There were two or three
at first. Then twelve. Then twenty. At one time, there were thirty some odd
cats that lived at the Cold Pines jail.
jail in Cold Pines, Arkansas used to be in the town square. It’s in the county now, where the Kmart used to be. Economy goes down, crime rates go up.
Businesses close. Before the county took it over, the empty retail outlet was a
cats weren’t in the jail, you
understand. They weren’t bad kitties. They lived outside, in the woods. The
cats were looking for food, and found their way to the jail the same way a lot
of the inmates did. Desperation. Circumstances.
The prisoners brought food to the cats, which in turn, brought more kitties, and the
inmates and the cats sort of adopted each other. The men needed something to
care about, and the cats needed someone who cared. It was sweet. A nice arrangement for both.
who ran the jail weren’t at all happy about this kitty cat convergence. It was a relief to them when one by one, the kitties disappeared. Those behind
the bars of the Cold Pines jail maintained, it was also around this time that their appetites disappeared.
Thursday morning a collective moan ran through the revamped Kmart store, as guests of the jail remembered the meal du jour was chicken a la king.
was dotted with rubbery cubes of tendon-laden meat, some green and orange things
that looked like peas and carrots and were hard as poker chips; a chicken toenail here, a bit of intestine there.
All of it, swimming in little lakes of grayish-yellow goo. The chicken a la
Cold Pines was an unwashed gym sock of a dish, and the fact that cats were
vanishing at roughly the same time it was introduced gave some men pause. No pun intended.
fare is always questionable, in prison or in jail. Those who can afford it buy food from the canteen or the commissary.
in city jails, mostly. No canteen to speak of, for the inmates at Cold Pines. There
was a vending machine in the break room for people who worked at the jail. But
bringing the guy in Cell 4 a bag of Doritos wasn’t exactly a high priority.
have so little, in prison or in jail. Anything that comes your way, that you
can keep, is precious. A bag of chips, a bar of soap. If you get it, you are
thankful, and the men in the Cold Pines jail were thankful indeed, for Jerry
Loveworth was a former Cold Pines deputy who was supposed to retire at 62. He
stayed on, and worked in the jail; Jerry was one of those guys who just liked
to work. He was also kind and giving, sometimes to a fault—in other words, completely
unsuited for corrections.
weekends, Jerry went to DollarDaze, and loaded up a cart; on Mondays, he brought
his haul to work and handed it out to the prisoners.
his faults might have been, Jerry Loveworth hardly ever missed a day. By 10
a.m. when he hadn’t called and hadn’t shown up, they knew something was wrong. The
sheriff took a deputy and went out to Jerry’s place.
The smell hit them as soon as they got out of the car.
it was like a warehouse, or one of those big box stores. Ramen noodles, peanut
butter crackers. Oatmeal crème pies.
thirty odd cats.
week, they finished putting in a real canteen in the Cold Pines jail. The
kitties all got good homes; people saw the story on the news, and they called from
menu’s been revamped to be a bit more heart-healthy. No more you-know-what. Some
good came out of Jerry’s passing, sad as it was.
Under “Cause of Death”, the medical examiner wrote “Cardiac
Arrest”. He couldn’t say exactly how Jerry died.
you might say there are people more deserving of Jerry’s efforts. That he
wasted his time on criminals. Let them lie in the beds they made, without their
kitty cats to cuddle. Boo-hoo. They got what they deserved.
But the world doesn’t move by giving men what they deserve, and everyone needs something to protect; there's a hunger in the kind of men who live in the Cold Pines jail.
For anything, but the chicken a la king.