Lying on the hospital bed where he spent so much time, the man weakly raised a tattoo covered hand.

“Hey,” he greeted his grim-faced mother with a smile as she bustled through the door with a bag of groceries.

A gust of cold air blew in from the outside as she slammed the door shut behind her. The man shivered. A patchwork blanket covered his useless legs and bare chest, but his arms inked with images of dancing women, names and numbers, and marijuana leaves were left to the cold.

Managing to pull himself up onto his elbows, he peered with dark eyes at the woman he secretly referred to as ‘the warden’.

“Did you get me those cigs?” he asked.

She looked at him with disgust, “You’re going to burn yourself up one of these days, smoking the way you do.  How do you think you’re going to get out if you catch your bed on fire?”

Ignoring her question, he searched her with his eyes, curious for the first time of the day.

“There,” she pulled a pack out from her coat pocket and carelessly tossed it onto his chest.

“Make them last until the end of the week.  You know I don’t get paid again until Friday.”

Pleased to have a task ahead of him, the man began to methodically pound the pack against his palm, ensuring the tobacco was as tight as possible in each stick.

“Did you hear me?” the warden inquired, standing next to the prisoner’s bed with her thin arms crossed.

He continued to ignore her and pulled the cellophane wrapping from the pack, bracing for what was sure to come next.

“You know, if you were never into the drinking or the drugging this never would have happened to you.  You never would have gotten mixed in with that gang and shot, like they did to you.  You would be dead or in prison, if you weren’t right here in this bed.”

“Come on, mom,” he interrupted her coarsely laughing at her routine as he lit a cigarette and took a deep drag.

“No, boy, you need to hear this. I think this is God’s way of punishing you for all those bad things you did. He’s been punishing you for the past nine years,” she spitefully exclaimed.

“Don’t you think if that was the case, I’ve been punished enough?” he countered, and exhaled a mouthful of smoke.

He silently added, “And it’s only been eight years.”

2 thoughts on “What’s in a number

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