The Convict – Part 15

By Joshua Ryan

I unfolded the shorts. They were cheap and stiff and pasty white, with the same black brand on the leg and rump: CONVICT 353308. Even in your underwear, you had to be labeled. Your rump needed to be numbered so that nobody would mistake it for the rump of the inmate who was next in line. You could never forget that you were a convict, a package of meat with a barcode.

I pulled the right leg of the boxers over my iron and drew them up to my crotch.   I’d never worn whites before. Even when I was a kid, my mother always bought me something “colorful,” something “artistic.” And I’d never worn anything next to my body that felt as coarse and rough as those things felt when I pulled them on for the first time, watching my balls and dick vanish beneath the harsh white cloth that covered them like some exotic disease. I shuddered and reached blindly for the t-shirt.   The thing was as heavy and coarse as the boxers, and just as white, except for the familiar message stamped on the front and back — CONVICT 353308. I pulled it slowly over my chest. Now I was dressed in my prison underwear, with my prison name and my prison number glaring black from the naked white . . . and my dick was rising again. I never knew I could feel this way, sick and eager at the same time . . . Through the thick cloth of my t-shirt, I could see my nipples starting to tube . . .

“What’s the matter, convict?” College Boy asked. “You one of these boxer queens? Can’t get enough of your undies, man? I want you dressed out, convict. Make it snappy.”

He winked when he said it, but I knew it was an order. I looked down at the counter. The next thing I had to put on was the browns.

I picked up the shirt. It was the same heavy shirt that I’d picked up that morning, the shirt that I’d been too excited to put on, because it was Jake’s shirt and as soon as I touched it I had had to do something else right away . . . All that happened a long time ago, sometime in the distant past. Now I had my own convict shirt, exactly the same, except that this one was new and crisp, with my own numbers printed on it instead of Jake’s. My numbers . . . there they were, stamped in huge letters across the back. I unfolded the shirt and held it up. The ink smell hit me again. It was the smell of those six black digits: the passive row of threes, the sharp, aggressive five, the empty zero, the stolid eight. Those six digits were me now. They would be me for the rest of my life. All because of what happened this morning, when I’d picked up that other shirt with those other digits stenciled across it . . . 351699 . . .   I put my arms into the holes and looked down at my chest, at the new lines of black figures marching across it. Layer after layer, I was putting on my new identity. The smell of the ink enveloped me, the cloth tightened around me as I put the six metal buttons into their holes.

Next came the wide, heavy trousers. I held them up. CONVICT on the right thigh, convict number on the left thigh, name and number on the rump. I got into the left leg, then the right leg, working it under the shackle and dragging it up. By the time it reached my dick I knew I was gonna have a tough time finishing the job. My prick was stiffer than a flagpole, and almost as long. There was a fly in the boxers, and my dick sprang out through that fly like it was screwed to a giant spring. Stuffing that thing into those new fatigues was like trying to stuff a jackhammer down your pants, with the motor running.   I grabbed my prick and pushed it down, shoving and hauling and forcing it back into my shorts; then I tugged the hard brown cloth together and reached down for the zipper . . . and it was then I realized that convicts aren’t allowed to have zippers. All you get, when you’re a convict, is five steel buttons up and down your dick. The buttons were thick and bulky. I had to struggle with every one of them. The more I struggled, the harder I got.

“You’d be surprised,” College Boy said, looking over the counter and watching me hauling and sweating, “if you knew how many guys have that problem. I had it myself, dude.”

“Why?” I said, still trying to pound my dick down. “I mean . . . I don’t want to wear these clothes!” The first three buttons were the hardest. It was taking me forever to clamp my tool inside that jail. “I don’t want to wear these ugly fuckin clothes!”

“You don’t want to wear them?” he said. “Then why are you here, Jason?”

“What? What did you say?” Whew! I finally got it buttoned down. What a relief! I was finally inside.

“I said, why are you here, Jason?”

“Come on, man! I’m here because . . . ”

“Because why, dude? Because you were framed?”

“No, not exactly. . . .”

“Then maybe you’re here because you didn’t know you were committing a crime.”

“No, that wasn’t it . . .”

“Did somebody trick you into doing something you didn’t want to do?”

“No . . . not exactly. Not if you put it that way. I mean . . .” I couldn’t think of anything more to say. There wasn’t any way to explain it.

“I didn’t think so. Then why are you here? Why are you wearing those trousers, man?”

I had nothing more to say.

“Well, try this explanation. You’re in those trousers because they fit you, dude. Except for that bulge in front. Which shows how much you like it, maybe. Think it does?”

I remained silent.

“Sorry if you don’t like to hear it. Anyway, like it or not, when you crawl into those trousers, you’re crawling into yourself. Your prick already told you that. And once you get in your cage, you’ll have plenty of time to mull it over.”

“Right. The rest of my life.”

“Yeah, that’s the plan. What’s the matter with that? You got anything else to do?”

I thought about it for a second. Then I started sniffling again. But I didn’t cry. I didn’t want to cry anymore. Especially not with Brian around.

“No. . . . No I don’t,” I said. That was honest, at least. “But what if I’m not . . . what if I’m not . . . alone in there?”

“‘What if?’ What are you talking about? Nobody’s alone in the Durant Unit. You’ll have a cellie, all right. Oh, I get it. Yeah, you might have to unbutton that prick from time to time. You might have to do some homework. Depends on your cellie. But that’s OK. We’re all nice young men. And if your cellie turns out to be . . . not so nice, you’ve always got me to look forward to. Remember what I said about the motor pool, convict.”

He stopped and looked at me. His face looked different, like he felt sorry all of a sudden. I know I looked bad. I know I looked like I’d already killed myself. But suddenly, I knew I didn’t want him to feel sorry for me. I didn’t know why. But I stopped snifflling.

“Listen,” he said. “I’m just shootin off my mouth. Just cuz I saw that buzz in your shorts. Like they say in here, it don’t mean nothin. Don’t pay any attention to me. Just get into your browns and try not to spill too much cum on em. That’s something the screws don’t like to see. Or maybe they do, but they don’t let it show. And like I told you before, dude, you gotta hustle.”

I hustled. I stood on one foot and then the other and I pulled on my thick white scratchy prison socks; then I stood on one foot and then the other and I pulled on my square, heavy, black prison boots. It was my first pair of boots, and it wasn’t easy. The soles alone weighed more than the shoes I’d worn before. The tops were as tough as steel and they when I fitted the right boot under my shackle, it was like screwing one hunk of steel into another. Screwing my feet into those things was like shoving them into a long black tunnel, a dungeon where they’d been sent to be imprisoned for life. Finally my toes hit bottom. It was a tight fit. I tried to wiggle them around and move them up and down, like you do in a shoe store when you’re trying to see how close to the front of your shoes they come. But this wasn’t a shoe store. My toes made no impression on those hard leather walls. They might as well have been layers of steel. It was hopeless. I’d have to live in whatever they gave me, whether I thought it would fit or not. I knelt down and started lacing the boots, threading the hard black laces through the lines of steel holes. I pulled and hauled. The leather yielded grudgingly.

I completed the incarceration of my feet. Now I had to complete the incarceration of my body.

I turned to the counter and lifted up my “regulation dark brown convict coat, size 2XL.”   Jesus! The thing felt as heavy as all the rest of my clothes put together. Crawling into that coat was like crawling into a mountain. The arms went way beyond my wrists, and the body went halfway down to my knees. The steel buttons were as big as quarters; the two pockets were big and square — I put my hands inside them, and they were completely lost. The whole coat was square and crude, with no concessions to the human form.   Even the letters and numbers that were painted on the chest looked blacker and heavier than the other ones I was wearing. Now I had four layers of letters and numbers, four layers of my new identity. Coat, shirt, t-shirt, tatts — no, there would never be any question about who this convict was.

College Boy was doing something with his rollers and ink. “Hey!” he said. “Where’s your cap, convict?” The stiff little cap was lying on the counter, with my number stamped on the front. I picked it up and put it on my head. This time, the cap was the right size. College Boy had made the right adjustment for my naked skull.

I was completely covered in brown. Only my face was peering out.

“It’s you,” College Boy said. “I know, you probably think I say that to all the cons. Well, I do — as long as they’re good-looking. And not too buff. I don’t like anybody who’s buffer than I am. Which cuts it down a lot. But I like your particular way of being lost in those clothes. Hey man! Don’t give me that look again. We’ve been through all that.”

“Sorry,” I said. “I’m not gonna . . . cry or anything. It’s just . . . You’re the first person I’ve run into . . . ”

“Who’s smart and handsome and irresistible? Well, you’re right. But I can’t demonstrate my fine points right now. I gotta issue your cell equipment.”

“Cell equipment?”

“Well, what do you know? Convict 353308 is actually showing an interest in something. That’s right, Zero Eight, your cell equipment. Your amenities. They come in two kinds. First,” he said, walking to the end of the counter and hauling out a fat roll of brown, “there’s this wad of sheets and blankets, which we call your bedroll. Two sheets, one blanket. I’ve stamped them with your number, so don’t worry, they won’t get lost. One sheet goes on your bunk, with the blanket on top of it. It’s not much of a blanket, but then, it’s not much of a bunk. It’s just a little steel platform. With a little plastic ‘mattress.’ You stow the second sheet. Then you put it on when you send the first sheet to the laundry. Got it? That’s your bedroll.”

He reached under the counter and slapped a plastic baggie down on the surface. “The second kind of amenity is your personal articles. Here they are.”

“Personal?” I hadn’t heard that word in a hundred years.

“That’s what they call them. Of course, in this context ‘personal’ means ‘institutional.’ It’s the stuff that the institution lets you have, which is the stuff that the institution gives you. One washcloth, small. Very small. One bar of soap — brown, of course. One stick of deodorant — they don’t want you stinking the place up. Watch how you use it; it’s not very big, and you won’t get a new one for another year. One can of boot polish — gotta keep your footgear up. Actually, a lot of cons don’t. A lot of cons like that working man’s look. Depends on your screw. The screw’s word is law. But to continue . . . One can of tooth powder. Another one of those things I never knew existed before I took the bus to Durant. The stuff works like toothpaste, sort of. It just tastes like concrete. One toothbrush, short-handled — so you don’t turn it into a weapon. That’s the official explanation, anyhow. You’ll get used to the feeling. One razor — fixed blade, disposable. Same explanation. You’ll be issued a new one every two or three weeks. Gets a little dull. One stick of shaving soap. A little hard to work with, since we’ve only got cold water. But you’ll figure it out. Shave every morning, or you get the paddle. One ballpoint pen. One pad, yellow paper — to record your thoughts and feelings. Just don’t have too many; these pads are pretty small. Those are your personal articles.”

I looked at the plastic bag. I could see all those little articles inside it, jostling together like a bag of tiny toys. Those were my possessions. And, like he said, they weren’t even mine.

“Admittedly, these aren’t the amenities that you’d expect to find in one of our better hotels, but I believe that they’ll fill your needs. Oh, one more thing. This goes in the bag.”

He handed me a little book. There were white words at the top of the brown paper cover: SOUTHERN REGIONAL LONGTERM CORRECTIONAL FACILITY: CONVICT REGULATIONS. Below them was a white space, and a number stamped inside it: 353308.

“It’s your personal copy, man. Don’t lose it; the screws don’t like that. And it is my duty to tell you,” he continued, looking official, “that you are now responsible for knowing and obeying all the regulations you will find in that book. So I suggest that you start reading, convict — while I start cleanin up this shit on the counter. I don’t want to spend the rest of the night down here. After all, it’s New Years Eve.” He grinned at me for a second; then he started wiping things down with a rag.

I opened the book and leafed through the pages. It wasn’t very long. There were 150 numbered regulations. I turned to the first page.



“You are now an inmate in the Southern Regional Longterm Correctional Facility. You are here because you have been convicted of violating society’s rules.   As a convict, you will follow all rules and regulations of this institution. These regulations are provided for your assistance. Any failure to obey them will result in severe penalties.

“There will be no attempt in this book to provide a complete list of rules governing your conduct. Correctional Officers are available at all times to inform you of your duties.”

My eyes wandered down the list of regulations.

  1. All orders issued by Correctional Officers will be promptly obeyed.
  2. Decisions of Correctional Officers are final and are not subject to question or appeal.
  3. Labor assignments will be made on entry to the institution. They will be reviewed 90 days after entry and, thereafter, once a year. Labor assignments are not subject to question or appeal.
  4. Cell assignments will be made on entry to the institution. They will be reviewed 90 days after entry and, thereafter, once a year. Cell assignments are not subject to question or appeal.
  5. All inmates will be In Uniform at all times, except when (1) showering, (2) sleeping, (3) using hygienic facilities, (4) working under specific exemption from the Correctional Officer in charge. Inmates are In Uniform when they are wearing the following articles: boots, socks, undershorts, t-shirt, outer shirt (optional, in cell), cap (optional, in cell), coat (optional). Trousers must be completely buttoned at all times and no more than one button of the shirt may be open.
  6. Cells will be inspected daily and are subject to inspection at any time.
  7. No writing, drawing, pictures, clippings, or objects of any kind will be affixed to walls, bars, or any other surface of the cell.
  8. All personal articles will be stowed on the personal articles shelf of the cell. All reserve uniforms and bedding will be stowed underneath the lower bunk of the cell. All uniforms currently in use will be pegged on the left wall of the cell.
  9. Talk is prohibited in the chowhall.
  10. Talk is prohibited in the showers.
  11. Talk is prohibited in the walkways and corridors.
  12. Talk is prohibited in the cells during Lights Out, Lock Down, and Inspection periods.
  13. Loud talk is prohibited at all times. No talk between convicts may be audible at any time to persons in adjacent cells or walkways.
  14. Food rations will be issued in the chowhall or labor stations. All food rations will be consumed by the convicts to whom they are issued. There will be no requests for additional rations. There will be no consumption of rations issued to another convict. Convicts in violation of this regulation will be issued zero rations at the next three chows.
  15. Inmates are permitted up to four (4) civilian correspondents. All correspondents must be pre-approved and entered on the Approved Correspondents List. All inmate correspondence will be submitted on SRLCF Authorized Correspondence Forms. All correspondence is subject to censorship. Any correspondence containing (1) profanity, (2) business dealings, (3) derogatory references to the SRLCF or SRLCF staff is prohibited. Submission of no more than eight (8) pieces of correspondence is permitted per month. No more than eight (8) pieces of correspondence may be received per month.
  16. Correspondence is a privilege and may be revoked at any time and for any reason.
  17. All conduct that is not specifically permitted is prohibited and will be punished.

“OK,” Brian said, hanging up his inky rag and turning back to me. “I assume you’ve got it memorized. It’s fairly entertaining. The characters aren’t much, but the setting is plausible, at least. And the plot is irresistible. I refer especially to Regulation Number 99.”

I turned to the page.

“99. Sexual activity is prohibited.”

I looked up. “It’s a misprint,” he said. “It’s supposed to read ‘mandatory.’”

“You mean, everybody . . . ”

“Hey, I thought we just concluded our discussion of that aspect of incarceration, which will relieve you of any responsibility for participating in the courtship ritual. Despite all the regulations, things happen more . . . informally around here. I do know a couple of guys that have never . . . engaged. But you won’t be one of them, dude. Look at it this way: did you notice anything about ‘Education’ in those regs?”

“N- no.”

“Well, let’s just say that Regulation 99 is the Education chapter. Right now, however, I’m gonna ask you to step over to that wall again. I need another set of snapshots. You’ve had the ‘Before.’ Now you’re ready for the ‘After.’ Or maybe I should say the ‘During.’ When you’re in the pen, there’s a lot of during and not much after. But you don’t want the after, anyway, do you? By the way, I think I’ve alluded to the fact that these pictures go on the net?”

I nodded my head.

“Don’t start crying, Jason. I don’t have time to deal with you. And you must agree, the citizens of this state get their money’s worth out of this particular feature of the internet. The normal citizens get the naked shots, and the guys who like uniforms . . . Well, you know the rest. I wonder where these fetishes come from, don’t you? Anyhow, take your cap off. Your fans want to see that big bald dome. Go stand in front of the wall. And here,” he said, sticking some white plastic numbers onto a black signboard, “hang this around your neck.” It was the same signboard that Jake wore when he had his mugshots taken. The only exception was that now it said 353308 instead of 351699.

“That’s it. That’s the classic pose. Now don’t forget to look unhappy.”

Did you ever wear a signboard around your neck? There’s not much chance that you’re gonna look happy with one of those things lying on your chest.

He went through the ritual. Front, back, right, left . . . . The light came on; the camera clicked . . . . At last I was fully documented.

“OK dude, that’s it,” he said. “And the screw hasn’t come back yet. So I get to show you your audition shots. That’s what you were waiting around for, right? Anyway, step over here, and I’ll give you a little slide show.”

He was sitting in front of the computer, and I stood next to him. He threw a page up on the screen. It was a page of faces. A hundred faces. All convicts. All staring directly into the camera. All hung with the same DURANT UNIT sign. All caught in the same classic pose. All remembering to look unhappy. “See anybody special?” he said, reaching up under my coat and slipping his arm around my waist.

“No,” I said. His hand was moving, stroking my ass through my stiff convict trousers. It was the first time I’d had that feeling . . .

“I said, see anybody you know?”

What I saw was a hundred hairless, numbered, brown-uniformed convicts — a hundred monkeys in the same square cage.

“Look closer,” he said. “Row 5, number 3.” I counted them off. Row 5, number 3 . . . there was a convict in that space, a convict like any other convict. I could feel Brian’s hand exploring my crack.

“S- So?” I asked.

“Here, I’ll help you,” he said. He clicked on the thumbnail, and it ballooned into a full-screen image.

The convict was me.

“Congratulations!” he said. “You’re one of the gang. Surprised at how well you fit in?”

“Jesus!. . .” I said. “I . . .” But I couldn’t say anything more. There was nobody to say it. It was obvious that Jason Rossetti had ceased to exist. In place of the shy, nice (“oh, Jason, you’re so nice!” Joey used to say), slender, alert, modestly handsome, conservatively dressed young executive, the young man who’d never fitted in but had always managed to get along, if only because he was always so shy and nice, there was a skinny, bald, pouty little punk in a convict suit, a criminal who’d been put where he belonged.

“Like to see some more?”

His fingers were playing with my balls, holding them and stroking them and rubbing them with my uniform . . . .

“No, please . . . Brian . . . ”

“Great — I knew you’d be up for it. Let’s just scroll through your file, dude. Wow! These are fantastic. You should be a model for the D.O.C.”

The pictures were worse than I thought. First there was the geek in the little business suit, overwhelmed by the camera. Then the geek without the business suit, without any suit, standing naked and pathetic against the white wall with the black numbers, an advertisement for clothes, any clothes, for anything to put on yourself so you wouldn’t turn out to look like this guy, thin and bald and white and useless. The only indication of life was the crotch shot, which would never be seen by the public. Then the last series, the pictures that showed what the geek now looked like, at the end of his transformation into a prison punk — the same weak face and the same surly body, encased in a uniform that was way too big and way too serious for the convict they’d put inside.

“Brian . . . ”

“I know. You’ll look better in the next set they take.” His fingers clamped down on my dick. Now he was serious. “Remember,” he said. “You’re in here for life.”

The door banged open. “Awright, College Boy. Is he finished yet?” A pair of boots was clumping toward us.


To be continued …


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