We dream in allegories. Bonnie, your parole officer-slash Winkie; central casting Beelzebub, dime store devil with tawdry plastic horns. Such a career torturer, a feckless fetishist with a penchant for the slow bureaucratic burn. Just another flying Oz monkey asshole barring the door. She’s dangerous, I keep saying. And she does scare me: her brash cupidity, her clueless lack of grace and humor, the way nothing matters but the conspiracy at hand, and how you must be it’s central perpertrator. Auschwitz guards wore the same dead fish glint in their eyes as the German shepherds held taut by links of cold chain. I want Bonnie to give it up and go away, strip her monster suit off and march herself to the ovens. This is me, the worst of me, that people like Bonnie bring out. She is, to coin a hack and overexercised axiom, what is wrong with the world. The rotten cancer in our buttocks, a malevolent melanoma. The shit on our shingle. The dank in our dungeon. Grrrr… I hate to hate. But what I hate…is her, this gun-toting, chain-smoking, hard-talking, message-leaver, ultimatum-maker, situation-escalator, gravel-voiced, demon-seed of all things evil and puerile and wrong-headed and nonsensical and pretzel-bent plain wrong about our beloved Emerald City.

Sigh…take a breath. Explanations please.

Okay, here goes: Bonnie just called. Did you record it? I ask. I gave you one of those tiny voice-activated digital recorders for times like these; thing runs on penlight batteries—cute, but viciously effective–for getting it all down. Fuck memory, or longhand scrawl. When you hit fifty, and you’ve just gotten out of jail, better to trust something that runs on two AA batteries than what your porous, stress-addled brain can pull together, and legally–because recorded words speak louder than remembered words. Yeah, I did. You say. Thank God we figured out yesterday how to put your phone on speaker mode, both of us being shameless techno-phobes, happily clueless Luddites who routinely throw away instruction booklets and crash computers because we hate them and they know it. Hi, it’s Bonnie, she might have said, but I doubt it. Psychotic flying monkeys rarely waste phone minutes on niceties. No, the call probably went more like, a succinct kick in the ribs: Report to my office tomorrow morning by 10:30 sharp. This once actually happened. The Report to the Principal’s Office call. But I have to work tomorrow. You told her. Can’t we do it today? I’m ‘home’ today. You could almost hear her derisive Winkie snort coming down the fibre-optic tunnel, the Verizon Wireless string-and-can between you, sitting on your bed in your parole-imposed sober house, and Bonnie, in her gray little cubicle at Parole’s District 5 headquarters in Lawrence, a depressingly dank and dying shithole of a Massachusetts border city. Only New Hampshire lies between you and the giant snapping turtle that guards the distant horizon.

Tomorrow, she reasserts, 10:30, as if she’d never heard, or realized, or cared, that, for you, the schlep to District Five Headquarters is at least an hour and a half by public-zombie bus, and an hour and a half back ‘home’, which really isn’t ‘home’ at all, simply a sprawling, fireproof, architecturally bleak hemorrhoid roughly equidistant between a funeral parlor and about six other state-mandated domiciles for previously or about-to-be incarcerated drunks and druggies from the Bay State’s drunk-and druggie-prolific North Shore.

Bonnie once said to you, You’re not an active listener. And here she paused. For gravitas, or as close to gravitas as a flying monkey asshole could summon. Do you know what that means? You quietly gawked. (insert stifled scream here), after years of eating Correctional no-logic, no-manners bullshit, and replied. Uhhh…it means I don’t listen. Bonnie assumed her schoolmarm pose, the same bullish arrogance that taught you that Winston Churchill once said ‘sometimes you have to lose a few battles to win the war’…In World War One!! Because I’m been studying US history. Again, she ignored whatever words filtered through from the call’s other side, and simply repeated her thread’s main premise, invoking Parole’s Just Because I Said So Clause.You’re just not an active listener.

Two things to remember: Bonnie has a car. A fast little state-issued car with a state-issued gas card. You don’t. You walk, you take buses, trains, hitchhike, finagle rides from strangers, from those ‘soberholics’ in your house still friendly enough to care and who haven’t yet lost their license. For her, a ten minute sprint on the interstate. For you, three hours of diesel fumes and mass catatonia. It’s a money thing. Partly, anyway. You make under two hundred bucks a week. You’re out on parole. Jobs for parolees don’t grow on trees. A day off is huge, even with a great alibi, the job gods get antsy when you call in to say your parole officer has demanded, not requested, an audience.

So, you go.

Off…to see the Winkie. At ten thirty sharp!

And you don’t go. To work…to be a responsible, employed, taxpaying citizen of the world.

Guess which one really matters to them?

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