I've got nothing to complain about. I'm being fed. I don't have to support myself. And I have all the time I need for writing. Granted, the Charm City Correctional Facility is not the ideal writing environment with the constant shouting and cursing and clanging of metal grills but that can't truly touch you if you've got zen. It's all about keeping your zen.
Correctional Officer Second Grade Gregory Puckett does not have zen. He does have a large yellow lab, a nameless young dog with big paws. A slobbery, prancing, happy and totally clueless animal with the nose of a genius. The dog thrives on his sense of smell and here in Charm City Correctional Facility there is plenty for him to thrive upon: piss, vomit, pruno cooking pungently in the toilet three cells down, an occasional whiff of Columbia red. He lives for the smells and he has zen. I don't know his name so I call him Young Dog. Puckett knows Young Dog's real name but this is an institutional mystery, one of many, that he's not giving up: "I'd tell ya," he says, "but then I'd have to kill ya."
He just might do that. I'm placing no bets. I heard stories about various correctional officers going all the way back to my time in maximum, stories about "falls" down stairs and officers hosting midnight gladiator schools. I don't know Puckett from a hole in the wall. I've tried to make small talk whenever he stopped by my cell but usually I get nothing more than a grunt in return. I know better than to ask for Young Dog's real name.
The shakedown today was routine. Puckett and Young Dog rolled into my home. Puckett started tearing the place apart while Young Dog took an interest in the latest prose now strewn across the floor. "Forget what they taught you," I said to Young Dog. "Don't even think of peeing on the papers."
Puckett snorted, leaving behind a whiff of contraband tobacco. "You should be glad somebody takes an interest in that crap. Ain't nobody else going to be reading it." I stifled an urge to tell Puckett to leave the reading to Young Dog. I remembered what my last cellie used to say: "If you gotta be dumb, be tough." I wasn't tough enough to say something that dumb.