“Bang on that window again, motherfucker, and see what the fuck happens!” the bald cop barks at me.
“But–but,” I turn to my new cellmates, incredulous. “you–he just let me in here to piss! My bail’s been paid!”
“Watch them process you all over again,” one guy jokes–says. “They don’t give a shit.”
Fear washes over me. I was locked in this room six hours ago–the first in a series of seemingly arbitrary cages the pigs herd you through at the Erie County Holding Center. I’d been bussed here with eleven other dudes from the courthouse across the street, handcuffed to a black kid who looked like he was about fourteen. But I can never tell how old black people are. Or how tall they are. I find professional basketball incredibly confusing.
There’s been a warrant out for my arrest for several months. I’d gotten 6 hours into 75 hours of community service when I was suddenly overcome by the moral obligation to refuse to submit to slave labor. A fleck of paint floated into my eye, the camel’s back, and I walked. After all, I’d been unlawfully arrested for filming a cop, and eventually found guilty of public obscenity. The Dishonorable Judge Susan Eagan did everything in her power to ensure conviction. The trial straddled the line between tragedy and comedy. The prosecution’s lies swarmed like drunken locusts–here, there, all over, ridiculous and unintelligible. The arresting officer claimed she thought my camera was a gun–and that she arrested me for saying “fuck.” There’s more, of course, but it’s all too stupid to retell. It was too stupid to tell.
And many were simply guilty of being poor and/or black–the targets of intense police harassment, snared via entrapment, coercion, lies, outright malfeasance. That’s the American “justice” system’s business model. I mean, you can’t have a courtroom crawling with pig-fuckers if you’re not arresting for revenue. The Unites States has more of its citizens in jail than any other country in the solar system. Fascism has its shareholders.
Anyway, the plan on Monday was to see Eagan’s stony face once again, so she could sentence me to 15 (or so) days in jail. Then, according to my lawyer Paul Fallon, I’d be led across the street and an another judge would stay that sentence, pending the outcome of my appeal. Worst case scenario: they leave me locked up while he went across the street.
I frankly had no problem being wanted by the law. I’d never driven so safely in my entire life. It also just felt like the ethical thing to do. And, you know, it’s just cool. I was ethically cool–a First Amendment Outlaw. But, hey, that was the plan.
The plan was fucked. But as I was being led out of the courtroom in cuffs, I didn’t know how fucked it was. I thought it was the “worst case scenario.” It happened so fast. I’d failed to realize that no sentence had been read. The court’s evil plan was to keep me in jail until Friday and sentence me then. Fuckers. But that didn’t dawn on me until Fallon was driving me back to his place six hours later and he said, “The court’s evil plan was to keep you in jail until Friday and sentence you then. Fuckers.”
Really, the place–the court and the holding center is crawling with clinical-grade, diagnosable pig-fuckers. There were five armed cops in the courtroom, two of whom were diligently texting while the other three scowled, scanning the room to protect the court from the danger of people wearing hats, apparently. It was a great time and place for the sequester to really kick in, I thought, hoping four of the lazy teat-suckers would spontaneously combust. But the sequester is more about slashing benefits for poor elderly people and special education programs–some defense and TSA cuts too. But you never really hear about the bloated and inefficient police departments’ drain on society. They’re selfless heroes and teachers are greedy villains, so goes the backward worship.
The cops working in the Erie County Holding Center can pig-fuck with the worst of them. In childhood, they likely imagined themselves busting bad guys and saving lives like what happens on the TeeVee, but in their disappointing real lives they’re sad paperwork monkeys who babysit grown men, fetch them shitty sandwiches, and watch them get naked. It’s a career no one dreams of pursuing, so they’re generally bitter, and they take it out on the inmates, both subtly and overtly. You can see it etched in their faces. In every dehumanizing glance, grunt, and order to their bipedal chattel. They’re dying for someone to step out of line, so they can find out “what the fuck happens.” They discernibly ache for that beautiful moment they can take out their failures and resentment on someone, anyone.
A few years ago the ECHC was under investigation for–among other things–having guards take prisoners on “elevator rides” up to the top floor, away from the nosy cameras, and making them fight each other for sadistic entertainment. Or they’d just beat the shit out of the guy themselves. Despite a ridiculous amount of mysterious “suicides” at the ECHC, the investigation was closed and the Erie County Sheriff’s Department was officially cleared of all wrongdoing. You can’t help but skeptically wonder when a pig-fucker drags you to yet another room: Will they use clubs? Is this Thunder Dome?
Before they hauled me out of court, they had to swap my cuffs for another pair. A fancy red pair. A tighter pair. “His arms are too fat,” complained the female officer–now the sixth superfluous tax-leech in the room. She took me back to another cop who frisked me and took my belt and wallet. They also took the string out of my hoodie, so I couldn’t hang myself. It’s a strange precaution, considering that they let others keep their sneaker laces.
She rummaged through my wallet, amazed to find check stubs. I told her I was a writer, so, naturally, she asked me to explain Adobe InDesign. Having had some graphic design experience, I was happy to oblige. Before I got the chance to tell her–remembered that there’s a book template (she’ll probably be published sooner than I will), the chain gang was in the van, across the street, and being uncuffed in the ECHC. The first thing they do is to hand you two skimpy sandwiches, an obscenely sweet cookie, and a little box of milk. Then they cram you in a too-warm cell in the hopes you’ll peacefully regress back to kindergarten naptime. Having slept not-at-all the previous night, it worked pretty damn well.
The next several hours were a sleepy blur–a lucid dream where the group was ushered from one room to the next for no apparent reason and a bunch of elderly black midget/toddler/giants yelled at each other in a language I couldn’t really decipher. I think “press” means “sex.” And “I’m lactose!” means “I prefer juice to milk and ham to cheese.” Not totally sure. But I do know that when your parole officer “violates” you, it’s not as disturbing as it sounds. And “basketball” just means “basketball.” Unless it means “rape.” Hard to say. There were a lot of names flying around, but the only one I knew was Kobe Bryant. Every once in a while the group would be split, or more would be added. About as often, another pale-face would attempt to bond with me by sharing his unsolicited tale of misogynist woe or to tell me how ECHC is the shittiest local place to do time. Aside from myself, everyone seemed to be familiar with the routine.
A couple guys seemed like true assholes–wife-beating maniacs, violent drunks who needed to dry out, and the like. A few were petty crooks. One poor kid, the one I was chained to in the courthouse, was guilty of extreme ignorance, an Alex Jones fan perhaps. “You don’t need no permit for a rifle! It’s in the constitution!” The majority of my fellow criminals were weed-smoking dupes and minor parole violators. And many were simply guilty of being poor and/or black–the targets of intense police harassment, snared via entrapment, coercion, lies, outright malfeasance. That’s the American “justice” system’s business model. I mean, you can’t have a courtroom crawling with pig-fuckers if you’re not arresting for revenue. The Unites States has more of its citizens in jail than any other country in the solar system. Fascism has its shareholders.
At one extra-surreal point, a guard instructed me to pick up a phone receiver and obey the robot on the other end.
“Um…Okay?” I said, as he handed me the phone.
“Count to one-hundred,” ordered the soothing, disembodied robot-lady voice.
“1,2,3,4,why the fuck am I doing this?, 12, 13, 14…80–”
“Thank you.” What a polite robot-lady, I thought.
“Repeat the following phrase. Say: United States.”
“What the fuck?”
“Say: United States.”
“Say: United States.”
“United States. What the–”
“Say: United States.”
“Say: United States.”
“Oceania has never been at war with Eurasia!” The involuntary words flying from my mouth frightened me, and drew angry stares from the human pig-fuckers, frightening me further.
“Thank you.” Is this some weird test to determine whether I’m blindly compliant or if I’m a potential troublemaker? “Say your first and last name.”
“Your first and last name!” I blurted obediently. This was no time to fuck around. I didn’t want to be singled out for an “elevator ride.” I’d do exactly as I was told from here on out.
“Say your first and last name.”
“Your first and last name!”
“Say your first and last name.”
“Your first and last name!” Remember this, I thought. At some point in the next two weeks I may need to make a phone call, and when the nice robot-lady asks you to say your first and last name, remember to do what exactly what it asks.
“Thank you. Good bye.”
Into a different room. And another. Confirm for the fifth time that I am not suicidal. Get stabbed in the arm with a TB coated needle–to see if I have TB (I don’t!). Not suicidal, I swear. Or maybe I should say I am. I mean, “Have you ever thought about suicide?” Who hasn’t thought about suicide? It’s a consoling thought, as Nietzsche noted…shit, how did that guy die? Syphilis? Can’t remember! Are suicidal thoughts a ticket for an elevator ride?! No! Never! Not suicide. Not once in my life–which I never think about ending on purpose! Yeah.
“What?” the nurse looks me in the eyes for the first time. “What’s wrong? Do you have suicidal thoughts?”
“I didn’t feed Fishy Bob!” She looks back down at the paperwork, unconcerned about the well-being of my Walmart-brand Japanese fighting fish. “But he’s lactose!” I wail, nonsensically. She doesn’t care. Back into the hallway.
Same room. Another room. Hallway. Take off your clothes. What size are you? How would I know–fat-armed? Put this on. Prison Orange. Blood crusted on the inside of the shirt. Flip flops for me. Keep your sneakers if you have them. If hell breaks loose, I shudder to think the difference between life and death may rest on the fact that I decided to wear dress shoes to court. There’s a reason flip flops are rarely worn into combat! Another room. Back spasms. Shy bladder. Sleep on the floor. “Let me see your wristbands!”
The overall consensus is that this is the last room before we go upstairs. How far upstairs?! To our proper cells–steel bars and a mattress–or the top floor? Back to sleep.
“Ian Murphy, you made bail! Where’s Ian Murphy? MURPHY?!” a lanky, older pig-fucker is shouting into the holding room down and across the hallway. I hop-to and bang my palm on the thick glass. The younger pig-fucker trailing the older pig-fucker grunts a nonverbal warning in my direction. I know what it means: see what the fuck happens. I mime frantically, pointing to the older pig-fucker, back at me, the pig-fucker, me, pig-fucker, me! Man in a box! Pulling rope! Strong wind! Pig-fucker, me, pig-fucker, me!
The light flickers on, slowly: “You Murphy?”
Bing! Bing! Bing! My finger silently plays on my nose. Bladder nearing explosion.
“You Murphy?” the old pig-fucker shouts, approaching the door. “Let me see your wristband.” Again.
Old pig-fuck-glorified-valet unlocks the doors and fetches the hanger-bag containing my clothes and zips it open. “Still smell like weed,” he says. Some cops think everything smells like weed. This roast is delicious, honey; smells like weed! Junior needs a bath again; he smells like weed. Did you pass gas, dear? It smells like weed! I mime my best “You’re fucking retarded!” and he turns away. They don’t watch when you put your street clothes back on. Probably on account of my fat, ugly arms! Who would want to look at these disgusting wrists? I make me sick!
“Forward,” he orders. “Go!”
“Is there a bathroom I can use?” I ask, polite as a robot.
OK. Calm, bladder, calm. Think of other things. Who the hell bailed me out? And why? Wasn’t this the worst-worst case scenario where the appeals judge denied the stay? I fantasize that Patton Oswalt’s waiting outside the jail in his…Prius? Sure, Prius. Yeah, the ultimate BEAST fan has come to my rescue. And we drive off into the woods and go us a-sasquatch huntin’. Yeah. The woods. With trees. And blue sky. And a babbling brook. Clear, clean water flowing, flowing, flowing. Oh yeah. Hell yeah. It’s finally happening. Pee relief. Impending freedom. Patton Oswalt waiting outside. Things are good.
“Bang on that window again, motherfucker, and see what the fuck happens!”
Sweet Christ! Is this really going to happen again? Am I trapped in a Kafka Loop? Is this a–Trapped in a box! Pulling rope! Strong wind! This isn’t possi–Baldy’s desk-mate has returned, and he remembers me, yes?! BZZZZZZZ! goes the lock. Things are good again.
Baldy asks me a few questions–date of birth, SS#, etc.–and then leads me out a side door into an alley. Slightly disoriented, I pick a direction and walk. Fallon honks the horn.
“Five-thousand dollars?!” I balk, both outraged and oddly proud to fetch such an outrageous price. Five days of my time has never been worth so much. I must really be going places–and not jail, at least for a few more days. I know better than to ask where Fallon got the cash. The buried gold he mentioned once when drunk? Did the Russian underwear investment pay off? Really? It couldn’t have. Armed robbery? I let it go. But what the hell happened? How was the plan so very fucked?
“The court’s evil plan was to keep you in jail until Friday and sentence you then. Fuckers.”
Oh. Right. I guess I never did hear Eagan hand down a sentence, “…so you couldn’t talk to the appeals judge!” it finally hits me in the herp like a ton of derp.
“Right. Why’d you think I bailed you out?”
“I thought–I thought you might be, um. I thought you might be Patton Oswalt.” Fallon knows better than to ask. “I’m, uh, pretty tired, I guess. Didn’t sleep last night.”
“Better get your rest Thursday night, man,” he snickers. “We do this all again on Friday.”
“ALL?!” I yelp. “AGAIN?!”
“Well, not all–I mean, if things go according to plan.”
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