Heathens (David Haynes)

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  Mr. Ted Koppel
ABC Television
New York City

Dear Mr. Koppel:

I am writing this letter to you because I figure you are just as high as you can get over there at ABC. I'll get right to the point because I know you are a busy man and I don't want to take up too much of your time.

Here's the thing: we are a bunch of women locked up out here in Minnesota at the Shakopee Women's Detention Center. There's some stuff we'd like to get off our chests, as it were.

I know what you are thinking: a bunch of sociopathic broads, locked away from decent people like myself, because as a matter of fact, I myself thought exactly the same thing when they first sent me here. I wondered how I, LaDonna, essentially an innocent person, (more on that later) could end up locked up with the likes of this. In my weeks of incarceration I have learned that we should not judge people so quickly or harshly, and that many of the women here are simple decent folks not unlike you and I.

I am writing to inform you of several grievous miscarriages of justice. I hope you will be able to use both your tremendous personal power and charisma, as well as all the resources that ABC television and its affiliates can muster to see that these wrongs are righted.

The first case involves a certain Ms. Nancy Caldwell, who until very recently was a law abiding, upstanding citizen who I am certain the closest she ever came to breaking the law was possibly an illegal right turn on red (however do not quote me on that as I do not have evidence of any kind. Is this what you call in the news business a dramatization?) It seems that our Nancy discovered that her husband, a man whom she both trusted and agreed to spend eternity with, had been committing the most low and base crimes with their very own daughter. Yes! And knowing that you, sir, are a gentleman of the highest character, I will not go into the details here. Suffice it to say that the man is a dog and a heathen and deserving of the most rigorous punishment that can be meted out both on earth and for eternity as well.

To which prison, you might ask, has this man been sentenced? And this brings us to the greatest irony of them all. He is free as a bird, while our Nancy languishes indefinitely in the cell next to mine. In order to protect her angels from further defilement, our Nancy has sent them into hiding. She is in prison until she tells her husband ana his lawyers and the judge he purchased with his more than adequate supply of cash money where the children are. Nancy is resolute and we, the women of the Shakopee Women's Detention Center, are behind her one hundred percent.

Mr. Koppel: We are asking that you use the resources of the ABC television network to publicize the case of Nancy Caldwell. We are outraged that in order to keep children safe from abuse, we are forced to send them away with strangers, into hiding, and that in protecting our children we are liable for prosecution ourselves. We hope that publicizing the case of Ms. Caldwell will cause an outcry and put pressure on the system to help her and all women like her. Please help unite this woman with her children. (You are our only hope, really.)

While we are on the subject of innocent victims. I, too, am one. Of: 1. The banking system, which, while being all too happy to accept your deposit, takes their own sweet time crediting your account, and 2. A Judge Cecil McDonald who works in the St. Paul courthouse and is intimidated by glamorous black women, and 3. A certain Kent Worthington, whose thirty-minute infomercial called "The Golden Triangle to Wealth" can be seen running on late night television, and who, were he completely honest, would warn you that in activating the Golden Triangle, there is a good possibility you might end up in jail. In addition to your work on behalf of Ms. Caldwell, please do a searing investigative report on any or all of the above named institutions or individuals. Since I will already have completed my sentence by the time you receive this and it will be too late for justice, I would enjoy the satisfaction of seeing the above mentioned caught in the act (on hidden video), humiliated, and then forced to own up on national TV.

We are counting on your help, Mr. Koppel. (Just a thought: If you have a choice in the matter, I would prefer that you not send that Barbara Walters out. While she seems like a nice person and all, I know from personal experience that the audience is usually busy commenting on the latest thing she has done with her hair, and often does not pay sufficient attention to the suffering of her subjects. None of us are too crazy about that Diane Sawyer either--she is so...blond, although Sam Donaldson will do in a pinch, and can be especially nasty and fun to watch when he has the likes of Kent Worthington on the hot seat.) (We enjoy Chris Wallace, Jeff Greenfield, and, of course, if you yourself could come, it would, in a way, make it all worthwhile.)

We're counting on you, Ted!!!
Write back soon.

Your friend, fan, and fellow concerned citizen, LaDonna Brown (as in brown, and beautiful, and proud of it, too!) for Nancy Caldwell and all the inmates of the Shakopee Women's Detention Center
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Excerpted from Heathens by David Haynes. Copyright © 1996 by David Haynes. Excerpted by permission of New Rivers Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Delta Trade Paperback edition published November 1997.