Take your Time

By Kendale Beckham

Nonfiction, Arlington County Detention Facility/Heard/OAR writing contest, October 2023 (visuals by author following typed story)

  • Any time in life we make decisions that are not aligned with our purpose, these decisions have no staying power and soon are forgotten. Decisions that are aligned with your purpose embodied in your definite chief aim statement are remembered because they are truly significant to you.  -Ray Stendall
  • In considering linear time, it appears to exist in three parts: past time, current time, and future time.  Past time might be defined as moving back mentally in time to consider what choices we made that contribute to where we find ourselves today.  Future time might be defined as moving forward mentally in time to consider what choices we make today that can determine our future outcomes.
  • Current time might be defined as the moment-by-moment time we exist in now and is the only real time we have. This present time best serves us when it is combined with insight, that quality that causes us to go inside ourselves for the purpose of considering what lessons are relevant for us to use in this our present moment.
  • We can watch a clock, turn the page on a calendar, journal our daily experience, and chart the progress of time in numerous physical ways. Spiritually, our comprehension of time is different.  It is more circular.
  • All this is interesting to consider, but in our waking world time marches on and we need to be in step with the marching band if we want to be in the parade! This is why Dr. Hill reminds us to use our time efficiently and wisely.
  • Time is the essence of our being and, when we are out of time, we cease to exist in this realm. So, if life is a checkerboard, the opponent against us is time.  Play the game to your best advantage by recognizing that time waits for no man or woman.
  • Given this fact, you can then gain the insight that the best use of the time we are given is critical in our lifetime accomplishments. Be wise and use time to your very best advantage.
  • Knowing that my habits of thought become the patterns which attract all the circumstances affecting my life through the lapse of time, I shall keep my mind so busy in connection with the circumstances I desire that no time will be left to devote to fears and frustrations and the things I do not desire.
  • In the future I shall regard the loss, through neglect, of any portion of my time as a sin, for which I must atone by the better use in the future of an equivalent amount of it.
  • Dedicated to all the readers of and The Act Program.

The author’s complete illustrations can be found here: NF – Take your Time – Beckham




Life’s Unexpected Lessons

By Santanio Cooper

Nonfiction, Arlington County Detention Facility/Heard/OAR writing contest, October 2023

Some meetings aren’t by chance or coincidence.  People cross your path because they are supposed to.  I’m at a point in my life where I realize that my long-standing relationships were “shams” along with my life!  Now, after being fed up, I must focus on myself to better my future.  I was moving with such precision and starting to learn the brand new me.  But, as always, I would make the wrong decision.  Either I stand by my code or go to where I know is my safe place!  Now, I feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders.  Then my dilemma is to change and live or don’t and then “be forgotten”?  I have to want to rectify myself and focus (real talk).

So what happens when you meet the one person you could see a future with but the time is all wrong?  They say love comes when you least expect it.  It can also come when you’re in the midst of a fight for your life and freedom!  Love is just a word when secrets, lies and betrayal threaten its existence.  But it is also a beautiful thing when handled properly.

I have recalled the consequences that come with every action that I do.  That’s why I never put off tomorrow what can be done today!  As I grew up, I was told to be wary of the type of people that I associate with because how I react in the scariest of moments is how I will be remembered.  That’s why I stay strong minded with myself.  Lies don’t care who tell them.  They just want to be told.  No one is exempt from slander.  I’m saying life is a constant progression.  It doesn’t stop.  I remember things that were said to me ten, twenty years ago and realize that a lot of what was predicted has actually come to pass.  When I built a certain reputation, I thought I should protect it but, it seems to me now, I need to let it go.  I’m just saying that as time diminishes the muscle and getting old becomes a reality its always harder to accept that your body can no longer do what your mind thinks it can.

I entered this place called Jail in 2004 in which I thought was a place of the past that I have made into my future.  All because I did not want to learn from my past mistakes.  I have done half of my life in jails and penitentiaries and now I can say I have learned the skills I need to stay out.  I digress!  Time always reveals everything.  Just be patient.  Don’t become this young man cause the young man was me!


Dodge the Bullet

by Geremy Bridgeforth

First place, Fiction, Arlington County Detention Facility/Heard/OAR Writing Contest, October 2023

Late in the 1940’s there was a gun store on the corner of Woodshire and Consiter Lane located in southern Pennsylvania. This particular gun store specialized in old school guns and, to be sold alongside those old school guns, old school bullets as well. October 15, 1948, the owner of the gun store misplaces a particular twelve pack of bullets. Mr. Wallmack searches the whole store in search of his missing pack of twelve bullets, but they were nowhere to be found.

Unknowingly, while moving a very heavy set of 9mm pistols from the top shelf of his gun cabinet he set the missing twelve pack of bullets down on that gun shelf which was fifteen feet full in height, Mr. Wallmack never thought to look for the missing pack of bullets where he accidentally lost them. Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months and these months were stretched out considerably to become years. Over the next 73 years, that twelve pack of bullets faded into memory as pack after pack after pack after pack after pack of bullets were sold. This particular pack of twelve did not because no one knew it still sat on top of that fifteen-foot gun case collecting dust all those many years.

August 28, 2023, was the date that tiny dusty pack of bullets finally decided to move.

“I can’t!!  I just can’t do this anymore!!!” said one of the bullets in the twelve pack. Suddenly the lost twelve pack of bullets stood up right and opened its casing which allowed one of the bullets to move, jolting out.

“What do you mean you can’t do this anymore?” asked one of the other bullets.

“Ugh, finally out of that dusty old box,” said the bullet that jumped out of its casing. “What I meant was I can’t just sit around in that dusty old box for another moment. “It is completely worn out and it’s starting to stink!” exclaimed the bullet that jumped from its casing.

“Dodge, have a little more faith someone will buy us, you will see,” said another bullet within the pack of now eleven bullets.

“Buy us?” said Dodge as he looked over the side of the gun cabinet. “No one even knows we are alive up here,” yelled Dodge as the other bullets shushed him to keep the noise down. “Plus it has been over 70 years. This store doesn’t even sell the type of gun that we are used for anymore, anyway, so I doubt that we will be sold any time soon,” exclaimed Dodge. “You guys do what you want but my time of sitting in a box waiting to be sold is over. I have dreams and one of those dreams is to be fired from an automatic weapon,” said Dodge as all the other bullets gasped.

“You can’t leave! If you do then we will never be sold,” said one of the bullets inside the case.

“She’s right. Nobody is going to buy a twelve pack with one missing. Who is gonna buy an eleven pack of bullets?” exclaimed another bullet that was inside the casing.

All the other bullets nodded their heads in agreement. Dodge paused for a moment, he thought really hard and very clearly about the decision he was about to make, then he lifted his head and spoke.

“You know what guys? I would rather take my chances out in the world trying to find a new purpose than to sit here and wait for one to come to me. If you are comfortable with your lives on top of this gun cabinet for the next 70 years, then be my guest, but I am going and there is nothing you can do to stop me,” announced Dodge.

Every bullet that was left of that twelve pack felt their hearts go cold as Dodge climbed down from the gun cabinet onto the hard marble floor and right out the front door. Meanwhile, back on top of the cabinet, the remaining bullets were still convinced that someone would discover their whereabouts on top of the old gun cabinet and buy them.

“At last, my first touch of freedom,” said Dodge as he walked gracefully out of the front door at the gun store and as the sunlight touched his face, he makes a childlike smirk as if he realizes there is just enough milk left for one more bowl of cereal.

As Dodge finishes embracing his first touch of freedom, he starts to walk from the doors at the gun shop and into the store’s parking lot.  Dodge looks around at all the cars that were parked there.

“Mmmmmm” he wondered. “What are these things? They can’t be guns…could they?” Dodge asked himself.

Just then the ground begins to rumble as a large pair of size nine shoes marched towards him.  Dodge quickly jumped from out of the path of the shoes.

“Whoa! Watch where you are going buddy! Can’t you see I am trying to walk here?” shouted Dodge angrily.

Dodge picked himself up off the ground, wiped himself off and continued on. “So, let’s see…new purpose…new purpose. What is my new purpose?” Dodge asked himself.

Suddenly the ground began to rumble again but this time there were dozens of pairs of shoes marching towards him in a frenzy. Dodge quickly ran towards one of the cars that was parked in the store parking lot and hid behind one of its tires. A few seconds passed and the stampede of shoes had finally moved on.

“What the hell’s going on? Is there some kind of gun sale at the store I don’t know about?” asked Dodge to himself. “I have never seen so many people so eager to buy guns,” exclaimed Dodge.

Dodge leapt from behind the tire, but as soon as he did, he had an idea. “I got it!  My purpose…it’s so clear to me now,” said Dodge out loud. “My new purpose, the meaning behind life…the reason God manufactured me on this earth is because I am to find the type of gun that I was manufactured for and get fired from it,” announced Dodge. “Ahh my life has meaning again,” said Dodge as he fell out and lay flat on the parking lot ground.

Dodge laid there for a few moments taking in his newfound purpose. Then suddenly a seagull swooped down and took Dodge into its mouth and flew off into the distance.

“Great God speed!  What the hell,” exclaimed Dodge as he desperately tried to escape the clutches of the seagull. “Hey I am not a tuna! Do I look like a salmon to you? Release me at once you airborne rodent as I will make quick work of you,” exclaimed Dodge as he desperately tried to punch and gnaw his way from the belly of the beast.

“Alright, I see how it’s gonna be! I see I gotta get rough with ya,” said Dodge as the seagull swallowed Dodge whole.

At that moment, Dodge let off an array of punches, kicks and insults in an attempt to hurt the seagull. After moments of this repeated action, the seagull finally gave up and in midflight the seagull upchucked Dodge along with its afternoon meal it had minutes before it grabbed Dodge from that parking lot floor.

Dodge is then hurled down towards the ground and lands directly in a trash can moments after a huge pile of sludge, that also descended from the seagull’s belly, dropped onto Dodge’s head. As Dodge lay soaked in vomit, he thought to himself, “Welp, I know I am on the right path, because that could have gone a lot worse. Now where do I go from here,” thought Dodge as he picked himself up and climbed out of the trash can.

As he did, he looked up and saw a billboard that read Welcome to Texas!! Dodge’s eyes widened and with a strong gulp he uttered the words, “Well here goes nothing.  Hello Texas!” Dodge began to walk past the welcome sign and into the state of Texas.

To be continued …

Celebrity Chauffeur

by David Thomas Hawkins

First Place winner, nonfiction, Arlington County Detention Facility/Heard/OAR writing contest, October 2023

These are clients and friends I have driven in Los Angeles.

Lucy Liu                                                         Stevie Wonder

Ashanti                                                            Shaquille O’Neal

Tyra Banks                                                      K-Ci & JoJo

Halle Berry                                                     Mark Cuban

Mary J. Blige                                                  Jim Brown

Pattie LaBelle                                                 James Brown

Yolanda Adams                                               Babyface

Clayola Brown                                                Jamie Foxx

Dorothy Height                                               Tommy Davidson

Lauren Hill                                                      Ronald Isley – Isley Bros.

Betty White                                                     R. Kelly

Sheryl Lee Ralph                                            Denzel Washington

Rosario Dawson                                             Judge Mathis

Vivica Fox                                                      Don King

Kim Fields                                                       Barry White

Lauren Sanchez                                               Tavis Smiley

Debra Lee                                                       Bob Johnson

Sheryl Crow                                                    Danny Bonaduce

Celia Cruz                                                       Clarence Advant

Chaka Khan                                                    Chico Debarge

Kim Coles                                                       Chris Tucker

Shakira                                                            Nate Dogg

Rihanna                                                           Chris Brown

Maxine Waters                                                Muhammad Ali

I drive fancy cars and pick up movie stars!  Rap Stars, Rockstars, NBA All Stars, MLB, NFL and Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  Celebrities from all walks of life, from different cultures, races and nationalities.  I have driven over a thousand celebrities.  I am a limo driver, chauffeur/bodyguard from Los Angeles, California, and I have been doing this work for over 30 years.  When I first got this job, I didn’t know I would make a career out of it.  I had no idea I would be exposed to the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, like Robin Leech said.

Somebody showed me a photo of Halle Berry jumping out of a white limousine dressed in a white Gucci gown on the red carpet giving a kiss on the cheek to the limo driver who had opened her door for her.  After looking at that photo, I told myself that is what I want to do!  I have been doing it since the day that limo driver/owner hired me on the spot.  That was on May 4th, 1992.  My first day in LA was two weeks after the Rodney King riots.  There were tanks and soldiers still on the streets of LA, mostly in South Central.  When I got off that Greyhound bus that morning, I had $300 in my wallet, a backpack with miscellaneous items, hygiene kit and clothes and one suitcase with socks, drawers, tee-shirts and a couple of pairs of Levi’s.

The only plan I had was to get something to eat, check into a cheap motel and call the limo driver that got a kiss on the cheek from Halley Berry at the red carpet.  That is George Jones, owner of Ultimate Limos.  He owned one white limousine and leased a small office on Crenshaw Boulevard.  I took a bus from Downtown LA to his office in Torrance, California.  Two hours later, right before noon, I showed up there.  After meeting George with a handshake and a smile.  He said, “Have a seat, fill out this application and hurry up, I’m getting hungry!”  I filled out the top of it, name and date, etc.  “Come on man, let’s go get something to eat, you can finish that later!”

We walked outside to the white limo.  George said, “Go ahead, jump in the back!”  This was my first time in a limo.  Black leather seats, one long J seat and all these lights lining the ceiling and a bar stocked with liquor and sodas.  I sunk into the black Lincoln leather and felt the cushions and padding just mold with my upper torso.  I have never felt so comfortable sitting in a car.

Sitting back there by myself made me feel important, rich, famous—like a celebrity.  I felt like a BOSS!  I was in control, I was a VIP, I was the GodFather, I was out-of-control, especially when my chauffeur boss hit the control panel and everything in the back of the limo came to life!  The stereo system with the bass on blast really set it off and the disco lights sparkling all the colors you could imagine blinking starlights, black leather, music blasting as if I was having my own little party for myself.  Welcome to LA.  This is how we do it!  The boss drove for about 10 minutes and turned into the parking lot of CHURCH’S CHICKEN!  You have got to be kidding, I thought to myself.

Steak, shrimp and lobster was on my mind.  Bust my bubble, there goes the party!  I helped myself to a shot of cognac that was in a crystal decanter housed in the bar area.  I poured my drink into a rock glass after pulling out the napkin.  Here’s to you, boss!  Good health and wealth and to me and my new job as chauffeur/bodyguard for life.  I had no idea what God planned for me.  Driving all those rich and famous people was beyond my expectations.

After devouring, half a bucket of chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn on the cob, apple pie.  The boss had his fill too!  He handed me a three-inch stack of business cards and dropped me off.  “Yo, call me tomorrow, I might have some work for you,” he said.  “Thanks boss,” I said.  Back at my cheap hotel, The Cecil Hotel on 7th and Main in downtown LA, they said there were ghosts running around in there, but I never saw one!

I looked out the window of my 4th floor room facing Main Street and saw there was a big parking lot filled with StarWagons and a movie production crew.  Security was blocking the driveway.  They were two old, retired motorcycle cops with grey mustaches and grey hair and sunglasses.  This is the first time I had seen a movie crew in public.  I thought of a plan that might work.  Maybe they need limousines for the movie?  There was only one way to find out, so I got myself together, grabbed those business cards the boss gave me and went over there.  I approached the motorcycle cops, who were having a conversation between themselves.  I waited for the right time before interrupting them.  “Excuse me, today is my first day in LA and I just got hired at a limo company and I was just wondering if it’s possible y’all need any limousines for the movie?  Oh sorry, I forgot to introduce myself.  I’m David Hawkins.  I just moved to LA today.”  The retired cop said, “Well, David, I know they need some limos for Saturday, I don’t know if they got ‘em yet so let’s call the transportation captain and ask him.”  The retired cop got on his walkie-talkie and told the transpo captain about the limo service.  Next thing I know a golf cart pulls up and a white guy, longhaired potbelly hippie looking dude said, “Are you the guy with the limo service?”  “Yes sir,” I said.  He said, “How much for four limos, twelve hours each on Saturday night?”  I said, “Hmmmm, let’s call my boss and ask him.”  I pulled out my flip phone.  I said, “Hey George, how much for four limos this Saturday night?  Here, I’ll let you talk to him.”  I passed my phone to the transpo captain.  They worked out a deal in less than five minutes!  “Well, David, you just saved me a bunch of money,” the transpo captain said.  He opened his fanny pack, stuffed with cash, and handed me two twenty-dollar bills.  “Thank you very much.  Hey, what’s the name of the movie?  It was Best of the Best Part II.  I made it to Hollywood with a deal for four limousines in a movie on my first day in LA.  What a blessing that was!

Saturday was a few days away.  The boss asked me if I had a black suit.  I told him I did not.  The next day I went to the Salvation Army on 7th street, a few blocks away from the Greyhound bus station.  I bought a black suit for $25—brand new, shirt and tie included.  I got my (Biscuits) Stacey Adams at a shoe store on 6th and Spring for $120 no tax the Chinese Lady said.  This part of downtown in 1992 was a very undesirable place to be, especially at night.  Dope dealers, dope fiends, crackheads and junkies, pimps and prostitutes, gangsters and gangbangers, robbers and jackers, killers and serial killers, criminals and lowlifes and homeless people.  All in one melting pot from Spring Street to Alameda Street.  I’m not trying to have any of that.  The sun had already set and was getting dark faster because of the skyscrapers blocking sunlight. The freaks came out at night, so it was time to take my happy ass to my room before I got into TROUBLE!  Not the fun kind either.  Every time I get into trouble, I disappear for months, years at a time.  Jail or prison, both!  I’m a good guy, I just make bad decisions sometimes.  The worst decision I ever made in my life would take me 30 minutes to explain.

One week before Christmas 1994 I was working at a white limousine service after being recruited from a Chinese limo service who recruited me from Vogue limo.  I had been working at my new job a few days and loved it.  The owner, Jerry Hunter, was a biker.   He rode his Harley Davidson with long hair, bandana, black leather vest, Levis, a potbelly and beard and mustache.  He didn’t look like the owner of a limo service but what does one look like!  Anyway, the new boss gave me a gas card and told me I could take the car home.  I lived in a new high rise on Bunker Hill, 2555 Grand Avenue.  The swankiest apartments on top of the financial district.  A twenty-seven-story luxury high rise apartment with a full gym, saunas, an Olympic-size pool, large jacuzzi, barbecue pits and gas heaters all around the fake grass outside on the recreation area.  Inside was a huge lounge with flatscreen TV’s, sofas, loveseats, a full kitchen and brown marble-top counters where on Sunday’s, brunch is served with everything you like, pancakes, omelets, scrambled eggs, sausage, turkey and bacon.  Just about all the goodies you would find at IHOP buffet style!  Free to the residents and their families!

My apartment was on the 8th floor overlooking the Hollywood Hills, Dodger Stadium, Chinatown, Olvera Street, The Music Center, The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Anmanson Theater and the New Disney Concert Hall.  All set right outside my window.  If you looked straight down the huge recreation area was a creation by itself.  At night the grounds were lit up.  The pool and jacuzzi were also lit up!  The view was spectacular.

The lobby floors were marble brown with inlaid gold veins with a security desk and monitors on the right and two elevators, one on the far left and one on the right next to the mailboxes.  There were double glass doors to the right that lead to the parking garage and double doors to the left that lead to the restaurant Koo-koo-koo’s Chicken Spot.  My favorite was the three-piece chicken meal, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes and gravy, large root beer and sweet potato pie.  If I didn’t have that, Chinatown was only a mile away.  I have eaten at ten different Chinese restaurants over there and I do have my favorites picked.  My favorite dish is fillet of fish with black bean sauce, steamed white rice, hot teapot and orange slices.  I also like the fillet of fish with steamed vegetables.  I have a short story about how I met Lucy Liu and how we relate to each other—30 pages—to be continued.

I also worked at the biggest black-owned company in Los Angeles called The Jackson Limousine Service from January 1995-August 2008.  All Jackson’s clients were celebrities and legends.  Some of the most famous people in the world were riding in the backseat of my town car or limo.  I couldn’t believe it was happening.  I have been a big fan of Stevie Wonder since I was a kid and now, I was pulling up to his recording studio on Western Avenue every week in a stretch limousine to give him and his keyboards a ride to the airport or church or home in Calabasas.  His church was Church of God in Christ on Crenshaw Boulevard.  Every time Stevie Wonder, Steveland Morris is his real name, called the office he would ask to send me, and the owner would call me into the office, and he would say, “I have a job for you!”  I would run to the driver’s quarters in the back of the office and change into my Men in Black suit, black Ray Bans and black Stacey Adams shoes!  Mr. Jackson handed me the keys to the white limo and a bottle of champagne and a bucket of ice.  I have done this routine thousands of times for every client of Jackson Limousines.  Word must have gotten around that Jackson has a new limo driver because the office was calling me three or four times every day to pick up the biggest stars in the universe day and night for many years back-to-back.  I eventually moved in because I was in popular demand.

To be continued …?