Tag Archives: Joshua Ryan

The Convict – Part 08

By Joshua Ryan

One of the officers carried my briefcase, and the other one led me by the arm. When we got to the top of the hill there was a woman jogging through the park. She had a cell phone on her someplace and she was talking into the air, the way they do, like they’re crazy people, and when she saw us she jumped back and put her hand on her chest like she was having a seizure. She looked at me like I was raping her at that very moment. Then she ran off, fast. No one had ever reacted to me like that before.

There was a black police car parked at the curb. One of the officers put his hand on my head and guided me into the back seat. His hand was gentle, in the way that hands are when they don’t want to touch something that they have to touch. The car door slammed. In 20 minutes, they were leading me into the Justice Center downtown.

I was surprised that they never read me my rights, but then I remembered — they didn’t have to do that anymore, now that the courts had approved all the new anticrime laws. There had been a conversation about that. I recalled it. A conversation in a bar. It was the night I first met Joey Madison. He was coming on pretty strong, so I told him, “You’d better back off. Otherwise, a cop is gonna show up and read you your rights.” “They don’t do that anymore,” he said, putting his arm around my shoulder. “They just drag you off to jail.” We both laughed.

Continue reading The Convict – Part 08

The Convict – Part 07

By Joshua Ryan

I had to get in to work really early that day, because I was the person who was supposed to handle the year-end calls from the branches in other time zones. When I finally got to the lounge at 9 for coffee, the first thing I did was go to the deck and look at the convicts. I wanted to see if one of them was standing by the fence.

“Whatcha lookin for, Jason?” It was somebody’s voice. I remembered. It was Peter Tomlinson’s.

“Uh . . . nothing. . . . I . . . uh . . . Great day, huh?” It was another one of those days we have in winter when the sun is so bright you’d almost think it was spring already. At 9 o’clock in the morning, it must have been 55 degrees on that deck. It was sort of like the first day when I met the convict.

“Not really. Channel 10 says it’s gonna snow tonight.”

“That true? We almost never have snow in December.” What are you talking about? I asked myself. My eyes were searching the fence, searching . . .

“It’s true. Look at those clouds. Cirrus. We’ll have snow all right. Lotta snow.”

“Too bad. I wanted to wash the car.”


“Nothing.” I couldn’t believe I was making jokes.

“What are you looking at, Jason?”

“Just watching the convicts.”


“The convicts. Down in the field.”

Continue reading The Convict – Part 07

The Convict – Part 06

By Joshua Ryan

I was having a lot of strange thoughts and feelings. Right after Thanksgiving, Mr. Dietrich called me into his office and told me I’d be getting a promotion and a raise. Starting in December, I’d be an Associate Managerial Analyst, a big step up from Assistant Managerial Analyst, although it didn’t come near to getting me my own office. He said, “Congratulations, young man,” and I thanked him profusely for offering me the additional responsibility. When I looked at my pay stub a week later, I saw the change, but I didn’t feel anything about it anymore. On the one hand, it was more money. On the other hand, Joey would probably spend it. I didn’t care. He was welcome to the money. I just wanted out of it all.

And after Thanksgiving, of course, comes Christmas. I wasn’t paying much attention at first. I had too much else to think about, or try not to think about. Then one night I was in Berenson’s, looking for a new pair of slacks, and I noticed how crowded it was for a Tuesday night. That led me to notice all the evergreens hanging on the walls. The first thing I thought was, that’s the kind of stuff that Jake and the other cons are cutting out in the field. They’re cutting trees and brush. Finally I realized that I was looking at Christmas. It didn’t make much of an impression. What it meant to me, mainly, was that the days were getting shorter and colder. This part of the country usually doesn’t get a lot of winter, but we were getting a lot of it then. When the convicts went past in the morning they were wrapped up in their heavy coats, brown forms peering out of the white truck like reindeer on a Christmas card. And Jake was one of them. I looked at him every morning, but I hadn’t talked to him in over a week. And I needed to talk. The next day, I switched my schedule around at work, and I went out to meet him.

Continue reading The Convict – Part 06

The Convict – Part 05

By Joshua Ryan

“Jake,” I said, “aren’t they worried that you might just walk away from here?”

“Naw. Not really. I wouldn’t get very far. Not with my tatts. And not with these clothes! And then there’s this other thing.” He bent down and lifted one leg of his coarse brown trousers. There, on the leg, was an iron shackle! I’d never seen one before. I’d never even seen a pair of handcuffs. But this thing was incredible — wide and thick and as black as death, with a big old hinge on the back and two big rings sticking out on the sides and a thing like a tongue sticking out in front . . .. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. This must have been what I would have seen in those leg shots of his, if I hadn’t been rushing through them so fast . . .

“Notice,” he said, like a professor explaining what you see after you’ve dissected a frog, “there’s no lock. There’s just a flange and a rivet. And a couple of D-rings, in case they want to attach me to somethin.” He reached down and patted his iron. “This baby will never come off. It’s here for life. Unless you happen to have a blowtorch and a lot of anesthetic on you. Of course, I could try to escape, if I could just shed these clothes. But . . . ”

I gulped. That thing was monstrous. How guys could actually run across the field in an iron like that . . .

“What do they . . . attach you to?”

Continue reading The Convict – Part 05

The Convict – Part 04

By Joshua Ryan

“What’s the matter, Jason? You look pensive.”

I was at the Alibi, which is a pretty quiet place, especially in the early evening; and it was Terry, the bartender, I was talking to. Terry got out of the Navy a year or so before, and he had that look that some of the ex-Navy guys keep. I liked that look, and I liked talking to Terry. “Pensive” was a joke between us. It was a word I had used one time, one of the many words that Terry had never heard before.

“Not really. Just drinking. Give me another one, will you?”

“Sure thing. But I still think there’s something wrong. You and Joey having a fight?”

“Joey? You mean the guy that’s always in my apartment?”

“That’s the one.”

“I never fight. I just like to be alone sometimes. Believe it or not.”

“Sure you do,” Terry said, pulling me another beer. “Since when?”

“Since now,” I said. “Since always. I hate the way these queers can’t be alone for a second.” I was so drunk, it was a miracle I got through that sentence.

“You do?”

“Sure I do.”

“Which means you’re thinking about some guy that you’d rather be alone with, all of the time.”

Continue reading The Convict – Part 04

The Convict – Part 03

By Joshua Ryan

The executive lounge is on the top floor of the Freer Building. It’s very comfortable. There’s even a deck outside where you can catch a few rays or look at the stars if you’re working late. It was a good view, but not many people stepped outside to enjoy it. Like Peter said, how much ass can you scope in an industrial park? And at breaks, everybody sort of expected you to keep with your group. There was one guy who stayed in his cube and read, and he was regarded as totally antisocial. I didn’t have enough guts to do that. But I was tired of Peter and his stupid jokes. So I started using the deck.

I knew he’d be watching out of the corner of his eye, so at first I just strolled around, glancing over the railing at this and that. But then I looked for what I really wanted to see. Down below, at the edge of Phase Two, the convicts were moving closer. Already the pile of rocks had come about a third of the way along the fence. The cons in the harnesses pulled the bin across the field, and the cons on the chain pulled out the rocks and laid them in line. Then you could see what looked like guys with hammers, going after the rocks to get them in shape.

“Making little ones out of big ones,” Peter said, on the one day when he surprised me by leaving the group and coming out on the deck. “Same thing that an old queer does when he’s naked.”

Continue reading The Convict – Part 03

The Convict – Part 02

By Joshua Ryan

On the train that night, I noticed a billboard beside the track, just before my stop. I’d never looked at it before. It showed a guy’s butt and the lower part of his back. The guy was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, and his wrists were cuffed together behind his butt. There was a tough-looking hand gripping one of his arms. The billboard said: “COMMIT A CRIME, DO PRISON TIME. LOTS OF TIME.” I think it had been there for a while, but like I say, I’d never noticed it. I liked the guy in the jeans, though.

As soon as I got home, I went on the net. I knew there would be a Department of Corrections website. Every state agency has a website. I wanted to find out more about the Durant Unit. And I did.

The DOC home page had a “Mission Statement,” which I didn’t read, and a picture of “Anthony B. Michaelis, Director,” which looked pretty dorky, and a long rap about Mr. Michaelis’s “Recent Activities.” I didn’t read much of that, either. The activities consisted mainly of opening new correctional units “due to the enormous success of the Turn Em In Program, and the Universal Penal Reform Act of 2014.” There were links to “The Program” and “The Act and Its Aftermath,” but those pages looked really boring, and I went back to the rap on the home page. Near the end, it mentioned the Director’s success in “facilitating the rehabilitation of superannuated units,” which apparently meant reopening old prisons. The last one mentioned was “the Southern Regional Longterm Correctional Facility (SRLCF), formerly Durant State Penitentiary.” There was a link, and I clicked on it.

Continue reading The Convict – Part 02

The Convict – Part 01

By Joshua Ryan


Part 1

“There ought to be a world like that.” That’s what went through my mind every morning that fall.

It will take me a while to explain what I mean. I’ve got the time. Do you?

I was working for Freer and Sons, in the new industrial park. They’d opened their building about three months before. They were one of the first firms out there. There wasn’t much of anything except new-laid blacktop, naked white sidewalks, half-empty offices, and a deli that felt free to overcharge. The Freer Building overlooked a park that the city had about half developed and, just down the hill from that, a long stretch of land that used to be somebody’s farm. That’s where the next set of streets would go. In the meantime it was nothing but weeds and rubbish, with some surveyor’s sticks planted here and there. And convicts. There were convicts working in that field.

I found out about the convicts when I was waiting for my bus. Every morning at 7:09, the commuter train left me at the new station on Executive Way, and I waited at the curb for my shuttle bus. And one morning in late September, the convicts went by. Like me, they were on their way to work.

Of course, they didn’t look like me. I was wearing the gray suit that had cost way too much for a guy just out of college, and I was holding the briefcase that I’d bought for $650 and had stamped with my initials, JSR, because I’d noticed that every guy at Freer had a briefcase like that with his own initials stamped on it. Every guy that was ambitious, anyway. Every guy that wanted to establish who he was. When you’re as junior as I was, you’ve got to spend enough to make them take you seriously. That was one reason why I didn’t drive my car. Besides having to pay for parking, I couldn’t afford to let anyone notice what a piece of junk I owned. I knew that they’d never mention it, but I also knew that they’d be talking behind my back about how I wasn’t “bringing much to the firm.”

Continue reading The Convict – Part 01