"You gave up chocolate for Lent? I bet Jesus is proud. Fuck, open up the pearly gates and let the fat bitch in, she just went 40 days without a Kit-Kat bar."
Count and I were invited to a card party in Waverly, just 10 minutes drive east of Lincoln on Cornhusker Highway. The party was to be held in the Trackside Keno bar. We gathered around a table waiting for the rest of our party to arrive. I quickly learned that Count was no stranger to this place, as a few ladies greeted him. One large gal in particular sat right next to Count. It might have been more accurate to say she sat on his lap, but she was not quite there. She was not all large. From the waist down, she had nicely tanned and fairly fi rm legs. Her loose short shorts also revealed that she wore no panties. Her upper body was very thick, with a nice portion of it in her bra. There was a lot of leg-to-leg contact, and a great deal of hand to innerthigh contact.
"Hey Count, what's up?"
"Keep running your hands in there, and you'll fi nd out."
"Oh yah, are you wearing my favorite boxers tonight?"
"Actually, I'm doing like Tom Petty tonight."
"You know, Free Ballin'."
"Really? Did you give them up for Lent?"
"No. I didn't give up anything for Lent."
"I think I'll give up wearing bras for Lent."
"Just don't give it up until I get you into bed."
"So you're not wearing any right now?"
"No more than you. Why don't you just let your fi ngers do the walking, and see if you feel any boxer lines?"
"Oh God, Count, let me get you a drink."
The gal waved her hand, and a Morgan and Diet Coke appeared almost instantly. From where I was sitting I proceeded to watch Count get a rub down through his denim shorts. A wet spot the size of a quarter appeared inside of two minutes.
"Hey Babe, where can we go to fi nish this off?"
"That depends on how much time you have."
"Well, do you want fi ve minutes now, an hour later, or both?"
"Then the women's bathroom will do for now." I watched Count follow the lady to the women's bathroom, enter, and shut the door behind them. Count gave himself too much credit. He was back to the table in less than four minutes, and me with no evidence.
I have always said my brother is a genius. The proof is in his manipulation of Mom as a youth. He convinced her that his desire to be an artist required him to practice drawing naked models. He wound up getting a subscription to Playboy magazine when he was 12. I guess that's where it started for me. Two years his junior, I never missed an issue. The fi rst issue I saw was August, 1974 with Lynnda Kimball on the cover.
".you know the difference between a hero and a liar; heroes don't tell the story."
It was the 2nd of September, 2003. Belau said it was an inmate holiday called Howard's Day, and the inmate porters got double pay. He was fucking with me, I was sure of it. Who in their right minds would create an inmate holiday? Not that it would break the tax-payers, most of them only made $1.21 per day, so doubling that would not make a huge difference. I called Gary Anderson, a Marine, co-worker and a good litmus test. He said it has something to do about a guy who started a petition and got rid of the striped uniform. I called the old salt, Sgt Marshall, and he said it really is an inmate holiday, "You won't see anything different. We go about our business the same way we always have. The only people that need to be aware of it are the bookkeepers in inmate accounting who fi gure out the pay for the inmates."
"Do the inmates celebrate in any way?"
"Hell, most of them don't even know. Unless the veteran inmates tell them and remember the date, none of them will know shit until it hits their paychecks."
"And by then, it will be over."
"Batiste, you got any problem going on a TO to South O?"
"Marshall, I'm part Hispanic. My whole life, Blacks and Hispanics have been my closest friends."
"Yah, but you look white. What if they fuck with you?"
"I ain't worried about it."
None of Howard's Day mattered for me anyway; I was on my way to a funeral travel order in South Omaha. Coincidentally, on Howard's Day, we were taking inmate Perry Manassero to his grandfather's funeral. Sgt Craig Lovercheck and I escorted. Perry was a fl ight risk, and his grandfather, Howard Cotton, was being put to rest in a "Home Going Celebration." Prior to the beginning of the ceremony, Lovercheck leans over to me and says, "Hey Batiste, we're in South Omaha, but have you noticed that we are the only two white guys in the room?"
"Sarge, you're supposed to be the observant one; you haven't checked the casket." Sure enough, Howard Cotton was as white as Lovercheck, and I don't think he just lost his pigment upon old age. He had just turned 101 last Christmas.
Apparently he was from a long line of Mississippi cotton farmers and decided to marry one of his laborer's daughters, who happened to be black. Howard had 12 children who were all light skinned and very attractive. They all married black or light-skinned blacks, and their multiple children and offspring fi lled the church.
"Batiste, did you know it was Howard's Day?"
"Are you referring to the inmate holiday, or to your grandfather's celebration?"
"That's good, Batiste, but that's just a strange coink-edink."
"I just learned about it this morning. I also learned that you are a fl ight risk, so don't do anything stupid."
"Aw, c'mon Batiste, I wouldn't run from my own granddaddy's funeral. My family would never let me hear the end of that."
"You act like it's never happened before."
"Anyway, back to Howard's Day. What did you learn about it this morning?"
"Nothing, 'cept that it was today."
"And you got a degree?"
"So does a rectal thermometer."
"You got time to hear about Howard's Day?"
"It's an hour drive. I can give you some of that. Long as you don't bore me."
"John Howard was born in 1726, 50 years before America was even a country."
"So all I know now is that he's dead."
"You gonna listen Batiste?"
"All right, Perry, go for it."
"John Howard was a rich man and is considered to be the father of prison reform, but nobody knows why he came to make this cause his life's work. At the age of 40, he had experienced prison. An English ship in which he took passage was captured by the French and he was imprisoned for two months before he was exchanged with other prisoners."
"You sound like you are quoting this out of a book. How do you know all this shit?"
"I'm a legal aide, I study. Now, are you going to listen or what?"
"At age 50 he was unknown, at age 60 he was an international hero. Despite his prison experience, the more critical event for John Howard would seem to have been his appointment as High Sheriff of Bedfordshire in 1773. It was a political position without qualifi cations and it came as a surprise when Howard took the responsibilities of the appointment seriously and began his inspection of prisons."
"What made him want to inspect prisons?"
"Are you not listening Batiste? Nobody knows. People were amazed that he took it so seriously. Perhaps he was bored."
"I can accept that."
"For the next 17 years he was committed to the task, traveling thousands of miles by horse and carriage not only throughout Great Britain but including seven trips to the continent, even to Moscow and Constantinople. He died in 1790, having caught typhus while visiting Russian military hospitals. He had given his personal fortune, his health and his safety to the cause of prison reform. On one occasion, because of the reputation he had with the imprisoned, he was able single-handedly to intervene and stop a riot in the Savoy military prison in London."
"One guy stopped a riot?"
"That's right, Batiste. Because he was respected."
"He should have been a warden."
"You still don't get it, do you? He was the top cop. His book, The State of Prisons in England and Wales, had three editions in his lifetime. John Howard advocated reform: clean, healthy accommodation with the provision of adequate clothing and linen; segregation of prisoners according to sex, age and nature of offense; and proper health care. These were his priorities. He decided there should be a Chaplain service because he was of the age in believing that spiritual starvation was a major obstacle to reformation of character. Finally, he was a fi rm believer in the work ethic and the need for prisoners to be provided with work in order that the sin of idleness could be combated."
"How come more people don't know about this guy?"
"Cuz nobody celebrates prison reform until it benefi ts them."