When they shoved me down at the table, I finally looked up.
“I don’t have my social until later. I was in the pit for a few days. Maybe they messed up my schedule.”
“Aw poor baby,” the ape said. “Maybe we’ll put you back in the pit.” He undid my bracelets, kept the ankle irons on.
“How about you get your schedules right?”
“Your social is here. She asked for you. Talk to her. And stop talking to me before I kick your ass. Guest.”
“I don’t see her.”
“She’ll be here soon. Or later. You got nowhere else to be.”
The meeting room was empty. Usually the five tables were packed, cons on one side, their lawyers or social workers sitting across from them, everybody whispering and looking serious. This room was a lot like the visitor room but with less barriers.
The warden trusted the professionals more or he didn’t care if some con went nuts and beat their asses.
Since I was here alone except for some apes, I whistled randomly. Whistling annoys people so I kept at it, loud and shrill. The guard in the corner shifted a little.
Something wrong, officer?
The door opened and Chief walked in.
She was a little tubby, but not bad looking. I liked that she painted her lips deep red and her hair was so black it looked purple. She wasn’t hot, but she was female and that counted for plenty. She didn’t have socks falling out of her shirt or paint her eyelids bright blue like the queens did.
Her coffee mug rim was permanently stained with her lipstick.
Chief wore dark business clothes, sometimes slacks, sometimes a skirt, but I could tell she wasn’t made for it. She needed to be wearing a flannel shirt, jeans and a baseball hat. I imagined she liked to spend time at the bar punching out skinny guys.
Over the years I’d had many different social workers, each one trying hard but eventually giving up. The one thing they had in common was they ignored my smart ass comments.
Not Chief. She gave as good as she got. That’s probably why she had lasted longer than the rest.
She set down her mug and flipped through her papers for a long time. She didn’t say anything. I wanted to get this over with, but I knew she was trying to annoy me.
So I annoyed her back by pretending I wasn’t annoyed.
Finally, she looked up, our eyes meeting for the first time since she’d arrived.
“Morning, sunshine,” she said, flashing a fake smile. “You look tired. What’s wrong? Didn’t sleep well?”
I faked a yawn. “I slept like a dead baby,” I said. “Got so much rest I don’t know what I’m going to do tonight.”
“Cute. Now shut up. You know why I’m here.”
“Not this early I don’t.”
“Yeah you do. Let me refresh your memory. Roy Dillett.”
“Try again. You mean oh, him.”
“What about him?”
“He was a person. You killed him. And what did it get you?”
“An ass-kicking from the apes.”
“I mean more than that. Come on, cut the crap.”
“A week in the pit? I enjoyed the quiet.”
“I know stimuli reduction doesn’t bother you like it should, so I’ve prepared a special punishment.”
“Aw hell, you’re going to let me out into the big scary world are you?”
She smiled a little. She acts tough, but I think likes me. Or at least finds me interesting.
“Uh, no,” she said. “I want to make sure you feel the pain.”
“Now you’ve got me excited,” I said. “What is it?”
“You’re going to talk. And you’re going to listen.”
“That ain’t so bad, Chief. I like our sessions.”
“Not just to me. In my Anger Management class. Twice a week during recess. I mean, nature therapy.”
“Nope. Two days less outdoors. Just sitting around with a bunch of other fellows and talking about your feelings,” she smiled so big her eyes squinted.
I didn’t say anything. Didn’t want to give her the satisfaction.
“Don’t want to give me the satisfaction of saying you’re pissed, right?” She asked.
“No,” I said. “I’m excited for the new opportunity.”
“That’s good, Raphael. They say your attitude determines your altitude.”
“So a junkie sky high on crack must be happy?”
“Clever. Keep it up and you’ll stay in that class a nice long time.”
“If I get to spend more time with you, Chief, I’m all for it.”
“I’m not buying it, Raph. I know you’re pissed. I already put it in your schedule. So expect them to come get you every Tuesday and Thursday. Now, I want to talk about Mister Dillett.”
“And the fact that he’s dead?”
“And the fact that you killed him.”
“Not much I can do about it now.”
“What do you think I’m going to ask you, Raph?”
“I don’t know.”
“You do. Come on.”
I shrugged. We could go like this for hours. I didn’t mind. Chief could hang tough unlike most of my socials. I remember the old guy with the professor glasses. When I talked like this, his pale bald head would turn pink. The young girls fresh out of college sometimes would cry and run out of the room. Trying to break Chief was hunting big game.
“Well?” she said.
I knew what she wanted me to say but I wasn’t going to say it.
“Well what? He attacked me first.”
“Right. That’s what he did. But we’re not talking about him. We’re talking about you. No matter what happens, you control your own reaction.”
I shrugged. “It was him or me.”
“Was it really? Tell me what happened, Raph. We’re going to go over it until. Until what?”
“Until I learn to do the right thing.”
“Very good,” she took a sip of her coffee. “Now tell me.”
“I don’t know, Chief. I just, I just did what I did. I don’t remember much of it.”
“That’s convenient. They said you were uncontrollable. They had to use the zapper on you three times to bring you down. You doing any drugs I don’t know about?”
“Nope. None at all, Chief. Check my record.”
“Don’t lie to me. I can order a blood test.”
“Start from the beginning. We’re going to go over the incident in detail and discuss what we can learn from it.”