Wednesday, June 21, 2017

William Myrl; Letters to No One (79)

Dear No One,

Country was a round faced fluff bear of a man, mighty and full of farts. He came to me in the dead of night and said, "I'm sure glad you're white." It's what we all think, at first. People naturally come together in tribes, like with like, and the most obvious sieve is color. The chow hall is gradated, white up front, mixed, and black in the back farthest from the CO. This is not racism, it is just the way things happen when you don't try to force it. 

Country was not an educated man, but he was wise in the ways of the world. He complained that all the people who sold drugs here were actually junkies, the prices were spiked because they really didn't want to let the product go. After he turned down a few tall pitches he swore off the game, unless the opportunity came for him to move product himself, but that wasn't something he looked for. He taught me how to make floss out of the plastic sleeve saltine crackers come in, and how to weave it into rope if I ever wanted to hang myself. He showed me how to make a cutting disk out of a peanut butter lid, and taught me a few ramen recipes that were new to me.

Country liked cars, four wheelers, women, and crystal. He had a good girl at home who was waiting for him, against all good sense, and he talked to her on the phone twice a day, or thrice. There was also an ex who emailed him photos of herself, mildly suggestive selfies. He said he wanted to hit it one good time before getting serious with the old lady. 

As a cell partner, he was generous with his relative wealth. We both bought as much popcorn as we could and split a bag most nights. When he went to store he would blow everything he had in one go and we'd eat like MSG czars for a week or two, then fall back on my supply of ramen and pickles for a more conservative period until he had money again. He liked to play in a rowdy, brotherly way, grabbing nipples and showing his ass. Not at the same time. At his insistence I started exercising again, basic body weight stuff, and finally got over the nerve pain in my shoulders. His sister was in jail, then out of jail, and he complained that she was siphoning money from their mom he should have been getting. His sister was a bit of a junkie as well. Country wasn't, he was a cook, a producer when it suited him. And he almost couldn't help himself. 

When they took him out, it was over three gallons of wine in his property box. I was sorry to see him go, as he was the most comfortable celly I'd ever had, and it would have been a hell of a party.

Hearts and Stars

William Myrl
June 15 2017

Sunday, June 11, 2017

William Myrl; Letters to No One (78)

Dear No One,

So there were two envelopes from PEN yesterday. The PEN prison writing contest is something I've talked about before, a national contest open to anyone incarcerated within the last year. It has five categories; drama, fiction, poetry, and they split nonfiction into essay and memoir, which makes five. I submitted to four categories last September, there's about a nine or ten month turn around for these things. 

Any who, first place for my drama submission, second place for my essay. I'm a bit bothered they snubbed my poetry, but I will take the two prizes happily. It's not the most prestigious contest, given the state of its applicants, what it does is pad my resume a little and give me the satisfaction of having won something. It isn't exactly vindication, it feels more as if the somewhat nebulous future me that I aspire to had some tiny piece of itself solidified. There is money as well, they will have to mail the check to my mother and then I will have to convince her to send it to me instead of putting it into the same purposeless though good intentioned account as went last years winnings. I like to pretend I'm self supporting. 

I can only believe that there are fewer drama submissions than in the other categories. Last year that was the Dawson prize (fancy fourth) for me. Both years, my drama scene has been slap dash last minute stuff. I am more prideful of my poetry than any other medium, and yet it is the most difficult market to succeed in. 

Naturally, I'm excited by all this. However, it seems that stoicism cuts both ways. The same filter that allows me to accept failure and mischance all unblinking partially numbs my response to positive turnaround. I waited to open the envelopes, afraid of yet more disappointment, preparing for it. There was something wonderful and fleeting in opening them and seeing that I had won. 

I called my parents and my brothers, told Matthew to update my query letter. My life hasn't changed, I won't have the prize money for several months, and that won't be exactly life changing either. It is a step, a piece of a much larger game. There is always the next thing, the further submissions, hopes to be dashed. I am thinking about next year.

Also, a man was elected as the representative in Montana's only district who is both a young earth creationist and a bully who physically attacked a reporter shortly before he was elected. Thinking about that too.

Hearts and Stars

William Myrl
Letters to No One