Chapter 28: Johnny and the Rib Bones

One hot august afternoon, I was laying in my bunk trying to write. I was about three pages in, where the protagonist tried to confront the monster (an ever growing hyper intelligent brain that came through his toilet pipe) with the assistance of the local animal control specialist. They fought this thing for an hour, and just as they were about to kill it; I realized that there was no way that this story was plausible. What self respecting single man would have a pink toilet seat cover? With that, I had the monster eat them both.

I closed my notebook and looked around the dorm. It was the usual crowded scene. There was a large group watching a movie that was playing on local cable, and a small group in the corner setting up the tattoo shop. I noticed Evil Billy sitting alone recycling soap.

He had a bowl full of the TDCJ issue soap, small blue pieces of lye soap an inch wide by two inches long. Billy was shaving the soap into small slivers and collecting them in another bowl. I watched as he took the bowl full of soap shavings and mixed in warm water. He began kneading the soap until it formed a large ball. Billy rolled the soap out on the metal table and began making two inch bars. I walked over to him just as he was finishing up, the new bars of soap drying on the table.

I greeted him and sat down. We set up the chess table and began talking about our lives. He told me about his twenty-five year old daughter, who he had only met twice. I told him about the Molotov cocktails. He described what it was like to hold up a store at gunpoint. I told him how to make napalm. During a lull in the conversation I asked Evil Billy what the most disturbing thing he had witnessed during his long career as a criminal. He got quiet and gave me a cold stare.

“If you really want to know. . ” he said as he made his first move, continuing to talk as we played.

“When I was your age, I was sent up on a five year sentence. Since the Texas prison system is run to be self sufficient, most of the units had some kind of industry. One unit made all of the uniforms, another unit made all of the TDCJ soap you see in this bowl. I went to a minimum security unit in north Texas, we called The Farm. We raised vegetables and livestock. I was initially assigned to the butcher shop and placed in a dorm. Since I had a knee injury, the guards had me polishing boots for them in the administrative office. We had the same amount of bunks as our unit, fifty four, but there weren’t any partitions between the bunks, so it was all open.

There weren’t too many other white dudes in the dorm, probably about five. One of them, this little skinny guy named Johnny Pinkerton, was my bunk mate. I was on the top bunk, and he was on the bottom. We spent a lot of time talking to each other after lights out. Johnny had a lot of problems with the black inmates in the dorm. They were making him pay protection, they would steal from him and pick on him. I stood up for him as often as I could, but there were times where I was working and he was in there alone. He would never try to fight back, just accepting the abuse without a word.

One morning while the rest of the dorm was at REC or working, Johnny and I were watching John Wayne in “McLintock!” on the television set. We were about thirty minutes in and laughing our asses off, when the rest of the inmates came back into the dorm from REC. A black inmate walked silently to the television and switched the channel to the basketball game.

“Hey, we were watching that movie.” Johnny said as he stood.

The inmate turned to look at Johnny, sizing up his hundred – thirty pound frame. He closed the distance between them and seized Johnny by the collar of his uniform.

“This is MY motherfucking tv, BITCH!” he screamed in Johnny’s face. Johnny was then dragged to the television set. The inmate had him by the back of the head now, and was repeatedly slamming his forehead into the metal television enclosure. I stood to help Johnny, but I was grabbed from behind and held back. I watched helplessly as the hits rang out in the dorm. Johnny was thrown to the floor in an expanding pool of his own blood. Heaving sobs. He was kicked silent.

I was let go, and the inmates went about their business. I went to Johnny and helped him up. I cleaned his wounds with wet toilet paper, the whole time he was silent and compliant. In the mirror, I noticed that they were staring daggers at us.

I helped Johnny to his bottom bunk and asked him if he was all right. He began muttering something under his breath. I leaned in close.

“Will be okay, but they won’t be. Those motherfuckers are going to pay. I’ll be okay, I’ll be okay, but they won’t be. Going to pay, going to fucking pay – ” I leaned away worried.

That night I lay awake hearing him mutter incoherently underneath me. It was like having a monster under my bed.

The next morning Johnny stayed in bed when we went to breakfast. He wouldn’t speak to me when I came back into the dorm. I got the call to go into the administrative office for my daily boot detail, when I came back a few hours later, Johnny was still in the dorm.

I immediately noticed several things wrong with what I was seeing. Johnny was sitting on my top bunk. He had a wool blanket wrapped around his body, leaving only his head exposed. Most alarmingly, he was rocking back and forth and still muttering. I slowly approached him. “Hey, Bud, you okay?” I asked.

Still rocking, Johnny made eye contact with me. He had the look of a corpse. “Cigarette?” he whispered hoarsley. The small man looked even smaller, almost like a scared kid at camp. I shook out a cigarette and held it out to him.

“Put it in my mouth.” Johnny croaked. I put the cigarette in his mouth and lit it for him, then lighting my own before putting out the match.

Johnny took a ragged drag and exhaled. Thankfully his maddening rocking slowed down as he smoked. For a while he just sat there, letting the ash grow long while staring vacantly in my general direction. Exhaling through his nose, Johnny looked like a dragon. His eyes focused on me, his head turning slightly causing the ash to fall on the blanket.

“Billy, come here.”

I stood on the bunk’s ladder, bring me to near eye level.

“Billy, what ever you do, stay in the bottom bunk after lights out. You have to promise me. ”

I promised.

The rest of the day, Johnny rocked and muttered in my bunk. I tried to get him to talk to me, but the only word he seemed to know was “cigarette” or “water.”

The guards shut off the lights in the dorm and cut the power to the television. The inmates began getting into their bunks and the dorm slowly quieted down. I could hear Johnny’s muttering over the low talking that was still going on. I lay there staring up at the bottom of my bunk, eyes glued open expectantly. It is hard to stay awake when you are making an effort to do so. As I began to doze, I thought nothing was going to happen and that Johnny was just being melodramatic. It was then that I realized Johnny wasn’t muttering anymore and the swaying had stopped as well. I quietly slid out of the bunk and peeked over the top to see if he was asleep or not.

Johnny was sitting motionless on the bunk. After a few minutes, he stood up. The blanket still wrapped around his body. Johnny slowly turned around, surveying the sleeping dorm. I was about to say his name, when he opened his arms and let the blanket drop away from his shoulders.

He was totally nude. In each hand were the rib bones from a large pig. They must have been smuggled in from the slaughterhouse. Johnny had sharpened the fifteen – inch long bones to a fine point, and had a friend tape one in each hand pointing down. The tape was wrapped so thick, it looked like he was wearing boxing gloves. This way, he couldn’t drop them.

Johnny leapt off of my bunk, across to the bunk of the inmate who beat him. As the inmate awoke, Johnny had already plunged both of the rib bones deep in his chest. Johnny then jumped to the next bunk stabbing its sleeping occupant. From there he went from bunk to bunk, marking his trail with blood. One man screamed a gurgling cry, and the dorm began to wake up. Quickly, the lights came on, and Johnny surrendered quietly to the guards. They removed fifteen bodies from the dorm that night. ”

I just stared at him stunned.

“Damn dude, that is pretty fucked up.” was the best I could reply. I reset the chess board, as I did so, Evil Billy resumed talking.

“Once I was in this old unit, the kind that still had the tiers like you see in the movies. I was in the bottom tier with this odd white guy named Fogey. We called him that because he looked like an old fogey. There was this transvestite on the third tier that he was talking to. After a while they sort of became an item and he would visit her in her cell during dayroom hours. On each tier there was a part of gantry that was not bolted down. When the guards were making their rounds, their feet would come down on the loose gantry and make a loud bang. This was typically used as the general alarm that a guard was on the tier.

This was around when the AIDS thing was freaking everyone out, and Fogey wanted to be safe. They decided to use a plastic bread bag as a condom. While they were on the third tier having sex in the transvestite’s cell, one of the sergeants came in to do a check. Being a senior guard, the sergeant knew about the alarm and stepped around it. Someone sent a signal to the transvestite, her and Fogey ran separate directions out of the cell. The transvestite streaked down the tier naked and with a bread bag trailing from her ass. Fogey ran straight into the guard, sending them both sprawling.”

“He was sent to AD-SEG for that.” Evil Billy and I laughed.

I noticed that Gary was up. He shuffled sleepily to the toilets in his boxers. He was as small as Johnny. I imagined him going berserk with sharpened rib bones and couldn’t help but laugh at the mental picture. I called Gary over. I took his offered coffee cup and finished it, then started drawing on the bottom of it with a marker.

“What the hell are you doing, Princie?” Gary asked.

“Improving your cup.” I said. After the illustration was finished, I handed him the cup.

The drawing was a cartoon of a man having sex with a pig. In big block letters above the cartoon were the words “PIG FUCKER.” Gary just kept turning the cup over and over in his hands. At first I was worried, but then he began laughing . All Gary would have to do is tip up his cup to call anyone he was looking at a “pig fucker.”

Gary and I were setting up the chess board as Evil Billy left the table to go read. As a joke, Gary and I would openly discuss escape plans. They would usually involve a large force of well trained, yet scantily clad lesbians flying in on fast attack helicopters.

As we were going over what submachine guns would look best with the spiked heels, two new inmates came into the dorm carrying their mattresses and commissary bags.

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