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Eleven Heartbeats

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Evans has asked for a new cellie and Juice plays dumb when the cell block’s unit manager, Bernards, comes to the cell with his suspicious questions. He suspects something and doesn’t like MC guys anymore than the warden does so when Juice calmly says his black eye stems from walking into the bunk, the warden has had enough of the bullshit and brings out the big guns.

“How about I put you with your lunch pals?”

Juice just raises his eyebrows and Bernards sighs.

“Tully, you idiot. Ron Tully, Stockton’s own little hillbilly führer has no cellie and no one’s been too keen on moving in with him, not that I can think of why.”

The sarcasm is almost comical and Juice isn’t going to give away a single hint that yes, he can think of why and no, it wouldn’t be as bad a punishment as Bernards thinks. But he wouldn’t put Juice with him if he wasn’t so tired of this, so Juice shrugs to annoy him even more and the warden gives a joyless laughter.

“Well, you’re not picky, I’ll give you that. Grab your shit, you’re moving after breakfast.”

Breakfast sucks, as usual, but Juice doesn’t care. It’s a relief, moving in with the devil you know. And as sick as it is, it’s also a small, very small pieace of him that likes the feeling of being asked for by anyone. It means there’ll be no more visits to the conjugal room and the soft bed there, but for all his nasty shit, at least Tully isn’t interested in punching him on daily basis. And he doesn’t snore, he uses lube and he’s maintaining basic hygiene.

You have to be grateful for the small favours, especially when you don’t deserve any at all. Beggers can’t be choosers and rat punks can beg all they want because that’s the only thing they’re good for. Begging for scraps of humanity, feeding off the left-overs of an already meager portion of decency most cons neither need nor can afford. Luckily for Juice, the AB shot caller is rich.

The soggy toast is barely edible and Juice soon leaves the cafeteria, not even looking at AB table and goes to pick up what few items he has in the cell, then trying to wait without pacing until it’s time. The transfer to unit D is the usual walk of wolf-whistles, but they stop when Tully’s usual, predatory face shows up from the other side of the bars because apparantly, people really don’t want to get on his bad side no matter how much they despise the MC rat.

The guards delivering Juice – yes, deliver, because he feels like nothing more than a package of treats with no will of his own anymore – are not as smart and one of them pats his ass right in front Tully. In another time, Juice might’ve said something, but he’s just a piece of meat here and there’s no part of him left that people haven’t claimed already. Even the ink once showing he was a Son, is now not blacked out but at least scarred over enough to show he’s an outcast. The Chinese already had their little fun with his ass and Tully may be a white supremasist, but he had no problem fucking yellow’s leftovers.

As it is, the AB shotcaller is sitting on his bunk, lazily, with a book in his hand and a predatory gaze that borders on vengeful is sliding over Juice and the guards, who clearly don’t have a very long memory. Tully on the other hand, Juice is certain, doesn’t forget anything unless he wants to and he really doesn’t like others touching his punk. He makes a little gesture with his hand, like some kind of royalty granting the peasant access and Juice puts his meager possessions on the top bunk.

“Have a great time, boys. Please don’t turn it into a multicultural orgy.”

Laughters and Juice doesn’t give a shit because Tully already had one guard disabled for life on a really shitty pension for giving someone else access to his punk and the other guys on the unit are politely deaf to the insults. Tully isn’t only dangerous to the lowest in here, far from it. It’s those higher up in the food chain who should worry, because they’re those most likely to forget their place.

Juice has no place, as far as he’s concerned, and he puts his stack of blue uniforms, cheap underwear and even cheaper toiletries in the locker before making the so called bed. The shot caller seems tidy enough. The sink isn’t covered in hairs or toothpaste, there are no piss stains around the toilet and the place doesn’t stink.

“Welcome home, baby.”

Tully speaks too low for the others to hear, yet Juice still feels that uncomfortable twitch. He’s on display again and this time it’s a show with more viewers.

“Looking good, chica!”
“Marty?”
“Boss?”
“You suck at complinents. Go brush your teeth and say your evening prayers, little brother. It’s way past your bedtime.”

Another round of laughters, brutish but not hostile and Juice realises Marty must be one of the youngest in the inmate circle of AB members. A little too eager to show his teeth and not yet disciplined enough to use them to his master’s satisfaction. Marty mutters a “yes, boss” and the rest of the guys seem to make the unified decision not to bother the shot caller anymore tonight, because suddenly everyone gets terribly busy with anything but the newest punk.

And yet, Juice can feel their gazes prickling his back, poking his not dark yet not fair skin for sore spots, for places most likely to crack and show something, anything, that can offer entertainment in the grey, lifeless existence that is a sentence at Stockton State Prison.