What follows is my take on an old tale I heard years ago when I was a kid. Perhaps it was an Urban Legend, I can’t be sure. I just used the basic crux of the original story, all names, places and details have been created by me. Remember, this is my first attempt at true fiction so cut me a break. Hopefully, if people like this one, there will be more to follow . . .
Bobby Fallow was on the inside, doing time for the incredibly stupid crime of robbing a gas station. He was desperately in need of money so he stole a gun from an uncle, put on a dumb George W. Bush mask, and went into a BP station in a town about thirty miles from where he lived. He proceeded to scare the bejesus out of the 50-something woman working the counter and made off with a grand total of $117.74, which he immediately wasted on booze over the next three days.
Bobby’s big mistake was bragging about his haul to his friend Gary, who had the brains of a blobfish. Gary’s father used to put it this way:
“You could put that boy’s brain in a flea’s ass and it would bounce around like a BB in a boxcar.”
So yeah, dumb.
The only guy in town dumber was probably Bobby, since he made the fateful decision to tell Gary he’d knocked over a damn gas station for $117.74.
Long story short, a couple days later the local po-po showed up at Bobby’s door and led him away in handcuffs. A court appointed attorney could do nothing to help, nor did he put forth much of an effort in the process.
So, eight freaking years, maybe five if Bobby could keep his nose clean and not piss off the wrong gang banger.
For Bobby, that was five years too long. He had to get out, man.
Midway through his second year of hell, he was transferred to the prison mortuary. Yeah, guys died in prison, more than you think, especially in a facility as big as the the Louisiana State Penitentiary, also known as the Alcatraz of the South. With well over 6,000 prisoners, the facility was one of the biggest in the United States.
The idea came to Bobby early, probably in his third week working in the prison morgue. As he stood watching a hearse pull away, taking some poor soul’s body to a cemetery off prison grounds, the idea hit him like a jolt of electricity from Gruesome Gertie, the name given by inmates to the old electric chair used to execute death row inmates.
I can get in a coffin and ride right the hell out of here.
Of course, there were some obstacles to overcome, the least of which was having to endure riding for God knows how long with a dead body lying beside him.
Bobby actually tested this once, when he was alone with a freshly filled casket and before the hearse arrived. He opened the lid, took a deep breath, and crawled right in. He then closed the lid, not all the way of course because he was terrified he’d lock himself in.
The good news was he fit.
Yeah, it was creepy as hell, but any fear he had of riding with a dead body for awhile was outweighed by the thought of glorious, mind-blowing freedom.
After lying in his cell night after night, going over the details in his mind, a plan was hatched. Clearly though, he’d need help.
Henry Cartwright was the old man for whom Bobby worked in the morgue, and he was not only a lifer but a snitch. If Old Man Henry got a whiff of the plan it would over before it started.
Bobby did have a friend inside he could trust, however. That man was Benny Bajolière, a dude from Bobby’s hometown of McNary, a little town of 215 people smack-dab in the middle of Louisiana and known primarily for its Lecompte Pie Festival.
Benny worked in the prison library and brought books around to the cells, so Bobby and he always had a few minutes a couple times a week to talk and catch up. Benny was a little older and smoked like a chimney, so between the squeaky wheels and Benny’s hacking cough you could always hear him and his book cart coming.
Benny also had connections within the prison walls and could get Bobby just about anything he wanted, from cigarettes to hooch. Bobby loved the Pruno, a sort of prison wine that would make you forget, if only for a little while, that you were in the most dangerous prison in the United States.
But here was the best part about Benny – he was set for release in a two months.
Over the course of their next few visits, the details were worked out. On the first Friday after Benny’s release date, Bobby would crawl inside the last casket of the day to leave Louisiana State Penitentiary. Benny would be waiting outside, follow the hearse, and after everyone left the burial site he would wait until dark and dig up his friend.
A month before Benny was to be released he was to be transferred to a halfway house, where he would ostensibly be prepared to ease back into society. After that he’d be officially released, and the first Friday thereafter he’d aid Bobby in his escape from the hell that was the Alcatraz of the South.
So, with that Benny Bajolière became Bobby Fallow’s lifeline. All Bobby could hope for was that Mr. Bajolière made good on his end of the deal.
Needless to say Bobby Fallow watched the calendar like a hawk. He knew Benny’s release date was approaching, and he waited patiently to put his plan into action.
On the Friday following Benny’s release date, Bobby prepared for his escape. After finishing his shift in the morgue at 3:00 pm, he went back to his open cell and sat nervously awaiting his move. About three hours later and after putting a previously prepared dummy under his bed sheets, he left his cell and walked down to the morgue. Using a morgue key he’d stolen earlier, he entered.
The place was without windows and was as dark as night, but he’d brought a book of matches to light the way. He found the last coffin in a row of four, knowing it would be the last one leaving, around 6:30 pm. Grabbing the lid handle and blowing out the match, he climbed in.
He’d timed it perfectly. After less than a half hour of lying next to a cold corpse, he felt the coffin being lifted and slid into the back of a hearse. After what seemed like hours but was in reality less than a half hour, Bobby could feel the coffin being removed from the hearse and lowered into the ground.
And then, the terrifying sound of dirt being shoveled onto the casket. After perhaps 20-minutes, it stopped.
Bobby Fallow was now buried alive.
Fighting the urge to scream and attempt to fight his way out, he took short, measured breaths as to conserve as much oxygen as possible. It was hot, cramped and pitch black.
Although Bobby tried his damndest not to think about the dead man lying next to him, it was a nearly impossible task.
He closed his eyes, and for the first time in years, he prayed. He prayed that Benny would be true to his word, and more importantly be on time.
After all, Bobby had calculated there would be enough oxygen in a closed coffin to last about five hours.
All he could do was wait.
And so he waited.
How long had it been? Three, four hours? It seemed like an eternity. And then, a revelation – Bobby had a pocket watch. He just had to see how much time he’d been down there, under the ground.
With much difficulty he slid his hand down and gently pulled the watch from his pocket. He pulled it up near his face, but of course could see nothing but the inky blackness he’d been looking at for the past few hours.
For a few minutes he listened, hoping to hear the faint rustle of Benny digging his way down to rescue him. Oh, how they’d laugh and tell the story later, how Bobby was in such a panic-stricken state until Benny showed up as promised.
Alas, nothing. It was as still as death.
It was then Bobby remembered the matches. He reached down again, this time into his shirt pocket. He knew he couldn’t have a lit match in a closed casket very long because he was low on oxygen, but he just had to see the time. He just had to, as a form of reassurance as much as anything. Hell, he probably hadn’t been down there nearly as long as he thought he had.
Everything was going to be OK.
Still, to be certain he had to take one quick look.
He lit the match and took a quick glance at his watch.
He’d only been in the coffin for two hours. Just two measly hours. There was plenty of time, and help was most certainly on the way.
Breathing a sigh of relief, he started to blow out the match. But then, something compelled him to look to his side, into the face of the dead man beside him.
And there, staring back, was the face of Benny Bajolière.