The Prison Writer – Chapter 15

By Joshua Ryan

I know I’m coming into this story pretty late.  I also know that if it was a story by Steven Meres, the plot would be set up so it was all about the hero.  If you liked him, you’d be disappointed if anybody else barged in.  If you didn’t like him, I guess you’d be happy if somebody showed up to grab your attention and twist it for a while.  Whatever … this is where I come into the plot.

I am Carl Owen Abbott III.  Despite that, I’ve always been known as Colly.  I was the “college kid” on the boat that day.  I put that in quotes because I was 19 already.  Meaning fun’s over, right?  Time to decide what you’re gonna do for the rest of your life.  Not sure how seriously I took that, but…

Naturally I was in college.  Everybody goes to college, and my grandfather’s name was carved on the lecture hall at Kingston.  The same hall where I scrolled gay porn during lectures.  Laughing out loud here!  I was a pretty good student, but I knew that even if I weren’t I’d get a decent legacy grade and a more than decent legacy job.  If I wanted one.  If I just wanted to hang out and read for the rest of my life, that would be fine too.  Better, in fact.  My brother had been running the company since our parents died, and he didn’t need to be bothered with Collylocks, as he called me.  Yeah, nice blond hair.  But the point is, I’d never been punished for anything, and maybe that had something to do with what was gonna happen.

I didn’t really like most people.  I was a snob!  Not about money — that’s my brother’s way of being a snob.  People just bored me, that’s all.  Even when I was in bed with some guy, I’d be thinking, “and so forth and so on.  Et cetera.”  Like it was a long boring story.  And speaking of boring, I like to read, but you can get tired of all that serious lit they give you in your English classes.  I tried, but I didn’t care about Pip and old Miss Havisham and so forth.  I was into stuff that my profs called “less demanding.”  For instance, I read all the way through those novels by Steven Meres.

I didn’t like the actual mysteries very much; I guess they were OK.  But I did like Danny Brant, because he was gay and he always, always! knew what to do.  Which I never did!  And I liked the prison stuff!  Meres was obviously all porned up about Prison.  He tried to keep you from noticing, but that just made it hotter, because you could tell that he knew it was wrong, so he had to be sneaky about it — all right, subtle about it!  Teachers always told me that great writers “put themselves” into their heroes.  So sure, Danny was Steven.  Obviously.  Danny was always smarter than the criminals at doing what the criminals did, which was planning everything out, just like Steven was at planning his plots and characters and creating the prisons or whatever.  And you could tell he was in love with Danny.  Narcissism?  Oh yeah!  But you also noticed how much time Steven spent with the criminals.  I don’t mean the high-class criminals with all the money and cars, but the dudes Danny met in prison.

You could see that Steven identified with Danny, who was ferreting out the big important bad guys and getting them punished, but he kept sending Danny to prison, which was exactly the opposite, like he also thought it would be cool to get punished and cuffed and shackled and humiliated and sent somewhere to live in a cell and wear a uniform and get reduced to nobody.  That’s why I thought Steven Meres was such a great author, because who can do all those things?  I mean, be the detective and the criminal all at the same time?  That scene in “An Exchange of Characters” where Danny infiltrates the prison by changing clothes with the hot young convict, and he tells him, “Get moving!  Leave!  I’m the convict now” … What can I say?  Fantastic.  Steven Meres was creating a world where things like that happen.  I just wished that he’d made Danny stay in prison!  He deserved it, for being such a wise ass.  LOL!  Of course, I already knew that the idea of being punished was pretty big in my own brain too, I guess because … why?  I don’t know.  Maybe because I was a rich, useless kid who always expected to have his own way, and I knew that was a bad thing to be?  I mean “bad.”  Or maybe just boring!  But wouldn’t the world be a better place if all the boring people got the punishment they deserve?  Think about it.

But anyway — I spent tons of hours fantasizing about STEVEN, whose smug little picture was on the back of every one of his books, and bigger if it was a second printing.  He was pretty hot in those pictures, and you knew he’d be lots hotter if he wasn’t posing as the, like, next winner of the Nobel Prize.  Which was so ridiculous.  He wouldn’t have been acting that way if he hadn’t been an insecure little fairy!  But who’s talking, right?  And actually, that made him hotter to me, because all that prestige stuff made it fun to fantasize about what he’d look like if he actually got sent to one of those prisons in his stories — how he’d look if he was cuffed and shackled and stuffed into a prison bus and given a number and had his ass planted in a cell.  It wouldn’t be exactly like the prisons he wrote about — even I knew those weren’t what you’d call totally realistic.  Like one of my profs said about some other books, they were “romanticized.”  I knew he had to do that, for the audience.  Including me, I guess!  But — The stories WERE about real things; they just went further.  They were more than real!  I was sure he could handle a real prison.  He was that kind of guy.  Yeah, I know when somebody says, “I was sure,” he means he was wondering.  So?

If you’re getting the idea that I was starting to identify with STEVEN like he identified with Danny, you’d be right.  And it got more interesting when I started searching online for gay prison stories.  I found some, but they were mainly just slam, bam, thank you Dan.  They weren’t actually stories.  Then I happened onto this pirated text of a book called “You Must Change Your Life,” and I knew right away who wrote it.  “Stanley Mason,” the “author,” was Steven Meres.  Nobody else could write that way.  You can imagine how long it took me to pay the outrageous porno price for the authentic texts of all his stories that weren’t fit to be seen in public.  Took me about two minutes!  And yeah, this was definitely an author who needed to be punished!  Locked down, chained up, humiliated in front of all his literary friends and critics and the professors who said he had “brought maturity to LGBQ detective fiction.”  And maybe I needed to be punished for buying all those fantasies that the professors didn’t know about — or didn’t let on that they did.

So I was getting more and more fascinated with Steven Meres and with the idea of prison and punishment and all the punishments I was dreaming up for him and also myself.  Cmon, you don’t have fantasies?  You don’t have heroes?  Not to spend too much time on my professors, but they were always sighing and crying about how students never did any research, but now I was digging around for all the old prison books I could find, the old classic stuff, and the more I looked, the less attention I paid, if possible, to college.  How’s that for irony?  English is an easy major, and it got easier once I stopped worrying about it.  But then what?  Prison was a hard, scary, manly, punishy, wonderful, humiliating thing; it was definitely too good for rich boys like Colly Abbott.  Which is what made it so great and also frustrating.  There was this fan letter I kept writing to STEVEN, but I could never get to the end of it.  Some writer, huh?  But my real problem was still, what do I want?  What do I want to do with my life?  I was smart enough to know that I was using the whole Steven-prison-fetish thing to keep from thinking about that problem.  But I liked doing it anyway — so what?  Do you think I should have been buying a job with some charity org, like my worthless cousins?

Then came the day when it all started fitting together.  It was summer and I didn’t have anything to do except wait for the next Steven Meres story, which would take who knows how long?  So I agreed to go with my brother — his name is Wyatt, by the way, not that it matters — and some of his ridiculous friends for a week of hanging out at Grand Hotel, Maskawa.  So OK, and right from the start it’s miserable, cause I hate these guys.  But we’re on the ferry and I look over the rail from the promenade or whatever it is, and there on the aft deck were — convicts!  Being taken to the island!

It was the first time I’d actually seen any!  Naturally, my cock sprang to attention.  Wyatt and Company didn’t notice; they proceeded to the lounge.  I couldn’t see enough; I wanted to memorize everything I saw.  Some old guy was standing next to me and laughing.  “I see you like the prisoners,” he said, in that old-guy way, like you’ve got nothing to do besides listen to him slowly reeling it out.  “Well then, you’ve got a lot to like.  There’s two or three thousand of them out on the island.”  And he told me about the “big prison on top of the mountain.”  I wasn’t really following what he said, because 20 feet away from me were the actual convicts, the actual dudes that were getting shipped to prison.  They were already being punished and humiliated — they were dressed in UGLY white jumpsuits that were about 12 times too large, they had shackles on their legs, and — best of fuckin all! — they were attached to each other so that one dude’s arm was under another dude’s arm.  They were handcuffed together like that, so they could never get even an inch away from each other.

I could have stayed there all day, just looking at them, thinking how hot it would be to get myself cuffed up to one of those prisoners.  The old guy that was talking to me had gone someplace, and so had everybody else, so I was the only one on the upper deck, except for Wyatt, who came back looking for me and went away again when I told him I wanted to keep looking at the view.  You bet I did!  Then I thought — what’s the matter with me?  Why aren’t I taking pictures?  So I whipped out my phone and settled into recording all these — what do they call them? — precious memories.  For future use!  I kept wanting the jailbirds to look up at me, so I’d get some faces and not just the tops of their heads, but all they did was raise their chins a little bit and then feel ashamed, I guess, and look down again.  I’m having a good time, however, until Wyatt comes back with that raspy voice of his and “are you still here?” and so on, and embarrasses me until I agree to go inside and drink with him and his stupid friends.  If you’ve got money, you can always get a fake ID.  So “cmon, what are you lookin at?  There’s nothin out here.”  But before I go inside, I turn around to take ONE more picture, and finally one of the jailbirds looks up, right at my phone!  Which was so great, because he was looking so helpless and cringy and just like PLEASE DO NOT TAKE MY PICTURE, and the dude was — Steven Meres!  Steven Meres, sitting there in a white convict suit with PRISON TRANSPORT on his back!

It was the greatest thing that ever happened!  I took five more pictures, push push push push push, and as soon as I got in the lounge I looked at them and — fuck!  I bagged him!  I got one picture of STEVEN staring up, all innocent and scared and “at last, maybe there’s nobody looking at me,” and five pictures of a very pissed-off STEVEN, still looking directly into my camera, and knowing what just happened.  Probably wondering whether I was gonna put it on the net!

I was so excited, I didn’t know what to think.  It wasn’t a publicity stunt — he couldn’t be relying on me to come out of nowhere to advertise him.  And maybe I don’t have enough imagination, but I couldn’t picture him committing some big fuckin crime.  If anybody would have known about him being arrested or put on trial, all that stuff, I would have known.  So what was he doing on that boat?

I don’t know why my brother thought it was so important for me to go in and drink with those guys — all they wanted to do was watch some sports thing on the big-screen over the bar.  And yell about it, of course, like it mattered.  But it gave me some time to … what’s that word?  Ponder.  I looked at my phone and I pondered the pictures I took.  I pondered what a man like Steven would be thinking right then — what stories he’d be writing in his head.  And as soon as I thought that, I thought: maybe he’s writing a story.  Another prison story.   His best prison story!  Maybe he had himself sent to prison, so he could write that story.  So he could write something that was truly super-real!

I knew it was true!  I mean, why not?  Why wouldn’t he?  Not only a great artistic challenge, but the book would sell like crazy!  And he was so smart, he’d figure out how to do it.  Like that guy Reemer or Reimer or whatever it was, back in the thirties.  Like Danny Brant in “Exchange of Characters.”  Of course he was pissed that I took those pictures — he didn’t want me to blow his cover.  Which I wouldn’t!  I wanted those pictures all to myself, if you know what I mean.  I looked at my margarita, rocking along on the little plastic-covered table they give you in the ship’s lounge, and I thought, this is one trip I’m fuckin glad I went on!

But there was one more thing, which was fantastic.  When the ferry pulled up to the dock, they started taking the convicts off, and I hurried down to the barrier that made us decent people wait till the offenders had passed, and there he was, shuffling along, head down, arms locked with that Frankenstein they’d mated him with, and I yelled out “STEVEN MERES!  YOU’RE STEVEN MERES!”  He turned around and gave me this really horrible look — definitely a classic!  And he was so upset that he stumbled on his leg chains, and Frankenstein had to hold him up and sort of lug him down the stairs to the car deck.  I got pictures of the whole ultra-humiliating thing!  Man, I wished I could have been him right then.  The great, ironic recognition scene — the hero hailed and disgraced by his biggest fan, at the moment of his greatest humiliation!  I hoped that Steven appreciated that.  I know that I did!

Of course, when we got to the hotel — which is really a lot more of a place than you’d expect to find on an island like that, and the bellboys are SO great to look at — I spent the afternoon with my phone, most of it in the way you guessed.  But I also checked around on the net.  Like I said, there were zero reports about Steven getting arrested, but on his agent’s site the list of book signings had already stopped.  I sent an email to the agent, and I guess he was still on the job because he came right back saying that “Mr. Meres is strongly engaged on the writing of his next book, which we anticipate will be his biggest success.”  That was it, and that’s the way it stayed, whenever I asked again.

Maskawa is one of these places where you’re supposed to go swimming (brrrr!) or boating or bicycle riding.  Or something.  So next day, Wyatt and his friends went out on the water, and I rented a bike and took it up the hill.  They call it a mountain, and that’s the way it feels by the time you get to the top.  At least it showed me I was still in shape.  When I say “the top,” however, I mean a fence that’s maybe four-fifths of the way up.  But — big thrill! there’s a sign that says


You look ahead, off through the trees, and you imagine that you can almost see it … and then an old dude pops out of a guard shack and asks if you have official business or if you’re on the “visitors list.”  Not much chance I could get away with either of those claims.  So I had to turn back.  I spent the rest of that afternoon drinking at a little café I found on a side street, and studying aerial photos that I found online.  They weren’t that close; I guess the prison doesn’t want to be photographed.  But I also found a bunch of random shots that people got close enough to take, and I was fuckin kicked in the ass!  That place was TOTAL!  If you wanted to think about Prison, that’s the prison you wanted to think about.  I can’t describe it, except to say it reminded me a lot of that prison Steven made up for “Men in the Pen,” which is one of those Stanley Mason stories.  But now Steven himself was locked up in there!

Question was, how could I get closer?  Nobody on the island seemed to know.  Almost everybody you ran into just worked in a hotel during the summer or was just staying there for a week.  If you started asking questions about the prison, pretty soon they’d be looking at you like, what’s wrong with this dude?  I did talk to a waiter who said, “Yeah, sometimes when I’m on the early shift I see some of those convicts workin over in the park.”  He shrugged.  “It’s like a chain gang, I guess.”  The next two days I got up while the streets were still slippery with fog and walked around the park by the beach.  For hours.  Well, I also got something to eat at a place across the street, and hung out over there.  But I never saw any convicts, although the environment helped with my fantasies.  Dark, misty, mystical — fun, but nothing real.  And then I had to leave with Wyatt and his friends.  And then school was starting up again, and I didn’t want to make a total disgrace of myself by going back to the island and acting like a detective.

So during the next school year I kept on reading about prisons and downloading movies and pictures and so forth, and I read all the stuff that the Department of Corrections put online about Maskawa — which, if you want to find a reason to kill yourself, that would be it, go and read that stuff.  It’s all just words, when it isn’t statistics — persons confined during past ten years, percentage of recidivists (go look that up!), cost per offender … Was this real?  Not nearly as real as the fact that Steven was in that place.   The last night I was on Maskawa, I’d looked up at the mountain, where I could see little lights that I knew came from the prison, and I thought: “Steven Meres is CONFINED up there!”  It was like I was CONFINED there too — like Steven was inside the prison and I was inside him.

What a feeling!  And Steven was showing that all these fantasies could become realities!  But how — how did he manage it?  I had no idea, and I guess when you have no answers you stop asking questions.  Almost.  I kept hunting for news about Steven, even though I was sure that when he got out there would be some big publicity splash.  And every couple of months I wrote to his agent asking about forthcoming publications, public appearances, yadda yadda.  Always the same answer: “Mr. Meres is strongly engaged…”  In other words he was still in prison!  So I kept having my fantasies and remaining what one of my teachers used to call “mildly dissatisfied” — “Colly, you seem happy enough, but you are always mildly dissatisfied!” — until I went to my brother’s birthday dinner.  What?  You’re asking.  What does that have to do with anything?  You’ll see.

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3 thoughts on “The Prison Writer – Chapter 15”

  1. Makes it all seem possible. So there is hope for me, wonder if there are guys here that could make something like this happen. Asking for a friend.

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