The Incarcerated InkWell

Federal Inmate in a Canadian Prison with a Life Sentence writes about prison life

Reflections on mirrors and Siamese fish

Well, according to Minor Matt — the twenty-something that lives downstairs — its official. I’m now a hundred years old. What else could possibly explain my sudden love affair with CBC Radio? What he doesn’t know is that I finally went Al Qaeda on my TV — after it brought me Anderson Cooper, the Kardashians, and Cake Boss all on the same day. At least the CBC gives me some animated context on the end of the world. Maybe that’s why the iconic public corporation is again in the government’s crosshairs. Too much Don Cherry, not enough David Johnston (Canada’s new Governor General).

One of the more thought provoking things I’ve heard recently on Old Guy Radio came the same week that Canada opted out of the Kyoto climate agreement. In a Q&A with some mayor from backwater India, the big question of why supposedly smart societies cannot stop the coming global sauna was finally answered: It’s not their fault. It’s the other guy.

“Countries like Canada and the United States have loaded up the carbon bank with more than their fair share,” the good mayor said with perfect English diction, and a charming New Delhi accent. “The developed nations must now back away and let developing nations have some of that space. Yet they seem unwilling to do this.”

On its face, Mayor India’s logic seems to hold water — if not carbon. That is until you clear away the cobwebs of eloquent elocution, and realize that his water smells as rotten as the Ganges. Seventeen consecutive climate change conferences and the best our world leaders can come up with is blame it on the (carbon) bank? I have some bad news folks — and it isn’t about rising mercury or sea levels. It’s that the specious reasoning from your side of the fence is starting to sound an awful lot like the psychotic meanderings from mine.

Conflict in prison is announced the same way it is in most of the English speaking world: by the loud (above 96 decibels), clear exhalation of a fashionable four-letter expletive beginning with F. Sometimes it is drawn out like the wail of a siren. Faaaaaaahhhhhhhhk. Sometimes it comes in one explosive woof, with a gaggle of little F**K’s waddling behind, like newborn chicks. This week it flew from the cell of a con named Pieces, and sliced down the tier like a straight razor on an Adam’s apple.

Pieces is an angry guy. Maybe it’s because he only has one arm. Or maybe it’s that the same birth defect also took his left ear and half a foot. Then again, it might just be the cruel way we call him Pieces, based on all the ones he’s missing. But this week, the source of his rage was not left open to interpretation.

“Can you believe it?” he seethed into any passing ear. “Some scum bag, some filthy piece of dogs**t, some ass-eating pedophile… went into my cell and stole a Pepsi. Right off of my desk!” He then clarified in Technicolor detail the various forms of anaesthetic-free surgical procedures that should be performed on said box thief, and how the wall-sharpened spoon (not too sharp) used to do it with should be bathed in a mixture of salmonella and staphylococci cultures. One could almost empathize with the disabled veteran of a thousand broken dreams, except for one small detail. That detail would be the criminal code infractions that have put Pieces in the Big House for the past twenty months. Infractions known as Break & Enter, and Theft.

If there’s a universal myopia that effects every prison population, it’s the one found in a moral code that determines exactly who the worst scumbag is — in a kingdom of scumbags. Preying on the fresh fish and getting them wired to heroin their first week in the joint (the most vulnerable time for any new prisoner) – That’s all good. Not paying your dope bill after the predators have already gotten your canteen money, your phone card money, your stamps, your watch, wedding ring, and the cherished cross that grandma gave you on her deathbed — that makes you a scumbag. As does coming to prison with a rape conviction. But putting a seventeen-year-old girl on a street corner, where every forty dollar “date” is a likely rape — now you’re in with the solid guys. Home invasion? Good. Swiping cola from another con — bad. It reminds me of another fishbowl existence I heard about recently.

“There’s a type of fish called the Siamese fighting fish,” the CBC Radio commentator said. According to her, the male of this species won’t live in the same closed environment with another male. And if you hold up a mirror next to the bowl, the fish will attack its own reflection. Apparently it can’t stand anything that looks just like it.

Which brings us back to convicts. And multinational carbon bankers. Maybe that’s why I’ve recently fallen so hard for the world of radio. I’m in love with color commentary.


I.M GreNada posts every Sunday on The Province’s website. To read his new posts each week, go to

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