As I explained, our parrot knocked the camera out of my hand and broke it. I have located a new digital camera in a dumpster, but until I get a memory card into the thing to photograph documents and art, here is some Cyanide and Happiness: Spartacus.
Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account in Kentucky.
Frog Gravy contains graphic language.
Inmate names are changed.
Cell 107, McCracken County Jail, Winter, 2008
Breakfast this morning was strange, because to me, just listening, it sounded like locusts devouring a biblical country. Jail eating is not normal. Inmates gobble, hoard, smack, belch and fart. They yank and choke down food, slurp, slobber and grunt. The binge symphony is punctuated with the words Are You Gonna Eat That?
Here is what that looks like:
There is much trading, spooning, shoveling and hoarding and the handing back and forth sporkfulls of food. The binge symphony lasts for ten minutes and then guards and working Class D males pick up the trays.
Binge and sleep, binge and sleep, occurs three times a day, not including commissary days. On those days, some inmates binge before the binge.
For the women of this jail, there is absolutely nothing else to do except eat, watch TV and sleep. Only five Class D female final sentenced state inmates even work a job, and none of the female jobs involve outdoor or even hallway work. The remaining Class D final sentenced female inmates are revenue units for the jail and nothing more.
For these women, the days turn to months and then to years, and then they are released into the community and the street, with nothing to show for the time spent but massive weight gain and the thousand-yard stare.
Many of them will return.
I am seated at a steel table wearing a terry cloth towel equivalent of a tin foil hat on my head, looking at some papers. The first one is a Kentucky Jail Ministries (US 42 Florence KY 41042) church handout. It says:
I once read: God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called. The world might say there are many reasons why God wouldn’t want to use you or me, but don’t worry:
Mark was rejected by Paul
Hosea’s wife was a prostitute
Amos’ only training was in the school of fig tree pruning
Solomon was too rich
Abraham was too old
David was to young
Timothy had ulcers
Peter was afraid of death
John was self-righteous
Naomi was a widow
Paul was a murderer
So was Moses
Jonah ran from God
Miriam was a gossip
Gideon and Thomas both doubted
Jeremiah was depressed and suicidal
Elijah was burned out
John the Baptist was a loudmouth
Martha was a worry-wart
Samson had long hair
Noah got drunk
In the cell, things go from bad to worse.We are already on ‘double secret probation,’ and are without phone and TV. We lost these things because Ruthie was on Sirkka’s bunk, getting her hair curled, for her mother’s funeral the next day. We lost these things for longer for Ruthie’s mother’s funeral than we did that time when the whole cell got busted smoking cigarettes.
Sirkka becomes progressively more infantile, manipulative, sexual and annoying, until finally she and Joyce get into hurling verbal insults at each other. Sirkka writes a note to the guards to get moved out, to a suicide cell. They move her. We do not know if she will return or not; she is running out of options and will soon have on her list of past addresses, every female cell in the jail.
I am relieved for the temporary quiet. While I do not want to attack her personally, because I like her and think she has a good heart, some of the things she did enraged me. Her food binges, for example. She would start grabbing at, asking for, and hoarding food until she had just a sick amount of food in front of her. Meat patties; four, five or six slices of bread; two, three or four helpings of mashed potatoes; mounds of cake and pudding. I had not even thought of my own struggle with bulimia in years, but having someone binge-eat in front of me several times a day, bothers me.
On top of that, she managed to eat and drink everyone else’s commissary, and talk people out of phone time, stamps, envelopes, paper, and anything else she could get. If you were away from your bunk, she took your blankets, or worse, demanded that you take your blankets and cover her up”like a baby,” and rub her back until she falls asleep “like a baby.”
In her waking hours, Sirkka walked around the cell half naked, screaming, yelling, giggling, and showing tits, ass and crotch to the Class D men working the hallway.
Her latest love interest on the outside is a crack-smoking married guy with four or five kids, that she had been sleeping with for drugs. When she leaves we all welcome the quiet. Turns out everyone hated the food binges. Plus, everyone hated her using their shampoo, soap, deodorant, hair brush, hair ties, and blankets.
At the same time we were all so annoyed, we felt sorry for Sirkka. We suspected that she came to our cell during a manic phase of a bipolar cycle. She was unmedicated. We dealt with her situation the best we could, and tried to remain kind.
All psychiatric medication was prescribed by a social worker, if it was prescribed at all. Perhaps an MD or ARNP was signing off on the prescriptions, but these people never laid eyes on the inmates, nor did they perform a single assessment. Given this deficiency in medical care, I had little hope that Sirkka would ever receive proper medical intervention during her stay in this jail.
I adjust the towel on my head and make my selection from the church handout before me:
Noah got drunk.