was a torn shirt that no longer fit. It  went in the Goodwill bin. A pair of pants with a rip along the seem—another token for the needy. There was forty seven cents in change, and a small woven friendship band. The forty-seven cents went in Peter's pocket, and the friendship band around his wrist.  

The guard led Peter to a transport vehicle, and secured him in the back. The navigation consul showed a map with Peter's destination along with Peter's arrest record.

The driver looked at his passenger in puzzlement. Someone wasn't just pulling strings to release this prisoner. They were pulling ropes. Peter Matterson wore the orange shirt with black bands of a lifer.

This was Peter's second time on the outside. His first voyage into the great American dream happened a little over twelve years ago. Some misguided liberal statute of the early 21st century forced states to release inmates from juvenile homes on their eighteenth birthday. 

It was a predictable pattern. The delinquents would wreak havoc in society for a month or two, then be hauled off to the adult prison system. Peter lost his freedom sooner than most. Peter's was back in his cell within five days of release. In just five days, he knocked up a whore and beat up her pimp. 

Peter liked to think of things differently. He wanted there to be more to his life than the brutal facts. His mind tried to turn the five days of freedom into an epic. He tried to find something more in brief encounter with Esperante. He wanted his life to be more than the pathetic tale of a boarding house boy buying sex. He wanted to be the hero of his own mind. 

It wasn't just the need to get sex. He wanted to know about women. Everything he had heard on the subject came from his inexperienced bunkmates, lies off the Internet, or agendas of the Christian Coalition edu-progs. Each, in their own way were fabrications. Peter wanted the truth. He wanted to speak with women, see them and touch them.

The other kids in the cell block must have felt the same. They had heard the rumors, and invented their own speculations of life in the streets beyond their cell walls. His bunkmates formed a pact that the first person released would buy time with a prostitute and report back on the excursions.

And so it was that Peter left the Washington County Center for Wayward Youth with seventy-five dollars stuffed in his sock. Seventy five slated for breaking the law.

Now, Peter was a creature of the underclass. His ears were attuned to the street, and within days of his release, he knew the right street corners and the names to use. The word was that DJ Sloop had a fine herd of mall rats at the abandoned Five at Five Mall. Just ask for the Lord of the Five.


DJ Sloop, The Lord of The Five, almost broke out laughing when Peter waved his seventy five dollars before his eyes. He was of the mind to simply have the boy beaten-taking the cash  as compensation for the effort, but a member of his herd had been acting up of late. 

"Esperante!" the pimp yelled. A sullen girl of sixteen appeared from around the corner. "This is the type of cheap trick you will have to do, if you don't shape up." He shoved the pair in a closet, and grabbed the wad of cash. "You've got forty-five minutes."

Peter was at a complete loss. Esperante's body was twisted against the shelves. From behind the strong perfume, came a hint of dispair. Peter shifted amid the coat hangers. The poor girl was on the verge of a breaking out in tears.

Peter felt awkward and lost. Certainly this was not his desire. He awkwardly shuffled, coughed. Opened his mouth to speak...and for forty-five minutes they talked. 


Esperante Feldstein's story began at the age of thirteen with a westbound bus ticket from a bad situation. She did not know how far she would go, she was just going. Neither the Jamaican nor Jewish side of her split family felt like home. Both families dealt with their growing poverty in separates ways. 

She bought a bus ticket with money she stole from her mother and father. She had already been too much a burden. 

During the trip, her small face was glued to the bus window. Miles upon miles of burned out suburbs passed before her eyes. Her name was hope, but the more she saw of the world, the less she felt of her name. A deep sadness sunk into her mind as she saw the unending destruction of lost American dreams. The rusting hulks of abandoned SUVs laid abandoned in weeded lots.

For some odd reason, the American dream had been to evenly spread houses across every square foot of land. To accomplish this feat, people planned their lives around eighty miles commutes in the largest vehicle possible. 

That dream ended abruptly with the $20 gallon of gas. Housing prices crashed, and national opulence quickly turned to poverty. Everywhere she looked she saw burned out suburban houses, factories and strip malls. The race to develop everything left nothing. She searched for a sign of even a single piece of unmarred land where she could still find her own dreams.

Ten miles out of Cincinnati, she saw a small hill hidden behind what appeared to be a school for boys. The boys played, protected behind wired fences. She imagined them riding horses and running in the fresh grasses of this forgotten paradise. She disembarked at the next bus stop, and declared these buildings to be her new home.

The first days on her own were filled with chills and hunger. She wandered the streets of Cincinnati. She wandered among towering office buildings with guards. She passed loud clubs filled with drunken singing. She passed massive brick facades of churches that chased her away.

She couldn't make it on her own. Her first goal was to find a set of friends–a place to start a new life. She had so very little to offer, but with the right people...

She built a romanticized view of the correct crowd. They couldn't be the suits. Suits demand too much. The desperate homeless poor offered no comfort. The rich kids in the rich cars going to rich clubs wanted to stay among their own. She thought of the Hollywood casual style. The loose fitting clothes, nose rings, and running shoes. She wanted to be with people who looked cool, who acted cool and talked cool.

Hanging outside the Five at Five Mall, she met a small gang. Their clothes hung just so. They hassled the shoppers in their own unique ways. When they spoke they used their own special words and laughed in a studied MTV pantomime. They fit her romanticized version of cool.

Among this group, the coolest of the cool was a large but stately young man named DJ Sloop. D.J. Sloop was the self-proclaimed "Lord of the Five."

It was a tough fight to head of the gang. A few dead bodies laid at the bottom of a pool behind a burned out hulk of a abandoned ranch house. The gang had a few skanky bitches to sell. He wanted a little fresh meat. The young woman from the bus looked promising. If he played her right...Well, let's just say, he knew how much he could for a fourteen-year-old girl with fair skin. The first step was simply to get her hooked on meth.

He embraced the lost girl, and began her on a illustrious career satisfying the carnal desires of politicians, judges, and other powerful men. She was a welcome member of the long as the money was there...

After three years, she had yet to visit the hidden paradise she had seen the bus. Sloop never let her out of the mall. Perhaps another theft was in order. She could buy another bus ticket to another town, but could she find another supplier?

Hope no longer seemed to have a place in her life--just sickness. She had given too much for too little and simply did not want to be pawed by the hairy arms of ugly men.

...and here she was, locked in a broom closet with this, this! She tried to find the right insult. Peter Matterson was stupid, smelled bad, and was awkward beyond belief. He rambled on about the detention center, and how they would climb the fence to play on Cutler's Nob. What was Cutler's Nob? Was he from the school she had seen out of town?

She began to listen, and was soon talking as well. She spoke of her bus ride, the view she had of a green nob behind a school. He seemed to know the place! She wanted something, and she wanted it so much. The forty-five minutes ended too soon.

That night, Esperante lifted a small wad of cash from her employer, and set forth to find this intriguing young man. Together they would buy a bus ticket and head in a different direction. "Esparante Matterson," she thought, had an interesting ring.

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