Pardon?, by Harper’s Staff

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From the transcript of a phone call made by Kevin B. Wyckoff to his parents, Charles and Martha Wyckoff, a few hours after they had attended his funeral on December 22. Kevin B. Wyckoff is an inmate at the Lexington Correctional Facility in Oklahoma, where he is serving a five-year sentence for offenses including kidnapping and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

charles wyckoff: Hello.
kevin b. wyckoff: Hey, Dad.
charles: Huh. Well damn, boy. We just had your funeral today.
kevin: Yeah I know, I heard.
charles: Well, what the hell is going on?
kevin: Well, the best thing I can figure is that they had a guy, I’d say about a week ago—maybe not even a week ago—hang himself. Well anyway, they put his name in the cell where they had moved me to, and left my name down in the cell where he had hung himself.
charles: Uh-huh.
kevin: And the only thing I can figure is they sent his body home to y’all with my name.
charles: So where are you at?
kevin: I am in unit 9, cell 213.
charles: But where?
kevin: Lexington. I am still in Lexington.
charles: Well, just a minute. Let me go get your mom; she wants to talk to you.
martha wyckoff: Hello.
kevin: Hey, Momma.
martha: Kevin, I cannot believe this.
kevin: Wait. It’s not my fault.
martha: We buried you today, boy.
kevin: I understand that. But that’s not my fault, though.
martha: Whose fault is it?
kevin: It’s the people that work here!
martha: Well, somebody’s in deep shit.
kevin: Them, not me.
martha: Okay. We know you’re alive.
kevin: Yeah!
martha: Okay. Somebody’s in big trouble.
kevin: I’ll tell you what happened.
martha: Okay.
kevin: Okay. We had a guy that hung himself, okay? Well, hold on, let me start from the beginning. They moved me with a few other people over to unit 9, where I am at now, in Lexington. Okay? I was stuck in room 121 with another guy from my quad, whose name is Howe. Anyway they called me out of room 121 and told me to go to room 213, because another guy didn’t want that room. So they switched us. But where they messed up at is, instead of putting my name down for being up in room 213, they put Howe’s down. They left mine for 121. Well anyway, the guy in 121 hung himself, and since my name was on that room, that is who they thought it was.
martha: Okay, Kevin. I am glad you are alive. Keep in touch, okay?
kevin: Yeah. The problem right now is I am still trying to find pencils and paper, and all this other good stuff.
martha: Okay. We’ll deal with this, okay?
kevin: Yeah.
martha: Thank you.
kevin: Uh-huh.
martha: Bye.
kevin: Bye.

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