Awakening a little past dawn, I stood up – and nearly tripped over my leg irons.
It took me a moment to process where I was and what was happening.
Oh, right. It wasn’t a bad dream. I’m in jail, in chains, and in a shitload of trouble.
Stumbling to the toilet to take a piss, I pieced together shattered memories. Somewhere through the fog of my mind, more details of my early-morning arrest came into focus above the porcelain bowl.
There I was, locked in the cell as Pitbull read me my rights, then grimly informed me I matched the description of a man who robbed the Casey’s gas station in Sheffield that night. Did I want to explain this? Did I want to tell him anything about it?
“No, I don’t think I will,” I muttered.
Then you can tell the judge later. Oh, and I think you’re that fugitive out of Idaho wanted by the FBI. Something about sex perversion, escape, and punching out a cop. We’ll find out for sure in a few hours.
Pitbull gestured around the cell.
Better get used to this, son. This is all you’re going to see for a long, long time.
He shoved an inventory form in my face, listing off my possessions – shirt, pants watch, belt, badge, shoes, wallet – and told me to sign it. The list looked complete, but did it really matter either way? Would I ever see it again? I put my boyfriend down as “next of kin,” but would he want to visit a felon in prison?
No, my future relationships are all going to be with my cellmates, and I doubt the guards will let me pick and choose.
The visions vanished, leaving me alone in the holding cell, holding my dick over a prison shitter. Dazed, I stuffed my junk back in my jumpsuit, snapped it up, and sat back down on the steel bunk. Head in hands, I tried to think. What were my options? Did I have any at all? Call my lawyer? What good would that do? Surely they’d match my face and fingerprints to the Wanted poster and call the FBI. Within a week, I guessed, I’d be chained up in the back seat of an Idaho State Police car on a one-way trip to Boise.
Well, I said it was Mexico or the penitentiary. The penitentiary it is, I guess.
Unless they were going to try me here for a piss-ant gas station robbery first? Would they send me to the Iowa State Penitentiary for 10 years before shipping me back to Idaho? How does it work when two different states both want to lock you in a cell?
Shit. All roads lead to prison.
Just then, another guard banged on the iron grille, snapping me out of my thoughts. This, then, must have been the other man last night – the tag on his shirt told me Fuchs was his name.
Get up, inmate. Put your hands behind your back through the trap.
Not knowing what else to do, I complied. Cold steel biting into my wrists again – I realized with horror that I was already becoming used to the feeling. Again, I sighted the Wanted poster as I was taken through another door – and before me stood a wall of iron grates, with a bronze plaque affixed – P.J. Pauly and Bro, Patented 1876.
Jail, late-19th century style. In the space age, no less.
I had no time to admire the architecture, for I was marched around the corner to a steel-grilled shower enclosure. My leg irons were removed, then two padlocks snapped shut. I backed up to a port in the grill to have the handcuffs taken off, and I again heard the dreaded two words.
Down went the jumpsuit, off went the cheap boxers, and again began the degrading ritual of displaying every part and orifice of my body to another man. As I turned around to let Fuchs inspect my crotch, a new face appeared behind him – by his nameplate and lapel stars, this was Sheriff Bind.
Lift your junk and your balls. Let it drop. Do it again. Do it again.
Fuchs had obviously seen it all before, and then some. But Bind stared for a moment, then smirked and addressed me.
No wonder you’re a faggot, with that little thing hanging there. Didn’t give you much to work with, did they?
I’m naked, being strip-searched, in a shithole Iowa jail, staring down life imprisonment on the installment plan… and this asshole with a tin star is making a joke about my tiny dick? Can it get any worse?
“No sir,” I replied.
I was learning. It got worse anyway.
Finding no contraband up my ass, Fuchs picked up a sprayer from the floor and aimed it at me through the grate.
Close your eyes and hold your breath.
I barely had time to obey his orders before a mist of pungent, oily liquid enveloped me.
Turn around. All the way around.
I was being deloused! The sensation was unlike anything I’d ever felt before. Stinging, acrid, goo burning my skin (and, presumably, any lice… but fuck you, I don’t have any). I squeezed my eyes tightly shut against the onslaught. It seemed like ages but must only have been a few seconds before I heard Fuchs’ voice again.
Into the shower. Now. You have five minutes.
I hastily wet down, scrubbed the delousing agent out of my hair, and was just beginning to enjoy myself when-
Turning off the water, I stepped over to the grill. There, I was confronted with the first true realization of my situation.
You’re locked into a shower cage, dripping wet, strip-searched, deloused, buck naked, staring at a guard holding an armload of convict clothing – and that’s probably all you’re going to wear for the rest of your natural life.
I toweled off and put on the clean clothes – cheap boxers, cheap t-shirt, another shitty orange jumpsuit – but less awkwardly this time. I told you, I was learning. Then, with hands cuffed to a leather belt and legs chained, Fuchs and Pitbull marched me back out to the booking room.
A plastic bracelet was snapped around my right wrist, a board was draped over my neck, and I was told to stand against a height chart as a flashbulb went off. Reading upside down, I realized I was Inmate 754. My last shred of humanity stripped away.
Turn left. Turn right. Wipe that smile off your face, inmate.
Then I was walked over to the fingerprinting counter. My skin’s whorls and spirals, indelibly recorded in black ink, were systematically imprinted on a neatly organized identification card, shortly to be headed to the FBI through the miracle of modern technology.
A card that will seal my fate.
Finally, I was led back inside the steel cellblock. I could see three grilled doors, a sink and toilet at one end, and a small table with attached chairs.
Through the grating of the first cell, I saw the form of another orange-suited inmate, and I could hear the voice of another through the bars of a third. But I meekly followed orders, saying nothing in reply. Fuchs unlocked my handcuffs through a slot in the bars, deftly removing the leather restraint belt in a single motion.
I was directed to pick up a pile of stuff off the table, enter Cell 2 and sit on Bunk A.
Pull the door closed behind you, 754. I won’t ask you again.
Pitbull again. And now I no longer had a name. I was a number. Turning, I did as I was told, then stepped all the way to the back grating of the cell.
No, not “the” cell. My cell. This is my home now.
With a deafening crash of steel, the old Pauly lever-locks slammed home, shaking the entire cellblock. I was locked in.
To be continued …