Author’s note: This is a true story reconstructed from my notes. Names have been changed. Frog Gravy is a depiction of daily life inside jail and then later in prison, from a woman’s perspective, during the years 2008 and 2009 in Kentucky. My sentence is eight years, and I served nearly two: half in two different jails and the other half in a penitentiary. Frog Gravy contains graphic language.
Jail Cell 107, March, 2008
I have graduated to better real estate: a bottom-level steel bunk, one of four. Steel jail bunks are identical to military barrack bunks.
I have used toothpaste, perhaps the most versatile jailhouse product with easily a dozen uses, to paste cards that my family has sent me, to the steel above me. Many of the cards depict nature because I love nature. One even had a real bird feather on the front, but staff confiscated the feather because they fear that I will use the quill for a tatoo needle. So the front of the card has a small glob of glue where the quill used to be.
I go over each card. I wish I could touch the whiskers on this wolf or that baby harp seal, or swim with that turtle or talk to my son.
Any cell, does not matter where it is really, takes on an Animal Farm quality in a matter of time, and ours is no different. Behind the steel door and out of sight and earshot of the guards, our rules apply now, and these rules are not loving in any way. Loud verbal fights are an every day occurrence. Not really surprising when six people live in a four-person cell, sharing through three senses, one toilet and guarding, in a Rubbermaid container, the whole of their lives. Humans in uncontrolled groups can act surprisingly hateful and infantile and can spew hate even while quoting scripture.
Joyce is on the phone again, for the zillionth time begging her mother to get to a hard money lender and borrow $2000 for bail.
“God damnit, I saw the name of a lender on TV. Easy Money!! Listen to me! Go down there today and get it!!”
I feel really sorry for Sally’s mother as I listen and run my fingers over the surfaces of the cards, as if tactile sensation is transforming.
Sally continues, “God must have sent the commercial to the TV, because the Lord works through many people.”
Ah the Lord God,I think. How conveniently disarming.
Sally got creative one day and visited a local veterinarian and took a good look at the vet’s stationery. Then, she duplicated the letterhead at home and crafted a letter to her doctor, on the veterinarian fake stationery. The ‘vet’ explained to the doctor that Sally’s dog had eaten all of Sally’s pain pills and died of an over dose…and Sally needed a refill.
When asked to answer to this literary brainstorm, Sally skipped court, eight or ten times. Maybe the Lord wanted her to think about all of this. Personally I wished the Lord would put Sally in another cell to think about it.
Sally screams and yells at her mother, ends the call with a daughterly, “You fucking whore,” and slams the phone.
Other than family mail, religious material or I should clarify Christian religious material is the only reading material allowed, other than a very rare and very unreadable romance novel. I have also learned that, if I agree to get baptized into the local [censored by author] church, they will put money on my books. A lot of women get baptized because you get a free towel, and you get to be out of the cell. I refuse baptism because I was raised Presbyterian and baptized as an infant, which, in some circles, assures me a seat in Hell.
I decide to go through Bible study pamphlets to pass the time, because judges seem to like inmates that study the Bible and they might even grant shock probation, although I have seen inmates get spectacularly fucked by shock probation.
We have several bibles, mostly NIV, several pocket-sized New Testaments, and several study pamphlets that are on magazine-like paper.
We have managed to smoke most of one of the pocket New Testaments because the pages make decent tobacco rolling paper. So we smoked quite a good deal of Mathew, left John 3:16 alone, and after some concerned discussion, smoked some of the Revelation of St. John. I have a request in to visit the ‘law library’ such as it is, so I can get another smokable New Testement.
I am reading a study pamphlet entitled, The Antichrist Is Alive Today, because I can complete the questions, mail them off and get credit and the Judge will be happy.
The pamphlet is talking about Daniel. What do the beasts mean? Nations. Okay.
What do wafers represent? People. Fair enough.
What do the ribs in the bears mouth represent? The three principle powers conquered by Medo-Persia: Lydia, Babylon and Egypt. Hmmm.
Wings represent speed.
Then there is a monster with ten horns. Ten horns represent ten nations but there is one little horn that represents the Antichrist, who is none other than the papacy. The pope is the Antichrist, it says.
Then comes the qualifier and the disclaimer: “That’s not to say that many Catholics are not good people…”
The next study guide is called, The Mark Of The Beast.