The Good Man
The overhead light flickered to life, washing the darkness from every corner of the cell. A guard walked down the front of the cells, raking his baton across the bars to make sure the convicts were awake. Butch reluctantly sat up in his bunk. His cellmate, Clyde, was already up and urinating into the stainless-steel toilet which was only a couple feet from Butch’s bunk. “Mornin, Butch,” said Clyde. Butch grunted. He had no friends in the morning. Clyde, in particular, annoyed him. He got up from his bunk and walked around Clyde, who he swore had the kidney of an elephant, and splashed cold water from the sink over his face. He stared at the unrecognizable stranger in the mirror. He looked so different. To begin with, between the meth and the time in the hospital, he’d lost a lot of weight, but once he got to the joint he started hitting the weights and eating with a vengeance. So, his body looked better than ever. But age and stress had chewed up his face. His sad blue eyes always seemed to carry bags beneath them. Gray sprouted in his black hair, and weariness conquered a once lively spirit. Their door opened with an offensively loud electric buzz, and Butch and Clyde headed out for the kitchen. Most guys in the joint were given a job to do. Butch and Clyde were assigned to work in the kitchen every other day. So, the pair headed off to prepare for the morning meal. They had a 200- yard walk outside to get to the kitchen, and though Butch tried to walk fast enough to lose him, Clyde kept up every step of the way. He carried two cartons of cigarettes and used them to point at the early morning sky as he asked Butch, “Why some mornings there be a whole mess of stars and some mornings there ain’t hardly not been none at all?”
Clyde was a mildly retarded redneck who always wore a dumb expression on his broad face. His mouth was usually open, his eyes portrayed a vacant quality, and he kept his head shaved despite a large ugly scar running down the right side of his head just above the ear. Though friendly and good natured, everything he did irritated Butch. He was always in Butch’s way when they were in the cell. Outside the cell, he followed Butch around like they were best friends. No matter how rudely Butch acted toward him, Clyde never took the hint.They walked through the cafeteria door, and the guard sitting at the desk just inside the doorway took a deep breath, lowered his newspaper and marked them present. His only job was to sit there and make sure the cons assigned to work in the kitchen were accounted for. By his demeanor, one might have thought he worked twelve hours a day in the salt mines. Butch walked right pass the guard, but Clyde greeted him like an old friend. “Mornin sir. How the Cardinals did last night?” The guard ignored him and went back to his sports page. After waiting a few seconds for a reply, Clyde gave up and followed Butch. It was still too early to start working, so all the cons were gathered on the receiving dock smoking cigarettes.“Got something for me?” asked a con named Schwint. Clyde walked over and handed him the two cartons of cigarettes. Schwint was a muscular skinhead covered with tattoos including one large swastika on his neck. His little band of hard ass peckerwoods (white boys) extorted from any inmates they could intimidate. Clyde paid two cartons a week. Butch didn’t have to worry about paying anyone for protection. He got respect in the pen for the nature and publicity of his arrest. In fact, he was somewhat of a celebrity in prison. Despite his lack of education, he was an exceptional chemist, at least as it related to the manufacture of crystal meth. Before his bust, he had an impressive lab which netted him enough cash to retire of off if greed and the lure of easy money had not gotten the better of him. It was that which occurred during his arrest that gave him his elevated status in prison. He’d kept his S.K.S. Chinese Assault rifle, along with ten loaded magazines, handy in the lab to protect against thieves. When the narcs raided his lab, they wore plain black combat gear, some of them even wearing ski masks to protect their undercover identity. Butch, tweaked out on his own product, mistook them for thieves and opened fire. He killed two and wounded four before figuring out his mistake and offering to surrender. The cops ordered him to throw out his weapon and come out with hands up. When he complied, the cops showed him the standard compassion they afforded cop killers and blasted away. Imagine their shock when the ambulance arrived, and he wasn’t dead. He spent two weeks in critical condition and over two months in the hospital. When he arrived in prison he was a hero. On the upside, he was smart enough, or at least paranoid enough, to have hidden the bulk of his nest egg, well over half a million, a month before the raid. A lot of meth-fueled brainstorming went into where the money should be concealed. A bank of course was out of the question. There wasn’t a person in the world he trusted with that much cash. He eventually decided to bury it in a waterproof container. But where? He had to consider the possibility that he would get busted and do some time. He settled on a patch of ground in a clearing in the woods. He dug a hole five or so feet down, put the money in, put a couple of feet of dirt in, put a dog corpse on top of that, filled in the dirt and shoved a big rock on top just to make It easier to find. He figured in the unlikely event that someone came all the way out here, saw the fresh dirt, got curious and dug, they’d get to the dog and figure that was all there was. He marked the spot with a GPS coordinates and memorized the coordinates. Now, here he was preparing to scrub pots and pans (the least desirable job in the kitchen) with Clyde while his money lay underground on the outside. The water scalded, and the rubber gloves they were provided only covered about an inch above their wrists, so their forearms burned a bright pink by the time they were done. But, for all his faults, Clyde was a hard worker who never complained and pulled his own weight, so they were soon done and back on the dock smoking cigarettes again. The other cons finished their various jobs and drifted, one by one, back to the dock and waited for the guard who would come back, count them, give them their mail and release them till it was time to come back for their lunch shift. The guard finally appeared, sauntering lazily to the center of the dock. He carried a stack of mail in one hand and unbuckled his trousers with the other hand, letting his immense white belly spill out from his too small shirt. Prison guard was not the most financially rewarding vocation, so he tried to compensate by gorging himself on the free meals. He flipped over an empty trashcan and sat his round frame on top of it. Butch half expected it to crumble beneath him like a Pepsi can under a combat boot, and he felt a little disappointed when it didn’t. Mail was one of the few things cons had to look forward to, and they all suppressed a murderous rage at the way the guard took his time getting to it. Of course, the guard knew this and took great pleasure in drawing it out. After sitting down, he snorted snot from his nose back into his throat and spat the yellow monstrosity out onto the dock. Once he ran out of ways to procrastinate, he began handing out the mail, which to the cons were little snippets of a better world folded up and sent to them in envelopes. Butch wasn’t expecting a letter today. He’d just received a letter from his girlfriend, Stacy, and the closest thing he had to a friend, Billy Ford, wasn’t the writing type. So, he was surprised when the guard called his name and even more surprised to find the letter was from Curtis Lovier. Curtis bought meth from Butch before he got busted, but Butch never considered him a friend. In fact, he remembered getting rough with him once when Curtis was late with money he owed. Curiosity piqued, he tore open the envelope and began to read: Butch,I’ve debated back and forth whether I should write you and tell you what I’m about to. Doing time is hard enough without this information, and telling you will only make it harder. Maybe that’s why I’ve decided to tell you. After all, you’ve always been a mean s.o.b. who never cared about no one but yourself, I don’t guess you deserve to have the situation whitewashed for you now. I found out some interesting info on your buddy Billy. It seems that about a week before you were busted, he was pulled over leaving your house, and they found six ounces of your special recipe in his car. The only thing I know for sure is that they held him for a few hours then let him go without pressing charges. Caught red handed with six ounces and he walks? And what a coincidence that all this happens a week before your place gets raided. It doesn’t end there either. Since you went away, Billy has become, how can I put it delicately, overly eager to console Stacy. I’ve seen his car at your place late at night, and it’s still there when I go by the next morning. I’m not interested in being your friend or spy on the outside, so don’t bother writing me on this subject or any other. I will not write you again.Curtis Butch crumbled up the letter and threw it in the dumpster. He knew that if he kept it, he would reread it over and over, hoping beyond reason that the meaning would change. In the dumpster or not, the contents of the letter haunted Butch’s thoughts and tortured his soul with a hot poker. It could be some twisted “Screw you” from Curtis. He obviously had his grudge. Still, prison fostered paranoia especially when it came to one’s significant other on the outside. He knew the thought of his woman and best friend would hang over him every waking moment till he saw her on visiting day next Tuesday, which was still four days away. The rest of the day, Butch walked around in a trance. He worked, lifted weights, tried to rest, but the letter gripped him like a migraine headache. It even invaded his slumber, where images of her and him in his home, in his bed took over his dreams. He woke covered in sweat, his body betraying him with an erection. Most men have erotic dreams in their teens. They return in prison. Butch dreamt of sex with movie starlets, girls from high school, and wives and girlfriends of various acquaintances. But now, he feared he would only dream of the two Judases in his life. The fact that they had spoiled his dreams, one of the few things that he had to look forward to, made the betrayal feel complete. The four days passed like years for Butch, but they eventually passed. The visiting room contained ten round tables surrounded by chairs. A con sat at each table, and a guard stood at the door. A box of toys sat in the corner for visiting children, but they were rarely used. Beyond the guard was a short hallway, which led to a small room containing vending and soda machines. Cons weren’t allowed in there, but visitors could bring them a treat from this room if they chose to. Butch sat in one of the chairs and chain-smoked while waiting for Stacy. He dreaded the conversation that lay ahead. A toxic mix of rage, depression and even a dash of hope seethed inside him. It was the hope, by far, that was the most dangerous ingredient. He’d learned that lesson while on trial. When you get busted, you figure you’re screwed. You’re depressed but resigned. Then some lawyer convinces you he can beat the case, for the right price. No matter how devious the con, he’s rarely a match for hope. In his desperation the con will be easy prey for the lawyer’s promises, and that’s when the cancerous hope sneaks in. Suddenly, the fate you were resigned to becomes intolerable, the possibility of being free again becomes the only reason for living. Then the judge’s gavel crashes down, you’re found guilty. The lawyer shrugs his shoulders, apologizes and walks away thinking about the hotel room he can take his 28-year-old legal aid to and bang on your dollar, and you’re left more miserable and poorer than you would have been if you would have just followed your original instinct and abandoned all hope at the start.So, he knew that instead of hoping that it was all a lie, and she would be faithful to him forever, it would be wiser to accept that she was gone and not look back. But in the never ending civil war of the head and heart, this battle would be won by the heart and the sliver of hope would not die. On the outside, he would have dumped her without a second thought. But, he knew if he dumped her now he’d likely be alone for the rest of the sentence. Prison was not the best place to meet women.
Just as Butch was sure his head was about to explode from anticipation, she walked in. Despite the hatred he felt for her, he’d never wanted her more than he did at that moment. She was attractive in the porn star kind of way; too much makeup, clothes that put her body on display. She’d learned the value of seduction at an early age, at twenty-four she was a master. With sultry green eyes and a flirty smile, she was the laughing little girl and the knowing woman all wrapped into one. She was petite but had all the right curves in all the right places. Her thick black hair stretched almost to her shapely bottom which was covered in tight spandex revealing the outline of the top of her G-string. She wore a black tube top that ended just above her navel, showing off her flat tan stomach. As she approached, he crushed out his cigarette, stood up and faked a smile. “Hey baby,” she said. He couldn’t wait for her to get to the table. They met halfway across the room, his mouth found hers and his hands explored the body that was once his private playground but now belonged to someone else. He kissed her desperately for a few seconds then forced himself to pull away. If he didn’t get his lust in check, he’d believe whatever she said, and he might never get the truth. They turned to the table, he sat with hands folded in front of him. She sat opposite of him, tossing a bag of change on the table and pulling out a pack of Big Red. “Piece of gum?” she asked. “No.” Despite the fact that he had been dying to confront her for days, he found he had trouble looking her in the eye. It was as if he had complete faith in his ability to look at her and see the truth, and now he wasn’t sure he wanted to. She popped the stick of gum into her mouth and stared at him. “Somethin wrong?” she asked.
He wanted to choke her. She popped her gum and already looked like she couldn’t wait to leave. And the way she asked him if something was wrong, as if she couldn’t see why he would have a care in the world. “No, what could possibly be wrong?” He wondered if that asshole was out in the car waiting for her. She blew a bubble and popped it. “You pissed at me or somethin?”
“Do I have something to be pissed at you about?” He waited for her to answer but she just blew a bubble, popped it and snapped her gum. He took a deep breath focusing all his energy on holding his temper. “Have you talked to Billy lately?” For a split second her jaws stopped furiously working over the gum, and a shadow of unease passed over her eyes. And he felt that cruel sliver of hope expire. But, in the next second, she was back to chewing like a camel, her lower jaw moving from side to side and her face a mask of indifference. “I ain’t seen Billy since you got busted. Why ya ask?” He looked her in the eye hoping the moment of honesty would return. It didn’t. “Somebody say somethin to you?” she asked.He broke eye contact and pulled out a cigarette. As he lit it, he decided he needed a moment. “No, nobody said anything. I was just wondering how he was doing.” He took a long drag and exhaled it in a series of smoke rings. “Got any change baby?” She gestured toward the bag of change, one of the few things visitors were allowed to bring, while doing her bubble, pop, snap routine. “Why don’t you do me a favor and get me a Dr. Pepper?”Bubble, pop, snap, “Sure Baby.” She scooped up the change and headed for the room with the soda machine. Her hips swiveled so seductively that even a few of the cons visiting with their wives couldn’t help eyeing her tail as she passed by.
He waited till she was out of sight and buried his face in his hands. He dug deep for resolve. Pull the band aid off, get it over with. She walked back to the table pretending not to notice the lustful glares focused on her and sat down. She slid the Dr. Pepper to him and put on her best pouty look, the one which successfully wrapped so many men around her finger. “Baby, I hate to bother you while you’re locked up and all, but I’m flat busted. Your lawyer fees ate up our bank account and I don’t think I’ll even be able to make next month’s rent.” She paused to see how he was taking it, but his face was stone. “Baby you’re going to have to tell me where the money is.” All hope gone. He felt nothing but rage. “Yeah, I suppose the money ain’t doing either of us any good just sitting there is it?”
Her eyes lit up. “I swear baby, I’ll only spend what I have to, and I’ll save the rest for when you get out.” “I could be in here a long time.” “I don’t care. I’d wait for you forever, you know that.”
“You swear?” He knew she was salivating over the chance to get his money and he wanted to mess with her.
She pretended to be hurt. “I can’t believe you even have to ask.”
“Well, here is what you need to do.” He glanced at the guard and leaned in close. She also leaned in as well, intent on hearing every word. Looking into her wide open green eyes, he’d never thought her more beautiful, and never wanted her more. He cursed himself for the weakness then continued, “First go get Billy because you’re going to need some help.” “Alright.”
They were both leaning so far over the table that their faces were inches apart. He grabbed the back of her head with his hand. “Then tell him you are both going to have to get jobs, because neither of you are getting any of my money.” He kissed her with passion, but it was the bitter passion of knowing it will be the last time. When he broke the lip-lock, he leaned backwards. “I know. I KNOW.” The hurt confusion in her eyes looked so genuine that someone who didn’t know her, or someone who did for that matter, might have thought it sincere. Then when her eyes went cold, she realized the con was over and she gave up the mask of hurt. There were no more lies in her eyes. “What did you expect Butch, I’d become celibate? Look, I was with you when you made that money, I deserve half.”
“Then why don’t you come do half my time for me you whore!”
“Screw you, loser.” She stood up to leave. Her mouth curled into a beautiful but cruel smile. “Just so you know, I was with him before you got busted, and he is twice the man you are.” Butch snapped. He flipped over the table and went for her. When her smug smile morphed into panic, Butch felt the first satisfaction since he’d read the letter. His hands found her throat, they went to the floor and he squeezed. It was seconds before the guard’s billy club smashed into the side of his head. When he turned to wrestle the billy club away from the guard, he got a face full of pepper spray as a second guard joined the fray. Butch clawed at his burning eyes as the guards went to work on him. The room became transfixed by the sudden explosion of violence. Mothers clutched children, and the other cons silently wished Butch would shake it off enough to hurt at least one of the guards. Their hopes also died when four more guards arrived, and Butch was subdued and handcuffed. When the guards were carrying Butch out face down, Stacy ran up between two of the them and kicked hisribs. “Son of a bitch!” she screamed. * * *
Butch spent a week in the hole for the episode with Stacy, which gave him plenty of time to dwell on her, Billy and his incarceration. After two days of wallowing in misery he began to formulate a plan. On the morning he was released from the hole, he was taken straight to the chow hall for breakfast. As it happened, it wasn’t one of the days he had to work, so he got in line to eat. On the days he didn’t work, all that was required of him was to be in his cell before each meal and at 8 P.M. for lock down. Between those times, cons who weren’t working could roam the prison grounds as they pleased. Few people realize how much freedom cons have within the confines of the prison. Among other things, there was a gym where they could work out or play basketball, TV rooms and even a room where Nintendo systems were set up for their use. Aside from the gym and an occasional trip to the TV room for an old western or a football game, the only place Butch hung out was the rec room. The rec room was filled with tables and chairs where men played cards or any of several various board games. One whole row of tables was set up with chess boards. These were the tables that always brought Butch back to the rec room. Not just for the love of the game but because this is where you found the most intelligent company. Butch considered the guys who played the other board games, checkers, monopoly and all that other crap, idiots. The guys who played cards were fun. The smartest guys in the joint, however, usually ended up at the chess tables. Where better to find the partner he’d need to carry out his plan? Brains were but one quality this person would need. The person would also need a sense of greed, no shortage of that, and above all else, guts. Scanning the room, he found a potential candidate playing chess at a table in the corner.Porkchop was a forty-four-year-old biker who’d spent the last sixteen years in the pen for armed robbery. He was not the biggest guy, but what he lacked in size he made up for with wild blue eyes, a Grizzly Adams beard, and jacked up biceps sleeved in jailhouse tattoos. The hair on his head, as well as his face, went gray long ago, he’d lost one of his front teeth to some brawl that turned every smile into a pirate’s snarl. He was up for parole in a month. Not two weeks ago he had confessed to Butch over a game of chess that he’d been in prison for so long that he didn’t think he could stand getting a regular job and checking in with a parole officer every month. Many guys who were locked up a long time became institutionalized. When released, they would commit some petty crime, or not so petty crime, and get sent back. Porkchop was more ambitious than most institutionalized guys. He decided if he could pull off a job worth at least half a million, then he could jump parole, get a Harley and head for Mexico where an old biker could live out the rest of his life comfortable and drunk on that money. If he was caught, then he came back home to the pen. Either way, he would be saved from the indignity of having to shave his beard, put on one of those goofy uniforms and asking some snot-nosed punks if they would like fries with that. He was considering an armored car. Butch hoped to sell him on a different plan. Porkchop was playing some dreadlocked guy Butch didn’t know. When Porkchop checkmated him, Butch asked for the next game. Dreadlocks realized from the quick defeat that he was out of his league and gave up the chair. As they set up the pieces, Porkchop kept glancing at Butch with a smile that made Butch feel like a cockroach had just raced across his flesh. “So, word around the campfire is that you had a little disagreement with your old lady.” Butch’s muscles tightened at the mention of her. “She ain’t my old lady no more.”
Porkchop chuckled, making himself look like a demented Santa Claus. Nothing is so pleasing to men in misery as the suffering of others. “When a man first gets sent to the joint, first thing he ought to do is dump his woman. Why prolong the inevitable?” “Whatever.” Butch wasn’t interested in his jailhouse philosophy. “So, you made any more plans concerning your,” Butch searched for the right word, “retirement?” Porkchop looked at him with mock suspicion. “You wearing a wire or something?” “Yeah, right.” Again, Porkchop gave his demented Santa laugh before moving a pawn. “Naw. To tell you the truth, I ain’t thought about it anymore at all. Time comes, I’ll do what I got to.” “I don’t know,” Butch said moving a knight. “Seems to me there’s a lot easier ways to score than armored cars and banks. I mean why go after the money the one place where it’s guarded closest?”
“Cause I’m too old to keep going after little scores. I need the whole enchilada.” He moved another pawn to back up the first one. “Just cause a job is easier, doesn’t mean you can’t get paid.” Butch smiled.
Porkchop’s eyes narrowed. “Well, if you got something in mind, why don’t you spit it out already.” Here it was. Time for the sales pitch. But before he could start, the door to the rec room flew open.
“Butch!” It was Clyde. He half walked, half ran to Butch, a sloppy smile plastered across his face. “I missed you buddy!” He slapped Butch on the back causing him to knock over the piece he was reaching for as well as a few others. “God damn it, Clyde!” Butch’s big fingers fumbled around for the fallen pieces, knocking over a few more pawns in the attempt. “Sorry.” Clyde’s smile didn’t falter.
“Maybe we should finish this game later,” said Porkchop.
“No, just give me a minute.” Butch took a deep breath and rubbed his temples before rising to face Clyde. “Look, Clyde, I’m kind of in the middle of something here. Why don’t—” “Hey Butch! Can you teach me to play chess?” “Clyde—”
“I’m a real quick learner.” “Clyde—” “What this horsey thing do?” Clyde picked up the knight.
“Put the piece down, Clyde.” “Are you winning, Butch?”
“Will you shut up!” Butch snatched the knight from Clyde’s fingers. “I’m busy here! Why don’t you take off, and I’ll see you at lunch?” Butch sat back down and replaced the knight to its square. “Okay. My turn?” Porkchop’s eyes darted off to the side, and when Butch turned his head, he saw Clyde still standing there. Another deep breath, and Butch stood back up. “Clyde, will you pleeeeeease get out of here?” “Can’t I just watch? I’ll be—”
“Get out!” Butch shoved him hard enough to send him stumbling backward, knocking over a chair. Everyone in the rec room stopped what they were doing to watch the show. For the first time since Butch had met him, Clyde’s smile faltered. “I-I’m sorry Butch.” An awkward moment of silence hung in the air before Clyde continued. “Well, I guess I’ll see you later.” He made a quick exit, the cons turned back to their games, and Butch sat back down.
Porkchop grinned. “Poor Butch. First a fight with your old lady, now a tiff with your boyfriend.”
Again, the demented Santa laugh.
Butch turned over his king. “Let’s cut the crap. A few miles north of here is a business called Scenic Charters. They sell helicopter rides. When you get released, charter a flight on an agreed day and time. When you’re in the air, pull a gun on the pilot, make him fly here and land on the rec room roof. I’ll be waiting. We’ll fly out of here. You do that, and I’ll give you your half a million.” Porkchop stroked his beard and studied the plan, flipping it over in his mind. “That’s been tried before you know? Sniper from the guard tower popped the pilot if I remember right.” His eyes squinted, as the wheels in his head started turning faster. “What you need to do is go in a few hours early, lock the whole business down, then reinforce the windows with bullet proof glass. Then you got a chance. Still risky though.”
“It’s a risk I’ll take.”
Porkchop smiled a toothless grin. “But will I?”
“Well that seems to be the question, doesn’t it?” Butch leaned back and crossed his arms. “If I were to do this thing. Where would you get a half million to give me?” “Before I got busted, I saved the better part of a million. It’s waiting.” “Bull! Where did you hide it?” “Yeah, right. You want a piece of my cake, you know what you got to do.” Butch stood up. “I’ll think about it,” Porkchop said. Now he leaned back and crossed his arms. “Well, don’t think too long. I got other options,” Butch lied.
* * * That night, when Butch went back to his cell for lockdown, Clyde acted as if nothing had happened. “Hi, Butch!” “Hi, Clyde.”
“Yeah, Clyde.” “How come you was in the hole? Some guys said you was in there for trying to beat up your girlfriend, but I know you wouldn’t hit no woman. So, why you was in there?”
Butch rubbed his temple. Annoyance was one thing, but Clyde had become a liability. “Look, Clyde, you seem like an all right guy, and I ain’t trying to be a jerk, but you need to get something straight. We aren’t now, nor will we ever be, friends. I don’t mind chatting with you when we’re in our cells, but from now on, I don’t want you following me around the yard, the rec room or the chow hall. And I don’t want you asking about my business. What happened between me and my old lady ain’t none of your affair. Now, I want you to leave me alone, and I mean it.” The carefully chosen words sliced into Clyde. The pain in Clyde’s eyes made him look momentarily intelligent. For some reason, Butch’s polite rejection hit home in a way his angry yelling never did. Butch felt no guilt. He had to look out for number one. Finally, Clyde broke the silence. “Okay, Butch,” he said before he laid on his bunk, rolling over on his side to face the wall. * * *
Things went well over the next week. Porkchop grilled Butch several times on the location of the money. When it became clear Butch wasn’t showing his cards, Porkchop agreed to the plan. Clyde was true to his word and left Butch alone. When they were in the yard, Clyde just walked the fence line by himself. During meals he sat by himself. He’d even stopped speaking when they were in their cell, which was fine by Butch. Everything seemed to be moving in the right direction. Then it fell apart. Arriving in the kitchen early as usual, Butch went back to the dock area well before Clyde, who took care not to even walk with Butch to their morning breakfast shift anymore. He thought he was the only one there, but, as he lit his cigarette, a python of an arm slipped around his neck. Butch threw several elbows into the unknown assailant’s ribs before another man came around and gave Butch a knee to the groin. The vine of pain climbed through his intestines. He sank to the ground, looking up to see Schwint and one of his big buddies. They dragged him between the dumpster and the wall. The big guy picked him up and hooked his arms through Butch’s arms, pinning them behind his back. Schwint pressed a shank against Butch’s throat. “Okay, here’s the deal. You tell me where the money is, and maybe I won’t gut you like a fish. Does that sound fair to you, Butch? Because I really want to be fair.” As Schwint pushed the shank just hard enough to send a trickle of blood racing down Butch’s neck, another con came out on the dock, jumped down and walked over to them. It was Porkchop. “Sorry, Butch, but once I get out of this place, I ain’t got no interest in breaking back in. I think I’ll just get the money, split it with Schwint and head for the promised land. It’s nothing personal. I want you to know, I always liked you, you’re a pretty good ole boy. I’m just doing what I got to. I hope you understand.” Butch returned the favor to Schwint, kicking him in the nuts before raising his feet and pushing off the wall, launching himself, and the man holding him, backwards and onto the ground. Butch got to his feet before the big man and started kicking him in the ribs. Schwint also regained his feet and couldn’t resist a shot at Butch’s back. He lunged forward planting the shank between two of Butch’s ribs. With the adrenaline overriding the pain, Butch slammed an elbow back into Schwint’s face and spun around to face him. The elbow had broken Schwint’s nose and sent him stumbling back a few feet. But he was still standing, shank in hand. The big man he had been kicking rose to his feet, pulling his own shank from his sock. Butch stood there, wall on his left, dumpster on his right, Schwint in front and Schwint’s buddy creeping up behind. There was something wet about the way he was breathing. This is it, he thought. I’m about to die. He was surprisingly at peace with the thought. No one noticed Clyde walk out on the dock. Even if they had, they wouldn’t have paid him no mind. Nobody in the prison would have expected what came next. Clyde flew off the dock, landing on Schwint’s back, driving him face forward onto the ground. He grabbed Schwint’s head and spun it around, breaking his neck. The body jerked involuntarily a couple times then went still. Butch fell back against the dumpster and slid to the ground. A wet patch of blood spread across his shirt. There was something wrong with the way he was breathing. Every few breaths, he had to cough up blood. The big guy that Butch had been kicking charged Clyde. It took all of Butch’s strength to lift a leg and trip him as he passed .
Clyde leapt from Schwint’s corpse and moved toward the man on his knees. When the big man thrust the shank upward, Clyde caught his hand and twisted the wrist, and the shank fell. Then Clyde smashed his palm into the man’s nose, dropping him unconscious before stomping his head to make sure. “Butch! You okay?” Clyde knelt by him. Butch coughed a river of blood down his shirt. Neither of them noticed as Porkchop, who had stood to the side during the fight, took the shank from Schwint’s limp hand. “I’ll go get help. You just hold on!” Clyde said. When he stood up and turned around, there was Porkchop. Before Clyde could react, Porkchop stabbed him three times in the chest. Clyde managed to stumble a few steps before falling over. Butch’s perception went a little cloudy for a few seconds till he coughed up some blood. The pain from doing so cleared the clouds and he saw Porkchop looming over him. “You know, Butch, I’m going to have to kill you no matter what. I respect you too much to lie to you. But if you tell me where the money is, and I believe you, I’ll make it quick. Don’t be a jerk, Butch. That money ain’t gonna do you no good. Tell me where it’s at.” Butch, unable to speak, used the last of his energy to hold up a middle finger. Before Porkchop could make his next move, the momentary silence was shattered. “Drop the shank!” Porkchop turned to see three guards jumping down from the dock. The shank slipped from his fingers, clanging to the pavement. The last thing Butch saw, before surrendering to unconsciousness, was the guards taking Porkchop down and cuffing him. * * * Butch woke, heavily sedated, days later in the hospital wing of the prison. One of the cons working as an orderly informed Butch that his lung had been punctured and he nearly died. Clyde and the two skinheads were dead. Porkchop was in the hole and wouldn’t be getting out on his release date.“I can’t believe you took out both them dudes! I heard they both had blades and you didn’t have nothing. Is that true?” The con’s voice was full of respect.
Butch rubbed his eyes and fought through the hazy fog that saturated his mind. “Yeah, they both had blades. I didn’t take them out though. They kicked my ass. It was Clyde.” “That retarded guy? Get the out of here.”
Butch remembered the way Clyde tore through the two men. He found it hard to believe himself, but even in his groggy state, the memory was vivid. “That’s the way it happened. Now leave me alone, I’m going back to sleep.” He rolled over turning his back to the orderly.
The orderly gave him the dirty look of a fan denied an autograph by his hero. Butch closed his eyes and surrendered to sleep, not ready to process all that had happened. * * * They kept him in the hospital wing for weeks. By the second week, he was able to get up and walk around. By the third week, he was informed that he would be able to receive visitors. When he informed them that he wouldn’t be having any visitors, they told him that someone had been trying to visit him since shortly after he was stabbed. More out of curiosity than anything else, could it be Stacy, he agreed to meet the mystery visitor. On visiting day, he scanned the faces in the visitor room and recognized none. When he tried again, he got the same results. When he told the guard standing by the door that he didn’t know anyone in the room, the guard nodded toward a woman sitting in the corner staring out the window. He took a minute to study her profile. Time, and probably stress, carved deep lines of suffering across her face, but still there was something beautiful, not in the classic sense, but the way someone who’s been through a lot and still has a spark in their eye is beautiful. When he approached her, she continued to stare out the window. Not knowing her name, he cleared his throat to get her attention. Snapping out of whatever daydream she’d been in, she looked up at him. “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t see you come in.” She stood up and held out her hand. “You must be Butch. I’m Faith.” Her hand had the rough texture of a woman who’s had to work for her bread, a woman who’s never been given an inch. “Why don’t you sit down.” The smile on her face only underscored the burden of sorrow that she carried. “Look miss, I’m not sure—”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I don’t know if Clyde ever mentioned me. I’m his sister.”
His stomach churned at the mention of the name. What could she want? She doesn’t even seem angry. How could she not be? Is this what guilt feels like?
“So, did he ever mention me?” Her voice was so full of hope. Surely Clyde had said something about his family. But Butch had never paid close enough attention to anything Clyde said to remember it. “In the pen, talking about home only leads to depression. We try not to do it,” he said.
“Oh.” She couldn’t hide her disappointment. “I understand.” She lapsed into silence and looked down at the table. Butch sat with the silence, unsure of what to do. She said, “He wasn’t always like that you know?” “Pardon?”
“He wasn’t always retarded.” Her voice cracked on the last word and her watery eyes threatened to overflow. “It happened in the Army. He was a Ranger. Iraq. Roadside bomb. They said his disability didn’t prevent him from working, so they gave him some pills and he was on his own.” Butch thought about the ugly scar on Clyde’s head, which he had never bothered to ask about. He thought about the way Clyde tore through Schwint and his goon. It all made sense now. He was a Ranger. All that time he paid protection to Schwint and took so much shit from everyone when, all along, he could have whipped all of them. “He came home and lived with me and my daughter. He was never right after Iraq. It’s even kind of my fault he was in here. I’d lost my job, we couldn’t even put enough food on the table. He would have never stolen that hamburger if it wasn’t for me and my daughter.” Butch’s eyes widened. “I’m sorry, did you say hamburger?”
“Yeah. He broke into a diner at night and stole a few pounds of hamburger. Folks in town took to calling him the hamburglar.” Butch could not stop an involuntary laugh and was relieved when she laughed as well. When the giggles subsided, his face grew serious. “Wait a minute. That can’t be it. They wouldn’t put him in here just for that.” She took a deep breath. “When he climbed out of the window of the diner, he was spotted by a squad car. He ran down the alley way, a policeman got out of the car and pursued him on foot. Clyde turned over a trashcan to slow him down. The cop tripped over the trashcan and broke his nose. They charged him with assaulting a police officer.” Butch thought about how his own lawyer would have torn that charge to pieces. But, of course, his own lawyer wouldn’t be defending someone who couldn’t afford to put food on his own table.
“Why did those men kill my brother?” The tears in her eyes overflowed.
Again, his stomach churned. “It was because of me, Faith. They were attacking me, and he saved me. But . . .” She wiped her eyes. “He was a good man.” “Yes, he was.” “You, too, Butch. You’re a good man, too.”
The churning in his stomach threatened to make him ill. “No, Faith. I’m not.”
“You are! Look, my brother may not have told you about me, but he told me a lot about you. He loved you. He said you were his best friend. He told me you were teaching him to play chess.” She laughed. “I can imagine that was quite a challenge.” There was no thinking in the decision. It was just what had to be done. He grabbed a scrap of paper and a short nub of pencil that sat on the table and was used in the various games inmates played with visitors. He jotted down GPS coordinates and slipped the paper to her. “Go to this coordinate. It’s a bit of a walk, and you’re going to need a shovel. At the coordinates there should be a big rock shaped like a boot. Dig a hole. A couple feet down you’ll find the corpse of a dog. Sorry about that. Move it out of the way, dig a couple more feet or so. What you find belonged to your brother. It’s yours now.” He got up from the table and started to walk away stopping after a few feet and turning back. “I lied. He talked about you all the time. He loved you too, you know?”
She was looking at the paper in confusion. But she looked up when he spoke and smiled. “I know.”