I’m unsure of this scene and would love feedback. I want to show a normal person thrown into a different world but don’t know if what I’ve written is deep or visceral enough. Thoughts?
The Setup: When Trumpet’s brother, Matt, gets convicted of murder (it was an accident) he’s the first criminal in her family. Having to deal with the crazy prison world always exhausts Trumpet and today it’s crucial she sees Matt. She must ask him about possible sexual abuse when he was a teen. Matt’s answer could save him from a death sentence this week. But Trumpet fears the guards will find the contraband chicken fingers hidden in her pocket as a treat for Matt before she asks him the stressful questions. Prison security is unusually tight today because of a drug breach the day before.
Trumpet stands in the extra-long security line and must be checked by the ion sensor for drugs then go through the “pat-down” line in order to visit Matt.
The Story from Trumpet’s POV: There's a commotion behind me but it isn't until I hear a shrill, "Doncha touch me, you cracker ass!" that it merits the effort to turn around.
A wired Caucasian woman – most likely on PCP – slaps at an equally Caucasian guard as he tugs her sequined elbow toward the door. The skinny sot fights like a high-strung washing machine, whirling back and forth, the fringe on her miniskirt flowing like stringy tides. Clearly she doesn't know that plunging necklines and provocative skirts aren't in the visitor dress code. I don’t know whether to feel amused by the scene or to feel compassion since both of us must navigate this foreign world. I decide to simply be grateful it wasn’t me who got noticed.
With one vicious war cry, the woman breaks from the guard's grasp, leaps in the air then hurls herself onto our line like we're her mosh pit. Aggh! The brute thrust of bodies makes me crash to the floor and my shoulder collides with unwavering concrete.
Bump. Bump. Thud. Bump. Thud again as a waterfall of visitors – in various poses – pile on top of me. Thud. Thud.
Mmpfft... I struggle for air – a nearly impossible task from the bottom of a human mudslide – and when I finally gasp, a mix of Jade East, sweat and hairspray greet me. Uhnnh. I try to move but my only purchase is the gritty debris rubbing my floored cheek.
If the guards notice my groan, they don't pause from dragging the intoxicated leaper away. She hollers, "You kiss my black ass!" which is, most likely, as pale as her cotton ball complexion, though it's impossible to see from the bottom of the pile.
A smelly high-heeled shoe drops in front of my nose then – finally – every last body is peeled off me. Thank God. My head throbs and it takes me forever to fully transform my figure from a bundle into a crouch, then to an upstanding citizen.
Damn, that hurt. I pluck a stray gum wrapper off my blouse as the officers return to their posts and motion the next guy up to the ion scanner. My clothes are quite disheveled so I discretely check the chicken fingers, hoping there are no grease spots on the tissues hiding them. If I'm caught? I'll be punished – though not as severely as my drug smuggling peers.
Drug... smuggling... Ack! The floor! I glance down. Crap! I was spread on that cement like jelly on peanut butter. Residual drug specks picked up from others' shoes or clothes can trigger the ion sensor – for me! If the scanner catches one teeny atom? Ejection! Ay-ay-ay. Loss of all contact with Matt. No recourse. None. I won't be in court when his sentence is read. No talking, no consoling, no visits. All contact – gone.
My heart does a fire drill just thinking about it so I try to slow my pulse. Ack! And prison officials will turn me in to local law-enforcement and they’ll investigate me for drug dealing.
Acccck! Every week someone gets caught. No, no, no. It can’t be me. How clean are those skinhead girls who landed on me? Or that trucker guy? Do they live in a crack house? Ride in a car with a dope smoker? Did I rub against a contaminated purse or brush against some unwashed clothes as we melded into that group pudding? AckAckAckAckAck.
"Next!" The corrections officer – my judge and jury at the ion sensor – passes me what looks like a bleached coffee filter. My hands shake as she watches me rub the scratchy sheet against my hands, clothes, and face in search of coke, heroin, or marijuana. Ecstasy. Crack or PCP. I don't dare skip spots in front of those scrutinizing eyes. It's okay... it's okay... I've passed this test a zillion times. Once more. Please. I drop the rumpled paper into the officer's gloved hand.
And my verdict? Success on a massive scale! Yes! I've had to visit a prison, and while there wasn't a problem, the entire process is surreal. You captured the real then threw me into the story problem. Lovely! If you can use such an word to describe such a fraught situation.
Yes, you've brought me into a completely foreign -- and utterly believable -- world. I can feel the nervous panic, the quick assessments and judgments, the pressing drive to get in and share chicken and spend time with a loved one. It is a terrifying world with its own rules and possibilities for breakdown -- and I would dearly hate to be in it -- but am pleased to read it in this well-wrought passage!
Yes, you have succeeded in showing me a normal person thrown into a different, crazy situation and I think you could say this scene begins with an explosion and ends with a bang as well. Never having been in this situation, I wouldn't have expected that she would be worried about drug residue from the floor or from the people in the pile up.