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A Patient Man

Whether you've been there or not, we're all afraid of prison.

Beau Johnson gives us a deeper, more acute reason to fear the big house.

A Patient Man by Beau Johnson



My momma taught me to be a patient man. If it’s anything, it’s this I give her credit for.  The rest?  Well, she can suck a stick for all I care.

All told, it took four of them to hold me down but only one to make me scream. 

Big Jess is what they called him.  Head queer of cell block 9.  Bald fucker lived up to his name too; still don’t sit right when the chair I choose is mostly made of wood.  Eyeliner and all, he ate at the worst type of mean, and the whole place knew it.  Cred was cred though; reason why he ruled the roost.

“You been duckin’ me, I know.”  

This is what he says to me as his bitches turn me round.  We’re in the laundry, the lot of us, and I’m up against the cold steel of a big industrial.  “But Big Jess gets what Big Jess wants.”  The bull queer growled as well, like a goddamned animal in heat, which is pretty much apt now that I think about it.  Why it’d been me---this I still don’t know.

“You ‘bout ready, boy?”  

What could I say?  The man was twice my size.  Muscle as well as meat.  Looking back, perhaps I should have hit the courtyard more, built myself up.

“I will kill you.  You realize this.”  The last words I spoke until they un-wired my jaw.  Finished, Big Jess’s boys beat me to within an inch of what I called my life.  I bled from everywhere it seemed, every orifice on fire.

“Fuck, Hollister!  My wife gives up better head squattin’ on the shitter!”  This was after they took my teeth, once they’d been introduced to tile.  Lucky to be alive?  Sure.  No doubt.  Four months later I’m back in gen pop, but fortunate for me I’d made some new friends in the time it took to heal.   Promises made ensured protection was kept.  Three years down the line I’m a free man with a debt I was more than happy to oblige. 

Debt paid, I’m free to look up that wife Big Jess had mentioned. 

Found, it’s easy enough to keep tabs and bide my time.  As I’ve mentioned, the one thing my momma got right in this life---this patience I exude.  Fast forward eighteen months and word is Big Jess has managed early release.

After that, well, as they say---fish and barrels.

Eight in all and all stinky as fuck, I pay methheads to take as many turns as they possibly can.  Then I paid them to stand in line again.  By time they’re done she needs a zipper to make her even close to being right.

Big Jess comes home early the next day, wondering why the missus hadn’t been there at the fence to pick his ass up.  He’s all bothered, all holler, and then he freezes as he steps in the room and understands my face.

“She asked for you, Jess, she did,” I don’t raise my voice.  Only state it matter of fact.  Wanted him to figure it out for himself, you see, so it clicked and clacked and cemented into place.  He rages instead, running at me, and I drop him before he’s even half way to the chair.  The report is thunderous, and for a moment I think I’ve gone deaf, but then there is a ringing, and I realize things will be alright.  If not, no matter. 

As I’ve said, I’m a patient man.   


In Canada, with his wife and three boys, Beau Johnson lives, writes and breathes. He has been published before, on the darker side of town. Such places might include Underground Voices, the Molotov Cocktail, and Shotgun Honey. He would like it to be known that it is an honor to be here, down in the Gutter.