Gated 1A

Harlan Ellison used to writie in the windows of bookshops and post the first draft pages on the window. They Might Be Giants have a dial-a-song line where they put up their first thoughts. I've never been a quick writer, spending much of my time researching as I go along, editing and re-editing until anything hits the light of day. Until today.

Here is the first part of my story "Gated," chosen by contest winner Kelsey Hair of Berkeley. the original write up, on April 27, 2012 was: It becomes customary for poor students to renege on their multi-million-dollar college loans and take the felony conviction and mandatory 10 year sentence. Most go into the military. But a few take the prison route to serve time with relatives. In time the students become teachers of the other inmates, and the two groups work together to change America back into a democracy.

This would have been posted a little sooner, except I damaged my computer while testing a USB hub I was wiring into a platypus. True story, Anyway, the computer is better, and this is slightly more edited. So, away we go with "Gated." © Tony Jonick, 2012

------------------------------------------------

 Daoud leaned against Sather gate, watching the girls walking on and off campus. The gate’s green bronze was cool on his skin as the spring sun heated the air. It was early March, still cool enough in the year for everyone to show skin, and he could feel the air thrumming with need and desire. The need to be seen, the desire to be desired. He flexed nonchalantly, trying to catch any passing smile that lingered.

He wasn't seriously on the hunt, though. Mostly enjoying the view until Eric joined him for lunch. He thought he’d tasted ripeness in high school, but these gals seemed ready to drop from the trees.

"Does that ever work?" a voice asked, piping and sweet.

"What?" He turned, confused, then got his bearings. 

A girl, half-Asian eyes, about a meter-point75. Her mouth was half in a sneer, but her eyes were laughing.

One thing Daoud had learned early was when in doubt, maintain eye contact and smile knowingly. Then hold it just a little longer than seems right. "Does what work?"

"Leaning around, rolling your shoulders like you've got a back spasm."

He chuckled. "You'd be surprised."

Her eyes lost some of their laughter. He was approaching the line of being a douche, and they both knew it.

"Sorry, just waiting for my friend to get out of ROTC. It's just such a gorgeous day, y'know?"

The light came back in to her face. "Yeah, that's for sure. Enjoy 'em while we can. You on the long plan?"

"'I ain't no Senator's son,'" he quoted from the classic song.

"Some of us are meeting off-campus to talk about the true cost of war in the Pacific," she explained. "I'd love it if you could be there."

This was her line, and they both knew it.

Daoud pulled out his private dipIn, the one he could wipe at a moment's notice, with a little fry tab if necessary. She pulled hers out too--obviously her non-public one, too--and tapped his. They made a tiny steel-marble-on-glass chime as they swapped information.

"Address, and time," she piped.

Eric arrived, blonde-red hair and a touch of coffee in his cream skin that indicated some of his great-grandparents past owned one of his other great-grandparents past. In the current euphemism, a long line of southern gentlemen must have "had their way" with a long line of increasingly light-skinned women. Eric was tall, in crisp ROTC khakis, striped down the pants, short-sleeved shirt open to let out heat.

"See you tonight?" she asked flirtatiously. It was low blow, but amused Daoud. He couldn't admit to not meeting a pretty girl with another dude nearby.

"You know it! See you--“

"Rae."

"Rae, right!" He waved as she walked away.

"I can't leave you alone for a minute!" Eric laughed.

Daoud smiled and pushed his shoulders off the gate, and they set off for lunch.

Though The Greater Berkeley University of West America nominally only ran South to the end of the block, they were safely enclosed all the way down Telegraph for another Km or so until they hit the razor-wire fence that marked the campus patrol jurisdiction. The gate into Oakland was only lightly monitored as there was a huge freehold buffer between the campus and Merritt River.

It was on the other side of the river where things got dicey. At least until you hit the gates and guard towers of the Old Oak prison. The area on both sides of the fortified gates were relatively quiet under the eyes of the guards. But things became exponentially worse the farther into the prison you got. The tales that came out of there were so horrible that any intelligent person had no choice but to pretend the prison didn’t even exist.

© Tony Jonick 2013