Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Preacher they called him -The story so far


The first time I saw the Preacher, I thought he was a lawyer. When I first talked to the man, I thought he was running an elaborate scam. After serving a month and a half with him I was ready to follow him anywhere and help him spread his message. I nearly did, too.
I had just finished being sentenced to sixty days for cocaine possession and was sitting with a few other guys in the bullpen waiting for the last court matters to be settled so the court cops could radio the jail and have us all shipped under the tunnel to start the admitting process.
A couple of idiots in the protective custody holding cell had decided to strip down to their underwear and burn their orange coveralls along with some toilet rolls and their court papers.
The court cops didn’t notice until thick black smoke started billowing into the hallway. They put the fire out quick enough but the thick, acrid smoke was still heavy in the air making our eyes water and our throats burn.
The court officer brought the three of us out of the bullpen, lined us up and cuffed us together wrist to wrist.
“We going to the jail, Mr. Thibeault?” The tall native prisoner at the end asked.
“No,” the copper said. He was an older man, tall and chubby with wire frame glasses. He wore a surgical mask so his voice was muffled. “They’re not ready for you yet. You’re going to watch a trial while we clean this shit up and air it out.”
We were lead through a set of doors and into another corridor and commanded to stay put while the officer lightly knocked on the door marked courtroom B.
I’m cuffed to a short kid with a crop of orange hair and acne scars
After a quiet conversation with the bailiff we were ushered into the courtroom and seated in the prisoners box.
The judge looks over at us and nods, his hair is an odd coppery brown colour and his eyes are magnified by his thick brown spectacles.
“Good afternoon gentlemen, I’m Judge Maloney and this is my courtroom, which is in session. I expect you all to be quiet and respectful of these proceedings. Can you men manage that?”
The three of us nod.
“Very well. Mr. Baker, you can proceed with sentencing recommendations.”
“The crown attorney stands up, an intense looking man in a dark blue suit and somber looking grey tie.
“Mr. Dolynchuk was arrested in his farmhouse with several pounds of cured marijuana and a police search of his property turned up a large field of plants with an estimated street value in the quarter-million dollar range. This was a sophisticated operation that was ongoing.”
The lawyer pauses and picks up a piece of paper from the table in front of him.
“Mr. Dolynchuk’s record is filled with drug offences dating back twenty years. Despite this, he is unrepentant and wants this court to believe that the production, distribution and use of this drug is his religious custom and an integral part of his belief system.”
“The Green Path!” Someone shouts from the spectator benches. I look over and see a group of about ten people sitting together all wearing white shirts that read Free the Preacher in green leafy text. There is a reporter seated behind them in a blue and white windbreaker scratching away in a little notepad. I recognize him from his picture in the local newspaper. He’s softly chucking while jotting down notes.
Judge Maloney taps his gavel.
“There will be no more of that,” He sternly warns the gallery. “I will empty this courtroom if need be.”
The man seated at the defendant’s table leans back and waves his hand in the air motioning for his supporters to keep it down. He’s wearing ratty-looking pinstripe suit with a light blue shirt. His white tie is decorated with little green marijuana leaves. He has silver hair tied back into a ponytail that hangs to the middle of his back.
That can’t be a lawyer, I think to myself, but the only other man at his table is Mr. Birch, and I know from experience that he acts as duty council.
The crown attorney continues. “Your honor, it is the crown’s position that despite his insistence that he is a spiritual man compelled to break the law out of some type of divine calling, Mr. Dolynchuk is in reality a top of the food chain narcotics trafficker and a repeat offender. We believe a five year penitentiary sentence would send a clear message that that the production and sale of drugs will not be tolerated in our society.”
The lawyer straightens his tie and sits down.
Judge Maloney makes a few notes and looks at the defense table.
“Mr. Dolynchuk, you may make your submissions,” The judge says.
The man in the pinstripe suit stands up and clears his throat.
“Your honor, I came before you today filled with confidence. Confident that this courtroom in these hallowed halls we would fulfill the ultimate purpose for which this institution stands, and that is the uncovering of truth.”
The man walks to the side of the table and pick up a stack of papers held together with a paperclip.
“I have shown you the truth, your honor. In the information I provided you I laid out the accidents, deaths robberies and assaults linked to alcohol consumption as opposed to crimes linked to marijuana use, in just the last year alone.”
The judge waved his hand.
“Yes you did, Mr. Dolynchuk, and I told you these stats and figures were not relevant to the matter at hand. The legal status of marijuana is not on trial here. You are.”
“Fair enough,” your honor. “The information goes to my purpose, indeed to my calling in life. Mr. Baker calls me a drug trafficker, a label I take grave offense to. In my view, we are all men who do God’s work.”
The crown attorney bristles in his seat and gets to his feet.
“Your Honor I’m sorry but I must interject. As a Christian I am offended by Mr. Dolynchuk’s contention and as a lawyer I am wondering where he’s going with this submission.
“Really,” The Preacher says. He grabs a copy of the bible off the table and holds it up. “Are our laws not based on the Ten Commandments handed down to Moses by God Almighty? The application of the law and the meting out of justice has its roots in this book, does it not?”
The crown takes his seat.
“I have to agree with the crown, Mr. Dolynchuk. The Judge says. “Because you have elected to defend yourself I will allow you some leeway, but I caution you to get to your point.”
Thank you your honor. “Mr. Baker is a Christian, a man who chooses to follow the teachings of Christ, he enjoys that freedom as is his right in Canada. I have to wonder though, if Christianity, its churches and teachings were outlawed tomorrow and its practice punishable by imprisonment, would he be so quick to proclaim his faith? Would he risk incarceration for it? The Green Path is my faith, your Honor. My dedication has already been tested by incarceration.”
The preacher pauses and closes his eyes, as if to collect his thoughts before continuing.
This guy’s a real showman I think to myself.
 “I believe if there is one plant favored by God, it is surely cannabis. It is the most versatile of all growing things, its industrial and medicinal applications virtually limitless. In the second booklet I provided this court, I have listed the environmentally friendly products that can be made from hemp. A good portion of the plants seized on my property were intended for the production of items like clothing, moisturizing oil and rope. In fact, my friends in the gallery are wearing shirts made of a cotton and hemp blend here today.”
The crown attorney shakes his head.
“Mr. Dolynchuk,” Judge Mahoney says. “You have given us all an education in marijuana today, and I must commend you on these beautifully illustrated hand-written submissions you’ve presented for my perusal. I have to remind you however that this court did find you guilty and that your task now is to propose a sentence for me to consider. I would appreciate if you would do so now.”
The Preacher nods his head in a slight bow.
“Very well, your honor. I have just one more point for you to consider. When I tell you that I believe in marijuana, that is not a figure of speech. Marijuana is the core of my spiritual faith, on which I founded The Green Path movement.”
The ponytailed man in the pinstripe suit began to walk back and forth in front of the defence table, and when he continues, his tone is gentler, more reflective.
“I was a very troubled man once, full of anger and hatred and bitter resentment. It was through this wonderful plant I started my journey to peace, humility and conflict resolution. I found my path and as I traveled it, I saw thick dark forests on either side of me. I saw people struggling in the underbrush, trying to make their way in life but hopelessly lost and stumbling. They were lost in their guilt, in their doubt and their insecurities, afflicted with every kind of emotional pain and distress. I called out to them and shared my own experience with life’s hardships and how I found peace and serenity using marijuana as a conduit to God.”
He turned to face the spectator benches and swept his arm like he was a game show host revealing a grand prize. I looked at the Preacher’s supporters and they seemed hypnotized, hanging on his every word.
He began to articulate his speech with hand gestures and his voice took on a more urgent, authoritative tone.
“My friends you see in the gallery now travel this path with me, using marijuana not to run away from our problems but to open up and confront and solve them. It is my belief, no, my certainty that this plant can provide solutions on a global scale. It can create employment. It can reduce non-biodegradable waste. It can bring nations together in harmony!”
Gasps and faint sighs of adulation sweep across the preacher’s followers. Many are nodding and smiling like parishioners at a lively black church, saying things like mmm-hmm and truth. Another man with a shaved head and full brown beard is rocking back and forth in his seat with his eyes closed, he’s nodding his head in agreement, his face wet with tears.
The Preacher’s voice swells and booms and reverberates through the courtroom like rolling thunder.
“Your honor, the law of the land might prohibit marijuana and make its production and proliferation a crime, but I submit to you that it is an out-dated and unjust law that only serves a corrupt prison industry! My intent is not and never has been criminal, and to imprison me for following my conscience and what I believe to be my purpose on this earth would be the biggest most egregious crime I can imagine! I humbly ask that you set me free! In the spirit of true justice, your Honor! Embrace the higher law, I implore you. Set! Me! Free!”
The gallery explodes in applause and even the other prisoners cuffed to me are clapping too. The court stenographer is covering his mouth and the reporter at the back is shaking with laughter.
“Preach!” the supporters call out “The Green Path!
A cute young blonde leans over the wooden bench in front of her exposing the curve of her ample breasts. She starts frantically blowing kisses “I love you, Preacher-man!”
Instead of banging his gavel and calling for order, this time the Judge lets the ruckus die down.
“Thank you for your submissions, gentlemen,” he says. “We will take a fifteen minute break, after which I will deliver my sentence.”
The redhead kid beside me chuckles. “That guy is awesome.”
“He’s pretty slick,” I admitted. “Now watch that Judge come back and hammer him.”
The Preacher is at the wooden barrier that divides the courtroom floor from the spectator benches. He’s smiling and waving to his rag-tag congregation consisting of mostly men and a few women. I can’t take my eyes off the gorgeous blonde among them wearing tight blue jeans with her white Preacher-support shirt. She’s not wearing a bra. She looks over at me and smiles. I wink at her. She winks back.
Sixty days, I think to myself. Thank you for the whack-off fantasy, baby.
I didn’t know it then but I’d see her again very soon, and she’d be wearing a lot less clothes when I did.
When the recess is over the bailiff enters the courtroom from the side door beside where we’re sitting in the prisoner’s box.
“All Rise,” he proclaims as Judge Maloney appears on the bench. The bailiff goes on to announce that court is back in session.
The Judge tells us to be seated.
I find myself more excited about the outcome of this case than I can ever remember being about any of my own. Of course, there was never as much drama in my court appearances. For me it was always the same old same old: I’d live clean for a year or so, get bored of working every day and decide that I deserve a night on the town. This time I’d tell myself, it’ll be different. This time I’ll know when to stop.
Famous last words like
What’s this flashing red button for?
Or The checks in the mail!
Or No baby I won’t come in your mouth, I promise.
That morning I was arrested in the back of a taxi cab with an eight-ball of cocaine and a hooker. I had no idea what day it was or was or how long I’d been at it.
My lawyer was a real joker. Fresh out of law school and interning as court-appointed defense attorney to the busted and broke.
 “Sixty days Mr. Dell,” he told me over the black telephone receiver wired to the wall. I’m trying to focus on his face but the plexiglass between us is marked and scratched and there’s a hammer in my head pounding out a single repeating message in Morse code: Way to go moron….Way to go moron…Way to go moron…
Thirty days for the hooker, thirty days for the blow! Not too shabby! Ha ha ha!”
“Hey wasn’t that the name of an 80’s glam band,” He asks. “Hookers‘n’Blow? Ha ha ha!”
The receiver is shaking in my hand.
“Make the deal,” I tell him.
Even though I put the phone down I can hear him singing as he buzzes court security to let him out of the room.
Whoah-oh-oh sweet hooker of mine…
Ooh-waah-ooh-oh sweet blow of mine….
If the guards don’t let him outta here before he starts air-guitaring the solo
, I think, I’m going to launch myself through this plastic barrier and bash his fucking head in with his cheap briefcase.
And then there I was, Jimmy Dell, thirty-six year old alcoholic and drug addict, many hours later mostly sobered up and anxiously waiting for someone else’s fate be decided by a man in a black gown and cheap toupee.
“Mr. Dolynchuk,” The Judge begins. “Reviewing the facts of this case brings to mind a scene in the movie The Untouchables, when famed prohibition agent Elliot Ness is asked by a reporter what he would do if alcohol is legalized tomorrow.
He answers Well then, I believe I’ll have a drink.”
There is light laughter from the gallery.
“Society’s view of marijuana has changed drastically over the years and there may come a day, perhaps very soon, when it is legal to produce and possess the drug.”
The Judge stops and looks at the Preacher intently.
Unfortunately for you Mr. Dolynchuk, at present marijuana is classified as a schedule II narcotic under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Despite whatever altruistic intentions you had with the cannabis found on your property, and after listening to your arguments and reviewing your written submissions I am inclined to believe your intent was at least not wholly criminal, the bottom line is that you broke the law.”
The Judge adjusts his glasses.
“What vexes me is the sheer amount of plants found on your farm.”
“Your Honor,” the Preacher says, jumping to his feet and breaking in. “The police estimation of street value is ridiculously overblown…”
The judge raises a hand and fixes the Preacher with a chilly glare. “Mr. Dolynchuk you will not interrupt me again.”
“My apologies,” the Preacher mutters and is seated again.
“It would be foolish of me to believe you did not profit from your operation, but looking at the police inventory of your home and belongings it appears you lived a very modest lifestyle. I do not see any of the expensive vehicles or extravagant trappings common to high level drug traffickers.”
The Judge picks up a sheet of paper and studies it briefly.
“Mr. Dolynchuk, please stand up.”
The Preacher rises.
“Mr. Eli Dolynchuk you are a forty-eight year old man who has already served one hundred and ninety days of pre-trial custody,” the Judge states. He looks over at the crown attorney. “Is that number accurate Mr. Baker?”
The crown stands up.
“It is, your Honor.”
“Roughly six months, then. I am electing to grant Mr. Dolynchuk double credit for the time he’s been in custody up to this point. The court will call it a year.”
I hear the Preacher’s supporters exchange nervous whispers.
“I am sentencing you to a further eighteen months in jail, Mr. Dolynchuk.” Judge Maloney announces.
The nervous chatter from the gallery turns to groans. The Preacher’s friends look like they took a collective blow to the gut.
The Preacher’s shoulders slump, his gaze is cast to the floor.
You got off easy, chum, I thought. I was certain he was getting fucked. I don’t care if you’re the Jesus H. Christ of Pot or the Santa Claus of Stoners, I had friends in the weed game and I knew a grow op that big would usually get you a nickel or more…especially for someone with previous drug convictions. It was almost as if the Judge bought his new-age hippy-dippy bullshit con.
Don’t get me wrong, I had nothing against the man and I even admired his hustle, but I was absolutely convinced that his marijuana messiah shtick was exactly that: A hustle.
The Judge continued.
“Mr. Dolynchuk I like to consider myself an optimist, but I hope that by giving you such a lenient sentence I am not being na├»ve. You spoke with passion here today, you presented your arguments intelligently and you knew your subject intimately. I believe your intentions are strangely noble. Misguided, but well-meaning.”
The Judge stops and jots something in his ledger.
“Let me leave you with some advice and a warning,” he says as he removes his glasses and wipes them with a tissue. Now that the judge’s eyes aren’t magnified by the thick lenses, they look too small, almost alien.
“Every Canadian has the freedom to worship however they choose, and your basic ideology is no less valid than any other. I will strongly advise you however to remove the green from your chosen path, or I guarantee you will continue to find it obstructed by lawful prosecution and increasing periods of incarceration.”
The judge bangs his gavel.
“This matter is settled,” he concludes.
The bailiff leads the Preacher over to where the other prisoner and I are sitting. We are told to stand up by the big chubby court cop, and The Preacher is cuffed to my right wrist.
In the isle between the benches the Preacher’s people are consoling each other and speaking quietly. A few of them look over at us and start sobbing. The Preacher places his right hand over his heart and smiles at them.
The orange haired kid on the other side of me looks over at the Preacher and grins.
“Dude you fuckin’ rule,” he says. “Can I join your weed path?”
I roll my eyes. For fuck sakes…





II

After I was photographed and processed in the Admit/Discharge office I changed into my orange clown costume in the corridor while a short, stunted and miserable-looking officer with bags under his eyes, greying hair and a pot belly bagged and tagged my street clothes and took them away.  This guard had been working A&D for as long as I could remember, and his face was among the first I’d see every time I ended up in the Sudbury Bucket. This would have been my ninth or tenth bit in seventeen years. His partner was tall and scrawny and wore a thick mustache that twirled up at the ends like a railroad baron in an old western movie. Among inmates, they were known as The Basement Trolls
Over the years, other officers came and went through the SDJ, moving on to other professions or advancing in rank to desk jobs in offices that kept them off the floor and away from direct contact with inmates.
These two guards however were fixtures. I always suspected they were hired in the early seventies as some sort of government initiative, like an Equal Opportunity for Dumbasses program that required the jail to hire men that were too stupid to even pick up a drill and work underground in the mines without returning to the surface with self-induced lobotomies.
This pair reminded me of guys I worked with at a printing shop the summer before I went to college. The big old press was we worked at was so beat up and temperamental it often broke down several times during a single shift.
When I worked with the young guys, a sudden stop in production would result in screaming, yelling and cursing while they stomped around trying to figure out the source of the jam-up. I preferred working with the old-timers because with them, when the press took a shit and ground to a halt there was no screaming temper tantrums or wrenches being tossed around in anger.
The problem was investigated calmly and more often than not solved quickly. These old guys had been around long enough to know the press they worked with like an old grouchy friend who needed coaxing to play ball. No setback was beyond fixing, no problem worth getting mad about.
These basement trolls were the exact opposite of the friendly old fellas who ran the press. Every new batch of prisoners had the trolls in meltdown mode. The miserable pot-bellied troll would be on the phone screaming at someone about not being told about something while the mustachioed moron troll would bicker with the control room over his radio. They’d pace around their desks running their hands through their hair and cursing the court cops for sending prisoners through the tunnel too early or bitching about a particular lawyer submitting a last-minute court order to have an inmate brought through their office, processed and changed and then sent through the tunnel to appear in front of a  waiting judge. (Thus creating unexpected paperwork, the bane of every correctional officer to ever put on the uniform since the dawn of the profession.)
I may have been nothing but a grunt laborer prone to bouts of drunken and drugged-up stupidity and a frequent inmate of this place. I may never have been considered management material or been put in charge of anything more complicated than a pipe-threading machine in an industrial shop, but I often wondered how these two angry trolls who spent their days in the dark, dank and depressing basement of the Sudbury Jail  frantically chasing their tails around in circles until their heads disappeared up their own asses managed to land employment as correctional officers in the first place…..because I wouldn’t have hired either one of those bumbling idiots to push a fucking broom.
Mustache troll hands me my face sheet, the printout displaying my black and white mug shot along with my name and sentence information. I’m gonna need to drop it off at the guard station in whatever section of the jail I end up doing my time. I follow him to the room across from A&D.  In one corner there’s an old barber chair and across from it another holding cell. I ain’t here for a haircut.
The officer keys the lock and I join the Preacher and the ginger in the cage. The tall indian prisoner who came through the tunnel with us earlier got lucky and was called to the Native Liaison office.
He doesn't have to go through this long boring process and wait.
  “Sup,” the red head kid says. He’s sitting on the wooden bench that lines the white concrete wall playing with a pen I’m guessing he stole from a troll desk when he was being processed. I nod at him and take a seat too, placing my face sheet beside me. The Preacher is using the big blue payphone on the wall. It’s not a traditional payphone, there is no slot to deposit your change. You can only make collect calls from jail, it’s your friends and family who pay the toll.
My stomach starts to rumble, but it’s not from hunger. I was a mess all week, binging on coke and booze and whatever pills the hooker and I could find. It was time for the post-party poop, and it was gonna be a real doozie. The mother of all bowel movements.
This was another bullpen where we all waited for the trolls to finish their tantrums and send us up the stairs to our assigned ranges. Compared to the clean white-walled court holding cell, this one was a ghetto. The brown tiled floor is filthy, littered with the crusts from mystery-meat sandwiches and gobs of spit from the earlier processed prisoners who made it up to the jail after lunch. The stainless steel toilet is tucked into a dark little alcove. The bowl looks like it hasn’t seen a scrub-brush in months. The seat and floor around it is sticky with spilled coffee, urine and vomit from winos and dope-sick detainees adjusting to the shock of sudden sobriety that goes along with unexpected incarceration. There’s a thin roll of cheap single-ply toilet paper on the sink. Even if I wiped down the seat I couldn’t bring myself to rest my butt cheeks on that disgusting surface. There was no avoiding it. I couldn’t hold it in, so I prepared myself for Operation: Sky-Dump.
I tuck the bottoms of my leggings into my socks and take a deep breath and hold it. I walk over to the little alcove of horrors and peel down the top of my orange overalls and use the sleeves to tie everything in place just below my knees. I don’t want any part of my garment touching the floor. I pull down my underwear, crouch and hover a few inches above the rim of the metal bowl and let her rip.
The Preacher gives me a sympathetic look while talking into the receiver and turns his back to me.
“Mercy,” I hear the little red-head kid say. “Courtesy flush, bro!”
I quickly wave my arm behind me in an attempt to press the flush button but I feel the blood rushing to my head and I know there’s no way I’ll be able to reach it without stumbling or losing my balance completely.
“Sorry man,” I say apologetically. “No can do.”
“Bro,” says the ginger. “That’s just nasty.”
When I finish I grab the toilet paper and do my best to clean myself, but it quickly becomes apparent there’s not enough left on the roll.
“Hey,” I ask. “Can somebody call for shit-tickets please? Maybe some spray?”
The preacher hangs up the phone and pulls his shirt up over his nose.
“Fuck calling for the spray,” he laughs. “Brother, that stench is pure evil. Call for a priest.”
“Yo key up,” I hear the ginger holler. “Shit-tickets up!”
After what seems like an eternity of teetering back and forth with my legs tied together and my underwear around my knees, a fresh roll is tossed in the alcove. It bounces off the wall and lands at my feet. I finish wiping, wash my hands with cold fountain water and a thin piece of broken bar soap before pulling up my underwear and orange overalls and returning to the wooden bench.
When I sit down I notice my face sheet isn’t lying mug-shot up like the way I left it, now it’s folded over and pushed closer to the wall. The red-head with the acne scars on his cheeks is staring wide-eyed at the floor and covering his mouth with both hands. He’s got tears in his eyes and looks like he’s stifling a yawn.
I unfold the sheet and there’s my black and white head shot, except now there’s a crude blue ink drawing of a big veiny penis complete with the head, shaft and dangling hairy balls as well. The tip appears to be entering my mouth. There’s a cartoon dialogue bubble like the kind you see in comic books above my head and inside it says I LOVE COCK NOM NOM NOM NOM!
Some guys might have been offended I guess, but after the whirlwind week I’ve just had, I can’t help but start giggling. The kid bursts out in a gale of hysterical laughter and the Preacher shoots me an inquisitive look. I show him my newly decorated face sheet. Now we’re all laughing.
Jail was like that for me. It felt like the walls and the bars actually drained my intelligence. The only place in the world that made me feel dumber just for having been there.
“I’m glad you chuckle-heads get along so well,” says the pot-bellied troll as he opens the door to our cell. “Grab some bedding and a cup and spoon in the hall. You’re all headed to the same place. Fourteen corridor.”
My range,” the Preacher says to us, smiling.
On our way through the gate, he stops in front of the miserable looking A&D officer and puts a hand on the guard’s shoulder.
“You look stressed out,” the Preacher says. “You don’t have to be.”
The basement troll rolls his eyes.
“Keep moving, Jim Jones.”
The Preacher laughs.
We turn the corner and head up the stairs.

III

There’s another guard waiting for us when we reach the top. He looks like he’s barely twenty, short and thin with slicked back dark hair and bushy sideburns.
He’s got freckles for fuck sakes, I think to myself. If there’s ever a clear sign that you’re getting too old for this shit, it’s when you realize you’re old enough to be your captor’s daddy.
The young officer nods at us. “Gentlemen,” he says in greeting.
“Dolynchuk, how’d it go?”
“Eighteen months,” the Preacher answers.
“Oh well,” the junior blue-shirt says. “It coulda been worse.”
He grabs his walkie and radios ahead. There’s a static-muffled response.
“Alright men. Go on.”
I follow the Preacher because he seems to know his way. The ginger comedian shuffles along behind us. I’ve been in and out of this joint for years, but every time I come back, for the first few days it’s the same. The white brick walls and pale green floor is familiar and so is that hospital-smell of institutional cleaners and industrial disinfectants, but other than that I’m lost. I completely forget the layout of the building and which corridors lead where. Maybe it’s like a deliberate self-induced amnesia or maybe it’s because every time I end up in here I’m waking up from a week-long black-out. Once I’m settled on a range and get my bearings, it all comes back to me. How to get to the medical unit. The direction to the yard. Which corridor to take to the visiting room and the staircase leading down to chapel services with reverend Betty.
Just before we pass the segregation corridor a tall blonde female guard appears at the junction and tells us to stop moving and stand against the wall. She’s a little plump but not a bad looking woman, her hair is shoulder-length and layered and colored with streaks of auburn. When we comply, she shouts the all clear back down the way she came.
We hear the rattling of his chains before we see him, and then this big fucker comes shambling towards us in handcuffs and ankle shackles, muttering under his breath. He's being escorted by two heavyset blue-shirts, one in front of him and the other behind. He’s built like a brick shit house, towering over us even with his shoulders slumped and his head hung low. His face is buried in his long shaggy brown hair.
I barely remember what the prostitute I spent the last few days with looks like anymore, her face is a blur like the rest the memories of my latest bender. This giant though, I recognize him immediately. I saw him at that building on Elgin Street where the hooker was buying our blow. I’d wait on the second floor while she ran up the stairs to score, and I recalled seeing him quite often in the stairwell or walking the strip alone. The girl knew him. What his name again? What did she call him?
“Hey Chef!” I said.
The big guy stops and looks to the wall where I’m standing. I see his dark eyes through his dishevelled mop of thick hair, but I’m not sure if he sees me. I mean he’s looking right at me, but I’m not sure if he sees. His eyes look distant. They look like they’re elsewhere.
“At night when you hear the yelling and banging,” he says, “that’s not really happening when you hear it.”
I’m not sure if he’s talking to me or to himself.
“Let’s go Baxter,” the officer behind him says. “No chit-chat.”
“I mean those noises happened, but they’re old noises,” the shaggy giant continues, ignoring the guard. “The yelling and banging in the hallways are just echoes. Echoes from a long time ago. Echoes that got lost.”
“Hey,” the officer starts again, but before he can say another word the sasquatch resumes walking, lumbering forward with his chains rattling along the floor and his two correctional companions sharing a mutual sigh of relief.
The lady guard tells us we can move again and we continue on our way.
We finally arrive at our destination, the newer section of the jail containing ranges eleven through fourteen. The three of us drop our face-sheets on the big old wooden desk occupied by the two guards assigned to our area seated across from each other. The older officer has auburn and grey hair styled in a bowl cut, his gigantic gut threatens to pop the buttons of his blue shirt and spill out over his computer keyboard. His partner is much younger, in his mid-twenties with spiked blond hair and a chubby face. The muscles in his arms are freakishly large. I suspect he jacked himself with enough steroids to kill a race horse five times over to compensate for the baby-fat still prevalent in his cheeks. Both of them are in standard correctional officer position, leaning back in their chairs with their palms clasped behind their heads like soft fleshy pillows, their legs kicked up and resting on opposite sides of their shared workstation. Their eyes are closed. The senior C.O. appears to be gently snoozing but his young counterpart’s pupils are rapidly darting back and forth beneath his eyelids in full R.E.M. slumber.
The Preacher, the ginger and I stand there for a moment, waiting to be acknowledged. The red-head pulls out the pen he stole from A&D and smiles at us, moving it closer to the young guard’s face.
He probably could, I think. Ginger-boy could probably spend a good ten minute decorating this bastard’s face in blue ink before he wakes up, maybe longer. He could create his masterpiece. This guard’s chubby face serving the red-heads very own Sistene Chapel. Dozens of crudely drawn penises entering every orifice on his head, captioned with something like
I AM A COCK-RECTIONAL OFFICER
The red head puts his pen away and the Preacher loudly clears his throat.
The senior officer sits up abruptly and looks around, bewildered. When he sees that it’s just a couple prisoners returning from court and a new arrival, his look of surprise fades into one of inconvenience. He looks across the desk at his co-worker. The young officer quickly rubs his cheek, lets out a little snort-snore and continues dreaming.
The fat old C.O. slams his hand down hard on the wooden desk.
“Wake up Weise,” he shouts. “Escort these gentlemen to fourteen corridor.”
The chubby guard opens his eyes and looks at the three of us in orange. He blinks a couple of times and then gets up from his chair.
“The fake hippie priest and a couple new shit-bags.” he says. “Follow me, faggots.”
Not much changes in the good ol’ SDJ, I think to myself.

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