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Maurice Carlos Ruffin.
“Mercury Forges.”

© Maurice Carlos Ruffin.
Used by permission.
All rights reserved.

My job was to make sure Mercury Forges didn’t escape. He was a stocky, black guy in for drugs and guns. He’d gotten out of the Orleans Parish Prison twice and no one knew how he did it. Funny thing is he got captured within a few blocks of the prison both times.

“I get turned around when I get out there, Deputy Benoit,” Mercury said once, “but I’ll get free for good, just you wait.”

When the hurricane hit and flooded everything, we brought the inmates out to the Broad Street overpass. I wasn’t too panicked because one of the other deputies, Ronnie Dismas, said our families made it out of town safe before the water came. It’d be easy to look after myself with them out of harm’s way. Of course, Mercury snuck away as soon as I turned my back.

He was in a pirogue about five blocks away, bobbing like an apple. I ran across the overpass and climbed down some scaffolding to his boat.

“Where do you think you’re going?” I asked. I had a hand on my sidearm.

“Got to find Humanity Street,” he said. “That’s where my pops lives.”

I can’t really tell you why I didn’t make him bring us back to the detention area.

After a while, we floated up to a yellow house with flood water almost to the awning. Mercury yanked a metal pole from the water, broke through the attic window and climbed in. There was shuffling inside and I wondered if I should go in after him. I thought this might be part of his big getaway plan, but soon he grunted out of the window and pulled his father’s body out wrapped in a heavy blanket. The old man hadn’t had a chance.

“Bring us back, dep,” said Mercury. And that was what I did.

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Ruffin, Maurice Carlos. “Mercury Forges.” Apalachee Review (2013): Print. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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