Ronald Shaw is an old timer. He’s been in prison since November 16, 1974. He’ll be 60 this year.
During Ronald’s lengthy incarceration he enjoyed shooting heroin, shooting coke, popping pills, smoking cigarettes, drinking pruno, smoking weed, and doing any other kind of drug he could find. Well 6 months ago, his lifestyle caught up with him. He had a massive stroke. Then 3 months later he had brain surgery. Now he can barely walk. He’s confined to a wheelchair.
Just last week as I was doing my unit job, an officer called me to his station. He said, “Jennings, we need you to go to medical.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because Mr. Shaw is done with his appointment and he needs someone to push him back to the unit.”
I paused for a few seconds, “Can’t you find someone else to get him?”
The officer scans the dayroom real quick then says, “Nope. You’re on the clock and I’m asking you to do it.”
“Okay” I say. And off I go.
Medical is about one block from my unit. When I get there I see an old man in a wheelchair. I ask him, “What are you doing?”
He says, “I guess I’m waiting for someone to come get me.”
I say, “Yep! That’s me. Let’s go.” And we’re off.
As I’m pushing him he says, “Are you my new pusher?”
I say, “Nope, this is a one-time deal.”
He says, “Well I just need someone to push me to chow, pill line, and to call outs. If you wanna be my pusher, I’ll give you stamps.” (stamps are pre-franked envelopes)
I tell him, “Thanks but no thanks. I’m too busy for all that.”
As I roll him into the unit I’m greeted by two officers. One of them tells me that I’m responsible for getting Mr. Shaw to chow, pill line, and to call outs.
“Really!?” I say. I’m not happy. I protest, “I’m a foyer porter, not a wheelchair pusher.”
They say, “From 7am-2pm you are expected to perform and all job assignments as directed.” They’re right. I can’t win. It’s either do it, or get fired. I do it.
Lunch time comes. I push him. I’m getting all kinds of looks and comments from every direction. I simply reply, “I’m serving the Lord by serving others.” It’s a smart ass comment. Everyone knows I’m doing this against my will. But my comment does bring a little comedy to the situation.
A little later it’s off to pill line. This is the WORST! The line is 20 minutes long. So I start up a conversation with ol Ronald Shaw. He tells me how he used to collect drug debts for biker gangs, and how he attacked a guy on the panel at his parole hearing. And how he stabbed this guy and smashed that guy. It was one war story after another.
That’s when I realized I wasn’t pushing around a timid frail old man. I was pushing around an old battled tested convict who survived the killing days and most violent era at Walla Walla.
On the way back from pill line I asked him, “Hey Ronald, you ever been to Disneyland?”
“Fuck no! I’ve been locked up my entire life.”
“Well today is your lucky day. This is just like Disneyland.” And with that, I popped a wheelie and sped up. I swerved side to side. I looked back and no guards were watching. So I ran as I pushed him in the wheelchair. Up ahead there’s a section of gravel on the side of the walkway. I slow down to a fast walk. I take him off the road into the gravel. As I sharply swerve back onto the walkway, the foot rest catches the edge of the cement.
The wheelchair stops dead in its tracks. Ronald goes flying out head first. He hits the wet pavement. His arms are pinned under his body and his ass is in the air. He’s cussing up a storm and I can’t stop laughing.
“It’s not funny goddamn it!” he barks.
I look around. There’s not a guard in sight. I’m still laughing. “Hurry up Ronald, get back in the chair before we get in trouble.”
Ronald is still laying there, ass up in the air, “Fuck you, you son of a bitch! I can’t get up!”
I can’t stop laughing, but I manage to say, “You’re not even trying. Try!”
“I can’t move!” he yells.
I laugh harder. It’s uncontrollable. My eyes are watering. I’m still behind the wheelchair as Ronald is layed out on the cement.
He yells, “Get me the fuck up you asshole!”
I laugh harder. I am border-line hysterical. Ronald is cussing up a storm…hotter than fish grease.
Finally I walk over to him and roll him on his side. I grip the front of his jacket like a burlap sack of potatoes and pick him up. He’s still cussing, “You stupid mother fucker, I knew you were gonna wreck me!”
I’m still laughing.
“That shit ain’t funny, you could’ve killed me!”
I set him in the wheelchair and off we go! I pop a small wheelie and he freaks out!
“Motherfucker…knock it off!”
I say, “What? I thought you’d like Disneyland.”
“Fuck you! Just take me inside,” he demands.
I’m still laughing!
Before we go inside, I stop. I walk around to face him. We make eye contact. I can’t control myself. I bust out laughing again. I finally compose myself enough to speak, although my speech is full of laughter. I apologize to Ronald. I put my hand on his shoulder and say, “You know I didn’t mean to do that, right?”
He says, “Yeah, I know.”
Then I say, “You have to admit, that shit was funny.”
“NO! No it wasn’t.”
“Come on Ronald, not even a little bit?”
To my surprise, he smiled and said, “Maybe a little bit.”
I fixed his hair and straightened his glasses. Then said, “Alright buddy, lets go inside.”
The next day as everyone is waiting for breakfast, I see Ronald in his wheelchair. He has a new pusher behind him. Ronald doesn’t see me approaching. I whisper, “Let me push him.” The new guy steps aside and I grab the helm. Chow is called and off we go. He has no idea that I’m pushing him. The second we get outside I speed up. Then I pop a wheelie.
Ronald tries to look back, but I lean the opposite way. Then I do a sharp swerve. He knows it’s me!
He yells, “Fuck NO! Fuck NO! STOP! STOP!”
I let go. About 20 guys all start laughing. By now, everyone heard of the incident. Ronald laughs too. He loves the attention. I put my hand on his shoulder and said, “See! I told you that shit was funny!”