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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Blindsided

But first, a note from the admin:

A heartfelt thanks to all who visit Minutes Before Six each week and to those of you who have taken the time to leave thoughtful comments on last week’s post, The Kindness of Strangers. In response to remarks about the black background/white print being hard to read, I’ve updated our template.  Please let me know if this is better (or worse) than before. I have forwarded your comments on to the contributors and will continue to do so as comments come in. In turn, I will share with you any thoughts that the writers send back (this may take a few weeks).

Comments on MB6 are moderated.  This means they are reviewed before being posted publically.  Critical comments about writing and art, the look and feel of the web site, or alternate points of view stated respectfully are welcomed and encouraged.  But I will not publish negative comments leveled at individual contributors.

I was once the target of a violent attack and I understand fully what it feels like to be a victim.  I devote a great deal of time, energy and resources to this project as an unpaid volunteer (as do all MB6 contributors and admins) because it gives me the chance to be part of a positive solution to an issue that negatively affected my life. It is my choice as a victim and a volunteer to refuse to promote comments filled with hate and negativity.  If you wish to send such messages, then you will have to contact the contributors directly yourself or find another web site to share your views.  There are plenty of them out there.  MB6 is not the right place for you.  In addition, regardless of content, I’m not going to publish any more comments that address Thomas Whitaker as “Bart.”  I don’t understand your point in doing this and it’s unclear whether you even read his writings because if you did, you’d know he hasn’t used that name in years.  It feels like you are trying to provoke something negative and I’m not going to participate with you in that effort.  If you’d like to discuss this or anything else with me, send an email to dina@minutesbeforesix.com because after today I’m not going to tackle such matters in the comments section or sidetrack the weekly essays with preambles.

Several insightful comments containing questions for the writers were emailed to me privately this week.  I’m willing to pass these along or to post them for you, but please specify which you’d prefer when you send them.

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Sincerely,

Dina Milito


Blindsided
By Michael Wayne Hunter

Embracing mid-morning March sun, gentle warmth caressing, I contentedly ambled ´round and ´round the exercise yard´s asphalt walk track while watching busted men playing hoops, soccer, or just like me enjoying a tranquil day. As I strolled, I absently tried and failed to calculate the miles walked, the shoes worn through logging lap after lap during my eleven year Pleasant Valley Prison chapter of my thirty-three locked years.

My annual review was due any day, my game plan was to transfer south to San Diego out of the heat and smog of California´s Central Valley.

Passing the handball wall for the fourth or fifth time, I idly decided to get in at least one more quarter mile lap before returning my somewhat pudgy fifty-something body back to my desk in the program office where I was the captain´s clerk.

Sensing rather than seeing movement to my left, I started to flick my eyes when a crushing blow hammered the left side of my nose, knocking off my glasses. Off balance, half falling, I caught myself with my right hand and left knee, cutting both on the sharp, jagged edge of the asphalt.

“I´m getting old,” flashed through my cranium, as my eyes dazedly focused on my twenty-something assailant. “No way that should´ve hurt that much!”

A second blow caught me just above my left eye.

Lurching forward, I awkwardly grappled with my attacker who broke free and fled.

Shakily, eyes dimmed from blood, I groped on the ground for my glasses, clutched, and stumbled toward my office.

“What the hell?!” a yard guard blurted as I approached the door.

Walking past without answering, I went to the janitor´s room and blotted my face with a rag which almost instantly soaked through. Collapsing onto a chair, I hazily noted my shoes were blood spattered. Fearing they´d be taken as evidence and I´d never get them back, sixty dollars gone, I gave up on my face and cleaned my shoes. Blood continued to river soaking my blue shirt.

Moments later, two guards showed, took photos of my face, and gaffled me to the Correctional Treatment Center.

Chained, locked inside a telephone booth-sized cage, my vision grayed and I feared I´d fall out.

The watch commander who I had worked for several years when he was assigned to my facility asked me what happened.

“Really not sure.”

Escorted to the triage examination room, I saw myself in a mirror. My face was a mask of blood, the left side of my nose was gone, chunked off like a split log.

“Were you hit by a baseball bat?” the doctor asked.

“Just a fist.”

“No way,” she said firmly.

What had happened? I wondered. Why?

X-rays revealed a fractured nose. After multiple sutures I was wrapped like a mummy and dropped into the hole.

Locked in another holding cage, I changed out of my bloody clothing into a jumpsuit. I could hear prisoners in cells calling to each other, “That´s Hunter, the Captain´s clerk.”

“How can they recognize me under all the bandages?” I wondered. Mystery. I had done these men´s lockup orders and now I was locked among them.

A Sergeant read me a lockup order that asserted I had battered an unidentified prisoner resulting in serious bodily injury.

Confused, I couldn´t understand how I could be charged with battery, and if the other prisoner was unidentified how could they know he had serious bodily injury. Baffling coldly, the Sergeant stated this was his house and would tolerate zero friction from me.

I nodded and the Sergeant went away.

Locked solo in a freezing cell, I was issued a fish kit that contained two indigent envelopes. I wrote some incoherent words to people in the unbarred world who care about me, shoved the envelopes outside my cell door and went unconscious.

The next few days were a blur of hours of sleep interrupted by bandage changes. The Asian woman registered nurse was extremely kind to me. She advised me to keep my injuries very clean and gave me extra bandages and ointment. She noted I was losing weight and encouraged me to eat more, but I just wasn´t hungry.

“Will I have a nose?”

“We´ll do our best,” she said pleasantly. But that wasn´t what I wanted to hear.

Two investigators pulled me from my cell, and we reviewed a grainy, blurry black and white yard surveillance video. A young man stalked my blindside, striking me twice with a gloved right hand. I didn´t recognize him.

Quizzically, I looked at the two investigators and asked, “Why does my lockup order have me as the batterer and not the victim?”
. 
The two investigators exchanged glances and then one answered, “We wondered the same thing, found out you´ve done all the lockup orders for the past few years since you were…unavailable, the Lieutenant wrote it himself and…” his voice trailed away.

“He just cut and pasted on his computer from old orders.” I finished the sentence.

“Yeah, he messed it up. You´ll get a new one.”

Not only lockup orders, notice of unusual incident reports, who is doing my work?! I worried about the paper flow for a moment. Shrugging, I realized it wasn´t my work anymore. That part of my life was over.

“You´re not going to be allowed back on the facility,” the other investigator stated flatly, confirming my thought. “Where do you want to transfer?”

“South to Donovan in San Diego.”

“Fine,” he nodded and wrote it down. “We received multiple kites saying a clique wanted you removed from your position, so they could get in a new captain´s clerk, one they could control. We hit their houses and found these,” he showed me a pair of gloves with metal sewn in pockets across the knuckles. The gloves were spotted dull red with my blood. “We figure it´s one of the two guys in the cell, but the video wasn´t good enough to ID him. Can you pick him out?”

The investigator laid a six-pack of photos from ID cards on the table. I looked them over and shook my head.

“He´s not there?”

“I don´t know. Maybe. I just can´t ID him.”

“Fuck the prison code of silence,” the other investigator said harshly. “Pick him out.”

I never saw the guy until after I was hit on the nose with a fist inside metal gloves. My glasses had been knocked off, my eyes filling with blood, and I had been dazed and pumped with fight or flight adrenaline. I could not ID him. Oddly enough, I was mildly grateful it hadn´t been worse. The blurry video clearly showed I´d been slipping, I allowed someone to creep on me. If he´d come with a sharpened, metal flat and stabbed me in my blindside, I´d be done.

I shook my head. Interview over.

Day thirteen, two guards came to my cell and asked, “Are your stitches out?”

“Yes. Yesterday. Why?”

“You´re transferring to Sierra Conservation Center.”

“Jamestown?”

They nodded.

Not five hours south to San Diego, but two hours north into the foothills of the California Gold Rush country, but out of the heat and smog of the valley.

“Let´s go.”

Chained, escorted to a van, we motored over to receiving and release to pick up my property. The shoes I had cleaned of blood were in the box.

I thought we were gone, but we stopped again at the correctional treatment center.

My registered nurse weighed me, ten pounds lost in thirteen days. She took off the bandages on my face to study me, and I could see in the mirror although my nose was deeply scabbed, it was mostly whole again. I suspected I´d be scarred, but was grateful to have a nose again.

“I shouldn’t let you go yet,” she said softly, thoughtfully. “But maybe your weight loss will stop if you´re out of the lockup unit. Do you want to go?”

“Absolutely.”

Off I went to see what would come next.


-The End-

Michael Hunter C83600
Sierra Conservation Center
5150 O'Byrnes Ferry Road 3C-149L
Jamestown, CA 95327

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

The black background IS better! When the backround is light and the letters are dark - it leads to severe glow from the screen and eyes start to ache soon. Why don't you make survey to find out what suits the majority, not just a couple of readers?

Anonymous said...

Glad to see michael hunter back on mbs.black background is better

Anonymous said...

Wow, Michael. I never cease to be amazed at the cowardice of some people. I know prison is a bad place, but the man didn't even have the decency to approach you like a man. Took a swing at you from the blind, for what? What can they gain by having someone they can "control" in that position? Favors? Better housing? I guess I don't understand the motivation for such a coward type attack. Glad you're doing better. -Ken (TX)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the change in background color; the web pages now make for easier reading.

SuzyQ said...

It's crazy that even with surveillance footage they're allowed to write up paperwork stating he's the aggressor. At least he's out of there. That has to be a risky job, given that one is writing up the papers / charges for their own (often very violent) peers. I think he's better off away from those who knew him as the paper-writer.

I agree about the background - I much preferred black as it's not near as harsh on the eyes. A survey might be better to see what the majority thinks.

Erika said...

I am sorry to hear you went through that experience and appreciate you being willing to share it. The politics of incarceration are fascinating and scary to me. I do not think I could make it. I hope you are somewhere less hostile, where you can take in the sunshine in peace.

sasmedj said...

I found your story very interesting. Thank you for sharing. I agree about the background change. Very hard to read.

Anonymous said...

I guess I was one of the few who actually liked the layout when it was black! But this is fine also.

I always look forward to Michael Hunter's writing. He is always interesting and does a great job of putting you inside he Walls.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the layout change! It really is much easier to read!

I'm glad to see another piece from Michael. Out of all the authors on MB6, his works are my favorite. I've re-read his stories a few times over the years. I never commented though because...I'm not really sure why. Mostly because I read MB6 on my phone when I've got some downtime at work and think "oh, I'll leave a comment when I get home" but I ended up forgetting.

Michael has a very "real" feeling to his writing. That probably doesn't make much sense lol. What I mean to say, I suppose, is he has an engaging narrative style. It's informative- letting us readers know what its like inside the prison walls- yet at the same time entertaining. He usually manages to interject a bit of wit and humor, along with observations on life/ the human condition, into his stories, even when dealing with very serious/dark/sad matters. That makes them a little more relateable. A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down and all that.

For this entry, I thank Michael for writing again and hope he is well. I was very happy and surprised to see another entry from him! I hope some time in the future, he has the time and inspiration to write some more.

feministe said...

Michael is the best writer on MB6. More from him, please.