Losing Tee

Tee was jittery, squirrelly, and excelled at getting on people’s nerves. Mine included.

A Bit Bizarre

There was an entire cornucopia of eccentricities that were tied to Tee’s personality. He talked too much, and discussed topics that no one wanted to hear about. Like the color and composition of his daily bowel movements. His laugh was a loud, grating guffaw that aggravated the most patient of individuals.  The arrangement of his living space was something that he was very anal about–he had to have everything positioned just right.  He always wore two shirts, no matter how hot it got. He was very protective of his feet and would freak out if someone got close to them.

Love To Hate

His head was bulbous and bald. Or, balding to hear him tell it. He had the classic horseshoe around the sides, but the top was merely a few sad stray hairs and nothing more. His eyes were blue and huge. Nose pronounced.  Tee had a very expressive face. With his personality and demeanor it was a face that people just seemed to want to punch.

Racial Divide

I lived in the cell with Tee for a little over a year. For most of that time we were the only two white guys in a six man cell, and so by unspoken prison logic and rules we were best friends. Just kinda how it goes. I’m not saying that friendships don’t or can’t occur across racial lines, but guys are quick to fall in with their own. Especially when things get serious or dangerous. Due to Tee’s annoying ways, severe situations arose suddenly and often.

The Smell

Tee had some of the most potent smelling farts I’ve ever had the misfortune of having invade my nostrils. When guys would complain and yell at him about it, his features danced into expressions of giddy whimsy, and it really did look like he was laughing at them and at the expense of their olfactory glands. It looked that way because he was laughing at them. He was kind of a prick like that. In Tee’s defense, it’s better to let it out than to hold it in, and he couldn’t just walk out of the cell when we had to remain inside for certain times. Though it did seem odd that his flatulence seemed to get exponentially worse at night when we were all trapped in the cell together.

Unwilling Barrier

Whenever one of Tee’s behaviors would send someone over the edge I would be called upon to act as mediator, referee, peacekeeper. Sometimes literally having my name yelled by Tee, or by someone else to inform me that Tee was in trouble. I can’t possibly calculate how many skirmishes I had to deescalate in order to keep a fight from erupting. Tee was the worst kind of confederate to have when it came to these confrontations. He was a loudmouthed coward. He loved riling people up, but flinched and shrank when the appearance of real violence reared its head. He could not back up any of his tough talk. So I had to step in the middle. Usually literally. I hated always having to do it, being on call as the calming factor when Tee’s safety was on the line. In the aftermath he usually thought the whole thing was funny. I always answered the call because I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if I had stood by and let him get assaulted.

Unwitting Barrier

When Tee’s release date arrived a lot of people celebrated. They were rejoicing that he was leaving, not that he was going home. Once he had walked out the gates and taken his irritating traits and noxious gas with him there were a dozen guys or more who eventually confided in me that the only reason they hadn’t beaten Tee’s ass was because he was my friend. And he was my friend.

Me and Tee

Tee wasn’t always an extremely difficult person to deal with. We had several common interests that we could bond over, and he was one of the rare people I met behind prison walls who was capable of carrying on an intelligent adult conversation. At least some of the time. He was also batty and vexatious, and at times I wanted to throttle him. I yelled at him more than a few times, but it was no deterrent.

He was high strung and squirrelly and all kinds of aggravating. But when he was gone I missed him. Because he was my squirrelly. And he was my friend.

The Fastidious Squirrel


This excerpt is from Candy and Blood, available on Amazon.com now.

Even before I saw him in action and discovered his proclivities for food storage, he first reminded me of a nerdy rodent in a children’s cartoon: large, round eyes encased in over-sized glasses, rounded pouches for cheeks apparently designed for smuggling, and an overbite and front choppers custom-made for cracking nuts. When I first laid eyes on him he was sitting across from me at the table in the chow hall. I know it’s not polite to stare, but I couldn’t help myself.

pomadeThe meal was sloppy joe with hash brown potatoes, a bun, mixed vegetables, and canned peaches. A disposable, plastic Spork is the universal utensil provided on each tray, but it’s the first thing the man set aside with a persnickety, pinched-face show of disdain. Reaching into the depths of his ancient jean jacket, he pulled out a cloth napkin with a plastic fork, spoon, and knife set wrapped inside. The utensil set had once been available on commissary ages ago, so it’s likely he had been using that same set for years. The napkin was a creation all his own, probably fashioned from some sheet or pillowcase.

Next, he pulled from his jacket a small container that I recognized as having once held pomade, untwisted the top, and gave the inside a good sniff. After it passed the smell test, he spooned the mixed vegetables into it and closed the lid. He then stowed it into an unseen pocket, only to pull out another container—this one flat and round, and which had once contained cheese spread. The sniffing and storing process was repeated. This time the potatoes vanished into his special coat before his hand returned with another squat container identical to the one he’d used for the mixed veggies.

Using his fork this time, he gathered all the meat from the runny sloppy joe, straining it so he got as little of the excess juice as possible into his plastic smuggling conveyance. Moving as though he were dealing with some dangerous or combustible substance, he slowly shuttled each portion with extreme caution to ensure he wouldn’t spill or splash a single drop against the outside of the container. Even though it was pristine, he wiped the napkin around the lip and outside of the sloppy joe container before spinning the lid on with precise, practiced movements of his long, slim fingers—a violinist’s fingers. With the meat safely secured, a re-sealable plastic bag that had been sold with tortilla shells in it appeared as if by magic, and into the folds of his coat went his bun, leaving no distinguishable sign or telltale bulge to betray its presence.

Having all his precious “nuts” safely saved, this fastidious squirrel set upon the canned peaches with an economy of movement that was as measured and regular as a metronome, which lent a hypnotic and mesmerizing quality to it. His left hand held the knife, and he used the tool to cull a single piece of peach from the pile. Once he had one singled out, the fork in his right hand speared it and placed it into his mouth. He chewed the minuscule morsel exactly five times—no more, no less—before swallowing and beginning the process again. Cull, spear, chew. Cull, spear, chew. Twenty-seven times, without deviation in motion or tempo, until he’d cleared his tray of its final scrap of sustenance.


With a careful, prissy daintiness, he placed the fork, knife, and spoon crosswise on the tray and poured a slow trickle of water from his cup across them. Then, taking them into his hand, he scrubbed each of them individually before a final rinse of both hands and utensils that exhausted the contents of his cup. He used his bootleg napkin to dry the three items thoroughly and to wipe each finger one at a time along with his palms, the back of his hands, wrists, and halfway up his forearms. Since the cloth was damp from drying utensils and limbs, it was his lips, chin, and the area immediately around his mouth that next received its attention until he was satisfied that he had fully and properly cleansed himself. Once he was satisfied, the utensils were re-wrapped in the napkin and returned to their accustomed spot within his spacious coat, along with the rest of the goodies he’d scrounged to take back and dress up a naked noodle.

I’ve seen guys bring a burger or piece of chicken back to put with a noodle, but this was much more extensive. He had the operation down to a science. His precision and economy of motion spoke to years of experience, and as he appeared to be somewhere in his sixties, I couldn’t help wondering how long he’d been doing his prison-squirrel routine—and how much longer he’d be doing it.



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