Go to all chapters of "Medium Security".
Flashback to July 1973
One minute the sun was shining on a beautiful day and the next minute all hell broke loose in the Yard.
Brian heard the war begin before he saw it. He and Ron were leaning against the North Wing wall, taking a break from the stuffy Law Library and having a smoke on a very hot day.
Then something crashed against the wall about a foot away. It was a large piece of metal that had been flung through the air. Brian immediately pushed Ron to the ground and dropped down next to him.
Someone was screaming. Then a lot of men were screaming. Then the sirens in the tower went off.
"Move!" Ron yelled. "We have to get inside!"
Across the Yard the Brothers and the Aryan Warriors were battling with homemade weapons, chunks of concrete, and planks of wood from a broken picnic table.
Ron and Brian crept to the door of the North Wing and pulled it open, trying to get the hell out of the way.
But they were overtaken by a small contingent of the Brothers, who were also escaping the Yard.
"In here, muthafuckers!" the black inmates shouted, pushing Brian and Ron before them into the Chapel, where they began barricading the door with tables and folding chairs.
"Is that really necessary?" asked Ron. "If the C.O.'s think that you're trying to...."
"Shut the fuck up!" said Turner, the leader of the group. Turner was in Stanton for burglary, but he called himself a political prisoner. "This ain't about the C.O.'s! This is a war with them skinhead muthafuckers, the Aryans!"
"Then I think it's best if we all keep our heads and lay low until this skirmish is over," Ron suggested. "That way no one will get hurt."
Turner walked over the Ron. He looked the lawyer up and down, but Ron stared back at him, unafraid. This lawyer was a smart-ass bastard. He had prepared Turner for his meeting with the Parole Board, but he didn't get his parole. That lawyer was worthless. He needed to be taught who was the boss now.
Turner slapped Ron sharply. "That's what I think of what you think, lawyer!" Turner motioned over two of his compatriots, who pushed Ron and Brian down on the floor, their backs against one of the chapel pews. "What you think we got here, brothers? A couple of fucking spies?"
"Looks like it," one of the men grinned. "Spies!"
"If you think that the Aryans would use a Jew and a faggot for spies, then you had better rethink things," said Ron, rubbing his jaw.
"You don't tell me what to think, white man!" said Turner, dangerously. "This is a war! This is between US and THEM! And I can take one look at you and know where you belong, lawyer."
"And I'm only telling you to think again if you believe that the Aryans wouldn't kill the my associate and myself at least as quickly as they would kill any of you," Ron reasoned. "It isn't simply a matter a race, Mr. Turner. It's a matter of ideology."
"Someone shut up this muthafucker before I have to kill him!" urged Turner, pulling out a shank made out of a metal bedslat. "You want to be quiet permanently, lawyer? Or you gonna keep still -- like your bitch here?" Turner nudged Brian with his foot and then touched Brian's cheek with the tip of the shank.
"I think I'll keep still," said Ron. And Brian breathed a sigh of relief.
"Good idea," said Turner. "Now fix these two up good and tight."
The youngest of Turner's men, a serious-faced car thief who had adopted the name Baraka since he'd been in prison, demanded Brian's workshirt. Brian slipped it off. The other inmate ripped it into strips and tied Ron's and Brian's hands behind their backs.
The noise outside had grown louder until it sounded more and more like a full-scale battle in progress. A piece of concrete came flying through the stained glass window of the chapel.
"Shit!" cried Turner. "Pull them benches all around here! Anything you can move, suckas! Before they get inside here!"
The inmates began ripping up the pews and piling them in a circle to make a defensible nest within the chapel. They dragged a large screen off the altar and put it in front of the broken window.
Someone began pounding on the door of the chapel and there was a shouted exchange between Turner and the men outside. "It's Cal and the Dawg," said Turner. "Let 'em in."
Two more members of the Brothers rushed into the chapel -- and they had two of the South Wing C.O.'s with them. And they had the C.O.'s batons and pistols.
Brian had been apprehensive before, but now he was terrified. It was one thing for inmates to hole up with some pieces of pipe and homemade shanks for weapons, but quite another thing for them to have guns taken from guards. If the C.O.'s decided to take back the chapel, they'd shoot first and sort out who was in rebellion and who was a hostage after the fact.
The two C.O.'s had been beaten badly. One was bleeding from the mouth and forehead, while the other was dragging a broken leg. The pair were pushed down to the floor, then bound and gagged with pieces of their own uniforms.
Brian and Ron watched quietly as the other inmates built up the barricade at the door, as well as the only other entrance, the door that led from the Sanctuary into the robing room and office behind the altar.
But Ron shook his head. He couldn't remain silent another second. "You're making a mistake, Mr. Turner."
"Are you talking again, lawyer?" barked Turner in exasperation.
"I thought your war was with the Aryans, Mr. Turner, not with the C.O.'s," Ron pointed out.
"Them skinhead muthas started this -- but WE gonna finish it!" Turner stated, and his men all agreed.
"By taking other prisoners hostage? By taking guards?" Ron huffed. "That's the way to bring the entire prison staff down on your heads. It's not about a turf war anymore, Mr. Turner. It's about whether we are all going to survive."
"This ain't about turf! We're fighting a revolution here, lawyer!" Turner snapped.
"What does taking C.O.'s have to do with the revolution?" asked Ron. "They're only cogs in the system. They aren't the Administration, Mr. Turner. They aren't the ones who you should be fighting. It's the power that runs the prison. And violence isn't the way to fight that kind of conflict!"
"Baraka!" Turner shouted. "You hear this white muthafucker and his big mouth?"
"I hear him," said the younger inmate, glaring at the lawyer and his bitch.
"If he starts mouthing off again I want you to shut his trap for him -- with this!" Turner handed Baraka another homemade weapon, a thin shiv that Turner had pulled out of his shoe. "You in charge of these two."
"Why don't you put a gag on 'em, like on the bulls over there?" asked Baraka, gesturing at the C.O.'s.
"Because I wanna see just how far this fucking lawyer will go," Turner smirked. "I wanna see him open his mouth one more time -- so we can close it for him! And now I wanna see what we got in the way of 'government issue' over here!" Turner moved towards the two bound guards.
"Jesus," breathed Ron as he and Brian watched Turner and his two lieutenants, Cal and Ameer, work over the captured C.O.'s. "I think I better be quiet for a while."
"They're going to kill us, aren't they?" whispered Brian. His heart was beating so fast that he was sure the young inmate who was guarding them could hear it.
"Probably," said Ron, calmly. "And if they don't kill us, then the C.O.'s who clean this place out will. Which means that either way, Baby, we're just as dead."
Flashback to July 1973
He had been given the job of guarding the lawyer and his punk, but Baraka's eyes kept moving over to Turner and the men who were taking out their fury on the two captive guards. It had progressed from punches and kicks to something much more personal. Something sexual. Something more about frustration and individual retaliation than about the solidarity of the Brothers and what they supposedly stood for. Pride. Fighting against injustice. Getting your due in a racist society. That's what Baraka thought it was all about. Not about humiliating and jacking off all over two helpless men.
Baraka turned his head away in disgust. The fucking lawyer was right. This wasn't about the revolution. There was no fucking revolution! And it wasn't about the Aryans, either. The Aryans were just a bunch of stupid redneck honkies who thought they deserved to run the fucking world, but who couldn't even control their little piece of a prison playground.
No, this was all about Turner and his power. And about what Turner could do because he was able to do it in this single room on this hot, stifling afternoon. Because in this crummy little corner of a two-bit medium security prison Turner was God for one day.
Baraka knew that Turner would kill the guards the first chance he got, even if it meant that he would be killed for it. Even if it meant that they all would get killed. Because for Turner it was about anger and vengeance. It was about Turner's own damaged pride. About making his mark, even if it was made in his own blood. And made in the blood of everyone else holed up in the chapel.
Baraka watched the lawyer and the kid, who sat quietly as the minutes ticked on. Everyone in the Quad knew the two of them. Turner knew they had nothing to do with the Aryans. The lawyer was right -- the redneck muthafuckers would kill a Jew and a queer in a heartbeat. So the two belonged nowhere in this fight. Except that they were caught in the middle of it. And they would pay the price along with everyone else.
The Baby. That's what they called the lawyer's bitch. In a world where real bitches were unavailable, the Baby was top-of-the-line. Baraka wasn't into white pussy, but he could see why men desired this one. He had a long, slender body that Baraka often saw revealed as the white kid ran around the track in the morning, looking as if he was about to fly. He was also soft and smooth, but not loud and queeny like some bitches. The Baby was something you could stand to have in your cell all day and then in your bunk all night.
The kid leaned his head against the lawyer's shoulder. The lawyer's hands were tied behind him, but he curved his left arm out to hold the kid up. That's the way they always were. Joined at the fucking hip. You never saw one without the other and they all said that the lawyer never, ever let the Baby out of his sight, so it would be fitting when they both died here together.
The Baby opened his eyes and looked directly at Baraka. His eyes were as wide and dark green as a cat's. Baraka almost gave the sign for the Evil Eye that his grandmother used to ward off bad luck. But it was too late for that. Bad luck had already made itself at home.
A fly buzzed overhead in the hazy heat. It was still on the Yard now. Ominously still. As the afternoon wore on and nothing happened Turner grew restless. He was bored with the C.O.'s. They were either unconscious or so numbed that it was useless to fuck with them anymore. So Turner paced back and forth, tapping the confiscated pistol against his hip as he moved like a caged lion.
"You awful quiet now, lawyer," said Turner. "You run out of things to say?"
"You told me to shut the fuck up, so I'm shutting the fuck up," Ron replied.
He shifted slightly. The ties on Ron's wrists were biting into his flesh and a piece of wood from the pew was digging into his back. But he couldn't let Brian know that he was uncomfortable. Couldn't let Brian know that Ron was afraid.
Ron was used to putting up a front. Used to lying -- or revising the truth. But not to Brian. He had been the one person who Ron felt he could be honest with. He wasn't Ron's wife or his client or someone Ron was trying to play. Brian wasn't any of those things. So why did Ron feel the need to play this role now? To be the man. To protect his punk, his kid, his... associate. Why did it matter so much at the end?
"This your bitch, right?" said Turner. He stood over the two men and looked down at where they sat. "You keep this pussy on a tight leash, don't you lawyer? You like keeping this for yourself. Is it that good? That sweet?"
"Brian is my assistant," said Ron, gritting his teeth. "And I take care of him."
"Yeah, we all know how the man takes care of a punk in prison!" Turner laughed and Cal and the Dawg laughed with him. "But we all in this together now. Ain't that so, lawyer? In the revolution we all work for a common goal. We all share the shit we got."
It had been hours since Brian or any of the men had drunk any water. Two of the inmates had searched the robing room, looking for wine, but they hadn't found anything. And the faucets in the sink weren't working. All of the water and electricity to the building had been turned off.
Brian was sweating with the boiling heat, but also with intense anxiety.
Turner slowly ran his pistol down the side of Brian's smooth face.
"Stand up, bitch," Turner snapped.
Baraka frowned and he stood up first. "What the fuck, Turner?"
"Back off, Brother," Turner ordered. "I'm only seeing what I got here." Then he said, louder, "I said to stand up, bitch!"
"Don't do it Brian!" said Ron. "Stay where you are!"
Turner pointed to Ron. "Show him your shiv, Baraka."
The young inmate hesitated. But Turner was his leader. His Brother. This white man was nobody. Baraka took out the thin shank and pressed it against Ron's neck.
"You interrupt again and you're gonna feel it, lawyer," said Turner.
"Brian -- don't," Ron said. And Baraka pricked the tip of the homemade blade into Ron's neck until a single drop of blood ran down.
Brian immediately stood up.
His legs felt stiff and wobbly from sitting so long on the floor and it was difficult to keep his balance with his hands bound behind him, but he stood as straight as he was able. He made his face a mask. Made himself blank for what he knew was coming.
Flashback to July 1973
Brian squeezed his eyes shut.
The tighter he kept them closed the more he could pretend he was somewhere else.
He had learned that early in his life.
When he was very little he had seen a movie. He didn't remember where he had seen it or anything else about it, but he recalled that in that movie there was a beautiful valley surrounded by mountains. And living in that valley was a golden horse with a white mane and tail.
Brian remembered how quiet and peaceful it seemed in that place. How blue the sky was. And birds soared above the valley, their wings stretched out on the wind.
That night -- or not long after -- his father came home drunk. Again. He yelled and threw things. Brian heard his mother crying. Brian was in his bed and he was afraid. It was dark in his room and he was terrified of the dark.
So the little boy had closed his eyes and suddenly he was in that valley. He was running. Feeling the green grass under his bare feet. Feeling his hair whipping around his face. He felt all golden and white, like the beautiful horse. And no one could ever catch him. Not his father or his mother. Not anyone.
And the valley slipped into his dreams. Through the long, dark nights he could drift there, alone, but happy. And free.
Until he woke up. Until someone shook him out of his dream. Out of his fantasy.
"Stop daydreaming!" his mother would shout. Or his teacher. Or his old man, who added a slap across the back of his head. "Wake up! You're useless, sitting around staring into space. What are you? A moron?"
But that was the only place that was his. The only thing that belonged to him. And no one could take it away from him.
Sometimes when he was running around the track that circled the Yard, he dreamed that he was there once again. Running, like the golden horse. Or flying, like the soaring birds. He could forget where he really was, or what was really happening to him.
That's what had gotten Brian through the months in the low-riders' tip. Because he wasn't actually there. He was gone, very far away. The drugs the bikers gave him helped him to get there. He was grateful for the drugs, but he could get there without them, too. As long as he could close his eyes. As long as....
"Take off your shirt," Turner barked.
Brian felt the cold nose of the pistol against his cheek. His workshirt had already been torn up to be used to tie him and Ron, so he was only wearing his tee shirt.
"I can't," said Brian. "My hands." They were bound behind his back.
"Shit," Turner grinned. "No problem." He handed the pistol off to Cal and ripped the front of Brian's tee shirt to bare his chest. "Nice tits, huh, Cal?" said Turner, helping himself.
"Nice," Cal agreed, touching the kid's smooth shoulders. "Real nice."
"What about you, Baraka?" Turner asked. "You want some of this?"
But Baraka's face was like stone. "No thanks, Brother. That's not what I'm here for!"
"You here for whatever I say you here for, Brother!" Turner snapped.
Fucking Baraka! He was too serious, man! He didn't understand that you had to take what you could get, when you could get it. Nobody was gonna give you nothing for free, especially not in the joint. The Baby was something off-limits and that made it all the sweeter. The lawyer would never let anybody else touch that fine ass. But now the lawyer didn't have a choice. Now Turner was in charge! And he was gonna have what was there to take.
Baraka looked down at the lawyer, who was staring straight ahead. Watching, but unable to move. Unable to act. Impotent in every way.
In prison you were used to being powerless, Baraka thought. You were used to being humiliated. Black men, white men -- it didn't matter. Who gave a shit? Who cared what happened to one man? Or one kid? Baraka turned his face away from what was being done to the Baby.
Long ago Brian had given up the idea that he would ever be human again. Since he had been with Ron, he often felt that he had been given a second chance. He had his name again. He had a purpose to his existence. Brian felt that at least one man acknowledged that he was a human being and not merely a thing.
But that had been a mistake. Brian knew that now. This was what Brian really was -- a body to be used by the strongest man in the room. To be used and then discarded. Brian knew that Turner and his men would kill him when they were finished with him. And they would kill Ron, too, along with the captured C.O.'s. And then Turner and the others would be killed in their turn. And nothing would change. Not a fucking thing. Stanton would go on as before. And no one would care. There would be no one left to care.
That beautiful place seemed closer than ever. Brian reached out his mind to it, closing off the pain in his body. If only he could run. If only he could fly.
Then he would be safe. There and nowhere else.
Posted June 30, 2005.