Wednesday, June 6, 2012


The tattoos Garcia wears and those he crafts, carry the weight, respect, menace and symbolism that a convict craves. These aren’t your everyday mini-mall, hot topic tramp stamps. These are the real shit, hard core tribal war cries; gangland affiliations, shibboleths, insignias, teardrop kill counts. These are caution codes worn by brothers with their attitude on their skin. He’s long lived in the world of thugs and kept his nose clean. He’s revered by lifers, gangsters, one-percenters, killers in the world of, shanks, shakedowns, race riots, solitary confinement; yet finds karma in his skill It’s a lucrative business but not without risk.

He picks his time, preferring to work on Dan Keyes’ shift. Dan’s a warden with a past who wears it on his full sleeve, now covered with a pale blue chambray shirt. He’d get Louis Garcia tattoo the other if he were working on the outside, but Lou‘Skinman' Garcia is a lifer with no prospect of parole for killing the bitch who two-timed him, and the man he caught her fucking in his own bed. He’d probably have got away with 20 years and good behaviour if he hadn’t used a machete to do the business.

It’s almost impossible for prison guard Dan Keyes to watch, but ever since the first paedophile found his way into the correctional protective unit, he’s been obsessed and disgusted by the preferential treatment they receive. Now another one, worse than the rest, is coming under his watch. At least most of his charges have good reason for their incarceration, but these animals deserve nothing better than castration and release into the general prison population. That, to Dan’s mind, would be justice served.

Garcia and Keyes are unlikely compadres, hardened, and unusually principled. They have a healthy respect for each other; one, the father of a dead child, victimised by a monster; the other, a monster, paying the price for the ultimate retribution.

They have built a strange alliance over the years. Keyes turns a blind eye as inmates get inked and pay for the privilege. Garcia arranges ‘favours’ without arousing suspicion.

“They’re bringing him in on the weekend,” Keyes whispers to Garcia as he finishes the intricate design on an Aryan Nation arm, “$500 in it for you, but you’ll get time in the hole.

”All good.” The tattooist nods knowingly. Between them, there is a quiet understanding.

It’s one of those stinking hot days. Brothers are in the yard seeking shade against the basketball wall, or lazing beneath one of the six elm trees lining the double razor-wire capped fence line. Even the turret guards leaned lazily against their posts. It won’t take much for tempers to fray or craziness to erupt. Only the slow accumulation of storm clouds in the distance, aching for a deluge, offers the promise of cool relief.

The tell-tale windowless van shimmers through the heat haze and causes 200 heads to turn. There are never prison transports on Sundays, this one is piquing interest.

“Hey Keyes,” The officer turns to face a heavily tattooed man,“Who they bringin’ in on a Sunday?”

The loudly spoken question attracts the attention of other inmates Keyes shrugs and leaves his post to investigate as the van draws to a halt.

“Who you got there Jonesy?” Keyes shouts, as if he doesn’t know and loud enough to draw attention from the yard.

The inmates now on their feet, fingers entwined in the cyclone fence like so many caged chimpanzees. The receiving guard gestures with a pelvic thrust and draw his baton in an arc across his own neck.

“A Chester!"

The words shear past Garcia’s ears and slam into the heads of others. A Paedophile killer is not welcome here. Keyes hates them as much as the inmates whose murmurings begin to crescendo.

The van is empty save the appearance of orange overalls. The man is shackled, hands cuffed behind his back. His bald head glowing with sweat as he glances sideways at a line of bare-chested men, peering menacingly through the wire. Tempers are exacerbated by heat, inflamed by the newcomer. The chanting begins, and the perp looks nervous as he’s pushed into reception for processing.

Keyes cringes at the memory of post mortem photographs of a sweet child abused, maimed and tossed aside like so much garbage by a sick mind controlling an insatiable body. A smiling ‘rock spider’ sitting in the processing room across from his desk, another creep crying crocodile tears for protection. All Dan can do is hope the animal is ready for some rough-housing, and he knows just the man to do it.

It takes a while to gather a willing team. Rock Spiders are protected and not easy for the general population to access. One fenegles 180 days after a brawl - time to ‘cool down’ amid the molesters and rapists, separated from the murderers and cop killers. Another, with three tattooed teardrops above his right eye, claims persecution and gang retribution. A third associate, 'needs' to escape a violent prison ‘creditor’. All viable excuses for temporary removal, all orchestrated to achieve a purpose. Garcia simply takes advantage of his alliance with Keyes. Before long, there are half a dozen of them in the protective custody wing with the“tree jumpers” and “diaper snipers.

Garcia breaks down his portable CD player, using the tracking motor and attaches it to a mechanical pen with Saran Wrap. He runs a ‘needle’ taken from a secreted wire brush in maintenance, pulls the spring out of the pen and stretches it out over a candle to straighten it. Heat has tempered it into a perfect point. He mounts the needle to the hub atop the motor and hooks the hub into a 9V battery. From his pocket, he retrieves a vial of black ink; home-made with burned down baby oil.

He smiles at his accomplices, “More permanent, better quality”, then glares at the terrified man on the floor.“We’re gonna do you up real nice .

Four others pin the new inmate down in a Jesus-like pose. He’s flat on his back, mouth gagged and head steadied crushingly between a giant’s knees. Only the fear and, this time, real tears betray his futile resistance. The creep can’t move. The quiet whir of the tattoo gun is ignored by Keyes who’s keeping watch. Garcia sets to work. This time there’s no fineline, no feathery fill, no antiseptic or gentle cleanse as the blood melds with salty tears. Just the deep penetration of an unsterilised and blackened needle, and silent screams of pain.

After the creep's release, not even the bar code he professionally tattooed over the engraved “Rapist” on his forehead fully hides the word. He’s taken to wearing his hair long and shadowing his face with a baseball cap. He closes his eyes when he strips to shower. Even the mirror image of the profanities of his crimes tattooed across his chest and back revolt him. He looks away when he urinates, the black letters on his penis a reminder to always keep it in his pants.

Garcia is almost finished with a teardrop tattoo when Keyes whispers in his ear. “Another one tomorrow, sure you want another 90 in the hole?”

The big Latino sneers, “Got nothin’ but time Keyes, nothing but time!"

Posted for The Tenth Daughter of Memory "Tattoos and Teardrops"


  1. wows, you must have done a bit of research, or you know somebody. Bit of higglety grammer in there, but that's sort of become your trademark, eh?

  2. I actually think your writing is cleaner with fewer "technical' issues. The story is a familiar one here in the States, except that the pedophile was treated more gently in your story. Over here, he probably would have been dead. Pedophiles are real targets. You told the story well, and your "inside knowledge" does make one wonder. Research, or a checkered past? :-)

  3. I like. I felt a tad confused with some of the lingo, but you know, that's 'cause of your knowledge thanks to your chequered past :P

  4. It gets a bit messy towards the end... jumbly. Grammar seems better, but the narrative seems looser. I kinda like it... but I kinda don't.

  5. Thanks for the information... I really love your blog posts... specially those on Helping Organisations

  6. I like your lists, your concatenations, your itemization - and the rhythm. Shibboleth I like too - adds a certain Old Testament je ne sais quoi.
    Like Pattiken I wondered about the punishment meted out to the prisoner - the painful tattooing. It did not seem to match the rage. However, on the other hand, I guess it's less likely that the prison officer would be able to orchestrate killings or maimings for a protracted period - so perhaps your tattooing is in fact a more realistic option.

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