Madeleine Ritzker_priorities_1

Priorities 

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“What’s the first thing you’re going to do?”

The kid is new. It’s been two days.

“I can’t wait to drive again, you know?” He says. “I miss driving. That freedom. You know?”

He does push-ups every hour. Four reps of 25. I’m not sure if that’s impressive or not. I’m not sure if he’s trying to impress me.

“I’ve got a Mustang,” he says. “’82. 3.3 inline 6 cylinder. GT. My brother has it. For now.”

He’s pacing back and forth across the cell. Sometimes he swings his arms wide. He’s taller than me and takes up a lot of space when his wingspan is full.

“Used to take it to local shows, with my dad. Got a lot of attention. Won a few.”

He’s got his sleeves rolled up to the elbow and his forearms are covered in tattoos. Fresh colour, new ink. I can’t quite make them out, but I think I see a koi fish. Maybe a tiger. They blur as he swings, back and forth.

“It was his car. Gave it to me for my 18th birthday.”

He was impressed with the gym facilities. Complained about the TV in the communal room, but only to me. I’ve seen him eat. He’s curious, but polite. He looks like he’s waiting for someone to take his rice pudding. He looks like he would be happy not to put up a fight.

“I drove it here. With my mom and my brother. Parked it out front. Took a selfie. Got to try to keep it light, you know?”

The very first night he shook my hand, told me his name and said it was armed robbery, 18 months. He would’ve shared the details, if I’d asked. I wondered if he’d googled ‘how to introduce yourself’.

“They’re upset. We tried to fight it. My lawyer was convinced they’d do an appeal. Took ages. Corruption and stuff. The system, a joke. But you already know that, I don’t need to tell you.”

He’s moving his head from side to side, stretching his neck. I try to imagine him in a hoodie, with his hands in his pockets, storming off the sidewalk towards fluorescent lights. Shouting something, shocked faces: is this really happening right now?

“Won’t be too bad though. Get some time to study, maybe finish my diploma. Silver lining, my mom said that. They said something about early parole if I can do it, I don’t know if they’ll follow through. Always liked history, though. Maybe I’ll finish it.”

He catches my eye, over the top of my book. He stops pacing, stretches, wanders towards the window.

“Sorry, shouldn’t pace. Bad habit. Drive yourself crazy in here. Walls closing in an stuff. Better to keep busy, keep your mind busy,” he nods towards the books on the desk. “Reading.”

Pizza,” I say. “When I get out. First thing I’ll do. Order a pizza.”

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Madeleine Ritzker is a Canadian-German living in the UK who wishes she was as well-travelled as she sounds. She has studied creative writing, history and English lit at university and one day hopes to combine the three in some sort of earth-shattering way, but for now she is quite happy to write the odd story in the hopes of reaching an audience wider than that of her two highly critical dogs.

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