Sunday 16 June 2019

SAFE GROUND: 'Truth and Hope' by Stephen H

Flash Flood is continuing its 2019 National Flash Fiction Day celebration with a day of flash written on the theme of 'epiphany' by men at HMP Wandsworth who were participants of Safe Ground's Flash Fiction Project workshops.  You can read more about Safe Ground and the story behind this work in our introduction to this series.

'Truth and Hope'
by Stephen H

It is now that fateful day of reckoning, the day I never thought would materialize, well not like this. The 27th of January 2017. Amazingly I had slept well the night before, thinking just before I drifted off, of the inscription on King Edward III’s shield in a jousting tournament, ‘It is what it is.’

My sister, Jill, drove me from her house, where I had been staying, to Bedford rail station. It was typical cold, dark, misty morning, visibility was poor, I recall. Was this to be my last journey of what had become a regular commute? Would I be coming back? A dilemma – purchase a single ticket or a return? I chose a single, why tempt fate?

I was in a zone whilst travelling on the train, having no recollection of boarding it. I am ordinarily a phlegmatic person, well I thought so. Today I was lugubrious.

My co-defendants had been remanded into custody on the 18th. Fortunately I had been given continued bail, so I had hope, whilst I knew that they were doomed. One of them I cared not an iota about - no compassion. The other is a man that I had known for over twenty-five years, Simon, a former solicitor and deputy district judge. The journey to Southwark Crown Court took no longer than normal. My fate would be known by the end of the day. The peculiarity was not, I was not concerned for me. It was for my loved ones and how they would feel and cope. That concentrated my mind for the entire journey. I reflected I still had my freedom; I still had hope of being handed down a suspended sentence.

I arrived at Southwark Crown Court to the usual melee of navigating through security. The rush of unpacking and re-packing the contents of your bag, had become less stressful over the twelve-week trial period as the familiarity between myself and the security guards transcended into a more lackadaisical, cavalier attitude to inspecting what they had seen in my bag time and time again.

I entered into what was to be the last trip in one of the two elevators that ever worked. The third never worked in the whole twelve weeks I was there. On pushing the button for the third floor I wondered if the third elevator would ever work again. Why should I care?

On the ‘ding’ I turned right to be greeted by my daughter, Lucie. I had turned right some fifty times before simply to walk to Court 13.

‘Hi, Dad. You look well.’ She was always a delight, from when she was a toddler.

‘I don’t exactly feel it,’ I said.

‘The press gallery was full.’

I wasn’t surprised. I knew it would be as Simon’s position as a Judge had all the ingredients given the missing money and the lover’s tryst, with Emma, the other defendant. Embellishment by the tabloids beckoned.

When I entered the courtroom it was packed. I felt an air of silence when I entered the dock unaccompanied. I sat there alone. The door was locked behind me. My last day of freedom? There was still hope, I thought.

With that, Simon and his former lover who he had been besotted with years ago, which to this sorry ending of this tale, entered the dock from the cells below. The court room hushed, the packed gallery settled. Simon looked forlornly at his wife in the gallery. He looked ashen.

‘How is it?’ I asked, knowing he had been incarcerated at Wandsworth Prison.

‘A dreadful experience,’ he said. ‘An experience.’The next ten minutes, or was it two and a half hours were surreal. The judge entered, the hush continued. As he recapped the events leading up to the conviction, my mind wandered. This was not my sentencing. It was that of the other two. All I recall is the judges face grimacing, screwing up and growing redder as he became more vocal. And then the words, the only words that I heard – ‘Six years!’ And then the even more fateful words of ‘Send them down!’

It was now lunchtime. How had two and a half hours passed so quickly.

‘Mr. Hiseman can be released from the dock for the lunchtime recess,’ the Judge said.

‘Court rise!’ the clerk to the court bellowed.

Lucie came up to me. ‘Dad, you still have hope.’

‘We’ll see,’ I said. ‘It will be what it will be.’


You can follow Safe Ground on Twitter @Safe_Ground.

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