Matchstick Caravan by Paul Tristram

Within his single ground floor cell of HMP The Verne, sat Thomas VR6582.
He was nearly two-thirds through an eight stretch for Manslaughter, at age nineteen he had shot his cheating girlfriend’s brother in the chest with a shotgun he had stolen from a farmhouse up in Tonmawr during a burglary a few months previous.
He was now an Orderly and his time was pretty easy, his door was unlocked throughout the day so he could run toast and tea errands for the Screws.
It was a cold Friday night in late November as he sat at his little table squinting in perfect concentration through the yellowy Prison light at the matchstick he held a few inches from his focused face whilst with the other hand he carefully shaved minute slivers off one of the four corners of the wood with a thin blade snapped out of an orange plastic Bic razor.
This is what made him the craftsman, lots of people glued matchsticks to cardboard and tobacco tins but he carved and shaped them first, then when placed side by side in a row would make a flowing pattern within his carefully constructed structure. He was an innovator, his finished pieces where talked about throughout the entire British Prison System. He had won prizes for them and each time a piece was completed Officer Davies always came to take photographs of it at varying angles upon a sheet of dark green felt, he was to put it simply the best matchsticker, ever.
He was presently busy making a Gypsy Caravan for his Aunty Beatrice, this was only his sixth piece because he took so long on the carving, adding of burn blemishes and general preparation of each individual stick and when he had finished he would often take several months off sometimes before beginning a new project.
He had decided that it was his Aunty Beatrice’s turn this time because he had given his Aunty Agnes the last one and they had both been so very nice to him when he was a young boy, it felt good to give something positive back to them now as an adult, he was hoping to have it ready for her by her next birthday.
A lot of people would find this work monotonous and boring but not Thomas VR6582.
He had gotten into an argument with that gobby cockney Stylo, who was in on a ‘Shit & Shave’ (A small prison sentence of months only!) in Association earlier this evening over cake. And that is not prison slang for something else, it was actual cake. He chuckled to himself bitterly, ‘Who on the outside would believe that there were men willing to cut each other up over cake in prison?’ (Well, it’s the principle of it, innit son!)
Anyways no damage was done, it had only come to pushes and shoves luckily but he had remained wound-up about it all until he had got back to his cell, smoked a couple off roll-ups and started his carving.
Some men went back to their cells and beat up their mattress’s or did hundreds of sit-ups or push-ups but not Thomas VC6582, it was not his physical body that he needed to slake and calm down, it was his racing mind that he needed to quiet and this is how he did it.
A little bag containing matchsticks, wood glue, sewing needles and a broken bit of razor which all together costs just a measly couple of pounds, would and actually did literally stop him from going insane, being destructive or killing anyone else, including himself, again.

Scribblings Of A Madman

Paul Tristram is a Welsh writer who has poems, short stories, sketches and photography published in many publications around the world, he yearns to tattoo porcelain bridesmaids instead of digging empty graves for innocence at midnight; this too may pass, yet. Buy his books ‘Scribblings Of A Madman’ (Lit Fest Press) ‘Poetry From The Nearest Barstool’ at And a split poetry book ‘The Raven And The Vagabond Heart’ with Bethany W Pope at You can also read his poems and stories here!


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