I'm thankful that Blue Bell ice cream can be purchased in the commissary here at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp. However, I don't have access to a freezer and can only shop on Wednesdays from 6:00-7:00am, not exactly the ideal time to eat a pint of Homemade Vanilla. And at a cost of 3.6% of my monthly salary, there are only rare occasions when I can splurge. Then I scarf down every spoonful and even lick the top, regardless of the early hour.

However, in the American system of free enterprise, my desire to eat ice cream when I want is but another inmate's economic opportunity. That particular inmate works in food service and has access to the freezer. He can store my ice cream, and I can then eat it when a normal person eats Blue Bell. For this service, he gets a "scrape." A scrape is like a real estate broker's commission as it's transaction oriented. It's just like when we sell our home, and our broker gets a scrape off the top before we get the rest. Ice cream, if I want to eat it when I want, works the same way. I buy 2 pints, but eat only 1--BIG scrape. It is Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla, but now it's up to 7.2% of my monthly salary. That's why this happens only twice a year, for my birthday and Jesus' birthday, two of my favorite people.

Like Washington, D.C., there is a swamp full of scrapes here. If I have a bottom bunk in a location that's out of an officer's line of sight (which I don't), and when inmates want to play poker (which is forbidden), my bunk can become a poker table and I become the house, getting my scrape from every player, every night. Even better, if I'm lucky enough to need a C-Pap machine (which I don't), requiring one of the few bunks near an electrical outlet, this outlet can produce an endless stream of scrapes from all types of profitable and/or enjoyable but nefarious activities here than require electricity.

Sometimes these scrape transactions can become complex. A recent example occurred when 4 inmates wanted to cook a custom pizza from ingredients and toppings they had stolen from the food service warehouse. They had to pay a scrape to the inmate who was to cook the pizza, another pass-through scrape to the owner of the contraband Presto Cooker used to cook it, then yet another pass-through scrape to the inmate who owned the electrical outlet. By the time they added up all the scrapes, it was more prudent just to buy a standard pizza made in the bathroom and use their stolen ingredients for payment.

These economic lessons are providing valuable lifelong learning opportunities. When I leave here and am asked to do something, based on my 4 years of rehabilitation here, I may respond, "Of course I'll do that, but I'm going to need a little scrape." Since I don't plan to run for political office, will that sound weird?