April Fools' Day 04

Being fairly new to this game, Mark is stuck at the unable-to-eat-the-jail-food stage. Never in trouble before, he was arrested three months ago for conspiracy to commit murder. Since then, he has shed thirty pounds and no longer resembles his booking photo. If it wasn't for the Cheez-Its, chips, granola bars and mixed nuts available from the store, he would be skeletal.

The prisoners call their meals chow. Chow is served twice daily. Breakfast is delivered around 8:30 in what we call a "Ladmo bag." It includes six slices of stale white bread. The mould on the bread comes in a range of beautiful colours, and most of us just scrape it off because we are starving all of the time. Raw breakfast meat, usually green bologna. Rotten grapefruits or oranges collected from rat-infested neighbourhoods during clean-up campaigns/publicity stunts for Sheriff Joe Arpaio who runs this jail. Slices of cheese that melt into oil if you don't eat them immediately. A half pint of fat-free milk.

The warm meal in the evening is cold by the time it gets here. We call it “red death.” It’s a mystery-meat slop that looks like carroty blood mixed with vomit. It comes on boiled potatoes – often just a mound of potato peel encrusted with rot and hairs. At Towers jail in 2002, dead rats were sometimes served in the red death. The vegetable is the same every day for months on end – the worst being the leathery eggplant. The salad is stale, as is the bread. Sometimes the mould on the bread comes in fantastic colours, and looks like works of art.

Being a yoga-practising vegetarian, I receive peanut butter and veggie burgers instead of meat. The peanut butter often has the foul taste of burnt peanuts, and the veggie burgers are as hard as discuses.

This week, more of my neighbours became ill due to the heat. On Sunday morning, a diabetic collapsed and was stretchered from the pod. As temperatures rose, so did the tempers of the inmates and guards. Two fights broke out as a result of guards shoving inmates.
Library books are delivered next week. As some of my neighbours can't read, I've purchased their allowances - three books each, payable in cookies upon delivery. An Inmate Request Form only allows topics of interest to be selected, so I requested philosophy. I am hoping for a repeat of last month's success when I received a Gandhi biography, Plato's Republic and the third volume of Winston Churchill’s The Second World War, which includes the ferocious North African desert battles, in which my Grenadier Guardsman grandfather sustained life-threatening shrapnel injuries fighting the Nazis to preserve our freedom.

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