The CalTrain Penal Code

“In October, a schizophrenic homeless woman threw her three young sons into the San Francisco Bay. The mother, Lashuan Harris, had been living with her children in an Oakland shelter, and had stopped taking her medicine because she believed she was cured. But voices, she later told police, told her to throw her sons into the water. Relatives told the press that they had sought custody of the boys, but that social workers had failed to act. Less than two weeks later, a homeless man, Johnell Kirk junior, died after being set on fire by another drifter, who was said to suffer from schizophrenia.San Francisco has struggled to deal with the many homeless people who come to the city for its temperate climate and generous welfare programmes. Gavin Newsom, San Francisco�s mayor, has made the issue a priority. His controversial �Care Not Cash� initiative, which offers homeless people services rather than welfare cheques, took effect in May 2004, and there are signs of success. The programmes have reduced the street population by 28% and housed nearly 1,500 people…But the city has a lot more work to do.”
–The Economist

“You heard what she did? Three little kids. They struggled, man. She had to _work_ to do that. That took hard work, harder work than she’d ever probably done before in her goddamn life. They found one of ’em, but I don’t know if they’ll get the other two, tides and all. Filthy water. Can you imagine? She just walked away, pushing a fucking empty stroller like no big deal. Said she heard _voices._ Said the _voices_ told her to push her three little kids into the San Francisco Bay and hold them down until they drowned.

“And you know what’s going to happen to her, right? You know, right? She’s not going to jail. She’s going to go to some psych ward and get the medication and the good food and the gym and the therapy. She won’t do a day in jail. And she’s going to sit there, her and her _voices,_ you and me paying for her doctors, and she’s not going to pay for squat. Not for rent, not for her dinner, not for her _occupational therapy,_ not for her doctors, and sure as hell not for what she did to those three little kids.

“Know what I’d like to do to her? I’d like take a manhole cover–nice big round one–and explain to her how the _voices_ told me to chain it to her ankle and roll it off the pier, right there in front of the sea lions. Or–no, wait–I’d put her in a giant microwave. Rig it up in Giants Stadium so she could sit there in her chair in her giant microwave, and I’d set it to High for as long as it takes to drown three little kids. Multiplied by two. And I’d bring the whole city out to watch her cook, so they’d get the idea it’s not smart to listen to the voices. Or, know what I’d do? I’d stake her out, tie her down, so she couldn’t move a muscle, and I’d pour sugar syrup over every fucking inch of her. And then I’d bring out the fireants, man…Real slow, that’d go. Wide awake.

“You know they don’t even use the electric chair any more? Said it was _inhumane._ It took a whole five minutes to die. And they’re doped up with valium, having sweet dreams. Oh, what a crying shame, to take five minutes to die, after you probably tortured someone for three weeks. These people with the prisoners’ rights, man. You give up your rights when you take someone’s life, all right? I’ll give ’em rights: hang ’em with an American flag. That’s their right. It’s God’s job to condemn, not ours, but let’s just go ahead and arrange the meeting, you know what I’m saying? Fire up Old Sparky, cut the crap.

“I hear they tried to rape Scott Petersen already. I hope he’s getting it good, after what he did. Know what I’d do? I’d let five of the largest, strongest relatives into that cell, armed with baseball bats and let ’em blow off some steam. Or maybe a very large, sexually-deprived silverback gorilla…”

The train slowed. A woman stuffed headphones into her bag, stood up, and excused herself. He jumped to his feet, head bowed, voice soft.

“No problem, ma’am.”

“You’ve been pumping a lot?” his friend asked when he sat back down. He pushed up a sleeve, examined a bicep and frowned. His scalp gleamed.

“Eighteen inches. But I want to get it to twenty. It’ll take a lot of work. A lot of _focus.__ I wanted to get to the gym tonight, but my little guy has a soccer game, and it’s important to me to be there. Sends a message. My dad never made it to my soccer games. I know he was working to put a roof over our heads, so it’s not like I mind. But I’m going to be there for my little guy at his games. It’s the kind of role model I want to portray.”

He squinted at his bicep again.

“Takes a lot of work to build up the right dimensions. But it’s fun to have the size. Especially in bars. I am not a violent person. It’s part of my credo. I’m very controlled. But I get some guy in a bar, someone _inappropriate,_ maybe being a jerk to some woman, and you know what I say? I say, real quiet, “You’re going to apologize. Or I’m going to break your arm.” Total control, total calm, total polite. And my friends say, ‘Uh, yeah, he will.” And then you just get to watch this asswipe back down…”

He folded his arms in satisfaction.

“Only bad thing is it can make it hard with women. You meet these women who just like big guys, that’s their thing. Makes it hard to tell. They can be fine as a person, quality people, but they’re not necessarily candidates for a serious long-term relationship if they’re only with you for size. I’m seeing a woman right now, she’s a quality person, but she’s not over her divorce, she’s just getting used to dating. And she’s really into the muscles. Likes the big guys.”

“Not over her divorce? Fuck that shit, man. Get divorced, move ON.”

“Right. Move the fuck on.”

They looked out the window. Palo Alto passed.

“Karl Rove. You know what’s going on there? You been following it? Karl Rove is guilty of treason. He deserves to share a large, smelly cell with the most horrible inmate…”

3 thoughts on “The CalTrain Penal Code”

  1. Ah, W, I’m storing up stories, but work owns me these past few weeks…Thanks for the encouragement, and the reminder that there’s life beyond my office walls. 😉


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