Month: November 2018

THE BET (a true story)

Some of the best and worst of humanity can be found at the crux of competition.

In a larger sense, competition over food, over territory, over commerce, occupies the macro, the endless ways in which groups all over the world serve their constituents, be it government for people, or public companies for shareholders..

At the personal level, we compete against each other for jobs and sustenance, for partners, for status within our group, each a micro-level expression of wanting to be worth something, to belong somewhere, to best our rivals. Competition is proving one’s worth.

What often motivates us is death, though not usually directly. No, it’s subtler, beneath the surface. Perhaps we compete to be sure this is not the day we die.

Men and women tend to compete differently. As generalizations go, those differences have exceptions, where traits thought masculine are found in a female, and vice versa, depending on the actors. There are plenty of feminine men and masculine women. So, we’re speaking of majority only here.

Thus, if Susan Pinker writes that women tend to maneuver covertly, using mean remarks, social exclusion, and by trying to win over your friends and allies, it’s not a rule set in stone for all women. In fact, these are strategies sometimes used by men. If not used by men, men can learn from them.

Men tend to compete slightly differently. They like to best each other straight up, mano a mano. But not always, for another way men compete is to put each other down. I remember reading in Scientific American some years ago about brain scan studies showing both approaches satisfy the same needs. Competing directly or by put-down lights up identical reward areas of the brain. One approach is social, the other not so.

Because one sure-fire difference between men and women is the level of their boasts. Perhaps this is the opposite of putting someone else down, boosting self instead. Men brag about being able to do something, as if to dare someone around them to challenge them on the spot. And they do. Invariably, they do.


Let me tell you about a guy named Dave and a bet he made.

We were doing time at a Burritt’s Rapids facility, also knows as the Rideau Regional Centre. It was a minimum-security place, a few dozen miles outside of Ottawa where I’d been sent for shooting a guy (which was out of character).

Discharging a firearm with intent to kill they called it, allowing them to sentence much more leniently, but which hardly disguised the original charge of attempted murder. Semantics maybe.

We lived in dorms, I think about twenty or so inmates in each. The dorms faced each other so you could see another dorm across the hallway through heavy wired plexiglass. When I was there, it seemed to be full. On any account, rather than work on the farm during the day, I’d managed to secure a job as a pool porter in a nearby town days (something I wrote about in an essay called Forms of Bliss).

We had some real characters in the place, and nothing anyone had done was all that serious comparatively, which is why they were in minimum security. And the fact it was out in the country meant we got the local crowd of country crooks populating the prison, some of whom were entertaining guys.

In the dorm opposite me there was a gay couple even. Well, that’s what you’d call them now. Back then they were just queers. It was a slight balding guy of about 30 and a younger guy of 17 or 18 or so I remember. The younger fella had the last bed, way at the end of his dorm where these two would sit and flirt with each other all during lights on time. No one much paid them any attention, and I remember they were protective of each other.

When everyone would be off at the gym or elsewhere, they’d sneak physical contact. Everyone knew it but just ignored them.

My father had taught me about homosexuals when I was just a boy of 10 or so. Not a formal lesson mind you, but just one of the half-dozen memories I have of him where he was a stellar parent. Before that, I had the usual homophobia of any young boy my age and of that generation, seeing it as a severe taboo, having a strong enculturated prejudice against it straight from the school yard.

I’d called my sisters lesbians and earned a trip to dad’s room for a talk. This was a time of luck, where a talk with pops was possible, instead of the usual, where violence ruled. During his discovery of me regarding the complaint which brought me before him, we found I had no idea what a lesbian was.

He explained it perfectly, telling me it was women who loved each other, just as men and women loved each other. He added it wasn’t a choice, but rather how they were made. More importantly, he mentioned these were people looking for love like anyone else. I remembered that last bit, it stuck. It was probably 1968-69.

The first pot growers I encountered were in this prison. These were like every pot grower I’d come to know afterwards too: indignant, righteous about their cause, feeling maligned by the state. Of course, they held my sympathies.

These boys had taken the seeds out of their Mexican weed and tossed them into the ground. Lo and behold, a few months later they had pounds and pounds of the stuff, for free! They were pretty hush hush about it all inside, because they didn’t want their “secret” to get out. Since I always had a gal bringing me hash on the inside no matter which joint I was in, I got the inside scoop.

That’s something laughable now but back then, the connection between the highly illegal pot being bought, sold and smoked, and the potential of the seeds that came with it (before seedless pot hit our markets), wasn’t well-known. In fact, growing yourself was a crazy good idea very few followed for many years later.

Another fella there was a short muscular red-head who had to be 30-35 or so, pure farming country good old boy. He was friendly, and always had a laugh to share as a steady ball-buster. That was the thing about prison. I’d been kicked out of the house at 15 when dad broke down and therefore lost access to my four brothers. I found lots of brothers elsewhere.

And what had country boy done? He’d gotten drunk with friends and they all were hungry. So, he went into a field outside Kemptville where beef cattle were kept. There he killed and butchered an animal for its best steaks, leaving the rest of the carcass behind and fucking off with the meat. When word got out the next day, someone remembered seeing his car on the road the night before.

If remember right, while recovering at home, and still shit-faced, buddy woke up to cops looking at all the blood on the seats of his wheels sitting in the driveway.

But back to Dave, for he’s the best example I know of male competitiveness. You see, Dave was a pimp. Or, at least that’s the gist of it.

It was back in the very early days of the escort business, where the Yellow Page folks finally allowed escort ads. It blew open the pimp business as gals and guys lined up to make money. There are always women willing to sell their body for a few bucks, but it can be dangerous work. They use men to set them up and drive to the appointments and make sure they’re protected. Dave did that for a cut.

He was a good-sized kid, maybe late twenties. He wore glasses and was smart enough, verbal. In other circumstances, he would have made a good manager or business owner. He also had a twinkle in his eye and a ballsy determination. Of course, he was in for assault—something about him and another guy beating up some john who had messed with one of his girls. The usual.

Dave always had some broad visiting. Not a good-looking gal mind you, but he got visits. We’d see each other in the visiting room and know I’d soon have shit for sale. His visits didn’t bring him much. He just didn’t have that kind of pull with people. Those who couldn’t smuggle would have relatives visit and leave them $50 bills. We traded goods for that currency. In every joint I’ve been in except county buckets, there was cash to be had for drugs. Dave had neither.

But, Dave was a determined-type, we had a lot in common that way. We weren’t content to do time and wait to get out. We were proactive mother-fuckers.

I’ve been to a few comedy clubs in my time. Especially since the advent of Yuk Yuks and place like that. I’ve busted a gut in a half dozen cities I’m sure.

But I have never laughed as hard as I have while inside. It’s the war-stories. It’s reports from the underground. It’s guys who are living at times, sometimes all the time, right on the fucking edge of sanity and insanity. It gets very funny, in an incredulous way. Oh, the shit people get into.


And those ball-busting war-story boasting sessions were just the kind of place where one-upmanship can be brought to a whole new level. It was at one of those gatherings of the haves, the ringleaders of the joint, where Dave uttered his infamous line, “I’d just about do anything for a $50 bill.”

Wasn’t long before suggestions were made. The usual, let a cat lick your nuts, diddle your cat, eat the pussy of a 300-pound fat chick, eat shit, etc.

“Wait a minute, did you say you’d eat shit? No way!”

Dave, not one to back down, flatly replied, “I’d eat a whole shit for a $50 bill.”

And wouldn’t you know it, guy pulls one out, red Mounties right there, waving it around while making sure the guards aren’t walking by. “I’ve got to see this. You’re on,” he says, calling Dave’s bluff in front of the boys.

Dave: “I’ll do it, wait until tomorrow when I have to go,” said matter-of-factly.


And so, the next day, I’m thinking this has been called off. Nope. Dave was in my dorm, so I got to witness the plan’s progression. During the day he’d smuggled out a plastic fork and knife and small paper plate out of the dining hall. He showed them to me, asking what I thought of by way of stash.

He signaled to me when he was going in to the toilets to get his stool. “If I’m going to eat shit, I’m eating my own,” he said. Couldn’t argue that at all.

Near after supper, he’d produced a lovely stool, decent consistency, and curling in a half moon on the plate replete with tapered end where his anus had pinched it off as it exited his arsehole.

There he was, slightly acne’d and puffy faced, a little soft but his muscularity from regular workouts now showing through his shirt, and his overall demeanour a curious look of high concentration. It was as if he was treating this as no big deal, indifferent to the challenge, wisely creating a conqueror’s mindset, long before that word ever entered popular psychology’s lexicon.

And I believed him. If anyone could do this, Dave could. He was a lower echelon dweller, from the projects, living among the poor and the profane, places where suburban realities did not exist. He had banged lots of fat girls, maybe even his sister (if he had one). For sure he had his red wings, an honour gained by eating the pussy of a menstruating woman, maybe his sister’s friend or the neighbour.

He was a gladiator of gall, a welfare warrior, and mercenary of mooch. He was a sick-fuck our boy, and we were proud of him.

Someone kept six at the door but didn’t linger. Instead they’d keep moving and walked across the hall while glancing up towards the offices as one by one, the guys from the night before filtered into the dorm, sitting at different beds pretending to be visiting a person here or there to not attract attention.

When the six-man signaled the guard was off the range and had moved into another one, it meant there might be twenty minutes before another appeared. It was then Dave nipped into the washroom to retrieve his prize.

The shit had congealed into a shiny, waxy state on the paper plate. You could smell it. It smelled just like shit. Only, you weren’t smelling your shit, which I presume you’re at least somewhat used to by now. No. You were smelling Dave’s shit. It was an entirely unpleasant experience. It reeked of bad food from a bad body. A ripple of moans and suffering remarks erupted from the gathered.

I insisted he do it on his bed. No way it was coming near mine. Finally, someone called him on: “You gonna do this or what?”

Dave asked to see the fifty. Then, there was the delicate negotiation of who would “hold” the fifty, you know, in case the bettor reneged. This resulted in more insults and calls for respect. Finally, the group prevailed and the holder of the fifty was persuaded to hand it off to someone he could easily take it back from if necessary.

Dave put the plate on his lap. Gingerly picking up the plastic fork and knife, he began to cut off a piece of shit, like someone cutting into a steak. Only, it didn’t give any resistance, but did cut nicely. He broke away this piece onto his fork, leaving a brown shit stain in its place on the plate.

He lifted the fork up to about chest high as he sat on the edge of that bed. He had water ready in case, or maybe it was a pop. He’d invested in whatever remedy he’d need, for fifty bucks for nothing is a rare thing in prison. That’s the way he looked at it: He was getting money for nothing.

Lifting the fork to his mouth, the collective leans back and away from him in disgust, not able to quite take their eyes from the fork and shit in front of his face. The person sitting directly across from Dave suddenly realized the precariousness of his position and made a bold move out of the way at the last minute… just in case.

Dave put the shit into his mouth. He looked fine. It was in there and his mouth had closed. He began to chew.

It may have been a few chews, but it wasn’t much more. Involuntary seizures hit him as surely as there was something knocking him on the back of the head. He soldiered on and tried to swallow, tears forming in his eyes as his body convulsed, dry heaving, chest rising and falling.

Through tears in his eyes, doubt suddenly appeared on his face. Perhaps it was the difference between what his mind commanded and the way his body responded, but he looked at once tyrannized and confused. He gulped as if to swallow once more and his throat stopped mid-way and reversed course. He began to show just a bit of brown spittle at the corners of his mouth. His lips were glossed in brown, like he’d been eating baked beans, no napkin.

He rose up, the assembled fell back on the beds before him, spreading apart on both sides like a peeled banana. Dave convulsed again, this time raising a hand to his mouth area. For the last time he tried to slide that piece of errant turd down his throat, but it would not go. His mouth remained open, where you could see the mashed shit on his tongue and teeth, like when a rude person who speaks with their mouth full.

He ran towards the bathroom stalls next to us, as people cleared their legs and feet out of his way. There, through the full-length plexiglass windows, we could see him puke up the remaining shit from his mouth, and any other shit in this stomach. Great heaving occurred as he emptied his being of any possibility of shit.

The bettor snatched the fifty from the holder while all of us moaned in sympathy and in awe. Everyone broke protocol and spoke too loudly and too often, describing every second of that scene in minute detail. “Did you see him put it in? Fuck off!” and, “I thought we about to be sprayed with shit, goddamn it!” and “Fuck me, I can’t believe I saw someone put shit in their mouth!” and, “I never thought he’d do it, no way!!” and on and on.

I’ve never fully told the shit story until now. Over the years, I’m sure I’ve mentioned it in passing, that I once saw a guy try to eat shit on dare. No one seemed all that interested in hearing about it. I know why. Surely, no one would believe it. And the other thing is you can’t mention it in mixed company. Bit of a mood-killer maybe.

Dave came back out of that bathroom a dejected man. He was almost apologetic. He kept saying something like, “I thought I could do it, but it just wouldn’t go down no matter how hard I tried.” To him, it was now about failure and the lost opportunity. It was rehashing the technicalities. More importantly, it was about not being able to best the fella who taunted him. He couldn’t command his body to win this one on will alone.

I’m pretty sure the rest of that bit I never let Dave get close enough to me to smell his breath. I know he brushed his teeth, I lived with him. It was just… something.

I wish him well, hoping his experiences in prison exposed his frailty. Maybe it put a convincing damper on his invincibility, and perhaps kept him alive on the outside. I hope he lived to tell this story. After getting out, I never saw him again. Never forgot him either though. How could you?

That’s what happens to men, and to boys. We compete at an entirely different level than do the girls. It’s a big difference between us. It’s unlikely in your lifetime you will ever encounter such an ordure ordeal, such as eating shit for dollars.

And if you do hear of such a thing, you can bet almost anything it won’t involve a woman instead.

Just don’t bet eating shit. Can’t be done.

Ask Dave.

Stay powerful.


©CKWallace, November, 2018, all rights reserved.

THE BET (true story)


I once did time in a provincial reformatory for shooting a guy. It’s a bit of a long story but the gist of it was I was attacked from behind and beaten with nunchucks over a girl. Not any girl, she was runner-up Miss Nude Ottawa and a good friend of mine. I wasn’t even fucking her, then.

To shorten the story, the owner took a dislike to me sitting there with all the strippers at my table drinking and snorting lines with the girls. I ended up a little drunk with a high school buddy who happened to come in looking to see pussy. The owner  waited until the afternoon lull before picking a fight, then siccing the headwaiter on me from behind with nunchucks. I went down but not out and left.

I came back and shot one of them and tried to kill the other one. Fucker kept throwing beer cases at me and hiding behind people as I fired, until I had only one bullet left which I kept to cover my exit.

I got away but turned myself in a few days later once the cops had raided everyone I knew. I was holed up at a gal’s place who was not my girlfriend, being looked after. From there, I arranged arrest on my terms, after a hospital visit with my lawyer to sew up my head 48 hours after I was injured, something rarely done..

I got bail after a few days, thanks to my brothers and sisters stepping up to vouch for me. This despite my having not lived at home for several years. It was also the one time my folks were not in town I found out later. My eldest brother even pledged his motorcycle as surety for bail. I guess you could do that in those days. We used a lot of the “out of character” phrase, a mantra for some time afterwards.

At the preliminary, I was suddenly thrust into a waiting room at #1 Nicholas Avenue with all the people who were going to testify against me. So, I went downstairs with my gal to the coffee shop and bought about 30 coffees and sandwiches to serve my witnesses. While asking if they needed creamers or sugar, I had a chance to give them my side of the story, impressing upon them this was “out of character” and resulted from being attacked first.

Not only that, the guy who had hit me from behind and whom I’d shot, taking out his spleen and leaving a bullet lodged up against his spine, suggested we make a deal. He’d admit he hit me first if I’d testify for him later at a criminal compensation hearing. I agreed.

Whereas my lawyer had told me straight up I’d get at least five years, waving the book with the attempted murder statute under my nose, I ended up with a deuce less. That is two years less a day. Which means I was in a reformatory. No pen time this bit.

As I returned from court and was being re-booked into the county jail’s maximum wing on Innes Road, one of the guards was a little impatient with me as he demanded yet another search at the Max Rotunda. “Turn around, hands against the wall, spread’em,” he said gruffly. I noticed some broad looking at me and stared back her with contempt, thinking she probably liked to see me humiliated in this way.

photo by Wayne Cuddington/ Postmedia

Not an hour went by before I was called out of my cell to speak through the bars at the top of the range to this very lady. Apparently, she was our new classifications officer and wanted to hear my story. Prisons were being staffed by women suddenly in our rush to progress.

Of course, I told her it was all a mistake, that it was an overreaction on my part after being brutally beaten for no reason other than petty jealousy. I did my best to convince her it was “out of character” and told her about my jewelry and furniture businesses.

By the end of the week, I had buddies deliver letters attesting to my businesses and how I was needed outside to keep things afloat. I got out within ten days of being in. The guys on my range—many of whom I knew from the outside—couldn’t believe it. I left them the rest of the hash I’d smuggled in up my ass on the day I was sentenced.

That worked out well for a while. I was in a halfway house out on Riverside, with an apartment on Innes just a few miles down the river. Meanwhile, my buddies had rented a place further out the river for the summer. I bounced between the three places.

Peanut Haven out by Manotick it was called, and I rented half of one of the three cottages with my buddy Flo. Every morning at ten while at the halfway house, I’d dress in a suit and tie, grab my briefcase and go outside to meet my partner. He’d show up in our Cadillac dressed in jeans and a T-Shirt with bulging muscles. He looked like my body guard and we didn’t deny it. Then I’d either go deal dope one place or another, the time away barely causing a ripple in my schedule.

Sometimes, my partner had other shit to do so I’d drive the Caddy around and take care of business myself. It so happened I walked into a buddy’s place to collect some money one evening, just as he was being raided. I’d almost forgot about this until my high school reunion a few months back. Someone there reminded me they were there when it happened.

I knocked on the door and when it opened I saw he was being raided and ran. They caught me on the stairs and found my keys. They searched the block and tried the locks until they found the right one. My partner had left a few ounces of pot tucked into a construction boot in the trunk without me knowing. I was busted.

I remember the ride downtown in the wagon with the other guys. How I had to push my handcuffed arms from behind my back and under me, and how they had helped me get my legs through one at a time, so I was cuffed from in front instead of behind. I remember that.

I was returned to the county bucket and reclassified. I kept telling them it was all a mistake; the pot wasn’t mine and was left there by mistake. It was still, “out of character,” despite how it looked!  I even had someone else claim the pot as theirs. We took a shot at it. The guards started calling me “silk.” My poor classification officer gal listened patiently and told me she’d send me to the easiest place possible. I was shipped out to a minimum-security joint.

No sooner than I arrived at what we called Burritts Rapids, I immediately applied for a half-way house. I remember that interview with the warden. He called me a con-artist and reminded me of the silk nickname which had followed in my classification reports from Ottawa. He denied me outright and told me to do my time. I told him I was happy to re-apply again later.

I worked at it. The thing was, you could be denied and re-apply the next day. So that’s what I did. I was turned down over and over for transfer out to the city. And the food at the Rideau Correctional Facility, as it was known officially, was terrible. By far, the worst food I’ve eaten in prison and where I was introduced to hickory tasting coffee. Horrible, I found punishing.

So I aimed for and won a day-job working at a local developmental hospital in Smith Falls. They had those at the time, since closed. I’d be bused to the hospital every morning and spend the day there working as a pool porter. I’d get a voucher where I could eat cafeteria food which was ten times better tasting than joint food. I’d also get to wear my street clothes and talk to women, good smelling gals. I could also swim in the pool if I wanted, with women lifeguards who worked there, and were nice to me! It was a good go, as they say.






It was there I saw what they used to do with all the kids no one wanted. There were kids wards and adult wards, male and female. They even had a series of cottage style buildings where some of the more high-functioning kids could live. I never met anyone from those.  Blind, deaf, dumb kids were dumped here by families, encouraged by doctors.

Autistic headbangers occupied whole wards, banging their hockey helmeted heads on the floor all day. Many were in diapers, toddlers who screamed and self-harmed in their self-soothing attempts, but some were older. None of those kids swam that I remember. Or if they did, I was sent to fetch them strapped in a wheelchair and brought them down one at a time.

Several wards held schizophrenics, separated into male and female. Those places were nuts at times, depending on when the meds had been given out. The male wards were tough. I saw attendants dressed in while smacking people in desperation when they were attacked, or someone was stealing an ashtray or a smoke. It was an angry place when meds wore off.

Many Down Syndrome kids and adults lived there. Every developmental issue was represented at the Rideau Regional Centre. If you had never encountered anything like this in your life, the only thing I can reckon it to is the freak shows at the ex. In those days, families gave these kids up to the state, to be institutionalized. The place had to house a thousand, I bet.

Whole wards of alcohol damaged individuals, Korsakoff Syndrome and tardive dyskinesia had a place there. Wards with people in straight jackets for their own protection and the protection of the staff. The developmentally delayed child who lives becomes a developmentally delayed adult in a place like this. Without good stimulation in these warehouse-type institutions of old, it becomes a horror story, far beyond Steinbeck’s, “Of Mice and Men.”

Everyone smoked in the place, and during the day it had clouds of smoke in every hallway and in every dorm, cigarette butts everywhere on the floor. I remember a kid who had really bad brain damage from a car accident. He was one of my first pool-porter patients. Because of him, I learned to walk on the right side of my charges with my left hand on the back of their neck and my right hand folded across my mid-section and holding on to their right forearm. This way I could pivot them one way or another in a hurry.

Big and tall and you could tell, once good-looking, Stephen was pica. And he was addicted to any stimulant, not just tobacco. He once got away from me and ran into a ward and grabbed their instant coffee and started to scoop it into his mouth by the handfuls. The attendants freaked and physically intervened and taught me how to hold on to him.

He’d run through his weekly allotment of smokes in a day or two and nic-fit the rest of the week. He’d gesture to me, two fingers tapping his mouth slowly while saying in a deep and clearly brain-damaged way, “mokee? mokee?  moke?” with a twinkle in his eye. Sometimes I’d oblige him, and become his new best friend. He could answer questions about his accident, but it took a great deal of effort. I’d bust his balls about how all the girls must have liked him.

I’d be walking him down the hall to the pool and I’d sense him looking at me out of the corner of his eye, sizing me up, getting just slightly more anxious. First time it happened he broke free and dove upon a cigarette butt on the floor and gobbled it down before I could stop him. After that, I see him start to twitch a bit and look ahead and spot his target, taking precautions.

In one of the male adult wards lived Birdman. Staff would get him up in the morning and dressed. Soon he would strip naked and sit up on the window sill in a crouch for hours and hours. His whole body, from head to toe, would turn blue from the constricted blood vessels while his tongue would dart in and out like a lizard. His penis would hang down over the side as well,  a vestigial long dong of blue. He was mostly catatonic, staring off into space.

I happened to be there when a kid with cerebral palsy sued the government for the right to make his own decisions about where to live and how to spend his monthly stipend. I can’t remember his name (Mike?) but he won in Ontario court while we were all pulling for him.

He used a Bliss board, and I had several wonderful conversations with him in his wheelchair, a big board of symbols in front of him like a table, and him awkwardly but effectively using Blissymbolics to communicate. He had a goofy smile and an intelligence in eyes that twinkled easily. I gave him my best props and pep talks as he waited his own reclassification. He was an amazing guy, really inspiring.

Perhaps it was these kids and adults who first awakened in me a dormant caring I’d suppressed on the street for many years. They were doing time like I was, society’s refuse, shuffled aside and locked away. I was a prisoner and so were they. We were on the same side, with me at Rideau Correctional Centre, while they were at the Rideau Regional Centre.

In 2013, the Ontario liberals awarded survivors of the Rideau Centre 20.6 million. David McKillop, then 63, placed there when he was just four years old, was the representative plaintiff. “I got beaten up by staff, sexual assault, everything… You couldn’t do anything about it… You couldn’t say anything about it at that time” he told the CBC after the settlement. “I still dream about memories about it… We’re going to get help for that too.  I wanted to make sure the government paid for it, what they did to us.”

Bless your heart my man. Seeing what I saw late 1970s during the day when it was at its busiest, I can only imagine what it was like at night. It’s horrifying to think of now.

It was later while studying behavioural sciences in the late 1980s where I was exposed to the Cornwall project, an initiative to keep developmentally challenged kids with their families with the support of the community. I attended “People First” meetings and became friendly with some of these charming ambassadors living with their families of origin, or in small community-based housing. It was better than what I saw by far.

We’d learned by then the more stimulation challenged kids gets in the first few years, the better their chances later. It was also admitting the best place for a kid is usually at home. At the same time, it was forcing families to take greater responsibility for their offspring, despite the problems, but with support from the state. With that, the stigma of the retarded child began to disappear. I like to believe I witnessed that turning point when my little buddy and his bliss board won his court case.

As for me, I kept applying for release and getting shot down. Each week or two, I’d appear before the warden flanked by two guards and make my case. He’d say no, and compliment me on my improved story, with a smirk on his face. Off I’d go to my dorm.

Then a miracle happened: a prison strike. The Canadian Army were called in to man the security of the province’s prisons. And you guessed it: anyone with an application for early release or transfer to a halfway house in town was automatically approved.

I was out again. Fuck you warden.

A few years later, I encountered the guy I shot at a bar, Billy’s on Somerset where I’d taken my new gal for an afternoon beer. He was still dragging one foot as he walked and thanked me for not killing him. Turns out because he admitted he attacked me first from behind in the preliminary hearing transcripts, the criminal compensation board turned him down for any award. Tough break lad.

Besides the kid with the Bliss board, and Stephen the pica, what haunts me most from those times was pulling up every day at the Rideau Regional Centre in our prison bus and seeing a big black hearse at the back of the place. I don’t remember not seeing one there in the months I was privileged to work outside of prison among these brave souls.

Sometimes the worst places teach you the most. Without contrast, what would we know about bliss?

Stay powerful,

Christopher K Wallace
© 2018, all rights reserved.