The Deranged Artist: Jack Henry Abbott

Welcome to part two in Sean Kilpatrick’s ongoing series on bat-shit crazy artists.

Congested by his rank into a delinquent calf at the altar of the state, Jack Henry Abbott avoided guards who took a liking to his resilience. He was a product of their making, a number before he could come, existing adjacent to the calendar. Born from a tampon rolled in glass, face like a venereal battering ram, he lived pitted in the constipated bowel of system after system. His starter cell was the uterus he lost a harmonica inside. He chalked himself aware, another boil popped by Lucifer shitting, first words lost through a vesicular film. The guards took turns starving him in a series of experiments he pissed blood to conclude. His eyes stopped adjusting to distances overall. The muscles behind them atrophied and he needed to stand close during a conversation so he could see your hands. He was more skull than man. His Eustachian tube opened willy-nilly, so the voice in his ears sounded ridiculous. No one made a move for his backside because the pelvis looked too sharp. If someone on his block presented the tiniest neurosis of an issue that might bloom as future conflict, he preempted their burgeoning passive aggressiveness by automatically shivving them to death. He didn’t want to have to always be spontaneously defending himself over some stupid issue that could have been resolved sooner. Two revelations accompanied the pleas of those dying beneath him. First he thought they cursed the pain. Then he realized it was an acknowledgment of communion. Their receding proposals held a meaning worse than marriage. You stole another animal from existence to join an elite league, rendering yourself aloof from the charge of such knowledge. That the act meant nothing conversely enhanced the product you made fill a box. People worked better as decorations. They meant more if you could help them stop interfering and use their severed parts as a warning. He memorized arteries by experience. The scant shadow play during his bouts of confinement became a language only the bugs he knew were capable of punctuating with grammatical efficiency. He usually cohered himself to the cadence of a barked order because it was how he learned human temperament. Humans believe fire is a place, he scratched on himself. Us animals believe our stomach is a place. When no one fucked with him for a while, they let him use the mail. He established contact with a series of writers who seemed as if they might have, or had already, stabbed someone, and he sold them a story that helped them feel part of the tutorial for badasses. Communism became an appropriate fringe for the fucked during that zeitgeist. Paroled only partly through the influence of recommendation and the supposed literary merit no noticeable contingence of society actually cared about, Jack shared a room of beds in a ghetto halfway house. A week later, he was robbed at knifepoint before his curfew mattered. The mugger failed to notice the preternatural calmness of his mark. It took everything in him not to engage. Despite the fickle support of a literati who brought him their zoo-like marvel and a menial punk research job, every second he was free was a battle to stay straight. Every retro tough guy New York slouch who knocked shoulders with him added to the counter above his head. He never strived for gloating dominance. He wanted the threat made quiet and to move his life forward, along an unmolested timeline. The effort required to wrench every living thing on the street into a hell where they could see him carried with it a potential ecstasy, a comfort beyond sadism, beyond the endorphins released once a blade had solved its path in meat. After the second mugging, he stopped sighing and armed himself. At least he could get some runoff writer pussy before they sent him back. It was harder to fuck them without a base of operations, and my god their soft-brained feminist bullshit, but by some miracle he had two women lined up, one a European duchess who sneezed coke into his mouth. Dining them over a possibly unrequited fuck tension, another would-be artist halfwit waiter lost in a strong-arm role took a bully’s interest in Jack. Fucking with someone’s tray, even if the meal on it was primarily saltpeter, demanded resolutions. Jack did some arithmetic with how much muscling he could abide in front of females and was uselessly nice for a minute. The prick masqueraded in his apron, a surface level challenge, short order masculinity, backing down once confronted, then overcompensating with a suggestion they “take it outside” – bouncing all over Jack before he could place an order, humiliating him to swoop in on those he courted, to thump his chest about what a man it took to ladle fucking soup all night. Jack stood up, set the other waiter aside, and needed to know, with fortified adrenal dispensation, how this fucking guy’s issue would amount. Now the bastard was playing games with what taking a piss meant. He’ll take Jack outside so he can piss, so he can piss on him, so they can piss. He showed Jack a knife behind the counter, perhaps as his last joke on earth. As soon as they exited the building, Jack squared him away, no issue, once in the chest, and good. He folded as those who mind your business should. You act like you own people because you made a choice against their demeanor and don’t cry about what happens next. Jack’s follow up book, also written in prison, was a downfall era Lenny Bruce autism study about what happened at the restaurant. Everyone lost interest. A few years later, he fit through his makeshift noose as if by mandate, earning a long-owed relief, alone, without assistance.


Sean Kilpatrick, raised in Detroit, does monthly movie reviews for Hobart Literary Journal.Other writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Nerve, New York Tyrant, Boston Review, Fence, Sleepingfish, Fanzine, Vice, evergreen review, Whiskey Island, and Bomb. His novella Sucker June, was released by Lazy Fascist Press. Check out his tumblr.