The Max

Ken Bruen

Jason Starr


“I had no worries about someone fucking me. I was no white bread white boy. If someone said something wrong, my challenge would be quick and if the apology was less than swift, I would attack forthwith.”

EDWARD BUNKER, Education of a Felon: A Memoir

“Gonna have yer sweet white ass later.”

The greeting Max Fisher got from his towering black cellmate, Rufus.

Max thought, Whoa, hold the phones, there’s gotta be some mistake. Was he in the right place? Where was the… I.P. treatment? Where was Martha Fucking Stewart? Where were those bastards from Enron? How come there wasn’t a goddamn tennis court in sight? Yeah, Max knew Attica wasn’t Club Fed, but he didn’t expect this. He thought a big-time player like himself would get the, you know, special treatment but, Jesus, not this kind of special treatment. He thought he’d work on his backhand, get some stock tips, learn how to crochet, maybe start working out, lose some of the extra forty pounds he’d been lugging around. Maybe the guard took him to the wrong part of the prison. Didn’t prisons have neighborhoods just like cities? Max was supposed to be on the Upper East Side, but by accident they’d brought him to the goddamn South Bronx.

Max clutched the bars, said to the guard, a young black guy, “Hey, come back here, yo.” Yeah, Max spoke hip-hop, one of his many talents. The guard didn’t stop and Max shouted, “Hey, asshole, I think there’s been a little fucking screw-up around here!” Yeah, let the fuck know who was boss, like the time he was dining at Le Cirque and the maitre d’ sat him at a table with a dirty tablecloth. Max let that motherfucker have it all right.

The guard, walking away, laughed, said, “Naw, I think there’s gonna be a big screw up, Fisher. Inside yo’ ass.”

His laughter echoed in the corridor until a gate slammed. That’s when it finally hit Max – he was fucked. Up till that point he’d been living the high life, in every sense of the word, blitzed from morning till night. He’d once been a highly successful businessman, then he’d had his nagging wife murdered by a psycho mick and things had gone south faster than you could shout bust. But rising if not from the ashes exactly, he’d re-invented himself as a dope dealer, and not only that, a goddamn Scarface. It didn’t last very long, though. He enlisted Kyle, a young hick from way down south, and to say the kid got, um, screwed is to put it very politely.

Throughout his more than colorful career, Max had been haunted, okay plagued, by an Irish-Greek woman named Angela, AKA heat on heels. She twice fucked up his life and twice walked clean away. He blamed her for his current situation as he blamed her for all his fucking misfortunes. And yet, fuckit, he still got a hard-on when he thought about her. But, Jeez, a hard-on was one thing he did not wanna see right now, in this cage with Rufus.

Scared shitless, Max looked up to God, or at least toward the fucking ceiling, and asked, “Why me?” Yeah, he’d been found guilty of dealing and the judge had thrown the book at him, calling him a, what the fuck was the term? Oh, yeah, “a scourge of our society.” But Max didn’t think the judge had really, like, meant it. During the trial, etcetera, Max had been so out of it on dope, he’d thought he was some kind of rock star, waving to the crowds, and he expected to be found innocent. Yeah, they were some seriously good drugs. Finally out of the haze of the drugs, the booze gone from his system, Max realized he was actually going to the freaking slammer. He screamed at his lawyer, “Get me out of this, I don’t care what it costs!”

His lawyer had actually smiled, the bollix smiled! Yeah, bollix – Max’s speech was littered with Irish-isms from all the mad deranged micks he’d encountered the past couple of years.

The lawyer had said, “Maxie, you’re broke. You’ve got like zilch, nada.”

Max got the picture, but… Maxie? The fuck was with that? Dios Mio. See, he still had his flair for languages, even spoke spic after his time dealing dope to a crew of Columbanos.

His lawyer had said to him, “Keep your head down.”

He’d be keeping his head down all right, on Rufus, it seemed. He’d heard they ran a train through new fish and this was not a train you wanted to board, as it involved lots of guys and your ass.

The reality of the situation had sunk in when the verdict came down but, as he so often did, he’d managed to look at the bright side. Hey, what could you say, he was a positive thinker, an optimistic dude. Maybe this was a reflection of his spiritual training. Yeah, he was a Buddhist, knew how to get into himself, and knew how to not let the negativity of the physical world affect him. He’d asked himself, as he often did during times when his life went to shit, What would Gandhi do in a situation like this? He wouldn’t be panicking, that was for damn sure. He’d be getting off on it, acting like, Yeah, a harsh jail sentence, it was a bump in the road, they can beat me up but they can’t keep me down.

Like that.

So he’d kept on smoking rock – yeah, he was hooked, so the fuck what? – right up until the day he was due to report to prison, thinking how bad could it be at Attica anyway? Hell, Pacino’d wanted to go there, right? The… A.X. – that was his dealing name – was a big-time criminal and every famous crime guy had to take a few falls. Look at Dillinger, look at Sutton, look at Capone. It was just part of what you signed up for when you wanted to be the Kingpin, the Big Boss.

As a successful businessman, Max knew that you always had to stay one step ahead of the competition, so to bone up for jail, Max had stocked up on books and DVDs. He’d been given a surveillance bracelet and couldn’t leave his apartment, so what the fuck else was he gonna do? He hadn’t read anything other than the Wall Street Journal since he was in goddamn high school and, let’s face it, he didn’t read the Journal, he just liked to hold it up and stare at it intensely for show, to make people think he was one serious dude who knew his shit. But now he’d started reading for real. The first book: Animal Factory. Edward Bunker, now there was one tough mo’ fo’. Then he checked out Genet’s prison journals till he shouted, “Hold the goddamn phones, this guy is, like, a pillow biter? ” The fuck with that. But Stone City by Mitchell Smith, yeah, he liked the hero in that, felt he might take that road himself. Same deal with Green River Rising, Tim Willocks; an innocent guy, caught in a prison riot and, against all the odds, coming out on top. Max could see himself, with true cojones , and of course, total modesty, saving captured hostages, offing the really serious psychos and leading the saved out of the burning prison with CNN capturing it all on live TV.

There was also G.M. Ford’s novel where Frank Corso had to go into the joint and go up against the meanest muthahs this side of the Mississippi. And, of course, the one by that Keith Ablow dude. Yeah, all the Grey Goose he’d been drinking had put Max at the center of all these novels and somewhere in there he’d realized, prison was part of his karma, just one more step in the whole, ok, let’s not be shy, messianic road of Max Fisher.

He’d watched Ed Norton in The 25 ^ th Hour and man, he’d wept buckets. They were like spiritual brothers. But fuck, he wasn’t letting anyone beat the shit out of his face, no way Jose. The… A.X. knew his face was his real ace. The Birdman Of Alcatraz? Didn’t get it. Never once occurred to him he might be, um, sharing. Max had been El Hombre, had like over thirty people working for him – okay, only three, including his chef and live-in ho, but who’s counting? – and he’d tell his employees not brashly, “Let’s get one thing straight. The boss distributes, but share, uh-uh, that don’t happen.” Feeling like Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross.

When he’d finished all this reading, he’d been flushed with elation. Whoever played Max in the movie, he’d be a shoo-in for an Oscar. Slam dunk. And, fuck, these books didn’t look like they were so hard to write. You could probably just hire some schmuck to write them for you. Isn’t that what that guy Patterson did? But it wouldn’t be James Patterson “with” Max Fisher – no way that asshole was getting top bill – it would be Fisher with fucking Patterson.

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