Please make a donation to support Minutes Before Six
A story by Timothy Pauley
Pony Morrow was a big lump of goo. In fact, he´d picked up his nickname way back in juvenile detention because even as a teenager, his belly stuck out like a pony keg. Now, pushing forty, it no longer resembled a pony keg, but rather, a full sized one. Pony had given up trying to shake the name years ago when he realized he would never have the self-discipline to do anything about it.
Pony had two major skills. One of them was a remarkably ability to convert the dog food they fed prisoners into huge stores of body fat. His work could be seen spilling over his belt, protruding off of his backside, and in rolls that had formed three extra chins below the one he was born with. Even food that most prisoners considered inedible was fine with Pony. In fact, he liked that the best because guys gave it away.
Pony´s other skill was annoying people. He only liked to talk about two things. The first was Pony Morrow. He didn´t actually like to talk about the real Pony Morrow, but the fabricated version he had created in his mind. He was a pimp. He was a player, He was a high level drug dealer, an entrepreneur, gang leader. You name it, Pony Morrow had done it. He was a legend in his own mind.
The other thing he liked to talk about was what you could do for him. Typically this would come on the heels of a monologue of his grandeur. After telling you about his stable of prostitutes, he´d ask you for some food. “Can I get a couple soups? My money´s a little slow this month.” Something like that. Failure to comply with his wishes would usually be met with, “sucka” or “trick” which he´d mutter as he shuffled away, toward his next target.
Usually, Pony´s routine went off without a hitch. He was great at figuring out who might be receptive to his game and had a remarkable degree of success augmenting his diet in this way. As long as the guards were even slightly lax, Pony would end the evening three or four ramen soup packets for his evening feast. The problem was, Pony often was either unwilling or unable to discern when a particularly vigilant guard happened to be working. On those occasions, the very act of someone handling Pony a soup was considered a crime. This was trouble.
One evening Pony had just procured four soups. He was feeling particularly proud of himself as he shuffled back to his cell to begin preparing his snack. “You,” the guard shouted, pointing his extended arm and index finger directly at Pony. “Stop right there,” Jensen shouted as he aggressively hurried toward Pony. “I saw that,” Jensen said as he reached Pony. “Give me that contraband and give me your ID card.” Pony´s shoulders slumped momentarily as he realized this guard was trying to jack him for his food. Just as quickly, though, he puffed out his chest and indignantly replied, “What for? I ain´t done nothing.”
Jensen was having none of that. “I said give me that contraband and give me your ID card, right now!” The angry guard extended his open palm towards Pony and waited. Pony quickly considered his options. No matter how this played out, he was going to bed hungry that night. Dinner had sucked. His stomach was rumbling already. Now this sorry turnkey wanted his food. Anger began welling up inside of him.
“This my food.” Pony shouted as he tucked his soups up against his ribs like a football and stuck his chin out toward the guard. “Give me that contraband right now or you´re going to segregation.” Jensen responded. “Why you fuckin with me? This is my shit.” Pony replied, tucking his soups even tighter to his body.
The alarm sounded as Jensen keyed the mic on his radio. “We got one refusing in B upper.” Pony knew this mean the good squad was now on the way to take him to segregation. Not only was he going to lose his food, but he was going to be stuck in the hole where they really fed bad. Pony reared back and began swinging his pudgy arms in kind of a windmill fashion as he stepped forward toward Jensen. Before the soups hit the floor, Pony´s fists were bouncing off the sides of Jensen´s head, making a thwack sound each time he landed another blow. Jensen was so shocked he had already absorbed several punches before he had the sense to step back and try to deflect the blows.
Moments later the goon squad came pouring into the unit. They quickly pepper-sprayed Pony in the face, then tackled him to the floor and two more pulled his arms behind his back and tightened a set of handcuffs onto his wrists. Even though Pony had quit struggling, they continued to press his face hard into the floor and jam their knees and elbows into any area that might cause him pain.
A few minutes later, they dragged Pony to the hole. With a guard on each arm, they drug him face down across the floor and out of the unit. His head banged against the door frame on the way out. Once outside, they stood him up and twisted his arms high behind him, nearly dislocating his shoulders and causing him to bend forward as far as he could, as they began marching him to segregation. Once in segregation, they pushed him into an empty cell and slammed the door behind him as Pony stumbled and fell face fist onto the concrete floor.
Once he was in the segregation cell, the guards were supposed to open the small cuff port on the door and permit Pony to put his hands in front of it so they could remove the cuffs. But not when you assault a guard. No, when that happens, you get to keep the cuffs for a while. It wasn´t until the next morning when they finally removed Pony´s handcuffs. He got this instead of breakfast. Instead of lunch they finally brought him his blankets and sheets. By dinner Pony was in total meltdown.
Robbed of his evening snack, pepper sprayed, beat up, handcuffed for hours, left in a cell with no bedding, and denied breakfast and lunch was enough to turn a lump of goo like Pony into a quivering mass of incoherent rage. Pony´s tenuous grasp on sanity was all but lost.
By the time the guards came by to push Pony´s dinner tray through the cuff port in his door, they found him drawing disturbing pictures all over the walls of his cell. Only thing is, Pony wasn´t given anything to write with. Upon closer inspection, they noticed a three inch long turd in his hand. This was the actual drawing implement and Pony was wielding it like a crayon. If there was any question, that was cleared up the moment they opened the slot in his door and the stench hit them. The guard quickly thrust Pony´s dinner tray through the opening and slammed the door shut.
Pony continued to draw a giant pig with one hand while he reached into his tray and thrusting mashed potatoes into his mouth with the other. Between bites Pony kept mumbling to himself. The words were forming sentences that could only be deciphered by a thoroughly twisted mind, if that.
For the next six months this routine continued. It was so bad the guards were becoming afraid of Pony. Jensen hadn´t actually sustained any injuries, beyond a few bruises, so it was not Pony´s fighting ability. It was the fact that he had completely lost it. Who lives in a room where the walls are crude cave paintings made of feces? Who reaches into his food with a hand encrusted with his own feces, then puts the mixture of food and feces in his mouth? How could anyone not find this unsettling?
Were it up to the guards, Pony would have remained locked in that room forever. But it was not up to them. Every few days they would be required to hand cuff him, place him in the shower, then hose out his cell. Once he was cleaned up, Pony resumed his fecal festivities nearly the moment he was returned to his cell.
Then came the order. It came from headquarters. Mental patients were no longer kept in indefinite isolation. It was decreed they would be returned to general population. That meant Pony was getting out of the hole.
Ski came to prison shortly after his eighteenth birthday. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to twenty five years. Upon his arrival, Ski fell in with a group of young men like himself, who had very little hope. They amused themselves doing what many young men do in prison, acting like dumbasses. That´s just what young guys do while they´re trying to wrap their minds around a hopeless situation.
Prison administrators like to put thing into neat cubbyholes. They have a category or classification for everything, especially people. When several guys hang out together and do things that draw attention, the default is to consider them a gang. It didn´t take long for Ski and his friends to fall into that category. Within a year they´d been declared STG or a “Security Threat Group”.
Ski was a smart kid. He adjusted to his new reality more quickly than most. As soon as he´d completed his five years of mandatory close custody, he was eligible to transfer to a medium custody prison. This is somewhat unusual because it often takes a young long term prisoner longer to accumulate the necessary period of good behavior to qualify for such a transfer. But Ski had done this and was soon on his way to a better place.
Ski ended up at a facility where he could enjoy a much higher quality of life. The only problem came when he tried to get a job. An STG designation is difficult to shake. Once this is in a prisoner´s file, there is virtually nothing they can do to get it removed. That meant that Ski was only eligible for a handful of jobs and, even then, could only hold a particular job for two years. For his first job, Ski was on a paint crew with several other STGs. It was a decent job and permitted him to have enough money to purchase the necessities like soap, toothpaste, and perhaps a little coffee. But two years passed and Ski soon found himself unemployed once again.
The facility had four areas of STG jobs. One was for blacks, one was for Hispanics, one was for whites, and one was mixed. Being white, this meant Ski was only eligible for two of these areas. Ski had friends on the mixed crew who kept trying to get him hired. The only problem was that they were white too. If Ski were hired, it would no longer be a mixed crew. That left Ski with only one area. Out of a couple hundred jobs, he was eligible for five.
T-dog had one of the five jobs. When he was told he was transferring to camp soon, he put in a word for Ski. Ski talked to the boss as well and was assured he would be able to have the job when T-dog left. Ski was stoked about the prospect of finally having a job again.
The day T-dog left, Ski got the bad news. Not only was he not getting the job, they were giving it to a black. That meant they were violating their own rule. Ski took this remarkable well. He was a quiet well-spoken young man and he kept his disappointment to himself. To those who knew him, however, it was obvious Ski was beginning to wonder when the cops would quite screwing him over.
The first day Pony Morrow took over, everyone was outraged. Not only was Ski being screwed out of a job they´d promised him, but they´d given the job to a turd-eating lump of goo!
Paul was sitting in the infirmary waiting room. It was time for his yearly check-up. He perused the collection of reading material and noticed a brochure about a new diet. Paul was a bit of a health nut so he grabbed the brochure with great interest. Within thirty seconds he was doubled over with laughter.
An hour later Paul was walking the prison yard with his good friend Marty. Between the two of them they had logged about seventy years in prison. This meant that, when it came to prison stuff, it was like they had ESP. Paul pulled out the brochure and handed it to Marty. He then looked at his watch. Twenty-three seconds later Marty was doubled over with laughter. The prison had a fancy name for it, but Marty immediately dubbed it “the goo diet,” and Marty knew just what to do with this.
The brochure described the goo diet as the exact same food currently being served, only less of it. Instead of 3,000 calories each day, the goo diet was for 2,000. No cookies or cupcakes for the goo diet. It also described how those who were on the goo diet would not be permitted to purchase high calorie foods from the prison commissary either. High calorie foods like soups, for example. Then, on the back page was an application.
“So, who´re we putting on a diet?” Paul asked. “I think we should help Ski,” Marty replied. “Pony Morrow is a big lump of goo. This is perfect for him.” The pair spent the next hour laughing about the new plan. Ski didn´t know it, but help was on the way.
Pony Morrow shuffled into the chow hall for breakfast. He´d managed to regain all the weight he´d lost eating turds in segregation. He´d accomplished this feat by eating everything in sight. In fact, he liked to sit next to the dish pit so he could get the uneaten food people were going to throw away.
When they pushed his tray out the window, Pony just grabbed it and started walking away. He got halfway to his seat when he noticed there was no muffin and only a half scoop of potatoes. He went back to the window and accosted the guard. “Where the rest of my shit?” he asked. “Move along. You know the rules. Once you leave the window it´s too late. You´ve got to check your tray before you walk away.” The guard replied.
Pony knew that was how things worked. He called the guard a punk then shuffled off to his table. When he was done with his tray Pony began hawking the trays people were taking to the dish pit. “Hey, lemme get those potatoes.” He said. As the prisoner stopped and began extending his tray in Pony´s direction, another guard approached and ordered him to move along. Pony was pissed. “Yo, you killin my hustle you sorry assed bitch.” Pony spat. “You´re done here, return to your cell.” The guard ordered.
A similar situation played out at lunch. Then again at dinner. Each time things were missing from Pony´s tray. When he complained, the kitchen staff told him that was what he was supposed to get then the guard would shoo him away. When he tried to get extras off other people´s trays, guards stopped him. Even guards who had previously allowed him to do this.
Pony still managed to hustle up a few soups each night. And this prison was great because they left the cell doors open for five minutes at a time. Pony would wait until his neighbors left, then sneak into their cells and help himself to whatever they had. But still, the chow hall situation was really bothering him. They were cheating him.
The one thing Pony knew was that in a couple days commissary would be delivered. When they told him they were giving him a job it was explained that all he had to do was show up and he´d get a full paycheck. Some brilliant administrator had surmised they could negotiate the insanity out of him. So Pony had ordered fifty dollars worth of junk food. On Friday he´d have a feast. That kept him from reacting too strongly to the chow hall harassment. He wouldn´t get his commissary if he was sent to the hole.
Friday they began opening doors for the prisoners to pick up their commissary. By the time Pony got out, there was already a line about forty long. He didn´t care about that. He just shuffled up to the front of the line and began talking to the first guy. “Yo, you getting any soups? How bout candy bars? Can I get some?” As the guy was telling him he couldn’t help him, the guy at the window stepped away with a big bag of groceries. Pony broke off the conversation abruptly and stepped in front of the man he´d been talking to. Amid a chorus of cursing and grumbling, Pony presented his ID card to the commissary lady and waited for his sack.
Pony was expecting a rather large sack of groceries. Fifty bucks didn´t go as far as it used to, but still. When the commissary lady returned to the window with a small paper bag, Pony immediately began protesting. “That ain´t mines. I gots a big sack. Better go check.” The commissary lady looked at the receipt on the bag, then at Pony´s ID card. “No, this is it.” She replied. “You want to check it?”
Pony tore open the bag. Inside was a jar of hair grease and a note. Pony grabbed the note and began to read. The note was actually a form letter informing Pony that people on the medical diet were not permitted to order certain food items, so that part of his order was not going to be filled. Anger welled up inside him, but even a guy as egocentric as Pony knew that there was nothing this woman could do for him. He stomped away from the window to another chorus of jeers from the guys he´d cut in front of. “Fuck ya all.” Pony shouted as he headed back to his cell.
Doctor Topin hated prisoners. Were it not for his only legal trouble, he´d never have taken a job at this prison. When he´d finished rehab for his opiate addiction, however, nobody else would hire him.
Each time someone miscreant sat opposite his desk and asked for something, Topin wondered to himself why they ever stopped using stocks, whippings, and hangings in the public square. He needed the money though, so he at least had to pretend to care. But he didn´t pretend very well.
When Topin looked up to see Morrow walking in the door to his office, he was sure this guy would have some laundry list of goods and services he wanted. “Not today, and not from me.” Topin thought as Morrow took a seat across from him.
“What are you here for tod…” Topin started to say, but was cut off abruptly by Morrow. “Yo, ya all gots me on this fucked up diet and I don´t play that shit. I eats what I wants.” Pony said. This was certainly not what Topin expected to hear. He wouldn´t be able to just shoo this one away. He´d actually have to look in his file. What a pain in the ass he thought.
Topin picked up the notebook containing Pony Morrow´s medical records. He opened it to the tab where dietary information should be and immediately noticed the order for a medical diet. Topin glanced up and it was obvious to him that the man in front of him was at least a hundred pounds overweight. That meant he didn´t need to look any further. Obviously this man needed to be on a diet. Instead of turning the page to see the application for this diet that had purportedly come from Pony, Topin assumed another doctor had ordered the diet.
“Your diet is appropriate for your condition.” Topin said. “If you want to be taken off this diet, you´re going to need to lose some weight. A lot of it.” Topin sat back in his chair with a blank expression on his face waiting for Pony to get up and leave.
Pony´s eyes narrowed as the message sunk in. “You punk assed bitch!” Pony shouted as he grabbed the edge of Topin´s desk and tipped it over. Topin tried to jump back but the edge of his desk landed squarely on his left foot, smashing it to the floor. Once he realized what he´d done, Pony ran out of the office. He made it to the front door just as the goon squad arrived to take him down.
Two broken toes was the diagnosis at the emergency room. Topin hobbled out with cane, a fresh prescription of Vicodin, and an excuse to stay away from the prison for a little while. He headed home and within an hour had settled into a pleasant drug induced euphoria.
In fact, Topin burned through his Vicodin in record time. It was the best four days in recent memory. But the day his script ran out, Topin fell into a panic. By evening he felt so bad Topin resolved to return to work the next day, just to get his hands on a prescription pad.
The next morning everyone was surprised to see Topin hobble in. Having endured what he did, most people would take at least a couple weeks. But Topin didn´t last long. He put a prescription pad in his pocket and promptly declared he had to go home. His foot was still too bad to work. Everyone understood and he collected many sympathetic assurances as he hobbled out.
An hour later Topin was back on his couch. He had three fresh bottles of Vicodin and a listless smile plastered to his semi-conscious face.
Ski was aware of the Pony Morrow meltdown. No telling where he was, but after such a high profile incident, it was unlikely he´d be back. That didn´t mean Ski would get the job, though. They´d already apparently changed the race designation on that position, so it seemed like a long shot at best.
Later that day his door rolled open. When Ski stuck his head out, the guard ordered him to report to the tower. When he arrived, Ski was told he´d been hired and the tower guard describes his new duties to him. As Ski turned away to begin his new job the guard said, “Hey, you don´t play with turds or anything, do you?” Ski´s blank look was all he needed to see. “Just checking.”
|Timothy Pauley 273053|
Washington State Reformatory Unit C315
P.O. Box 777
Monroe, WA 98272-0777