Days Twenty-Six and Twenty-Seven: Exercise.
Next morning my period started, and I just had time to insert one of the prison-issue tampons before the call came for slopping-out. Our clean clothes had still not arrived, so wearing only our prison sandals we lugged the bucket out into the corridor, and joined the tens of other naked women in the queue. There was more ribaldry than usual: somehow being naked together in the showers was taken as normal, whereas here in the corridor it was something to be noticed and remarked upon, and in my case to feel self-conscious about. However, it didn’t last long, because the whole line was buzzing with the events of the previous evening. Gossip was being passed along like lines of falling dominoes, everyone was asking questions or relaying snippets, and what we picked up was this:
Normally, whilst most of the Wardens are supervising Showers, two stay behind to gather up the laundry and distribute clean clothes. One is Hackett, the Admin Officer, and the previous day she had been joined by Wilkes. Just as they were about to start, Wilkes felt ill with severe stomach pains. Hackett took her to the Prison Doctor, who decided she ought to go to hospital, so Hackett immediately drove her there.
After Showers, six prisoners were ordered to collect up the discarded clothes. They pushed the laundry trolley — a wire-sided cage on wheels — along the corridors, supervised by Bradley and Clark. This was what Rose and I had heard. The trolley was about three-quarters full, and had just turned around a corner, when one of the prisoners, a girl named Parker, suddenly scrambled up the wire mesh and plunged head first inside. Before the trolley came in sight of the Wardens again, she had burrowed down inside the heap of unwashed clothes.
The Wardens did not notice. The prisoners had been spreading out, collecting clothes from different passages, gathering them up from outside many doors. No-one noticed there was one prisoner short — or if they did, when the job was finished, they assumed she was back in her cell.
Because everything was behind schedule, the clean uniforms were not distributed at their usual time, and it was only when the dinner round began that Parker was missed.
That was when the alarm had sounded.
But what had happened to Parker?
That was where the facts ended and speculation began. She wasn’t back in her cell, that much was confirmed by her cellmate. And she certainly wasn’t in the slopping-out queue. One prisoner claimed she had heard footsteps in the night, and a door opening and closing: perhaps it was Parker, being put into a cell on her own? Other prisoners said they had heard footsteps, but claimed it was just the Wardens doing a night time search.
“She was crazy,” said the woman behind us, staring at my tits as she spoke. “The first place they’d search was the laundry trolley.”
“If so they didn’t find her,” said a black woman passing us with an empty bucket.
“She’d have scrambled out,” said the woman in front. “She could have hidden anywhere.”
“She’d never get out of the prison though,” said the woman with the bucket.
“Keep moving,” shouted Clark, who seemed more bad-tempered than ever. The black woman walked off down the corridor with her bucket, her cellmate at her side.
“She’d do best to stay inside the trolley,” said the woman in front, twisting back her head.
“She’d be discovered as soon as they tipped out the laundry,” said the woman behind.
“But they don’t tip it out, do they?” said Rose. “They wheel it straight onto the van.”
The woman behind worked her jaw silently, as the implications of this sunk in. Then the queue moved forward again, and it was our turn to empty our slops into the stinking latrine. Rose did this with great care: we did not want anything splashing onto our bare legs.
“Get a move on,” ordered Clark, as we walked back past the line of women, all still speculating on Parker’s fate.
“Who is she?” I asked Rose when we were back in our cell. “Do you know her?”
“Plump little blond girl, if I’ve got the right one,” said Rose. “Not been here long. I don’t know what she’s in for.”
“What do you think has happened to her?”
“I don’t know,” said Rose. “But I wouldn’t like to be in her shoes when they catch her.”
So it remained a matter for speculation, for the Wardens were all tight-lipped, even Raymond, who brought round our clean uniforms later that morning.
The next day at slopping-out the word was that Parker had been recaptured and was back at Sparsebrook. No-one could elaborate on this, or explain how they knew: perhaps a Warden had let something slip, or perhaps someone had heard Parker’s voice. Wherever she was, though, she was still not back in her cell.
Since it was Exercise that afternoon, I had other things on my mind. Happy anticipations of seeing Prana and wondering if we would have sex; troubled thoughts about Micky, wondering if she casino şirketleri was going to attach herself to me again, and if I would need to gently dissuade her from getting too close.
As always when Exercise beckoned I was anxious about the weather. One of the worst things about being locked up was that we had no idea what was happening outside. I could half-sense rain, and I thought that wind made me agitated — but since there was no way of confirming the weather, I could never be sure.
Several times I had eyed the air vents, at the top of the wall above the wash-basin. These were just bricks with slits in them, but the slits were so angled that it was impossible to see through them, or even detect any light. I had wondered if it would be possible to see through the slits if I could climb up and put my eye close. Now I decided that it would be such a boon to know what the weather was like I would give it a try. I discussed this with Rose, and she agreed to stand with her back to the door, so that if anybody tried to enter I would have enough time to jump down.
I stood on the bed, then gingerly put first one then the other foot into the basin. Memories of the time Dawes had caught me came flooding back, and I nearly climbed straight back down. By leaning forward into the wall I could keep my balance. It was tricky leaning to one side, but by spreading my arms and pressing my hands against the wall I could bring my face to within a few inches of the brick.
I felt a very faint touch of air, fresh air, on my cheek. It was tantalising, like a faint flick of a finger over my clitoris: I was so close to the elements, so close to the outside. I tried to draw the air into my lungs, but there was hardly enough to register. By angling my head I could feel the air on my eye. And I could make out just the faintest suggestion of light: light which did not pass through the angled ventilation slits, but was caught and held there.
I climbed back down. I had no more sense of the weather outside than I had had before.
In fact it was pleasant enough: not as balmy as the previous week, but from the few tiny flowers that had appeared through the cracks in the concrete it was clear that the season had advanced. There was an extra buzz amongst the women, a curiosity about Parker, a hope that somebody would be in the know.
When I saw it, set off to one side of the cage, I had a feeling of recognition.
“I’ve seen that before,” I said.
“You can’t have,” said Rose: “It hasn’t been used for over a year.”
“It was in the broom cupboard,” I said. “When Mrs Tiggywinkle took me there.”
“Do you know what it is?” asked Rose grimly.
“No,” I said. “But I don’t like the look of it.”
“It’s called the Wooden Pony,” said Rose. “It means somebody — and I can guess who — is in for a very painful time.”
Like the vaulting horse before it, the Wooden Pony looked harmless enough in itself, the kind of thing you might see PT students enjoying in a gym. In the context of the Exercise Yard, though, it had a different and altogether more sinister aura: it looked more like a medieval instrument of torture. The mood amongst the women had changed, as though a black cloud had crossed the sun. The hubbub of voices sank to a murmur: expectations of balls games and gossip were stilled.
As before, Hardiman led us into the caged yard, and formed us into a horse-shoe line around the wedge-shaped wooden box. When everybody was assembled she called for quiet. We shuffled a little: many heads were bowed. Then I saw Dawes and Clark emerging from the prison building: each had a hand on the shoulder of a girl. As they came closer I could see that the girl’s hands were cuffed behind her back. The three disappeared behind the line of prisoners opposite me, then reappeared inside the cage The girl was short and plump, not much older than me, with a tousle of blond hair. Her head was bowed as though supporting the cares of the world.
She was marched between the rows of prisoners, up to the Wooden Pony. Then Hardiman spoke:
“No-one has ever escaped from Sparsebrook Prison since I took charge,” she said. “And no-one ever will. This has not stopped some misguided prisoners from making the attempt. Today you are going to see what happens to prisoners who try to escape.”
I felt sick as Dawes unlocked the handcuffs and ordered the girl, Parker it was for sure, to strip. Sick: but also, I hate to say, fascinated: unlike with the whipping horse I still had no idea what they were going to do.
Like somebody in a trance Parker took off her clothes. As Rose had observed, she was plump, with a ruff of puppy fat around her tummy, and breasts that seemed too full for her height and her age. Her eyes were red, there were bags underneath them, and she looked drained.
When she was naked Hardiman and Dawes each hooked an arm under one of her armpits and lifted her into the air.
“Spread your legs,” ordered Hardiman.
Parker hung there casino firmaları limply for a moment, then obeyed. Dawes and Hardiman then walked in tandem up to the Pony with Parker swinging between them. For a moment she hung with her legs straddling the edifice, as Hardiman and Dawes, standing on opposite sides, hefted her towards the centre. Then she was lowered onto the ridge.
There was a collective gasp from the onlookers. I flinched: I could almost feel it myself. Parker gave a little cry: she looked round bewildered: her mouth and her eyes opened wide.
Despite the injunction to silence, some of the prisoners couldn’t refrain from mutterings and groans.
The ridge, though narrow, did not form a point, rather a rounded apex maybe half an inch wide. Parker, instinctively, now pushed her hands down onto it, to try to take up some of her weight.
“Hands behind your back,” snapped Dawes.
Slowly Parker stretched her hands behind her back. Dawes immediately locked on the handcuffs again.
Hardiman went over to the black holdall which Dawes had brought along. With my attention fixed on Parker I had barely registered it before: but now that I looked I knew that holdall of old. A chill ran through me.
But it wasn’t a speculum or other medical instrument which Hardiman drew out: it was a pair of iron weights. They were the kind old-fashioned greengrocers used to weigh out potatoes: chunky, cast-iron, with cylindrical carrying bars at the top. Hardiman and Dawes put one on either side of the Pony, then Hardiman delved into the holdall again and came up with two leather straps. She and Dawes then fastened one strap around each of Parker’s ankles.
“If any of you should ever think of trying to escape,” said Hardiman, addressing us again. “I suggest you remember this and think again.”
So saying she and Dawes threaded the free end of the leather straps under the carrying bars, hoisted the weights, and tied them off, so they were hanging about three inches from the ground.
Parker let out a sound somewhere between a moan and a scream, the sort of sound that is written in comics as Aaargh! Only, there was nothing remotely comic about her plight. With her hands cuffed behind her back, all the weight of her body, along with all the extra weight of the two blocks of iron, was concentrated in one place: the sensitive juncture between her legs.
There can’t have been a prisoner in the Exercise Yard who didn’t flinch. Some visibly squashed their legs together: some pulled their bottoms backwards, in a reflex against the pain they were almost feeling by proxy. But for Parker there was no such luxury. She squirmed; she rocked backwards and forwards in an effort to ease or spread the pressure; she tried to swing her legs, first forwards then backwards; she even leaned sideways, perhaps half-hoping she might be able to fall off. But in every case the combined weight thwarted her. There was no possible respite.
I could see the strain down her plump legs: as though the cast iron blocks were not just dead weights but something alive and malign, actively pulling at her like hands pulling somebody down to a watery grave. I could see the ridge of the Pony straining upwards against her vagina, as though it, too, were sentient, engaged in some terrible tug of war with the weights, trying to force Parker upwards just as they would force her down. When Parker began to wail I turned away: I could not watch: it was too obscene.
“Eyes on the prisoner,” bawled Dawes.
I forced myself to watch again, but now the sound had eclipsed everything else. It was a tragic, low, agonised groan, rising and dipping, accompanied by gasping and grimacing and wide-eyed, wide-mouthed, wordless pleading.
“Everybody pay attention,” shouted Hardiman, when this had gone on for several agonising minutes. “Exercise will now proceed as normal. No-one is to talk to Parker or make any attempt to communicate with her in any way. Do you all understand?”
There were mutterings of assent. Then Dawes, Hardiman and Clark began shooing us away from the Wooden Pony as though they were Police at a road accident, trying to send all the onlookers home.
We drifted away. There were mutterings and exclamations; there was even some laughter, though born of nervous tension and lacking in malice. The women began to devolve into little groups and clusters. Somebody began to throw the ball around half-heartedly.
I found myself with Micky, Prana and Rose, as though we had been drawn together by some bond of shared shock.
“That was awful,” said Micky. No-one disagreed, and we looked as one across the yard to where Parker was still straddling the pony.
“Have you never seen that happen before?” asked Rose.
Micky and Prana both shook their heads.
“I think the last one was before your time,” said Rose.
“She’ll be sore for weeks,” said another woman, joining us.
“It’ll be a long time before she feels like a rub,” said another.
“I güvenilir casino wonder what happened to her?” I said.
“I can tell you that,” said a girl close by, whom I recognised as the freckled girl who had complained about Dawes pissing on her on my first day at Showers. “She’s my cellmate you know.”
This caught the attention of a good many women, and soon an audience had formed around the freckled girl, who I gathered was known as Fran.
“You know about how she climbed into the laundry trolley I suppose?” asked Fran. It seemed everyone did. “Well, Julia Parker hasn’t been in here long, and the silly thing just took her chance without thinking it through. All she saw was an opportunity to get out of this place. Anyway, once she was in the trolley she just had to wait to see what happened. She didn’t have to wait long: laundry was already late because of Wilkes being ill – I heard Wilkes had appendicitis by the way, so don’t say nothing good ever happens in here. She’d barely had time to get used to the stink of soiled knickers before the trolley was on the move: first across the prison yard, then onto a hydraulic platform. She felt the platform rising up, and then the trolley was wheeled into a van. A few minutes later she was in motion.
“She realised where she was. The back of the van was completely enclosed, so she was able to climb out without being seen by the driver. She doesn’t look very athletic, does she? You wouldn’t think she could manage it.”
“She’ll be a lot less athletic tomorrow,” said a woman grimly.
“Her idea was to wait until the van had stopped, at a traffic light or something, then climb out of the back and try to slip away unnoticed. Or else run for it. The trouble was, the doors were locked, and she couldn’t manage to get them open. She thought about jumping the driver, but realised she’d have no chance: it could have been Dawes or even Hardiman.
“So she got back inside the laundry cage and hid herself, thinking her best chance would be to wait until the van arrived at the laundry. The poor thing didn’t realise where it was heading.”
“I could have told her that,” said Rose.
“Where does the laundry get taken?” asked a hefty, fair-haired girl, who I thought was the ‘new’ girl from the most recent Showers initiation.
“To the men’s prison,” said Rose.
“That’s right,” said Fran. “Only Julia thought it would go to some commercial laundry, where she would have a decent chance of escaping. Anyway, after an hour or so the van stopped, the doors were opened, she recognised Raymond’s voice, the trolley was lowered on the hydraulic ramp and wheeled into a building.
“That was where the fun began. Instead of being left in some empty room for the night, the trolley was wheeled straight into the prison laundry. She heard voices, men’s voices, mostly grumbling that the laundry was late.
“They stopped grumbling when they found her. They couldn’t believe their luck. She begged them to hide her. ‘We’ll hide you alright,’ they said, ‘just as soon as we’ve finished with you.’ So they had her clothes off and — well, you can imagine the rest. Remember these were sex-starved prisoners, some of whom hadn’t had a sighting of a woman in years. They were all over her, two at a time, even three at a time, shooting shed-loads of pent-up spunk up her and over her. She had spunk dripping from every opening, all over her face and her tits: really, it was like falling into the machinery of a spunk factory.”
Fran paused and looked around at her eager audience, her enjoyment in her story evident in her expression.
“Another time she’d probably have enjoyed it, she never really struck me as one of us. But all the time she was mindful of being caught. Sure enough, the Wardens soon got wind that something was up: only once they realised it was only a silly girl from Sparsebrook, they just stood by and let the men have their way with her.
“When the men had all finished the Wardens took her off to a cell. And then they had their way with her as well. Well, what’s another half-dozen cocks when you’ve already had fifty?
“Then they must have phoned Sparsebrook, because Dawes arrived with the van to collect her. They put her in solitary for the first day: she only came back to her cell this morning.”
Fran ended her narrative, and people began to express their opinions of Julia Parker. Some called her an idiot, others applauded her initiative.
“Didn’t you think of getting into the laundry trolley?” somebody asked Fran.
“Not likely,” said Fran. “I know what you girls get up to in your knickers.”
There was some merriment, and loosening of tension at this; meanwhile other women who had not heard the start of the story were badgering Fran with questions, and it was clear a repeat performance was imminent. So we drifted away. Rose said she had to see Margaret, and Prana apologised, saying she had to collect and distribute her earnings from Showers.
This left Micky and I on our own.
“This is for you,” Micky said, taking out two squares of chocolate from her sock, breaking off one and handing it to me. “I was going to ask you if we could have sex again, but I don’t think I could after what has just happened.”