Alma worked the sewing-machine needle into her palm, worrying it under her flesh with barely perceptible gestures. She felt it slide into her skin, hoping she didn’t bleed and reveal her secret to the guard, who gazed tiredly at the prisoners from her hard metal chair. The guard looked at the inmates while they worked, but she didn’t really see them. Prison put a glaze on people’s eyes, like they were looking at you through fog, like you might not be real and they didn’t care much if you were.
She tossed her short, dark hair, all attitude and went back to sewing, trying not to get sad. Pedro roamed around in her head again, smiling his sweet smile and promising her she wouldn’t get caught if she did him one little favor. Yah, like magic one tiny favor turns into five years of her life. She’d do it again in a heartbeat. Again and again, mi querida.
Alma was pretty sure the guard hadn’t seen her hide the needle, and she knew the sisters hadn’t seen a damn thing, but she wasn’t sure of old Bonnie. Today, Alma’s fourteenth day at Grimmel Hills State (but who’s counting, right?), she already knew that Bonnie Yagach was the woman who knew everything — where to get your dope, who not to piss off, when the fights were gonna start, how to stand in the shower so you didn’t get hassled — everything.
The sisters looked up from their sewing machines, both turning Alma’s way, but they didn’t see anything. Both of them were stone blind, and Alma’d heard that behind their dark glasses sat four empty eyesockets. She’d heard that their eyeballs were plucked out by the birds at their sister’s wedding. Damn, she thought, ain’t that a raw deal.
Their hands moved the cloth evenly, dexterously, pushing the fabric through their sewing machines to make perfectly straight seams. This morning the guard boasted to Alma that neither sister had ever messed up a garment. Damn. She’d had to pull stitches out twice this morning and she had perfect 20/20.
“Can you believe that letter from Cindi?” said one of the sisters in a nasal voice. The other made a rude, guttural noise.
“Who the hell does she think she is, writing to us in here and telling us she’s living happily ever after?”
“She’s always been selfish,” said the other one. “Officer Healy says she still signs her name with little hearts over the ‘I’s.”
The lunch whistle blew and the inmates put away their work. When the guard gave the order, they lined up to be escorted to the cafeteria. The sisters helped each other up, tottering like toddlers on their thick, black orthopedic shoes.
Bonnie Yagach stood behind Alma and gently touched her hand, the hand with the secret needle. Alma was saving it so she could tattoo Pedro’s name inside her skin with ballpoint pen ink, so he’d be with her forever in here like he’d be with her forever in life.
“Are you gonna squeal?” asked Alma.
“Hell no,” Bonnie whispered, “why’m I care if you end up like those two fools. They cut off their heels and toes to marry Prince Charming and look where it got ‘em. Baby, I’d never mutilate myself for no man.”
Alma looked at the stumbling sisters, bitter, crippled and blind. Her heart felt cold. She inched the needle out of her palm, depositing it on the edge of the sewing table closest to her. The guard blew a harsh tweet on the whistle and the line of convicts slowly filed out of the room.
Michelle Klein‘s written work includes “His Mother’s Son”, a pirate fantasy story published in the anthology Black Sails. Her flash fiction stories “Stolen Kiss” and “Echo” were featured in Every Day Fiction. Michelle freelances for Talisman Studios. Michelle currently resides in Media, Pennsylvania with two redheaded pirates. One is bigger than the other.
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