“I met that man before I got here,” James had whispered while they were getting shackled for the long bus ride to the mines. The three of them were part of a shipment of fifteen long-faced youths in assorted shirts and pants. Their jail considered itself cutting-edge in social reformation. Same reason wardens used the euphemism “bunkmates” instead of “cellmates”: sounded better. Wearing donated clothes that inmates washed themselves was considered rehabilitative. A life-skill of boxers and holey socks hung on bunk-rungs to dry.
“What man?” Bobby had asked.
“Someone,” James had hissed. James always knew “someone.” Rarely closely—he had a knack for making people angry. As soon as Marcus learned the word “mercurial,” he knew exactly whom it fit. James had been raised by a gang, and if that group was anything like the bunch he himself had run with, in which individuals turned against each other to gain favor with the marshals, Marcus doubted gang life taught good friendships.
(Excerpt from “Apples in Applath”)
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