Winter in Texas can be downright bitter.
It's said that the cold weather in certain parts of the state can kick up winds which hiss like a rattlesnake uncovered from a shady spot beneath a sun-scorched rock, ready to bite you in the ass without warning if one doesn't keep an eye out and tread carefully to safety.
I've heard from an old, rugged, tobacco-spitting farmer that the harsh breeze can seep through your overalls and sting you right in the soul if you're caught with your head under the sand and are unprepared to face the elements when they come.
According to the grey-bearded man, the harsh winters have a nasty, unrelenting habit of making their way through the city of Bryan year in and year out, and punching below the belt without being called for a foul; he considers it wise counsel to wear a protective piece if one ventures through a particular stretch of real estate.
Department of Corrections Federal Inmate 84868-054, a black female, age 32, has thus far stayed protected from the cold, concrete slab floors, certain drafty rooms and from women whose attitudes methodically change from content to acrimonious when the sun moves closer toward Oceania and exchanges courses in October.
But the turn of events in this particular instance is about to change.
Federal Inmate 84868-054 has yet to check in to postal code 77805 - a facility known as FPC Bryan and stated to be on the mild side of the of the 27 Federal penal colony locations the U.S. Department of Justice has to offer the 200,931 federal guests in its current system.
This particular future prisoner is currently on free foot the next 13 days to roam the streets for toy stores, department stores, and shopping malls to find gifts to lavish on her children—both boys—to ensure they have the proper attire to stay warm for their weekend visits during their journey from some 108 miles away.
The morning after her shopping spree ends and the lights dim, she will awaken on March 11 and check herself into prison where she'll spend the next six months housed with 952 other women who have broken U.S. Federal laws and have received their fair, just, and equal reward for their efforts.
The acronym FPC aptly stands for Federal Prison Camp, and Federal Inmate 84868-054, currently known outside of the block as Marion Jones, has exactly two weeks from today to make a beeline straight from the comfort of her Austin home to the daycare center, which, incidentally, also covers for a night shelter for the shackled, to which she has been ordered to serve six months of mopping floors, dumping bins, and playing nice for the justice system.
There may be a hundred chores to accomplish in the next 14 days, but Marion Jones's main concern will be ensuring her husband knows how to feed the kids, wash their clothes and check the eldest one's schoolwork before the television is turned on and the cartoons fill the emptiness left when the mother's voice is gone.
Obadele O. Thompson, who hails from the Bahamas, will need to transform from a really fast sprinter to a foster mother to ensure that the youngest boy, an infant, doesn't starve needlessly or take on a case of rash on his butt whilst his mom is gone.
He'll also need to look after Tim Montgomery's boy, too, as he also sets course this spring for his own date with the United States penal system and will be unable to provide the slightest bit of monetary or personal assistance to the man who married his old girlfriend, a woman who once won five Olympic medals at the same Games by means of deception and fraud.
Marion Jones will trade in her fine linens for khaki-coloured standard prison-issued ones, and will begin to serve the United States of America rather than be served by Nike and athletics organisers from around the globe who once lavished upon her all-expenses paid trips to a stadium near you in an effort to see her run.
Marion Jones has 14 days to get her life together, her nerves under wraps, and her attitude adjusted as she enters into a phase of her life once possibly imagined but never believed when she weighed the risks of taking performance-enhancing drugs and making money by deceptive and illegal methods.
Due to her many staunch and vociferous denials of having had any connection at all to drugs, it is likely Marion Jones never believed it plausible that she would be fingerprinted, photo identified, badged, and locked away from her family and a life of luxury.
Borrowing from a line in the 80's spaghetti western, "Lone Wolf McQuade," the following statement fits Marion Jones's life to the bill: "My kind of trouble doesn't take vacations."
Marion Jones's kind of troubles haven't taken a holiday, either, forcing the financially-strapped former athlete, who has played shamed victim to Oprah and the world, to take a rest from the people, places, and things to which she has associated herself for good and bad since she stepped on the road to stardom—make that infamy—11 years ago.
The just payment requested of Marion Jones for her sins against the U.S. government will begin paying dividends in two weeks' time when she's forced to take a time-out from a once prosperous life she had borrowed but had not created.
Marion Jones, who has been married just over a year, has remnants remaining from a past filled with lies, lies and more lies, and has two weeks to come to grips with the fact that truth-telling in larger portions just may do her more good than harm.
She'll be spared the harsh, bitter, chilling, wintry months many women there have already been forced to endure, but her graduation from the police house to the courthouse to the Federal house will be a cold shock, nonetheless, one which the government actually hopes will bite her soul and help prepare her for any future storms she may face in her life.
They government calls it rehabilitation.
Opponents call it a waste of time and tax-payer money.
Some even call it unjust.
Marion Jones called it fair, though the wording appeared to have come from a select script she had waiting for such a moment in time.
Time is on Marion Jones's side, really.
She has two whole weeks to call friends, meet with family and hold her children dearly. She also has time for all the fun legal work like transferring bill payments from her account into her husband's, and setting up a special guest list of people who can make the two hour, one minute trip every Saturday and Sunday from Austin to see Marion Jones conduct sprinting clinics around the prison's exercise track.
Marion Jones also has time to make complete amends with the public as she sees the harsh reality of the consequences of consciously making bad decisions. You may find yourself waiting the rest of your natural lives on that one, but first thing's first.
Marion Jones is about to enter prison, and one hopes her taste buds have already began to make the transition between steak and stew.
She has two weeks to adjust to strict waking hours, standard sleeping hours, and, most importantly, an absolute and unequivocal prohibition of going anywhere she sees fit any time she has the urge.
Prison number 84868-054 has been reserved for Marion Jones, and a bed in a four-woman living quarters has been approved for her use at FPC Bryan.
Fourteen days of freedom remain for a woman who has left a lifetime of wounds on a sport craving positive public attention.
The six months of time following her next phase will conclude on or around September 11th, 2008, a date Marion Jones already shares with history by gracing the cover of Time Magazine on that date one year before terrorists struck the United States.
Marion Jones's release shouldn't gather much news as presidential hopefuls steal the viewing public's time and energy away from a dead story and capitalize on fears both perceived and real.
Six months is a long time from now, however, and journalists will flock outside of the minimum-security prison in two weeks to snap photos, take statements and scurry about to break the news first, namely that Marion Jones is actually in jail.
I just hope that I don't have to learn first on BBC News or any other cable channel that Marion Jones has jumped ship or was delinquent in reporting, because my tickets to my next holiday destination are non-refundable.