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It comes as no surprise to most these days that there's a lot of buggery going on inside the walls - except to some of the new fish, maybe, who have the misfortune to be young, slim, good-looking, and unwary - but homosexuality, like straight sex, comes in a hundred different shapes and forms. There are men who can't stand to be without sex of some kind and turn to another man to keep from going crazy. Usually what follows is an arrangement between two fundamentally "Heterosexual men, although I've sometimes wondered if they are quite as heterosexual as they thought they were going to be when they get back to their wives or their girlfriends.

There are also men who get 'turned' in prison. In the current parlance they 'go gay', or'come out of the closet'. Mostly (but not always) they play the female, and their favours are competed for fiercely.

And then there are the sisters.

They are to prison society what the rapist is to the society outside the walls. They're usually long-timers, doing hard bullets for brutal crimes. Their prey is the young, the weak, and the inexperienced ... or, as in the case of Andy Dufresne, the weak-looking.Their hunting grounds are the showers, the cramped, tunnel-like area way behind the industrial washers in the laundry, sometimes the infirmary. On more than one occasion rape has occurred in the closet-sized projection booth behind the auditorium. Most often what the sisters take by force they could have had for free, if they wanted it; those who have been turned always seem to have 'crushes' on one sister or another, like teenage girls with their Sinatras, Presleys, or Redfords. But for the sisters, the joy has always been in taking it by force... and I guess it always will be.

Because of his small size and fair good looks (and maybe also because of that very quality of self-possession I had admired), the sisters were after Andy from the day he walked in. If this was some kind of fairy story, I'd tell you that Andy fought the good fight until they left him alone. I wish I could say that, but I can't. Prison is no fairy-tale world.

The first time for him was in the shower less than three days after he joined our happy Shawshank family. Just a lot of slap and tickle that time, I understand. They like to size you up before they make their real move, like jackals finding out if the prey is as weak and hamstrung as it looks.

Andy punched back and bloodied the lip of a big, hulking sister named Bogs Diamond -gone these many years since to who knows where. A guard broke it up before it could go any further, but Bogs promised to get him - and Bogs did.

The second time was behind the washers in the laundry. A lot has gone on in that long, dusty, and narrow space over the years; the guards know about it and just let it be. It's dim and littered with bags of washing and bleaching compound, drums of Hexlite catalyst, as harmless as salt if your hands are dry, murderous as battery acid if they're wet. The guards don't like to go back there. There's no room to manoeuvre, and one of the first things they teach them when they come to work in a place like this is to never let the cons get you in a place where you can't back up.

Bogs wasn't there that day, but Henry Backus, who had been washroom foreman down there since 1922, told me that four of his friends were. Andy held them at bay for a while with a scoop of Hexlite, threatening to throw it in their eyes if they came any closer, but he tripped trying to back around one of the big Washex four-pockets. That was ail it took. They were on him.

I guess the phrase gang-rape is one that doesn't change much from one generation to the next. That's what they did to him, those four sisters. They bent him over a gearbox and one of them held a Phillips screwdriver to his temple while they gave him the business. It rips you up some, but not bad - am I speaking from personal experience, you ask? - I only wish I weren't. You bleed for a while. If you don't want some clown asking you if you just started your period, you wad up a bunch of toilet paper and keep it down the back of your underwear until it stops. The bleeding really is like a menstrual flow; it keeps up for two, maybe three days, a slow trickle. Then it stops. No harm done, unless they've done something even more unnatural to you. No physical harm done - but rape is rape, and eventually you have to look at your face in the mirror again and decide what to make of yourself.

Andy went through that alone, the way he went through everything alone in those days.He must have come to the conclusion that others before him had come to, namely, that there are only two ways to deal with the sisters: fight them and get taken, or just get taken.

He decided to fight When Bogs and two of his buddies came after him a week or so after the laundry incident ('I heard ya got broke in,' Bogs said, according to Ernie, who was around at the time), Andy slugged it out with them. He broke the nose of a fellow named Rooster MacBride, a heavy-gutted farmer who was in for beating his step-daughter to death. Rooster died in here, I'm happy to add.

They took him, all three of them. When it was done, Rooster and the other egg - it might have been Pete Verness, but I'm not completely sure - forced Andy down to his knees. Bogs Diamond stepped in front of him. He had a pearl-handled razor in those days with the words Diamond Pearl engraved on both sides of the grip. He opened it and said, I'm gonna open my fly now, mister man, and you're going to swallow what I give you to swallow. And when you done swallowed mine, you're gonna swallow Rooster's. I guess you done broke his nose and I think he ought to have something to pay for it' Andy said, 'Anything of yours that you stick in my mouth, you're going to lose it.'Bogs looked at Andy like he was crazy, Ernie said.

'No,' he told Andy, talking to him slowly, like Andy was a stupid kid. 'You didn't understand what I said. You do anything like that and I'll put all eight inches of this steel into your ear. Get it?'

'I understand what you said. I don't think you understand me. I'm going to bite whatever you stick into my mouth. You can put that razor in my brain, I guess, but you should know that a sudden serious brain injury causes the victim to simultaneously urinate,defecate... and bite down.'

He looked up at Bogs, smiling that little smile of his, old Ernie said, as if the three of them had been discussing stocks and bonds with him instead of throwing it to him just as hard as they could. Just as if he was wearing one of his three-piece bankers' suits instead of kneeling on a dirty broom-closet floor with his pants around his ankles and blood trickling down the insides of his thighs.

'In fact,' he went on, 'I understand that the bite-reflex is sometimes so strong that the victim's jaws have to be pried open with a crowbar or a jackhandle.'

Bogs didn't put anything in Andy's mouth that night in late February of 1948, and neither did Rooster MacBride, and so far as I know, no one else ever did, either. What the three of them did was to beat Andy within an inch of his life, and all four of them ended up doing a jolt in solitary. Andy and Rooster MacBride went by way of the infirmary.How many times did that particular crew have at him? I don't know. I think Rooster lost his taste fairly early on -being in nose-splints for a month can do that to a fellow -and Bogs Diamond left off that summer, all at once.

That was a strange thing. Bogs was found in his cell, badly beaten, one morning in early June, when he didn't show up in the breakfast nose-count He wouldn't say who had done it, or how they had gotten to him, but being in my business, I know that a screw can be bribed to do almost anything accept get a gun for an inmate. They didn't make big salaries then, and they don't now. And in those days there was no electronic locking system, no closed-circuit TV, no master-switches which controlled whole areas of the prison. Back in 1948, each cellblock had its own turnkey. A guard could have been bribed real easy to let someone - maybe two or three someones - into the block, and, yes, even into Diamond's cell.

Of course a job like that would have cost a lot of money. Not by outside standards, no.Prison economics are on a smaller scale. When you've been in here a while, a dollar bill in your hand looks like a twenty did outside. My guess is, that if Bogs was done, it cost someone a serious piece of change - fifteen bucks, well say, for the turnkey, and two or store apiece for each of the lump-up guys.

I'm not saying it was Andy Dufresne, but I do know that he brought in five hundred dollars when he came, and he was a banker in the straight world - a man who understands better than the rest of us the ways in which money can become power.

And I know this: After the beating - the three broken ribs, the haemorrhaged eye, the sprained back and the dislocated hip - Bogs Diamond left Andy alone. In fact, after that he left everyone pretty much alone. He got to be like a high wind in the summertime, all bluster and no bite. You could say, in fact, that he turned into a 'weak sister'.

That was the end of Bogs Diamond, a man who might eventually have killed Andy if Andy hadn't taken steps to prevent it (if it was him who took the steps). But it wasn't the end of Andy's trouble with the sisters. There was a little hiatus, and then it began again, although not so hard nor so often. Jackals like easy prey, and there were easier pickings around than Andy Dufresne.

He always fought them, that's what I remember. He knew, I guess, that if you let them have at you even once, without fighting it, it got that much easier to let them have their way without fighting next time. So Andy would turn up with bruises on his face every once in a while, and there was the matter of the two broken fingers six or eight months after Diamond's beating. Oh yes - and sometime in late 1949, the man landed in the infirmary with a broken cheekbone that was probably the result of someone swinging a nice chunk of pipe with the business-end wrapped in flannel. He always fought back, and as a result, he did his time in solitary. But don't think solitary was the hardship for Andy that it was for some men. He got along with himself.

The sisters was something he adjusted himself to - and then, in 1950, it stopped almost completely. That is a part of my story that 111 get to in due time.

In the fall of 1948, Andy met me one morning in the exercise yard and asked me if I could get him half a dozen rock-blankets.

'What the hell are those?' I asked.

He told me that was just what rockhounds called them; they were polishing cloths about the size of dishtowels. They were heavily padded, with a smooth side and a rough side -the smooth side like fine-grained sandpaper, the rough side almost as abrasive as industrial steel wool (Andy also kept a box of that in his cell, although he didn't get it from me - I imagine he kited it from the prison laundry).

I told him I thought we could do business on those, and I ended up getting them from the very same rock-and-gem shop where I'd arranged to get the rock-hammer. This time I charged Andy my usual ten per cent and not a penny more. I didn't see anything lethal or even dangerous in a dozen 7" x 7" squares of padded cloth. Rock-blankets, indeed. It was about five months later that Andy asked if I could get him Rita Hayworth. That conversation took place in the auditorium, during a movie-show. Nowadays we get the movie-shows once or twice a week, but back then the shows were a monthly event Usually the movies we got had a morally uplifting message to them, and this one, The Lost Weekend, was no different. The moral was that it's dangerous to drink. It was a

moral we could take some comfort in.

Andy manoeuvred to get next to me, and about halfway through the show he leaned a little closer and asked if I could get him Rita Hayworth. I'll tell you the truth, it kind of tickled me. He was usually cool, calm, and collected, but that night he was jumpy as hell,almost embarrassed, as if he was asking me to get him a load of Trojans or one of those sheepskin-lined gadgets that are supposed to 'enhance your solitary pleasure,' as the magazines put it. He seemed overcharged, a man on the verge of blowing his radiator.'I can get her,' I said. 'No sweat, calm down. You want the big one or the little one?' At that time Rita was my best girl (a few years before it had been Betty Grable) and she came in two sizes. For a buck you could get the little Rita. For two-fifty you could have the big Rita, four feet high and all woman.

'The big one,' he said, not looking at me. I tell you, he was a hot sketch that night He was blushing just like a kid trying to get into a kootch show with his big brother's draft-card.

'Can you do it?'

'Take it easy, sure I can. Does a bear shit in the woods?' The audience was applauding and catcalling as the bugs came out of the walls to get Ray Milland, who was having a bad case of the DT's.

'How soon?'

'A week. Maybe less.'

'Okay.' But he sounded disappointed, as if he had been hoping I had one stuffed down my pants right then. 'How much?"

I quoted him the wholesale price. I could afford to give him this one at cost; he'd been a good customer, what with his rock-hammer and his rock-blankets. Furthermore, he'd been a good boy - on more than one night when he was having his problems with Bogs,Rooster, and the rest, I wondered how long it would be before he used the rock-hammer to crack someone's head open.

Posters are a big part of my business, just behind the booze and cigarettes, usually half a step ahead of the reefer. In the 60s the business exploded in every direction, with a lot of people wanting funky hang-ups like Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, that Easy Rider poster.But mostly it's girls; one pinup queen after another.

A few days after I spoke to Ernie, a laundry driver I did business with back then brought in better than sixty posters, most of them Rita Hayworths. You may even remember the picture; I sure do. Rita is dressed - sort of- in a bathing suit, one hand behind her head,her eyes half closed, those full, sulky red lips parted. They called it Rita Hayworth, but they might as well have called it Woman in Heat.

The prison administration knows about the black market, in case you were wondering.Sure they do. They probably know as much about my business as I do myself. They live with it because they know that a prison is like a big pressure cooker, and there have to be vents somewhere to let off steam. They make the occasional bust, and I've done time in solitary a time or three over the years, but when it's something like posters, they wink.Live and let live. And when a big Rita Hayworth went up in some fishie's cell, the assumption was that it came in the mail from a friend or a relative. Of course all the carepackages from friends and relatives are opened and the contents inventoried, but who goes back and re-checks the inventory sheets for something as harmless as a Rita Hayworth or an Ava Gardner pin-up? When you're in a pressure-cooker you learn to live and let live or somebody will carve you a brand-new mouth just above the Adam's apple. You learn to make allowances.

It was Ernie again who took the poster up to Andy's cell, 14, my own, 6. And it was Ernie who brought back the written in Andy's careful hand, just one word: Thanks.'

A little while later, as they filed us out for morning chow, I glanced into his ceil and saw Rita over his bunk in all her swimsuited glory, one hand behind her head, her eyes halfclosed, those soft, satiny lips parted. It was over his bunk when he could look at her nights, after lights out, in the glow of the arc sodiums in the exercise yard.

But in the bright morning sunlight, there were dark slashes across her face - the shadow of the bars on his single slit-window.

Now I'm going to tell you what happened in mid-May of 1950 that finally ended Andy's three-year series of skirmishes with the sisters. It was also the incident which eventually got him out of the laundry and into the library, where he filled out his work-time until he left our happy little family earlier this year.

You may have noticed now much of what I've told you Lready is hearsay - someone saw something and told me and I told you. Well, in some cases I've simplified it even more than it really was, and have actually repeated (or will repeat) fourth- or fifth-hand information. That's the way it s here. The grapevine is very real, and you have to use it if you're going to stay ahead. Also, of course, you have to know how to pick out the grains of truth from the chaff of lies, rumours, and wish-it-had-beens.

You may also have gotten the idea that I'm describing someone who's more legend than man, and I would have to agree that there's some truth to that. To us long-timers who knew Andy over a space of years, there was an element of fantasy to him, a sense,almost, of myth-magic, if you get what I mean. That story I passed on about Andy refusing to give Bogs Diamond a head-job is part of that myth, and how he kept on fighting the sisters is part of it, and how he got the library job is part of it, too ... but with one important difference: I was there and I saw what happened, and I swear on my mother's name that it's all true. The oath of a convicted murderer may not be worth much,but believe this: I don't lie.

Andy and I were on fair speaking terms by then. The guy fascinated me. Looking back to the poster episode, I see there's one thing I neglected to tell you, and maybe I should.Five weeks after he hung Rita up (I'd forgotten all about it by then, and had gone on to other deals), Ernie passed a small white box through the bars of my cell.

'From Dufresne,' he said, low, and never missed a stroke with his push-broom. Thanks, Ernie,' I said, and slipped him half a pack of Camels.

Now what the hell was this, I was wondering as I slipped the cover from the box. There was a lot of white cotton inside, and below that...

I looked for a long time. For a few minutes it was like I didn't even dare touch them, they were so pretty. There's a crying shortage of pretty things in the slam, and the real pity of it is that a lot of men don't even seem to miss them.

There were two pieces of quartz in that box, both of them carefully polished. They had been chipped into driftwood shapes. There were little sparkles of iron pyrites in them like flecks of gold. If they hadn't been so heavy, they would have served as a fine pair of men's cufflinks - they were that close to being a matched set

How much work went into creating those two pieces? Hours and hours after lights out, I knew that First the chipping and shaping, and then the almost endless polishing and finishing with those rock-blankets. Looking at them, I felt the warmth that any man or woman feels when he or she is looking at something pretty, something that has been worked and made - that's the thing that really separates us from the animals, I think - and I felt something else, too. A sense of awe for the man's brute persistence. But I never knew just how persistent Andy Dufresne could be until much later.

In May of 1950, the powers that be decided that the roof of the licence-plate factory ought to be resurfaced with roofing tar. They wanted it done before it got too hot up there, and they sued for volunteers for the work, which was planned to take about a week. More than seventy men spoke up, because it was outside work and May is one damn fine month for outside work. Nine or ten names were drawn out of a hat, and two of them happened to be Andy's and my own.

For the next week we'd be marched out to the exercise yard after breakfast, with two guards up front and two more

behind ... plus all the guards in the towers keeping a weather eye on the proceedings through their field-glasses for good measure.

Four of us would be carrying a big extension ladder on those morning marches -1 always got a kick out of the way Dickie Betts, who was on that job, called that sort of ladder an extensible - and we'd put it up against the side of that low, lit building. Then we'd start bucket-brigading hot buckets of tar up to the roof. Spill that shit on you and you'd jitterbug all the way to the infirmary.

There were six guards on the project, all of them picked on the basis of seniority. It was almost as good as a week's vacation, because instead of sweating it out in the laundry or the plate-shop or standing over a bunch of cons cutting pulp or brush somewhere out in the willy wags, they were having a regular May holiday in the sun, just sitting there with their backs up against the low parapet, shooting the bull back and forth.

They didn't even have to keep more than half an eye on us, because the south wall sentry post was close enough so that rte fellows up there could have spit their chews on us, if ihsy'd wanted to. If anyone on the roof-sealing party had made one funny move, it would take four seconds to cut him smack in two with .45 calibre machine-gun bullets. So those screws just sat there and took their ease. All they needed was a couple of six-packs buried in crushed ice, and they would have been the lords of all creation.

One of them was a fellow named Byron Hadley, and in :hat year of 1950, he'd been at Shawshank longer than I had. Longer than the last two wardens put together, as a matter of "act. The fellow running the show in 1950 was a prissy-looking downcast Yankee named George Dunahy. He had a degree in penal administration. No one liked him, as far as I could tell, except the people who had gotten him his appointment. I heard that he wasn't interested in anything but compiling statistics for a book (which was later published by a small New England outfit called Light Side Press, where he probably had to pay to have it done), who won the intramural baseball championship each September,and getting a death-penalty law passed in Maine. A regular bear for the death-penalty was

George Dunahy. He was fired off the job in 1953, when it came out he was running a discount auto repair service down in the prison garage and splitting the profits with Byron Hadley and Greg Stammas. Hadley and Stammas came out of that one okay - they were old hands at keeping their asses covered - but Dunahy took a walk. No one was sorry to see him go, but nobody was exactly pleased to see Greg Stammas step into his shoes,either. He was a short man with a tight, hard gut and the coldest brown eyes you ever saw. He always had a painful, pursed little grin on his face, as if he had to go to the bathroom and couldn't quite manage it. During Stammas's tenure as warden there was a lot of brutality at Shawshank, and although I have no proof, I believe there were maybe

half a dozen moonlight burials in the stand of scrub forest that lies east of the prison. Dunahy was bad, but Greg Stammas was a cruel, wretched, cold-hearted man.He and Byron Hadley were good friends. As warden, George Dunahy was nothing but a posturing figurehead; it was Stammas, and through him, Hadley, who actually administered the prison.

Hadley was a tail, shambling man with thinning red hair. He sunburned easily and he talked loud and if you didn't move fast enough to suit him, he'd clout you with his stick. On that day, our third on the roof, he was talking to another guard named Mert Entwhistle.

Hadley had gotten some amazingly good news, so he was griping about it. That was his style - he was a thankless man with not a good word for anyone, a man who was convinced that the whole world was against him. The world had cheated him out of the best years of his life, and the world would be more than happy to cheat him out of the rest. I have seen some screws that I thought were almost saintly, and I think I know why that happens - they are able to see the difference between their own lives, poor and struggling as they might be, and the lives of the men they are paid by the state to watch over. These guards are able to formulate a comparison concerning pain. Others can't, or won't.

For Byron Hadley there was no basis of comparison. He could sit there, cool and at his ease under the warm May sun and find the gall to mourn his own good luck while less than ten feet away a bunch of men were working and sweating and burning their hands on great big buckets filled with bubbling tar, men who had to work so hard in their ordinary round of days that this looked like a respite. You may remember the old question, the one that's supposed to define your outlook on life when you answer it. For Byron Hadley the answer would always be half empty, the glass is half empty. Forever and ever, amen. If you gave him a cool drink of apple cider, he'd think about vinegar. If you told him his wife had always been faithful to him, he'd tell you it was because she was so damn ugly.So there he sat, talking to Mert Entwhistle loud enough for all of us to hear, his broad white forehead already starting to redden with the sun. He had one hand thrown back over the low parapet surrounding the roof. The other was on the butt of his .38.

We all got the story along with Mert. It seemed that Hadley's older brother had gone off to Texas some fourteen years ago and the rest of the family hadn't heard from the son of a bitch since. They had all assumed he was dead, and good riddance. Then, a week and a half ago, a lawyer had called them long-distance from Austin. It seemed that Hadley's brother had died four months ago, and a rich man at that ('It's frigging incredible how lucky some assholes can get,' this paragon of gratitude on the plate-shop roof said). The money had come as a result of oil and oil-leases, and there was close to a million dollars.No, Hadley wasn't a millionaire - that might have made even him happy, at least for a while - but the brother had left a pretty damned decent bequest of thirty-five thousand

dollars to each surviving member of his family back in Maine, if they could be found. Not bad. Like getting lucky and winning a sweepstakes.

But to Byron Hadley the glass was always half-empty. He spent most of the morning bitching to Mert about the bite that the goddam government was going to take out of his windfall. "They'll leave me about enough to buy a new car with,' he allowed, 'and then what happens? You have to pay the damn taxes on the car, and the repairs and maintenance, you get your goddam kids pestering you to take 'em for a ride with the top down -'

'And to drive it, if they're old enough,' Mert said. Old Mert Entwhistle knew which side his bread was buttered on, and he didn't say what must have been as obvious to him as to the rest of us: If that money's worrying you so bad, Byron old kid old sock, I'll just take it off your hands. After all, what are friends for?

That's right, wanting to drive it, wanting to learn to drive on it, for Chrissake,' Byron said with a shudder. 'Then what happens at the end of the year? If you figured the tax wrong and you don't have enough left over to pay the overdraft, you got to pay out of your own pocket, or maybe even borrow it from one of those kikey loan agencies. And they audit you anyway, you know. It don't matter. And when the government audits you, they always take more. Who can fight Uncle Sam? He puts his hand inside your shirt and squeezes your tit until it's purple, and you end up getting the short end. Christ.'

He lapsed into a morose silence, thinking of what terrible bad luck he'd had to inherit that $35,000. Andy Dufresne had been spreading tar with a big Padd brush less than fifteen feet away and now he tossed it into his pail and walked over to where Mert and Hadley were sitting.

We all tightened up, and I saw one of the other screws, Tim Youngblood, drag his hand down to where his pistol was bolstered. One of the fellows in the sentry tower struck his partner on the arm and they both turned, too. For one moment I thought Andy was going to get shot, or clubbed, or Then he said, very softly, to Hadley: 'Do you trust your wife?' Hadley just stared at him. He was starting to get red in the face, and I knew that was a bad sign. In about three seconds he as going to pull his billy and give Andy the butt end of it right in the solar plexus, where that big bundle of nerves is. A hard enough hit there can kill you, but they always go for it. If itdoesn't kill you it will paralyze you long enough to forget whatever cute move it was that you had planned.

"Boy," Hadley said, I'll give you just one chance to pick up that Padd. And then you're goin' off this roof on your head.'

Andy just looked at him, very calm and still. His eyes were like ice. It was as if he hadn't heard. And I found myself wanting to tell him how it was, to give him the crash course.The crash course is you never let on that you hear the guards talking, you never try to horn in on their conversation unless you're asked (and then you always tell them just what they wanting to hear and shut up again). Black man, white man, red man., yellow man, in prison it doesn't matter because we've got our own brand of equality. In prison every con's a nigger and you have to get used to the idea if you intend to survive men like Hadley and Greg Staminas, who really would kill you. just as soon as look at you. When you're in stir you belong to the state and if you forget it, woe is you. I've known men

who've lost eyes, men who've lost toes and fingers; I knew one man who lost the tip of his penis and counted himself lucky that was all he lost. I wanted to tell Andy that it was already too late. He could go back and pick up his brush and there would still be some big lug waiting for him in the showers that night, ready to charlie-horse both of his legs and leave him writhing on the cement. You could buy a lug like rat for a pack of cigarettes or three Baby Ruths. Most of all, I wanted to tell him not to make it any worse than it already was.

What I did was to keep on running tar onto the roof as if niching at all was happening.Like everyone else, I look after n? own ass first. I have to. It's cracked already, and in Shawshank there have always been Hadleys wiling to finish the job of breaking it.Andy said, 'Maybe I put it wrong. Whether you trust her or not is immaterial. The problem is whether or not you believe she would ever go behind your back, try to hamstring you.'

Hadley got up. Mert got up. Tim Youngblood got up. Hadley's face was as red as the side of a firebarn. 'Your only, problem,' he said, 'is going to be how many bones you still get unbroken. You can count them in the infirmary. Come on, Mert We're throwing this sucker over the side.'

Tim Youngblood drew his gun. The rest of us kept tarring like mad. The sun beat down.They were going to do it; Hadley and Mert were simply going to pitch him over the side.Terrible accident Dufresne, prisoner 81433-SHNK, was taking a couple of empties down and slipped on the ladder. Too bad.

They laid hold of him, Mert on the right arm, Hadley on the left. Andy didn't resist. His eyes never left Hadley's red, horsey face.

'If you've got your thumb on her, Mr Hadley,' he said in that same calm, composed voice,'there's not a reason why you shouldn't have every cent of that money. Final score, Mr Byron Hadley thirty-five thousand, Uncle Sam zip.'

Mert started to drag him towards the edge. Hadley just stood still. For a moment Andy was like a rope between them in a tug-of-war game. Then Hadley said, 'Hold on one second, Mert. What do you mean, boy?'

'I mean, if you've got your thumb on your wife, you can give it to her,' Andy said.

'You better start making sense, boy, or you're going over.'

"The government allows you a one-time-only gift to your spouse,' Andy said. 'It's good up to sixty thousand dollars.'

Hadley was now looking at Andy as if he had been poleaxed. 'Naw, that ain't right,' he said. 'Tax free?'

'Tax free,' Andy said. 'IRS can't touch cent one.'

'How would you know a thing like that?'

Tim Youngblood said: 'He used to be a banker, Byron. I s'pose he might-'

'Shut ya head, Trout,' Hadley said without looking at him. Tim Youngblood flushed and shut up. Some of the guards called him Trout because of his thick lips and buggy eyes. Hadley kept looking at Andy. 'You're the smart banker who shot his wife. Why should I believe a smart banker like you? So I can wind up in here breaking rocks right alongside you? You'd like that, wouldn't you?'

Andy said quietly, 'If you went to jail for tax evasion, you'd go to a federal penitentiary,not Shawshank. But you won't. The tax-free gift to the spouse is a perfectly legal loophole. I've done dozens ... no, hundreds of them'. It's meant primarily for people with small businesses to pass on, or for people who come into one-time-only windfalls. Like yourself.'

'I think you're lying,' Hadley said, but he didn't - you could see he didn't. There was an emotion dawning on his face, something that was grotesque overlying that long, ugly countenence and that receding, sunburned brow. An almost obscene emotion when seen on the features of Byron Hadley. It was hope.

'No, I'm not lying. There's no reason why you should take my word for it, either. Engage a lawyer -'

'Ambulance-chasing highway-robbing cocksuckers!'Hadley cried.

Andy shrugged. "Then go to the IRS. They'll tell you the same thing for free. Actually,you don't need me to tell you at all. You would have investigated the matter for yourself.''You fucking-A. I don't need any smart wife-killing banker to show me where the bear shit in the buckwheat.'

'You'll need a tax lawyer or a banker to set up the gift for you and that will cost you something,' Andy said. 'Or ... if you were interested, I'd be glad to set it up for you nearly free of charge. The price would be three beers apiece for my co-workers -'

'Co-workers,' Mert said, and let out a rusty guffaw. He slapped his knee. A real kneeslapper was old Mert, and I hope he died of intestinal cancer in a part of the world were morphine is as of yet undiscovered. 'Co-workers, ain't that cute? Co-workers! You ain't got any -'

'Shut your friggin' trap,' Hadley growled, and Mert shut.

Hadley looked at Andy again. 'What was you saying?'

'I was saying that I'd only ask three beers apiece for my co-workers, if that seems fair,' Andy said. 'I think a man feels more like a man when he's working out of doors in the springtime if he can have a bottle of suds. That's only my opinion. It would go down smooth, and I'm sure you'd have their gratitude.'

I have talked to some of the other men who were up there that day - Rennie Martin,Logan St Pierre, and Paul Bonsaint were three of them - and we all saw the same thing then ...felt the same thing. Suddenly it was Andy who had the upper hand. It was Hadley who had the gun on his hip and the billy in his hand, Hadley who had his friend Greg Staminas behind him and the whole prison administration behind Stammas, the whole power of the state behind that, but all at once in that golden sunshine it didn't matter, and I felt my heart leap up in my chest as it never had since the truck drove me and four others through the gate back in 1938 and I stepped out into the exercise yard.

Andy was looking at Hadley with those cold, clear, calm eyes, and it wasn't just the thirty-five thousand then, we all agreed on that. I've played it over and over in my mind and I know. It was man against man, and Andy simply forced him, the way a strong man can force a weaker man's wrist to the table in a game of Indian wrestling. There was no reason, you see, why Hadley couldn't've given Mert the nod at that very minute, pitched Andy overside onto his head, and still taken Andy's advice.

No reason. But he didn't.

'I could get you all a couple of beers if I wanted to,' Hadley said. 'A beer does taste good while you're workin'.' The colossal prick even managed to sound magnanimous.

'I'd just give you one piece of advice the IRS wouldn't bother with,' Andy said. His eyes were fixed unwinkingly on Hadley's. 'Make the gift to your wife if you're sure. If you think there's even a chance she might double-cross you or backshoot you, we could work out something else -'

'Double-cross me?' Hadley asked harshly. 'Double-cross me! Mr Hotshot Banker, if she ate her way through a boxcar of Ex-Lax, she wouldn't dare fart unless I gave her the nod.'Mert, Youngblood, and the other screws yucked it up dutifully. Andy never cracked a smile.

'I'll write down the forms you need,' he said. 'You can get them at the post office, and I'll fill them out for your signature.'

That sounded suitably important, and Hadley's chest swelled. Then he glared around at the rest of us and hollered, "What are you jimmies starin' at? Move your asses,goddammit!' He looked back at Andy. 'You come over here with me, hotshot. And listen to me well: if you're Jewing me somehow, you're gonna find yourself chasing your head around Shower C before the week's out.'

'Yes, I understand that,' Andy said softly.

And he did understand it. The way it turned out, he understood a lot more than I did -more than any of us did.

That's how, on the second-to-last day of the job, the convict crew that tarred the platefactory roof in 1950 ending up sitting in a row at ten o'clock on a spring morning,drinking Black Label beer supplied by the hardest screw that ever walked a turn at Shawshank Prison. That beer was piss-warm, but it was still the best I ever had in my life. We sat and drank it and felt the sun on our shoulders, and not even the expression of half amusement, half-contempt on Hadley's face - as if he was watching apes drink beer instead of men -could spoil it. It lasted twenty minutes, that beer-break, and for those twenty minutes we felt like free men. We could have been drinking beer and tarring the roof of one of our own houses.

Only Andy didn't drink. I already told you about his -linking habits. He sat hunkered down in the shade, hands dangling between his knees, watching us and smiling a little. It's amazing how many men remember him that way, and amazing how many men were on that work-crew when Andy Dufresne faced down Byron Hadley. I thought there were nine or ten of us, but by 1955 there must have been two hundred of us, maybe more ... if you believed what you heard.

So, yeah - if you asked me to give you a flat-out answer to the question of whether I'm trying to tell you about a man or a legend that got made up around the man, like a pearl around a little piece of grit - I'd have to say that the answer lies somewhere in between.All I know for sure is that Andy Dufresne wasn't much like me or anyone else I ever knew since I came inside. He brought in five hundred dollars jammed up his back porch,but somehow that graymeat son of a bitch managed to bring in something else as well. A sense of his own worth, maybe, or a feeling that he would be the winner in the end ... or maybe it was only a sense of freedom, even inside these goddamned grey walls. It was a kind of inner light he carried around with him. I only knew him to lose that light once,and that is also a part of this story.

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