Sunday, March 5, 2017

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

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