Sean White  was awarded the Fielding Dawson Prize in Drama in the 2022 Prison Writing Contest.

Every year, hundreds of imprisoned people from around the country submit poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and dramatic works to PEN America’s Prison Writing Contest, one of the few outlets of free expression for the country’s incarcerated population.


(REENTER Eddie with a cup of coffee in each hand.)

Eddie (Hands Terrell his cup): Here you go.

Terrell: Good lookin’. (Beat.) I gave you white ‘cuz…you know, one last time ‘n all.

Eddie: ‘Preciate you helping me kill the time. You got no idea what I’m going through right now.

Terrell: You livin’ the dream, ‘stead a this bullshit.

Eddie: I’m sorry. I’m not tryin’ to rub it in or nothin’.

Terrell: No, no. You did your bid, now you get to go. (Beat.) Now sit your ass down ‘n play.

(Eddie sits. They sip coffee and play chess. It doesn’t matter who wins and loses. At the end of each game, they turn the board around and set up for another. They play rather rapidly, though not true “speed chess.” Occasionally, toward the end of a game, before checkmate when the situation seems dire, the struggling player concedes with statements such as “you got me,” or “that one’s yours.” (ad lib))

Eddie: I know we hear it from a lot of guys, but I mean it. I am gonna keep in touch, bro.

Terrell: Aw’ right.

Eddie: You don’t believe me?

Terrell (Laughs): You said it, brotha, we hear it so much, it becomes, like, I dunno, like some meaningless shit people say just to be sayin’ somethin’. It’s wind, know what I’m sayin’?

Eddie: I’m not sayin’ I’m gonna write every mothafuckin’ day. I’m sayin’, ‘I’m gonna keep in touch.’

Terrell: Uh-huh.

To finish reading this, as well as the works of all other contributors, purchase Variations on an Undisclosed Location: 2022 Prison Writing Awards Anthology here.