Three weeks ago, I was sentenced to prison, which in some ways was a great relief, as federal prison is said to be much nicer than the jail holding units and temporary detention centers where I have spent the last two and a half years of my life. And, really, I feel like I’ve done the whole “jail thing” by this point and can thus sort of cross that off my list. Now I’m jotting down all the touristy activities I hope to accomplish during my “real” prison sentence:
BEFRIEND A MOUSE: I actually refrained from going to see The Green Mile, as I believe that too much power is already concentrated in the hands of Tom Hanks as it is, but I am well aware from my past habit of reading the plots of films off of their Wikipedia pages that one of the prisoner characters is a large magical black man who had made a pet of a little mouse that comes into his cell and which he called Mr. Bojangles. I actually already had my obligatory mouse encounter back at the Seagoville jail unit, which had a considerable mouse infestation. At the time, I was still cellmates with Tom, who, as noted in a previous column, has the words “Game Over” tattooed on his knuckles and doesn’t like it when I read out loud from Henry Kissinger’s memoirs in a fake German accent — a pretty uptight fellow, you understand.
One morning, he remarked that he’d been kept awake all night by a mouse that had made it into our cell despite the rolled-up newspaper he’d used to block the gap under the door, and which had proceeded to get into his locker and rummage through his commissary snacks, forcing Tom to stay up and try to get rid of him. So I gave Tom a lecture to the effect that he, like most people, is a fucking nut job, and that his inability to deal emotionally with the fact that a mouse had entered his locker and is maybe going to eat one of his special little crackers or whatever really indicates the larger problem. As for me, I explained, I had slept like a Taoist baby the previous night, even though I, too, had heard the mouse and even though I, too, had a bunch of snacks and candy and bullshit in my locker that — oh noes — the fucking mouse might have gotten into. What if the mouse got one of my crackers, Tom? What if he got two crackers? How am I going to pick up the pieces and move on with my life knowing that I have two fewer Brand X Ritz-style crackers today than I had yesterday? These are some of the questions that did not pass through my mind last night, because last night I was asleep like a reasonable person, dreaming that I was an adviser to Charlemagne. But not you, Tom; you were up all night on mouse patrol, defending your snack crack Lebensraum from the Bolshevik unter mice or whatever the fuck it was you think you were doing. You’re a Nazi, Tom. You’re a sick Nazi war criminal.
Anyway, that’s how I explained it to Tom, and then, when my mention of Nazis prompted him to note that he actually had never been clear on what World War II was all about, I gave him another lecture on his duty as a citizen of a republic to familiarize himself with modern history. Then I regaled him with a summary of World War II, although much of what I told him was lies.
A week or so later, I opened my locker to get some more paper so that I could finish writing out a list of reasons why Thomas Friedman should be thrown out of the country, and there before me on the top shelf was the mouse, rustling through my package of peanut-butter crackers. He immediately froze in place — and so did I, because I didn’t know what else to do, not having ever before encountered a mouse and having read very little on the subject. I needed to buy some time and run through my options.
First, I thought, “Should I … eat him?” Then it struck me that this was kind of a bizarre thing to come up with right off the bat, and so I put it out of my mind. Then it occurred to me that this mouse actually thought I couldn’t see it just because it was standing perfectly still. What a fool this mouse must be, I thought. Then I wondered whether the mouse might not be thinking the same about me — that it was I who wrongly believed myself to be invisible by virtue of my own stillness. In fact, I was only being still because my opponent had started being still first, which is just basic game theory. Surely the mouse knew this perfectly well but was nonetheless choosing to pretend otherwise in order to discredit me. Having come to this conclusion — which now that I write it out in plain English doesn’t seem to make any sense — I resolved to eat this disingenuous little mouse after all. But I was still held back by that last barricade of doubt: might not the eating of this mouse violate some sort of unspoken jailhouse convention about not eating live mice? Come to think of it, hadn’t this been a social convention for tens of thousands of years? Maybe not, maybe so; without internet access, it’s hard to determine these things on short notice. But had not society cast me away? Was it not society that had placed me in chains? A pox on society, then! And so I reached out to grab the mouse that I might feast upon it to the greater glory of my vague anarchistic sentiments, but it hopped down to the floor and scurried out of the cell.
“Guards! Seize him!” I called out through the doorway, to no visible effect. Then I grabbed the stack of paper out of my locker and spent a pleasant afternoon writing down a few more of my grievances against Thomas Friedman, including his failed prediction from 15 years ago that China would soon become a net importer of wheat, whereas in fact just the opposite happened, or his turn-of-the-century proclamation that people’s refrigerators would be ordering fresh milk over the internet by 2005, or for all of his nonsense about how Putin would restore democracy and the rule of law to Russia. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind being locked up at all if only Thomas Friedman were locked up, too.
COMPOSE RADICAL POLITICAL TREATISE ON PARCHMENT MADE FROM TORN-UP SHEETS WITH INK COMPRISED OF SOOT MIXED WITH THE WINE WE PRISONERS RECEIVE ON SUNDAYS AND A STYLUS I CARVED FROM A FISH BONE: The revolutionary priest from The Count of Monte Cristo does this, and I’ve always wanted to do something similar. As I recall, though, the treatise he wrote was on the viability of a unified Italy. With the advantage of hindsight, we now know that the unification of Italy was a terrible mistake, as modern Italians are ungovernable in large numbers. I suppose I could write a treatise on how Italy may be reduced back into a peninsula of warring city-states and ever-tottering proxy kingdoms. (Spoiler Alert: my plan consists of sitting back and letting nature take its course.) Also, we are not allowed to have fish bones in Texas jails because they can be made into shanks.
ENGAGE IN A FIGHT TO THE DEATH WITH A FELLOW PRISONER KNOWN ONLY AS “THE SANDMAN”: Does anyone remember what this movie was called? I know it came out in the ’80s, and I am about 30 percent sure that it starred Sylvester Stallone.
SECRETLY DIG AN ESCAPE TUNNEL OVER THE COURSE OF 10 YEARS USING A ROCK HAMMER I BOUGHT FROM MORGAN FREEMAN WHILE IN THE MEANTIME TAKING ADVANTAGE OF MY POSITION AS THE PRISON’S ACCOUNTANT TO COMPILE EVIDENCE OF CORRUPT PRACTICES ON THE PART OF THE WARDEN THAT I’LL PLACE IN THE OUTGOING MAIL ADDRESSED TO A LOCAL NEWSPAPER RIGHT BEFORE I FLEE TO ZIHUATANEJO WITH MY BEST FRIEND, MORGAN FREEMAN: Well, this actually sounds like a lot of work. It’s also predicated on the assumption that major press outlets are necessarily capable of understanding and reporting on evidence of government wrongdoing even when it’s compiled and handed to them on a silver platter. This has not always been my experience.
Bible Verse of the Day: Genesis 9:3
“Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you …”
Editor’s note: Barrett Brown has been incarcerated since September 2012. On January 22, he was sentenced to a total of 63 months in prison and ordered to pay $890,000 in restitution. Go here to read earlier installments of “The Barrett Brown Review of Arts and Letters and Jail.” If you’d like to send him something, he is currently being held in the Kaufman County jail, though he will be transferred any day now, so it might be best to wait. His mom tells me has plenty to read for the time being.
Barrett Brown, No. 45047-177
Kaufman Law Enforcement Center
P.O. Box 849
Kaufman, TX 75142