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Chapter 10: FIGHT!


ThinkLink: Has anyone ever done anything to you just to get you in trouble?

       Four more days until my staffing. And one day seems like a week. I scrape a pan along the counter and dunk it into a sink of hot soapy water. We're doing after-dinner clean up in Taylor. I swish a brush. I used to think I was a free person shut up here by mistake, but I'm locked up same as any one of these screw-ups. I push my hands down into the hot water until my skin turns bright red. I try to let all the mad in me run down my arms, through my fingers and out into the water.

       "That's the last one," Pat tells me. Then he jerks around and yells at Randy. "Will ya look where you're going? This kitchen ain't big enough for you to swing that thing."

       Randy side-steps Pat, spins around and lifts a tray of salt and peppershakers over his head. "Incoming enemy planes."

       "Look out!" I holler at him. I jerk my hands out of the water and spin around. I throw my arms up to catch the tray coming right at my head. "Watch what you're doing!" I yell. Then something solid hits me from behind, right across my shoulders. What the hell? I feel myself falling forward into Randy. Tray and shakers fly all over. Guys crowd in the kitchen. "Yeah," I hear one of them yell. "Get him! Get him!"

       Randy socks me hard on the jaw. I take a hard jab at his nose and blood spurts out.

       "John hit me!" Randy hollers. "I'm bleeding. You saw it. You all saw it. He came at me. He started it." Randy's dancing all over the kitchen, yelling and waving his arms. I jerk my head around. Look over my shoulder. Hi-Lo! He's who banged into me. I turn back just in time for Randy's fist to slam hard into my cheekbone, right under my eye. Damn! They set me up. I punch at Randy, but my fist slips off his shoulder. I fall into him again.

       Davis runs over and pulls us apart. Then I hear him calling for the other guys to get back into the dayroom . He yells for Ferguson to get into the kitchen. "Bring the First Aid kit. Call Security. These two are going to Howard. We'll settle what happened later."

       Howard. The jail cottage. I step back and lean over the sink. My head's pounding. Blood drips down my cheek and into the dirty dishwater. Nobody moves. Davis stands in the middle of the room. Randy backs into a corner and shoots that cornered coyote look at me. I'm breathing hard, and the muscles in my arms stand out like they're ready to go at him again.

       Randy got Hi-Lo to push me. He tricked me and I fell for it! Making me fall into Randy. Sweat runs down under my arms.

        "Security's on the way," Ferguson says as he comes back into the kitchen.

       Davis nods. "I'll stay with these two until the car comes."

       My face is hot and the bloody place under my eye where Randy landed his lucky punch is starting to throb. Davis slops some antiseptic on it and hands me a square of gauze to hold on it. A car squeals to a stop outside. Davis pulls the door open. "Take them over to Howard, one at a time. I'll file a report before I go off duty."

       "This way, gladiator ," a guard with a beefy belly tells me. He takes hold of my arm and leads me outside. "We'll get you cleaned up and tucked in for the night, and then I'll come back for your buddy." He pushes my head down as I climb into the back seat.

ThinkLink: If you got into a fight, what would happen to you?

       Howard's just back of the school building. It only takes us a minute or two to drive there. "Wait there," the security guard tells me. No door handles in the back seat. Windows don't roll down. A metal grill between the seat. Where does he think I'll go? He squeezes his belly out from under the steering wheel and walks around to the big gray steel door of Howard. I watch through a barred window as a guard opens an inside door and then the big steel one to the outside.

       "I'm Mr. Wagner, night manager ," he tells me as I go in. He leads me into a little office area. "You're going to a segregation room , but first take off your shoes and jeans and put them in that basket over there. No belts or shoe laces."

       My skin starts to crawl. Not another body search . But as soon as I'm standing in my uns , he hands me a pair of sweats. He cleans up my cut again with something that stings bad and then he points me to another door. We walk into a long room with a ceiling that goes up two stories. It's almost as high as the barn at the ranch . I look down rows of steel doors that line both sides of the room. Little bulbs in wire cages up on the ceiling make small pools of light in the shadows.

       Wagner stops at one of the doors. He turns the lock with a key that hangs from a chain fastened to his belt. "Inside." He holds the door open and waits for me to go through. "Lights go out at 9:30. Get your bed made up before then. And don't make any ruckus . You're in here to cool off, so do it."

       The door shuts with a clang and I hear the key click in the lock. I pace around the dinky little room, smashing a fist into my other hand, bawling myself out for getting caught out by Randy and Hi-Lo.

       The bed is a metal shelf fastened to the wall with big bolts. I unroll the mattress covered with faded blue and white ticking. I get a nose full of stale pee and Lysol. I throw the gray blanket over it. Maybe that'll help.

       I walk over to a steel sink fastened to a steel plate on the wall over by the corner. I punch a button on the wall behind it and a stream of water comes out for a minute and then stops. Next to it there's a funny toilet with a built-in rim for a seat. No pipes, no handles anywhere. I stomp on a button on the floor and the toilet flushes.

       Little pings of water hit the window. I walk over and try to see out in the dark, but all I see is rain hitting the glass and me looking out at it. The bruise on my cheek is bright red. I'll have a black eye tomorrow for sure. I bounce up and down. Blood pumps through me so hard my skin tingles. I walk around the room some more. My socks don't make a sound on the concrete floor. This isn't a room. It's a cell. I think of that old movie again, the one in Sing-Sing where the con in the cell paces back and forth ... only it's not him. It's me.

       Metal clangs in the center room. I walk over to the door and try to see out, but the slot in the door is covered. Then I hear Randy. Sounds like they're right outside.

       "Don't push me, you son-of-a bitch."

       Then I hear Wagner's voice. "Watch it, smart mouth. You're in Howard because you can't control yourself. You freak out here, you just got yourself to hurt."

ThinkLink: Tell about a time when a parent or teacher didnít believe your side of a problem.

       "I ain't the one who done it." Randy's yelling again, still pumped. "It was John Hanson. He's the one. He came at me. They can tell you. Davis, over at Taylor, he seen Hanson come at me."

       "You'll get a hearing in the morning. Those are the rules. Mr. Davis will file a report. Now get in there and cool down."

       Damn! They'll believe Randy. My tags! I'm gonna lose 'em all. I pound on the door until my fist is numb and yell, "Someday, Randy. I'll get back at you. You'll see. Someday."

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 Updated on 9/30/03

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