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Pensacola Power

The Pensacola Power team logo

If youโ€™ve read any of my books, youโ€™ve probably noticed my love for sports. Not that any story spotlights a specific athlete or team, but there are references in every novel. Breadcrumbs, as Amity Davenport would call them.

Consider the Dragonfly has a prosthetic leg baseball game that takes place in the terminal unit of a prison hospital where one of the characters, Smoke, is a diehard Atlanta Braves fan. The villain in With Arms Unbound, Lance Broxson, a brutal and corrupt guard at a Panhandle correctional facility, was a former small-town high school quarterback. Izzy, one of the protagonists in On the Shoulders of Giants, played basketball as a teenager before being sent to the notorious Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys.

There are other references in my other books as well. Some were intentional, others were Freudian slips that bubbled up out of my subconscious; a product of sitting in prison dayrooms watching Sunday NFL triple headers for most of my life. A major example of this is in my fourth novel, Sticks & Stones. It wasnโ€™t until after the book was published that I realized the lead character shared his name with a middle linebacker for a professional football team. Oops.

Even the Miranda Rights series, which closely examines the female journey through the Florida Department of Corrections, is not immune. Mirandaโ€™s bipolar father, who is also a compulsive gambler, once worked on a pit crew at Pensacolaโ€™s own Snowball Derby auto race. The crafty character of Daphne โ€œThrokkieโ€ Throckmorton shares a similar name with a New Orleans Saints offensive lineman.

These are just a few examples. There are other nods, both subtle and overt, that Iโ€™ve forgotten over the last twelve years of my incarcerated writing life. But there is one in particular that stands out. It is in my latest novel, The Weight of Entanglement. It occurs in an exchange between Miranda McGuire and the character Tasha Pitts. It takes place in the caged dog-run that serves as the recreational area for the disciplinary confinement unit at Lowell Womenโ€™s Annex. This scene pays homage to one of the most dominateโ€”and most fascinatingโ€”Escambia County sports teams of all time: the Pensacola Power.

โ€œYour nameโ€™s Miranda, ainโ€™t it?โ€

She turned back to Tasha. โ€œMm hmm.โ€

โ€œMy old bunkie had a lot to say about you before she left.โ€

โ€œShe got out?โ€

โ€œYesterday,โ€ said Tasha. โ€œBut Iโ€™m not surprised she didnโ€™t stop by your flap to say goodbye.โ€

Miranda shrugged. โ€œI think she was mad at me because I didnโ€™t want to move into her cell.โ€

โ€œI think she had a thing for you.โ€


Tasha laughed. โ€œWhere are you from, girl?โ€


โ€œShut the fuck up!โ€ Tasha screamed.

The napping guard opened her eyes. โ€œHey Pitts. Watch your mouth. Unless you want to go back to your cell.โ€

โ€œMy bad.โ€ She held up her hands. Then, low enough for only Miranda to hear, โ€œI forgot weโ€™re in preschool.โ€

Crazy Train passed again, mumbling to herself. It occurred to Miranda that the only difference between her own inner narrator and the rambling dialogue of the woman with sores on her face was the fact that she confined those conversations to her head and called it thinking. Crazy Train either lacked the ability or the desire to do the same.

โ€œWhat side of town are you from?โ€ said Tasha.

โ€œFerry Pass.โ€ Miranda scratched her nose. โ€œOlive Road.โ€

โ€œIโ€™m from Ensley!โ€ She slapped the fence. โ€œBorn and raised. Tasha Prime Time Pitts? You ainโ€™t ever heard of me?โ€

โ€œShould I?โ€ said Miranda.

โ€œHow old are you?โ€

โ€œI just turned twenty last month.โ€

โ€œTwenty? Shit, I got a son older than you.โ€ 

โ€œI have a son too,โ€ Miranda said quietly.

โ€œWell, way back in 2001, two years after I had Cedric, I heard on the radio that they were holding tryouts for an all-womenโ€™s football team. The Pensacola Power. Remember that?โ€

Miranda shook her head. โ€œFlag football?โ€

โ€œHell nah! We were hittinโ€™ out there. Shoulder pads, helmets, cleats. Just like on TV.โ€

โ€œIโ€™ve never heard of it. The Pensacola Power?โ€

โ€œYeah, theyโ€™re called the Riptide now, or some shit like that, but back when I was playing, it was the Power. And we ran shit. Our first season, we went to the championship after going undefeated. Thousands of people were showing up at our games. Dan Shugart was talkinโ€™ about us on Channel 3 News. I canโ€™t believe you donโ€™t remember.โ€

โ€œMy dad might,โ€ said Miranda.

If heโ€™s still alive, said her inner narrator.

โ€œI was only a baby in 2001.โ€

โ€œWell, we were kickinโ€™ ass all the way up to 2008, the year I came to prison. We didnโ€™t even lose a regular season game until 2006. We just couldnโ€™t win the big one, couldnโ€™t get past Detroit. They beat us once in the semis and twice in the championship. Those were some tough bitches. I gotta give it to them. Mean as hell too. Every single one of them looked like Dixie.โ€ She looked beyond Miranda and shouted, โ€œYeah, Iโ€™m talking about your big ass! Youโ€™re lucky we ainโ€™t got a chessboard out here.โ€

โ€œThatโ€™s strike two, Pitts,โ€ said the guard.

โ€œWhatโ€™d I say? Ass?โ€ Tasha was incredulous. โ€œAss ainโ€™t no bad word. Itโ€™s in the Bible.โ€

โ€œKeep on.โ€

Tasha rolled her eyes. โ€œAnyway, I was starting left cornerback for all those teams. I had 37 interceptions in my career, 9 returned for touchdowns. Most in the NWFA. Those records probably still stand.โ€

For some reason she thought of Nebraska Jackson, her fellow news junkie from the county jail who peed standing up. She would have made a good football player. โ€œWhatโ€™s the NWFA? Northwest Florida . . .โ€

โ€œAinโ€™t no Northwest Florida,โ€ Tasha quickly corrected. โ€œNational . . . National Womenโ€™s Football Association.โ€

โ€œImpressive,โ€ said Miranda.

โ€œYeah, I was pretty good.โ€ Her eyes went middle distance, somewhere over the razor wire. โ€œBut my son, Cedric? That boy is next level. Strong enough to jam wide receivers at the line, can flip his hips and bail as quick as any corner in college football, ball hawk instincts, perfect technique, and unlike his momma, he can hit. I was a lazy tackler. Ced has been layinโ€™ wood since he played for the Salvation Army on Q Street. As a junior at Auburn, PFWโ€™s draft guide ranked him as the number two corner in the nation. Mel Kiper called him a generational talent.โ€

โ€œI have no idea what you just said.โ€

Tasha blinked, grinned, came back. โ€œHuh? Oh, my bad. I always get carried away when I talk about my son.โ€

โ€œI know how you feel.โ€ Miranda thought of Cameron. She wondered what potential was waiting to be maximized in her little boy. The oak sleeps in the acorn. โ€œAnd you should be proud. Auburn University. Thatโ€™s a massive accomplishment.โ€

โ€œYeah, well, heโ€™s fuckinโ€™ up now. Back-to-back dirty urines for weed, then he punched a teammate in the face on the sideline during the spring game. Got kicked off the team. Now they talkinโ€™ about cancelling the rest of the season because of Covid.โ€

โ€œIโ€™m sorry,โ€ said Miranda.

She looked up at the white sky. โ€œHeโ€™ll be all right. Cedโ€™s a survivor. His agent said he could still go as high as the third round in next yearโ€™s draft. But he was gonna be a top twenty pick. Maybe top ten. His knucklehead decisions are costing us millions of dollars. The plan was for him to use his signing bonus to get me a real attorney.โ€

โ€œYouโ€™ve got a lot of time?โ€

โ€œLife.โ€ Her face hardened. โ€œFor killing his no-good daddy. It should have been a stand your ground case. I got railroaded.โ€

It was strange how these conversations were now commonplace in her world. A year ago the idea of meeting a murderer would have been terrifying, but at this point every cellmate she had and most of the friends she made were lifers. She thought of Nebraska again, and the stories about her mother being abused.

โ€œDo you know Nebraska Jackson?โ€

The smooth skin of her brow knotted as she searched Mirandaโ€™s face. โ€œYeah, I know Brass. Everybody in Pensacola knows that bull dagger. Poisonous ass.โ€

โ€œPoisonous? What do you mean?โ€

โ€œSheโ€™s jumping on all those peopleโ€™s cases in the county. Bianca Bradshaw, Kim Robinson. Now theyโ€™re saying sheโ€™s gonna testify against that little girl on the sixth floor who killed her baby. Whatโ€™s her name? Sheโ€™s always in the newspaper. Amity something.โ€

โ€œDavenport,โ€ Miranda said softly.

โ€œYeah, thatโ€™s it.โ€ Tasha shook her head in disgust. โ€œAmity Davenport.โ€

Letter to President Obama

Earlier this week, I sent a letter to President Obama, along with my first two novels, Consider the Dragonflyย andย With Arms Unbound.ย It will most likely be intercepted by the Secret Service and tossed in some warehouse with thousands of other unopened packages but you never know… We live in a world of infinite possibilities, right? The letter I wrote to him to accompany those books is below. I wanted to share it with you…

Dear President Obama,

Hello. Although I know the odds of this ever reaching your desk are long, it is still an honor to be writing to you. Very cool. I’m an incarcerated author. I write under the pseudonym Malcolm Ivey. I’ve been in prison for almost 12 years of a 30-year Federal prison sentence. I robbed two gas stations with a gun I stole from a neighbor. I didn’t hurt anyone. I’ve never even fired a gun. My plan was to rob and get high until I was cornered and then turn the pistol on myself. I couldn’t even get that right. Embarrassing to admit that to a man who’s reached the level of success that you have, but in my defense I was an unconscious, strung-out, pitiful thing out there. As the saying goes, “I didn’t get arrested, I got rescued.”

I’ve been a drug abuser for most of my life, both in and outside of prison (you’d be amazed at how accessible drugs are in America’s gated communities). Eight years ago, with age 40 rapidly approaching and nothing to show for my life except a criminal record that dates back to the seventh grade, I got it in my head that writing a book would somehow validate me. I’m not sure about validation, but I know it saved my life. My first two novels are enclosed. I’m aware that your schedule is pretty jammed right now, but I’m hoping that you will have some downtime after January, once the fate and weight of the free world no longer rests on your shoulders. Consider the Dragonfly is the story of a bullied teen who finds himself in the school-to-prison pipeline. With Arms Unbound deals with domestic violence and the horrors of crystal meth. My third novel will be out this fall. It’s called On the Shoulders of Giants. If the title sounds familiar it’s because I lifted it from one of your speeches. I know the word “lifted” may imply theft, but this was more of a tribute to you than a return to my criminal past. You even make a cameo. This book focuses on race, the infamous Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, and the redemptive power of writing. I think it’s my best.

In a way, your historic run to the White House was a catalyst for many of the changes that I’ve made in my own life. In your acceptance speech at Grant Park you asked America, “When are we going to realize that we are the ones we’ve been waiting for?” Those words resonated with me, as I’m sure they did with many people around the world. Over the last eight years, I have evolved on this prison bunk as a writer and a man, just as you have evolved in the Oval Office as Commander in Chief. And although my contributions to humanity pale in comparison to what you’ve done for prisoners, the environment, the auto industry, the uninsured, the LGBT community, and future generations of Americans, I’m still doing everything I can from where I am. Just wanted you to know.

Thanks for the inspiration.

[9/4/16 update]

Check out what I received in the mail yesterday… Does this make us pen pals? So honored.