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Flashback to 1969
Ron noticed that Brian was rubbing his eyes and yawning. Even with the windows open and the fans going on high, it was stuffy in the Law Library on an early summer day, and the pair had been working non-stop since lunch.
"Are you tired, Brian?" asked Ron.
"A little," Brian admitted. "And I have a headache. I guess I'm still not used to doing so much paperwork at one sitting."
Ron closed the folder he was working on and pushed his chair back from the desk. "Let's get some air before we have to go back up for 4:00 head count."
Brian grinned. As much as he enjoyed working with Ron in Legal Aid, it was exhausting. He wanted so much to do a good job and not be a disappointment, but often when they finished for the day, Brian's head was throbbing.
But as hard as he tried, it was difficult to impress Ron. He was always finding mistakes in Brian's copy and Brian would often spend hours redoing reports and filling out forms again and again until they were to Ron's satisfaction. Then, back in the cell, Brian also had to clean up the place, do the laundry, and fold and put Ron's clothes away just so.
Not that Brian was complaining, because he wasn't. He was happy with his new situation and happy to have a routine that was as close to normal as was possible in prison. The weeks he had been living with Ron were like a different world from his nightmarish existence in the South Wing. But sometimes Brian wondered if he would ever really be able to please his meticulous cellmate.
Ron had seen that Brian got a new set of government issue clothes, including new shoes, that actually fit him. And a haircut, too. Brian wasn't sure about the haircut at first, but when he saw himself in the mirror he thought that he looked older and more like a man, and not at all like a biker punk or a little queen. People treated him differently, too, when he was with Ron. Ron didn't allow anyone to disrespect his new associate, and he was vocal about withholding his legal help from any guy, including some of his so-called friends, who made disparaging comments about the kid.
Brian was eating regularly and he'd started to use the running track first thing every morning, which made him feel healthier than he had since before he'd been arrested. He even went up to the Gym and worked out with Ron a few times a week, building up his strength slowly, but steadily. The physical bruises and scars that the low-riders had inflicted had faded, even if the emotional ones still lurked beneath the surface. But the only outward mark of Brian's time in the bikers' tip was the tattoo on the middle finger of his right hand. That was there forever.
Whenever he went out on the Yard, Brian was wary. He always had one eye out for the low-riders, although they had never approached him or made any kind of acknowledgement of his existence now that he was out of their control. But they'd taken him once, and in Brian's nightmares they were always there, waiting, somewhere in the dark, to take him again.
But today the bikers were nowhere on the Yard. A softball game was going on and the basketball courts were busy, as usual. It was a sunny day and Brian could hardly wait to drop himself down on the cool grass and take off his shoes.
"I go to all that trouble of getting you new shoes, Brian, and all you want to do is take them off the first chance you get!" said Ron.
"Oh, sit down!" said Brian, pulling off his socks.
"On the grass? And get grass stains on my clean pants?" Ron scoffed.
"Don't be such a tight ass! If it feels good, do it!" Brian laughed, trying to picture Ron doing anything just for the hell of it.
Ron made a face and sat down on the grass, gingerly. "Now how am I going to get back up?"
"A fork-lift?" Brian smirked. "Hey, I'm going to get a pop. You want one, too?"
"Sure," said Ron. And he watched Brian jump up and dash over to the snackbar. Sometimes he wondered where the kid, who had been practically comatose a few months before, got all of his energy. But Ron had to admit that being around Brian so much had revitalized Ron in a lot of ways. He was going to the Gym again and he was spending more time outside instead of closed away in the Law Library every hour of the day. Ron even started going to Movie Night every Friday because Brian wanted to see the films. And he was enjoying doing these things.
Ron had even asked for a Conjugal Visit with his wife, Jane, for the first time in over a year. The natural sexuality that young Brian exuded seemed to be rubbing off on his cellmate. Ron found himself waking up with a hard-on every morning, something that hadn't happened to him since he was a horny college student.
Ron looked over to see what was keeping Brian. And he saw the kid standing at the snack stand with Vince DeFranco, a burly inmate with a reputation as a tough guy and an ass bandit -- a guy who tended to take what he wanted sexually. Brian was obviously trying to avoid the jock, but Vince kept leaning in on the kid. Ron sat up. Not that Ron cared about what Brian wanted to do with other guys -- IF he wanted to do anything. That wasn't Ron's business. They were only cellmates, after all. Nothing more than that.
But guys were usually a little circumspect when Ron was with Brian. They certainly didn't hit on the kid right in front of Ron. They wouldn't have had the balls. But Vince apparently thought Ron wasn't around. That Brian was alone and defenseless. Ron saw Vince take hold of Brian's arm and pull him. And Ron was on his feet and heading across the grass before he even realized what he was doing.
"Get your fucking hands OFF!" said Ron, bristling.
Vince looked around, startled. "Hey, Mister R." Rosenblum was helping him fight a divorce that his goddamn wife had filed for. Vince glanced at the kid. He'd paid Cisco to fuck him a number of times and since he was no longer biker property, he figured that there was no harm in trying to hook up with him, maybe even for the long-term. He'd been a sweet piece of ass before, but cleaned up, he was even better! The kid was celling with the lawyer, but word on the Yard was that Rosenblum was a guy into real pussy only.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Ron demanded.
"Just trying to make a little time with the kid here," admitted Vince, frowning. The lawyer was acting like an angry jocker. Maybe he was the punk's old man, after all. Maybe that's why the punk had been giving him the brush-off. Rosenblum was about Vince's height, but he wasn't as big or bulked up as the jock. Still, Vince didn't want to piss the lawyer off and screw up his divorce!
Ron seized Brian by the elbow. "Come with me, Brian! Now!"
"The kid didn't do anything, Mister R.! I didn't know he was off-limits!" Vince explained.
"If I see you even breathing on Brian again, I'll nail your ass to the wall, DeFranco!" Ron spat at the man. "Your wife will take your kids and I'll make certain that you never see them again. EVER!"
"Ron, it's okay!" Brian said. "He was just talking to me!"
Ron pulled Brian back over to the grass. "Get your shoes and let's go!"
Brian picked up his shoes and followed Ron back into the East Wing. Vince and a lot of other guys were watching. And then speculating about the little scene that had just played out.
As Ron walked back up to the tier he tried to understand what had just happened. When he saw that big lunkhead putting his fucking hands on Brian, he saw red. Yes, he was jealous! That guy was touching something that was HIS! Ron turned to look at Brian, trailing after him, his head down, carrying his shoes and socks in his hand.
"Has that guy been bothering you, Brian? Tell me the truth!"
Brian shrugged. "He was only asking if I was available."
"Available for what?" asked Ron, sharply.
"You know," said Brian, squirming. "He was one of Cisco's customers. He... he likes me. He wanted to know about... about me hooking up with him."
Ron felt the blood rushing into his face. "Doesn't he know that you're celling with me? Working with me at the Law Library?"
"Sure, but..." Brian hesitated.
"But what?" said Ron, stopping at the bottom of the stairwell. He grabbed Brian's hand and squeezed it.
"But we aren't hooked up, Ron!" said Brian. "Vince knows that. All the jockers know that! That makes me... fair game."
Ron's teeth were on edge. "Meaning that other guys have been badgering you, too? And what have YOU been doing about it? Putting out for them? Is that it?"
Brian winced. "Sometimes I don't have any choice! If two guys corner me in the john or in the Gym shower, what am I supposed to do?" Brian was almost crying. "It's easier to just... just give in than get knocked around. It's... a small price to pay if they leave me alone afterwards."
Ron's gut clenched. "Why didn't you tell me that this was happening, Brian?" Ron's voice was softer now.
Brian looked away. "What are you going to do about it? You're not my old man, Ron. You're my boss, you're my cellmate, you're my... my friend, but that's all. Those guys know that. They know you aren't a jocker. They know you don't want a punk. So...."
Ron took a deep breath. "You want to hook up with this guy, this Vince? Is that what you want?"
"Of course not!" Brian replied. He looked up at Ron. Looked at him intently. Then Brian walked up the stairs to the cell without looking back.
They didn't speak during afternoon head count. And down in the Chow Hall during dinner the two also sat in near silence. Ron talked to Ralph, an old inmate who often provided Ron with information about things happening in the Quad, but Brian didn't contribute to the conversation. After dinner Brian sat in the TV Room until 10:00 p.m. lockdown, while Ron stayed in the cell, reading a law journal.
"Have fun watching the tube, Brian?" said Ron, putting aside his magazine as Brian closed the cell door.
"Not really." Brian undressed without looking at his cellmate.
"If you want to move out, then say so, Brian," Ron asserted. "You aren't my slave. No one is forcing you to live here. As long as it doesn't affect your work in the Law Library. Because I didn't spend all that time training you just to let you turn your back on me!"
"I'm not turning my back on you, Ron," Brian said quietly. He folded his pants and shirt neatly and put them away on the shelf. Then he slipped off his tee shirt and grey shorts and put them in the laundry bag.
Ron was used to seeing Brian naked. The kid seemed to have little shame about his body, or else he was simply immune to anyone looking at him. Over the weeks Brian had been living with him, Ron had found himself staring at the kid more and more. And especially now that Brian was beginning to fill out. His golden skin was moist with sweat in the close, humid cell.
Ron was well aware of the looks the kid got wherever he went. Of the attention that the jockers paid to him. Ron had dismissed that attention before, but now he saw it as a threat. Ron had thought he'd been protecting Brian, but he was naive. He'd been blind to what was really going on with the other men in the Quad. And even more blind to his own desires. Yes, he WAS jealous. Damned jealous!
And now Brian was wandering around the cell naked, putting things away, moving shit around. He's doing it on purpose, just to bug me, thought Ron.
"Turn out the light and go to bed, for godsake!" Ron said, finally.
Brian snapped off the bulb over the sink. The lights on the tier had been dimmed after lockdown. Brian stood for a few minutes gazing out the door. He touched himself, absently. Or perhaps not so absently, Ron wondered.
Brian came back to the bunk and looked down at Ron. "Do you want me to move out, Ron? I can't tell what you're thinking at all," Brian whispered. "Why did you bring me here? What did you really want?"
"I... I told you, Brian," Ron answered. It was hot on the tier in early summer. And even hotter in the cell. "I wanted an assistant. I... I wanted... someone to... help me."
"Don't you ever want anything more than that? Anything?" asked Brian. He lay down on the lower bunk, pushing himself up against Ron. Brian touched the curly hair on Ron's chest. Ran his long fingers down Ron's sides.
"Don't do that," Ron mumbled. "This isn't a good idea, kid." Ron had been in prison for 4 years and never been tempted to do it with another guy. Never thought about. Never dreamed about it. Until he saw Brian that first time over in the low-riders' tip. After that he couldn't stop thinking about it.
"Why not?" Brian took a firm hold of Ron's cock. And it came alive in the his soft hand.
"I... I can't do this," Ron breathed. "You don't understand -- I can't do this kind of shit with another man!"
"But I'm not a man," he whispered, putting his red, full mouth against Ron's. "I'm Baby."
"Jennifer," whispered Ron. "I'm sorry I didn't call you back. I see you brought Mrs. Novotny again."
The two stood in the line people going into the Visitors' Gallery at Stanton Correctional Facility for Men.
"I couldn't say no to her," Jennifer Taylor said tensely. "She's been so nice to me."
"She's a leech, Jennifer." Ron glared in the direction of Debbie Novotny, who was still going through her bag of items to give her son, Mikey. "She's taking advantage of you. We could have driven here together. And afterwards... there's a motel just off the Interstate. No one would ever see us there." Ron leaned closer. "It's been over a week."
"I know!" Jennifer breathed. "I'm sorry."
Ron straightened himself and moved away. "It's your call, Jennifer. It's always been your call."
"Ron, please!" But Jennifer cut herself off because Debbie Novotny was moving towards her.
"I see you hooked up with that lawyer, hon," said Deb.
"What?" Jennifer was startled.
"Is he working on your boy's case? For the Prisoners' Legal Defense?"
"Oh, yes," Jennifer recovered. "He's working on it personally. He gives me hope."
Debbie grinned. "That's swell, sweetie! Don't worry, your son will catch a break. You gotta have faith."
Jennifer smiled weakly. "I... I'm trying. I really am."
And they moved into the Visitors' Gallery.
Justin saw his mother sit down at the table next to Michelle's mom.
"What are you going to say, Justin?" Michelle whispered.
Justin shrugged. "I'll just ask her and see what excuse she comes up with, but it better be a good one."
"What are you two talking about?" asked Brian. He was wearing his new Chuck Taylor sneakers and also his new red pullover. He had to put on his prison shirt over it before they'd let him into the Visitors' Gallery, but he was wearing it. Justin kept telling him how great it looked on him. That made Brian feel good.
"Oh, nothing," said Justin, casually. "Just some stuff with my mom."
Brian saw Ron enter the Gallery. He had another paper bag with him, besides his briefcase. More goddamn cookies, probably.
"Justin!" Jennifer called. She hugged him across the table.
"Hey, Mom," said Justin, his voice subdued.
"You're looking wonderful, honey! So wonderful." Jennifer pulled out her kleenex because she knew she was going to cry.
"Justin, is something the matter?" Jennifer frowned. "What's wrong with you?"
Justin stared back at her. "Brian's presents. His birthday was Monday, Mom. I know you didn't forget because I kept reminding you. Asking you about them. So what happened, Mom?"
Jennifer licked her lips. "I... it was... Your father didn't think it was... a good idea, honey. I'm sorry. I didn't want to disappoint you."
"That is SUCH bullshit!" Justin exploded. "I bet you never even told Dad about Brian's presents. I'm sure you didn't! Not that he would give a fuck! He doesn't give a fuck about anything having to do with me!"
"Justin, your language!" Jennifer shuddered. She twisted her kleenex into shreds.
"Fuck my language, Mom!" Justin returned. "Who gives a shit about my language? You let me down. I was counting on those gifts. I had a big party for Brian. I got a cake and ice cream and we had decorations and music -- everything. Everything but my presents." Justin's face was red.
"I'm sorry, Justin. I... I couldn't get those things... I...." Jennifer stumbled.
"I wasn't asking for much, Mom," said Justin. "Some clothes and some books and a radio. For Brian's birthday. You know how much he... he means to me. But you couldn't even do that much for me, could you, Mother? Do you hate Brian that much?"
"No, of course I don't," said Jennifer, her voice forced.
"You have no idea what he's doing for me. You can't understand just how much, Mom." Justin took a deep breath. "I'd be DEAD if it weren't for Brian. Do you hear me? If you don't believe it, ask your good friend, Ron!"
Jennifer blinked. "My... my good friend? R...Ron?"
"Yes," said Justin, glancing down the row to the table where Brian sat with the ex-lawyer. "Ron Rosenblum. Brian's ex-lover here in prison. I told you all about that and so did Mrs. Novotny. Maybe you didn't believe it, but it's true. Ron's still obsessed with Brian. Do you know that, Mom? He still writes Brian gushy letters about how much he loves him and how much he misses him!"
"Don't be silly, honey," said Jennifer. She felt dizzy. "Ron... Mr. Rosenblum is married."
Justin snorted. "He might have a wife on the outside, but that doesn't mean shit, Mom. Maybe he can get it up for women when he has to, but he's hung up on Brian! And he always will be! He wants to have a Conjugal Visit with Brian. He's trying to swing it with the warden." Justin narrowed his eyes at his mother, watching her squirm. "He wants to fuck Brian again so bad he can taste it. Whether you believe that or not."
"It... it isn't true," said Jennifer, her eyes darting down to search for Ron. "That's something from the past, Justin. That was something... something...." Jennifer gripped the edge of the table.
"Why would you care who Ron wants to fuck, Mom?" said Justin, his voice deadly. "Why would it matter to you? You said that he's working on my case for the PLD, right? And that's his only interest in my case, isn't it? Isn't it, Mother?"
"Yes, that's his only interest, Justin. I mean, in your case. That's all." Jennifer's throat was dry.
"So how did Mr. Rosenblum get my list, Mom? How did he know everything that I wanted to give to Brian. Unless YOU gave it to him. But why would you do that? Huh? Tell me!"
"The... list? Your list?" Jennifer frowned.
"Yes, because he sent Brian everything that was on MY list. Even the books. The exact titles. For Brian's birthday. With a nice card." Justin leaned back and crossed his arms. "Funny coincidence, isn't it? Unless Ron can read my mind. Or unless he got the list from YOU. Which is what happened. The only question is why, Mom? Why did you do it?"
"I... I... Justin, I can explain!" But Jennifer couldn't explain. She couldn't. She only stared at her son in confusion.
"Sure, Mother. Explain away!"
And Justin stood up and walked out of the Visitors' Gallery.
Posted November 28, 2004.