Bucket of Blood (by Warrior)
Warrior - Serving fourteen years for kidnapping and aggravated assault. Half Hispanic and Scottish-Irish with family still in Mexico. Raised by a family heavily involved in drug commerce.
I was eighteen when I first stepped foot in prison. Thinking back I can only imagine to what degree I exuded fear and uncertainty. I’m sure it was transparent, like a cheap pair of Nike’s at the swap meet with the swoosh facing the wrong way. I was scared.
Late summer, I was stood in front of a fifteen-foot chain-link fence in an orange jumpsuit two sizes too large, waiting to be let onto my very first yard. The guard who escorted me off the bus was nowhere to be seen. He had stepped into a concrete bunker/tower to operate the opening and closing of the fence. All of a sudden, the fence clanged open about three foot. I looked at the officer and he waved at me to go in. Going through, the fence hit my shoulder as it closed shut. The officer approached the fence, gave me my cell and bed location and pointed to its direction. Clutching the standard-issue net bag with basic toiletries, and bedding underneath my arm, I set off with the bravest face I could muster.
The yard was out for recreation. Some guys playing basketball. Some working out. Others playing cards. Others pausing to observe the new addition to the population heading across the yard. If predatory stares could kill, I would have been dead twenty times.
I was approached by an older fellow, heavily tattoed, six-foot-two, fourtyish, smoking a rolled cigarette. “Hey kid, what’s your name?”
“Alex,” I said, watching him with a wary eye.
“The name’s Doc.” As he held his hand out to shake, many of the prisoners observing me went back about their business, which I took as a good sign. “Just off the bus are you?”
“What house they give ya?”
“Come on. I’ll take you over there.” He exhaled the last of his cigarette.
Following him, we exchanged small talk on the way. “Well, youngster, since it’s your first time down, there are a coupla things you should know. First, never get involved in anything that doesn’t concern you immediately. Do your time, never let the time do you. Second, stay away from the gangs, drugs and prison politics. They’re all dead ends. Lastly, never lose sight of the following: your word, your mind, your identity and your life. Remember these things and you’ll do just fine.”
“Thanks for the advice. How long you been down?”
“Twenty-eight. I go home next year,” he replied, all nonchalant.
I couldn’t even begin to imagine what that felt like. I felt ashamed for complaining about the measly three-and-a-half years I had back then.
“Let’s take a detour, youngster. You’ll need stamps, envelopes, a pen to get a hold of your people. And screw that state soap, it’ll mess your skin up. We’ll go by my cell. You don’t have to pay me back. Just pay the shit toward the next guy in your shoes.”
We arrived at Doc’s living quarters, but before entering the run we stopped by two men stood puffing on cigarettes.
“Let’s wait here a second,” Doc said. “We don’t want to be in there right now.”
After five minutes, a man in his late twenties with long blond hair in a ponytail, wearing a ball cap, wheeled out a mop bucket and a mop. “All clear, guys,” he said.
“Right on,” one of the smokers said.
“Wait here. I’ll be right back,” Doc said, and disappeared down the maze of doors and halls inside the building.
The man in the ball cap picked up the mop bucket and motioned me over. “Do me a favor.”
Wanting to be accepted and acting like I knew a thing, I said, “Sure.”
“Keep eyes for me. Let me know if a cop comes while I dump this bloody mop water. It’ll only take a second.”
Shocked and stunned as I became an accomplice to the first of many such instances, I focussed around me with a more heightened awareness of guard uniform than prisoner garb.
He dumped the bloody water over a patch of dirt outside the building. He ran back in, then back out with water to toss over the bloody water to dilute the evidence. “Thanks, youngster,” he said, then disappeared into the building, mop and bucket in hand, leaving me wondering who’s blood was in the bucket and what he had done to deserve what had occurred.
Just then, Doc appeared with envelopes, stamps and a bar of Irish Spring. “Here you go, kid,” he said, handing me everything. “You look a little pale.”
“Uh, dude just emptied a bucket of bloody mop water a second ago.”
“Well, if that’s the only thing you see in here, you’ll be lucky. It’s almost time for head count, we need to get you over to your new spot.”
He showed me to my run and bunk, shook my hand and said, “If you ever need any advice, you know where to find me.”
I settled in that night, but didn’t sleep. It’s tough to sleep in any new environment, let alone prison. All I could think of was that mop water.
Everything Doc imparted to me that day turned out to be true. I never realized how true until much later. He was right about the mop water too. I’d be the luckiest man in the system if that were all I’d ever seen.
Strangely enough, I’ve been on both sides of that bloody mop water in the course of my prison travels. I’ve grown in awareness because of it, and learned what is unneccesary and not at all desirable. Trying to develop strong moral character is where I’m at today.
As this is Warrior's first story for Jon's Jail Journal, your comments and feedback would be greatly appreciated and shall be forwarded to him.
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