"Gonna have yer sweet white ass later."
The greeting Max Fisher got from his towering black cell mate, Rufus.
Max thought, Whoa, hold the phones, there's gotta be some mistake. Was he in the right place? Where was the V.I.P. treatment? Where was Martha Fucking Stewart? Where were those bastards from Enron? How come there wasn't a goddamn tennis court in sight? Yeah, Max knew Attica wasn’t Club Fed, but he didn’t expect this. He thought a big-time player like himself would get the, you know, special treatment but, Jesus, not this kind of special treatment. He thought he’d work on his backhand, get some stock tips, learn how to crochet, maybe start working out, lose some of the extra forty pounds he’d been lugging around. Maybe the guard took him to the wrong part of the prison. Didn't prisons have neighborhoods just like cities? Max was supposed to be on the Upper East Side, but by accident they'd brought him to the goddamn South Bronx.
Max clutched the bars, said to the guard, a young black guy, "Hey, come back here, yo." Yeah, Max spoke hip-hop, one of his many talents. The guard didn't stop and Max shouted, "Hey, asshole, I think there's been a little fucking screw-up around here!" Yeah, let the fuck know who was boss, like the time he was dining at Le Cirque and the maitre d’ sat him at a table with a dirty tablecloth. Max let that motherfucker have it all right.
The guard, walking away, laughed, said, "Naw, I think there's gonna be a big screw up, Fisher. Inside yo’ ass."
His laughter echoed in the corridor until a gate slammed. That's when it finally hit Max—he was fucked. Up till that point he'd been living the high life, in every sense of the word, blitzed from morning till night. He’d once been a highly successful businessman, then he’d had his nagging wife murdered by a psycho mick and things had gone south faster than you could shout bust. But rising if not from the ashes exactly, he’d re-invented himself as a dope dealer, and not only that, a goddamn Scarface. It didn’t last very long, though. He enlisted Kyle, a young hick from way down south, and to say the kid got, um, screwed is to put it very politely.
Throughout his more than colorful career, Max had been haunted, okay plagued, by an Irish-Greek woman named Angela, AKA heat on heels. She twice fucked up his life and twice walked clean away. He blamed her for his current situation as he blamed her for all his fucking misfortunes. And yet, fuckit, he still got a hard-on when he thought about her. But, Jeez, a hard-on was one thing he did not wanna see right now, in this cage with Rufus.
Scared shitless, Max looked up to God, or at least toward the fucking ceiling, and asked, "Why me?" Yeah, he'd been found guilty of dealing and the judge had thrown the book at him, calling him a, what the fuck was the term? Oh, yeah, "a scourge of our society." But Max didn’t think the judge had really, like, meant it. During the trial, etcetera, Max had been so out of it on dope, he’d thought he was some kind of rock star, waving to the crowds, and he expected to be found innocent. Yeah, they were some seriously good drugs. Finally out of the haze of the drugs, the booze gone from his system, Max realized he was actually going to the freaking slammer. He screamed at his lawyer, "Get me out of this, I don’t care what it costs!"
His lawyer had actually smiled, the bollix smiled! Yeah, bollix—Max’s speech was littered with Irish-isms from all the mad deranged micks he’d encountered the past couple of years.
The lawyer had said, "Maxie, you’re broke. You’ve got like zilch, nada."
Max got the picture, but...Maxie? The fuck was with that? Dios Mio. See, he still had his flair for languages, even spoke spic after his time dealing dope to a crew of Columbanos.
His lawyer had said to him, "Keep your head down."
He’d be keeping his head down alright, on Rufus it seemed. He’d heard they ran a train through new fish and this was not a train you wanted to board, as it involved lots of guys and your ass.
The reality of the situation had sunk in when the verdict came down but, as he so often did, he’d managed to look at the bright side. Hey, what could you say, he was a positive thinker, an optimistic dude. Maybe this was a reflection of his spiritual training. Yeah, he was a Buddhist, knew how to get into himself, and knew how to not let the negativity of the physical world affect him. He’d asked himself, as he often did during times when his life went to shit, What would Gandhi do in a situation like this? He wouldn't be panicking, that was for damn sure. He'd be getting off on it, acting like, Yeah, a harsh jail sentence, it was a bump in the road, they can beat me up but they can't keep me down.
So he’d kept on smoking rock—yeah, he was hooked, so the fuck what?—right up until the day he was due to report to prison, thinking how bad could it be at Attica anyway? Hell, Pacino’d wanted to go there, right? The M.A.X.—that was his dealing name—was a big-time criminal and every famous crime guy had to take a few falls. Look at Dillinger, look at Sutton, look at Capone. It was just part of what you signed up for when you wanted to be the Kingpin, the Big Boss.
As a successful businessman, Max knew that you always had to stay one step ahead of the competition, so to bone up for jail, Max had stocked up on books and DVDs. He’d been given a surveillance bracelet and couldn’t leave his apartment, so what the fuck else was he gonna do? He hadn’t read anything other than the Wall Street Journal since he was in goddamn high school and, let’s face it, he didn’t read the Journal, he just liked to hold it up and stare at it intensely for show, to make people think he was one serious dude who knew his shit. But now he’d started reading for real. The first book: Animal Factory. Edward Bunker, now there was one tough mo’ fo’. Then he checked out Genet’s prison journals till he shouted. "Hold the goddamn phones, this guy is, like, a pillow biter?" The fuck with that. But Stone City by Mitchell Smith, yeah, he liked the hero in that, felt he might take that road himself. Same deal with Green River Rising, Tim Willocks; an innocent guy, caught in a prison riot and, against all the odds, coming out on top. Max could see himself, with true cojones, and of course, total modesty, saving captured hostages, offing the really serious psychos and leading the saved out of the burning prison with CNN capturing it all on live TV.
There was also G.M. Ford’s novel where Frank Corso had to go into the joint and go up against the meanest muthahs this side of the Mississippi. And, of course, the one by that Keith Ablow dude. Yeah, all the Grey Goose he’d been drinking had put Max at the center of all these novels and somewhere in there he’d realized, prison was part of his karma, just one more step in the whole, ok, let’s not be shy, messianic road of Max Fisher.
He’d watched Ed Norton in The 25th Hour and man, he’d wept buckets. They were like spiritual brothers. But fuck, he wasn’t letting anyone beat the shit out of his face, no way Jose. The M.A.X. knew his face was his real ace. The Birdman Of Alcatraz? Didn’t get it. Never once occurred to him he might be, um, sharing. Max had been El Hombre, had like over thirty people working for him—okay, only three, including his chef and live-in ho, but who’s counting?—and he’d tell his employees not brashly, "Let’s get one thing straight. The boss distributes, but share, uh–uh, that don’t happen." Feeling like Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross.
When he’d finished all this reading, he’d been flushed with elation. Whoever played Max in the movie, he’d be a shoo-in for an Oscar. Slam dunk. And, fuck, these books didn’t look like they were so hard to write. You could probably just hire some schmuck to write them for you. Isn’t that what that guy Patterson did? But it wouldn’t be James Patterson "with" Max Fisher—no way that asshole was getting top bill—it would be Fisher with fucking Patterson.
Finally Max had had just forty-eight hours left to, like, get his shit together, put his affairs in order and, fuck, get ready to spend the next half of his life behind bars. Behind bars. The M.A.X. caged? Another book Max had read: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. He got halfway through that one bfore he realized it wasn’t a fucking prison novel.
Max had been renting his penthouse—and he was behind on the rent—no problem there—when you go away, go away owing. He had the phone cut off and all the utilities, but arranged that they be shut down the day he went to the slammer, so he could have his last forty-eight hours in comfort. He was drinking, not like he used to, but putting it away, Grey Goose, a decent brand, Max still had his taste and sensibility. He was also doing some rock, to keep the party balanced. Probably in the nick, as the Brits called it, he’d have a hard time scoring coke or even crack and he’d have to make do with that homemade hooch they brewed from potatoes. Or, get this, he might attend A.A. in the joint, run those meetings on a proper business footing, give them a little of the Max Fisher class. He tried to imagine himself in the actual joint, saw himself sitting on the floor like some suffering monk. Hell, maybe they’d start calling him The M.O.N.K. Yeah, spending his days in quiet mediation, giving out little pearls of Zen, nuggets of compassionate wisdom to the other inmates. Maybe he’d shave his head, look more spiritual. Fuck, why hadn’t he thought of that sooner? Thanks, rock.
On the morning of his last full day of freedom, while taking a morning dump, he stared at his monogrammed towels. He hated to leave them behind but maybe the new tenants, they’d realize they were literally being given a slice of infamy. His reflection, drug induced, showed the eyes of a real caring man, sad but, like, knowing. His face had changed, even he could see that. It was an almost Thomas Merton look, if he could remember who the fuck Merton was. He remembered reading something about Merton living in a sparse cell, writing his seven-story some-shit-or-other. Wasn’t he a monk who’d been, like, hotwired in Bangkok? The fuck was he doing there and messing round with electric fires, wasn’t it, like, hot enough there?
Max took out the electric razor, raised it, the buzz of it making him jump. Fuck, how loud was the freaking thing? But, nope, couldn’t do it. He looked at that gorgeous hair—actually just some thin gray strands surrounding a widening bald spot, but the rock was now seriously lying to him.
With resignation, he said, "It would be a desecration."
He was getting some good wood going and figured he better get that taken care of; wasn’t likely to be much, um, nookie in the joint, definitely not of the female kind. A tear trickled down Max’s cheek. Fuck, The M.A.X. had been hurt enough, thank you very much. He was going to have a ball during these forty-eight hours and not let them negative waves come at him.
He called an escort service, arranged for two black ladies to come round. He still had about two thousand bucks in bills that not even his shyster lawyer knew about.
So he drank off the Goose, said, "Let’s go for bust, baby. Bring it on."
To prepare for the hookers, Max had popped five Viagras and used a pump to enlarge his dick to its maximum three and a half inches.
Then his doorman buzzed, said, "A lady’s here to see you."
Lady, in a knowing way, like suddenly he was suddenly Mr. Noble. Once Max had asked him for a movie recommendation and the bollix had suggested Big Wet Asses 2.
Max knew how to deal with the help, and he said, no ordered, "Send the fucking lady up and now, and you better watch your attitude ’cause there are, like, you know how many spics crossing the border right now who’d kill for your job? So you know fella, get with the game."
Slammed the receiver, let him know, you fuck with The M.A.X. you better be packing, and it sent him into a flashback of the wild ride of his drug baron days, and him shooting off a whole round at this big black dude who was shooting at him, you believe it? The guy had gone down, The M.A.X. had taken him out, taken him down, he’d iced that muthafucka, sent him to the big hood in the sky, and the rush! He remembered the kid Kyle looking at him, stunned. God, he was so ready now, his wood solid, he’d shoot if the babe didn’t get up in there like—what was it that mad mick used to say?—yeah, jig time.
The bell rang and he checked his reflection. The Goose lied large, why you drank the shite, and he saw a suave, ok, debonair, laid-back guy, handsome in the Sean Penn way. You know, dangerous but sensitive too. Splashed on some Paco Rabanne, rapped:
Opened the door, but the fuck was this? He’d ordered two, right? And didn’t booze like, make you see double? Nope, there was one, count ’em, one babe standing there. And one not so hot-looking babe. Let’s be up front up, one middle-aged babe. Had he been watching too much Nick at Night or did she look just like the housekeeper from The Jeffersons?
He stammered, "The fuck is this?"
She brushed past him, yeah, you believe it, walked right in, brash as she liked, looked around, what, checking out the pad and if it wasn’t up to expectations? Like she would what, leave?
She turned, said, "Y’all Marc Fisher right?"
And before he could throw her old ass right out she said the magic words:
"Y’all wanna do some candy first? Yo’ down baby, get high with momma, then let momma take care of yo’ major action, you really carrying a pistol there, lover."
For a moment Max was tempted to call the escort service, complain, but fuck he’d maxed out his credit card; it was either fuck the old broad or not got any for maybe ever.
So they did a couple lines, then got to it. Jesus, couldn’t she even have a rack? He’d even take an old saggy rack like his ex-wife’s, but this chick didn’t even have A cups. It was like they were freakin’ A minuses.
Max, lost in the coke high, was trying to blow into one of the hooker’s nipples, like it was a balloon.
She looked down at him, went, "The fuck you doin’?"
"Er, um, nothing," Max grumbled, realizing he had bigger problems, major major fucking problems. Where was his goddamn hard-on? He’d taken how many Viagras and the sons of bitches wore off aready?
"Ah, c’mon, you gotta be kiddin’ me, Jesus H."
He popped a few more blues, then hopped back on. Still no liftoff and, shit, his heart was racing. Wasn’t there a warning about Viagra for heart patients? Was this how he was gonna check out, on top of a flat-chested hooker who looked like the Jeffersons’ maid on his last night before heading to Attica? Would that be fucking humiliating or what? What would people think of him? He had a reputation, shit, a legacy to protect.
After about forty minutes, Max was covered in sweat and the hooker said, "Time’s up, suga," and less than a minute later she left, and Max’s last chance for straight sex had left with her.
Now, in the cell, the giant was saying, "You deaf, white bread?"
Max tried to focus, said, "I’m sorry, I missed that?"
The big dude roared with merriment, like he loved this fat, white, balding, middle-aged white man already, repeated, "I got me the top bunk, you got the bottom. You hip to that, my man?"
Max was hip to it, nodded miserably, and Rufus said, "And y’all being sorry, y’all be even sorrier in the morning after I ream yer fat ass, and don’t y’all be getting on my case about them condoms and shit. Y’all get the meat raw, know what I’m sayin’? Y'all ain’t Jewish or nuttin."
Actually, Max was Jewish, but he worried it was a trick question. If he said he was a Jew maybe that would, like, turn Rufus on.
Then Max thought, Wait, didn’t all these black dudes convert to Islam, change their names to Mohammed when they got sent away? Shit, Max would be Moslem if it saved his, well, ass.
"We might as well be on a first name basis," Max said. "You can call me Mohammed. Mohammed Fisher."
Rufus sneered, went, "A Moslem shot my mother."
Max needed another way out, tried, "I have herpes."
Rufus brushed past Max, going, "Yo, I been havin’ herpes since I was eleven years old." Then he said, "Sweep up this here crib, bitch, that’s what you are, you my bitch. You gonna get yo’ self all prettied up for yo’ Daddy."
The smell of his BO made Max want to throw up but Max’s whole body was trembling and little did he know, a miracle was nearly at hand. A miracle that would lead Max on a journey to, yes, enlightenment.
But right there and then, Max resorted to what he did when he was most terrified. He went Brit, muttered, "I’m buggered."
Copyright © 2008 by Ken Bruen and Jason Starr.