January 23, 2013

Literary LEO 2013

Flash Fiction — Honorable Mention

Lair

BY E. GAIL CHANDLER

“Hey, guard.” Samson searched his cell for something to make noise, selected a canvas house shoe, and whopped it against the bars. A thud echoed down the walk. “Guard, I’m cold.”

“You woke me up,” yelled someone a few cells away. Curses followed.

Officer Martin appeared before his cell. “What’s this racket?”

“I’m cold. My window’s broke.” Samson drew up his blanket like a cape.

“Wasn’t broke yesterday. If I searched your cell, I’d find string. You’ve been fishing off the yard for cigarettes.”

“Me?”

He looked at the pack lying by Samson’s toothbrush. “You don’t have a dime on your account.”

Samson pulled the blanket tighter.

“I’ll get your window fixed, but next time you bust it, you’ll get a write-up. And don’t be calling me guard. How’d you like it if I called you convict?”

“I am a convict.”

Officer Martin stomped away.

Samson retrieved a spool of thread from beneath his pillow, shoved it into a mattress hole, and went back to sleep.

He smelled his stepfather’s sweat, felt his arms penned, and awoke to his own screams. He peered at the bars, fingered his hard pillow, heard an officer’s footsteps. He was safe.

Samson, hands still shaking, grabbed his blanket and smokes as Martin unlocked his cell. He followed the other inmates through a door into a bullpen boarded by the segregation wings and a fence. Four men worked out by a weight pile. A toothless man sat on concrete steps by the door rolling a smoke.

Samson found a sunny spot, wrapped himself in the blanket, and sat down. Reaching under the cover, he selected a cigarette, careful to hide his pack. He lit up and took a deep drag. The nicotine chased the dream back to the hole where it lived.