I had to stop making my prison knife. The razor edge of the fingernail clipper was digging to far into the steel table. It was starting to run into deep resistance. Little steel shank slivers were the problem and they were making an obscene amount of noise. The grinding sound was reverberating through the deathly quiet building into a hundred prisoners’ ears. Instead of hearing a pin drop, inmates who had experience, knew steel was being carved into a killing tool.
I looked at my cell brother Damon on the top bunk from my crouch on the ground. His long angular, bullet shaped head had a prison made beanie over it wrapped just above his eyes. His eyes were the color of blue ocean water and were focused into laser beams of stress. He said, “Hey homeboy every cell in this building knows you’re carving out a knife. You might as well keep carving.”
I laughed at my cell brother’s blunt way of putting things and pretended to go with it and focused on the steel table to see how he would react. The edge of the table had a piece of thin steel that folded over and tucked under that gave me two inches to work with along the two feet of table top length. I had a six-inch long straight line carved an inch deep that was starting to poke through. I had to be extremely careful not to push to hard and fracture off to small of a piece or all my work for the last three days would be for nothing. I positioned my clipper edge in the already cut open steel and angled it and slid it back and forth as lightly as possible.
Damon grunted above me and I heard him moving in agitation as he maneuvered off the top bunk.
I heard his feet hit the ground, as did the rest of the quiet building. I knew he was headed for the cell door to see what the prison guards were doing. I asked, “Are the guards trippin?”
I knew the building guards were gone to feed the rest of the buildings but the tower guards were always there.
Damon grunted and said, “They’re slippin. One is asleep and the other one is either texting someone on his phone or looking for a new girlfriend on Facebook. There are a few Mexicans in their cells staring over here. They know what you’re doing.”
I asked, “What about the Black inmates?”
Damon grunted and said, “None of them are up. They assume everyone has a knife and sleep through everything while locked down.”
It was time for me to stop but I didn’t want to. I had to get this done before the guards came back inside. I said, “We might get moved to building one next to the Mexican Mobsters this morning or this afternoon. I want this done before then.”
Damon didn’t even turn around and look at me. He stood like a statue staring at the inside of the building deep in thought. He was probably pissed at me for being so hard headed. I should have talked strategy with him before plowing through survival stress on my own these last three days. I knew he trusted me, but cell brothers had to stay on the same page.
I said, “Excuse me for not consulting you on this. My bad.”
That was all it took. Damon turned and faced me with a stoic expression. I got as close to a smile as I was going to get and saw him relax a little.
He nodded his head and said, “So much for sleep. I’m going to work out to drown out some of the noise from your machine shop.”
He stood two feet in front of me and had just enough room to drop to the ground for a set of pushups before the toilet and cell door swallowed up our space. I watched him pump out five pushups and then jump back to his feet and lift each knee to his chest. After his tenth set of burpies, his long and muscular white body got damp with sweat. It was over 100 degrees outside and sweat started glistening down his body. It made the ink on his tattoos shine with more clarity. On his shredded back I watched a collage of ink crafted into a gambling scene move around as his muscles flexed and contracted. There was an Ace of Spades and a three-leaf clover circling toward each other like they were being shuffled every time he did a pushup. Underneath, on his lower back there was crime scene tape that read: DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR.
I turned back around and started carving again lost in my thoughts. Half of my shank was visible. The fingernail clipper, my third one in three days, was getting dull and it was taking longer.
I got the last clipper of the two-fingernail set and went back to work. Very lightly, I slid the sharp edge three inches back and forth. Sweat beaded and ran down my forehead and I realized making the knife was a form of therapy. It was a calming reaction to the stress of a potential race war with the Mexicans, and always the possibility of other problems.
Time disappeared and evaporated as another inch of my new shank became visible. My hand adjusted and found the two-inch range to drive the razor edge of the nail clipper back and forth.
The sounds of Damon’s feet dropping to the ground and popping back up stopped. The grinding noise against the table shrieked obscenities unhindered again into the now quiet building so I stopped and turned to look at Damon.
He was staring at me with his head tilted back in a look that I decided was a constant appraisal. Like he was studying an unknown insect to see if it was poisonous.
He said, “BJ you can finish in a few minutes when the Mexicans work out. After I shower I’ll make you a carrying case for your new luggage.”
I nodded my head and then couldn’t help but laugh at my life. How did it get to this point? Want more? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a gift copy. My Author page http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00571NY5A
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