Resurrection 71

This is a chapter of the book I am writing for NaNoWriMo. If you want to read it from the start, click here for the chapter index.

5 Trays, 5 Days

Sunday night lights out were at 10pm. For J.W. it couldn’t come soon enough. It took all of his emotional strength just to keep from becoming a wailing, crying mess. He spread out his matt on the floor, pulled his single blanket over his orange jumpsuit and closed his eyes. Tater could hear him sobbing in the darkness. They all did the first night.

At night, jail is loud. Even without his anxiety and despair, J.W. wouldn’t have been able to sleep. Tonight the White County Jail housed 23 inmates, J.W. was sure all 23 either snored. Or talked and laughed. Most of them played cards or chess all night.

By 4am the talking had stopped and, though the snoring continued, J.W. finally collapsed into a dreamless sleep. The lights came on one hour later, with the sound of an air horn.

J.W. stirred, but wasn’t quick to sit up. He was exhausted and his body hurt from sleeping on the concrete, his matt not withstanding. Tater and the others in his cell sat up on their cots. A corrections officer came by and unlocked the cell.

“Better get your ass up, ‘Preacher’, head count and breakfast in 10 minutes. You miss it, you don’t eat.” His voice was snide.

J.W. willed himself to sit up. He was just again realizing this wasn’t all a dream, he was in jail.

“Come on,” encouraged Tater, pulling on his jumpsuit. “We gots to line up.” Tater appeared to be the only one of the four who even noticed J.W.

J.W. craned himself up from the floor, almost trampled by the other four in the attempt. A line formed at the heavy metal door. He hadn’t noticed last night the wide, three inch tall slot at the bottom where trays of food were pushed through as each inmate bent to retrieve in turn. J.W. was fifth to last in line.

As each tray was dispensed the inmate would then go to one of the metal picnic tables in the common room to eat. There were three, each able to accommodate six.

J.W. still in shock, shuffled forward, head down, as the line moved.

When his turn came, he bent and retrieved his tray, then looked for a table with an empty space to sit. The tables were full and J.W. was a bit relieved. He didn’t want to deal with anyone anyway. He picked a spot against the wall, and sat, “indian-style”, feeling the cold concrete block against his back. He balanced the tray on his lap.

The meal was simple. There were two pieces of bread, glued together with a thin layer of peanut butter and jelly, warm oatmeal and a child-sized carton of milk. It also boasted a tiny plastic spoon.

As J.W. looked at the tray, his shock left him motionless. The confusion of fear and disbelief caused his mind to race while it struggled to even complete the simple task of reaching for the sandwich, opening his milk or even lifting the spoon for his oats. He just stared at the heavy plastic tray.

People often talk about “fight or flight,” but there is another response to being in a position where true, deadly fear grips men’s minds: Freeze. J.W. was frozen in the catatonic grip of his fear.

As he sat there motionless, expressionless, one of the larger inmates, approached. J.W. didn’t notice him until he spoke.

“Five days, five trays, Fish.” Dakota Harriman was a full six-feet three inches tall and his steroid enhanced physique weighed in over 250 pounds. Though J.W. was a full six feet himself, huddled on the floor Dakota loomed over him.

“What?” muttered J.W., looking up at the hulking figure.

“Five trays, five days. You give me five of your trays over the next five days. Damn, Fish, you retarded or somethin’?” Harriman’s frame required far more calories than the jail provided. He “supplemented” his meals by intimidating other inmates.

The threat caused J.W. to break through the haze of his mind. Holding the tray, he stood slowly to his feet.

To Harriman, J.W. didn’t appear too threatening. He had a slim build and Harriman sized him up as someone who didn’t pose a threat. As J.W. stood, Harriman crossed his arms in front of his massive chest. He expected J.W. to simply hand him the tray. They all did.

J.W. said nothing, and held the tray in front of himself with both hands. He looked at Harriman.

Harriman, unfolded his right arm and reached out to take hold of the tray.

J.W. felt a surge of rage and adrenaline. Before Harriman touched the tray, J.W. snatched it back and swung it at the big man’s face, the edge hitting him on the bridge of his nose, breaking both.

The big man stumbled back, dazed by the impact. Before he could react, J.W. tackled him and they both fell to the concrete floor, J.W. landing on top of Harriman.

J.W.’s rage-fueled attack was not strategic, it was embodied anger. He straddled Harriman’s abdomen and kept hitting him in the face, while Harriman alternately struggled to cover his face with one hand while trying to push J.W. off him.

The original strike had opened a significant gash across his nose, and now his eyes were a mess of blood and oats.

 

The other inmates, always hoping for the entertainment of a fight, rushed over. The COs were less speedy. They also enjoyed watching the fights, at least as long as there wasn’t serious injury. If an inmate had to be transported to the hospital, that meant more paperwork. They did everything they could to avoid paperwork.

Within a minute, which in a fight seems a long time, the guards sounded a siren, and three COs rushed into the common area to break up the fight. The inmates all dropped to the floor, lying face down, fingers threaded behind their heads.

J.W. was still swinging wildly, but Harriman had managed to sit up, parrying the blows and pushing J.W. off him. Harriman returned one punch, an overhand right, that knocked the kneeling J.W. to the floor. It was fortunate for J.W. Harriman was still seated when he swung and not able to hit him properly – Harriman could easily punch a man unconscious.

Harriman climbed on top of J.W. now, “I’m gonna kill you you fuckin’ son of a bitch. You’re a dead man.” He pulled back his massive right fist to deliver another blow.

That’s when both men were hit with the pepper spray from the guards. Harriman had experienced this before. The guards feared him. His size and strength were intimidating, and the COs didn’t carry guns. The plan with Harriman was always to spray him first, then subdue him.

Harriman reached up to rub his burning eyes, compounding his pain. He struggled for breath. While he was disoriented, two of the officers threw him to the concrete and cuffed his massive arms behind his back.

A third officer sprayed J.W. directly in the face before roughly rolling him over on his face, straddling his back as he cuffed him. J.W.’s eyes seared with pain while his lungs struggled to take breaths.

“Guess the new fish was tougher than Biggun thought,” chuckled one of the guards.

 

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