Chapters 8 thru 10

Art by Dan Reece



He made a cup of tea with the three packets of sugar he’d

saved from his breakfast. Filling the hot-pot, he took a good

look at his eyes in the mirror and decided that they were yellower and markedly more bloodshot than

they had been before. Hero’s head swooned and his body no longer seemed

to be caught up in gentle waves – now the invisible force

was a blob of magnetic energy which began around his calves,

where it was heaviest, and gradually diminished as it rose

on a bungee-cord hooked to his tailbone. He filled out a

sick call slip while he drank his tea.





Hero tried to nap but his feet were cold and so he barely

nipped until Slamdoo, the P.M. porter, woke him up, “C’mon,

man, look at this – you got mail on your gate ,.. “

Sham was someone that Hero liked. He was straight-up. Sham

didn’t bullshit and he’d sold him the best bag of dope he’d

ever had in Attica. Most of the junk was either weak or

cut with mysterious bitter powders that his liver couldn’t

clear so that his high was always short-lived

and he’d usually end up spending the next day coping with

an incapacitating migraine headache and vomiting yellow bile.

Sham put a feed-up tray in the gate slot which contained

three mealy hot dogs lying in a small portion of congealed

white beans, a sporkful of sauerkraut , and some chopped up

strawberries in syrup

“Want milk? Get ya cup.”

Sham always filled Hero’s personal jug – that

was 16 oz  but not that night; the unpackaged milk was way

too thick with fat. Hero studied his mail. An oversized envelope

addressed to him with a computer label – he recognized

the return address it was from “The Patriotic Liver Foundation,”

and removed the staple the cops had re-closed the envelope

with after they’d checked inside for all manner of contraband

including any propaganda deemed inappropriate by the Media

Review Committee. Correspondence would flag any questionable material and forward it to the MRC.

The MRC would send the inmate a letter informing him that he had received such and such literature

and that he had ten days to respond and convince them why they should let him have it. Who were the

MRC you query? A panel of three NYSDOCS C.O.s, the Captain of Security  and the head librarian –

who did whatever the other one or two told him to including writing the denial.

Hero often wondered how he was supposed to develop any

kind of defense if he’d never seen the material in the first

place? In the one and only battle he almost won against

the MRC, back in ’86, friends in Montreal had sent him a

copy of The Fifth Column, an anarchist newspaper printed

in Canada that advocated prisoner work strikes and recognized

the unconstitutional aspects of coerced labor that was habitually

described as “voluntary” until a prisoner refused and

was punished and or penalized.

The Big Lie, baby. Singularly semantic. Pedantic.

Catch them on their day off and they may even be: romantic.

Shit from shineola if they didn’t think so- the rat bastards.)

He’d almost won, too. His vocabulary alone scared the shit

out of the MRC members and so with a big black magic marker

they blacked out the portions they’d deemed a threat to Hero’s


Well, Naomi Judd, the PLF spokesperson wasn’t too much

of a threat” except for the fact that she was always asking

for fucking money. Also enclosed was a “Words For Hope” poster with quotes from such stimulating

and inspiring people as

Mary Tyler Moore and Amelia Earhardt? Her quote was as confusing as was her being included!

“Courage is the price that life extracts for granting peace.”

At that, Hero began to feel physically hot. Getting dizzy,

he said loudly, “Shut the fuck-up!” to the poster and, more

specifically to Amelia Earhardts ghost who – he hoped –

was more thoughtful than this shmucky girl who flew some

airplanes and, subsequently, had disappeared while doing so.

(Hero had read that in retrospect, historians did not rate

her a very good aviator. That and she never flew alone.)

Fame was funny in that way – famous people could blow bubbles

with the leftover chicken grease their lunch had deposited

on their lips and there would always be someone there to

“listen” to them, intently hanging off of each and every

greasy bubble until it burst and to then anxiously wait.

Mary J. Blige about the Columbine High School shootings.

“The seeds for Columbine were sown when those kids were

seven,” she’d said.

“Shut the fuck-up!” Hero barked at the magazine. “What

the fuck is this idiot talking about?”

Hero liked the magazine even though they had a consistent

habit of helping famous people fit both their feet in

their mouths. He thought Mary J. Blige was an imbecile,

a very good looking imbecile who could sing but an imbecile

nonetheless. Her opinion on the subject was worth less than

nothing. In fact, in certain circles, it would have had to

have been considered a liability, a negative, a deficit.

She’d generated a few other equally retarded quotes that

Hero had elected to try and forget as quickly as possible,

as things of that nature tended to stay with him for months

and, in the worst cases, even years. Putting Amelia Earhardt

to the side (she’d started the whole mess), he took a leak,

rinsed his hands and washed off the hotdogs. Turkey hot dogs

the menu had read. Aha! That’s why they tasted so mealy

like, all grainy like ground corn. Next, he cut them up into

bite size pieces on the bottom side of his plastic, personal

food bowl cover, poured about an inch of water in the bottom

of his hot-pot, added 3 pats of state-butter that he’d saved

from lunch and then he plugged that bad-boy into his extension

cord which ran from the florescent light high on the

wall over the sink. When it started to hiss, he tossed in

some state-mustard .. He stirred the dogs with a “new” pencil he’d been using to cook with for a while,

splitting the end so

that he’d had to wrap twisted strands of copper wire

from a pair of state headphones around the business end to

hold it together. About three minutes later, Hero ate the

hotdogs dipping each piece in the mustard. They tasted like

shit. Turkey parts, he ventured to guess. Hero made quick work

of the strawberries and realized as soon as he’d finished

them that he could’ve made a strawberry shake with the container

of milk he still had left over from breakfast.

Hero reinspected the PLF’s “Poster of Mope” just to look

at the little picture of Naomi Judd on it. He thought she

was pretty. Her name was pretty, too. Naomi. He remembered

a friend of his sister’s with a name like that. Her name

was Dahlia and she was a very beautiful girl. She’d died

from insulin shock while on a trip out west before she saw

twenty. Hero’d had an Israeli girlfriend who reminded him

a little of Dahlia but Dahlia was much nicer to him. He

was only a little boy, not even eight when he knew Dahlia.

She’d had very long, straight, beautiful chestnut hair that

shined and fell all the way to the small of her

back. Hair like that always felt cool when he’d touched it.

He didn’t know why. She wore flannel shirts and bellbottom

jeans, sandals, all very soft yet functional. Capable. That’s

how Hero remembered Dahlia, his sister’s best friend who

had died 30 years ago.


Count time, meds time – and finally – sunset time. She was

so beautiful that evening, resplendent. Hero saw liquid shimmering orange at the horizon that set the

trees on fire from

behind a mile away. Clouds stretched out north and south

thin and layered with depth. He watched the colors of the

higher, closer clouds change from light violet to purple

and then to powder blue.

A closer tree, just past the wall, was framed by all the

active colors. Everything looked so alive and volatile to

him in this sky. Distant clouds separated, first top – then

bottom, and even more of the sun’s light was reflected. Hero

imagined that an Africa of his dreams laid behind that chain

of hills where animals lolled under cool shade trees in the

slowly diminishing late afternoon heat: napping now, playing

now, and hunting while the sunset’s golden shimmering hot

orange-yellows went down crisply to illuminate rain clouds

that were previously deep, dark, and gray.

The winds were power that a person could learn about but

Hero’s most recent ancestors had forgotten all about such

things along with the golem, The Keys of Solomon and the

power of silence; the secrets of the temple architect, Ham,

gone in a blur of three high swung hammers. All the greatest

magic relegated to fantasy and commerce. No more.

Small birds sat on the wall in groups of threes and fours.

Gigantic, dark lavender rain clouds set against the graying

blue discordant sky. Other clouds, closer, resembled fuzzy

tufts of cigarette ash. The C.O. took

his count. Hero didn’t really see him for all the color in

his eyes. He thought about how the light changed so dramatically

with the passing of the seasons and that winter

was a time of power. Already trees were turning. There was

a brow-beaten reflection of lavender light on the floor in

front of his cell divided by the shadows made by the bars

over the window. This color was the highest clouds reflection

of the set sun. Hero sat still and felt the earth under its

atmosphere and over the sun from a perspective of friendly

indifference that stretched back hundreds of thousands of

millions of years.





The halide light of a conjugal visit trailer broke his

concentration. He began searching for the milk he’d saved

from breakfast; found it, opened it up and drank. The liquid

landed in Hero’s stomach where it made a sharp right turn

before pooling and then drained chilling his liver. Hero

thought the bed had shaken. When he was a very young child,

young enough to still be sleeping in a toddler’s crib, he’d

felt his bed move but didn’t see anyone at all around.

It had scared him and he never forgot it. He was no

more than three or four. These feelings of movement, passing in and out of his body, were the same

force and what Hero sensed

as Death was very close by, creeping mercilessly to take

his body down. Back inside the earth. Rich and black like

the soil he’d buried a sunfish in beneath his grandmother’s rose bush. Losing, his opponent pulled back it’s hood – no movie this.

His eyes had grown hot and burning in their sockets all

the way to under the edge of his brows. He admitted to himself

that he was getting sick and swallowed saliva to pass the coppery taste in the back of his mouth down

into his throat. Hero thought of a watery, light brown stool and silently passed gas.

“Mah’ Lawd! I do believe I have thai vaypa’s, Colonel.

How I do feel faint; oh, Bessie Mae, be a deaya’ and fetch

me mah’ salts, please?”

He was thinking of the percentage of the populations wealth-

iest people – in comparison to its poorest of which he

was not only one, but a sick one – and he got dizzy with the

heat in his forehead; aggravated by the effects of all the

calculations. He tried to keep a watch on these ideas lest

he lose it one sunny day inside a Park Avenue elevator with

a straight razor .

“Every society has justified itself and poverty is a

crime, can’t you tell?” Hero snapped back at his guilty, empty

stomach. A constipated Pushme-Pullme floated by and both

of its heads gave him that look a dog gives you when he’s

trying to shit: something vulnerable and accusatory, blinking,

as if to say, “Don’t look at me, can’t you see I’m shitting?”

Hero liked dogs and cats and had kept a few over the years

with warm memories of one or two of them that he was particularly fond of. He was drifting to and

called out the name

of a dog and tried to find out where the sound came from but instead stared right into his eyes and

waited for instruction. Brown eyes full of love; ‘he remembered· sadly, a black and brown, short haired

Doberman/Shepard mix, kind’a goofy and the last of the litter to be picked. (Hero didn’t want to hurt his

feelings.) A runt. His father was high strung, fierce, and

extremely muscular. He was the mutant hellhound Doberman.

Sometimes they would run into one another at the park and

Noby would get all excited, pissing and drooling all over

the place, sniffing while his Dad stood stiff and ready to

tear his young ass out’the frame. Noby’s Mama was smaller

than her mate by a third. A Shepherd mix, she was surely

the mother, studying her spouse warily when Noby got too

close sniffing in the wrong places.

Hero loved Noby and the dog loved him, too, but eventually,

Hero loved heroin more and had taken to leaving the dog in

the basement because his roommate, Bobby Cabron, didn’t want

him in the apartment. This had really freaked Hero out, he

thought of Noby like family and tried to bring him

upstairs anyway until Bobby pitched a bitch. Busy chasing

bags, Hero left Noby in the basement too much and he developed

mange from the damp and dirt. He tried to clean up his act

and under the advice of a friend, they took Noby to the ASPCA

and left him there. The dog stood on a rubber covered ramp

with his leash in the handler’s hand watching Hero with

with his conscious eyes, his open and smiling doggy mouth.

Noby wasn’t dumb  and the cab ride had piqued

his canine interest as to their destination and the rest

of the day’s agenda. His impression, there on the ramp, was

quizzical, but Hero didn’t wait to see if he would cock his

head to the side the way a lot of smart dogs do when they

haven’t figured something out yet.

Afterwards, Lorili, Hero’s friend, took him to a popular

restaurant called Jackson Hole Wyoming for lunch where they

both observed how weirdly sick it was to drop Noby off –

most probably to get gassed – and then go eat 16 oz. hamburgers.

Hero commented that it was the big “meat” aspect of it all

and it had made him want to cry. His life was a fucking mess

and he’d just killed his dog.

“It’s my own fuckin’ fault,” he told Lorili. “I’m such

a piece of fuckin’ shit.”

Letting go of Noby was supposed to make Hero’s life more

manageable so that maybe he could kick but it only made

him want to do more heroin and within a month the only

thing he was managing was the dope spot in Bobby’s building.

He was 19 then. It still hurt 15 years later. It was one

of the few things that he ever felt guilty about. Noby haunted

him. He had stabbed a man and slept better. Noby depended

on him. The dog was his responsibility.

“I’m a fucking idiot,” he told himself. Noby was a good

dog and Hero loved him. They were a lot alike. Noby loved Hero. That act of neglect followed by

his betrayal cast a gray, gray; no, a black veil over Hero

for years to come; present in every depression and every

prison term served so that he could never forget Noby and

sometimes even equated his failures and punishments with

his failure to protect his dog.

“I’m such a piece of fuckin’ shit.”

. . .to be continued. . .