About The Ones Outside: A Short Story
The Ones Outside: A Short Story
Two crescent moons of sweat were fully formed underneath his armpits, soaking through a prison undershirt and the old button-up and sport jacket he’d gotten back from his personal effects. The clothes were out of style and too tight, but shopping wasn’t first on his to-do’s. He rang the doorbell again—three times now. He checked under the mat using the toes of his snakeskin cowboy boots to turn up the corners, trying to look casual. Finding nothing, he flashed a peek up and down the street and weighed the merits of going around to the back.
The neighborhood was different than he remembered. Saggy. Ten years of gravity could make a place something it wasn’t. Slowly caving roofs, cracked and sunken sidewalks—chain fences leaning over—yards yellow with dead grass, green only with weeds. It wasn’t all that dramatic. It’d be years before the drug dealers and true miscreants planted their flags, and he’d know, having patrolled enough lost sections of the city back when he stood straighter and his beard was dark as midnight. This was different. As if everything had fallen victim to a general lack of interest. Ten years had transmuted these surroundings from the meat of the middle class to little more than gristle.
He told himself not to be discouraged and realized that discouraging was the perfect word for it. He’d built up this moment to be a lonely positive in a long string of bad luck and self-induced hellscapes. God, he’d built up a lot of things, little dots of light from shore poking feeble pinholes through the constant battering of an unrelenting squall.
Untethered imaginings: Not an uncommon practice, considering where he’d been… he laughed a little as he stepped gently though the high grass toward the back of the house—worrying at all about these surroundings was a bit of joke, given what they called in court his checkered history. The phrases used by the system: A period of incarceration. Remanded to a state facility. Are you or are you not a danger to society? On and on. The phraseology of the system was as key to its survival as the walls and the bars. It was something he’d always known but understood only superficially until regressing from locking up to being locked up.