Attica was a strange place in the seventies. Right around 2065, they instituted a new rule. It was kind of a strange rule — an “off the books” kind of rule if you know what I mean. People outside of the prison didn’t know about it, and the warden pretended he didn’t know about it. It didn’t exist in writing anywhere, but it was a real rule that was honored and respected by prisoners and guards alike. That rule was this: Rewards and punishments could be traded between prisoners. If you earned a reward, you could have another prisoner receive it in your place. If another prisoner had punishment due, you could volunteer to take that punishment instead. Of course, none of this was free: Spending a week in solitary for another prisoner was worth a pack of cigarettes. We had a nice economy going with that rule.
There was this guy named Carlos who was always in solitary, not because he did anything wrong, but because he liked charging people out the ass for the service. He was a special case though, because he benefited all around. You see, Carlos was a rat, and three quarters of the prisoners were just itching to shank the fucker. He would come out of solitary and immediately offer to go back into solitary for someone else in exchange for cigarettes or booze or whatever. And then, he would go back in the hole all protected. Carlos made a killing that way, and he was perpetually protected. Of course, the downside to that kind of life is that you don’t get much news about the outside world. The guy just didn’t know what the fuck was going on.
It was in June — I think — of 2071, when I was sitting playing cards with some of the guys when along comes Carlos, fresh out of solitary and escorted by a couple of guards.
“Hey Carlos! What’s happening?” I said. He was safe to stop and talk to us — the guards weren’t about to leave him alone.
“Not a whole lot, Lexus,” he responded. “What’s up with you?”
One of the guys I was playing cards with — Sal, responded for me. “Lucky-ass Lexus there has recreation time coming up tomorrow, Carlos. He’s got a whole hour in the courtyard all to himself.”
“No shit!” said Carlos. “What did you have to do to earn that?”
“Stuck a guy,” I said.
“You stuck a guy?” said Carlos. “And they gave you recreation time?”
“Yeah,” I said. “The guy was an asshole. Stick an asshole, and you get rec time.”
“A whole hour to yourself in the Sun, eh Lexus? Wow.” Carlos was salivating for that hour in the Sun. And it was solitary time in the Sun too, meaning he would be safe if he took it. He had this far away dreamy look in his eyes as he fantasized about it. “So uh, you selling that Lexus? Like … how much do you think it’s worth?”
“Oh, I don’t know about selling it Carlos. I mean, we’re talking an hour in the Sun. It ain’t like something you trade for no pack of cigarettes.”
“I understand, I understand,” said Carlos, nodding his ass off in agreement. “You’re very wise to not let something like that go too easily.” When you want to fuck somebody over, you agree with every word that person says and talk to him like he’s God. That’s what Carlos was doing with me — caressing my ego, the piece of shit. “How about, say … a carton of cigarettes. A whole carton. How ’bout it Lexus?”
“Shit!” I said. “A carton ain’t even close to what an hour in the Sun is worth Carlos. Besides, I know what kind of stash you have hoarded away. I want all of your cigarettes, plus all of your whiskey, plus all of your weed.”
“That ain’t even close to reasonable!” said Carlos.
I pretended I was mulling it over. But I knew how bad he wanted it … Carlos hadn’t seen the Sun in five years, probably. “Okay,” I said, “three cartons of cigarettes, one bottle of whiskey, and all of your fucking weed.”
Sal helped me along here. “Yeah,” he said, nodding. “That sounds like a good deal Lexus is offering you Carlos.”
Carlos was looking a little steamed, but I could see in his eyes it was a done deal. He was going to bitch and whine and try to talk me down, but I had him with that price. “Not all of my weed,” said Carlos.
“All of it,” I said. “That’s my price, take it or leave it.”
“Yeah, well then fuck you Lexus!” said Carlos, and he turned back toward the guards. But he wasn’t exactly walking fast. He was actually walking pretty damn slow, praying that I would lower my price. Sal shot me a worried glance, but I just shook my head. Wait!
Carlos wasn’t going to walk away from this. Every step he took was slower. Finally, he stopped and turned back to me. “Two cartons of cigarettes, one bottle of whiskey, and all of my weed,” he said. Of course, he took a carton of cigarettes out of the price, but that was to be expected and the reason I asked for three and not two to begin with. When you’re fucking a guy, it’s important to give him a little victory like that at the end, to let him save a little face.
“Deal,” I said. I looked over at the guards. “Ya’ll heard that, right? I’m giving the hour of recreation that I have scheduled for tomorrow to Carlos, and in exchange he’s providing me with certain items of contraband that you heard and didn’t hear, right?”
The guards both nodded, and that was it: A done deal. That’s the way Attica worked in the seventies. It was sweet. Carlos just had to survive the night in a regular cell without getting stuck, but there was no danger of that: A deal had been made, and all the prisoners who wanted Carlos dead would honor it and let Carlos have his hour in the Sun. There wasn’t anybody in that prison who was going to put my loot in jeopardy by sticking Carlos early, and no doubt Carlos was already putting another deal together, offering to go back into the hole for somebody else, for the right price, right after his recreation time. Everyone left him alone, and he sat in his cell for the rest of the day, dreaming of the recreation hour he had just bought from me.
When I saw Carlos the next day, he had a shit-eating grin from ear to ear. Probably had a boner too. I invited him to sit at our table for lunch.
“Excited, huh Carlos?” asked Sal. Carlos just grinned and nodded. “What are you planning on doing for that whole hour, Carlos?” Sal prodded.
“Maybe take off all my clothes and run around naked,” said Carlos.
“He’s probably going to spend the whole hour jacking off in the Sun,” I said.
“You know it, Lexus!” said Carlos. Shit … I should have asked for more cigarettes or booze. He would have gone higher if I had pushed it. Oh well. After lunch, we all congratulated Carlos on his hour and told him to have fun as the guards escorted the eager little bastard to the recreation yard.
You know, people think just because we’re in prison that we must be stupid. Like, I killed a guy, so that makes me illiterate or something. We ain’t all that stupid, and some of us are damn smart. We read; we keep up on current events. At least, those of us who haven’t spent the last five years in solitary confinement do. For example, I know damn well what a coronal mass ejection is. And I also know what a solar proton event is. The Earth got hit by a double-whammy of both of those back in 2069. It was pretty bad I hear … satellites getting fried, people dying, lots of electrical fires. Of course, in Attica you would never know unless you watched the news from time to time, which of course you can’t do in solitary. The world will survive, but it’s going to be a long time before the ozone layer recovers: It was pretty well obliterated by the events of ’69.
I think I might have heard Carlos screaming, but maybe it was just my imagination. The fucker probably did strip off all his clothes and run around naked out there. What a douche. He was getting a solid dose of ultraviolet out there without an ozone layer. Nobody in their right mind goes outside these days until after sunset. It was supposed to be me out there: My punishment for sticking that guy the other day. Instead, Carlos the rat bought my death sentence for a shit-ton of weed, whiskey, and cigarettes. What a bargain eh?
— R. S. Huber
I have four rejection slips on this story, which is enough to banish it to the blog. For anyone interested, Attica 2071 is actually the original story that opened the door to the story An Angel Named Trixie, which takes place shortly after Lexus is released from prison. A lot of people seem to like that particular story but it is one that I never attempted to get published.