jailhouse-door-2In the factory, the police were around all the time. Those coming to shoot came into the factory where they could be issued bullets. A supply officer logged all occurrences. He noted badge numbers and names, type of bullet and quantity. Most cops at this time shot .38 caliber, usually from a six shooter. Standard issue was a Smith and Wesson model 10.

Most of the shooters were in jovial spirits. Most of them liked to shoot, liked to practice, considered the trip to the range as fun except when they were qualifying, which made it a more tense and sometimes traumatic event. Almost every cop stopped at the vending machines where they bought soda, chips and candy for the inmates making the bullets they would use. So Bill now had candy and chips and soda, and sometimes the cops asked him what brand of cigarettes he smoked, so he had those too without having to use that many packs from his commissary account.

This job was preferable to the one sorting the copper from the lead even though he sprouted two new blisters and his right arm got sore. He could talk with the other inmates, he could converse with the cops, he didn’t have to worry for anything since they were continually monitored by the police who worked there and supervised the production.

The jail   routine was comforting in a sense. Except for having to be aware of the surroundings and what was going on around him, Bill didn’t have to think at all. No one was interested in him. He wasn’t the tough so new inmates didn’t have anything to prove by bothering with him. He hadn’t ruffled anyone’s feathers that he knew about. He kept to himself at all times and he liked it this way. He liked the regularity and the predictability of the everyday sameness. He liked the quiet he could find inside himself when he lay atop his bunk with eyes closed. He wasn’t tired. Hunger had left him a long time ago. He couldn’t even remember when.

Day Sixteen in the morning, just after breakfast, which he didn’t eat, and before he went off on his work detail, Bill noticed an ache in his stomach. His first reaction was that he needed to go to the bathroom, but no way, he thought, was he going there. That was another thing about working in the bullet factory—they had a decent bathroom with private stalls he could use. If he had to go, he thought, he’d use those facilities.

His right arm was sore all up and down. It was simple muscle ache, he knew, and if it was consistent with what he’d previously experienced in his short life, he knew this would be the last day of it. Muscle ache from overuse took three days to get back to pain free, so he expected his arm would have adjusted and acclimated itself to the work pattern by tomorrow. Then, the muscles would be ready and already strengthening. He’d  learned not to pay much attention to the blisters.  The two new ones were quite minor compared to the ones he’d already overcome.

He’d spoken to Sue twice this week. She was doing okay. She’d just started her senior year at the University and she was busy with UDC, the university dance company. Classes and rehearsals, she said, were keeping her mind away from worrying too much. She said they were still working on getting him out for the Jewish Holiday, but so far no news to report. She told him she would see him on Saturday.

This morning, Day Sixteen, a new inmate arrival was in progress when they boarded the paddy wagon. Bill would never forget this one.