I watched him, walking with his head down, eyes downcast, never even moving his arms when he walked. He looked like a man with the weight of the world on his bony shoulders, the clothes issued when he arrived sagging like there was nothing to fill them.

I asked for his ID, wanting to remember to check his file, and see what his crime was. He looked like one of those old dogs that had been chained to a doghouse with a too short chain, then kicked time and again by a frustrated teenager. He barely raised his chin up, and stared into a space somewhere over my shoulder, and I nearly turned and looked to see what he was looking at, then stood a little taller before taking the identification he held out.

I repeated his name, reading it from the card, setting it in my mind before flipping my wrist and handing it back with a snap. He seemed to shrink a little more as he held his hand out and took it, sliding it back into the only pocket he had on his prison-issue white shirt.

“You’re new to the system, aren’t you? Got a recent issued number.” I tilted my head back to look through the bottom of my bifocals. “How long is your sentence?”

He mumbled, eyes still looking to a spot behind me, and I again felt like there was someone there, resisting again the urge to take a quick peek over my shoulder.

“What? Speak up! And look at me when I’m talking to you, Dirkson! How many years you in for?” I tried to project that authority I was used to throwing around.

“Two years, boss lady.” This time, a little louder, but still I could barely hear him.

With a little smile, I acknowledged him. Two years. His crime wasn’t as bad as many I had run across, not with two years. Most inmates could do that, as they said, “standing on their head”.

I pointed at his cell, and with a nod of my head, said “Go on. I was just checking your name.”

He shuffled from one foot to another, like he couldn’t decide which foot to start off with. Finally, he sighed, and turned to walk away.

I couldn’t resist. I had to ask.

“What are you in for, Dirkson?”

He glanced back towards that spot over my shoulder.

“What difference does it make? I’m guilty.”


He might not make it.

His birth year was 1930.


Debbie Irwin

Odessa, United States

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Artist's Description

An encounter with a new addition to TDCJ.
Almost fiction, almost non fiction…

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