Jail Tale, Part Two

Read the first installment before proceeding:

http://penstemon.wordpress.com/2010/06/14/jail-tale/

Entering a jail cell-block is like coming to a party, a party where you don’t know anyone.  I was forcibly invited to this particular party by a Hannibal cop who works for the city.

The door to D-Block was unlocked for me by one of the invisible jailers who presumably inhabit the Bubble, a central room surrounded radially by what they call “pods” for some reason, another term for cell-block.  Two-way mirrored glass lets the jailers see into the pods without the inmates being able to see the jailers.

D-Block was an all-white collection of muscular and bare-chested miscreants, all of whom but one were about half my age.  Most of them were engaged in a lively game of hackey-sack.  This surprised me; I first encountered hackey-sack way back in the seventies.  Back then it was a common hippie recreation and I had the impression that the game originated in the hippies’ homeland, the West Coast.  Thinking about this I realized that during the intervening decades many hippies have been to prison, often for drug offenses.  I gathered from my fellow inmates that hackey-sack is very common in prisons and jails these days.

Why might this be?  The game requires a bare minimum of equipment, for one thing.  Just a three-inch by one-and-one-half-inch stitched-together cloth pouch filled with rice, beans, or any sort of granular substance.  A hackey-sack is basically a small bean-bag, and the game is played by propelling the sack into the air using the sides of your feet.  The idea is to keep the sack in the air for as long as possible. The game isn’t competitive and no scores are kept.

One player was obviously the cell-block maestro of the game; he was a young guy with amazingly intricate tattoos covering his torso and arms.  After the game I asked him where they got their sack.

“Well, when an inmate is about to be released, and before they turn in their clothing and towels, we’ll rip off the front pocket from their coveralls; that pocket is just the right size for a hackey-sack.  Someone will save the rice from a meal and dry it out on a windowsill, and that will be the filling.  String is used to stitch the sack up.  A hackey-sack generally will last about three months — we use ’em pretty hard!”

A jail inmate lives for novelty, whether it’s a meal or a new inmate.  After I had deposited my newly-sanitized but rather thin mattress and towels, etc. in my new cell, the other nine inmates gathered around me.

“Hey, man, what’re ya in for?”

I was a bit embarrassed at the triviality of the charges against me:

“Oh, my dog got out.”

“They arrested you for that?!”

“I didn’t show up for a court date — but I was never informed about it!”

“Ah, they do that all the time — once they have it in for ya, they can just make up warrants and not tell you.  What was your bond set at?”

“$800.00 cash-only.”

“They’ll let you out once you’ve been to court.  It’s a shame for you that it’s Labor Day weekend!”

Once you are in jail the time just drags.  Each cell-block has a single electrical outlet behind the wall-mounted TV.  The inmates who have been in the block the longest tend to take control of the cable channels, so while we watched movies at times, mostly we watched fighting shows and dismal spectacles such as monster truck rallies.  I did enjoy seeing the Quentin Tarantino film “Pulp Fiction” with commentary from my fellow inmates, felons all, who made comments such as “I did that one time!” and “I saw an overdose worse than this one!”

The remainder of this account consists of a series of vignettes.  It is such a shame that they don’t allow inmates to have cameras!

It is understandable that inmates aren’t allowed to have scissors or knives.  Electric barber shears are available when requested, though, and one day I watched from the bacony as the tattooed kid who was so good at hackey-sack gave haircuts and beard-trims to any other resident of the cell-block who wanted one.  He was a meticulous barber; at one point he looked up at me and said “Hey, Larry, ya want a haircut?”  I demurred, as I’ve cut my own hair and beard for the past thirty years, but I appreciated the offer.

[to be continued…]

Larry

Alien Encounter

cedar apple rust

Alien Encounter

I stepped outside after a rain
To check out my back yard.
The grass and trees looked greener
But alas, my view was marred.

My cedar tree had born some fruit
The like I had not seen.
Orange globules hung from branches
And their tentacles looked mean.

I touched one thing, but soon recoiled.
The ‘legs’ all felt like worms.
They had a wormy look and feel
But lacked the proper squirms.

Their overnight appearance
Coupled with their alien look
Unnerved me. So I headed for
The nearest science book.

Well, actually I hit the Net.
I’m not a patient soul.
And even with the World Wide Web
I wasn’t on a roll.

No category would appear
For “Icky Alien Fruit”
And ditto for “an orange thing.”
The web gave me the boot.

When finally I’d concluded
That my search was just a bust
I found on Google Images
The Cedar Apple Rust.

Actually, I felt somewhat vindicated after I read the following link.  I thought of aliens but this more pragmatic lady thought her kids were messing with playdough.

This poem, photo, and link were contributed by longtime commenter and friend Joan Ryan, of Brentwood, Missouri.  Thanks, Joan!

Larry

Alien Encounter

cedar apple rust

Alien Encounter

I stepped outside after a rain
To check out my back yard.
The grass and trees looked greener
But alas, my view was marred.

My cedar tree had born some fruit
The like I had not seen.
Orange globules hung from branches
And their tentacles looked mean.

I touched one thing, but soon recoiled.
The ‘legs’ all felt like worms.
They had a wormy look and feel
But lacked the proper squirms.

Their overnight appearance
Coupled with their alien look
Unnerved me. So I headed for
The nearest science book.

Well, actually I hit the Net.
I’m not a patient soul.
And even with the World Wide Web
I wasn’t on a roll.

No category would appear
For “Icky Alien Fruit”
And ditto for “an orange thing.”
The web gave me the boot.

When finally I’d concluded
That my search was just a bust
I found on Google Images
The Cedar Apple Rust.

Actually, I felt somewhat vindicated after I read the following link.  I thought of aliens but this more pragmatic lady thought her kids were messing with playdough.

This poem, photo, and link were contributed by longtime commenter and friend Joan Ryan, of Brentwood, Missouri.  Thanks, Joan!

Larry

Just Poopin’

I’m living here in Myrlene’s house, and she ekes out a modest living babysitting little kids.  I get along well with small children, and one of my favorites is a three-year-old mulatto boy who is here almost every day.  He has one of those made-up names which I can’t ever remember, but kids that age, like cats, don’t really need names.  They know when your attention is directed towards them.

Another resident of this house is a mongrel dog named Uboo — he was named after a statement in the closing credits of the Frasier sitcom: “Down, Uboo, down”.  Uboo is a stupid dog and therefore doesn’t learn from stern reprimands.  This morning I went downstairs and ate a bowl of cold cereal; while I was doing that Uboo pooped and peed on my bed.  The door to my room doesn’t latch and Uboo has decided that my bed is an ideal place to void her stinky wastes.

While my bedding was agitating in the washing machine down in the basement (I used bleach) I rode my bicycle to a lumberyard down on Market Street.  I bought a hook-and-eye, came home, and installed it.  Now my bed will be safe from further defilements.

When I got back  Myrlene was playing a falling-block game on her Facebook page.  The three-year-old boy was facing a shelf full of videotapes and DVDs and playing with a red rubber ball.  He had a peculiar inward-directed look on his face.  I squatted by him and said “What are you doin’?”

Myrlene looked over at me and said in a deadpan tone of voice “He’s poopin’.  See how his butt is pooched out?  He’s not done yet, though.  I’ll change his diaper in a few minutes.”

I left the boy as he was finishing his excretory business and went up to my room, where I played the concertina and read a bit.

Later I left on my bike to do some errands.  When I got back all hell had broken loose.  The dog Uboo had seized the little boy’s dirty diaper and was devouring it behind the couch.  Myrlene was trying to get the dog out and retrieve the diaper.  I said “You need a broom!” and went to the kitchen to fetch one.  While Myrlene was dealing with the situation I went back to my room for a while — Uboo isn’t my dog and I felt that I had done my part.

A while later I came downstairs and found Myrlene carrying an armful of bedding.  She said “That damned dog!  He puked up the shit from the diaper right on my bed!  I was trying to get Uboo out on the porch and got tripped up by her leash.  I fell and hit my head!  And Uboo  was baring her teeth and snapping at me!  I think I could have been bitten!”

I think that it has finally penetrated Uboo’s dim and murky mind that she has really fucked up.  She seems contrite, and she hasn’t barked wildly at innocent passers-by.  She has been sucking up to Myrlene; perhaps she realizes how precarious her position here is.

Myrlene has said to me “That dog just makes life more difficult — if someone would take her I’d gladly give her up.”

My response was “I know someone who will take her!  There are some really nice folks at the dog pound…”

Myrlene is sentimental and doesn’t have a strong will.  She simultaneously loves and hates the dog.  Uboo is only six months old and theoretically she is still trainable.  Myrlene doesn’t have the inner resources to train the dog and I don’t feel like it’s my responsibility.  I’d take the animal out back and shoot it if it was up to me.

Larry

Jail Tale

or, more verbosely, “How I Ended Up Spending A Week in the Marion County Jail”:

A couple of weeks ago I was standing out on the sidewalk talking with Kent, the contractor who rents the first floor of my building.  A blue sedan pulled up to the curb; I stooped to peer in the car’s window to see who it was.  A friend of mine named Rosamund was in the driver’s seat; she said “Larry, I need to talk with you!”.

Rosamund is a black woman a few years older than I am.  She lives on Spruce Street, way down in the depths of the ‘hood.  I got to know her at the Pickadilly station across the street.  I’m grateful to her for the numerous warnings she has given me, some of which I ignored, to my regret.  Rosamund knows everyone in the ‘hood and she is a shrewd judge of character.

Our local newspaper doesn’t cover the West Side and gossip and general talk alleviates this news deficit.  The local grapevine has a thick and sinewy trunk and I suspect it has feeder roots in Bear Creek and Minnow Branch.

But I digress…

That day Rosamund said to me:

“Larry, that guy who bought your pickup truck has never paid taxes on it and he hasn’t changed the title.  He or someone else is drivin’ the truck around town and if the cops would run the plates your name will come up as the owner.  You might be liable if the truck was in an accident.  You ought to look into it before you get in trouble again!”

This was certainly worrisome.  I thanked Rosamund for the warning and pedaled my bike down to the police station.  I might as well have blithely entered a lion’s den.

After waiting several minutes, idly perusing cautionary pamphlets about drunk driving, a police officer came out and listened to my questions about liability and such.  He wasn’t much help and seemed distracted.  He abruptly interrupted me and said “Mr. Ayers, we have three outstanding warrants against you; please put your hands behind your back.”

I was flabbergasted.  I said “What did I do?”  The cop handcuffed me and took me downstairs.  As we walked he said that all three warrants concerned my dog Tucker.  This was unexpected!  I had already spent three days in jail and paid a fine just two weeks before and I had assumed that the matter was settled.

What was strange (and illegal) about this arrest is that I had never been informed about the fines I supposedly owed or the court dates I had missed.  The Hannibal Municipal Court is supposed to send a letter about such city violations — otherwise how would you know to pay a fine or go to court?

The surety bond had been set at $800.00, cash only, which meant that I couldn’t avail myself of the services of a bail bondsman.

During the uncomfortable trip to Palmyra, where the county jail is inexplicably located, I talked with the officer about my plight.  I said “What possible good for either myself or the city of Hannibal comes from arresting me and putting me in jail?  I had a job tomorrow working for a friend — I’ll have lost that opportunity, and the county will have to feed me.  Not to mention that I was never informed and given a chance to deal with the charges!!”

The cop looked uncomfortable.

He said “Well, I’m just doing my job — I admit that it’s a raw deal for you.”

“I’m just doing my job” — isn’t that what Nazi guards once said?

While I was being booked at the jail’s front desk I outlined my plight to the jail employee while he bagged up the contents of my pockets and issued me the orange jail clothing and sandals.

He said “Yeah, I don’t like this.  Frankly, it stinks!”

I was led to cell-block D, or D-block, as the residents call it.

[to be continued]

Domestic Dispute

Sometimes I feel as if I’m a magnet for drama.  Soap-opera-like situations seem to continually arise in my life, and I must confess that I’ve considered asking for a new script-writer.

Being an optimistic soul, though, I try to make use of these situations as food for thought and fodder for writing.

A bit of background: after the former incarnation of this blog fizzled out due to lack of funds, my power and water were shut off and for a time I had no phone and of course no ‘net access.  I entered a primitive phase of my life with a very local emphasis — survival mode.

Two houses up the street from my building I ended up meeting a woman named Debbie, the black matriarch of an intricately-structured clan consisting of her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and her husband Lucky, the last of whom visits from time to time.  That family treated me well and I would spend time hanging out at Debbie’s house.  She let me fill jugs of water for my simple needs and occasionally I’d eat with the family.

This situation couldn’t go on forever, as technically living without electricity is illegal in Hannibal.  At one point a round orange sticker was affixed to my door which bluntly stated “Unfit For Occupancy”.

To make a long story short, I’m now renting a room from an old friend with whom I used to work some years ago at the Amoco BP station.  Myrlene lives with her two teen-aged daughters Bobbie and Ronnie.

I still receive mail at my desolate and dark building and a kitten still lives there, so I stop by the building at least once every day.  Yesterday morning I was at the building and it occurred to me that I ought to stop by Debbie’s house for a visit and maybe have a cup of coffee with her.

“Well, hi, Larry!  How’s it working out at your new place?”

“Pretty well, Debbie.  How are things around here?”

“Well, Diondra [Debbie’s daughter] has been squabbling with her guy Jerome.  They’re in the other room.”

I could hear some impassioned talk coming from the next room, which is separated from the living room by a curtain which was only partly closed.  The sounds of scuffling became evident and I couldn’t resist peeking through the gap in the curtain.  Jerome was grabbing Diondra and shoving her violently against the wall.  He’s a big guy with a mouth full of gold teeth and he’s twice Diondra’s size.

Debbie exclaimed “What the fuck is goin’ on in there?  I ain’t puttin’ up with this bullshit in my house!  You’d better leave Diondra alone and get out of here, or I’m callin’ the police!”

I heard Diondra’s little boy Lance crying in Debbie’s bedroom across the hall.  I went to him to see what I could do to comfort him.

“Uncle Larry, look what he did to my mom’s cell phone!”

I put the phone back together and luckily it still worked.

Lance said “I just want to go home!”

I said “Why don’t you go to your grandma for a while — I think your mom will be leaving before too long.”

Meanwhile Debbie was confronting Jerome and she ended up calling the police.  Debbie is rather short and stout but she’s a very formidable woman.  I certainly would hesitate to cross her!

Jerome ran off down the alley.  I was amused by Debbie’s phone conversation with a police officer:

“You’d better pick up that motherfucker before you come here!  I’m pressin’ charges, for sure.  Nobody pulls that kinda shit in my house!”

Here I’d stopped by for a bit of coffee and conversation, and now the cops were coming!

While we waited Debbie said to me:

“If that fuckin’ Jerome had come into my living room I’da cut him!  I always have my knife within reach.”

Diondra came into the living room.  She’s about thirty years old and works as a CNA at a local nursing home.  I’m quite fond of her and her boy.  She sat down on the couch and sighed.

She said “Well, I guess I’m single again!”

Two cops showed up and took statements from everyone.  They had arrested Jerome back in the alley and it turned out that he had several outstanding warrants.  He’ll be in jail for quite some time.  Diondra said:

“He’s been on the run for the past year, and lately he’s been talkin’ about turnin’ himself in.  Now he doesn’t have to!”

Another of Debbie’s daughters showed up with her three little girls; the girls went out on the porch with Diondra’s boy Lance while we discussed the incident.

Debbie said “My fingertips are just like ice!  I’m all shook up!”

I said “You’re still in shock, I imagine.”

“Larry, I’m sorry this had to happen while you were here.  Come back and maybe we can have a calmer visit.”

I got up, bade adieu to Debbie and her daughters, and went out the front door.  The kids were all out there and Lance said to me:

“Uncle Larry, you gonna come back tomorrow?””

“Well, maybe not tomorrow, but I’ll be back before long!”

As I walked down the sidewalk towards my building the four kids cried out “Bye, Larry!”  I waved, pondering this new drama as I walked.

Larry

Hello world!

Hi, people!  After several trials and tribulations I’m starting a new blog here at wordpress.com.  I’m accustomed to hosting my own blog on my own server (I did this for about five years) but, frankly, I just can’t afford such luxuries these days.  So here I am, and do I have stories to tell.  Telling stories is second only to hearing other people’s stories — I’m lucky in that people tend to trust me and eventually they will spill their guts to me.

Right now I’m sitting in my old friend Myrlene’s living room.  I finally left my building in Hannibal’s ‘hood and began renting a room from Myrlene.  I used to work with Myrlene at the BP station.  She has two teen-aged daughters and she also babysits little kids, so things tend to be rather noisy and chaotic around here.  It’s been a good change for me after living by myself for the past few years.

Now I need to propagate the new URL of this freshly-minted blog to friends, relatives, and to the select group of sympathetic and like-minded folks who once read my old blog.

I have some good stories about my two stints in the Marion County jail and my encounters with various fringe characters in the Hannibal area.  Why fringe characters?  Why not write about well-adjusted mainstream citizens?  It’s just my peculiar bent — everyone has a story and I tend to gravitate to the stories which too often are never told.

Stay tuned!

Larry