jailhouse-door-2Bill visited Bailey for the first time the following Monday. Bailey was Mr. Bailey, the probation officer who insisted he be called Bailey.

In the paperwork at his release from jail,  Bill was given the official appointment downtown as well as the exact terms of his release. The two hundred-fifty dollar fine was suspended. Bill had to serve a year’s probation during which he could not leave the state without permission, he had a 10:00 PM curfew, he could not drink alcohol and of course he could not get into any additional trouble.

Bailey was friendly. He was congenial. He told Bill that he considered him low risk and so he thought they could meet once a week for the first few meetings and then move it to every other week and maybe once a month. He told Bill if there was anthing he could do for him, to let him know.

Bill went home not unhappy with that situation. He picked up a newspaper on the way home and turned immediately to the want-ads. No internet, no electronic devices, no computers back then, he began the legwork.

Every day, Sue went off to class and was gone most of the day with her studies and rehearsals. Bill got the newspaper and headed out on job interviews. He applied for all the professional jobs his BA in English qualified him to hold, teacher, social worker, bureaucrat, office worker, writer, editor and anything and everything else even remotely connected and applicable. But it didn’t take long for the pattern to emerge and become apparent. Every job he applied for required a police check and every police check done on him came up positive.

After two weeks it was clear. No way he was getting a job. At his third meeting with Bailey, he sat feeling pretty dejected and complained to Bailey that he needed a job, couldn’t pay his rent, had no money for food. Good thing, he told Bailey, cigarettes only cost thirty-one cents per pack. For his part, Bailey said he understood and would do what he could. Bill begged him, please.

That morning on the way in to see Bailey was when Bill met Robert. He did not know his name was Robert. He would not know who he was or anything about him for several more weeks. He would not even know he would ever see him again.

He was just a big, black teddy bear, fat and roly poly. He was wearing workhouse blues, which Bill recognized immediately without having to see the white WH on the back of the shirt. He looked so sad pushing the broom he held along the City Hall Annex floor. Bill noted that the heels of his feet were not inside his shoes and just as the man shuffled the broom along, he shuffled his feet behind it.

Bill felt his pain. Bill understood his angst. Without hesitating, he stepped up to the inmate. “Listen,” he said, “I have no money but I have cigarettes. Want a smoke?”

The big, black teddy bear with the sad, sad eyes smiled. “No thank you, baby,” he said. “I don’t smoke.”

That was it. Bill went up to see his PO and the inmate went about his work.

This chance encounter was about to drastically change Bill’s life.