The Europeans of the postglacial period led for a time a miserable existence in a terrible strange world out of which they were being gradually crowded by great oak-forested wildernesses filled with animals which men had not yet learned how to hunt.


The world of dread from Wells’ Outline of History, lent to me by Doc, Tenderloin junkie professor & shoplifter (cashmere sweater specialist) who’s spent more years in jail than I’ve been alive.

First words addressed to me in the cell: “Get the fuck off my bunk, punk.” (Stew, redhaired burnout case, on the toilet when they brought me in.)

First question: “Where you from?” (Woody, 45, black, built like a wrestler.)

“Here,” meaning the Bay Area.

“Fool thinks he’s from jail. Where you born, fool?”

“St. Louis.”

Since then, I’m “Missouri,” not Jimmy.

The cell is 8 X 12, six double bunks, six men. Just got my first cigarettes, pencil, notebook from the commissary. Chainsmoking now I don’t have to borrow.

Slim, Irish second story man (kid really, claims he headed the White Aryan Youth Nation in Chino), slams his newspaper against the bars. “I wish a goddamn napalm bomb would explode in here.”

Stew tells him to shut up.

Slim calls Stew a fuckin punk Mission District reject.

Four whites, two blacks in the cell, but Slim knows better than talk shit to Woody or Wild Bill. Stew most vulnerable, a redfaced druggie with no control. He & Slim occupy the poles of tension. Rest of us balance the power, keep them from spinning out.

Second question to me: what you in for?

“Hitting a cop.”

“Finally, somebody in for a righteous cause.” (Wild Bill)

“Didn’t kill the fucker.” (Slim)

“Man can’t always get it right the first time.” (Wild Bill)

Turns out Slim (“I’m not a Nazi, I’m a Scientific Aryan”) was on the street last October, showed up for Stop the Draft Week. Supports the war cause it kills off the colored races. Came to brawl.


the Mercurian army

Almost lost it. Waked from dreamless sleep, 4 am. Bang! Metal on metal down the corridor.

— I am a member of the Mercurian Army!

Madman in the hole. Slams metal against the door.

— Nagasaki! Guns! Vietnam!


— The planet Mercury has control of all so-called sub-humans!


— You will be dragged down with solid gold!


— J Edgar Hoover!




Confusion of keys. Deputies run past half out of uniform. We’re all awake. No one moves. The man does not cry out, the officers do not curse. The crunch of fists & nightsticks, the sound of us listening to the sound.

Two deputies run back disappointed: “Shit, I wish they’d a let me in there.”

Woody yells out “motherfucking pigs.” The hole door gongs. Footsteps. Silence.

The howl of the beaten man crawls down on us. Two cries of pain. Silence. Then almost a whisper: “I am a member of the Mercurian Army. They’ve hurt me.”

Doc: “The man’s nuts. He shouldn’t be in prison.”

Wild Bill: “Pigs they just the other side of psycho themselves.”

Slept exhausted.

After breakfast they led him past us to the showers. Face covered with a hard brown layer, too thick for dried blood. Flashed on the burned-creature-thing I hallucinated at the Induction Center, the one that followed my almost-double. Then saw it was a caked layer of shit over his naked skin. Cops said the walls of the hole were smeared, had to hose it down. Early Christian shit coat. Beasts without names.