Stephen Newman

The $30 Cheeseburgers by Steve Newman

“For those of you participating in the fundraiser, go to the chow hall, now,” C.O. Shull’s voice announced over the loudspeaker to our unit of 88 inmates. It was 10:37 A.M. I jumped out of bed and hurriedly dressed, making sure to button my shirt up (required), tuck my shirt in (required as of 2016), and put on my New Balance walking shoes (in years past, we were allowed to just slip on some shower shoes). Donned in the appropriate attire, I raced down three flights of stairs to the chow hall. (Our chow hall used to be a morgue in the 1950s, when the building I’m in was an insane asylum. In fact, the local high school’s mascot is a maniac. The Orofino Maniacs.)

Only 11 of were crazy enough (or wealthy enough) to spend $30 on a couple cheeseburgers, with chips and Pepsi. It was a fundraiser to benefit the Special Olympics, but once I got to the chow hall it became clear that helping mentally challenged athletes was the last thing on the inmates’ minds. An attractive, dark haired woman, not a day older than 24, was filming a story for KLEW, the local CBS affiliate out of Lewiston. She happened to be wearing skin-tight pants, and not coincidentally, all of the inmates’ heads happened to be facing the same direction.

One guy eagerly volunteered to be interviewed on camera. He spoke, like a true politician, on how good it feels to be able to give back to the community. Bullshit, I thought. For most inmates, if you’re going to give us an opportunity to eat two all-beef patties, crispy bacon, melted cheese, red onion, lettuce, pickle, on a buttery toasted bun, where the money ultimately goes is irrelevant. The Cat Lovers of Mississippi? Check. Pakistan Lawn Bowling Association? Sign me up! Idaho Prosecuting Attorneys Fund? Hmm. How big are the patties, again?

The burgers were better (and greasier) than I ever could’ve imagined. So good, in fact, I felt compelled to share one with my cellmate, Hammy.

I now have a new best friend.

Steve Newman
DOC #90843

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