18 August, 2007


[This post originally appeared on my MySpace blog, which no longer exists. The date of the original posting has been lost.]

Fifteen minutes to eat, but who times us and how precise their methods remains undetermined. Some days it seems like only five, others a half hour.

I shuffle with the rest of the herd through the dining hall door, in from a frigid northern wind, and patiently wait as the line winds its way past the tiny hole from which the trays are served. This is by now routine; although, in my initial weeks here, each trip up to this capacious, halogen-lit room was a frightening excursion into foreign territory. Now, I have my own regular seat.

Today's five slots of ostensibly nutritious pap are potato soup, a grilled cheese sandwich, five-bean salad, canned corn, and a banana. It is far from the worst meal offered.

Behind me stands Larry, a pale, portly farm boy who lives in my wing. He is fifty, though he looks older, and serving a sentence of life without parole. He is talking — that molasses-slow falsetto of a voice — about comic book characters, and I am only half listening.

"Of course, Tony Stark always knew he'd get more dependent on the suit, you know, as time went on. The other suits — War Machine and that — they were kind of necessary..." and on and on. I like Larry well enough, but there is relief when my turn arrives to grab a tray.

It is lunchtime, so I sit with Mack and Lee, grizzled old-timers with more time under their combined belts than I've been alive. We get the obligatory half-jokes out of the way about who's eating what, then salt the hell out of everything.

"Where's Everett?" asks Mack. "Didn't he come up?"

"He went to the property room. Legal stuff," I answer. Everett usually sits with us, but today there is a legal file to dredge through. I know, from conversations, he has five boxes full of documents in storage. He is also serving life.

Mack snorts. "Don't know why he bothers; motherfucker's never gettin' out. You know he killed his old lady, don't ya?"

"Stabbed her thirty, forty times, I think," adds Lee, looking wide-eyed through those Coke-bottle glasses. He chuckles a little. My stomach turns.

"Well, I heard he shot her," Mack says.

"Yeah, well, he admits to that," I answer, half in his defense, "He was just trying to get it out what she'd been doing to the kids. That and the thing with DFS not lifting a finger to help."

They know the story. Everett's made no secret of his documentation. Being reminded takes their bluster. Salacious gossip is nothing I want a part of, so today I am a wet blanket.

We finish eating without another word. It seems like a half hour.