A Long Hard Trip
Nothing about the trip to see Morgan was easy. Kitty had to get on an airplane for the first time. Cal wanted to go along with her but he couldn’t because of a date with the judge who was deciding on his divorce settlement. Kitty didn’t want to wait until after Christmas. It was all hurried because she felt such an overwhelming urgency to see her brother first. She thought he was the one, of all her family, who was in the most desperate situation. At least that was what Kitty reasoned.
The plane took off under a dark sky, threatening storm but holding off for the moment. They flew from New York to Nashville and then Kitty had to change to a commuter plane that would take her to Princeton Kentucky, where she would rent a car to drive to the penitentiary. At the last minute Alva told her maybe she shouldn’t go alone, maybe she should wait until Cal could go too, but by then Kitty was so worked up she felt she had no choice anymore. It was beyond determination. She was now on a mission. She just wasn’t sure whose fate was at stake anymore.
She had called the information line at the penitentiary to find out when she could visit, under what circumstances, if she had to alert her brother first, whether there were rules about bringing him some sort of gift. There were plenty of rules and regulations. She wrote them all down. She planned her trip around them. She brought two boxes of cookies, which would be searched, and she brought some post cards of New York so her brother could write to her afterwards. She made reservations at a motel in Old Eddyville. She looked up the penitentiary on the Web. She read about how old it was – 100 years – where it was located – overlooking Lake Barkley – what kind of construction it was – stone – and she studied as many pictures of it as she could find. It was a huge old turn-of-the-20th- century bastion, imposing, immutable.
But when she stood outside its doors, no amount of preparation could have made a difference in how she felt as she was lined up in the middle of hundreds of other visitors, searched, photographed, questioned, sequestered. She went through metal detectors and had to prove her identity three different times to three different people. She went through a series of clanging doors down hallways that were dim and cold, into waiting rooms and then other waiting rooms. Finally she was led, with a group of about thirty other visitors, to a holding room where they were further questioned and then split into smaller groups. One of these – hers – was led into a general room with long tables at which there were benches. The visitors were instructed where to sit, and each did as he or she was told. Most of the visitors were women, many of them older, appearing to Kitty to be mothers of inmates. There were no children on this day.
Kitty sat at the end of a bench quietly waiting. Three other women sat at the same bench, separated from each other by a distance of about five feet. Soon a group of men was led into the room and each woman searched quickly to see the man she had come to visit. All the men except one immediately found their visitors. Kitty didn’t know what to do. With his baton in one hand, a guard walked up to the lone inmate and, with his free hand, took the inmate by the arm and led him toward Kitty’s table. The man shuffled a little as if one of his legs wasn’t working correctly.
The guard shoved him toward Kitty and said, “Sit.”