19 | Youngster, Wrath, and an Almost-Empty Peanut Butter Jar

May 4, 2008
Sunday 9:30 a.m.
Letter #19: Youngster, Wrath, and an Almost-Empty Peanut Butter Jar


Dear Family,

Good morning. I’ve had some tough moments as a porter, and I want to share some of those with you. God is teaching me through these times, and I am blessed. However, I want you to get an inside glimpse of the realities of being here.

First, last night: I was asked to come over to the door of 112. “Wrath” and his cellie, “Youngster,” are white and generally good-natured, but tell me to “take care of the whites first” and such. Youngster has sent a couple of “anonymous” kites (notes) to guys, supposedly as a “joke.” Well it riled up the guys—one stated: “Watch out. Your cellie killed his wife …” and other worse things.

When asked to pass a third note, I laughed and walked away. Wrath told me that Youngster is “just a big prankster”—please pass his note.

I did, to cell 114, a hearing-impaired guy with a short stature and temper. I quickly found out he didn’t like it. I never told him who it was from but passed along his sentiments to Youngster. I was appalled at the vileness of the note (it called him a lame, amongst other things) that threatened he would be jumped by 5–6 guys at breakfast if he didn’t “roll it up”—prison slang for leaving the dorm, indicating your cot.

I wrote this note (that follows) to Youngster last night. Cell 114 stayed in their cell for breakfast and dayroom. (Note: Youngster’s note was poorly written, so I intentionally wrote just over his head. His cellie, Wrath, is a voracious reader and could translate for him. It was my hidden way of calling him “lame.”)  🙂  Here goes:

Youngster—Hey, Bro. I guess you’ve maybe figured out that the kite you sent over to 114 as a poorly conceived “joke” wasn’t received well by your target audience. I’ve been following your comedic career from the unwitting position of producer, since you’ve chosen me to bear your tidings of ill will. As you may recall, the previous recipients (226 and 105) weren’t too thrilled either, but this last one must have been written while your “joke” writers were on strike … that is, if humor was actually your goal, as you claimed. Dude in 114 wasn’t laughing, anyway. He passed me a note, which, when I read it, realized was your original note to him. I shot it right back and told him he’d have to handle it himself. [I also assured him—over and over—that it was a joke, though a bad one, and that I’d have his back if anything went down.]

 I guess he told [C.O.] Winters, who questioned me at my cell door. I admitted to passing the kite, but I wouldn’t tell him where it originated. So, the blame goes to me. Stupid me; I guess I’m supposed to “sensor” any and all objectionable material prior to aiding in its distribution? Otherwise, I get the fun job of taking the responsibility. And, you know what? As much as I can’t wait for my family to visit, I’d gladly go to the hole, giving up any visit, rather than rat someone out. I’m no lame, but it seems as if I’m       being played like I am. So, if you don’t mind, “humor” me by answering this question: What did I ever do to you that would give cause for this insult? I know I’m not the greatest “white porter” you’ve had, but heck, I’m trying, Bro!

 You should know by now that I listen to criticism and try to learn from it. I try to serve you the best I can, and you probably realize that means I’m at your house more than any others, and I’m glad to do it! However, I won’t be passing any more “anonymous” attempts at self-amusement. I’ll be happy to serve you in every way I can, and I’m cool with you, alright? Thanks for understanding, Youngster.

 All the best to you,


 I’m putting it in a sealed envelope under his door when I go to clean the showers today at 2:30, so he should have a response by tonight—or, he’s downstairs, so he may just call up through our shared vent.

This week brought bittersweet news for Gypsy and me: he’ll be on a bus early tomorrow morning, headed to finish out the remainder of his term at CCI “Tehachapi.” His release date is December 9, 2008. He’s been a great cellie of almost two months, and I’ll miss his humor, stories, concern for me, and his companionship. I’m praying he’ll be able to reunite with his daughters (both married) when he gets out and fulfill a dream he has of pointing them to Christ. I also pray he’ll somehow turn from the only ways of making money he knows: stealing and “fortune telling.” He assumes he’ll be back in prison (this is his seventh term!), so it will take a drastic lifestyle change for him to stay out. It’s the same with him as with most others here: if he stays away from drugs, the rest will be easy. Supporting a habit usually necessitates either a life of crime or being a celebrity, which he is not, yet.

As he was leaving, packing up his stuff, I decided to send him with my peanut butter jar, which I’d never touched since buying it “just in case” from store. I dug under the bunks into my cubbyhole spot and pulled out a very lightweight peanut butter jar. Let’s just say that it was fairly simple for me to deduce that he’d taken me up on my offer to help himself to any of my food.  🙂  He’d hinted there was something I’d “find out” after he left.

There was an “apology” note deep inside the nearly empty jar, encased in a piece of plastic bag (I’ve not read it yet). I took my lunch peanut butter packet and squeezed it inside, then traded a future breakfast coffee cake and three coffees for our neighbor’s packet. His and Gypsy’s followed mine, leaving him with nearly half a jar—and us with a big laugh over it. He’ll be missed, but we’ve promised to stay in touch. I just got a big hug and we’re both in tears after I read this to him.

I’ll write more later, to send tomorrow. I love you all!