The Razor’s Edge
By Jeff Baker
The guards had marched them, hands on top of their heads out to the yard, and had them sitting on the ground, hands flat on the ground while the sounds of the riot continued from inside the prison.
“Better than lying face down on the ground,” Matt said looking up at the blue sky over the barbed wire covered walls.
“Yeah, but they ran us out of there so fast you didn’t have time to put your shirt on,” A.J. said, seated next to him. “Next time they may not let you in the yard without a suit and tie!”
“Yeah,” Matt said. “No two drink minimum here.”
Matt looked around; a couple of the guards were standing together talking, hands on their rifles, eyeing the rows of seated cons. Matt had been here about three years, he hoped none of the guards had an itchy trigger finger.
“Hey, Matthews,” A.J. said. “What’s that tatt on your arm?”
“I’ve had that a couple years,” Matt said. “It’s a straight razor. It wasn’t my idea.”
“Was it your razor?” A.J. asked.
“Nah,” Matt said. “I’d been inside about four months and got into a couple of fights with this guy. He wasn’t leaving me alone, even after both of us got tossed in the hole for fighting. While I was there this guy I knew told me that the guy was crazy but if I got a tattoo of a blade on me he’d be afraid I’d pull the blade off and shiv him with it.”
A.J. stared. Matt shrugged.
“Like I said, he was crazy,” Matt said. “So I got the tatt done and the nut left me alone after that.”
“Hey! No talking over there,” one of the guards called out.
Matt nodded. He smiled to himself. He’d been locked up about a year when he’d lost a bet with one of his cellies trying to see who could solve the puzzle on the TV game show they were watching. Couldn’t buy a vowel when you were watching on a black & white TV behind the walls. Matt had lost and his cellie gave him the usual choice; pushups or get the word he hadn’t guessed tattooed on him. Somehow, a tattoo sounded cool; the word had been “straight razor.”
Matt smiled and rubbed his shoulder. He caught a whiff of tear gas from the cellblock and wrinkled his nose. Eight months left to go, he thought.
Note: My previous two stories about Matt Matthews appeared in Over My Dead Body (online) Magazine in the June 2011 and May 2014 issues respectively.
“The Hole”—Solitary Confinement.