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Tensions mount as a building full of geriatric convicts anxiously waits.
And then they’re off!

When a buzzer sounds,
and the blue steel door clangs open,
there’s a wheelchair in front.

Bursting out close behind, is a man pushing a metal walker.
The wheelchair squeaks, and the walker clatters on the concrete.

Quickly,
they are overtaken by another man in a wheelchair,
then more men in blue spill from the open doorway.

The two wheelchairs battle
for position on a slight downhill grade that gives them a brief advantage.

Men with canes join the melee
at a brisk pace,
cane-tips tapping a cadence.

A pack of wheelchairs emerges
each turning sharply.
At the first sidewalk intersection,
several near collisions occur,
as men jockey for position in the turn.

The two separate sides of our building continue to disgorge men and machines,
until nearly 150 inmates rush toward the main swath of concrete.
It’s a wheelchair in the lead,
when the front runners turn toward a razor wire covered gate.

There, the guards start screaming.
“Get in line!
Get between the yellow lines!
Let’s go! Let’s go!”

These instructions are ignored by out of breath old men,
while they jostle each other nearer a twelve-foot-high gate.
There we wait for the gate to buzz and open.

Then we take off again,
canes tapping,
chairs squeaking.
It’s a mad dash for the next gate.

Guards wait at each corner screaming, “Let’s go! Let’s go!”

When we finally reach the dining hall, several hundred men wait outside.
I park behind the last wheelchair in line, and watch a bag full of urine swing like a pendulum beneath its seat.

A man stops behind me, and I hear him say,
“Crap, I forgot my teeth.”
And then I smile, confident I will have an extra apple to eat …

 
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. The Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned. The work is lightly edited but has not been otherwise fact-checked.

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Eric Finley

Eric Finley is a writer incarcerated at Dade Correctional Institution in Florida.