Bug

The hardest part about getting a new celly (Steve reminded me that unless there is actual mating going on, the correct term is celly and not cellmate) is adjusting to a new bowel movement schedule. Bubba crapped once a day, always before lunch; my new celly craps three times a day: once in the morning before work call, again before the noon meal, and again after dinner. All of my past cellies have had bowels that operate like finely-tuned Swiss clocks. You could time the perfect soft-boiled egg by their bowels. The one exception was Bo whose bowels were often fickled. He once kicked me out of the cell only to realize it was a false alarm–“Just gas,” he said.

It was Roger who taught me how to take a shit in prison. “You want to sit like this with your ass pressed against the back of the seat,” he said demonstrating his technique, a dry run (pun intended). “And you want your thighs spread and pressed against the sides of the seat. You’re making a seal, see? Nice and tight.” I stood back and observed, arms folded. “And then you take your shirt like this and seal the front.” Roger stretched his T-shirt over the gap between his shorts. “And when you shit, you flush and the smell gets sucked out with the water.”

I was skeptical. I’m not a plumber, but I doubt that very much air, if any, gets sucked down a toilet when flushed. Nevertheless, I gave Roger’s method a whirl (pun intended) but found the results no different than the tried-and-true Mercy Flush. Neither was substantially less smelly.

My new celly, Rod, is in his late forties and has teeth like baked beans. Me is lean, and his tanned hide is tattooed with numerous crosses, biblical passages, and fire-breathing dragons. Above his bed, taped to the underside of my bunk, are several scantily clad women whom he refers to as his “titty dancers.”

My neighbor Steve warned me about Rod before he moved in. “You know Rad’s a bug, dontcha?” (Steve’s from the north and pronounces “Rod” like “Rad”). A bug, he explained, is a person who’s been incarcerated for so long that they become loopy. Rod’s been down for twenty years.

“You know,” Steve said, “I once knew this bug at the state penitentiary up in Maine. This guy used to make toy cars out of his own shit.” I asked Steve how he knew they were cars, and he said, “Cause the guy was making vroom vroom sounds! But, I guess they coulda been trucks!”

Fortunately, Rod doesn’t play with shit, and his bugginess is fairly mild. If you ask him a yes-no question, he might respond with a yes but shake his head no; or if he says no, he might nod his head yes. He’s also a bit spacey. His previous celly told me that he once spent an entire day staring at the wall. He’s on several medications: one which he openly refers to as his “psych med,” another for a heart condition, and the third for a condition he’s yet to reveal other than to say it causes him gas. But quirks aside, he’s not so bad.

The story of Bubba’s departure is a rather uneventful one. Another cell opened up, and he moved in with a friend. No words were exchanged. I was glad to be rid of him, rid of the tension. His leaving is curious, though. I notice he avoids eye contact with me whenever we pass each other. And I get a weird vibe from his new celly, Chad. He’s a bit too macho, a bit too cool, and a bit too quick to crack a gay joke. Curious indeed. I’m tempted to ask Bubba who gives better head.

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