Monday, August 26, 2013


The cable was hooked up, and Superman, the one from when he was a kid, was flying around on the tube. He plopped down on his beaten up old couch, fired up a smoke, and popped a can of Schmidt. Hanus Miller was a very happy man. He had cable, he had beer, he had cash, and very soon he would have some blow. Not that stepped on with baby laxative shit either. Ice cold pharmaceutical blow straight from the source!
Criminal mastermind was not what came to mind when one thought of Hanus Miller. He had been busted and had done time, from reform school to county to the penitentiary, for every crime he had committed, mostly boosting cars and burglary.
But four days ago everything had changed for Hanus. While cruising through downtown Northfield in his battered Chevy Nova, two months out of the joint, high on Dilaudid and three cans of malt liquor, and flatass broke, Hanus saw a vision straight from God.
On the sidewalk in front of the Northfield Bank were two ancient old guards struggling to load bags of cash on to a dolly. Glancing in his rear-view mirror Hanus could see the driver of the armored car reading a newspaper.
Without thinking (as always) Hanus took a sharp right, whipped around the block to the other side, parked, pulled his aluminum baseball bat out of the back seat, and with the motor still running, had tore ass around the corner and charged from the blind side of the armored car. Neither of the guards had noticed him. Two vicious Harmon Killebrew-like swings left two bloodied and unconscious guards laying on the sidewalk and Hanus sprinting back up the sidewalk with two huge bags of cash. The sequel to the Great Minnesota Northfield raid it wasn't, but it had worked so that‘s all the fuck it mattered.
Hanus was running up the stairs of his apartment that was built on top of an abandoned warehouse just outside of Faribault, ten miles away, before the second cop car had gotten to the bank. 130 large richer.
Straight up at eight o'clock he could feel the stairs shaking as someone climbed up them. The old man walked in without knocking and glanced over at the TV. As always he was wearing his Bogart style trench coat, but he came off looking more like William Burroughs.
"Superman! Shit, I haven't seen that in years. Did you know someone whacked him?"
"Superman never died."
"Not Superman, you dumb ass! The guy that played him. George Reeves. Someone whacked him!"
"I thought he killed himself by jumpin' off a building cause he thought he really was Superman."
"Naw, that's just a rumor. Typical Hollywood horseshit. Anyway, I don't have a lot of time. You said on the phone you want as much as I got?"
Hanus belched loudly and grinned. "You got it, Doc. As much as you can scrape up."
The dealer gave a smirk and stared oddly at Hanus, then slowly took in the rest of the room. The cable, the beer, new TV, and the big bag of weed laying on the coffee table. He looked back to Hanus and gave a big grin.
"It was you, wasn't it, Hanus?'
"What the hell are you talking about, fool?"
"You fit the score. It's been all over the news. You're just lucky I got to you before the heat. You'd go down this time as a three time loser. I imagine you haven’t been watching the news. One guard is dead. Someone's poor old grandfather. Jesus Christ, you're high class, Hanus. Be looking at life in Stillwater. If I recall, there are some gentleman of the dark persuasion who wouldn't mind seeing you back out on the yard. "
"I don't know what in the hell you're talking about, dawg. You got the fucking blow or not?"
Hanus fired up another smoke. His guts starting to squirm. The old man had always been able to read him. The old cocksucker. He focused his gaze on the TV, avoiding those eyes.
The dealer reached into his coat pocket and pulled out his piece. One shot, right in the middle of Hanus's chest. The noise was deafening, the slug ripping straight through his body and into the couch. Bits of stuffing were floating in the air. Hanus stared stupidly at the bloody hole in his chest before slowly looking back to the television with empty eyes.
He found what he was looking for in a knapsack underneath the filthy single bed in the corner. Walking over to the gas stove, he blew out all the pilot lights on the burners and lit the candle on top of the television.
As he walked out the door, Superman was standing with his hands on his hips, watching the bullets bounce off his chest.

The alarm clock was chirping away like a gecko wired on amphetamines. His weekend over, another week of work. Ziggy groaned as he rolled over to the edge of the bed and sat up. As usual his knee had seized up in the middle of the night and it took him a good five minutes to stretch and limber it up.
It wasn't the only thing that was stiff. He had been dreaming about Lita again. It seemed like he dreamt about her every night.
Ziggy and Lita. They were going to be together forever. He thought anyway, living in their little desert trailer in Barstow. Ziggy tending bar, dealing some smoke, and jamming with his band, waiting for the big time to call. Lita worked as an exotic dancer, a job that came natural to her. Raised in Amsterdam, the daughter of a red light district prostitute and an American army officer, Lita had loved the life.
But after he had been released from the hospital following his knee surgery without health insurance (at a frat party gig, Ziggy had jumped in the air while attempting a Pete Townsend windmill and had blown out his knee upon landing), Lita hadn't shown to pick him up, and he had been forced to take a cab, only to find their trailer deserted and a note on the kitchen table announcing her flight back to Amsterdam.
She loved him she said, only she needed something more permanent, more commitment, someone more mature. Not some bar-tending pot dealer who sat around the living room pissing and moaning about his dysfunctional family, while picking at his electric guitar and dreaming of becoming the next Jimmy Page.
Ziggy was in the long process of trying to drink himself to death, when a private dick his father had hired, had found him sleeping off the tail end of an unsuccessful Quaalude overdose suicide attempt.
He couldn’t even kill himself without fucking it up.
Passed out in his trailer that was hotter than Dante's Inferno, his electricity not working due to non-payment of his bill, the detective doused him with a bucket of water and delivered a letter from Ziggy's father with the return address of a nursing home.
Ziggy's father after living a life that would have shamed Caligula had been dropped right in his tracks by a massive stroke.
Ziggy had been stunned when he walked into his father's room and saw him laying on his bed. His father looked like he had shrunk to half his original size and his red hair had turned snow white.
His voice was a whisper.
“I know it's not much but it’s a start. It'll help get ya on your feet. Forget that rock and roll shit. Time ya grew up. Nothing wrong about a little work. Don't be so damn uppity. Sometimes ya remind me of your mother. Had to pull a lot of strings to get ya on there. Damn it Junior, I'm trying to say I'm sorry.”
After years of stumbling home drunk or stoned, if at all, chasing whores, driving Ziggy’s mother to disappear forever, and piling on mountains of psychological abuse on his only son until he left home at seventeen, that was dear old Dad's way of apologizing.
Robert O. Zigstrom, Sr. had been a highly respected state employee for thirty years (his employers having no idea about his alter ego) before the stroke permanently retired him and had him taking his meals through a straw. He was now trying to make amends to his son by offering him a gig as a guard at the Minnesota Prison For the Criminally Insane.
Ziggy took the job. His life had already hit rock bottom so what the hell.
His knee finally limber enough to stand, Ziggy limped over to his dresser to retrieve his stash. He grabbed it and limped down to the kitchen and fired up the espresso machine.
Ziggy's breakfast of champions. A big fat hooter washed down with five shots of espresso. Black. After the high octane caffeine kicked in, he would start in on his daily two hundred push up and sit ups, followed by an hour on his two hundred dollar exercise bike (which was the only thing of value he owned in the house). A regime he had started after a 300 pound transvestite sex offender had kicked his ass his first week at work.
He was just finishing up his ride, drenched in sweat, when Christina walked in. The night shift was starting to wear on her, she looked liked crap, not that she had ever been a real beauty. And she was putting on a lot of weight, her uniform was starting to look pretty tight. Ziggy himself could be best described as crackpipe lean. He was still hanging on to the heroin addicted rock and roll star look.
"Dave wants you to drop off a bag on your way to work. It‘s payday. He'll leave the door open."
Dave being Christina's younger brother and also the biggest stoner at the prison.
Ziggy nodded while he wiped the sweat off his bike. "No problem. I'll drop it off after I go see Dad."
Christina started to strip her uniform off as she walked down the hall leaving the clothes where they fell. "I'm going to bed. Try to keep the goddamn music down today. I'm getting sick of hearing that shit when I'm trying to sleep."
Ziggy wearily shrugged his shoulders at her back and her fat ass as she walked down the hallway and rolled into the bed. Their six month relationship had never been great but what was left of it was slowly sailing down the crapper.
Loading up the CD tray, Ziggy put on his headphones and laid down on the couch. He was dangerously down. Even his music wasn’t helping his mood and that was about all he had left. Steve Earle was singing about Amsterdam being good for grieving on Fort Worth Blues. He should never listen to that song. That one line always made him think about Lita, and then about blowing his brains out. He decided to get the visit with his Dad out of the way.
Halfway there he ran out gas. When he pushed the car to the gas station he thought about dousing himself with premium unleaded and lighting a cigarette. 
The old dude was laying flat on his back staring at ceiling. Only his eyes moved as his son walked in the room. A nurse stood by his side checking his vitals. She shook her head at Ziggy.
He beckoned Ziggy over with a feeble wave of his had. His voice raspy. The old bastard had quit wearing his teeth and his head looked like a shrink wrapped skull. Hideous! Ziggy gave a shudder when he leaned over his father’s face to hear him. 
"Junior. Key. Get the key in the box."
His father's eyes rolled towards the Cuban cigar box on the nightstand. The son of a bitch used to smoke expensive illegal cigars while Ziggy’s mother was forced to clip coupons to buy groceries. Ziggy opened the lid and saw a single key on a Reno casino key chain. Underneath it was an envelope with "Junior" written on it. When he looked back to his father, he was dead. Just like that.
The nurse was shaking her head in wonder. "I can't believe he lasted this long. I think he was hanging on until you got here."
"Could you give me a few minutes alone with him?" Ziggy sat down next to his father's bed.
As soon as the nurse walked out the door he ripped the envelope open. Almost an hour passed while Ziggy kept re-reading the letter then staring at his now stiffening Dad.
"Is is this another one of your goddamn jokes you old bastard?"
No answer. Although Robert Sr. did have a semblance of a grin on his face.
Ziggy stormed out the door, passing the charge nurse, and down the hall.
"Mr. Zigstrom, what about the funeral arrangements?" She called after him.
"Call whoever you want. I'll take care of it in the morning."
He raced out the parking lot and headed for home, making one stop at the drugstore.
Entering the house as quietly as he could, he showered, put on his uniform, put a couple changes of clothes and some toiletries in an overnight bag, and took off for work. All without waking Christina and certainly not telling her about the demise of Robert Sr.
He drove straight to her brother's apartment. The door was open and he quietly walked to the kitchen counter and picked up the hundred dollar bill that was held down by a Grain Belt beer bottle and dropped a half ounce of weed down.
He could hear Dave snoring in the back bedroom. Going over to the coffeemaker he opened the bottle in his pocket and poured it into the water reservoir. Closing the door, he headed for work.
Ziggy worked the evening shift as the yard man at the prison. His duties consisted of the monitoring the yard activities of the inmates until dusk and then he spent the rest of the shift making security rounds through the six units of the facility.
Three hours into his shift the announcement came over his radio. The voice filled with both disgust and resignation.
"Anyone interested in OT on the midnight shift call the watch lieutenant." Both staff calling in sick and overtime ran rampant through the prison like the flu.
Ziggy picked up the phone in the guard shack and placed the call.
"Zigstrom here, Lieutenant. I'd like the OT."
"Your in luck then, Ziggy. Your future brother in law called in with a case of the blasters. Said he could he shit through a screen door. You can work his unit."
There was at least one officer calling in sick a night. Ziggy had just bought some insurance.
All inmates were locked down in single man cells after ten in the evening. The midnight officer spent his shift in a security bubble, monitoring security cameras and listening to inmates bitch when they paged the officer on the intercom in their cell. Every half hour the officer had to call in to master control to report his status and on hour intervals a roving officer would enter the unit and do a security round.
After his normal shift ended, Ziggy entered Oaks unit to relieve the two officers on duty. Day and evening shifts had two officers. Since the inmates were locked down at night there was only need for one on that shift.
After briefing Ziggy the two officers departed the unit. Taking his knife, he dug the point into the telephone cord to expose the wires. He pulled out a wire and sliced it in half.
Dialing master control, he held the wires together, and when the control officer answered he began to speak while flicking the ends of the wire together.
Control stated his message was garbled.
Ziggy got on his radio, turned to the alternate channel normally used for calling in emergencies and reported that his phone was on the blink and he would do his half hour calls by radio.
Master control copied. They would put in a work order for the phone in the morning.
Ziggy waited until the roving officer came through and completed his round, and after radioing in to control, stepped out of the bubble, unlocked the back door of the unit, and snuck out onto the darkened and deserted yard.
Staying in the shadows he walked quickly to the medical building. Entering using his yard master key, he walked down the basement steps and entered the records archives room using the same key. There were hundreds of medical records lining the walls along with seven locked heavy metal file cabinets. The place smelled of mold and mice piss and was covered in dust.
Popping his Dad's key in the first one. Nothing.
Number two. Nothing.
"You bastard! This better not be one of your sick jokes."
Number three. Same results.
"Shit!" Ziggy screamed out.
Number four. The key didn't even fit.
Ziggy looked frantically at his watch. Holy shit! Thirty minutes had passed.
Keying his radio he called in.
"Zigstrom. All secure on Oaks unit."
"Control copies."
He thought he was going to have a fucking heart attack!
Number five. He jiggled it madly!
"I hope you rot in hell you son of a bitch!"
Number seven.
The locked popped open with a loud crack.

"Another Heineken, sir?"
Ziggy looked up from the notebook he was reading from and smiled at the waitress.
"Please." He checked out her skin tight jeans as she walked away. Man, what an incredible ass! Jesus Christ, what a great place!
He turned back to his reading.
Robert Sr. had been a dentist with the corrections department. A side benefit of the job had been his unlimited access to pharmaceutical cocaine and painkillers, which he had either water downed or flat-ass denied the administering of to his patients, instead dealing it to his outside connections. Ziggy had always suspected this and now had the proof sitting in front of him. The notebook was a running account of his nefarious activities. Names, dates, phone numbers, cash amounts.
But none of it added up. It was a lot of dough, no doubt. But considering the lifestyle his father had led it sure couldn1t add up to a knapsack with a 118 grand in large bills in it.
Along with a pistol and twenty grams of blow.
The coke had been quickly snapped up by Ziggy's grass connection. The pistol went into the Mississippi.
On the way to the airport.
The waitress set his brew in front of him.
"Tell me, sweetheart. How do I find the red light district?"
The waitress giggled and pointed down a side street.
"Cross three canals and take a left at the Bulldog bar. You'll see where it starts." Goddamn, her accent about drove him crazy.
Ziggy slid Steve Earle into his CD player, drained his beer, dropped a huge tip for the waitress, picked up his knapsack, and headed down the street.
God he loved that song. But Steve was wrong. Amsterdam wasn't good for grieving.
Ziggy had never felt more alive than he ever had in his life.

Sunday, August 25, 2013


Shit! Goddamn it!" he muttered as stared at the red and blue flashing lights of the prison four wheel drive in his rear-view mirror. He let his foot off the accelerator and coasted slowly over to the side of the road, the snow crunching lightly under the tires. Slowly and hopefully without alerting the guard who was pulling him over, he turned the door handle to crack the window. The inside of his vehicle was a cloud of sweet, pungent marijuana smoke. He swallowed the roach down, the cold beer between his legs he'd just have to try to explain away. 
Well fuck, there was just one guard in the truck, worse came to worse once the jack-off got out of truck, he could just throw his Mustang in gear, pull a shit-hook on the icy road and bust ass off the property. He was barely fifty yards on it. The Mustang had a re-built 35l Boss under hood, no way in hell that government issued piece of shit could even think about catching him. No, they already had his license down by now! Don't be stupid. Just show your I.D. and bullshit your way out of it. More motion in the rearview snapped his attention back.
"What in the fuck is going on here?" A local cop had pulled up behind the guard's truck. The guard stepped out of the truck. Big black son of a bitch and he was holding a Remington 12 gauge legal sawed off, normally used for riots or cons on the fence. The cop, a tall white boy with a shaved head, Jesus Christ, what a Mutt and Jeff pair these two were! White boy walked up to big son of a bitch and they had a quick two second conversation while they eyeballed his ass through the rear window. The cop pulled out his piece, thing was a goddamn hand cannon.
The big son of a bitch racked a round in the chamber and came on the driver's side while the skinny white cop came on the passenger side. 
"Hands on the wheel, asshole!" That came from the son of a bitch. "Move and I'll blow your motherfucking head off." White boy speaking from the other side.
The door opened up letting in the sub-zero air. The barrel of the shotgun felt like an ice cube on the back of his head.
"Get out of the goddamn car onto your knees. One wrong move your fucking brains will be all over the road."
Doing as he was told he decided it was time to play his card.
"Hey, man! I'm an officer myself. I work in the state system over in Moose Lake. I'm a sergeant on the riot squad."
That didn't work. 
"I know who you are, you piece of shit! Now get on your motherfucking belly with your hands behind your back."
He went down face first into the snow. The guard cuffed him just as he had been taught in the academy. A big boot stepped on the back of his neck driving his face further into the snow.
"Holy shit!" he heard the white cop shout out. "I hit the fucking jackpot. There must be seven or eight ounces here."
"You're in a world of shit, asshole." whispered the big son of a bitch.

"There's just a fine fucking line between a cop and criminal, or a guard and a convict. They both want the same goddamn thing. They just have never figured out how to get it or what it even is."
Axel's eyes snapped wide open as the heavy steel door slammed shut announcing the arrival of the breakfast cart at the far end of the cellblock. The buzzing of a jailhouse tattoo gun was quickly silenced. Had he dreamt the voice or really heard it? Was the voice his father’s or Phillip’s? Didn't matter now anyways. 
By the smell wafting down towards his cell, Axel determined that the morning's entree would be shit-on-a-shingle, a prison staple whether it be inside a federal or a state or a county joint. That was the last damn thing he wanted in his gut. He was scheduled to get shackled up and shipped out this morning, if the guard on duty the night before hadn't been bullshitting him as they have been know to do, so the thought of getting on the bus for another day of endless and mindless riding with a case of cream chip beef induced shits with no where to let it go was not appealing.
On top of that, the orange juice based hooch that he had been drinking last night with his temporary cell mate, an obese child molester who had crossed state lines with a couple of his victims thus earning him a federal beef, wasn't sitting that well. In fact, his skull felt like a nail had been driven into it. Axel had drank literally gallons of jailhouse hooch, pruno, go-juice, or whatever the hell the current prison slang was calling it, but last nights batch had given him the weirdest buzz that he had ever experienced. When questioned about the ingredients, the pervert had given a sneaky little smile and admitted that he had crushed up several of his dispensary prescribed Prozac that he had been hoarding and had added it to the mix. Normally, Axel would follow the international jailhouse protocol about not associating with any scumbag involve in child molestation, but last night he been desperately in need of both getting loaded and sleep.
When the brew had finally gotten him to the point where he could close his eyes and mentally leave his enforced surroundings, his nightly dream came as always, only this time his father was illuminated by bright fluorescent psychedelic colors and was wearing a Minnesota Vikings jersey, not his prison issue. Axel at one time considered his nightly dream a nightmare but it had been coming for so long now that it almost felt like an old friend. He only wished that it's content was different. He would have preferred dreaming about sweating cold cans of Grain Belt Premium, snow white lines of coke, resin soaked joints of Columbian, and big titted blondes. But that wasn't what his sub-conscious ordered up for him so he‘d have to live with it.
Instead he got his Dad sitting behind the glass in the visiting area with his ear pressed to the phone with tears streaming down his face. His voice on Axel's phone came out sounding like someone walking on ground glass, "Axel, don't ever do anything that could send you to a living hell like this. Horrible things happen in here. Things you don't want to happen to you. I've seen men be beaten half to death for talking out of turn. Last night a kid, couldn't have been more than nineteen, got butt-fucked by five guys over in one of the dorms. I heard he hung himself this morning." 
His father had been a longshoreman on the docks in Duluth until the union had gotten busted and he had been forced to take over his own father's business. Axel had childhood memories of his Dad coming home cut up and battered after brawling on the docks during labor disputes, stinking of booze, sweat, and blood. He was the toughest, meanest man who ever walked the face of the earth, Axel had thought back in those days. Looking at him through the wire encased glass in this stinking prison visiting room while he lectured Axel about the dangers of prison life, he seemed to be slowly shrinking. By the end of the seconds long dream, his father's head had shrunk to the size of one of those rubber shrunken heads that you could buy at the county fair. It was just a skull, his bright beady eyes peering out at him. 
He lit up a Camel and groaned as swung his feet off the side of his bunk and slowly sat up. His bad back, the victim of his high school football days, endless miles on the bus, and a attack on the Leavenworth yard by an inmate sporting a softball bat, was absolutely fucking killing him. Squinting through the smoke he rubbed the light pink scars that were slowly building on his wrists and ankles, a by product of being in handcuffs and leg shackles ten to twenty hours a day. 
Taking a final drag on his smoke, he flicked it across the cell and it landed directly into the toilet bowl with a sizzle, in the process scaring out a gigantic cockroach that looked like it might have crawled out of a crack leading directly down to hell instead of a metal prison commode. It’s enormous size made Axel question just what part of the country he was in. It couldn’t be the northern part of the states, they just didn’t grow them that big up there. He had to be in Texas or Oklahoma, maybe Colorado, but doubtful. 
Such was the problem of an inmate destined to be on the road seemingly forever. Axel was undergoing a government sanctioned form of torture know by both convicts and The Man as “diesel therapy.”
The Federal prison system is stretched all across the United States and inmates are constantly being ferried about in buses as their custody status changes or more often, if behavioral or security problems arise. Only the more “elite” or “high status” cases are ever flown. If an inmate is really a pain in the ass to the administration for one of many reasons or if they feel that “he needs to get his mind right” as Strother Martin commented on Paul Newman’s character in Cool Hand Luke, he can earn himself a dose of diesel therapy.
Diesel therapy has a very simple philosophy to it. Shackle up an unruly inmate in cuffs and shackles, stick his ass on a bus and ship him off to another prison. But it doesn’t end there. Once he gets to his new home, give him a day or so to let him get barely acclimated to his new surroundings, then cuff him back up and put his no good inmate ass on the road again. Sometimes you don’t even give him a couple of days. Maybe he only gets an overnight stop before he’s back in the saddle again. Maybe you make him sleep in a sleazy old county jail where they feed him three week old bologna sandwiches. Maybe they don’t even stop at night, the guards and the driver get all hopped up on speeders and drive through the night after they’ve dropped off all the other inmates at a prison but left you shackled to your seat to think about what a no good rotten son of a bitch bastard piece of shit your really are and by then you've been in that fucking seat for over twenty hours and you shit in your pants like a baby. Your ankles swell. Your wrists swell. You're already in hell so you might as well fucking die. At least the goddamn suffering would end.
Or maybe it could be worse.
Maybe at Marion prison they let you out onto the yard, but only after some snitch has dropped a dime that you used to be a CO yourself. That’s right, motherfucker. A goddamn correctional officer. And maybe when a big Aryan Brotherhood boy tries to earn him some stripes and tries to take you out, he winds up in the dispensary with a razor tipped shank carved from a toothbrush between his ribs because he underestimated your ass. And that’s not the only time The Man pulls that stunt. Hell no! He does it not only in Marion, but in Terminal Island, Leavenworth, and Atlanta. Three other assholes carted off to the prison hospital. Now The Man can say that you’re really a shit stirrer. You're a constant problem. Lets keep him on the road even longer because he just can’t be trusted in any of our fine facilities.
Axel had been on diesel therapy for so long that he had lost track of time. So long that sometimes he didn’t even know where he was when they pulled in at night. State, federal, county, it didn’t mean shit to him anymore. Hell, when he first got on the bus, Clinton was trying to explain his way out of getting a blowjob from a government clerk and now another goddamn Bush was in office. Couple of days ago some fucking raghead had flown a jet into a skyscraper in New York. Shit, maybe prison was safer than the outside.
Axel figured that The Man just outright tried to have him murdered those times they let him out on the yard after they had snitched him off as a former guard. They didn't want him to talk. Former cops and guards have always had a rough time doing time. So if some shitbag killed Axel, big deal. It's the nature of the motherfucking beast that rules the prison yard. No one would be the wiser.
The Man just hadn't considered the size of Axel's balls. Big fucking brass balls. And when those scumbags came at him, they were the ones the medics were dragging off to the prison hospital, not Axel.
So The Man rethought the situation. Decided to put Axel on the road. Make him forget about things that he shouldn't have been thinking about in the first place. Get his shit together. Make his mind right. Put him out of his mind it that's what it took.
Diesel therapy.
Axel was twenty years old the first time he walked in a prison. But it wasn't in cuffs, it was as a visitor. His old man was doing ten to twenty down in the federal slammer in Springfield, Missouri for income tax evasion and dealing some minor weight in cocaine. It was a one way ten hour straight drive from Minnesota to visit him.
He never ever understood what the allure had been but there had been something that had just reached up and grabbed him by the nuts the minute he had walked in the Joint. The uniforms of the bulls with all the badges and patches and flashlights and mace and handcuffs and all the other shit it seemed like guards were weighted down with could have been it. Or it could have been the loud banging, clanging, and shouting that never seemed to die down inside. The fucking place raced with adrenaline. God knows it couldn't have been the smell of dirty assholes, feet, and fear that every prison seemed to smell like. But there had been something there for Axel.
Men and women get addicted to being inside. Guards and cons. There's some sort of hideous virus lurking in the psyche there. And Axel had caught it. 
While growing up in Duluth, Minnesota, working in a goddamn prison was the farthest things from young Axel's mind. Football, getting laid, and getting toasted via drugs or alcohol had been his main agenda. The three seem to go together hand in hand. Axel fell in love with football in grade school and by high school it was his obsession. Soon steroids and weight lifting joined into the mix. He needed to bigger, stronger, faster. Girls loved football players, especially big football players and Axel was getting big. Real fucking big! Special teams big! The pussy started to come around. All he could handle. Even with the coke and the speeders that the college recruiters handed out as a recruitment enticement.
His junior year, Axel's old man lost his job. The longshoreman's union went tits up and he was out of work. But not for long. For years, Axel's grandfather had owned a sleazy porn shop on the Superior Street strip in Duluth, but in his twilight years he was growing sick of it. Axel's old man took his pension from the union, bought out his Dad, and put the rest into the shop. Upgraded the hell out it. He carted out cases and boxes of old fuck books, dildos, vibrating butt plugs, blow up dolls, and the all the rest of the old school sex shit and drove it out to the dump in an U-Haul and trashed it (not realizing that Axel would return that night to the dump and make a tidy profit selling the discarded porno to his fellow students). He took a power sprayer and hosed the place out. Gave it fresh paint. New lights. New jack off booths with current videos. Total new fresh inventory was brought it. On weekends they’d bring a porn star up from Minneapolis to sign video boxes and to talk dirty to the local pervs. He even hired an old burned out stripper who went by the stage name of Vivian Vulva to manage the place. Axel and a couple of chosen football buddies provided muscle at the door.
The combination of his football skills and the fact that his old man owned a porn shop made Axel one of the big men on the high school campus that year. That winter he signed a letter of intent to play ball for the University of Minnesota-Duluth. A buddy of his was going to school out at the college in Nebraska and got hooked up with ‘roid dealers in Lincoln. That summer Axel started shooting up some kind of steroid used on horses. He put on huge size but his hair started to thin and his shoulders were covered in whiteheads, boils, and zits. But his bench was over 350 now so he didn’t give a shit. 
His sophomore year, two days after the football season had ended, that's when the knock on the door came. Axel had been too hammered from the night before to get up and see who was there, so the bimbo he had been banging had gotten it. Axel’s mother had followed the nude bimbo back into his room.
“Him and his whore are in the county jail.” Axel had barely been able to get his head off the pillow to look at her much less see through his bloodshot eyes.
“Who’s in jail?” he muttered into his pillow.
“Your piece of shit father is, that’s who?” she screamed
Axel tried without much success to sit up, the bimbo was already back in bed and snoring like a Marine. “Let me get in the shower first and I’ll go on down there with you.” Although actually vomiting was the first thing on his agenda. 
“Don’t bother getting up, Axel. I’m not going down there. I’m finished with both you and your fucking father.” She shook her head at her son. “My god, you’re just like him. My own son and I can’t stand the sight of you. You were born without a soul. You'll wind up just like him. Someday you'll be looking through bars.”
The door almost came off the hinges she slammed it so hard. He never saw his mother again. He rolled back into bed as was asleep in seconds.
The Feds had raided the old man's shop. Income tax evasion was the reason they gave but once they found the near kilo of cocaine, that became a moot point. Vivian it turned out had been busted before for dealing ganja and prostitution so she was looking at a longer stretch than the Old Man so she of course snitched him off to the federal prosecutor. There is no honor among fucking thieves.
Vivian walked with a little probation. Axel's Dad got handed down a hard stretch. He hadn't been inside the walls in Leavenworth a week before he dropped of a heart attack. They had to chopper his ass to Springfield to the federal prison hospital after it was discovered that his pump was all plugged up from years of booze, smokes, and bacon breakfasts. 
When Axel laid eyes on him on that visit he couldn't believe it. The Old Man had already lost about fifty pounds and his hair had turned as white as the lake effect snow that swirled off Lake Superior. Axel could hardly concentrate while his father, his eyes darting around at the other inmates, whispered tales of prison beatings, corrupt guards, and midnight cornholings in a feeble maternal attempt to sway his only son away from a life of crime. But it was too late. Axel was lost. Gone. 
He wanted to be inside.
The nightmares about his father in that waiting room would come years later. Then they were just talked away in the dark recesses of his mind. Tiny little time bombs just waiting to go off when he least expected it.
A month later he had dropped out of college, taken the state corrections exam, breezed through the interview process after a lengthy discussion on why his father was locked up in a federal joint, passed an extensive background check, and was in the corrections academy.
The state didn't much give a shit about his background. Once they saw that big fucking horse walk through the door they knew he was corrections officer material with a capital goddamn C. 
Moose Lake was just forty miles down the road from Duluth. It was the home to a massive old state hospital that was built in the 1940s and at one time had housed over a thousand assorted retards, sex maniacs, mental cases, and just plain loony sons of bitches. Political correctness eventually had taken over and the patients had been released, shuttled off to group homes, or the dangerous ones had been transferred to other facilities. The place was built in a pristine location overlooking a beautiful lake filled with game fish. The property must have been worth a goddamn fortune. So of course the state of Minnesota decided to turn it into a prison.
Axel got hired on when the prison had been open just barely two years. He moved into a small studio apartment in tiny downtown Moose Lake. Since he lived mainly on cans of tuna, protein shakes, and steroids, he only needed a hot plate to cook on, other meals he took at the diner down below the apartments. 
It was a life of pleasant routine for Axel. He'd arise early and fire up his miniature espresso machine and would then wash down a couple of black beauties and a reefer with two mugs of the thick brew. After that he'd head down to the local gym where lifted weights two straight hours with such intensity that he had already scared off the majority of the local gym rats. His workout complete, he'd back to his room for his daily injection of Stanazol.
On the job, he advanced quickly. Corrections officials love the big bastards who have the bully mentality ingrained in their tiny dinosaur brains. Quickly after the administration had picked up on Axel's sadistic abilities, he had been placed on the goon squad and had advanced to the rank of sergeant, a job where he was free to roam the prison at his leisure and could seek out the troublemakers to give them a taste of his private brand of justice. More than one inmate had decided to make a stand against Axel but inevitably paid for it in bruises, broken bones, lacerations, and a trip to the hole. He was feared by both staff and con alike. Axel was in heaven.
Then he met Phillip.
Alex's apartment building was more of a rooming house than an actual apartment complex. It was mainly a home for the town's indigents, welfare cases, and head-jobs. No one else from the prison lived there. Axel was there because it was cheap and all he really used it for was to sleep. Some of the rooms didn't even have crappers or a shower. Those residents had to go down the hall to use a community john. Alex's room had a toilet and shower but he made frequent trips to the community latrine to dispose of his used up syringes in the garbage can.
After a getting off a late shift and checking to see that no one was around, Axel had stuffed some needles and steroid bottles in a paper bag and had walked down to the latrine. There was an old man leaning against a sink, his skinny frame propped up with a cane. He couldn't have weighed a hundred pounds. His skin was as white as the snow that was falling outside and looked about as thin as cigarette paper. When he saw Axel he smiled, exposing yellowed, jagged, wolf like teeth. Something about him gave Axel an involuntary shudder.
"I knew it couldn't be anyone in this shit-box but you." he giggled at Axel.
"What are you talking about, you old fool?" Axel shot back as he folded the bag up and slipped it into his back pocket.
"The works. You're the one that throws away his old works in the garbage in here. I've been cleaning up them up with alcohol and re-using them." He shot the wolf grin again. "I'm an old junky living on a social security pension. I have to make things last. We actually have something in common. I use to live where you work." 
"I don't know what the fuck you're talkin' about." Axel turned to walk out.
"Please! Wait! I didn't mean to offend you. I just thought it would be easier if you could give them straight to me. Spare me the indignity of having to dig through the garbage late at night."
Axel stopped and turned around. He gave it a moments thought and then tossed the bag to the old man where it bounced off his chest and fell to the floor. "You tell anyone where you got those needles I'll put my foot so far up your ass you'll taste leather." He stood and watched the old man as he groaned and leaned over to retrieve the bag. "What are you shooting anyway?"
The old man straightened back up. "Darvon. Ny-Quill. Whatever I can get my hands on. On payday I try to get some speed or horse but I have to catch a bus to Duluth to do that. It's hard on me in the winter time to do that."
It suddenly dawned on Axel that the old man wasn't much older than his own father. "What's your name?"
"Phillip. Nice to meet you."
"I'm Axel, Phillip. What do you mean? You lived where I work."
"Phillip nodded. "That's right. I was a patient at Moose Lake state hospital for forty some years. My daddy was a religious fanatic. What in these days you'd call a Jesus freak. I was fourteen when daddy caught me jacking off in the barn. Second time he had caught me. He brought me up here to the state hospital to try to get me cured. My first night in there, two patients, drooling goddamn retards, tried to fuck me. I beat the shit out of both of them with a chair. After that it was strait jackets, shock treatments, ice baths, and Thorazine. I was in there until the state closed the place down. I bet I know the place better than you."
Axel was stunned. "Holy shit, jacking off? That's what got you there?"
Phillip smiled sadly. "Isn't that the shits?"
There was something about the old guy that Axel liked. He couldn't put a finger on it but he liked him. Which was strange because Axel liked no one.
"Tell me Phillip. Do you like to smoke a little weed or do you just like the hard shit?"
After that night, the odd couple got together several nights a week. Axel drinking beer and smoking a couple of joints. Phillip joining in if he didn't have anything to mainline. Axel didn't have to talk, he just loved to listen to Phillip's wild stories of the mental hospital.
One evening, Axel was sprawled across his bunk, his hands behind his head, just enjoying his buzz as Phillip sat off in the corner and drawled on in his low pleasant voice. Almost like white noise. All of a sudden a word made it's way through his fuzzy senses and registered. Axel quickly sat up and stared at Phillip. He had his head tilted back against the wall with his eyes closed.
It was three words actually. Prison and tunnels and bodies. Bodies buried in the prison tunnels? Is that what that crazy old bastard said?
There were mazes of tunnels under the prison. They had been used for storage and to run the massive steam pipes and electrical conduits through for the old state hospital. They had also been used to shuttle mental patients from building to building during Minnesota's brutal northern winters. They were sealed off with security doors now but the staff made daily security rounds through them looking for breaches in the system. Axel had been in them literally hundreds of times. They gave him the fucking creeps.
"They made me bury them. The sons of bitches! Those motherfuckers killed those poor dim witted bastards and I had to be the one to clean up their dirty work!"
"Phillip!" He didn't seem to hear Axel. "Phillip!' he shouted.
He slowly opened his cloudy eyes. "Yes, Axel?"
"Phillip, there are bodies buried in the tunnels? What bodies? Whose bodies? What in the hell are you talking about?"
Phillip took his cane and stood up slowly and started to make his way to the door. Axel stood up and blocked his path.
"Phillip! Goddamn it don't leave! Are there bodies buried in the tunnels? Bodies in the prison tunnels?"
One tear was making it's way down Phillips face. "Yes, Axel. There are bodies buried in the tunnels. The north tunnel that leads out to the power plant. I had to bury them. You have to realize that back in those days people would be committed here and forgotten about. Retarded people, epileptics, people who would now just be considered eccentric. They‘d be sent here and forgotten about. Sometimes things happened to them. Horrible things." Phillip reached out for the door knob. “Now please, Axel. Let me pass.”
Axel stopped him with a hand to his shoulder. “How many bodies, Phillip?”
“Hundreds, maybe more, I have no fucking idea,” he whispered.
The door closed softly.
It took hours for Axel to get to sleep that night and when he awoke the next morning he found an envelope that had been slipped under his door during the night.
It was from Phillip.

Now you are privy to my darkest secret. I need your help. I need you for my redemption. Without your help I fear I will burn in hell with the other demons for what I have done.
Your friend,
Phillip M. Stackhouse

When Axel went to Phillip's door there was no answer. The door was unlocked and swung open with out a sound. Phillip was swinging from a noose that was wrapped around the heat pipes.
It was about a month before Axel would rotate to the graveyard shift. The inmates would be locked down for the night and the prison ran on a skeleton crew. Alex would be free to go down into the tunnels and check out Phillip’s story. He went to an army surplus store and purchased an entrenching tool, took it apart and smuggled it into work in pieces and hid it in his locker.
He waited until the first Sunday night of the shift. Sunday nights were the watch lieutenant’s night off and Axel was in charge on the shift. He stopped by master control around two in the morning and informed them that he would be down in the tunnels on a security check.
Taking out his master key he let himself into the stairwell leading down to the tunnels. They were lit very poorly every fifty yards or so by a single bulb so Axel had his flashlight out as he walked down the narrow concrete sidewalk that was bordered by ten feet of dirt on both sides. The red eyes of rats and mice reflected in Axel’s flashlight beam and the steam pipes hissed and popped above him. He was so nervous he thought he was going to shit cream corn. He was at the power plant access door in minutes.
Quickly assembling the entrenching tool, he swung the shovel down into the soft black soil. Since he had no point of reference he had chosen a random spot. He hadn’t dug two feet down before he realized that Phillip hadn’t been lying.
There were bodies everywhere. Actually skeletons. Some still in clothes. Some appeared to have been dismembered. Others were wrapped in plastic. Some appeared to be kids they were so small. Everywhere he dug. Both sides. Five feet in. Nine feet in. Bones. Shattered skulls. Lime had been scattered in some of the holes in a attempt to help dissolve the bodies. Wherever he dug he found pure horror. He dug about fifteen holes and there were bones everywhere. What the fuck was he going to do now?
Replacing the dirt, he tried to make the ground appear as natural as it had been previously. With the bad lighting down there no one would probably notice until he could figure out the next part of his plan. What plan? Shit, he was just winging it.
Hiding his shovel up on top of a beam, Axel dusted himself off and left the tunnels. He finished the remainder of his shift on auto-pilot. Since the majority of the staff considered him an asshole and couldn't stand the sight of him it wasn’t hard to keep them away from him while he tried to sort things out. What could he do anyway? These people had been dead for decades and no one seemed to give a shit. Didn’t seem like anyone was looking for them anyway. Why should he get involved? Then the light bulb went off in his head. By the end of his watch he knew what he had to do. The smart thing. The only thing.
Two days later he was sitting in the warden's office spilling his guts all over the man's desk. The warden sat back in his thousand dollar leather chair and looked at Axel like he had just beamed in from a fucking starship. Or had told the warden that he had anyway.
"Bodies in the tunnels." It was a statement. Not a question.
"Yes, sir." Axel's mouth was so goddamn dry his tongue was sticking to the roof of it.
"Hundred of bodies." Again a statement.
"Just an estimate, sir. But I'd guess there'd have to be that many from the little bit of digging I did."
"And you found this out from a former mental patient from when this was the state hospital."
"Yes, sir. The man's dead though. Hung himself."
The warden pivoted in his chair and gazed out the window that was overlooking the yard. Some inmates were out there playing a ragtag game of volleyball that appeared more like a game of rugby. Their colorful cursing could be heard right through the glass. The warden appeared to be mesmerized by the scene as he didn’t speak for several minutes. Suddenly he farted softly into the leather. Axel had to quell a tremendous urge to bust out in nervous laughter. The warden wheeled around to glare at Axel as if he had been reading his mind.
“All right then, Sergeant. I’ll notify the FBI immediately. But not a word of this to anyone, do you understand? I don’t want this to leak to the media or some other publicity hungry assholes, do you understand me? And you stay out those tunnels. Let the feds take over from here. We don‘t want to destroy or disturb the crime scene.” The warden stood up which Axel took as a sign that he was to get the hell out of his office.
“Yes, sir! Not a word.”
The warden extended his hand across the desk. “Good! Good job, Sergeant. This shit gets all taken care of and put to bed, you’re going to be looking at a promotion. You’re going to be able to name your ticket. No doubt about it.”
Axel floated out of the warden’s office on a cloud. Promotion! Yes! A fucking promotion. He congratulated himself on his wise decision.
After that the silence was deafening. 
Axel heard nothing for months. He sure as shit hadn’t seen any FBI hanging around. Whenever he saw the warden the old bastard just winked and gave him a conspiring grin. Was the cocksucker going to fuck him on this? Do nothing? Or was he going to take all the glory for himself? Shit, no! Axel told himself, he was the warden, he knew what he was doing.
His rationalizing didn’t work. It was eating him up inside. He had to talk to someone. But who? He decided to go see his father. His father was nearing the end of his sentence. Within a year he would be released to a halfway house on good behavior. The feds had transferred him to the federal prison just thirty miles down the road in Sandstone. He had written Axel numerous times since he had arrived there and told him that Axel was on his visitor’s list but Axel hadn't been able to visit him. Not after the visit when Axel had informed his father that he was going to be a corrections officer.
"Jesus Christ, Axel." He father had shook his head sadly. "How do you think anything good can come from shit like this? This isn't what a man does to make living. A man has to be proud of himself. How can you be proud of yourself doing this? Maybe your mother was right all along. Maybe we were both born for the prison yard." He had stood up and slowly shuffled out of the visiting room. 
Playing by the rules, Axel informed his Captain that he would be visiting his father who was currently an inmate at the federal prison in Sandstone. Permission was granted. To easily he would think about later.
But not much later.
Three days later Axel was face down in the snow with the barrel of a shotgun shoved in the back of his head.

The guards found eight ounces of ICE when they shook down Axel’s car. The prosecutor never bought his story that it wasn’t his, that the dope had been planted. The dope had been ICE, which is actually a high grade meth-amphetamine that is rarely found in the northern part of the country, usually found in California or Hawaii. So where would a local boy like Alex get his hands on that much weight?
They had him by the balls. Possession of a serious amount of a controlled substance on the federal grounds of a prison. Probably could tack on intent to smuggle it into the prison if they wanted to. He was going down for some hard time if he couldn‘t pull his ass out of the fire.
“I’m not going to cop a fucking plea, asshole!” had been his first response to the prosecutor. “You pricks set me up. That goddamn warden fucked me! I’ll take his ass down with me. I’m gonna spill my guts about all those bodies in Moose Lake prison that are buried in those fucking tunnels. See what the media does what that. They’ll have a fucking field day. They‘re trying to cover up all those fucking bodies.”
The prosecutor smiled coldly. He had eyes like a rattlesnake. “No you won’t, Axel. I’m telling you right now, you take this to trial, I’m going to ask for a minimum sentence fifty years without parole.” He stood up and stuck some papers in his briefcase. He smiled again. “And you bring up this crazy shit about bodies being buried in tunnels. I’ll recommend they send you for a nice long evaluation at the psychiatric prison in the Carolinas. They'll shoot you full of so much shit you won't know whether to shit or wind your wristwatch. The night attendants will come around and fuck you in your old ass. Just like your buddy Phillip. And don‘t forget this. Your father is still in federal custody. He hasn‘t been released yet.”
Axel copped a plea for ten.

He’d given up trying to figure out how it had all gone wrong. Just a waste of goddamn time. That’s the way it is in the joint. At first you rebel. Then you acclimate, accept your surroundings. Sometimes you even start to like it. Maybe he had been born for the prison yard. Just like dear old Mom had said.
All he knew right now was it was about time to cuff up and get onboard the bus. He could hear the guards walking down the cell block. Axel leaned back on his bunk and lit up cigarette. It could be his last one for twelve or more hours. He opened up his latest letter from his Dad. The Old Man was out and was full of piss and vinegar again. Trying with all of his goddamn heart to spring Axel. Hiring different attorneys and writing letters to congressman, senators, who ever would listen.
"Convict! Put out the smoke and get ready to cuff up." Axel looked over at the guard. He looked about eighteen years old and a little scared. Probably a rookie.
Axel swung his feet off the floor and laid all the way down. He took a luxurious drag on his Camel.
"I said on your feet and cuff up!" The guard's voice cracked on that one. "That's a direct order, inmate! I have to say it one more time your ass is going on report!"
Axel looked over at the guard. "And I'm going to finish my smoke so just shut that cock holster of a mouth of yours for a second." Axel settled his head back down on his pillow. "Shit, man. Relax. We got all the time in the fucking world."

Monday, August 19, 2013


It was over. After all these years. The execution had been finally carried out and he could relax and let life get back to normal. He had sat glued to the television and didn't really believe it until he saw the video clip of the hearse pulling out of the prison.
Tim had been true to his word. He never rolled over and snitched on him.
It had been a chance meeting. The two had met at a gun show in Michigan and had haggled over the price of a Russian combat knife. One thing had led to another and they had wound up at a local bar, slamming down pitchers of draft and talking about mutual interests. Guns, the Army, the Gulf War, how the government was fucked.
They had stayed in touch after that, and about a year later Tim had gotten hold of him while he was down at Ft Bragg. He had a proposition for him. Tim had met a guy who needed hard to get items. Automatic weapons. M16s. Tim's contact would pay top dollar on delivery.
It had been almost too easy. He had cased a small town National Guard unit for a week. An infantry unit. He had walked in the office wearing his cammos with all the patches and the armory sergeant had almost shit all over himself listening to his stories of the Gulf and airborne training. 
After two cups of coffee he had talked the young sergeant into letting him take a look at the armory's gun vault. Once he was inside and had seen what he wanted, he had shot the young man in the back of the head. He drove away from the armory with eighty brand new M16s and twenty 9MMs. When he delivered the weapons to Tim he had been paid with a wad of cash as big as a baseball.
Two weeks later a Federal building in Oklahoma City blew up and Tim was all over the news.


The Green Beret was no fool. You couldn't do the shit he had done in his life and be an idiot. But he could not believe that a woman this gorgeous would ever be sitting across a table from him. She was blonde, beautiful, and built like a brick shithouse. Really built, almost like she pumped iron.
When he saw her staring across the bar at him, he actually had turned around and looked behind him. He couldn't understand why she was looking at him. He was in good shape. Had to be in his line of work. But he had to admit that he was not what most woman would consider good looking. He was balding, had horrible acne scars from childhood, and a slight hair-lip.
She had walked over and asked if that seat had been taken. They had been talking for almost three hours and drinking like it was their last night on earth. Iced vodka. It wasn't his normal drink of choice, he was normally a beer man, but it was her choice and that was AOK with him. But fuck! She could drink it like a longshoreman. He was getting awfully fucked up. But not so fucked up that when she asked him if he had ever killed a man that he let the cat out of the bag. He had just acted coy and gave her a sly wink.
He had killed a man. Actually, he had killed fourteen men. Three ragheads during the Gulf war, ten government contract hits, and the armory sergeant. 
That had rubbed him the wrong way, but there wasn't much he could do about it now. The money was good and he didn't have much choice in the matter anymore. He tried to make himself feel better by rationalizing that he wouldn't have done it if he had known what Tim had been planning. 
"Let's go up to my room."
That got his attention back.
"Yes, mam." He tried not to stagger as he stood up.
As soon as they walked into her room she pulled her dress up over head, revealing that she was wearing nothing but black nylons and a matching garter belt. Shit, she was even wearing high heels. Just like a Penthouse magazine model.
"I've got some great coke." She smiled at him.
"I don't do drugs. Piss tests and all."
"I only fuck men who do coke with me. It makes it better."
"OK." He didn't care if she wanted him to smoke her tampon, he couldn't let this opportunity pass. Piss test or not.
She gave him a smile. "Take off your clothes while I get it ready."
He pulled off his clothes and even though he was totally shitfaced, his cock was as hard as a glass cutter.
She had pulled out a silver vial and cut four long lines on a mirror for them with a razor blade. She handed the mirror and a rolled up fifty dollar bill to him.
"You first. Just plug one nostril and inhale the line. One for each side."
He snorted up both lines like a good soldier. The effect was immediate. The room began to spin and his whole body felt like rubber. He felt a rush to vomit but when he stood up his legs gave out and he crashed head first into the wall. He barely could make out the woman getting dressed and walking by him.
"Where? Where are you going?" It sounded like he was talking in a tunnel. He heard the television come on. All he could see was her stiletto heels until she squatted down and her face came into his field of vision.
"You are a tough guy, aren't you? You just snorted up two lines of absolute pure China White heroin."
Her face disappeared from the tunnel and when it reappeared she had a pistol and was fitting a silencer on to it's barrel. 
She looked back down at him. "I'm sorry. I am really am. But you're a pro and I'm a pro and business is business."
Her face disappeared again and he could feel the silencer sliding up his anus. He struggled to look up at her. She was flashing that smile again.
"They don't want anyone to ask any questions. If I do it like this the cops can blame it on the Mob and no one will be the wiser."
She fired off four quick rounds, wiped the gun and silencer off with a towel, and slipped it into her purse. Before she stepped out the door she gave the room another quick glance to see if she had covered her tracks.
The news was on the television. The hearse was pulling out of the penitentiary again.

Sunday, August 18, 2013


There's about 454 grams in a pound of what you thought was cocaine. Take 454 grams and multiply it by fifty (dollars). You come up with about twenty-two thousand and seven hundred bucks.

Say you get busted selling that pound and get sentenced to a minimum of eight years. Eight years times 365 comes up to 2920 days.

Then you divide that 22,700 dollars you would have earned if you hadn't gotten popped by the cops by those 2920 days in the penitentiary and you come up with about seven dollars and seventy-seven cents.

Seven fucking dollars and seventy-seven fucking cents! Jesus Christ! For what? How could you be so goddamn stupid? You had never done anything before but smoke some pot. What the hell made you think you could deal drugs?

That's the kind of weird shit goes through your head when it's five in the morning and you haven't slept a wink. Johnny C. signed off five hours ago. The laugh of that fucking idiot Ed McMahon for some reason haunted you tonight. Maybe because you thought you may never hear it again. You don't even know if they have television in prison. Other normal folks have been asleep for hours and are ready to get up. Birds are starting to chirp. It's a beautiful summer morning. Minnesota winters are the shits but you can't beat the summers. The newspaper hit the door with a thump. The neighbors are both up next door, they both work at Hormel. Every goddamn morning the wife fries up SPAM for breakfast. It stinks up the whole fucking neighborhood. How in the name of hell can they work in that hellhole and still eat that shit? You went on a Cub Scout trip through that plant one time when you were about nine. Kids in your troop were passing out and vomiting for shit's sake! The rumor around town was that SPAM was made from the lips and assholes of pigs. White trash food the old man always said. Wouldn't allow it in the house even though the whole city existed because of it.

Shit, you couldn't sleep if you wanted to but you are tired. So goddamn tired. Horrible thoughts are racing around in your brain. Bouncing around in your skull like a fucking pinball. The worst one is the thought of the shower room. That's everyone's biggest worry about prison. You're white, skinny, and all alone. When will it happen? Sooner or later, you know it will.

Seventeen years old. Barely. Haven't even graduated from high school yet. Haven't gotten officially laid yet. Two hand jobs, one on the outside of the pants and one on the inside along with a couple of frantic dry humpings and that was it. Do you think the other prisoners will be able to tell if you're a virgin or not?

Jesus Christ, how can this be happening? You're a solid B student. Never been in trouble with the police before. Nothing! How the hell can this nightmare be happening?

Your mother went to bed around eleven but you know that she hasn't been sleeping either. Her sobs could be heard through the walls. Her first born in the grave and now you. You wish you could change places with your big brother. You wish it was you rotting in the cemetery a couple blocks away. You felt sorry for your mother, your own goddamn heart was breaking but you swore to God if she didn't shut the fuck up you'd go in there and smother her with her own pillow. Please Mom! Just shut the hell up!

In a couple of three hours you're going to climb in your father's car and he's going to drive you up to the state reformatory in St. Cloud where you're going to start your eight to ten stretch. Your own fucking father is going to hand you over to state custody.

You couldn't be too hard on the old man though. He was the reason you weren't waiting in the county jail rather than at home. Your Dad swung your bail. Put his insurance agency up as collateral for your hundred thousand dollar bond. And that's saying a whole hell of a lot because dear old Dad is one cheap bastard. Let his own father, his lungs scarred from breathing in some kind of chemical when he was in the army, shrivel up and die in a VA hospital in St. Paul even though he easily could have afforded putting him up in a nice private hospital. 

Even at that exact second, sweet poppa was showing what a tight-ass he was. He rarely drank, and that was only if someone else was buying, but tonight he was hitting it hard. Drowning his sorrows. Hadn't said a word for hours. One son dead, the other one on his way to the big house, that was sure an occasion to give up his amateur drinking status and hit the big time. And what did he pick to drink? Fucking Old Style! The cheapest and worse rotgut brewed in the upper mid-west. Might as well just drink Hamm's. From the land of sky blue waters, your ass!

For a split second you had a worry that he might be too tanked to drive you to the slammer but then realized that getting killed in a car wreck on the way there might be better than what was waiting for you once you got there.

Then the guilt hit again. It was a car wreck that iced your brother and started this whole fucking mess. That and the goddamn Viet Nam war and the goddamn supposedly infamous Blue Fox bar down in Tijuana, Mexico. Your brother had never been farther south than Des Moines and the only naked Mexican woman he ever saw was in the skin magazines that he hid up in the attic, so where in the hell did he ever hear about the Blue Fox you had asked him?

"They have donkey shows there. Tijuana is a fucking wild ass place, man. Anything goes down there if you got the cash," he said as he gave you a conspiring wink. "Whores give you blowjobs under the table while you watch."

"What's a donkey show," you replied naively.

He shook his head in feigned disgust. "They got these chicks down there who take on donkeys. Right there in the fucking bar. Suppose to be quite a sight."

"Take on?"

"Jesus Christ!" he practically screamed. "How stupid are you? They screw 'em."

"Bullshit! Who the hell told you that?" 

"Denny Nelsen did. He went down there on leave after he graduated from Marine boot camp. Said they hoisted this mule up in a harness and dropped him right on top of this whore. It was a wild scene."

"Bullshit," you replied again, “Denny Nelsen is goddamn retard.”

"It's true, asshole. And I'm going down there to see it myself before I ship out. Me and Jake. I got three weeks to kill before the army gets me. We're leaving this weekend. I was gonna bring you back a switchblade but you can fucking forget about it now, you little smartass." He turned and stomped out the back door, leaving you sitting at the kitchen table. You turned over the envelope your brother had left in his haste, his mind obviously preoccupied with visions of naked Mexican ladies and giant cocked mules hanging from harnesses.

It was a draft notice. You had seen more than one of those around this town. Almost everyone of your friends had an older brother who had gotten one of those. Austin was the kind of town where after you graduated from high school, if you did, you went and worked at the Hormel plant until your name worked its way up the list, and then the government and Dick Nixon shipped your sorry ass off to Viet Nam for a year. Or less. The town newspaper had a military obituary in it almost everyday and the local bars were filled with young men with missing body parts and haunted looks. Your dad called it the thousand yard stare. Said that he saw plenty of guys come back from Europe with it after the war ended.

The National Guard recruiter had offered your dad a deal. For five grand he could offer your brother a position in the local unit. That'd probably keep him for being shipped out. The old man had passed on the offer.

Your brother never got the chance to get any body parts blow off or to walk around with even a five hundred yard stare. A week and a half after they left for Mexico the phone had rang in the middle of the night. It was a highway patrolman from Barstow, California, calling. There had been a wreck out in the desert, a one car accident, both your brother and his best buddy, Jake, were dead. 

"We suspect something happened out there, we just don't know what, a witness saw a car speed away from the wreck. Said that there might have been gunfire but we can't substantiate that. They had to have been driving way over a hundred miles an hour when they ran off the highway, but other than that we having nothing to go on."

Your brother's coffin, actually a thick cardboard box, and his duffel bag both came in on the same flight up in Minneapolis. You and your parents had stood out there on the tarmac and watched it come down the conveyer belt and then followed the hearse all the way back to Austin and to the funeral home where the arrangements had to be made. Afterwards, you carried his duffel bag up to his bedroom while your parents had a horrible fight in the kitchen over the fact that your father had tried to buy your brother a bargain bin casket for his funeral.

You passed out at the funeral and had to be dragged out and revived in the funeral director's office. The combination of your mother's non stop wailing, the enclosed airless viewing room jammed with your relatives and friends of your brothers, some who stunk of stale cigarettes, booze, Old Spice, and Hai Karate, and the sight of your brother who resembled a wax mannequin, was just too goddamn much for you.

The phone was ringing when you and your parents walked into the house. It was the army recruiter. He wanted to tell your brother that he would be picking him up at nine o'clock Monday morning to drive him to the induction center. 

"Don't you read the paper? You stupid fucking prick!" your father screamed into the phone. "My son is fucking dead! He beat you jackals to the punch!"

You went up to your room to lay down and when you woke up it was dark and the house was deathly quiet. From your bed you could look down the hall and see into your brother's room. His duffel bag sat in the middle of the floor where you had left it. Your curiosity got the better of you and padded quietly into his room, avoiding the spots in the floor you knew would creak and alert your parents.

You dug through the dirty clothes finding a bottle of tequila and some dirty magazines and Mexican porno comic books, but your brother had been true to his word. No switchblade. And nothing to prove that he had found the legendary Blue Fox. Just what the hell had they gone all the way to Mexico for? That had to be about two thousand miles or more one way. Just to see a donkey show? That's just fucking crazy.

But at the bottom of the bag wrapped up in a pair of swim trunks you found what felt like a thick book. It wasn't a book though. Couldn't be, you weren't sure your brother could even read. It was some sort of package wrapped in wax like paper. Must have weighed a pound or so. You held it up to the light coming in the window from the streetlight. There was a stamp of a tarantula on it. Drugs! Had to be some kind of drug. Is that what the trip had been for? You stuffed back all the clothes back into the bag, went back to your room, and hid the package in the crawl space up inside your closet.

Two weeks later you show it to your best friend, Billy, the only person you knew who had ever done anything beside drink beer and smoke some weed, and the only person you could trust with this kind of information. Billy had once scored some white cross speed at an Foghat concert. He had balls. You and Billy had been best friends since kindergarten.

"It's coke, dude. Gotta be fucking coke. Those south American countries are making a fortune off of it. It's gonna be bigger than pot, man. I read all about it in High Times. But it's not like weed. You can smoke as much weed as you want and nothing is going to happen besides the fact that you'll eat about twenty Big fucking Macs. But this shit'll get you hooked. You‘ll wind up a junkie with this shit." He shook the package in your face.

"What the hell should we do with it?" you whispered even though both your parents were at work.

"Shit, man. Let's sell it. I know a guy that has a gram scale that he'll let me use. We'll gram it up and sell it reasonable. Say about fifty bucks a gram. It'll go like fucking hotcakes."

The following Saturday you and Billy cut it up in Billy's basement. By that night they had already sold five grams to a high school dealer that Billy knew. Two hundred and fifty dollars! You were fucking rich. You went out for pizza to celebrate.

Sunday morning, before you had even left for church, the cops were knocking on your door. One of them was a detective! It wasn't coke that you had sold. It some shit called angel dust and it was damn near pure. Three people had already overdosed. Billy himself was in the emergency room, strapped to a gurney, babbling like an idiot. He had decided to try a taste for himself. He had given up your name. You would never see him again. 

You tried to bullshit the cops. You didn't know what the hell they were talking about. They showed your dad a search warrant and found the stuff in the crawl space in about two minutes. Even though your father tried to talk them out of it, the cops handcuffed you before they took you out to the car. 

Before your dad's attorney had even gotten down to the police station the situation had gotten even worse. A packing plant worker had snorted up a couple of lines on his way to work that morning, in need of a pick me up and thinking that it was coke. He went apeshit and attacked his foreman with a spiced canned ham.

Emergency announcements came out on the radio and the television about the drugs that you had released into the community warning the local drug heads not to touch the stuff. The locals wanted your ass hung out to dry. You couldn't leave the house after getting released on bond for fear of reprisals. The phone number had to be changed.

"I ever see you on the street, you're dead motherfucker."

"I hope you rot in hell, you piece of shit."

"Drug dealer asshole. You should get the death penalty!"

"Do you know what's going to happen to you in prison, you little bastard? You're gonna get fucked right in the ass!"

The prosecutor wanted you to do twenty years minimum. To avoid that and a trial you plead guilty after listening to your lawyer. You got a sentence of ten years but would probably have to do only eight.

Only eight! Eight years in St. Cloud reformatory. You had seen it years before on the way up north on a ski trip. It had huge granite walls just like a penitentiary because that's just what it was. A penitentiary for people from the age of sixteen to twenty-one. When you turned twenty one you'd still have four years to serve. Then they'd send you to Stillwater, the real penitentiary. What would you be like when you got out?

You had single handedly ruined your parent's life in your hometown. The old man was already making plans on selling the business and moving out west. There was a for sale sign in the front yard. Some asshole kept painting swastikas on it and it had to be replaced almost weekly.

A guy that had bought insurance from your dad had done time in Stillwater years ago. The old man had asked him to come over the night before to try to give you some advice. He earned his money by doing roofing and construction work and he looked the part. Wind burned, looked like an old saddle, and as lean as a greyhound. On his forearm was a faded tattoo. A shamrock with the numbers 666 in the middle of it.

He leaned back onto a chair and took a deep pull on the Old Style that your father had given him. He lit up a Camel even though the old man didn't allow smoking in the house. He had blue eyes so clear that it seemed like you could see straight through them into his brain. They were feral eyes. Like a wolf's eyes.

"It's gonna get ugly. I'm not gonna bullshit you one bit. They're gonna be coming at you hard." He had a voice that sounded like it had been roughed up with sand paper. "You're gonna have to get in with your own kind. Get yourself some protection. A little fucker like you is going to draw those big bucks like flies. They're gonna try to make you a bitch. Turn you out."

When you got done puking in the bathroom, he was gone. Thanks for the help, dad! 

Could this get any worse?

Exhaustion finally sets in and you fall into a deep sleep as soon as your ass hits the couch. It only lasts for several minutes before the phone rings, jarring you awake. It's the first time you've heard it ring since the number was changed. You hear the old man mumble "What the hell?"

"It's for you. Didn't I tell you not to give out this goddamn number?" The old man was holding the receiver out to you. He looked like shit.

"I didn't. Who did they say it is?"

"One of your friends," he replied wearily, "just take it."

"Hello." You could hear someone breathing but no one spoke.

"Hello. Who is this?"

"You got our shit." The voice had a Spanish accent. Sounded faraway.

"Who is this? What shit? What are you talking about?" Your guts were crawling.

"Don't play stupid, ese. You stole our shit and sold it. You owe us, motherfucker. You owe us big time."

"I don't know what you're talking about!"

"We'll see you when you get inside. We got someone who's going to be meeting you. You owe us, you punk motherfucker."

You couldn't answer.

"See ya in a couple of hours, ese."

The line went dead.