“He’s a wooz, a true-blue, dyed-in-the-wool wooz,” Doctor Jackson chanted, with the medico’s delight in a novelty.
“Standing, you are a wonder,” the Warden said. “You’ve got an iron will, but I’ll break it as sure as God made little apples.”
“And you’ve the heart of a rabbit,” I retorted. “One-tenth the jacketing I have received in San Quentin would have squeezed your rabbit heart out of your long ears.”
Oh, it was a touch, that, for the Warden did have unusual ears. They would have interested Lombroso, I am sure.
“As for me,” I went on, “I laugh at you, and I wish no worse fate to the loom-room than that you should take charge of it yourself. Why, you’ve got me down and worked your wickedness on me, and still I live and laugh in your face. Inefficient? You can’t even kill me. Inefficient? You couldn’t kill a cornered rat with a stick of dynamite—real dynamite, and not the sort you are deluded into believing I have hidden away.”
“Anything more?” he demanded, when I had ceased from my diatribe.
And into my mind flashed what I had told Fortini when he pressed his insolence on me.
“Begone, you prison cur,” I said. “Take your yapping from my door.”
It must have been a terrible thing for a man of Warden Atherton’s stripe to be thus bearded by a helpless prisoner. His face whitened with rage and his voice shook as he threatened:
“By God, Standing, I’ll do for you yet.”
“There is only one thing you can do,” I said. “You can tighten this distressingly loose jacket. If you won’t, then get out. And I don’t care if you fail to come back for a week or for the whole ten days.”
And what can even the Warden of a great prison do in reprisal on a prisoner upon whom the ultimate reprisal has already been wreaked? It may be that Warden Atherton thought of some possible threat, for he began to speak. But my voice had strengthened with the exercise, and I began to sing, “Sing cucu, sing cucu, sing cucu.” And sing I did until my door clanged and the bolts and locks squeaked and grated fast.
Now that I had learned the trick the way was easy. And I knew the way was bound to become easier the more I travelled it. Once establish a line of least resistance, every succeeding journey along it will find still less resistance. And so, as you shall see, my journeys from San Quentin life into other lives were achieved almost automatically as time went by.
After Warden Atherton and his crew had left me it was a matter of minutes to will the resuscitated portion of my body back into the little death. Death in life it was, but it was only the little death, similar to the temporary death produced by an anaesthetic.
And so, from all that was sordid and vile, from brutal solitary and jacket hell, from acquainted flies and sweats of darkness and the knuckle-talk of the living dead, I was away at a bound into time and space.