Monday, August 30, 2010

The Stink Of Freedom; FFF #40

I heard footsteps on the wet sidewalk and the sound of keys. Soon we will hear the clump, clump, clump of the guard's heavy soled brogans coming down the cell block. The rattle of keys is our wake up call. No loud alarm or bell to tell you to rise, just the soft jingle-jangle of keys and the slow, steady tread on the concrete.

To some prisoners the sound of the keys is a welcome sound. It meant that soon some food would be thrown into a dirty bowl and served with all the loving care of a backhanded slap in the face. To others the sound was the reminder that they were still alive and still trapped in the same shit hole with no hope of ever having their freedom again.

Either way you looked at it, at least it was better than the night time. The night is when everybody breaks down. There is no way around it. Sure, for the first few nights you might put on a brave face and pretend to sleep like you were at home, snuggled on your own comfy bed. But there will come a night when you just can't stand it any more. When the howls and cat calls of the other inmates won't quit ringing in your ears and they blend with the guttural noises of those who pleasure themselves in the darkness. When you can't stand the smell of urine and sweat and disinfectant and fear one more minute. When it finally sinks into the pit of your soul that you are behind bars and the only relief from this living hell is the painful sting of the needle that will shove the poison into your veins and it will close your eyes for good. Death is the only reprieve. I swear to God, when the fact of what you have to look forward to hits home, you will hang your God damned head and howl like a pup. Everyone gets around to it eventually.

Sometimes the guards will trot some people through the cell block. The people will smile and point at one prisoner or another and laugh and coo. These people will smell of sunshine, smoke, or cologne. Hell, they will practically reek of the outside, where you can feel the wind on your face and feel the crunch of leaves as you walk instead of the dull thud of concrete and the ever present hum of the florescent lights.

These effing people just stink of freedom. And when they have flaunted their free smell long enough, they have the guard drag some poor son of a bitch from his cell. The people will ruffle his hair and ask him if he has been a good boy. That's what they ask, but that isn't what they want to know. What they want to know is if he has been broken yet. Has every shred of his will been ground to a fine dust so that he will always cower when they speak? Has enough of his mind been pummeled to the point he can't even make a squirt of piss without their say so. Sometimes they take the son of a bitch away with them. Sometimes they just turn on their heel and walk away.

The worst ones are the shoppers, the looky-loos. They walk from cell to cell, listening to the hundreds of screaming voices that call out for mercy, clemency, and they act stone deaf. They just go from cell to cell and spew out reasons why this or that prisoner won't do. Every shortcoming or perceived fault is trotted out, one after another, like the devil recounting the failures of the damned.

Damn them. Damn them all to Hell. The guards, the people, the whole lot of them. They've got no God given conscious. If they did, why would they let us rot in these cages for weeks on end before the injection, and the whole time, hold up our freedom like some almost but not quite attainable lottery ticket? Damn them and their stinking false hope.

I am in this accursed cell and doomed because I defended myself and my home. For that, I will be allowed a coward's death. Stupid people. I only bit one guy, and he was a fucking mailman for Christ's sake. Isn't being bit by a dog part of their effing job?

Dear sweet Jesus, I just long to run with my pups one last time.

**Author's Note** My broken leg has been acting up and it helped to form the mood of this piece which is far from cheerful. The wonderful starter sentence that was provided by the good Mr. MaCrum suggested a convict or prisoner to me, but I wanted to give it a bit of a twist. After all, when you've seen Papillon, Escape From Alcatraz, and Murder In The First, there really isn't that much more that this poor country boy could possibly add. But what if the condemned isn't a person at all? What if he is a dog at the pound? Wouldn't he be more than a little bitter at his fate? I would. I've been to jail a time or two (always as a visitor thankfully) and the smell is something that hangs with you long after you return to the bright light of day. So if after reading this you realize that you have a little more room in your home and a little extra love in your heart, contact your local animal shelter or the American Humane Society, Adopt An Animal Canada, Animal Rescuers in the UK, or the Austrailian Animal Protection Society in the grand land down under . There is a furry convict out there who will thank you for it.



  1. Well - I'm in bits, now!

    This was a really hard read, Doc. Mainly because it reminded me of our faithful hound who finally saif his last farewell this Easter after 12 years of faithful companionship, adoration and mischief - and yes, he came from a rescue centre like our previous dog. Nearly broke my heart - I said 'never again'.

    We financially support via Dogs Trust, here in the UK. Some dogs just can't be rehomed, but they are lovingly looked after and the handlers do an impressive job of caring for them.

    ....I said 'never'.....who knows...?

    Aside from the emotional impact, I really liked your way of getting inside the poor mutt's mind -I wonder if the handlers were really so unfeeling, or it was the dog's impression? A good write, as always, sir!

  2. Absof*ckingly brilliant!

    I wish I hadn't seen the picture on the blog before I came over here, though. It kind of gave it away.

  3. Took me right to the end before I realised it was about dogs. I know, I'm a bit slow. Sad, sad, sad but liked the style, especially: "Hell, they will practically reek of the outside ..." Captures how prisoners of any species must feel.

  4. Well done...and I didn't get the twist 'til the end either!

  5. Sue H- Sorry to hear about your loss as heart breaking wasn't my intent, but I know how you feel. This year we lost our beloved cat of ten years. My little girls just took it in stride while I balled like a baby. Midnight kitty is sorely missed but we have a fiesty little kitten named Minuet who was rescued from a shelter. Some bastard had thrown her from a moving car. I wrote the tale from the dog's point of view and I think his bitterness colored the entire tale more than it being a true reflection of the treatment of his handlers.

    Cormac- I noticed the thumbnail picture in the blog roll too and I was really hoping that it wasn't going to blow the twist at the end, but as they say, "You are smarter than the average bear." I worked very hard to conceal the fact that the character was a dog until the final few lines. By the way, "Absof*ckingly brilliant!" is perhaps the highest praise that I have ever recieved for anything in my entire life and from you, that means a lot.

    Gaye Bear- You aren't slow dear. It was supposed to be revealed at the end. Yes, it is a sad and angry tale and it is the sort of thing I never write but I was trying to push myself out of my usual writing/style. The language of the piece was a stretch for me but it seems to hold up throughout. Thanks for reading!

    Mr MaCrum- It was your sentence that did it, and I thought it was just us country people who described something as being "flat out". Thank you very, very much. You have made my day!

    Thank you all for your comments and I look forward to reading your stories. As Mr MaCrum is fond of saying, "Keep it between the ditches!"


  6. Doc - That last line....just wiping something out of my eye. ;-)

    That was great. I came here straight from FFF (Didn't see the dog photo) so was very well impressed. Got to say that is one of your best. Top work, my friend. Excellent!

  7. I, like the rest, really enjoyed this. The tone and narrative flow were great. Very moving.

    I'm noticing a lot of dogs this go around. Weird --

  8. I have to apologize for my earlier comment Doc, its been a bad day at the shelter and I had no right to take it out on you. I do have to give you kudos for calling it like it is on so many levels with the people from the outside world. The only thing that really upsets me is the care that we (as animal service providers aka Animal Control Officers and Shelter Staff Attendants) provide is something that we are very conciencious about (hope I spelled that right) and that we take our job seriously. I euthanize animals on a daily basis and it is a very difficult job.

    "Damn them. Damn them all to Hell. The guards, the people, the whole lot of them. They've got no God given conscious. If they did, why would they let us rot in these cages for weeks on end before the injection, and the whole time, hold up our freedom like some almost but not quite attainable lottery ticket? Damn them and their stinking false hope."

    I just want you to be aware that we love these animals, they are our pets away from home, and there is not one animal that I do not grieve at one point or another after sticking a needle in their heart. This "false hope" is as much for us as it is for each one of those animals.

    Like I said, Kudos for telling it like it is for the most part, it was only the end that bothered me. Thanks for helping with the awareness Doc.

  9. Coraline J. Thompson- This piece was written with the idea in mind that this was a story told from the point of view of one bitter dog in a shelter somewhere who feels that he has been wrongly incarcerated. It was never meant as an attack on those who do the noble work of running a shelter. It was never meant to be an insult or to vilify those who care for these unfortunate animals whose only crime is to be homeless or unwanted. On the contrary, it was meant to call attention to the plight of these helpless animals in the hope that some would find a loving family to care for them.

    I honor the work that you do because it is noble work, compassionate work, holy work. My God has charged me with being the caretaker of the Earth and all of it's wonderous creatures, great and small, but no one could lay a greater claim to fulfilling this than you. You gift these creatures with love, attention, and care that they couldn't obtain from anywhere else, but the naked truth is the fact that no matter how much you and I care about their plight, we cannot save them all. Some must be given a merciful death to save them from starvation, disease, cruelty, or being struck by a car. I would compare what you do everyday to the work of Mother Teresa. I honor you because I don't think I could do the job myself. I am much too soft hearted. I'd want to save them all.

    Thank you for speaking up and not letting this go by without having your say. I appreciate that.

    I have struck a raw nerve with you dear and for that I am truly sorry.

  10. Don't apologize for speaking your mind Doc, its always great to hear someone even if they have a different view that you.

    I appreciate your post, I really do, and yes it is a raw subject for me considering that it is my career. I, tho, do have to disagree with you, while you may compare me to Mother Teresa, I on the otherhand think of myself more as the grim reaper, the death giver, and for that, I feel that I am denied the great gift called attonement.

    Maybe one day my views will be changed, for I do believe in God, but I do not know yet if I believe in HIS Mercy for those who harm God's creatures, and that includes the issuance and follow through of a death sentence - Something I give daily.

  11. Brilliant storytelling Doc, I can only say and repeat a few times 'Wow!' Loved it.

  12. Just found your blog (luckily!), but now my eyes are starting the day full of tears.

    I lost my babies (toy poodles) who were 15 1/2 over a year ago and it was exactly (to me) like losing my children.

    Thank you for the beautifully evocative essay that reminds me of how lucky I was to have had them for so long.

    And of how unfair the world is to so many of our foundlings.

    I support all animal care organizations.


  13. Wonderful twist on the prison theme! Such a good piece!


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