Chapter 16: The News

Eric was a young EME prospect. He faced me across the board and we talked shit about each other’s game in Spanish. The mood in the dorm was light, it was football season and we were all in spirit, waiting for the game to start. I am not a football fan, but I love screaming. I made a game of rooting for both teams. I did this mainly to confuse people and to keep myself entertained. Some of the other woods and a few of the other Families would join in as well. The more serious sports fans would be annoyed by this behavior, but it only made us want to do it more.

Some of the inmates would get into groups at the tables, and would begin preparing meals, mostly based off of Ramen Noodles. To many this was a high art form. The packs noodles would be slammed onto the table repeatedly, until they were pulverized. The packs would be opened and the contents would be dumped into a bowl, with the flavor packets set aside. The bowl would be filled with steaming hot water, and a notebook would be placed over the bowl, to hold in the steam. The noodle packages would be opened up, and were tiled to act as a table covering. After the noodles were cooked, the bowls would be drained of the water and dumped onto the table. Ingredients were mixed in by all of the people involved en masse, each with his own spoon, stirring madly. After the concoction was mixed, it would be equally divided up and eaten.
Chips of any type were a favorite. Some preferred pork rinds due to the texture. As far as I was concerned, I was happy just to get to join in.

We were all excited for the game and the food, loudly cheering each time the news report was broken by the football commercial.

Instantly the dorm fell silent.

The scene flashed onto both televisions at the same time. A white rental car abandoned on the highway. It
was riddled with bullet holes, and the police were pulling it out of the ditch. The police identified the badly decomposing body. He had a common name for the area, but Eric screamed.

It was his brother.

Shocking news like that would come to the dorm from time to time. It is how I found out a close friend from the scouts killed his entire family with a hunting knife, killed the dog and set the house on fire.

The news told me once that my old cell mate from county hung himself in his cell before trial. John had an attempted murder charge. We were the only people in a six man cell for two weeks. John was insane. His neighbors heard her stories of abuse, how he would beat and choke her. During one particularly loud disturbance, they called the police.

He was caught strangling his wife on the floor of his house.

Attempted murder is a big charge in a small town. John would tell me all of the sordid details about his case. How she was a prostitute, and the whole charge was part of a town-wide conspiracy to put him away.
He thought his food was bugged. He would only speak in whispers. He would write madly for hours, only to rip up each page and flush the pieces.

His wife was going to testify against him at the trial, she has been documenting the abuse with a Polaroid camera for months. They found his body hanging from the television stand, he used the power cord.

That night, we sat in my bunk. He told me stories about his brother and cried. It was his own people who did this to him. He was nineteen and in over his head. He wanted out.

He swore me to secrecy.

We got into the discussion of souls. Eric was raised Catholic, but claimed that he was an atheist. As a joke, I once asked Eric to sell me his soul.

“Fuck you.” he replied.

“Come on, you are an atheist, you don’t believe in them.”

“What will you give me?”

“A stamp.”

“Just a stamp? For a human soul?”

“Look at the condition. it’s the soul of a Mexican Mafia Solider drug dealer guy.”

“You have a point.”

We made the deal. I wrote out a contract giving me rights to the soul. He signed it in blood, we had another inmate witness and notarize the contract. I then had him breathe into an envelope and sealed that. I wrapped the contract around the envelope and placed them into an envelope of their own. He watched, rapt as I did this.

“Why did I have to blow into the envelope?” he asked.

“The envelope is what has your soul now. I don’t want it to get out. ”

“What will you do with it?”

“When I get out, I’ll put it with the others.”

“Where?”

“Freezer, way in the back”

He drew himself close, into a sitting fetal position and shivered as a cold chill visibly went up his spine.

“I don’t want to be in a freezer,” he said.

“Don’t worry, its just a soul, it wont feel the cold.”

With a haunted look, he said goodnight and moved to his bunk. All that night he sat in his bunk under a blanket and rocked side to side.

The next morning, he woke me up.

“I need it back Michael. ”

“Your soul?”

“Yeah, it was a mistake, a horrible mistake.”

I sold it back to him at a three stamp profit, and accepted his request to go to services with him.

They cleared out one of the education rooms and had a non denominational church there. When I walked into the room I was hit with the sound of thunderous bass music at close range. I made sure to get a seat close to the amplifier. It was the first music I had heard in eight months. I closed my eyes and concentrated on the bass line, grinning contentedly.

I went a few more times, but it was solely to hear that bass.

Eric continued to go, but it was solely for his soul.

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