Untitled (Alchemy Reflected)

Darren Hanible

Third place, Fiction, Arlington County Detention Facility/Heard/OAR writing contest,  October 2023

 (handwritten story follows typed story)

 Of course the alchemist didn’t teach me alchemy. I’m no sheep. Exactly when did those 48 laws go through the House and Senate? Which president dropped the ball on that veto?

I fear often of breaking powerful laws, for surely it must follow powerful law enforcement. The enforcers read Sun Tzu. There’s a new tank in my township so I guess it’s safe to say they prefer war. 3 years consecutive in Iraq. Hours clocked, plentiful job experience. I have this unprofessional doubt he’s more than fit for the job. Serve the country, serve the community.

Look at the art, I prefer art. I think of Banksy’s bow tie helicopter from my past. Full circle. On second thought, was it a bow tie or a bow, like the one on the tank. What a present. Of course I didn’t learn alchemy.

I’ve never left this country. When I’m an old man will there still be one for me? The powerful enforcers of powerful laws read Sun Tzu. As did I….once.

I prefer art. I see the art in most things. Life reflects art, reflects life, reflects art reflects. Mirrors reflect, light refracts.

I didn’t start with that man. In the beginning there was. Light refracts, mirrors reflect, life reflects art reflects life reflects.

Did you see that mural? Those murals? I haven’t seen them all but, art reflects, life reflects, mirrors reflect, lakes reflect. The willow on this on the bank is weeping because the lakes water is mostly tears. Art reflects…life reflects…lakes reflect…eyes reflect.

There’s a depth to reflection, and still, all reflection requires a surface. His career experience kept him in our community. His colleagues marched right past that mural. They read Sun Tzu. They prefer war.

Art reflects, life reflects, art reflects, life reflects, mirrors reflect, light refracts.

I didn’t start with that man. The light was at the beginning. I’ll gladly let you borrow my book, but you won’t learn alchemy. Powerful enforcement for powerful laws. May I suggest Sun Tzu?

I prefer art.

Pardon me officer, which agency exactly enforces the universal law? Universal law enforcement. Powerful enforcement for powerful laws.

One more question officer, which way is the mural? I took a weekend off to see some art in this city. I haven’t seen all the murals.

Art reflects life reflects art reflects life reflects. Light.

There was light in the beginning. Light refracts mirrors reflect, art reflects, life reflects, lakes reflect, eyes reflect.

Can a surface be deep? I prefer art. I need rest. I sat under the willow on the bank of the lake. It still weeps. I’ve heard the lakes water is mostly tears. I left my phone. It’s better we not be sheep, at least sometimes,

I only have one book. I sit under the shade of the tree. I never left this country. When I’m an old man will there be a country left for me? Will I be an old man?

I prefer art. I opened the book & read. Of course I’m not going to learn alchemy, but I remember there being light at the beginning. Light refracts. I love art. My eyes take in the surface of the pages.

Art reflects. As does life, mirrors, eyes… and lakes. Maybe surfaces can be deep. Light refracts. I remember it at the beginning. Light can be hot. It’s getting hot. I walked to the edge of the bank. The willow weeps. The sun has moved so the shade is no longer cast the same.

The light is hot. Such a beautiful reflection on the lakes surface. The willow, the skies, a bird, a dragonfly.

I prefer art. I almost didn’t notice my own reflection. Life reflects. Surfaces can have depth. Light refracts. The light is hot. Maybe I’ll go for a swim.

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 …

Rock Monster: A love Story

by John Parker

Second Place winner, Fiction, Arlington County Detention Facility/Heard/OAR writing contest, October 2023

(handwritten story follows typed story)

“We’re rich, Sugarbutt”, Johnny said as he lit up a half-smoked Lucky Strike that was found laying on the windowsill along with the rest of the butts.  It was early on a Saturday morning and Johnny was wide awake with anticipation.  The thought of having sixty thousand dollars come Monday morning had the gears in his junkie mind grinding overtime.  Smoking crack pretty much consumed his life on a daily basis since about two weeks into his relationship with Melissa.  What began as a typical beach romance quickly turned into Bobby and Whitney reincarnated.

When it came to the drug life, Melissa was greener than Leprechaun piss.  A single mom living on an Army pension meets a strung-out ex-con.  The closest she had ever come to the world Johnny introduced her to was watching Boyz-in-the-hood.  But Johnny managed to fast track her education and in no time, she could have graduated with a masters in rock-o-lo-gy.  It was a toxic relationship.  But they didn’t just fight hard, they loved hard too.  Like a river that runs through the forest …  nice to look at but beneath the surface there was a hostile undercurrent that quickly pulled you under and drug you away.

And that’s exactly what happened.   There was no telling when or even if they would resurface.  “Two more days, Sugar, and we are going on a road trip that’s gonna make National Lampoon’s Vacation look like an episode of the Travel Channel.  I say we head down to Florida first and get some of that Pablo Escobar Grade A shit and then head up to see your Dad in Indiana.”  Johnny had a way with words and although this adventure wasn’t going to be anything other than a crack house on wheels, he could make it sound like it was all about his Babydoll and what was best for her.  “You haven’t seen him in a long time, Sugar, and he’s only gettin’ older.  Might be a good idea to pay him a visit just in case you don’t get another chance.”  That piece of advice would turn out to be the best advice Johnny would ever give her.  One month after their visit to see him, her dad passed away.

“Dammit, Johnny, what sense does it make if we’re leaving South Carolina and going to Indiana, that we drive all the way to Florida first?  All you care about is getting high, and I hope you don’t think we are just gonna smoke all that money up?  I need to fix our credit that you destroyed and find us a place to live.” said Melissa.

“I destroyed,” Johnny replied.  “You mean WE destroyed.  You been suckin’ that glass dick like the female version of Rick James.”

Melissa didn’t have a leg to stand on when it came to that point of reason, but at this moment it didn’t matter who was right.  It was Melissa who was getting the money and Johnny made sure to remember that.

Melissa stepped out onto the front porch where Johnny was sitting.  She lit her cigarette from the short he was smoking and sat down on his lap.  The whole situation was bittersweet for her.  Though it ended up being a financially good move to sell the house, it was the reasons why she had to sell that hurt.  This chapter of their Rockstar Romance was over.  Hopefully the next chapter would be better.  They had no way of knowing what was in store, but they were ready and had sixty thousand dollars to get there.

Their first stop:  the dope man.



by Letecia Burch

First place winner, Fiction, Arlington County Detention Facility/Heard/OAR writing contest, August 2022

I grew up with a woman who inhabited a different world

from the loving carefree mothers of my friends.

Not saying she didn’t love me.

She showed it in a different way.

I had more of a friend than a mother

I couldn’t tell them apart

and definitely didn’t know where to start.

My mothers feelings were like intense colors—

fiery reds, soft pinks, earthy greens and the deepest slate gray.

Why should I write of teardrops falling

if your no longer there to wipe them away.

Silently obscuring the timeless tells that follow.

Who’s fingers traced the outline of my face

when I cried tears of sorrow

not knowing I’m on borrowed time.

Soon youd leave and this time I cant call or follow

for a beautiful soul who would never come back

I try and catch my breath

when I feel the panic attack.

It might be quicker and silent to sink into quicksand

to disappear beneath its surface

I’ve always thought and been told

pick your head up you have a purpose

It’d be so much easier to just let go but I cant

because of not the chance of seeing her again

is so clear seeing the pearly white gates of heaven

I can’t wait to be with you again.

In art class they taught us that sunlight contains all the colors of the rainbow.

You were my sunlight.

You taught me how to find a rainbow.

You’ll forever be in my heart.

What Goes on at the County Jail

What Goes on at the County Jail

by Bullard

Third place winner, Fiction, Arlington County Detention Facility/Heard/OAR writing contest, August 2022


  1. Where the commissary is the bail

While the frail

Complain that the milk is spoiled

And the bread is way too stale

  1. Meanwhile,

Mail is also being pass-out like a

Hygiene kit

To all those

I suppose

That is willing to use it

  1. You see

Everybody knows that a shower

Can devour


Along with the help of some soap

It shouldn’t hurt

  1. And speaking of pain

What about the insane

Thought of having a smelly celly

The type that lies thru his teeth

Even on the tele

One of the reasons why….

  1. The phone ,ay be hard to use


Since there are those that want to


  1. From a candle lit

To a fuse

  1. From a word that curse

To a nice nurse

That’ll come to your aid

With a bottle of Gatorade

  1. From the county of Dade

All the way to the county jail

Where the “fresh flavor”

Is a savior

Similar to what spinach does for

Popeye the sailor

  1. From Brutus to Olive Oil

Some may feel as if they’re in

“Hot Water”

And no Im not talking about the kind

That boil

  1. Good grief!!
  1. From a deputy to a police chief
  1. From sweetgreen to sweetleaf
  1. With this Imma keep it brief

And say to all that red

  1. Thank-you


Have a nice day

  1. Even if the clouds in the sky are in

50 shades of a darker gray.