The Bent Brief


Her Majesty's Prison, Pentonville, London.

"Slop out, fella!"

The verbal assault slashed through my mind and forced me to open my eyes and read the 'Thought for the day' that had been scratched into the wall facing me.

'Don't fight the system 'cos you're the knob 'ed head for bein' 'ere.'

Ah well, at least someone in here had a sense of humour.

These gems of foresight had been scratched into the green wall that ran alongside my bed, a metal-framed apology that never stopped whining about my stupidity. The graffiti always ensured that I smiled at least once a day though, so I was grateful for the crude mercy. It definitely beat looking at the unsavoury lout who had just disturbed my sleep. My escape.

On second thoughts, sleep perhaps is the wrong word to describe a constant state of sensitivity. More often than not I simply floated in and out of my senses; sometimes they were acute, other times far too blunt.

I stayed where I was, to hell with him, although I knew that I was deluding myself yet again, and that sooner or later I would have to shift my backside. Prison was like that, there wasn't a lot of room for 'choice'; Her Majesty's Pleasure was exempt from the 'choice' that pious politicians kept raging on about.

Another 'Slop out!' insulted my eardrums again along with a couple of violent kicks to the cell door. I had been spotted enjoying a temporary release from punishment, which wouldn't do at all. I looked at the distorted face staring down at me and noted the contempt. 'Thinking' was frowned upon in clink; the screws had not forgotten their history. For a moment I felt decidedly uncomfortable. 'Thinkers' I knew were always the first to be put up against a wall and shot.

'Slopping out' was, without doubt, one of the more stomach wrenching highlights of the day. Ignoring the order of navy blue authority to dispose of my now cloudy and unappetising urine, I treated contempt with contempt and stayed beneath the prison blanket that was so thin it needed an anvil on top of it in order to keep my privileged backside covered. I needed, demanded, these few minutes of sorry isolation to allow my little world to adjust yet again to its new and exciting environment.

The screw observed, snorted and then disappeared. Perhaps I had managed to retain some dignified defiance after all.
I continued to observe the décor of my new home. Grinning female genitalia were laughing at me from every wall. A butcher's shop being set on fire immediately came to mind as did the question of self torment. Masochism. I could not understand why my fellow inmates kept plastering their 'homes' with unobtainable bosoms and eye watering rumps. After all, self-abuse was a bit out of the question unless you were into group therapy, but then prison had its own rules; its own unique society with its choked perversions and corrupted distortions.

I had inherited the papery pornography from my predecessor and had yet to decide what to do with it. The odd furious breast did have the virtue of reminding me that I was still alive, still a man, so to date the walls had remained untouched.

Having finished my morning ritual of cell study I finally got up and began to dress. The blue striped shirt reminded me of other, less offensive days. I used to wear them to the office and they always made me look suitably lawyerly and professional especially with a yellow tie. Were I ever to be liberated from this prison of human misery I doubted I would ever wear a blue striped shirt again. You know I do believe there is a song in there somewhere. Anyway, the prison tailor obviously wasn't up to much, neither were the laundry facilities. The collars and cuffs were frayed and loose. No starch being used that was for certain. Single cuffs, so cufflinks were out of the question. Bad form all round really. Must have a word with the Governor at tea time.

As if all this was not enough, the real abomination and total insult to my dignity were HMP's underpants. These white monstrosities should have had a sign printed on the front saying, 'Hop in'! My pale muscle-free legs made me look like a malnourished stick insect or worse – a strutting Superman without the body, perhaps. The rest of me wasn't too bad but the legs . . . well, the less said the better. In the past some women had actually envied them, if you can work that one out. The coarse, blue denim trousers I slipped and slid into completed the sartorial battleground. Now I looked just like every other con in the place. Uniformity and cheapness had thus been achieved.

On the outside at least.

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