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Excerpt from Confessions of an Innocent Man by David R. Dow, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Confessions of an Innocent Man

by David R. Dow

Confessions of an Innocent Man by David R. Dow X
Confessions of an Innocent Man by David R. Dow
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2019, 304 pages

    Mar 2020, 320 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez
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Print Excerpt


On the cinder- block wall, twelve feet away from the bars to the cages where my prisoners spend their days, a digital clock counts down toward zero. When they saw that clock for the first time, before I pressed the start button to get the numbers moving, it read 58656:00:00. That's how many hours they're going to be where they are: twenty- four hours a day, 365 days a year, for 2,444 days— six years, eight months, and eleven days. Today the clock says 49896:00:00. One year down, a bit more than five and a half to go. To celebrate, the three of us are having cake.

I say to prisoner number 1, whose name is Sarah, Happy anniversary.

She doesn't answer.

I say to prisoner number 2, whose name is Leonard, You too.

He doesn't say anything either.

I cut the cake in thirds and put their two pieces on two paper plates. I stick a plastic fork in each slice, like a birthday candle. I say, Y'all enjoy now.

And I slide each plate through the 4.25 inch space sepa¬rating the bottom of the iron bars they're behind from the poured concrete floor of their cells. Once they have their pieces, I take a bite of mine.

I say, The cream cheese frosting doesn't have very much sugar; I don't like it too sweet. The black flecks are Madagascar vanilla, no expense spared.

I smile.

I say, Some recipes call for nutmeg, but I leave it out. I'm not a fan.

Neither Sarah nor Leonard replies.

I'm already planning ahead. I say, I'm thinking we'll have angel food next year, red velvet the year after that, followed by apple, then coconut for our fifth anniversary, and German chocolate, that's my favorite, for our sixth. But I'm open to suggestions.

More silence. I say, And we can have devil's food a few months later to commemorate your liberation. Funny, huh, devil's food?

Not even a smile. They're both in a bad mood today. I've gotten to where I can tell.

I made the cake myself. I'm not a particularly skilled pastry chef, savory was how I earned my stars, but I'm reasonably com¬petent, and besides, somebody might notice if a single middle- aged man who appears to live like a hermit in perpetual mourning waltzed into a bakery and came out with a three- layer cake big enough to feed a family of eight.

They each put a piece on their forks at the same time. Sarah says thank you. Leonard still says nothing. We talk from time to time, arguments mostly, but my feelings haven't softened much. There's no reverse Stockholm syndrome happening here.

These people stole from me, and I am without qualm about stealing right back.

On the flat- screen TV molly- bolted to the steel- fronted cinder- block wall, CNN is advertising upcoming coverage of the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. I was still locked up when New Orleans got flooded, so I stood and watched video of a scene I'd never seen before. There were people on boats floating in the French Quarter, still photos of an aban¬doned amusement park, and what looked like a refugee camp inside the Superdome.

I said, Unbelievable.

Sarah and Leonard were watching the TV too, but neither one said anything back. I keep CNN running sixteen hours a day down here, off at eleven each night, on again at seven. The first week I had them, I asked whether they wanted Fox or MSNBC. I knew what their answer would be, but I asked anyway. I told them if their decision was not unanimous, I'd make the call on my own. They didn't express an opinion, so I said, So be it, and I put it on CNN.

They both have a pair of disposable earplugs, to block the sound if they feel like it, and an eye mask to keep out the light. I give them new earplugs every week. It's not like I plan on taking them to a doctor if they get an ear infection, but still, I'd rather they didn't. I guess if they were really bad, like oozing pus or running a burning fever, I'd fake a sore throat, go to a doc in the- box, get some penicillin, and treat them with that. So far, though, knock on wood, they've stayed pretty healthy.

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From Confessions of an Innocent Man by David R Dow published by Dutton, an imprint of The Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2019 by David R Dow

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