The wind was always hotter here. It felt like having a blower dryer on its warmest setting straight in front of you as you would walk down the street. The only places to hide from this wind were inside a house or a car.
That is life inside the desert. The desert, surrounded by cacti and small bushes that never grow much higher than your knees. A place that when it rains from the mountains above the city floods and makes the streets look like rushing rivers.
This is home for him.
He with his dark blonde hair that is cut short like a soldier. Clean shaven and serious brown eyes. James looked like a professional in his career.
James was a prison guard, a cage kicker, or corrections officer. You take your pick, they all mean the same thing.
James would however get pissed off if you called him anything other than a correctional officer. He was serious about his new job.
He took the drive every morning to Yucca State Corrections Facility, or as everyone in the area called it, “The Yuck” in his brand new pick up truck. A bright and shiny red Dodge Ram that he gave to himself as a present for making it to the big time.
A state job with reasonable pay and good benefits. Something that was hard to find in these parts other than working at “The Yuck”. Jobs were scarce in the city he lived in, at least if you did not speak Spanish, and he didn’t.
Damn, he should have paid more attention in High School.
He would think about this a lot on the way to “The Yuck” while driving on the long abandoned road to the prison. There was not much here, just a gas station a few miles away.
A nice little place where they served hamburgers with green chilies. A favorite place for all the cage kickers to get their meals after working a long eight hour shift.
Eight hours at “The Yuck” feels like forever.
He drove down this winding road with his window down on his truck and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. James liked the hot air flying in his face like a fire hose. It made him feel “more alive” he once said on a date with a nice local girl from the city.
Needless to say, it was the first and only date they had together.
James is not known for having a way with the ladies.
The radio turned up on high and the wind blowing in his face he slowly pushes the gas pedal to turn off the highway and into the parking lot of “The Yuck”. His black shiny jack boots are over his nicely pressed pant legs and below his pressed and starched shirt of his brown uniform. His gold badge reflects of the desert sun, and his mirrored sunglasses reflect and hide his eyes so no one can see what he is looking.
“It keeps them guessing,” one of the more experienced cage kickers told him.
James went to the local eyeglass store in the city and bought the most expensive pair he could find.
James grabbed his hat. His round hat that was a darker shade of brown and looked like he was a drill sergeant in some military book camp. He slowly put it on his head and moved his fingers along the rim in a slow clock and counter clockwise motion from his left and right hands.
Then he reached into the back of his truck and grabbed his blue gym bag. He had his batong, his belt with custom bought pistol holder and his lunch he made from the evening before.
Today it was lasagne. His favorite.
James walked through the parking lot that surrounded him with trucks. Trucks everywhere. He blended in. Here at “The Yuck” James was at home.
“Oh they got you working the afternoon shift too McConnell?” a short man with full mustache asked him.
James was always annoyed by men with facial hair. Really serious men shave everyday. He learned that from his father.
“Yeah Martinez. You too I see.” James replied with a sigh in his breath.
James did not like Martinez. He was too laid back, and besides the only reason they hired him was because he like everyone else in these parts had a name that ended with “ez”.
Another lesson James learned from his father. “People with the names that end in ez will always get the job before you do,”
“Not this time dad. I am working here right next to the little bastard” he smiled and thought silently to himself.
“They got me working B block” Martinez said while trying to make small talk through the parking lot. “Man the natives are restless there. Did you hear about what happened to that inmate there on Tuesday?”
Of course he knew. By Wednesday it was all over the prison. Things here spread like wildfire. Every bit of every detail of everything from the guards to the inmates everyone finds out about.
Even if they are off, someone will call you and tell you all about it.
“I cannot believe that that inmate stabbed the other one with a dull toothbrush. A sharpened one, sure. BUT this guy had just barely started to sharpen it.”
“I heard he had been working on it for weeks, a sharp as a razor. You have the wrong intel Martinez” James said while laughing as they approached the gate.
“ID cards please” said the guard at the gate.
“You know who we are Jones. This is the most ass backwards thing I have ever heard of!” Martinez said while digging through his bag to find it.
James had his neatly attached to the pocket of his pressed shirt. Prison regulations. It is how those inmates can identify us if they are too stupid to look at our name badges.
“Ok.. open the gate!” James said on this radio as the steel gate slowly rolled open.
As they entered the building, James took his sunglasses off and placed the stem neatly in the hole that was over his right pocket.
Martinez opened the door and that smell came at them right in the face.
Sweat. Angst. Lost causes.
This is maximum security here. You will not find a tennis court or a rehabilitation center. This is the end for you. Be it 25 years or longer to the execution chamber this is where you will be spending your time.
They put their bags on the rotating belt of the x-ray machine. Here they were looking mostly for drugs. A lot of the guards would pick up extra cash by dealing to the inmates. Something the State did not take too lightly after an under cover reporter for a local newspaper wrote a book about the place.
It was a scandal. Especially the part about the drugs. Luckily for his sake he never got close to any of the real excitement. He spent most of his time on death row which is boring.
Nothing happens on the row. They are locked in their cells 23 hours and sent to the rest yard one at a time. It is light babysitting duty.
The only reason he found out about the drugs was because an inmate who was hoping to get special treatment gave him a tip about a certain guard.
James thought he was a piece of shit. Both the guard and the reporter.
They both walked into the break room. There was Carlos, Rick and Bob sitting at an old plastic table drinking coffee from their home brought mugs.
You know, the kind that don’t spill and cost a fortune.
James thought Rick was one of those faggot metro sexual men that always grinded his own coffee and would tell us all about where the beans came from.
“Today it is a nice colombian roast” James would think to himself while imitating his know it all voice.
James hated him. He was to nice to the inmates.
Bob on the other hand was some James adored. Bob had been kicking cages for over thirty years. He knew every hole, every trick and every inmate at “The Yuck”.
“One day I will be like him” James would think to himself as he got ready each morning. “Except I will be a better version”
You see, Bob was overweight and stopped giving a fuck about how he looked in his uniform a long time ago.
“Where you working today Jimmy?” Bob asked James.
Bob was the only person who was allowed to call him Jimmy and that was only because of respect. You respect your true veterans.
“C block” James replied.
“Oh Jimmy boy! That hot piece of ass Miranda is working there today. Oh what I would love to do with her.” He said while getting up from the table and making gestures like he was fucking her from behind. “Oh that ass! I would slap the hell out of while fucking her SO hard”
Bob had a thing for younger girls with big asses.
Carlos did not say much. He just sat there and stared at his coffee. His wife just left him with the kids a couple of months ago.
That is why you never get married.
That is why you never have kids.
These are two very important life rules James believed in. James saw what the divorce did to his dad. He learned from an early age to get married.
Of course his father taught him that too.
Silence fell in the room as everyone looked at their watches.
“Well boys! It’s time to go get our guns. Shift starts in 10 minutes.” Bob said with a look of defeat on his face.
He wanted to finish his coffee.
James longed for his pistol as he slowly put his batong in its holder and grabbed his hat with his right hand.
C block is waiting.
James is excited, and Bob is nothing but sorry that today he will be missing Miranda’s sweet ass.