Chicken Soup for the Swizzine! © Jerome DeVonni Wilson
Once upon a crime, a conversation was held between a swine and a conscious mind…
I was being held in closed custody and the plantation’s definition of food was being passed out. On closed custody, you’re fed in the cell.
My slot slammed open and an ungloved hand shoved a tray of what, to the best of my knowledge, was supposed to be some species of dead animal and soggy noodles that had gotten in each other’s way. It was a variety of what we Strugglers called D.A.M. (dead animal medley).
The sides were slightly more discernible. The tray was room temp if not cooler.
Before reaching for the tray, I asked, “What is this? Is it beef?”
“They say it’s not pork,” he said with an unnecessary tone of condescension.
I eyed it suspiciously. Raised a brow. “You sure?” I asked, uncertain whether he was. Of course, me being his inferior, he hardly felt the need to give me confirmation.
Instead, he made a ridiculous comment.
“You know, it’s funny how all you guys wait till you come to prison to quit eatin’ pork.”
Of course, by “you guys” he meant the Blacks, and more specifically, the Muslims, though I am only the former. It was on and poppin’!
“Damn, that’s crazy, because the whole time I was in society all I was thinkin’ was, Man, I can’t wait to get to prison so I can stop eatin’ pork,’ na’mean?”
He tilted his head like a three-week-old piglet that’d been drinking moonshine from his mother’s nipple. He then turned one side of his snout down and said, “You know what? If you didn’t want to have to eat slop like this you shouldn’t have messed up and come to prison.”
I dropped my arm back down to my side and left his dumb ass standing there holding the tray, and asked, “Let me ask you a question, because I can see that you’re on the bright side. What did I do to come to prison?”
“I dunno what you did, but you did somethin’ or you wouldn’t be here,” he said matter-of-factly.
“Right. And let me ask you this..are all the criminals locked up?”
“Oh, hell no they ain’t ’cause everybody don’t get caught.”
“Right. So it’s safe to say that if there’re guilty people on the other side of the wall, then there’re innocent people on this side of the wall, correct?”
“Oh sure, everyone claims they’re innocent around here, uh-huh, yeah,” he replied sarcastically, while obviously hating to admit the truth in my position.
“Yeah, I know what you mean…they even have people in uniforms walking around here claiming that they’re correctional officers. Lemme ask you somethin’. What have you corrected today?”
He gave me the gas face. Shifted the weight of his body from one side to the other leg, exhaled like a farm animal and the tray lowered another coupla inches to where it was now resting in the tray slot with his hand still on it for balance.
“Look, do you want this,” he gesticulated with the tray, “or not?”
“Wait up.” I held up my arm in a defensive motion. “I’m just tryna discern somethin’ here.” You can learn a lot from a dummy, but here it’s vice-versy. “See, a police officer deals with upholding the policies of the political officials in office. So, by you being a correctional officer, there’s supposed to be some type of correcting going on involving the office that employs you.”
I gave him a “Follow me?” look. “I’m telling you that in your profession (okay, that was a stretch but I said it anyway) if you haven’t been taught, instructed, or trained on what it is that you’re correcting, why in the hell is “correctional officer” even considered a job description for you?”
Silence came between he & I like that ampersand.
There was a blank stare. His, not mine. My gaze was purposeful. Challenging.
He said, “You know what? You’re a smart ass,” as he was sliding the tray of DAM back into its coffin — I mean, carrier.
“Fifty prisoners have had their convictions overturned in this state this year and it’s only November. And there’s how many prisons in Texas?” I asked.
“Round a hunerd and ten, but what’s your point?”
“Hold ya horses, cowboy. Fifty people and 110 prisons means that one in every 2.2 prisons had a wrongful conviction that needed to be corrected, Bubba. Maybe they call it ‘corrections’ because what they’re doing is wrong but they hold us here until we figure it all out and fix it?”
“Oh, knock it off why dont’cha! I’ve got slop to feed; can’t stand here and entertain you all day,” he said as he slammed my tray slot shut.
“I’m just sayin’. Most of the prisoners in TDC have been on more than one plantation. I’ve been assigned to three in a decade.”
“So the numbers so far insist that if you’ve worked here for about two years, you’ve come into contact with a minimum of one wrongly convicted person. With that being said, you can’t be certain that I did somethin’, messed up as you said, to come here and be mistreated.”
“That’s a small possibility.”
“But a fact, no less. Would you want to be dead, or a small possibility that you were alive?”
He stood there lost in his own identity. A symptom of a contagion phenomenon. The façade that he had been issued by society was dwindling. His feeble mind was ill-suited to defend the Establishment against the truth.
Somewhere someone was kicking on a cell door. Then others joined the fray. The warriors were speaking; drumming. A mattress was burning, the black smoke rising like a hooded cobra and assaulting a multitude of nostrils, throats, and lungs.
My third eye unobscured, I removed my shirt, unmasking a huge owl spread across my chest that returned the gaze of the simpleton. Piercing.
“See, the same way you’re dishing out this slop to us is the same way they’ve catered to you with discrimination — and you willingly indulge.”
“By you having it ingrained in your mind that my being here equates to me deserving to endure all the suffering that takes place, there is a polarization.”
Perplexed, he asked “Whaddya mean, polarization?”
“Well, obviously it has nothing to do with an innocent group versus a guilty group because we already established that conviction has nothing to do with right or wrong.”
“Hey, I’m not against —”
“Hold on! Let me finish,” I interrupted. “You — like most of society — discriminate against losers.”
“Exactly. The convicted man may not be wrong. He may not be guilty, but he is certainly a loser. He walked into a court — which is a profit center — and there was a dispute in which he ultimately lost.”
“A profit center?” he asked, with doubt and confusion etched into his porcine face.
“Exactly, but don’t get caught up in the matrix, Bubba. Back to what I was saying… Two guys go to fill out applications for a job. One guy has several arrests but no convictions. The other guy has one arrest in which he was convicted. The first guy’s rap sheet is longer but he never lost, so he gets the job. Then they leave and go put in an application for an apartment. The first guy is accepted but the second guy didn’t have a chance because the app stated in bold print that no felons were allowed to lease with them.”
I held up my hand when he started to say something…he was pretty easy to train.
“As it turns out, the guys were brothers and the first brother was a drug dealing gangsta while the second was a college student who was convicted of constructually possessing a firearm that his brother had left in a car he was driving that he had no knowledge of. He was innocent but he was condemned by society, and people like you perpetuate the condemnation.”
“Hey, he knew what type of life his brother was living.” he oinked.
“He deserves to be mistreated, shunned, and disenfranchised? To not get the job, the opportunity, the loan, to be able to vote, to be able to adopt a child? Not because he was wrong but because he lost!”
“Everybody’s not innocent!”
“Everybody ain’t guilty!”
The drumming became more sonorous and resonated through my blood.
The pig stood there, engulfed in smog; the smoke which was a by-product of the captives’ unrest, commingled with the fog of a clouded mind created by truth.
“But once again you’ve missed my point,” I continued. “It’s not about right or wrong, man, it’s about condemning. The science behind it — the contagion phenomenon. The fact that you only do it because you’re a follower who was led to believe that you’re better than someone who could’ve possibly made a mistake.”
“Not better, jus’ made better choices—”
“Like choosin’ not to be a person of color?” I asked.
“What’s that got to do with anything?”
“White privilege. You drive my car and I drive yours. We take the same street. Who would be the first to get pulled over regardless of whether it was a Black or white neighborhood?”
“Okay, I kinda get your point, but…”
“You don’t get my point, you just point the finger. The chances are that you were reared in a household with that mentality and so your kids will be enrolled into this same school of thought that condemns a mutha—— incessantly!”
“Look at how you’re acting! You’re cursing and —”
“Cursing? You’re complaining about my locution when I’m opening your misguided little eyes to the fact that you ARE the curse, and I the cursed and forsaken? Ain’t that a bitch? Now, you can take that pizzork and get the fizzuck away from my cizzell wit’cho lost ass ’cause, like Martin The King said, ‘Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.’”
…and that’s on everythang.
From my editor:
This story has interesting, thought-provoking perspectives and points of view…but I’m concerned about the name-calling aspect (e.g., referring to the officer as porcine, saying that he oinked, etc.). Keep in mind that though your feelings might be strong, and it makes for vivid narrative, you might risk losing your overall point with the reader with such terminology. Just a thought.
For the record, the author would like to express his gratitude for all the first responders and officers who perform their duties in a respectful and humane manner without misusing their vested authority by utilizing brute force, verbal/psychological abuse, or oppression. (It was either write this here, or 100 times on a piece of paper per the editor!) — Ice