It’s Christmas in prison.
The food would be better on Christmas. You’d get ham and turkey, cranberry sauce, potatoes with gravy, and pie. We never get pie.
The other thing about Christmas were visits. Your family could visit instead of just one person, and they could bring presents. Not wrapped, and it had to be on an approved list, but it was something.
My visit was Wednesday, just before Christmas. The guards escorted us into the visitor’s room. Normally, you didn’t go until your visitor arrived, but they had decorations and punch and cookies, and it was special.
Some families were already there. A new prisoner was with his wife and son. It was the first time he had seen his baby so this was a good thing. I grabbed a paper cup full of punch and waited, watching families brought in one by one from the guardroom. They were being searched and their gifts checked, so it was a slow process.
Then I saw Billy, the guard from my block, come in. He spotted me, then walked over. I could tell something was wrong.
“Your visit’s cancelled.”
“What do you mean cancelled?”
“Calm down. There was a problem with a gift they brought in.” He put one hand on my shoulder. “Your son brought a tie. You know that ain’t on the list. We tried explaining that, but he got upset, started crying. Then your wife got mad and began raising hell at the guards. We escorted them out. I’m sorry.”
“Sorry! You made my kid cry? Johnnie! Maria!” I began yelling for my wife and son, struggling toward the guardroom. Billy held me back while two other guards came over.
“Johnnie! It’s okay son!” I yelled as the guards restrained me. I made one more lunge toward the door and a guard put a baton against my throat as the others pulled me toward the cellblocks. I jerked one arm free and punched the guard with the stick. That’s the last thing I remember as he raised it to strike me across the head. I woke up in solitaire, my head bandaged. Nothing to mark the passage of time, but the rotation of the lights and the meals. I think I’ve been here four days now, so today’s Christmas. I’ve never been in the hole on Christmas. I wondered if I would get ham and turkey.