Category Archives: Tripp Nobles

The Screaming Side

“They scream at midnight.”

+++++We stood on the north tower catwalk that overlooked the yard. This was my first time pulling the night shift.

+++++“We used to leave on lights to quiet them. That stopped working so, we shined spotlights at them two or three times, and they would stop. But, that stopped working too.”

+++++The screaming sounded horrible. It was more like shrieking the way it echoed out into the yard. It made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end, and I stepped closer to my co-worker which brought little comfort. But, little was better than none.

+++++“What do we do now? Does nothing work?” I asked, needing to keep the conversation going. The melancholy he’d fallen into was unnerving, and I feared I may soon begin screaming as well.

+++++“We have new methods. They’re extreme, so we don’t employ them often.” He looked me over, likely seeing fear in my eyes. “You’re safe on the tower.”

+++++I believed this was an attempt to be reassuring. It failed. He pointed to the door set in the stone wall of the main building.

+++++“That’s half-inch steel. It’s the same as the door on this tower. Even if they escaped their cells, they’d have to breach those doors.”

+++++Thinking of our gun storage locker inside the tower brought me a modicum of comfort and helped me regain a bit of confidence.

+++++“What do you mean ‘extreme’?”

+++++“You should know we understand they’re sick, all here because they are insane and can’t control the way they are. We aren’t cruel people.” He spoke slowly, hoping I felt the weight his burden.

+++++“You seem nice enough.”

+++++He shrugged and went inside the tower. I was relieved to go into the light and warmth of the small office and absolutely delighted when he closed the door, muffling the chilling sounds outside. I took a seat while he poured two cups of coffee. He handed one to me and sat in the only other chair.

+++++Taking a sip of his coffee and a deep breath, he told me of other methods used inside to quiet our charges. These included the fire hose, straitjackets, and solitary confinement. At times, tempers flared, and attendants got physical, which only further agitated the inmates.

+++++While he told these stories, it dawned on me; he hadn’t explained ‘extreme’. My stomach turned sour. I was sorry I had asked, as he had yet to get to what worked.

+++++“We take turns working out here, those of us that work nights. If we didn’t get these breaks, we’d end up on the other side of those doors. The screaming side.”

+++++He paused while he stared at his coffee, swirling it. I held my own cup firmly with both hands, seeing what in his face? Fear? Regret? I just wanted to finish out this night and sleep with the nightmares I knew would come in the morning. Yet, I remained silent with a morbid curiosity I couldn’t shake, willing him to tell his secrets.

+++++“One night, they were in full swing. A symphony of wails that would’ve made Lucifer himself, stand up and testify. One of the guards, drug an inmate out of their cell to the middle of the floor. He put him on his knees and pressed a box cutter to his throat. They continued to scream, becoming even louder until he… Let’s just say, that inmate went silent, and so did the rest.” Staring into his coffee, he seemed to watch the events of that night play out in the bottom of that cup.

+++++“Everyone was quiet after that. Silence in the halls and the yard. After one month passed, the screaming started back.” He sipped his coffee. “We tried all the old tricks again and again before we realized what worked. So, we…. repeated the action of that night. It worked. But, only for one month.”

+++++“You don’t do it every month though. They’re screaming tonight.” I cocked my head towards the asylum.

+++++“Tomorrow night, we will make it quiet again.”

+++++“I work tomorrow night. On the inside.”

+++++“Yes, you do. On the screaming side.”

Blackjack Creek

“Those boys are mean as snakes and shifty as cats.” Ethyl said to the ladies in the beauty shop as she watched three young men ride slowly through town in a lifted-up truck.

+++++“We all know that,” Malvie said, waiting for her turn under the dryer. “Now get away from that window before they see you.”

+++++Ethyl walked back towards the chairs arranged around a wooden coffee table piled high with magazines. She could hear the roar from a truck’s exhaust as it reached the end of Main Street and sped off. She sympathized for whomever they were after. Those boys were the sons of Lucius Doherty, who spent most his life in and out of prison. She shuddered at the thought of what those boys had been through or had been witness to. They were meaner now than their dad had ever been. The rumor was they killed him. Ethyl believed it too. The middle boy was just released from jail himself for rape.

+++++“Mrs. Malvie, I’m ready for you.”

+++++Malvie swatted Ethyl with a magazine as she walked past her to the beautician’s chair. That put the color back in her cheeks.


+++++“How was that pussy in prison, Floyd?” The youngest of the three, Gene, asked his brother as they cruised down Main.

+++++“Boys scream just like girls do when you ain’t asking.” Floyd poked Gene in the belly and they both laughed.  They were looking for the girl Floyd got locked up over’s kin. She left town but her brother was around and they planned to make shit right on him.

+++++Edwin scanned the shops. He was the oldest. He didn’t have the luxury of behaving like a child when his brothers did. Being the man of the family, it fell on him to get retaliation for that little bitch testifying. If he didn’t, people would lose fear. Losing fear meant losing respect, and he’d be damned if any of these motherfuckers around here didn’t show them respect. They didn’t find the boy in town, so, Edwin gassed the truck toward the girl’s home.


+++++Lowell walked to the mailbox. His momma was upset with him for getting muddy playing in the creek that morning. He was upset with her for not letting him go into town and buy a new book. He loved school, so summers were painful. He’d spend most of his time reading until school started back. He’d be a freshman this year and he was excited about learning French. If he could speak French, he might could finally charm Leslie Crosby into going steady.

+++++Lowell had just reached the end of the driveway when he heard the truck coming up the road. He tried to run but the brothers jumped out and were on him before he could take two steps. He screamed for his mother right before Edwin cold-cocked him and threw him in the bed of the truck. They were out of sight by the time Lowell’s mother stepped out on to the porch, she could’ve sworn she’d heard her sweet boy calling.

+++++They took the kid back to their father’s place and pulled him out of the bed just as he was coming to.

+++++Lowell was crying and pleading while they dragged him to the deep end of the creek that separated the two Doherty family properties. At the edge of the bank, all three of them beat the boy into a ball on the ground. Lowell didn’t want to die. He covered his face and waited for them to wind down. He knew Blackjack creek better than anyone. They finally stopped beating on him long enough to pull out a pack of smokes. They all lit up while they talked about how Lowell was going to meet their father at the bottom of that creek.

+++++Lowell saw his chance so he took it. He jumped up and ran. The brothers dropped their cigarettes and ran after him. He couldn’t have been more than fifty feet in front of them. Lowell saw the trail he was looking for and took it. Right where the trail turned wide and sandy, he bolted into the woods. He dodged and weaved his way through the trees and then dropped back onto the main path. The Doherty boys saw him and ran straight towards him. Suddenly they stopped.

+++++Lowell stopped too.

+++++He turned around and watched all three of those brothers cuss and struggle to free themselves from the quicksand. Lowell smiled. He knew Blackjack Creek better than anyone.

+++++Once nothing showed of the brothers except a little hair that hadn’t been pulled under, Lowell crossed the creek and started home. He couldn’t wait for Leslie Crosby to hear him speak French.