Your Man For A Prison

by Peter Clarke

It’s been about a year since I got into the prison selling biz. Sold my first prison to a toothless guy with family money. Said he’d use it to lock up dentists. Guy had no use for dentists. Not the first thing I’d do with a prison, but hey, I don’t use ’em. I just sell ’em.

Got one up on the market now, don’t know why anyone would pass it up. It’s got all the basics: 700 cells, four shower rooms, a kitchen (appliances come as-is), a long-hall cafeteria, and a half-acre yard with a full basketball court.

Think about this. After your dinner party with all your elite-class buddies, you can liven things up with a sweaty game of ball. If you keep score, you can lock up the losers. Now that sounds like a fun night and a good use of a prison if you ask me!


“Bob, you’re the flyer guy, right?”

“That’s me.”

“Take a look at this. Tell me you wouldn’t buy this prison, huh?”

Bob, the lucky dog, sells courthouses. He’s the flyer guy, too—can make a dazzler of a flyer in no time. Sells those old courthouses like they were the year’s hot item. Guess they probably are at this point.

“No, don’t think I need any prisons today. Nice flyer, though.”

“Come on, Bob, I’ll trade you a prison for a courthouse. Square trade and you can even keep the flyer.”

Old Bob just laughed.

“I mean, Bob, think about it. You can fit twelve of your stuffiest courthouses in this one historic landmark of a prison.”

Bob just kept laughing. He handed back the flyer and returned to his work, making courthouse sales receipts.

What the hell. Don’t even know why I bother, some days.

Storming out of the office, I nearly bowled Jen right over.

“Hey! Where you off to so early?” she asked. She sells grade schools and sometimes community parks. No way she understands my troubles.

“Off to go find more happy customers with no teeth!”


We go about this business as if there’s still some real use for these rotting government buildings. Everybody knows there’s not. And they’re overpriced as hell. Unless your favorite thing is hiring wrecking crews.

The government buyout was a good day. But you can’t let the old structures just take up space and decay. So some genius at the top had the stellar insight to sell them off and let other private jerks deal with the hassle of repurposing. Makes sense unless you’re thinking in particular about prisons. How can you repurpose a prison? Good luck!

Right now Jen’s back at the office getting debriefed by Bob. She’s asking why I’ve been so up tight. Bob’s telling her in his special tone of “What, you mean you haven’t heard?” Yeah, the monthly reports are due tomorrow. And Buddy, your man for a prison, hasn’t sold any prisons. What about his sale to the guy with the dentist thing? “What, you mean you haven’t heard?” Yeah, even that’s up in the air. Dentist Hater, despite his many great qualities—he prob ain’t good for the check. Credit a mess. Assets a joke. Sad but true.


Had no choice but to hit up the old police stations. Even though common knowledge is that they’re infested by all the ex-con types. Ex-cons playing ex-cops. Not exactly a shrewd business model, guys. Nobody making any money. They just get angrier every day.

First police station I stopped off at, sure enough, peered through the window to find a group of shaved-head dudes. All in jumpsuits. I took a deep breath. Do you know what you can do with fifteen percent of the sale price of a prison? You can do a lot, that’s what. In my case, you can pay off loans. Then, you can pay off more loans. And eventually, you can become solvent and talk first thing to Mandy, who sells houses in the best, neatest, cleanest districts where all the neighbors are peace-loving, upstanding anarchists championing stable employment.

“Hey, fellas!” I said, entering the police station. “Sorry for bustin in on ya, but—!”

Next thing, they had me pinned to the wall with a knife to my neck and gun to my head.

“Are you a cop?!” they demanded.

“Cop? How could I be a cop?” I said, almost laughing. “There are no cops anymore!”

“What do you mean no cops?” They asked. “This is a cop station! We took it over!”

“I see that!”

It didn’t seem there was an apparent leader in the group. They didn’t take turns yelling threats, just yelled all at once. You’re dead! I’ma gonna kill you! Shove this knife down your face! Fuckin’ bullet in your brains!

“Easy guys, I’m just a realtor! God damn!”

First came a real-life punch to my jaw. Then a knee to my ribs. Then I was pummeled—it was like, game on! And it didn’t let up. It didn’t stop.


I came to. Barely conscious, knowing very little. But my mind gathered enough info from my swollen eyes and numb ears to form an association having to do (of course) with prisons. My first real thought was that I prob needed to quit my job as soon as possible. I was getting prisons on the brain. Not what I’d consider healthy.

Tried to move. Well, that didn’t work out! Aches all over. Bones broken? Neck…in a brace? Tried to open the ol’ jaw. Couldn’t. But it was like my mouth was open already?

Prisons! I thought…Prisons!

Something moved. According to my rudimentary awareness. Naturally it was something in a white coat. Prison guard.

I drifted away.


Eventually I woke up again. I was, in fact, in a prison cell, strapped to a chair, surrounded by dentists. Not prison guards—dentists. A small discrepancy. I was fully conscious by this point. The dentists were all gathered around, working as a team on every square millimeter of my mouth and busted jaw.

I had a visitor. Nobody I knew. He introduced himself as one of the loan people. He said I owed them an awful lot of money (no kidding). Also he said they’d been trailing me for a while, trying to figure out how to get assets out of me (not an easy thing!). When they saw me getting pulverized by a gang of ex-cons, they jumped in to save the day (thanks a lot! I guess!). Since I couldn’t afford any proper medical care, they brought me to this place, which the now owned, since the guy who bought it went bankrupt after all.

The loan guy left with a bill. It included my life’s worth of debts plus the expense of having saved my life. Life-saving services, apparently…not cheap!


“Ah, you’re awake,” said one of the dentist inmates the next time I came around. “Just finishing up jaw surgery round three. Your colleagues were here visiting a moment ago to check on you. You were still under, so…But they left a card and some flowers. Would you like me to read it to you?”

“Huh, huh,” I moaned, meaning, “God, no!” But the dentist didn’t take the hint.

“‘Dear Buddy,’” he read, “‘sorry to hear about the monthly figures. Tough situation. Everybody’s on your side, even management I hear. Too bad it’s just a numbers thing. Darn it. But if ever you need a flyer for future employment reasons, or what have you, you know who to call. Bob.’ And Jen says, ‘I’m so sorry, Buddy! They’ll fix you right up! I know they will! Don’t let this hold you back ever, okay? You’ll get out of there somehow! I know you will! You’ll always be the man for a prison!’”

Peter Clarke is a writer native to Port Angeles, Washington currently living in Oakland, California. His short fiction has appeared in 3AM Magazine, Pif Magazine, Curbside Splendor, Hobart, and elsewhere. He’s an assistant editor for Fifth Wednesday Journal and founding editor of Jokes Literary Review. See: