Sunday, March 5, 2017

William Myrl; Letters to No One (74)

Dear No One,

It has been an odd week. Annual inventory came up in the plant, so I only had to work one day out of four. When we go back they are going to begin a massive jumpsuit order as the state begins insisting that inmates not be allowed to wear their own clothes to visit. These jumpsuits are special, they will all have a zipper in the back so that a CO has to tuck us into them.

Better news, the art contest came and went. There was a black history month production in the gym, and the submissions were displayed on tables opposite the stage. I watched the performance on its final afternoon. There was a guest speaker from wherever, and he took questions from people who had heard him the previous day. Some of the questions were as long as his answers, maundering hither and thither before coming to an incoherent conclusion. The speaker seemed knowledgeable, and I was impressed by one of his answers. Someone asked him what they should try to study, apart from basic reading and math, to be able to take back with them into society. He said microfinance. Our drawings had been up and down several times, but the final day thirty judges traipsed by to pick winners. The rec supervisor had all the administrative/paperwork people in the building do the judging, along with some COs who were in the area. I won the animals category, as one of two entries. The other guy had made a spider out of toilet paper and his own hair, which was neat, but it looked pretty meager beneath my life sized pair of foxes. I was offended that nine out of thirty voted for him. Cretans.

The DND game has come to an end. After six or more months of running it, I'm ready for a break. The personalities involved could be fascinating, also exhausting, or contentious. Dick was much better after he started taking medication. He was less likely to accuse people of harboring ill feelings toward him, less likely to interpret their actions with a negative screen. One of our players was transferred, and we replaced him with a middle aged man whose enthusiasm was unreliable. Sometimes he had a headache, or was too tired. Then there was Mao. Pretty sure he's on the autistic spectrum somewhere. Doesn't read people well, or if he can, doesn't react to them as if he does. Has a very strict pooping schedule, and regularly finds himself in conflict with others because of "misunderstandings", where he hears what others don't say or says what others don't hear. His turns would routinely take ten to fifteen minutes during combat, and involve a lot of book research. If you tell him not to do something, he will do it more, no exceptions.

Art contest update, I will probably get a six pack of mountain dew. Which is huge. There would have been many more entrants to all categories if a prize had been advertised other than a free picture ticket. Slipped in there.

Marina and the Diamonds is fantastic, FYI. She sings the music of my wierdass heart.

Hearts and Stars,

William Myrl
Letters to No One

William Myrl; Letters to No One (73)

Dear No One,

I heard about it at breakfast the morning after, Balerider had been vanquished. It was someone from another pod who gave me the news, the arrest had passed entirely beneath my notice. There was an almost festival air in the plant that morning, it was all anyone could talk about, a delicious end to the drama. Jokes were made ad nauseum. 
Words like shoot, pull, member, weapon, and admire all were twisted into Balerider puns.

"Pow pow pow," the inventory clerk would say. "Pow pow pow."

He shot from the hip. Fastest gun in the west. Balerider asked me if I could stand and talk to him while he's in the shower. He signed his grievance in white ink. He said she locked in, right?

No one was particularly incredulous. Balerider had that wierdness about him, an intensity that could make people uncomfortable, especially women. He went out of his way to talk to female officers, nurses, administrators. Stories emerged that he had been caught before. They were believed.

"I'm almost finished."
"That's what Balerider said."

It went on and on, happily ever after. The inmate advisor let slip that Balerider had refused a plea bargain for ten days in seg. He was officially taken off of the list at work. Once payroll went by, he would have to start over from .55 cents even if he was hired again. After about a week the talk petered out. (As had Balerider.)

On day nine, he was released from segregation.

People were friends with him again. I saw him in the pill line after work, he was walking up and down, telling the tale of his woes. He had a five year out of date copy of the shop rules in his shirt, and he would whip it out (heh) for anyone who showed even the most politely cursory interest in what had happened to him. The Balerider version of events went as follows.

Captain A convinced Officer B to falsely accuse him of infraction C. Captain A did this out of retaliation for a grievance Balerider had filed against him four years earlier. The major dropped the charge, and there would be an investigation into the matter. Every big hat he could name had assured him he would be able to go to work on Monday. One of our supervisors walked by on her way out of the compound.
"Hey! Hey! Can I come to work on Monday?"
"Why not?"
"You were terminated."
He insisted, moments thereafter, that the hearings officer had told her he was supposed to be back at work. Apart from the hearings officer having nothing to do with VCE hiring and firing, she had walked by without taking part in the conversation. But even to those who had witnessed the conversation, he would insist the hearings officer had taken part and advocated for him, despite the fact that it simply had not happened.

He yelled at another supervisor as he went by, but this one ignored him.

As far as anyone could piece together, the charge against Balerider could not go to a hearing because the original paper had been "lost" in a room with two lieutenants. The major was somewhat vexed, not about a conspiracy against Balerider, bit because of one in his favor. This happens sometimes, that when an inmate proves particularly useful to security, things slide by. There was a case recently when a yard worker was caught with a knife and kept his job.

On Monday morning the phone calls started. Balerider bullied the booth officer into calling the shop more than once on his behalf. Balerider was informed that he would be given an unauthorized area charge if he attempted to come into work. All day, the joke became, "Balerider's on the phone!" He moved up the ladder, a sergeant, then a lieutenant called on his behalf. If there had ever been a question whether Balerider had some kind of unusual leverage with security, there was none now. 

His argument stemmed from a line in the shop rules that says "an offender in segregation more than fifteen days may be terminated", it is taken out of context, and he used it to mean that since he had not been in segregation fifteen days, he could not be fired. 

What was strange about this delusion was not that he espoused it but that he had so many COs agreeing with him. The building manager in seg had terminated him, completely within his purview, and the plant managers had been happy enough to go along with it. Balerider hadn't burnt any bridges, he'd set the sea on fire.

Outside my door one afternoon, I heard him describing how he was going to "take them to court", and how the managers pay was going to be garnished until Balerider had his back -pay for the days and hours he'd lost since he was taken off the cutting table, and Balerider was going to work there for three weeks then tell them all to go fuck themselves.

His requests and complaints have been filed. All the bighats know who he is. He's got the plant people "dead to rights three ways to Sunday." The general consensus is that Balerider is going to cause so much fuss the facility is going to transfer him just to be rid of the noise. It happened once before, the last time Balerider was fired from the plant, half a dozen years ago.

Hearts and Stars,

William Myrl

Letters to no No One

William Myrl; Letters to No One (72)

Dear No One,

The ballad of Balerider begins with a murder, for that is what brought him into this world. As the life of a man must begin with a birth, the life of an inmate generally begins with a death, whether it be the death of a person or a dream. My first sight of him was on the cutting table. He worked fast, and steadily, always willing to put forward the extra effort necessary to push production. He was working for eighty cents an hour, top pay in the plant, and he was proud of his position.

He was a man of pride, pride in his work, in his opinions, in his bearing, and he would not take easily to any sign that he was to be made less, or treated unfairly.

He and the other cutters often clashed, in particular with one he knew as Fatass, among other more cutting epithets. He and Fatass got into a grand row one day, and Balerider was put in another department to work. This riled him, oh it riled, for it was Fatass who had been causing problems, not he, Fatass and the other cutter. Why was he being punished? 

There was no pay cut, but there was a cut in status, and sometimes the line workers were sent in early when there was no work, while the cutters were always allowed to stay. Balerider pled his case to the supervisors, and the plant managers, and derided their decisions and dishonesty to any who would listen. 

He was Briar rabbit, he would say, he felt like Briar rabbit, because the manager was a bear in the woods that wiped his ass with Briar rabbit. That's what happened in the Briar rabbit stories, I gather.

Pleading turned to veiled threats, and then less veiled. He was going to put this on paper, going to ride the grievance chain all the way to the top if they did not right their wrong. The other workers grumbled about him, because he regularly tried to upend the status quo, causing strife wherever he worked on the line. 

He was moved to another section, a vantage that allowed him to watch the cutters while he worked. He reported on their every weakness and mistake, real and imagined. When this did not bring about the change he desired, he tried to have Fatass fired by organizing a sting operation.

The cutters had a stinger (wire and metal device used to heat water) for coffee. Balerider reported its existence to security, and security watched the camera the following morning to see who was using it, then they called the shop manager to make sure he was fired. Fatass wasn't caught, it was the other cutter, whom Balerider had worked closely with for years. A position was open on the cutting table, and they had me assist until a permanent replacement could be found. 

Balerider fumed.

He was moved back to the other production line, where he didn't have a view of the cutting table. His rants focused around the favoritism that was being shown Fatass, who had committed offenses far greater than his own without repayment. Fatass had some kind of hold over the manager, some kind of relationship with him. It was the only explanation.

Months passed, and Balerider turned his sights higher. He began insisting on a meeting with the regional manager, and as she visited the plant on accession, he eventually had it. Balerider assured everyone that she had seen his point and was on his side. The sole result of the meeting was a new memo stating no paperwork of any kind could be brought into the shop. Balerider had been in the habit of carrying a file folder with him everyday, and he'd produced a handful of irrelevant paperwork during his meeting with the regional manager. 

He saw the memo as being a retaliation from the supervisors, despite having come from the regional manager herself. He claimed he could not be stopped from carrying his paperwork, because he was the ORC, inmate representative of his pod. To illustrate the fatedness of his coming victory, he name-dropped administrators. They were all on his side, and Tue supervisors would soon see the consequences of violating his rights. He was going to demand back pay for the days he had been forced to leave early and the cutting table remained behind.The next memo to be posted stated that any offender leaving the plant without a pass needed to sign a form stating they had done so of their own free will.

Balerider kept coming to me for the date and time that Fatass and the manager had been in an argument before they'd taken him off the cutting table. He said the major was going to go back on the cameras and see Balerider had been no part of the disagreement, and the order that had been miscut that day. 

How any of this would help him was beyond me. I mostly nodded, not giving him a real answer, I didn't have the information he wanted, and I wasn't going to risk my own position finding it for him. His insistence was becoming obnoxious, but it was taken out of my hands when Balerider went to jail (segregation) for gunning. Semi-public masturbation. It was the perfect end to a perfect story, or so it seemed.

More later.

Hearts and Stars

William Myrl
Letters to No One

William Myrl; Letters to No One (71)

Dear No One,

My roommate moved out, he was on the list for a single bed apartment and one finally became vacant. There was an age when all the prisons in Virginia were single bunk cells. That's how this one was built. Economics changed the picture, along with a swiftly growing population, and legislation that ended parole. So my celly moved, and for one and a half glorious days I had my own solitude.

During this time, people who I rarely spoke to, or knew only peripherally, came to counsel me. I was warned by four different individuals that someone who had been moved out of the pod was trying to come back. He was like a boogey man, his name called up images of glowering ghosts and rattling torment. They were terrified that he would return, and they wanted me to be terrified. Drama consumes us, and gossip, it is our sacrament and bread. There was never any chance of the boogeyman returning.

Coming home from work on the first day, a man met me at the door and suggested his openness to our being cellies. When there is an opening, it's not so difficult to have the unit manager switch someone around, as long as you catch him in the right moment. I agreed to the match, and he said he would try to catch the unit manager while I was at the tailor shop the next day.

The unit manager was not at work the next day, and my new celly arrived at around eight o'clock that night.

His name is Country, and he's in his thirties. He has a child, a lot of tangled relationships with women, and a supportive family. His sister is also in jail. He laughs like "Heuh heuh heuh" in a deeper than normal voice, and one of the first things he said to me was, "man, I'm glad your white." He's a fantastic bunkie. He has money, and he spends a lot of his time in the pod and outside. He transfered here, and he already knows more people than I do.
An empty cell is something special. We spend all of our days surrounded by voices and human shapes. Behind the door, the sounds still enter, the faces slip by, a small man with an afro irons other offenders pants on a board bolted to the wall. It is impossible to escape the humanity.

In an empty cell, when the pod is asleep, it's almost like being alone.

Country saw the copy of "Six Easy Pieces" I'm reading, read the word "physics" on the cover, and asked if it was about psychic stuff. When I said no, he asked if it was about reading body language. Country has done a lot of drugs. I'm genuinely glad to have him in the cell.

The bottom bunk is mine at last.

Hearts and Stars

William Myrl
Letters to No One