A Different Christmas Story (Chapter 11)
In each section of each prison there is usually one guard that somehow balances things out. In this prison’s SHU it was former combat Marine Sergeant Doug Babbitt, now a senior corrections officer. Not only did he bring hope to the inmates, he brought some justice -- by heading the SHU disciplinary board. Stern yet fair, he was know as the "The Sergeant".
Babbitt knew that White would be on duty that day and likely up to his power plays. He arrived early for his shift, several hours before expected, and upon his arrival he found the unplugged food carts cluttering the hall. His first order of business was to plug the food carts back in then, as the meals began to rewarm, he pushed the cards into a line. He left the convoy of carts and continued his journey through the SHU, assessing each and every inmate with a quick visual evaluation.
He usually didn't intrude or interrupt anyone's program unless he was petitioned. This morning Babbitt made an exception. He stopped at Mouse’s steel cell door and called out to him, “Hey Marine! Tonight’s the night, you packed?”
“I am, Sergeant” Mouse replied, “I'm going out light too.”
“Smart move” Babbitt chuckled, “Less to bring back.”
Mouse laughed back then responded, “I'm not planning on coming back Sarge.”
“I think that would be a smart move.” Babbitt replied. “Listen Marine, I will do my best to get you out of here that first minute after midnight.”
“Anyone going out with me?” Mouse added.
Babbitt knew what he meant. Would Danny Petros be getting out that night too? “Nothing yet, it's still early.” With that he ended the conversation with Mouse and moved on with his tour.
As he walked away, Babbitt called out to his fellow Marine “Semper Fi” -- the Latin Marine Corps motto which means always faithful. Babbitt slowed his pace, just enough, to give Mouse time to respond. When he heard the motto echoed back he picked up his step.
Babbitt entered the command module. He didn’t look at White as he said to him “Keep those carts plugged in.”
The topic was not open to conversation. White knew it was best to keep his mouth shut and he did. Babbitt’s next order of business was to question White about the orders to dress out for the four-o’clock count.
White had heard about Babbitt’s early arrival and had already thought out his response. “We got four o'clock count, after the count is the holiday chow then the outreach church distributing their gifts. I believe there is a female coming from the church, it's proper they not be in skivvies.”
Babbitt took a long, hard look at White before he answered him. “Well, that's downright decent of you White. I did talk to the Warden and all Christmas gifts being passed out have been approved for all sections of the prison. There’s no need to hold anything back. Understood?”
White shrugged, conceding. He didn’t answer and left the module to avoid further conversation. If he would have looked back he would have seen a big smile spread across Babbitt’s face.
Babbitt had to decide whether to put White on the distribution of the gifts or meals. He thought about it and decided he would meet the representatives from the Outreach Church personally. He wanted the inmates to get every gift coming their way and couldn’t trust that would happen if it were in White’s hands. The meals, pre-made for the SHU, would be passed through the food slot directly into the hands of the prisoner. It was an easy task and didn't allow White much latitude.
White knew he could not withhold any of the items that graced the food trays but he couldn't resist the thought of what he would censor from the dinners of those dirty dungeon dwellers if Babbitt weren’t there. He laughed to himself as imagined extracting a single item off each tray before passing it through the small rectangular slot and the resulting reaction from the cell’s inhabitant. And he knew where it would go from there.
After he left the hallway the convicts would start a trading frenzy in an effort to replace the missing portions of food items to complete their holiday meals. From cell to cell, the inmates would fish between their small steel compartments. Used around the world by convicts to move industry through locked down sections of prison, fishing was an art form. Lines, up to twenty feet long and made from whatever resources were available, would be strung across the hallway, linking cell to cell. Cast with the expertise of a seasoned fly fisherman, the lines would cross the halls creating a web in which valuable commodities were exchanged. The practice was banned and, at times, at the top of the list of inmate violations. White fantasized about all the write ups something like that would garner him, and of course, in turn all the attention -- and surely a promotion.
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