Chapter 23: Vinny’s Lighter

Vincent had an interesting way of lighting a cigarette. He would first unplug the television, which was mounted high above him on the wall with a jump. Vincent would then take a pencil apart and break the lead into three pieces of equal length. Taking one of the pieces, Vincent would fashion a sort of handle for it out of twisted toilet paper. The finished piece looked like a “T”, with the short ends being the lead. The other lead pieces would go into the power outlet, one for positive, one for negative.

Vincent was an excellent jumper. He would leap with the “T” in one hand, and the cigarette in his clenched teeth. He would grip the television mount, and do a one handed pull-up to bring himself into position. With the “T” he made connection to the other lead pieces, forming an electrical arc. Vincent used the arc to light the cigarette held between his teeth. I was fascinated. He would do a few one – armed victory pull-ups while grinning madly and dismounting.

One day we were playing our card house battle, and Vincent decided he wanted a smoke. He went through his ritual of preparing the lead, but when he went to light the cigarette, he accidentally closed the connection with his hand. There was a loud pop, a spark, darkness, a thud, then the smell of burned hair. The power went out in the whole jail.

The jail erupted. Banging, yelling, slamming of lockers. The guards running up and down the hallways with flashlights trying to figure out what had happened. After a few minutes, the power came back on. Vincent was still laying there. I noticed that his head was slowly going back and forth. His eyes were dazed, but he seemed ok. I helped him to his bunk. I looked for the cigarette, it was laying under the table smoldering lazily.

Vincent’s thumb, index and middle fingers were burned black from the outlet. His other shoulder took his weight when he fell. I put the cigarette in his mouth, he smoked it, ashing on himself.

“Won’t be doing that no more,” he laughed.

The next day, he was at it again, but he always made sure to use an extra long piece of toilet paper for the handle of his lighter.

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