Sunday, October 10, 2010

Jervis Girls' Jail

Elation didn’t come easy when you had to sit with your ass sunk into a yellow, molded plastic chair under the hairy eyeballs of The Hag, but Nya mustered a smile as she took the receiver. Soon, she would be out of this place, away from The Hag, and Miss Grits, and Sweet Baboon and the rest of the bitchy staff at the Jervis Girls’ Jail, Home for Fucked Up Rejects, and she wasn’t coming back.

She heard it ringing on The Dog’s end. The Hag sort of oozed her saggy butt up onto the other desk like she meant to stick around, and her long tits deflated a little under the ratty sweater. The old lady stared down from beneath her monobrow. Creepy bitch, Nya thought. Anything—even Jailbait and The Dog—was better than this. You couldn’t even make a phone call without three weeks’ good behavior, a permission form signed by two administrators, and a fat old hag eavesdropping on your every word. They’d scared her straight all right. Six months in Jervis and she couldn’t wait to live by her father’s standards, under his roof and his rules.


Nya choked a bit, but she would be nice to Jailbait if it killed her. She’d changed. What business of hers was it if her dad married a nineteen-year-old gold-digging slut when her mom hadn’t even been dead two years? She would just finish high school like a normal, non-incarcerated kid. Plug her ears up at night. Smile every morning at a step-mom who had been a senior when she was a freshman.

“Hi, Janice. Can I talk to my dad?”

“I thought they didn’t let you make phone calls.”

Nya could picture her lying on the couch in a white satin pajama top and a pair of red panties. You couldn’t deny the smoking hotness of Jailbait Janice. She forced the cheer into her voice. “They don’t let you make phone calls without permission. I have permission. So, please, will you put my father on the line?”

“He’s sort of busy right now.”

“This is sort of important.” Her voice felt sickly sweet, sort of rotten, but The Hag favored her with a wrinkled smile, like she’d gotten it right.

She heard Jailbait fake whispering, “It’s the kid.” She made “the kid” sound like a creeping skin infection. She couldn’t tell what The Dog said back to her.

They both giggled before he got on the line. “What now?” he snapped.

“Dad, I had my court date today.”

“Well, you earned your punishment. Maybe this time you’ll learn your lesson.”

She gritted her teeth, then took a cleansing breath. The Hag gave her a thumbs up. “I did learn my lesson. I’ve had, like, group therapy, and I’ve addressed my anger issues so I can channel my emotions in appropriate ways. I know that I have to respect you and your decisions because you’re my father, and I understand that Janice is your decision, and I want you to know that I’m happy for you, I’m glad you’re happy. I got my feelings about Mom’s death mixed up with my feelings about your marriage. I know my behavior was totally inappropriate. I’m a different person, and the judge said I could come home.”

She took another deep breath. “Whenever you want to come and get me, I can go. I swear, there’s not going to be any problems. None.”

For a moment, she heard nothing but the distant babble of the TV on the other end. Canned laughter. An almost-familiar advertising jingle. She could count on one hand the number of times she’d watched TV in the shelter.

Finally, The Dog made a noise halfway between a grunt and a sigh. “What makes you think I want you here?”


“After the way you acted, all the things you said. Lying to the cops! Trying to get Janice fired! Stealing from me! And now you want to come home? Six months isn’t nearly long enough. I’m still paying Grandma back for what you did to her car.”

Nya twisted the old-fashioned cord around her wrist, tight, until her hand almost turned white, but let it go. She didn’t have to do anything like that anymore. “I’m sorry. I said I was sorry. I’ll get a job. I’ll pay everyone back. I’ll make it all up to you.” The Hag started nodding like some stupid bobble head doll.

“It’s a little late for that, Nya. They got it right the first time. The shelter really is the best option.”

“But the judge said—”

“The judge can take your freeloading ass into his house, if that’s how he feels. He can let you eat his food and insult his wife and run up his credit card. You’re his business, not mine. Please don’t call here again.”

The next thing she knew, Nya had her face buried in the worn, soft knap of the Hag’s sweater, her cheek pressed into those low hanging boobs, while the old lady’s hand smoothed down her hair. “There, there,” The Hag crooned. “He’s a fool. You’re a good girl, Nya, and anyway Miss Gibbons will find you a better place,” and Nya clung to the old lady like it was her own mother and the old lady smelled good, like sugar.