The Traveler, A Story From 30 Pieces of Silver

One too many nights hearing:

“I’ve spent too many years living like this.”

“I always let you say whatever you want, and I bite my lip, not this time!”

Just before she calls me a loser she reels it back in.

Why is today different? I don’t know. I pulled my old man’s coat out of the closet and put it on. It did right by him during the depression, it only seems right I wear it now.

As I walk out the door, I hear:

“Take your shit and get out!”

I left it all. The coat on my back and $200.00 on the Visa.

I stood in front of the ticket window at Union Station for a few minutes. Finally, I said:

“How far away can you take me?”

“Straightaway or connections?”

“Straight.”

“Chicago.”

“I’ll take it.”

“A room or just a seat?”

“Coach.”

“It’s a forty-hour ride.”

“Coach.”

“$177.00.”

“Does Ricardo still work the café?”

“I have no idea, sir.”

I have twenty-three dollars to my name, a forty-hour train ride, but I’m free.

I met Ricardo in the late 1970s, early 1980s. When I was down on my luck, he’d give me food and booze and inventory it as broken or spoiled. Once on board, I found him in the café.

“Another one kicked you to the curb, Ray?”

“How’d you guess?”

“The old coat and no luggage.”

Ricardo kept me company for my four days. Occasionally he let me sleep in the employee bunks.

Like Lou Reed once said:

“There’s a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out.”

The train kept rolling.

#MichaelEssington #30PiecesOfSilver

 

30 Pieces of Silver

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A Writer, A Story From 30 Pieces of Silver

I always wanted to write.

Stories that would resonate with the common man. The guy that shines shoes or sells flowers by the freeway.

I couldn’t give a flying fuck about the volcanoes on Mars. Or about the guy that is looking for an electrical plug for his Tesla.

So, when I get hounded for not buying a house twenty years ago, I don’t know how to explain that I wasn’t meant for that life.

I was meant for subway rides at night. Backroom scuffles. Women that I don’t need, but mostly I was meant for words on paper.

Lastly, a few empty wine bottles.

#MichaelEssington #30PiecesOfSilver

 

30 Pieces of Silver

Last Stand, Section Ten, A Story From 30 Pieces of Silver

Twelve months. We wake up, and Mike and I do our morning workout routine. Push-ups, sit-ups, and jumping jacks. We play two hands of spades. Some guy opens the slot on our door and pushes breakfast through. Basic breakfast no meds. We’ve never seen this guy before. He was in a jumpsuit with a moving company logo on the right pocket.

The next several hours we can hear clanging and scrapping. No idea what is happening. More sick inmates or dead ones being buried? Who knows?

Three hours after breakfast the slot on the door opens again. Mike and I were playing a game of dominoes with pieces we made from cardboard. A guy in a moving jumper pushed lunch through, again, with no meds.

Six hours later, it’s lights out. Dinner never came. The clanging and scraping stopped two hours ago.

Mike and I were asleep for about three or four hours. A siren goes off. The sound is like an air-raid siren. I jump out of bed, scared. After a minute or two, the siren stops. Mike is at the cell door when the power cuts off and the door opens.

We peek out of the door, take two steps forward and wait for Rhodes to tackle us or hit us with a billy club. No Rhodes and no club. We followed the red line to the blue. And then out the side door. All the power was off. The place was deserted. No guards, no furniture, no beds. The only remains were Mike and I and our bunks.

Once outside, we see the front gate is open. No vehicles and no guards. Just miles and miles of sand. Whoever we pissed off, they fucked us bad.

#MichaelEssington #30PiecesOfSilver

 

30 Pieces of Silver

Last Stand, Section Nine, A Story From 30 Pieces of Silver

A week after we buried Teddy, Rhodes was back at our cell door:

“Inmate Wyatt. I’m here to inform you that your kin, John Wyatt has passed on. Would you and inmate Peterson like to handle his burial?”

I tried to speak, but nothing came out. I think my knees buckled. Mike grabbed me and lowered me onto my bunk. He stepped towards the cell door and said:

“Yes, Guard Rhodes, we will handle his burial.”

An hour later Rhodes returned with a shovel. And again we walked towards the infirmary. Mike and I placed John into the body bag. Again, we walked out, pushing the stretcher and carrying the shovel. During the walk, from the red line to the blue I talked to John. I apologized for getting him into this mess, thanked him for always having my back and swearing to see him again soon.

I dug the hole while Mike talked to John. When I finished digging Mike, and I lowered John into the hole.

Rhodes said:

“Do you ladies want a minute to say a few words?”

Mike and I looked at each. Knowing we should, but we shook our heads and said:

“No, Guard Rhodes.”

Everything I wanted to say, I did on the way over. Mike did the same.

Rhodes handed us a cross to pound into the ground:

“Jonathan Wyatt
1988-2018”

Then we were taken back to our cell. Blue line to the red line. Once we at our cell Rhodes said:

“Too bad inmate Raymond Cochran didn’t have time to have a fancy funeral service like that. Maybe if he ever should show up, he’ll get his chance.”

#MichaelEssington #30PiecesOfSilver

 

30 Pieces of Silver

Last Stand, Section Eight, A Story From 30 Pieces of Silver

An hour later Rhodes is at the cell door again:

“Inmates, turnaround, up against the wall.”

Mike and I were against the wall with our hands on our heads.

“All right inmate Peterson, grab the shovel in the doorway. Gentlemen, follow me.”

We followed the red line to the infirmary. John was in the first bed. IVs in both arms.

“All right ladies, we will move inmate Russo from his bed and into a body bag, then onto a stretcher.”

That was it. Teddy was dead. I thought he had died months ago. I was sure he flat lined. I don’t know if he was on life-support or they forgot about him.

Mike and I moved Teddy to the stretcher. He weighed, maybe ninety-eight pounds. We left the infirmary and followed a blue line. The blue line led us out a pair of steel doors and outside. Outside for the first time in eleven months. I could see the sun, but not much else. There were twelve-foot walls surrounding us and some netting overhead.

“Peterson, you and Wyatt take turns digging. We need this plot to be 30 inches wide, 7 feet long and 6 feet deep. Let’s get to it.”

Mike started. He went for about a half an hour, and then I finished it. We lowered Teddy down into the hole and Mike filled it. Rhodes came over with a wooden cross that said:

“Theodore Russo
1985-2018”

Rhodes handed me a hammer and said:

“Pound that in at the head of the hole.”

Rhodes took us to the showers. Given new clothes and then escorted back to our cell. An hour later Rhodes slid dinner and meds in.

It’s been a month, maybe two, and no one has asked where Ray went.

#MichaelEssington #30PiecesOfSilver

 

30 Pieces of Silver

Last Stand, Section Seven, A Story From 30 Pieces of Silver

I am somewhere between ten and eleven months into our sentence. I’m feeling like Diogenes. Just walking through life with a lantern, looking for an honest man. Ray became a rapist and almost-murderer. John and Mike are responsible for Ray’s death.

The next morning when I wake up, I look over at John and he is pale. His clothing is drenched in sweat. I believe he is delirious; he is calling for our Mom. I go to the cell door and bang on it and yell for a guard. After five minutes, Rhodes opened the food-slot:

“What is it, Wyatt?”

“It’s my brother, John. I think he’s dying.”

“Inmates, turnaround, up against the wall.”

Rhodes entered the cell with his baton in his hand. Walked over to my brother and said:

“What the hell is wrong with you, Wyatt?”

John babbled something about a school bus and a dog we owned when he was six. Rhodes walked out. Fifteen minutes later he returned and had the same command:

“Inmates, turnaround, up against the wall.”

This time he entered with a stretcher.

“Wyatt, Peterson, get this man on the stretcher.”

Mike and I lifted John off the bunk and onto the stretcher. Then Rhodes yelled to Mike:

“Peterson, push this man to medical.”

Mike followed the red line to the infirmary. Twenty minutes later, Mike was back.

#MichaelEssington #30PiecesOfSilver

 

30 Pieces of Silver

Last Stand, Section Six, A Story From 30 Pieces of Silver

Two days went by and no one noticed Ray was gone. We were nine months into our sentence here. Ray has been dead almost five days. We’ve moved him to the furthest corner of the cell and wrapped him with a few blankets, but the smell is still awful. John seems to get sick from it. Seems like the flu.

Seven days after Ray died; Guard Rhodes came around with a laundry cart. He opened the cell, pushed it in and said:

“All right, five minutes, throw all laundry and linens in the cart. Strip to your skivvies.”

Mike and I dumped the cart, we put Ray at the bottom, piled everything back in and added our laundry.

When Rhodes came back, he yelled:

“John Wyatt, front and center push the cart and collect the rest of the laundry.”

I stepped forward and said:

“Sir, John’s nauseated, I’ll push it.”

“Not so fast Wyatt, you, Peterson, you take the cart.”

Halfway down the hall, Rhodes says:

“Damn, what’s that smell? What the fuck are you boys doing to your linen?”

Mike shrugged and pushed along.

After an hour Guard Rhodes walked Mike to the basement. There was a shoot for clothing, linen, and trash. Rhodes said:

“All right, separate the laundry, you got thirty minutes.”

Mike dumped everything pushed Ray into the trash shoot and sorted everything as fast as he could.

After twenty-five minutes he was done. Rhodes came back. Looked at the floor and then at Mike:

“I know what you did, boy.”

“I did?”

“Yeah, you find cigarettes or contraband in the laundry?”

“Nothing.”

“Empty your pockets.”

Mike was so busy focusing on Ray that he didn’t even search the linen. Sometimes you score a loose cigarette or a joint. Not this time.

“All right Peterson, let’s move it.”

Then Rhodes stopped:

“Hold on.”

He clicked a buzzer on the laundry shoot, then the linen shoot. Stopped, looked at his watch and walked over to the trash and clicked on the incinerator. Mike froze. Just like that Ray ceased to exist.

“All right. Quit standing around, back to your cell.”

Mike followed the red line back to the cell. Rhodes unlocked it, let Mike in and locked it again.

#MichaelEssington #30PiecesOfSilver

 

30 Pieces of Silver