Chapter 30: Tank

They called him “Tank.” He got the name while we were in high school together. Tank was in my close circle of friends, I had known him since elementary school. He was a grade under me; he was a small unobtrusive kid who was constantly picked on. When he turned fourteen, he hit a growth spurt of epic proportions. It was about then that he decided not to take any more shit from his fellow students and faculty. By the time he was a junior, Tank had grown to 6’4 and well over three hundred pounds. He had already gained a reputation for being a “bruiser” by his sophomore year.

I remember sitting in the shop class with him, designing the ultimate bird house, complete with punji stakes and pressure activated death traps.


We looked up, unsure of where the slur came from or to whom it was directed. All of the members of the class were busy on their projects, save one. Ed was in my grade, and he had a big chip on his shoulder. He was staring directly at us. Tank stood to his full height.

“The fuck you say?”

“You heard me, faggot,” said Ed. “Come over here you fatass and I’ll fuck you up.”

A few of us in the class implored Ed to just stop at that point, Tank included.

We told him about the jiu-jitsu, savate, and other martial arts classes that he was taking. I advised him that Tank was at least two hundred pounds heavier than Ed and would mop the floor with him. At that point, Ed called Tank a ‘pussy’ and stormed out of the classroom and into the work area.

Tank and I laughed and resumed our designing. After a few minutes, Tank went to the bathroom to get some water. When he was drinking from the fountain, Ed snuck up behind him and punched Tank in the back of the head. That was the only hit that Ed landed.

I was drawing when I heard it happen. It sounded like a pair of large drum playing dogs had carried a fight into the shop. I jumped up, ran to the door and saw Tank and Ed in the hallway. Tank had Ed around the throat from behind and was repeatedly bashing his head into the brick wall.

Both were screaming.

Blood was dripping down the wall.

“See what you made me do?” Tank screamed as he punctuated each sentence with a slam of Ed’s head. “SEE? I TOLD you that I did not want to fight you, but you had to keep on! You fuck! You caused this to happen, BITCH!”

All Ed contributed was a loud continual wail. The shop teacher sprang into action and broke up the assault. I noticed that Ed pissed his pants; honestly, I would have too. Tank is huge.

When Tank went to the office, the assistant principal asked him if he was carrying weapons. Tank pulled out a four foot section of tow chain from his pants and a switchblade. It was his plan to assault a completely different bully; Ed’s closest friend, Chester Wilson, on the bench press during second period P.E. The administrators sent Tank to two weeks of Alternative Education Program for violent students. Chester was lucky that shop was the first period.

When Tank came back from AEP, the administrators moved him into a Special ED class. He had to stay in the class all day except for lunch and was followed by a teacher’s assistant to make sure he did not assault any other students. The teacher of the class was Mrs. Whitmore, a petite woman in her 50’s. She was all of five feet tall. The shadow was Mr. Powell, a former Force Recon Marine. There were eight other students in the class, all of them discipline problems, but Powell was only there to monitor Tank, constantly writing about him secretively in a small note pad. Once, Powell left the note pad where Tank could see the entry.

I know he is only seventeen, but he is intimidating as all get out. He just looks scary.

Tank asked Powell why he intimidated him; he was a Marine after all. Powell just simply sent him to the office for threatening a teacher. Two more weeks in AEP.

During this time, I had an incident with Chester.

Chester Wilson was my personal bully from the third grade onwards. Chester was a mean person, simply put. By the time he was a senior in high school he had already physically assaulted three of his girlfriends and developed a heavy coke addiction that still follows him to this day.

Chester was sitting behind me in my algebra class. On my desk, I had four floppy disks that contained the full version of DooM. It was my intention to upload the game onto the school’s server later that day. The teacher was giving a lecture on variables and I was doing my best to ignore Chester’s constant whispering in my ear from behind me.

“Look at you, faggot with your faggoty little disks. Why don’t you let me shove them up your ass for you.”

I closed my eyes, imagining Tank slamming that chain into Chester’s grinning face. I knew Tank wouldn’t put up with that shit, why should I? When I opened my eyes, the disks were gone. As I turned in my seat, I heard plastic snap. I punched Chester in the forehead, between his eyes. We both stood and squared off, as the teacher jumped in between us. I was sent to AEP for ten days. As I was going there, Tank was just coming back.

My first day back was a good one. Nobody picked on me, a few people congratulated me for standing up to Chester. I thought the day was actually going to be normal for a change, but when I walked into my eighth period class, and put my books in my desk.

“Hey, Princip, you fuck!” The high pitched and watery voice of Matt Saul. He was closely associated with Ed and Chester. I turned to face him.

Matt was holding a knife.

“I am going to cut your fucking throat for what you did to Chester!” He yelled, then came at me swinging the blade.

I knew enough about self defense to try to disarm him. As he came closer, I closed the distance and grabbed the wrist of his knife hand and pulled in the direction of the swing. His body turned with the arm, throwing him off balance. I put him into a reverse headlock and stomped on the hand holding the knife. It slipped out of his hand. Matt tried to throw me off of him by quickly lunging forward, but I used his momentum to pound his head once into the far back wall of the room. It made a satisfying thud. I pulled him to a standing position and slammed his body through the classroom window. Matt fell halfway through, but I caught him by his shirt and pulled him back into the room. The glass left long gouges down his back. As soon as he was in the room again, Matt bolted, leaving me with a small scrap of t-shirt in my closed hand.

I spent three months in AEP for attacking Matt with no viable provocation. They told me I was lucky I wasn’t charged. While I was gone, Tank had issues of his own.

In Tank’s Class, Mrs. Whitmore was going over a review for a re-test. Tank had already taken and passed the test the first time, so he asked if he could go to the library. The request was denied. A little later, he asked if he could use the restroom. Again this request was denied, as well as the three other times he asked. Tank said he was going anyway, and Whitmore grabbed him and physically barred him from leaving the row of desks.

“Get off me, BITCH!” he screamed and spat in her face. Shocked, she jumped back and bumped into a desk. Tank then went to the restroom. When he returned, the police were arriving at the school.

In her first statement to the police, Whitmore said that Tank spat on her and she bumped into the desk on her own. In her second statement, she changed the story to say that Tank grabbed and pushed her into the desk. In her third statement, she said that she was physically thrown to the floor and her head connected with the desk during her fall, causing her to momentarily black out.

The district attorney used the third statement to charge Tank with assault on a public servant, causing bodily injury, despite the fact that the other students in the class who witnessed the event were never allowed to give a statement, and who all say Tank never pushed her. The school administrators threatened immediate expulsion if anyone even mentioned the incident.

After Whitmore testified on the stand about the assault, and Tank was convicted, she received a healthy pay raise. Tank was given ten years in prison for spitting in a teacher’s face. He was seventeen.

We were in county jail together. I was waiting for trial and Tank was waiting to be shipped to Garza West unit. Tank’s father was a police officer, so things were easy for Tank. Since I was his cell mate, it was bearable for me. His first night in, we were making card houses at the table and the jailer, Junior calls him on the intercom.

“Hey, Big guy, you have a visit.”

It was two A.M. Tank walked out of the cell confused. Forty minutes later, he came back reeking of cigarettes and carrying a large trash bag. Without a word, he walked to the table and dumped the contents. It was filled with candy, soda, chips, homemade jerky and countless other snacks. Any night his father was on patrol, he would have one of those late night visits.

We did anything to keep boredom away. One of our favorite games was “Get the soap!” Where one of us would hold a small bar of soap in his right hand, and the other had to use almost any means to get it out of the hand. The only rules were, no outright punching, biting or kicking, and anything involving the nether regions was strictly forbidden.

Being tossed around like a rag doll for a bar of soap brings a new meaning to the word “fun.” We would take extra socks and fashion crude boxing gloves out of them. We would then mercilessly beat the shit out of each other. I am not a small person, and when I land a punch, most of the time someone will stay down. I repeatedly hit Tank in the head as hard as I could, and he would simply toss me off of him while chuckling to himself. I would run back screaming and swinging and find myself dazed on the floor.

This would go on for hours. Once he threw me across the cell, I hit the door, cracking a rib on the metal door handle. I wanted to stop, but Tank said it was good practice for the units. Would I stop defending myself just because of a little cracked rib?

I ran back at him screaming.

I was laying on the floor eating one of Tank’s candy bars, waiting for him to come back from his night visit. I was starting to get worried, as he had been called out earlier than normal and he had been gone over three hours. I was dozing when Tank reentered the cell. He had a shocked dazed look on his face. I asked him if he was okay.

“I am a daddy.” He said repeatedly as if trying to understand it. I knew his girlfriend was pregnant, but I had no idea that she was that far along. When Tank’s father heard about the birth, he took him from the jail and drove him to the hospital. Tank showed me the Polaroid photos of the delivery room. Tank jr. looked tiny in his arms. There was no doubt about the origin of that child. The father and son both had the same heavy brow, and sharply arched eyebrows.

“This little guy is gonna be pure trouble, just like me,” Tank said proudly. “It just sucks that I won’t get to meet him until he is ten.”

A few weeks later, Tank’s world fell apart. The letter smelled like perfume and came in a red envelope like all the others she sent him. It was over, she had written. She had been fucking Milton, a mutual friend for months, and they were going to raise the baby together.

As Tank flew into a rage, I tried to calm him down to no avail. He went into his bunk and began writing a letter to her. In the letter, Tank promised to kill Milton slowly the day he got out of prison. Tank pulled a paperclip from his uniform and began sharpening it to a fine point on the concrete floor. Doing this seemed to calm him down, so I paid it no attention. When he completed sharpening the piece of thin metal, he went over to the table and began slowly inserting it into his wrist. I watched this without a word. After the paper clip was about two inches into his wrist, tank removed it quickly, sending a thick purple gout of blood splattering onto the table and covering his letter. I got a thick wad of toilet paper to put on the wound and had him apply pressure. The blood kept coming. We had to hit the intercom switch to have the guards give him better first aid. Before they took him, Tank had me hide the letter. I sent it the next morning.

After Tank came back from the hospital, the guards moved him into his own cell. I was distraught over the loss of my friend’s company, but happy because Tank left me all of his contraband, including two extra mattresses. A few days later I was detailed to pick up trash from in front of the jail. As I was out there hunting cigarette butts and dirty diapers, I heard the wail of a siren. An ambulance streaked down the road and turned sharply into the jail’s parking lot, pulling up at the sally port entrance. I watched as two paramedics went into the jail. Moments later, they rolled out a gurney under heavy strain. As they were wheeling the gurney to the ambulance, a large arm swung inertly from beneath the sheet, I realized it was Tank. I ran to the sally port and asked Junior what happened.

Junior told me that he was doing a cell check, and he noticed that Tank was standing oddly underneath the television. He entered the cell, and saw that tank had hanged himself with the television’s power cable. Junior cut the cable, and Tank dropped heavily, but he was still breathing. If Junior was five minutes late, Tank would have been dead.

I begged to ride the ambulance with Tank, but it was out of the question. I had to be threatened with the rubber room if I did not quietly go back to my cell. Two days later, Tank came shuffling back into our cell loaded to the gills on Trazodone.

I told him that if he ever tried anything like that again, I would kick his ass.

Ten years later, Tank is sitting across from me on my porch. He has less than a year on parole, and has a good relationship with his son. Tank is becoming successful as an underground rapper. He does shows across the state. Tank raps about his experiences in prison and the life he continues to live. His music is offensive to most, but is honest. I told him about hearing his music blaring from the windows of a low rider that drove past me in the town over. We laughed at this. He gave me a copy of his new cd. I wore it out in a few weeks.

  1. […] Standing WatchChapter 28: Johnny and the Rib BonesChapter 29: Curly’s TroubleChapter 30: TankScarletChapter 1: Part 1Chapter 1: Part 2Zora Bleu1TSOE […]

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