A Letter from a Appalachian Jail by John Paul Barber
Spending time in prison is the closest you’ll ever come to going on a world tour without leaving the country. You get to meet people from every corner of the globe. For a young man who’d lived in the hills of North Carolina his whole life, this was quite an experience. Until I went to prison at 19 years old, I really never knew anyone who wasn’t either an Anglo-Celtic redneck or a descendant of African slaves.
The first Jew I ever met was in the Mecklenburg County jail in Charlotte, NC. He was an actual Israeli. He was about 6 feet tall with dark wavy hair and probably weighed around 205 lbs. He’d been in jail for awhile already, awaiting trial for trafficking ecstasy. You could tell he was in very good shape, always doing push ups and pull ups. He told me his name but I couldn’t pronounce it so I just started calling him ‘Mossad.’ Mossad took a liking to me after I gave him that nickname. He was impressed that some hick like me even knew what the Mossad was. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d only heard of them about a month prior to meeting him because someone had left a Tom Clancy book in the last cell block I was in.
In this same cell block I was in with Mossad there was an old man from Texas named Charles Eagle in there with us. In the real world, he was a truck driver who also hauled marijuana for one of the Mexican drug cartels. Charles claimed he was part Injun but I don’t know if that’s true or not. All I know was he was one ugly troll of a man. He was about 5’4” tall and probably weighed around 220 lbs. He had very dry, frizzy gray hair that hung down to his shoulders. Charles looked a lot like Billy Crystal’s character in The Princess Bride.
I was a newcomer to that cell block so I’m not sure if something had happened between Charles Eagle and Mossad before I got there but they absolutely hated each other. This was a little odd because there were so few of us non-blacks in Charlotte, we all pretty much stuck together and got along fairly well. From what I saw, it was mostly Mossad who was the instigator in these conflicts. He was always belittling Charles, cursing him, and calling him names. Admittedly, Charles was a bit of a dullard and wasn’t a very likable guy, but in my opinion he didn’t deserve the kind of abuse Mossad dished out at him every day.
One day we were playing spades. Charles was my partner and a guy named Shaky from Gastonia was Mossad’s partner. Charles and me ended up losing because of a dumb mistake Charles made. I fussed at him a little but I got over it pretty quickly. But Mossad just kept raking Charles over the coals and ridiculing him for losing to such a wise card sharp as himself. If I recall correctly he called Charles a “stupid, old, broken bastard”.
Apparently this really got under Charles’ skin more than I realized. Looking back, I suppose it was the combination of losing to Mossad, the things Mossad said to him that day, and all the built up anger Charles had inside him. After every meal, certain inmates volunteered to be on the clean up crew while the rest of us went back to our individual cells. Charles decided to volunteer that day. The jailer on duty unlocked the utility closet so the clean up crew could get all the supplies they needed to clean the common areas. Charles claimed bathroom duty that day so he picked up what I call a deck brush to scrub the floors with. But he didn’t go straight to the bathroom.
Mossad should’ve been in his cell already but he was standing in front of the jailer’s desk talking to Shaky. Charles walked up behind him with that deck brush, hoisted it over his head like he was chopping wood and proceeded to wale away at the back of Mossad’s skull at least four or five times. The first blow was enough. It knocked Mossad out cold but Charles hated him so much he gave him a few extra to grow on after he was face down on the floor. And he kept screaming at him “Who’s broken now?!!!” after every strike of the deck brush.
The head of that brush was wooden and the corners were fairly sharp so it cut Mossad open in several places. I’ve honestly never seen that much blood in my life and I hope I never do again. The jailer on duty hit the panic button and the goon squad came in to haul Charles away to solitary confinement. The medics took Mossad off on a stretcher and rushed him to Carolinas Medical Center.
A few months later I got in a fight with this negro named Shorty and got sent to The Hole myself. I was reunited with old Charles Eagle once again. It was good to see him and catch up on what he’d been up to the last few months. He’d been sentenced to solitary for the rest of his time there. He also caught me up with Mossad’s status. He was still at CMC in a coma, most likely with permanent brain damage.
After I completed my 90 days in The Hole I went back to a regular cell block. Within a couple months I got in another fight and went back to The Hole again. Of course, Charles was still there. His status and Mossad’s status hadn’t changed but Charles had been informed that they were considering filing attempted murder charges on him. This time around I was serving 120 days in The Hole. One morning after I woke up, I hollered through the crack in my door at Charles but I didn’t get an answer. The jailer told me they'd released Charles from custody before dawn. He’d went home with time served.
I later learned the reason Charles got released so suddenly, was because he’d decided to testify against some of the cartel guys he used to haul for. I have no idea what ever happened to him and as far as I know, Mossad ended up serving a life sentence.
(c) 2018 John Paul Barber