DS is my name. My mom calls me Desiree–the desired one, but I go by DS–DS
for dog shit. I’m sixteen. I do drugs. I run.
I’m back in Juvie again. Be here a while too. They can’t figure out what to do
with me–I run from placements. The last one was out in the middle of the northern
California desert. Boring. As soon as I stepped off the school bus, Maggi, she was
the mom, had a list of chores–and I had to keep my eye on three little raggedy
kids while I did them. Maggi locked herself up in the bedroom with the TV. She got
sinus headaches. She came out when I had dinner ready, sniffed around, piled up
her plate, and headed back for the TV. We ate a lot of macaroni and cheese. And I
shoveled a lot of chicken shit cleaning the coops. I fed the chickens and collected
the eggs before school every day. Maggi sold eggs for her cigarette money. Once
a week, I got a pack for helping. She used to keep them under her bed. I figured
she wouldn’t miss an extra pack a week. And she didn’t–one of the kids was a
snitch. Maggie knocked me in the teeth with the TV zapper when she found out–
then blamed me cause the zapper broke. Maggie wasn’t all that bad, I just got
bored cleaning chicken coops–so I ran.
I work as a whore when I’m out. I get knocked around sometimes, but the pay’s
good. Better than cleaning chicken coops. I usually work the truck stops. I keep my
hair short and my tits aren’t much. The truckers aren’t sure if I’m a boy or a girl.
One guy was gonna knock my head off when he found out I was a girl. He made
such a racket another trucker climbed in the rig and tore into him. Told him to get
his ass out of there or he was calling the cops. That scared the shit out of me. I
don’t need any more trouble with the cops.
I thought the second guy wanted me to ride the bony pony, but he cleaned up
my face–even tried to put a band aid on my split lip. It just slid off when I tried to
talk. He bought me a double cheeseburger and a chocolate shake. He didn’t say
much. Just that he had a couple of kids my age. He dropped me off in Susanville–
that’s where my mom was living then–and told me to keep away from the truck
stop and behave myself. I did for the rest of the night. It was getting cold.
My mom was living with the Tattoo Man from the circus then. That's what I
called him. He had a trailer down behind the stockyards. He didn’t want me in the
trailer, but I got to sleep in the camper stuck on the back of his pickup. It wasn’t
too bad. He had a sleeping bag. A month later it got really cold. The neighbor had
a cat--a fat old orange tom with half a tail. Even with him in my bag, I almost froze
my ass. The windows in the camper froze and I got needles in my throat when I
breathed. I get asthma sometimes. I think the cat knew it. He tried to hold on to
That night, when the trucker dropped me off, I knocked on the door of Tattoo
Man’s trailer. It only had one hinge, so I never messed with that door. I didn’t
want to be the one that dropped it in the dirt. They were doing crank. I’d made
enough money that night so Tattoo Man let me stay inside.
By the time I really froze my ass--it was just before Christmas--he and my mom
got busted. That sucked. The cops were pissed at me because I’d been skipping
school. That’s the funny part. I really do like school. School for the dog shit kids. I
don’t like regular school with all those jocks and cheerleaders with their fancy
clothes and their noses in the air. In my kind of school, we know we’re dog shits
and don’t stick our noses up at anybody. I like to think we’re the real people. Now
I don’t think all cheerleaders are fancy-ass freaks. I know one–or about one, and I
think I’d like her.
It’s time for dinner. I’m in lockdown and have been for the last twenty-eight
days. I still get to eat. They bring me a tray–slide it through the slot in the door.
“I wonder who’s working graveyard?” I asked staff when they brought my
dinner, but they didn’t know. I hope it’s Mrs. Manley, cause she talks to me. She’s
the one with the cheerleader granddaughter. Sometimes she works graveyard on
the weekends. Usually with Mr. Roberts. He’s nice, too. I’d like him for a
I’m a room alone because they know I’m a whore. I’m in Room One. I have a
little window in my door and can see the kids go by if the flap’s up. And I have my
own toilet. I like it--even if staff can watch me pee. There’s a monitor in the
control room. The toilet’s cold and I don’t sit long, anyhow. I don’t have a toilet
seat. Not just because I’m a room alone–nobody does. The sink–almost big
enough to float a goldfish–is built in the back. I can sit backwards on the toilet and
brush my teeth. Good idea, huh. Too bad they don’t make toilets like that in
regular homes–with a seat of course. And I talk to the toilet. Not really to the
toilet, but if I stick my head in the toilet, I can talk to Jay in Room Two.
Jay’s the reason I’m in lockdown. I’m in love with Jay. He’s kinda skinny, but he
has dark hair and dark eyes, and he’s smart. He knows the name of every bird
around here. He told me his name was Jay for Blue Jay, but I think he was just
kidding me. He’s a good artist, too. He drew a picture of me once. I was dressed
like a warrior princess flying over the mountains on the back of an eagle. I’ve
known him for a long time so this isn’t one of those short term relationships like
my mom always has. Every time she meets a guy–and she picks some pretty
freaky guys–he gets busted, she gets busted, or he kicks the crap out of her and
throws her out.
Jay’s been in and out of Juvie since he was ten. Twenty-three times so far. That’
s more than either of his two older brothers and he says there’s no way
they’re gonna beat his record. They’re both in CYA now. You don’t come back from
Youth Authority. Jay brags a lot. Once he was out and back in here in three hours.
He ate lunch, they released him, he stole a bottle of Jack Daniels at Safeway,
and was back in by dinner.
He’s got a plan–we talk about it through the toilet. They won’t send him to CYA
if he’s crazy. He tells them he sees things and hears voices. He had a fit at school
last month. Yelled he was having a flash back then pulled his desk over on top of
him and started kicking and spitting. It scared the teachers. The staff who watches
us in school called for backup and they made us all get against the wall. Then
they took Jay down and cuffed and shackled him and took him to his room. He told
me through the toilet that night it was all a fake. I sure believed him. So did a lot
of other people. Melody in Room Eight was screaming she’d never do drugs again.
That’s a lie, but maybe she believed it then. That’s why most of us are here. We’re
Jay’s an Indian. When he’s not in Juvie, he lives down river with the other
Indians. He says he does drugs because it’s part of his religion. It helps him see
things better. I think he gets high for the same reason I do. I like it.
It’s snack time. If I lay on my bed and put my ear against the block wall just
below Bambi’s front foot, I can hear everything in the activity room. I really have
Bambi on my wall–and flowers, too. They have pictures painted all over the place
in here. With my ear by Bambi’s foot, I can hear movies or the AA meetings. On
the graveyard shift, if they turn the TV off, I can hear the staff talk. There’s some
pretty interesting stuff that goes on around here on the graveyard shift.
Jay won’t talk to me tonight and I’m worried about him. I think he played crazy
too long. Last week when they let him out for a shower, he tried to jump a staff–a
big staff. That was dumb. He yelled he saw a moose and it was attacking. That
was dumb, too. He has a moose and some trees painted on his wall. He could
come up with something better than that. He got pepper sprayed and that’s not
much fun–take it from me. I’ve been sprayed twice. He yelled he wanted to commit
suicide. That’s stupid, too. Take that one from me, too.
They took all his bedding and clothes and gave him a paper Barney gown– one
of those bulky brown hospital gowns that stick out in back and make us look like
Barney on TV. They do that to you if you’re a pain in the ass or say you’re thinking
of suicide. If you’re just a pain in the ass, you usually get your stuff back piece by
piece on the graveyard shift. It’s cold here in the summer. The air conditioning runs
all night. I mouthed off big time once and ended up naked as one of Maggi’s
chicks. I’d have promised anything just for a shirt. I thought I was back sleeping in
Tattoo Man’s pick up. Lucky for me, Mr. Roberts worked graveyard that night. He
gave me my stuff back, even my clothes, as soon as the swing shift left. He just
told me to cut out the funny business and go to sleep. I don’t think he likes
working here. He always says, “Two years, four months, thirteen days, and I’m
out of here,” or something like that. He has grandkids. I bet he’s a good
He was the one who took me down when I was pepper sprayed. It was the last
time I was in here. I had Room One again. Lucky for me I’m a room alone. I
always get the good room. Jay was down the hall. He’d been locked down for
seven days and his roommate told me Jay was talking suicide again. I couldn’t talk
to him through the toilet, so I started yelling, “Blue Jay, I love you.” Once I started
yelling, I couldn’t shut up. They took my bedding. Then they took my clothes. I just
kept yelling, “Blue Jay, I love you.”
Boss Lady shot the pepper spray through the slot. I jumped behind the door so
she couldn’t hit me, so they clanked the door back. It’s a big steel door. You have
to watch your toes–we can’t have shoes in the room–they’re dangerous–the
laces, you know. She came at me like something from outer space with a big gas
mask and some kind of Michelin Man suit. I kept jumping around and she couldn’t
get a good enough aim, I guess, so she sprayed the wall, sprayed the bed, and
sprayed Mr. Roberts. Finally, she got it right up under my nose and I felt it slurp
down my face like that silly stuff they shoot at you in parades–just before my eyes
got it. I ran around like a trapped hamster. I knew better than to stick my head in
the toilet to wash it off–Jay did that once and he warned me not to try it. I heard
Boss Lady yell at Mr. Roberts to take me down. He straddled my back and cuffed
me and I felt him put his hand between the toilet and my head. I was jerking
around so much I had a big lump there the next day.
Mr. Roberts came back that night during the graveyard shift to see if I was okay.
Staff’s not supposed to open doors at night–because we’re dangerous, but he
came in with Mrs. Manley to talk to me. My asthma was bothering me so she
brought my inhaler and let me puff. I kept a damp cloth over my eyes. It burns
worse if you open your eyes–remember that, if you’re ever pepper sprayed. She
sat on the bed and rubbed my back while he talked to me. I pretended I was sick
and they were my grandparents.
Mrs. Manley is the one who helps me pretend. She’s the one who has the
granddaughter. She doesn’t know I’m pretending about her granddaughter, so
don’t tell her. When I know she’s going to work graveyard, I try to sleep during
the day. That’s pretty easy to do around here–especially if you’re in lockdown. I
don’t have a window to the outside, just Bambi. I tell time by the food. If they
gave me breakfast some night, I bet I wouldn’t be able to sleep. They don’t turn
the lights off because they have to do fifteen minute security checks so you don’t
plug the toilet or kill yourself. Mrs. Manley can’t come in my room. The only night
she did was that night with Mr. Roberts and I won’t ever tell.
Last week, Mrs. Manley brought a pillow and sat outside the slot on my door.
She says she has a bony butt and can’t sit on the cement very long and her back
gets tired if she bends over to talk in the slot. I don’t think she looks like a
grandmother. She looks younger than my mom. I haven’t seen my mom for over a
year, so she probably looks even older now. Last time she came to visit me, the
deputy brought her in. We didn’t say much. It’s kind of awkward to talk to your
mom while she’s in shackles and a belly chain.
“Like my new jewelry?” She held up her cuffs.
I wanted to give my mom a bad time about my last home furlough. I knew I was
gonna get a pee test when I checked back in–they told me three or four times.
She had some good stuff and we got high. She told me they’d never know if I
drank a cup of vinegar before I checked back in. I didn’t think it was such a good
time to bring it up with the deputy there.
Back to Mrs. Manley–maybe the crank is getting to my brain. My mind sure
wanders a lot. She’s got this granddaughter who’s sixteen just like me. She’s just
about my size and has blonde hair just like mine. I’m not sure about her eyes. I’ll
have to ask about that. This granddaughter–Sara’s her name–is smart. Really
smart I’d guess with some of the things she’s doing. I’m smart, too. The teachers
tell me how smart I am. I don’t think they’d all be lying to me. I’m certainly a good
reader. There’s not much else to do in lockdown.
I saw a picture of this granddaughter once. It was a prom picture. She had on a
red strapless dress and her hair was done up in fancy curls. I could have fancy
curls if I let my hair grow out, so we’re really not that much different. She works in
a department store. Not a JC Penney, but one of those ones the rich kids shop in.
Sara’s not rich. Her mom’s a single mom and has to work two jobs. I’m not rich,
either, so we’re alike that way, too. She was a cheerleader for three years but
had to quit so she could save money for college. I’ve never been a cheerleader. I
wouldn’t want to be either. The only time I really yelled, I got pepper sprayed.
Sara isn’t a cheer leader anymore anyway, so that makes us more alike. The only
thing we’re different in–she doesn’t do drugs. Mrs. Manley says Sara looks down
her nose at kids who do drugs. I asked Mrs. Manley if she was sure Sara didn’t do
drugs. She said she was sure.