A white van pulled up to the gate of the Curran-Fromhold Correction Facility, the pink and pastel hell on Street Road in Northeast Philadelphia. On the side of the van was the city’s seal and the words “Sheriff’s Office.”
“What do we got today?” asked the guard at the gate.
“Holdovers for trial,” said the Sheriff’s deputy at the wheel while two other deputies looked on, one from the front, and one further back in the van. The cargo was a mishmash of society not yet in orange jump suits, making their arrival from Police Department cells where arrests were stored temporarily. The prisoners were dressed in various combinations of civilian wear ranging from blue jeans and t-shirts to pajamas and a vomit covered business suit. All were cuffed at wrists and ankles and chained to their seats. Locked wire mesh cages further kept them from taking a walk.
The manifest and other paperwork was reviewed by the guard and handed back. He nodded to another guard in a white hut. The guard in the hut pushed a button, noting for the record on a computer the date and time the gate was opened. The van drove inside the network of ten foot high cyclone fences topped with concertina wire. The van stopped again at another gate complete with guards. The process was repeated. From there van headed to the designated unloading zone.
Other prison guards met the van. The Sheriff’s deputies and the guard in charge went over the manifest. The prisoners seat-cages were unlocked as were the chains to the seats. The wrist and ankle cuffs stayed on the prisoners as they were marched out of the van and into the courtyard. A deputy and a guard both did body counts. Signatures were placed on the appropriate forms. The van left with its deputies. The prison guards marched their new guests inside a building for processing.
Rules were read off. Photos and fingerprints were taken. Prisoners were led to private areas for strip searches and body cavity checks. All went relatively smoothly until the processing line reached a thin disheveled man in his late twenties. Processing slowed. Latex gloves and surgical masks were procedure. Even with gloves and masks, the guards were reluctant to touch this fellow, but they did their jobs.
The man was ordered to undress but seemed to have difficulty accomplishing the task. He seemed only capable of wobbling on his feet, as if he was dancing to a tune only he could hear. Guards assisted with rough speed. Lice and fleas jumped off the prisoner’s body and clothing. His clothes reeked of urine and worse, but were put in a resealable plastic bag for recording and storage.
“Where did they find him?” a guard asked.
“Kensington Avenue, near Allegheny.”
Nothing more needed to be said. Kensington and Allegheny, better known as K and A, was the heroin capital of the east coast, the first big stop off of I-95 after coming ashore in Florida. Once a rough and tumble home to factories and warehouses, known for producing hit men and burglars, Kensington had degenerated further. The factories and warehouses had closed decades ago. Poverty and gangs were rampant. The area was known around the world from YouTube videos of homeless addicts living on the streets under the Frankford Elevated, sleeping on sidewalks, in doorways, vacant lots, abandoned churches, and “Needle Park”, a grassy area in from of the local branch of the public library.
The prisoner’s arms, legs, even his neck was scarred from needles. Visions of heroin laced with Fentanyl and Xylazine ran through the minds of the guards.
“What was he picked up for?”
“Alleged robbery, resisting arrest and assault on a police officer.”
“Great. Help me spread his legs.”
A greased and gloved finger was poked into the man’s anus to search for contraband. Corrections Officer William Curry, the guard with this choice duty wiggled his finger around inside the prisoner. Drugs, cellphones, weapons got smuggled into prison in the back trunk. All was going smoothly except for the grunts from the prisoner and the finger duty guard’s desire to wretch.
“Shit,” Curry shouted, pulling out his hand. He wasn’t referring to the residue smeared on the prisoner’s ass or on the latex glove. “Something bit me.”
“Bigger than that.”
Curry looked at his finger. The latex was punctured and blood was seeping out.
“That looks like an animal bite.”
“I’m filing an injury on duty report. I need to see a doc right away. God knows what I could get from this guy.”
Reports were filed. A sergeant and a lieutenant came by to take note of the injury and the prisoner’s ass. The prisoner stood naked all the while, legs spread, facing the wall, gently bouncing up and down. A captain and deputy warden were consulted. A plan of action was determined. The prisoner was dragged to a shower and hosed down. Afterwards he was rushed to the medical section.
The prisoner was manacled face down on a gurney by a pair of guards, with his legs spread. The guards stood watch while a contracted doctor used a tongue depressor and a penlight to study the man’s asshole. Any incredulity the doctor had about the initial report faded when he saw two small eyes looking back at him along with whiskers, nose and teeth.
“He’s got a rat in his ass,” Dr. Braddle said, not quite believing it himself,
“How is that possible?” asked Lynette Marsh, one of the guards.
“I don’t know,” said Dr. Braddle. “I’ve heard of cockroaches climbing into people’s ears, and other body openings. Usually happens when folks are sleeping. We use tweezers and a solution rinse to get them out. I’ve never heard of anything like that with rats before. Where was this guy found?”
“Kensington. On the street I believe,” said Marsh
Dr. Braddle looked at the prisoner’s arms and then his legs, feet and neck.
“Plenty of needle marks. I’m guessing he’s a homeless junkie.”
“I think he is,” said Marsh.
“I hear there’s maybe four or five hundred homeless junkies in that neighborhood sleeping all over the place. They set up tent cities. The police move them and they just pop up again a few blocks away.”
“That sounds right,” said the other guard, named, Stephen Cienkowski. “They’re out of it half the time, brain damaged from horse tranquilizer. It’s a real mess in Kensington. I grew up in Port Richmond, right next to it. Some say Port Richmond is part of Kensington, but that ain’t so. We used to get the overflow and still do. It was always a rough area, but it was nowhere as bad as it is today. Addicts, robberies, gang killings. There used to be a lot of churches on the avenue. “’I’d say one out of every five is abandoned now.”
“This is just a hypothesis,” said Dr. Braddle. “But I’m guessing our prisoner may have been sleeping, or nodding, in an alley or vacant lot. A rat crawled in his pants, or maybe he didn’t have his pants on at the time and rat climbed right in. Our prisoner didn’t notice the rat had made his ass into a hidey-hole. He still may not be aware of it. He seems out of it.”
“How will you get it out?” asked Nurse Grundy, who was helping with curing the problem child.
“I’m not sure Alice. I may have to experiment a bit. I can’t imagine a big rat fitting in there. It must be a young one, not full size. One way or the other we’ll get it out. Maybe we can tempt it out with food. I’m reluctant to try an enema. The rat might chew its way further in to escape the chemicals. If I can’t lure it out, it will have to extracted surgically. I can’t do surgery here. The prison’s medical ward doesn’t have the right equipment. If we can’t get it out the prisoner will need to be sent to a hospital.”
After some thought, and consultation with the plumbing shop at the prison, Dr. Braddle came up with a plan. The prisoner was sedated and chained spread eagle, face down, on a bed. A wide plastic tube was taped to the prisoner’s asshole. The tube fed into a cage where tasty morsels from the prison cafeteria were sprinkled. Video cameras were set up so the asshole and cage could be watched from another room if necessary, and so the action could be recorded. A half hour passed. The rat did not stick its head out.
“It may be living off the prisoner’s innards or undigested food in the rectum and large intestine,” the doctor speculated.
Nurse Grundy had an idea. “If the rat eats what comes through the digestive system, and the prisoner is hooked on a whole bunch of nasty shit, maybe the rat is addicted too.”
“So you suggest we might try a different type of lure?”
It took some negotiation with the DA’s office, the police and the warden, but a few hours later and guard came to the medical dispensary with a box labeled “evidence.” Inside the box was a smidgen of brown, fairly pure Mexican dope. It was just a few grams in an envelope, plenty to get a rat high.
The envelope was set in the cage. Additional taped was placed around the tube connected to the prisoner’s asshole to make sure it was secure. Then the wait began.
After a half hour movement was detected around the asshole. Puckering and bubbling, then a snout appeared. The nose twitched and sniffed, then disappeared back inside the prisoner’s ass.
“Maybe if we turn down the lights?” suggested one of the guards.
Curtains were drawn. All the lights in that section of the medical ward were turned off except for one on the other side of a divider. This left barely enough light to see what was happening. They waited. And waited. Almost an hour into their vigil the rat’s nose reappeared, sticking from the prisoner’s asshole like a big dingleberry or a rotting hemorrhoid. The rat sniffed the air. Slowly, very slowly, it emerged from the prisoner’s asshole, then raced down the tube into the cage. The rat was too engrossed with sniffing, rolling in, and chewing the brown to notice the cage door dropping shut.
“I’m glad that’s over,” said Cienkowski. “This is the craziest overtime I’ve ever earned.”
“It does sound like something on the Maury Lowpitch show,” said Dr. Braddle. “But we all witnessed it. I may write a paper on this case and send it to a medical journal. This is the first case of ‘Rat’s Ass’ I’ve heard of.”
The prisoner began to moan.
“Maybe he smells the brown?” suggested Marsh.
“I don’t know,” said Braddle. “Lets see what’s going on.”
The prisoner’s asshole began to pucker. Another rat showed its head.
“He must have a whole nest in there!”
“Maybe we should call Rodent Control,” Cienkowski joked.
Dr. Braddle looked at the guard.
“I wish we could,” he said. “This will be like delivering sextuplets.”
A collective sigh went through the room. It had been a long day. It was going to be a long night.