The Electric Jailhouse Acid Test – Ted Prokash

Another nice thing about my stay at the Napawaupee County jail was that I finally learned how to do acid properly. The opportunity arose quite by chance.


It was in the spring, some time after Tim, formerly a king of the Latin Kings of Chicago, had joined the team, a week or two after Josh Schlotzsky had taken his dressing down from big Dave. Josh survived the incident without any noticeable hit to his self-image. He still slid about the cell in his soft-soled slippers like an ultra-hip drug dealer from an after school special. Who gave a fuck about surly old Dave anyway? Not Josh Schlotzsky. Josh was a first wave raver. Ecstasy and underage girls were his destiny. He frequented the teenage dance clubs that had sprung up in the Appletown area. “All the E you can eat floating around those clubs,” he explained. “And the girls…” The girls, man. But what about the awful dance music? “Oh, it’s not that bad.” Josh flicked his bangs in a knowing way. “You just move around a little bit… When you’re high as fuck, it don’t matter.”


I had, somehow, without trying to, found my way into Josh Schlotzsky’s confidence. I think people take me for a sap. They’re encouraged by the way I listen to their confessions, smiling benignly. They mistake my indifference for approval. What can I say? God didn’t make this boy judge of jack shit!


So this one particular spring day, Josh said to me on the side, in confidence, out of the corner of his mouth, “I got a buddy that has a bunch of good paper. I’m going to get some. You want a hit or two?”


“Yes,” I heard my mouth say, before my mind had a chance to make an argument. Just like that.


Of course I had plenty of time to be mortified by my decision, though somehow I didn’t have the ability to renege. I looked on, bemused, as I slipped Josh ten dollars.


Aw hell… I was smitten; that’s the embarrassing truth of it. I’d been living up to the studious jailbird stereotype and burying my nose in a pile of degenerate literature; reading Burroughs, Kerouac, Ken Kesey, Hunter Thompson; I thought these wild drug trips must be the path to enlightenment, baby! I was a little nervous about how I would react to a hit of strong acid while locked up behind bars. But in the end, I guess I was more loath to disappoint some famous ghosts than to lose my earthly mind. Anyway, it wasn’t any predilection for wise decisions that landed me here in the first place.


Josh brought the paper in on a Friday. He waited until I got back from work and we took it together – on the sly. He gave me a creepy wink and we retreated to our bunks to wait for the shit to work its magic.


Of course it was way too much to ask that I be let alone to it, that I be allowed to embark on the sublime metaphysical journey at my own pace and in peace. As usual, my upstairs neighbor had to drop by and unload all his troubles first.


Tim made his perch on the heat register next to my pillow, sucking his tongue, forlorn. He was starting to stink. It was inevitable, of course. I’d slaved over a deep fryer before, I knew the score. The smell gets into your skin. It’s the same smell that fills your car when you forget a bag of fast food in there on a hot summer day. The smell of a thousand stale farts. Tim’s mood stunk too. His ex was trying to get him for child support.


“Do you believe that, James man? I held my baby daughter in my arms and fed her a bottle. I changed her shitty diapers. I raised her, man – until my wife decided to start fucking some rich asshole and ran off with her. While I’m stuck in here and can’t do nothin’ about it. Now she says she’s going to sue me!” Tim shook his head, incredulous. “But she’s my wife, man, and I love her.”


And on and on. I don’t know how long he talked. I pulled my blanket up to my chin and tried to make myself very small, tried to sink down into the mattress. Tim pleaded with me. He took on a very pitiful character. I paid exhaustive attention to the goings on inside my head, listening carefully to the music behind my thoughts for any telltale dynamic shift. I think Tim started to get a little sore that I wasn’t showing him proper sympathy, though this might just have been my imagination. The dim light in the Huber cell cast a poorly gauze over my field of vision. Tim’s face looked strangely pixelated or otherwise interfered with. The way he leaned in and peered at me from out of the filmy darkness, I thought for sure he’d either start crying or just break up and disperse into the teeming gloom.


Finally, mercifully, Tim gave up and called it a night. “Guess I’ll try to get some sleep,” he muttered, and climbed up to his loft with a deflated sigh. “Probably find me hanging from my bed sheet in the morning…”


I receded happily into my nest of dense thoughts. I was pretty unsure of how this was going to go. Whenever I partook of psychedelics on the outside, I always kicked things off with a nice, fat bowl or joint. Would the acid even be able to find me, huddled in this jail cell in a state of diligent sobriety? I settled in to wait.


A minute later I heard my name called out in a raspy whisper from somewhere in the shadows. Ah… so audio hallucinations would be this trip’s bellwether.


“James… hey, James.” The mysterious voice localized in the corner of the cell opposite my bunk. “Psssst. Hey, James.” It was Josh. I could make out his white grin glimmering out of his dark corner.


“What?” I whispered back.


The shadows giggled. “Are you feeling it yet?”


“I don’t know.” I giggled myself. It was all so childish. “I gotta piss,” I blurted out unexpectedly. The urge just came on me.


I stepped lightly to the bathroom on this night, that’s for sure. Like tiptoeing through a graveyard full of grumbling ghosts. I walked into the dark cavern of the communal toilet, flipped on the lights and… oh boy! I was tripping balls then! The sudden illumination was like ultra-clinical. The minute pattern of the ceramic floor tile rushed from all points outward to a vortex at my feet. I felt like I was on a dang rolly coaster! Pummeled by the sudden circus of stimuli, I staggered over to the urinal and braced myself against the wall. The cool touch of the painted cinder block. If I could bid my palm be a receptor, an entry point for the stoic energy of the stone… let the ancient cool wash through my body. The urinals were humongous porcelain bulwarks. A frightened boy could hide himself inside and call out for help if it came down to it.


With my free hand, I fumbled at the drawstring of my striped pajama pants. I went in to get my pecker… and was horrified to find it gone! It had beat an unprecedented retreat up inside my stomach cavity. Where otherwise dangled my manhood, I found now a tight cluster of fear-shriveled grapes. What the fuck? I pulled my penis out of the cluster and managed to stretch it into a useable nozzle. Now, pissing down the rushing vortex, like standing at the top of a water slide. The sound of my stream rang in the hollow of the porcelain rampart and hummed in the air of the echo chamber. All this stimuli was getting to be a cacophony, a clown show in my head. Hardly bothering to drip my last drop, I went careening over to the light switch and shut down the iridescent assault.


That was much better. Now only the chirping crickets and the shifting shadows. I tiptoed back to my bunk and dove beneath the covers.


“Pssst… are you feeling it now?”


“I think so.”


I heard a furtive rustling. Right in keeping with my image of him, Josh slithered stealthily across the cell and rose up at my bedside. “You’re feeling it, huh?”


“Yeah… ha ha.”


Beavis and Butthead through the doors of perception.


Through some lower, groping form of communication, Josh and I established that we both were “tripping balls” and that, other than that, we had nothing much to say to each other. I lay there with the covers pulled up to my chin and Josh stood looming over me, grinning out of the darkness. We went on like this for some time; I can’t say how long. Time is mysterious, man, ephemeral and infinite. Time is a piece of wax.


This awkward standoff was interrupted by the clanging of the service window at the back of the cell, the one the jailers used to check up on us and dispense meds. Josh disappeared in a puff of smoke.


“Hey James, come here.” It was Eric the jailer. And this was the dreaded worst case scenario!


My mind raced as I climbed tentatively out of bed. In all the time I’d been in jail, the boys had never bothered me so late at night. I approached the light from the service window like it was God in the burning bush. Wary, baby. But there was only the smirking face of Eric the jailer – his vacant, girlish eyes and his chiseled chin. “You were still awake, right? I thought I saw you walking around a minute ago…” The jailers monitored us through a closed-circuit camera mounted at the front of the cell. Suddenly Eric’s eyes narrowed. “Hey… why do you stay up so late, anyway? Just what are you up to?” Jesus Christ… my eyes must have been spinning like pinwheels… on this night I was up late enjoying illegal drugs, of course!


Luckily, before I had time to stammer out any self-incriminating gibberish, Eric’s casual smirk returned. “Ha ha, I’m just giving you shit. I could care less. Hey, check this out.” Eric held a sheet of paper in front of my face. “You remember this?”


Sure. It was my mugshot. For some reason Eric had had it blown up and printed for easy dissemination.


“Ha ha. Fuck off,” he said.


Sure enough, in the picture, besides an expression of the most abject oblivion, I wore a t-shirt that read simply, ‘fuck off’.


Well, Eric thought this was a great joke. “Fuck off,” he said again, shaking his head. And that was it. The window slammed shut in my petrified face.


I was a bit mystified by how the county boys spent their time. Prosaic amusements, indeed. Maybe they’re the ones that should be gobbling acid.


After my little scare with the fuzz, I wasn’t much inclined to leave my bunk. I hunkered down like a kid tenting in the backyard. I settled in to the ambient chirping of my own thoughts – to ponder the slow-curve journey of the nocturnal eternal.


Josh left me pretty much alone. Except for the occasional accidental contact with a pair of glowing eyes in the corner of the cell opposite me, I was secure in my solitary cocoon. I didn’t have much to do in there, but that was okay. Just being able to carve out a safe space among my current uneven psychic terrain was a wondrous joy. I fondled it and marveled at it like I was a simple child gifted an exotic curio.


After a while I even picked up a book and tried to read. Why not? I was a real psychedelic swashbuckler, full speed ahead on the freaky seas of enlightenment! I mostly tried to bob along with the waves of words swimming on the page. I lost my bearings from time to time, circled back to waters I felt I’d seen before, ultimately ending up about where I plunged in to begin with.


When my eyes tired of this exercise, I gave up the ship, eventually drifting off to sleep. I spent the dwindling hours of night bobbing in the foggy seams between dense dreams and deep contemplation.


By the time I heard the clanging of the window in the front of the cell and the call for breakfast, I was left to picking over the corroded remnants of my trip. I wandered into the chow line with a thin buzzing in my head and a spaceman’s step.


Rhonda was on duty. She was a petite lady with big boobs and an icy demeanor. She had a huge cumulonimbus cloud of hair, dyed ink-black to cover up… whatever was underneath. The best thing about Rhonda was the gap between her two front teeth. She held more personality in that ⅛ -inch of black space than she ever condescended to show us jailbirds by her favor. She handed me my tray without looking at me. I floated over to a spot at the cafeteria table and Josh did the same. Turns out these pigs didn’t have any special sniffers for rootin’ out the delectable truffles we were gettin’ weird with after all – and right under their fuzzy snouts! Josh and I shared a smile over our prefabricated scrambled eggs and off-brand sausages.


Dave was the last one to grab his tray. I found it hilarious; if any other jailer was on duty, Dave would be the first one eating. Now he leaned casually into the service window. “So what did you cook for me today, darlin’?” he suavely asked Rhonda. “You know, a woman as pretty as you shouldn’t have to serve a bunch of dirtballs like we got in here…”


Fuckin’ Dave, man. The old inveterate ladykiller.


“James, are you going to eat those eggs?” Before I could answer him, Tim, a former king of the Latin Kings of Chicago, was scraping my scrambled eggs onto his tray. “I’m starving, man.”


Probably the most annoying thing about Tim was that every day, even in jail, he woke up in a good mood.


“Man I’d like to suck on Rhonda’s titties.” Tim spoke in my ear. “I had a girlfriend back in the day, her mom looked just like Rhonda. Big ol’ titties… I had ‘em both, too – the daughter and her mom. On the same night! I kid you not, James.” Tim sucked at his tongue, surprised and amazed by his own carnal feats.


“It went down like this…”