Wobbly, the Rough-And-Tumble Story of an American Radical

By Ralph Chaplin | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 23. THERE ARE THREE HUNDRED
AND SIXTY-FIVE DAYS IN A YEAR

FOR the lawmaker, the judge, and the good citizen there are three hundred and sixty-five days in a year just as there are for the prisoner. Interest in the condemned felon generally stops when the prison gate is locked between him and the outside world. The lawmaker, the judge, and the good citizen have little concern for what happens afterward. Yet each of those three hundred and sixty-five days and nights is an example of the ancient medicine which society administers as an antidote for ancient and modern crimes. I was privileged to observe at first hand how the time-honored principle of retaliatory imprisonment works out. Here is a typical day of it:

A flutter of activity is rippling through the cell block. We must all slip into our faded blue or khaki prison suits. We must wash our faces now and comb our hair and make up our bunks neatly— army style. We must hurry, too, for the padded step of the guard sounds on the iron gallery. It is "Goose-Neck," and we trust he isn't feeling cross this morning. He wears an untidy blue uniform and carries a policeman's club. Now we must stand near the iron door of the cell. It is a good idea to remain this way until the count is repeated and approved by the deputy's office.

"Jeeze, dose bedbugs was fierce las' night; helluva lot worse dan in 'D.' Looka my arms—all chewed up!"

It is our cell partner, "Bugs" Morelli, speaking. He is here for transporting stolen automobiles. He is Jewish, with the hard-bitten face of a young gangster. For a long time Bugs has been anxious to cell with "Spike" Kelly of St. Louis, who lives a few doors away. Spike was a big shot among car fences of the Midwest until he was apprehended a few months ago. Spike and Bugs have arranged to go into "business" together when they get out.

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