This excerpt is from Candy and Blood. Available for purchase on Amazon now.
It was strange and surreal to have a selfless act of kindness return to try to stab me in the face.
As Horace swiped the razorblade toward my face, time seemed to slow momentarily, and I froze. It was obscenely surreal, this scene I’d suddenly found myself in the middle of, but even as the slim weapon swung ever closer to slicing me wide open, I couldn’t help thinking of the irony that I had actually provided Horace with the object he was attacking me with.
It was a big misunderstanding and miscommunication, really. Once tempers flare, though, none of that matters—especially when a blade becomes involved. Horace, besides being saddled with such an unusual and unfortunate name, looked like a caramelized Truman Capote. His voice even bore a similar, strangely effeminate lilt as the late Mr. Capote. These facts tended to make him appear less than formidable. That is, until he started swinging a razorblade at me.
Before the excitement, I hadn’t been paying attention. My mind was a million miles away mulling over something or other as I was racing to the shower to beat the rush of post-yard would-be bathers. There was no sound of water running and no towel or other paraphernalia to indicate that anyone was in the shower. I counted this as a stroke of luck, so I pulled back the curtain on the nearest shower stall.
Horace was standing there, fully clothed, with a towel around his neck and a mesh bag of necessary shower accoutrements dangling on a string from his limp wrist. “Damn,” I exclaimed reflexively as my heart leapt into my neck and my pulse chased after. “That’s my bad. Sorry, man.”
I had only a passing but cordial acquaintance with Horace, mostly because he had been my neighbor briefly before he moved to another cell. With his demeanor, appearance, and voice, Horace was suspect by default. On top of that, I knew he had spent time in a part of the joint reserved only for those with serious mental health issues and that he was on the medline twice a day to get his skittles.
Armed with this knowledge, I didn’t believe his loitering in a shower stall to be in any way overtly egregious or malicious. Standing behind a shower curtain while fully clothed, as if lying in wait, is certainly considered odd, especially since homosexuals often use the showers for illicit carnal liaisons. However, since there hadn’t been any exposing of intimate bits involved in our brief interaction, I dismissed the whole thing as no big deal and moved on to the next shower stall.
It was my fault, and I took full responsibility for it. Unfortunately, Horace didn’t feel the same way. The situation quickly escalated.
“What the hell is wrong with people?” he muttered, as if talking to himself, but plenty loud enough for me to hear. “I’m sick of all this fag stuff. People trying to catch a peek and pretend like they’re not. Nuthin’ but a bunch of fags here.” I was immediately offended and angry, and like a reflex I checked him.
“Whoa, whoa, hold on; it was my fault, I said I was sorry. It’s my bad. But you can keep all of that homosexual stuff. I ain’t got nothing to do with it, and I don’t want to hear any more of your fag…”
His scream of rage was so loud and unexpected that it startled my flesh into goose bumps. My heart began banging angrily against the confines of my chest. Horace had left the shower and begun to walk away before I’d spoken up to defend myself, but after his outburst, he immediately dropped the bag then dropped to his knees like a penitent of some sort. Instead of reverent prayers, though, he let loose a torrential litany of anti-gay curses while rummaging through the meager belongings he’d brought to the shower. When he rose to his feet again, he was brandishing the razorblade.
I caught a glimpse of his weapon as he brought it to bear on me. He had secured one end into a piece of cardboard to act as a handle so he wouldn’t slice himself. It was a tiny thing and looked almost comically absurd pinched between his surprisingly meaty index finger, middle finger, and thumb. Small as it was, I knew how easily it could move through skin and the tissue beneath. But when Horace advanced on me, I just stared back, stuck to the floor.
Horace’s outburst had brought a few guys rushing to the area, one of whom was Horace’s cellie. He recognized the situation at a glance and stepped between me and the blade. In an authoritative but soothing tone, he talked Horace down from his intended act of violence, repeating Horace’s name several times to try and snap him back to a semblance of sanity. He had his hands up in a calming gesture that reminded me of a lion tamer, and I had the distinct sense that he had more than a little experience dealing with Horace’s unpredictable and disproportionate temper.
One of the other nosy lookie-loos grabbed my arm and gave me a tug. My feet followed along. It had all happened so fast that I was left flabbergasted. My dumbfounded state had been so complete that I suspect my face would’ve been ravaged into ribbons of flesh and rivulets of blood if Horace’s cellie hadn’t shown up.
I couldn’t shake the strange sensation that I had nearly been the architect of my own disfigurement.
When Horace had been my neighbor, he’d heard that my hustle was sewing and had inquired about how I cut my fabric. He fancied himself a bit of a sewer as well. Being a good neighbor, as an act of kindness, I provided him with a razorblade, since I had one I wasn’t using. If I’d known I’d be staring it down as it was waved menacingly by a man with a history of violence and mental illness, I might not have been so kind.
I steered clear of Horace after that, but only had to duck him for nine days because he was hauled to Seg for getting into a fight in the chow hall. In that instance, Horace proved to be far more formidable than his appearance belied—it took two white shirts and two sarges to pull him off his victim and subdue him. What was the fight about? What exactly set him off the second time? Someone compared the spilled milk on Horace’s shirt to ejaculate, insinuating that he had recently performed fellatio. The smart-mouthed idiot who said it needed stitches—and that was from damage inflicted only with fists. I shudder to think what Horace could have accomplished with his razorblade.