Sam (excerpt)

[A corrections officer in his thirties, sits in the waiting room of an upstate New York psychologist.]

Hi, hello. How are you. ..Who are you? Oh, you’re Doctor Lemings? Yeah, Hi, hello. Sam Knoll. Oh, I thought you were the secretary. ..You don’t have a secretary? Oh, that’s cheap. I mean, that’s smart, save money, I don’t wanna get into a whole thing. So you’re the doctor? ..Great. ..No, I mean, women doctors, they exist, I don’t wanna, ya know ..go there. ..Oh, you’re not finished? You’re still with a patient? Well, I mean ..I’m here! On time. I want you to mark down that I arrived for the session on time, because I went out of my way to be on time. ..No, that’s all right. I mean, what am I gonna do? You gotta do what you gotta do, I’ll… I’ll make a phone call. ..No, that’s all right. I got my own, thanks.

[She leaves. He pulls out a cellular phone and dials.] ..Hi, it’s me. Listen, I’m not gonna be there on time, could you wait till Seven? ..Because I got caught up with something. ..Something. Look. I don’t want to get into a whole discussion with you about my personal… about ridiculousness. I’m asking a favor, Mindy, that’s why I’m calling. ..No, I’m not on a date. I’m not even gonna go there with you. I’m at the doctor, Mindy! Are you happy? I just ..there was an incident at the facility, and I’m fine. I’m not hurt. What does it matter to you? ..Well, either you’re gonna wait, or you’re not gonna wait. That’s you’re decision. Look, put Melanie on. You wanna yell at me Mindy, yell at me in person, don’t yell at me on the phone. Okay? How does that sound? That sound good to you? Put Melanie on, please. ..Because she’s my daughter, I wanna talk to her!

[Cheery.] Hi, Melanie honey, it’s Daddy. I miss you so much sweetie-pie. Tonight’s Daddy’s night, honey, you remember? Are you excited? I’m excited. Hey Melanie, you wanna go to White Castle and play video games? Mmm, yummy! ..No? Okay, well we can do anything. Listen, Melanie honey, Daddy’s gonna be a little late picking you up okay? And I have a feeling that Mommy is gonna try and take you with her before I get there. So if Mommy gets angry, you know how Mommy gets upset? You know, [He growls.]Grrrrr. And she tries to leave? You tell her, “No, Daddy’s picking me up.” Okay? Because Daddy had to go to the doctor sweetie-pie. ..Because Daddy hit a prisoner. No, Daddy’s fine. Daddy has no cuts or bruises or scratches or anything. Daddy just has to talk with the doctor about what happened. No, the prisoner is not fine, honey. But Daddy’s fine, that’s what counts. Okay? [He waves to the doctor who has reappeared.] Uh, I gotta go, sweeti-pie. Remember, I’m coming to pick you up. ..No, I don’t wanna talk to Mommy again. Don’t put Mommy on the phone! Hang up the phone, Melanie. Okay? Just hang up. Bye.

[He hangs up and turns to the doctor.] Heh. My kid. Did you mark down that I came in on time, because I don’t want to get penalized because you forgot. Because I know how these things work. I mean, I’m sorry if I was, you know, on the phone when you came in, but you weren’t exactly.. available for me either, when I arrived on time. Okay, so maybe I acted questionably as a corrections officer, and you acted questionably as a psychoanalyst, or whatever you call yourself. Hey, that makes two of us. Bingo! We all win a prize.[He folds his arms.]

..No, we’re separated. I’d rather not discuss that with you. ..What would I like to discuss? I don’t know, you tell me. I mean I know I’m here because you’re supposed to dissect my brain and figure out where my “rage” is coming from because the report says that I “overreacted”. Well I’ll tell you right now like I told the board. I did not overreact. I was provoked and my life was threatened and I was forced to strike and contain the inmate. But you got these groups that say, “Oh, the officers are a bunch of animals walking around beating up on the guys for fun-”

Aren’t we gonna go in your office? ..You just wanna give your patient some time? ..Time for what? ..Regroup? Regroup what? Oh, that’s great, what, is she crying? Oh that’s great. ..It’s a man? Oh! Bingo. Let’s have a party. Listen, I was here on time and I gotta pick up my kids, and I’m not gonna stay longer because some emotionally unprepared fruit fly is weeping to death in your office. It’s not gonna happen. I mean, how long is he gonna be? How long does it take to cry?

..Two. I have two kids. ..Why did we separate? Okay, fine. I know we’re supposed to have an open exchange. I’m open. To freely exchange with you. ..You mean, what event actually caused it, or just like ..why? ..Okay fine. Well, I’m sittin’ there in the pancake diner with her and the kids. Uncle Pancake House. And she’s on Prozac first of all. So automatically she starts crying some stupid ridiculous nonsense bullshit. All I said to her was, I don’t even remember, like, “I still like you” or something. She’s also on her period, okay. No offense, but I mean, you know.. uh. So, out of nowhere she’s like, “uhhhh ooohh.” Crying. I just said, ya know.. “Oh, that’s nice, I’m not gonna get into your shit.” You know? “How ‘bout those Buffalo Bills”, I think I said. Or something like that.

Aren’t we supposed to talk about the incident? I mean, what is this? Some kind of little casual, impromptu, ya know, probe into my shit? I mean, what the fuck is this? I’m sorry. I’m not angry at you. I’m perfectly happy to be here. You’re very nice. I’m very happy. …Maybe you should check on your friend back there, maybe he’s dead. I’m sorry. I’m just kidding. That’s cruel. I’m not a cruel person. I just, I mean, maybe he’s finished, that’s all. And he’s just sitting there. With the tissues.

We’re just gonna wait? I have patience. I’m a patient man. I’m a patient; I’ll be patient. How does that sound? …How ‘bout I tell you a joke one of the assholes told me- excuse me…one of the inmates. It’s just something we call ‘em. It’s just a nickname really. Anyway. Let me try and remember properly. ..Okay. There’s this guy, and he lives somewhere rural. I mean, not unlike around here, but more primitive. So he goes to buy some live chickens, from the live-chicken store. But he doesn’t have any money. So he says to the man, hey buddy, I don’t have any money, but if I tell you where each of these chickens come from, how bout you give me them for free So the man says, ya know.. What? Who are you? That’s impossible. No. ya know, wait a second, what are you talkin’ about? I mean that’s not exactly what he says, but- it doesn’t even fucking matter, it’s just a stupid joke.

So the guy takes his finger, and he sticks it up into the first chicken- Cause there are three chickens. I mean there are more than three chickens in the whole place, but in the joke there’s three that are essential to get to the end- So he sticks his finger in the chicken’s.. ass, and he, ya know.. And he says, this chicken is from ..San Juan, Idaho. There probabbly isn’t even a place San Juan, Idaho. I’m not familiar with maps really. But it doesn’t matter really where the chicken is from. But he’s correct! the gist. So the owner says, you know, wow! Yes that’s right, that chicken is from… yes. My goodness, ya know. Wow. Then the guy sticks his finger up in the second chicken, and he says- This chicken is from ya know ..Alaska! It’s probably too cold for Chickens there, but again he’s you know.. let’s just say he’s correct. So now, the store owner is more ..astonished than with the first chicken. This is amazing. Whoa, you really knocked me off my ..spaceship there, or whatever the fuck the guy says. Then the guy sticks his finger in the third chicken, he says, this chicken is from ya know, I don’t know… Florida. It’s unimportant. So, the owner says, Wow! Take the chickens! But just then, this bum, this ..derelict, this ..unkept person walks by, and sees what’s going on, and says to the guy, hey buddy, uh, could you stick your finger up in me? I’m lost.

..It’s not funny. But see, this is what I’m subjected to everyday is what I’m trying to explain to you. I’m exposed to this kind of ..ridiculousness and mentality. I mean, I’m not complaining about my job. I like my job. It’s just these guys they send up here from downstate, from the city, they’re like pollutants. Can you imagine if we let them loose in the middle of town? They’d probably slaughter the cows walking around. I mean, they slaughter eachother. Not that I mind. Like for instance, last week this one inmate cuts open the face of another inmate. The one guy lost a lot of blood, got transferred downstate, the other inmate got transferred further upstate. Good riddens. Ya know? I still get paid.

But like I said, I can’t complain. I got my health insurance, I got my new Isuzu truck. My kids got health insurance. The older one’s got braces, all paid for. Of course, I only get to see my kids once a month. Because my wife won’t let me. Because we’re separated. Because I’m an alcoholic. But you wanna know something? So is she. So what do you think of the justice in that court decision? Heh. What do you think of them apples?

What-do-you-think-of-them-apples. That’s funny. You know they say that phrase originated in this county? Oh yeah, this whole town used to be apples. Famous New York State apples. My grandfather had an apple farm. My father had an apple farm. I used to pick apples. But of course, you know, there’s only so lucrative you’re gonna get with apples. I mean, what are you gonna make? Apple juice, apple sauce. Ya know, apples. I mean, that’s ..heh. ..But when they built the facility, that was the largest economic boom in the history of the county since the 13 colonies. So, ya know. You gotta go with the boom. If I didn’t go with the boom, I’d still be pickin’ apples. What kind of life is that? Now we get our apples from Washington. Heh. That makes sense.

Look, I’m not blind, I see where you’re tryin’ to push this little happy dicussion. I know what your job is, okay? It’s very helpful talking to you. Yeah. I’ll tell ya. I’m not the one you should be talking to. I’m not one of these guys on my shift, calls me up four o’clock in the morning about to drive his truck off one of the goddamn Adirondacks. You wanna counsel somebody? Go counsel him, don’t fuckin’ counsel me. Okay? Maybe I drink, but I sleep!

Look, I got plans, okay? I did twelve years already with this. I got eight more. Then I’m out. Get my pension. Open a little gift shop. ..For the women, you know. They come up on the bus from downstate. They bring gifts for their husbands, but they don’t realize till they get up here, ninety-five percent of it, they can’t bring inside- cakes, books, pens. You can’t take that stuff in. I’m gonna have a store- all items permissible to enter. Freeze-dried soups, magazines, socks. Put it right by the bus station. Have some financial security.

Listen, can I go pick up my kids? That sound good to you? Cause I got one night with them. And you might try and take away my job, but you’re not gonna take away my one night with my kids. That you’re not gonna take. How does that sound? ..Oh. Thank You. Yeah. And I’ll see you next week, and I’ll be on time- And make sure you marked down I was on time today, because like I said, I know how these things work. Okay… Have a nice evening. [He exits.]