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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Dinner with Friends – Flash Fiction

“Hey, Fred,” the correctional officer assigned to tier three in the maximum security wing said as he sat down in front of the lonely dark cell, a living coffin that has housed the man before him for the past eighteen-plus years, “looks like you could use a Thanksgiving Day friend.”

Fred walked slowly forward in his six-foot by eight-foot chamber and greeted the man who has guarded him in this wing for the past decade. “Thanks, Officer Jenkins, but I’z gots Tommy on my left and Crazy Eights on my right, they’z be good enough friends for the likes of me.”

“Awe, c’mon, Fred,” Officer Jenkins replied compassionately after rising to face the inmate, “one more friend for dinner isn’t going to hurt.”

“A man can always use one more friend, I guess… and you’z always been straight with me. No games and no disrespect, I respect you for that.”

“Thanks, Fred,” Jenkins replied humbly, “and you have always been straight with me.”

Looking directly into the officer’s eyes, he responded, “I got no reason not to.”

The smell of the concrete walls, musty with age, permeated the tier, but none of the confined dinner guests seemed to care.

“So, this is it,” Jenkins remarked sadly, “you’re last Thanksgiving Day dinner with us. We are going to miss you around here, Fred. I just don’t have the words.”

“Words are just words Officer Jenkins, just words.”

“Officer Jenkins,” a humble voice from the cell on Fred’s right questioned. “Can I just say somthin’ to Fred, sir?”

“Sure, go ahead,” Jenkins agreed, “after all, it is a special occasion. I guess bending the rules won’t hurt under the circumstances, but don’t make a habit of it.”

“Oh, I won’t Officer Jenkins.”

Fred leaned against the block wall of his cell and asked his neighbor what he had to say.

“It’s times like these that get a man thinkin’ and I been thinkin’ a lot lately.”

“About what?” Fred asked.

“Ever being free again, life, death, God… you know… all that kind of stuff.”

A humorous reply came from the cell to the left of Fred’s, “I’ve been thinking a lot about how much turkey I’m going to get tonight. That’s about all I have been worried about lately.”

Laughing, Officer Jenkins interrupted, “All right you three, I am going to let you have a free-for-all talk for a few minutes. I’ll be back in five with more food. I managed to get an extra pumpkin pie from the chow hall. Mum’s the word on that.”

As Officer Jenkins walked down the tier towards his office, doing his rounds along the way, the three comrades discussed their fondest memories of Thanksgiving dinners past, at least the ones they could recall.

Tommy told about one family Thanksgiving gathering from when he was about ten years of age. Crazy Eights informed the two that he never had a Thanksgiving dinner before being sentenced to live behind the walls and bars he so rightly deserved.

“I only remember one dinner as bein’ special,” Fred said to his friends. “I was visitin’ my gram’s; I think I was about eight or nine. I had no dad, never did, but mom took us to gram’s and we ate until we felt more stuffed than the turkey was. I’ll never forget that one.”

As Fred stared across the tier’s hallway through the wire meshed covered windows, he studied the bleak exterior of the neighboring prison wing before he continued, “And tonight’s Thanksgiving dinner with my friends will be another I will always remember, at least until midnight.”

Crazy Eights took a deep breath then sighed, “Unless, of course, the governor calls in time.”

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