I missed Eddie for the next few days because of a string of guys who needed help with their paperwork. One guy needed help filing for disability: "They say I got bipolar disorder but I don't. I'm just letting them compile a record on me so that when I leave this place I get everything I'm entitled to. Everything."
"OK, let me see your ID." He presented his card and I checked his name: Bob Stanciewycki. "Did they spell your name right?"
The inmate glanced down at his ID. "Yeah, it's right. Bob. B-o-b." He was serious.
"Unh, no. I mean your last name," I said.
He took a second look at the ID, and I could see him silently spelling out the letters as he read. "Yeah, that's right." I decided not to mention the bipolar diagnosis and filed for disability based on a reading disorder instead. I filled his paperwork out, told him where to sign and gave it back to him for mailing. He left happy.
Eddie sat down as soon as Stanciewycki left. He was morose. He sat at the table with his head down, chin on fist, playing with the chess pieces. He had a rook in his left hand and was hopping it over the pawns like he was playing checkers. "Little cuss is stealing my stuff. I go out and work all day and he's home on cell restriction and he's got all day to steal my cosmetics. I could beat the crap out of him but then I gotta deal with his friends." He slid a king off the board. "Then I gotta lie still all night and pretend like I don't hear him hiding his stash all over the place. He puts it in all the obvious places then acts like he's some kind of freakin' James Bond. I gotta get him outta there. There's gotta be a way."
"It was the mouse, Eddie. I warned you about the mouse. This is the AW getting revenge. You have to find a way to make it good with the AW again," I said.
"There's all kinds of people back by the AW's office. They didn't know it was me. I was careful."
In spite of his street smarts there were times when I wondered whether all the drugs had left him with two neurons still on speaking terms. "Eddie, you're the only inmate worker back there."
Meanwhile, on the other end of the tier, Antonio slowly shredded his styrofoam cup into tiny eighth-inch pieces. His former cellie, Donte, sat across from him with another brother he didn't know. Donte was at least twenty years older than Antonio, with a long healed knife scar that twisted down his left bicep. Donte wore a blue muscle shirt with frayed sleeveholes. He had a white and blue knit kufi on his head.
"You about done, Pug?" he asked Antonio.
"My name is Antonio," he answered. Pug was his street name. Street names were for kids and he wasn't a kid anymore. The case manager said so. He finished ripping up the cup and divided the pieces into three even piles. He slid two piles across the table to Donte and his friend. He took his own pile and slid it off the table into his cupped hand. He put the pieces into his pocket and his companions did the same.
"So that's it. The dawg's down. He ain't a player and he's putting the hurt on for real. He got to go." Donte glanced at his friend, who nodded. Donte turned back to Antonio. "You know what to do?"
"I know," said Antonio.
Antonio didn't mind killing animals. When he was out on the streets working as Donte's runner he spent his spare time trapping stray cats when business was slow. He'd take them home to train his pit bulls, or tie their tails together and watch them fight. One day Donte was making a trade and Antonio was slow getting the product back to him. Donte came looking for him and found him in the alley just as he was pouring gasoline on a stray. On the spot Donte promoted him from runner to enforcer. Now, for the first time since coming to DOC, things were going his way. He was off of segregation, he was getting his medication and now he was getting revenge. Life was good. He was zen. That dog had it coming.