Dylan Jeffrey was awarded Third Place in Drama in the 2017 Prison Writing Contest. Jeffrey is currently incarcerated at the Otero County Prison Facility in New Mexico.
Every year, hundreds of inmates from around the country submit poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and dramatic works to PEN America’s Prison Writing Contest, one of the few outlets of free expression for the country’s incarcerated population. On November 28, PEN America will celebrate the winners of this year’s contest with a live reading, Breakout: Voices from the Inside. Participants including 2016 PEN/Bellwether Award-winner Lisa Ko and 2010 National Book Award-winner Terrance Hayes will read from the prize-winning manuscripts.
INT. — APARTMENT BUILDING — NIGHT
A woman opens her door on two teenage boys, BRIT and his school chum JIMMY, standing in the hallway. She looks to be about 40, voluptuously attractive with black hair, pale skin, and crimson nails, wearing a black satin slip. She steps aside to let them enter.
SUPER — Manchester, England 1983
INT. — LIVING ROOM — NIGHT
The woman is lounging comfortably on a divan while the two boys sit stiffly on wooden chairs attempting to look at ease. There is a knock at the door, and the woman rises to see who it is. It’s a group of university students looking for a place to party. She invites them in, and we see that Brit isn’t pleased with this development. CUT TO Hours later. We can see from the clutter and debris that people have been having a good time, though Brit and Jimmy don’t seem to have moved from their chairs. The woman and Brit lock eyes, and she gives him an enigmatic smile.
WOMAN (thick Cockney accent)
All right, everyone out. I needs me beauty sleep.
People groan and complain good naturedly as they begin filing out. The woman helps steer a few stragglers toward the door.
C’mon now. Everybody. Out!
EXT. — STREET — NIGHT
I forgot something. Don’t wait up.
Brit runs back toward the building, and we linger on the back of Jimmy’s head as he watches Brit disappear back inside the building.
INT. — HALLWAY — NIGHT
Brit, out of breath, knocks on the door excitedly. We think we hear a muffled “come in” but can’t be certain. With hesitation, Brit tries the door knob. It’s unlocked! Brit enters her flat. All we hear is the drone of an oscillating fan.
INT. — LIVING ROOM — NIGHT
The woman is languorously spread out on her divan, completely naked, her eyes closed. Stunned by her beauty, Brit watches her for a moment with a lump in his throat. She opens her eyes and winks at Brit, prompting him to move toward her reverently. He kneels down and begins kissing her inner thigh—and we hear the incredibly loud ROAR of a pressurized metal toilet flushing. The sound of this toilet flush continues for a full fifteen seconds, bleeding into the next scene as we CUT TO:
INT. — PRISON CELL — 3 A.M.
Brit, much older now and almost bald opens his eyes, disoriented. The sound of the flushing toilet finally begins to fade as Brit realizes where he is, instantly remorseful that his lovely dream has been interrupted. His cellie, a faceless figure in shadow shuffles from the toilet back to their bunk. Brit is on the bottom bunk, and this somnolent goon steps on Brit’s mattress climbing up to the top bunk, further jarring him awake. Within seconds this man begins snoring. Loudly. CLOSE UP on Brit’s face, eyes wide open in disbelief at how pervasive the snore is. We hold on Brit’s unhappy face as the snoring continues unabated.
OPENING CREDITS [“54-46 Was My Number” by Toots & The Maytals is the theme song]
INT. — CELL 44 — MORNING
We come back to the exact same shot of Brit’s face, his eyes still open, only it is light now, a ray of sunshine beaming through a thin vertical window. Brit wears an expression of extreme fatigue while his cellie continues to snore—an outrageously thick, nasal, obnoxious snore.
INT. — CHOW HALL — MORNING
A long queue of inmates approach a portal where trays of food are passed out to them. Brit is standing in line behind ARKANSAS, a tall white man with yellow hair, and FLY, an elderly black man. Standing behind Brit is SPIDER, a chicano covered in tattoos.
You look like hell, young man.
BRIT (British accent)
I’ve only about an hour’s sleep in the last two days. My new cellmate is a chronic snorer.
Ey, you gotta handle that, ey. I could hear that shit five doors down. Fuckin’ . . . you gotta handle that.
I’ve got to handle that? I don’t know that I take your meaning precisely.
You’ve gotta take care of the problem. For the good of The pod, you gotta make him shut up. Or roll him out.
They reach the point where the trays are distributed. Tight CLOSE UP of a tray reveals the ‘food’ is an indistinct abstraction, colorless.
You gonna eat your oatmeal?
INT. — POD DAYROOM — MORNING
PUPPET is just waking up and making himself a cup of instant coffee at the microwave station.
How was breakfast, ey?
The entree was all right, but the rest tasted like feet and regret.
So I didn’t miss nothin’ then?
Naw, you didn’t miss nothin’.
PUPPET (noticing Brit)
Ey, your new cellie fuckin’ snores bad, dog. I could hear that shit through my vent all night. You need to handle that, ey.
So I’ve been told.
At the pod door, a C.O. shouts out:
Rec call! Indoor rec! Last call for rec!
Several inmates head for the pod door, including Brit. As they file out, heading to rec, one late comer in the back of the pod calls out—
Hold on. I’m coming! Hold on!!
He runs toward the door, and just as he approaches it, the C.O. slams the door shut on him.
INT. — GYM — AFTERNOON
Inmates are playing basketball and handball. Brit is off in the corner doing calisthenics. A short ‘gangsta’ with a tattoo tear approaches him.
Ey, dog, where you from?
What’s this then, am I being interviewed?
This ain’t no fuckin’ interview, shithead. I asked you where the fuck you’re from.
The U.K.? What the fuck is that? Where did you fall?
Y olé. Fuckin’ fish, dog. Where were you arrested?
At my good friend Andrew’s flat actually. I had just finished my shift, you see, and I was—
CRIMINAL (interrupting him)
Ey, dog, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about. I don’t know what the fuck your problem is, ey. I was just trying to conversate. Know what I mean? Fuckin’, fuck, dog. Washa, I just wanted to warn you about your cellie, ey. That fucker’s been rolled out of three different pods, so something’s up. Know what I mean? (beat) I don’t know if he’s a snitch or if he has fucked up charges or what, but fuckin’—watch out. Know what I mean? All right, dog. My name is Criminal if you ever need esquina. Orale.
As Criminal turns to leave we see that he is wearing four pairs of boxer shorts in various stages of undress down his backside, with his pants hanging ridiculously low beneath his ass.
INT. — CELL 44 — DAY
WILLIAM CARBAJAL is sitting on his upper bunk, staring vacantly into space. He has ratty, unkempt hair, heavily lidded eyes, and a gravely simpleton voice. Brit enters. Like an innocent child, William lights up with a big friendly smile.
Hey, cellie! How’s it going?
My gratitude for your concern; however, not great since you ask. I didn’t get so much as a wink last night. Nor the previous evening as a matter of fact.
William’s face falls, but he doesn’t respond to the implication. There is a tap at the door, and William brightens. It is his buddy RAY RAY. William beams joyfully as Ray Ray enters. Ray Ray is a tiny troll with a limp and dark five o’clock shadow, and he is missing a pupil in one of his eyes. He looks like the sort who would reside under a bridge in his former ‘civilian’ life.
This is my friend Ray Ray.
Hey, don’t I know you from Southern? Or the Feds maybe?
I’ve not been to Southern. Nor to the Feds for that matter. No, this is my first rodeo, as they say in your parlance. Listen, Ray Ray, is it? Would you mind terribly if I have a word with my cellmate for a moment? In private?
Okay. Yeah, I’ll come back in a little while.
As Ray Ray leaves, William looks like a scolded puppy preparing for the worst.
Look. Seriously, mate, we’re going to need to figure out somehow what to do about your snoring.
I don’t snore, do I?
Do you snore? Are you fucking putting me on? From the second you close your eyes ‘til the moment you wake! You snored for 12 straight hours last night, mate. And 11 the evening previous. You’re the world champion at snoring; meanwhile, I haven’t managed a jot of shut eye in the last two days.
I’m sorry. I’ll try not to snore tonight.
BRIT (with bemused sympathy)
I don’t think it’s something one has much control over exactly. To be sure, we all snore to some extent. But, good God, man, you are frightfully loud. It’s bloody awful, frankly. Maybe you should try for a sleep apnea mask or some similar apparatus. I think I may have seen a promising one on an infomercial.
I put in a request to medica, ey, but they never called me.
So you are aware that you have this problem? Listen, I um . . . I’ve heard it said that you’ve been . . . moved from a number of pods, possibly for . . . you know. It doesn’t matter really what I heard, but I was just wondering if maybe it was due to, um, how loud you snore?
WILLIAM (a little too defensively)
Uh-uh. Uh-uh. No, the reason I got moved out of C Pod was ‘cause I got put in medical seg, ey, on account of I got pneumonia real bad. Then they put me in old man’s pod, but they said I’m not old enough so they had to move me. . . .
There is a long silent pause. William looks scared, and Brit doesn’t have the heart to interrogate him further. Ray Ray appears once more at their cell door, impatient to come back in. Brit sighs.
INT. — POD DAYROOM — DAY
Brit and Arkansas are standing near the microwave, watching as a couple of perros, SABINO and BOXER are mock fighting a few feet away.
Now, I don’t buy it. Something don’t sound right. I mean, C Pod is God’s pod, it’s a PC camp where all the chesters and rate hide out. So if he couldn’t make it in God’s pod . . . now, something don’t add up. You probably oughta roll him out. Make him bounce.
And if I ‘roll him out,’ pray what would happen then?
Oh, he’ll rat you out for sure. Guaranteed. You’ll do some seg time. They might ship you to a level IV.
Sabino is taken to the ground as Boxer begins pounding him in the stomach and ribs mercilessly. Sabino is laughing at first but then starts to cry out in pain, begging for the pummeling to stop.
Ah, that takes me back.
A C.O. yells from the pod door:
INT. — LIBRARY — AFTERNOON
It’s a fairly large library, well lit, lined with several tall, fully stocked bookcases. Brit is reassured by the sight, until he looks closer.
BRIT (mildly alarmed)
I say, these are all James Patterson books.
Tight CLOSE UP of one of the bookcases reveals that indeed, all the shelves are filled with James Patterson titles exclusively.
No, that section over there is John Grisham
A CLOSE UP of a wall lined top to bottom with Grisham novels confirms this.
And those ones there are Dean Koontz.
Dean Koontz is a good writer, ey.
Brit looks as if he is about to be sick
Um. Is there perhaps a shelf for the great literary works? The classics?
The clerk seems momentarily confused by this question, then drags out a milk crate from behind a desk, filled with tattered paperbacks. Brit picks up a weathered copy of “The Gulag Archipelago,” which falls apart in his hands. He is overjoyed to find a copy of “Emma” by Jane Austen in serviceable condition.
INT. — MAIN CORRIDOR — AFTERNOON
There is a metal detector in the main hallway, and every other inmate that walks through sets it off. It goes off so often that the C.O.s don’t even bother to react and simply ignore it. [This will be a running gag throughout the series, this pointless, ineffective metal detector]. Brit doesn’t set it off as he passes through with his book in hand, but the inmates before and after him do, looking shady.
INT. — CELL 44 — AFTERNOON
Brit is delighted to find the cell empty as he returns home. He lies down on his bunk and cracks open the Jane Austen novel. Before he’s read a single paragraph, William and Ray Ray enter.
Hey, cellie! What are you doing?
Brit holds up the novel as if to imply ‘isn’t it obvious?’
Hey, you know who’s a good writer? James Patterson. I read one of his books in county. He writes good, ey.
Ray Ray takes a seat on the toilet, and William sits on the metal stool attached to the cell desk, and they converse while Brit tries to read.
Yeah, I was doing good out there, ey. I had my own body shop, ey. I had over 15 classic cars, all my own. I had a 72 Barracuda. I had a 57 Chevy Bel Air. I had a 1970 Dodge Road Runner. Ey, I had a 1958 Plymouth Fury. I had a 51 Nomad. My favorite was, I had a 1969 Mach One Mustang. She was beautiful, ey. Cobalt blue, small scoop on the hood, Navy blue suede leather five-point harness seating, black paneling, black dashboard with indigo lighting on the speedometer and gauges. 429 Boss engine with a Holley four-barrel carburetor and blower. Ey, I sent it to Roush Motor Sports for a complete overhaul. Camshafts, intake, pistons, rings, points, distributor—all replaced with performance racing parts.
We observe that Brit is getting irritated, unable to concentrate on his book with this chatter. As William prattles on, intense displeasure soon colors Brit’s face.
Ford nine-inch rear end four speed on the floor standard transmission, twenty-inch rims, Ford emblem on the hubcaps. Goodyear performance tires. That fucker was bad, ey. Man I miss my cars. Ey, I also had a 91 Probe GT. Pearl white with red pinstripes down the sides. Red and black interior, leather bucket seats . . .
At this point Brit gives up all hope of enjoying his book and sets it down angrily. William is oblivious and continues his monologue as Brit stands and storms out of the cell in disgust.
Nice Pioneer stereo system with a five-disc CD changer in the trunk. 250 Watt amp, ten-inch subwoofers, six-by-nines in the doors, three-inch tweeters under the dash, performance tires on twenty-inch knock-off wheels, hatchback trunk, four-liter V-6 engine with overdrive and turbo boost, nine differential high performance gearing with a six-speed transmission . . .
INT. — POD DAYROOM — AFTERNOON
Brit, exhausted, sits at one of the tables near the dayroom TV. A crowd of inmates are watching “Jerry Springer.” Brit overhears a nearby conversation between a couple of homies.
Ey, fuckin’, did you hear about Gutter? That fool got caught with a shank, ey. Fuckin’, he picked up street charges and everything, fuckin’ . . . they gave him fuckin’ nine years, ey. Sent him to a level VI, dog.
Tschhh. I told that fool too, ey. Fuckin’ straight up I told him he needed to hide that fucker, ey.
Brit strolls over to a table where Arkansas and Fly are playing chess.
I just overheard that a bloke can get an additional nine years for possessing a shank. Is that accurate? No hyperbole?
That’s insane! Why would anybody want to risk that?
For protection. Look around you, man.
Brit glances about. Dozens of ugly, mean-looking, hardcore thugs are strenuously working out.
Any one of these dudes would kill you without thinking twice about it. And all of those dudes carry shanks themselves. You can count on it.
Yes, I suppose I see your point.
As he contemplates what Arkansas has just said, his gaze settles on Criminal. Just then, a C.O. opens the pod door and yells out:
MED LINE!! Let’s go!
With mirthful cheers of enthusiasm, half the pod stampedes the door in a mad rush as if their lives depended on it. Brit is astonished by the furor. You would think that thousand-dollar bills were being given away. CUT TO a montage of inmates swallowing pills by the handful; inmates swapping and trading pills; inmates chopping up their pills and snorting them in blissful delirium, a real orgy of pharmaceutical debauchery.
INT. — CELL 44 — NIGHT
William is once more snoring and Brit is despondent from lack of sleep. He tentatively taps on the bunk above him, but there is no change or response. Brit knocks on the bunk. Still nothing. He knocks a little harder, but the snoring continues. He then pounds furiously on the bunk, several thunderous blows with his fist. The snoring stops for exactly two seconds before it starts right back up again. Brit, exasperated, digs a walkman radio out of his drawer. He searches and searches for a radio station but only finds static at this late hour. Defeated, he lies back on his bed resigned to another sleepless night.
INT. — CHOW HALL — BREAKFAST TIME
Fuckin’ tell him somethin’, bro. Pound on his back and wake his ass up!
I tried that actually. I’m afraid it does no good. The sodden bugger simply takes to snoring again. Some music is what I need, to block it out. Do you perchance have any audio cassette tapes?
‘Audio cassette tapes.’ Nothing you’d like, Brit. All I gots country and death metal.
BRIT (sour face)
You don’t have any Motown? Or perhaps some rhythm and blues?
‘Rhythm and blues’? No, Brit I ain’t got no rhythm and blues. But you’re in luck. I know who does.
INT. — CELL 18 — DAY
This cell is where DONALD BROWN and HUEY ‘FIG’ NEWTON reside, and it is where the Muslims hang out. Two other blacks, DANTE and FATS are visiting. They are listening to Charlie Parker (“I’ll Remember April”) and quietly conversing. Donald Brown is reading Proust and Fats is thumbing through an issue of The New Yorker.
Okay. Marry, boff, kill: Toni Morrison, Zadie Smith, Alice Walker.
Yo, man, that’s messed up.
Whitey at the door!
As Brit looms at their cell door, they quickly stash the New Yorker and replace it with Vibe. Charlie Parker is turned off, and the TV is switched to BET, which is playing rap videos. Donald Brown puts his copy of Proust under his pillow and grabs a Walter Mosley book. All of this happens in a split second and as Brit enters they commence to acting crass, loud, and boisterous.
Pardon me. Hello there. I’m told you might have some, er cassette tapes? Of, um, Motown? I was hoping—wondering if I might procure one from you? Temporarily?
You like black music?
Oh my, yes. Anything ‘old school’ as they say. I’m afraid I don’t cotton much to the, um, newer stuff. But, for instance, anything by Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Dinah Washington, Curtis Mayfield, Nina Simone, The Staple Singers, Sam and Dave, Sly and the Family Stone—
DONALD BROWN (holding out a tape)
You like Otis Redding?
BRIT (flooded with relief)
Oh, God, yes!
INT. — CELL 44 — NIGHT
William is snoring up a storm. Brit puts the Otis Redding cartridge into his walkman. He pushed the play button and relaxes on his bunk. As the music begins a smile spreads over his face, the snoring completely drowned out. Suddenly the audio distorts and the music abruptly ceases. Brit jostles the mechanism, unsure what’s happened. He pries open the walkman’s lid and is horrified to discover a jumble of unspooled tape, eaten beyond any hope of repair.
INT. — POD DAYROOM — DAY
Brit sits at one of the dayroom tables, writing in his journal. We hear what he is writing in voiceover.
This is my fifth consecutive day without sleep, and I’m bloody knackered. I’m not sure quite how much longer I can endure. I fear I may go mental at any moment and snuff the dumb bugger out of his misery. Such is the quality of his life it would surely be a mercy killing.
INT. — MAIN CORRIDOR — DAY
Various inmates are returning from outdoor rec. As they pass thru the metal detector it goes off, ignored by the C.O.s. Arkansas is bumping his music with a pair of massive headphones, and he draws the wrath of a dickish Sgt.
What are you doing wearing headphones in my corridor?
Arkansas can’t hear this over his music so the Sgt. rushes up to him and grabs the headphones off of his head.
SGT. (screaming right in his face)
WHAT ARE YOU DOING WEARING HEADPHONES IN MY HALLWAY?!
RANDOM INMATE #2
A la verga!
Man, this ain’t your hallway.
Yes it is my hallway. You! TAKE YOUR HAT OFF!!
An inmate with a baseball cap quickly removes his hat and in doing so accidentally drops his sunglasses on the floor.
What are you doing dropping sunglasses on his floor?!
INT. — D SPACE — DAY
This is the area outside of the control booth. Central to all the pods it contains a podium and is where the C.O.s are posted during their shifts. We see a couple of C.O.s mock fighting. Another, bored, is bouncing a handball. As Arkansas and the other inmates return from outdoor rec we hear a snippet of the C.O.s talking.
Ey, I fuckin’ told that bitch straight up, fuckin’ . . .
C.O. #2 (after a burst of idiot laughter)
Fuck yeah! That’s fuckin’ badder than fuck!
INT. — POD DAYROOM — DAY
BRIT (still writing; V.O.)
The C.O.’s, like the inmates, are just as moronic and immature as one would expect. Just as the inmates, they display the same tasteless hairstyles, the same vulgar, amateurish tattoos, and use the same sub-mental colloquial lingo. Two sides of a coin, really, these convicts and guards.
Hey, Brit. What’s goin’ on? Ah, shit. Don’t tell me. Another sleepless night. And he’s up there sleeping like a baby as we speak, ain’t he? Fuckin’ tell him somethin’!!
Pray tell, what should I tell him!
Tell him to shut the fuck up or else.
Or else you’re gonna fuckin’ sock him!
It isn’t as if he has any control over it. And it’s not his fault, really. I mean we all snore.
I don’t. Not like that.
Suddenly MONSTER gets in front of the pod to make an impromptu announcement, during which all of the card-playing and dominoes stop.
Can I have everyone’s attention? Ey, someone in here is a fuckin’ thief! They took a brand new pair of batteries and a fuckin’ snickers bar from my drawer, ey. Fuckin’, you wanna steal, be a fuckin’ man about it and steal from my face. Don’t be sneaking around like a little punk ass pussy ass bitch. I ain’t no fuckin’ punk! Fuckin’, if I catch ANYONE stealing from me, I’ll fuckin’ break your arm!!
Man, I fuckin’ hate thieves, man.
I say, aren’t you in here for breaking and entering, and robbery?
Breaking and entering, and unlawful possession . . .
‘Of stolen goods’ is left unspoken as the pod resumes its normal level of background noise. A C.O. opens the pod door and yells out:
Woodhouse, Winston—report to education!
Woodhouse—report to education!
INT. — EDUCATION DEPT. — DAY
Brit and another inmate are waiting outside the office of MS. BAKER the head of the education department. They sit in plastic chairs, waiting to be called into her office.
What’s up, ey? I go by ‘Habitual Offender.’ They call me Bitch for short.
They call you bitch?!
It’s the diminutive of habitual, ey. What do they call you?
They call me Brit.
That’s what’s up. Why they call you that?
Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because I’m from Great Britain.
Orale. That’s what’s up. What’s a Great Britain?
What is a Great Britain. Well, for starts, one without Margaret Thatcher! Eh? Eh? What ho.
Just then Ms. Baker’s door opens, and Brit is saved from further torture.
BRIT (as he enters her office)
It’s Wodehouse, actually. Like the author. No relation.
INT. — CELL 24 — EVENING
This is the cell of Arkansas and ZOMBIE. Zombie is watching food porn on their TV. Succulent dishes prepared by a master chef has his mouth watering.
Oh my gawd that looks delicious!
Why do you torture yourself?
BRIT (paying no mind to the television)
They want me to sign up for bloody GED classes! It’s absolutely mandatory, she said. ‘I’ve got college degrees,’ I told her. ‘Sorry, we have no record of that.’ Well, you wouldn’t, would you—they’re in England, you twit. Ever hear of Oxford? I’m 47 years old, and they want to enroll me in GED classes. Fuck that! Imbeciles.
They’ll take away your good time if you don’t program.
I’ve got 50 fucking years, mate. I’ll be a toothless geriatric if I ever make it out. IF! So I don’t give a bloody goddamn about fucking good time. ‘Know what I mean?’
All right, all right. Calm down. Maybe this’ll cheer you up.
Arkansas produces a hand rolled cigarette from his pocket. CUT TO a few minutes later. Brit, Arkansas, and Zombie are surreptitiously smoking the cigarette, blowing the smoke into an air vent above the metal toilet/sink fixture. They are waxing philosophic.
I don’t know about karma. I mean, look at Anne Frank. What’d that bitch ever do to deserve that? She was just a kid, man.
BRIT (handing the smoke to Arkansas)
Karma concerns all your past lives as well. Who knows, Anne Frank may have performed some downright heinous deeds in her previous lives. No doubt I must’ve.
ARKANSAS (taking a drag)
You know what you need to do? You need to take his blanket from him and throw it on the ground. That way he’ll have to climb down and get it and you can use that time to fall asleep.
I don’t know. I think he’s so zonked on meds he wouldn’t so much as stir.
Then you need to fuckin’ sock him in the mouth! Knock him the fuck out!
Do you ever feel as if . . . you’re the only sane one in the asylum? So naturally everyone assumes that you’re the crazy one. Or, the other day this peculiar thought entered my head. Picture this: Imagine, as whole pod filled primarily with Down Syndromes, and you’re the only normal one, right?
CUT TO: INT. — DAYROOM
Surreal sequence, sans audio (except for a snippet of Stravinsky’s “Petrushka”) as 40 Down Syndrome men and women, all wearing traditional black and white striped prison garb sit around playing cards and dominoes and watching “Jerry Springer.” Brit, wearing his blues, walks among them attempting to communicate, but he’s ignored, apart from some derisive jeers and laughter. CUT BACK TO the previous scene, continued.
That’s a powerful image, man. Very Bergmanesque. But, don’t you think retards might be offended?
I should think convicts would be the ones to take offense. It’s not as if the retarded are overly concerned with political correctness.
ZOMBIE (dawning comprehension)
Hey, what are you trying to say? Are you calling us all a bunch of fucking retards? What makes you so superior, huh?
Well, my accent for starts. Relax, mate. I’m just trying to relay a sentiment . . . paint a mural of how alone I sometimes feel in here . . . adrift in a stormy sea of sour milk. . . . I, uh, I don’t think there’s any weed in this fag. It tastes solely of tobacco, and I don’t feel a thing yet.
That’s all it is, tobacco. We’re smoking a cigarette, Brit. You thought this was a joint?
Bloody hell. Then why are we carrying on in such a clandestine manner?
‘Cause cigarettes are illegal in prison, Brit. You can catch a major write up getting caught with tobacco.
Get the fuck out. You can’t smoke in prison? What the hell is wrong with this country?
Hey! America is the greatest country in the world. Love it or leave it. If you don’t like it you should get the fuck out and go home!
If only I could! Yes, America is tops, isn’t it? It put you in here, after all. How much time did they give you, and pray what did you do for your ticket to the big house?
I got 22 years for armed robbery. It was my second offense.
Crikey. Are you aware that in Norway, the maximum sentence they’ll give a bloke is 20 years. No matter how despicable your crime, even if you’re a bloody murderer, literally. The most you’ll serve is 20 years, and they put you up in a hospitable environment and treat you with compassion and a modicum of dignity, unlike the sadistic troglodytes that carry on with us here. And you know what? They have remarkable low recidivism. So, yeah America is fookin’ aces, idn’t it? Number one!! Bollocks.
FLACCO and CUBA knock at the door and quickly enter. Flacco is bleeding profusely from a nasty wound on his face. He has a gash in the center of his forehead, and his ear is missing a chunk.
Good Lord, what happened?
This fuckin’ youngster hit me with a padlock, ey. He said I was a snitch. He thinks I’m the one that flew that kite on Loco. I ain’t no fuckin’ snitch.
A kite—like a note you send to the Warden or to STIU.
Jesus, Brit. Security Threat Investigation Unit.
You’re gonna need stitches, bro.
Shit. The little fucker said I sent a kite to the LT. Then he hauled off and hit me with a padlock.
Who was it?
I don’t know, some youngster. Fuckin’ punk. How’s the ear?
Tight CLOSE UP of his ear. A bite sized piece is missing from the outer edge, rounded ridges showing a distinct tooth-mark pattern. Brit is taken aback by the casualness displayed despite all the bloodshed.
There’s a big chunk gone, ey.
Fuck! I hate it when fucker’s can’t fight. Fuckin’ biting and scratching like a little girl.
INT. —CELL 44 — MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT
As always, William is snoring away, louder than a hibernating grizzly. Brit is wide awake, but seems deep in thought.
INT. — CELL 15 — DAY
This is Criminal’s cell. He has about nine homies posted up in his cell, all clones. Brit knocks at the door, and Criminal nods him in.
I was, um, wondering . . .
Brit hesitates with so many people in the room.
It’s all good, dog. You can talk in front of them. These are my soldiers, ey. Fuckin’, ask me.
Well, look. It’s probably a long shot, but I was hoping you might perhaps be able to . . . sell me a shank. Strictly for recreational purposes, I assure you. Of course, I’ll pay you exorbitantly for your efforts.
I can get you a shank, ey. Orale. Just give me a minute, ey. Wait here.
Brit is surprised; he didn’t realize it could be done so quick. Left alone with the ‘soldiers,’ he takes in the atmosphere of the room. Ominous rap music is playing, and we hear the menacing lyrics (“I’ll die, motheerfucker, for my clique/I’ll kill, motherfucker, for my clique.”) Noticing Brit’s Jane Austen novel, one of the homies volunteers:
Ey, fuckin’ know what book I wanna read? “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu.
Brit nods his head in acknowledgement, attempts a smile. Criminal returns in fewer than 20 seconds with a selection of shivs to choose from.
Take your pick, ey.
There are four different shivs, and Brit picks them each up in turn and pantomimes stabbing motions, seeing which feels best in his hands. He finally chooses one he likes.
This one should do nicely.
HOMIES (approving enthusiastically, more or less in unison)
Fuck yeah! That’s what’s up! Good shit, homes. (and lastly, one lone) Handle that!
INT. — CELL 44 — LATE AT NIGHT
Brit is lying on his bunk, wide awake as William snores. He stands up and grabs William’s blanket from him and tosses it on the floor. William hardly notices and continues snoring away.
HEY! You’re snoring, mate. Maybe turn over on your side or something. HEY!! Wake up!
William still doesn’t stir. Brit shakes him. William opens his eyes and stares at Brit for a moment, groggily, then turns on his side and resumes snoring.
BRIT (at wits end)
All right then, you fucking piece of shite—
Brit removes the shiv from beneath his mattress and proceeds to stab William repeatedly in the throat and face. As his rage builds he then stabs William in the chest and stomach until William is finally still—and quiet. In a macabre shot we see Brit’s face covered in fresh blood, but with a smile of peaceful contentment and serenity, so happy that there is finally blessed quiet in the cell. But then the sound of snoring returns. How can this be? The panic in his eyes turns to terror as he looks around for the source. It isn’t coming from William’s lifeless corpse, but like some sort of Edgar Allan Poe horror tale the sound is all around him and louder than ever.
No. No. No, no, nooooooooo!!
Brit lurches up from his bunk—it was just a dream, from which William’s snoring (indeed louder than ever in reality) has awakened him.
INT. — LIBRARY — MORNING
Brit is writing something, very slowly with meticulous concentration. While this need not be visually emphasized, he is writing with his left hand. The library is fairly empty, though a few homies are socializing in the background.
Ey, fuckin’ . . . you know what book I wanna read? “The Art of War” by fuckin’ uh . . .
Brit is startled by Habitual, who suddenly materializes out of nowhere and takes a seat next to Brit, disrupting him.
Who you writin’?
BRIT (quick recovery)
My auntie, Ethel.
That’s what’s up. Tell her I said ello, ey. Ey, tell her to hook me up with a pen pal. Hey, are you left handed?
Um. Ambidextrous, actually.
Orale. (beat) What’s that mean?
INT. — HALLWAY OUTSIDE LIBRARY — MORNING
Brit puts a folded up piece of paper into the mailbox, glancing about nervously as he does so before quickly walking away.
INT. — CELL 44 — NOON
Brit, being extra quiet so as not to disturb his slumbering, snoring cellie, slowly pulls open one of the metal drawers beneath their bunks. He places something inside the drawer, than slowly closes it.
INT. — POD DAYROOM — MID AFTERNOON
Two inmates, JOKER and DROWSY, are watching a female caseworker through the large windowed wall.
Would you hit that?
Ey, I’d put a baby in her so fast . . .
Two C.O.s enter the pod for a walkthrough.
INT. — CELL 44 —MOMENTS LATER
Brit is sitting at the desk, writing letters, when a C.O. enters.
Shake down, sir. Please step out of the room. (seeing William) Will you wake him?
Not my job, but good luck with that.
As Brit is putting on his tennis shoes, the C.O. notices a French/English dictionary on the desk. He pages through it for a second.
What are you, like, Italian?
Yes. Yes, I’m from Italy. You’ve hit upon it exactly. You should win a prize for that. Capital deduction, I’m Italian! Which is why I’ve got a French dictionary. What gave it away, my accent? Unfucking believable. Where do they find you people? Jesus Christ!
Brit takes his Jane Austen novel and leaves the cell as the C.O. pounds on William’s bunk and tells him to get up.
INT. — DAYROOM — MOMENTS LATER
DROWSY (motioning toward a dykish C.O.)
Would you hit that?
I’d throw a sick ol’ munch on that.
Sitting at a table with his book, Brit observes William stumbling sleepily out of their cell as the C.O. slams the cell door. William stands outside their room on the tier. The canteen lady is collecting bubble sheets from a wooden box in D Space.
DROWSY (referring to the obese canteen lady)
Would you hit that?
I’d fucking punch that bitch in the mouth, ey.
What the fuck?
We aren’t sure whether Drowsy is responding to Joker’s last comment (as if it overstepped the bounds of propriety) or whether he’s become aware of the drama unfolding in cell 44, for at that very moment, a C.O. yells:
CARBAJAL! Come in here!
William walks back into the cell as several C.O.s come into the pod, all business, and hurriedly move up the stairs. Everyone in the dayroom watches as they pile into cell 44. A minute later they emerge leading out William, who is in handcuffs, unsure what is happening. A C.O. wearing surgical gloves is carrying the shiv, and another C.O. carries William’s mattress and all of his property in a large, clear plastic trash bag. Brit tries to appear concerned, but we can’t help detecting a slight grin in the corner of his mouth.
INT. — CHOW HALL — SUPPER TIME
Brit is jaunty, happily whistling a tune as he stands in line. Across the way Criminal is giving him an odd look. Is it respect? Or deep suspicion? It’s impossible to say. Tray in hand, Brit takes a seat with Arkansas and Zombie.
I bet you’re a happy camper. Hey, you wanna play some spades when we get back to the pod?
No, I think I’m going to turn in early. Try to catch up on some much-needed shut eye, ‘do you gather my intent,’ ey?
INT. — CELL 44 — NIGHT
Brit is fast asleep, dead to the world. The only sound in the cell is the ambient white noise hum of existence, and Brit is finally allowed to dream unimpeded. The camera lingers on his serene face, then drifts up for a shot of the empty bunk above him.
INT. — CHOW HALL — MORNING
Brit, well rested, is devouring his food with relish.
I don’t know what it is, but this tripe is delicious today.
I think I like you better all bitter and cranky.
I quite like having the room all to myself.
Yeah, well. Don’t get too comfortable. They’ll probably move someone in tomorrow or the next day.
Oh, I hope not. I’d rather hoped to make it at least until the weekend. I’m looking forward to some alone time with Ms. Austen.
The elderly black man Fly approaches the table and hands something to Brit.
Hey there, young man. I was thinking about your problem, and I thought maybe these might help. Earplugs!
Brit and Arkansas exchange looks as Fly winks at Brit and ambles off. They remain silent as Brit studies the brand new set of earplugs in his hand.
INT. — CELL 44 — AFTERNOON
Delighted with the solitude and quiet, Brit kicks back on his bunk and cracks open “Emma.” He is just beginning to savor it when the cell door opens and a new cellmate, a shady looking youngster, drags in his mattress and property.
Ey, dog. My name is Sinister. From Cruces. Where you from, ey?
— Fade To Black