3. I couldn't tell you why she felt that way,
She felt it everyday.
And I couldn't help her,
I just watched her make the same mistakes again.
Avril Lavigne ‘Nobody's Home’.0=0=0=0
“Hey Blondie!” Dragline got up out of her seat by the door and shook Gibson until she woke up, “You better keep those pretty, baby blues open unless y’wanna spend another night in the box.”
The other prisoners in the back of the truck laughed quietly, Dawn eyed Dragline from her corner but said nothing.
“It’s gonna be one hot mother today,” announced a woman who sat next to Dragline.
“Yeah,” agreed another inmate, “reckon the devil’s gonna be walkin’ the road today.”
Sitting in her corner, Dawn folded her arms across her chest, closed her eyes and pretended to be asleep; although her eyes were closed, Dawn’s ears picked up everything going on around her.
“Me I’m lucky,” explained the girl sitting next to Dragline, her name was Koko, “I gotta broom, I work up top,” she sighed dramatically, “I’m glad I’m not gonna be in the ditch today.”
“Not a good day to learn on,” another voice Dawn didn’t recognise.
“Hey Koko,” Dragline said slowly, “how about you swap jobs with Blondie here?”
“What give up an easy job,” Koko complained, “no–way Drag.”
“Oh come on, Koko,” Dragline pleaded, “look at her, she’s dead on her feet and the day ain’t even started.”
There were mutterings of approval for Dragline’s suggestion; Dawn opened her eyes a fraction and watched Dragline’s face. Seeing no pity there, Dawn immediately realised that the big prisoner was hazing Gibson, but the blonde girl was too exhausted to recognise when she was being taken for a ride.
“Well,” Koko shrugged, “I suppose if she had something to trade…”
“Please…” Gibson gasped, “…I’ll give you anything…”
“Two bucks when you get your pay,” Koko replied swiftly.
“It’s yours,” Gibson promised, “what do I do?”
“Well,” Dragline smiled nastily, “when they’re handing out the tools, just go to Boss Paula and tell her you’ve swapped jobs with Koko here, she’ll be fine with it.”
All the other prisoners in the back of the truck, except Dawn chuckled quietly, but Gibson was too far gone to notice.
“Leave her alone,” Dawn felt she had to say something; another night in the box would probably kill Gibson.
“Or you’ll what, College Girl?” Dragline snapped back.
“Where’d you get that about how I could have gone to college?” Dawn rested her head against the side of the truck and kept her eyes closed as if she didn’t care about Dragline’s implied threat.
“A little birdie told me,” Dragline replied unsure what to make of Dawn’s laid-back attitude. “Tearing the heads off, what was it?” Dragline looked at Koko.
“Gumball machines?” Koko suggested and everyone laughed.
“What kind of thing is that?” Dragline wanted to know.
“Well,” Dawn sighed as a small smile played across her lips, “you know how it is? Small town, nothing much to do at night.” Again all the prisoners laughed, this time with her not at her, Dragline didn’t look happy that Dawn had so easily parried her verbal attack.
Moments later the trucks slowed down and pulled over to the side of the road, a couple of minutes after that a boss came and unlocked the gate at the back of the truck and gestured with his shotgun for the prisoners to climb down. Slowly and with the maximum of grumbling the inmates did as they were told. Standing on the road, Dawn looked up and down the dusty tarmac. The road seemed to go on like a black line into infinity, vanishing in a tiny, black, point on the horizon. On either side of the road lay perfectly flat fields of dry, straw coloured grass separated from the road by a tumble down barbed wire fence. Between the fence and the road was a deep drainage ditch; Dawn could see how it had been freshly dug out up to the point where the trucks had stopped. Looking on down the road she could see there was still miles of ditch left to work on.
“Move it, Summers,” Boss Paula punctuated her words with a half hearted swipe of her cane aimed at Dawn’s legs.
“Sure thing, Boss!” Dawn moved quickly towards where the prisoners were getting shovels and other tools from the back of a pick-up.
Joining the end of the line, Dawn quickly found herself at the front and being handed a long handled shovel and a pair of work gloves. Turning away from the pick-up she noticed Gibson standing nervously to one side; Dawn groaned inwardly. If the girl didn’t shape up soon she’d not survive the week let alone the two years she’d been sentenced to.
“Excuse me Boss,” Gibson raised her hand hesitantly just like a kid in class asking if she could be excused; Boss Paula turned to look at the woman an impassive expression on her face.
“I-I made an arrangement with that woman,” Gibson pointed at Koko who was heading down the road aways brush in hand, “to swap jobs.”
“Move,” Boss Paula took a step towards Gibson, “and get on with your work.”
“B-but, Boss,” pleaded Gibson, “I-I can’t work in the ditch today…”
“I said move,” Boss Paula spoke between gritted teeth; Dawn thought she was showing remarkable restrain, she hadn’t hit Gibson…yet.
“But Boss!” Gibson sobbed as her world finally collapsed around her and the realisation that for the next two years at least, that this was her life finally hit home. “I was in the box all night I haven’t eaten since yesterday morning I…”
“Get on with your work!” Boss Paula jabbed Gibson in the stomach with the muzzle of her shotgun.
Just for a moment, Dawn thought Gibson was going to fight back or do something equally stupid. But she needn’t have worried, with a look on her face like a kicked puppy, Gibson realised she’d been had and turned away from the guard and picked up a shovel before heading towards the ditch.0=0=0=0
The prisoners were split into two gangs so that both sides of the road could be cleared at the same time. The sun was well above the horizon when a whistle was blown and everyone climbed out of the ditch to line up for a breakfast consisting of beans and cornbread. Sitting on the side of the road, Dawn shovelled spoonfuls of beans into her mouth and tore into the cornbread with her teeth. Mopping up the last smears of sauce from the beans with her last piece of bread, she looked up to see Boss Paula standing in front of her.
“Summers,” Boss Paula said quietly, “that Gibson girl a friend of yours?”
“No Boss,” Dawn replied honestly, “I totally never saw her before yesterday.”
“Well,” sighed the guard, “she’s your buddy now.”
Gesturing with the muzzle of her weapon, Boss Paula pointed to where Gibson lay flat on her back, her eyes closed and her beans and bread lying next to her on her plate untouched.
“Get her to eat,” Boss Paula ordered, “if’n she doesn’t she’ll never last the day.”
“Sure thing, Boss,” reluctantly, Dawn put down her plate, got up and walked over to where Gibson lay; she could really do without this, she had enough problems looking after herself without having to look out for someone else.
“Come on Blondie,” Dawn sighed as she knelt down next to Gibson; she picked up the girl’s plate and spoon, “you gotta eat.”
“Go way,” moaned Gibson.
“If you don’t eat, y’don’t crap and if y’don’t crap you’ll die,” Dawn pointed out with no great conviction, even if it was probably true.
“Let me die then,” Gibson threw her arm over her eyes and tried to ignore Dawn.
“Here,” Dawn looked up to see Ace kneeling on the other side of the blonde girl, “I’ll lift her up, you shovel it in.”
“Cool,” Dawn nodded and waited for Ace to lift Gibson’s head and body upright before she started to shovel beans into the woman slack mouth.
Slowly, Gibson started to chew and swallow; it was either that or be choked by the beans being forced into her mouth.
“Stick the bread in her pocket,” Ace suggested, “she can eat it later there’s no time now.”
Sure enough within seconds of forcing the last few beans into Gibson’s mouth the guards called for everyone to get back to work. Pulling Gibson to her feet, Dawn held the girl up while Ace took their three plates and washed them before coming back to help Dawn steer Gibson back into the ditch.
The work was back-breakingly hard, sweating under the hot sun, Dawn soon found herself wringing wet even after she’d taken off her denim shirt and was working only in her t-shirt. Every hour there was a five minute break which allowed the prisoners to slump down next to the ditch and catch their breath. While they worked a young girl called Babalu would run up and down the line of prisoners handing out mugs of water. To Dawn the girl didn’t look much older than about sixteen, by the way she spoke and acted she was almost certainly retarded. Wondering how the girl had ended up in prison, Dawn watched as she ran from prisoner to prisoner with her bucket of water.
The guards seemed to treat Babalu like some sort of pet; she fetched and carried for them and Dawn never saw any of the guards hit her or abuse her in anyway. Unlike what they were doing to Gibson, every time the exhausted woman slowed down, one of the bosses would be there to whack her across the back or butt with a cane. The pain of the cane stroke would wake Gibson up for awhile, but when the whistle blew for lunch break, Gibson just collapsed into the ditch and Dawn and Ace had to literally carry her out onto the road. Kneeling next to the worn out woman and not feeling too perky herself, Dawn found herself looking at a pair of boots belonging to a boss, looking up she saw Boss Paula looking down at her.
“Boss,” Dawn looked up at the woman, “you know as well as I do she won’t last the afternoon.”
Boss Paula said nothing and her face remained impassive, Dawn tried to reach her again.
“She’s not suited for this type of work,” Dawn pointed out, “even if she hadn’t spent the freakin’ night in the box she’d be dead on her feet by now.”
”What do you suggest then, Summers?” Boss Paula asked slowly.
“Couldn’t you put her in the back of the truck,” Dawn pleaded for the life of the girl she’d only just met even though it went against her better judgement.
Crouching down, Boss Paula felt Gibson’s pulse and pulled back her eyelids to check her responses.
“Okay, Summers, you’ve convinced me,” Boss Paula stood up slowly, “you an’ Ace get her into the back of the truck, ask Boss Shorty to lock her in.
“Thanks Boss,” Dawn smiled as she and Ace dragged Gibson to her feet.
“Don’t you thank me yet,” Boss Paula warned, “now git goin’ unless you wanna miss ya food.”0=0=0=0
It was a long, hot afternoon as the sun slowly crept towards the western horizon; Dawn felt her hands burn, even through she was wearing thick work gloves, she knew she’d have a fine crop of blisters by the time they finished for the day. As the hours past her back became stiffer and stiffer as she heaved shovelfuls of dirt out of the ditch and onto the side of the road. Finding herself counting the minutes to the next rest break, Dawn hypnotised herself into a rhythm of lifting up a shovelful of dirt, tossing it out of the ditch before digging the point of her shovel back into the dark wet earth at the bottom of the ditch and starting the process all over again.
When the whistle finally blew for the end of the day, Dawn climbed from the bottom of the ditch feeling as stiff as a board and aching in places she didn’t know she had places. Dragging her feet she stumbled over to the pick-up and handed in her shovel and gloves before walking over to the truck. A whack on the butt from a cane helped her to climb into the truck. Shuffling down to the far end of the metal shelter she stepped over Gibson’s still sleeping body and collapsed into her corner. Arms resting limply by her side, Dawn closed her eyes and wondered if she’d live the week out.
“How was your first day on the job, College Girl,” Dragline sneered and all the old hands chuckled.
“That was nothing,” Dawn replied tiredly, “like a day at the beach.”
“Ya won’t last the week,” growled Dragline as the truck’s engine burst into life and they began their journey back to the compound.
“Bet ya she does,” Dawn recognised Koko’s voice.
“How much?” Dragline demanded.
“Two bucks,” Koko replied.
“Look,” Dawn opened her eyes and stared at Dragline, “when I was up in New York doing time, we did the same sorta stuff,” she lied, “only we did it in totally sub-zero temperatures, like in blizzards.”
The other prisoners laughed quietly at Dawn’s show of bravado. Looking sharply around the darkened interior of the truck, Dragline realised she was losing the support of the group to the new-meat who hadn’t even got a proper name yet; she was further discomforted when other inmates started to place their bets. About half put their money on Dawn surviving the week. With each bet placed in Dawn’s favour, Dragline felt her position as Top Girl slip from her fingers, she’d need to do something about the new-meat and do it soon.
As Dawn snoozed in her corner, she listened with half an ear as the betting on her survival increased to the point where Ace had to open an official book on the betting. Knowing that this was going to piss Dragline off in a big way, Dawn resigned herself to the fact that at some point she was going to have to fight Dragline over who was going to be ‘top girl’. She didn’t want to be ‘top girl’ it went against her plan of remaining un-noticed. Okay she’d be happy to be friends with whoever was ‘top girl’ but no way did she want that job.
Although she’d made Dragline look small twice today, without really trying (Dragline didn’t appear to be that bright). Dawn was fairly sure she could come out of this with the respect of her fellow prisoners and without making a deadly enemy of Dragline. But not tonight, she was too tired. When they got back to the compound she intended to wash up, eat, shower and crash-out on her bunk, she didn’t have time for Dragline just yet and she was fairly sure that the women who’d bet on her would stop Dragline from messing with her.
Feeling the truck turn into the parking lot in front of the compound, Dawn opened her eyes and sat up. The truck jerked to a halt and a boss ran round and unlocked the gate to let the prisoners out. Jumping down from the back of the truck, Dawn followed the other inmates into the compound where they lined up on the concrete path that led to the cookhouse and barracks.
“Okay,” yelled one of the camp bosses, “you know the drill.”
Dawn didn’t but it soon became obvious that she was supposed to raise her hands above her head; they were going to be searched. A boss started from each end of the line working towards the centre; Dawn soon found herself being searched by one of the male bosses. He searched her quickly and efficiently, much to Dawn’s surprise he didn’t take the opportunity to cop a feel when his hands moved over her breasts or as he checked between her legs. Ace must have been right about what she said the previous night; the Captain didn’t like anyone messing with his girls. As she waited for the other women to be searched, Dawn couldn’t help but ask herself why?
After everyone had been searched, Dawn expected to be dismissed back to the barracks so she could wash-up before getting her evening meal. Instead they were told to about-turn, Dawn turned around with all the other prisoners and found herself facing the box. Glancing around she saw there were two guards behind the prisoners clutching their shotguns while another two stood over by the box with Boss Godfrey; Dawn just knew something bad was about to happen.
“Gibson,” Boss Paula called from where she stood next to Boss Godfrey, “front and centre.”
Slowly, hesitantly, Gibson walked out in front of the line of prisoners, she came to a halt about a yard in front of the three bosses by the box.
“You complained about the job you were given,” Boss Paula said loud enough for everyone to hear.
“No Boss,” Gibson cringed before the bosses, “I just asked to swap jobs is all.”
“Digging the ditch not good enough for you, huh?” Boss Paula wanted to know.
“No Boss,” Dawn could hear the panic in Gibson’s voice as the blonde realised she was going to be put in the box for another night.
“Oh,” Boss Paula laughed sardonically, “I think you think you’re too good for the likes of us…strip!”
“No Boss,” cried Gibson as she fell crying to her knees, “please, Boss don’t put me in the box again!”
Dawn shook her head, in less than two days the bosses had broken Gibson, after this she’d be like putty in their hands.
“You don’t want to go in the box again?” Boss Paula asked.
“No Boss, please Boss anything but that,” Gibson crouched on the floor as she looked up at the bosses with real fear in her eyes.
“Anything?” Boss Paula asked, Gibson nodded her head as her lank, sweat wet hair fell about her face.
Looking at Boss Godfrey, Boss Paula nodded and smiled, “She said anything…”
Reaching down and without saying a word, Boss Godfrey dragged Gibson to her feet. Within seconds Godfrey and the other guard were pulling an unresisting Gibson off behind on of the many huts scattered about compound. Thinking they were going to rape the woman Dawn stood stock still; she knew that if she so much as lifted a finger she’d find herself being dragged off behind a hut too. Closing her eyes, Dawn tried to block out Gibson’s screams and the sharp crack of canes hitting flesh. The beating seemed to go on and on until Gibson’s screams were replaced by the sound of her moans and sobs as the last few blows were landed.
Carrying the blonde girl between them, Boss Godfrey and the other boss dumped her on the dry grass in front of the hut. Very clever, Dawn had to admire the way these bastards worked. Taking the woman behind the hut to beat her was worse than doing it in front of the inmates; the unknown is always more frightening than the stuff you can see.
“Ace,” Boss Paula called out before she pointed her cane at Dawn, “new-meat! Get out here and clear up this trash,” she gestured to where Gibson lay unconscious on the ground.
Running over to the body, Dawn was just about to help Ace pick the girl up when she found the tip of Boss Paula’s cane under her chin.
“Listen up and listen up good,” Boss Paula whispered menacingly, “next time you ask for someone to be taken off a work detail, remember what happened to this sorry sack of shit.”
Before the week was out, Gibson was transferred to The Farm.0=0=0=0Author’s Note:
I used to be indecisive but now I’m not so sure… For reasons best known to my subconscious I’ve been agonising about whether to continue to post this fic or delete it as a bad idea! As you’ve probably guessed I’ve decided to keep posting…after all the damn thing’s written and it seems a waste not to keep posting. So, here you are, two chapters tonight to make up for the one I missed yesterday.