Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘guard’

The Shining Fire Hydrant

Insight-Out: Leaving Prison Before You Get Out
From Hard-Knock Wisdom, Winter, 2014
Stories From Prison

fire_hydrant_brass077bddMy night was like any other night. It was 8PM, time for “close custody count”(All prisons have ‘institutional counts’ wherein they count each prisoner’s body to ensure no one is missing or has escaped. Not being there for count is considered a serious violation). The officer came to our cell and called my bunkie’s name after which he gave him the last two digits of his CDCR number. The same went for me. Half an hour passed and a neighbor comes to my cell and said they were paging me downstairs. I had not heard them calling for me. I went down to the podium and the cops said to me: “Why were you not in your cell for count!?” and I told them: “I was in my cell for count – as I have been every day and night for 12 years, and I have numerous neighbors that can verify that.”

It did not matter what I said. The cops told me to not do it again, and I am like, “Whatever.” Two days go by and I find out that the sergeant gave me a write up (a violation). I’m thinking, “Okay, I truly am not guilty of this and I have many witnesses who will say the same.” However, at the hearing the cop that counted said he looked in the cell two times and I was not there. It did not matter what I said or how many people I had who would say the same because I was found guilty and given forty hours of extra duty. I said to myself, “Screw this. I am not going to do the work. This is so unfair! I did nothing wrong and these guys are wrong about this.” I watched that count-cop count me and he did not look up from his count board once. His eyes never left that board. I filed a complaint against the officer. That is the last thing I wanted to do, but I was not wrong about this, they were!

I felt bitter about being ordered to do those forty hours of extra duty. In a phone call, I spoke to my mother about it and she wondered if I could perhaps just take it and, regardless of the circumstance and the injustice of it, see if I could do what would ultimately be best for me. She said she would accept what I would decide, but if I could, to act respectfully.

I reckoned if I refused to do the work, even though it came about unjustly, I would be guilty in their eyes. I chose to do the work anyway. I have always prided myself with doing exceptional work and I was desperately looking to find my pride in this situation, somewhere, no matter what. So, not only did I do the work, I did the best possible job I could do.

I was asked to shine up this brass fire hydrant. Though I still felt resentful about those forty hours of extra duty, I set off to shine up this hydrant and I really got into the job. As a result, this hydrant started shining very brightly. As the sun caught it, I could see my face in it and I noticed I was smiling from ear to ear. I began to laugh out loud for no reason other than enjoying that moment and seeing the result of my work. By putting all my conscious effort into shining up that fire hydrant, I had become bigger than the unfairness that led me to my assignment. I do not know how long I was at it but when I was done that hydrant it looked like the prettiest thing in the whole prison. Kinda like a small lighthouse standing proudly in an ocean of concrete, calling out on how to steer, on how to move through this place.

I realized I was shining too and it hasn’t left me. Many people commented on that hydrant all week; wondering how come that thing gives off so much light all of a sudden. I just smiled.

~ Birdman

Lockdown

Excerpt from short story collection Saint Catherine’s Baby.

“We ask for forgiveness, hope and redemption,” John prayed, as Marcus walked in. “Make us a vessel of your peace,” John continued, his brawny hands turned toward the heavens.

Marcus joined the circle of two and closed his blue eyes to the surrounding maroon drapery, scented candles and large marble cross crucified to the wall.

“Our plan is your plan,” Alan interjected, his blond hair and wire-rim glasses both askew. “You are the source of all we do; you are the light that guides our way.”

“Amen,” John concluded, his booming voice matching his six foot seven inch frame.

“Sorry I’m late,” Marcus said, looking up at John.

“No problem,” John replied, his full red beard stirring with each syllable.

“It was Lois,” Marcus explained. “You know how she gets.”

“Yeah,” John said aloud; then whispered to him self, “I know how she gets.”

“She gets scared,” Marcus went on, “whenever we make this trip.”

“There’s nothing to worry about,” Alan replied, putting his hand on Marcus’s shoulder. “It’s safer than walking the streets downtown,” he insisted, getting his lunch and coat from the red velvet coach and turning back to Marcus. “Statistically speaking, it’s even more dangerous at home.”

“That’s true,” John affirmed.

“You don’t have to convince me,” Marcus replied, clutching the Corrigan sweater in his pale sweaty palm. “It’s Lois who’s all worked up about it.”

They left the prayer room and walked towards the Volvo in the church parking lot. “Oh yeah, Lois sends her love,” Marcus said to John, “and she said she’s sorry for everything.” John cleared his throat, but didn’t reply. “I guess she finally got tired of blaming you for taking me on these trips,” Marcus grinned knowingly.

“Why couldn’t it be closer?” Alan mused from the back seat. “Six hours round trip is a long way to save a few souls.”

“It’s nothing compared to what the Lord has done for us,” Marcus replied solemnly, as he looked out the window at the dusty farm land of the central valley.

“Amen,” John and Alan agreed, as the car cut through the murderously dry heat. The men unbuttoned the top of their collars and rolled up the white sleeves of their dress shirts. It wasn’t long until they closed the windows and turned the air conditioning on high.

“If you want a break, just holler,” Marcus offered.

“Nah,” John replied, “You know I prefer driving . . . gives me something to focus on.”

“Focus on God,” Marcus exalted.

“Of course,” John’s lips curled into a half grin. “I do.”

“I didn’t say you didn’t,” Marcus corrected. “I just meant . . . you know . . . thinking of others . . . letting go and letting God.”

“Yeah,” John replied. “I got it. I think about some folks all the time Marcus,” his grip tightening on the wheel, “some more than others.”

“Yes, yes,” Marcus replied. “You’re a saint.”

“It’s all God’s work,” Alan surmised.

“There you go, “John grinned, the tension drained from his shoulders as quickly as it had arrived. “It’s all God’s work.”

“Why don’t I read a few passages from Luke?” Marcus suggested, pulling out his gold-leafed bible.

“Read it loud, so I can hear,” Alan insisted.

“No problem,” Marcus replied joyfully. “Here we go. I’ll start with the fifth chapter, twelfth verse.”

It didn’t take long to arrive, only forever.

“I’m beat,” Alan said, as they ate lunch in the garage designated for visitors.

“We just got here,” Marcus mumbled, his mouth full of an avocado sandwich Lois had made, “and you’re already tired?”

“I know,” Alan replied, wiping mayonnaise off his chin, “but that’s a long time to sit on your rear end.”

They finished up lunch, locked the car up tight and joined in prayer.

“Help us to help them to see the truth,” Marcus pleaded. “Let your truth bathe them with your glory. May they be cleansed of sin? Amen.”

“Amen,” Alan chimed.

“Amen,” John added, his eyes wide open, staring at his baby brother’s seemingly blissful and serene profile.

After the meticulous searches, sign-ins and checkpoints, the officers escorted the men from God’s House Church past the towers with guards holding binoculars and high-powered rifles, to the D Block chapel, which stood alone in the center of the state penitentiary built for 1200 men, but holding 1700 plus. It was their fourth visit of the year.

The guard, named Jim, but better known as Big Preacher, due to his size and professed faith, allowed the inmates with passes to enter single file.

CONTINUED

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