Sunday, August 23, 2015

Just a Spoonful of Horror by Gary Ives

A con in a horrible prison plots revenge against a fellow inmate; by Gary Ives.

Of the boys at the Malloy Farm, Mickey Markham was by far the prettiest with blond hair, fair skin, full lips, blue eyes and long eyelashes like a girl's. Let me say that here pretty counts. This he traded on among other boys but especially with the warden and screws. He could smooth talk candy bars and cigarettes out of the screws without, according to him, having to drop his pants. It was just on his looks and a certain charm. Work lists for the cotton field or mucking out the stalls or the tannery never saw Markham's name. This charm got him a soft permanent job in the kitchen, but everyone knew he was a sweet little pet to at least three fairy screws. His only duties were to help with clean up and to keep the napkin holders and salt shakers filled. Just the salt shakers as pepper was not allowed at Malloy farm. I think we, all of us, hated him for the ease that his face and frame allowed him, a primitive jealousy I suppose but I loathed Mickey Markham not just because he seemed to lead a charmed existence but because he was evil. Late one night during my first week at Malloy he and two other thugs had forced upon me a most unpleasant situation for which I had no defense. Since that time I, as the smarter boys here, carried a shiv. Me, I kept my distance from him as well as from his companion Jeremy Toomey, Malloy's 250lb yard shark. Toomey, mentally challenged, was serving his term for having killed his father and two brothers with a kitchen cleaver. It was ironic that his work station was as dishwasher in the scullery. My work stations were divided between mornings in the turnip fields and the afternoons on the garbage truck making pick up rounds, which seldom placed me in contact with either Markham or Toomey. Some may think of all of us at the Malloy Farm as evil individuals. After all, were we not all convicted youthful felons, condemned and sentenced by courts of law to the state's hundred year old reform school? But even here among us bad boys, evil, true evil is never prevalent. Evil is here, to be sure, and wicked things occur, but such things occur on the outside too. Most are here due to stupid choices often made under the influence of peer pressure, poverty, ignorance, and drugs. Even here the good outnumber the bad and the ugly. Certainly the truly bad are present, but in reality these are few.

If Mickey Markham had any kind of pathos at all it was surely an inversion of true empathy. He enjoyed witnessing suffering. He had been sent up for having blinded his little sister by dowsing her with gasoline and setting her aflame. At Malloy he exhibited no shame, rather, he sometimes boasted of this travesty and often threatened some boy with the same. Frequently he set two boys against each other just to revel at the fistfight and then the screw's subsequent punishments. He was clever at manipulating weaker boys for sex or their commissary credits. A double row of fencing and razor wire separated Malloy from the state's adult men's correctional farm where prisoners raised hogs and cattle for the penal system. Markham often lingered at the fence which afforded a clear view of the slaughter house. He joked that the squeals of the hogs gave him a hard-on. Such was the stuff of Mickey Markham.

Work in the turnip fields was the pits. We planted, we hoed, we thinned, we cultivated, we harvested. Mornings were always wet and working without gloves the rough wooden hoe handles blistered the hands. Once the sun burned off the dew, we baked on that miserable red clay like burned biscuits. The afternoon garbage run was almost a relief. True the truck stank to high heaven, but moving most of the time passed a breeze across my face. And the real perk was the plunder, like magazines, sometimes articles of clothing, and scraps of metal good for trade on the shiv market. Our last stop was the kitchen. What wasn't eaten or carried home by the screws got tossed into a special bin for delivery to the hog farm next door. However many times there were cookies or portions of cake easily salvaged. So duty wise, the turnip fields sucked but the garbage truck rocked.

One screw, Mr. Paxton, was onto Young Master Markham and unfazed by the boy's charm. Paxton let no opportunity pass to upbraid or embarrass him. "Markham I saw you jump line, you scrub, don't deny it, so back to the dorm with you, dearie. You know the rules, pretty boy; no supper for line jumpers!" Indeed he kept a steady eye on our young Prince Mickey. While Markham disdained all the screws he had a particular hatred for Mr. Paxton.

Mr. Paxton kept a cat for which he set out food behind the mess hall. When this cat delivered a litter, Mr. Paxton took care to see that their little orange crate home was warm with a cast-off blanket. One afternoon Markham, smarting from a recent rebuke, summoned three of his toadies. "Watch this," he commanded. With a mess hall tablespoon he deftly thumped each of the tiny five day old kittens' heads, cruelly ending their brief lives, with one of his infamous chuckles. "Betcha never seen that before, ha, ha, ha."

A place like Malloy will not hold secrets, and soon enough one of our rats cuddled up to Mr. Paxton's ear with an account of the poor kittens' killings. That evening the boys reckoned that the rat had put the finger on that dumbass Jeremy Toomey as that evening Mr. Paxton had the duty and had called Toomey into the duty office for nearly an hour. Toomey didn't leave the office until after lights out.

Later, about midnight, the dorm filled with screams. There was a scuffle in the dark. When the lights came on blood covered Markham's face and on the floor by his bed lay, like crushed grapes, his two gouged out eyes beside a bloody spoon. Markham lay screaming with his bloody hands pressed against his eye sockets, his yells choked by blood. Soon enough the night screws had an ambulance at the dorm and blind Mickey Markham was trundled off. The screws put each of us at attention at the foot of our bunks. Mr. Swann, a particularly stupid and very fat screw walked up and down the aisle smacking his nightstick into his palm. "Any of you little punks move one inch you gonna git you a kiss from Missus Hickory here. They's gonna be a investigation, a police investigation. Highway Patrol is on the way, you goddam smartasses. So is the Sheriff. Ever who did this horrible nasty thing to poor Markham is gonna wish he wasn't never born. Anyone ready to speak up? Huh?" Of course no one said a thing. Eyes drifted all over the room but the obvious focus was on Jeremy Toomey who stood in his underwear before his bunk, his fat pig face impassive.

Detectives arrived and conferred with the screws. Jeremy Toomey was called out for interrogation in the duty office and the rest of us were allowed to go back to bed. Before lights out two uniformed cops tossed Jeremy's bed and locker, filling a giant black garbage bag. However once the lights were out and the night screw left to eavesdrop at the duty office there was a buzz of speculation. In the dorm, boys needed no light to navigate. There was a nightly traffic in drugs and sex which one learned to take for granted. We boys easily sussed out what had happened.

Hadn't Mr. Paxton called him in that afternoon and confronted Jeremy Toomey with having killed his kittens? Of course Toomey denied this, but Mr. Paxton was insistent, claiming an eye witness. Although stupid, Toomey figured it out, with a few clues accidentally dropped by Mr. Paxton, that the eye witness was none other than Mickey Markham peaching on him for killing the kittens. Toomey's knowledge that Markham had killed the kittens and was now fingering him enraged him. He told Mr. Paxton that Markham was the lying-sack-of-shit eye witness. "Well Toomey, that's the way it stands. Markham says you're the one killed the kittens. It'll be up to the warden who to believe, you or Markham." It wasn't that difficult for us to figure the whole thing out.

I'd come by the spoon a week ago in the kitchen's garbage. The ripped size 38 pants had been in the trash picked up from the guard's locker room. The clever part was wearing the fat man's pants while I gouged out that bastard's eyes, then running the bloody pants with Mickey's blood and tossing them under Jeremy's bunk in the dark during the confusion.

I wouldn't call Malloy Farm a nice place, but it's much nicer nowadays than it was just a week ago.

3 comments:

  1. This dark story has the ring of truth for me. Many years ago I worked in the probation team at a high security prison in the UK and there was a murder on the wing. The swirling stories and shifting truths that followed mean that the identity of the assailant took a long time to emerge and even after an inmate was eventually convicted stories continued to circulate. Your narrative is unflinching and honest and enters a world that is often either ignored or over-romanticised. Well done,
    Ceinwen

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  2. I'm fascinated by prisons and institutions. Reading this made me nervous throughout. It makes me wonder how I would fair in a prison environment, and I think the answer would be - not very well! You should be pleased with what you've written here. Good work!
    S.Lucas

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  3. Enjoyed this one a lot, the ending was a real surprise to me though I'm a bit unnerved that I cheered at the blinding of what is technically a minor...though if ever a minor deserved it... A compulsive and weirdly charming read!

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