Slaney broke out of the woods and skidded down a soft embankment to the side of the road. There was nothing but forest on both sides of the asphalt as far as he could see. He thought it might be three in the morning and he was about two miles from the prison. It had taken an hour to get through the woods.
He had crawled under the chain-link fence around the yard and through the long grass on the other side. He had run hunched over and he’d crawled on his elbows and knees, pulling himself across the ground, and he’d stayed still, with his face in the earth, while the searchlight arced over him. At the end of the field was a steep hill of loose shale and the rocks had clattered away from his shoes.
The soles of Slaney’s shoes were tan-coloured and slippery.
The tan had worn off and a smooth patch of black rubber showed on the bottom of each shoe. He’d imagined the soles lit up as the searchlight hit them. He had on the orange coveralls.
They had always been orange, but when everybody was wearing them they were less orange.
For an instant the perfect oval of hard light had contained him like the shell of an egg and then he’d gone animal numb and cringing, a counterintuitive move, the prison psychotherapist might have said, if they were back in her office discussing the break — she talked slips and displacement, sublimation and counter-intuition, and allowed for an inner mechanism he could not see or touch but had to account for — then the oval slid him back into darkness and he charged up the hill again.
Near the top, the shale had given way to a curve of reddish topsoil with an overhang of ragged grass and shrub. There was a cracked yellow beef bucket and a ringer washer turned on its side, a bald white.
Slaney had grabbed at a tangled clot of branches but it came loose in his hand. Then he’d dug the toe of his shoe in deep and hefted his chest over the prickly grass overhang and rolled on top of it.
He lay there, flat on his back, chest hammering, looking at the stars. It was as far as he had been from the Springhill penitentiary since the doors of that institution admitted him four years before. It was not far enough.
He’d heaved himself off the ground and started running.
This was Nova Scotia and it was June 14, 1978. Slaney would be twenty-five years old the next day.
The night of his escape would come back to him, moments of lit intensity, for the rest of his life. He saw himself on that hill in the brilliant spot of the swinging searchlight, the orange of his back as it might have appeared to the guards in the watchtower, had they glanced that way.
From Caught by Lisa Moore. Copyright © Lisa Moore, 2013. Excerpt reproduced with the permission of House of Anansi Press. www.houseofanansi.com. All rights reserved.
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