BBC- Attenborough- Life in the Undergrowth- Ants. Planet Earth:
Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account in Kentucky.
Inmate names are changed.
Ricky’s World, Fulton County Detention Center, Hickman, Ky, August, 2008
I awake to the realization that the TV has been on for something like three days straight. I sleep on the cement floor, underneath the TV.
My right arm is numb and swollen because last night at work in the kitchen, we sliced an enormous tub, the size of a child’s wading pool, full of cucumbers, and then we sliced four gallons of okra.
I did most of the slicing, though, because Fiona, the Borderline inmate who, as a child, stabbed her mother because her mother would not let her watch Rin-Tin-Tin on television, was fired for talking to men in the hallway on the way to work. Fiona is 23 years old and has been locked up for 27 straight months now. I do not know what her charges are, but she speaks proudly of the fact that she once spent nearly a year in cell block (the hole) at KCIW PeWee Valley, for an attack on either a guard or another inmate. Fiona and I compete at completing SuDoKu puzzles in the cell.
Colleen weighs three hundred pounds, and houses one puffy arm in a sling. At work, she tries to tackle one job per night. For the most part though, she eats. Toast and margarine and jelly. White bread and mayonnaise and tomato sandwiches; hamburgers, fried onions and cornbread; cake and fried bologna and casserole.
After breakfast this morning, Colleen wants me to help her write a grievance to Ricky Parnell, the jailer.
“Just write from the heart,” I tell her, and she does. I only help her with spelling and minor things. Her handwriting is neat and her letters are large and loopy. She has modified her punctuation marks. Each period is an exclamation point, where the period part of the point is a five-point star.
The letter says:
Grievance Mr. Ricky Parnell
I’m writing a grievance on your medical staff and the doctor.
The reason why is I fell in your kitchen working for y’all. I fell on March 3, 2008. I filled out a med slip and they took me the next day to get an x-ray. Then I went to see the doctor and they said the x-ray showed up a needle form in my hand. I have never used needles.
This bizarre statement may have come from the fact that they were looking at a fracture. The letter continues:
The doctor gave me a Tylenol and sent me on my way. My hand was still swollen and hurting really bad so I went back to the nurse and she referred me to the doctor again. So then he said we are going to get another x-ray. Then I went back to the doctor and he asked me what did the x-ray show? I told him he should know, because he is the doctor.
I was off work for 2 months with my hand swollen and hurting really bad. I went back in the kitchen in May 2008.
I went back to the nurse on 7/28/08 cause my hand was swollen and hurting really bad. The pain is going all the way up my arm. So the nurse referred me to the doctor. He was supposed to see me on Wednesday but he didn’t. I asked why and he said cause he couldn’t do anything for me. I am telling you, there is something wrong with my hand.
I also signed a paper they brought me this morning when I was asleep that the doctor can’t do anything for me and I can order tylenol on commissary. So please can you help me I’m in so much pain my hand and arm is so swollen. Also they are making me work if not I have to lay it down in county.
Thank you for your time, Colleen
The term “lay it down in county” is a constant threat to state-final-sentenced inmates in this jail. State final-sentenced inmates are Class D nonviolent inmates, for the most part, and the jail segregates them from county inmates.
The ‘county’ side of the jail is not all that much different, except county inmates are not allowed to work, they wear jailhouse clothes, they do not have a microwave, and they have more scabies, ringworm, staph and MRSA than the state-side inmates. However, lately, state inmates have had their share of staph, due to the dearth of medical care.
I spend the rest of the day drawing a train for my oldest brother, who loves trains.
Train, jail art by Crane-Station on Masonbennu’s flickr stream.
While I am drawing, there is a distraction in the cell. Linda and others have obtained a large can of Raid, and they are killing some tiny ants that occasionally pass through the cell.
I am outraged because I love ants. I say, “What in the fuck are you doing?”
“Killin’ the aints.”
“Why? They are not hurting us, these tiny ants.”
“These aints is nasty.”
“You’re gonna kill us all in the process.”
“Mind your own bidness.”
The tiny creatures struggle and drown and die in a lake of Raid. I grab the nearest Bible, and flip to Proverbs. I attempt to speak their language, the language of the gospel, because the killers are all ‘saved.’ They spend their days and nights talking about how much they love Jesus and God. They frequently quote scripture.
I tell the Raid people that Abraham admired ants and the wisdom of the ants.I quote Proverbs out loud. It says:
New International Version (NIV)
6 Go to the ant, you sluggard;
consider its ways and be wise!
7 It has no commander,
no overseer or ruler,
8 yet it stores its provisions in summer
and gathers its food at harvest.
This has no effect on the self-professed ‘saved’ killing spree. In fact, quite the opposite. One of the people who claims to follow the teachings of Jesus to the letter says to me, “You don’t believe in God, do you? I can tell.”
At my counseling session with Father Al later, I ask, “Father Al, do you believe in Satanic possession?”
“Why do you ask me?” he says.
“The joy in life is in the searching for God, I have decided.” I tell the priest. “Satan is too obvious. There is no need to search for evil.”