Teaching at the prison would have been far less interesting without my colleague, Lark. She was intrigued by the abnormal. Her quest for the bizarre elicited juicy tidbits about staff as well as inmates. We wondered why one woman was promoted to captain. She was unprofessional enough to get into shouting matches with inmates, yelling things like, “Don’t think you’re so damned hot! I can go home at night and you can’t!” Lark’s questioning of staff elicited the answer: The new captain was sleeping with one of the wardens. Lark also ferreted out the gossip behind another female officer’s promotion over men with more experience. A boob job.
Lark and I worked from the school area in the Old Max building. Three male teachers taught classes limited to 15 students each at Old Max. Mike, the officer in charge of the school, referred to us as “those women,” but warmed up when we didn’t cause him any grief with the inmates. Hailing from out of state, Mike frequently pronounced Mormons without the second M.
Winken, Blinken, and Nod, the male teachers, accepted us with less joy. I’d been hired to replace their friend who had been forced out by the principal. My predecessor took clandestine days off believing the principal couldn’t check lockdown buildings and find he hadn’t shown up. His friends suspected Lark and me of being spies and resented sharing their space with women. It took a while for Winken to remember to shut the bathroom door when we might return to the office.
The male teachers despised inmates. They spent their teaching time behind their desks reading LDS theology while inmate tutors helped their students with lesson packets. During prep time, they discussed their reading material. Winken favored material on the far fringes of Mormon thought. One day he told me about a new book that explained that the Lost Ten Tribes are on another planet.
“How did they get on another planet?”
“The Bible says they were carried away to the North. This book explains how they could have traveled to the North Pole and another planet could have touched down there for them to climb on. It’s possible.”
“Winken, do you know what would happen to the earth’s gravitational field if another planet approached that close?”
“God can do anything.” Fortunately, Winken was not the science teacher.
Mostly, the men stayed in their classrooms, and Lark and I stayed in our office when we weren’t teaching. Nod hung around the office more than Winken and Blinken because he liked to discuss Church History with me—I thought. Nod was well read on controversial issues, especially polygamy. He believed this doctrine was only temporarily abandoned by the church and he held out hope for its reinstitution—if not in this life, definitely in the next. Our inmate clerk deflated my ego by informing me that Nod hung around, not for my intellectually stimulating conversation, but for Lark’s good looks.