jailhouse-door-2Second verse same as the first! The second morning and every work morning, as Bill would discover, were exactly the same. Same wake up time. Same eating time. Same razor routine. Same wait for the call to work.

Food was the same too. That second morning, Bill had not eaten a meal since the day he was pronounced guilty in court and sent off to the workhouse, almost two full days. Runny, sloppy cereal, cold, hard and unbuttered toast,  watery eggs and a slice of some indistinguishable meat, like a spam.

Per his usual now, Bill drank the chocolate milk. He knew that if it was like yesterday, he would get decent coffee and maybe even more cigarettes at the shooting range. Maybe he’d be allowed to go to the bathroom there, get a short walk on his own, by himself, to clear his mind. Tomorrow, he thought, he’d get a shower. Deodorant was something else he’d need.

Something interesting happened that second morning. His work group had been called and they had boarded the paddy wagon to head out. But a bus with new prisoners had arrived early and was blocking the gate. Actually, the gate wasn’t totally blocked and they could have gotten out if the driver were so inclined. Instead, the driver and his partner were intent on watching the show. Two other work crews, also already boarded onto paddy wagons, were stopped and watching too.

Bill had seen the show. It was the same show. The only difference was that Bill hadn’t known it was a show when it happened to him. Bill had thought it was for real; now he knew it was a put-on performance.

The same guard who had gotten on Bill’s case for Bill’s looking at him, for their eyes meeting, was calling out one of the new arrivals, the one who had the longest hair.

“You eyeballing me boy?” he said loudly. He stepped into the new arrival’s face.


“No what?”

The new arrival, like Bill that day, had no clue what he was supposed to say. “No officer,” he finally said.

“You call me sir, boy.”

“Yes sir,” the new guy said.

“Lookee here,” the guard said. “We got us a bona-fide genuine hippie boy.”

All the guards came over. They all wore sidearms and carried shotguns. One guard cocked his shotgun and said “I see the slightest motion out the corner of my eye while I’m checking out this here hippie, I’m shooting at it first and asking about it after I shoot.”

“I’ll be damned,” one guard said.

“Remember the hippie we checked in yesterday morning?” another one said.

“I heard he enjoyed the strip search. You gonna enjoy the strip search, boy?”

The new guy did not answer.

Another guard, one who had not spoken, poked him in the ribs with the butt of his shotgun. “Didn’t you hear him ask you a question?”

“Yes sir,” he said.

“Well?” the same guard said, prodding the guy’s ribs with the shotgun with each word. “Answer his f…ing question. You like it up the ass? You look like a faggot to me.”

“No sir,” he said.

“You a queer?”

“No sir.”

“Goddamn,” Bill said aloud.

“What?” one of the guys in his work crew asked.

“They ran that routine on me. When I first got here, the same guards, even the same words.”

“They do it every arrival,” one of the work crew members said. “Those of us been here awhile seen it lots of times.”

“It’s to scare the shit out of the new inmates, so they don’t act out,” another crew member said. “It’s to keep order.”

“Anyone been here before knows the game. But it works pretty good.”

“Worked on me,” Bill said. “Worked just fine.”

They all sat in silence for the rest of the show. Bill mulled things over and over in his mind. The thrust of his thoughts centered around reality, what was real and what was their messed up theatrical version of reality.

I’m living in their reality, he concluded. It’s real, he thought. But it’s not reality.