Friday, February 25, 2011

Doing Time - Flash Fiction

This is an older post, but I went back and made a correction or two and somehow it jumped to the top of the queue. Sorry if you already read it...the NEW story is just after this one. My apologies!

Jude ruled The Place. He was proud of it; after all, he'd only transferred there 3 months ago, from a smaller facility upstate. Same old system, though, just on a larger scale. A cinder block building, exercise yard of baked and beaten dirt, and guards watching every move. The inmates never changed either. Snitches, bullies, sissies, and the occasional loco that everyone knew to avoid or placate, depending on the look in his eyes. But Jude had known enough to come in strong, to find the pack leader and make him submit, to bribe and threaten the snitches to work for him. He had 6 more years left on his sentence, without the option of early release for good behavior.

He sauntered over to the wall and idly ran his finger along the edge. A chunk of concrete about the size of his hand moved. Jude turned and, with his back to the wall, made a great show of scratching one arm, then the other. Finally, he reached behind, presumably scratching his back as well but removing the loose piece of block and palming the scrap of paper which lay inside the crevice.
"Shirt down!" barked the middle-aged, stocky guard leaning up against the nearby fence.
Jude snapped off a salute and sauntered away as the others hooted appreciatively. The guard went back to examining his fingernails.

Got it! T was scrawled on the note. He quickly put it in his mouth, molding it into a sodden ball and then spitting it at the back of his friend's head. They had marched inside and taken their places in the chow line. A row of unsmiling women ladled congealed food onto trays as they jockeyed for position and complained loudly about the smell. Jude took his place at the "head" table and wolfed his lot down. The lanky blond across from him dropped a roll, and as he bent to pick it up Jude felt a hand on his ankle, then a small cylindrical object pushed into his sock.

They were permitted 15 minutes of leisure time after lunch, and Jude sat pensively looking out the window. What he was about to do made no sense, really. If he was caught, there would be consequences. An interview with the Warden. Interrogations. Maybe even a beating. All to create mayhem, to break the endless cycle of hopelessness and boredom, and yes, to enhance his standing among the others. He made his decision; he stood up, walked quietly over to the guard, and murmured a few words. He presented the pass he'd been given. Then, with a pounding heart, he left the room.

Jude had just returned when a loud report issued from somewhere in the building. Within seconds, a siren was wailing, strobe lights blinked in the ceiling, and the acrid aroma of smoke began to fill the building. Guards shouted orders and herded their charges into some semblance of order.

"Line up! No talking! Keep together!" they shouted. But there was no containing the inmates' excited chatter and laughter. They danced around the water on the floor and held their noses as the smell of sewage became evident as well. Once outside, they milled around in small groups, enjoying the arrival of police and fire personnel. They clapped and called "Here doggie doggie" when the K9 team arrived. And Jude felt very pleased with himself.

He hadn't been sure if he'd judged the fuse quite right, but he'd been safely back in the room by the time it went off. It had been tricky; he'd whistled loudly in the hallway to announce his presence, made sure that everyone saw him trundling the cart full of books from the library, then neatly slipped into the restroom, placed the M80 and got back before it went off.

There's nothing like blowing up a toilet to boost student morale.

It looked like it was going to be a great year at Parcola Junior High.


  1. Well I haven’t read it before, Li. But, I’m glad I’ve read it now. I hated school, but I tunnelled out eventually. Oh, and your Jaffa cakes are on their way :)

  2. Ah yes, junior high. Those were the days my friend. You captured them with a nice interesting twist.

  3. I didn't see it coming here, but this is much how I looked at school when I was young.

    Glad you've taken up the Challenge and appreciate that you are displaying the A to Z Badge. My thanks will be in an upcoming post on my site.

    Tossing It Out

  4. I have to add: The new "post" was an accident, meaning to send it to a friend and it posted to my blog. LOL I appreciate your kind response though. Now I have to decide if I will post it for real. It was made by my friend, JB, in Utah.

  5. Ooh, most intriguing! You had me going there, didn't see the student angle coming at all. Great piece :)



  6. @Mask and Teresa: I hated Junior High. Such an awkward time, boys/clothes/hair suddenly becoming the only things that mattered. Ugh.

    @Lee: glad to take up the challenge...I think. Second guessing myself now.

    @Rachael: I like to try and keep people guessing, although it's a bit trickier in 1000 words or less than in a novel. Still, it's great fun!
    Thanks, everyone, for stopping by.

  7. these things can get addictive! what's fascinating for me from a UK viewpoint is how much of the language is different (yet familiar through TV and film)
    snitch = grass
    cinder block = breeze block
    upstate = no equivalent i can think of
    behavior = behaviour
    high school = secondary
    chow = dinner

    great stuff

  8. Hi Matt! True, it's fun to compare language differences! Also, embarrassing at times...I asked a friend in the UK what a particular word meant and it turned out to be rather vulgar. The expression, something being "pants" puzzled me, also "jumper" (which was a girl's pullover dress when I went to school), "knackered" and "plonker" (courtesy Only Fools and Horses) :)

  9. I thought it had been about prison until I read the last line.