Here’s some Sad Sad Larry to lower your day:
Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account in Kentucky.
Frog Gravy contains graphic language.
Ricky Parnell is a real name.
Ricky’s World, Fulton County Detention Center, Hickman KY, Summer, 2008.
This cell has driven me over the edge. It is mat-to-mat overcrowded on the floor. The television is blasting BET at a maximum volume of 60. Four of the most egregious human beings on the planet are in a corner, loudly shoving foul-mouthed fuck notes through a hole in the cement wall to the men in the cell next door. One of them stomped on my cricket and killed it in front of me. Another took one of my bird drawings and shoved it through the hole in the wall. A team of sledgehammers has taken up residence inside my skull, and even the towel on my head will not stop the pounding at the back of my eyeballs.
I cannot write. I cannot draw. I cannot hear myself think.
A newcomer is standing next to the steel door near the telephone, and she has such horrendous body odor from the sick of the streets that it distracts even me, and I do not have a good sense of smell. Inmates have gathered outside of her sphere of influence, in small groups behind her back, and they are talking about her. Tracey says, “She stanks. Her pits is kickin.'”
I say, “Well maybe we should get a guard involved on this one. That way it will not seem that we are ganging upon her and hating her. She just got here, and she obviously cannot think this through, you know, her life isn’t that cool right now.”
Several others agree.
Another group of loud haters are in another section of the cell, hating on anything that comes to mind. “They ain’t no black Catholics,” one of them says to me to be hateful, referring to my weekly counseling sessions with the wonderful Priest, Father Al.
Father Al also brings with him an empathetic and loving Priest intern, who happens to be black, but I do not bother to tell the woman this because she has a gigantic need to be hateful and so I let her.
Father Al changed my life. I will never forget him and his intern. A shout-out to the Catholics: Man, do they ever do some good work with inmates. This goes for the Priests and Deacons at KCIW PeWee Valley as well. There are some really, really good people in the world after all.
I am starting to feel like Patrick Bateman in the American Psycho scene where he takes an axe to Paul Allen and says, “Try making reservations at Dorsia now, you stupid, fucking bastaaaarrrd!!” I want to beat someone up with my bare hands because I do not have an axe.
I used to get this way when I was drinking. Violent. A completely different person. I received all sorts of feedback about that: You puked in my car; You peed in the kitchen; You nearly killed me; You are scaring me; You hit on my husband; You broke the dishes; I hate you when you are like this; I hate it when you drink.
Right now I am still ‘The Older Lady That Writes.’ Five minutes from now, I am going to be skipping backward across the cell in a raincoat with an axe, talking about Huey Lewis and the News.
I compose a speech in my mind, that I plan to deliver biblically, like Moses, from the top of the steel table. If only we had Moses, Jesus and Paul up in here. All three of them had tempers. Can you imagine being in the cell with those three? None of them would put up with this crap.
Everbody listen up! We are gonna have ten minutes of quiet in the cell. We’re gonna turn the cocksucking television off. The first person in this room that even clears her throat for the next ten minutes, I will kill with my bare hands.
Someone moves her lips and it’s on: Surprise!! Bam bam bambam bam bam…
I am in court facing the new violence charges. The judge says, “Ms. Leatherman, It says here that you nearly beat another inmate to death. How do you plead?”
“Guilty, your Honor. I, uh, slammed her up against the wall, knocked her teeth halfway down her throat and kicked her ass until the guards pulled me off and took me to the hole.”
“Well, then, time served, Ms.Leatherman! She deserved it. (gavel bangs) Good luck to you.”
I am about to climb onto the steel table top and make this whole thing a reality, when the steel door opens and in walks the jailer, Ricky Parnell, with a couple of other High Falutin jail officials in tow.
I am distracted because the jailer never visits the inmates other than the men he works with outside; he has never been to this cell during my stay here. Plus, it is as if a tree walked in the door; the man is enormous. Big, and tall. He situates himself on top of the steel table.
He says, “The men next door have just lost their commissary, their phone and their TV for six months and y’all are fixin’ to have the same thing happen.” His nose grows about a foot (hat tip Scarecrow) because this man is making a fortune on the phones and the commissary, just sayin’.
What finally happens is sheer miracle: the two guards retrieve the four most egregious offenders on the planet and take them to the hole, all to the standing ovation, applause and cheers of other cell inmates.
This man just gained a bunch of points in my brownie point book. Ricky gets it. He puts his inmates to work. He has a fantastic library. He has AA meetings and educational classes, church services and Father Al. There is no screaming mentally ill homeless man being pepper sprayed in his isolation cell. While I was there, he made changes to the diet to make the food better, and he ate the food himself every day. We go outside each day for an hour of recreation. Sure, the jail is an overcrowded dungeon. But it is a dungeon you can actually work with. So, here is a Frog Gravy shout-out to Ricky and his World.
I am still seething with anger at the four obnoxious inmates, and so I join others in continuing to be mean. On our way to and from work each evening we pass by the hole and shout, clap and sing all sorts of obnoxious things, such as “See ya, assholes, see ya (clap clap), and with me singing Jeff Beck, “Goin’ down….down, down, down, down, down….a-kung-kung clap-clap…”
I never knew I had this mean streak in me. But given the right set of circumstances, I can now understand how some people just snap and attack another inmate. It happens more in the men’s prisons, but it also happens among women. I saw someone at KCIW PeWee Valley leave a scene in handcuffs to the standing ovation of the entire prison, for beating someone who needed to be set straight. She delivered a spectacular beating to the deserving inmate, and then put her hands behind her back and waited for the guards. Her victim went to the medical ward. No one was sorry.
Cross-posted at froggravy.wordpress.com.