Tag Archives: Ron Singer

Slammer Squash: Back to the Source

By Ron Singer

Dr. Jerome J. Ayler
Director, Facilities & Programs
N.Y. State Department of Corrections
Building # 13 ½
27220 Washington Street
Albany NY 12224

(cc. Dr. Thomas Paine, Director of Federal Prisons)


Dear Dr. Ayler,

I am writing to propose an innovative and mutually beneficial use of prison yard space. The benefits to the DOC would be revenue enhancement and prisoner rehabilitation. The benefits to my two-dozen associates and myself would be a new venue for our favorite game – squash.

You are perhaps unaware that, even as the number of squash players in New York City and other metropolitan areas continues to trend upward, facilities are fast disappearing. In an era of rising rents, by converting squash courts to exercise-machine rooms, health clubs are able to exponentially enhance their cash flow.

This is why we have decided to approach the DOC. If you could see your way toward doing a minimal conversion of a prison yard in a facility near N.Y. City (e.g. Bedford Hills, Taconic, or Sing Sing), and then leasing said yard to us, we would be willing to “join” the prison, as if it were a health club. The financial details could be worked out, but generally speaking, the going rate per individual member runs to about $2,400 p.a., or a total of about $60,000. We would offer to share conversion costs.

What about inmate recreation time? There are two possible solutions. We could restrict our play to hours when prisoners are not using the yard, or work out an arrangement by which we would teach them the game. In that case, our membership fees could, perhaps, be adjusted.

As to our suitability for coaching, several of us have extensive experience. Furthermore, two in our group already know their way around the prison system, having done “time” (albeit in a federal facility). As they can attest, there are currently no squash courts in U.S. prisons, so that, during their incarceration, they were reduced to playing tennis. (To address this need, I am cc.-ing my proposal to Dr. Paine.)

“What goes around comes around.” Let me remind you that squash was invented three centuries ago in the Fleet, an English debtors’ prison. Then, as now, the high walls provided a ready-made court. (Not to mention the continuing connection between debt and incarceration.) Conversely, the game has long been associated with wealth and prestige, an association that may recommend it to your wards.

There are numerous other sources of appeal. Many squash professionals have nicknames similar to those of prisoners. For instance, two recent women champions were dubbed “Pink Panther” and “Duracell Bunny.” Among male champions have been “The Wolf,” “Hammer of Thor,” “German Tree Chopper,” “Marksman,” “Dark Prince,” and “Predator.”

Of signal relevance to my proposal is the game’s aggressiveness, sometimes compared to the behavior of real-estate operatives. (Three of our players, myself included, are brokers, including one – not me – with prison experience.) In both squash and real estate, location is everything. Squash proficiency requires domination of the center of the court, known as the “T.” (To assert such control might also be compared to being a “Wolf” in the yard.) Squash teaches maximum strategic aggressiveness within a set of strict, but bendable, rules, an essential virtue in capitalist society.

An important measure of squash fitness is the ability to “run the diagonal,” i.e. to traverse the court at the longest distance. I would respectfully suggest that a large proportion of your wards spend most of their lives running “diagonals.” Furthermore, since many prisoners are inveterate boasters, they might easily master the “boast,” a tricky shot off two walls. Other concepts and terms that would resonate are “killer drop shot” and “slam” (as in “slammer”).

Squash offers several basic emotional and physical benefits to the prison population. Known to elevate endorphins, the game is a major morale booster. At 600 calories per hour, it is also an outstanding fat burner. Or consider the problem of inmate violence. Even if this outlet for aggressive energy did not turn out to reduce the incidence of violence, injuries might reduce the capacity. For instance, tennis and golf elbow, which result from incorrect swings, are bound to weaken shiv thrusts. Regarding substance abuse, it could not but be salutary were convicts/players to switch from the cornucopia of currently popular, dangerous drugs to less harmful ones like power shakes.

Let me anticipate two or three possible objections to this proposal. Rather than reduce violence, might not squash, in fact, exacerbate it, especially between prisoners of different races and ethnic groups? To avoid this outcome, I would suggest a system of segregation. “Nativist” prisoners (often overweight), such as members of the AB (Aryan Brotherhood), could be directed to the American game, with its small court and bouncy ball; and inmates of color, to the international version (large court, dead ball).

What about the danger of “civilians’” sharing an enclosed space with violent offenders? Squash-ers already do that – with each other! Finally, you may argue, to discourage recidivism, prisons are meant to be punitive. Ha! Ask any squash player about the agonies we undergo during a single game! As we say, “No pain, no gain.” So …


Hoping to hear from you soon, I remain,

Respectfully yours,

Roberto “FDS” (Feather Drop Shot) Khan


Satire by Ron Singer (www.ronsinger.net) has previously appeared in numerous publications, including The Brooklyn Rail, defenestration, diagram, Evergreen Review, Fiction Week Literary Review, The Higgs-Weldon, The Journal of Microliterature, Mad Hatter’s Review, The Story Shack, and Word Riot. His eighth book, Uhuru Revisited: Interviews with Pro-Democracy Leaders (Africa World Press/Red Sea Press, 2015), is available in about a hundred libraries across the U.S., and beyond.

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Jobs Initiative


By Ron Singer



from: Sizwe Tik-Boer, Secretary, Planning and Development

South-Central African Consortium of Works & Days

to: All Departmental Undersecretaries (42)

subject: Jobs Initiative

date: 20 October 2014



There is surely no need to remind you that the aggregate rate of unemployment in our region is among the world’s highest. Nor do I need to rehash the underlying causes of this dire situation. Finally, it would be rubbing salt in our own wounds to recall the pledge we so boldly issued at the time of our incorporation a decade ago: “Full Employment by 2014!” All of this information is readily available in the gutter press.

I will remind you, however, that none of our recent initiatives (massive works projects; tax breaks for start-ups, transplants, and old firms that hire new workers; doubling the number of civil servants, to over 700,000; and the radical expedient of paying families not to have children) has so much as made a dent in the unemployment numbers: (2004 regional rate: 37.43%; 2014 rate: 37.34%).

Comrades, it is time for us to think outside the box (which, by the way, is where many of our poorest citizens reside –in cardboard boxes).


In some of the world’s most prosperous cities and nations –places with low unemployment rates– there obtain patterns whereby specific ethnic groups predominate in specific occupations, occupations with which these groups, for various reasons, have been historically and culturally associated. Two examples: in New York City, pace recent diversity initiatives, there remains a predominance of fire fighters and police officers of Irish extraction; judges and lawyers, Jewish; Sanitation workers, Italian; etc. In Honolulu, Hawaii, the pattern is, perhaps, even more pronounced. Unsurprisingly, the Chinese work as merchants and in restaurants; the Japanese, as secretaries and civil servants; and “native” Hawaiians, Samoans, etc., as menials and nightclub entertainers.

In our own region, as well, many jobs employ specific ethnicities, sometimes in shameful ways. Consider the Zulu war dancers who perform for patrons at upscale restaurants, spicing their meals with a frisson of bellicose thrusts and parries. No less obloquious, perhaps, are the township tour guides who offer visitors ethnic meals and a view of “how we, the —- (fill in name of group), live.”

Putting aside, for the moment, the vexed question of stereotyping, let me propose that we could bring tens, even hundreds, of thousands of the unemployed into the workforce by re-organizing, along ethnic lines, jobs presently lurking in the shadow economy. By suiting job to culture, we could marshal pre-existing skills and bring dignity to hitherto despised tasks. No less important, transferred to the regular economy, these jobs could generate substantial tax revenues, not to mention dramatically lowering the official rate of unemployment. To give you an idea, here is a preliminary list:

San/Basarwa: beggars who collect trash from automobile owners at stop lights (foragers).

Zulu & Xhosa*: people who stand watch over parked automobiles (herders).

* To avoid conflict, each of these two major ethnicities could be assigned half the brands of automobile.

San/Basarwa*: touts for restaurants, nightclubs, and other businesses (hunters).

* Allocating two occupations to this single ethnicity can be justified by their astronomical unemployment rate, twice that of any other group in southern Africa.

Whites: organizers, overseers of the above (baases).

The Ball Is in Your Court:

With this concept in mind, each and every Departmental Undersecretary is hereby directed to transmit to my office, by the end of the month, the following:

1. A list of ten (10) other shadow-economy jobs and the ethnicities to which they are best suited.

2. Breakdown by profession/ethnicity of numbers of putative employees.

3. Detailed timetable and cost estimates for implementation.

4. Draft outline of a public relations campaign.

5. 2-3 possible titles for the initiative.

6 (optional) Any constructive criticism you may decide to venture.

Let me close by reminding you that your cooperation in this endeavor is essential to the economic future of our region, not to mention the continued job security of each and every one of you.

NOTE: Owing to the potentially controversial nature of this proposal, and to the fact that it is in the embryonic stage of development, it is essential that the proposal be considered STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL and that it NOT be leaked to members of the press! THIS MEANS YOU!

(signed) GP-N, per SP-B

Secretary, Planning and Development



Satire by Ron Singer (www.ronsinger.net) has appeared in many publications (The Brooklyn Rail, Coffee Shop Poems, diagram, Evergreen Review, The Journal of Microliterature, Mad Hatter’s Review, nth position, Word Riot, etc). His eighth book,Uhuru Revisited: Interviews with Pro-Democracy Leaders, was issued February 1st, 2015 by Africa World Press/Red Sea Press. This is Singer’s second appearance in Oblong.

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by Ron Singer


With the advent of chip implants, it seemed only nanoseconds before cell phones skiddooed, BlackBerries bombed, and so on. We all continued to walk around apparently talking to ourselves, but now that we were stripped of mechanical pretext, it became even harder to identify the truly delusional. You really had to watch your back.

One thing led to another, which led to a speech by the Mayor of —-, a.k.a. Cheerleader-in-Chief, a.k.a. Pom-Pom Boy, (fill in name).

‘I’m sure,’ he began, ‘that you have all heard the damaging expression, “—- is the a** h**e of the world.” ‘ Part of the problem is that we, ourselves, are notorious for the use of such language. Well, it’s time to do something about it. I hereby decree an exciting new program that will end our reign as obscenity capital of the world.

‘Starting on (fill in date), all citizens old enough to curse will be required to undergo a mandatory, complimentary, painless and completely safe implant of a new chip, already under development, known as the Impolite Language Filter, or ILF ™. And best of all, perhaps, where will every single ILF be manufactured? Of course! Hooray!’

Despite rumors that he had accepted a six-figure sweetener from ILF, Inc., the mayor’s audacious plan was quickly rubber-stamped by the quiescent City Council, lulled beyond even their usual torpor by the boss’s blandishments about ‘homeland decency,’ ‘civic pride,’ and the rest of the usual sh*t. Had the councilors also been sweetened? Again, rumor.

The triumph of ILF was trumpeted by the tabloids.





As for the storied Herald, they predictably resorted to condescending pontifical waffle. ‘Score another one for Mayor (Name), who never ceases to amaze. And who can say, maybe he’s right this time, when he argues that the benefits to moral tone which, let’s face it, is a key element of our fair city’s quality of life, may outweigh any possible infringement of First Amendment rights.’

Initial reactions on the street were also predictable. There were thousands of shouts, adequately summed up as, ‘Fuc* that sh*t!’ But the mayor pushed ahead, and soon obscenity scofflaws, harried and outnumbered, were driven to pursue their unreconstructed colloquies in the dark corners of bars, toilet stalls, etc. – in short, in all the usual private, insalubrious places.

Understandably, many —-ers expressed fears that their counterparts from other cities would take advantage.’Every fuc*in’ dic*head,’ commented a chippy (but unchipped) young Graeco-Irish-American construction worker (also Jewish and Latino), as he ate lunch on a job site, ‘from fuc*in’ —-, fuc*in’ —-, and fuc*in’ —-will be laughin’ their fuc*in’ heads off. What the fuc*!’ And he added the generic, ‘Fuc* that sh*t.’

‘What kind of jack sh*t this supposed to be?’ echoed a normally law-abiding middle-aged African-American postal worker, as she was getting her hair permed at a local emporium. She, too, added the generic malediction.

‘Fuc*in’ Pom Pom Boy finally shot his wad out the kazoo,’ suggested an unchipped pale male hipster with multiple piercings.

‘He must be fuc*in’ brain-dead,’ added his girl friend. ‘He’s been suckin’ the municipal bong too long.’

In fact, ‘Brain Dead’ became the mayoral sobriquet of choice. And ‘chipped’ replaced the myriad of terms for mental incompetence, including, especially, ‘cracked’.

Months passed. In the fancier neighborhoods, only trace memories remained, supplemented by ingenious new euphemisms that seemed to sprout up like erect penises.

‘The diaper prices are so flooping high,’ commented one pram pusher to another as they charged up the Avenue.

‘Tell me,’ replied her counterpart. ‘Gosh darn, isn’t inflation the poo!’

‘Tomorrow, the nation,’ quipped the jovial mayor, ‘the day after tomorrow, the world. Imagine what the Martians will say.’

‘Beep beep,’ the Martians said. But that’s what they always said. (And not ‘bleep bleep’.)

Silk-stocking types thought the outrage among the plebs was a scream.

‘They would,’ riposted an unchipped Transit Authority pensioner in a bar. ‘Those fuc*ing hoity-toity a** h**es!’

A celebrated Cultural Anthropology Professor at —- College cleaned up on the law by whipping up a spicy lecture in which he outlined ‘the movement from ritual, to myth and dirty joke, to … nothing.’ Once word got out that the lecture included the ‘f-word,’ his classroom was SRO, although, in fact, he only uttered the word (forty-seven times) in order to deconstruct it.

After a year of bland misery, the people took things into their own hands. A cottage industry sprang up in which abortionist types in dingy basements across the city removed the chips the same way they had been implanted, through the ear. The fee was nominal; the motto, ‘pro fuc*ing bono.’

‘Free, at last!’ was the most common post-operative expression of relief – often without even an expletive. When half the population of —- had undergone the procedure, and, coincidentally, when Election Day was fast approaching, Mayor (Name) finally gave in.

‘The Vox Populi has spoken,’ he gracefully admitted. ‘And what the fuc*,’ quipped the good sport, ‘you win some, you lose some. Just like, ahem, elections?’

A few days after the predictable results were in, a new bill repealed the old, and, predictably, there followed a perfect sh*t storm of obscenity. Things, that is, returned to fuc*ing normal.


Satire by Ron Singer (www.ronsinger.net) has appeared in many publications (The Brooklyn Rail, diagram, Evergreen Review, Mad Hatter’s Review, Word Riot, etc.), and he has published several books. In 2010-11, he made three trips to Africa for Uhuru Revisited: Interviews with Pro-Democracy Leaders (forthcoming). His serial thriller, Geistmann, and his serial farce, The Parents We Deserve, are both available at jukepopserials.com. His work has twice been nominated for Pushcart Prizes.


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