On Wednesdays, Delores, from Under The Porch Light, has a word challenge meme which she calls “Words for Wednesday”.
She puts up a selection of six words which we then use in a short story, or a poem.
I’m hopeless at poetry so I always do a story.
It’s a fun challenge…why not join in?
Delores is taking a break from the challenge for a few weeks, so I’ll be putting up a piece (or six) of my own that I wrote without Delores’s words. I hope I haven’t already featured these.
Here is my story:
Oliver Machenko was a cook, working in the kitchen of the low security prison halfway up the state.
He'd worked his way up from maximum security, with multiple stays in solitary confinement, to regular prison, now here he was in a minimum security facility, little more than a halfway house really.
The kitchen was his domain, his menus, his methods, his rules. Oliver was a trusted man now. New inmates, first offenders who were in for rehabilitation were taken under his wing and taught to cook. Nothing fancy, certainly not gourmet high-end restaurant meals, but plain cooking that would possibly help a young man turn his ways around and go straight. The sort of cooking that could get a man a position as a short-order cook in a diner perhaps.
Not all the newbies were interested or had a flair for cooking, but most seemed grateful for the chance to learn how to make a decent pancake, scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes with sausages and a good onion gravy. Flipping burgers while keeping an eye on the bacon and stirring the onions so they didn't burn...any young man who learned that within a week or three was considered a cook by Oliver. And of course there was coffee. A decent cup of coffee was what set a diner apart from all the rest and Oliver taught his boys well. Coffee made in Oliver's kitchen was never served lukewarm or weak.
It seemed that Oliver had finally settled down.
Twenty-five years ago, a very angry Oliver had been tried and sentenced to life imprisonment for the brutal murder of his young pregnant girlfriend and her baby. Margot had been found by him in a dark side street with her belly slashed open and the child laid on her chest to die with her. As he'd held her dead body and become covered in blood, police responding could find no evidence to indicate he hadn't been the killer and Oliver's fate was sealed. Oliver swore he hadn't done it, but could give no reason for Margot being in that street alone at night. With no evidence suggesting anyone else, Oliver went to prison. The murder weapon was never found.
For five years, he took out his rage in many, many prison fights. One on one, gangs against gangs, gangs against a single inmate, Oliver was involved in all of them. Kitchen riots, fires in the cells, Oliver was there too. In those five years, Oliver had been placed in solitary confinement fourteen times, with the longest stretch being two months. He had plenty of time to think, and his final stretch in solitary saw a change in his attitude.
He quietened down, joined the prison library and worked in the voluntary education program, first completing his college education, then helping others learn to read and write. He was astounded at how many of these offenders, young and old, couldn't read or write much beyond signing their names.
In the 1980s!
Word spread throughout the prison cells pretty quickly, Oliver was no longer a fighting man. Many of the toughies jeered at him, needling him in the exercise yards, trying to get a rise out of him, but Oliver managed to avoid fighting and after a year the gang members found others to pick on and make trouble with.
Prison officers noted this and worked towards getting him transferred to a different cell in a less violent section of the prison.
Now here he was, twenty five years later, behaving himself and looking forward to a meeting with the Parole Board. Oliver wanted to be out.