Kindness for Weakness

Free Kindness for Weakness by Shawn Goodman

Book: Kindness for Weakness by Shawn Goodman Read Free Book Online
Authors: Shawn Goodman
queer, and he’s the best dude I know.”
    I pick up my cards and look at them. I have a pair of aces and a six of hearts. “Freddie’s queer?” I didn’t know.
    Tony laughs so hard that everyone on the unit looks at us.
    “You’re funny, James. I like that. But it’s no bullshit. Freddie’s got to make his own way in here, whatever that means for him. This is his second time, so he’s a revocator, which is good for him, ’cause it means he might only have to do, like, three or four months. But guys like Horvath and Pike and Crupier gonna be all over him.”
    “Why?”
    “Five card draw,” Tony says. “How many you want?”
    I discard and take two.
    “Think about it, man. He’s a black kid from Harlem, he’s a criminal,
and
he’s homo. In their eyes, ain’t nothin’ worse. Three strikes, bro. They’ll be dreamin’ of ways to mess him up. When it goes down—and mark my words, it will go down—you got to stay out of it no matter what. You hear me?”
    “Yeah, but why are you looking out for me?” I lay my cards out to show a full house, aces high.
    “Check you out, man!” Tony throws down two pairs. He’s surprised that I know how to play.
    “My older brother, Louis, taught me.”
    “Well, you lucky, man. I got five sisters. Believe thatshit? Anyway, I’m not looking out for nobody. Just giving a little free advice is all.”
    A pasty overweight kid with a shaved head and weird blue eyes is sitting by himself reading from a Dr. Seuss book. He flips the pages back and forth, like he’s reading at random.
    “That’s Oskar,” says Tony. “He loves them books.
The Lorax, Horton Hears a Who!, Yertle the Turtle
, crazy shit like that.”
    “What’s wrong with him?” I whisper.
    “You ain’t gotta be so quiet, man; he don’t give a fuck what you say. Oskar’s on, like, six or seven different meds. All he does is read them books, bite his fingernails, and sleep. Ain’t that right, Oskar?”
    The kid looks up from
The Lorax
and raises a hand in a sort of wave/salute. Tony and I wave/salute back.
    Lights-out is at nine o’clock. Mr. E says good night to all of us, making his way around to the rooms to shake hands and shut our doors.
    When he gets to me, he says, “You doing okay?”
    “Yes,” I say.
    “I seen you talking to Tony. He’s a hard worker. Follow his lead and you’ll do fine. Get some sleep now.”
    He shuts my door and engages the automatic lock with a loud click. At first it’s weird; I wonder what happens if there’s a fire or a tornado or something. But it’s also the first time I’ve had my own bedroom. And as small as it is, it’s mine. No more couch, and no more Ron, at least for the next twelve months. I lie down on the bed and closemy eyes without taking off my clothes or peeling back the thin blanket. Except for the distant sounds of Mr. E and another guard talking in the staff office, it is nice and quiet, and I drift off to sleep.

21
    Someone knocks three times on the wall and calls my name; I look around for a speaker or an intercom, but I see nothing, just a dark room.
    “Hey, man, it’s me. Freddie. Talk into the vents in the heater panel.”
    I put my face up against the sheet metal. “Can you hear me?”
    “I hear you. What did Tony want?”
    I don’t know what to say. I can either lie or hurt his feelings.
    “He said to toughen up and look out for myself.”
    Freddie is quiet, thinking. “It’s good advice, but Tony’s different. He don’t need anyone to cover his back.”
    “Then how come he’s here?”
    “Same old: running the streets, bangin’, dealing weed. Plus his family’s shit.”
    “How do you know about that?”
    “You locked up with the same assholes day after day, you learn more than you want to know about them.”
    “How about the loudmouth from the cafeteria?”
    “Bobby the Weasel? Harmless. Got the name because he stole an albino ferret—his school’s mascot. That simple bastard didn’t think he’d get caught! How

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