Ragen found Lebanon an improvement over Mansfield Reformatory. It was newer, cleaner, brighter. At the first day’s orientation session, he listened to the lectures on rules and regulations, the descriptions of the prison schools and jobs.
A big man with heavy jowls and a football player’s neck got up and, arms crossed, rocked back and forth.
“All right,” he said. “Ah’m Cap’n Leach. So you guys think you’re hot shit? Well, now you’re mine! You done fucked up on the street, but you mess up down here, Ah’m gonna bust your heads. The hell with civil rights, human rights, everything else rights. Down here you all nothing but a piece of meat. You get outta line, Ah’m gonna grind you …”
He hammered away at them for fifteen minutes. Ragen decided the man was trying to whip them into line with words, just blowing hot air.
Then Ragen noticed that the psychologist, a thin, sandyhaired man with glasses, took the same tack. “You men are nothing now. Just numbers. You have no identity. No one cares who you are or that you’re here. You’re nothing but criminals and convicts.”
As the little man insulted them, several of the new prisoners became upset and started shouting back.
“Who the hell are you to tell us that?”
“What kind of shit is that, man?”
“I ain’t no number!”
“You fucking crazy, man!”
“Blow it out your asshole, shrink!”
Ragen observed the inmates’ reactions to the verbal assaults. He suspected the psychologist was intentionally provoking them.
“See?” the psychologist said, jabbing his forefinger at them. “Look whats happening. You can’t fit into society because when you’re put into a pressure situation, you don’t know how to control it. You counteract a verbal statement with raw hostility and violence. Maybe you can see now why society wants to lock you away in a cage until you learn to adjust.” The men, realizing he’d been teaching them a lesson, sat back and grinned at each other sheepishly.
In the main corridor, some of the veteran imnates watched and jeered as the new men walked out of the orientation room. “Hey, lookit. New meat!”
“Hey, bitches, see ya later.”
“That one’s a good-looker. She’s mine.”
“Hell, I saw her first, she’s my punk.”
Ragen knew they were pointing to him, and he stared back coldly.
In his cell that night, he discussed things with Arthur. “You’re in charge here,” Arthur said, “but I’d like to point out that a great deal of that teasing and joking is merely prisoners’ letting off steam in a pressure-cooker situation. Anything to get a bit of laughter. You would do well to discriminate between the prison comedians and those who might really be dangerous.”
Ragen nodded. “Is exactly vat I am thinking.”
“I have another suggestion.”
Ragen listened with a half smile. It amused him to hear Arthur making suggestions instead of issuing orders.
“I noticed that those inmates wearing green hospital uniforms are the only ones—except for the guards—allowed to walk in the center of the corridors. When the time comes to apply for a work detail, it might be advisable to have Allen request assignment to the prison hospital.”
“For vat reason?”
“Working as a medic could provide a margin of safety— especially for the children. You see, in a prison community a medical attendant is respected, since every inmate knows that someday he might need emergency treatment. I would do the work, using Allen to communicate.”
Ragen agreed it was a good idea.
The next day, when the guards talked to the new prisoners about work experience and previous specialization, Allen said he thought he would like to work in the prison hospital.
“Y’all got training?” asked Captain Leach.
Allen answered as Arthur had coached him: “When I was in the Navy, there was a pharmacists’ school at Great Lakes Naval Base. I worked in the hospital there.”
It wasn’t exactly a lie. Arthur had studied those things on his own. He hadn’t exactly said he’d been trained as a medic.
The following week the call came down from the prison hospital that Dr. Harris Steinberg, the medical director, wanted to see Milligan. Walking the wide halls, Allen noticed that Lebanon was laid out in the form of a giant nine-legged crab. The central corridor was lined with offices, but at various intervals the cell-block corridor branched off in all directions. At the hospital Allen waited in the outer room separated by unbreakable glass partitions, watching Dr. Steinberg, an elderly white-haired man with a kind, ruddy face and a gentle smile. Allen noticed there were paintings on the walls.
Finally Dr. Steinberg waved him into his office. “I understand you have lab experience.”
“All my life I’ve wanted to be a doctor,” Allen said. “I thought with a big prison population like this, you might be able to use someone who could do blood counts and urine tests.”
“Ever do that before?”
Allen nodded. “Of course, it was a long time ago and I probably forgot a great deal, but I can learn. I’m fast. And like I say, working in this field is my great ambition when I get out of here. I’ve got medical books at fiome I’ve studied on my own. I’m particularly interested in hematology, and if you’d just give me a chance, I’d appreciate it.”
He could tell Steinberg wasn’t really taken in by his fast-talking, so he searched for other ways to impress the doctor. “Those paintings are fascinating,” Allen said, quickly glancing at the wall. “I prefer oils to acrylics, but whoever did those has a good eye for detail.”
He saw Steinberg’s expression change to one of interest. “You paint?”
“All my life. Medicine is the career I’ve chosen, but ever since I was a kid, people said I had a natural talent. Maybe someday you’ll let me paint your portrait. You’ve got a strong face.”
“I collect art,” Steinberg said. “And I paint a little myself.”
“I’ve always felt art and medicine complemented each other.”
“Ever sell any of your paintings?”
“Oh, quite a few. Landscapes, still lifes, portraits. I hope I’ll get a chance to paint while I’m here.”
Steinberg toyed with his pen. “All right, Milligan. I”ll give you a chance to work in the lab. You can start by mopping up the floor, and when you’re done with that, you can straighten up the place. You’ll work with Stormy, the duty nurse. He’ll show you the ropes.”
Arthur was delighted. He didn’t at all mind getting up earlier than the other prisoners to do the blood tests. Dismayed at what he considered inadequate medical records, he began to keep his own charts on the fourteen diabetics he soon came to think of as his patients. He spent most of the day at the lab ;working with the microscope and preparing slides. When he [went back to his cell at three-thirty, tired but happy, he paid little attention to his new cell mate, a slight and taciturn man.
I Adalana decorated the bare cell by spreading patterned itowels on the floor and hanging them on the walls. Allen soon ‘began wheeling and dealing—trading a flowered towel for a carton of cigarettes, then lending cigarettes out at two-for-one ^’interest and ending up with two cartons at the end of the week. He kept pyramiding his barter. Along with what his mother and Marlene sent or brought him, he was able to buy food form the commissary and thus avoid the dining room in the evenings. He would plug his sink with a rubber stopper borrowed from the lab, fill it with hot water and let a can of chicken and dumplings, soup or beef stew heat up until it was warm enough to be palatable.
He wore his green uniform proudly, delighted at the privilege of being allowed to walk and even run down the main corridor instead of moving like a cockroach against the walls. He enjoyed being called “Doc,” and he sent Marlene the names of some medical books to buy for him. Arthur was serious about studying medicine.
When Tommy learned that many of the other prisoners had their girl friends on the visitors’ list as common-law wives so they would be allowed to visit the prison, he told Ragen he wanted Marlene down as his wife. Arthur was opposed at first, but Ragen overruled him. As Milligans wife, she could bring things to the prison.
“Write to her,” Ragen said, “to bring oranges. But first to use hypodermic and inject vodka. Is very good.”
“Lee” took the spot for the first time in Lebanon. Comedian, wit, practical joker, he exemplified Arthur’s theory that laughter was a safety valve appreciated by most inmates. The teasing by other inmates that had a first frightened Danny and angered Ragen was now practiced by Lee. Ragen had heard of Billy’s father, the stand-up comic and M.C. who had billed himself as “half music and half wit.” Ragen had decided that Lee had a role to play in prison.
But Lee went beyond funny stories. He loaded Allens cigarettes by scraping the sulfur off a couple of matches, soaking a matchstick in sugar water, rolling it in sulfur and burying it in the tobacco. He’d carry a couple of these in Allen’s pack, and when an inmate would ask for a cigarette, Lee would hand over a loaded one. By the time he was down the corridor or leaving the cafeteria, he could hear the shout of rage from the victim as the cigarette flared. Several of them exploded in Allen’s face.
One morning when the blood work was done, Arthur, thinking about the incidence of sickle-cell anemia among black inmates, left the spot. Lee, finding himself with nothing to do, decided on some mischief. He opened a jar of onion-oil extract, dipped a swab into it and lined the eyepiece rims of the microscope.
“Hey, Stormy,” he said, handing the medic a slide, “Dr. Steinberg wants this white-blood-cell count quick. You’d better check this under the microscope.”
Stormy placed the slide on the microscope stage and focused. Suddenly his head snapped up, eyes filling with tears.
“What’s the matter?” Lee asked innocently. “Is it that sad?”
Unable to control himself Stormy roared, laughing through his tears. “Goddamn sonofabitch. You’re a real funny motherfucker, ain’t you?” He went to the sink and washed his eyes.
A short while later, Lee watched a prisoner’ come in and give Stormy five bucks. Stormy took Flask 11-C off a crowded shelf pulled the cork and handed it to the man, who took a deep swig.
“What’s that?” Lee asked when the prisoner had left.
“White lightning. Make it myself. I get five bucks a hit. If I’m ever not around when a customer comes in, you can handle the business for me and I’ll cut you in for a buck.” Lee said he’d be happy to oblige.
“Look,” Stormy went on, “Dr. Steinberg wants that first-aid cabinet straightened out. Would you do it? I got some things to take care of.”
While Lee rearranged the first-aid supplies, Stormy took Flask 11-C off the shelf emptied the alcohol into a beaker and filled the flask with water. Then he lined the rim with bittersweet concentrate.
“I gotta see Dr. Steinberg about something,” he said to Lee. “Mind the store, will ya?”
Ten minutes later, a huge black prisoner came into the lab and said, “Gimme 11-C, man. I paid Stormy ten bucks for two hits. He said you’d know where it is. ”
Lee handed the flask to the black man, who quickly put it to his mouth and tilted it upward. Suddenly his eyes opened wide and he spat and gagged.
“Goddamned honkie sonofabitch! What kind of shit you pullin’ on me?” He kept puckering his mouth, making odd movements with his lips, trying to wipe the taste off with his sleeve.
He grabbed the flask by the neck, brought it down sharply against the desk, shattering the bottom of it, splattering the liquid all over Lee’s hospital greens. Then he brandished the jagged edge. “I gonna cut you up, honkie!”
Lee backed toward the door. “Ragen,” he whispered. “Hey, Ragen.”
Lee, feeling terror build, expected Ragen to come to his defense. But no one came. He dashed out the door and down the hall, with the black man in pursuit.
Ragen started to take the spot, but Arthur said, “Lee must be taught a lesson.”
“I cannot let him be cut,” Ragen said.
“If he’s not taught proper restraint,” Arthur said, “he might 1 be a greater danger in the future.”
Ragen accepted the suggestion and made no move to intervene as Lee ran down the hall, terrified, shouting, “Where the hell are you, Ragen?”
When Ragen felt Lee had had enough and the situation had become too dangerous, he bumped Lee off the spot. As the black man came abreast of a gumey, Ragen stopped and spun the hospital bed directly into his pursuers path. The big man went down with the gumey and fell on the broken flask, cutting his arm.
“Is finish!” Ragen roared.
The black man jumped up, shaking with anger. Ragen grabbed him, threw him into the X-ray room and slammed him against the wall.
“Is over,” Ragen said. “If you do not stop, I destroy you!”
The man’s eyes opened wide at the sudden change. In place of the frightened white boy, he found himself cornered by a nut with a Russian accent and a wild look in his eyes. He was caught in a powerful lock from behind, an arm crushing his neck.
“Ve stop now,” Ragen whispered into his ear. “Is necessary to clean this up.”
“Yeah, man, thats cool, that’s cool …”
Ragen let him go. The black man backed away. “I’m goin’ now, man. No hard feelin’s. Everything’s cool …” He took off, walking fast.
“That,” said Arthur, “was a barbaric way of handling the situation.”
“Vat you vould have done?” Ragen asked.
Arthur shrugged. “If I had your physical capabilities, probably the same thing.”
“What about Lee?” Arthur asked. “It is your decision.”
“He is undesirable.”
“Yes. What good is a person whose whole life is made up of practical jokes? He is a useless android.”
Lee was banished. But rather than live in the limbo of the darkness around the spot, unable to face an existence without practical jokes and comic behavior, he made himself disappear completely.
For a long time, no one laughed.
Tommy’s letters began to show unpredictable swings of mood. He wrote Marlene, “My knuckles are swollen,” and described a fight he’d had with some inmates who had been stealing his postage stamps. On August 6, he swore he was going to commit suicide. Five days later he wrote her to send him acrylics so he could start painting again.
Arthur captured four mice that he kept as pets. He studied their behavior and began to write a long report about the possibility of grafting the skin of mice on human bum victims. One afternoon in the lab, while he was making some notes, three inmates came in. One stood guard and the other two confronted him.
“Gimme the package,” one of them said. “We know you got it. Give it over.”
Arthur shook his head and went back to writing his notes. The two prisoners came around the desk and grabbed him . . .
Ragen pulled the two men down, kicking one and then the other. When the inmate who had been standing guard outside the lab came at him with a knife, Ragen broke his wrist. The three of them fled, one shouting, “You a dead man, Milligan. I’m contracting your ass.”
Ragen asked Arthur if he knew what was going on.
“A package,” Arthur said. “From the way they acted, I imagine it would be drugs.”
He searched the lab and the dispensary. Finally, behind some books and papers on a top shel? he found a plastic bag with white powder.
Allen asked, “Is it smack?”
“I’ll have to run some tests to be sure,” Arthur said, putting it on the scales. “There’s half a kilo here.”
He discovered it was cocaine.
“What are you gonna do with it?”
Arthur tore open the package and dumped the white powder down the toilet.
“Someone’s gonna be awful sore,” Allen said.
But Arthur was already back to thinking about his skin-graft report.
Arthur had heard about the state prison blues. Most prisoners went through an anxiety period during the process of becoming institutionalized. As the inmate faced losing his independence and his identity and was forced to accept suppression, the change often led to depression and an emotional breakdown. For Milligan it caused a mix-up time.
The letters to Marlene changed. Philip and Kevin, who had been writing obscenities and drawing pornographic cartoons, stopped. Now the letters showed a fear of insanity. Tommy ’< letters said he was having strange hallucinations. He also wrote that he was studying medical books day and night. When he got his parole, he wrote, he was going to study medicine, “even if it takes fifteen years.” They would marry, he promised, and have a house, and he would do research and be a specialist. “How does that sound?” he wrote. “Dr. and Mrs. Milligan.”
On October 4, because of the cocaine episode, Milligan was transferred to C block and kept segregated in protective isolation. His medical books and portable TV set were taken away from him. Ragen ripped the steel bed rails from the wall and jammed them into the door. Workmen had to remove the dooi to get him out of his cell.
He had difficulty sleeping and complained of frequent; vomiting and blurred vision. Dr. Steinberg saw him from time to time and administered mild sedatives and antispasmodics. Though he felt that Milligan s problems were essentially psychological, on October 13 he ordered that Milligan be taken from Lebanon to the Central Medical Center in Columbus for treatment.
While Allen was there, he wrote to the American Civil Liberties Union for help, but nothing came of it. After ten days in Columbus, it was discovered that he had a peptic ulcer. He| was put on a Sippy ulcer diet and returned to protective isolation in Lebanon. He learned that he would not be eligible for parole until April 1977—a year and a half away.
Christmas and New Years came and went, and on January 27, 1976, Allen took part with the other inmates in a hunger)! strike. He wrote to his brother:
As I lay here in my cell my thoughts are of you and I as children. I As my own time goes by my soul gains hatred for life. I am sorry j for I’m the fault of your family being broken and which family I was hardly a part of. You have a great life ahead of you with many goals. Don’t blow it as I. If you hate me for this I’m sorry. But I still respect you as I do the wind and sun. Jim I swear to God as my witness I didn’t do what I am accused of. God says everyone has a place and a destiny. I guess this is minel I am sorry of the shame I have caused you and everyone around me.
Tommy wrote to Marlene:
To My Marvene,
OK Marv, there is a hunger strike and big riot starting. I am getting this letter to you in case the inmates take over. No mail will get out if they do. The screaming and glass breaking is getting louder. I would be killed if I try to get food off the cart— Someone started a fire! but they got it put out. Guards are dragging people out right and left. The movement is slow but the inmates will probably take over by the middle of next week. I told you so!!! They are standing outside with shot guns but that still wont stop these guys. I miss you Marvene! I just want to die. Things are getting bad. In the next few days this thing may get on the 6 oclock news. Right now its just on the Cinci radio. If it becomes a full scale dont come around. I know there will be thousands of people out side, you wouldn’t get in the front gate. I love you Marvene and miss you. Do me a favor. The guys around me told me to send this to my Home town radio. They need public support to get what they want. Sent it to W.H.O.K. Thank you from all the guys. Well Marv I love you veiry verry verry much take care.
If things are ok bring cocoa.
“Bobby” scratched his name on the steel bunk in solitary confinement. Here he was able to indulge in his fantasies. He saw himself as an actor in a movie or on TV, traveling to far-off places and having heroic adventures.
He hated being called “Robert” by the others and would insist, “I’m Bobbyl”
He had an inferiority complex, no ambition of his own, and he lived like a sponge, soaking up ideas and thoughts of others, passing them off as his own. But when anyone suggested he do something, he would say, “I can’t do it.” He alone lacked confidence in his ability to carry out a plan.
When Bobby first heard about the hunger strike, he imagined himself leading it, setting an example for the other prisoners. Like the great Mahatma Gandhi of India, he woulc bring the repressive authorities to their knees by his fasting When the strike ended a week later, Bobby decided he wouldn’t stop. He lost a great deal of weight.
One evening when a guard opened his cell door to bring hi; food tray, Bobby pushed it back at him and threw the slop al over his face.
Arthur and Ragen agreed that though Bobby’s fantasie; helped them survive the long months in prison, his fasting wa; weakening the body. Ragen declared him undesirable.
Tommy walked out of the visiting room one afternoon after ? visit from Billy’s mom, who had come to celebrate her son’; twenty-first birthday. He looked back through the window anc saw something he hadn’t noticed before; In different parts o: the room, prisoners were sitting beside their women, hand; out of sight behind the small square tables, not talking or ever looking at each other, but staring straight ahtead, nonchalantly, almost glassy-eyed.
When he mentioned it to Jonsie, a prisoner in the cell nexi to his, Jonsie laughed. “Man, don’t you know nothin’? Hell, it’; Valentine’s Day. They’s hand-fiickin’.”
“I don’t believe it.”
“Man, when you got a woman who’ll do anythin’ for you, she comes up here with a skirt ‘steada pants, and she don’t got or no underwear. Next time we’s visitin’ at the same time, IT show you my honey’s ass.”
The following week he was coming in to see Billy’s morr when Jonsie and his beautiful red-haired girl friend were heading out. Jonsie winked and flipped up the back of her skirt, showing her naked bottom.
Tommy blushed and turned away.
That night, in the middle of Tommy’s letter to Marlene, the handwriting changed. Philip wrote: “If you love me, next time you come, wear a skirt, but don’t wear no underwear.”
By March 1976, Allen began to hope for parole in June, but when the parole board put the hearing off for two more months, he became worried. He’d heard, through the prison grapevine, that the only way to ensure a parole was to pay ofl the clerk who filed the application in the central office/ Allen wheeled and dealed, sketching in pencil and charcoal, then selling the sketches to inmates and guards for items that could be stockpiled and traded. He wrote to Marlene, begging her once again to bring oranges spiked by hypodermic with hundred-proof vodka. One was for Ragen and the others were to sell.
On June 21, eight months after having first been put in protective isolation, he wrote Marlene that he was certain the parole-hearing delay was some kind of psychological testing, “or else I’m so goddamned stone crazy I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing Da-da-da.” Still isolated, he was moved to C block’s “psych range,” a group of ten cells reserved for inmates with mental problems. Danny stabbed himself shortly after, and when he refused treatment, he was taken once again to the Central Medical Center in Columbus. After a brief stay he was returned to Lebanon.
During his stay in C block, Allen kept sending “kites” to Warden Dallman, official messages protesting his protective isolation, which he had been told had to be voluntary. His constitutional rights were being violated, he wrote, and he threatened to sue everybody. After a few weeks, Arthur suggested a change of tactics—silence. Speak to no one, neither inmates nor guards. He knew that would worry them. And the children refused to eat.
In August, after eleven months in protective isolation, being shifted back and forth from the psych range, he was told he could return to the prison population. “We could put you to work where it isn’t very dangerous,” Warden Dallman said. He indicated the pencil sketches all over the cell wall. “I’ve heard about your artistic talents. What if we put you to work in Mr. Reinert’s art class?”
Allen nodded happily.
The following day Tommy went to the graphic-arts room. It was a busy place, filled with people working on silkscreens, lettering, cameras and a printing press. The thin, wiry man called Mr. Reinert looked at Tommy sidewise through thoughtful eyes as the prisoner sat around for the first few days, not interested in what was going on around him.
“What would you like to do?” Reinert asked him.
“I’d like to paint. I’m good at oils.”
Reinert cocked his head and looked up at him. “None of the prisoners do oil painting.”
Tommy shrugged. “That’s what I do.”
“All right, Milligan. Come with me. I think I know where we can get some stuff for you.”
Tommy was in luck: The graphic-arts project at the Chil-licothe Correctional Facility had recently closed down, and they had sent the oil paints, canvases and stretchers to Lebanon. Reinert helped him set up an easel and told him to go ahead and paint.
Half an hour later, Tommy brought him a landscape and Reinert was stunned. “Milligan, I’ve never seen someone paint so fast. And it’s good.”
Tommy nodded. “I had to learn to paint fast if I wanted to be able to finish anything.”
Though oil painting was not a part of the program and was generally not done in the graphic-arts classes, Reinert realized that Milligan was most at ease with a brush in his hand; so, Monday through Friday, he allowed him to paint all he wanted. The prisoners, the guards and even some of the administrative staff admired Tommy’s landscapes. He painted some fast hackwork for bartering, and these he signed “Milligan”; others he painted for himselfj and he was allowed to send them out of the prison when his mother or Marlene came to visit.
Dr. Steinberg began to drop into the graphic-arts unit from time to time to ask Milligan’s advice about his own painting. Tommy showed him how to handle perspective, how to paint rocks to make them look as if they were underwater. Steinberg came into the prison on his own time weekends and had Milligan taken out of his cell so that the two of them could paint together. Knowing that Milligan hated prison food, the doctor would always bring along submarine sandwiches or bagels with cream cheese and lox.
“I wish I could paint in my cell,” Tommy said to Reinert one weekend.
Reinert shook his head. “Not with two prisoners in a cell. It’s against the rules.”
But that rule didn’t apply for long. Several evenings later, two guards came to shake down Milligan’s cell and found marijuana. “Ain’t mine,” Tommy said, afraid they wouldn’t believe him and that he’d be sent to the “hole,” a bare, isolated punishment cell. But when they questioned his cell mate, the young man broke down and admitted he’d smoked it because he was upset about his wife leaving him. He was sent to isolation, and Milligan had the cell to himself for a while.
Reinert talked to Lieutenant Moreno, the officer in charge of the cell block, suggesting that Milligan be allowed to paint in his cell until they put another prisoner in with him. Moreno agreed. Thus, every day after the graphic-arts room closed down at three-thirty, Milligan would go back to his cell to paint until it was time to sleep. Days went by quickly. It was easier to do time.
Then one day a guard mentioned that a new prisoner would be put in his cell. Allen stopped by Lieutenant Moreno’s office.
“Mr. Moreno, if you put someone else in with me, I won’t be able to paint my pictures.”
“Well, you’ll have to do it elsewhere, then.”
“Can I explain something to you?”
“Come back later in the day and we’ll talk about it.”
After lunch, Allen came back from graphic arts with a painting Tommy had just finished. Moreno stared at it. “You did that?” he asked. The lieutenant held up the painting and looked at the deep-green landscape with the river winding off into the depths. “Hey, I’d sure like to have one of these.” “I’d paint you one,” Allen said. “Only I can’t paint in my cell anymore.”
“Oh . . . well, let’s wait a minute here. You’d paint a picture for me?”
“Free of charge.”
Moreno called to his assistant: “Casey, take that new man’s name out of the slot for Milligan’s cell. Put a blank slip in there and put X’s on it.” Then he turned to Allen. “Don’t worry about it. You’ve got about nine more months, then you go to the board? There won’t be anyone else in your cell.”
Allen was delighted, and Tommy and Danny and he painted every spare minute, making sure not to finish any single painting.
“You’ve got to be careful,” Arthur suggested. “As soon as Moreno gets his painting, he might back down on his word.” Allen stalled Moreno for nearly two weeks, then walked into his office to present a painting of a wharf with boats tied to it. Moreno was overjoyed.
“You’re sure this’ll keep anybody else from coming in my cell?” Allen asked. ^
“I put it right up on the board. You can go in and look at it.” Allen went into the security room, and beneath his name he saw the slip with the notation “Do not put inmate in Milligan’s cell.” It was covered with transparent tape and it looked permanent.
Milligan painted in a frenzy of productivity. Paintings for the guards, for the administrators, for Mom and Marlene to take home and sell. One day he was asked to do one for the front lobby, and Tommy painted a huge canvas that was to be hung behind the admissions desk. He made the mistake of signing his own name to it, but before he presented it, Allen discovered the error, blacked out the name and signed it “Milligan.” Most of these paintings did not satisfy him. They were for trading or selling quickly. But one day he became involved in a painting that was very important to him, adapted from a painting he saw in an art book.
Allen, Tommy and Danny took turns working on “The Grace of Cathleen.” It was originally planned to be a seventeenth-century aristocratic lady holding a mandolin. Allen worked on the face and hands. Tommy worked on the background. Danny painted the details. When the time came to put the mandolin in her hands, Danny realized he didn’t know how to paint one, so he painted in a piece of sheet music instead. For forty-eight hours, without stopping, they took turns working on it. And when they were done, Milligan collapsed in his bunk and slept.
“Steve” had not spent much time on the spot before Lebanon. An expert and daring driver, he had been behind the wheel a few times when he was younger, and boasted of being the best driver in the world. Ragen allowed him on the spot in Lebanon after Lee was banished, because Steve, too, had the ability to make people laugh. He was, Steve liked to brag, one of the best mimics alive. He could imitate anyone and send an audience of inmates into spasms of laughter. Imitations were his way of mocking people. Steve was the hell-raiser, the perpetual impostor.
It angered Ragen when Steve imitated his Yugoslavian accent, and it infuriated Arthur when he mocked him by talking
in a lower-class British accent. “I do not speak that way,” Arthur insisted. “I do not have a cockney accent.”
“Hes going to get us into trouble,” Allen said.
One afternoon Steve was standing in the corridor behind Captain Leach, arms crossed, mimicking Leach’s manner of rocking back and forth on his heels. Leach turned and caught him at it. “All right, Milligan, you can practice your performance in the hole. Maybe ten days in isolation will teach you a lesson.”
“Allen warned us something would happen,” Arthur said to Ragen. “Steve is useless. He has no ambition, no talent. All he does is laugh at people, and while observers may laugh at his antics, the individual who is mocked becomes our enemy. You’re in domination, but I put it to you that we hardly need more enemies.”
Ragen agreed that Steve was undesirable and told him he was banished. Steve refused to get off the spot, and mocking Ragens accent, he growled, “Vat you mean? You do not exist. None of you. You are all figments of my imagination. I am only one here. I am only real person. The rest of you are hallucinations.”
Ragen slammed him into the wall and bloodied his forehead. Then Steve left the spot.
At Arthurs urging, Allen applied to take courses given at the prison by instructors from the Shaker Valley branch campus of the community college. He enrolled in English, industrial design, basic math and industrial advertising. He got As in the art classes and B + ’s in English and Math. His ratings in graphic arts were all at the highest level—’’exceptional,” “highly productive,” “rapid learner,” “highly reliable,” “excellent relations,” “highly motivated.”
On April 5, 1977, Allen appeared before the parole board and was told he would be released within three weeks.
When he finally got the letter of release, Allen was so overjoyed, he coudn’t sit still. He paced back and forth in his cell. Finally he took the letter and made it into a paper airplane. The day before his scheduled release, passing Captain Leach’s office, he whistled. When Leach looked up, Allen sailed the parole-board-letter airplane past him and walked off with a smile.
The last day in Lebanon, April 25, took forever. Allen had been up the night before until three in the morning, pacing his cell. He told Arthur he felt he should have more say over who was on or off the spot now that they were going to be on the outside again. “I’m the one who has to deal with people,” Allen said, “the one who has to talk our way out of situations. ” “It will be difficult for Ragen to yield domination as it is,” I Arthur said, “after two years of absolute control. He would not take kindly to a triumvirate. I believe Ragen has ideas of continuing to rule.”
“Well, you’ll be the boss as soon as we walk out those doors. I’m the one who’s going to have to find a job and readjust to society. I need to have more say in things.”
Arthur pursed his lips. “That’s not an unreasonable request, Allen. Though I cannot speak for Ragen, you will have my support. ”
Downstairs, a guard handed him a new suit, and Allen was amazed at the quality and the fit.
“Well, your mother sent it in,” the guard said. “It’s one of your own.”
“Oh yeah,” Allen said, pretending to remember.
Another guard came in with a voucher for him to sign. Before he could leave, he had to pay thirty cents for a plastic cup missing from his cell.
“They took that away from me when they moved me out of isolation,” Allen said, “and they never gave it back.”
“I don’t know about that. You got to pay for it.”
“Well, I can play that game too!” Allen shouted. “I won’t pay!”
They took him down to Mr. Dunn’s office, and the administrator asked what the trouble was on his last day there.
“They want to charge me for a plastic cup they took away from me. I didn’t have anything to do with that thing coming up missing.”
“You’ve got to pay the thirty cents,” Dunn said.
“I’ll be damned if I will.”
“You can’t leave here until you do.”
“I can camp right here,” Allen said, sitting down. “I’m not paying for something I didn’t do. It’s the principle of the thing.”
Dunn finally let him go, and as he walked to the holding cell where he was to be picked up by his mother, Marlene and Kathy, Arthur asked, “Did you have to do that?”
“Like I said to Dunn, its the principle.”
Bob Reinert came up to see him off, and so did Dr. Steinberg, who slipped him some money as final payment for one of his paintings.
Allen was eager to get out the door, impatient as Billy’s mother talked to Dr. Steinberg. “Come on,” Allen said to Dorothy. “Lets go.”
“Just a minute, Billy,” she said. “I’m talking.”
He stood there fretting, watching her talk on and on.
“Can we go?”
“All right, just relax a minute.”
He paced back and forth, grumbling as his mother kept talking. Finally, he shouted, “Mother, I’m leaving. If you wanna stay, you can.”
“Oh well, good-by, Dr. Steinberg. I want to thank you for all you’ve done for my Billy.”
He headed toward the door and she followed him. The steel door whooshed behind them, and Allen realized that on the way in he had never heard that second door close.
By the time Kathy brought the car around, Allen was still angry. When a man is getting out of prison, he thought, what you do is just open the door and let him run. You don’t keep him inside by standing around gossiping. It was bad enough when the law kept you in the place, but when your gabby mother was doing it, that was too much. He sulked in the car.
“Pull over to the bank in Lebanon,” he said finally. “I’d better cash my prison check here. No sense cashing it in Lancaster, having them all know I just got out of jail.”
He went inside, endorsed the paycheck and put it on the counter. When the teller handed him the fifty dollars, he put the bills in his wallet along with the money Dr. Steinberg had given him. Still angry, and now getting angry that he was angry, Allen just didn’t want to deal with it . . .
Tommy looked around and wondered what in the world he was doing inside a bank. Was he coming in or going out? He opened his wallet, saw close to two hundred dollars and shoved it back into his pocket. He figured he was going out. Glancing through the big window, he saw his mom and Marlene waiting in the car, Kathy behind the wheel, and he realized what day this had to be. He checked the calendar on the teller s counter. This was the day they set him free.
He ran out the bank door, pretending to be clutching something in his hands. “Quick, lets make our getaway. Hide me. Hide me.” He squeezed Marlene and laughed and felt good. “God, Billy,” she said. “As changeable as ever.”
They tried to fill him in on all the things that had happened in Lancaster in the past two years, but he didn’t really give a damn. All he was looking forward to was spending some time with Marlene. After all those times in the visitors’ room at the prison, he longed to be alone with her.
When they reached Lancaster, Marlene told Kathy, “Drop me off at the Plaza Shopping Center. I’ve got to go to work.” Tommy stared at her. “Work?”
“Yeah. I took the morning off, but I’ve got to go back.” Tommy was dazed and hurt. He had thought she would want to be with him on his first day out of prison. He said nothing, blinking back the tears, but the hollowness inside was so painful that he left the spot . . .
When he was back in his room, Allen said aloud, “I always knew she was no good for him anyway. If she really gave a damn about Tommy, she’d have taken the rest of the day off. I say we don’t have anything more to do with her.”
“That,” Arthur said, “has been my position from the beginning.”