by Crane-Station for Frog Gravy
Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account in Kentucky.
Inmate names are changed.
Frog Gravy contains graphic language. Do not read this post at work.
Fancy thinking the beast was something you could hunt and kill…You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? Close, close, close! I’m the reason why it’s no go. Why things are what they are.
Lord of the Flies
Water runs downill
KCIW, PeWee Valley Women’s Penitentiary, Winter, 2008-2009
We are in the noisy day room of Ridgeview Dormitory, playing Spades. As usual, my friend in the wheelchair, Sandy, is my partner. She loves to talk, and I love to listen. She explains the characteristics and tendencies of humans to me, as would a college professor, in a lovely eastern Kentucky hillbilly drawl.
Sandy explains, “…You put a pussy on a man, he gonna take it. This don’t take no damn rocket scientist to figure out; people start fuckin’ at thirteen.”
The TV is blaring. Everyone is talking. The faucet in the kitchen area sink is cut on to full stream, because everyone has given up the battle of turning faucets off, after the OCD inmate’s hundreds-of-times-a-day hand washing routine. The washer and the dryer and the microwave are all running. Several groups of four other than our group, are seated at tables, playing Spades. Since the OCD inmate’s canteen Nike tennis shoes are in the dryer, there is a loud, regularly irregular ka-ka-kunk, ka-ka-kunk sound coming from the dryer.
LaDonna, the bipolar inmate who is chronically manic and laugh-out-loud funny, stops at our table and says to Sandy, referring to me, “Well, I see you got you a crazy-ass Spades partner again.”
LaDonna and I are friends, and she has stopped by to confirm that I will be buying her psych drugs this evening. Everyone at the table gets it, but no one says anything. LaDonna robbed a bank at gunpoint and stole a car, then evaded police, and got less time than me, seven years, a fact that she is proud of, and rubs in. She says, “I’ma sing you guys a song, do a little dance.”
She raises her hands and, snapping and clapping and stepping, sings, “…In-house, out-house…” (clap. clap-clap clap) “…Crack-house, whore-house…” (clap. Snap-clap) Then, something distracts her and she leaves.
I ask Sandy how old God is. She replies, “Older than dirt. Balls hang lower than his knees.”
We are called to line up outside, if we are enrolled in night class. Tory comes to the table, books in hand and says, “Time to go.”
I tell Sandy, “Gotta run. Hey, what’s a hundred yards long and has three teeth?”
“KCIW Med line!”
She laughs, and as we are leaving, she says, “Bird Lady. Them Bluegrass people. They ain’t no joke.”
“I know,” I say.
Later, I take LaDonna’s evening meds. Within some period of time, and I have no idea how long it is, I am trying to find my room. But I am plastered up against the cement wall, and drool runs down it in a trail. I am literally higher than God. My feet are not even touching the floor; rather, they keep searching for ground, in the cloud. I have never been this fucked up, ever in my entire life and I am convinced that I have to find my bunk before I cough up a heart valve onto the wall, where it will stick and ten thut-thut-thut-tut, in a fan, to the floor. A doorknob! I open a door, and I am saying, “What are you guys doing in my room?” Blank stares. Next, the 5:45 AM wakeup call is issued, and I get up as always, from my own bunk.
LaDonna will be shipped to CCA-owned Otter Creek. There will be a medication error. LaDonna will fight for her life on a ventilator, but we do not know this yet.
On the way to school, Christie hands me a letter and two photographs and says, “Here. Put this in your book.”
The letter is from a male inmate to someone who arranges prison pen pals. He is young and nice looking. In one photo, he poses in a tank top in front of a weight set. He wears a gold watch and a gold chain. Sunglasses hang from the front of his tank top. He has a chest tattoo from a parlor on the outside.
“Nice,” I say.
“His balls just dropped,” says Christie.” He is looking for someone to write sex letters to. I know him. He really is very nice.”
The penmanship is neat, meticulous cursive. Every line is filled out on the lined paper. Photocopied, hand-drawn roses and vines outline the letter. It says (names changed):
My name is Anthony Acree and my inmate number is #XXXXXX and I’m looking for a pen-pal to write if you could please hook-a-nigga up one time- “then good lookin.'” She can write to me at Northpoint Training Center PO Box 479 Burgin, KY 40310)
Once she writes, her and I will take it from there. I’ve enclosed two photos of myself. “Look” real talk in a good nigga to write, and I am going to keep her mind in the mist. But at the same time I want to get her drunk and in the back seat of my truck about 2:17 AM in an alley, sucken da dog shit outa dat pussy, I will lick her wet and suck her dry, ya dig. And as she holds on for dear life I will slide dis cock in dat A22 and fuck dat perm out her muthafucken head.
Fuck wit a nigga, Brick
“Dang,” I tell Christie. “He writes better than most of the legal profession around here. What’s with the 2:17 AM”
“I know.I wondered about the 2:17 myself.”
Tory says, “Bird Lady, you’re brave, writing about this stuff.”
“I have nothing to lose,” I say.
In night Biology class, Mr. Burke tells us that his choice to teach this class, here in this prison, is one of the most enlightening and delightful things he has ever done and that, other teachers refuse to do what he does because “they do not know what they are missing.”
He inspires me to want to return to the prison and teach someday. If they would ever let me back in, that is. Every student in the class loves Mr. Burke. No one is ever late or absent, unless she has been involved in an altercation unrelated to school.
During break I tell Tory, “Check this out. Here is a way to memorize that list of elements he wants us to know.”
We discuss the mnemonic device See Mag Men Mob Cousin Hopkins’ Nice Clean Cafe: C Mag Men Mob CuZn Hopkins NiCe Clean CaFe.
Tory asks, “What else do you think we should know?”
“That is a really good question,” I say. “And a tough one.” I think for a moment, What one thing, if I know it, will help me to figure out everything else?
“Water runs downhill,” I say.