Dutch in Prison by Erich Onzik

Our man Dutch hated Missouri, but at least the weather, he thought, was warm enough. He stretched his arm out the short and narrow, concrete window; his slim, double-jointed elbow rocked backwards a bit to catch just a little of the sunset that couldn’t leak into his cell. He let his gaze saunter over the haunting stretch of orange sky outside. All that could be seen of the land was in his imagination. Missouri was there in some abstract form lying beyond a weave of metal fences and one very high and very thick wall. Prisons within prisons.

Simultaneously, Dutch obsessed over a letter from his wife, Venus, examining the words, the prose, and the curvature of her handwriting. He placed these images into the movie montage of his mind where Venus wandered with aplomb.

His crooked, puppy-brown eyes tilted up to catch a flock of geese honking freely in asymmetrical V-formation, lifted by the ease that nature blew through their feathers. Dutch admired their grace, until all of them, perhaps ten or twelve, lean birds, were obliterated by a jet’s engines as the plane plummeted violently towards the horizon.

Dutch fell back through his cramped cell, tripping over the lip of his seat-less toilet to support himself on the chain-strung bunks behind him. Fellow prisoner, Buck, as in “Buck Wild” Simpkins, a man jailed for a hands-on effort to reshape his girlfriend’s cranium, became frustrated when his vigorous masturbation session was cut short by Dutch’s movements in his peripherals.

“What the – What the fuck are you doin’? You see me doing jumping jacks when you jerk off? God dam it! Get your ass back to the window,” Buck rasped in his Texan drawl. Dutch moved around Buck’s lower bunk until he gripped the polished, steel bars of their cell gate, while telling his cellmate,

“Oh God, Buck! I’ve upset you! I didn’t think your tender sensibilities could be thrown out of sorts during the dignified process of fucking yourself but – Guard! Hey guard!” Dutch’s shout reverberated through the prison until the attending guards slammed their batons on the cell gates to quell the excited inmates. From three floors below the largest official watchman leaned back to project his heavy baritone while checking the inmate lists on his clipboard…Dutch…Perkins in cell seventeen.

“Perkins! What in God’s name would drive you to shout like an imbecile during six o’clock roll call? Explain yourself!” Dutch scrambled for words. He became wary of the incoming bulk that was his lunatic cellmate,

“Well, uh, I think I saw a possible plane crash.”

But the guard only shrugged, “Are you sure that plane crash wasn’t your life, inmate? HA! Either way, it’s of no concern to you.”

“The plane ate some geese or something!” Dutch yelled. The guard replied but at that point the only response Dutch heard was jumbled in a hypnagogic, subconscious void where Buck sent him upon guiding his skull into the steel bars. Buck apologized for any disturbance and then continued to masturbate.

Days go by, rather quickly, but the concept of time to our man Dutch has become a blend of speeds. Sometimes he and Buck could discuss sixty days as though they were thirty, thirty as though they were ten and so on, descending into the timeless eternity of the here and now. This was a paradoxical side effect of repetitively experiencing the faint and mysterious smell of diaper in the air, the oily feel of glossed concrete, and the nauseating sameness of obscure food brands wrapped in cheap plastic.

In the past, Dutch entertained thoughts of escape but had given up when he determined that the layout of the prison was too complex and impenetrable for him. From what he knew, the prison was built into space station like containment “pods” and blocks separated by hallways that stretched far enough to maintain a vanishing point. Outside of these pods were the fences he’d gaze through; beyond those was a steel and concrete barrier and beyond that was Missouri, and so forth.

Now, despite the facially tattooed, barbed wire designs that lent him the visage of a Batman rogue, Dutch was a sensitive type. And he might have used his intelligence for good things if only the poor bastard could control his idiot-savant focus from blurring over the important matters to find only those things that would waste him. This powerful and impulsive personality trait mainly contributed to the general imprudence throughout his walk of life (which was more like a defective scurry through a maze).

He was a lucky sort of hick who had actually taken advantage of the education and endearment that his wife Venus, had mystically presented to him. His main outlets for expression were writing letters to her, and reading letters from her. But she never visited. Their relationship was in a scary margin around him like everything else, disassociated. While he paid attention to who or what he wanted, not much changed over the five and a half years in jail except for his previous cellmate hanging himself with a sheet and the consequent union with Buck.

His relationship with Buck was one of unique understanding, as well as an occasionally threatening escape from boredom. Dutch was Buck’s “bitch” and could be sold for the nth amount of cigarettes. However, Buck would never rape Dutch at any point in their stay together, saying that,

“F-block just isn’t that type of place.” Dutch never really understood this because he was positive that some of the other bitches, at the bitch table in the cafeteria, would tell rumors about sexual assault in some uncivilized form in F-block. The other prisoners were ambiguously envious while some were content when comparing their situation with Dutch’s. For though Dutch was free to do pretty much whatever he wanted, including talk shit, he would have to expect all kinds of “Buck Wild” retaliation.

As a penalty for calling Buck retarded, one morning Dutch found himself tied to his bunk whilst Buck poured toilet water over a rag that covered his face, so as to simulate drowning. From time to time, Buck would throw very questionable hypodermic needles into places of thin tissue on Dutch’s hands, much like a satisfied poet would leave a quill in an ink well.

“Ouch,” Dutch whispered in lament while he picked at the stitched, egg-shape beneath the wrapping about his head. It was three, maybe four days after the head trauma? And our man Dutch sat before Warden John Bilou, the proverbial lord of this realm of denizens. Dutch’s pale, green, prison slacks showed traces of sweat around his skeletal frame, and down the v-neckline. It was the refracted light of the sun coming in hot through the large windows behind the warden’s desk. This also made it next to impossible for Dutch to see anything except for brief peeks at the Warden. His general nervousness in the office was brought on by the familiar sense of being punished, punished further perhaps. The fact that the Warden had open animal traps adorning the drywall, and a guard nearby, didn’t ease his mind.

The Warden sort of just… sat there, watching Dutch pick at his scabby tissue. Then he quietly read through some papers until his face bled through the sunbeams and into Dutch’s eyes. The Warden cleared his throat and said,

“Do you miss your wife Mr. Perkins?” Who, Venus? The blazing queen of Dutch’s white trash libido? That slender dishwater blonde who could charm angels out of heaven while she gathered her underwear from a clothesline? A creature with enough spiritual and know how to make you cum in your jeans while she stroked you, smiling through her lips? Venus, who twice paid for his education only to observe the results in her husband’s letters from prison? The woman who Dutch would drag his balls across two miles of broken glass just to hear her fart in a tin can over the telephone? True, fucking, L-O-V-E?

“She means a great deal to me sir,” Dutch sighed, surrendering an emotional wall there, “Although I imagine NOW since Venus and I have suffered some iniquities between us, before and after my incarceration, she might not truly feel the same about me as I do her.” Bilou contorted his gremlin-like face in a way that made Dutch fear he was having a stroke.

“Iniquities would imply that justice has not been served, Perkins, but as you can see you are here and she is very righteously, no doubt, living her life out there. But, you’ve been showing fairly good behavior. I can say so because you were the only prisoner who signaled that unfortunate plane crash to one of our correctional officers. Lucky he mentioned something after it showed up on the news. For this, and for the fact that you’re in the great state of Missouri, we’re going to allow a degenerate like you a second chance to reform yourself and your marriage. It is in my personal belief that such a therapeutic process might help you make some positive changes. Then perhaps upon your release you won’t go out and maybe try to self abort your sister’s mysterious new child,” the Warden added, “or something like that.”

For the next few minutes, Dutch was flinching to discover that his wife Venus, in between working two full (shitty) time jobs and going to school, had arranged for three days of what was commonly known as a “conjugal visit.” But Dutch still had to win the Warden’s trust by handing over the mystery-man who was smuggling heroin into F-block.

“Oh, it’s Buck Simpkins, my cellmate,” Dutch relayed with a steady pulse.

“Well, that’ll do Perkins.”

For a moment, Dutch recognized the significance of the Warden’s clock ticking on his desk as time between him and his wife shortened.

Dutch lost track of the days, as per usual, and rather, started counting the ways he could love her. While his cellmate and nemesis served time alone in a dim, steel box, Dutch could more openly immerse himself with his wife’s words. But Venus’ letters, while amorously tender and comprehensive, sometimes had a certain degree of restraint. Her sentences trailed between winding walls in a maze, as though she were holding something from him or leaving too many words open to interpretation. He wouldn’t be surprised if she still loved him but was hiding a divorce, a death wish, or a bastard child, his maybe. Each re-read left him giddy with delight, but also paranoid with anticipation.

True, serving a seven-year sentence apart is daunting for a married couple. Dutch was certain other men would service her from time to time. This torturous understanding in many ways alleviated Dutch’s guilty conscience over past sins. However, the arrangement of a conjugal visit was no easy undertaking. Barely lucky though he may have been in his life of imprisonment in Missouri, how could any intelligent woman (and he knew she was) want him so badly? Especially when their future was blotted by the geyser gushing fuck ups of the past.

Two prison guards picked him up around 7:00 AM. He passed by some other inmates who gave him bittersweet looks, one of whose belonged to the enraged Buck Simpkins, menacing through the eye slits of the door to his containment cell at the end of a long hall. The guards searched Dutch at a security checkpoint that was adjacent to one of the narrow walks between two of the larger containment pods. The guards noted that beyond the adjacent metal door, there was “The French Room.” Allegedly, it was a prison cell that the Warden designed after studying penitentiaries abroad.

“Is my wife here already?” Dutch asked the guards.

“Yeah,” a bold prison guard said, “We frisked her too…hehe.”

A little insulted, Dutch entered through a steel door that was sealed shut behind him. Before him was a one-bedroom apartment by the look of it, or a simulation thereof. The wallpaper that wrapped over the entire flat had a repeated pattern of marsh reeds and flowers. It showed an iota of discrepancy in covering the wall to its corners.

Laden with mysterious stains, an aged brown couch sat upon beige carpet, stiffened like a wire brush enough to withstand a nuclear blast if one ever graced the prison. The room couldn’t escape the jails musty, old-folks-home smell and the pleather-bound, fold out table only added to an incommunicable “out of place” vibe. But… the orange shade on the hanging lamps above warmed the stylized prison cell into believing it was as liberating as a RV Park motel/cocktail lounge, very liberating.

To his right was the bedroom, with a neatly made, queen size mattress centered against the wall and decorated with prophylactics on the pillow. To his left, Dutch spotted a small kitchen through which a wooden porch could be seen. That porch seemed slightly elevated over green grass, or something like it. It was washed with sun and equipped with a dome shaped, charcoal grill. He moved towards it with fascination, when suddenly a door opened on the opposite side of the room, the bathroom, and, with a strange shyness, she emerged.

Venus’ small face beamed with fluctuating smiles while her bashful gaze bobbled in different directions. It seemed like eye contact tickled her to the point where she had to bite her knuckle, although, it could have been her thoughts. They stood there in a silence that stretched the seconds. Dutch noticed a new rose tattoo fluttering through her short blonde hair just below the left ear.

“And this is Dutch Perkins?” she hummed, sending a twinge into Dutch’s central nerves. “Infamous human hand grenade and married man. Your eyes look closer together, but at least they dress you better than I could.”

“I try to dress myself now,” Dutch said.

“Oh,” she replied.

“Yes ma’am. And you, Venus… are you here to kill me?”

Venus stepped forward, pushed her aura into his and gave him a smooch that grew at an exponential rate. She wore prim jeans that clung tight around her petite hips, laced sandals that wrapped pristine ankles and a liberal blouse, the color of which Dutch couldn’t really remember after it came off in the bedroom. Sweet breasts like ripe mangoes.

She caressed his head and his torso with astonishing imagination. By itself, her inherent, human-citrus scent was enough to send Dutch into a profound frenzy that transmogrified him from a mere man into a sparking, tantric engine. They scraped away the wallpaper and drenched the sheets. They were everything.

After playtime was over and they had a short rest, the married couple decided to catch up on the other, less physical, aspects of their union. At first it relaxed them to learn what the days had been like, detailing what wasn’t covered in their letters and limited phone calls. Venus talked about her jobs and her mom and purposefully avoided the topic of her sister who Dutch had sold eight balls of coke to. Dutch talked about Buck and asked questions about the outside world, specifically about bad movies, books, T.V. Since he’d forgotten, Venus revealed to Dutch that he would be twenty-nine years old when he got out. The fact that Dutch was caught on a news camera heaving his grandfather’s dud, hand grenade into a bank, while screaming, came up. That got him five years.

“It was all somebody else’s idea,” Dutch pleaded.

“And what about the sexual assault charges my darling?” she purred kindly to the wall as she pulled her clothes on, sans underpants.

“Now that was just a cruel assessment of my prowess,” Dutch argued, “and also somebody else’s idea.” That idea added two years to his sentence.

“Oh yeah? Sort of a ‘come along if you’re going my way’ type of deal? What was the whore’s name again? Helena?” Yes, Helena. Dutch knew her as the brilliant and industrious, criminal mastermind whose superior powers of seduction and cunning led him into a world of twisted love, and then crime, and then punishment. “This is just after I caught you offering cocaine and sexual enlightenment in my younger sister’s house, isn’t it? Then you ran!” Venus cried, “You ran away from me!”

“I was a little perturbed, Venus, the coke was affecting my-“

“I think you mean ‘perturbed’ Mr. Cokehead, with the ‘e’ before the ‘r.’’”

“Right,“ Dutch said. “But any ways, my flight landed me amidst some severe economic fallout in the farthest western township there and ah… that’s where I met Helena,” he relented. “She tricked me with her venom chatter. Originally, the plan was to sell a lot of drugs and then make it back to you Venus, with some cash.”

“Money would bring you back?” she said, through an undertone that bewildered Dutch.

“Well, yeah.”

“It’s frustrating to wonder how your selling drugs turned into you robbing a bank. I wonder, Dutch, how close you were to loving your whore, with grenade in hand, while she betrayed you to the police.”

“Now don’t forget, she slapped a phony sexual assault charge on me too.”

“Shut up, Dutch!”


“I hated you after the first conniption fit you sent me through. But your letters from jail told me things. I don’t know… You’re someone special in your writing, Dutch, but you ARE a coked-out calamity in person. Kind of typical, frankly, for a psycho.”

“Then, my sweet babe, I’ll love you according to my written words.”

On that note, deliberations began. They talked about Dutch’s stupidity, to which he relinquished to in most situations. For Dutch felt confused by profound feelings and was not as broad as the emotional planet that Venus could be in comparison. Surely she knew this, and it burned her. For the aching hours they spent filibustering they would spend equal amount of time screwing each other in every feasible corner of their simulacrum of a love den.

The future lurked behind every sentence. Was he sure he could be a good husband? They speculated on why they hurt one another though the only reason they could agree on was because they were in love. Love in its destructive form must have jostled Dutch’s thinking throughout. It was as though the only way to control this deep feeling of connection was to disable it with asinine decision-making, before any harm could come to him. Sleep approached them in the wee hours as they mumbled, to each other, good ideas for dreams.

On day two of the visit, Dutch lit up the grill and looked towards the sky that was squared in between tall, grey concrete. At high noon they caught some blaring sun. The grass between his feet was the sharp, beach resort, fake stuff that scratched you when you lay on it. Although, his Venus was undisturbed as she tanned on the lawn.

While the prison issue steaks hissed on the grill, Dutch pondered on his situation. His marriage might work if he kept visualizing the ideal, and maybe all could be forgiven in his new life with Venus. The steaks made him recount their wedding on her uncle’s veal farm, but this good memory only seemed to piss her into a manic state when the light of current facts shined through. Again they attacked each other with raised voices and petty, death stares. They felt an unavoidable discomfort build, knowing that they could rift apart so easily.

Dutch was always worried when her mood was on a wild edge. It was hard to know what would come next. Meanwhile, his tumultuous and preoccupied thought process on his marriage, and his life in the outside world, seemed to lock Dutch in circular ruminations, which, in their own labyrinthine ways, imprisoned him. Indeed, their love endeavored to become like an aluminum cage that could twist and subsequently wrangle the life from them. Dutch may have recognized that it was like this even before prison, before the grenades. A visible tension raised Dutch’s shoulders that Venus calmly rubbed away while the steaks burned to a crisp.

On day three, Dutch couldn’t help the sullen feeling of remembering he was in jail creep up the back of his head. Venus kept soothing him with promises that for his next year and a half she would try to apply for another visit, plus,

“Oodles of love letters,” to let him know she wouldn’t forget about him… even if she could.

They lay down together, weaving their fingers as the hours fell away to the terminal point of approaching goodbye. She got up to go to the bathroom.

Dutch walked over and sat down at the living-room table, thinking of ways to tell Venus to forget him. A familiarly sudden transformation took form in his thought process. He began to realize that after so much time, he would only give her unhappiness via idiocy. Instead, he thought, with sublime clarity, that it was substantially nobler to sacrifice his true love for a higher purpose. True love in exchange for time spent improving himself and perhaps loving many people on the outside. This would give them both a chance to live on a blank slate. The idea allured him because he envisioned escaping grander pain, and moving into sweet freedom for them both. However, our man Dutch felt something sink in his center as he brushed back his shaggy brown hair and thought, Now, to let her down easy.

Venus showed great poise while spinning out of the bathroom and lying across the pleather table top in front of Dutch. She was trying to cheer him up. He forced a smile as if she didn’t know, as if he didn’t know that she knew, which, maybe he didn’t. In a quiet moment like this, Venus could write a script to play out Dutch’s every word and action while his own actions would only mystify him.

“You look like you want to say something, love,” she spoke through puckering lips.

“I need to be free Venus. That’s all.”

“I know what you need Dutch, and before you say anything irredeemably inspired, I want you inside me.”

Dutch always had a hard time resisting her hushed tones and was once again released from his control and drifted upon her in an interim of mental peace. Atop the rickety table he cupped the curve of her ass and the back of her head in his hands and massaged the rose below her ear with a trembling thumb. He wanted to keep this moment as his sole possession. He was like a diamond cut to size when he pressed into her. To hold her was, no… she held him, her thighs and everything in between, she… held him?

“Don’t you dare move Mr. Perkins! Please don’t,” she commanded with eyes that had to be aggressive.

“I uh… what is going on here Venus? I feel… what am I feeling? Teeth?”

“That, my darling, is what the U.N. security-council refers to as a ‘Rape-aXe.’ A special package I ordered from a South African clinic. It’s meant to surprise you.” Dutch heaved in astonishment,
“Oh you do surprise me baby! In fact I – I think I’m in shock!”

“Shhh don’t shout or I might twitch.”

“How did you get it in here?”

“Well, ya see, it easily resembles a tampon or a female condom to the untrained touch of a security guard. Oooh, you’re shaking Dutch. I know, I know you’re scared,” she pouted, shaking her head, “but let’s not accidentally cause you a penectomy or any unnecessary damage. I’d quiver to think of what could happen if I lost control. Now, LOOK into my fuckin’ eyes Dutch!” Those pale green eyes.

“Why, Venus?” Dutch shrieked. The horror had frozen his manhood into a state of catatonic erection.

“Because baby, this is to create the emotional stimulus you need so that we can be together. I’m not just here to visit you Dutch. I’m here to announce that we are far too inseparable. When I think about two kindred souls like ours joining in life like bubbles in a vast ocean, well, a person could just go NUTS thinking about losing it,” she smiled, “I’m here to teach you that we can’t let it slip away or take it for granted again. And if we do, then horrible things can happen on our way to getting lost forever. I love you Dutch. I’m your Duchess. I’ve waited for you all these years in my own personal Hell while keeping stock in our bond that ultimately sets us free. We’ll be free from everything when all we’ll need is each other.”

“I guess I don’t follow you, crazy…sweetness.”

“Talking about our marriage, of course, Dutch. Marriage is about sharing a life, a mind, and a union of our unique persons. To do that, we’ll wear and tear for each other to fit. Our relationship comes with the love and the pain. Will you share that love and pain with me baby? For the rest of your life?”

Dutch thought long and hard like a man on stage forgetting his lines. He hoped that maybe the large steel door to the conjugal room would unlock and open to the emancipating arms of the prison guards. He wished he could fly above the grey concrete and into a jet’s engine. Still erect, he reflected on how things could be worse here in Missouri. Prisons within prisons.