In jail, he was not the kind of man you could mess with. Borrowed to the Bone. Chapter 21
March 22, 2013
Junior, without realizing it, had done Willy a favor. He had given him something to think about and plan for every day. And he had taken his mind off Colleen and her possible infidelity. Willy carried his tooth in his pocket and rubbed it regularly while he plotted.
But even with his new project, he still spent hours alone in a six by nine cell. And he began to pay more attention to details of his cell and the other parts of the jail facility. He asked Ben Tom to send over some framed family pictures to make him feel a connection to home.
He had other motives for asking for pencil and paper, but as he stared at the Big Chief tablet and the pencil Ben Tom brought him, he began to think. He began to recount his years as a child, the hard times. But during those times when he was bullied in school or bullied by Buck, Willy always felt he was in control. He knew he could fight back, knew he would eventually get even. The thoughts of revenge and the knowledge that he would pick the time and place to exact it had consoled him.
Taking revenge on Junior, however, was out of his control. He could not pick the time and place. The guards made sure that their time to make phone calls did not coincide. He began to worry that Junior might be released before he got his chance.
He picked up the pen and pencil and began to write each night. After several erasures, fits and starts and frustrating wadding of paper, he composed the first poem of his life.
I’m No Criminal
With a girl in my arms
And a beer in my hand
In my drunken stage
I could barely stand
With the beer that I spilt
On these clothes I wear
And this drunken story
I’m fixing to share
I shouldn’t have been driving
I should have been walking
But then she said he got nasty
He shouldn’t have been gawking
I remind myself every morning
I wake up in this cell
“I’m no criminal”
I shouldn’t be here in this jail
The writing of poems and letters brought him a serenity he had never experienced. But he was not serene enough to forget about Junior and the tooth he had taken from him. He remembered it each time he rubbed the tooth or ran his tongue through the hole where it used to be. He had some work duties, but not many, so Willy began to volunteer for more.
He was given a broom, a mop bucket and mop and told to clean the halls outside the cells. He told the guards the sweeping and mopping cleared his mind, took his mind off his troubles. He asked for more chances to clean in other parts of the jail. After a month of thorough cleaning by Willy, his presence became accepted, almost as if he were invisible. The guards allowed him to come and go inside the broom closet as he gathered his cleaning tools every other day.
When Willy finally cleaned the hall outside Junior’s cell, he expected a few slurs and taunts. But Junior did not taunt him—he ignored him. Willy stopped and stared at him. Junior did not notice him for several seconds. “Whatchu lookin’ at? Get away from here, fool.”
Willy leaned on his mop and stared as if he was a visitor to the zoo and Junior was a caged animal. It gave him a rush, a sense of power. But Junior seemed to have no recollection of the incident with the phone and Willy’s lost tooth. He did not even seem to recognize the man leaning on the mop. Willy could have handled taunting, but he could not handle being forgotten, being insignificant.
As the guards gave him more and more freedom to reward his good work, Willy began to schedule which halls to clean, began to observe Junior’s schedule. He had a plan, but it was not complete until a guard dropped by one night when Willy was storing his cleaning tools.
The guard leaned in the dark closet and dropped a thick pipe over the handle to Willy’s broom. It had been painted to match the broom’s wood handle and fit it perfectly. He placed a cotter key into a hole in the top of the handle to keep the pipe from slipping. The guard had an ugly gash over his right eye.
“Junior was up to his old tricks with the phone again two nights ago. Got this gash pulling him off of another prisoner.”
Willy trusted nobody, especially a man in police uniform. He stared at the gash. “He hit you with the phone?”
“He was about to kill the other guy. I got this on one of his backswings. Pulled the whole phone off the wall this time.”
They stared in silence for a few minutes until the guard looked both ways down the hall. “He lost his phone privileges this week, but I think he may be making a call on Saturday week. About two o’clock.”
Willy kept his head down when Junior walked into the hall where the phones were, but he needn’t have bothered. Junior had his mind on talking to his lady. He had barely said hello to her when the mop caught him in the jaw. Willy had painstakingly bent the metal holder that held the mop strands together to fashion a claw. The hooks dug into the soft flesh of Junior’s face and Willy jerked the handle at just the right moment to rip his cheek as he yanked his head back. Great quantities of blood flowed from Junior’s cheek as he dropped the phone to pull out the claw.
His eyes were wide and menacing when the pipe that looked like a broom handle broke one of Junior’s knees. The second blow across his cheek knocked him on his back and stopped his screaming. Willy removed the pencil he had concealed in his thick hair, considered Junior’s eye, but probed around his gums instead. He wanted to extract the same tooth that he had lost and was disappointed that the pipe had not broken any teeth.
The guard who had supplied the pipe appeared and pulled him off. Willy struggled at first, then stopped and stared at Junior, then the guard. The guard removed the cotter key, pulled the pipe from the broom handle, and placed it out of sight behind a radiator. He put the cotter key in his pocket and motioned with his head for Willie to leave.
Willie walked out of the room, carrying his mop, bucket and broom. Feeling redeemed. Tomorrow, everybody in the jail would know about the guy who put down a man a hundred pounds heavier. No need for them to know about the pipe. He would be somebody. Everyone would know who Willy Lawless was. A man not to be messed with.
Chapters of the serial are published on Friday.
You can learn more about Borrowed to the Bone and other titles by Jim H. Ainsworth on his Amazon Author Page.