Somehow I got a free ride, despite my past. No more pushing the library trolley on the work-study plan. I was promoted to Research Assistant to Professor Murgatroyd, and the beauty of it was that Murgatroyd wasn’t even around. She was gone to the UK for the term, so I came and went as I pleased. And I had THE KEYS. To her office, to her house, to her car … either I gave off a Trusty vibe, or Doc M’s so badass that she wasn’t prejudiced against the hatchet. It was probably both.
She emailed once a week:
Check the mail.
Start the car, let it run 10 min.
Scan [some sheep farmer’s bullshit file] and send to me.
The emails were all biz, like we’d never met. The way she was sometimes made me think she had a secret identity.
Once, I was relaxing on her bed, and I saw the closet was open a crack, so I texted her: Closet door open. After an hour she replied: Look under the bed. Took me a second to realize she was messing with me. She was cool like that. Sometimes.
To be honest, Doc M was the only person I was close to, if intimacy means you can go through someone’s things.
Like a lot of us in the MACR, I put off 701, or con-writ as we called it, until my last year. It was a daunting course but exciting. To finally be able to express my experiences without fear of repercussions other than my grade was like chasing part of me and catching it. I was functioning well enough, but I looked to 701 to make me whole again.
The tricky bit was going to be translating my story into another form. I’d already done it in tattoos and short stories, but I figured the only way to get the most out of con-writ is to lean into the true unknown: poetry. Rhyming was not allowed. Not even rap. They kept telling us to compose in the contemporary literary idiom, but what they really meant was they wanted us to write white. And slow. That was just fine, though. Most of us Eezees had a more refined perspective on racism than the Jeeps and the League of Gs.
League of Gs or the Gents=Legal (lawyers, cops, etc. AKA The Novelists).
The convicts that do the courses via Skype and all, we just call them Shuts.
The thing about a hatchet is that no one is expecting a hatchet. I suppose hatchet robberies were more common in the olden days when a lot of weapons were tools first. Even guns. You used a gun to live, you had to. But now guns are things polite people don’t admit to wanting or owning because their utility runs third place behind violence and vanity. I don’t like guns or the TV show reactions they inspire. Walk into the 7-11 with a hatchet though, and you get to observe some original emotions.
My first poem sucked, but no one told me how. Professor Bell did say it was an avoidance, a distraction. Confessional but not a confession.
Felling, splitting, mortising, throwing, mattock, halberd, pollaxe, ice, maul … and so forth. I was trying to make a point about the media and how they didn’t like the word hatchet. Instead they always said I did my thing with an axe, which is kind of a wide open image. In a way I should be grateful; when the prosecutor submitted into evidence my fifteen-dollar hand axe with the yellow fiberglass handle, you could see the disappointment in the jury’s eyes. Up until that point I was some wigged out banshee, like Lizzie Borden’s nastier sister.
But you don’t need a heavy weapon to lay waste to wine. Pink wine, to be more precise. It one of the things that I raged at—a wire rack of wine bottles that somebody decorated with pink construction paper hearts magic-markered with the words, “Pink Wine!” Jesus.
I usually have to stop the story there.