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I Almost Got Murdered By A Homicidal Maniac by Mark Anthony Given

A man's got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book.
-Ernest Hemingway


      THE TERREBONNE PARISH PRISON ain’t no joke. I thought I was in the bowels of Bolivia or any place in South America where everything is always sweating from humidity and dank and dark and scary. Six metal bunks chained to riveted walls like in a boiler room, where up to twenty modern day dregs of society, mostly blacks, were held. Day and night the door swung open continuously admitting another miscreant, who nearly all exclaimed,“ Are you kidding me? There’s no room!” After some large Black guy snatched me off the top rack in the middle of the night and told he wasn’t sleeping on the damn floor, I found my way under the bottom bunk in the back and tried to disappear in the awful place. Maybe twelve feet by twenty feet with a low metal ceiling with rows of rivets joined the metal and looked like you were in a ship or underground somewhere. Twenty or thirty years of grime, the shower was nearly a half inch of dirt, and just a few dim lights completed the South American prison ambiance.
       I WAS REALLY ON the second-floor jail of the Municipal Complex and Courthouse in Houma, Louisiana at the end of 1979, doing two years for being stupid. At least six weeks in this pit of misery I still remember as the worst six weeks of my life. The whole time I was in there I heard it was “Blood Alley,” in the regular population and more than a few inmates would rather be in there than in “The Back,” it was that damn bad.
       MY FIRST NIGHT IN THERE I got my jeans and my tennis shoes stolen and woke up sleeping on the floor in the large day room because of overcrowding by a group of eight or ten young black guys whipping bars of soap at people sleeping… Fortunately, I didn’t have to get up and get my ass beat because a long simmering feud erupted by two of the large bulls in there. One of them wasn’t real bright, and looked like an old country mule, kinda narrow between the eyes and the blank stare of pure ignorance, and grew up on a sugar plantation and had scars on his head from a lifetime of bad decisions. In for murder and about six ‘three, two hundred and forty pounds he had what I was told was a “Star in his Eye.” A slight gleam of madness in his eyes that when he looked right at you was like a twinkling of a sharp knife in the sun that set a chill down your spine. He had a sick disdainful grin on his face like he was just dying for you to say the wrong thing so he could punch you in the face. The other guy was really friendly and had been all over the world in the Navy, about five ten maybe thirty years old from the “Melpomene Projects" in New Orleans who was caught robbing jewelry stores and on his way to Angola, America’s bloodiest prison now and then, for a fresh fifteen-year sentence. I had spoken to him only briefly in the chow line after I recognized his distinct New Orleans accent that sounded a lot like Winton Marsalis. Once he saw them messing with me, I always thought he might have intervened on my behalf.

         I HAD NO IDEA what they were ‘beefing about and could only understand three or four of every ten words of their bastardization of the English language. A mix of ghetto slang and New Orleans mumbo jumbo, where they will just make up shit on the fly just to get everyone else to laugh at the other guy. After a few hours of arguing intensely, I determined they just didn’t like each other. I kept my head in the King James Version of the Bible and prayed and was glad they were otherwise occupied. I remember I read the first ten chapters and because of its three contradicting and over lapping accounts and style, I was more confused than when I started….

          IT WAS LATE AT NIGHT in the Bayou Jungle, and the animals were at rest when someone would start banging the hell out the metal wall with his cup or foot, anything to wake up his celli or the guy next door so he would wake up and turn over to stop snoring… The lone deputy stopped by the cell on his nightly walk through and asked if I was alright, I was white as a sheet and didn’t sleep a wink that night. He had pulled that routine on others I am sure and probably relished scaring the hell out me. The day they picked a jury for his trial the prosecution placed ‘Ole Creole,” in a Conference Room next to the Court Room with his family.  They leaned on him for days to plead guilty to spare the Librarian’s family the ordeal, and offered him 50 years to plead guilty and, and even before DNA although he claimed he didn’t do it, the evidence said otherwise, and at the last minute, he caved… Later that night I asked him what happened and he told me he couldn’t do a Fifty-year sentence and he told that judge that after sentencing and the judge said to him, 

“Just do what you can, Creole.”

          I CAN’T TELL YOU the sense of dread I felt going in “The Back,” the first time. Being in the “Deep South,” “Down the Bayou,” in a little hillbilly town, and being one of maybe three or four White guys in a jail full of some of the dangerous, dumbest people you ever met on the planet.  And, these aren’t regular people; these are usually violent felons caught doing awful things in desperate situations, it’s scary, I don’t know how else to tell you. But I do suspect the fear I felt, kept my senses on full alert and as I was let into the Block, I could tell they were waiting on me, they knew by the way the shadow crept down the far wall of their cell the afternoon before, the way there was more activity in one part of the building, a million little things you would never notice until you have twenty-four hours a day to watch every move it makes for months at a time, and then breathe everything about it, and then just wait... 

           THE MAIN DUDE, the one that stole my sneakers and jeans the first night I was in there, was at the end of the range I had to walk down to get to the Day Room where fifteen or so sore losers was eyeing me like a JC Penny’s Catalog of things they wanted. I didn’t know it then but this coal black killer turned out to be Redbone’s “Baby’s Daddy,” and I couldn’t think of a better way to pay him back for ripping me off while I was sleeping than to fuck his old lady and him to find out about it.
           I WAS CARRYING MY BEDROLL with two old itchy dark green Army Blankets with holes in it and stained white sheets that smelled like they had been washed in Simple Green. I headed straight down into them and made them get out of my way just by walking thru them, and seeing at least six other people sleeping on the floor; I knew I wasn’t getting a cell anytime soon. I made it to the far corner out of the way in the caged area inside of what looked like an office building from the outside except for the thin slice of windows around the building. Completely concrete and three quarter inch rebar floor to ceiling, like a metal cage inside and almost the size of the building except for a catwalk for the Deputy’s to walk around and check on us, but I never saw them back there, you were on your own. Two twelve foot metal picnic tables bolted to the floor and a blaring old TV with all the knobs missing, sitting just outside the bars on the catwalk on a Milk crate. As scared as I was they’d never know it because I knew from being in juvenile homes in Florida after escaping from every foster home they placed me in, with all Black people when I was a kid, that like animals, if they sensed even a hint of fear, I’d get run over in there, but if you fight, they will leave you alone, and it doesn’t matter if you win or lose as long as you go down swinging…
       I left my bed rolled up and set down against the bars on the rolled up thin cloth mattress and just sat there staring straight ahead to a blank spot on the wall and tried to blank all this out of my mind. A little trick I learned when I was a kid, I kind of just zone everything out by not looking at anything directly or focus my attention on anything in my immediate area, but remain on high alert. I know I looked like I was ready to knock somebody’s ass out that fucked with me. I didn’t give a fuck what color they were. And if I did have to fight one of these animals it would be a fight until I was unconscious so maybe I could get a Morphine drip out of this sorry state of affairs, maybe eat some wax beans and pinch nurses on the ass. 
          THERE IS NO FAKING IT, you’ll either fight or you won’t, and somebody is sure to“Check,” you, just for the exercise or they want to go to the “Hole,” just to have some alone time. I didn’t just come from the streets, I was coming from another parish prison and been in jail a year or so, and you got a whole different demeanor about you. I was jacked from exercising and was ready to dust it up with a couple of them because they are probably not going to let you win unless you can beat up fifteen guys. The rubber meets the road standing at the “Shoot,” to get your food tray three times a day. There are people in there that will eat You, never mind your food, but the food was always, next to the television the main source of fighting. If they take your food, they’re coming for ass next….. Standing in line they could feel it coming off me, standing straight up, chest out, just pulsating anger at the whole world, I secretly hoped someone would try me, I had so much pent up anger. It was kinda of confusing because I could never understand exactly why I was so mad or who I was mad at...  I guess I was mad at myself. I’d usually grab the orange and the little carton of Milk and hand it to one of the Bulls in there a couple of times a week, to show respect for the “Program.” Besides, hunger keeps you alert and focused.
           I KNOW Y'ALL ARE WAITING on me to get to the part about nearly getting Murdered by a Homicidal Maniac, but all in due course, first we have to get to the juicy part…. The reason I happened to know so much about the 'affairs of the heart of Killer Black and Redbone, as it were, is I was the conduit of their heated Note’s or Love Letter’s that had to be delivered about forty of the most difficult feet in love lorn history; from The Back to the Women’s cell block door. They had been separated since she went to prison years before, Redbone and Killer Black, I don’t remember his name but he had the unusual features of a star twenty-year-old first year college athlete, with all white features but Black as Pirates Alley in the French Quarter of New Orleans at four in the morning in the off season….

That's Pirates Alley at night...

       He told me right to my face, after I was gracious enough to jeopardize my trustee status for him by delivery the notes, that he hated White People but he liked me. I didn’t like him one bit, I was scared to death of him and was glad they had that three quarter inch Rebar between us. I remember that sly grin on his face like he knew something you didn’t know, but would never make eye contact for longer than a fraction of a second, and shift his eyes to the floor like we were conspirators. He was a killer; I could smell it on him. Danger reeked from this poor wretched bastard like garlic from a fat Italian. He was one of the few people I met in jail that I truly hoped would never get out; I get a chill just thinking about one of the fractions of a second he did look into my eyes. Much like the senseless Librarian Murder, he did something equally stupid, but I don’t remember now. I remember he was really smart and asked real important questions in a child like manner once he saw I was a little smart. It occurred to me than that but for being born and raised in squalid conditions in a row of one room shacks on a sugar plantation, and raised by a father who he always envisioned with a bottle of cheap wine and causing trouble, this kid could have been a doctor or something…

          THREE OR FOUR WEEKS later I got moved to the Trustee Dorm with short timers and was placed in charge of the kitchen after a week or so, by telling the Captain on his daily walk through, I was the chef at “Commander’s Palace,” or the “Court of Two Sisters’ in the French Quarter in New Orleans, and I knocked out a private batch for the Brass to take home of “Seafood Bisque,” I was Golden….having rough necked on the oil rigs I knew the lingo and South Louisiana and New York accents are very similar and after living down there a year or so, you’re talking screwy too.. Ahhhhh EEE EEE!!
           SIX WEEKS OF HELL in that holding tank the size of your garage and another month of “Being in the Back,” it was called, a place you didn’t want to be if you were weak. I have been in jail from one end of this country to the other but take my word for it, no place comes close to “Down the Bayou,” jail time. The “Trustee,” dorm was about the size of a small house with twenty or so fuck ups doings short sentences or “Sitting out Fines,”usually under a month. Every jail I been in there is almost always one bad ass, and this place had a rare breed called a “Sabine Indian,” and everyone from Pascagoula, Mississippi, to Sabine Pass, Texas, the first little hamlet right on the Gulf when you cross into Texas from Louisiana, knows who they are. They look like a cross between an Indian and a light skin Black person and usually ugly as sin and like to party, fuck and fight, in that order.

          THIS WAS THE BIGGEST bastard in there, and I was glad he too like the cook, vanished soon after I appeared. Being in charge of all the food and feeding sixty or seventy people in a large institution kitchen with walk-in coolers and freezers, five or six chosen helpers, it was a cakewalk. My only memory of it is emptying a couple of dozen boxes of Quaker Oatmeal, two pieces of toast, an Orange, a small carton of 2% percent and done. Couldn’t be easier. Feed’em just enough all week and throw down on Sunday with some Fried Chicken and Potato Salad and Baked Beans and I could coast all week again. Chicken on Sunday in the South is what keeps the Planet’s aligned. Before I get to the part where I almost get murdered by a certified homicidal maniac, and now that I got you by the tongue, let me tell you about accidentally on purpose getting locked into the Women’s Jail cell and having every mans fantasy come true. Did I tell you I was born with a Star on My Ass?

          BEING A GOOD COOK DOWN SOUTH is like a passport to rooms you would otherwise never get into. After a few weeks of smooth running, I walked around that place like was the Sheriff I had so much Juice! If I wanted to go to “The Back,” to deliver trays, I had guys begging me to ask for them, and if they had any special skills and minor problems, I could make it happen. I placed guys in place of everything and spent my days pumping iron or running track, smoking pot and trying to figure out a way into that Women’s Wing. After several months of studying the movements of everything I could see, I found a crack in the seams of their little Mayberry RFD operation. 

       ON THE WEEKEND’s nearly all the “Trustee’s,”went home and the complex was a ghost town, maybe bring in a dunk or two every few hours. Seventy lost souls and three Barney Fife’s who were more concerned with filling their lunch boxes with food out of the kitchen than heeding the desperate screams of some poor soul getting his ass reamed, “In the Back.” This was before the “all seeing video camera” and “Inmate Classification,” and you’d find your ass in there on a shoplifting first offense with a guy killed a librarian for “Over Due Book Money!” If you had a problem, you went and banged on the metal door and hollered for “The Man.”

       EVERY HILLBILLY JAIL I been in has at least one real life “Barney Fife,” and instead of doing their year or two in the jail before making it to patrol, they never leave. They are usually related to a high-ranking member of the Sheriff’s Office and are appointed the simplest tasks, like the weekend shift. I have no idea what his name was, but he was a half black, half Coonass, light skinned goofy bastard who was always smiling with a couple of Gold teeth and would love to get locked in the Women’s Wing himself. I was roughneck'n on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico out of Houma, Louisiana, but I didn’t have a local address so I couldn’t go anywhere on the weekends. There was a man there doing a life sentence without parole for killing another man in a drunken dispute, who stayed out at the Motor Pool and had been there nearly twenty years. Went home every weekend in his own patrol car! You think I’m kidding you? Everything is ass-backward and completely possible in Louisiana…

          I DON’T KNOW IF ANYONE has ever tried to murder you with their bare hands but it doesn't take long, and I will get to it directly, but one other unusual incident occurred there as I now recall. After at least a month in that twelve by twenty steel holding area, I don’t even know what to call it, it was so unusual, and especially twenty feet away was a huge gymnasium completely empty like enclosed parking garage I later ran around a zillion times. Small work out area with weights where I could go anytime I wanted. Suffice it to say I would have joined ‘Daniel in the Lion’s Den’ to get out of there. But what “Classification,” they did have of inmates included a traditional well placed rectal exam by the most lecherous looking doctor you ever seen. The low point of low points came standing in line with nearly a dozen other hopeful’s that had been sufficiently humbled and ever ready for the anal coronation. Fiftyish, thin, dark hair and greasy skin, after every penetration he would stand back quickly in approval and pull off his latex gloves and throw them in the nearby open garbage can with satisfaction and look at the line getting smaller, his only visible sign of disappointment.

          HIS COCONSPIRATOR was a woman his age that had a routine hurried manner about her like they did this every day and she couldn’t wait for a cigarette break. A small line of grown men waiting to get another man to stick his big finger in your ass for a reason why you knew not. I tried to quietly assure the stern women I was prepared to waive the necessary procedure and would sign anything she had to that effect. She said I couldn’t be “Classified,” without it, and would have to go back into Purgatory. I waited my turn with my mind searching a million escape hatches and was about to pull the last ditch “heart attack,” routine on them when I found myself bent over the business end of an examination table and my drawers at my feet. I had this ragging desire to spin around try and break this creeps jaw and fight my way out of there like in the movie “Rambo,” when with a dab of trusty KY Jelly, in and out in two seconds and it was over, really never felt anything. It was all I could do get thru that place and Dante’s “Inferno,” come to mind, in The Seventh Circle of Hell, human transgressor’s found themselves standing tippy-toe up to their necks in huge vats of excrement, and all new arrivals were warned, “Don’t make wave’s!” A sudden burst of fresh air and hope came over me finally getting out of that God awful place. The light was so dim in there I couldn’t read, and anyplace I can’t read is a living hell for me.

           EVERY SUNDAY WAS VISITING DAY so even though they were under staffed, they would have eight or ten fifteen minute visits in the early afternoon and another five or six a few hours after dinner. Probably the quietest time of the week, Sunday afternoon, and I had this planned like the Man From U.N.C.L.E., and it went off like a charm! I even did a little dry run, and it went like this…

            YOU AIN’T HAD NO PUSSY until you had sex in a prison bunk chained to a wall with someone else’s hot young shoplifting wife, half way thru a thirty-day sentence, with a couple of spectators waiting their turn! Two hot young white girls Barney Fife was absolutely enthralled with, and an older black woman with no teeth that looked like she could suck a Golf Ball through a garden hose, and another heavy set black women who remained hopeful. We always saved the Women’s Wing for last when serving chow because we could then spend more time there, and it was closest to the kitchen. When the big metal door was swung open, it revealed all the women animated just for a few minutes of attention. Two cells back to back with four metal bunks in each, but they all stayed in the front cell for some reason. The girls would immediately grab our hands and pull it between their legs making their intentions clear. I would always busy myself handing out the trays and paying individual attention to them allowing Barney to get real wound up.

“We need Banana’s and Milk, Come’on “Barney,” (I don’t remember his real name).

He lost track of me and closed the door with me in the empty cell where he couldn’t see into and went to the kitchen to get the girls what they wanted. Some of them actually had ice cream brought up there and kept in the kitchen freezer! This was just a dry run; I saw my little plan would succeed but, knew he would be right back. He came right back, and I slipped out the door as soon as he opened it and said,”

 “What are you doing? You locked me in here! 
I almost got torn limb from limb!” 

They all laughed. He would have been in more trouble than me and never said anything.

        DIRECTLY ACROSS FROM the Women’s Wing was the Isolation Cells reserved for the unruly, sometimes called Administrative Segregation, where you’re usually being punished for some institution infraction or Protective Custody and, the criminally insane. This place is made out of old light brown ceramic looking blocks with concrete floors and heavy metal encased doorways. When you threw open this door big enough to stretcher someone out of, you looked down this concrete hall with three or four steel doors with small windows and heavy cast iron food shoots, usually kept open for fresh air.

          THE FIRST THING THE DEPUTY told me was to stay away from “that guy,” pointing to the very last cell before you would turn a corner and then another and another three or four identical cells back to back but no way back out. There was hardly ever anyone back there for some reason, except this guy in the cell on the end. I think he had been in there for years; I am not kidding you. They keep his light out but I squatted down to see the poor bastard, and it looked like looking into the Depth of Human Misery, just a skeleton of a man like you’d see on a deserted island with clothes worn right off his body and tattered everywhere. Somewhere around fifty with a scraggly beard and skinny and the whole area reeked of slow death and decay. I would always stay away like I was told too and every time I brought him his tray I would try and engage him with some open ended remark or how he was doing but he never said a word and looked at me like he had been backed into a corner and was on the verge of murder with paranoid fright of a truly disturbed individual. Not a drop of reason with this poor soul.

The Original Redbone...

          I WAS IN THERE MAYBE TEN months and seen dozens of people come and go and when “Redbone,” showed up, she caused quite a stir. Twenty-two and looked a lot like a Mullato Whitney Houston, and carried herself like she was the Ghetto Paris Hilton. I guess she was a big-time crack dealer in a small town and got her ass in a jam and became the lynchpin in a big Parish wide drug prosecution. A few of the defendants had won parts of their appeal and had to be retried and, men doing life sentences who’s whole life depended on “Redbone’s,” mercurial memory was in the balance. They were trying the men separately, and the prosecution figured out early, Redbone’s memory was a lot more consistent when she got the little things she wanted… and she wanted me. 

           Being in the “Deep South,” “Down the Bayou,” in a little hillbilly town and being one of maybe three or four White guys in a jail full of some of the dumbest people you ever met on the planet… Probably the most senseless, dumbest and brutalist crimes I ever encountered in my near dozen jails I been in. As sad as this is, this is a true story.

         After sleeping on the floor in the day room for about a week, I moved into a cell with Johnny Creole. They just called him “Creole,” and he was like everyone’s kid brother. He was nineteen about the color of walnut and looked like the boy most likely to succeed. I noticed he had a Black’s Law Dictionary and my heart warmed over with thoughts of memorizing arcane Latin words and salvaging something of value out of this miserable time in my life. I always thought I had more balls than brains and decided to work on that. He was all smiles to see me for some reason, and I felt like he was a kid from down the block until right before we fell I asleep I asked him what he did to get in there. He flipped on a little pencil night light he obtained somehow in his nearly three years since his arrest and fumbled around in his stack of legal papers until he found a tattered folder and handed it to me, and I made myself comfortable reading what I thought was some “Who Done It.”

Very first newspaper clipping, the oldest one in 25 point newspaper Type fell out on my chest, 


Did I mention I had found the 
“Down the Bayou Twilight Zone?”

This very first ever eBook created on Facebook, Twitter and Blogspot simultaneously!, “Real Men, Real Case's, Real Life Heist’s The Dope Feign Shuffle,” the entirely true story Cover to cover, Beginning to end, Word for word, Page to page, Edit to edit, right down to the very last One Wrong Word:  Began April 27, 2013 to Present 
By Mark Anthony Given. 4/27/2013 7:26:07 
AM Copyright 2013

All Rights Reserved

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