Chapter 1

The first thing I noticed about my new house was the noise. The second, was the smell. After that, the most distracting thing about my environment was the fact that I had 53 people staring at me. I was there a total of three minutes and I had already pissed off half of the dorm.
White people aren’t allowed to walk in front of the televisions. When I carried my mattress and belongings into the room, I had cut across the front of the room between the benches and one of the televisions and walked towards my bunk. About half way, twenty people started screaming at me. I immediately backed up and went between them into the room and to my bunk.
I had only recently turned eighteen. A few months earlier I was graduating high school, and was about to go into the Marine Corps. God, how my life changed. I sat on my bunk, unpacking my few books that I had from county jail, and taking stock of my surroundings.
The room was huge. Not what I expected a jail to be. It was this large metal building sectioned off into fours. At the center of the four rooms there was a control booth. There were no bars, just thick bullet proof glass, from ceiling to floor. The bunks were lined up along the walls, with a cinder block partition that went up between the sets of bunks for at least some semblance of privacy.
The bathrooms were in the back corner of the room, within direct sight of the control booth. Since the other corners of the room were out of sight, they were monitored by video cameras mounted on the ceiling. The illusion of control.
The entire room had the somewhat not quite unpleasant smell of a locker room. The humidity of the place in high summer was stifling. There was a light coating of moisture on the many flat, hard and cold surfaces in the room. I rubbed my thumb up and down one of the bunk’s posts, watching the way it rubbed the beads away then amazed as they slowly reformed. There was no air conditioner in the dorms, just two large shop fans mounted on the wall. It was the dominant sound, always heard above the tv, the yelling, the singing and the fighting
The air was so thick it had a presence.
After I put my books, extra uniform, soap and sundries in my locker I just sat on my bunk feeling alone. I had disgraced my family, friends, my community and the Marine Corps. I sat thinking about what brought me here.

Flashes of memory.

A fire ball in the middle of the night. Exploding transformers. The hard kick of the ak-47 bucking against my shoulder as I unloaded a clip of ammo at a power substation in the middle of the night. The screech of tires. The smell of cordite. The rosy bloom of a Molotov cocktail tossed randomly out of a moving vehicle slowly dwindling away into a red dot. Watching the emergency vehicles from a safe vantage point. Her smile.

Rapidly the various images flashed in my head as the surrounding sounds and smells diminished.
The memory of a burning truck.
She was smiling as she handed me the matches.
“Its okay” she said then returned to the truck with my best friend.
I took the matches and turned towards the truck. It was one of those large power company trucks. It had been dispatched to repair a telephone pole that had been damaged due to odd circumstances. The pole was attached to another one in a large “H” shape. The bottom right leg of the “H” was burned away about two feet. The truck had a large jack attached to the pole, holding it upright. Nobody could figure out how it had happened.
We set the pole on fire the weekend before.
We had joked that the repair was “defacing our art.” we had then decided that a point had to be made. Who were they to repair what we had destroyed?
So there I was.
Standing next to a truck, holding a box of matches. It was dark. I opened the door again, the seats were already slashed to ribbons. His idea. “To better soak up the gasoline and diesel mix,” he said.
I poured the three remaining water bottles of diesel into the truck and cut the seatbelt with my Ka-Bar. I ripped the fuel cap from the tank and placed the cut seatbelt so that it was going into the open tank.
I backed up, popped open the match book, and began flicking matches towards the inside of the fuel soaked cab. I love the way a lit match delicately arcs through the air. As I have always been known as an expert match flicker, it only took three.
It wasn’t like in the movies. There was no thundering explosion and immediate white flash. It started slow. The winning match landed on a portion of seat foam that had been basting in the diesel. It stuck there on the foam for a moment and looked like it was about to go out. It guttered for a moment, then the tiniest speck of flame took hold, slowly illuminating the cab. I watched in awe as the flame slowly came to life, first covering the ripped part of the cushion, the seat, then the entire cab.
I heard screaming. They were trying to get my attention, but I was hypnotized. I felt my skin peeling, my facial hair being singed off, and my clothes were starting to smoke.
At this point the flames were forty feet high.

I became aware if a car honking. She was leaning out of the window screaming while he slowly pulled the car alongside me. I snapped out of it and ran to the car.
Only in the car, did I realize I was still holding the truck’s fuel cap.
As we drove in silence I became hypnotized by the night sky blurring by.
“Hey, you!.” said a voice in the darkness.
Snapping fingers in my face.
I must have drifted off.
Back to reality, sitting on the bottom bunk in a Texas state jail.
I realized I was singing a rap song under my breath something I do when idle.
I looked at the finger snapper. A wave of vertigo hit me as I realized he was holding himself upside down from the bunk above me.
“Hi, Wood.” he said, then flipped off of the bunk onto the floor, and slumped into the bunk beside me. “That was pretty good flow.” he said. I thanked him, but told him that it was actually ICP. “Who are you?” I asked. He held out his hand. I took it, we shook. This is how I met Sweet. I asked why he was called that, and he grinned. In gold and diamonds across the front of his teeth were the words “SWEET.” I was seriously impressed. “Sweet!” I said.
We laughed.
Sweet was a nineteen year old gang banger from Houston.
He told me about selling drugs and guns. He showed me where he was shot by a police officer. There was this pinkish scar that shone brightly from his dark skin. He took my hand and slid it down his back and I could feel the 9mm parabellum round under his skin. It made a hard little lump. Apparently it was too dangerous to remove.
He asked what I did to get here. “Arson” I said. I told him about the truck. About how while we were driving away, the fire department was arriving at the scene. As they were fighting the fire, flames from the burning truck leapt over to one of the fire vehicles and burned it as well.
I told him how I was in marine corps boot camp and was pulled aside for questioning about some “pranks,” because one of the people involved had been bragging to the wrong people, and how I came to be sitting beside him.
We heard the call for chow. Since I was not allowed to eat with my new friend, I had to go to the very end of the chow line with the rest of the whites.

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