Oh, yeah, here he come. A handsome young, broad-face, dark skin, Black boy with curly hair. He walks with a swagger and a smile. A smile that would strip girls and women, boys and men, out of their underwear at the glint of those sparkling teeth. And he got moves. Athletic, strong, and fast. And he come up here to the log with a smile and style, not knowing he’s still a child.
He stop 15 feet from me, put his hands on his hips, look me up and down.
He give me that killer grin as he looks for an opening. The best way to get to stab me to death. With the least harm to his vain, pretty self.
The whole prison yard is watching this drama. Live reality TV starring he and me. This audience knows me. The boy doesn’t. That’s why they sent him up here. He just arrived. The first thing they did was give him this little errand.
“Go up there and off that 80-year-old OG. Fuck him up good and we get you pussy every day, any drug you want, and a cell phone. We put money in your account and get you the best criminal defense attorney in the city. It’s all yours. Go TCB boy. It take you five minutes tops. Hell, just say ‘boo’ and he probably fall over dead.”
He don’t even know what TCB means. Too young.
“Hey, Pops, why you up here all alone, man? What is you, antisocial or something?”
I stretch my legs. Arthritis in my knees is killing me.
“My name is Horace, but you can call me Pops if it give you a thrill. You a beautiful boy. Step over here and let me touch your tender place.”
It’s a little late, but I can almost see the alarm bells goin’ off in the boy’s head.
“Don’t be afraid. I’m not going to kill you. I’m going to pluck out your eyes and fuck you right here in front of everybody. The guards always record this shit for the darknet. You get worldwide exposure, boy. The funny part is you won’t even be able to see it.”
“Who the fuck do you think you’re talking to you decrepit, ancient, motherfucker? I’ll cut you from ear to ear. You fucking Social Security retard.”
Despite his words, the boy has not moved any closer. He’s startin’ to sweat.
“I don’t know who I’m talkin’ to. You haven’t introduced yourself. Step a Little closer. My hearin’ ain’t what it used to be.”
I lean forward. Hemorrhoids.
He takes a step back.
“How you going to cut my throat if you’re afraid to even tell me your name?”
“Fuck you. Fuck your rusty old Black ass. My name is the last word you’ll hear as I gut you.”
“Make up your mind, boy. Are you going to slice my throat or gut me? Or are you going to do both? I’ve done both, but never to the same person. That seems like overkill. But each to his own.”
The boy wipes his brow with the back of his hand. He looks over his shoulder at the prisoners all staring back at him. He glances up to the tower and sees the guard peering down at him.
I speak in a soothin’ voice. “Come on over here. Blind is better than dead. If you don’t believe me, ask Romansky. I blinded him ‘bout a year back. I think he’s adapted pretty damn well. He’s everybody’s bitch, but he’s alive. I don’t do murder anymore. You caught me at a good stage in my life. I’m reformed.”
The last comment makes me laugh for a good two minutes until a coughin’ fit stops me. Emphysema.
Sweat stains the armpits of the boy’s shirt.
He eases a shank out of his right pocket.
“Okay, we finally getting this show on the road. You see me waving to the guards. I’m telling them it’s okay. I’m telling them not to shoot your Black ass. I got this. See, you see them looking back. Watch, watch they’ll wave. See him wave back? Don’t you see that? Now, let’s get this show over. Whatever your name is.”
The boy wipes sweat from his eyes with his shirt tail. He takes a tentative step toward me.
“Yeah, bring it on. Don’t stop or hesitate. They’ll think you weak. I know you ain’t weak. You ain’t weak, are you?”
The boy looks around like somebody’s going to step out of the sky and help him.
“Jesus can’t help you, boy. Look, I done killed my fair share, but I’m reformed now. Before I reformed, I killed a family of six, ages eight to thirty-eight, in Duluth, Minnesota. Raped them before and after I cut their throats. Just to see what the difference was, you know? Come on. You know what I’m talkin’ about, right?”
The boy looks like he’s about to lose his lunch.
“Fuck you! You’re lying. I’m going to—”
“Come on. Boy, quit stallin’. Goddam, it didn’t take me this long to kill my parents and siblings. I mean, if you don’t count the time it took me to peel off their faces. I think that is still my favorite—”
He tosses down the shank as he gives up his lunch and whatever else he eat.
I don’t feel a bit sorry for him as he staggers back to the herd. He’s going to be everybody’s bitch.
But better him than me. Hell, he was going to kill me. You just don’t know how hard it is to be eighty years old and in here for tax evasion. You don’t get no respect at all.
Image – File:Inmates Orleans Parish Prison.jpg|Inmates Orleans Parish Prison – author
Bart Everson – New Orleans. In all my years crossing the Jeff Davis overpass, which overlooks the Orleans Parish Prison, I don’t think I’ve ever before noticed inmates in the yard. What’s up with that?
Did you know Louisiana incarcerates more adults per capita than any other state in the nation? And given that the US has the highest incarceration rate in the world, that means we lock up a lot of our people.
If you’d have asked me last week, I would have said I suspected that Orleans Parish has the highest incarceration rate in the state. But I recently read it’s St. Tammany parish, where the incarceration rate is approaching 1%.You can’t really ignore the racial dimension of mass incarceration. According to Michelle Alexander, the United States “imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid.”