From bestselling African-American writer Rosalyn McMillan comes this extraordinary novel of how love can bring redemption and the ultimate salvation to any circumstance. The Flip Side of Sin takes readers on a journey through the lives of a group of unforgettable characters who must overcome life's toughest challenges to find true happiness. It is a book in which worlds collide and people are forever transformed by the tumultuous changes that occur in one man's life. The story begins with Isaac Coleman, a man whose tragic mistakes cost him years away from everyone and everything that mattered to him, especially his wife and son. Alone, confused, and bitter, Isaac can only become whole by learning to love again. But when he re-enters the world he left and attempts to get reacquainted with his now teenage son, Peyton, he finds heartbreaking rejection. As Isaac struggles to understand and change his plight, his only form of self-expression is found in the keys of his saxophone. When he later meets up with Miracall Lake, a woman with whom he shares a painful past, she surprisingly helps him to face his fears and reach for his dreams. In this case, love indeed conquers all, or so it tries to in this tale of good versus evil and love versus hate. The Flip Side of Sin is a poignant and memorable work from a writer of immense talent.
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Rosalyn Mcmillan was for twenty years a Ford Motor Company worker. After two serious accidents, which ended her career in the auto industry, she used the drama unfolding in her life as the inspiration for her three successful novels, Knowing, One Better and Blue Collar Blues, all published by Time Warner.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Chapter One: The Destruction of Detroit
Let all their wickedness come before thee; and do unto them, as thou hast done unto me for all my transgressions: for my sighs are many, and my heart is faint.
-- Lam. 1:22
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Isaac went eight years without a kiss. To him, the sheer reverence of such a simple expression of love was like strange star-pulses throbbing through space. It felt as if an eternity had passed since he'd felt the tenderness of such pleasure.
The thought of his wife's last kiss made his heart ache -- it throbbed now like a new wound. Isaac hoped that the woman who once, with a simple touch, could make his bones ache would be waiting, so that he could once again feel the ecstasy of her lips touching his.
In the twelve years he'd been incarcerated, he'd learned that the natural flight of the human mind was not from pleasure to pleasure but from hope to hope. If he didn't hope, he believed that he wouldn't find what was beyond his hopes.
With his eyes still closed, he pressed rewind, then turned up the volume on his Walkman, and waited to hear Duke Ellington's "Prelude to a Kiss" one more time. Lying on his back, his took a long drag on a cigarette.
"Say, man. You woke in there?" said a voice from the doorway.
Isaac opened his eyes and waved Wide-eyed Willy inside. "I'm up, Willy," Isaac said, accepting the newspaper that Willy handed him.
Today, like every day, all cell doors were open for breakfast at 6:00 a.m. Inmates were free to walk around during that hour period, as well as at exercise and dinner times. The master head count, where the guards actually have to put their eyes on you, began at 11:30 A.M. Three additional counts that occur in every prison in the United States at the same time every day are conducted at 3:30 P.M., 5:50 P.M., and lockdown at 9:30 P.M. This morning, Isaac elected to skip breakfast and remain in his cell.
With his free hand, Isaac reached for the ashtray crammed with butts and tamped out the cigarette. "You want something, Wide-eyed Willy?" Isaac asked when the man took a seat on his bed.
Wide-eyed Willy opened his mouth, then closed it again. A sad expression came over his face when he finally spoke. "I'm gonna miss you, man," he said. He patted Isaac's knee affectionately, then left. Isaac knew the potent scent of alcohol would linger for hours. Wide-eyed Willy was past the midpoint of a nomadic drunk, moving from place to place in search of a drink. He didn't stagger, didn't slur one word. But it showed in the dazzling white glimmer in his eyes. Isaac shook his head. What a waste; Wide-eyed Willy was a decent man.
His happy mood deteriorated even more when he picked up the paper. Pictures of politicians covered the front page of The Detroit News. It was election time. For once, the politicians were getting more press than the criminals. From word one, he didn't like the article that a reporter wrote after interviewing Governor Loren Lake.
The Michigan Department of Corrections has only two goals: providing humane treatment for all offenders the courts send them and providing these services at as minimal a cost as possible. And now, in 1998, the costs are so high, they have become unacceptable to the American public.
For the first time in Michigan history, a privatized prison is being built. According to Governor Loren Lake, this new youth facility in Bad Axe, Michigan, will save the taxpayers at least forty million dollars over the span of a few years. Supposedly, the prison will provide two hundred new jobs and generate millions of tax dollars for the city. Theoretically, these new employees would, in turn, purchase homes and send their kids to college, thereby creating a larger tax base for the community. The private prison is hailed as a win-win situation for all.
Bullshit! Isaac thought. He knew the savings were inflated to make the governor look good. There was no way the establishment could cut costs that much. Isaac, along with the other inmates at Jefferson State Penitentiary, was already eating slop, and their living conditions were worse than those of the homeless.
Most inmates kept cans of chili, green beans, and spaghetti in their cells. In the winter they heated the cans on top of the radiators. In the summer some made illegal stingers to heat their meals. After dropping twenty dollars at the commissary in one month, Isaac calculated how much the prison made off what the inmates spent just buying food -- $2,372,500.00. He guessed that they made millions from the furniture factory that made office furniture for the state of Michigan and the cigarette factory that sold knock-off brands to dozens of businesses. He was certain that the biggest moneymaker was in the billions -- the license-plate factory, which provided plates for Illinois, Colorado, Ohio, and Michigan. I bet those figures aren't mentioned in any of their reports.
Even with the problems of food, sanitation, and low self-esteem, the inmates these days were well informed; they had access to every law that was passed about the prison system. They knew the real truth, unlike the Alcatraz prisoners of the sixties, who were deprived of information about what was happening in the outside world and knew only what the officials wanted them to know.
As Isaac continued to read, the lies became more personal.
"We believe that every criminal who is behind bars is a danger to society. These individuals have failed to realize the love of God or mankind. Therefore, the Michigan Department of Corrections cannot comply with the same laws as society, because the population is not the same. However, we do try and ensure that any inmate can practice any religion they want to," Governor Loren Lake said.
Now, a portion of that statement was true, he thought. Out of the fifty-five hundred inmates in Jefferson, only ten or twelve went to church on Sunday. Going to church was the only time you would get to see inmates from the opposite side of the prison. Isaac had gone a few times himself. Unlike his sister, he didn't believe that going to church on a regular basis defined your spirituality. When he was a teenager, some of the biggest hypocrites he knew sat in the front pew and didn't miss a Sunday. For Isaac, religion was a private matter.
However, living in such a huge complex as Jefferson was anything but private. Isaac believed that few people knew how self-sufficient Jefferson was. The prisoners grew enough vegetables to feed the entire complex, raised their own beef, sewed and cleaned their clothing, and even operated their own utilities. It was like a city within a city, and it took three wardens to run it -- some inmates called the wardens "mayors."
"Number 823497," the guard hollered over the intercom, "you've got a visitor." Checking his watch, Isaac smiled. His sister was right on time, as usual, for their bimonthly visit. Lord, I can hardly wait to be checking out of hotel happiness, Isaac thought. Tossing the paper in the trash, he left his cell, then paused by Wide-eyed Willy's open door and heard him snoring heavily. He knew Wide-eyed Willy's number by heart -- B811444. The B prefix meant this was Willy's second tour in prison. There were a few men on his tier that even had F prefixes.
He wanted to tell the governor that the F men were the individuals who were a danger to society -- he wasn't. And certainly not Wide-eyed Willy, who was a harmless, gentle human being. Wide-eyed Willy needed help, not a prison cell.
As he was being led down from D Block to the visitor's area, he began to count -- 177 steps. The exact number of steps it took to reach the front gate and freedom. But in six more days those steps would mean nothing. All the counting, waiting, dreaming would end.
Most of the men inside Jefferson Penitentiary would probably agree that the temptation of sin is very powerful. Like Al Capone, they could walk into sin one step at a time, but the longer the step, the deeper the sin. Sooner or later, reparations would have to be made, punishable by either death or incarceration.
Others now hoped that one day the Lord would touch them and help them to begin a better life out in the world again. At least, Isaac thought, with his sister Rosemary's prayers, he had a chance.
As he waited for the final door to be unlocked, Isaac glanced out the grimy, barred window. He saw the same familiar scene: razor wire coiled around the top of the sixteen-foot chain-link fence outside; armed guards posted at four forty-foot-high observation towers, watching the actions of the men below. Just before Isaac arrived at Jefferson Penitentiary in 1994, the prison population had gotten so large, they had to break it up into three prisons, with three wardens to run it. For the past four and a half years, he had resided in the middle section.
"Hey, Coltrane," the security guard on the other side of the gate said as he unlocked the door in D Block and let Isaac pass through. Shortly after Isaac's arrival, his music had become so popular among the inmates, they had dubbed him "Coltrane" after the exalted saxophonist John Coltrane. Isaac nodded hello and continued toward his sister, who was already grinning in her same usual manner, as if it were the first time she'd seen him in years.
Isaac dutifully hugged his sister and kissed her on the cheek. "Hi. It's good to see you. Especially when you're looking so pretty."
Rosemary blushed and smoothed the collar of her celery green linen jacket. She was fifteen years older than Isaac, and had always acted more like his mother than his sister. For as long as he could remember, she had worn her hair parted in the middle with a thick French roll in the back. With a full round face and broad forehead, the style still became her. The gentle look in her eyes and the ever-present smile on her full lips said that she was a Christian woman who loved the Lord. Isaac couldn't have been more proud of her.
The crowded room was full of inmates' families chattering away, touching, kissing, and cherishing the short moments they had to spend with their husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, and lovers.
"Morning, Isaac. I heard you're leaving us this week," one of the guards stationed in the visiting area commented.
Before he could respond, Rosemary, with her Bible pressed against her chest, spoke up. "Yes, indeed," she said, smiling. "Seven days from today. That's May second, isn't it?" she asked Isaac, turning back to him.
"I guess so." Isaac avoided her spirited eyes. He couldn't bear to lie to her. With a wide smile pasted on his lips, he took her by the hand and led her to two empty chairs near the window.
So many lives had been changed because he had failed to put his family before his music. He hadn't realized how selfish he'd been back then. This time things would be different.
"We need to talk," he said after she sat down. He dropped down into the hard seat and stretched out his legs. He stuck his hands in his pockets and drew them out again, keeping his eyes aimed at the floor. "I've got some very definite plans made when I get out of here." My number-one priority is to never be incarcerated again. "I never claimed to be a saint. So don't be expecting me to go to church every Sunday. I promise you that I will go -- just don't pressure me."
After a moment, she said, "Okay."
When she closed her eyes, Isaac knew she was praying. He didn't know that she was reciting to herself Jer. 31:3 when she quietly said, "'The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.'"
"What'd you say?"
She opened her eyes. "Oh, it's nothing," she said, smiling serenely. "Do you mind if I pray for you?"
"No." For a brief moment he was confused. He was so sure she would disagree with him. The awkward moment passed when he heard her chuckle.
"I thought you were going to cut this off," Rosemary said, grabbing the end of his long mane and giving it a firm tug.
"I changed my mind," he said with a smile that wasn't replicated in his saddened eyes. How could he tell his sister that beneath this façade of youthful jet-black hair were patches of roots the color of deep iron gray? Thirty-nine years old and he felt fifty-nine. No, church would have to wait a while. He had other things that needed to be taken care of first. Reaching inside his pocket, he pulled out a rubber band, then threaded his fingers through his thick-cropped top hair until he felt the longer length. Isaac cocked his head toward his sister and forced a smile. "I know what you're thinking. How am I going to get a decent job with my hair this long?" He shrugged his shoulders and swept his straightened hair, as smooth as his late shave, into a neat ponytail. "I'll manage. Remember, being clean-cut in prison is not a prerequisite for getting a job."
"Jesse told me to remind you about his job offer."
Irritation flickered in his eyes, but Isaac merely nodded. "No offense intended, Rosemary. And I hope you know that I don't want to hurt my brother-in-law's feelings. But I ain't the type of man that can work in a funeral home. Uh-huh." His voice emitted sarcasm. "I've spent the last twelve years of my life coexisting with the living dead. I don't want to be working with the actual dead."
"I'm sorry, Isaac. We won't discuss anything so serious right now." She slid her eyes up to his and smiled. "Regardless of where you work, Jesse is anxious to meet you. He's been such a dear helping me to get your room ready."
Shoving both hands in his pockets, Isaac sank down lower in his chair, then lazily crossed his ankles. "That's just till I get on my feet, Rosemary. I'm too old to be living in your basement." Isaac caught himself in time. "I'm sorry, Sis. I know how crowded y'all are and I really do appreciate the offer to let me bunk there." He kissed her cheeks and placed her hands in his.
A woman giggled. Isaac turned to see the woman intimately embraced with an inmate. When he turned back, he noticed the startled look on Rosemary's face. Until she turned around the woman had resembled someone they both knew extremely well -- Kennedy.
A year after Isaac was incarcerated he had received divorce papers. "I don't want you to ever mention Kennedy's name to me again!" he had told Rosemary after he'd been officially served. He didn't tell his sister how guilty he felt for abandoning his family. It was his fault. Just like it was his father's fault for leaving him and Rosemary alone when he was three years old. Except for the pictures that Rosemary kept on the fireplace, Isaac couldn't remember what their father looked like. Therefore, his father remained a mere stranger to him, captured in a time warp. Isaac hoped that his son's proclivity toward him wasn't as keen.
"It's okay, Isaac. And I know what's on your mind. You're blaming Kennedy again. That's not fair. It's not her fault, and you know it."
"We don't need to debate this, Rosemary,"...
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Descrizione libro Pocket Books, 2001. Mass Market Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Codice libro della libreria DADAX0671034359