Seraphic Disclaimer: This post contains some language that is a bit, actually, a lot more graphic than is normally found in Seraphic Secret. So if you are young, under 18, religiously modest, or secularly modest, the following, which deals with life in a women’s prison, might not be appropriate reading matter for you.
Establishing Shot: Gleaming barbed wire. Prison walls. Behind the walls, a vast yard teeming with hundreds of female prisoners. Our view narrows to a far end of the prison, to a small SHACK. Outside the shack, a female Corrections Officer paces back and forth, casually leafing trough a National Enquirer. Over this we hear DOGS BARKING.
“Do you love me, do you love me, sure you do, sure you do.”
Eden is talking to a dog.
Scout is a playful and intelligent mutt, rescued from the city pound. Eden has been training Scout for about three months. The bond between Eden and her dog is powerful.
The Prison Pet program was started several years ago and it has blossomed into a successful nationwide program.
The dogs are trained to be companion dogs, to live and help people with physical disabilities. But not for the blind, this calls for an entirely different kind of training and dog.
I sit back and take it all in.
The inmates, these women who I think of as broken and damaged creatures, are transformed. They are masters of their domain. The ladies are now disciplined and possessed of iron will. They run the dogs through their paces, reward them when they do well, shake their heads and coo: “Mommy’s not happy,” when the dogs disappoint.”
C.O. Cindy leans over and whispers in my ear: “It’s the unconditional love that gets them.”
Of course it is.
The dogs love these women. The dogs have no idea that the inmates have failed tragically outside these walls; that they have stolen, lied, cheated, abused their bodies in unimaginable ways, committed murder, and broken every commandment that exists. No, to the cute little dogs these women are, well, everything.
“They seem to do a good job,” I say to Cindy.
“Yeah,” Cindy allows, “what else they got to do with their time.”
“They could be plotting a riot.”
“Take over the prison system, make you their slave.”
“You’ve seen too many movies, Robert.”
Sad but true. C.O. Cindy is an excellent judge of character.
“Can any inmate get into the program?”
“No way. Inmates who abused or murdered children, inmates who tortured animals, they are barred, no exceptions.”
“Good policy. Gotta maintain standards.”
“Hey, we ain’t so dumb.”
“But straight-up murderers?”
Listen to me, I’m doing dialog like from an old Warner Brothers movie.
“Killers are our best trainers. In for the full ride, they got nothing but time.”
Hey, C.O Cindy is in the exact same movie. This is fab-u-lous, we’re kibitzing, in cute-tough prison-speak, like Clark Gable and Jean Harlow in the deeply flawed but fascinating Hold Your Man.
And then it happens.
A genuine meltdown.
“Where’s the coffee?” says Josepha.
“Whose turn wuz it to make the coffee?” demands Josepha. But her eyes are on Eden.
Cindy firmly grips my arm, pulls me behind her and whispers in my ear: “Do. Not. Move. Do. Not. Speak.” She separates her words like bricks.
Eden says: “I forgot.”
Josepha says: “You forgot, what you mean you forgot? Who you think you are, Princess?”
C.O. Cindy draws her stick.
“Ladies, we don’t wanna do this.”
“Yeah, we do,” says Josepha, eyes still nailed to Eden. “Princess here think she too good to make the coffee.”
“I forgot. Already told ya.”
“No, you’re too busy with Mr. f*****g Hollywood.”
Josepha hits me with a flat, hard stare as if I’m road kill.
Huh, little ol’ me?
C.O. Cindy takes a few paces towards Josepha. She does not raise the stick. Not yet. She trails it along the floor. It makes a hissing sound. Like a rattlesnake about to strike.
“Josepha, our guest’s got nothing to do with this. You know that. You know that. There is history here. You do not wanna do this. I do not wanna do this. You’re skull ain’t that hard.”
“I’ll make the f*****g coffee,” says Eden.
“I’ll put it in your face,” says Josepha. “Melt that pretty right off.”
Whoa! That’s right from The Big Heat. I gotta ask Josepha if she’s aware of the amazing scene when Lee Marvin flings scalding coffee into Gloria Grahame’s face.
“Leave the shed,” Cindy orders Josepha, “right now. You go chill.”
Josepha does not move. She’s rooted to the spot and just stares at Eden with the kind of hatred I have never seen. Not even my college Creative Writing 101 Professor—who hated my guts—ever looked at me with such scorn.
Cindy raises the stick, just a few inches. Her slim fingers turn white gripping the wood.
And after a long moment, Josepha stomps out of the shed.
Cindy nods toward another Corrections Officer, who accompanies Josepha back to the cell block.
I realize that I have not taken a breath in about a minute. I’m gonna put this incident in my movie. If I manage to gulp some much-needed oxygen before going critical.
Cindy shoves her stick back in it’s steel loop on her belt.
She claps her hands like a Girl Scout leader.
“Ladies, back to work.”
Cindy steers me to a chair.
“You okay, Robert?”
“Cindy, you ever hear of Sun Tzu?”
“He was a Chinese General, wrote a great book called The Art of War. Back in 400 BC.”
“I’m sure this is going somewhere, but I’m like: huh?”
“He said that the greatest war is the war that is never fought.”
Cindy cracks up.
“My friend, you are sooo weird.”
But Cindy grabs a pen and scrap of paper and asks me to repeat what I’ve said. She concentrates hard—her tongue makes circles on her lips—as she scribbles down the info.
“Hey Cindy, you’re my hero.”
“Yeah, just don’t make me look like a complete loser in your movie.”
I make a silent vow to honor Cindy and her request.