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‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the yard not a creature was stirring, not even a guard. My cellie and I were locked in our lair, wearing our t-shirts and gray underwear. 

Suddenly from the hall, there arose such a  clatter. ‘Twas another meth-head as mad as a hatter. He banged on his sink and kicked at his door, he’d come down from his drugs, and he needed some more. 

The guards showed no sympathy, they ignored all his pleas. When you lie down with the dogs, you’re apt to have fleas. Then came a sound, like sleigh bells a-ringing. Could this be Santa Claus, with gifts he’s a-bringing ? 

I peered down the hall, then fell to my knees. It wasn’t bells that were a ringing, but a sergeant with keys. There were six guards a-prancing, while pulling a sleigh and riding in back was the warden on hay. 

He looked so jolly with a rosey ol’ smile on his face. But when I looked closer, I could see he had mace. Dressed like a Santa  with a bag on the floor, he leaped from the sleigh and opened our door. 

Then the guards all a’grunting were tossing our cell. My face was all ashen, my hair looked like hell. The warden hands me a slip, it feels like a dream. A write-up for no reason? “Oh, no!” I scream. 

So I hang up my stocking for Santa to fill. I’ll get cookies or candy or even a pill. I drift off to sleep, many thoughts on my mind. I wake up early the next mornin’ and what do I find? 

In my sock is a lump of shiny black coal. Was last year naughty not nice to be my permanent role? Then I remember it’s Christmas, and I ain’t gonna lie, I love turkey’n’stuffing with potatoes and pie. 

So I cackle and laugh and sound like the hatter. Thinking I’m not down for the count, my life really matters. Someday the door will open with freedom, my fate not really knowing if it’s a box or a gate.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Randy Hansen is a writer and a member of San Quentin News’ Journalism Guild. He is a business owner incarcerated in California.