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Chapter 2: Scene 4: Introductions at Breakfast


       Kelly lets a guy with a big cart in through the steel door. Smell of food leaks out and my stomach growls. He lines us up and we walk down to tables at the end of the dayroom . The other guys go first, grab trays off the cart and clamber over benches bolted to the table. I get my mine last and sit alone at the end. For a minute I watch them shovel food in and then I start. The only noise is slurping and chomping , until they slow down and start to talk.

       The one who'd been asleep earlier yells across the table, "Hey, Tony, where'd they find you this time? Under some babe's bed?"

       They whoop and the black guy with muscles laughs, too. "I wish, man. Breaking and entering. This guy comes up to his house, sees a broken window and calls 911 from a neighbor's. Cops grab me when I run out the back door. Still had the stuff I took in the dude's pillow case." He grins, making a big show of it. "Took me straight to JDH . McGill jerked me back here right after my hearing ." He waves his hand around. "So here I am. Home again." He waggles his fork at the first guy. "What's with you, Pat? Pushing or using?"

ThinkLink: Have you ever heard someone brag about doing a bad thing? Who was it? How did it feel to listen?

       Pat pulls his head down, acting like he's embarrassed, but he's grinning . He's got that good-kid kind of face, pasty-skinned with bright pink cheeks like he could've had his picture on the cover of Boy's Life . Light brown hair hangs down over his eyes, like a little kid with bangs. Pat looks about my age, fifteen. "Both," he says. " Cops pulled me in while they was checking ID. I was too zoned out to take off." He scowls and rubs his eyes. "Time for another rest cure ."

       Next to him, the guy they call Randy, the stocky, mean-looking kid, growls something at Pat and then stuffs the last of the gingerbread into his face. Tony gives him a look to melt him down and Randy turns away.

       Tony points a fork at my end of the table. "Who're you?"

       "Me?" I look up, surprised. It's been more like I was watching an old jail movie on TV than being part of the talk.

       "Yeah. You."

       "Uh, John. John Hanson."

       "What they got you in for?"

       I just look at him. No use telling more than I have to.

       "Hey, man, what's the secret? We all got a sheet on us. What's yours?"

       "Nothing. I mean it's a big mistake."

       They laugh and howl like it's the funniest thing they've heard for days. "Yeah," Tony says, "we all got them big mistakes. So what was yours?"

       I wait some more, hoping he'll drop it, but now they're all watching me. "This guy says I was robbing his gas station , but I wasn't. I was just getting what was mine. He got hurt, though, and he called the sheriff ."

       Tony lets out a low whistle. " Assault during a robbery, huh? You packing when you done it?"


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 Updated on 5/13/04

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