[Author's Notes: Written Sunday, July 7, 2002.]
Darrell was a convicted felon. He had killed 3 people when they tried to steal his car. At that time, he was living in his car. However, at that moment, he was looking for food on the ground. When he discovered the three carjackers, he pulled one of them out of the car. Even though the carjacker had a crowbar, Darrell still managed to beat him to a pulp. When they other two carjackers attacked him, he was already armed with the crowbar, and the confrontation ended quickly. After slaying the carjackers, he drove his car to the police station. He was cuffed moments after they found the bodies. A short trial, with a jury full of disgruntled conservatives and testimonies of the grieving families of the carjackers, led to Darrell obtaining three life sentences, one for each of his victims. At hearing this, the families were filled with joy, as they stated, "Justice was done today." News reporters ran the story, and it was popular for a week, until the media found someone else to focus on, and then the story of Darrell ends as far as the public is concerned. But, the story did not end for Darrell. He had to serve 75 years in prison. Already, in his mind, he thought he would be dead before he left. After all, he would have been 100 years old if he ever got out.
The years in prison for Darrell were harsh. It seemed that he carried the same attitude from the street to the jail. There were times when he would insult the guards to their faces if they ever imposed their authority too far into his own business. He had a deep sense of territoriality. If they searched his cell, went through any of his belongings, or bothered him in any sense that was unmerited, he expressed deep sentiments of animosity and resentment. "You're a fucking idiot," was his first comment to a guard who tossed his cell. It displeased him greatly what they did. He had managed to arrange a few books, a piece of furniture, a bed, and a table, to his liking. In fact, the few books he had were not even his own. He had borrowed them from the prison library. He was not able to read, either, so he took the books on account of their pictures, getting new books every two weeks, sort of as a table setting. He was able to look over the ten by ten feet concrete cell and say, "This is my domain. I own this." It may not have been true, but saying it gave him fulfillment. It was one unhappy event when the warden walked through the prison, arbitrary pointing to cells. Guards would go into cells and tear them apart, flipping beds, furniture, and tables. When they did this to the cell of Darrell, he responded with that comment, "You're a fucking idiot," to one of the guards. What commenced was one of the most brutal beatings ever to commence in that prison, but the walls echoed no screams. Darrell seemed almost proud for standing up for his territory, and would grant the guards no satisfaction to hear him scream and cry. He ached for three weeks afterwards.
It is also noteworthy to mention that in this particular prison, it was not uncommon for guards to beat the inmates on account of some near insignificant infraction. There have been times where bumping into a guard would result in a massive loss of blood, although such cases were indeed uncommon. The one prize possession that Darrell had was a color photograph of himself lying on the hood of his car, arms crossed. Of course, now the government had taken his car from him and sold it for less than $100 -- money which went to the families of the carjackers. Though it was not much, nor was it requested, it was law that such recompense went to the families. The photograph of the car and himself was all he had left, as well as his memories. He would sit for hours just staring at the photograph, sometimes laughing, sometimes crying, going back to the days when he knew he was free. There were even times, in fact, when he spent money on gas when he had no food. Because he knew that if he could drive around, he might be able to pick something up. He had a sort of relationship with his car, as though it was another human being. It was, indeed, his only friend, so much as he road in it on the roads of the nation, just as he rode with it on the road of life. One night in his cell, Darrell was simply looking at the photograph. The door to his cell was open, and one of the guards wandered in. This guard grabbed the photograph from Darrell and held it away, while he examined it. Darrell immediately panicked and reached for the photograph. When the guard held him away, Darrell pushed the guard and grabbed the photograph. The guard, filling with rage and fury at Darrell's indignance, was only more enraged when Darrell spit in his face. Again, Darrell was beaten, but thankfully, his photograph remained intact.
There were nights afterwards, when touching and caressing the sore bruises on his body and looking at this photograph, that he would smile and laugh at his triumph over trial. One day, though, only a month after this incident with spitting in the guard's face, he returned to his cell from breakfast and found his photograph on his bed, shredded to pieces. He ran to his bed and fell to his knees, his focus scattering all over the immediate area looking for a sort of explanation at the atrocity, as he took deep gasps, attempting to comprehend the situation. He must have stayed up till 2:00 A.M., taping it together perfectly so it was good as new, and every time he messed up, even slightly, he would start crying again and his hope would be lost. He finally got the picture taped back together. However, the years took their toll on Darrell. Most of the guards held a merciless grudge against the poor inmate, but some of them simply refused to engage in any beatings with him. As more guards got into fights with Darrell, and as Darrell suffered more beatings, sometimes guards using their belts, or boots, or batons, he become more and more hopeless. After only two years, he stopped looking at his photograph of his car, and stopped fantasizing. Five years into his prison term, the guards took away his photograph and put it in the Lost and Found box. He didn't care, though. Most of his time was spent in his cell, hunkered against the wall on his bed, looking down without seeing anything. He didn't care anymore.
There was one particular week when one of the guards thought that Darrell needed to be more respectful of authority than he already was. Currently, Darrell was completely obedient, but more like a mindless zombie. The guard who thought that Darrell needed to be more respectful was Grisham. The whole week, whether it was at lunch or at the yard or at his cell, Grisham was giving trouble to Darrell. In lunch, he would kick him in the shins, and claim that it was an accident. All the while, Darrell received the most wrathful looks from this guard. There was a deep sense of hatred in the eyes of Grisham, as he singled out Darrell in the crowd of inmates at lunch. One night, Darrell lazily sat in his cell, the way he did every night, but this time, he was becoming somewhat agitated and angered at the guard Grisham's actions. Two guards showed up at his cell shortly after eight o'clock. "What do you want?" he asked them.
"You're being punished with solitary confinement," one of the guards said.
"For what?" Darrell asked.
"The guard Grisham claims he saw you selling marijuana to another inmate," the guard responded. Darrell's eyes sunk down to the floor, as he pulling himself up from the bed and slowly, almost solemnly, went with the guards. He was in there for the rest of the night. When he woke up next morning, he had his breakfast. Around the afternoon, he had lunch, which was given to him through a small latching door in the solitary confinement cell. Around 2 o'clock, the guard Grisham was came on duty to observe this particular wing of solitary confinement. "Hey, Darrell," Grisham said, opening the latch on his cell, "How are you doing this fiiiine evening? Sorry to hear about your drug activities, though."
"Just please, leave me alone," he said, almost on the verge of tears. The guard spent a wealth of time just tapping on the solitary confinement cell with his baton. When dinner came at 6 o'clock, he threw out the dinner assigned to Darrell.
"You know," he said, "The waste basket is happy to see that you didn't eat your dinner. I'm happy to see that, too." The guard spent more time tapping on the door to the cell of Darrell. Grisham checked his watch. It was 7:30 P.M., and he would get off his shift in half an hour.
"You know what, you motherfucking waste of molecules, Darrell," he said, approaching the cell of Darrell. The sound of footsteps approaching filled Darrell with terror and fear. Inside his head, he had the sort of attitude, "Please, let anything happen, but don't let him beat me." His unaltering eye was fixed on the door to his cell and his heart sped up by fifty paces. Seconds turned into heart-throbbing, terrifying hours. Grisham was at his cell door. He opened the latch and peaked through. "I'm going to let you out here to take a few swings at me. You'd like that, huh? Course you would, because you're a fucking piece of shit.... Come on, get out here." Darrell kept shaking his head, even though out of sight of Grisham. Reaching for his keys on his belt, Grisham unlocked the door, finding that Darrell was curled up in a ball on the ground.
"Please, don't..." Darrell said, in the fetal position. His knees were up to his chest, and his arms were wrapped around them. Grisham unlocked the door and opened it, and stood there before Darrell, confidently.
"Come on, get up," Grisham said. He pulled out his baton and patted it in his left palm a few times. "No?" he said. He put the baton on the ground and kicked it away, and took off his belt, and put it on the ground. "Come on, you fucking coward," he said, "Get the fuck up. I said GET UP!!!" He then moved forward towards Darrell and kicked him, damaging the rib cage. Darrell's eyes filled up with tears as he grimaced and only wished that the pain ended. He grabbed his side in pain. "Still not listening? Motherfucker!" Grisham shouted, as he kicked him again, this time damaging Darrell's rib cage and breaking several fingers in the hand that was holding the already existing wound. Grisham picked up Darrell by the arm and pulled him out of his cell, and then swung him into the opposite wall. Darrell hit the wall, but he put his arms up as he ran into it, preventing any damage. Grisham, full of arrogance and cockiness, stood behind him, ready to beat him from the back, smiling and reveling in the new low that Darrell had reached.
Without much more than instinct, Darrell swung around and charged Grisham. He ran into the guard, knocking them both onto the ground. Dazed from the attack, Grisham slowly sat up. As he did this, Darrell put his hand on the face of the guard, like a claw, and slammed it against the concrete floor, knocking the man unconscious. This was not done in any slow motion, but rather in the quickest of reflexes. When ensued was Darrell sitting on top of the body of the guard, repeatedly punching the guard in the face, until he lost energy and fell off the body, coming to a complete realization of what happened. It was instinct; he didn't know he was doing it. He looked at his knuckles, and they had his own blood and the blood of Grisham on it. He looked to the cadaver of the guard, seeing how his face was torn up, how punching him in the mouth had forced some of his teeth to tear away significant pieces of his lips, as well as actually removing several teeth. Darrell was very much alive and aware at that moment, but he was incredibly confused. He looked around the room for some sort of explanation. He could find nothing. He started weeping, his eyebrows bending, lines of sadness forming on his face. He stood up, and walked back into his cell and closed the door, still weeping. The weeping could be heard throughout the corridor. It was a high-pitched moan, that constantly shifting in tone, up and down, up and down, sort of a like a high-pitched wheezing. He was afraid. He knew they were going to torture him for what he did to Grisham.
8:00 A.M. rolled around, and a new guard came to shift. "Holy fuck!" he said, running to the body of the corpse. Then, looking up, he heard Darrell crying. "Darrell," he said concentrating, "Did you do this?" Darrell instantly stopped his crying and kept as silent as possible, questioning himself whether he should answer or not, and what to answer. After enough contemplation, he had decided that it would have been too awkward and revealing altogether to answer at all. The guard looked up to the cell door and saw that it was unlocked. He looked around the area and also saw that the belt of the guard had been tossed down, with the baton. He picked up the body of Grisham and carried it to the medical unit.
When in the medical unit, they examined the body quickly, taking vital signs. "Shit, what happened to this guy?" one of the paramedics asked. The guard shrugged.
After taking a few vital signs and performing CPR, one of the medics said, "Well, it's too late... He's dead. Do you know what happened to him?"
The guard answered, "Yeah.... He fell down one of the stairs. He was bleeding a lot so there might be blood stains around the place." The medics nodded and he turned away, to the warden and an investigator who were already there to get his testimony. He told them what he told the medics. Meanwhile, Darrell fell asleep, still hungry from losing his dinner, and still clutching his side wound, and holding his damaged hand between his two, tightened thighs, applying a sort of pressure. With tears and saliva, on the cold hard floor of the solitary confinement cell, he fell asleep. When he woke up next morning, his eyes were sore from crying, but he felt sort of cautiously optimistic. Though he had temporarily forgotten all of the events that had happened the previous night, he seemed ready to take on a new day, a sort of enthusiasm, but then he remembered what happened, and wondered what happened after he fell asleep in his solitary confinement area. When he woke up, he saw a guard in the corridor of the solitary confinement area. He peaked through the latch, too afraid to say anything to the guard. He sat in the corner, and only twenty minutes later, the guard opened the door and said that Darrell was free to go back to his own cell. When breakfast came, he discovered from some of his friends that the guard Grisham had fallen down the stairs. He was relieved, full of a sort of optimism and happiness that stayed with him for a considerable amount of time.
When he finished eating breakfast, Darrell went to the Lost and Found box, and he took back the photograph of his car.