Nathan Graziano

Hot Dog Night at County Jail

Before reporting to county jail for a ten-day sentence, the longest I’d lasted in the past ten years without a drink was seventy-two hours.

I tied the record in lockdown.

Three days later, the cell door popped open, a sound like a shotgun being cocked through a microphone, and then I was allowed to walk among the general population in the G-pod—mostly small-time criminals with a paper trail of misdemeanors, potheads and deadbeat dads and petty thieves. Not the rape-you-in-the-ass monsters I envisioned. Most of the guys were either watching the television or sitting at one of the six stainless steel tables, playing cards or reading a book. Restless and confused, I roamed around the common are trying keep it together.

I was edgy, detoxing. But this wasn’t like any of the detox centers I’d been to. Not even close. In jail, I was just another animal, another beast to feed. I plopped down at one of the tables and held my head.

A guy with his nose and cheeks peppered with busted blood vessels sat across from me and stared like he was looking through a wall, sipping muddy coffee from a stainless steel mug.

“How long?” he asked, his voice pure gravel.

“Ten days.”

The guy snorted. “Ten days ain’t a sentence. It’s a break. I could do ten days with my dick jammed in a door. Ten days. I got six months for stealing one can of beer. One.”

I closed my eyes and nodded. If my hands and legs weren’t shaking, I would’ve gotten up and moved.

“You look like you’re losing it, kid. Just remember it’s only ten days. I was engaged to a girl for ten hours. I was on the wagon at the time, doing real good. I had three month under me, going to my AA meetings, and the whole time I was living with this girl, she drank like a fish. I’ve never seen someone shoot bourbon like her. She’d polish a fifth then do a fucking tap dance and not miss a step. You know what I’m saying?”

I grinned, cringed.

“I had this job at the time, working under the table for a buddy doing construction, and I had finally saved enough cash to buy her a ring. She said she wanted an engagement ring or she wouldn’t get married. So I bought the ring and got down on my knee before she went to work one morning. And she said yes, so we celebrated, if you know what I’m saying, and then she went to work bartending at this biker joint down the road from our apartment. I was so fucking happy I went out and bought a case of Bud and a pint of Wild Turkey.”

“That’ll do it,” I said. That’ll take away these shakes, these walls.

“Well, this girl had seen me drink before and didn’t like what she saw, even though she drank like a fish. When she came home that night, I was passed out on the couch, empties all around me. She came over, clocked me in the head with the boot of her shoe and threw the ring at me. She told me to pack my shit. Just like that. For ten hours, I was on top of the world, engaged and happy, and the next thing I know, I’m back in jail.”

The guys in their orange jumpsuits started lining up for dinner, but I wasn’t hungry. My bowels felt like they were fall out, but the thought of shitting in the filthy pot in that small cell terrified me. The guy who had been engaged for ten hours stood up. “You married?”

“I’m getting divorced.”

The guy tilted his head back and sniffed the stale air. “They’re having hot dogs,” he says. “Things could be worse things. You know what I’m saying?”


I enjoy scratching my chin and reading authors you’ve never heard of. For example, I’m currently reading “The Last Butterfly,” an epic poem by Shin Wing-Lau, a very contemporary South Korean writer that EVERYONE should read, translated by Douchey McHipster, a full professor at Smith College. I also take photographs for the indie-band The Unctuous Xylophones, who you’ve probably never heard of either. I’m the only one in the world who is intellectually capable of understanding the brilliance and complexity of dueling xylophones. My verse, prose and multimedia art has appeared in very hip journals that you’ve never heard of, such as Hippo on a Bicycle, Tnthenum, the Scrote, and Monday Morning Coffee Break.