Eli stepped into the building and found a gated area with some guy behind it playing on his phone. Another guy came walking out of the security door and did something on the computer sitting on the counter.
“See ya, Mike,” the guy behind the counter said.
Mike headed out of the building without more than a toss of a hand to wave back to the guy at the counter. Eli took a few steps forward.
“Er…” Eli had no idea what to say.
The guy put his phone away. “Name?”
“Eli..uh, Elijah Ryder.” Eli looked back to the door. Was this really where he was going to be staying? The place was not what he expected. It was more rundown than the place he grew up in—and that was saying something.
“Ah, yup, here you are.” He said after typing on the computer that was in front of him. “Let me call up Janet and let her know you are here.”
“Your PO. You need to meet her first and then she’ll help check you in to your new home.”
Janet wasn’t much older than Eli. She also had a scowl on her face, and Eli was betting it was a permanent feature. That, or she had been doing this for so long, that she just expected the worse from everyone.
Eli nodded. “Yeah.”
“Follow me.” He followed her into an office, past the gated off area. “Take a seat.”
Eli put his stuff down by the chair and sat. He was nervous, that was for sure.
“I’m Janet Miller. I’ll be your Parole Officer for the unforeseeable future.” Janet pulled out a document and handed it to Eli. “Memorize this. These are the things you want to avoid. You break any of these rules or regulations, you break probation. I don’t have time to go through it all. So learn it, Elijah.”
She put a cup on the desk next. “You’ll be giving me a piss test. And yes, you will be given mandatory piss tests. For the next two years, this is your home. You will have a curfew. You break that curfew, you break your parole. Don’t break your parole.”
Eli gave a nod. “Understood.”
“Curfew is at ten p.m. Sunday through Thursday. Eleven on Friday and Saturday. You have one month to get a job. I have a list here of places that are hiring. From your record, it states that you worked as a mechanic inside prison?”
“Good. There’s plenty of garages looking to hire, and some gas stations. There’s also some bus boy jobs in there. Now, first the piss test, and then I will take you up to your new home.”
Eli quickly gathered his things and followed this Janet woman out and to a restroom. She handed him the cup. “Keep the door open.”
“Seriously?” Eli balked.
Eli huffed and went to the urinal and pissed right into the cup. Thankfully after peeing in front of Roy for the last ten years he wasn’t all that shy. He pulled up his sweats and capped off the cup before handing it to his new PO. She was worse than all the COs at the State Prison.
She turned and he gathered his stuff again and quickly followed her to an elevator. “Fifth floor,” she stated to Eli and pushed the number five button. Once on the fifth floor, Janet led him to a door. “Room 504. Welcome home.” She opened the door, and Eli stepped into the worst dump he’d ever been in.
“It’s not much, but you’ll get used to it. Here is my number.” She handed him a business card. “If you need anything call me. I usually will answer night or day. If I don’t leave a message.”
“Got it. Thanks.”
“Good luck, Elijah.” She left and closed the door.
Eli put his shit down on top of the crappy table. He looked around and went back to the box. He dug through his personal belongings he had gotten from the prison. Inside he found his wallet, and there was another ten dollar bill in there. He found an old hat. The clothes he had dug out and changed into back at the prison, but there was his old jersey he had. He tossed it on the floor. He didn’t want anything to remind him of his past. When he saw all his old ear rings, he tossed those too. His holes in his ears had long since closed, and Eli wasn’t going back to that punk he once was.
He checked out the apartment and made a list of items that he would need. Bed sheets, a set of clothes, a set of bathroom essentials, and a couple of towels. Once he had the list, he headed out of his crap-tastic apartment.
When he got downstairs he was stopped by the guy behind the desk. “Yo, you gotta sign out.”
Eli turned. “Huh?”
The counter guy pointed to the computer on the counter. “You have to sign out. Anytime you leave, you have to sign out. Didn’t you at least go over the papers Janet gave you? It’s like the first thing on the list.”
Eli shook his head. “Nah. Not yet. I plan on doing it after I get some food. Where do I sign?” Eli was directed on how to sign himself out of the building. “And I sign back in, I take it?”
“Yeah, man, and we keep a record. This and the cameras not only help us know who’s coming in and out, but it saves a lot of us in here on some chump charges. It’s like our alibi, man. So, don’t forget to sign in, or out.”
“Got it. Thanks. I’m Eli, by the way.”
“Eric. And welcome to this shit-hole.”
Eli snorted. “You’re telling me. I thought the piece of shit place I grew up was bad. See you around, Eric. Gotta get some food and some new clothes.”
Eli went to the closest thrift shop he could find. It was the same old dump of a place he remembered. His mom had bought all of his and his brothers’ and sister’s clothes at Waldon’s Thrifty. Eli checked out the pants, the shirts, and picked a few other items he would need – like new sheets and towels. He’d have to go to a better shop for underwear and socks, because no way was he going to buy those used. Ew.
After almost the entire afternoon looking around and going to a few more shops, he was done.
He headed toward the half-way house, and stopped nearby at a food cart for a burrito. He ate and watched some guys play basketball. Eli already missed going out to the yard and playing cards with Roy, and shooting hoops with the other guys.
He finished his food and headed back to his new home, signing in quickly before taking the elevator up. He would have to get used to that—signing in and out. That was new.
The week that followed, Eli headed out every morning, bright and early out the doors. He had a list—a long list of employment opportunities. He had yet to find a job. As soon as the owner or manager asked if he had any priors, they either slammed the door or said, “We’ll…we’ll keep you posted.” Eli was pretty sure that was code for never gonna happen.
Eli took the subway train toward the downtown area. He had yet to hit this area, and there were plenty of gas stations and garages that were hiring. First on the list, was a shell station. He headed straight there from the station and stopped in his tracks.
“Shit.” Eli was pretty sure his PO didn’t look at the list close enough. There was no fucking way anyone would hire him there. No way. Eli shook his head. Still, there was a wanted poster. Did he dare step inside the place? Last time he was there, he scared the shit out of some poor teenage girl and stole a couple hundred bucks from the cash register.
Eli turned around and crossed off the gas station from his list. He went to the next place, and the next. By the time he got home, he had crossed off more gas stations and garages off his list. No one was willing to hire a known felon.
By the end of his second week, Eli was starting to worry. He even called his PO and asked if she had another list. She didn’t. Eli spent another day up between Uptown and Downtown looking for something—anything that would get him hired. There were a few helpful managers. Though they wouldn’t hire Eli, they did tell him to try “Marv’s.”
After the sixth rejection that week, he asked the owner. “Do you know a place called Marv’s?”
“Sure. It’s Marv’s Auto Repair down on 6th. He’s a good guy. You should talk to him.”
Eli nodded and thanked the owner, and headed toward 6th street. Marv’s was a little run-down auto repair shop. There was a Wanted poster on the window. Eli took a deep breath. He had run out of places on Janet’s list, so this was really his last option.
He went inside to find the front part of the store empty. “Hello?”
A dude with grease and oil stains all over him came out and wiped his hands on a rag. “Can I help you?”
“Uh, yeah. I noticed you’re hiring, and a few people all have suggested for me to try my luck over here.”
The guy took out a form and placed it on the counter. “Fill it out.”
Eli noticed the tats on the guy’s arms. He noticed more of the ink and style, and Eli was pretty sure this man wouldn’t care he was a convicted felon. Still, he had to know. “I’m on parole. Is that…is that going to be problem?”
“How much time you serve?”
With a one arm shrug, the guy gave him Eli a warming smile. “I got you beat. Did almost twenty. You just get out?”
“Yeah, two weeks ago. Need a job or…”
“I got it, man. It ain’t easy, is it? They tell us we got to get back in society, but society kicks us down to the ground. I’m Marv, by the way.”
“Eli.” Eli shook Marv’s hand.
“You got any mechanical experience?”
“Some. It’s what I did in the prison.”
He snickered. “Well, that’s more than I had when I got out. Come on to the back, and I’ll show you around. You can start tomorrow, right?”
Eli gaped. Was he serious? “You’re hiring me?”
“Yeah. I need another set of hands around here, and you need a job. It ain’t going to be easy, Eli, but we’ll make it work.”
Eli had never felt so grateful in his entire life. He followed Marv to the back, and couldn’t keep himself from grinning. There was a sports car with a wheel off, and a truck with the hood still up. “This is my shop. I got the gas station out front, and the garage in back. I’ll give you Sundays and Mondays off. What do you say?”
“Sounds good, Marv. Sounds really good.”
“Okay then. I’ll see you tomorrow.”