At the same time, it was disrespectful to even attempt ordering me around. There were a few ways I could have responded to the statement regarding the kite. I could have said something like "Of course you're not asking, tough guy. You're begging, because that's what sissies like you do." This would have been The Stupid Approach, otherwise known as The Suicidal Approach. The Sensible Approach would have been to retort with something along the lines of "Jeez, Tim, I was just joking. I'll send the kite down to you tomorrow morning along with my breakfast because my humor did not make you laugh, sir." This is also called The Coward's Way Out. Finally, there's The Non-Committal Approach, aka The-Oh-God-I-Hope-He-Gets-Sudden-Amnesia Approach. This involves saying... nothing. And this is how I chose to proceed. Slowly, I backed away from the door, worried that any furtive movements might incite Tim to order the food slot to suddenly come alive and rip my throat out.
"I'll see ya at rec on Monday, kid," the madman said before I'd even made it to my bunk.
Glancing at my celly, he looked like I felt. He and Tim are homeboys, although The Code suggests that cellies must help one another if attacked. Celly was in an unlucky spot.
Back in my rack and dwelling on what the recreation session on Monday would be like, I twirled the accursed kite in my hands contemplating exactly how much my honor was worth. How easy it would be to just cave to the psycho. The kid Carl doesn't even know he's got this coming. l don't even know if the message is important - maybe Jo-Jo just wanted to tell him a dirty joke he'd just heard. Maybe inside this taped paper was nothing more than a recipe for Ramen noodle spaghetti. Or, it could have been a book of stamps Jo-Jo owed and felt duty-bound to pay and by neglecting my duty I'd be sabotaging Jo-Jo's honor. Friday was a rough night.
Late Saturday morning an inmate came off the range who could serve as a courier for the kite. Better to just get this thing out of my possession ASAP and remove the temptation, I decided. Discretion was vital, so when calling the convict to my door, I spoke softly. Unfortunately the loud-mouthed punk is apparently hard of hearing because he screams out "What?! Did you say this is FROM Carl? Oh! It's TO him! Gotcha!" And the words rang out in the hallway like a death sentence; the madman surely heard his "orders" being blatantly defied. My celly claims he couldn't hear it but I swear later that morning I heard the unmistakable grinding sound of metal being honed on concrete.
There was never a doubt in my mind that I'd be outside on Monday to stand up for the decision I'd made; hiding out was not an option. Although it certainly wasn't fun wondering what to expect. I'm no slouch when it comes to fisticuffs although I readily admit to lacking the animal ferocity of my soon-to-be foe. At one point the best-case scenario was that Tim and his celly would settle for a moderate pounding rather than a full-on butchering. Yikes!
Finally Monday arrives. Rec is late that day, after dinner. The sun has almost set by the time my range is taken outside. Tim's cell is all the way at the back so he goes out first. He makes no eye contact as he passes, but I did notice that he was wearing a full-body jumpsuit. Which in the middle of winter is great for staying warm, although the only use such clothing would have in Monday's 70 deg. weather is its moderate protection from razor blades and dull knives during a fight. Not a good sign.
Minutes later it's my turn to go out. As my celly and I were being handcuffed, I thought to myself that at least I was finally getting this beef with Tim over with. A few bruises and maybe a puncture wound or two certainly couldn't be any worse than the incapacitating anxiety I'd endured since Friday night. Walking down the stairs on my way to the chicken pens, I pass the dry-erase board on which is a list of which cage each inmate will be placed in. Sure enough, celly and I were to be placed in the same cage as Tim, as always. The penultimate cage in the ascending row of ten.
Cages 1 - 7 had been filled already with blacks or whites or natives talking or exercising. Timmy and his celly were the lone occupants of 8 thus far. Each cage has a sort of ante-cage or ante-chamber where a convict's handcuffs are removed before entering the cage proper. As I entered the ante-cage and was being uncuffed, Tim stood along one edge of the fencing, his back half-turned to me as he spoke with a guy in Cage 7 who was obviously looking over Tim's shoulder to alert him when I'd possibly rush him. OK, cuffs off... ante-cage door shuts completely... cage door unlocks... here we go... celly and I step in slowly with no immediate incident. I make my way to the back of the pen, watching carefully everything to my left. There's a charge in the air, like the atmosphere knows it's about to get ugly. Walking to the front of the cage again and turning around for lap two, Timmy suddenly turns to face me. In less than a nanosecond I had simultaneously crapped my pants while bracing myself in preparation of performing Whitney's patented Drop-Curl-Yell maneuver. But then I notice Tim is only extending his fist for me to tap.
"You alright?" he asks. Translation = Are you alright with me? Did I go too far?
"I'm cool. You?" Translation = Dude, I want NO problems. But are you just singing me a lullaby and planning to get me as soon as I've dropped my guard?
"Yeah, I'm good. Just hating on pieces of shit is all." Translation = We're cool. I was just being petty and crazy because I really dislike that guy Carl.
"Right on," I said, and walked away. Still checking over my shoulder, of course. Tim was, too. But he did take the jumpsuit off. Along with the 3 layers of thermal underwear he had on which presumably might have stopped the sharper knives.
My celly and I disagree on what inspired Tim to use at least moderately rational thought. Celly believes our buddy the psycho killer is hoping to be transferred soon and the situation with the kite was too petty for even someone like Tim to get another notch on his belt at the expense of a speedy transfer. Personally, I believe the cause of his change of heart is my naturally intimidating aura, coupled with the fact that, me being such a cool guy, attacking me would earn Tim far too many enemies to handle. Oh, the rumor I started a few years ago that I'm a black belt in 4 different martial arts and was offered an early release if I'd commit to leading a Navy Seal team for 6 years, an offer I declined, might have something to do with Tim's trepidation.
Whatever the reason - Whew!
But the Crap Train does not stop here! Oh, no! Just lightened its load a little. By unfortunate coincidence, guards chose that particular night to do a mass shakedown of every cell on my range while we were in the coops.
More tomorrow. Drama!!!