It had been ten days since the incident in the gym, and Tobias Beecher wasn’t sure
how much more abuse he could take. It wasn’t the taunting in the cafeteria or the
looming threat of the Aryan Brother hood. Those problems he knew. He had faced
them and won. Or so he thought. But those were nothing compared to the
punishment he served himself daily. Nothing like liberal doses of self-hatred to get
those juices flowing. Everything had happened so quickly, and so soon after his
relapse, that his mind didn’t know what to make of it all, and his body was paying the
Three days in, he was still making an attempt to function in this warped society known
as Oz. Going to work, eating in the cafeteria. Once he tried going to the gym to
sweat out his frustration, but at the mere sight of the wrestling mats on the
gymnasium floor, the world had crashed down on him. It felt as if the entire weight of
the cosmos was resting upon his chest. No, not the cosmos, for even that could not
compare with the weight of Beecher’s guilt. He found the nearest guard and made his
way back to Em City, and to the safety of his pod, incomplete as it was without
That was the last day he had gone to work.
The next few days were spent wandering to the cafeteria and back to Em City, where
he would lay on his bunk and wait until it was time to eat again. The down time could
easily be passed. O’Reilly had offered him a game of chess or checkers, and there was
always Miss Sally. But he simply passed on these offers with a silent shake of his
head and returned to his pod to read.
Four days and six books into his self-enforced solitude, the routine was broken. The
disturbance came in the form of one Tim McManus, hell bent on helping his fellow
man. In other words, Sister Pete was worried and had asked Tim to check up on
Tobias. It hadn’t gone so well.
“Beecher.” McManus called his name while knocking on the glass door. Tobias didn’t
answer him, only acknowledging the unit manager with a slight look away from his
“Beecher,” McManus repeated, “Can I talk to you for a minute?”
“Sure,” Beecher gave in, closing his book. “It’s not like I’ve got anything better to
McManus appeared apprehensive, not quite sure where to begin. “Sister Pete told me
you haven’t been showing up for work.”
“Yeah.” Beecher replied nonchalantly. “So?”
“Well, she also happened to express concern over a conversation the two of you had.”
“She did what? I was talking to her in - “
“Whoa, whoa. Whoa! Don’t go getting your knickers all in a twist there, Beecher.
Sister Pete didn’t break any confidences. But, you know, you do live in a glass pod.
We all saw that little floor show you and Keller put on the other day. Look, you’re
not the first man in here to have feelings towards another, and you certainly won’t be
the last. What she’s worried about - what WE’RE worried about are the ramifications
this will cause.”
“Ramifications.” It wasn’t a question.
“Yeah, Beecher, ramifications. Repercussions. Whatever the hell you want to call
them, it spells trouble. Like what happened in the gym. What the hell was that?”
“Nothing? You call *that* nothing? Metzger’s dead, Schillinger’s in the hole, and
Keller’s in the hospital, and *nothing* happened?” McManus tried to continue, but
Beecher was just staring at him in disbelief. “You know, I’d really like to find out
how the scene the O’Reilly brothers walked into the other day constitutes -”
“Chris is in the hospital?” Tobias’ words weren’t much more than a whisper.
Cut off mid-rant, McManus fought the urge to break out into hysterical laughter.
“Yeah, Beecher, he’s in the hospital. Where’d you think he’d be, Club Med?”
“You mean, he’s alive?” Understanding finally filled both men as, for the first time in
over a week, Toby looked like he wasn’t waiting to be led to the gas chamber. The
former lawyer’s eyes lit up, and McManus caught a glimpse of the love Sister Pete
had hinted at when she approached him. Unfortunately, this only made what he was
going to have to do even harder.
“No, Beecher, he’s not dead. His wounds were relatively superficial.”
“Does that mean he’ll be coming back soon?”
“Doctor Nathan says he should be released in a few days,” McManus paused, seeing
the look of happiness on Beecher’s face. “But he won’t be coming back to Emerald
Tobias’ face went blank as his brain tried to process what McManus had said. His next
words, spoken after a brief pause, seemed a jumble of incoherent thoughts. “But...
He... What...” His gaze raised to allow him to meet McManus’ eyes, and he drew a
deep breath as he seemed to finally decide on “Why?”.
McManus felt for Beecher, he really did. But in Oz, you couldn’t allow your feelings
to get the better of you. In Oz, an inmate would just as soon kiss your ass as accuse
you of harassment. So, no, McManus didn’t play favorites, or at least he tried not to.
But still, now and then, a man had to show compassion.
“Well, I was kind of hoping you could help me out with that. Here’s the deal. He says
he won’t room with you. He says he can’t come back to Em City. But he won’t say
why. After what happened in the gym, I’m tempted to go along with his little whim of
fancy - I’m not sure it’s the best idea to keep the two of you so close together.
Unfortunately, there’s nowhere else to put him right now. But he’s completely
clamed up, won’t talk about anything. Just says that he won’t come near you. Now,
are you going to help explain this at all, or are you going to join your comrade in
arms in taking the fifth?”
“I...” Beecher had a pained look on his face, as if he were struggling internally. “I
don’t know what I could say that would help you out. I don’t know what happened
in the gym.”
“Well, what about why he won’t come back?” McManus was thoroughly frustrated,
but thought that he saw a way out of this situation without getting too entangled in it.
“Beecher, you damn well know I can’t go around transferring people without a good
Beecher had blocked out a good deal of his first year in Oz, in a futile attempt to stay
sane. But, still, he remembered large chunks of it. Enough to know that McManus
was lying through his teeth. And it seemed that this was what McManus had been
counting on. “Well, then, I’m sorry I can’t help you. I don’t know what happened. I
don’t even know why he’s been mad at me the past few weeks.”
“Then I suppose I have no choice but to bring him back to Em City.” McManus
feigned one of his exasperated sighs. “In hopes of keeping the peace, however, I will
be placing him in a different pod. Tomorrow you’ll be getting a new podmate.”
“Fine,” Beecher said as he laid back down on his bunk and picked up his book.
“I said fine,” he muttered, using his book as cover.
“Are you... Do you want to talk to Sister-”
At this, he looked up and stared into McManus’ eyes with a look of steel. “No, I don’t
want to talk to Sister Pete. You’ve done your good deed for the day, so why don’t
you just leave me the hell alone and we can both go back to our miserable lives.”
Toby punctuated this last sentence by rolling away onto his side, away from
McManus, and successfully putting an end to their conversation.
True to his words, the next day McManus had graced Toby with a new roommate. At
least he had had the common sense not to bring him over himself. Instead, Wittlesey
interrupted his morning reverie, holding the door open for Hill.
“Brought him back to you, Beech,” she said with a smile.
Beecher glared at her for a moment before replying, “Gee, thanks.”
Hill rolled into the pod, his bedding on his lap, while Wittlesey backed out, closing the
door. “Not like I’m too excited to be back in your fart factory, but you know, you
could look a little less like you’d rather kill yourself than be my roommate.”
With Wittlesey gone, there was nobody else to witness the hatred in Beecher’s eyes.
“Wow, didn’t realize I was inheriting an audience as well as a roommate. Sorry if my
one-man show isn’t to your liking.”
“You know, man, I was just trying to lighten-”
Beecher cut him off. “Save it. You know why you were moved in here, and so does
the rest of Em City. And right now, the last thing I need it you trying to cheer me
Hill knew nothing if not how to keep the peace and so wordlessly, he put his
belongings on the lower bunk and rolled out of the pod.
Beecher’s new podmate had arrived two days ago, and while there hadn’t been any
fights, there hadn’t been anything remotely resembling a conversation, either.
After that first pep talk, McManus apparently found it prudent to avoid him, so
Beecher at least didn’t have to worry about gathering the strength for another
confrontation with the self-appointed savior of Em City.
For Beecher, his dive into the realm of silence was merely an act of self-preservation.
Every voice spoken to him was like a blinding light behind his eyes. Worse than that,
every time he spoke, his voice threatened to collapse. It was as if it were the dam in
that children’s’ story, and that little boy’s finger just wasn’t going to hold it together
much longer. So, instead, he chose not to speak, and the dam of his emotions held
strong one day more.
And so it was that, for the past two days, Beecher had found himself completely and
utterly alone with his thoughts.
For the most part, they were thoughts of Chris. Two days Beecher had spent reliving
the scene in the gym, not to mention the days leading up to it. His mind simply could
not wrap itself around Chris’ attitudes and mood swings. It had tried, God knows it
had tried. It had tried and failed, and was ready to give up. Just shut down
completely. Who needed all those pesky thought processes anyway?
So deep in thought, Beecher had ignored the comings and goings of his pod mate all
afternoon. In to brush his teeth after lunch, out to watch Miss Sally. Back in to get
his magazines, and out again for a pow-wow with O’Reilly. On and on it went. So
when the door opened yet again on this tenth day of solitude, Tobias Beecher didn’t
even hear it. What he did hear, however, was a voice calling out to him.
“Beecher,” it sounded as though he were in a deep fog.
“Beecher,” the voice called again, a bit clearer now.
But it was the soft “Toby” that made him roll over and seek out his intruder.
When he saw who it was, he stopped his turn and sat straight up in his bunk.
Gathering all his strength, Toby uttered his first word in two days.
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