Dinner call was at four-thirty. Dinner was four forty-five on the button. They lined up outside the prison mess hall, passed along the serving line and were herded into the metal stool seats attached to the metal tables. They ate with metal spoons on metal trays that were partitioned.
Everything was strictly regimented and routines were never broken unless an emergency occurred. They lined up in D dorm and every dorm. They marched in silence from the dorms to the mess hall. They passed their trays on the assembly line where the food was dished out. They took their seats.
After the last inmate had been served, ten minutes of eating time was measured. Then, table by table, first in first out, they marched along, cleared and discarded their trays and spoons, marched back to their dorms. All the marching was done in silence. Guards were positioned all along the way and they were in their stations too. Two guards watched to make sure the inmates turned in the spoons.
Back in the dorm at about five, there was nothing to do. Bill had nothing to read, nothing to write with. There was no TV and no radio. He was bald but for the stubble the clippers left on his head, the stubble he could feel when he ran his fingers over his scalp. He’d done that twice then stopped. He still hadn’t looked at himself in the mirror.
Dinner wasn’t anything Bill had recognized. Up on his bunk, eyes closed, all he could think about was SOS, army talk from his father for chipped beef on toast, Shit on Shingles. That was what the main thing looked like, or more like slop. Then there were runny mashed potatoes, grayish colored peas and two yellowed slices of bread, stale since it was hard to the touch.
Bill didn’t eat anything. Nothing. He’d sniffed it all once and made the executive decision easily. He was hungry and tired and scared and forlorn. He didn’t drink anything either, and skinny as he already was, he knew he was going to lose weight.
No one had returned to the bottom bunk. When Bill looked around, he could see there were several groups that had congregated. The members of those groups hung out, sat and stood around the bunks of one of their members. One of the groups was playing cards. Playing cards was forbidden. Possessing playing cards was forbidden too, so that group had a lookout.
Other inmates hung out in pairs. Bill, totally new to the place, didn’t know anyone. He was happy enough to be by himself and keep to himself. No one paid him any mind. That was a good thing.
At seven was commissary call. Bill didn’t know anything about the commissary, but inmates lined up and were taken out. They came back with all sorts of stuff, from cupcakes and donuts to shaving cream and cigarettes. Bill needed cigarettes and decided he had to find out about how to get money go to the commissary.
After commissary, the man in the bottom bunk returned. He was a bit older than Bill and had a thin, reddish beard, two side straps leading to a scraggly goatee-like thing. He wore the workhouse shirt open and untucked now, the short sleeves rolled up high to show his muscles.
“I’m Ronnie,” he said. Bill came down from his bed. They shook hands.
“What you in for?”
“Assault and battery. You?”
“DWI. Got thirty days. You?”
“All the way to Thanksgiving,” Ronnie said. “You married?”
“What do you think your wife’s doing while you’re in here? Who you think she’s with?”
“It’s not like that,” Bill said.
“That’s what they all say,” Ronnie said. “You’ll see.”
Bill didn’t say anything. He watched as Ronnie’s lips formed a mean grin. Ronnie turned and walked two bunks down to talk with someone he knew. Bill decided he wouldn’t talk with him again if he could help it. He climbed back up on his bunk having already decided he’d sleep in clothes.
The lights flashed twice at nine-fifteen. At nine-thirty it was lights out. Two dim bulbs cast a dull light by the toilets. Otherwise it was dark except for the bright lights out in the hall.
Bill lay awake a long while.
A Note About the Fiction Outtakes:
The Fiction Outtakes are based upon my fiction. Very often they utilize characters which appear in different pieces of fiction written over the years. However, the events and incidents do not generally appear in the fiction. For the most part they are outtakes, pieces written and not included in the actual works or pieces written for fun. All of The Ghost Writer outtakes are not actual events depicted in the upcoming novel (tentatively to be released in February 2017) but the characters are actual characters from the novel. Similarly, Bill Wynn is a character from The Kitchen Stories (written over many years and also to be released in 2017). However, the actual experiences depicted in the outtakes do not necessarily appear in The Kitchen Stories.