The Prison Writer – Chapter 21

By Joshua Ryan

***This is the final chapter***

I know there are some mystery books that have a last chapter where the detective gives all kinds of explanations.  Steven said he never did that, because “the story ends where it ends.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I said.

“It means that I’m bored with all your talk about writing,” Steven said.  “You’re trying to get me to start writing again.  Do a book.  Smuggle it out.”

“That’s right.”

“Sorry,” he said, grabbing my cock and pulling me down on the bunk with him.  “I’ve got better things to do.”

All of our literary discussions ended like that.  So I’ll just do what I want and write some stuff about how things turned out.

Obviously, I told him the whole story about how I’d bribed my way in here, and he told me the story about how he’d done the same thing.  He made me excited when he said he’d done it to write a book, but then he laughed and said, “That was a bad idea.  I found out I hadn’t really wanted to write any stories; I just wanted to live in one.  So now I am.  And finally getting to enjoy it.  End of story.”

So that was disappointing — about the writing part, not the me part.  But if he didn’t want to write, I couldn’t make him.   And maybe he was right about his “motivation,” which my professors always said was the “epicenter of a story,” or something like that, because he started being a lot happier, and even Cameron started saying he didn’t want to meet him on the Yard anymore because he was afraid that Jet and he would go off behind a building somewhere.  “I admit it,” Jet said.  “He’s turning into a really hot man.  I’d just love to get him off by myself.”  Then they started laughing so hard that one of those Intake boys, who was sort of a friend of Jet’s, came over and asked us what was wrong, and Cameron said, “Just talkin about Big Ven,” and Jet said, “What a hot dude he is,” and the guy said, “Sure, sweetie, if you like rough trade,” and walked away.  So that was funny.  But Jet said to me, “I don’t know what you’re usin on Ven, but I hope you don’t start usin it on Cameron.  He’s too hot, just the way he is.”  And Cameron gave him a little tug in a certain area, and when Steven came along and asked us what we were talking about, Cameron said, “We’re talking about the mystery of Steven Meres.  No one knows what happened to him, but there’s a rumor that he’s around here someplace.”

“I dunno,” Steven said. “Ask the detective here.”  Meaning me.  Then he looked to make sure there weren’t any guards around and he pushed up my cap and gave me a long, hard kiss.

It’s still strange to hear him making jokes.  There aren’t any jokes in his stories, even.  But I didn’t mind being called the detective.  I hadn’t realized it before, but there was definitely something like that going on inside my brain all the time.  That’s how I found my way to Maskawa!  And that first time I made it with Steven, I just happened to have a little container of lube I’d snaked out somewhere.  Actually, what I’d found was a stick of deodorant that I’d traded to a con for a sample-size bottle of chablis so I could trade that to another con for the lube.   You know, you gotta be prepared.

Another thing I found was a new job for Steven.  I liked him being so totally buffed out, but after hearing about him and Nesto, I didn’t like him spending any more time outside the walls, even if he was wearing chains.  It seemed like work you shouldn’t be doing for too long, anyway.  So … You don’t work the Hygiene Detail without gettin to know a lotta other cons, makin deals, whatever.  So before he knew it, Steven was workin the warehouse detail.  Unloading supply trucks would keep his muscles in tone, and his literary ability would be used to the maximum by checking off those invoices and so on.  LOL!  A good way to keep him humble, too.  He didn’t like being transferred like that; in fact, he called me a few prison names.  But that’s tough — you’re a convict, dude!  Plenty of pilfering available in that job, too.  (Do you like that word “pilfering”?  I do.  Old school!)  So we started living a little better, back at the cell.

It was right after that when Steven stopped calling me Lassie and started calling me Dog.  Like now I wasn’t a dog in a book; I was a real dog.  I said that to Cameron, and he said, “Congratulations.  You grew up and became generic.”  But from then on I was Dog around the Yard.  Sometimes D-Dude or DG Dude or just DG.  You know how cons are.  If I didn’t watch myself, I’d call Jet “Flyboy” and Cameron “C-Rod.”

One other thing that made me Dog was, I rescued Alec from his life as Al the Porter.  The porters lug stuff around — as in, “Porter, take this junk to the dumpster.”  It wasn’t that Al and I were actually friends; I just got tired of seeing him standing around in the porter line, waiting for an order to schlep something.  He never whined; he was just … dead.  I figured he’d been punished enough for his former life in the executive suite.  So I gave one of the clerks in Admin a pack of cigarettes to get him transferred to the library.  Not that he’d shown any interest in books, but there was a young guy in there that did all the shit work, and Alec could boss him, which would make him feel like he was something again.

That’s the way it is in the Pen — somebody works and somebody bosses, and eventually nothing gets done; it stays the same, but at least one of them gets off on it.  Alec would get to decide things, like how to “arrange” the books (big joke) and when to throw them out and so forth.  I made him promise that whenever he got a real book he’d show it to me rather than toss it, no matter how beat up it was.  So far, I’ve read “War of the Worlds” and Conrad’s “Secret Agent,” which is the BEST, it’s so funny, and I’m halfway through “War and Peace.”  (Which means I’ve had it for a year!  But I know Alec will let me keep it.)   I even got Steven to drop the myths and monsters for a while and read “Treasure Island,” and I make sure he reads five pages a night, no matter what else he wants to do in the cell.  I’ll leave that to your imagination.  But it was interesting — a couple months ago I sneaked in there and Alec says, “Hey, I wanted to show you this.  Some con got it from a visitor.  Quite a coincidence, right?”  In his hand was “Offender!”, by Steven Meres.  “That’s your … cellie, isn’t it?”  He’s never got used to being around gay guys, so that’s the way he talks.  “Yeah,” I said.  “Quite a coincidence.”  I didn’t say, “even more of a coincidence — that book is why I’m on the island!”

So much for Alec.  But I found another job for me, too.  You can only learn so much when you’re swabbing toilets.  And there’s too many noobs comin in that get put on that detail.  I got tired of dealing with all the whiners going on and on about how much they miss that great big beautiful world outside.  Especially the young dudes, pitying themselves while they’re standing in their shit-kicker boots and their ultra-masculine uniforms, with three squares a day and a cage built just for them, boyfriend included, and nothing to worry about except gettin on the bad side of some guard.

And guards come and go, but if you’re a convict, you’ll always be here!  I started noticing that I was, like, telling them what to do.  “You missed one of the toilets on C-3.”  “Hey ya know, shit happens around the top, not just around the bottom.”  “Dylan needs help over there — do it.”  Giving orders.  So you can tell — that was a problem.  When I was on the Outside I read a couple stories on the internet where the little gay guy who goes to prison ends up sort of running the place, because he’s so clever and talented and so on.  I have to admit, I liked those stories when I read them.  When I was outside, I used to think, maybe Steven is doing that — getting prison power!  Not a major fantasy, but … as I found out, he wasn’t!

No big deal, but I didn’t want my story to head that way.  I enjoyed being a criminal — stealing things, making deals, taking a few risks.  Like I said, the Hygiene Detail was fairly good for that.  The problem was, what kind of guard wants to be managing that detail?  We almost never saw one.  So what kind of con gets a kick out of committing crimes when there’s no law around anyway?  And doing what I want is not my idea of Prison — duh!  The solution was to buy a transfer out.  But where?

I decided on the Janitor Squad in the Admin building.  If you’re working in Admin, you’ve always got the chance to run into cons — as well as officers! — that can get you things.  But there are enough uptight officers around to make it interesting.  I love these young, poker-up-their-ass dudes that have gotta act like they’re totally committed to enforcing the rules, etc. etc., meanwhile sending out phony resumes on Get Another Job.  Loading em up with crap about their “management experience” and their “ability to work with people.”  I love it when that kind talks to me!  “Hey boy, get that bucket outta here.”  “I don’t like it.  Do it again.”  “What you lookin at, convict?  Git back to work.”  So if you want punishment and humiliation — which I do! — Janitor Squad has gotta be your thing.  And “Squad” doesn’t mean “Squad” in the way it does with the Scrub Squad or something.  When you’re a janitor, you’re detailed to a certain place, and you’re there till some dude in a tie and a cubicle comes by and tells you to wipe up the spill in the Staff break room.  You’re a stationary target.

So I folded fifty dollars into the spine of “Day of the Triffids” and my dude in Admin checked out the book, and two weeks later I was a janitor.  Every day I report to the second floor of the Admin building.  I take my tools out of the janitor closet and go through the offices.  I sweep the carpets, dust the furniture, and empty the wastebaskets.  If somebody had a food malfunction during the night, I make it go away.  By then, officers and employees are coming in.  Ordinarily they look right through me, like the teachers at St. Swithin’s did to the janitors with names on their shirts who cleaned up after them.

Sometimes I’m yelled at for getting in the way or missing something in the wastebasket, and I stand at attention and humbly apologize.  After that I sit by myself on the old wooden bench next to the stairs.  There are numbers painted on the bench, in case more than one convict is assigned to that duty.  I’m the only one, but I’m assigned to sit on number 2.  Officers and employees walk by, chatting with each other.  Sometimes groups of businessmen come through from the Outside, trying to sell something to the Pen.  No one looks at me unless he wants service.  I’m a piece of furniture — you don’t see it unless you want something to sit on.  Of course, nobody’s gonna sit down on the bench next to me.

It’s funny — when those civilian employees give me an order, they look at my coat and read off my number.  Especially the young ones. “Yeah, OK, uh … 759384, I want you to…”  Unclear on the concept — is this dude a person or a convict?  If he’s a convict, what’s his name?  And they’re the ones that are gonna bitch you out later if you don’t do exactly what they think you should have done.  Then I go into an office to fix a leak or replace a light or crawl under a desk to disentangle the power cords, and I return to my seat.  When I have to crawl I ask permission to remove my coat and cap.  Otherwise I keep my cap on my head and my coat buttoned up to my neck.  Because I am a janitor in the Administration building, I keep my boots shined at all times.

The younger employees often talk in front of me about how “the stupid janitor didn’t put my chair back under my desk” or “the janitor must be retarded — I left coffee on my desk and he never emptied it.”  Typical magician’s trick — while they’re looking at their chairs and their coffee cups they don’t realize that I’ve swiped everything I wanted out of their desks.  Last month I got restricted for a week because I “neglected” to sweep up the Accounting Office.  I didn’t neglect to take ten of those anxiety pills out of the bottle I found in the Chief Accountant’s desk.  Which financed the little wine and cheese party that Steven and I had on New Year’s Eve.

That was, I don’t know, three or four years after I got here.  I do know it was about a year after Cameron saw a noob in the Yard, looked strange, and said, “I think I recognize that con.  I think I used to know him.”

“I don’t think so!” Jet said.  “Everybody you knew is a professor by now.  Or some vice president of something.  You’re too good to know any criminals.”

We all laughed, but Cameron insisted we should follow him over to where the noob was standing.  By himself.  Looking down at his boots.

“No mystery,” Jet said.  “That’s me, before Cameron got here.”

Even that didn’t get a smile out of Cameron; he just kept walking toward the guy who was standing alone.  Who began to look familiar.  Who looked a little like…

“Dean!  Dean Brannigan!”

That was Steven’s voice.  I said, “The cop!”  “It’s him!” Cameron said.

Steven looked from one to the other.  “The cop that arrested me,” I explained.  “The guy I paid off!” Cameron blurted.  “THAT guy?” Jet replied.  So I was right!  Cameron had paid a guy to put him behind bars with his friend.  And since it was the same dude that got into my own story, I was also right about who was “the guy” that I’d paid to put me behind bars.

But now we’d got up close to him.  “Well … How are you … Steven?”  Brannigan said, not looking at the rest of us.

“Doin great.  And you?”  The guy had extended his hand, but Steven kept his hands way down in his coat pockets.

“Not so great,” Brannigan said.  “As you can see.”  He said it with a little grin.  He had his hands in his pockets too, and he pushed them toward each other, squeezing his coat as if he was modeling it.  But if there was ever a guy who looked bad in a convict suit, it was the former Officer Brannigan.  In place of the erect, buff, well-armed, perfectly groomed officer of the law there was a convict slouching in a uniform too big for him, with a number on his chest and a monkey cap on his head.  It was sometime in November, but I guess he was feeling warm for some reason, because he took off his cap to wipe the sweat and I saw the giant white dome that means you’ve just arrived at Maskawa and your scalp hasn’t had time to weather.

“What went wrong?”

“Oh, you know,” he said, trying to grin and not really making it.  “I was always sort of a gambler.  One of the gambles didn’t pay off.   Real estate deals can get pretty … tricky.”

“I assume that Craig was involved.”

“Yeah, sure.  He took a plea bargain and got three to ten.  I went to court and got 30 to life.”   He shrugged.  “It was his evidence that did me in.”

“Well,” Steven said.  “See you around.”

“I … I hope so,” Brannigan said, but by the time he said it, Steven had already turned and started walking away, the rest of us at his heels.

He stopped a hundred yards off and hunched his collar around his neck.

“I guess court is in session,” Cameron said.

“Right,” Steven said.  “Let’s make sure we all know the facts.  This guy took twenty thousand dollars from me to send me to prison for one year, so I could write a book.  But he fixed it so I got sent to Maskawa for life.”

“He took fifty thousand from me,” Cameron said, “to send me…”

“Babe!” Jet exclaimed.  “FIFTY thousand?  Where’d you get that kind of money?  You were just a grad student!”

“Let’s just say I’ve always had some side gigs.  Anyway, he took fifty thousand so I could be sent to Maskawa and spend the rest of my life with this dude.”  Wrapping Jet in one arm.  “So…”  He stopped, because Jet was starting to cry — more vulnerable and more alluring than ever in his thick ugly convict coat with the giant number on the back.

“I guess I got off light,” Steven said.  “He saw how much more it was worth to you.  What have you got to say, Dog?”

“You know what happened.  I gave somebody a hundred thousand, so I could be sent here and spend my life with you.  Brannigan got a lot of it; I don’t know how much.  He was the cop who drove me to Owosso.  He was gloating.  But … Look.  I’m happy with how it turned out.”

“So am I,” Cameron said.  “Although he was definitely a prick.”

“Oh yeah,” I said.

“I’m happy too,” Jet said.  “Although I didn’t have to pay a thing.”

“Which leaves you, Ven,” Cameron said.  “Are you happy?”

Obviously, that was a big climactic moment for me!  What if the answer was no?

“Of course I am,” Steven said, after giving me a moment of panic worthy of the last scene in “The Philadelphia Story.”  “But that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be punished.  He’s still trying to be arrogant.  He thinks it’s just bad luck.”

“So what should we do with him?” Cameron asked.

Steven looked down at the ground, thinking.

“I don’t want to stage a tragedy,” he said.  “He isn’t worth it.”

“Then the only thing left,” I said, “is a comedy.”

They all looked at me for a minute.  Then they saw the point.  One after the other, they nodded.  And laughed.

“So here’s a plan…” I said.

A month or so later — in fact, it was Christmas Eve, for those keeping track of the calendar — we were all out in the Yard, Steven and Cameron and Jet and me, and that afternoon was nothing but black clouds and sludge from the last snow, and stuff that you couldn’t tell whether it was rain or sleet, so we were all hunched up in our uniforms, with our collars up to our chins, and Steven was telling Cameron that he looked so sexy that way, and Cameron was blushing, as much as you could blush in weather like that, and I was pretending to be jealous, when Jet said, “What’s that over there?  I think somebody’s gettin the Spot.”

We all turned toward the place in front of the Chow Hall where they had the line of Spots that guys have to stand on if they’re getting punished, and sure enough, some cons were shoveling off one of the Spots.  “Cmon let’s see,” Jet said, so we slouched over to the place of punishment, and there was a con standing between two guards, who were holding him by the arms.  He was looking completely miserable — head down, shoulders bent … Dean Brannigan was clearly not looking forward to his ordeal.

“Well, what do you know?” Cameron said.  “Who would have guessed?”

“Who indeed?” Steven said.

“Wonder how long he’s gonna have to stand there,” I said.

“Oh,” Cameron said.  “He’ll be there when Santa comes.  He’s the con that caused all the trouble in the chow line this morning.  Jet and I saw it happen.”  Cameron and Jet had good jobs, sloppin chow onto guy’s trays and takin bribes for extra helpings.  “Guy went crazy.  Bustin stuff.  Goin after the chow cons.  Even went after Jet and me.  Hard to explain.”

“Yeah,” Jet said.  “Except that Cameron and me have been … what’s the word?”

“Egging,” Cameron said.

“That’s right.  We’ve been egging him on.”

“I make sure,” Cameron said, “that his chow comes from the burned side of the pan.”

“And I make sure,” Jet said, “that there isn’t enough of it.  It’s so funny when the guy gets mad.”

“Gets really hot when you spill something on him, too.”

“Definitely has a temper problem.”

“We figured it was just a matter of time before he lost it completely.”

“And we’d see him on the Spot.”

Steven hadn’t been saying anything; it was like his mind was someplace else.  Now he said, “This sounds familiar.  Like a plan someone came up with, about a month ago.  What do you think, Dog?”

“I had nothing to do with it,” I said.  “I’m just a convict.”

The Spot had now been cleared.  The culprit was marched onto it, told to remain, warned about breaching the circle, and left in position.  The guards walked back to their little shack near the Chow Hall steps.  They could stay warm in there and make sure the offender didn’t move.

The other cons stayed back, watching.  It was always fun to see somebody on the Spot — unless it was you, of course — and this was Yard time, so there wasn’t anywhere else to go.  I heard a lot of jokes and comments about “typical asshole fish,” and “hey dude, want somethin from the Chow Hall?”  Then the crowd drifted to the shelter of the nearest wall.  We four stayed to make sure that Brannigan saw us in front of him.  At first he tried to keep looking us in the eye, but you can’t do that forever when you’re standing on the Spot.  It’s like trying not to put a toe outside the circle.  It’s like trying not to cry.  Because that’s what he was doing.

“Seen enough?” I said.

“Not quite,” Steven said.

So we stayed until the bells went off and we had to go back to our cells.  But we’d stayed long enough.  Brannigan was already wobbling and a guard had come out to remind him to remain on his feet.

That night Steven and I were lying on his bunk, enjoying the brandy that somehow hadn’t arrived at the Deputy Warden’s house.  I asked Steven how many times Brannigan was going to be punished until he adapted to prison life.

“I don’t know,” he said.  “What’s that line from the movie?  ‘If it was anybody else, I’d say it would be a lesson to you.  But you’re gonna need more than one lesson, and you’re gonna get more than one lesson.’”

“That’s pretty good writing,” I said.

“I guess so,” he said.  “Anyway, it can take a while to understand that you’re a convict and you’ll always be a convict.”

“Maybe he’ll get to enjoy it,” I said, giving his dick another kiss.  “You did.”

“Yeah.  Too bad I didn’t know how to write that story,” he said.  “But I’d rather live it than write it.”

Suddenly we heard shouting, up and down the block.  It was midnight — Christmas!

“So whose story is it?” I asked.  “Somebody must have written it.”

“Let me think,” he said, rolling onto his stomach.

“Hey!” I said.  “Don’t spill that brandy!  I worked hard for that.”

Not that I cared.

The shouting was still going on.  The bunk was small, punishingly small, which meant it was exactly right for us.  Lights in the cells had been turned off, hours ago, but the glow from the range lights never stopped.  In the middle of the night you could wake up and see the shadow of the bars beside your bunk and see the rivets in the wall beside you, holding your cell together.  In that light, Steven’s ass lay strong and hilly, with a dark quiet valley waiting to be entered.

“I think you’re writing a new chapter now,” he said.

“All right,” I said.  “I’ll do the best I can.”

“I know you will,” he said, and I went inside him, to the place where I always wanted to be.

The End

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Metal would like to thank the author, Joshua Ryan, for this story!

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4 thoughts on “The Prison Writer – Chapter 21”

  1. Intricate, so well written and sadly for us this story must come to an “end”. But not for those now living within — Wow.
    Off now to read or re-read (or live) some more from Joshua Ryan.
    Thank you.

  2. Another great story from the awesome Joshua Ryan. Thank you for all you do to create great characters!!! Love your stories.

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