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Millhaven Institution, Bath, Ontario, Canada



Inmate #126798 is not good at folding sheets.

Even the convicts filling out a maximum security unit need fresh clothes and linens. The laundry resembles a sweatshop: just as abysmal, sweltering like the underside of the sun they certainly can't see, an assembly line of menial domestic work for a washday that has never looked tougher when performed by men in drab khaki prison jumpers, cruel and violent men each and every one, paid in nothing but chore hours and the chance to stretch their legs before spending the remaining twenty-three hours of the day locked away. Small, dull linens for small, dull cells are being stacked up on a laundry-folding table in front of industrial-sized washers and dryers, resembling massive metal drums and sounding like them, too, a constant stream of thudding, swishing noise. It drowns out the chatter of the cruel and violent men who #126798 doesn't look at, certainly doesn't meet the eyes of.

From an outsider's perspective, he's an outsider, a loner, rejected and left alone, but that's not how it works, not in this penitentiary of most dangerous male inmates with their self-made rules and cultures, no, his solitude is an utter lie that only comes true in solitary confinement. Still: for the time, he's the solitary creature he seems to be, folding, sweating, working, sweating. Inmate #126798 listens to nothing but that movement of the laundry while every fold of a sheet is an ill tremble of his hand, becoming a fissure of wrinkles that travels along the fabric.

The squares of linens may not be perfect, but he becomes caught up in the intense task of stacking them on top of each other in questionably pristine array, making order out of chaos. Inmate #126798, whose attention to detail is high despite the dystonic sway of his hands that says he's never quite alright and faint dizzy haze of malnutrition behind his eyes. He sets one folded sheet atop a pile of seven, leaning down to squint at the parallel corners in close proximity, his eyes slightly sunken into a thin, generally handsome face, the rough scruff of hair over the lower half greying in patches before his time, grey like his eyes, a dull pale perpetually wounded hue that might be blue in the light of day, but not here, in the abysmal laundry room, where there's just enough light to see the work by. To tug at the corners until they align, all four, perfect, perfect, perfect, perfect, next.

Inmate #126798 who is Theo Montreau, First Degree Murder, Attempted Murder, convicted with a small but dire laundry list of felonies, obsessed with folding sheets.

He can hardly be said to walk. It's what you'd expect a person to do, what they must do lest they be crawling, hands and knees, but perception says he's slithering; he sways back and forth, seeing all, with a nose sweeping along the floor so as to pick up everything that happens: nothing escapes. Even him. #148756 is in for Life, plus a little extra, and it suits him, like the unflattering uniform pinching to his angular figure so unsuited yet natural to slithering. #148756, Andre Tartan finds #126798 in this manner, by appearing with a swish nearby, long, bony fingers touching on the other man's carefully tucked laundry — not to set it in disarray, but to reassure its finesse with a tuck and a pat.

Hands jump against the khaki uniform, his own hands, #126798 Theo Montreau’s, a fast quell of the instinct to protect what’s his — the determined folds of the laundry, a pile of sheets, it’s all he has to look forward to. He stands as tense and still as possible, possibility unkind to the tremor that yet remains in his hand as he presses it against his uniform; otherwise he’s studied-by-a-drill-sergeant-still, no-sir he’s not moving, waiting for some kind of assessment, some kind of purpose for #148756, Andre Tartan. There’s always another shoe to drop; Theo has been in long enough to know.

"Hey, kind-killer," murmurs #148756 the way you'd expect him to after his walk, after the strict boniness of his finger where the knuckle swells twice the size of the bone between. He touches and folds down the already maniacally folded sheet a second time then drops his hand from Theo's precious accoutrements. "Underboss needs a thing done. You're up."

A breath comes easier after his folded laundry is left alone, but nerves pinch his chest as the words are delivered. The dropped shoe. A twitch plagues the corner of the "kind-killer" inmate's thin mouth. It lingers like an itch he's not allowed to scratch. Dark eyes jump to the side and his head lowers like it's supposed to, his nod is even eager, eager to obey the rules, appease the Underboss; the reluctance is only there in the way his head hangs after the fact. His feet are quick to move as he watches them, closer to #148756. "Now?" he asks, and looks up fast, apology, no, don't think he's being contrary, not difficult, it's just a question. He looks at his laundry, representing his duty in the human prison system and nods his heads again, faster. No question.

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