Shadows and Shrouds…A short story.

Silence is an answer.

The older I get, the less I want to deal with people and their baggage. We all come with baggage and drama, but some folks make it an art form. The view from my cell is hindered by a tree of some kind. I mark time in this prison by watching this tree grow.

When I first got here it was being planted. Now it towers over twenty feet in the air. Either the tree is a fast grower, or I’ve been here a long time. In prison, you can adjust to certain things, because you know it will never change. An example would be my guards. Regardless of the time I’ve spent here, the guards love to pummel this earthly vessel.

At least they’re consistent.

Still, some things are more annoying than others. My new roommate is the human personification of annoyance. His rants against the government, the Blacks, the Hispanics and the Jews are tiring. Nightly, I dream of drowning him in the toilet.

Today, he is wailing about the chow and how he had better food in Iraq. “Jesus, it’s prison chow.” I sit on my bunk and think of ways to end his ceaseless prattle. So far, I considered choking him, stabbing him with a fork, and bashing his head against the wall.

“Look at this crap, they didn’t even cook the eggs.” Angrily, he hurls the plate of food. The runny eggs slide down the wall. I watch as he paces the cell.

“I’m not an animal, we should have decent food to eat in this dump.”

“Nah, you aren’t an animal. You’re a racist, a killer, and a rapist, but thankfully you’re not an animal.”

“Why don’t you say that to my face, redneck?”

There is an old saying which says, “if you argue with a fool, you only prove there are two of them.” I smile to cover the madness I feel. I want to break his nose and then twist, while his screams serenade me into peaceful bliss. The thought brings me great comfort.

Instead, I look at the tree. Warm sunlight filters through its branches. Birds flutter and perch on the barren limbs. It appears winter is going to come in early this year. Of course, it’s winter here year round.

“You know so much about me, tell me why you’re here.”

I look back at my roommate. The fury shining in his eyes warns me of the calm before the storm. “Looks like I’m going to be missing a roommate soon.”

Just a bad case of mistaken identity.”

“Right, mistaken for someone else, huh. How did that work out for you?”

I gesture around the room. It should be apparent how my excuse worked, but some folks need a push in the right direction.

Like a caged animal, my roommate begins to pace back and forth. We meet eyes and I give him a small grin. When you go to kill someone, they should at a minimum feel good about themselves.

His pace quickens and on his last pass, he pulls his shank from his waistband. I stare in amazement as he walks toward me, an evil smile on his lips. I laugh and wait for him to come to me. 

“It ain’t nothing personal, I just don’t like you.”

“It’s alright. Everyone has to die sometime.” He keeps coming, and as he draws close, he swings the blade in a wide arc.

I wait until the last moment to move. I duck and the blade swings over my head, his forward momentum propels him past me. As he passes, I slam my knee into his groin. He grunts and goes to one knee. The blade skitters away. I grab his head and smash his face into the bars.

A little giggle escapes from me. I slam his head into the bars until he is gone. The guards seem a bit shocked at all the blood, but I explain it is just the way of head wounds. 

“Whatever you say, tinkerer.”

I look out the window and the tree seems to be a bit taller but maybe it’s just the shadows.

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