All in all though, the “stress level” in H-Mod was up again because we had eight people sleeping on the floor in the day room. That meant not enough time to shower or access to the phones. Overcrowding just compounded an already bad situation.
I did, however, use the fact that the food had gotten intolerable to take a close look at my diet. It actually helped me eat healthier. I began to rely heavily on apples and oranges and shyed away from things I could not recognize. As a result I began to lose some weight, particularly the excess fat that comes with aging and settles around the gut. Every cloud has a silver lining.
The following day, at the morning unlock, Corey was the first one into the day room. He was standing at the floor officer’s desk, apparently making his plea for whatever he needed at the moment, or at least believed he needed. He was amazing to watch. Once he grabbed onto an idea, it consumed him and would be his focus until it was resolved. Corey was not a multi-tasker. If he wanted coffee, he would approach everyone in the mod in succession until someone gave him coffee. If no one gave it up on his first pass, he would start over again, and ask each and everyone in the dayroom one more time, as if the first go around had never taken place. He was relentless and incredibly annoying.
No one took him seriously and so no one stayed mad at him for long, not even the guards. It was obvious that they too found in their hearts some tolerance for him.
At the end of his conversation with Officer Weary, he burst back through the door almost flying, “I’m going to NAPA,” he screamed, “I’m going to a better place.” Corey made no eye contact with anyone, and to be frank I had never seen him this animated before. There was a broad smile on his face and energy throughout his body as he returned to his cell to collect his bedroll.
A few of our colleagues offered their congratulations, but I’m afraid it fell on deaf ears. Corey was someplace else. He had been waiting for this for more than a year, and it consumed him. As he bounded back across the day room floor carrying his bedroll like a school lunch box, he just grinned and repeated, “I’m going to a better place. I’m going to a better place.”
I sincerely hoped that was true. Too many people in here need a better place. They need a place to work out issues and not be housed in cages to be discarded by a society that does not want them. Corey had walked out of a convenience store with a magazine, reading it at the time. He didn’t even know why the people from the store were stopping him. He needed a psychiatrist and a social worker, not a cage and a sheriff.
Nonetheless, it happened so quickly. In the next moment Corey was through the door. I watched as Officer Weary went through his things. Corey stood there smiling, bobbing back and forth, back and forth with the excitement of a kid on his way to Disneyland.
I watched as they put chains on him and handed him the brown paper bag containing all his possessions. I watched as another officer led him to the exit, and then he was gone.
The saddest part though is that there are more than enough applicants to take Corey’s place and they started being counted almost immediately. Although there are cell searches all the time, laundry day searches are particularly meticulous because your bed is stripped number one, but more importantly the guards are meticulous about getting all the dirty clothes. Apparently many of my colleagues flush articles of clothing down the toilet, so they make sure that if they give you two pairs of underwear you give them two pair back.
Later that night, during a routine laundry day, one of the guards calls from the top tier to Officer Stewart that he has hit the jackpot: “PRUNO”.
Pruno, for the uninitiated, is jailhouse moonshine and it’s made from adding sugar and heat to fruit and fruit juices (apples and oranges) and allowing it time to ferment. It’s usually discovered by the horrible smell, but in this instance the guard merely stumbled upon it. “Stewart,” he shouted, “we’ve got pruno. You’re going to have to write this one up.”
“Who was it?” Stewart asked.
“It was me,” came the reply, and that in itself struck me as odd. I did not have a clue who “me” was, but it seemed “me” was way too accommodating; almost like he was quick to take responsibility in order to abort any further search, or perhaps to protect someone.
“You know, I’m going to have to write you up on this.”
“Yeah, I know. It was my fault. I’m sorry” again a further confession, but with no emotion behind it. Absolutely no remorse, very flat, but even more astonishing was that there was no disappointment at having been caught; it all seemed way too nonchalant. But, what the heck, what were they going to do, arrest him?
That having been said, it does bring me to a point. I know very well the criteria for alcoholism, and I am happy not to meet it, but if you are trying to brew alcohol from a cell in a county jail, you’ve got issues and it’s time for you to seriously consider stopping, like now.
That’s just frightening to think about.
Yet boys will be boys, and like I said, I considered him, whoever “me” was, a top candidate to replace Corey as” the village idiot”.