Dry Cry (Revision): A Short Story
by K. Omodele copyright 2004
This is a revision of a short story I submitted as a lesson for a correspondence/self-paced writing class I took through UNC-Chapel Hill, Friday Center. The lesson was description and the assignment was to describe the student's/writer's immediate setting.
I'm stuck in a block with twenty-six convicted felons who never shed no tears. Ever.
I'm not writing in my cell right now, I'm in the dayroom, a rock-hard twenty by thirty feet with a concrete-slab floor and solid-brick walls painted in more layers than make up on one of them frozen-faced geisha girls. Tables are lined in rows. Hanging in a locked, metal frame, a JVC boob tube lords down on its faithful followers. Even with earplugs, I can't drown out all the buzzing anticipation, the constant babbling and laughter leaking through as A.I. and Lebron shoot it out. A muted shout slips into my thoughts here, gasps of conversations seep through there.
Right outside the bathroom, Rasheed hangs up the wall-phone.
"Man, it's brick-cold up in Philly right now. What's up with all these warm-ass winters down South?"
His voice barely sifts through my earplugs. From my table in the back, it's like watching a drama with the volume turned way down.
'Sheed barks. "Yo Frizzle, Grab the horn."
Looking like JJ- Kid Dynomite from Good Times, Frizzle drops a pair of dice and hops on the phone. Must be calling Virginia Beach; yeah, he's cheesing bright as hell. Virginia Beach the only one can get him smiling like that.
The next man up in the dice game scoops the bones, shakes and tosses them against the wall.
'Sheed strolls over to the table right in front of mine. He meets my eyes, shakes his head, sighing under the heaviness of bars and walls, missed birthdays and anniversaries.
I nod knowingly. Holidays are always rough up in here.
At a table to my left, Wolf and Bass shield hands from one another, dropping cards, piling and scooping them, then shuffling and dealing. Casino - every time you see them at a damn table. Bass is this ever-cool, surfer dude with skin that always looks sun burnt. Wolf is Grizzly Adams from the Mountains of West Virginia and when he opens his mouth, he sounds like a Harley, idling; smells like one too, exhaust fumes like stale Camels. Last week we jumped on him; made him hit the showers. 'Bout time for another fresh any day now.
The Uptown Saturday Night hip-hop mix on Power 98 outta Charlotte must be jumping because the younger Brothers got their headphones up on blast, doo-rags flopping, heads bopping and bouncing, while they catch the basketball game, or shoot dice or strategize over chessboards. They're spitting Jay-Z and Young Jeezy lyrics and, what the hell, I might as well pick smoking back up 'cause the room is totally fogged up - a mish-mash of Newport, Camel and Tops. My lungs are vex and I gotta suck some relief from my inhaler, quick.
Cornered up against a wall, this industrial microwave been humming morning, noon and night, ever since our holiday packages (ordered by loved ones) got hauled off a UPS truck last week. I hear The 'Ville - as in Vomitville, AKA the chow hall, looks like one of them ghost towns out a Louis L'Amour western right about now. Every few minutes the bell on the microwave DINGS and someone yells, "NEXT." The poor thing might stage a revolt any time now. Popcorn, salmon, garlic, jalapenos, sausage and cakes gang up, warring 'gainst a relentless tobacco stench.
In B-block, holidays bring a haunting like forgotten photos and left-behind toys in an abandoned building. Beneath our masks resides a longing only revealed in sunken eyes. Under cloaks of forced laughs and fake nonchalance, we hide our nakedness - our isolation from the world, and we vent this angst in raised brows, grumbles, grunts and gnashing teeth. Everything. Anything. But no tears.
Early tomorrow morning, the big and empty day, we'll rise from our bunks, methodically wash faces and routinely scrub our teeth. One by one we'll bleat, "Who got last?" for the phone. Then, when our turn finally comes around, we'll pull up a chair, burrow into the phone partition and wish our loved ones Merry this or Happy that. We'll carry on catching-up, tender conversations with family and kids. But always, with determination, we grin and smile and absolutely refuse to shed tears.Never. Ever. Shed no tears.