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Martha's still making the season bright in jail

Unless we find ourselves in the same West Virginia Federal penitentiary as Martha Stewart, we will miss her annual disparagement of our Christmas spirit. Our inadequacies will remain mere specks and smudges on our un-shined, un-flocked glass ornaments. (It's a joyful thing.)

The season will prove magnificently less blissful for her compatriots at crime, who, as a secondary condition of their sentences, will find themselves subjected to her pompous attempts to improve their domestic talents.

Homemade Gifts -- Inmates learn to convert knives, previously melded from spoons, into contraband knitting needles and then to knit scabbards, for their own homemade daggers and the weapons of those on their Christmas lists. Due to the jailhouse ban on pointed objects, Martha demonstrates how to carefully cut a slit, meant for hiding the implements of handwork, in a bunk mattress, as well as a beautiful blanket stitch to close the opening.

Since the guards confiscated her yarn balls upon her incarceration, to prevent knitting of nooses and escape ropes, Martha instructs her spectators on spinning fiber from paper napkins. The exquisite colors she achieves from dying strands with mushy cafeteria spinach and red gelatin amazes the lunch line.

It's a beautiful thing.

Christmas Baking -- Any woman behind bars, who plans to go home for the holidays, and her loved ones as well, will want to attend Martha's baking workshop. Her Red Velvet File cake will make mouths salivate and hearts ache. And if family members can reproduce it from the convoluted multi-step instructions Martha provides, detainees will surely get out of jail free this feast day.

Relatives may acquire the recipe by sending $5 (cash only) or a pack of cigarettes and a SASE. Trust Martha to send it. She wouldn't lie . . . again.

It's a sweet thing.

Gift Wrapping - The goddess of homemaking encourages co-convicts to make their parcels' packaging as special as the items enclosed. This year they will learn to re-cycle the foil tops of their Marlboro packs into exquisite wrapping paper. In lieu of ribbon, they shall tie gifts with tresses of hair strewn on the floor after gripping girl fights.

Martha instructs prisoners in quickly sweeping up hair with the best color and texture for making bows, before returning to cells for lockdown.

It's a thoughtful thing.

Decorations -- Decorations add atmosphere to holiday celebrations. And a cigarette butt wreath hung on a row of bars makes any guard feel welcome. Carefully select butts for symmetry in length and width. Ones with lipstick stains provide a splash of color and whimsy.

For a wreath form, dismantle the toilet seat from the jail cell latrine.

It's an interesting thing.

Yuletide Plants - Martha will force narcissus bulbs, she dug from the ground beneath the forbidden crabapple tree, by giving them her stern scowl and sardonically demanding immediate blossoms in an annoyed tone of voice.

Not new to her repertoire, but appropriate for her audience.

It's a severe thing.

Holiday Wardrobe Accessories -- Stopping at nothing to generate holiday cheer, despite her dour demeanor, she deftly demonstrates the latest in sophisticated tattooing, on her cell mate. She gives directives for painstaking attention to detail. All this she does, while telling her "volunteer" victim, through set jaw and clenched teeth, that hardened criminals don't cry.

Martha rolls up the sleeve of her own orange, unshapely, jumpsuit-style Christmas party attire, praising it for its versatility, to show off a crude black outline of a figure holding a banner that reads "Hell's Elf."

It's an excruciating thing.



Web posted on Thursday, December 16, 2004











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