Terminal Island

By Daniel Mkiwa


Duwaun Johnson

I left Shiggy at his house and drove south on the Harbor Freeway, past the industrial plants and over the big green bridge to The Terminal Island Federal Correctional Institution.

They call it Terminal Island because it's really on an island. It's a man-made island, but I don't know how or why people would build an island just to hold a prison. It would make sense if the island was already there, but why go through the trouble to build a whole island? All the white people in Long Beach were afraid of the black folks escaping. When people get paranoid, they do crazy things.

I had the music pumping loud. I was trying not to stay mad at Shiggy. He was my friend for sure, but Damn. He talked like... like I should just keep George's cut.

Shiggy said the old man couldn't do nothing 'cause he was in jail. And if I thought he was going to be a problem, the Aryans would take him out for just a thousand dollars. The trick would be to talk to the right guy. And Shiggy knew which one was the right guy.

But see, Shiggy didn't understand. George wasn't just some old fool who got pinched. He was like my godfather. He was always around when I was a kid. He helped carry my Daddy's coffin. He had been like a dad to me when I was coming up.

After I got through security, I had to sit by the scratched up Plexiglas with the phone receiver. I had nothing to do but look around and wait.

The shiny grey speckled tile was clean but the room had that industrial government smell, like a library or a post office. The fluorescent bulb above me flickered. I waited. It took forever for them to bring George out to see me.

When I finally saw him, I was shocked at how bad he looked. The relaxer in his hair was wearing off making it a frizzy mess. His face was shiny and his eyes were hard and bloodshot. He looked like a homeless man.

George was one of those older guys who would always be wearing a suit, usually with a different color vest and double buttons. He always wore a suit. Now he had on one of those bright orange prison jumpsuits with a black number stenciled on the chest.

"You got my cut boy?" He said into the receiver.

"Yeah I got your cut."

"Where is it?"

"I got it."

"All fifty thousand?"

"Forty-five. Ten percent went to Shiggy"

He looked like he wanted to punch me. But that was the deal he had made. I had nothing to do with it.

"I need you to get it in here to me... a thousand at a time."

There was no way I was going to do that. Not one time and for sure not forty-five times.

"George. C'mon Man."

"Don't back-talk me." He hissed and pointed his finger at me, "I need my money in here."

"What are you going to do with money in prison? Buy cigarettes?"

His eyes bulged and he showed his yellow front teeth like a snarling animal. "You just do it, you hear me?"

George didn't trust anyone with his cash. He would rather hide it in his mattress than rely on somebody outside. He was paranoid, and when people get paranoid they do crazy things.

But he could see I wasn't going to do anything or put anything inside me just to smuggle him his money. His lips got tight and he clenched his fist. He wanted me to get Marlene to come visit him. He could get Marlene to do anything.

I couldn't believe him. Locked up behind that Plexiglas, with his hair all crazy and he tried to scare me. What did he think I was, ten years old? Why didn't he just act all nice like he used to? I could have helped him figure something out.

I told him I would talk to Marlene, and I left him sitting there holding the phone receiver.

I drove north on the Harbor Freeway, past those yellow-orange streetlights they have in Long Beach, and away from Terminal Island.

They call it Terminal Island 'cause "terminal" means the end. It means they're dead. They're over. He had at least eight years to go. I would be 26 before George would be able to get out.

And that's if he got paroled.


I couldn't even imagine being that old.

I didn't listen to any music when I drove away. I just drove, thinking about Shiggy and the Aryans.

And what forty-four thousand dollars could buy me.

Oscar Windsor-Smith oscarwindsor-smith.blogspot.com

Daniel Mkiwa, this is one fine piece of writing. You've nailed the MC's voice and character, plus the back-storey and the character of his associates and their relationships/tensions, AND you've managed to set the scenes and given us a tangible sense of place, both specifically and within society - and this all in under 1k words.

I salute you, sir.

8) scar

Debi Blood deborahblood.com

Okay, WOW. That was some brilliant writing, Mr. Mkiwa. Your character's inner voice was so real that I felt like I was sitting there in his car with him while he told me this story. Absolutely wonderful.

Chris Fries StratPlayerCJF.blogspot.com

I agree with Oscar above: this was extraordinary, Daniel. Great characterizations, smooth-as-silk flow and pacing, and compelling situations. The writing was excellent... it was perfect at pulling me into the story without a single "hey, lookit me! I'm writing!" author-istic gyration. And I damn well know that after the MC takes the cash, his inner thoughts will begin festering, and then he'll start making his own "when people get paranoid they do crazy things" weirdness. Great story!

Debi Blood deborahblood.com

I just caught that last line, "what forty-four thousand dollars could buy me". The story was remarkable before I fully realized the young narrator's decision, but that last line takes "Terminal Island" from awesome to awesomely chilling. Bravo.

stu1 http://stuartlarner.blogspot.com/

the temptation is there, but I think he'll come after you when he gets out! very convincing, and a good study of a situation without being an information dump because you've kept it all at an emotional level.

Katherine Lopez

Daniel, saw your name, had to read it, great final version of this story, I knew it would wow 'em.


This is an amazing story...

Eli Katz

Very cool story. Good, subtle twist. Took me a second to realize why it was 44 and not 45 thousand.

Nick Lewandowski http://www.cursorblink.com

I liked this. I'd like to see more stories featuring this MC.

Dan Allen http://danallenwrites.blogspot.com/

I'm coming late to the party, so I don't have anything to add except to reiterate what everybody else is saying - terrific story. I look forward to reading more of your work.

Paul Banks