In my last Zap Tale, I conveyed how over the course of a decade of doing the prison thing, I grew to despise the morning count bell. Most convicts see it as an alarm clock. Others sleep through it though I don’t know how they could. When they do, the C.O. takes great pleasure in rapping his nightstick across their bars.
Over the course of my illustrious career as a convict I have become complacent with most parts of prison. However, the one thing far worse than that fucking bell is the institutional shakedowns. For those who don’t know what that is, it usually happens after one faction of inmates decides to try and kill off another for whatever reason. Right after the dust settles and the shell casings are picked up from the yard, they lock down the entire prison.
Sometimes you know they’re coming the night before, other times you’re woken up by surprise, as around twenty minutes after that cock-sucking bell goes off the breakfast list is usually taken. It’s been the same routine forever. Although I really can’t say forever, But I can attest to it the approximately five thousand eight hundred and forty times I have personally heard it. So, when a convict doesn’t see the breakfast list, he knows there’s some kind of an issue. Then, the rolling metal cart with Styrofoam trays stacked high only confirms it’s going to be “breakfast in bed” as it’s called.
It makes no difference to me since I don’t eat much jail food, which I can thank my comfortable honey boo-boo wife for that. Now you know between that breakfast and the next few days, forty to fifty C.O.’s are going to storm the block like it’s some kind of surprise. Sorry Mr. Twenty-year-old C.O. but two days ago, right after I was handed a breakfast tray, someone wearing blue with as much gray in their beard as me whispered, “if it’s shiny or sharp, dump it.”
I appreciate the heads up, but I really don’t do the “sharp” thing anymore. My problem is the most you can spend on anything besides a typewriter is $50, which is scrutinized far more than you can imagine. If it’s $50.01 you’re not getting it, and if you somehow managed to get anything that even remotely looks expensive, it’s getting taken on a shakedown – and taken fast. To add insult to injury, most times you won’t get a receipt either. So it’s like you’re getting robbed without a gun, or a crooked C.O’s version of an Easter egg hunt.
Here they come, full of piss and vinegar, and if I’m lucky, I’ll get an old timer and pretty much know how he is going to play this out. They’re looking for drugs and weapons so if you act like a man you and your cell will be treated accordingly. The days of, “who can make the biggest mess” are long over for them, and you won’t have tuna fish stuck to your ceiling after they leave.
Some of the more sadistic C.O’s have a habit of opening any food item you have looking for contraband, which will just happen to wind up dumped on the photo album of your wife, and across all of your neatly folded whites.
I know this search is going to be a doozy. There are forty-four cells on a tier and there are two or three C.O’s in front of each cell. Also, there’s a loose gang of them roaming about waiting for the first idiot to act up. It sounds kind of stupid to act like an asshole in front of a hundred plus C.O’s, but in my younger days I wasn’t exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer. But, after getting gassed, stomped out, then of course being cuffed and clubbed far worse than a baby seal, my old bones just can’t do it anymore.
The two C.O’s that are going to destroy my cell line up in front of my gate, so I already know this isn’t going to work out well as:
(1) It looks like I have a pair of state green pants that are way older then both of them.
(2) They were staring in every cell on the tier, so I already knew this shit still fascinates the pair.
(3) Both of them made a comment about the look on my face.
The gate buzzes open and I strip down. The younger one asks if I have sweatpants and slippers. The slippers are so you can’t get a good grip if you decide to act up, and the sweats are to hide what your mother gave you. I hand him both. He tells me to put my slippers on and come out of my cell. (Uh, excuse me) you forgot the part where I put my sweats on which only gets me a nervous order to step out of the cell.
I put my hands up on the wall as the officer runs a metal detector across my face and up the crack of my ass, more commonly referred to as “the safe.” Everyone’s mother told them never to put anything sharper than your elbow in your ear, but she never said anything about this. Most convicts hide razors and other contraband in their mouths and other places, but that’s a whole other story.
I turn to watch the havoc in my cell. The younger of the two C.O.’s puts a nice shoe print on my sweats with his new combat boots. The older one is going through my clothes and putting them back in a halfway decent fashion. When the younger one takes my sheets and blankets off my well-made bed and throws them on the floor, he says something I’ve never heard in almost two decades of prison. “The mattress is too thick!” I clench my teeth. My brand spanking new two-inch thick mattress goes out the cell door, almost knocking his partner onto my bed. My locker gets flipped next while it is still full. Every loose piece of paper I had gets flung into the air like a five year old in the middle of some kind of shit fit.
I had to keep my composure when he flung my typewriter. If I uttered a single word he would realize it was precious to me, and probably would have dropped it again. The clunk it made was truly disturbing, yet I was secretly hoping he would continue with his tantrum as maybe next he would hold his breath until he turned blue. Then I could secretly run in my cell, pull his pants down, and slap a handful of Mayo between his cheeks. I’m not a fag, but for the rest of his life he would probably wonder if I was, which was good enough for me.
They finish up, and I have a five-foot-high pile of assorted shit right where my new mattress used to be, and I start putting things back where they belong. My masking tape was thrown out the door so I guess I won’t be taping my extension cords to the wall. My extra pillow is gone, the one I put between my knees so I don’t feel alone, so I guess a nap is out of the question. However, I still have all my teeth, my tattoo’s and also my dignity. Unlike during my younger days I came away pretty unscathed, as I will never let them see me sweat anything, or see an ounce of emotion come from me.
Plus, I still have my precious typewriter and my aging clock radio intact. To be honest, I really did have an odd look on my face; right up until the moment they left. As, while they made a total mess of my cage, they somehow missed my six hundred dollar watch – I guess the metal detector wasn’t working!