Toby smiled instantly in compliance, raising his eyes from Vern's boots. "Yes, sir?"
"Are you ready for your ass fucking?"
Toby nearly winced. It was the language, not the act. He ducked his head and wheedled, "Sir, I'm sore. Could you . . . do something else?"
Vern laughed. It barked out of him like the rottweiler he was. "You see, this is what I'm talking about. I just don't think you get it!"
Toby pulled his arms and legs in close, sitting almost hunched over on the bottom bunk. He got it. He completely understood, but some part of him kept thinking that Vern would give him a break. He obeyed. He did. Didn't he deserve something?
"I'm sorry, sir."
"Pretty damn sorry, yes, but let me explain it again." Vern stood right over him and slapped him across the side of the head. "You went to college, and you're still a fucking idiot."
"Yes, sir." Toby thought college had been pretty bad training for the trouble he found himself in right now. Frat Party 101 didn't help him deal with Vern.
"Shut up!" Vern hit him again. "You're my prag. Whatever I need or want, it's your job to take care of it!"
"I understand, sir." Toby didn't make the mistake of rubbing his head, not again. "I just thought that since I'm such a good prag, you might-" He caught the look of complete disdain that fell over Vern's ugly face and stopped talking. He was an idiot.
Vern sighed. "So fucking stupid." He put his boot on Toby's thigh and climbed onto the top bunk. Toby pressed his lips together and focused on the pain instead of his shame. Vern's legs crossed and swung right in his face. The message was obvious, and Toby didn't lie down or move away. He liked breathing. He stared at the boots and tried to find some meaning behind it all. Before prison, he'd only seen Nazis on TV. Someone would always remark, 'Look at those idiots,' and he'd agree. Nazis were stupid. It was a fact of nature. But Vern wasn't stupid. He was twisted, smart, and even canny. Not only did he know the score, he'd probably put up most of the points.
Toby noticed a smudge on the right boot. He'd have to make sure to get it off. Was it food, shit, or someone's blood? He didn't want to know. "Want me to clean your boots now, sir?"
"It'll give you something to do besides whimper."
Toby slid off the bunk and started unlacing them. He kept his eyes on the boots, not the man that tromped around in them. Easing them off Vern's feet, he put them on his bunk and got out the shoeshine kit that he'd made when it became obvious that he'd be doing this every night.
"I'm going to rest. You shut the fuck up."
"Yes sir," Toby said quietly. He picked up the right boot and made sure his lips were firmly together. One sound and he'd get a beating to go with his ass fucking. Shifting on his butt until he found a comfortable spot, he focused on the boot. It was a hateful thing, and that was definitely blood. Some poor guy like him had gotten in the way of Vern today while Toby was at work. Thank God for Sister Pete. For a few hours a day, he was safe, or as safe as he could be in Oz.
One of the officers or 'hacks' banged his nightstick into the door. Toby pushed his glasses back and stared at him as he walked away. Apparently, they did that just for fun, like rattling cages at the zoo. His throat suddenly tightened and he covered his mouth to make sure no sound got out. He needed a drink. Bad. He'd been sober since his arrest. Bail had been denied. Some whiskey right now would be great, or even cheap beer. He turned the boot around and started on the other side. That was definitely macaroni and cheese, which wasn't food, even if kids did eat it. Did his kids eat it? He wasn't sure. It was hard to picture his wife making it. Hell, it was hard to remember his wife. He was Vern's wife now--laundry, cleaning, and wishing for more filled his days. Had she felt oppressed? He saw the world differently now, or he thought he did.
"I saw you talking to O'Reily today. He's a mick scumbag. Stay away from him."
"Yes, sir," Toby said automatically. He started rubbing the heel. O'Reily wasn't a scumbag, not really. He was an opportunist and a survivor. With the proper education, he'd have made a great defense lawyer--the sleazy kind that always pulls some maneuver to win, makes lots of money and shoves it up his nose. Toby needed a friend that wasn't a Nazi. He stopped rubbing the heel and started on the upper leathers. There were no friends in Oz, but he wanted one.
"Did you just sigh?"
Toby hoped not. "No, sir." The silence above him was only slightly reassuring. Vern loved to hurt him. It didn't make sense, but it was true. Toby had never wanted to hurt anyone, except himself. If Vern would just be a little nice, this wouldn't be completely awful. "Do you always have a prag, sir?"
"I'm a man. A man has needs."
Toby had a feeling that he'd better shut up or he'd get that speech about the difference between a prag and a pussy faggot, but he had his answer. Vern's needs were more important than anything. Toby filled his days and nights with those needs. He examined the boot closely. It looked good. Whether it was good enough was impossible to tell, but he put it aside and started on the toe of the other one.
These boots were made for walking, and one of these days my boots are gonna walk all over you!
Toby bit his lip to keep from giggling at the crazy song that flitted through his head. These boots did walk all over him, and he said thank you each time. It was easier than the alternative. After all, what other choice did he have? He was weak, so he'd take it. It just happened to be Vern giving it to him. Vern was better than Adebisi. Right? Toby wasn't sure. He wiped off some ketchup and licked the rag to get it good and wet. Vern needed some boot polish. Maybe his birthday was coming up. Toby wiped his forehead. He was going crazy. Why else would he even think of Vern's birthday?
Vern slid off the top bunk, and Toby froze for a second before rubbing harder. Toby was careful not to watch him get ready for lights out. Even a glance could get him in trouble.
"When you finish those, clean this shit up over here!"
"Yes, sir." Toby turned the boot and started on the side. He focused on the leather. Some poor cow had died to make these boots. Vern would probably make boots out of Toby's hide--and laugh about it.
"Your swastika still hurt?"
Toby looked up at him. That couldn't be concern. Could it? "Yes, sir."
"Good. Is it infected?"
Toby heard it now. It was glee. Happiness at his pain. "I can't exactly see it."
Vern's eyes grew dangerous. "Get over here and show me."
Toby knew that begging would get him nowhere. He also knew that the longer it took him to get there, the worse it would be later, and yet, and yet, some part of him made him hesitate. Fumbling, he nearly fell. Vern wrenched him up, turned him around, and shoved him. Toby bent over and shut his eyes as his sweats were pushed down around his knees.
"Damn. I do good work. You're the envy of every prag in this place." Vern brushed his hand over it, squeezing. It hurt! "No pus. You're fine. If McManus ever asks, it was your idea. Out of devotion to the cause, you understand?"
Toby didn't, but he had a feeling that he couldn't. "Yes, sir." He didn't try to lean up. Vern shoved him away. Toby tried not to fall, and the door opened.
"Beecher, you want to spend some time in the hole?"
"No, please." Toby jerked his sweats up and tried to plead with his eyes. "He was just making sure I don't need to see the doctor."
Mineo laughed. "I bet. So, what's the verdict, Schillinger?"
"He's fine." Vern smiled and crossed his arms. "He needs someone to look after him."
"And you're the best man for the job." Mineo slapped his nightstick in his hand. "Beecher, don't be stupid." And he left. The door locked behind him. Toby sighed in relief. He didn't want to go to the hole, not ever.
Vern gave him a smack on the ass. "You heard the officer." He laughed and found his toothbrush.
Toby took the break to return to the boot and the relative safety of his bunk. It was only a dangerous place to be after lights out. His ass burned, but he sat on it anyway. He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes for a bare second. No tears, thank God, but he wanted to cry. Holding it back was difficult and made worse by the fact that he needed a drink! He licked his lips and stared at the boot. This was his life. He spent his day underneath it, his evening cleaning it, and his night staring at it, wishing he could gnaw on it. He picked up the rag and started polishing.
"Put some spit into it!"
Toby spat on it and rubbed. He had this--nothing else. The spit was a good symbol of what he'd become. No, it represented what he'd always been, and he was too old to change.
"Stupid fucking prag."
Toby nearly flinched at the harsh words. He had to get used to it, but it still hurt. Was it the truth inside that made it sting so badly or was it something else? He didn't know. It was something to think about while he was polishing boots. Turning the boot, he felt a prickle of fear tap its way down his spine, and he looked up. Vern's eyes were hard on him.
"And don't forget it," Vern snarled. He put his hands on his hips. "There ain't nobody here but you and me, so don't think you can ignore me!"
"I would never, sir." Toby shook his head fast. He must have missed something. Fading into his brain was a bad place to be.
Vern still didn't look happy, but then again, he never did. "Get finished. Lights out is in fifteen minutes, and you're going to busy after that!"
Toby wished Vern would stop yelling. It was a six by nine box of glass. There was no need to raise his voice. Toby worked fast, finished the boots, put them near his bunk where Vern liked them, and went to the sink. He did brush his own teeth. It was a risk, but he needed some part of him to feel clean.
The lights snapped off and the horn rang. Had he ever hated anything as much as he did that? No, not even himself. Vern chuckled. It was a terrible sound. "Come kiss me goodnight."
Toby went right to him and kissed him on the cheek. "Goodnight, sir."
"For me, at least." Vern caught him around the back of the neck with one hand and squeezed. "I'm the only thing that stands between you and five or six black men."
"Yes, sir." Toby never forgot, but the fear of it was gone. Nothing could be worse than Vern. Toby dredged up a smile. "Thank you."
"That's what I like to hear. Makes me think you still love me." Vern squeezed a little harder. "You do, right?"
Toby didn't understand this behavior. It mystified him. Vern hurt him, laughed about it, and insisted that Toby love him. He had to know it was all faked. Toby nodded as much as he could. "I love you." The words didn't bother him. Every good lawyer knew that words meant nothing, even if they were in writing. Why did Vern like hearing lies? Nothing about this made sense. Toby knew what was coming next. It was the same every night. Vern wasn't much on variety.
"Good." Vern wrapped his other hand around Toby's neck. They were close enough for Toby to touch him, but he wouldn't. That would be acting like a faggot, and if he were a fag, Vern would kill him. What came next had to be against his will or at least unpleasant. Toby's ass twinged and he desperately tried to think of a way out of this. Words were useless. Fighting back was ridiculous. Acting enthusiastic was impossible and would get him killed. He resisted the tiniest bit, just to test the waters.
Vern put his thumbs under Toby's chin and made him look up. "Keeping me happy is your job here in Oz."
The answer was right there. Toby relaxed, and Vern shoved him down hard. Toby's face was buried in Vern's boxers for a moment, and then Vern pushed him back. Toby took a shallow breath, balanced on his knees, and made up his mind. The only way to save his ass was to do a good job with his mouth for a change. He didn't want to, but that could be ignored. Eagerness would be a mistake, but competence couldn't be argued with. About the only thing he was first-rate at was sucking down martinis, so he'd have to use that expertise to buy his ass enough time to heal.
"What are you waiting for?" Vern yanked Toby's glasses off and tossed them on the bunk. "Get some spit on it!"
Toby knew any answer would earn him a smack on the head. He pushed the boxers down and tried to remember what he liked when Genevieve sucked his cock. Wait. Had she ever done that? He wasn't sure. Maybe. He shifted on his knees, put his hands on Vern's bare ass, and pretended he was working on a long neck, imported, with a lime in it. Vern's cock wasn't huge, like Adebisi's, but it was big enough, and when it banged the back of Toby's throat he nearly gagged. Desperate to keep his fantasy intact, he switched from beer to Jim Bean, straight from the bottle.
Toby shut his eyes, kept the whiskey in front of him, and swallowed. His hands caressed the label lovingly.
"What the fuck are you doing?"
Toby rolled it around in his mouth, enjoying the classic smoked flavor of a fine southern whiskey. Oh. It was so good. Nothing better and how he loved the oblivion that followed. He sank into it gratefully.
Toby was shocked at the burst of come in his throat. That was not the mellow taste of his first love. He managed to swallow though. His ass banged into the floor, and he bit back a cry of pain.
"You little cocksucker!" Vern yanked up his boxers.
Toby wiped his mouth and stayed down. He had no idea if that was a good thing or bad. "Sir?" A safe question.
"Get on your fucking bunk." Vern pointed. He looked somewhere between stunned and pissed off.
Toby scrambled and grunted softly at the expected blow to his stomach. Hunched over, he rocked on the bunk and tried to breathe. A sense of wonder at his own skill spread over him. It must be instinctive because he hadn't practiced. A born cocksucker. Not exactly resume material, but here in Oz, it might save his ass. One thing for sure: Vern was done for the night--he never went twice. Toby's breath returned, he fumbled for his glasses, and put them safely away. His ass thanked his mouth and he swallowed again. He'd invest in mint toothpaste to combat the tang.
Vern was uncharacteristically silent. He might be in shock. Toby let a real smile spread over his face. One night of peace and quiet and he owed it all to his love of bottles. He tossed his clothes to the end of the bunk, crawled under the sheet and thin blanket, and curled around himself. Sleep was a good idea. Tomorrow would be difficult--like every day in here.
"I'm going to enjoy finding jobs for that talented mouth of yours."
Toby refused to worry about it. That was later. Right now he was safe from an ass-pounding. A small victory in a world where he never won a damn thing. He stuck his tongue out at the boots and rolled over to go to sleep.