A dark comedy short:
In jail I had a dream that I retrieved a porcelain doll from a dumpster and sent the doll to my mother, because she loves dolls. The dream came true after my release from prison, nearly two years later. It is called a Granville House doll. Here is a photo of the doll and the accompanying certificate of authenticity (FWIW, I also sent my mother a dumpster-rescued Lladro 1993 limited edition egg in perfect condition, but I did not photograph the egg):
Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account.
Inmate names are changed.
Frog Gravy contains graphic language.
McCracken County Jail, Cell 107, Spring, 2008
“There is an internal landscape, a geography of the soul; we search for its outlines all our lives.”
I have now been in this cement grave for 135 days, with no end in sight. My body hurts so bad from the cold and from the lack of activity that I do not know if I will ever walk right again. To me, Hell is not hot. Hell is cold. Hell is a cold, mean hateful place where people read the Bible.
I try various psychological tactics to keep from disintegrating in irreversible fashion. I try to trick myself into believing that I am in a coma, and that one day, I will emerge from it. But, this trick does not work. I then try to schedule my days just like work days, where I write for eight hours each day with two ten-minute breaks and a lunch. This works a bit better.
I came in here the world’s gentlest person. Now, I have disturbing and gruesome fantasies and thoughts. I want to be mean to some people. Not to the mentally ill or to the children or to the elderly or to the sick. Just the corrupt ones.
I want to seal them in a cement tomb and leave them there to die. But I want to torture them with light and noise and cold and lies and sleep deprivation and insults and crushing joint pain and laughter. I want to beat and pound, and pound and beat on the coffin. I want to feed them rat hairs and filth so that their teeth will rot. I want the inside of their coffin to be full of pee and semen and snot and black mold and hair and pepper spray and dirty water and feces.
God help me, God save me from these thoughts, I cannot help them. I try and try and try to escape my tomb, and I pray for help.
I keep writing, and I ask for God to help me with this. I write with no shank pens. I water down the ink to make it last. Without ink, I believe, world commerce would collapse, social intercourse would cease, and a lot of people would get hurt.
God currently has me writing about the ‘dog men’ that Christie speaks of. These are some men she knows in town, who, among other seedy business ventures, fight pit bulls, and abuse them, and kill the ones that do not win fights. I also jot some notes about the young boys about town, who look up to and practically worship, the ‘dog men,’ and who aspire to the same entrepreneurial path(s) as them.
Leese, who has completed one poem and is working on a second, has lost her pen and she says, “Where’s my pen? I had two pens and now I don’t have a pen!”
“Did you check under your mat?” I ask.
“Yeah. And I fuckin’ cleaned my bucket.”
“Well, Leese,” says Lea, “It’s not like there’s a fucking pen thief up in here.”
“My kingdom for a pen!” I intercede.
“Fuck you, you old bitch!”
“It’s not worth arguing over. Pens, says Christie. “Not worth it.”
Lea says, “Every time this fuckin’ pen thing comes up I’m the one ends up without a pen.”
“Why don’t we just get some pens from the guard Sally and be done with it?” I say.
Christie says, “Sally can’t remember what she’s doin’ when she walks down the hall. Took the bitch three weeks to get pens last time.”
When Leese leaves, we find the pen under her bunk.
Meg complains about Leese.
Lea confronts Meg and says, “You sure didn’t have any problem playing up to her to get tobacco. I don’t give a fuck how much tobacco comes under that door, I’m not kissing anybody’s ass for it, Meg.”
“I’m not kissing anybody’s ass for nuthin.’ I paid more for tobacco than she ever did. Bitch took the lighter after she left too, go figure.”
After Meg leaves we are all relieved, and the cell dynamic becomes more peaceful and positive. Meg will last exactly four days before her next arrest and detention, which will amount to a brief bump in the road before she is out getting her boasted-about “dick,” and getting pregnant with her tenth child, who will be born in captivity.
Even though Meg ‘ran’ the cell while she was here, we all voice concern for after her departure.
Meg has no home. She stays in motels with a man who supports her in exchange for sex. Her twins, the youngest of nine children, at six months old, also live in a motel with another couple. Had the other couple not agreed to take the twins, they would have gone to the State. We do not know if Meg intends to ‘do right’ and regain custody of her children, but we all voice our wishes that she do so.
I look at my notes and realize the vapid nature of the conversation about pens. But then again, we have many such vacuous discussions, because, well, they are all we have, and we can control our discussions, but nothing else in our lives.
At night I dream that I am putting on some nice clothes, but even in the dream I know it’s a dream.