HOME ON THE RANGE
Goddamnit, I had to take a leak. Old man problems.
I rolled over in my cot and stared at the ceiling. Same cracked
walls, light dimmed and wrapped in industrial metal wiring.
Next door I could hear Buddy humming away. Usual racket,
kinda tuneless noise that creeps inside your skull. Don’t know how I managed to
sleep with it, guess I got used to it after a while.
Get used to alotta things, I guess.
I stood up to take a piss, cursing my bladder. Or was it
prostate? Whatever. Old man plumbing not working right. Hurts like a bitch.
Funny how things change, your body just lets go and one day
wake up old. Guards come and go, but everything else around you stays the same.
The toilet was still the same, cold metal pre-formed deal
to the wall. No seat, of course, and you get pretty tired of planting your ass
on cold metal just to take a shit.
At least I’m allowed to have my own toilet paper.
Privileges, that’s what I got. Don’t cause any
problems and you
work your way up. Heck, I’m practically running this joint.
And some of them never learn.
Down the range I can hear other guys stirring, and the guard’s
footsteps echoing down the corridor. Guard on key doing night checks, and
across the way Dave asks for a drink of water.
Guard tells him to wait ‘til morning.
Dave starts to kick up a ruckus. “What’d you
mean, you shut off
my water already.”
“I just want a goddamned drink of water for chrissakes.”
“Go to sleep.”
“I’m not a fucking kid – I’m dying
of thirst here. Need a
The guard says something real quiet, I can’t quite
“That’s ten demerits – you wanna keep it
Guard laughs, and I recognise his voice. Wilkens. Royal bastard.
Poor Dave’d dehydrate to hell before he’d get a drink outta that asshole.
“What – you want me to drink outta the toilet?”
“It’s full of piss. You already shut off my water.
flush the damned thing.”
“Morning, gotta wait ‘til morning.”
Dave starts yelling about his diabetes, and the doctor’s
Wilkens just walks away, I can hear his footsteps echo down the range.
My piss stream dribbles to a slow drip, and I curse the old
plumbing I got going on. Takes forever to take a leak, and never quite finishes
up. I catch myself with a couple drips on my pants.
Goddamnit, laundry’s still a few days away.
Gonna smell like piss and stink myself out before then. I
my toilet and rinse my hands in the sink, hoping Dave can’t hear the water
running. Poor bastard flooded his cell last week, and they still haven’t turned
his water back on. Think it’ll teach him a lesson.
As I’m heading back to bed Buddy starts up again. Some
tuneless song of his, moaning away. Down the range Dave yells at him to shut
the fuck up.
Doesn’t matter, Buddy’d keep going no matter
I scrunch down into my cot and pull the blanket over me,
can hear Buddy next door ripping his blanket to pieces, and making his noises.
Whooting and moaning.
You’d think guards’d take his blanket away, but
no, they let him
have it. Say it’s his constitutional right an’ all. Don’t know about that, the
last blanket Buddy had he chewed up to bits and swallowed half of it.
Went down to the hospital wing for a while and they tried
pump his stomach.
Don’t think they got it all out, Buddy was
screaming a blue streak every time he’d take a shit for a nearly week
afterwards. But, everything musta passed through him alright, because here he
was, back at it again.
The rip, rip of that blanket being torn starts to get on
nerves. Scratchy sounds of threads snapping apart.
“Hey Buddy, knock it off,” I call over to next
Nothing but more hooting and hollering and the sound of his
blanket getting ripped up.
Goddamnit, how much blanket he got left over there anyway?
The ripping continues and I lay in bed trying to ignore it
then he starts getting happy with the thing, whooting it up in that tuneless
voice of his. Kinda reminds me of a howler monkey, like I seen on TV.
I try to pull the blanket over my head and scooch down on
cot. The noises go right through me.
“Goddamnit Buddy, I’m trying to sleep over here.”
More calls down the range, muffled yells of shut the fuck
Buddy just keeps on going.
The hooting noises get louder; he’s getting excited
Frisky, even. Fat bastard’s probably humping it. Rolls of lard hanging over
that wee dick of his, humping away. I close my eyes as though I can shut out
Buddy’s a bit odd, to say the least. When he first
came to our
range, nobody knew what to do with him. Guards just kinda shied away, gave him
a poke every now and again with a stick, and that’s that.
Even out on the yard, inmates just let Buddy alone. A big
fuck and dumb as shit. Buddy’d sit by himself, cross legged like a big school
kid in the dirt; flicking his fingers in the sand, and shooting up little rocks
and pieces of gravel, all the while hooting in the sunshine.
I guess he was happy enough.
Buddy showered alone, marched down the hall by guards in
gloves and then we’d hear him hooting and hollering all the way down the range.
Something about soap bubbles made that boy happy.
At first, his mom came to visit. Yes sir, his real and bona
mother came to visit, and lemme tell you, nobody around here gets any kind of
visitors, never mind their moms. Something to do with the reason why most of us
are locked up in the first place, I guess.
So when Buddy’s mom stepped onto the range, I could
standing beside the guard station and looking around, like she’s real scared,
and down the way ol’ Dave sets up a holler about fresh meat and Jonesy over at
’02 tells him to shut the fuck up, don’t that guy have no respect – Buddy’s mom
starts crying and wailing some godawful racket and the guards usher her into
the little plexiglass box they use for visitors.
Not that any of us get visitors, just lawyers looking to
some extra cash and deal with the all kinds of legal wrangling and such fellas
like us bring, most of it paid for by legal aid. Dave’s got three whole
lawsuits going on against the government, and all paid for by the state itself.
He’s smart, that Dave.
When he saw his mom, Buddy set up hollering and thrashing
so that it took three guards just to hold him, and then when Buddy got into
that little glass box with his mother, she started bawling and Buddy got
bucking and banging his head on the plexiglass walls; which, I must say was
pretty impressive given the fact he was wearing handcuffs and dragging three guards
It was becoming a prize-winning shit show, and all of us
At the dull thud of Buddy’s skull connecting with plexiglass,
Dave starts yelling about assault, and how that mom should sue the asses off
Buddy and his mom kept crying and the guards were yelling
Nobody was listening to Dave, which is a shame, cuz like
Dave’s pretty smart.
But Buddy was making such a godawful racket and his mom was
wailing away that nobody was listening to nothing. Buddy kept at it, banging
his head on the plexiglass wall, those dull thuds booming through the range and
his mom kept screaming. They made quite a pair, those two.
As I peeked through my bars I could see blood spatter against
the glass, kinda like when you throw a wet basketball against a wall.
At each thud, I’d peek out, and see a bigger splatter.
gonna have his brains all over that plexiglass before you’d know it.
I wasn’t too sure how it was gonna end, and I could
guards didn’t know either, with Buddy screaming and banging his head and
carrying on. His mom was no better, but at least she wasn’t banging her head.
Then one of the guards, a real dumbass, tries to subdue Buddy
and pulls out his can of pepper spray and waves it all over the damned place
like it was air freshener or something.
Well, that worked like how you can imagine. Five of ‘em,
five, Buddy, his mom and those three guards, all of them now half-blind and
coughing and screaming –
I went to bed after that. If you can’t trust the state
you out, who can you trust? I’d had enough of that shit show. From what I
recall, Dave was now yelling about suing them all for disturbing the peace or
some such nonsense.
I dunno know about that, but the next time Dave’s lawyer
visit, he sat up and looked pretty interested at whatever Dave had to tell him.
Now, here I am well past lights out and trying to get some
and Buddy won’t shut up. He’s still there, hooting and wailing away.
“Buddy, for crissakes, shut up already,” I called
over to next
Sounds like the humping noises stopped, and he’s set
up a low
moan. Tuneless shit that makes it impossible to think, never mind sleep. I
pulled the blanket right over my head.
Yells continue down the range, shut the fuck up, followed
somebody else yelling at the first guy to shut up, or else –
It’s gonna be a long night.
At the wet slap of flesh hitting metal, I sit up. Buddy’s
hooting anymore, he’s gone real quiet, and I wonder for a minute if he’s
knocked himself out.
The range is suddenly silent as everybody’s wondering
All of us holding our breath. Waiting.
And then Buddy starts screaming, shrieking out a god awful
racket as if he’s dying or something.
The wet slap, slap sound starts up again, and I wonder what
hitting himself on. Sounds pretty wet, I cock my ear, and wonder if he’s trying
to do himself in on the toilet.
The slapping continues, pretty regular hits, with a big pause
between them where he goes all silent, and I get to thinking after each hit
he’s knocked himself out.
But he keeps going.
Gotta give it to the boy, he don’t give up.
The screaming starts up again, full blown banshee. I cover
ears and yell, “Buddy, shut the fuck up.”
Don’t matter, he can’t hear me away. Sounds like
he’s being murdered
over there. Now he’s screaming to all get out, cut by wet thuds of skull on
More slapping, spatter of wetness on the concrete floor,
know he’s doing himself in.
At a loud bang I jump a little and look around my cell,
wondering what he’s gotten himself into. Maybe he’s trying to take his bed
Across the range the boys are yelling at Buddy to shut up
already. Enough of this shit.
No guards to be seen. Guess they’re doing some kind
Then the screaming gets real loud, an unearthly sound that
my balls crawl up inside me. And the banging starts to sound really wet.
Dripping with blood or piss or all of it together, Buddy keeps on going.
I stand up and lean toward the door of my cell, stick my
outside the bars. “Hey, boss – staff up.”
Buddy keeps going, although the hits seem to be coming slower.
Must getting tired. He’s still hollering away, but his voice sounds muffled and
kinda garbled, sloppy-like. Probably broken some teeth.
I wave my hand a little, hoping they can pick it up on the
cameras. “Hey boss, staff up – need somebody down here.”
Buddy starts screaming, a high-pitched shriek, like a train
whistle, or the squeal of a rabbit caught in a trap. Goosebumps break out on
the back of my neck.
That’s the sound of a dying man.
Down the range Jonesy over in ‘02 starts yelling in
bassy voice of his, “Hey, boys – gotta problem here. Staff up, mother fuckers.”
I can hear the guards stumble out of the station, their voices
rising in confusion.
I wave my hand again, shoving my arm right through the bars.
“Hey, boss, staff up.”
“Down there.” I hear one of them say.
At the rumble of footsteps coming down the corridor, I turn
lay back down on my bed, pulling the blanket over top of me.
“Goddamnit, need a suit.”
“Who’s going in first – got your gloves
“Hey, Ramos – go back, grab the stretcher.”
More footsteps as Ramos runs back down the corridor, and
hear him coming back, outta breath.
Then the click of the key in lock.
“Get ‘em, get ‘em.”
“Watch his neck – hold his neck.”
“Holy shit – I almost slipped. Floor’s
“Get those gloves on – now.”
“Don’t drop the bastard.”
As they carried Buddy out of his cell, I closed my eyes.
I could get some sleep.
-- THE END
Liz McAdams is a short, sharp, writer and fond
of dark things. Her work appears in the usual places, including
to the Knuckle, Yellow Mama, Shotgun Honey, and scattered around Twisted
Sister lit mag. Check Liz out at