I Am Ahab

Writing from Prison

by Todd Newmiller


Originally published in Newspeak, January 2008

Thursday, January 3, 2008


It was Thanksgiving and I was milling about the pod, something I rarely do. [X] asked me if I had called home already; I explained that I had, but would be doing so again later in the day.


"Yeah, I called home on Monday." He went on to explain that he wouldn’t call on the holiday, when his brother would be around. "My brother tried to enlist to go over to Vietnam. If he’d gotten in, he probably would’ve died over there and saved everyone a lot of trouble, but he was medically disqualified for service. And then, later on, he tried to become a cop, but he couldn’t qualify for that, either.


"Well, he and my brother-in-law have always been the type to look down on me for being a felon. One day I was over at my mom’s place, and the two of them (my brother and my brother-in-law) started up with the jokes. ‘What kind of bird doesn’t fly? A jailbird.’ And having a name that’s a species of bird, I didn’t take too kindly to that comment.


"I went to my truck and grabbed the revolver from under my seat, tucked it into the back of my jeans, and walked back without saying a word. My brother-in-law was sitting, resting a beer can on his knee, and I drew that gun and blasted the top right off that beer can.


"Of course, my brother-in-law got up, calling me a son of a bitch and saying he was gonna kill me. Pissed off ‘cuz he had beer and piss running down his leg. My mom come up to me, saying, ‘Give me the goddamn gun.’ And eventually I gave it to her.

"You see, my mom used to be a trick shooter. I remember seeing old movies of her riding a horse and picking off targets. She was the one that taught me how to shoot."


Thursday, January 3, 2008, Still


With longer than shoulder-length hair making its way toward grey, a long white beard, and the little, rounded nose and cherubic countenance of a gnome, he looks like a heavily-tattooed version of Santa Claus. I’ve mentioned him before. He’s killed on more than one occasion.


On Christmas Eve, he called me over to his cell, asked if I’d gotten my Christmas present yet. When I answered in the negative, he told me to take my pick. In his cell, two boxes filled with neatly packaged presents wrapped in newspaper were presented for my perusal. I selected one, thanked my unexpected benefactor for his generosity. I thought about opening the package right away, but decided I should open it in the evening, in keeping with my family’s tradition.


At the 9:15 count, I opened my Christmas present. I discovered the following: one Picante Beef Ramen soup, one Andes Peppermint Crunch Indulgence candy, one Totally Taffy candy, and one cough drop.