That Old Man Again: Friday Fictioneers

Flash fiction contest, 100 words or less based on a photo.


Stay off the tracks.

Common sense, they said—and that was if they were being nice. The less nice ones told her she might be killed.

Some of them added details.

She called the old women cowards right to their faces, shimmied over the fence and was gone. The dog followed her as usual.

Near the trestle the thicket grew dense, she heard a rustle and the old man came out, pulled out his junk and set it on the cold iron rail.

She checked her watch. Three o’clock on the dot.

He might be nuts, but he was reliable.



Time on the Ouside

Inside The Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility As California Readies $793 Million Prison Expansion Bond

In prison, it’s a common saying that you only do two days–the day you go in and the day you get out. The rest of it is a kind of murky present, a series of unfolding days, each exactly alike. There are daily scuffles and small scams, petty rivalries and occasional serious danger for those unwise or unlucky enough to wander into the situations. But mostly there’s just now, hanging from your wrists like the bracelets that brought you here.

The thing that got me when I was inside had nothing to do with the prison. It was the sense that time moved on outside without me. I reminded me of death. People on the outside don’t talk or even think about you once you’ve been here for a while. For your kids, it might be easier for them to say you’re dead than to fess up to where you’re really at.

The thing that got me when I was inside was birds. I never noticed birds when I was in the world. Maybe that’s because they’re everywhere, like telephone poles. You see them everywhere, but you tune them out.

Phone booth

How long did it take you to realize that there aren’t any phone booths anywhere? One guy I knew was doing ten years for armed robbery and when he got out he noticed that right away. It was all timing–when he was sentenced, only lawyers and real estate brokers had mobile phones, and then only in their cars. When he got out, cell phones were everywhere and payphones had gone the way of the livery stable.

Of course, he’d been a fuck up and they’d slapped on eighteen more months for being an asshole to the COs, but still. Time had moved on.

Back in prison, birds reminded me of time. They flit and fly. I never noticed them until I was there and then they were all I could see. Birds on the wire, birds in the yard, birds on the towers. They also can do whatever the hell they want. Plus, my apartment is on the third floor and there’s a giant sycamore tree out front that’s like a goddamn bird stadium. Those fuckers wake up a half hour before dawn.

I guess they bother me now more than when I was in the joint.

Make Him Look Like The Chump He Is: Friday Fictioneers

Guess what. I am not a bullshit artist. I am a FICTIONEER.  I like that. It fits in with my flexible view of the truth.

So there’s this thing where a blog-writing woman with a floral website and lots of crazy typography posts a photo of something and challenges people to write about it in a hundred words or less. People write about all kinds of things. Lots of fantasy, or an I’m-Ray-Bradbury thing. Once in a while a teen romance/vampire deal.

When they write about crime, it’s James Bond crime, not real crime, not stick-a-screwdriver-in-the-Korean-guy’s-face-for-eleven-bucks crime. Not real.

So in that spirit, here’s my entry. First, the picture. If you click on the blue frog link at the bottom you can do it do. Prison buds, I’m talking to YOU!

Oh yeah. A score this big would set me up for life. Maybe longer.

Best of all— the money was just a bonus.

The insult was the main thing for me, making Maco look like an asshole. A chump.

He was a chump, but he had them all scared. Don’t fuck with Maco, everybody said.  I tell you, it ate me up, the way they respected him.

He was such a fucking chump.

He drove to get it in a borrowed van. That bastard thought he was going to be rich. Scarface or something.

I wish I’d seen his face.

I’m just gonna hate

You know, it ain’t good for your soul to go around with hate in your heart. But sometimes you just can’t help it. Sometimes you gotta hate.

Sometimes you gotta hate for a reason. Like Neo-Nazis. I hate  what they get up to in prison and all. And I hate liver because it tastes like a cow shit it out onto your plate. I also hate when people tell me I just haven’t had it cooked right. Bullshit.  If I cook diarrhea in puff pastry it’s still diarrhea.  Anyway, you get me.

But there’s sometimes a time when you hate for no particular reason. Like how people hate Mimes even though they’re just lame actors who do bad mimicking of total strangers for no reason, not even money. It’s weird, but not hateworthy.

But this guy is. I fucking hate this guy.



I hate his pot smoke, patchouli-scented, Birkenstock-wearing bullshit. I hate his North Face backpack and his collection of Dead bootlegs. He never even saw the Dead, but he calls Jerry Garcia “Jerry” like they were pals. I hate his shirtless red vest and quilt pants and his BO and his vegan friendship bracelets. I hate his trust fund and his faked poverty.

I fucking hate  him. But not for those reasons, though I think they’re good enough.

I just do is all.

You Asked About Jail?

Putnam County Jail. Never been there, but I been there if you know what I mean.

Jail is a subject that you can only talk about with people who have been there. The rest of society has no idea of what it’s like. Maybe they watched Oz or The Wire or Americas Most Sod-Tastic Jail Rapes, but those shows only give you a glimpse of it.

That said, everybody who hasn’t been in jail already knows the same thing as everybody who spent time behind bars: Jail is not a place you want to be. Not ever.

By “Jail,” I mean any serious correctional facility from the local county establishment to the larger, State-run varieties all the way up to Heavy Medium (my worst experience, since that’s where they bounce the cons from Maximum when they run out of room). I have never caught a Federal charge, so I can’t speak to those places, but you hear stories.

Yeah, I know you’re probably thinking about how if a contract killer is after you and all that, how you can hide in jail. I’ll tell you right now that that is bullshit. Jail is a dangerous place at the best of times. Most people who haven’t been behind bars all think the same thing. You know what I mean. Sodomy and being a “Jane” and all that tired old stuff. Sure, it happens, as do beatings, getting stabbed. and all kinds of other heaped-up indignity. And sometimes those TV shows can do a good job of at least implying the sense of constant menace.

But there are a few things they can’t show. The first is the immense, continual boredom of Jail. The same faces, the same walls, the same stories, the same extremely restricted activity. No cellphones, no e-books, no games, no coffee shops or strolls through town. If you’re in lockdown it’s even worse, and that’s saying something.

The other thing is the total lack of privacy.

You want to take a crap by yourself? Not happening.

You can’t sleep when somebody’s watching you? Hello insomnia.

Look up in the corner. You see a camera there? Yes, you do.

Who is that walking by your cell door? Why it’s that rat bastard of a CO (Always call them COs, by the way–they are never called “guards” You might get a beat down if you call a CO a guard) who started working a few months ago. You know, the one who likes to come in and root through your meager belongings looking for contraband.

And what, you ask, is contraband?

Any goddamn thing he says is contraband. He can say “It’s not on your list” and take your portable radio, your copy of Walden, your spiral notebook.

Shit, just writing about this is making me glad I’m not there now. I have a few funny jail stories, but they don’t seem all that funny just now.

Playing with my buddy’s box

That’s not what I meant, but someone told me that this website is now considered porn by their workplace. I mean, I live rough but it’s not exactly PORN.

My buddy is many thiings but neat is not among them

My buddy is many thiings but neat is not among them










I also got some complaints about how hard this thing is to use, so I am putting my computer skills class to work for me. This education was funded by your tax dollars, so i hope you enjoy it.

Unless your workplace thinks this is porn, in which case you won’t see anything.

Grandma Shenanigans

Man my age is lucky to have a grandma at all, at least a living one. We were never all that close, since mostly what she did in my life was express disappointment.

This is just a mask. But it does look like my grandma

This is just a mask. But it does look like my grandma

But she did teach me there was a difference between cheap booze and the good stuff (she favors Cutty Sark, which may be considered good but still tastes like a sock) and she said that if I have to lie try at least to lie well. I don’t know her background, but I think her daddy was some kind of criminal. I feel crimes in my blood, if you know what I mean.

Anyway. last time I was in County I remembered that it was her birthday. I decided to call her. Now, those of you who haven’t been inside probably don’y know about prison phones. They suck and they’re expensive and you have to use them. The main company is Pay-Tel. Look em up. If you’re a guy like me, you have had an account for so long that they should send you a Christmas card.

So I put in a request and am granted access. 3.55 for 15 minutes. It’s way more if it’s collect, and usually it is because putting money in your Pay-Tel account before doing a crime might be seen as unlucky.

Anyways, I call up grandma to wish her happy day. She doesn’t have her hearing aid in at first, and then she turns it up way to loud so it feeds back like a Hendrix solo. All this preliminary takes up half our time and we haven’t even spoken yet.

Finally I am able to identify myself and I say happy birthday. She says “Randall, where’s my song?” When I was a kid I used to have to sing to her, and she still remembered. I usually do every year I remember her birthday, but usually I’m not in the joint.

So I look around. The room is almost empty, so I sing the birthday song real quiet.

She says that’s it’s nice. We have about two minutes left by now. She asks me what I’ve been up to, so I tell her.

And then she says the best thing ever.

“So, up to your shenanigans again, are you, Randall?”

Her daddy must have done crimes. Only the daughter of a criminal would call being in jail “up to your shenanigans again.”