Is Meredith Sinclair for Real?

I’ve had a lot of fans (and, yes, I do have enough fans to legitimately use the number ‘a lot’) comment on how ‘DUH!’ Meredith Sinclair’s character seems. The key word here is seems. Yes, Meredith seems pretty damned ‘duh’ at times. And yes, Meredith is actually based on ‘real people’. She is a composite of a number of ladies I have known. 

As we all know, everyone can be ‘duh!’ or ‘doh!’ as per Homer Simpson, but some are much duher or doher than others. Meredith, or Merry, as she was affectionately known, started as a spoiled brat in her mid twenties. She had been fortunate enough to have lived a relatively carefree life up until the time the indomitable Knight of Death walked into her home, barefoot and bleeding one sunny summer’s day.

Up until he arrived, her most demanding decision might have been what type of tea to have with lunch or what scent she wanted in her bath. Her every need, including most of her thoughts, were pre-determined, pre-packaged and predestined to make her exactly what she was when Mark Ramsay stepped out of the shadows and into the real world… her world.

He didn’t arrive looking for love and romance. He didn’t show up bearing gifts and words of woo for our curly blonde heroine. He was on a mission and she was simply drifting through life. Love had been the farthest thing from his mind when they met and her only ambition had been a rather selfish, perhaps even foolhardy notion grown most likely out of boredom. 

Merry and Mark’s paths crossed at exactly the right moment as fate would have it and their relationship grew out of desperation, frustration and chance. True, Mark’s character seemed to have the greater obstacles and the deeper troubles, but Meredith carried almost as much baggage as he did in the end.

Both Mark and Merry have long rows to hoe in the Red Cross of Gold series before they come to grips with their destinies. In the end, it is left to the reader to decide which of them can accept what the gods have in store for them.Image

E is for Extra Duty

My apologies! This blog was written and supposed to be published yesterday while I was out, but I see that it was not.  So here it is, out of order and a bit late.  Please forgive! Do not disassemble Johnny Five!

This topic, “Extra Duty”, is supposed to be a minor sentence for breaking minor rules or multiple minor rule infractions Behind Bars.  I say ‘supposed to be’ because, in order for “Extra Duty” to exist, there must first be “Duty”.  I was particularly amused by what passed as “Extra Duty” in the prison system where I worked for over 23 years.

Since most prisoners/inmates soon learn how to live Behind Bars or perish, one of the things they learn, is how to ‘work the system’, in other words, they look for all the cracks and crevices in the rules and regulations and like so many bugs looking for hiding places in your kitchen cabinet, they have a way of disappearing when it comes to work or duty.  You know the ones I’m talking about.  They even have a term for this disappearing act: Ghosting.

Now, you might wonder how in the world a prisoner can disappear while he is locked up in prison and I understand why you might wonder.  Let me tell you, it is easier than you think.  There are multiple methods of doing so.  Some are more effective than others and some can get you deeper in trouble, but whatever the case, the pay-off is generally outweighs the risks.

If an inmate plans ahead, he might avoid “Extra Duty” by scheduling a visit to the prison infirmary immediately before his disciplinary hearing and get what is called a “lay-in” for as many days as he can get, by faking injuries or illnesses long enough to get past the “Extra Duty”.  They might figure out how to get into full-time classes because ‘schooling = rehabilitation’ and class hours outweigh everything except the most severe disciplinary action.  If you have class, you can’t show up for “Extra Duty” and classes take precedence.  However, if you do incur severe disciplinary action, such as confinement in Solitary Status or Administrative Segregation for say…. Protective Custody purposes, you not only get out of “Extra Duty”, you get out of everything and you get a whole cell to yourself.  This can be a perk since you don’t have to share you cell space with a loud, stinky, obnoxious stranger, who might have you for breakfast instead of pancakes, syrup and biscuits.

Summing up, I must tell you that “Extra Duty” causes more problems for the Officers and Staff than it does for the offenders.  Sadly enough, this situation is often encountered Behind Bars.



F is for Fishing

Everyone knows (or, at least, I hope they do) what “Fishing” is.  Fishing involves a hook, a line, a sinker and a water hole, right?  Plus a little bait, a little faith and a lot of luck.  Include a bit of patience, a bit of repetition and bunch of beers.

The above formula, if you hold your mouth just right and the wind don’t blow and the fish are biting, you might just end up with supper on your stringer.

If you knew some or all of the above, you have a fair idea of what “Fishing” is, but there’s another kind of “Fishing” and I’m not talking about the kind spelled with a ‘Ph’ instead of an ‘F’.  There’s another kind of “Fishing” that goes on Behind Bars.

Fishing Behind Bars is a little different from fishing for cold-blooded, scaly creatures that swim in the water and put big smiles on millions of people’s faces every day whenever they show up at the end of a ten pound test mono-filament line.  Fishing Behind Bars actually does involve hooks, lines and sinkers, but that is where the similarities to something that Gramps used to do every Sunday except Easter, but the line might be made of a strip of cloth from a bed sheet or an unraveled or braided potato chip bags or a piece of purloined string from the laundry or their job in the field office or some other ingeniously engineered material and the hook is often made of a sock.  The sinker can be anything with weight ranging from a rock ripped off from the rec yard, a pencil pilfered from the Law Library to a bottle of hot sauce bought from the commissary.

The offender, sitting in his cell during a shakedown, has little to do other than watch the growing heap of contraband piling up against the wall as the Officers went from cell to cell, searching for contraband (illegal goods, weapons and/or hoarded items).  Whenever they saw something they might want or need from the pile, they would hopefully throw out their fishing lines, using the same faith, patience and  repetition as Gramps, he might be able to land the item he wants, his ‘fish’, and drag it back to his cell.

There are other forms of ‘fishing’ that go on Behind Bars, depending on the size and shape of the prison unit, itself, and how the Officer’s conduct general shakedown operations, but for the sake of keeping this blog post short, I’m only describing one.  I think you get the picture, if not the catch of the day.

Thank you for stopping by! Leave a comment, please.

D is for “Dog” AKA Road Dawg

More things heard Behind Bars and elsewhere:

The term “Road Dog” (pronounced DAWG) apparently started out Behind Bars and then spread to general use by certain segments of the general population by way of contact with prisoners through the mail, visits, movies, television and ex-convicts/parolees, etc.  So it’s a fairly common occurrence to overhear people, especially young people, using the term almost anywhere you might find yourself.  Like all words and terminology springing up in our modern society, “Road Dog” has been simplified to “Dog”, dropping the “Road” for no reason, but making it entirely acceptable to call someone something that might have been termed a “fightin’ word” only a few decades ago.

“Road Dawg”refers to people who are ‘along for the ride’ or friends just coming along with you on a walk around the rec yard or down to the library or church or simply just someone considered a friend on the inside (Behind Bars).  You might even think of them in Facebook terms as a friend that exists on Facebook or, in Twitter terms, a follower, but not actually someone who comes to your home or hangs out with you outside the prison setting, generally speaking.  Of course, some people do carry over their friendships once they are released from prison, but it is never recommended or encouraged because of the truth of the old adage:  “You are what you eat…” no wait… “A penny saved…” hang on.  Look, Dawg, I’m thinking here; give me a minute.

Oh, yeah, “Birds of a feather flock together” meaning if you hang out with criminals, you’re gonna go to jail.  In other words, if you get out of prison and go back to the same friends you had before or ‘hook-up’ with new friends you made Behind Bars, you’re more prone to recidivism.

Also applicable here.  “If you lay down with “Dawgs”, you get up with fleas.”

Or, better yet, take your “Road Dawgs” to the shelter when you get out and let someone better equipped adopt them.

(Disclaimer: Not everyone serving or having once served time Behind Bars is a criminal.  Some are proven innocent, some are just innocent, some are proven guilty, some are just guilty from the “git-go”, some were in the wrong place at the wrong time or the right place at the wrong time, some were framed and some were just simply idiots, but the thing is, make sure you choose your “Road Dawgs” wisely or you’ll find yourself and your world disintegrating like that fellow in the third Indiana Jones adventure who “chose poorly”.)

Thanks for stopping by!  Please leave a comment.

C is for “Chain”

Continuing on with a look at the alphabet Behind Bars:

This might seem almost self-explanatory. Chain. Of course, chains are associated with restraint and prison is certainly the ultimate form of restraint, right?  Yes, but even though chains are still used in the physical sense to restrain certain types of unruly or dangerous prisoners inside a prison unit (building), you might hear a lot of talk about a different sort of chain.

For example, you might hear someone ask “When’s the chain due?” or “How many are on the chain?” or they might say “Old Soandso’s gone on the chain.” Or you might even hear someone shouting “Chain Time!”

Naturally, unless you have had the misfortune of being incarcerated on the ‘inside’ or working there or possibly visiting someone incarcerated in a prison, you might be confused by this use of the word ‘chain’.

In these cases, Chain refers to the Bluebird bus (known as Bluebirds of Happiness) that brings the prisoners to the prison unit from the county jailsand eventually takes them away to some other unit or facility.  The expression grew out of the fact that prisoners in transport are always transported in hand cuffs, leg irons (larger cuffs that fit the ankles), black-boxes (cuff covers) and sometimes belly chains (lengths of chain connecting the hand cuffs and leg irons to a chain wrapped around the waist.)  There are also chains on some of the buss to which the prisoners individual chains are attached while they are in transport.  These precautions are almost always necessary to ensure that the prisoners remain with the bus even if it falls over the edge of a 2000 foot cliff, although most of the bus drivers and shotgun riders wish to avoid that sort of thing.  Even though these restraints may sometimes seem excessive to some people, prisoners have been known to escape from buses and vans while the the vehicles are in motion without the knowledge of the driver or the shotgun rider.  Sad, but true and extremely embarrassing… or so it would seem, for the officers involved.  At least falling over a cliff would provide a more reasonable excuse for losing a prisoner in mid transit.


B is for Boss

Continuing on today with the Behind Bars theme:

Boss is a common term heard Behind Bars; at least in Texas, it is.  This one is easier for outsiders to understand, but it is often used by the upper echelon or the so-called ‘Free World’ employees as a derogatory term, depending upon the vocal inflection and context.  The offenders or whatever you choose to call them, generally use the term ‘Boss’ attached to either the word ‘man’ or the word ‘lady’ as a semi-respectful, generic term for Correctional Officers or other uniformed employee they don’t know by name.  It is completely acceptable for the offenders to call these uniformed employees “Officer Smith”, “Mr. Smith” or “Bossman”.  It is not acceptable for offenders to call CO Smith “Hey, You!” “Smith!” or “John!”  It is up to the individual Correctional Officer to make sure that offenders address them properly or else, they will lose respect in the eyes of the offenders and that is not a good thing.  Then he or she will become known as “Boss Friendly”, which means the “Boss” is not doing his job and does not command respect or compliance whenever he or she is working with or supervising a group of offenders.  Not a good situation and in fact, dangerous.

On the other hand, Correctional Officers or uniformed employees may address each other as Mr. Smith or Miss Smith, but it is not proper to call each other by their first names.  Ranking Uniformed Employees are usually addressed by their Ranking Title and their last name, i.e. Sergeant Smith or Major Smith as a sign of respect.  Again, it is up to the employees to make sure that other officers are addressing them properly, especially in front of the offender population.

Where we run into trouble with the word “Boss” is that persons employed by the prison, but not required to attend the Security Training Academy or Inservice Programs, think that the term “Boss” is silly or demeaning and use it as such.  For example, I was what is commonly known as a Kitchen Captain.  This meant I was officially an FSM IV (Food Service Manager IV).  My pay ranking fell between that of a Security Captain and a Security Major.  In other words, I was not quite as well paid as the highest ranking security personnel on the unit, but I was paid more than a Security Captain.  I had the same training as a Security Officer plus I had additional training for Food Service duties and I was in charge of a substantial yearly budget.  Unfortunately, the non-uniformed personnel often called me “Bossman” even though I had metal collar insignia and sleeve patches designating me as a Department Head.  These same people would never call the Security Major or Security Captain “Bossman”.

This was one of the most puzzling situations I encountered during my career with the prison system.  It seemed I could sometimes depend more upon the support of the offenders than my own colleagues in many circumstances and that, my friends, is an enigma wrapped in stupidity

A is for Aight

Aight. Looks like a legitimate word, maybe even a fancy, little used word from an ‘improve-your-vocabulary’ list or something from the Scrabble Dictionary, but it actually doesn’t exist in any common dictionary. (I can’t say whether it might not be a word in some foreign language somewhere or in use as an alien’s name from someone’s imagination, but I do know where it is used with great frequency: Behind Bars… not those kinds of bars! Bars as in big house bars.)  If you want to use it, feel free, no pun intended, but make sure you pronounce it right.  It sounds like ‘ite’, and it is said quite quickly with the emphasis on the ‘i’ (long ‘I’ as in light).

So, this word is really two words contracted into one for convenience of use and speed of delivery.  Everything Behind Bars is done quickly.  Time, since everyone is doing it, is in short supply.  Scheduling is everything and there is little time during most of the incarcerated felons’ days for in-depth conversation.  Oh, they might get together at domino or scrabble tables in the evenings during free time in the day-rooms or on the recreation yards, but during regular work hours or school hours (if they are students), they might not have time for extensive chats with the people they really want to speak to, therefore, they learn to use the appropriate shortened words, custom vernacular speaking and hand signals to make the most of their brief encounters in the hallways, cafeteria/chow-hall or church-house.

Aight is a combination of ‘All’ and ‘Right’ and means yes, sure, OK, uh-huh or any other various positive responses to questions.  You might hear someone called Chicken Wing say“Say, Man, toss me a kite.” and the answer from his friend, Stinky Drawers, would be an affirmative “Aight!”  Or someone called Dice Man might say “Needa toothpick.” And the answer from Sticky Shank could be “Aight!”

You might think Chicken Wing and Stinky Drawers are talking about outside recreation in the first exchange, but it really means that Chicken Wing is telling Stinky Drawers to send him a note about something, probably something illegal.  The second exchange might be translated by someone unfamiliar with the system as Dice Man needing a toothpick, especially if he is on his way out of the cafeteria after chowing down on a big greasy pork chop and the Sticky Shank is agreeing to provide him with a tooth flossing pick.  However, this is certainly not the case Behind Bars.  In fact, if you overheard this particular exchange you might want to report who, what, when and where to the Security Supervisor post-haste before you find this particularly nasty ‘toothpick’ cleaning the space between your ribs rather than the space between Dice Man’s pretty gold toofuses (teeth).

(Thank you for coming by and reading! Please leave a comment for better or worse and I hope to see you tomorrow.  Happy Reading!)