by Lise

Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday this year, and he doesn't want to think about it, because it's all the same old bullshit.

Seven years ago -- when Christmas was last on Sunday -- he was with his wife, with a string of fucked-up colored lights hanging from the roof, and some tinsel on the cactus. Cactii were the only plants his wife could manage to keep alive, and he misses that stupid spiny thing, because it reminds him of her.

It's Sunday, and that means ham sandwiches for lunch, and laundry without the hassle of that fucking hack Mineo, on duty, yelling and bitching when he takes a few minutes extra alone. It also means work in the morning, and trying not to stumble his chair while he wheels big bolts across the dress-making floor; and it means showering, with a cake of soap that smells like prison laundry.

Hill throws another sweatshirt in the dryer, and sighs. O'Reily strides up, quickly -- the Mick boy's always in a hurry -- and nods a greeting to him, intent on getting his own laundry into the machine as rapidly as possible. Hill says suddenly, "Y'know, it's probably snowing outside."

O'Reily turns around, suddenly, jerky -- all his movements are quick and deliberate, important looking -- and nods. "Yeah. Probably is."

"D'you ever used to shovel snow from your driveway, O'Reily?"

"Yeah. One year, I spent almost two fucking hours clearing the stuff out, and then my wife tells me she don't wanna go out anymore." He grins, humorlessly -- but that's not uncommon in here -- and adds, "I busted my balls for nothing."

Hill watches his grey sweatpants and his grey sweatshirt and white teeshirts spin around and around in the hideous metal contraption, and shakes his head. Against what, he doesn't know.

After laundry, he goes back to his pod to read. For some reason, he can't focus on the pages; the idea of snow outside is making the whole day melancholy. And it shouldn't, because he's not the one who has to shovel it.

Some time passes. The war on drugs resumes... Two shakedowns later, and his podmate's dragged off to do time in the Hole; Hill's grateful he can sleep easy, tonight.

Three other guys go with him to spend time getting to know themselves, naked, and Hill's not really surprised. There might have been earthquakes when McManus came back, and there might have been tsunamis -- red, against white curtains -- but drugs is drugs, and the business always lives on. Y'know?

He's still bored, still can't read, so he considers going out to the common area to see what's what. O'Reily's nowhere, and that means something's coming to fruition. People lounge about, watching TV or trying not to die from boredom. Any diversion would be worth giving up the peace and quiet, the tranquility, of his pod.

But, it's Christmas Eve, which means that you can flip a coin to see whether Beecher and Keller will be fucking or fighting, since they've been quiet since Thanksgiving. Either way, they're going to get busted by the guards, and it'll be enough entertainment to raise his spirits. Wheeling out of the pod, he sits down for the last few hours of the day where he's not locked up; last few hours of the day he doesn't have to live under glass.

And right on time, the pair of them come out hissing and clawing. Poet, sitting at the next table, starts to chuckle. He leans over, and mutters, "Pair'a pansys there, always at each other."

Hill, a little wiser, mutters back, "Hey, I wanna see you call Keller a pansy to his face, man."

Poet backs off, and then stands up-- it's just about time to get high. And Sunday means behind the back stairs, where the hacks don't have their rounds for another fifteen minutes, and it means that Poet'll probably make it to his pod before he really starts to rave, so it should be a good trip...

And Sunday means no Miss Sally on TV, because they've pre-empted it for football, which is a pisser. Guys grabbing each other he can see any day of the week; Sunday is a time for nice, round tits, and don't the networks get that?

Beecher and Keller end up moving off into the laundry room, and Hill rolls his eyes at their muscled, retreating backs. Oh, yeah. Football. Who needs it. He's got live from Comedy Central, here, the soap opera that never dies, the XXX channel, and Wild Discovery all rolled into one -- or, rather, two, with Beecher and Keller.

He's gotta be grateful to'em, even though he doesn't expect either to stay alive much longer. They almost seem to be rushing towards the light, which pegs'em as dumbasses in Hill's book -- but not many people are thinking about religion, anymore. Ray must be so disappointed.

But tomorrow should help the sinning spirits of OZ, and hearten the good Father; Mass comes tomorrow instead of today, special Mass. He's gonna go, even though he's not really Catholic -- because what counts is it's something that's different, something not routine. His momma would have been so proud, Augustus Hill looking forward to church.

The television quickly dulls, sitting and doing nothing quickly dulls, and so when some guys start up a card game, he wheels up and joins in.

Hill plays a little cards; he actually wins a little dough, since Sunday means he can cash in his invisible winnings for invisible prizes. The gambling tables in EmCity work on different rules than normal casinos, because they're not allowed to show their chips, or they get thrown in the Hole. But there are enough ways to keep track of what you've won to make it worth while.

It passes some time, which makes it worthwhile enough.

At home, he thinks wistfully, his wife is just making a little dinner, maybe -- and she might have never done an incredible Christmas dinner, but it was always hot, and it was always *enough*, so he never bitched too loud.

But back to the card game: Rebadow is silent, and Busmalis isn't having any luck cheering him up. "What's up, Rebadow?"

"The holidays always get me down."

"Why, though? I mean, we get more to eat. We get a day off work. You should be happy, Bob."

"But-- we don't even get a tree."

Trust Rebadow to single out one thing within a multitude of shitty things this Christmas is dealing out, and suddenly make it take on incredible significance. Hill snaps, "Fuck. Now I'm depressed."

But Busmalis starts describing his most wonderful Christmas dreams, and he quickly joins in, with relish. There is something more real about living out fantasies by sharing them with other guys around a table stacked high with stupid playing cards and nothing else. It makes thinking about Christmas trees and snow seem a lot less pathetic.

This passes some more Sunday hours, thinking about huge Christmas trees, and lots of ham and turkey, and stuffing, and gravy, all piled high with cranberries.

Right before lockup, there's a body found in the cafeteria; one of the new homeboys, what a surprise. But Sunday means that there's no one to ship him to the hospital for disposal, and he's gonna have to sit in the infirmary overnight, in cold storage, because Sunday night, and Christmas Eve, both happen to be the day that no one wants to drive. It's the prison driver's, and the other auxiliary city workers', day off.

The homeboy bled all over tomorrow's breakfast, apparently, which was actually pancakes, in honor of The Lord, Our Savior, and the two-faced generosity of the Govenor.

Sunday means the day before Monday, and Christmas Eve means the day before Christmas... and a body in the cafeteria means lockdown for the rest of the night and maybe tomorrow, and at least he did laundry earlier on today. Thank goodness for small miracles; lockdown, bring it on-- he's got an empty pod, and lots of clean shirts.

The same old bullshit, day in and day out. A body one day, Mass for Christmas the next, cards and memories and fucked-up podmates trying to suck the life out of each other desperately, while Rebadow talks about Christmas trees.

They head back into the routine, as the hacks call, "Lights out!" It gets darker. Not dark, but darker.

Hill chuckles, and shakes his head. Someone crazy might say Merry Christmas to the nighttime, but he's not buying it. Other motherfuckers in here go off half-cocked in the head, get crazy, start believing in shit.

But Monday just means bloody cold toast and jam since the pancakes were wrecked; sitting in the cafeteria listening to Father Ray, feeling hollow and empty because he knows his wife is at home spending Christmas morning alone; playing chess with that new guy bunking with Arif; and trying to stay out of the violence. Before noon.