Central Unit (Part 6 by Warrior)
Warrior - Serving fourteen years for kidnapping and aggravated assault. Half Hispanic and Scottish-Irish with family still in Mexico. Brought up by a family steeped in drug commerce. He writes some of the best prison-fight stories on the Internet.
Central Unit began with Warrior discovering a race war is raging, and the guards are staging human cock fights. Part 5 left off with Warrior getting a new neighbour, Big Tigre.
I noticed a large arm, twice as big as Cowboy’s, holding a mirror and getting a view of my cell and me. I pretended not to notice. Hearing the rapping of the mirror, I turned and walked towards the bars.
“Q-vo, ese. Yo soy [I am] Big Tigre.” My new neighbor then put his hand out for me to shake. He certainly was a big man. His hands were more like bear paws in comparison to mine. But they were also oddly soft. Not what you’d expect of a man his size. He probably led a life of leisure on the outside.
We exchanged small talk, engaging in verbal chess as we attempted to feel each another out. He told me where he was from and how much time he had left: 3 years. I exchanged the same info. We touched upon a couple of names we both knew from other yards, along with who was here with us at Central Unit. Prison is one of those subcultures where everyone knows everyone, or that six degrees of separation ties you to someone somehow.
He had to organize his cell, so we closed the conversation.
Two weeks went by. We exchanged the usual prison banter, and accustomed ourselves to each other’s personalities. I maintained my workout routine and distance from Tigre. When we’d talk, Tigre had this ritual he’d do after each sentence when the topic was a serious one: a nervous compulsion of chewing the inside corners of his lips, as though he were in constant suspense. Little by little, I started figuring him out.
Within this time, several cells housing opposite races opened up. Due to the ongoing war, if a cell housed a Mexican national, a fight occurred. The question on my mind was, When will it be my turn?
Mexican nationals had their own version of nicknames, usually based on what region of Mexico they were from. If they were from Durango, they’d go by that. If Tampico, they’d be referred to as Tampico.
There was one Mexican national in particular I kept an eye on. His name was Chicali. He was popular among his race. I noticed him always unravelling or ravelling up his fishing line to receive or send out kites. By his size, it was evident genetics had smiled upon him. He must have weighed 225 to 250 pounds, bull-like with muscle just slabbed onto the bone. The tight cords of muscle in his neck told me he was consistent in his workouts. He wasn’t tall, about my height, 5’10”. His hair was black and feathered back, parted in the middle, like a style from the 1970’s. Probably in his mid 40’s. I kept him in focus because if my cell were to open at the same time as his, he was one individual I was uneasy about facing.
I woke to the sound of the steel doors of the chow carts being opened and slammed shut as two guards began passing out breakfast trays. It was about 5am, one hour left until shift change.
A short balding guard wearing the traditional safety glasses set my tray on the food trap of the cell door, then continued on his way. Breakfast was two pieces of bread, two hardboiled eggs, a scoop of potatoes, and a small carton of milk the size of what a school cafeteria would serve. The bread was dry and hard, the potatoes greasy, and the milk warm. Only fit to eat were the eggs, which I ate with small packets of salt and pepper.
I got up, put my shoes on, and began to wash up. I started to make my morning cup of hot water for coffee.
I wasn’t exactly sure what time it was when my cell racked open. All I became aware of in that instant was that I was more alert than what ten cups of coffee could have done for me. The separate pieces of steel that constituted my cell door quavered against each other, resonating a familiar clanking and grinding. As the iron bars opened, the concrete floor trembled from steel against steel. I felt my door open, in place of hearing it.
The unwritten law dictated I step outside. It was a good law in my eyes, as I’d rather clash in an open area than take my chances against an added adversary of a knife-edged desk or bunk. I stepped out and noticed that all of the prisoners were at their cell bars staring at me. Some had barely woken up, I could tell by their matted hair and red eyes, yet they were as alert as I was. Instinct adopted a cell opening as the warning signal to each man.
With my stomach knotted, my eyes narrowed as I glared at the cells, trying to discern another open cell or one that was about to open.
Click here for Central Unit Part 5.
Just received news that T-Bone was attacked by two prisoners. Will post the details in the next blog.
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Shaun P. Attwood