He used to laugh

about the time he spent locked up


all alone

and he really did mean




is what they called it

but what he called it was


“I mean it’s cushy by comparison”

was exactly the phrase he used.


If you asked him straight up

“Cushy compared with what?”

it’d make him laugh.

Sometimes he’d laugh and just let it go,

and sometimes he’d tell you the story.



they feared him, I guess,

thought he’d jeopardize

their mission.

I mean he’d already publicly declared it


and he’d called it a flat out lie to boot.

Hell, he even sent himself AWOL to say so louder

and then, they said, had –

and this is the actual phrase that they used –

“he had the audacity” –

yep, that’s what they said –

“to try to return on his own”

just so he could keep on talking.


And that’s when they sent him to solitary

in the best way they knew how.


he was in the Army

on a Naval base

and the Army didn’t have a brig there.

Turned out

the Navy didn’t want him in their brig

because guys in the Navy,

except for the SEALs,

tend to be pretty damn liberal

and this was a time

in the war

and the world

when he might make his brig-mates his converts.


So the brig-less Army

emptied a whole wing of a barracks

and locked him in there alone.

And that’s where he got the word “cushy”.

I mean, he was on the top floor

with a view of the water

and all of his meals

were delivered.


they confiscated the book he was reading

in case

The Letters of James Agee to Father Flye

turned out to be seditious.

But other than that they left him alone

“And it doesn’t get,” he liked to say,

“a whole lot more cushy than that.”

But then, in a weird way, it did.



even when you’re in solitary

you still have to do forced labor

and the job they gave him was dandy.

He never knew why

but twice a week

all of the base’s dirty sheets

were hauled across 92,848 feet

of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel

to wherever they did the laundry.


His job,

his solitary forced labor,

was to lie spread-eagle

across the tarp

that covered the laundry

to keep it from blowing away.


other guys who weren’t being punished

would load up the truck

and then spread the tarp

and he’d climb up and lie down.

The view was great –


endless miles of sky and surf

and sometimes

just closeup tile and electric lights

maybe five feet overhead.

The breeze was cool on the days with no rain

and the only hard part

was at the northern end

where he’d climb down and sit under a tree

while other unpunished guys

did the unloading and loading.


“Like I said,” he’d say, “it was cushy,

provided, of course,

you learned not to mind

the weapons the MPs pointed at you

to keep you from running away.”