“Good shot, Bro! I’ll pay you the two squares tomorrow,” Tom Henry yelled out the cell bars. A ripple of laughter spread throughout the cell house. I looked up from my typing to see an officer standing on One Gallery, rubbing his scalp, and staring at a milk carton on the floor. Tom Henry was laughing.
“What happened?” I asked.
“That officer was just minding his own business when that milk carton hit him right on top of his head.”
Just then the officer himself joined the laughter, looked up at Tom Henry, nodded, as if to say, “good one,” and continued his walk.
Flying milk cartons were not that rare in the cell house in Menard. Milk was served every day, at least once, in individual cartons, brought to the cells by officers during deadlocks. Sometimes they weren’t drunk. Perhaps the inmate was asleep and it got warm. Often they were already warm and starting to sour by the time they were served. Once the milks served throughout the cell house had all been sour and that had caused a riot, complete with cursing, bar rattling, and trash and debris—including human shit—thrown onto galleries.
But this evening there was no riot and they weren’t on deadlock. Some inmate from a high gallery had decided to throw a full milk carton out of his cell, through the bars on the far side of his gallery, so that it would plummet down onto the wide floor of One Gallery. They liked to watch them burst open and the milk ooze out. Often they would save old milk for just this purpose, waiting until it was semi-curdled.
This one had landed without breaking open, thanks to its fall being interrupted by a square hit upon the officer’s bald head, from which it had bounced up about a foot, still intact, then landed on the floor in front of the startled officer’s feet.
Which was when Tom Henry had yelled, “Good shot, Bro! I’ll pay you the two squares tomorrow.” He had no idea who had thrown the milk, but his quick mind had formulated the scenario moments after the milk carton’s impact. The officer, who was familiar with Tom Henry’s quick mind, nodded his acknowledgement of the witticism and moved on.
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