Dingus Goes To Jail

A wheat field burning in the Mississippi Delta

Photo by The Delta Bohemian

(Clarksdale, Mississippi)

Hell yeah I’ve been drinking. Three solid weeks in the slammer and nary a sniff, even of mouthwash! When I left that jailhouse earlier today, I told those folks, “Y’all have done seen the last of Dingus Batic-ASS!”

I reckon the real question is whether or not I learned my lesson. No sir, I won’t be calling the judge or any cops the n-word any longer — pretty damn stupid that was. As a matter of fact, I need to tell you about this whole deal. You ain’t going to believe it.

I got pulled over three weeks ago for a headlight out on my truck (and I had drunk a few cans), and the highway patrolman was a black fellow – I reckon that I just took a natural dislike to him…but worse, he was looking at my rebel flag license plate like it didn’t suit him. Well, I mouthed off to him like I’ve always done my whole life (and like my Pappy done before me).

It was an exceptionally dumb move on my part, because the next thing I knew I was waking up inside the jailhouse, and three or four other big fellers were making hamburger out of my face. I couldn’t tell how many of them were cops, but it made no difference to me; I knew I was about to die.

When I woke up the second time, I was in the cell with one big, bad-ass-looking black dude named Deon Pimpton. He could have played linebacker in the NFL (he did play college up East somewhere), and he was glaring at me like he was getting ready to tear off what was left of my bloody head. He looked about 6’-5” and about 265.

His big, muscular arms were bigger than my legs, and his waist was about half the size of his chest. I just avoided eye contact with him and shut my mouth.  But when I realized how bloody I was and how much my face and head hurt, I started burning inside with pure rage. I made up my mind right then, whenever I got out of this place, I was coming back to get even with these folks–every damn one of them.

They put me before the judge, who was an older black fellow with a mustache and glasses. He kept peering over his glasses at me and using big words and talking down to me …and then it happened. I mumbled the n-word under my breath, and I reckon he heard me.

If his face could have gotten red, it would have been purple, because when he got through with me I wasn’t sure I was ever going to be free again. Finally, he told me he did not tolerate trash in his courtroom and that he was going to do a little spring cleaning by putting the trash outside in the garbage heap. He had the bailiff snatch me out of his courtroom immediately, and within five minutes I was back in the cell with Deon.

I fought the cops all the way back to the jail, but they all laughed when two of the big ones slung me on the floor of the cell. When I looked up, Deon was standing over me with his fists in a ball. For a split second I thought about trying to aim for his knee cap, but I was so damn tired from fighting those cops I reckoned there was no way I was going to fight this big behemoth. I cringed and got ready for the worst when he slowly bent down, and as I waited for the blow, an eternity went by – nothing happened. I looked up, and to my amazement he was offering me his hand.

He didn’t say a word after he helped me up to my cot; he just stared at me. After about an hour the cops brought food; it was some sort of hash in a bowl with a single spoon in it. I was pretty thirsty and gulped down half-a-cup of Kool-Aid they had given me.  When I reached back down to put the cup on the floor, my hand accidentally hit the spoon sticking out of the hash bowl balancing on the edge of the bed.
When my hand hit down on the near end of the spoon, the far end came up, and a whole spoonful of hash launched like a catapult straight at my face. It arched down, missing my face, and landed square in the middle of my chest. As I looked down to see what happened, it just slowly slid down the front of my bloody shirt like a mudslide.

I looked up at Deon, who had been staring at me the whole time. His eyes got big, and he seemed to swell up. Then his mouth opened wide, and he let out the most thunderous laugh I ever heard. I looked down again, then back up again, and I started laughing too. We laughed together for what seemed like ten minutes.

I reckon that broke the ice between us. After that, we started talking, and I found out that I had worked with his brother at the hardware place and that his daddy had been the one I heard about that got killed in an explosion at the chemical plant.

The cops had found a bag of weed in his car at a roadblock, and it had been his second offense. He worked on the riverboat during the summer, but since this was wintertime he was pretty much lying around the house every day. He blamed his idle time for his wanting to smoke weed all the time.

He talked about losing his daddy and how much his mama was going to be so disappointed in him that he was in jail again. He opened up to me like I’d known him all my life, but by all accounts he should have hated my guts. There was something strange about that, but mostly just real strong – it took some guts to fight down what I know he must’ve thought about me down deep.

The next days were spent talking nearly all day. Deon was good company, and he never seemed to get tired of hearing me talk about my sorry life, despite who I was and what I believed. He was a funny fellow, sometimes breaking into a Richard Pryor or Eddie Murphy routine, and I laughed like hell when he did a dead-on Jethro Bodine imitation from Beverly Hillbillies. He told me that my face looked like a half mile of bad gravel road, but that I probably had a lot to do with why it was so banged up.

One day he asked me, “How come you seem to be so hateful to black folks?”

“I don’t know….I reckon that’s the way my Pappy raised me”

“So, your daddy’s gonna decide what you think of folks all your life? You still letting him do your thinking for you, or have you even got your own mind?”

“Damn right I got my own mind, but….birds of a feather I reckon…y’all folks just ain’t the same as us.”

“Ain’t the same? What the hell you talking about – ain’t the same. I got two eyes, two ears, a heart, and the same want-to’s and afraid-of’s as you got! I cried just as hard when my daddy died as you did, and I probably got about ten times more friends than you ever thought about having.”

“I reckon you got a point there. Well, it really ain’t about you; it’s just all the rest of em.”

“So you know about all the rest of us, do you? Boy, you thinking what I call Old-Testament thinking. Back in them Old Testament days you better be looking around at what your neighbors in the town are doing, because it don’t matter if you’re Moses himself, if the good Lord don’t like what everybody else in town is doing, he liable to wipe out the whole town-maybe the whole county.

Israelites here and Moabites there – if you aim to stand out on your own you can forget it.  But in the New Testament, that’s one man for himself.  He decided what he wanted to be all on his own. Jesus worked on folks one by one and let them decide. Boy, you got to quit lumping people together. You don’t know a man ‘til you’ve walked a mile in his shoes, and you look like you ain’t never changed your shoes in your whole life.”

It didn’t take long to figure out that Deon is a better man than I am by a long stretch. You know, inferiority doesn’t bother me like it ordinarily would – I reckon because he is my friend. He could have beat me down, and should have, but he didn’t.  And I think he saw something about me he even liked. He is a strong man, and a good one too. I hope he’ll have me as his friend, because I’d sure like to be his.

I left that jail and walked up to every single cop I had wrestled with, shook his hand, looked him in the eye, and told him I apologized. And I meant it. There are a few fights ahead with courts and lawyers and maybe a little more time in the slammer, but in the long run I’m through with jail and fighting. I think there is another way this time.

So I’m sitting here now drinking a celebration libation for getting out of the slammer. One or two more and I am headed to the house, but in the meantime me and Deon are enjoying some adult beverages and shooting the shit. He asked me over tomorrow night to his house to meet his mama and eat some of her fried chicken. And if the weather holds out, we’re thinking about hunting some rabbits this Saturday….

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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  1. Well done Dingus! You are an example of temporal redemption coming through communication–even if forced in this instance–and taking the time to get to know others whom we presume to be demonstrably different than us! Well done! Well done! Poor William and Pontificus Minimus

  2. Dingus learned one of the most important lessons in life. Never pass up the opportunity to find another drinkin buddy!!!!!!

  3. Lord Chuck, I’ll be damn! You are an optimist and a seeker of silver linings! I knew it! You and my boy McKee (writer of Dingus) gots ta get together!

  4. Fictious My Ass!!!

    “Full” Greer

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