He had heard it said that happy families are all alike. They are warm and safe, an environment that people want to be in. He scoffed to himself because that wasn’t true. Not that his was a happy family. Happy families tend to lose their warm domesticity when the husband has been labeled a Ponzi-schemer.
Under normal circumstances, Everett Jones’s family would have been happy. Even after he was a wanted man, he told himself his wife and daughter could live a normal, if detached and roaming life. “I’m not in trouble, we’re just on vacation.” he said as the three of them clustered around a small campfire away from the city.
His scheming mind fought with his conscience, trying to justify his actions. But within his own mind was the only place he was justified, and a chorus of sirens screamed out all around them in the night. At the same moment, flashing lights lit the night on fire, and tires screeched over the earth. Cold, merciless handcuffs were latched onto his wrists, and he was pushed into the back of an armored car, leaving his family to stare after him in teary-eyed shock.
The outcome of the trial was a foregone conclusion. The hate in the jury’s eyes scorched Everett’s back through all the proceedings. They weren’t about to allow the next Bernie Madoff to tarnish the world as a free man. When questioned about his motives, he said nothing of his sick daughter, instead saying simply, “I did it for me.”
He was terrified of prison. His entire body shook as he was loaded off the bus, clad in orange, chained at the ankles to a line of criminals. He shouldn’t have been there. He wasn’t like these people.
He was served lunch on a tagged steel plate, heaped with unpalatable gruel, and left to find a seat amid the gangs in the mess hall. As he made his way timidly to a vacant corner, someone abruptly stood and turned into him. Their trays clattered together and their clothes were smeared with food. Before he even understood what had happened, Everett was on the floor in agony as a mass of bodies pummeled and kicked him. A whistle sounded dimly over the racket, and through wincing eyes, he saw several pairs of boots rushing toward the crowd.
“What have they done to you?” his wife whispered into the phone.
She was staring at Everett through the thick glass partition in visitation. His face was discolored and swollen, with two lines of stitches along his scalp. He said nothing into his end of the phone, joined to his wife’s side of the glass by a cable. He simply bowed his head as he was racked with uncontrollable pains throughout his head and torso. In a way he was glad for the spasms; they helped to hide the fact that he was weeping.
Everett died in that prison, alone, terrified. He was stabbed to death in a gang brawl he had no part in. Mrs. Jones was sitting on a park bench when she got the call. The phone slid out of her grip and struck the ground as she held her face in her hands and wept. A ways off, her daughter played gaily on a swing set. After a time, Mrs. Jones raised her shining eyes to her daughter. The girl’s multi-million dollar treatments had worked, and she was now in remission. She was her father’s legacy, alive now because of his imperfect love.