We Can Do This

by Crane-Station for Frog Gravy

Ducks. jail Art

Ducks, jail art by Crane-Station on flickr. Colored pencil and magazine ink.

Wild Turkey. Jail art.

Jail art by Crane-Station on flickr with comment:

For Dad. Wild Turkey. We have these beautiful birds here. I was not really able to finish, because they turned the lights out, and because I do not have the correct colors (such as rust). Turkeys have been nearly wiped out by unrestricted hunting and land development. Some programs are bringing them back. They roost in trees, but like to run on the ground.

note: Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account.

Frog Gravy contains graphic language.

McCracken County Jail, Cell 107, early 2008

The social worker tells me that I am angry, and that I need to not be angry, and that I need to accept my situation like everyone else does, and I need to stop writing, because no one reads anything that I write anyway, because no one cares. She is referring, I assume, to the many letters that I write regarding jail conditions. I listen to her for a bit, and then decide that I would rather be back in the cell. I end the meeting. I continue to write.

I keep my writing to myself and I quit talking about the letters.

In the cell I wear a towel on my head and babble to myself endlessly, in my mind. Maybe the towel keeps others from hearing these conversations. The other me, the one I babble to, is elegant and strong and graceful, and says all of the right things to all of the wrong people. Things such as ‘I respectfully disagree,’ and ‘No, thank you,’ and ‘I am sorry but I cannot support you and your commissary habit in here,’ and ‘I will continue to write because it gives me meaning and purpose at the moment,’ and ‘Excuse me, do you think you could quit screaming for just a few moments, because I am finding it difficult to concentrate.’

However, it is not the other me that is in jail. It is me.

Sirkka is the new arrival. After introductions, she says to me, “Never take anything to trial in McCracken County. Everyone knows that.”

Sirkka is tiny, just 4’8,” and she drives me nuts in an endearing, pathetic sort of way. I want to hug her. I want to kill her.

She does not want to put clothes on and strolls about the cell half-naked, in bra and panties, talking at an indecipherable speed. Sirkka has an eating disorder. It reminds me of what I used to be and so, maybe this is why she annoys me. Her behavior is actually good for me because it reminds me of the horror of food binges and scamming for food at every opportunity. For a while, she convinced the staff she was pregnant because pregnant women get extra trays, but when the staff figured out that she was not pregnant, they placed her in the hole for a bit, and then back in the cell.

Today at breakfast, before I even sit down, she says, “Are you gonna eat that?”

“Here. Take the whole thing,” I say.

Down the hall, Harry screams from his isolation cell, “Somebody help me! Pleeeease! Let Me out! HELLLP! HELPmehelpmehelpmehelpme, PLEASE!”

Sirkka collects six sausages, five pieces of toast, two milks, and three servings of Fruit Loops. At lunch, four corn dogs, two helpings of corn, and three pieces of cake. The only thing I asked her for was one serving of applesauce but she would not give it up. She weighs 105 pounds, and has gained 30 pounds to get there; that is a 30 pound weight gain in a month. At this rate, she will be obese by May. That can happen in here. I met an inmate who gained 150 pounds in a year in jail. She had given up.

On one of the rare occasions that we do get to visit the outside cage for recreation, I cannot believe this, but Ruthie and I are the only ones who want to go outside.

Christie and Sally both claim that going outside briefly is actually more depressing than staying in the cell. I am worried about Christie. She stays on her bunk and cries all the time now. She says, “I just can’t help it, I just feel so bad inside.”

“Come on Christie, let’s just get out for a minute,” I say. “You’ll feel better. Tina, you too. Come on you guys. We’re going out. It’ll be all right. You’ll see. When we get back we’ll watch ‘Lost.’ I’ll even comb your hair Christie. Come on, we can do this.”

We go. In the outside cage Sirkka strips down to her bra and stands at the door, hoping a Class D male will walk by. Christie sits in a chair, silent. Tina takes a book and seats herself next to Christie. I stand in a corner and look up. The sun is shining. I shield my eyes.

I listen for a bird.

11 Responses to We Can Do This

  1. dianetrotter says:

    Crane Station, I am about a year old on the list. Can you direct me to the origin of your dilemma? How did you get there?

  2. Kate says:

    Crane Station I love your art work. My little one is also very artistic. There are so many individuals incarcerated with amazing talent.

  3. fauxmccoy says:

    the last wild turkey i saw was a little over 2 years ago, i have only seen two in all my years of trekking through california’s foothills.

    this one was special. i was returning from a gold rush era cemetery in a remote location of the california coastal range. these were the settlers who came first to the area i call home. the headstones although aged tell many stories. some came from liverpool, others edinburgh, and more were born in the area in which they were now buried. many of them youngsters, one gravestone is in honor of a 16 year old girl and the baby she died giving birth to – her husband and father mourn for her. there are stories on all of these stones in the shade of many valley oak trees as old as the cemetery.

    i had told my father when i got my first cancer diagnosis that if the worst should happen, that i wanted my ashes there. he agreed that there was no better place to languish in perpetuity. it is now sixteen years later and my father who has recently succumbed to liver cancer after a mercifully brief stay in a care home. my brothers and i gather on the 4th of july, grateful for those oak trees breaking the unrelenting sun. my husband keeps with our children and my nephew, who are somewhat unaware of the solemnity of the situation.

    i read a few favored passages of steinbeck’s ‘to a god unknown’ (a favorite of mine and my father’s) and we scatter his ashes in the only place we know that he considered acceptable. his will gave us no clues, only demanding ‘no services’. even in his old age, he dreaded the mormon funerals of his youth and did not want his grandchildren put through such torture. the only information we had was the conversation i had with him regarding where i wanted to spend eternity.

    we spread his ashes as the sun slunk over the coastal range and headed east to our homes some fifty miles away. we had rounded several bends in the windy foothill road which traveled alongside a brook. the land itself looked as old as time. i had to bring the car to a full stop while one of the last of california’s wild turkeys strutted across the road. i made my children watch although it will be years before they understand. the turkey reached the other side, opened his wings to ease his travel over a small ravine and fence line. i watched, amazed as he headed into the sunset, then headed into town to order a double shot with my brothers, in honor of my father, his favorite drink … ‘wild turkey’.

    (love frog gravy, as always, crane)

    • fauxmccoy says:

      this is a blog entry of my own that i am working on, i hope it’s ok to post the draft here, your wild turkey reminded me of nothing but this.

  4. Trained Observer says:

    Crane-Station … Have not downloaded this, so can’t give a personal recommendation, but an acquisitions editor I’m FB friends with has advised her peeps that this can be insightful …


    • Cool, thank you, and this is great- interesting to see the many options available today, in the very tough publishing industry (which has been called a horse trading industry, in some circles!)

      Much appreciated!

  5. Trained Observer says:

    That social worker sounds downright sociopathic. Ending that “meeting” not only helped save your dignity through exerting some shredded semblance of control, but it likely helped you remain sane. What well-meaning counselor tells clients not to write or that no one cares?

  6. Thank you so much for the reads and comments, Rachael and Judy! Fred’s putting up an open thread, because we have to go out on an errand this morning (a few actually) and we will be out for a while, then back in the afternoon.

  7. Judy75201 says:

    As I have said before, I find you and Fred to be unbeatdownable. You have survived where others would have caved. I’d love to read a book of your lives.

  8. Rachael says:


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