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Chapter 4

Death row isn’t this place where they send you and everyday someone dies. There are always long waits. They have appeals, and then appeals to turn around appeals that were turned down. Then of course there were the human rights groups who believed that every man has the right to live and we must not take away life. So they would hold demonstrations and then there would be cases lodged. It basically meant that even if you were sentenced to death, it didn’t exactly mean you’d be executed immediately. The average time a person spent on death row was about 15 years before everything fell into place unless you were someone like the Orlando mass murderer, Timothy McVeigh. Then they sped things up because the public would bay for your blood. About us, no one really cared. It really didn’t matter to them what happened to us. They had done their part in putting us away and now it didn’t make a difference to them how long we were to stay in here. I myself had been here for close to 10 years now. The kid had been in here for almost six months. I still didn’t know much about him. He never spoke of his past. I didn’t even know when his date was coming up. I just hoped I went before him. I didn’t think I’d be able to stand life in the pen without the kid. He had become real close to me. Steve too had grown quite fond of him. I was quite proud of the kid, the way he handled himself with the ‘‘Sisters’’. Every time they cornered him he always found a way to talk himself out of it. I had not seen anyone in my ten years in here that did as many things as he did just to make this hellhole seem like a nice place. He would talk about anything but what we were in here for. The three of us would talk about the places we’d go to, the women we’d take out, the lovely shacks we’d open up on the beach. None of us talked about the fact that we’d never ever get out of here. We didn’t believe in miracles. We knew that there was no chance but it was the kid who taught us that no matter what, hope will always keep you alive.

It was bound to happen sometime or the other. The kid had gotten away from the ‘‘Sisters’’ too many times. He had made excuses, made them look like fools. They were out to get him. No one had lasted so long without getting caught by the ‘Sisters’. That day, was three days after Christmas, he was working in the laundry section that day. Steve and I were out in the boiler room working on the heating systems. The kid was supposed to be with us but he offered to help out old Jim with the laundry. The ‘Sisters’ cornered the kid. They scared off Jim who tried to come and find us. The ‘Sisters’ locked up the room and Jones, the biggest of them bully’s hit the kid in the stomach. The poor guy went down immediately. They then held him up and Link, their leader flipped a knife and held it to his ear and said, “I’m gonna give you something to put in your mouth and your going to swallow it. If you try anything funny you’ll have to find something else to hear out of, do you understand you bastard?” the kid looked up at him as Link opened his zipper and said, “you obviously don’t know what happens when you poke something sharp in someone’s ear do you?” For the fist time, Link looked unsure of himself. “Well” continued the kid, “when a persons ear is pierced, the resulting trauma causes the victim to bite down so hard that you need a crowbar to pry his teeth open.” This sure shook everybody up a little. They didn’t know if the kid was lying to them or if he was actually telling them the truth. Link looked around at the others in hope of getting some sort of a sign from them as to what to do. He wasn’t going to risk it but he didn’t want to let the kid get away now. Not this time. They never did put anything in the kid’s mouth but the seven of them beat him up so badly that by the time Steve and I got to the laundry room he had passed out. Steve took one look at him and exclaimed, “Jesus! They didn’t hold back this time did they? Those sick bastards.” I bent down and with Steve’s help picked the kid up and carried him to the sanitarium. The doc in attendance was Parks. He had worked in a hospital before he had stolen some sort of poison and used it to kill his creditors when they threatened to take his house away. He was used to seeing the cops beat the convicts up so he wasn’t too surprised to see the kid in this shape. He immediately directed us to the empty bed where we laid the kid down. He ushered us out and those bastards the cops, kept us out of the san and didn’t even let us visit him. We got information from the people working inside that the kid had regained consciousness but he was still in a real bad state. Steve and I had a few friends inside the san and we tried our best to get as much info as possible about his condition. Parks told us of this one time when the kid was sleeping and as the visiting doctor walked in, the kid just opened his eyes. He saw the doc all dressed up in his white coat, his stethoscope and the kid just lost it! he just went mad! He started screaming and shouting and kept screaming “No!!! No!! Please, Not again. I Promise. I won’t tell anyone. Please don’t! Please!!” as the doc came closer, he started getting violent and he had to be held down by 4 of them till he could be given a sedative and subdued. When they mentioned it to him later, he refused to comment on it. Steve and I sent word through Parks to the kid telling him we were all waiting for him.

It took the kid close to six weeks to be released from the san. Fortunately, the doc that attended to the kid had gotten wind about the ‘Sisters’ proclivities (one of the words that the kid had taught me) and had complained to the higher ups and the cops at the pen got a real dressing down. Those bastards know only one way of dealing with blame and that’s passing it on to someone else. So they decided it was the ‘Sisters’ fault and decided to take out their anger on the ‘Sisters’. The ‘Sisters’ were so badly ‘disciplined’ that they never even walked together again. This news couldn’t have come at a better time as it coincided with the kid’s release from the san. As soon as we heard the news that he was released, we ran to meet him. There he stood, by the basketball court. He was just standing there, watching them shoot a few hoops. He had his hands folded in front of him and he seemed to be far away, in his own world. I stopped Steve, and just pointed at the kid. The kid was staring down at the mud by his feet and lost in thought and slowly tears began rolling down his face. Steve and I looked at each other and it was evident that he didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t too sure either. I didn’t want to walk in on him when he obviously wanted to be alone. At the same time, I wanted to walk up to him, put my arms around him and tell him that everything would be alright. The poor guy just stood there and wept and we just stood and shamelessly watched.

The whole six weeks of being alone seemed to have changed the kid in a way. He was less talkative and he stuck by himself a lot more. He didn’t seem to want to talk about anything. Steve worried that the beating he received must have affected his head. I explained to him that such a change was not to be expected from the beating though when he hadn’t spoken to us properly in a week, I began to doubt my knowledge of the subject. I even asked Parks but he didn’t know either. Then suddenly the kid started speaking again. Just like that. When I asked him about it all he’d say was “All in good time Al, all in good time.” Steve was the happiest. He had his English teacher back and he took it upon himself to excel at it just to show the kid he had been practicing when the kid was away. It was just like old times. The kid had changed though. There was no denying it. He asked Steve when his date was. Steve said he didn’t know and he didn’t care but I knew he kept a makeshift calendar in his room and ticked off the days, one by one to his date. There really wasn’t anyone who didn’t really care. Yes, I hadn’t thought of it much, of late but it was always at the back of my mind. You couldn’t really forget about it. It wasn’t something you could just forget so easily. The kid, Steve and I could joke about it all we wanted but the truth was that there really was no escaping death.

Parks, Steve and I were standing around in the yard when the kid walked up to us. We introduced the kid to Parks properly and gave him the whole story of how Parks had taken the poison from the hospital. Steve could always make it sound funnier than it really was. He really was good at telling stories. He’d have been great with kids. He’d have been great with Angie. As these guys chatted about this and that I thought back to my time with little Angie. How fearless she had been when she climbed on her bicycle, how she would be the first to clamber up a wall. I could still remember the time she climbed up this tree and how worried I was that she’d fall and just as I told her she’ll fall, she fell. Running to her to comfort her and instead being comforted by her. How she told me that she was alright and that there was nothing wrong with her and how I insisted on taking her to Dr.Patterson the person who was the best when it came to broken bones in children. I was shaken out of my reverie by the kid and he asked, “Already reminiscing about the women your going to meet in hell huh?” “I just hope I don’t meet my missus there”, I countered. Laughter rang out amongst us. “What were you so lost in thought about?” asked Steve. “Nothing. Just thinking about Angie. Hey Parks, that doc, that children’s doc, he worked in the same place you worked right? That Dr.Patterson, he was a great guy. He treated Angie for free.” The kid looked up. He face had this unreadable expression. I looked at him and didn’t even hear what Parks said because of the look that I saw him wearing. Then he looked at us, smiled and said, “I knew the real Dr.Patterson.”

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