Author's Note: Another fic for English class! This has got to be the best type of assignment ever.
Almost immediately, Perry discovered that there wasn't much to do in the ladies' cell of the Sheriff's Residence. The squirrel he'd tamed was small and furry and he liked petting it, but it was just an animal, after all, and quickly bored him. He talked to Mrs. Meier, the undersheriff's wife, quite often, but as they discussed mostly the weather, cooking and other light gossip he found their conversations to lack a level of intelligence that he needed to sustain his mind.
Perry filled the rest of his time reminiscing. He had many things to reminisce about, having lived, if not a long or particularly adventurous, at least an unusual life, in which there were unique stories and interesting interactions which he could analyze for hours. Perry believed that this sort of introspection and self-analysis could help a man identify his own personal code of ethics and decide his goals in life, a mission which greatly fascinated him.
One event that he remembered often was a short interaction with a man just a bit younger than himself at the temporary lock-up in the Kansas City prison. Perry had been going to court for grand larceny and the other man, Biff Loman, well-muscled and sharp-humored, was being processed after stealing a suit from a department store. It was after thinking about that man for quite a while that Perry asked Mrs. Meier for a pen and paper and began to write:
Dear Biff Loman,
It has been several years since you & I met for a conversation of a few minutes, but I remember that we shared insight on 2 subjects. I have a strong recollection of this conversation & I will try to record the key points, in order to set off your memory. First we shared our feeling about our fathers. I remember that you related the dreams you & your father share for your future. I explained how my father neglected me that has influenced the road my life has taken. I have occasionally considered this conversation & then dreamed that I had been in your shoes as a child, so to speak- that I was supported in my dreams & told I could go far (my own father never expressed any confidence in me as a person. I feel that this is the cause for some measure of a lack of confidence in myself.)
Second, you told me how you planned to buy your own farm 1 day or perhaps a construction business because you enjoyed the freedom of working with your hands & also because of a memory of building a porch with your father & brother. Your sense of purpose & your determination to realize that dream have stuck with me for these years. I have always felt that we had that in common (although my dreams were not as concrete & merely a strong desire to do something, probably in Hawaii or Mexico.)
I write this letter from a cell once again, though I have hopes that I will soon be free & clear & able to pursue my dream. I have decided that what I will do is go to Mexico or Hawaii & finally buy a fishing boat or go to the jungle to look for gold as I have always imagined. I hope that you too have pursued & perhaps already accomplished your dream. Please write back to me when you receive this, for I do not know how much longer I will be kept imprisoned & I would enjoy the company of correspondence.
Perry Edward Smith
Three years passed before Perry received a reply. His trial had come and gone and he resided on Death Row, once again smothered by dark grey walls. When the prison guard announced he had a letter, Perry expected something from his lawyer, or perhaps the journalist who was planning to write a book on himself and Dick. Perry was uplifted at the thought of making a mark on the world in that way, but when he saw the name of the envelope he became excited. He opened the letter slowly, careful not even to tear the envelope.
I do remember you and I've wondered every so often how you were doing. I'm sorry it's taken so long for me to get back to you. After I got out of jail I did go and work on farms with cattle for a while, and in construction. But I wasn't making good money, so I went back home to my parents and that was when I got your letter. But a lot of things happened in a short amount of time and then I had to think for a long while about what I wanted to say.
Because you see, Perry, you helped me a lot. The way you talked about your experiences was really insightful, and it made me think a lot about the way I was raised and what I was doing with my life. Recent events have made me think about things that I'd… well, I think I'd been avoiding them a lot.
The truth is, my father wasn't as great as I made him out to be. You said your pop gave you low self-confidence, well mine gave me a huge ego! It's only now, after his death, that I've realized just how much of my childhood was lies and over-blown pride.
Now that I've started this introspection thing, Perry, I can't stop. All those jobs I quit, those girls I tried to get along with and then broke things off, I was just making excuses.
I knew it doesn't help anybody to apologize. That it wouldn't make those girls any less hurt, or make my pop any less gone. But I thought, maybe it's the right thing to do, and after I apologized I felt cleansed, Perry. I felt like I could finally move on and find out who I wanted to be. And I think if I hadn't met you, I never would have figured out that I had to look at myself to find out what to do instead of looking at other people like my father.
When I met you, Perry, I thought you were a good man. Misguided, maybe, but you knew good from bad. I wish you the best of luck and I know that when you get to wherever you end up going, you'll do the right thing.
Perry read the letter at least a hundred times. He would often lie on his bunk and hold the paper over his chest- smoothed out so it wouldn't wrinkle- and watch the scoop of bright sky outside his meshed cell window. He never wrote a reply.
Two years later, when Perry was asked for his last words, he began a speech he'd planned about capital punishment. He knew it would be recorded for posterity in the journalist's book and he wanted it to sound respectable and intelligent.
"I think it's a helluva thing to take a life in this manner. I don't believe in capital punishment, morally or legally. Maybe I had something to contribute, something-" good. He stuttered. The eyes of the collected were all upon him, the journalist taking avid notes.
You'll do the right thing, Perry remembered. He took a slow breath.
"It would be meaningless to apologize for what I did. Even inappropriate. But I do. I apologize."
Before the mask was lowered over his eyes, Perry imagined he could see Biff in the crowd, smiling proudly up at him.