Boat Jail

Image of Long Story Short Award - 2022
Image of Short Fiction
Fucking boat jail. What a farce. There's some sort of nautical name for it - at the moment it escapes me; although I'm not sure where it would escape to, considering I'm locked in this farcical fucking boat jail.

Despite the four intimidatingly blank iron walls, painted over with a glossy white rust paint, the tiny confines of this windowless cell still seemed like a parody of a jail. Like a McDonald's happy meal toy of the real thing. But alas, the McDonald's jail kept me locked in tight, just as well as your Folsom's or your Guantanamo's.

Two days prior they had thrown me in here, after having caught me shoplifting a box of Glosette Raisins and a jar of freeze-dried instant coffee crystals from the cruise ship's chintzy gift shop. It was essentially an overpriced convenience store, with the inclusion of a few equally overpriced souvenir items, such as a plastic miniature model of the ship and a cheaply made captain's hat for kids. Everything is more expensive on a cruise ship: Food, drinks, magazines, room service. I suppose they have a perfect business plan, because where the hell else are you going to go? You can't go to the place across the street, you're in the middle of the pacific ocean. Very clever, cruise ship industry, you've cornered the market.

I spent about 15 minutes in the gift shop that morning. I slipped the Glossettes and the instant coffee into my coat pocket about 5 minutes in, and spent the other 10 reading girly Hollywood gossip magazines at the back of the store. I thought I had the system beat, and I walked out of the store smugly, but after only a couple steps out, the stubby little detectors on either side of the exit began to howl. The lady behind the cashier told me not to move. Naturally I obeyed, hoping to diminish the scene I had already caused. As I stood still, I couldn't decide whether this situation was more or less humiliating than paying 9 dollars for some chocolate covered raisins and some gravel-like "coffee".

I watched 2 security guards approach from the other side of the ship's foyer. They walked sternly towards me, one of them speaking indistinctly into the radio walkie-talkie mounted on his shoulder. Their cheap black boots echoed on the linoleum floors, getting louder and louder as they got nearer, their footsteps going in and out of synchronization with one another. They were an awkward distance away, and I couldn't decide at what range I should begin to make eye contact with them, or when I should begin to speak. Perhaps I'd let them speak first.
They finally got about 4 feet from me. One was slightly more portly and shorter than the other, but his face was more intimidating nonetheless. The portly one spoke first, I handed over my stolen snacks, and they showed me the way to the boat jail, two floors below the lowest passenger deck. My kind and disarming demeanor avoided any need for physical escorting, such as the typical hand around the upper arm, or other maneuvers overzealous rent-a-cops tend to employ. It was a 26 mile marathon from the gift shop to the elevator. The taller guard, whose voice I hadn't heard yet, walked in front of me, leading the way, with the shorter one behind. Every bloated, middle-aged passenger got a good, long look at me, and whispered excited speculations to whoever was next to them.

We stepped in the elevator, and proceeded to have the most uncomfortable elevator ride of all time. For all I know, the elevator was stuck in between floors for an hour - it felt like an eternity. No words were exchanged. Halfway through the ride I tried to work up enough courage to ask the taller guard a question, just to hear his voice, and soothe my curiosity. Perhaps he had an exotic accent, or a little chipmunk helium voice, who knows.

The doors opened, and I was led down a claustrophobic metal corridor with pipes running along the low ceiling. The pipes were painted white to match the walls - it seemed the least the interior designer could do to leave a good impression on the prisoners being led to their chambers.
As we walked, the taller guard pointed to the room at the end of the hall and muttered: "That's where you're goin'." Unfortunately, his voice was quite unremarkable, and certainly not that of a cartoon chipmunk. Not even close, actually.

We reached the door, and both guards worked on opening it, by pulling down a big crossbar lever which locked the door in place. The bar seemed stubborn, and for a second I thought they wouldn't be able to open it. What then? Maybe this whole thing would have blown over and the guards would have set me free. Or at least as free as someone can be on a 800 foot tourist trap. But the bar, also painted white, finally came down with an unpleasant metal screech. The door slowly swung inward, heavily. The short guard gestured for me to enter the room with his hand, and said "In you go." in an indifferent tone.
I walked in, with no particular expectations and the door shut behind me, followed by the familiar metal screech. I heard the footsteps of the guards fade away.

All alone, just me and my thoughts.

I sat down on the pathetic bed and breathed. I wonder if there's an on board gallows. Sea-law and whatnot. After all, a captain can marry two people at sea, why not summarily execute them at his own will, too.
I layed down on the bed and looked up at the empty ceiling. The 2.5 inch thick mattress felt like laying on a mound of frozen dirt. It had a fitted sheet over it with thin blue pinstripes, and although the sheet was a pale grayish-yellow I had a dreadful instinct that it was once white. I rested my eyes for a second, and although I didn't plan on sleeping, I fell asleep after around 5 minutes.

An indeterminate amount of time later, I slowly woke up. It almost felt too easy to criticize the obsolescence of an indoor swimming pool on a cruise ship.
I would estimate that 4 hours passed. Regardless, I was unrested, and as I sat up,
One thing was for sure: I was still in boat jail, or whatever it's called. A jig? A jib? I wasn't up to date on my nautical speak.

I stood up to stretch my legs, and continued to pace the length of the room for 30 minutes or so. I observed the tiniest little details in the room, any imperfections or abnormalities that I could entertain myself with. Forcing myself to be fascinated with these minute insignifigances also helped keep my mind off of the dimensions in the room, because I know if I focused on it too much, I would become claustrophobic. This, more or less, was also my approach to life in general.

I had already scanned the room top to bottom for the 100th time before I noticed the little note in the corner. Etched in all capital letters into the metal trim along the bottom of the room, presumably by the last inmate, read:

Yup. Me too.

I was endlessly entertained by this note and was infinitely grateful to whomever wrote it. A fellow Glossette thief, or something of the sort. A relatable man who no doubt felt cheated by the monopolized snacks aboard the Luxura Vista Cruise Liner. Probably figured whoever was in here next may get a kick out of this; you were right. Thanks, buddy.

I couldn't help but give into the big grin forcing itself onto my face. Just then, among the exciting discovery of this cell's past ghosts, it dawned on me:

Boat jail is called a brig.