You Got Nothing Coming: Notes From a Prison Fish
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A memoir of astonishing power–the true story of a middle-class, middle-aged man who fell into the Inferno of the American prison system, and what he has to do to survive.
It is your worst nightmare. You wake up in an 8' x 6' concrete-and-steel cell designated "Suicide Watch #3." The cell is real. Jimmy Lerner, formerly a suburban husband and father, and corporate strategic planner and survivor, is about to become a prison "fish," or green new arrival. Taken to a penitentiary in the Nevada desert to begin serving a twelve-year term for voluntary manslaughter, this once nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn ends up sharing a claustrophobic cell with Kansas, a hugely muscled skinhead with a swastika engraved on his neck and a serious set of issues. And if he dares complain, the guards will bluntly tell him, "You got nothing coming."
Bringing us into a world of petty corruption, racial strife, and crank-addicted neo-Nazis, Jimmy Lerner gives us a fish’s progress: a brash, compelling, and darkly comic story peopled with characters who are at various times funny, violent, and surprisingly tender. His rendering of prison language is mesmerizingly vivid and exact, and his search for a way not simply to survive but to craft a new way to live, in the most unpropitious of circumstances, is a tale filled with resilience, dignity, and a profound sense of the absurd. In the book’s climax, we learn just what demonic set of circumstances–a compound of bad luck and worse judgment–led him to the lethal act of self-defense that landed him in a circle of an American hell.
Electrifying, unforgettable, bracingly cynical, and perceptive, You Got Nothing Coming is impossible to put down or shake off. What the cult favorite Oz is to television, this book is to prose–and all of the events are real.
From the Hardcover edition.
is it?" Maybe the cop, wise to the workings of the devious criminal mind, regards this as a trick question. Go figure. My paper suit may have been less than fashionable, but it was certainly functional, and, most important, it was mine. When all you have in this world is a half roll of toilet paper and a little piece of gray soap the size of a Chiclet, any property loss is an occasion for mourning. When the food slot opens for breakfast, I seize the opportunity to announce my
whatever county jail treasures Grafter had decided he could keep. As I had expected, Grafter kept my wallet and my belt but gave me back my wristwatch, which now read 10:30 P.M. I was also given a large brown envelope (after Grafter removed the metal clasp) containing my legal paperwork— plea bargain agreement, Notice of Judgment, and my Presentence Investigation Report, which the cops and cons refer to as a PSI. Bubblecop waited till all the new inmates stood silently in front of their
Eight by six feet with a twelve-foot-high ceiling containing a fluorescent bulb protected by a wire-mesh screen. An integrated stainless-steel toilet (no seat cover) and sink unit. Cinder block walls yellow-brown from decades of cigarette smoke. Lots of moronic graffiti. The one improvement over my county jail cell was the small square window cut into the concrete above the upper bunk. Heavy-gauge metal wire was woven into the glass. It was the window that decided me not to contest the
You had money for Mom's funeral, didn't you? Better rethink your priorities— until then, enjoy dead dial tone! Collection work can make an otherwise sensitive man a bit callous. Sergeant Stanger decides to have some fun with Spoony on the yard. "EAT DIRT, ASSHOLE!" This is Stanglish for "Drop to the ground, facedown, hands clasped behind your head." Spoony, who has just finished making his crank deliveries for the Car, isn't holding. He drops, facedown, while Stanger approaches
enhanced-services "Gold" customers. I know from matrixes and I have rarely met one I didn't like. "…so unless you have any questions, we must move on to our more… problematical candidates." I'm down with that, but I don't tell him that. I also have no questions. My mentor, Mr. Brown, once told me to never, "never sell past the close." In what is probably a departure from the usual script, I rise to clasp the hands of the three String Ties. Warm smiles and handshakes all around.