Chocolate Milk & Tornadoes
They come to get me on a Tuesday.
I know it was, cause I keep a calendar on my wall. The calendar shows girls on it, but not the dirty kind of girls like a lot of the fellas like. These girls are dressed, or mostly dressed anyway, in swimmin’ suits. They’re all holding Snap-On brand tools, and are hanging around in garages, like they’re going to fix your car. I like them because they look like they are useful, and not just like for sex. I always don’t feel like you’re supposed to just be pretty, even if you’re a girl, but like you oughtta also be good at something. Something useful, like knowing how to fix things. I also like those girls on the calendar because they are all smiling, like they’d like to maybe be my friend. Seems like it would be really nice to have a pretty girlfriend who knew how to fix stuff when it was broken.
On account of how I never expected to get out of here at all, and how I mostly like the summer months when it’s warm the best, I always keep the calendar turned to June, or July, or August. It doesn’t really matter which page I have it turned to. It’s always the same in there. The same temperature. There’s no summer, and it’s mostly cold. So it was a Tuesday in July when they come to get me.
I knew something was happening all day, because James said at breakfast that there wasn’t no way they was gonna give us all chocolate milk unless they was about to do something bad to us. That ain’t exactly the way James said it, but I ain’t gonna use the words he said. My mother always told me that only ignorant people use words like cussin’, and she said even if you’re stupid, you don’t have to sound ignorant. So I ain’t even gonna tell you the kinda words James uses, cause he was my friend, and I don’t want you to think he was ignorant. Cause he wasn’t. He was really smart. That’s how come he knew about the chocolate milk.
See, James wasn’t from
, like me. He was
from up in the north, near Texas .
And he said that up there, they got chocolate milk a lot earlier, cause of all
them milk cows they got. And he said they were all Swedish, so they put
chocolate in the milk a long time ago. And that’s what they’d give the kids if
they were sick and the doctor was gonna have to do something to em that was
gonna hurt em. James said that the warden must think we was all pretty stupid
if we didn’t know that chocolate milk with breakfast meant they was gonna do
something bad to us. But he drank his chocolate milk, so I did too. Omaha
I didn’t think too much about what James told me, but I guess I should have listened. Cause it turned out he was right. Everything was normal during most of the day, when we was workin, and when we got time to play ball in the gym.
My team played really good that day. That Tuesday. Our team was the Tornadoes. We even had white shirts with a little grey whirling tornado up on the muscle above your heart. Stew had bargained the grey thread out of one of the guys who brings the clean laundry and picks up the dirty stuff every week. Then Stew gave all us guys on the team, there was five of us, he gave us all the shirts for Christmas last year. He’s always been really generous like that with giving stuff away. And that day the Tornadoes did really good.
They don’t let us play football, or basketball either, like some of the guys back home liked. Those games were bad influences, on account of they got people riled up and upset sometimes. They were bad games, because they would stir us up to be violent I guess, maybe. We played kickball instead, which is a good game instead, where you roll a big yellow ball at a fella and he kicks it, and then runs around the bases. They let us use old wore out cushions from the Caf as bases, and since the gym floor was kinda slippery, and it was hard to run in a straight line, so if a fella ran too fast then he’d go sliding when he hit a base, and it’d be funny. So everybody ran pretty slow usually, cause nobody wanted to get laughed at when they was playin’. But somebody always went for a slide anyway usually. But not the Tornadoes that day. I kicked the ball really good twice, and Stew made a triple play. Even James, who don’t always like to play, he even played with us that day, and caught the ball pretty good too. That was good, cause he don’t always know how to catch it. Usually he remembers, but some days he gets confused, even though he’s smart, and he can’t get his arms up right. He says it’s cause they get doses wrong sometimes and make him more clumsy than they’re supposed to. I don’t know, but I know he caught it that day, which makes him in a good mood. And I liked that, cause he was my friend.
But so because of how the Tornadoes won, I was really happy. And we was all clappin’ each other on the back and stuff when we was on the way to taking showers to get ready for supper. Don’t laugh when I say shower. It wasn’t like that. Guys is always givin’ me a hard time and makin’ jokes when they hear where I come from, but I never saw nothing like that happen in the shower. It was pretty much just like when you was a kid and had to go to school gym class. I’m not sayin’ that there wasn’t guys who wanted to have sex and stuff. And maybe they did. Some guys were ignorant and talked about all kinds of weird dirty stuff. I’m just saying, I never saw it, and I never saw nothing funny happen in the shower, that’s all. So don’t be givin’ me a hard time about dropping’ soap or whatever. And anyway, that day cause we won we was just all happy, like I said.
But then when we were back in our holes before it was time for supper, is when I really knew something weird was gonna happen. Up to that point, besides the chocolate milk, it had been a pretty normal day I guess.
They normally would give us dinner at the same time every day, except on Christmas, which was how you knew when it was Christmas. But every other day of a year, it got to where you’d know, because your tummy would start rumbling and you’d get hungry just a few minutes before the doors and the gates would open to let you go up the tunnel into the Caf.
But on that day, just after my stomach started telling me it was time for supper, instead of the doors sliding open, the screens all came down. Normally, they didn’t have to bring the screens down unless some guys was actin’ up or trying to start a fight somewhere or something. But that day everything was good, as far as I knew, so it didn’t make no sense when they lowered down the screens.
You probably don’t know about the screens, but they was made of some kinda hard plastic. They made it to where you couldn’t see or hear anything happening outside your own hole. I didn’t ever like ‘em because they made it really lonely, and a little bit scary in there, like you didn’t know you weren’t the only person alive anymore. Or maybe you’d start thinkin’ about how they might not ever open the screens again, so you’d never see your friends. They made it dark and lonely in your hole whenever the screens came down, so I didn’t like em.
So when the screen came down on Tuesday in July, I thought maybe there must be a fight or something that just nobody told me was gonna happen. Usually you’d know a long time before if somebody was gonna fight. Everybody knew, cause whoever it was would stop eatin’ for a few days to where they could get their strength back. Then whoever they were gonna fight would find out and they’d stop eatin’ too, and just hide the food in their pants, so they could fool the toilet later. So then everybody’d know two guys was gonna fight, and you could be ready for the screens to come down.
But like I said, this time didn’t nobody seem like they was gettin’ ready to fight, so I was real surprised when the screens came down. You’d think they might have made a big loud noise, like some rusty cage door in an old movie or something. But they were real quiet. Just a little woosh that you couldn’t barely hear. Besides us fellas, there really wasn’t too much that made noise in there. Not like here. It was a pretty quiet place, I guess.
But so the screen came down, and it got real dark in my hole, and I waited a while for it to come back up, like I always do. And then I started to get a little worried, and I started to get a little scared that maybe there wasn’t anybody else out there anymore.
Whenever I get lonely or scared, since I was a little kid I got a song I think about. Okay, well, I sing it real quiet to where only I can hear it. I ain’t gonna sing it out loud to you, cause I’d be embarrassed. But so this time I started to kinda whisper the song to myself, and I sang it a whole bunch of times. And I tried to think about how good I kicked the ball, and how Stew said I was a natural. But the screen stayed down a really long time, and I think maybe I was really scared, cause I sang the song a lot, and then I fell asleep, which I don’t ever do except at the time when you’re supposed to.
When I woke up, it was cause the screen was open, and my door was open, and there was two guys I didn’t know looking at me. They was both dressed real nice, in really shiny boots and tan clothes and hats, and they both had black sticks strapped to their legs. I didn’t know who they were, and they were just looking at me, making me scared, and then I heard a voice I knew.
“This is a good one. Take him.”
It was Guard Salazar, who talks to us over the speakers sometimes. I knew his name, cause he would introduce himself on mornings sometimes and say, “This is Salazar, rise and shine, amigos!” At first I couldn’t see him, but then I saw he was standing behind the two big men with boots.
I was a little surprised when I saw him, cause he always had such a big voice I thought he was probably a really huge guy, but he wasn’t. He was really small, littler than James is even. He had on a blue uniform suit, and a mustache, and he looked about as scared as I felt.
So then before I could say hello to him, which I wasn’t sure I was supposed to do anyway, the two big guys reached down like there were gonna grab me and one said, “Stand up.”
And so I stood up, and they got me to come out of my hole, and I could see all the way up the row that most of the screens were down, but that some of them were open, and that there were other guys in tan suits and black boots getting other guys to come out. I didn’t see anyone on the Tornadoes, and most of the guys were ones I didn’t really know too good.
I did notice though that most of the guys they were pullin’ out were black guys. I wasn’t a black guy, at least not really. Guys made fun of me sometimes cause they said I was so much a everything that I wasn’t nothing at all. But that never made no sense to me. If you’re a little bit of everything don’t that make you more like everybody? But most guys there was Mexicans or black dudes and they stuck together. Like me and Stew and James was the only three guys on the Tornadoes who wasn’t black. But that didn’t never matter any to me though. Cause my mother also told me it don’t matter what people look like on the outside and you should never be mean to anyone just cause of how they look. It’s like with those girls on the calendar. Just cause you look a certain way, like if you’re pretty, don’t mean you don’t have to be useful too. It’s like that, is what she meant. So then it was pretty weird how they were pullin’ out mostly black guys.
But I didn’t say nothing. I just walked in front of the two big guys, listening to their boots. I remember that I was kinda thinkin’ how great it would be if I could get boots like that, and you could hear my feet walking big down the row like that. I guess I sure got em now, don’t I?
So I was a little afraid, but I wasn’t at the same time, cause I thought if Guard Salazar said I was a good one, then they wasn’t gonna do anything too bad to me. I guess maybe I was kinda right and kinda wrong.
These two guys took me all the way down past the gym and the Caf to a place in a wall where I didn’t ever see a door before. But there was an open door there now. And they took me through it and up a hallway, kinda like one I think I remember from when they put me down in there a long time ago. And they took me into a room that was like an office, with a desk and everything.
There were a bunch of men in the room, and most of them were dressed like the two guys who came to get me. I figured out that they was soldiers, cause they was standing up real straight, like at attention. There was one guy sitting at the desk and he said, “thank you” to Guard Salazar. Then Guard Salazar turned and walked off without ever looking at me once and I didn’t ever see him again since.
The man behind the desk said to me, “do you know why you’re here?”
And I said, “Yes sir, cause I done something wrong.”
And he said, “No, son, I mean, do you know why you’re here today?”
And I said, “No, sir. I don’t think there was a fight, sir.”
And he gave me a weird look and kinda sad and then he said, “Son, there is a fight, and it’s a really important one, but it’s a long way from here. Now what I’d like to know is, will you help us with this fight?”
And I kinda looked down at my feet and thought about how much I’d like to have the shiny boots, but then I said, “Sir, I’m not supposed to be fightin’.”
And he said, “Well, that’s different now. Son, we’d like you to join the army. If you accept, the remainder of your sentence will be pardoned upon fulfilling your tenure conditions.”
I didn’t understand, and I was getting nervous, cause I thought maybe he thought I was gonna try to fight someone, and I wasn’t. So I didn’t say nothing for a minute, and I thought some of the other men in the room were mad at me.
And then he said, “Son, will you join the US Army and help us fight the Terrorists?”
And I wanted to help him so they wouldn’t be mad at me so I said yes.
Maybe if anyone is interested I'll write more of this one some day. But it won't be for Vic.