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by Allen Wang
The roars of the waves seem to intensify as he shuffles along the
walls of his cell, uncertain of his next move. In frustration, he sits
on the floor, the moments passing in rapid paralysis. Time is
both a patron and a pest, diluting his memories. As he listens
to the infinite waves sluice the beach, he thinks about his wife,
imagining her standing on the distant shore, her luminous smile
like a beacon cutting through the black water. Her
voice beckons to him. Mark, come to the window. His gaze wanders
towards a light opposite the strait. It gleams, and is gone.
Entranced by the ocean, he clumsily reaches for a cigarette in the
pocket of his gray scrub and fumbles with his lighter, sparks it, then
takes a drag, the hazy smoke of his cigarette drifting past the rigid
steel bars of his window. The smell of stale smoke fills the room and
he makes a sour face. He immediately flicks the cigarette into a
puddle outside the window. It’s raining, he notices. Mark LeBach
tidies himself up a bit, pats down his already tattered clothes and
walks down the fleet of stairs in which he ventures at least three
times every day.
Mark desperately goes into the kitchen to hopefully find some
leftover food that remained overnight. Entering, he sees the bright
white colors of the chef’s clothes and looks down on his own. Again,
a grimace crosses his face. The fridge opens and Mark could only spot
one piece of bread on the side of the fridge. The bread was
unpackaged, left molding in a corner. He rips the green and hairy mold
off them and without regard, takes a bite. Stale. He wants to speak
out, but an overwhelming feeling of lethargy drags him back. It’s
not like anybody would care, anyway. He’d probably never be allowed
to eat again. He turns and trudges out onto the yard. It’s still
This was no ordinary journey but a rather unpleasant one. Dismal was
the evening sky as he makes his daily route to the prison church. He
opens the church-room door. A brief glance around the church shows
everyone with some sort of handheld device in their hands. What are
they? He asks one of the chiefs on duty. He did not reply and gave him
an utterly dirty look. Two men burst into inebriated laughter on the
opposite side of the room, and Mark makes his way to the only empty
How did everything come to be like this? Thinking about this reminded
him of the day his wife lay ill in bed, his hand on her chest. His
hand trying to capture what brief radiance she had left. No amount of
booze or smokes could satisfy the feeling of emptiness he felt after
that day. The riches that people indulge in these days… he thinks to
himself. What are they good for? He reaches out and touches the paint
peeling off the wall beside him. A dozen white flakes flutter to the
floor and land in a puddle of water, which had leaked through the
corner of the floor.
After a long day, Mark decides to grab his daily mix of protein and
hit the gym which is located right outside the dreaded church. He
looks into the almost empty jar, perhaps enough for just one more cup.
He downs his last cup of protein, relishing it to the last drop, and
hits the gym. Walking down the stairs once again, a feeling he had not
experienced in recent months comes washing over him. Energy. He
smoothly kicks open the gym door open. The scene in front of Mark
takes him by surprise. The leader of the notorious gang in his
institution, Tyrone Kidd, lands a forceful punch right on a man’s
face. A fight has begun. Again and again, Tyrone’s fist pounds into
the man’s cheek. Mark is immobilized by the image.
Immediately, two prison guards rush in and pull the man aside. Mark,
still stunned, tries to gain some composure. He runs over to the man,
who is doubled over and bleeding from the mouth. The drops crimson
stains the concrete. One of the guards has pulled Tyrone away and the
other was helping the man up.
“Yo, give me a hand here.” He says in a thick accent. Mark puts
an arm under the man’s shoulder and crutches him to the door.
“I’ll take it from here. Cheers, mate.”
Mark watched as the two men walked slowly past him. He makes out the
guards reassuring voice as he speaks to the battered man. On the wall,
a sputtering light flickers, periodically illuminating the otherwise
Mark decides to leave the scene and walks back to the familiarity of
his cell. Again and again, the waves compose a tremulous scratch on
the shore, resonating within the walls. The sound tempts his gaze
towards the beach. He reaches out through the bars on his window.
Raindrops continue to fall. He is soothed by the cold touch on his
One more day, he says to himself. He stands, arms outstretched, a
loose grin on his face, watching the tide recoil.