“Shit Out Of Luck, South Carolina, 1979”
I couldn’t waste time worrying about tomorrow, I had to deal with right now. I was being taken to my room for the night and it wasn’t going to be pleasant. First came the strip search, which the guards seemed to take a special perverted delight in making rude comments about my naked body. Maybe they were playing some sort of cop intimidation game, or perhaps they really did dig it. Whatever, it made me very uncomfortable and I was especially intimidated when a deep voice bellowed, “Okay boy, now bend on over and spread your cheeks”. Reluctantly I complied to a new round of rude crude and lewd remarks which totally emasculated me, whether as a by product or by design. Feeling oddly dirty, even after being hosed down, a young guard handed me a towel and an orange jumpsuit. I could tell he was not a willing participant and thought it might be a good chance to create an ally, but he was unreceptive to my questions, like “where am I going,” or “what’s gonna happen to me.” I was a bit surprised at how meekly I asked this guard, but he just avoided eye contact and paid me no mind. “C’mon, dry off, git dressed and foller me son.” I obliged, still feeling dirty and not very dapper in my oversized orange jumpsuit with large white letters. ACDC. It wasn’t a rock band. It stood for Aikon County Detention Center. So here I was, dressed in the height of convict fashion following a young guard who had just handed me the thinnest mattress in history, as well as an itchy wool blanket all rolled up like a sleeping bag. “This is your bed.” He informed me. I tucked it under my arm and followed as the guard walked down the hall, through a series of bars and gates. I had my bed tucked under my arm, and my tail tucked between my legs.
The last gate we went through opened up into a sort of Cineplex of jail cells, and I could see many prisoners sticking their heads between the bars to try and get a look at the new arrival. I could hear shouts, mostly things like “Here come some fresh meat,” or “check out this long haired girl,” and other such nonsense that added profoundly to my discomfort. A voice somewhere off in the distance let out a very loud directive. “Alla Y’all Shut up!!! Its time for lights out.” The young guard walked me down a hallway of jail cells, and it looked like a dormitory of bars. He stopped about halfway down the hall, turned and unlocked a set of bars. “Go on ahead in boy” . It was a relatively big room with a stainless steel sort of picnic table and chair to the left, and to the right on the wall was two shower heads but no stalls. “All the way to the back on the left” down a short narrow corridor I saw a room on the end with an open door. I went in, and saw a board flush up against the wall, and a stainless steel toilet and sink. I remember thinking to myself “ I’m going to be seeing a lot of stainless steel here in this joint”. The young guard spoke to me for the final time. “Put yer mattress on there, you will git yer breakfast under the door in the morning, and your cell will open up to the common room at 10AM. Lunch is served around 12 noon, and 6 PM its back in to your personal cell. Every Wednesday the canteen cart comes around so you can buy candy and cigarettes if you have any money. Church is on Sunday Morning at 10AM sharp in the chapel. You will get one clean towel every day, and a clean jumpsuit once a week. Enjoy your stay.” The last part was added with a touch of sarcasm, and the rest of the “speech” seemed to be by rote, like he has said it a million times. But why did he give me the rundown on the entire place. After all I was leaving tomorrow. Wasn’t I? I began to worry again. How the fuck did I get myself into this God damn nightmare? I unrolled my makeshift bed, laid down, and stared at the ceiling. Completely exhausted from an extremely trying day, I fell asleep.
The next morning I woke up to a school cafeteria type of tray scratching along the floor. It was being passed through a rectangular cut out at the bottom of a cell door that was my overnight home. I was somewhat disoriented, the entire thing seeming rather surreal, as if it were happening to either someone else or in a dream. But it wasn’t a dream, and it was happening to me. I looked at the tray which consisted of a bowl of what I could only assume was oatmeal, a small dish of fruit cocktail , and some toast that I had no doubt had ceased being anything remotely close to actual toast hours ago. A very grim reminder that this is a real situation here. I had to do something, had to act and get myself back in control. Was Max coming back? Did Sandy just order him to move on without me? Or more likely, was Max and Sandy both beginning to feel the pains and discomforts of drug withdrawal? That was the most worrisome and most likely of outcomes. They either found some drugs out on the streets of Aikon County South Carolina, or they forged on ahead to the next methadone clinic on their route and turned me into a distant memory. I now knew that I had to take matters into my own hands. I was alone now, too embarrassed or too proud to call my family for help. Again! Too stubborn to just give in call someone, anyone for help. Not only that, I was aware that I had only one phone call, and I needed to make it count. Phone call! That’s it! I get one phone call. Shit man, I better makes this call count. Who to call though, that was the problem. I remembered a girlfriend I had while I was living in Myrtle Beach a few years ago. Rebecca. I could call Rebecca. Surely she would remember her Yankee lover and be willing to help me out. Why she even had a brother who was working a chain gang, so surely she would be sympathetic. So that’s it. I will call Rebecca, and she will rescue me from this hick hell hole. Now I just need to get to a phone. My mind was working overtime devising a plan to escape this nightmare. I was already thinking what I should do, track down Max and Sandy and kick their asses, or head back to New York and regroup. But first things first. I need to make the call.
I managed to eat about three quarters of the hideous representation of oatmeal and all of the fruit cocktail. I opted out of the born again toast. I now had some nourishment in my stomach, and it was time to get the ball rolling here. I had heard some of the other “Inn” mates call the guards by the term “turnkey” So it was time to establish my dominance with my jailors while developing my “street credentials” with my new roomies. I determined that a perfect place to start was right this very moment by showing these local yokel criminals how we do it up north. So in my toughest NYC voice I let out an authoritative directive. “Ay Oh, Turn-key”. I need to make a phone call.” I had attempted to inject just the perfect modicum of distain and rebellion as was necessary to achieve my goal. An awkward silence befell the cellblock, as a burly mean looking police officer began to stare at me with such a deadpan sarcastic glare, I almost felt jealous. I’m from New York, where sarcasm is a second language and he had just read me a cynical short story without even uttering a single word. I began to wonder if I was taking the proper approach, or if I should rethink my options. It was then that this komodo dragon in uniform began to saunter in my direction with a slow and deliberate pace that screamed “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” The oily haired officer got his face as close to mine as humanly possible, and just stared at me a moment. I had a sudden and humbling memory penetrate my tough NYC exterior and turn me into shimmering mass of spineless amoeba. . “Suey, let me hear you scream suey!” I attempted to coax myself back from my baseless paranoia. Oh Hell, stop thinking like that and get your shit together tough guy. You faced bigger opponents in Spanish Harlem just three days ago. You have spent countless hours in a Pagan Motorcycles Club bar. You have faced off with New York City detectives. (not very successful with the detectives, but stood up none the less. Well maybe stood up was not the right term) I gave my head a hair clearing shake, swallowed hard and began to feel like I was back in charge again. Apparently, none of this mattered to sergeant Komodo dragon. He began to speak, and I swore the voice was the same voice I recalled from that scene in the movie. “Say what boy?…. Did I hear you say turn-key you long haired piece of shit?” I couldn’t help but detect a certain note of arrogance and alarming distain in his voice. But alas it was too late, the drama had begun. I sensed that any second now, the proverbial pig shit was headed directly in the vortex of the rotary oscillator. And the fan was humming! The two of us stared each other down for a minute and the silence began to burn loud in my ears. Then as if right on cue a big shit eating “who the fuck do you think your dealing with” kind of grin broke out on his upper lip and quickly spread across his jaw until it took over his entire face. Now I am staring directly into this shit eating Cheshire smile and I can sense that it is a smile with some very serious implications. I had to think quick to get out of this predicament, to ease the tensions with my captor, while not losing face with my new room mates. “Hey Billy, we got us a real rebel Yankee here what wants to make his phone call.” The silence continued in the most uneasy pause I had ever experienced. After being stared at by a smile for what seemed like ten minutes, an even bigger almost obese guard came walking over with a look so serious I damn near wet myself. His stare was deadly. When he finally spoke, his voice did not match his body or his demeanor. He had a high pitched almost feminine voice. “Well Gawd Dang Jimbo, by all means lets give this boy his call, just as soon as we git his Yankee ass back from the room.” The two of these grease ball cops smiled at some kind of sick inside joke, and Jimbo opened my cell. “Put yaw hans behine you boy, youse comin’ wit us fer a spell.” His Cheshire shit eating grin was in overdrive now and it made me somewhat uncomfortable. They cuffed my hands behind my back and walked me out of the cell, down the corridor and through a few hallways until we stopped at a big wooden door that said Interrogation Room, ACDC. I thought to myself, so this is where they must be where Boss Hog and John Boy are taking me. Jesus when will this fucking nightmare end?
“Shit Out Of Luck, South Carolina, 1979”