Author’s note: Frog Gravy is a nonfiction account of incarceration in Kentucky, first in jails and then in prison, in 2008 and 2009.
Frog Gravy contains graphic language.
The jail art was done at Ricky’s World because McCracken County banned all art supplies.
McCracken County Jail, Cell 107, Sometime in February, 2008.
“It sure is a beautiful day outside,” says the breakfast-serving sadistic guard, as he pushes food trays through the steel slot in the steel door.
He says this to be mean because he knows we never get recreation time out of the cell. Also, he knows that they can make it look like we do get recreation time, by documenting “refusal” on the form, when he offers us one-half-hour of rec time at 3 AM, the one time when we are likely to be sleeping. He offers this sleep interruption not in the outdoor cage, but in the tiny indoor, closet-sized chapel. On paper, it looks like we get an hour of exercise each day. But in reality, we remain in the cement cage for weeks at a time.
Before I sit at the steel table to eat, I go into the toilet stall, climb onto the steel toilet, stand on tip-toes and peer through a scratched out slit of the ghosted-out window. I see dumpsters. I see a business called ‘Tim’s Tires’ across a street.” It looks to be a crisp, winter morning. I climb down from the toilet.
Today I am depressed. My spirit is broken, and I question my faith in God. I am tired of the Christian ‘right’ telling me that Jesus will descend from the clouds looking like Fabio, scanning the world for marks of the beast and imbedded computer chips indicating the chosen people who will be allowed to shop at WalMart, while ignoring the rest of the planet in its entirety. Forgive me for this, but I sometimes picture Jesus teaming up with the likes of Paul and Moses (also with bad tempers at times), forming a sleeved-out-in-tattoos gang and descending from the clouds to kick some ass.
I try to think about Joseph’s technicolor dream coat.Then I try to remember if colors were even mentioned in the bible. Or why Jesus never wrote anything down. Or if anyone had a sense of humor back then. Probably one of those banned chapters, I suppose.
I adjust my mat. Pull it up. Turn it over. Put a towel over my head. Put a sheet around my shoulders. Tape a Maxipad over my eyes with the sticky label from a shampoo bottle. I turn to the right until my arm goes numb, and then I turn to the left. The towel falls to the floor. Christie gives it back to me.
Christie notices my misery that accompanies existing, but not living, in a cage, and tries to lighten my mood. I have come to love Christie like a sister, or like a childhood friend that, even after years without contact, the love and friendship never changes.
She says, “Lemme tell you how worthless my mother is. She knows I’m getting out, right? And she can’t even keep phone time on her phone. But, I can’t be too mad at her. I forged a check in her name for $167.00, in Marshall County and there might be a warrant out for her arrest, but she doesn’t know it.”
“No. But I mean we’re even because I was getting all her Lortabs for her before.”
I say, “Checks seem to be a scam anyway. We don’t use checks or cards any more. The banks just steal all the money anyway. Who charges people to get their own money? Who does that?”
Tina says, “I wrote a check for seventy-five cents. It bounced. Now I owe $395.00 in fees. For a seventy-five cent check.”
Christie says, “I had an account I was trying to get right with. I called the bank and asked how much overdrawn I was. They told me $290.00. Now listen to this. This is US Bank.”
“Thieving Mega bank,” I say.
“So,” says Christie. “I paid them $290.00, right? I thought I was in the clear. Turns out I was overdrawn $295.00, so I was still over drawn by $5.00. Now that 5 dollars has accrued fees and interest equal to is $297.00. The bank did that on purpose They knew they’d make money if they lied to me about the amount I owed. Now I owe them $295.00.”
“Told you,” I say.
We watch the morning news. A man is sentenced to one year for manslaughter.
“Wow,” I say, “I shoulda killed someone! I would have got less time!”
Tina says, “He didn’t mean to kill anyone. It was manslaughter.”
YaYa says, “Yeah, he didn’t mean to kill anyone during a parole violation.”
On TV we also learn than Kentucky is 50th in the nation for physical activity.
“Makes sense,” I say. “Everyone in Kentucky is locked up.”
Christie changes the subject and says, “Ever eaten at The Greasy Spoon?”
“There is actually a restaurant called The Greasy Spoon?” I ask.
“Yeah, it’s in Possum Trot.”
“There’s a town called Possum Trot?”
“Yeah,” says Christie, “I had a friend that lived over there. She was real cracked out, and anyway I was at her house one day and we were smoking all this crack, and the smoke was getting to my eye. Did I tell you I have a glass eye?” She points to her glass eye.
“No,” I say, looking. “I can’t even tell. What happened?”
“My brother put it out with a tent stake when I was six.”
“Oh God,” I say.
“Anyway, we were smoking all this crack, and the smoke got to my eye, so I took my eyeball out and set it on a bench next to the bed, and I told Lexie, I’m putting my eye right here, okay?”
“So then we keep smoking, and I decide to go to my sugar daddy to get $200 to get some more crack, and I go to put my eyeball back in, but it’s gone. We tear the place up, and I can’t find it anywhere, so I leave without it, and I’m driving, and I’m trying to put some makeup on, as if that’s going to help, I look awful.”
“And I get distracted and run a red light and almost hit someone, and there sits a cop, right there in the parking lot of the local AA club. So, he blue lights me, and I slam on the brakes and the crack pipe and the crack and the purse fly to the floorboard, and I’m trying to cover everything up. He comes to my window, and I point to my eye socket, and I am frantic, practically in tears, and I point to my eye socket, and I say “I can’t find my eyeball!! The socket’s really bothering me and my eyeball is missing!”
“What did he do?”
He is horrified and he kind of backs away and says “Ma’am, why don’t you just park over here and smoke a cigarette and calm down.”
“And I pulled over and smoked a cigarette, then took a hit off the crack pipe, then went to my sugar daddy to get the $200 and got some more crack, then went back to try to find my eyeball.”
“Where was it?”
“Turns out it was in the baby bed with the baby. I guess the baby thought it was comforting or something so he took it to bed with him.”
“Is the eyeball round?”
“No, curved, kind of like a disc.”
And I am thinking, maybe they should label glass eyeballs with those choking hazard warnings, but I am also now absolutely certain that I might be going insane.
Author’s end note: Here are my blood toxicology results from the night of my arrest. Recall that I was convicted of a DUI. Without any bad driving, of course. I don’t think there is another person in America with an affirmed DUI conviction, with these toxicology results.