Untimely Elimination

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A thick, smooth consistency. Dark, chocolately brown in color. Rancid, and smeared across the back of my thighs. Not a good way to start the day.

Lifestyle Changes
I’d been doing so very well. Living the keto life in prison isn’t easy, but I had remained faithful to the carb-restricted diet in combination with vigorous exercise six days a week. In three months, I’d lost nearly 25 pounds. I was feeling better, looking slimmer, but hitting a wall of sorts.

It’s not like I had the option to run out to the supermarket as needed for the freshest produce or the meats, cheeses, and nuts that are the main staples of this revolutionary way of eating and thinking of fat consumption. I was allowed to eat plenty of bacon, but there’s not a strip in sight in prison. I miss bacon so much. You could say I fell off the proverbial wagon.

ramennoodlesA minor injury slowed me down in my exercise, then I fell into past bad habits. I ended up bingeing on an overabundance of carb-heavy garbage food. Noodles, rice, chips, cookies, honeybuns. Notice that I used the plural form for each of those items. My digestive system had grown unaccustomed to such trash, especially in such huge quantities, and I would pay for my indiscretion with more than just some simple indigestion.

Sleepy Crapping
At one in the morning, I was awakened from a lovely, deep, dreamless sleep by an enormous pressure and pain in my abdomen, groin, and anus. I threw off the blankets and was assaulted by the extreme chill in the cell. The news said we’d be getting the first frost of the season overnight, but DOC policy is to turn on the heat in the buildings at the latest possible date.

The cold shot through me like a dull projectile and made my guts tense up, which only intensified the calamity centered there. I stumbled, bleary-eyed, to the bathroom and embraced the toilet seat with my butt cheeks, fully expecting to barely make it there in time. A weak stream of urine piddled out, but nothing more, and I was left in a peculiar state of mixed-up agony.

Despite this pain, I vacillated between dozing into a thin sleep and bouts of grunting, groaning, and heavy breathing. After about twenty minutes or so, I had managed to expel a stubborn but hefty amount of compacted crap from my system and felt all the better for it. As I cleaned myself up, I actually entertained the notion that it was a good thing that I had gotten my morning waste elimination out of the way so early because I could still get a few more hours of sleep then have plenty of time to write without having to be interrupted by my poop time. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Crappy Conditions
Several hours later, after my morning prayers and cup of coffee, I was sitting on my bunk, writing and minding my own business, when I suddenly had to handle an entirely different kind of business. A loose fart escaped me as a warning shot and portent of so much worse to come. I was on my feet with all the necessary toiletries in hand in an instant. Toilet paper, bar of soap, towel, baby powder, small bottle of bleach to disinfect the seat of the community toilet before I dropped trou.

miami beach 411Unfortunately, my progress stalled right there as I saw that one of my five cellies had already sequestered himself in our semi-private bathroom. A pinch of panic nipped at me, but I settled back onto my bunk and tried to sit comfortably and take my mind off the impending mass of mess slouching towards my sphincter with an insidious inevitability. Sitting quickly became an impossibility, and I regained my feet once more, instituting the shit shuffle as I danced back and forth from foot to foot while taking deep regular breaths in an effort to both control and distract from the crap coming my way.

I didn’t want to think about what I would or could do if my cellie didn’t come out soon. My options were limited and unappealing. I could’ve deposited my gift in a garbage can in the cell, or tried sneaking out to the showers and put my poop there. Each potentiality carried its own intrinsic, disgusting aspect with it, and consequences for being caught doing either would be a walk to Seg or a beatdown. Possibly both.

I glided gingerly across the concrete, careful not to jostle the load I was carrying, and tapped on the bathroom door a couple times to signal to my cellie that I was waiting on him. “Yeah, hold on,” was his response, and it gave me a glimmer of hope which I carried back to my bunk where I stood and shuffled some more while performing my improvised Lamaze exercises. No amount of hope or heavy breathing could stop what came next.

Breach
I felt it coming and panic kicked in hard, but it was a futile feeling, utterly useless in my predicament. With all my might and will, I attempted to squeeze my cheeks against the breach, but the slick sludge slid out unimpeded by my best efforts. I ceased all movements and felt hot, wet waste settle between my cheeks. With some pressure released, I tried to reason that it would be okay, that the offensive fecal matter would just sit quietly in the on deck circle, and I could still make it to the toilet in time, thereby averting disaster.

Unfortunately, once that turd train had begun to travel along the tracks, there was no stopping it. I stood in the middle of my dark cell, completely motionless, but mentally screaming and pleading for it to stop as a quite considerable amount of crap continued to evacuate my body. My boxers filled, and I felt the warm shit sliding against the back of my legs and squish along my inner thighs. It was undeniable official: I was a grown man—at nearly 35 the very definition of middle-aged—and I had just crapped in my pants.

Change of Plans
I had an entirely different problem on my hands, and in my pants, at this point. My knees were pinned together due to the foolish belief that it would somehow arrest any further progression of the poop oozing its way down the back of my legs. I turned awkwardly and carefully gathered supplies, bending at the waist and praying for no further fallout–also hoping for nothing to fall out the bottom of my shorts.

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photo by “africa”
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The pungent aroma of human waste began to permeate the air of the cell, undeniable in its potency, and I could only hope my remaining four cellies would remain sleeping. A change of clothes and bath towel were added to my overburdened arms. Just as soon as I had them all, I had to pile all my cleanup materials into the crook of my left arm and hug everything to my chest as my right hand reached behind me and grasped at the mass that was migrating lower and threatening to make its presence known on the floor of the cell.

All My Glory
When my cellie finally opened the door, he found me standing just outside the bathroom in all my glory. Supplies were piled high in one arm while my feet were pigeon-toed, and my knees were both pinched together and slightly bent so that I could reach the bulge in the back of my shorts. My hand was pressing the shorts against my body, holding the problematic poop in place by smearing it across my flesh.

Thankfully, my cellie just blinked bleary-eyed and got the hell out of my way. There was no way he couldn’t have smelled me, but I tried to remain nonchalant as I sidled past him and shuffle-stepped through the door with a load caught in my pants by a well-placed palm.

A Cleansing
Hovering above the toilet like an accomplished yogi, I had some heavy shit on my mind as well as on my body and clothes. The ever-present nagging issue on my mind was that I had several other guys who would soon be waking and wanting to use the bathroom, so I had to be as quick and economical with my cleansing as possible. For thirty minutes, I worked at dispensing with all the evidence of my accident and was left with a soggy, soapy—but poop-free—pile of clothes ready for the laundry.

Regression
At best I felt sort of clean, no longer befouled, which I couldn’t begrudge. I could, however, begrudge the fact that this incident wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t have to share a single toilet with so many guys with no viable option in case of emergency. The experience conjured an all-consuming humiliation, helplessness, and shame that I thought I’d left behind me in my childhood years, but prison has a way of making grown men regress. Of course, I never thought I’d revert to my pre-potty trained days, but I suppose every day is an adventure of sorts, albeit, occasionally, a decidedly shitty adventure.
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Culture Clash

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“What!? You want me to say ‘please’? I ain’t finna beg you for a damn milk!” Chuckie was a harmless but annoying loudmouth with a big gut and short stature. He was generally little more than an obnoxious nuisance, but in this instance he had managed to grow legitimately intimidating as the fiery ire in his eyes seemed sincere and significant. It wasn’t until this exact moment that I was confronted by the curious concept that the practice of saying “please” was a controversial one.

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Properly Polite
I have never taken an etiquette class or been formally schooled in the proper manners and protocols for given situations. I have, however, been instilled with a certain amount of sense and courtesy. Unfortunately, neither of those traits is particularly common in prison. Having been raised to mine my P’s and Q’s, I found it bizarre to be taken to task for my upbringing wherein I was taught to say “please” along with all manner of general politeness. Apparently, this was very far removed from the vast majority of the men I was forced to cohabitate with.

Rudely Wakening
Wrenched from slumber only to crowd around the chow table for an early morning breakfast, all eyes were still cemented shut with sleep, and general surly crabbiness was at peak levels. I was staring dazedly at the small circles of dry pancakes that no amount of syrup could penetrate. The gears of my brain were grinding ponderously as I pondered over the puddle of cold grits, wondering what exactly grits were because they’d never been a staple of my childhood, so I had never really encountered them before my stint behind prison walls. Into my reverie, Chuckie butted his unwelcome presence.

“Gimme your milk.” I’d been locked up long enough at this point to know that that’s just how people ask for things, but on this particular occasion, I didn’t feel much like just letting the impolite nature of his words and tone go ignored. Truth be told, I had no intention whatsoever of drinking my milk as I believed it to be the main culprit behind my recent horribly explosive and odorous flatulence. However, Chuckie hadn’t so much asked for it as he had demanded I give it to him, and I didn’t much appreciate it. I uttered the two words that suddenly turned the dull and subdued morning into something far more volatile and exciting.

“Say ‘please.’”

Differing Values
“I ain’t finna beg you for a damn milk!” Chuckie looked like he wanted to throttle me. The fact that his build was similar to that of a Rubbermaid garbage can, or maybe a fire hydrant, made him somewhat less than terrifying, but there was a determined set to his jaw and legitimate rage shining in his eyes. Despite this reality, apparently it was too early for discretion on my part, and I didn’t like being yelled at.

“Beg?” I said, cramming as much incredulity and outrage into that one word as I could possibly manage. “Beg!?” I repeated, raising my volume a half dozen notches past normal, and somehow finding a way to sound even more outraged. “Who said you had to beg? How the hell am I asking you to beg?”

“My daddy told me that a real grown man don’t beg no man, and please is the same as begging.” I couldn’t help but be both surprised and impressed that Chuckie actually managed to sound like an adult human being while referring to his father as “daddy.” I also couldn’t help but wonder what kind of an idiot believes a simple “please” to be tantamount to begging, but I didn’t voice my feelings.

by SOMMAI www.freedigitalphotos.net
by SOMMAI
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Instead I pressed the issue. “How is ‘please’ begging?”

“Because it is,” Chuckie declared definitively. With logic like that it was hard to argue with him, but I tried nonetheless.

“No, it’s not. I’m not saying for you to beg. I’m just saying that you can have some manners and ask me for my milk instead of demanding I give it to you.”

“I’m not gonna beg like some little bitch!” Chuckie yelled. He wasn’t more than an inch from me, chest puffed out and trying to intimidate.

“I’m just saying it’s rude.” I didn’t have anything more to say, but he stood there expectantly like I did. Eventually, it dawned on him that I wasn’t going to speak, so he did.

“So what’s up with that milk?” I looked up at him like he had a dozen heads sprouting from his neck. I snatched the small carton of milk from my tray, opened it, and drained it in two long gulps causing Chuckie to cuss and me and return to his seat.

Side Effects
I suppose I proved my point and learned an invaluable lesson about some of the differences between cultures, but only at a cost. Later that morning, I lay on my rack in the fetal position, farting violently, sporadically, and indiscriminately while caressing my bloated belly as cramps tore through my middle. That day, milk did not do my body good.

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Matinee of Madness

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It was a lazy Monday afternoon, the hectic frenzy of the first day of the workweek having ebbed to a lethargic pace. Fall was in full swing with a nip in the air bred from northern breezes. As is the popular course of action in these instances, meteorologists all across the dial saw fit to blame Canada.

A line of thirty guys walking two by two trudged quietly to chapel with C/O Snyder leading us like our own personal pied piper. There was no second escort officer bringing up the rear of our movement line as is proper protocol. A clear demonstration of why two C/Os are required was about to begin.

ID-10074945Just Talking
There were two pairs of men behind me, and the last couple in line were talking together in muted tones, so subdued, in fact, that I couldn’t distinguish one word from the next. Oftentimes, guys from different housing units use chapel as a meeting place to keep in touch with their buddies, trade merch, exchange sweet nothings. I attributed their confidential volume to them being friends (possibly with benefits) who sought some semblance of privacy for their conversation. Generally, guys have no sense of decorum, or any type of courtesy whatsoever, and a conversation between two people standing two feet away from each other can usually be heard by guys standing thirty feet away.

Whatever their relationship to one another was, or the topic of their talk, it seemed to change pretty quickly when the taller inmate finally said something I could understand. It was a vehement curse and insult. Then he smacked the shorter guy across the face with an open palm and pushed him into the grass where he stumbled and fell onto his back. The line of men continued to move, largely oblivious to the scuffle.

Falling Out
The initial aggressor collapsed onto his victim with fists flying in a valiant effort at a violent assault, but appeared to connect with nothing more than earth. After clumsily punching the ground half a dozen times, he changed tactics and tried a wrestling move on him. At least I believe that’s what it was meant to be—some type of ill-conceived chokehold that I imagine he saw employed at some time or another when Hulk Hogan was best known for his Wrestlemania showmanship rather than his racist rant.

It didn’t seem to be working, but he kept trying, and we kept walking. The fighters weren’t saying much of anything and most of the rest of the guys walking to church showed no signs that they even knew what was going on. The few of us near the back of the line who were aware of it all bore silent witness to the struggle, with necks kinked backwards and sideways as our feet continued their forward progress.

 

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Momentarily Invisible
Somehow the two men rolling around on the ground were doing so unseen by any authority figures. C/O Snyder at the front of our line had a somewhat legitimate excuse because he had reached a junction in the sidewalk which meant that the front portion of the line was essentially forming the short stem of a capital “L,” and the rest of the line blocked C/O Snyder’s view of the fighters. However, this happened in full view of at least four gun towers. Despite this degree of exposure, there was no announcement or warning shot. They just continued on.

The taller one—who had been the main aggressor—abandoned his cockeyed and futile attempt to choke his victim out and seemed to suddenly remember how to fight. He slammed the shorter guy’s head against the ground. The shorter guy lay on his back, dazed, and the taller guy swung his leg over to straddle him, basically sitting on his victim’s chest and pinning him in place. Having grown up with older brothers who were adept in the fine art of torturing younger siblings, I knew full well how helpless the guy on the bottom was.

The taller guy began to swing his fists once again, but this time there was nothing pendulous or cumbersome about it. His target—his victim’s face—was right in front of him and he jabbed at the exposed visage like a slightly twisted and curious kid poking a dead dog with a stick. The man on the ground could do nothing but absorb the impact of each blow against his forehead and cheeks. Finally someone noticed.

Visible
“Hey. Hey! Stop that. Don’t do that.” Our movement line had progressed far enough to provide C/O Snyder a clear line of sight to the beating, and this was his response. He sounded like an overtired parent scolding a troublesome, petulant child. Snyder wasn’t a bad guy, but he was clearly out of his element. He was tall and lanky and he moved like he was just out for a leisurely stroll rather than rushing to break up a fight. Snyder wore the perpetually vacuous gaze one might associate with Steinbeck’s Lennie character from Of Mice and Men. (Tell me about the rabbits, George!)

As he walked, Snyder called for help over his radio then stood near the two men and continued to provide mild protests and admonishments to cease their battle. “C’mon guys. Cut it out.” He projected zero confidence or authority, and made no viable effort to separate the two inmates or to physically intervene in any way.

All the men in the movement line had stopped by this point and were turned back around in the direction from where we’d come, openly gawking at the bizarre scene. One inmate beating another senseless while a C/O stood by and griped about it. I took a moment to look around in every direction and there wasn’t a single other person in sight. Not one C/O, inmate, counselor, or any other staff member milling about. C/O Snyder was the sole voice of authority, but he was the epitome of ineffectual. Being practically all alone—unobserved—in the middle of the prison compound provided a strange, surreal sense of vertigo, but we weren’t alone long.

 

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Flooded
In an instant, the area was flooded by C/Os and white shirts. The administrative building was only twenty yards from where the beatdown was happening—and that’s precisely what it had devolved to. The unfortunate inmate who was pinned to the ground had ceased to put up any kind of defense or show that he was even conscious at all. From the administrative building, a dozen security staff members poured into the area with an even larger number coming from the chow hall opposite and rushing across the field to the scene of the crime.

Lieutenant Waters was the first to arrive, though first only by a fraction of a second. He hit the taller inmate—who was doing all the assaulting—at full speed, collapsing him to the ground like a football special teams player making a spectacular open field tackle. Then it wasn’t football that Lieutenant Waters was playing at, it was calf-roping, as he had the assailant prostrate on his face, cuffed, and subdued in the time it took me to blink.

The matinee of madness was over and the plethora of staff that had responded to it was corralling us toward the chapel with authoritative voices and threats to take us to Seg if we didn’t start moving. We all walked toward our Bible Study and left the bloody scene behind. There was nothing more we could do.

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Shoeshine Shorty

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Many prison inmates are both enormously vain and incredibly lazy. This is a pair of attributes that Bee was able to identify and take advantage of.

Air-Jordan-19-All-White-ShoesIdentifying an Opportunity
The only sneakers available for purchase in prison are entirely white, and therefore, it’s not long before they become scuffed, dirty, dingy. No matter what degree of care or babying one might take with them, getting them befouled is inevitable. Some guys didn’t much care and would just rub a wet rag across their shoes from time to time if they happen to get some mud or other gunk splashed on them, but that’s about the extent of their care for their footwear. The other, more particular and anal inmate was where Bee recognized his potential clientele.

Putting out a Shingle
“Shoes Cleaned and Returned Same Day” Bee’s sign declared in large stilted lettering written with a dying red marker against a lily white piece of printer paper. Two dollars per pair was the stated price, and that was the only advertising needed. Each afternoon after returning from his mandatory GED schooling, as well as bright and early on the weekends, Bee could be seen sitting in his chair in the hallway outside his room in the dorm-like setting of our cell house. There was a plastic garbage can filled with soap and water between his feet, and he would be diligently scrubbing away at someone’s shoes. It was only a matter of days before Bee had clients enough to keep him forever scouring and prune-fingered.

Genius
As far as a hustle goes, it wasn’t perhaps the most glamorous of vocations, nor was it astoundingly lucrative, but in terms of Bee’s expenses in relation to his income, it was a genius business model. Water came free of charge with a turn of the knob, and the laundry soap that Bee used was provided to each inmate once a month as part of DOC meeting one of it’s four responsibilities to its wards—keep them fed, clothes, housed, and cleaned. Anything beyond that is a lavish luxury. To augment the laundry soap, Bee would use a bar of state soap which he pilfered with his sticky fingers from the school building or else received legit from a sympathetic sarge.

Since Bee was a state baby, and as long as he scattered his shots, he could get a bar or two per week free of charge. The soft-bristled brush he used to clean his customers’ shoes had been left behind by someone going home and was seized by Bee. His biggest expense, and only one of note, was the bleach he sometimes employed to cleanse the more stubborn spots stuck on the fabric of the shoe. A four-ounce shampoo bottle re-purposed as a bleach receptacle went for fifty cents from most porters, but Bee had a deal to get it for a quarter. More often than not, however, he’d get it for free and just clean the porter’s shoes in return. A win-win situation.

shoeshineSupply and Demand
Bee accepted any business that walked up to his little workshop and had some regulars who got their shoes cleaned once a week or every few days. A couple of truly neurotic guys developed longstanding daily appointments with Bee and his bucket of suds. It wasn’t long before his new moniker circulated through the cell house, sometimes spoken in contempt or derision, but most often it was just a harmless qualifier.

With business booming, a new sign was in order, this one a better reflection of his success. The cost to Bee: zero. The artist who contributed it was happy for the challenge and the change of pace from an endless parade of making cards with flowers for sweethearts and certain cartoon characters for the kids. Bee’s new sign was painted on a 12×18 inch piece of Bristol board with the new name “Shoeshine Shorty’s.” A blue decorative curlicue bordered the edges of the sign, within which purple letters stated the same simple business model: “Shoes Cleaned and Returned Same Day,” however, the arranged price had been amended. In a non-threatening shade of green (the color of money) and simple no-nonsense lettering, the new sign advertised as follows: Cleaning outside only…….2.50
Inside and out cleaning……3.00

I never once heard anyone bemoan the price hike, and since he had the shoeshine market cornered, Bee kept busy and kept putting money in his pocket. A more industrious inmate I have rarely seen.

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Posted From Behind Prison Walls

My name is William D. Hastings. Except that’s not my name at all.

It’s not an alias, nickname, street name, fake name; no, it’s a pen name. Nom de plume, as the French say, though I promise to keep this mostly in English.

So, why a pen name?

Why not? Mark Twain had one; why can’t I? Though if I’d been saddled with the handle “Samuel Langhorne Clemens” I might opt for something a little snappier, too.

But I’m drifting from my point.

Why a pen name? Well, I’m writing from prison. Been here a while. Going to be here a while longer. Figured a bit of anonymity might be a good idea.

I’m locked up somewhere in the U.S. of A., but that’s about all you’re going to get. But I will do my best to share some of what it’s like to be a prisoner in one of the most powerful and affluent nations in the world.

Because of my situation, postings may be sporadic or infrequent, but I assure you that my benefactor and I will do our best.