A man ran across Sharon Bortz’s back yard. He had his shirt off and was wearing gray pants with a stripe down the side. The man had his shirt balled up in his fist as he ran.
Sharon said to her neighbor lady across the fence, “That’s a prisoner!”
The neighbor lady said, “Oh, it can’t be.”
Sharon had been outside fussing with her iris plants. Mt. Pleasant is the Iris City, and she was proud of all the different colors of iris she had — pink, white, blue and her favorite, purple. She was going to cut some fresh flowers and take them into her kitchen to brighten up her home and add spring fragrance. After the iris were done blooming, she would also dig some of them up to give to friends. Spread the beauty.
She lived only a couple of blocks from the minimum security prison in Mt. Pleasant. That man had to be an escaped prisoner! Why else would he be running with his shirt off?
“Well, I’m going to call the police,” she told the neighbor lady.
The neighbor lady just rolled her eyes, like Sharon was an idiot.
In the house, Sharon’s hands were shaking so badly, she could hardly hold the phone, let alone dial 911. The dispatcher came on and said, “State your name, address and emergency.”
Sharon’s voice was also shaking. She was barely able to give her name and address. “A man, with his shirt off, just ran across my backyard and through the creek,” she told the dispatcher. “I’ve never called 911 before.”
“You’re doing fine, stay calm,” the dispatcher told her. “What color were the pants?”
Sharon told her, “Gray, with a stripe down the side.”
“Did you happen to notice if the shirt said ‘Inmate’ on it?”
“I couldn’t tell,” Sharon said. “It was balled up in his fist. Is it alright for me to leave? I need to run errands.”
“You go right ahead,” the dispatcher told her. “We’ll take care of this.”
Before Sharon could get backed out of her driveway, there were red lights everywhere, and police dogs.
The next day, there was a knock at Sharon’s door. There was a lady in uniform with a card in her hand. She handed the card to Sharon and said, “I’m a captain with the prison, and I want to thank you for calling yesterday. When a call comes in to 911, it also comes to the prison. We knew exactly what was happening, and got the prisoners inside immediately and put the prison on lock down. The man you saw was an escaped prisoner. He was on work detail, doing yard work, when he decided to go for a little run. We found him hiding in a ditch a short ways away. When we asked him where he was going, he said he hadn’t decided yet. He is now at the Ft. Madison facility with extra time added onto his sentence. You did exactly the right thing by calling 911.”
This incident happened half-a-dozen years ago. Sharon’s back yard now has, in addition to iris — roses, chrysanthemums, daffodils, peonies, hostas and a few lilies to compete with the iris. The neighbors all know, do anything you want, but don’t mess with Sharon’s yard.
Contact Curt Swarm at firstname.lastname@example.org