Page 51 of The Moneychangers

He was in the shower house, a single-story corrugated structure to which prisoners were marched in groups of fifty, escorted by guards. The prisoners undressed, leaving their clothing in wire baskets, then trooped naked and shivering through the unheated building. They stood under shower heads, waiting for a guard to turn on the water.

The shower-room guard was high above them on a platform, and control of the showers and water temperature was under the guard's whim. If the prisoners were slow in moving, or seemed noisy, the guard could send down an icy blast of water, raising screams of rage and protest while prisoners jumped around like wild men, trying to escape. Because of the shower-house design, they couldn't. Or sometimes the guard would maliciously bang the hot water dose to scalding, to the same effect.

On a morning when a group of fifty which included Miles was emerging from the showers, and another fifty, already undressed, were waiting to go in, Miles felt himself surrounded closely by several bodies. Suddenly his arms were gripped tightly by a half dozen hands and he was being hustled forward. A voice behind him urged, "Move your ass, pretty boy. We ain't got long." Several others laughed.

Miles looked up toward the elevated platform. Seeking to draw the guard's attention, he shouted, "Sir! sir!"

The guard, who was picking his nose and looking elsewhere, appeared not to hear.

A fist slammed hard into Miles's Abs. A voice behind him snarled, "Shaddup!"

He cried out again from pain and fear and either the same fist or another thudded home once more. The breath went out of him. A fiery hurt shot through his side. His arms were being twisted savagely. Whimpering now, his feet barely touching the floor, he was hustled along.

The guard still took no notice. Afterward, Miles guessed the man had been tipped off in advance and bribed. Since guards were abysmally underpaid, bribery in the prison was a way of life.

Near the exit from the showers, where others were begining to dress, was a narrow open doorway. Still surrounded, Miles was shoved through. He was conscious of black and white bodies. Behind them, the door slammed shut.

The room inside was small and used for storage. Brooms, mops, cleaning materials were in screened and padlocked cupboards. Near the room's center was a trestle table. Miles was slammed face downward on it; his mouth and nose hit the wooden surface hard. He felt teeth loosen. His eyes filled with tears. His nose began to bleed.

While his feet stayed on the floor, his legs were roughly pulled apart. He fought desperately, despairingly, trying to move. The many hands restrained him.

"Hold still, pretty boy." Miles heard grunting and felt a thrust. A second later he screamed in pain, disgust, and horror. Whoever was holding his head seized it by the hair, raised and slammed it down. "Shaddupl" Now pain, in waves, was everywhere.

"Ain't she lovely?" The voice seemed in the distance, echoing and dreamlike.

The penetration ended. Before his body could know relief, another began. Despite himself, knowing the consequences, he screamed again. Once more his head was banged.

During the next few minutes and the monstrous repetition, Miles's mind began to drift, his awareness waned. As strength left him, his struggles lessened. But the physical agony intensified a searing of membrane, the fiery abrasion of a thousand sensory nerve ends.

Consciousness must have left him totally, then returned. From outside he heard a guard's whistle being blown. It was a signal to hurry with the dressing and assemble in the yard. He was aware of restraining hands withdrawn. Behind him a door opened. The others in the room were running out.

Bleeding, bruised, and barely conscious, Miles staggered out. The merest movement of his body caused him suffering.

"Hey, you!" the guard bawled from the platform. "Move ass, you goddam pansyl"

Groping, only half aware of what he was doing, Miles took the wire basket with his clothes and began to pull them on. Most of the others in his group of fifty were already outside in the yard. Another fifty men who had been under the showers were ready to transfer to the dressing area.

The guard shouted fiercely for the second time, "Shithead! I said move!"

Stepping into his rough drill prison pants, Miles stumbled and would have fallen, but for an arm which reached out, holding him.

'make it easy, kid," a deep voice said. "Here, I’ll help.. The first hand continued to hold him steady while a second aided in putting the pants on.

The guard's whistle blasted shrilly. "Nigger, you hear met You an' that pansy get the hell outside, or be on report." "Yassir, yassir, big boss. Right away, now. Let's go, kid."

Miles was aware, hazily, that the man beside him was huge and black. Later, he would learn the other's name was Karl and that he was serving a life sentence for murder. Miles would wonder, too, if Karl had been among the gang which raped him. He suspected that he was, but never asked, and never knew for sure.

What Miles did discover was that the black giant, despite his size and uncouthness, had a gentleness of manner and a sensitive consideration almost feminine.

From the shower house, supported by KarL Miles walked unsteadily outdoors.

There were some smirks from other prisoners but on the faces of most Miles read contempt. A wizened old-timer spat disgustedly and turned away.

Miles made it through the remainder of the day back to his cell, later to the mess hall where he couldn't eat the slop he usually forced down from hunger, and finally to his cell again, with help along the way from Karl. His other three cell companions ignored him as if he were a leper. Racked by pain and misery he slept, tossed, woke, lay fitfully awake for hours suffering the fetid air, slept briefly, woke again. With daybreak, and the clangor of cell doors opening, came renewed fear: When would it happen again? He suspected soon. In the yard during "exercise" period during which most of the prison population stood around aimlessly Karl sought him out. "How y' feel, kid?"

Miles shook his head dejectedly. "Awful." He added, "Thanks for what you did." He was aware that the big black had saved him from being on report, as the shower room guard had threatened. That would have meant punishment probably time in the hole and an adverse mark on his record for parole.

"It's okay, kid. One thing, though, you gotta figure. One time, like yesterday, ain't gonna satisfy them guys. They like dogs now, with you a bitch in heat. They'll be after you again."

"What can I do?" The confirmation of Miles's fears made his voice quaver and his body tremble. The other watched him shrewdly.

"What you need, kid, is a protector. Some stud to look out for you. How'd you like me for yours?" "Why should you do that?"

"You start bein' my regular boy friend, I take care o' you. Them others know you 'n me's steady, they ain't gonna lay no hand on you. They know they do, there's me to reckon with." Karl curled one hand into a fist; it was the size of a small ham.

Though he already knew the answer, Miles asked, "What would you want?"

"Your sweet white ass, baby." The big man dosed his eyes and went on dreamily. "Your body just for me. Any time I need it. I'll take care of where." Miles Eastin wanted to be sick. "How 'bout it, baby? Waddya say?"

As he had so many times already, Miles thought despairingly: Whatever was done before, does anyone deserve this?

Yet he was here. And had learned that prison was a jungle debased and savage, lacking justice where a man was stripped of human rights the day he came. He said bitterly, "Do I have a choice?"

"Put it that way, no I guess you ain't." A pause, then impatiently, "Well, we on?" Miles said miserably, "I suppose so."

Looking pleased, Karl draped an arm proprietorially around the other's shoulders. Miles, shriveling inside, willed himself not to draw away.

"We gotta git you moved some, baby. To my tier. Maybe my pad." Karl's cell was in a lower tier than Miles's, in an opposite wing of the X-shaped cell house. The big man licked his lips. "Yeah, man." The hand on Miles was already wandering. Karl asked, "You got bread?"

"No." Miles knew that if he had had money it could have eased his way already. Prisoners with financial resources on the outside, and who used them, suffered less than prisoners with none.

"Ain't got none neither," Karl confided. "Guess I'll hafta figure sumpum."

Miles nodded dully. Already, he realized, he had begun to accept the ignominious "girl friend" role. But he knew, too, the way things worked here, that while the arrangement with Karl lasted he was safe. There would be no further gang rape. The belief proved correct.