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Intermission With Ruthie: Frog Gravy 67

Ab Fab, Edina in court.

Hint: “I don’t think that’s a good idea, Mom. Your mouth is working for the prosecution.”

Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account in Kentucky.

Frog Gravy contains graphic language. Do not read this post at work.

Inmate names are changed.

McCracken County Jail, Cell 107, sometime in March, 2008

In the news, we learn that a health screening day was held at Walmart. Among other things, the screeners were testing body fat. Seventy percent of those screened were obese or markedly obese. I empathetically and privately note that Ruthie, who is 5’4″ and over 300 pounds, fits into this category.

Around Ruthie’s middle, an apron of fat hangs lower than her orange khaki shirt hem. Enormous breasts hang down and rest on the apron. She has difficulty breathing, and each night she snorts and snores.

We are kind to Ruthie, because she has cognitive difficulties that some summarize as not being quite ‘right.’ My best guess is fetal alcohol syndrome as possibly exhibited by her difficulties with thinking, expression and social skills. Ruthie has shared with us that her biological mother used drugs during the pregnancy, and that Ruthie was raised in foster care, where she was abused. Also, Ruthie met her biological mother for the first time when Ruthie was eighteen, and both of them were residents in this jail. Like many other inmates here, Ruthie has frequent-flyer-in-jail family members. We also know that she has been abused by various men in her adult life.

During the news, we can hear Harry shouting from his isolation cell down the hall, “PLEEEase!! Help me! Let me out! HELP! HelpmehelpmeHelpMeHELLLP! Sombody Please!”

Ruthie receives a little more than $600 each month from the government for disability. She has two mixed children. They are in foster care or with family. Ruthie prefers black men; her current boyfriend is black. She struggles cognitively but she also struggles with a drug addiction. McCracken County courts have determined that the most healing, productive environment for Ruthie and her children, is Ruthie’s placement in this jail cell with us.

While Ruthie articulates with great difficulty, she is adept at street slang.

At night, she lies on the floor next to the steel door, and shouts underneath it, to Creighton, a black drug dealer who she slept with on the streets. Creighton is housed in the cell next door (cell 111).

“Fuck you, Creighton! Herpe-boy, herpe-boy. Fuck y’all. Your dick smells like yo ass! Fuck you!”

Creighton replies, “Fuck you! Your pussy smells like sardines!”

“Huh-uh. This pussy smell good. You jes mad ’cause you cain’t have any ‘o ‘dis pussy. You just jealous ’cause I done fucked Mississippi. He is fine. His dick bigger den yours.”

“Your breath smells like yo ass, bitch!”

“Wash yo mouth out wit soap, herpe-boy, herpe-boy, fuck you,” sing-songs Ruthie. “Yo dick ain’t thick like Mississippi!”

“I heard yo mouth is a sperm bank!”

Ruthie turns to us and says, “Mississippi done got a thick dick, ’cause he beats hisself all the time. He done love playin’ wit his wee-wee. Dey say dat if a man play wit hisself, he get a thicker dick.”

Tina says, “If that were true, every man would have a hundred-foot dick.”

The guard comes by, kicks the steel door and shouts, “Cut it out!”

Startled by the kick, Ruthie actually levitates off the cement floor. I wonder how this is physically possible.

I say, “Get up, Ruthie, or they’ll take our TV. Plus, they won’t allow Class Ds onto the walk anymore. And we won’t have anything to look at. Who’s Mississippi?”

“Black dope dealer wit a thick dick,” replies Ruthie. “He done went back to Mississippi.”

When the guard leaves, Ruthie is back on the floor, yelling. “That’s right, herpe-boy, he done had a bigger dick than you! I fucked ‘im every night, smoked all the crack I wanted, shore did! I didn’t want for nuthin’! You jes jealous ’cause I’d rather suck a glass dick than yours!”

I say, “Shut up, Ruthie. They’ll take our TV.”

Ruthie gets up, giggling.

Like so many people in jails and prisons, Ruthie is mentally disabled. She is very childlike, and draws simple pictures for her wall. Her stick-figure drawing features a man and woman, happy, smiling. The man wears a baseball cap and is smoking a cigarette. The woman wears a dress. The sun is a child’s sun, full, with stick-rays. There are two clouds and a tree. The house has a front door and two windows.

Ruthie uses magazines and deodorant, to rub color into the pictures, then hangs them on the wall with the universal jailhouse glue: toothpaste.

Ruthie came to our cell because her cellmates in her other cell were always mean to her. She smelled horrid when she arrived, like a vaginal infection. We urged her to go to the nurse and get STD tested and get medicine. She did, and she smells better. We try to be good to her. She did not understand that she would have to sit in this cement cell for six months for seven contempt of court violations.

We explain legal things to Ruthie, because no lawyer has explained anything to her.

We also help Ruthie to read, write and count.

I sit at the steel table with my notes. I continue to transcribe Leese’s poem.

Sick of getting my hopes up, sick of being let down

Sick of the sky, sick of the ground.

Sick of the water, sick of the dirt

Sick of feeling nothing, sick of being hurt.

Sick of being wrong, sick of being right

Sick of not seeing, sick of having sight…

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