Visiting the abandoned prison where my father did time.

Stalking the ghost of my father. The abandoned prison is musty. There are no lights as we step inside. Daylight filters through the bars. Vines entwine the bars. The ceiling lies on the cement floor. “You fall in a hole. I’m leaving you here,” our Guide cautions. I believe it.

I found my father because I had two clues. He was a lawyer. He went to prison. Actually I knew a little more. He was white, male, 35 years old in 1959, probably from Atlanta, and did time for forgery the year I was born.

The Colony Penal Farm once produced the crops that fed the inmates. Inmates feeding their own. Not from altruism. To pay a debt to the state? To make amends? Reparations? Not exactly. Just doing time. Doing his bit.

The old record book at the state Archive coughed up names and dates. Now I coughed in the dank air. Was he here? In this room?

Alcoholics who do not recover face three choices: jails, institutions, death.

In the end, he was three for three. Learn the lesson, and I don’t have to be.

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