Tales From The South Side: Bernie Schaffer's Funeral
Bernie Shaffer was a lousy prison guard but a very good man.
Everybody liked him; fellow officers, inmates, command staff... everybody. He was kind, softly-spoken and had a very gentle disposition. His only problem was that he just couldn't say no. He couldn't say no about anything to anybody.
He let a lot of violent convicts out of their cells. Repeatedly.
We would see them running all over the cell house and it was left up to the other officers to round them up and lock them away again. Everybody would get pissed off but it was really hard to yell at Bernie. He's just too nice. Eventually, the cell house lieutenant took him off the galleries and put him on the front door where he promptly began to let inmates out of the actual cell house!
Finally, the powers-that-be put Bernie in a perimeter tower where he couldn't cause any more trouble. The perimeter gun towers were usually reserved for old farts that had a lot of time on their hands. Bernie was definitely old but he didn't have a lot of seniority. Management stuck him up in the towers anyway and basically forgot about him. Out of sight, out of mind. But the really serious problems started when Bernie got his wife Dixie a job in the prison...
...she was a moron.
Dumb as a box of rocks we used to say. She was prone to cry a lot, she lost keys and she fucked up every assignment they ever put her on; even the simple tasks. Somehow, Dixie wound up in Tower 9 of the south cell house. Tower 9 was a crucially important tower that was used specifically to protect the lives of officers and inmates. How she got up there is a mystery and whoever assigned her to that tower committed a serious lack of judgement. She was way too incompetent for an important job like that.
Around this time, Officer McClanahan was the Inner Perimeter Officer for the entire correctional facility. A plum job to say the least. What your average prison guard would call a real doe-dick job. He only got that assignment due to the fact that one of the officers he trained rose up through the ranks with lightning speed, benefitting from an overseeing political clout that helped him become an administration assistant. Or, what the guards called, a suit.
All the Perimeter Officer did was walk the entire institution, check the outside locks, relieve tower staff for chow time and help gas up vehicles. By eight o'clock in the evening the officer would be done. Then, he'd just hang out. McClanahan's friend, the suit, had landed him the doe-dickiest of all the doe-dick jobs.
On one particular day, Officer McClanahan was walking towards the crosswalk shack.
The crosswalk shack was located in the center of the institution and was where the 3 to 11 shift commander and a lieutenant would station themselves to monitor the feed lines in the chow hall. This is where a lot of trouble went down every single day. On this particular day, Captain Prestman and Lieutenant Plesko we're in the crosswalk shack and Pressman was on the phone cussing up a storm. He was one of the toughest screws in the joint. A supreme ass chewer. So, McClanahan decided to try to find out what exactly pissed his captain off. He started walking towards the crosswalk shack. Lieutenant Plesko was furtively signaling him with his hand to just keep moving along. A signal which McClanahan obviously ignored as his curiosity got the better of him.
"Why, that stupid slope-shouldered cunt! God damnit! I wish somebody would accidently shoot that bitch. Fuck me runnin'!" Pressman then slammed down the phone and glared directly at McClanahan. "What a stupid cum-drunk bitch." McClanahan responded, "Who's that, Cap?"
"Dixie fucking Schaffer, that's who. She's in Tower 9 and she's hysterical. Hysterical Mac! I'll tell you what, I like Bernie and all, but he sure gave us a good fucking over when he got that stupid wife a job here. Motherfucker! Now I have to find somebody to replace her!"
McClanahan knew that he himself was a prime candidate for the position so he decided to beat a hasty retreat. "Well, I've got to get going and finish my rounds. Take it easy, fellas!"
He walked towards the south cell house to find out what the stupid woman had done this time. The whole while he was chuckling to himself because he knew that it had to be something good. When he arrived at the front door of the cell house he saw Sergeant Shellman standing in front of him.
"What's up Shelly?"
"You ain't gonna believe this one. I called Dixie on the phone asked her if she saw resident Porter on the back of four gallery. She said, 'yeah'. So I told her to get on the bull horn and tell him to get his black ass back on his fucking job. And she did it! Three times, word for word. Resident Porter! Get your black ass on your job!"
Porter just happened to be a Vice Lord - one of the toughest street gangs in Chicago at the time.
Shellman continued, "And the next thing you know every single Vice Lord is in front of the tower threatening to kill her. I went down and straightened it all out. Everything has calmed down but now Dixie's in the tower and she won't stop crying! She's in hysterics! Pressman is sending someone to relieve her and is sending her home. But man is he pissed."
Mac started laughing and Shelly laughed with him.
That's the kind of stupid shit she used to do on a regular basis. It was unprofessional and was the type of behaviour that could risk lives in a harsh environment like a correctional facility.
Eventually, Bernie transferred to some joint down south, but Dixie had to stay at the Pontiac Correctional Center. So, the powers-that-be just stuck her on the midnight shift hoping that she wouldn't cause so many problems.
Then Bernie just up and died. Mac McClanahan was of the opinion that he died just to get away from her.
Dixie made a formal request to the warden to have Captain Pressman and Captain Allem as pallbearers. Basically, they couldn't refuse. Officer McClanahan, Officer Scooter Malumphree, along with other prison staff, attended the funeral.
McClanahan and Malumphree attended the funeral together. They really liked Bernie. They walked into the funeral parlour and saw Bernie laying in the casket. He looked so peaceful. Like he was sleeping. Both wearing shades, they made their way to the back.
Dixie had also requested that Officer Beebe do the eulogy. Officer Beebe was another lousy prison guard but he had a doctorate in religion. Everybody called him Dr. Beebe. He was a certified Baptist minister. Every single time a Chaplain's position came up at Pontiac he would apply. Every single time the application was denied. Really? Why would a certified Baptist minister be denied a position as a prison Chaplain and be kept on as a guard? He sucked at being a guard but would have been an amazing Chaplain. Such were the vagaries of the state of Illinois and the decisions of its command staff at the time.
Officer Beebe began his eulogy. "Fly like an eagle", he intoned. "To the sea." Mac merely looked at Scooter and Scooter burst out laughing. The lady in front of them turned her head sharply and glared at Scooter. Scooter glanced at Mac and under his breath he muttered, "Quit making me laugh, you cocksucker."
Officer Beebe continued with his eulogy. "Fly like an eagle, let my spirit carry me".
Mac turned his head slowly towards Scooter who snorted trying to hold back more laughter. The lady in front turned her head back again. Scooter was saved in the nick of time by Dixie who shot upright and screamed, "Bernieeeee! Oh, Bernieeeee!"
She screamed Bernie's name over and over and over again, flopping on the floor doing the funky chicken at the same time. The prison girls that were there rushed to her aid and attempted to calm her down and console her. They scowled as Scooter and Mac started laughing again. But at this point the terrible two didn't really care. While all of this was going on, Captain Pressman sidled up to officer McClanahan and said, "What do you think, Bubba? I think I'd pay money to see this in the theatre!"
Before long, a doctor arrived and Dixie was shot up with Demerol. Man, that really calmed her down. Everybody resumed their places. Officer Beebe resumed his eulogy. All Dixie was able to do was every once in awhile shoot her arm up in the air and murmur, "Bernie."
The funeral was over.
The prison girls got Dixie into the limo and the pallbearers carried Bernie's coffin to the hearse. Scooter looked at Mac and said, "Bernie died just to get away from that bitch." Scooter and Mac positioned themselves away from the procession and watched the people that were there file towards the limo that Dixie was in to give their condolences. Captains Pressman and Allum were the last in line. Both of them really hated her.
When Captain Pressman leaned into the limo to offer his condolences, Dixie reached up, grabbed his head with both hands and violently pulled his head down slamming it into the top of the car. "Oh! You fucking cunt!" he yelled. Mac looked at Scooter and said, "You know the bars in Peoria? Let's go to one. I can sure use a drink."
It really was the funniest funeral I've ever attended.
Poor Bernie. Dead as a mackerel and having to watch this bullshit from his wife!
Such is life on the South Side.