Surviving Six Shooter

I was sent from the Glendale jail down to the L.A. Twin Towers, the Los Angeles County Jail for those with medicinal needs. I was Bipolar and on 14 prescription meds including two strong anti-psychotics. LAC was the only place that could handle someone like me.

Fifteen hours of processing time later, I was in my cell block and already two confrontations with Six Shooter, a massive Crip from the Compton/North Long Beach area, with a ‘tude. Early on he and his set surrounded me, two of them 187s like him. They made sure I knew if I stepped out of line, I wouldn’t be leaving while breathing. That didn’t go down with me very well. Some have said I have an attitude problem.

There were four pay phones in the dormitory cell block (room for 32 people occupied by 67) that were usually turned off, including when we ate our delicious, healthy soaking wet packaged bologna sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner meals and during dinner the gangsters camped out at the phones, waiting for them to be turned on so they could call in their bets, hookers and hits.

Some others told me to do my calling in the mornings, but screw that — I had a right to use the phones too, so my first night there I went over to camp out at a phone myself. Turns out all four had been taken off their cradles with the phones dangling as though they were prisoners of long ago, hanging in the dead air.

To some this represented the phones having been “saved” as though we were still school children, but I only saw Six Shooter camped out at one of them so I took another chair right behind him, grabbed a phone and literally gripped it for 45 minutes so I could call my pal when the guards turned the phones back on.

Talk about griping, that set sauntered over and one said “Man, can’t you see someone’s saving these phones?”

I looked at them and could only say “nope.”

Six Shooter started giving me crap, making threats, his 187-wrist band waving in the air as he gesticulated. I leaned toward him and whispered “Dude, you may be bigger and tougher than me, I don’t know, but I do know you like to sleep a lot on your cot, and it probably wouldn’t take someone much time or effort to freaking jam their thumbs into your eye sockets while you doze, so you think about that motherfucker. I’m staying here to make this call. You know where to find me if you gotta problem with that.”

He was practically breathing fire after that little scene that had witnessed, but who cares, eh? I might end up dead, but you do what you must. Besides, logically his set would kill me in less than five minutes if I got to him anyway and I think we all knew that.

I’m not sure if they didn’t mess with me after that because they were scared (I doubt it) or if they thought I was suicidal and simultaneously seriously mental. I didn’t care what people thought as long as they left me alone. I’d mixed with tougher and I was the one still standing.

Things remained in a type of stasis for the next couple of days. You never knew when something would go down, so you had to watch your back and keep a low profile. I got to know a couple of Latinos who lived near me, as well as the biggest damn muscle-bound weightlifting 187 in the dorm, and we became pals by talking about college football. (And my giving him some betting tips.)

When it was finally my time to leave for other pastures and the powers that be called for me, I yelled out “Hagland Walking Sir,” grabbed my few things and took off while not bothering to say goodbye to most anyone, especially that damn blowhard and his set.

Mary was in her car out on the street there at 3 am, engine running. The street was well lit, but I still felt bad about having her come all the way downtown to get me since she had to go to work in a few hours. But it was damn good to get home. I was taking a small vacation before I went back to work with Mary while hoping none of the others had missed me or knew anything.

They didn’t. Small favors…




Scott C. Holstad has authored 50+ books & has appeared in the Minnesota Review, Exquisite Corpse, Chiron Review, Southern Review, Kerouac Connection, Pulsar, Ginosko Literary Journal, Gangan Verlag, Santa Clara Review & Poetry Ireland Review. He lives in Gettysburg PA; his website: