It was just another morning, waking up to the odor of ass, breath, and
feet in West Block at San Quentin State Prison. Jake Stanton lay awake
on the two-inch, permanently stained mattress covering the bedsprings on
the rack in his eight-by-ten-foot cell. The dawn cutting the Bay fog and
shining through the upper windows was lighting the first day of the rest
of his life in this God-forsaken dungeon. Sounds of men snoring and
toilets flushing were breaking the relative silence of the cellblock
stacked five tiers high, holding a thousand men. The
hundred-fifty-year-old building was coming alive, and the noise would
only become louder until darkness returned again.
The regulators of this prison were as different as night and day, and
just as desensitized as the inmate population. Trust, a word that held a
completely different meaning on the streets, was not in the vocabulary
of the inmates in this broken city within a city.
A plump officer in a jumpsuit uniform with faded patches on his
shoulders walked along the gun rail towards the front of the housing
unit. A Ruger mini 14 rifle was slung across his large belly and his
pudgy pink hands gripped the stock. He was also sporting a .38-caliber
revolver in a holster under the doughy roll on his left side. The
two-by-twelve planks bowed and creaked with every step as the officer
made his way to the worn-out chair next to an old milk crate holding a
few torn newspapers.
Jake felt a shiver climb his spine and pulled the sheet and wool blanket
to his chin and tried to relax.
“Chow release in west block!” a male voice announced over the public
address system. “Release the back bar!” the voice said.
The slamming of doors and jingle of keys announced the release for the
morning meal—if you could call it a meal. Prison food smells and
tastes the same regardless of what day or even what meal it is. The funk
in the housing units was testament to this fact. The rank of burning
wicks and waste odor from bland, uninteresting meals along with the rot
of unclean laundry and men, who were allowed a ten-minute shower every
other day, created the signature stench of prison. There was nothing
quite like it anywhere on earth. The smell of hot garbage at the county
dump paled in comparison.
The poorly circulated air contributed to the awful living conditions.
The smoke arose in the unit like fog lifting from a lake on a cold
autumn morning. This smoke was a result of five hundred small burning
wicks made from tightly rolled toilet paper draped in the corner of each
and every cell, burning slowly, so the occupant could light a cigarette
or pilot an inmate-manufactured cookstove at any time. After all,
lighters and matches were against prison rules.
The smoke hung in the rafters like clouds of sulfur, burning Jake’s
throat and lungs with each and every breath. Why not just issue
lighters? Jake thought. It would sure make it easier for everyone to
breathe, to say nothing of the thousands of rolls of toilet paper going
up in smoke.
Jake could hardly believe he’d landed in this awful place. Is this a
nightmare? Will I wake up one day and learn this was all a bad dream?
For a moment, Jake’s brain chose not to remember why he was in prison;
his mind swam more and more these days as sleep was leaving, and he was
in that hazy time determining what was a dream and what was real. The
palms of his hands went to his temples and he rubbed his aching head.
When awareness came to him, he quickly pushed it from his mind and
longed for blissful sleep. He reminisced of better days, when he was
considered one of the good guys.
Jake was a strong man with a ruddy exterior and handsome features, but
he was not like anyone else. Something had set him apart since the day
he was born. It was nothing obvious, nothing you could put your finger
on. Not different bad, just different. Jake often wondered if others
felt the way he did. Since childhood, Jake had struggled with his
identity, trying hard to fit in, but try as he may, he always felt as
awkward as a chicken in a duck pond.
In school, he was one of the brightest students in the class. He rarely
studied, but always passed his exams with high marks. Jake was like a
sponge, absorbing knowledge and always learning new things. From age two
he was mimicking his mother reading to him, holding a book to his
forehead and sounding the letters into words. In no time he was on his
own, killing the books, first in his nursery, then the children’s
books in the family room on the high shelves over the fireplace. Then
the novels in his mother’s library. One by one he devoured them and
was hungry for more. Jake’s parents marveled at his photographic
memory, which allowed him, at age seven, to participate in the adult
conversations around the coffee pot following the morning devotions.
Jake could recite his Sunday school lessons almost word for word, and
often corrected the teacher in matters where she may have got the name
wrong in a Bible story.
Jake was a mild-mannered child, one of the best babies ever, his mother
would boast, but something behind his mild nature slept, something
monstrous, or at least something not understood. It was an anomaly,
hidden in the body of a beautiful child, sleeping behind his ice-blue
eyes. It was something remarkable, mysterious, and something to be
feared, even by Jake himself.
Jake had few friends as a child; most of the kids his age could not keep
up with his constantly evolving mind. His intelligence was far beyond
the children around him, causing him to tire easily of their ignorance.
The older kids avoided him and treated him like a freak.
As a loner, Jake wandered the Comstock Junior High School hallways
during breaks; he usually ate his lunch alone in the school cafeteria
and sat in the rear of the classroom, where he could remain anonymous.
His anonymity served him well until he was fourteen years old.
On a gray November morning, Jake’s science teacher, Ms. Martin,
surprised the class with a movie titled If I had a Million Dollars. This
was a great treat for the class as Ms. Martin, despite being very
attractive, even sexy—for an older woman (although she wore far too
much perfume)—was known for her strict scientific ways and would
rarely relax to enjoy movies or stray from the textbook.
“Pay attention, class! I am only going to say this once. If you ever
want to see another movie in my class, you will be careful not to be
disruptive in any way.”
Ms. Martin walked back and forth at the front of the class with her
hands folded together behind her back, her high heels tapping on the
lab’s stone tile floor. Her generous chest pointed her path, and her
studious glasses framed her pretty face. She was only about four feet
seven without those heels but the shoes brought her to a solid five feet
“I expect you will all be on your very best behavior. It will only
take one to ruin it for the rest of the class. So, consider yourselves
warned, and don’t make this the last movie we see this year.”
Jake liked Ms. Martin; she was good-looking and dressed sexy, with short
skirts and lots of makeup. She was a refreshing vision compared to Ms.
Moore, his English teacher, who was an old, wrinkled hag, mean as they
come, and smelling of coffee and cigarettes. She had a rotten tooth in
her head reeking of gingivitis, causing Jake to hold his breath when she
was close to keep his stomach from clenching.
The movie was black-and-white and starred a fat man who was conducting a
study of human behavior and sense of entitlement. The movie reminded
Jake of the parable in the Bible about the master of three slaves. To
one, the master gave five talents of gold; to another, two talents of
gold; and to the third, he gave one talent of gold. The master went away
and when he returned, he called the three servants to him for an
The first servant bowed to his master and presented him with ten talents
of gold; he was praised for wisdom, and granted entrance into the joy of
his master’s house. The second servant showed the master he had
doubled the two talents of gold to four; he was praised, and granted
entrance into the joy of his master’s house. However, the third
servant said, “Oh, master, I knew you were a hard man and would one
day return demanding your money, so I was careful to bury it so I could
have it to present to you once again. Behold, master, your gold.”
When the master saw this, he became angry. “You knew I would return,
so why did you not put it in a bank so at least it would earn interest?
Why did you bury it, you fool? Depart from me and be damned!”
Jake remembered thinking the master was quite the hard man; he was very
cold, and showed little tolerance for laziness. Moreover, he had an
expectation of performance or duty when none was made clear. Jake would
remember this, and would later strive for success in all things
regardless of expectations.
Jake lost himself in the movie and was awakened back to reality by an
obnoxious boy with curly orange hair seated directly behind him named
Billy Parson. The boy was fooling around, causing Ms. Martin to become
annoyed. Jake turned to Billy and said in a hushed voice, “Why don’t
you shut up? Some of us are trying to watch the movie.” The boy gave
Jake an evil look but shut his hole just the same. Something about
Jake’s ice-blue eyes frightened the boy.
After the movie, the class prepared for third period. Jake, still
wondering about the meaning of the movie, in a daydream state of mind,
stepped out the door on his way to US history when brilliant light and
black spotting behind his eyes pulsed pain as Billy’s fist took him
out of operation.
“You shut up, punk,” Billy muttered as he wrinkled his nose and
raised his upper lip, causing his face to look like a pig.
Jake, dazed, knees buckling, still holding his books with both arms, was
trying to understand what had just happened when again the boy sucker
punched him in the face. Jake went down, stars dazzling bright in his
mind, books flying, loose papers lifting up like butterflies lost in the
wind. Jake shook his head and looked around with tears in his eyes. He
could see Billy and his gang scampering away, cawing like a flock of
crows as they left. Jake collected his books, gathered what he could of
the loose papers, and went to his locker.
He took a few deep breaths and tried to get it together. The blood was
burning his cheeks and he felt the sting of his feelings in the back of
his throat with every breath. Jake was not seriously injured, just
embarrassed and hurt. Now something inside Jake welled up and he
shivered. It was not anger, but a force. Something foreign began to take
control of him. Jake had only felt this sensation on a few occasions in
his young life, when he fell from the pier while fishing in the San
Francisco Bay and almost drowned in the freezing water, or when his
grandfather died. The entity dwelling inside him was coming forward.
Jake tried to push the thoughts of dismembering young Billy from his
mind. He saw the whole thing in a dream-like vision. He watched himself
moving in slow motion, executing perfect Kung Fu movements, methodically
destroying the boy. Jake was shaking and breathing heavy; he closed his
eyes, tightened his fists, and concentrated. Then, as suddenly as it
appeared, it was gone. A comforting peace washed over Jake like a warm
hug and he knew what to do. Thoughts of dismembering Billy left his
mind, but he would not let the boy get away with the sucker punch.
Jake cleaned himself up and made it to history class without incident.
The day became progressively better.
“Can anyone tell me who the primary enemy of the United States was
during World War II?” asked Mr. Brocker. Hands shot up all over the
classroom. Jake looked down at his drawing of a boy facing a Giant with
a sword. Jake was surprised at what his hand seemed to be drawing all on
its own. Jake’s usual doodles were nothing more than a cluster of
wandering circular marks. Here he had actually created a work of art,
and it was good. “Mr. Stanton, perhaps you could enlighten us.
Jake looked up. “Japan,” he said in a mild voice.
“That is correct,” said Mr. Brocker. “Japan attacked the United
States on December 7, 1941, by bombing our navy fleet in Hawaii.” Jake
went back to his drawing as Mr. Brocker turned to use the chalkboard.
Later that afternoon, Jake waited by Billy’s locker. He could hear the
obnoxious boy making fun of another kid as his followers laughed and
tagged behind him. Billy turned the corner and was nose-to-nose with
Jake. The look of surprise froze on Billy’s face and his eyes widened
like Marty Feldman in Young Frankenstein.
“You want some more, Stanton?” Billy cursed, tossing his book bag to
the ground and taking a fighting stance. “C’mon, punk!” Billy
Jake ducked the right cross thrown by the orange-haired boy, then, with
lightning speed, grabbed Billy by the shirt and swung him hard into the
lockers, causing a loud echoing sound as Billy’s head dented locker
number 12. Before the boy could get to his feet, Jake’s Redwing
carpenter boot met Billy’s face, tossing his head sideways, causing
blood to spray from Billy’s lip and nose. The growing crowd of
students began to chant, “Fight, fight, fight . . .”
Billy, completely dazed and in considerable pain, had no intention of
fighting at that point. The sight of his own blood caused him to weep
uncontrollably. He crawled away from his opponent and made a large wet
spot in the front of his bell-bottom Levi’s.
A medium-built, balding man with a comb-over hairstyle hurried toward
the growing group of teens. Vince Powell, the Comstock dean of boys,
rushed to break up the fight, pushing students aside and carving a path
through the crowd; but it was too late. Jake had managed to round the
corner of the building just in time to miss being caught fighting on
school grounds, an offence usually punished with a three-day suspension.
Not to mention what Jake’s father would do. This simple incident would
return to Jake time and time again, and he would use it to measure all
future enemy encounters.
Excerpted from "The Sword of Goliath: The Bloodline Chronicals (Volume 1)" by Anthony Jones. Copyright © 2016 by Anthony Jones. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.