HERO APOMIXIS PART TWO:
by Charlie Seller
art by Dan Reece
(read chpts 1-3)
Hero had been released from prison three times in the
preceding fifteen years plus one time from The Island
after a six month city bid for a sum total of seven years
inside – so far. He dreamt about jail. He’d been arrested
over twenty times but didn’t think that he was terribly
bad compared to any of the cons around him – just not too
swift when it came to exercising a little better judgment
sometimes. He always remembered feeling alone, and scared,
and then making a dumb mistake. Still, Hero had gotten away
with all sorts of shit and had been locked-up for all sorts
of shit (some of which he hadn’t even done). From turn style
jumping to armed robbery – no sex crimes or hitting women –
unless they hit him first – and even then. All this in and
out taught him by year five that if they took him off the
street because he wasn’t taking responsibility for himself,
getting into trouble and so on, and then they stuck him
in prison where he had virtually no responsibilities, then
they really couldn’t expect too much from him now could
they? And that went for almost 95% of the criminals in the
system. Plenty of dudes were Big Willy’s in the joint where
everyone knew them, respected them and feared them. They’d
made their little moves on the inside slinging drugs, extortion,
gambling and what have you and they were somebody.
Once they were out and got off that bus that had taken
them from the jail to the Port Authority on Eighth Avenue
and 42nd Street, they were nobody. NO-BAH-DEE, baby.
“You’s a motherfuckin’ NOBODY, Jack. You nobody goin’
nowhere fast and yo’ ego is layin ‘ over there under that
payphone next to dat derelic’ pukin ‘ up. You better hurry,
boy, if you wanna keep it clean, go on now,” the voice in
their heads whispered. And if they were lucky enough to
have been listening – then they had a choice, maybe.
Hero had heard stories, mostly second and third hand,
about some dude who’d got off that freedom ride and stood
there on Eighth Avenue looking just like a lost kitten until
he’d made up his mind and hooked off on the first police
he saw so they’d send him back up north where everything
was familiar and there weren’t any bills to pay; where everyone
knew who he was.
Hero couldn’t understand why the cops hated them all so
much, especially in the joint, in the street, in general.
Hadn’t anyone ever had the presence of mind to change the
system and risk looking “soft on crime?!” Oh, yeah, he’d
almost forgot – they said it was working. Well, that depended
on what your definitions of “it” and “working” were. America
had a lot of people in jail, way over a million, Hero’d
read somewhere, maybe even two million. California alone
had 165,000 incarcerated men and women. New York held 97,000
and the state would build more prisons before they’d ever
build more schools: “Just as well! Most felons never finished
high school anyway!” barked the cozy logic of the right.
And, if they could, Hero knew that “they would spank each
and everyone of us with a bullet in the back of the fuckin’ head.”
Whenever he looked around, he saw a lot of not so undercover
Nazi’s with badges: the cops; the prisoners: black ones,
white ones, Spanish ones; plenty of Nazi’s. There was no
shortage of Fascists. What appeared so simple to Hero, was
impossible for all of the ignorance. “Applied Ignorance.”
What would he do if he could do almost anything he wanted
with all these people that constituted the bulk of a very
painful societal thorn?
“Did I say ‘thorn?’ Sorry, I meant ‘prick.’
Wipe out an entire generation or two (or three) like they’d
done in Cambodia? No, that hadn’t worked too well when they’d tried it.
Send everyone out for re-education, sensitivity
training, encounter groups and free tofu pizza?
“Applied Ignorance,” Hero heard someone whisper softly
in his left ear again.
“Rules of The Revolution, Rule #13: People
secretly desire that they be told what to
do and actually detest choices.”
“Rule #14: People hate change and fear the future
for those very reasons (see rule #13).”
Hero was too smart for his own good. He’d been hearing
that admonition of his behavior for so long that it was
like his motto now – his own personal Catch-22. Sitting
on the edge of his bed with his head in his hands, chin
on upturned palms, fingers splayed over closed eyelids;
on his right Hero saw the poorly formed white outline of
a man being shot with a big white bullet that came from
the left and took the man’s outline away, folding it in
on itself as it traveled farther to the right and then disappeared
altogether. The source of the bullet wasn’t clear;
from a gun that didn’t make any noise. The whole thing looked
very scratchy, like an old film.
Hero ate two packets of sugar to see if that would stop
the feeling he was having of riding in an old elevator as
it comes to a stop, bouncing a little on huge worn-out springs.
He thought that whatever it was it had gotten worse in
minute increments. He dreaded going to sick call. There
was only one nurse in Attica who’d ever helped him; the
rest were nasty, short tempered, mealy mouthed, and – quite
simply – just bad nurses. One of them had told Hero he didn’t
have Hep C when he knew that it was all over his records
because he had his own set of copies! (She’d told him that he was
wrong – not reading the records correctly.)
The bad nurses were always hostile, suspicious and accusatory.
As far as they were concerned no inmate told
the truth, they were all incorrigible liars and always lied.
Always. They always lied. All of them, liars. Liars, liars,
liars, every last one of them.
Sick call was where Hero had first heard one of them say
“Welcome to Attica” in a tone so sarcastic that he’d had
trouble believing it had come out of the nurse’s mouth.
He’d had very bad hay fever and went to get some allergy
pills and a few small foil packets of bacitracin ointment
for sores that had developed inside his nose. Hero’s medical
records showed that this was a recurring problem that had
always been treated this way.
“You don’t want to use bacitracin,” a nurse that resembled
an old molting owl screeched at him, “you wanna’ let’em
and then she looked Hero dead in the eye and said,
“Welcome to Attica.”
It was like blaming the jail for the sour lie that she’d
Half-drunk, in the bar across the street from the prison,
she would carry on about how easy the inmates had it; justification
for her vile treatment of them no doubt. An admittedly illegal form of
punishment that she had made it her
personal responsibility to mete out. The C.O.s at the bar
loved her when she got like that.
She’d never even looked in Hero’s nose, or his file, when
he’d mentioned that they always gave him bacitracin. He
reflected on how this nurse who, on second thought looked
a lot more like The Wicked Witch of The West, frustrated
the health of prisoners’ costing the state more money to
steadily accomplish less.
Hero got some bacitracin from the good nurse the following
week when he was allowed to go to sick call again.
“Once a week,” the bad nurse had told him, “Welcome to
It was a scary crap shoot, you never knew who might be
The good nurse was an attractive German woman in her forties
who had, what Hero imagined, were some very pretty tits.
She was a very nice lady and gave him everything he’d asked
her for. He said she was most kind to him and he was extra
polite and very grateful to her. He dreaded going to see
one of the bad nurses for anything, never mind with something really serious.
The NYSDOCS policy towards major illness was very much
like that of General Motors. Not their employee health plan,
oh no. It was how a $2.40 part the company could’ve installed
to keep the car from blowing up – wasn’t – because
they’d run a “cost benefit analysis” that showed them it
would be cheaper to leave the part off and just field any
lawsuits that came about as a result instead. Lawyers for
the spouse of the burnt corpse that had been a plaintiff’s
husband before the accident proved beyond a shadow of a
doubt that the part would have saved his life; how GM had
known and ignored one of their own engineer’s recommendations
so that in the long run they were ordered to pay the sad woman $50 million.
NYSDOCS theory in practice was identical to GM’s in that
regardless of the number of inmates with say, Hep-C for
instance – only a handful would try to keep up with their
care and ask the doctor questions; research their illness;
file grievances and lawsuits while NYSDOCS dragged their
leaden feet betting that these troublesome inmates would
either die – give up – or be released – in that preferred order.
A lot of cons believed whatever NYSDOCS told them or
didn’t believe anything NYSDOCS told them without more
than what was really only bad triage many just got sicker
and some died. A small percentage sued and, if they won,
it was still much cheaper by far than treating every prisoner.
Put all together Hero believed that if they could the
majority of NYSDOCS employees would have gassed the inmates
just as soon as look at them. In the bigger picture the
The Big Lie explained – upon even the least cursory of examinations
– the relationship between people as consumers
and information about any large numbers of “other” people
unrelated to them in any way. He saw it in news reports:
estimates of tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands
of people murdered by bad people in distant parts of the
globe. Surely, how effected was he or anyone else? As a
consumer it was nothing but another sound byte consistent
with millions of other sound bytes that were repeated
in content and delivery over and over and over again until
Hero thought that if he could run a large enough quantity
of them together – back to back – that an accelerated narcotic
effect could be produced. A trance of indifference would
come over the viewer as the same emotional receptors were
fired into again and again, dulling the response so that
the deaths of 100,000 East Timorese would be received no
differently than that of 800,000 Africans or 6,000,000
Jews. A rise in the local sales tax meant more. He’d just
move on to the next show, the next t.v. listing or what
video to rent, what to have for dinner that evening and,
say, did you catch the Giants Monday night? Hero saw the
correlation in the media (and subsequently the politicians)
view of criminals as one pushed the other and they both
pushed the consumers to fear, familiarize and spend, spend,
spend. What they saw is not what they got and knowing that
didn’t disturb them as much as he would think it should have.
Individually, most human beings could comprehend another
single or small number of other human beings without forgetting
who they were, what they were, that they were primarily
individuals like they themselves. Larger groups had
no face and were easier to ignore or simply reject as a
whole, right or wrong, they were – after all – the problem,
weren’t they? Who would ever admit that such a hidden
philosophy of perverted values existed?
The Big Lie was always unassailable in that its images
would not be held accountable. It didn’t have to refuse,
it simply exercised applied ignorance. From clean shiny
top to dirty wet bottom we were all perpetuating The Big Lie.
Hero knew that even if he proved it with physical evidence,
the consumer would just shake his head and tell him he was
crazy. And the evidence was everywhere, the true battle
laid within the consumer’s perception. Why? Because, he
believed The Big Lie. And if everything looked and smelled
exactly like shit sometimes, that was because it usually
was. This was no longer about escape – this was rapidly
becoming a question of perversion and perspective.
Hero wished he’d been born in Canada, they all had health
cards the government gave them for free, the whole fucking
country went to the doctor for free.
“A healthy nation – what a concept,” he said to the wall.
He’d heard it was the same thing in Europe, too. Only the
largest industrialized nation in the world had citizens
with cancer who made too much money to be eligible for
government assistance, but too little to afford private health
insurance – so that many of them languished in pain and
misery without treatment instead waiting until they became
so sick that they had to be hospitalized – which some of
them still tried to avoid so that they wouldn’t burden their
families with the debt. Death Of A Salesman. Willy, what
was his name? It was all he could think of at that moment.
Hero “felt” the floor move. It reminded him of being in
an old building downtown whenever the bus went by you would
feel it through the floor and then, after about half-a-minute,
you would hear it as it passed around to the side of the
apartment to rattle the windows.
When he was a young boy spending summers in Connecticut,
he used to stand on the floating wooden dock anchored off
the beach in the lake where he’d learned to swim. It would
bob up and down and left and right so very softly with the
easy waves. The water ebbed that way during
bittersweet summers when he’d learned how to swim – but
not how to fight. When he’d learned all about anti-semites
up close after being asked to wait outside while all the
other children went into TT Volpe’s house and came back
out with big cookies. TT was uncomfortable, they couldn’t
have been much older than nine or ten, when he told Hero
that his mother didn’t want any Jews in the house. That
was the first time. He’d discovered there would be more.
Even people he thought were his friends would do it, it
was incredible. There was the question of, “Why?”
“Because they’re sons-of-bitches, that’s why! ”
“My father was a fool,” Hero said for what had to easily
have been the 923,465th time.
It was as if he’d been marked from the earliest, maybe six
or seven years old, to be tortured by bullies his entire
life and that had helped him to develop a voluminous capacity
for horrific and physically damaging violence. Hero’s mother
and father had bullied him; his sister – that fucking witch-
10 years his senior no less; his teachers – who grew impatient
with his involuntary, spaced-out mental stasis; acquaintances;
friends, bosses, his own stupidity, all the lawyers, cops,
judges and psychiatrists and on and on it went. They were
all like dogs who, after smelling Hero’s nervous fear,
would bark and bite with ferocious confidence. He was
too tired to worry about all of them or even mean nasty
nurses who weren’t qualified to treat a hangnail.
“Fuckin bullies,” he muttered and then he got ready
for bed. The rain had killed the sunset and dinner had
sucked so bad that he couldn’t even remember what it was
he hadn’t eaten.
“Tomorrow,” he said to himself, “tomorrow’s another day.”
Ebb, flow and click.