Excerpt for Texas Prison Ranch 2018 Edition by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

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Sherry Wood

Texas Prison Ranch

Copyright 2018 Sherry Wood

Smashwords Edition



Texas Prison Ranch


A novel by

Sherry Wood






























She was raised by beasts and grabbed by vultures

Oh, here come the wolfman

The abominable snowman

Got a little poison

Got a little gun

Sitting in her bathtub

Waiting for the wolfman to come


-Grinderman, Heathen Child




















Part 1

Victim




Part 2

Good




Part 3

Heart Throb




Part 4

One Night At The Ashton









Part 1

Victim



1

It all started with a magazine – an almost pamphlet-thin magazine. It was called Grassy Lips, and it had been a staple in the rock-n-roll music scene for almost three decades. It used to be huge, both in content and size. It used to be so big that when rolled up, it was nearly the length of an Easton Thunderstick waffle bat. It was like a newspaper and magazine all in one. You felt the magazine come alive when you opened it up, you could practically hear the bands that were written about.

There was a time when Grassy Lips was highly respected, and any writer who worked for the magazine was seen as this holier-than-thou being. But over the last year or so, its size decreased. It also seemed glossier, as if its shiny cover could make up for the lack of content inside. The price had also gone up. Grassy Lips had a bad reputation for catering to stoners (hence the name) and, because of this, I was not allowed to have it in the house.

I was sixteen, and the magazine was basically the bible to me. Just recently, after a long drought in sales and any kind of controversy, Grassy Lips was back in the news - very back. Three weeks ago in New York City, a boy named Adonis sat on top of a building on 5th Avenue, watching as pedestrians went on their early morning routine. It was 8:32 am, and everyone was in a hurry to get to their offices. One of them was my Uncle Harley, a police officer.

The time changed to 8:33 am, the Don't Walk signals changed to Walk, and people began to cross the street. Things progressed in a wave of obedient motion. At that very same second, Adonis stood up and hurled the grenade he'd been holding in his possession down to the corner of Broadway and 5th Avenue. It landed in the very middle of the street, exploding right in front of my Uncle Harley, blowing his ears and hands off. His blood sprayed the front of a taxi cab, which in the driver's state of confusion, steered sharply to the left, running over a small child and crashing into the storefront of a Sephora, shattering glass and injuring a few employees standing by the door.

I was up in my room that afternoon, in a small Texan town named Huxley, oblivious to what just took place in New York City. I'd been listening to a CD and drawing in my sketchbook, a safe mental wall built around me. I wouldn't call my artwork brilliant or anything like that, but I thought I had a talent somewhere deep inside, and with every drawing, my talent came closer to the surface. My mom thought it was a waste of time. Sometimes I thought she believed life itself was a waste of time.

My favorite thing to draw was my dreams, a scene from my dream, as if it were a scene from a movie. It was cool to flip through my sketchbook and stare at a dream I had a year ago.

I heard my mother saying, "Oh my god," over and over from the living room where she camped out all day watching TV. It was all she did since she was on disability. I think she kept repeating herself, each time with more waves of shock, to get me out of my room, wanting me to be repulsed by whatever she was. Nothing got to me these days. I mostly smoked pot and waited for August. I was supposed to go to the beach with some friends for a week. My friends were older and getting ready for their new life at college, in cool college towns. I was jealous of their new beginning. I still had two more years to get through before I get out of here.

I heard my mother's footsteps as she came up the stairs. Margerie Rosette Lee was her full name. Mine was May Rose Lee. I kind of liked my name, but I hated its origin. My mom used to enjoy art in high school but gave it all up after one negative comment on a drawing. She worked for UPS until she hurt her back a few months back. Her disability was barely enough to get by. I worked and provided food for us. She kept the lights on. You probably have a better clue as to where my dad is than I do.

"May?" My mother called my name from the hallway. She actually turned the doorknob, but I always locked my door now.

"Yo." I knew that was a lame reply, and that was the point. I watched smoke from the joint between my fingers cloud around me, coat my skin, kill the usual thoughts that plagued me.

"Open this door," she immediately started crying. "Something's happened – open this door."

I studied my window for a minute, and then at the dream in my sketchbook. I dragged my feet to the door and opened it. Mother's eyes were welled up and red as she stared at me with this helplessness that made me sick.

"My brother's dead!" she exclaimed. As the words flew out of her rancid mouth, her skin reddened.

"Which one?" I was so stoned. I barely even recognized my own mom. I leaned against the door, my face resting against it as I stared at her blankly. I didn't know if she could detect the smell of pot under all the incense burning, or the perfume. I only used perfume to cover up the smell of marijuana, it wasn't a girly thing. I was, by most peoples standards, a tomboy. I kept my hair very short, like Kurt Cobain’s right after he had his daughter and killed himself. My hair was naturally red, but it had some blue mixed in right now from a bad dye-job.

"I only have one brother!" Mom snapped, enraged. "My brother! Harley," she cried. I leisurely made my way back to my bed.

"Harley's dead?" I didn't believe it. I didn't think monsters could die.

"Yes! He blew up,” she exclaimed.

It was all I could do not to laugh. I turned on my side, on my soft bed, before she could see me smile.

"Blew up? Did he finally eat too much and he just like totally combus..."

She hit me really hard on my head. I didn’t realize she was holding her curling iron in her hand. It wasn’t hot, but it was still a little warm. I felt my head swell a little from the hit but I didn’t care. He was dead. Uncle Harley was finally dead!

"Don't make jokes!” she screamed. “Do not make jokes.”

I was a little afraid to roll over, because I knew I'd catch her fist in my face, or that iron again. I heard her stumping her feet as she came around and killed the music.

"I can't do this right now," she tried to keep from completely breaking down. "I can't deal with your issues, I've just suffered an incredible loss. I have to call my sister - I have to make funeral arrangements."

"Okay. I already have a black dress," I just replied.


2

I was eight years old, and it was two days before Good Friday. I was forced to go pick out a dress with my grandmother. I was never a fan of dresses, especially while boys got to wear anything they wanted - OshKoshB'gosh overhauls, whatever. I had to go in a stinky car to a department store to try on dresses just to go hunt Easter eggs. The whole thing seemed ridiculous.

"There's Harley," my grandmother, who drove like a hellion even in her old age, pointed out as we pulled into the parking lot of a two-story building downtown. I remember that place with quite a lot of repugnance. The first floor used to be a shake and hot dog stand, but went out of business. The second floor was still Belk, the department store. The bottom floor was being renovated, and the front stairwell was being destroyed.

We took the back staircase to the second floor where Belk was. At first my grandmother kept her hand around my wrist, but when she got interested in the cute pastel-colored Easter hats with their ridiculous bows and lace, I managed to run off. I thought it would be a good idea to hide on the front stairway that was under construction. I didn't count on it being so dark. I stood in the corner and stared at the collapsed staircase in front of me. There was no way down, unless I wanted to die.

I looked up when the front door of the clothing store opened and light poured out, just enough to show the sawdust in the air.

"Did you run off, little girl?" Uncle Harley asked, walking over to me as he unzipped his pants. I just remember that corner, the smell of sawdust, and something in me just shut down. The door shut, the voices inside the crowded store were gone now. Harley was a big oaf of a guy. He put his dry hand over my mouth and told me he'd been waiting for this for a long time. That it excited him that I was buying a dress, but I was so pretty that I "didn't need to wear anything."


"What's going on with you?" My mom called from the bathroom door. It was the day of Harley's funeral and the whole freaking town was making a spectacle out of it. Uncle Harley had been declared a "victim," "a man to remember," "a local hero." No one knew what he'd done to me, because I never told anyone. I didn't know how to put it into words, where to start. How it kept going on and on, in his basement, in the back of his car, on and on. I would die or scream to death if I thought about it too long. Ah, but he was dead now, handless, his face looked like some big piece of chewed up gum. He was in a coffin. And I did want to see that. I did.

Adonis the Terrorist was only twenty years old, and he was currently the most hated person in the world. The online hate was amazing, the things people wanted him to go through in prison. I was well aware of why so many people were emotional - a seven year-old girl had died, a woman lost her legs, people suffered lacerations to their face, someone lost an eye. But I lost my uncle, and nothing in the world could have made me happier. A hole in me was finally closing up. The sun finally hit a piece of me it never did before. Hey, I was okay. The bastard was gone. Gone.

Because there were so many arrangements involved, Harleys funeral was two weeks after he died. Family members were coming in from all over the place, and not a single one of them did I care to see. And I hated assumptions more than anything in the world, and they would all assume I was sad that Harley was dead. Ah, no, I was always sad that he was alive.

"I don't feel well," I said through the door. What a great way to sum up my feelings.

"You think I do?" Mom snapped. "I'm about to bury my own brother. We're going to a funeral, we're not supposed to feel well."

"You didn't even like him," I pointed out. "You've been mad at him ever since he moved to New York." The day Harley packed up and went away was the best day of my life until the day he died, which was now my new favorite day. It should be a national holiday.

"You get out here right now! I don't want to be late for this, and I still have to get flowers," mom fussed.

I bolted from the bathroom, slamming into her as I went into my room and slammed the door. Calm down. You don't want to get into this now.

When I cried hard, mom thought I was crying because Harley was dead. It was just a huge release to cry this way. I straightened up and got dressed. I wanted to see him dead; I wanted to make sure this was true.


3

It was made known to me that it wouldn’t be open casket, because of all the damage done to him during the explosion.

‘There’s no way any…makeup person could make that okay.”

“Mortician,” I blatantly corrected her. I was a bit of a word geek.

After my good, hard cry, I felt nothing. I felt empty. I didn't even feel like I had blood inside of my body. After my cry, I just felt hollow. We quietly drove to the Sunco on the corner to get gas and flowers. It was strange being in a gas station in a black dress. I hated dresses, and couldn't wait to set this one fire later. I scanned the newsstand up front as mom looked through the flowers. Some of the rose petals were browning and the water in the big white buckets was dirty with drowned flies floating in them. The magazine selection wasn't any better. Some of the issues were as much as two months old.

"Excuse me?" I spoke to the cashier, who gave me a strange look as he chewed his gum. "Do you have Grassy Lips' new issue?" Adonis was on the cover, and everyone was making a huge deal about it. I wanted anything that was a huge deal.

The clerk chuckled and scratched his crusty, pimply skin.

"Uh, no," he said, sounding smart. "We won't be carrying that anymore."

"Why not?" I blasted.

"Because they put a terrorist on the cover," he quipped.

"But it sucked up until now and you always carried it. How many damn times did they put Snoop Dog on the cover? I mean really…"

"You don't have tulips?" My mother hastily interrupted. She looked very creepy with her black eyeliner and mascara, which was smudged under her eye, and her black dress and black gloves. Try a little harder, Grim Reaper.

"Is it in the bucket?" he simply responded.

"No."

"Then we don't got it. If it ain’t here, it ain’t here, see how that works?” He just stared at my mom. If I liked my mom in any way, I would have said something back to him.

"All the roses are dying," Mom informed him.

"Mom, I don't think he's the type of dude to care about roses."

"Oh, you shut up," she told me, seconds away from hitting me again. She looked at the cashier. "They're for a funeral," she said.

"Oh, you're going to a funeral?" The guy suddenly started to show a bit of sympathy.

"Yes, my brother was killed in that attack in New York,” she informed.

"Damn!" He looked down at me. "And you want that magazine? What kinda fucked up shit is that?"


4

I had what I liked to describe as a not-half-bad-car. It could have been better, but it could have also been worse. But I, to be honest, was kind of tired of the not-that-bad, not-that-good state of my life. I wanted things to shift to one end or the other. This was boring.

The radio worked okay, and the AC. As far as its look was concerned, it wasn't the GQ cover of vehicles. It was, however, quite a spunky little thing. It had moments where it picked up so much speed I thought it had come alive like Knight Rider, or the Bat Mobile. Of course, this wasn't the case. Basically, my car was reliable with a few tantrums here and there.

I had numerous speeding tickets, another thing that was starting to make me think my mom had had it with me. Sometimes I drove stoned, but never drunk. I wasn't old enough to buy alcohol.

The day after my uncle's funeral, I was sent on errands since my mother never felt like going out. I was in a pretty good mood just knowing that asshole was buried and his rotting mouth, eyes, and ears were all portals for maggots.

I pulled into ReMax. ReMax was this disturbingly depressing shopping center. It used to be kind of cool, embodying a rock-n-roll t-shirt outlet and a Record Time - fun teenagey stuff for kids like me, kids with good taste in music. But now, such stores were replaced by a Starbucks and a brand new McDonalds with a playground that was almost bigger than the restaurant. There was also a dumb store that sold orthopedic beds and stuff for old people.

I parked in front of Tiger Food, a grocery store with storefront windows plastered with dollar saving signs on chicken, turkeys, bread, beer, etc. I saw Bill Morrison, the grocery store's creepy manager, standing outside smoking a cigarette. He was constantly flirting with my mom whenever she was feeling adventurous enough to accompany me to Tiger Food. I hated Bill. I could easily see him becoming Uncle Harley Part 2. There was a rumor going around that he abused his son Jonathon.

Tiger Food was so cold I was sure their goal was to freeze its customers to death. Water rushed down over fresh veggies and I was always astounded when it didn't freeze before making landfall. Everything smelled fresh though, and the weird muzak channel somehow relaxed me. The aisles were so clean it hurt to look at them. A few lazy florescent bulbs fluttered like I was in some horror movie as I made my way down one aisle and then the next, filling up the basket with the unhealthiest choices.

"May," I heard Bill Morrison's disgusting voice. He had a wimpy voice, always sounding like he was going to ask me for money or something.

I gave him a passive side-glance and forced my mouth to shape a smile that lasted for about four seconds.

"How is Margerie?" he inquired.

"Crazy."

He laughed nervously at my deadpan response and ran his hand under his nose. He always seemed like he had a cold, I guess because it was 28 degrees in here and he was always here working.

"Oh May, you're so funny," he spoke nervously.

"Okay." I stared back at the cereal like I was going to select a box and I didn't even like cereal.

"Did you hear about New York? Terrible."

"Oh, right." I placed something I didn't even want into the basket because I didn't want to look at him. Stay preoccupied and losers will leave you alone.

He kept looking at me and it was grossing me out.

"So okay, very riveting talking to you," I said, trying to make a peaceful exit. I started walking off and he followed me.

"Say, you think I could come over for dinner sometime?" he asked.

"Oh god, just talk to my mom about such things." I walked faster, nearly slipping on the floor that someone just mopped again. It wasn't even dirty, but Bill's workers always had to look busy. I couldn't imagine working for him.


5

I managed to get away. I felt like I should contact the news or something and tell them I narrowly escaped an abduction in aisle 5 of Tiger Food. There were all sorts of front-page coverage on the grenade attack in New York at the checkout line. The Grenade Monster! Hell From Above! Walking Disaster! All sorts of clever titles competing with each other. For every story, there was a picture of the attacker, who looked nothing like you'd imagine a terrorist to look like. He looked very young, wide-eyed and innocent, with shaggy black hair and big brown eyes - the type of boy every girl at school would have a crush on. He looked like he spent his time going to rock concerts, or just chilling in the backyard with his friends. He didn't look psychotic. He looked sweet as a puppy dog.

I was thrilled to see Grassy Roots there in the middle of the gossip stampede. I couldn't believe it! How did it end up here? It had to be some freak accident. The cashier was like a robot, scanning and punching buttons, her long fake fingernails clicking against register’s plastic protective covering as she did so, tossing items in the bag and repeating the process. She only stopped when she picked up the magazine.

"Oh, you've got to be kidding me," she gasped, horrendously gawking at the cover.

"He's on the cover of everything…though," I said. She glanced up at me.

"But this glorifies him, makes him seem like a rock star. Last time I checked, it wasn't a guitar he was holding."

"I bet the story's informative though, like, its about his childhood, background, everything else just tells us what we already know."

"Yeah, that he's a killer," she scoffed. "That's all there is to know."

"I'm enlightened. How much do I owe you?" I said.

"Forty-two dollars and seventy-five cents," she lulled.

I handed her a chunk from my latest paycheck and waited for my change. I cringed when I saw Bill walking over.

"I can help ya with these," he offered his services, picking up a bag of my groceries. I waved a sarcastic friendly goodbye to the cashier and followed Bill to my car.

"A shame about your uncle, a real damn shame," Bill said as we walked on.

"Well thanks dude," I said, swiftly picking up the bags of groceries and placing them in the backseat of my stupid car. I couldn't remember which bag the magazine was in and I wanted to look at it right away. "I'll mention the dinner thing to my mom," I said, just to end the topic of my uncle, and to end this conversation altogether. He smiled but didn't have a chance to get a word out of his blubbery face before I shut the door and took off.


6

I was tired of being the adult when really, I was the teenager. It had been this way since I was twelve and my mom started giving me money to walk halfway across town and get her alcohol. That was why she hurt herself on the job, I bet. She was drunk.

I drove out of Maplewood into the next town, which was a smaller town called Same Bridge. Me and my friends often referred to it as Lame Bridge. There wasn't much out here, just a river and bridges and abandoned houses. I loved the solace. After yesterday and all the yesterdays before it, I needed a quiet moment, just a moment, that could rebuild hope.

I wanted to go to the lake and read Grassy Lips in private. I was obsessed with this lake town. I thought more than many times about running away and camping out here. One night I even packed a "survivor's bag," but the next morning I chickened out and ate pancakes and ran the usual errands mom told me to, feeling my pride hammered down to a stub.

One day, though, I'd be so far away from her it would be as if she never existed in the first place. I was going to go Pippy Longstocking, or maybe Bonny and find my Clyde. You don't need a Clyde, I told myself.

I got out of the car and walked over towards the popular bridge from which Same Bridge got its name. It was named that sarcastically, because the bridge was actually very original. It looked like a barn suspended in mid-air. It had a roof to protect its truss from serious weather that Same Bridge and surrounding Texas towns were very susceptible to. There were so many willow trees hovering over everything here that it was almost impossible to see the sky.

I took out my issue of Grassy Lips to a nearby tree by the river, holding it like a baby. Adonis was beautiful. He was like no boy I'd ever seen before. His deep brown eyes were wide and unassuming, like tunnels I could walk through and explore, go deeper and deeper into the darkness and away from my own. His hair was dark and unruly, the way it tumbled around his perfectly handsome face. No boy around here looked like that, that was for sure. I tried to picture him setting on top of that building in Manhattan, seconds from dropping a grenade on unsuspecting pedestrians. I couldn't make the connection. What went through someone's mind before they did such a thing?

Adonis Stavros lived in Dioscurias, a small Greek town off the Black Sea coast, until he turned seven. His parents divorced and his mom vanished. Two weeks later, her body was found in the street with a gunshot wound to her head.

"He didn't really talk about that much," his friend Stephanie said in the Grassy Lips article. "He was always quiet when it came to his mother, he mentioned once that his father didn't like talking about her."

"He was cool," another friend, Tyler, told the magazine. "Like with her, like, he was just cool with chicks. I was always so jealous of him because he never lost his cool; he was just a chill dude.”

"Honestly, I liked him too much to date him," Stephanie added. "I didn't want it to mess up our friendship. He was the kind of guy a girl could have as a friend, he looked out for you. I do not understand this at all."

"I think he was paid to do it," Tyler shared. "Or something…I mean…the problem is no one knew him before this - the media - the people that hate him now - they don't have any other version of him, but we do, so, its like hard for us, you know?"

"He held me one night when I was upset about something," Stephanie embarked. “I’ll never forget that, the way he held me, like he’d never let anything get to me, I could have been in the middle of a jungle, wild animals all around me, and I still would have felt safe in his arms. He was the type to give you his sweater when it was cold in the movies…so I can’t…see him doing something like this, I guess he did though."

Yes, he did it. There was footage, the article wrote. There was footage of Adonis, with his unmistakable hair, and clothes he had on when he was caught, walking down 5th Avenue. There was undeniable footage of him walking by the video camera in the lobby of the building the grenade was tossed from.

"I know that it was him, but…" Stephanie began to cry as the interview went on, so Tyler took over.

"He needed money, bro. He also became pretty distant from friends before he went to New York. I don't know what was going on. He says to me, I'm going to do a job in the city, and he seemed nervous about it. I said, what job? He wouldn't say. I assumed it had to do with drugs - he smoked a lot of pot, I thought maybe he was selling it too."

When Adonis surrendered to cops, he just kept saying the name "Allah" over and over. He seemed out of it, he was extremely calm when they put the cuffs on him, like he'd just ran an errand. According to cops, he mentioned his mother.

"He called me one day and said some guy approached him and asked if he ever modeled," Tyler went on. "He had all these random stories about New York that didn't add up - nothing about this adds up."

Almost a month later, New York was still recovering. Nerves had not settled. since the explosion and New York was devastated.

"You just go to work but you can't help but look up, you know?" Louise Child, the mother of the seven year-old girl who died during the attack, told Grassy Lips. "Even though they got him - what if there's more? What if it's some sort of secret operation? Where did he come from? How did he get a grenade? I suppose they're grilling him about these questions now, but so far, we've heard nothing more."


I looked up from the magazine and out at the river. The strong burning sun lit it up like gold. I looked back down at the pictures of Adonis. One was of him at the beach with a friend. He was very handsome, with a fun-loving smile. His hair was in his face and his friend standing next to him, Tyler, smiled foolishly at the camera. Adonis was in blue swimming trunks. His body was exquisite. Now there were two images burning bright in my mind:

Adonis at the beach and my uncle being blown to bits. These two things were connected, like that stream of golden sunlight across the river.


7

I drove back from Same Bridge at dusk, having allowed enough time for everything in the car to rot, the eggs, the milk, whatever ingredients would go into what my mom considered a meal. I just didn't care.

I was expecting a fight when I finally got home, and on some level, I was hoping for one. But when I walked in, I heard laughter. It stopped at the sound of the door closing. Margerie came out of the kitchen, looking nothing but concerned.

"My goodness, what happened?" she asked, trying to sound like a caring mom. "Where have you been?"

"Car broke down," I said. The lie came so easy. I tossed my keys to the couch, looked up and saw Bill standing there. He came rushing over for the groceries.

"Let me help you with those," he insisted.

"Its probably all spoiled now," Margerie said, following him into the kitchen. They were already acting like a married couple.

"Now we had dinner," Bill let me know as I moped around the kitchen. "We just got too hungry, but we have leftovers."

"I'm not hungry," I said, agitated. I took the magazine before they could see it and quickly sought refuge in my bedroom.

The internet. That was the world I escaped into, once I chose the right song and had a musical wall to protect me from the world I hated so much.

Everyone on Facebook was outraged at the cover of Grassy Lips. Nowadays, hating something was a fad. It was almost like an accessory; tomorrow there would be a whole new shiny thing to hate. I felt very alone in my opinion. I found an Adonis fan page and "liked" it on Facebook. The amount of rebellion I felt by simply pushing a button was crazy. All of the sudden, friends I hadn't heard from in months were writing on my wall:

You're kidding, right?

I hope this is sarcasm.

Are you serious, psycho?

I stared at the comments. I could barely read one before another one popped up. Soon, my phone was ringing. I half-expected to look out of my window and see a crew of frenemies standing there, armed with guns.

"Hello?" I said, my nerves obvious as I picked up the phone.

"Dude, what is going on?" My best friend Heather, whom I was going to the beach with soon, blasted me.

"With what?" My friends knew all about my uncle, but they didn't know about the abuse. I'd deleted every sympathetic comment they left on my Facebook page and no one seemed to notice. In their place, I loaded up a bunch of YouTube videos of my favorite songs.

"Your Facebook page," Heather gasped. I didn't have it in me to argue. I hung up the phone and she took to my Facebook wall, informing me that I was no longer invited to go to the beach with her. I know someone who WON'T be going with us to Orlando, she wrote on my wall. Right after that, she unfriended me. I updated my Facebook status, barely able to see through the tears welling in my eyes:

I'm done with Facebook, and with a lot of other things. Think I wanna go to the beach with a bunch of bitches? Think again.

I slammed my laptop shut, my door shut, and took a sleeping pill. Two minutes later, I downed another sleeping pill. I slapped my laptop shut and came very close to hurling it across the room. It wasn't even completely dark out and I was ready for bed. I curled up with the magazine, Adonis, and it didn't take me long to fall asleep.


8

It was Saturday and I was actually left alone to sleep in. I eventually ventured into the kitchen, starving because I had nothing to eat the night before. There was a big red icebox on the table. Mom was ripping off pieces of aluminum foil into neat square-portions and placing them next to each other on the kitchen counter. She was actually being productive? She was actually doing something else besides watch TV? I was shocked.

"What's going on?" I groggily asked. Then I saw my issue of Grassy Lips on the table next to the icebox. "Mom, did you come into my room last night?" I was livid, at her and myself, I must have forgotten to lock my door.

"Yes. You had my hair curler." Yeah, ‘cause you left the damn thing in my room. Her voice was restrained and cold.

"I can't believe you'd bring that garbage into the house,” she lectured.

"Its reading material," I said, about to grab it when she snatched it up and threw it in the trash.

"That's where it belongs,” she stared me down. “And don't question me, I'm your mother."

I heard footsteps behind me and knew who it was.

"Why don't you have a biscuit? Get yourself together. Bill and I are going to the lake," she informed me. I stared down at the fluffy, buttery biscuits on a plate by the aluminum foil pieces as Bill Morrison came closer to me. I couldn't deny the fact that I was starving. I took a huge bite and sat down at the table. I'd simply dig the magazine out of the garbage once they were gone on their dumb trip. The fact that everyone hated Adonis and Grassy Lips and refused to ask me why I didn't, only made me obsess over him more.

"Delicious, huh?" Bill smiled down at me as I ate the biscuit, even the crumbs from my lap. He washed his hands and dried them on the napkin before leaning in to kiss my mother.

God. Gross.

"Bill made them," Mom announced. "They're muffin-cookies! I had no idea such a thing existed." She sounded way too excited about muffins. I guess the older you got, the more exciting food was because your life was boring like a cat’s.

"Cool," I said, my mouth full. After a minute, I started to feel very sleepy. Maybe I just needed coffee. I looked over at the pot, at the black liquid dripping into it. I wanted some badly, but I could barely keep my eyes open now. I felt a strange ache in my stomach and stood up, muttering a word that wasn't a real word, and took the chair down with me when I suddenly collapsed.





Part 2


Good




9

I woke up in a car. It wasn't my car. I was in the backseat and my mouth was dry and I felt very woozy. I tried to move and my whole body just slumped over in the backseat. My eyes refused to open completely. I could see Bill's thin head of gray hair and music playing on a low volume on the radio. My conscious state lasted only a few minutes before I passed out again.

When I woke up, my face was stuck to the hot leather seat and a bee was flying around inside the car. It landed on Bill's gray patch of hair and he didn't even notice. After a minute, bored, it just flew away. I was so jealous.

I felt the car stop after hearing rocks crunch under the tires. Bill got out of the car and I heard the door next to me open. I was too weak to get out on my own. He reached in and dragged me out so my skin burned against the hot leather, my shirt up over my bra. Whatever kindness he'd shown to me before was over. I might as well have been a bag of trash, the way he handled me.

I saw a pretty ranch house and numerous trees, just for a second, before it went crooked, like a frame hung sloppily on the wall. It only appeared to me this way because I'd fallen to my knees in the gravel parking lot. I’d been drugged, I realized, and was too disoriented to stand on my own.

Two men dressed in jeans and flannel shirts, smoking cigarettes, came across the yard and picked me up by my arms. Their strength was unbelievable. I was a feather between a wolf’s teeth. I was so out of it I couldn't make out what they were saying. Everything kept moving - the trees and the sky switched places. I heard voices but I didn’t see anyone. I felt fear but I couldn’t fight it off.

"Whoa," one of the guys said when I started to pass out again. They managed to keep me on my feet, they played with my hair, touched my face, and soon I no longer felt the ground under my feet. They were carrying me to the ranch house.


10

When I first woke up, in an unfamiliar chair, I thought I was at some strange relative's house. This was not anymore comforting than finding out where I actually was.

"Don't move," I was told by a guy in a military jacket, his tone alarmingly commanding. "You might fall," he said, in a voice less intimidating. "You should wait until the drug wears off."

"Drug?" was all I could say, peeling my tongue off of the roof of my mouth.

"Yeah. You're lucky, most check-ins don't go this smoothly," he informed.

Check-ins?

"Where am I?" I managed to keep my eyes open, as badly as they wanted to shut, as badly as I wanted to drift off back to sleep. What had I been given? I felt like I was in the middle of some intense melatonin haze. It was very cold in here, so cold I was shivering. I heard footsteps behind me - quick, pitty-patty, before the sound vanished.

"Marx Ranch, a Texas prison ranch." That sounded like a different guy saying that. I looked around. I saw a shadow near the wall. Oh, I just wanted to wake up, for my senses to sharpen, to run. Run. But where? I didn’t want to go back home.

"What?" I thought he was joking. Did I really hear the word prison? I shot up, overestimating myself, and fell to the floor. Two strong arms lifted me up and I fell back in the chair within seconds. Someone laughed, I swear.

The men stood on either side of my chair, ready if I tried to get up again. They were equally muscular and tall, heads shaved to military-style buzzcuts. They smelled like cigarettes and hard times. I bet they had teardrop tattoos, rough skin, bad tempers. Jesus, where was I?

"Look," the man on the left spoke again, his gritty voice hoarse and cold. He continued to talk as he walked over to the fridge. "There's no reason to go over the deets now, sweetheart. Your mind's a mess. They told us what they gave you - you won't remember anything we say right now."

What? They? My mom? Who? Gave me what? I tried to talk but I only moaned and rested my head against the chair.

"Why am I in prison?" I asked, maybe a minute later.

"You're not," another voice cut through, and I was relieved to hear it was a female's. I watched the very pretty young girl glide across the room. I was too weak to recognize all of her physical features, but I could tell by her voice that she was so pretty. A few minutes later, as she came closer, I made out her snug floral blouse and fashionably-ripped blue jeans. She looked like she smelled nice, her cheeks had a rosy tint to them and her shiny brown hair matched her pretty brown eyes.

"You're one of the girls, girls aren't prisoners." She said this with such a light air.

"But there are rules," the guy in the military uniform made sure to say, as if to make up for the girl's comforting tone. "There are and always should be rules. Rules keep everything organized."

"What this hammer handle is trying to say is that if you follow the rules, and assert yourself, you get special privileges," the girl interrupted. She was very sassy. Her upbeat tone woke me up a bit. "And if you don't…" she smirked.”By the way, I'm April."

She held her hand out for me. I managed to lift my hand and she wrapped her soft hand around it. Soft, but strong. Something about her made me feel safe, while also a bit on edge.

"April here will show you everything you need to know," the guy spoke. "I'm Mark, by the way." He held his huge hand out to me. My hand got lost in his dry skin as he wrapped his fingers around it. I noticed tattooed stars on his knuckles.

"This is where you are," April said. "The rest is up to you."

"April, sweetie," the other guy in the military uniform, who hadn't spoken to me yet, walked over to her and planted his huge hands on her dainty shoulders. "Go clean the pool - we're going to Dallas tonight."

She flashed a beaming smile. "Okay, Jeffrey!" She walked out of the ranch house. I watched her, wishing she was still here. I looked up at Jeff and Mark as they stood in front of me.

"I'm Jeff," Jeff said. I didn't want to shake his hand, but he held it out for mine. His hand was even stronger than Mark's. How in charge he was, exerting such a dominant nature. Maybe on a good day, Jeff was good looking. But he was awfully rugged, and had a bad patch of skin near his left ear. He had curly blonde hair kept short. He had to be about 6'3, shoulders you could stack plates on, a smile that seemed more frozen than warm and live. Mark wasn't as tall, but certainly not short. He had a buzzcut and blue eyes. He was better looking than Jeff, but that wasn't saying much.

"I know," Jeff laughed, seeming amused by my aloofness. "You have no idea where you are." He seemed so amused by my docile, weary state. He looked over at Mark. "Go get her house ready, I'll keep an eye on her."

I watched as Mark left. I still didn't have it in me to stand up. Jeff walked back over to the kitchen and made me a glass of iced water, removing a pitcher from the fridge with lemon wedges floating in it. I got a peek inside the fridge, where numerous casserole dishes were piled on top of each other and tons of beer, wine and condiments took up the side quarters. At least it didn't look like I had to worry about going hungry.

Jeff came over with the glass and sat down at the table, resting his elbows on it and his face in his hands. He seemed suddenly overwhelmed by something. He smelled like an ashtray, like his skin had collected years and years of cigarette smoke. The skin on his knuckles was chapped and were dotted with little tattoos of the Texas Lone Star in red, white and blue colors. The same kind Mark had tattooed on his knuckles. Jeff coughed into his hands and a little spit got on my cheek. I nonchalantly moved away a little and drank the water.

"So, May," he stood up and played with a dog leash on the table. There were all kinds of things on the table - books, dog leashes, a baby bottle. As he spoke, he whipped the table with the dog leash rather restless. "I'm gonna explain a few things to you and then it's…you will take it day by day." He hit me with his light, Carolina-blue eyes and smug smile. He wanted to make sure I was paying attention.

"Okay," I nodded.

"Are you still out of it?" he wondered. He held up three fingers. "How many fingers am I holding up?"

"Three," I lethargically answered. I stared at the small kitchen windows, adorn with sunlight. I had no idea what time it was.

"Good," he said of my answer. He seemed genuinely proud that I was coming out of my fog. I sat up a little and looked around the room. I saw a wooden cross nailed to the wall in the kitchen. There were also embroidered stuff on the walls with sayings like, "All you need is God and a gun."

"Your mom and dad brought you here…"

"He's not my dad," I rushed to say. This drew a smile on Jeff's face that reflected anything but kindness.

"Don't interrupt me," he warned. I was quiet, stunned by his tone. "I know everything I need to know, you're the one in the dark." After he said this, he was quiet for a few minutes. He reached over for a pack of smokes next to the baby bottle and placed a smoke between his teeth and lit it and said nothing for a second. He had various tattoos on his arms. One was of a lobster about to be boiled in piping hot water, with the word Sin tattooed below it. The tattoo were all done poorly and faded.

"Every girl that comes here improves," he said, pressing his finger against the table. "And the boys…" something beeped in his pocket and he became irritated. He rolled his eyes and stabbed his cigarette out in the ashtray. He got up as he took the call, walking over to the kitchen window, his back to me.

"Yeah," he greeted the caller as he stared out of the window. My drug-related haze was really starting to lift. Replacing it, a fearful curiosity about where I was exactly, as well as a dull headache.

"I can be there by three, no sooner." Jeff left no room for argument when he spoke. He sounded seconds away from letting his fist finish the conversation. He hung up and turned and looked at me. I hated the way he stared at me, arms crossed, those vulgar tattoos on display, muscles high and proud.

He finally took his eyes off of me when April came back in the house, letting the screen door slam behind her.

"How is everything?" he asked her, slipping his phone back into his pocket.

"Fine," April smiled. She had on her bikini top. She had the perfect Texas girl body - big boobs, flat stomach, her perky brown ponytail bobbing about. She seemed to lose a little enthusiasm when she approached the sink. "One of the boys hurt his foot."

"Which one?" Jeff asked, intrigued.

"Adonis."

My heart slammed forward. What? Did she say Adonis? That couldn't be. But how many Adonis's were there in the world? I tried to look normal, breathe normally. I watched as April opened the fridge and stared into it for a while, bent over. Jeff glanced at her ass.

"Good," Jeff simply said, pleased.

"Good?" April smiled back at him, but the motivation behind her smile was a mystery. "He's your hardest worker, and now he's hurt."

"That kid's persistent, I'm not worried," Jeff said. He turned around and slipped his phone back into his pocket. "And I ain't got time for this, I gotta go get Rick. Damn car broke down - you keep an eye on the new girl. House should be ready soon."

What house? I had so many questions but lacked the energy or courage to ask them.

"We'll have fun," April assured, looking at me and smiling.

"Not too much fun now," Jeff said as he collected his smokes and various other things off the table. "She's not a Good Girl yet."

April kept her pretty brown eyes hooked on me, and this spunky, mischievous grin grew bigger.

"Not yet," April said. "But she has Good Girl potential - every girl does."

"That she does," Jeff agreed. I had no idea what they were talking about. "I'll be back around five or six," Jeff said. That was when I got some idea of what time it was. My guess was four, considering the weakening sunlight.

"Cool Hand Luke," April said. She had a certain charm and ease about her. "Hey, how ‘bout some Sonic burgers?"

"Nah, your ass is cooking out tonight," Jeff said, before walking out. April seemed unaffected. She was very pretty. I couldn't see any physical flaws, just a makeup of youthful glow and spunky energy. I tried to guess her age. Fifteen? Sixteen?

She stared at me intensely for a minute before she started laughing.

"Dude, chill out," she said. "I know, I know," she waved her hand and the pretty bracelet she was wearing slipped down her wrist a little. She had stars tattooed on her too, but they were little and blue, that kind of tattoo a girl who would never get a tattoo might eventually get. They were a subtle addition to her wrist. "You're freaking, its normal. You want a beer? I'll explain everything."

I gladly accepted. She turned and took two bottles of beer from the fridge and effortlessly popped the caps off.

"Won't we get in trouble?" I asked, shocked by my submissive tone. I'd only been here a couple hours and it was already having that effect on me. She had a cocksure smile on her face that showed the dimple in her right cheek. She was cute as a button but there was something about her that didn't let me trust her right away, something wicked.

"No, not if I say its okay. Dude, I was left in charge," she said. "There's cool things about staying here, like you get to drink. Jeff and Mark want us to have fun, but it also has to be earned. I'm going to tell you a few things about trouble," she said, almost like a country singer about to start a concert. She sipped her beer, never taking her eyes off of me. She seemed smart and terribly observant. There was something about her face, which was so perfect it was uncanny, that also seemed like a mask. Whoever was really behind there might never be revealed.

"Let's go outside," she said on second thought. "Maybe if you got to see the surroundings, you wouldn't feel so freaked out."

After a minute of hesitance, I jumped up and followed her out of the house. The drug had completely worn off, I was feeling better. The beer was amazingly refreshing.

The ranch house has a beautiful back porch surrounded by old, dark wooden pillars. The land was huge, with a deck over to the right with a swimming pool. There was a black wrought iron fence and behind it, horses, cows, pigs, a windmill, dozens of tractor trailers, and young boys doing all kinds of ranch work.

"The best way to think of this place is as your home - with, like, workers - the workers are boys,” she clearly pointed over to the shirtless young boys. They all looked equally cute and dangerous. “And those boys are criminals who deserve all the hard work and punishment they get," April said, sitting down on a comfy outdoors wicker couch. There was a glass-stained coffee table with magazines, books and candles on it. Somehow, the litter and all-around chaos of the porch was cozy and romantic. The ranch house itself looked like an old railroad station, with long bare windows and a balcony on the second floor. It was actually really pretty, but the word prison just darkened it all.

The back porch was well furnished and homey. There were three rocking chairs, two on one side of the couch, and a bigger one on the other side, at the end. I couldn't help but notice the rifle leaning against the house. There was a bucket full of empty beer cans with flies hovering over their sticky, sweet longnecks.

I looked back out at the black fence. I saw about eight or nine boys doing all kinds of labor. They all looked very young and unhappy, exerting a vulgar intensity. My eyes immediately found him. It was his hair, that disheveled mop-top of sultry black curls tumbling around his face. Oh God. Oh God, it really was him. His arms were muscular with bulging biceps, his body was in amazing shape. I couldn’t imagine looking at anything else other than him from here on out.

"Is that…" I couldn’t even put together a sentence right now.

April, who was very observant, knew who I was checking out. She'd been watching me the whole time, like she knew. Like I was as predictable as a traffic light.

"Adonis Stavros," she said, in a calm tone, giving him a quick glance. "Yes."

Adonis Stavros lived in Dioscurias, a small Greek town off the Black Sea coast. I’d read the article so many times I had the shit memorized. I couldn't believe it. I was flabbergasted. I stared at his body as he picked up a pile of wood and hurled it into the wheelbarrow. He made the toss look so effortless. I was practically drooling. He had on black rain pants, they looked shiny and hung loosely around his jutted hips. His torso was narrow, his abs washboard. Physically, he was perfect. I watched as he worked tirelessly, placing huge firewood in the barrel. Every so often, he would stop and pet the horses.

"We can't figure him out," April spoke after a long silence. She was observing him too, but not as drastically as I was. "He keeps his cool," April looked at me. "Nothing gets to him. I mean he's frustrated like the other boys, but he doesn't let it show."

"So they're all prisoners?" I asked. Now was my chance to ask as many questions as possible.

"All the boys are, yes."

"Do they...stay in the ranch house too?"

"Uh, no," April said right away. "They never come into the ranch house; they never leave that fence, which, by the way, is electric. Touch it and you receive 10,000 bolts of electricity into your body. The thicker the wire, the more electricity." I stared at the thick black cord snaking around the fence. "The animals are kept in there,” she pointed off into a separate place with a wooden fence around. “So they don't get electrocuted. But if they do get out, the boys get punished." She ran through such facts like a detached tour guide.

"Where do they stay?" I asked.

"I can't answer that," she quickly shot my question down. "And don't ask questions like that - you should never be concerned with their comfort, their well-being. You need to like to see them suffer and work. Part of being a Good Girl is to recognize evil, recognize bad boys. Those…" she pointed at the Death Fence. "Are Bad Boys."

"What the hell is this place?" It was more of a thought, an emotion, than a question. I’d still blurted it aloud though.

She smiled. April seemed to smile at everything, which I found extremely discomforting.

"It's a prison for terrorists, well, not all the boys are terrorists, some are rapists - like that kid," she pointed a gangly kid with blonde hair. He was the one that threw planks of wood into a pile so temperamentally they made an unnerving clap every few seconds. "He raped his three-year old sister," April informed me. "His name's Graham. "

Graham's face was shaped like a billy goat's. He had a slight overbite, shaggy brown hair and brown eyes. He wasn’t that bad looking, but the ugly that seemed to lurk below kind of interrupted any boyish good looks he had going on.

I looked away from him and back at Adonis. His black mass of curls covered his face as a strong wind came through.

"Its hard to say which boy is the worst, but my money's on Adonis," April admitted.

"No," I simply said.

"Uh…what?" She looked at me.
"How do you know the people that got killed didn't deserve to die?" It was a bold

statement, and I knew that. But still…

April had quite a calm caliber. "Whoa, that's heavy. I mean a little girl died, what

did she do to deserve it? Or the girl who lost her leg, or the cop…"

"The cop was my uncle," I cut her off. "He physically and sexually abused me when I was little." I couldn't believe I'd just said that. I finally told someone. It was shockingly easier to tell a total stranger such a personal thing than anyone else.

"Oh…I see." April looked away and frowned as she watched Adonis in those sexy black rain pants that lagged around his hips. It was so challenging to stay in my seat and not shoot up like a rocket and attach myself to him, locking arms and ankles around him.

"So he killed your pervert of an uncle," April reworded me. She talked without any hesitance, pointing out hard facts like she was ordering a pizza. "Well…that's rich." She looked away for a second. Then she turned in the wicker couch so she was sitting Indian-style, her perfectly painted toe nails were a deep blood-red color. She placed the beer bottle against her crotch.


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