JIMMY ROW - MICHAEL J. SOLENDER
Cornered and bewildered by the harsh light, he stops momentarily to assess his predicament. Wriggling in the mildewed corner where two columns of neatly stacked concrete blocks meet in the wall that configures my cell is a German cockroach. His slender conical shape is stymied by the lack of crevices in which to advance.
Antenna and proboscis search for both sustenance and retreat. He’s wary of discovery and will stop at nothing including sacrificing limbs, if need be, to escape.
We’ve got something in common. Survival, it seems is destined to kill me, too.
It’s Tuesday. Or Wednesday. I’m not sure and it doesn’t matter. I’m not going anywhere. Every day in solitary on the row is Tuesday or Wednesday. My cell reeks of the fear of those on either side of me and the bodily fluids former tough guys can’t seem to keep inside of their weak bladders and loose bowels. I quit hearing them whimper and cry the day after I moved down here amongst their self-pity and remorse.
Pockmarks and nicotine grime on the wall of my cell drink in the incandescent light and cast a lunar glow. It illuminates the expanse of void filling the four cinder block walls. The emptiness of the room is matched only by my hate and vitriol for those responsible for my being here.
Not my jailers, they had a job to do, I understand that. It is that slut of a wife and my lawyer. That those two never met is ironic given both of them screwed me up one side and down the other.
I take inventory of my cell for the tenth time since my arrival ten days ago. I have lots of time now to take measure my surroundings.
Waiting for the juice allows one’s mind to focus.
A cot. One foam rubber pillow.
Stainless steel toilet with no seat and no cover, open and inviting my piss, ever at the ready.
One small stool and a small table with three legs, none of which are equal in length.
Two paperback books, The Grapes of Wrath and Call of the Wild.
4 sheets of unlined paper and a stub of a pencil.
My friend in the corner has made his way to the base of the toilet and managed to wriggle under where it’s bolted to the floor. My escape will not be as uneventful. I’ll be leaving, though, soon, very soon, toes pointed up, as my keepers are fond of reminding me.
I know it’s morning because the gray glop on the gun-metal aluminum tray slid under the door is oatmeal. One level cup, skim milk, a plastic cup of O.J. sealed with cellophane, a bruised and mushy banana and lukewarm coffee. One plastic spoon. Two cigarettes and two safety matches.
I eat out of boredom, not because I’m hungry. My appointment is in three days. No stays. No appeals. No bleeders interceding on my behalf. This is fine with me.
They’ve already prepped me for how it's gonna go down. They told me I’ll have an opportunity to make a statement. I don’t roll that way but I do have something to say. They tell me I can leave a note to the guy from the Times.
I don’t want to wait ’til the last minute so after breakfast I grab the pencil and I write.
100 years ago, what I did would have been considered justifiable homicide and I’d be praised by my neighbors and God-fearing men alike. Today, though, finding your wife in bed with another man calls for turning the other cheek and entering into talk therapy.
Some men might have turned the other cheek, but as the Bible said, Thou shall not covet another man’s wife. He was doing some pretty heavy coveting from my angle and the fact that I took them both out with one barrel ought to tell you that they were in pretty close proximity to each other.
My lawyer tells me we need to fight this one, don’t accept the plea; a jury is never going get me on first degree. I guess the time it took for me to walk back downstairs and get the shotgun after I’d seen them like that, all tangled up, not even noticing me, was enough in the jury’s eyes for premeditation. My lawyer tells me after the verdict, he’s “sorry.”
I spent a lifetime surviving, just getting by. I welcome the end now because it means no more scraping, no more surviving, no more just getting by. No more feeling sorry. No more feeling angry. No more feeling.
I put down the pencil. That’s enough I think. I stand and light a smoke.
The cockroach skitters across the top of my left boot. In one swift motion, I crush the little fucker underneath my heel.
Now he’s no more, too.
BIO: Michael J. Solender is always on someone’s shit list. He blogs at Not From Here, Are You?
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