Thursday, February 9, 2017

Dennis

A few weeks ago I was walking across the prison yard on my way back to my office. I'd just sat through three hours of institutional committee, listening to men half-heartedly protest that they hadn't meant to kick that officer, or that they found the weapon, or that they "couldn't remember" how their cellmate got that broken eye socket. That was after another two hour committee where we tried to figure out how to encourage a guy to stop punching people in the face or jerking off in his window. It's a glamorous career.

So I'm walking back to my office, thinking about how lovely it will be to finally sit down to lunch, in the quiet, and mindlessly read the latest cluster-fuck in the news, when I notice an inmate in a tucked away corner doing a funny little shuffle step backwards. I work in an area with a large population of mentally ill inmates, so its not unusual to see guys doing weird shit. One guy does interpretive dance with two sheets of cardboard every day. This was different weird though. So like one does,  I stopped to watch. In a few seconds, I realized that he was also calling to something down on the ground. As I watched, I finally saw a tiny baby goose come from around the corner, following this inmate and simultaneously biting at the grass (do geese eat grass?)

I typically make it a point to maintain forward momentum when I'm walking alone among inmates, but I had to stop and ask this guy WTF? And that's how I came to meet Dennis the Goose.

Dennis (or Denise, no one's sure yet) at one time had a cozy little family and a mom and brothers and sisters and a sweet little nest. However, we've been getting a lot of rain and during a big storm, the nest had washed away. Dennis's mother left him for dead and this inmate decided to adopt him. Now Dennis follows him everywhere. There are "babysitters" and "uncles" that watch him while his adopted dad is working. They make him a little nest of blankets when the weather is cold. They keep the other mean geese away and make sure that he has the best grass to forage in. It's not allowed, and I would never ask, but I'm pretty sure that Dennis sleeps in the cell with him too.

I finally broke away and went back to work, where I learned that Dennis was already a celebrity. Some of my friends had even pet him, which I immediately regretted not asking to do. A maximum security prison can be a pretty crappy place to be, with all the punching and stabbing and masturbating. Dennis was this little glimmer of frivolity and goodness and I love glimmers of frivolity and goodness.

I've been following the story of Dennis ever since, but hadn't seen him in a while. Yesterday, I was walking with a friend and we just happened to come across him. Like a huge dork, I immediately said "Can I pet him?!" And that's when this inmate scoops up Dennis and thrusts him into my hands. I held a tiny baby goose named Dennis in the middle of a maximum security prison. Can't say that every day. My only regret is that I'm freakishly rule following, so of course there are no pictures.
Image result for baby goose
Not Dennis

1 comment:

Becca said...

This has to be among my favorite sentences ever composed:

"A maximum security prison can be a pretty crappy place to be, with all the punching and stabbing and masturbating. Dennis was this little glimmer of frivolity and goodness and I love glimmers of frivolity and goodness."

Your job is not boring!