Two is better than one?

Ricky Turcios

First place, fiction, Heard/Arlington County Detention Center writing contest, August 2021

This is about a life of twins, not just any twins, conjoined twins. On the right, there was Ben and on the left there was Ken. In the womb, yes, they were twins with their own bodies but as they grew they tried to absorb one another. It was a constant battle between Ben and Ken even before birth.

But eventually nine months had passed but by then the twins were already fused to one another.  As they mother, Nataly pushed and pushed Ben was the first to come out or should we say the first half to come out. To everyone’s surprise, shortly after Ben arrived Ken came as well. No one, not the nurses, doctors, midwives or Derrick and Nataly the mother and father of the twins expected this to happen or be possible, since the doctor had not seen or said there was a chance of this being an outcome.

But to Derrick and Nataly it didn’t matter, they were going to love them as any parents expecting wins would. After a week in the hospital after the birth of the twins were ready and excited to be able to bring the boys home. Raising Ben and Ken was as normal as raising conjoined twins could be.

As the boys grew older, it was a constant battle of left vs right, right vs left, etc.  From which direction to walk, what to eat, what toys to play with, what color clothes they enjoyed wearing.  Even at a young age, Derrick and Nataly could see that Ben and Ken were their own persons linked only by sharing one body.

As Ben and Ken became older their intrests were different from one another. Ben enjoyed logic and reason with math and science, while Ken enjoyed emotions and being a free spirit with art and music. Their mother and father never played favorites and loved each the son the same.

But Derrick and Nataly slowly were becoming worried that the conflicts Ben and Ken were having. The boys were in high school by now and had different goals and ambitions.  Ben wanted to study math and science to make a career out of it, either an accountant or a scientist.  Ken wanted to further his studies in art and music to become either an artist or music producer.  The twins would argue about what subjects/activities to invest their time and energy into. Their parents did not take sides they just wanted them to be happy and successful. Derrick and Nataly soon wondered what the outcome would be and if there was any way the twins could agree to be one together.

Derick and Nataly soon found themselves talking to doctors and therapists to see if anything could be done to help them. Eventually Ben and Ken took matters into their own hands and found a surgery that could help them live their own lives and a doctor more than willing to do it.  It was simple, well easier said than done. The surgery would split the twins apart giving them their own bodies.  The survival rate was 50-50 meaning either twin could die from this. After showing their parents and week of talking and thinking and pleading, Nataly and Derrick decided to support it. It meant the world to their sons and [they] wanted them to be happy and live their own lives.

After countless appointments and discussions, Ben and Ken were ready to do the surgery.  Nataly and Derrick asked the boys if this is truly what they wanted and that this was their last chance to back out. For once in a long time, Ben and Ken agreed in unison that this is what they wanted. The twins were placed and prepped for the surgery, the doctor put the twins under and told them to count backwards from 10. Ben and Ken fell into a deep sleep. It had been 13 hours since the twins went into the operation room, and fear had taken over Derrick and Nataly.

Another two hours would pass before the doctor came out and told them it was done. When Ben woke up in his hospital room he saw his mother and father by his side with a mirror. Ben had the biggest grin on his face.

But as Ben looked around the room he felt an urgency, where was his brother Ken? Ben frantically looked left and right, right and left, but could not see his twin.  Ben quickly stood on his feet ready to bust out of the room to find his brother. He heard a flushing sound from the bathroom and out came his twin Ken in his own body. The brothers hugged and cried tears of joy that they both got what they wanted.

Nataly and Derrick teared up as they saw both their sons for the first time be their own. It took some adjusting but Ben and Ken came out strong. The twins graduated high school. Both applied colleges that interested them. Ben went off to Texas to study math and computer science, while Ken went off to New York to study fashion and music engineering.

Nataly and Derrick were proud of them both and happy to see them take off on their own and study what had interested them.  Even though thousands [of] miles apart, the twins could still feel one another and would always be spiritually attached.

Stressfull Life

Cornelius Jones

Nonfiction, Heard/Arlington County Detention Facility writing contest, August 2021

Growing up and living, being a black person can be hard and stressfull because nine times out of ten you get stereyotyped. Sometimes I find it hard to believe their are still racists people in the world.

Not liking a person for a specific reason is one thing but to hate a person for the color of their skin is outrageous to me. I never was the racist type. I myself have white friends. That’s like saying I hate white people because they inslaved my people.

I don’t understand why more white people are still and openly racists. Black people as a whole got over it so why can’t they? Nowadays a lot of people will say life is what you make it but I have met so many people who was booked up of the first crime they committed and either did jail time or labeled a felon or a criminal. A lot of times, to me it don’t make sense and I’m sure a lot of people would agree. The fact is there are more black people than whites incarcerated. Theirs no way around the truth.

Then you have racists police officers who swore an oath to protect and serve but ran racists gangs inside of the system who abuse authority. They are shooting and killing my brothers and sisters dead in the street. My people get locked up for anything instead of the help they need and I don’t think it’s right.

A lot of people don’t get the help they need until it’s to late and most of them are dead. Growing up I watched my brother die do to street violence and drug overdose because they had no guidance or help.

Going to jail doesn’t make it any better, its called being institutionalized. Jail causes stress and leads you downhill.

I know jail is for criminals but just because someone commits a crime doesn’t mean they are a criminal. Everyone makes mistakes plus the law is unfair. A lot of people who never been in jail are categorized as an inmate may read this and say of course jail isn’t fair coming from someone incarcerated but if the shoe where on the other foot I bet they would agree.

Growing up in a certain neighorhoods are most of the times is hard and can lead to a lot of trauma and stress.

Like watching your loved one die in front of you, fighting for your life, and even getting into street fights.

Hearing gunshots, getting shot is another example that can lead you down the wrong path to a stressfull life. I know because I lived it and I am currently at my breaking point. A lot of people also deal with being bullied, which can be worse in some situations, it can go beyond stress and lead to suicide.

I never had a person bully me but I was a quiet person you can say antisocial most of the time. I didn’t talk so people would test me a lot and press my buttons which gave me no choice but the defend myself

Bullys are a real thing in school, neighborhoods, jail, outside and even in work, professional environments. On top of what the average person deals with on a daily basis that can be stressful having to deal with bullies.

It’s a scientific fact that being bullied can cause stress [which] can shorten your life span.

I Use to Dream

R. Goss 

Second place, Nonfiction, Heard/Arlington County Detention Facility writing contest, August 2021

As a child I have a very vivid imagination. My thoughts and dreams were clear pictures of everything from cowboys and Indians to moonwalks in outerspace, nothing wasn’t fun. With a little time and mental energy my brothers and I could defeat Dragons or swing through the jungle with Tarzan leading our way.

As our boyhoods left us we turned our thoughts to older exploits like who would get the first kiss, how would we make it through jr high, or was it possible to be the running back on the school football team?

Now that I’m a man wounded and scared by my hard life I’ve lossed the ability to recall old thoughts, play mind games like chess, or just find pleasure in remembrance of last nights dreams.

Age has brought me a long way, now that I’m here I’d give a fortune to return to the times when I could be anyone, go to any place, or just draw out my days activities based on last nights journeys.

Our minds are wonderful things we can use it to be the greatest of thinkers of plotter of heinous crimes. No child lays in there beds at night with ill thoughts hoping they’d come true. As adults we need to return to our boyhoods in remembrance of the kids who played with giants, flew with Eagles and swam with Dolphins.

Thats the minds we can use to live inside these old bodies on this Hard unimaginable cold world.

Girl Dad

Lewis Rose 

Nonfiction, Heard/Arlington County Detention Facility writing contest, August 2021

She’s here born April 20,2008 weighing 8 ads 10 oz A beautiful little girl name Damariah Waller. If it was up to me she would have my last name, unfortunately at the time me in my daughter mother wasn’t in A great place, so by her giving my daughter he[r] last name she felt as though she was getting back at me, but that’s another story.

Damariah was born A beautiful healthy little girl at Fairfax Hospital, after spending 3 or 4 days in the hospital we were able to take my heart in human form home with us, the was probably the second best day of my life, the first best day of my life was when my daughter was born. The first couple of months of my daughter being home, I can admit it was hard, but with the help of all of the grandparents we managed to get by. Our parents took some leave from their jobs, in it was truly appreciated because without them I wouldn’t know where we would be, at the time when my daughter was born I was just starting my job with A construction company so I couldn’t take off so soon, but my supervisor was understanding because he was once in my shoes, so he started letting me get off early. Which was A blessing because not only could I take some pressure off of my daughter mother, but the grandparents as well, but most important I had time to bond with my daughter in get the hang of things with an infant, I also got to learn my daughter more, so I appreciate everything, in everybody that help me out with the transitioning of my daughter being born in the world.

My daughter has made me grow alot, in mature, now I understand what my parents went through raising me in my sister, because raising A child isn’t easy, and the saying time flies, it really does because before I knew it my daughter was starting Pre-School which was A task within itself but I loved every moment of it. She was still A kid., my kid but she was growing, and in a way it was scary, but these were the moments I cherished because as you sit there in reflect about how you can create something so small that looks exactly like you, it really is A gift from God, and how they evolve into being everything you’ve ever wanted while being themselves is A beautiful thing.

Damariah has grown to be quite the young lady, smart, talented, great personality, and beautiful, she’s the perfect child in my eyes. Damariah has been on the cheerleading team since the age 6, in she has also been on the dance team since the age 6, in she’s good at both of them, she has actually made the AAU team for both cheerleading in Dance. She enjoys dancing in cheering with her friends also, but most importantly we make sure her grades are right, in school work is done. And if she’s not cheering or dancing, she’s playing her DSS with her friends, she only has two game she plays Fortnite, or WWF Wrestling, which me in her mother don’t mind as long as her school work is completed. Damariah is A really good kid, and as she was about to graduate 4th grade in go into the 5th Grade, me in her sat down in had a talk in I told her that she was going to be a big sister, she always wanted a sister or brother, so when we had our talk she was very excited that she was going to have a little sister, she actually started suggesting baby names, in one day she came to me in said daddy can we name my little sister Destiny which I thought was the perfect name, because she chose a name that started with the letter D. Just like her name, and my middle name starts with the later as well which is DaJuan so it was perfect. So the morning of September 24, 2017 I sent Damaria off to school, in as soon as I back in the house I had to rush my soon to be wife to the hospital because her water broke, so while I was in the process of rushing to the hospital, I had to call my mom in fill her in on what was going on, and to have her pick Damariah up from school. Now I’m sitting here in the Labor room, the same place Damariah was born 9 yrs ago at Fairfax Hospital, waiting on the arrival of baby Destiny. Destiny was born at 5:26 pm weighting 7 pds 13 oz, looking exactly like Damariah in her father, I thought Damariah looked just like me but when Destiny was born she was a spitting image of me, it’s kinda of scary because when I look at both of my daughter, I looked exactly like the both of them when I was younger in my baby pics, and as I’m older seeing the both of my daughters grow from when I watched the both of them birthed we still look exactly alike. In the both of my daughters have me in the palm of their hand, they most definitely have the keys to my heart. When Damariah got to the hospital in seen her little sister, I think she was more happier than me that her sister was here, in I love the bond they share, she’s really playing the big sister role in you can tell she loves Destiny. My two hearts in Rare Form. Destiny tries to do everything she sees Damariah doing in if she can’t she will throw a fit, eery dance move her big sister does she tries to do it, it’s cute in funny at the same time, you have to see for yourself to actually know what I’m talking about.

At this current time Damariah is 13 going to the 8th grade, in Destiny is 3 about to turn 4 yrs old this September getting ready for Pre-School. I miss you guys so much that words can’t describe and I’m truly sorry for being away from you all this long. I promise it won’t happen again. I’ll see the both of you sooner than you think, but until then I Love you guys in stop giving mommy a hard time.

Chance at Life


Second place, fiction, Heard/Arlington County Detention Center writing contest, August 2021

Chance is a 13 year old boy from Arlington, VA. Growing up, Chance always wanted to [be] someone great, somebody who makes a difference in the world. He wanted to be known as someone other than the Fairwell family’s odd ball, that wouldn’t amount t[o] anything. The other members of the Fairwell family all had something they were known for. They were always showing up in the county paper for their accomplishments.

Chance’s older brother, Tommy (16) was known for his athleticism. He’s one of the top best football players and track and field stars in the Northern VA region.  Along with 2 other guys from our rival school. Tommy’s won so many metals, trophies and awards that his mother ran out of space on their many bookshelves that line there living room walls.  He gets calls from scouts from all over offering him all kinds of stuff for him to join there team.

Zion (14), Chance’s second oldest brother, is a science wiz. At just 14, he is already known for creating a model of a human brain that showed which parts of the brain effects the different parts of the body, [which] parts effect emotion and if damaged (say in a car crash) how it effect the persons behavers.  Zion has studied under some of the world’s top [neuroscientists] who he still considers his mentors and close friends to this day.

Chances brother weren’t the only ones in the family with a [passion] and drive to do and be something great.  There parents David and Karla Fairwell were also very talented and driven people. Mr. Fairwill [is] known as a no nonsense lawyer.  With his track record of an almost 95% [conviction] rate speak from itself. As for Miss. Fairwill, shes known for not only her beauty but also for her delicious pies. Her number one being apple. That has numerous blue ribbon over the years.

Always finding joy in helping others, Chance would volunteer at the local homeless shelter.  Almost every day after school and sometimes even on weekends. They was one person in particular that he was drawn to and that person was Chuck.

Chuck was a 62 year old Vietnam vet who everyone swor was crazy and had lost his mind because of the war and years of drug and alcohol abuse. Chance found him to be very sane and actually very smart. They would sit, talk and play chess for hours. Chuck shared with Chance how he was once married to a beautiful woman named Nancy. Nancy unfortunately passed away almost ten years ago.

That is when Chuck started going downhill. The loss of his beautiful wife put Chuck in a dark depressed place. He would drink until he passed out and then he would wake up and drink some more. This cycle continued untill he lost his job and the house that he shared with his wife [which] is how he ended up on the streets.

Since meeting Chance something changed in Chuck. He began to clean himself up. With help from Chance Chuck got into therapy. Found some NA/AA meeting in the area. Chance gave Chuck in his future. He motivated him to change for the better and get clean and on his feet to want better out of life.

Chance would go on to help others in the shelter get there lives back. By the time he graduated from high school Chance had help over 30 people get out of the selter and liveing better lives.  He started a nonprofit to help people with finding the help that they needed. From mental health, substance abuse, or even housing. He would even help supply thing like food, toiletries, blankets shoes and socks and other clothings.

Chance had finally found his calling and went on to help many more. Always with a smile on his face, open mind and ear for anyone who needed to talk. He has touch the hearts of so many people over the year. The number one thing he would always let them know was that its never to late for a second chance at life…

The End

Okay, Not Okay

Michael D. Nash

First place, nonfiction, Heard/Arlington County Detention Facility writing contest, August 2021

With over 7.5 billion people on this earth, each and every one of us possesses many different characteristics that uniquely separates us from each other. Because we process and react to life’s mysterious experiences at our own individual pace(s), there are exponential amounts of risk factors that must be considered so that we can know how to best move forward with our lives. More often than not, especially through negative and/or violent experiences, the average person tends to suffer from some form of mental health illness at some varying level. If severe enough, the effects of those traumas will produce a plethora of debilitating physical and psychological deficiencies upon the person(s) affected.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t help either how commonplace it is, especially as Americans, to shun and ridicule people who are probably already hesitant to either actively seek the proper help; let alone even admit that they may have a problem. I felt compelled to write about this issue because I’m empathetic to the despair of others’ concerns during these highly uncertain times. With great uncertainty comes great misery. Imagine free-falling into a vast, infinite void that you’re never sure of when/if you’ll ever make it out. So who’s going to bare the weight of the millions of people suffering from depression? Or the many victims of drug, alcohol, verbal, physical, and sexual abuse?

I commend those that are courageous enough to put themselves out there to help someone else in their time of need. Some of the largest advocates in the movement are celebrities and professional athletes. Shout-out to tennis star Naomi Osaka, Olympic Gold Medalist and swimmer Michael Phelps, former NFL Quarterback Andrew Luck, NBA Champion Kevin Love, and up-and-coming track star Sha’Carri Richardson for putting several familiar faces on the subject of mental health. Their valiant efforts have provided a powerful voice for the voiceless. Singers like Mary J. Blige and Toni Braxton understand that having fame and wealth doesn’t automatically guarantee us peace of mind. With prior underlying issues either present or dorment, additional adversity may materialize from such circumstances.

A wise man once made mention that with more money, there comes more problems. Another thing all of the people mentioned before can relate to is how painful it is to be trapped in that dark place. Conjuring up negative, harmful thoughts/intentions. Although I’ve never had any suicidal thoughts, even up to this point in my incarceration; I understand how overwhelming life can be in every facet. One thing to never be mistaken is the significant psychological toll it takes being an inmate. Not everyone is built for the jail/prison environment.

My first few weeks being locked up did not come easy. Never in a billion lifetimes would I have envisioned myself in my current situation. There were many times throughout this experience when I’ve felt confined to and conflicted in a deep funk. I felt extremely betrayed by someone special to me. Someone I would have done anything for. Nothing made any sense whatsoever. So when I was having those terrifying nightmares early on, they really got to me. The worst part was being reminded by my cell lights waking me up every morning that I was living in a 24/7 nightmare. I was going through it.

Finding myself at the brink of self-implosion on more than several instances and overcoming those burdens has humbled me in ways I almost may have never imagined before. One thing I can certainly attest to is that it takes extraordinary patience in dealing with so many different and oftentimes difficult personalities. As well as the strange, adverse situations. There have been plenty of memorable events in my time away from society. Whether it was competing in a Backgammon tournament, learning to break dance from an ex-NFL Cheerleader, knowing a guy who killed himself in jail, or receiving the news that I lost a family member at the age of 27 a few months into my stay here. I felt really vexed in knowing that he was coming in and out of a coma before eventually being taken off of life support. Some things just can’t simply be forgotten. To this day those occurrences are still surreal. They’re harsh but necessary reminders that life moves faster than we could ever realize and can change in the blink of an eye.

I’ve learned not to take anyone or anything for granted. My journey has forced me to see how much of a mental battle imprisonment is. On the plus-side, however, I’ve been blessed with the contentment of knowing how and when to just sit back and stay still. Something seemingly as simple as taking time away from stressing about the things out of our control and just focusing on being grateful and recovering from tragedy is greatly overlooked and undervalued by many inmates because they aren’t in the correct frame of mind and maybe lack the discipline. I had to realize for myself before anything else that I am stronger than this situation and eventually I did.

Having a solid support system in all of this has played a major contributing role in my ascension as well. Knowing that there’s someone to confide in means so much to me because sometimes it’s not about searching for answers or seeking advice. It’s about speaking your mind and expressing your thoughts, your joys and your frustrations. It’s about being heard. To me that’s one of the greatest feelings in the world.

I take life one day at a time and continue to actively challenge myself physically, mentally, and spiritually to remain sharp. Regardless of whatever happens in my near and distant future, I do not have many worries about prosperity. I am optimistic because of my faith and I encourage everyone going through hardships to become more spiritually involved and connected. It may not change instantaneously, but your life will get better. Be proud of who you are. Remember where you came from and never be ashamed in yourself. Let me reassure you that there’s nothing wrong with making yourself vulnerable sometimes. As long as it is with the intent to learn and grow. And it’s perfectly okay to not be okay right now. Seek the proper professional help when necessary and lend a helping hand to a loved one or someone in need. Realize and utilize your talents and your purpose in this world. Always count your blessings and thank the Lord for them any chance you get.

There’s so much to live for so find that inner-strength whenever you’re in doubt. Once you stand firm in your beliefs and set/achieve realistic goals for yourself, your success will shine through your personality. So stand strong and never give up. The universe has an intriguing way of giving back to you what you put in. Soon enough you will reap the sweet fruits of your labor.