Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Breakfast in Prison


Sunday, October 4, 2020

It seemed like a good planboiled eggs, grits, potatoes, biscuits for breakfast, not much the rest of the day. I asked a chowhound who never misses a meal to wake me before they call chow.

I DID NOT say wake me at 4:45!!! But he did.

This is why I rarely go to breakfast. Two hours later I was still sitting there, wondering when they would call ''Chow,'' wishing I had my sleep back.

So we left at 6:45. It was drizzling. 140 men from both sides of A Dorm grumbled, standing in the rain until the guards signalled go ahead.

I brought a cheddar cheese squeezer for the grits. They don't season the food. Bring your own or do without. The servings were large, the food hot. The boiled eggs were tiny. I thought they were quail eggs at first.

The inevitable bartering began.

''I got a biscuit for one egg.'' (Biscuits are hard and cold, but some people like them).

''I got two eggs for grits, biscuits, butter and jelly.'' ( You can tell he's from the South. Northerners trade their grits for anything else).

''I got juice for two sugar packs.'' (The ''juice,'' four ounces, is heavily watered down. Guys take the sugar packs back to the dorm to sweeten their coffee).

I see a lot of furtive stashing, men putting food--mostly boiled eggs--in potato chip bags or zip locks, to carry back to the dorm. Some will sell the eggs to men who'll buy tuna fish in the canteen, who'll make tuna salad sandwiches with their friends to eat during the NFL football games on TV. Prison tailgate parties. Others will try to sell their eggs for tobacco or drugs to smoke. Some men get very thin selling their food to feed their addictions.

A man at the next table put his biscuits in a bag and was about to stash it when a guard stopped him. He should have been watching. Careless.

"Gimme that. You can't take food out of the chowhall.''

Yeah, guards can't sell cigarettes and drugs in prison, either, but smoke is everywhere. No visits in six months, so they can't blame the widespread smuggling of contraband on visitors.

There was a momentary tug-of-war as the guard grabbed one corner of the bag and the prisoner pulled on the other. The guard was making a mistake creating an incident, outnumbered 100-to-1.

''Turn it loose. I said turn it loose.''

It could have gone either way. I remember seeing a guard get beaten half to death thirty years ago in another chow hall over a piece of cake. I didn't want to see that now.

The inmate let go. The guard threw the biscuits in the swill barrel.

"They was my biscuits,'' the kid said. ''I was gonna eat 'em later.''

''Here, take one of mine,'' I said. ''I'm not that hungry.''

''You sure?'' he said, tentatively reaching for my extra biscuit.

"Go ahead.''

He took it, smiling.

"Here, take one of mine,'' another man offered.

''You can have both of mine,'' a third prisoner held out his tray.

In moments his tray held six biscuits. "What am I gonna do with all these biscuits?''

"Eat 'em, dumbass,'' an old man said.

Everyone laughed.

The rain didn't seem so wet as we walked back to the dorm.


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