Special Prisoner

By Gary Grenier

I've seen about every kind of degenerate in existence during the last twenty-seven years, on my way to "thirty-two years without parole," and I thought I had seen it all. Mind you, I have seen men claim insanity and try to prove it, and I have seen pure insanity and watched men deny it. I am going to tell you about a very strange arrival, and I didn't give him two weeks in this joint. This new guy, Bud, made no claims, but turned out to be very special.

Everybody tries to act tough when they arrive at Jackson Prison. But, by the time you get your cold fire hose shower, endure a DDT dip to de-louse the assorted under-arm wildlife and pubic pests, and then have ninety-eight percent of your hair removed, most guys come to realize that everyone in this joint is just a mere mortal.

My name is Roger Leroy Hines, known as "Turkey" to everybody in here, and I have established myself as a man not to be messed with. I don't take "Lovers", I do not 'do' or provide drugs, I give every con a fair chance, and I have a good "working" relationship with the Bulls.

I can make good things happen if you can come up with enough cash, cigarettes, liquor, or certain kinds of reading materials. I demand respect and I expect honesty because I do not give second chances. If you fail to comply with our code of honor, massive amounts of bad luck will surely come your way. But I was about to learn that there are people who could far outdo me, once the line is crossed.

I was told that on the day of Buds arrival he gobbled like a turkey, then relieved himself on the shower floor, rolling in his own mess. While being de-loused, he took in a mouthful of crotch-cricket dip and spewed it into a guard's face. This was not the way to establish rapport with the guards!

When Bud woke up in solitary confinement, you'd think he would have questioned the wisdom of his actions. But every time he passed back his meal tray through the door slot, it contained human waste. He sang very loudly and made crow calls during his entire stint in the hole. The guards were as happy to see him leave solitary as he was to go.

My cell is on 'E' wing, an area normally reserved for lifers or long term cons, and that is what made it unusual for this new fish to wind up in this wing. His full name is Walter 'Bud' Patton, and he was doing two to five years for simple B & E. He had been at a minimum-security lock-up near Chelsea, but they claim he was involved with the plot that got his former cellmate killed, so they added four years to his time, and a transfer here.

Mr. Patton was unlucky enough to be cellmates with Charles 'The Pick' Thomas. 'The Pick' is on his eighteenth year of two 20-year sentences for piercing the eyes of his landlady and her son. It appears that Charlie gets upset if you press him for his rent. 'The Pick' would have never left this place paroled. He has spent a good third of his time in the hole. "Time off for good behavior" doesn't apply to 'The Pick', a mean and savage man.

The very first night in 'E' wing, Mr. Patton started singing loudly and hooting like an owl, immediately after lights out. There was a short scuffle, but it only lasted for a few minutes, then everything was quiet, and remained quiet the rest of the night. Every con on E wing assumed that Mr. Patton was about to set a new record for the shortest stay at Jackson Prison.

The lights come on at 6 AM each morning and the horn sounds at 6:05, at which time you have thirty seconds to step outside your cell and get the first of several "head checks" or roll calls performed each day. Once everybody is accounted for, we are marched down to the mess hall for what some people would laughingly call a meal. Everyone knew that 'The Pick' had struck, meaning we were going to be short one con that morning.

The ground floor cons were accounted for, so they were heading out of the wing when everybody on E2, or the upper deck, was told go back in their cells, roll up their mattresses and stand them on end at the head of their bunk. All footlockers were to be open and all pictures and posters were to be removed from the walls. The upper wing cell doors closed on the cons and the bitching and moaning commenced. Eight Bulls entered the upper deck to check each cell. If one of us is too sick to get out of the sack, or if someone has attempted an escape or has died during the night, then the guards use this opportunity to do a weapons and contraband check, so as usual, the cells got tossed.

When they got to Bud Patton, he was on the upper bunk, smiling and chewing on something. They say he was chewing hard, like he had a big wad of bubble gum in his mouth, and his left-hand knuckles were bleeding.

'The Pick' was also on his bunk, fully dressed, hair combed, hands folded across his body, and he too had a slight smile on his face. His dead face. 'The Pick' looked peaceful. There were no wounds or signs of a struggle.

There was a lot of confusion and turmoil: guards going for the doctor, a stretcher was brought in, photographs were being taken. The State Police had to be called: fingerprinting, autopsies, and mountains of paperwork.

Bud sat on his bunk quacking like a duck when he was told to stand in the corner and to touch nothing. That's when Bud asked the Head Screw, a thirty year veteran named Nameth, a chap who was considered as pleasant as a constipated rattlesnake, if he was still molesting all of his sisters or had he finally picked out one as a favorite?

If Patton were not the cellmate of a dead man, sure to be questioned by security and the Warden, he would have been beaten and returned to the "hole". Instead, Bud was told to shut his mouth, and then he was reminded that when this situation was over, Mr. Nameth and Bud would be having a short conversation. In the past, some conversations with Captain Nameth have ended in moonlight burials out past the exercise yard.

They shackled Bud, hands and feet, and he was led away for interrogation. We did not see Bud back in E wing for nearly a week, but, oh what a week that was. The word came down that Bud had offered up numerous unacceptable explanations for the untimely demise of Mr. Thomas. But if Bud could just have a little chicken and biscuits, or if they would give Bud a little free time to gather his thoughts, he was sure he would be able to clear up any questions about this homicide. Each time the Warden granted Bud some special considerations, Bud would make a major theatrical production out of his unbelievable and idiotic explanations.

Eventually, Bud had the authorities all primed for the "full and honest truth": stenographers in place. State's attorneys present, the Warden and the Board assembled.

After much rambling, he told them that a small spaceship entered the cell, emitting a bright light and a high pitched ray-gun pulsation, which is what did 'The Pick' in. Bud was told that if he was not truthful, there would be extra time added to his sentence and all special privileges normally afforded him at Jackson Prison would be withheld.

That's when Bud suddenly looked somber and then asked if he could make a private comment to the Warden, so the guards allowed Bud to approach Warden Drevdahl. When Bud leaned down to whisper something in the Warden's ear, he made several clucks like a chicken, then suddenly he kissed the Warden on the cheek and asked, "Are we still on for tonight, Honey?" That's when we got Bud back on E wing, but only long enough for him to gather some personal gear, as he was off to solitary for a record forty days.

Bud was quickly making a name for himself around our institution, and he enhanced that reputation by reportedly not eating anything for the last twenty-five days of his stay in the hole. Of course he sang loudly and non-stop. If he wasn't singing, he was having long and extensive conversations with himself, or honking like a goose.

I personally cannot say that this next business is true, but on more than one occasion, when Bud handed his still full meal tin back through the solitary door slot, it would contain a dead rat or several deceased salamanders that survive so well down in that dark and wet environment. They supposedly checked those rats and newts: autopsies, blood work, X-rays, and just like Charles Thomas, there was no medical explanation for their deaths. They had no wounds, they appeared unharmed. "The Pick" left here with a tag on his toe and a death certificate that stated, "Death by natural causes".

When Bud got back to E wing, he was still loony, appearing to be in his own world. Unfortunately, it was my world too, because now he was my cellmate. I had no idea if my plan would work or if he could even understand me, but I decided that we needed to discuss Bud's place and my position of seniority, and then maybe we could survive each other for a while. He was pretty hyper when they first got him moved into our cell, so I decided to wait until after supper, before lights out, to lay down the law.

Bud got his gear put away, not complaining about having to take the upper bunk. He was bouncing around like a yo-yo and trilling like a canary, but when the dinner horn blew, he seemed ready to eat.

On our way to the mess hall, we were ordered to stop as guard Captain Nameth approached us. Just as he got in front of Bud, Nameth quickly turned his head to the left. Naturally, we all snapped our heads in that direction too, and that's when I heard a deep moan and then a yelp. Nameth had shot a knee into Bud's crotch and then when he brought that leg down, he crushed the top of Bud's foot.

When Bud raised his head from his pain induced protective position, he had a slight smile on his face, he was chewing on something, and his eyes had a glitter. Bud then slowly brought his left hand up, and two guards, securing his shoulders, instantly grabbed him.

Bud made a hitch-hiker pose with his left hand, but with his thumb pointed in, instead of out, and he slowly rotated his thumb from the 2 o'clock to 4 o'clock position, and then back to 2 o'clock and back to 4 o'clock. Strangely, that left knuckle began to ooze small droplets of blood.

Nameth chuckled, telling the guards to let the moron go to dinner, but stating he would find time to "chat" with Bud at a later date. That never happened. We were finishing supper when the PA system issued a "Code Blue" for Doctor Frost, then a "Code 99" at the guards' dormitory. Before lights out that night, the entire prison population knew that Captain Nameth had suffered what was thought to be a massive heart attack, and was pronounced dead in the guard's shower.

I did not talk to Bud that night about our future together as cellmates. He seemed completely at peace with the world, cooing like a dove, and I did not want to do anything to disturb that bit of good fortune for me.

Over time, it was generally accepted that if you left Bud alone, let him sing or argue with himself, he usually would not bother anybody. He never volunteered for any details; he never played sports or participated in other activities in the yard. He seldom attended the movies or the stage plays put on by the prisoners. Bud seemed to be elated with the bird calls and talking to himself. He did try going to the library a couple of times, but Bud never kept his mouth closed and he made so much racket, that he was eventually banned. Sammy McCoy, the librarian, unfortunately died right after that, and the new librarian still doesn't allow Bud to enter.

Bud usually spent his days making his birdcalls and walking fairly briskly; talking, arguing, pacing, but always taking in the activities going on around him, his eyes in constant motion. Bud and I got along because he did not seem to notice me, it was just like I didn't exist. Very distant cellmates.

We had softball games daily, and we had a number of excellent players. A good amount of money was wagered on our two fairly even teams. But once a week, we made sure that anybody who wanted to play could do so. The men would forgo their regular assigned teams and we would let everyone join in. Today we even asked Bud to play, but he was busy reciting the Magna Carta.

Donald Albertson decided he would play, and we told him that he could bat, but he did not have to play in the field. Donald did not have the ability to play in the field. Frank Hackett, Jerry Weber, and George Taylor joined in as well. By late afternoon the score was something like 24 to 19, but nobody cared, we were all having fun.

I was at the plate and Donald was on deck. Bases loaded, I barely hit the ball, and right at the pitcher, but what should have been an easy out, turned into a double when Cooper Mike threw the ball over the first baseman's head. The score was now 24 to 22, and we assumed that would be the final score, because Donald had never come close to hitting the ball. But that was fine. It was a good close game that everyone seemed to enjoy.

Now, Donald didn't exactly swing the bat. It was more of chopping motion, like splitting firewood. "Strike one!" "Strike two!" And the third swing was the usual chop of the axe, but somehow Donald made contact with the ball, slamming it into the ground eight feet in front of the plate and bouncing it high into the air. Over the pitcher and second baseman's heads it sailed, landing in short center field. Donald stood there grinning, and everyone started yelling at him to run. He looked confused, then took a few steps toward first base, started to grin again, and he was off and running.

The outfielders never expected Donald to hit the ball and they had actually started for the sidelines. Donald was heading for second base and the infielders were busy colliding with each other.

Michael West was playing third base and he was hollering for the ball as I went around third base towards home plate. As Donald rounded third, Michael stuck out his foot and tripped him, and Donald went down hard, you could hear the snap as he broke his nose.

Michael still wanted the ball, but 'Time Out' was called and the infielders went to Donald's aid, helping him up and trying to stop the bleeding. Donald had chipped a tooth and had a pile of dirt in his eye, but he did not care. HE HAD HIT THE BALL! We declared that Donald had scored because of Michael's unsportsmanlike behavior, tying the game at an Official 24 to 24.

The celebration was still going on when the horn blew for our inside roll call. I was picking up the bats and gloves when I noticed Bud over by the backstop. He was red faced, left hand extended, screeching like an eagle.

Bud had that thumb turned in, with the closed fist, and he was doing that slow rotation thing and chewing, screeching with loud moans, and starring daggers through Michael West. This time he did not stop at a couple rotations, he just kept making that slow waggle, his knuckles covered in red.

Now, most of the things I can tell you about here at Jackson Prison are a combination of many different people's opinions. We have a very structured lifestyle. Our movements and ability to be aware of activities at various locations around this facility is severely limited. But our grapevine is fairly accurate. You would expect some embellishment on some of the outrageous things that occur here, but the rumor-mill or grapevine can usually be trusted.

I do not know for a fact that Bud sent out dead rats and newts with his food tin while in solitary, but I do believe that happened. I did not see Bud kiss the Warden, but that story has been sworn to by no less than three trustees that were in the room, so I believe that too.

Here now, here is what I do know. I saw it. I can not explain it, but I am ninety-nine percent sure that I saw this. Bud continued to screech, making his hitchhike and chewing gestures in Michael west's direction, and Bud's knuckles were completely covered in his self-oozing blood.

As Michael West was walking away, kicking the dirt, he left us.

I do not mean he died, or passed out, or levitated. There was no sound. There was, just for a millionth of a second, a fine bright red mist in the air, and then there was nothing. No clothes, no hair, no shoes, no Michael.

Sometimes panic will cause a persons heart to go into overtime. I am fairly sure that for several seconds, my heart stopped.

I heard Bud in a loud deep moan, like he was trying to give birth to a football, with his face contorted, more blood around the knuckles of his left hand. Slowly he straightened up, gathered himself, and began to make the "tee tee tee" sounds of a chickadee. As I looked around, nobody seemed to be aware of the fact that Mr. West had vaporized. I took a deep breath, my heart started again, and I slowly made my way over to Bud.

He looked as normal as Bud gets, and I asked him if he was all right. He just nodded, and I cautiously asked him if he was ready for head count and some lunch. He informed me that for some strange reason, he was both exhausted and famished. He smiled and then began rubbing the knuckles of his left hand.

I considered asking Bud about Michael West's disappearance, but I was speechless and my mind had not really accepting what I just witnessed.

Then Bud mentioned that watching that ball game was a lot of fun and maybe he might try to join in next week. He stopped walking and turned in my direction, smiling as he said, "Would you care to bet that next time I can play third base?" His smile went to a full grin, "It appears there will be a vacancy at that position."

I never answered Bud and I certainly did not take him up on that bet. Then, and ever since then, I was pretty sure Bud could do anything he wanted.

(C)opyright 2006 Gary Grenier

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