For those of you who tuned into Holden Sheppard’s and my podcast takeover that launched on Friday. This is only part of the opening chapter for my YA novel set inside a juvenile detention centre which I mentioned on the pod. I was runner-up to winning a writer’s prize at Uni for it.
Link to the podcast is here: https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/words-and-nerds-authors-books-and-literature/id1303440513?i=1000534141275
Hope you enjoy it! It is untitled as yet.
Not long after breakfast had been served, Bronco’s large frame stood in the doorway to Brady Morrison’s cell.
‘You okay, bro?’ said Bronco.
Brady lay on his bed facing the wall and picked chips of paint from under his fingernails.
‘Fine, mate,’ said Brady. His voice echoed solemnly off the paint flaked wall.
Brady stared at a photo stuck to the wall with toothpaste of his younger sister. Her bright smile and twinkling blue eyes stared back at him, voiceless. Pure happiness frozen in time. The only photo he has of his sister, Tina. His grandma doesn’t like having her photo taken. Grandma Beth is Brady’s only contact, apart from his solicitor.
Brady rolled over to face Bronco and then put his arms behind his head and stared at the ceiling.
‘It would have been Tina’s thirteenth birthday, today.’
Brady rolled over on to his stomach and put his face into the pillow and screamed.
‘Word bro, I hear ya. Know what I mean?’ said Bronco as he shuffled into Brady’s cell.
He plonked his large frame down on the chair at Brady’s desk with a chocolate bar stuck between his teeth like a Cuban cigar.
Owen McAllister is Bronco’s real name. He got sentenced for murder two years back. Bronco had murdered his dad. From the way Bronco tells it, his dad had no business being a parent. His mum had tapped out from reality by the time Bronco had hit thirteen.
‘Got me letter this morning, mate. You know what I mean?’ said Bronco.
At first, Brady used to get annoyed by the way Bronco ended most of his sentences with, ‘You know what I mean?’ and now he doesn’t hear it. Kind of like reading the word ‘said’ at the end of a sentence. You see it, you know it’s there and sometimes you can hear ‘said’ in your head, but it goes ignored.
Bronco fished an official looking yellow envelope out of his waistband and waved it up and down in Brady’s direction. The deflated look on Bronco’s face said it all.
‘My 18th birthday is in two months and that means…you know what I mean,’ said Bronco.
This time Brady knew what he meant, and the look of deflation on Bronco’s face melted like the chocolate bar between his lips.
‘Doesn’t matter bro. You’ll be fine over there. You can handle yourself,’ said Brady. ‘I am sure they won’t stick ya in with the kid fuckers.’
He rolled over and faced Bronco. ‘You know what I mean? said Brady.
Prison is a world within worlds. Alternative realities separated by chain mail fences, barbed wire, guards and security cameras. The juvenile detention centre is placed inside the core of the men’s prison. Still ripening seeds inside an already rotted apple.
One of the adult units is next door to their wing in juvenile, which is separated only by a large, corrugated iron wall. So the men can’t see the boys. If the wall were to be removed both of their exercise yards would be facing one another. A direct reflection, but like the ageing portrait in Dorian Gray. But, the iron wall doesn’t stop the vile words being called out, daily, to the boys. Words spoken by evil men. Some of whom had done evil acts to children.
‘Uncle is waiting for you, here!’
‘I’ve seen your tight arse!’
‘Daddy has got something large and long for you to lick, sweetheart!’
Brady and Bronco ignore the adults. The younger boys can’t. For those voices and words sound just like some of their own vile relatives. And older boys in here, too. Some nights, the weeping and clamped shut screams keep both Brady and Bronco awake. They can do nothing to help. Evil also lurks amongst the juvenile walls.
Brady has another two years to go before he gets his bus ticket to the other side. His appeal is another year away.
‘You and me, Bronc. We’ll be together again. You and I will show them what’s what,’ said Brady and held a raised defiant fist into the air.
Bronco stared out the window. The chocolate bar between his teeth being savoured, not chewed, just slowly melted down his chin.
A pair of tiny bright redheaded finches sat on the windowsill outside. Their jittery little heads twitched left, right, up and down, cautiously not taking their little black eyes off Bronco’s big head sitting behind the glass tapping his finger at them softly.
‘I wish I was one of them,’ said Bronco.
‘One of what?’
‘Them…,’ said Bronco. ‘The birds. You know what I mean?’
His finger gently thudded on the glass. The sparrows watched and listened to the dull beat from Bronco’s finger.
‘Oh yea,’ said Brady. He tried to angle his head in the direction of the window. ‘I wish we could feed them or have them as pets. It’d be cool if we could have a cage or something in here.’
‘Word bro, word,’ said Bronco. He pursed his lips to try and imitate a chirping sound.
‘They don’t sound like that, bro,’ said Brady. ‘It’s more like a little chit-chit sound.’
Bronco jumped up from the chair and flapped his arms and made a loud cawing sound like that of a crow. He flapped and cawed to his side of the cell and back to Brady’s.
Brady laughed. ‘You’re fucking crazy, bro. Word,’ said Brady. He couldn’t hold back his laughter to Bronco’s bad crow impersonation.
‘I promise not to shit on ya head!’ said Bronco. He jumped up on to Brady’s bed and stood above him jumping up and down, cawing and flapping his arms.
‘Don’t ya reckon crows sound like they’re saying fuck?’ Bronco looked toward the ceiling his arms flapped up and down. ‘Faaaaark, faaaaark!’ said Bronco raucously impersonating a foul-mouthed crow.