Having been away from school for 4 years working as an underground Electronic Dance Music disc jockey and waitress in Chicago, I was given a gift that would give me purpose and broaden my scope as a writer and artist. My daughter Faith Christine Fountain was born May 13, 2007, and while her birth signified greater pressure as I faced raising my daughter as a single mother, her birth ignited in me new purpose and the determination to fulfill my goals.
A year later, daughter on board, I returned the University changing my major to Rhetoric with an emphasis in Creative Writing. My original plan was to graduate as soon as possible so that I could receive a “good job,” but when I arrived my capacity to dream far exceeded just receiving my degree. My passion for writing and the belief that I could make a living doing so was reignited.
Since graduating from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I have written several fiction pieces, published articles in various newspapers, interned in public relations, taught developmental writing at a community college, produced mini documentaries, and presented at educational conferences. I am a single mother, which is often viewed with certain stigmas, but for me, my daughter has been the driving force behind achieving and reaching my dreams as a writer. My determination to accomplish my goals has been a fierce force of strength even with all of the difficulties of single motherhood (there are so many challenges).
Receiving this money would greatly enhance my ability to publish and focus on my work. My biggest goal is to finish and publish Operation Memory Enhance (I have included a few excerpts) because this is a piece of work I strongly believe in, and I feel like there is a need for this type of fiction as it deals with many socially and culturally relevant issues. I would use this money toward self-publishing as well as promotional costs. Finding time aside from work is hard as well; this funding would allot me extra money for childcare because I am a single mother and live in a different city than all of my family members. I am determined to finish and publish my book, and this money would make this process happen sooner. I am also in the process of applying to Graduate programs, so this money would also help with application costs. I appreciate the help.
Excerpt (Ch. 1-3) Operation Memory Enhance
- Crime and Punishment
Latasha forcefully screams while reaching out in desperation towards a man whose focus prevents him from giving thought to the pleas of a young girl.
“Please, stop. I’ll do anything. Please, let me go. I won’t tell anyone”
Her voice softens with each excruciating second that sluggishly goes by. His rough palms painfully cling to her neck, his grasp tightening as he looks for signs of diminishing life with each squeeze. Unable to escape the grasp of the determined man, she slowly begins to accept defeat as she looks up blankly into the last dreadful image of her brief decade on Earth. Her caramel complexion no longer glistens with youthful exuberance, and her dark brown eyes glaze over as her horrid expressions provide snapshots of her inner torment. Latasha’s once flailing hands, begin to relax, lying on the red sheets. Her soft screams turn into murmurs, then to silent tears falling out of the corner of her eyes, inching down her brown, rosy cheeks, finally settling under her chin where the top of man’s snug grip sits.
Her body lay awkwardly, vertically across the silky, red sheets. The imprint of her light brown body, once changing with her movements of struggle, change less and less as her gasps for air fade. Her legs are spread apart. The man lies in the middle: pelvis to pelvis. There is a draft in the room that travels from Latasha’s knee caps to the tip of her toes. Goosebumps on her legs accentuate the eerie climate in the room.
The struggle ends. The man loosens his grip on Latasha’s neck slowly making sure the permanence of the moment is not an illusion. As he unhinges his fingers from her stiff neck, dark purple handprints linger, tying the man and Latasha together forever. Relief overcomes him.
His bedroom is silent; only the sound of squeaks and motors from automobiles driving down his suburban street faintly enter the room through the window where bright sun rays emit through the cracks in the blinds onto the man’s shirt and Latasha’s body. Like a toddler being bored after playing with a favorite toy, the man removes himself from atop of Latasha’s body and continues on to his next amusement.
He walks across his carpeted floor; his thick boot soles make impressions in the carpet like temporary stamps being pressed on by the weight of the man’s strong and heavy stature. He walks toward his wooden staircase adjacent his bedroom door. His steps are hard; the wood whines. Back and forth, the hard, stomping sound of his boots and the whining of the wooden steps are like a dissonant requiem sealing Latasha’s fate.
He walks into his immaculate kitchen and through the door leading out to his two-car attached garage. Metal shelves attached to the walls of the garage surround him. The shelves where his tools sit are facing him, just next to his white, shiny BMW. Calm and determined, he walks in the direction of his tools. He reaches for his black and orange Black & Decker power saw from the middle shelf. Just underneath the shelf, on the floor, lay a box of 39 pound Hefty Lawn and Garden plastic bags. He bends and quickly grabs the bag sticking out of the box and four others.
Tools in hand, the man walks back into the kitchen. He places the power saw and lawn bags on the small, circular wooden table to the right of the entrance of the attached garage. In the cabinet above his white electric stove, lay a box of plastic wrap. He takes the whole box, tucking it under his arm and picking up the power saw and bags.
He continues Latasha’s requiem as he progresses up the stairs feeling accomplished, enthused, adrenaline pumped, yet austere. The unnerving silence surrounding the man as he walks toward the room where Latasha’s body lay, is like a calm prelude or middle section of an opera just before the repeated more heightened and convoluted portion of the performance.
He places the power saw, plastic bags, and plastic wrap on the floor just outside of the bedroom door. He proceeds to the bathroom next to his bedroom to get a small bottle of bleach, yellow rubber gloves, and three rags out of the cabinet underneath the bathroom sink. The man walks into the room toward Latasha’s still body. He moves methodically, looking at her blankly with a certain emptiness—emotionally void as he stretches her body out. Her arms slightly bent in awkward positions and pointing in uncomfortable, peculiar directions are moved so that both arms lay symmetrically across the red satin sheet. His yellow rubber hands push her cold, brown legs apart, each hand pushing her thighs outward. Latasha lay there, stiff, as if nailed to the bed, mirroring a famous image.
He douses one of the rags with bleach; small splashes splatter onto the red satin sheets. The discoloration from the chemical begins to set into the satin sheets, causing tiny white spots to appear where the bleach has fallen. He begins to roughly wipe Latasha’s skin with the wet cloth, starting from the edge of her hair line, wiping in a downward half clockwise motion down and across her face.
After wiping her face and her neck, he reaches for a new cloth, dousing it with bleach. Her bare chest, covered with small molecules of evidence is soon to be silenced, hidden, wiped clean. He repeats the steps once more using a third cloth for the lower portions of Latasha’s lifeless body.
Now, with a clean slate, he dumps the three rags and bleach into one of the plastic lawn bags. He places the lawn bag near the power saw, plastic wrap, and other lawn bags just outside of the door. He takes sheets of the plastic wrap and carefully places long sheets over the carpet in the room surrounding the bed where Latasha’s body lay, making sure to overlap each piece so that no piece of carpeting is exposed. He then goes to his walk in closet to get blankets. Randomly, he places throw blankets, comforters, quilts, and sheets on top of the plastic covered floor to further protect his carpet.
Now, fully covered like a fortress surviving to be an escape from the outside world, the passionate, indifferent man prepares for the final number, reaching the peak of the crescendo of Latasha’s funeral song. Latasha now blends in with the quietness of the room, accentuating the sound of the man’s fast heavy but calm breathing.
He walks across the glossy floor, making crinkles in the plastic wrap with each step toward the power saw outside of his bedroom door. He picks it up, adrenaline flowing through his veins as if the power saw was a secret transmitter of power – of control.
Standing in the door way, he pulls the cord on the power saw, yanking it until the sharp rusted blades on the saw grind around, roaring. The man walks into the room to the head of the bed where Latasha’s legs form a ‘V’. Roaring saw in hand, he stands above Latasha like a king peering down at his subjects with complete and absolute control. He admires her, glancing with pleasure slowly at each crevice in her delicate physique. His starting point is just at her armpit; with strong force, he lowers the power saw pressing it against the line separating Latasha’s arm from her shoulder. Splatters of red fall onto the red satin sheets, forming dark puddles around her arm. As he gets deeper into her skin, blood goes further distances, making stains in the once clean fortress of blankets and plastic wrap. The man’s shadow is large, making him seem like a giant with a giant tool over a vessel of frailty.
The rays of the overhead lights amplify the intensity of the bright red liquid covering the surface of Subject A985’s temporal lobes. Teal blue latex fingers inch meticulously around the pea-sized incisions, connecting silicon and metal to the sections of the hippocampus where new information is encoded and memorized.
Each chip, each piece of glistening metal containing millions of transistors -- millions of electrical conductors, are implanted purposefully to serve a purpose directed by House and Senate in the previous year —a purpose driven by the need to protect the greater good.
Episodic memory, usually controlled by life’s experiences, is now being sought as the frolicking ground for justice through the scientists’, government’s, and doctors’ collaborative heavy and poignantly directed hands. The force of these hands, not yet felt by the slumbering subject, is meant to leave a permanent mark on the defiant and abnormal psychological behaviors of the unlawful long after the surgical incisions.
The hacked frontal lobe of Subject A985 now finely contrasts hues of silver with streams of fiery liquids through cracks of exposed fleshy colored crevices, sending signals of accomplishment to performing parties. The metabolically, mechanically manipulated lobe of Subject A985 is complete, and the opening once granting access to the deepest controllers of the brain’s nerve signals is sutured, sealing the subject’s fate. Operation Memory Enhance on Subject A985 is complete.
Derrick’s eyes slowly open, fighting a dense force upon his eyelids. The hazy images above, peripherally surrounding, and attached to him become increasingly clear, creating in him fear and hesitation. Despite his determination to move his legs, his ankles are hand cuffed to the metal railings of the bed. His arms, both filled with intravenous fluids, are hand cuffed at his wrists. His hospital bed lay in front of an imposing observation mirror, which hides the person on the other side. His eyes twitch gently, his head aches sharper than a migraine, and his lack of energy takes control of his curiosity. He is unable to fight the dense force upon his eyelids any longer, and his search for miniscule answers is deferred.
Seemingly moments later, Derrick awakens from a deep, overpowering slumber to find himself in a dark, shabby area. Only a ray of light from a distant window peeks through the spaces between the silver systematically placed bars on the only doorway out. He is alone in the cell, horizontally placed as he had last remembered, but his once shackled arms and legs are free. The intravenous fluids are no longer being pumped into his arms. Instead, anxiety penetrates his skin. Anxious fueled adrenaline flows through every fissure in his lean anatomical structure. The echoing sounds of voices over a loud speaker linger in the distance. Metal clinking blends with the distant voices and droplets of water from a leaky faucet in the small enclosure. Each sound rotates back and forth sporadically like a quartet in a jazz improvisational set.
Having acquainted his ears with the array of sounds, he bravely observes the dim images that make up the room. The walls are cement like, faded greys mixing off white blotches. The springs of the bed above him reflect tiny specs of light. He makes crinkles in the white sheets covering his battered, tattooed, dark brown bare chest as he celebrates the freedom of motion in his limbs. A dusty mirror hangs about the leaky faucet; in it, Derrick can see a reflection of a small portion of the top bunk, which lay bright yellow pieces of clothing and a light bulb hanging from the timeworn cement ceiling. Next to the faucet sits a silver shiny toilet, glistening like gold, capturing the focus being it is the most aesthetically pleasing portion of the space.
The throbbing of his head, serves as a reminder of having been in the other medical room. Another reminder is the uneven, rough patch of skin he feels as he rubs his head for comfort to no avail. Like an antique mechanical structure rusted and stiffened by lack of use, he hoists himself up, pushing his hands against the thin firm mattress, inching himself to an erect position.
The air around Derrick’s battered physique feels heavy. Each breath he inhales takes effort, and his thoughts taunt and challenge his willingness to be awake facing the dream-like sequence of the moment. He has arrived. No more waiting. No more preparing for verdict life placed upon his shoulders.
After getting acquainted with reality -- his new, permanent residence, he musters the strength to venture off the bottom bunk, going from spectator to an active participant in his surroundings. The room is chilled; goose bumps travel up his veiny legs and bare, chiseled, coffee colored arms. The chorus of unfamiliar whispers, echoing distant speakers, and short stents of dead eerie silence is his constant accompaniment, following his every step across the cold, rough cement floor.
He twist the metal faucet handle, scooping water with his free hand, taking a quick sip and again scooping water and splashing it on his face right over his eyebrows. The droplets trickle down from his eyes to his chin. As he wipes falling droplets from his chin, he looks at his reflection, staring at the uneven rough patch on his bald head. He glares at the image, hoping romantically that if he stares long enough at the image in the mirror, it would magically be someone else, and the nightmare would be just that: a hallucination or temporary illusion.
A siren sounds, interrupting Derrick’s comfortable escape into the land of imaginative what ifs. A loud clink and a long drawn out high-pitched screech as the cell bars slide into the walls provide another path of exploration for Derrick.
“All prisoners into the courtyard for showers and breakfast,” a mysterious man grumbles onto a microphone that travels throughout the structure.
Derrick hesitantly walks toward the opening; He fixes his posture like a king lion trying to show dominance as to hide any frailty before being in the midst of other lions or predators. When he reaches the opening, he can see a sea of yellow – diverse figures with yellow jumpsuits exactly matching his convening in front of their cells.
(Need more interaction with prison population in this chapter before he goes to bed for the dream sequence set up)
The crisp southern air nips at Derrick’s small button nose. The window above his twin size cot is cracked slightly because Mama says it will help clear his sinuses. The crickets chime in unison, keeping a constant tune to Derrick’s quiet, deep breathing. Silently slumbering, Derrick awakens to Mama’s voice – a loud shrieking alerting him out the comforts of oblivion. With one motion, Derrick opens his eyes and sits up in his bed, looking around the room, panicking as if the shadows in his room are circling him – attacking him.
Unsure of what there is to fear, he sits, stuck in position reluctantly awaiting the next clue.
“No Fred. That is enough,” he hears his mother cry out; her voice faintly reaches through Derricks off white walls where posters of Billy Holiday and Jackie Robinson hang. This prompts Derrick’s thin, long legs to shoot out toward the floor as if the sounds ignite them, forcefully pushing them toward the destination of his mother’s pleas.
He darts through his bedroom door toward his mother and father’s bedroom. Clinking clashing sounds replace his mother’s panicked voice, and the eerie silence prompts in him more panic than the initial suspenseful cries. These cries from Mama are familiar and would normally continue until Derrick would intervene, serving himself up as a sacrificial lamb to his father. Ignorant due to inebriation, his father’s anger often lacked a directed target, and distractions worked to relieve his mother from being the casualty of being at the right place at the wrong time.
Upon reaching the small opening in the cracked, shabby, wooden door, an unfamiliar silence greets Derrick. He sees mama standing at a backward angle, her off white lacy night gown blowing in the gentle breeze in the room. Her dark brown legs glow in contrast with her gown, and the relaxed, uncontrolled, off balanced nature of their position make her look weightless – empty, absent. A dark figure stands over mama, his two large, rough hands cover her neck tightly; The man’s face is not visible, but Mama’s contorted expression is visible. Her eyes are wide open with her bottom and upper lip facing in opposite directions while her dark brown cheeks are pushed up in a strenuous manner.
“Mama, Mama!” Derrick spews. The dark figure turns around. His reddened eyes penetrate the darkness, and he stares at Derrick blankly, letting go of his grip on Mama’s frail neck; her body sways seemingly slowly in a downward motion.
“Mama, Mama. You okay Mama?” Derrick repeats this as he sprints toward her just as her arms and head hit the cold hardwood floor. He pulls her head up onto his thin veiny arm, cradling her. Derrick’s father stares vacantly at Mama and Derrick as if horrified and watching a scene unfold that is separated by an impenetrable wall. He backs away slowly towards the door, turning around and running out when he reaches the opening.
Derrick keeps his attention on Mama, screaming for her to wake up. Her eyes are fixed in the same position, and her skin is ice cold. Outside, the roaring sound of a motor interrupts the quietness in the room; the sound slowly fades away into the distance. Unable to comprehend the moment, Derrick places his head down on Mama’s still chest, weeping, hoping to see some signs of life. The long silence awakens Derrick out of his stupor, and he realizes the gravity of the moment. He gently places Mama on a pillow he takes from the bed just above her.
With tear-filled eyes, Derrick runs toward the opening, without a clear destination or action. He runs through the house toward the door leading outside. He opens the door, forcefully pushing it open as the door knob slams against the wall just behind the door. He pauses in the door way. The summer breeze makes the poplar tree leaves in front of his house dance on their branches underneath the moon—the only source of light. He looks across the dirt road toward Mr. James’ house, the closest neighbor. He can see a faint image of a little girl running up and down the steps of Mr. James’ house, prompting him to go toward the house. The little girl’s laughter echoes, blending in with the night air, and although laughter, the innocence of the girl’s expression aggravates Derrick’s already jumbled state of mind.
Derrick runs down the painted brown wooden steps, skipping some steps, frantically sprinting across the dirt road, focused on the image of the girl and the shabby shack where Mr. James resides. Upon reaching the steps, the little girl is nowhere to be found. Derrick presses his eyelids down, squeezing them over his eyes hoping that this motion would make the little girl reappear – still nothing. He searches for signs of the vivid picture of the girl to no avail. He continues up the steps.
“Mr. James,” he repeats. “Something happened Mr. James. I need help. Please. Please,” he shouts as he bangs on the hard wooden door, hitting harder with each second that goes by. Finally, a curtain covering one of the windows parts, and a shirtless man in boxer shorts appears slightly out of the door, a brown and black sawed off shotgun in one hand.
“Boy, what the hell are you beating on my door at this time a night for?”
Startled by the shotgun, Derrick begins crying, breathing fast, muttering incoherent words, finally gathering enough wherewithal to speak in tone that Mr. James can understand.
“Mama’s hurt. My mama’s hurt Mr. James.”
“Where’s your pappy? She’s hurt? What you mean, son?”
“He’s gone. Aint nobody there but me. She needs help.”
Derrick and Mr. James run across the dirt road back to the house where Mama lay. Mr. James enters the room following behind Derrick. Mama lay there in the same position, quietly rested with her head on top of the pillow Derrick placed under her before he went for help. Mr. James pauses, realizing the grim nature of the situation, but not wanting to startle Derrick.
Mr. James touches Mama’s chest for signs of a heart beat or breaths of air. He then signals for Derrick to help him pick Mama up to take her to his pickup truck because he knows if there was any hope for Mama, she had to be taken to the hospital 20 miles away. They carefully pick Mama up from the floor; Derrick holds Mama’s cold ankles, and Mr. James grabs just behind both of Mama’s armpits.
“1,2, 3,” Mr. James counts as they both hoist her body up at what should be count 4. Her delicate frame hangs like a hammock tied to two trees. The bottom of her white night gown hangs to left side at an angle across her stiff brown legs. Derrick cautiously, but hurriedly backs out towards the door as Dr. James faces him walking forward and supporting the upper portion of Mama’s body. They continue this down Derrick’s wooden steps, past the tall poplar trees, across the uneven dirt road to Mr. James’s rusty red pickup truck.
Derrick lay in the back of the truck, his back leaning against the back window. He sits looking out at the fast changing landscape. The distant stars blur together, the trees look like brown and green splotches blending in with the darkness, changing in size as the rusty pickup truck rushes against the wind in the direction of hospital. The wind dries the tears on Derrick’s cold cheeks; the gusts gently graze the tops of his ears. He feels alone and a world away from Mr. James and Mama.
Inside the car, Mr. James is focused on the road, trying not to think about Mama’s state. Her neck now leans against the passenger side door, having been pushed in that position by the bumpy terrain. The only sound in the car is the roaring of the truck engine and the occasionally sound of gravel rubbing against the truck tires.
Thirty minutes after leaving, Mr. James and Derrick arrive at the bright hospital, pulling up to the white and red lit emergency sign. Mr. James gets out of the car telling Derrick to stay with his mother while he goes to get help inside. Derrick hops out of the back of the pickup truck to the passenger side. He looks through the window at his mother’s brown hair pushed against the glass. He stares at her, realizing her recovery was slim and that the loud shrieks were probably the last time he would hear Mama’s voice. In his peripheral, he can see people in scrubs and white lab coats rushing toward the car. He stands frozen, unable to process his next movement. A hand grabs his shoulder.
“We’re here to help. Let us take it from here. We’re gonna need you to step away so we can get her out,” a slender man in a white lab coat says calmly to Derrick.
Derrick steps aside near the back of the truck where he sat on the way to the hospital. He watches the doctors and nurses pull Mama onto a stretcher and rush her into the hospital. He fixates on the images until they all disappear into the tall building. Mr. James reappears at the pickup, telling Derrick to go into the hospital while he parks the truck in the hospital parking lot. Derrick slowly walks into the hospital, his head hanging down, his eyes focused on nothing, and his mind unsure of even the simplest idea.
The hospital registration worker, a young woman with brown hair tightly pulled back into a ponytail, shows Derrick a waiting room where he must await updates on Mama’s condition. Aware of the gravity of Mama’s condition, the woman offers Derrick a drink, hoping to extend any slight pleasure before the doctors come back to tell him what she knows to be devastating news to any boy. He declines.
Derrick sits in a chair in the waiting room, a green cushioned chair with wooden arm rests. He slouches in the chair making eye contact with only the cracks in the black and white tiled floor. Distant chatter and beeping of hospital equipment surround him.
He pictures Mama kneeling in the garden on the side of their house, the sun providing a spotlight, accentuating Mama’s high cheek bones and off white toothy smile.
“You see these vegetables? Remember me planting these seeds them months ago? Like the good Lord says, you reap what you sow baby. You see these?” He remembers his mother saying ecstatically as she held up some green tomatoes she freshly plucked from the vines in her garden. These pleasant images are sporadically mixed in with the last images he has of his father squeezing Mama’s neck and her loud shrieks for help, ringing continuously in his mind, causing tears to inch down in face.
Briefly looking up, he can see the same little girl he saw momentarily running up and down Mr. James’s steps. She still laughs and skips down a hallway in the hospital. Derrick continues to look at the girl, feeling the need to follow her and having a feeling of being drawn to this little girl. As he prepares to follow the girl, two men in a badge approach him.
“Son, we would like to talk to you about the events leading to the patient’s condition.” Derrick looks up blankly at the police officers, his father’s red eyes staring at him in his mind.