Animosity in Hell

 

Lunch.  More of the same shit.  Some form of noodles, a piece of cornbread, a square of pink cake, and cubed carrots which are the exact orange of the jumpsuits.  Bates was looking at the table behind us.  He reached back, and then set a piece of cake on his tray.  He nodded at me.  I looked at it.  He smiled,

“Score.”

I washed down a bite of the cornbread.  He sipped his juice,

“Motherfucker owes me a cake once a day for a week.  Up to him which meal it comes from, though.  Beat his ass in spades all day yesterday.”

He broke the cake in half and offered it to me.  I shook my head at it and thanked him.  The deputy called from his seat,

“STANTON!  Eat up then go to Booking!”

The whole room jeered.  I shrugged at Bates,

“What the fuck?”

“Usually means you’re catching another charge.”

“What else could they possibly fucking charge me with?”

“Washington County, man.”

I didn’t want to finish my tray, but there was no sharing allowed, and the hack was watching me.  I kept eating until he turned his head, then slid my tray over.  Bates shoveled the noodles onto his tray.  I set mine in the empty tray cart and stood by the vestibule.

Walking down toward Booking.  Another charge.  I couldn’t see where that was possible.  Inmates I’d never seen passed me in the hallway, trustees pushing food or laundry carts, a deputy walking like he would actually have a chance in a brawl with one of them in the real world, but mostly the hatred I felt for the inmates sped up my blood.  I let another jumpsuit pass and I wondered if animals in the zoo have animosity.  The fear of any of these assholes was long gone already.  The fear of prison remained sharp, and I imagined that it would.  The terror here rested in the hours, the synthetic white of everything, the cold hardness of everything, and it applied to anyone.  No regard for taste, no ease of subjectivity.  Jail was a torture test.  I pressed the button at the Booking door and walked in.  The lobby was full of mutants to be processed.  Some were sitting up with their eyes closed.  I knew it was cold, but I was already used to it.  The TV was on, and it played a talk show.  It was sickening there.  At the desk they made me sit over by the medic room door.  I watched the administration workers, and they looked as barely useful as they did when I was booked.

There he was, his flounder face rested beneath a high-and-tight crew cut.  His badge and gun sat happily on his hip.  Pressed white long sleeve, pressed black pants.  His mother probably taught him how to iron in high school.  He was talking to one of the administration eunuchs, and they were smiling back and forth, which made sense.  He walked over and looked down at me,

“Jonathon.”

I stared at him.  He nodded into the medic room, clutching a baggie.  I walked in.  He sat and I stood.  He nodded at my haircut,

“Got your hair cut.  Looks good.”

I looked at his hair again.  My hair looked almost like his, and it depressed me.  He pulled out four long swabs from the baggie, “Go ahead and swipe these under your lip and along your gum for me.”

I didn’t know why any of this was necessary.  It had already been established that I’d fucked the whore, and maybe he had, too, by now.  But I ran the swabs along my cheek and gum, and he held the baggie open as I put them in.  He wanted to talk, it was obvious.  I had nothing to say to him.  He looked at me, the candy ass,  his puffy cheeks and vacant eyes crawled under my skin and tapped on my nerves.  He opened his mouth,

“So what’s it like in here?”

“It’s sad.”

He looked around then shrugged at me,

“I wouldn’t want to be in here.”

I watched him with disinterest.  He raised his eyebrows,

“You should have come and talked to me when I called.  You’d be out right now, walking around.”

“You done?”

He turned and headed toward the door,

“Goodbye, Jonathon.”

I walked to the door at the end of Booking and waited.  A deputy reached over and hit a button and the door buzzed, and I walked back down the hall where I waited in the vestibule.  I sat and looked around at the pod.  Take away the walls and the tile and the insanity, and it could resemble a Motel 6.  I thought about the nights on the road with my dogs, waiting until 7 am so when I got a room, so I’d have it until noon the next day.  I watched the cell doors and saw some inmates staring down at me from the top tier, cage to cage.  Overhead there was a camera on me.  The vestibule door rolled open and a tall, bald inmate stepped in.  He sat across from me.  His cell was on the lower tier, in on a meth charge.  He nodded to me,

“What’s up, writer?  You catch a new charge?”

“No.  I had to deal with a detective.  What are you doing?”

“Programs,” he taps his chest pocket, which holds a rolled up booklet, “anger management.”

“Are you managing your anger?”

He shrugged, “Gets me out of my cell for an hour every other day.”

The yard door opened and a deputy walked in, the one from Booking who had photographed my tattoos.  She saw us, but did her cell walk first.  He watched her and rubbed his cock over his jumpsuit.  We stood and he smiled at me while he unsnapped his bottom snap and reached his hand down inside,

“Writer, watch this.”

She hit the button at her desk and the door rolled open.  He was in front of me.  I didn’t know if he was really that stupid or if he wanted to go to the hole or get some more time.  At the desk she pulled the paper from his pocket and told him to turn around.  She frisked him, patted down his chest to his stomach then stopped just above his waistband,

“What’s this?”

“Oh, I don’t know.”

She patted around it, then realized what it was.  Her face washed with disgust.  She told him to have a seat at one of the tables.  She looked at me,

“How about you, any surprises for me?”

“I hardly think so.”

She frisked me.  I glanced down to him, his arms were folded behind his head and he was smiling at me.  He was missing two diagonal teeth, upper right, bottom left.  The ones remaining weren’t too proud of themselves.  Back in the cell, I looked down to see her on the phone, then in a matter of no time two male deputies had him up and all of his shit packed into his sheet, and they hustled him to the hole.

 

–Excerpt from Bad Jacket.  Book coming soon.

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About Jeff Stewart

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