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Me and My Monster by Mark Anthony Given

                     Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person 
through whom they come. -JESUS 


THE ASSUMPTION PARISH PRISON in little Napoleonville,  Louisiana along Highway One ran alongside the Mississippi river separating the United States of America with Coon Ass Country.  And when you look at one you honestly cannot tell who, or what he is.  "Who Dat?"  "Where ya at?" You're standing right in front of them. The absolute worst bastardization of the English language since Ebonics.  Kinda looked Arab and Mexican and part Puerto Rican with some French Canadian, a dash of Negro and Indian for good measure and you got your modern day Coon Ass. 
           BUT MY MONSTER was as black as midnight standing right in front of you in the pouring rain and only see him during a lighting strike black.  Looked like a young Sonny Liston, just a menacing presence.  Small frame and polite look on his face with a slight warm smile except he was ugly as dirt and had small and large scars all over his face signifying the roughest childhood you can imagine. Growing up on a dirt floor shanty house on a real southern plantation, of which there are still plenty in South Louisiana. We were locked up together for maybe a year or so in the late nineteen seventies.  I was doing two years for burglary and car theft.  I don't know what he was doing in there.  It didn't seem to matter.  He had such a harrowing childhood, verified by several of his cohorts in there, that being in jail was almost a relief for him and we became good friends after I saved him from getting beat up by a couple of his buddies he grew up. After that, he looked up to me and came to me every day with probing question about Life and Hate and Pain and Betrayal and Racism and finally became my monster of forgiveness and acceptance and hopefully Repentance.

       "YOU SLAP ME you better slap your flavor because you're 
going to drink every drop of it!" 

I overheard a young pretty black girl tell another trustee. 
Assumption Parish Courthouse, Sheriffs Office, Jail

    THE ASSUMPTION PARISH PRISON official occupancy was twelve but there were probably fifteen or twenty and as little as five or six.  From where the Dispatcher for the entire Parish set behind two-inch security glass and floor to ceiling bars leading to a runway of six cells. Before going thru them bars and down the range was a dunk tank of sorts, just a big room with the seats molded into the walls an open commode with sink and a shower.  That's where the Trustee stayed at night. I didn't have to mingle with the real prisoners and they didn't want you bringing them stuff either.  I sat in three or four months before getting sentenced and I didn't give them any trouble and the day I was sentenced was made Trustee in this little hillbilly jail along with the mighty Mississippi, and as usual, as I was fine with it, as long as I got a good story out of it..
          A WEEK BEFORE my sentencing date the Jailer got drunk and came to my cell in the middle of the night dressed in full SWAT attire with a loaded gun in one hand, and a giant snarling Belgium Shepard police dog in the other.  His name was Joe Leblanc and could have been Barney Fife's twin brother.  He told me he got thrown in there so many times growing up they gave him a badge and a uniform and put him in charge.  In Louisiana it not uncommon for a trustee doing a life sentence without parole going home on the weekends on his own a police cruiser. Louisiana is the Twilight Zone of the American judicial system.
         I COULD HEAR the dispatcher hollering at Joe that she couldn't let him into the cell block with a loaded weapon and a police dog but when he started waving the gun around she let him in the block and thru the bars. There were only six or seven men back there and I was the last cell and he came straight to me.
"Given's!" He started holler before he even got down there.  I jumped up and up to the bars to see him.  I heard what a drunk he was and sure enough here he was in the middle of the night, drunk on his ass in full police regalia to take me to jail.

       HE STUCK HIS GUN right thru the bars and placed the barrel right between my eyes and I was looking down the barrel straight into the eyes of a drunken Coon Ass.  I could smell nitrite and cheap beer and the gunmetal felt cool to the touch and I noticed a for the first time a big smile on his face. 

      "Joe, you drunk fuck!" 

I said, 

"What are you doing up here?  'Ain't your Mama calling you?"  

I was hoping to piss him off and he fires that gun in the jail and he would be in here with me.

    "What do you think?"

    I looked at him and his big ass dog jumping around wanting to chew my ass up and before I could reply the built-in intercom's in the ceiling cracked to life way too loud.

      "Joe, Traffic on One."  

            The dispatcher sounded nervous and excited.  She could lose her job for letting him back there.  "Traffic," was police talk for the "Phone," usually a message.  "One," was the Sheriff and he was on the telephone wanting to talk to him right now.  In Louisiana and probably most states, just pointing a loaded weapon at another person is  "Attempted Murder," charge, and Joe was in a lot of trouble again and is why I made Trustee, almost on the spot once I agreed not to press charges...
    THE AWFULLEST THING I ever did in my illustrious thirty or forty years career criminal history and haunts me to this very day happened right there in the little town "Down the Bayou," along the mighty Mississippi and it was all Joe's fault. The town drunk in a sheriff's outfit was also the Town Dog Catcher and the first day as Trustee and our first little get together after he almost got fired, and I saw daylight in months, we got in a parish pickup truck and drove to the back of town that was completely surrounded by sugarcane fields for as far as the eye could see, was the Dog Pound.  What happened next has haunted me for the rest of my life because I believe all life is sacred, but for them was just another day on the job... 
     WHEN WE GOT THERE, there was a Veterinarian of sorts and he was in the back at an old rusty chicken wire and rotting lumber fence and bent down over a fishing tackle box full of vials, etc.  When he looked up at us he had a two-foot long piece of leather shoestring in his mouth and a syringe in one hand, took the string out of his mouth and pointed to one of the couple dozen mangy mutts and said give me that one, pointing to one or the other.  I'd drag'em over there, he wraps the string around their nose and mouth to keep them from biting him, he would have me hold them while he'd raise usually his left arm and he'd plunge this big ass need right in their heart, squeeze just a millimeter or two of Novocaine and pull out so fast the dog really never knew what hit him.  By the time he got that string off his nose, one or two dogs may have made a feeble step or two, but most? Dead in their tracks.  Not a wiggle.  One after another until nearly reach the top of the inside of the truck bed, a pile of dogs.  Dead dogs.  Bummed me right the hell out. 
            AND THEN WHAT made it so creepy is we drove off for ten or twenty minutes to the far outreaches of the Parish somewhere we came upon a work crew installing what I thought was telephone poles, they had a Bobcat or Witch Ditch dug out a long ten or twelve feet whole maybe ten feet deep.  We backed up to it and I unloaded them and, except me repeatedly silently the Hail Mary and Our Father, I unceremoniously delivered them one and all into their eternal whole in the ground.  I looked around at the men on their break or something watching me, I took off the plastic gloves I had on while looking around to see who witnessed this dastardly deed, and threw them into the death pit to get rid of all the evidence and got back in the truck and drove away...

             ON THE WAY to the dog pound driving to the back of town I could have been on Planet Neptune Napoleonville, Louisiana is too Anywhere, USA, and try as I might, unless Joe was lit up, he was hung over and no fun to be around.  The mood to the back of town all I keep thinking was scenes from Deliverance and the movie Southern Comfort where these Cajuns are hunting people not Gators, and it occurred to me I was being taken to be executed.  I really did. Even when I saw the men standing around that big hole in the ground I thought I might be going in there with it....
        MY MONSTER CAME TO ME one day with the most peculiar dilemma. He had plastered a light green and white gooey stuff all over his face and he told me that he had been informed that if he used AJAX and Vaseline, and mixed it up just right and used it like a women's facial he could lighten his ultra-black skin.  I told him that would never work.  He should embrace being black.  I give him the whole spiel on how you have to accept yourself for who you are.  There was no fix'n this poor bastard... I asked him one day why they called him, "Monster," and he looked at me surprised and then a little disappointed that I might not be as smart as he thought I was if I couldn't see what everyone else clearly seen, that he was just downright scary and butt ugly.  Mostly because of all the scars, I mean like eight or ten at least, most just real fine and about an inch or so long.  A few days later he came back and this white powdery skin cells all over his face much like a snake shedding its skin but not nearly that much. The chlorine had melted a few layers of his skin and it was peeling away but I could see in his eyes he thought he was well on his way to being a white monster....

          I WAS GOING to leave this part out because I didn't think anyone would believe it but....  There was a young Dispatcher who just started there about twenty-three, petite blond with expensive silky dress tight at the top with a face that could launch a thousand loads and make Pacemaker skip a beat.  I know you won't believe this but in this little hillbilly town down the bayou had Pia Zadora's impersonator. 

          TWO BROTHERS were in there about eighteen and twenty with the Coon Ass name Theriot.  The older one was on eight-hundred milligrams of Thorazine or Stelazine and was so whacked out he would come around where ever we were and just post up with his back to the wall and start marching in place in slow motion.  He just lifts his leg's up and down like in his mind he was actually walking around but he never went anywhere.  I tried to talk the younger brother out of eating a big fat tranquilizer but he took it anyway and after an hour or so he started twisting up like a pretzel but his mind was perfectly clear.  I wanted to call the nurse but he begged me not to because he knew he's been in trouble for taking his brothers medicine.  We started goofing on him by slapping him around, trying to punish him for being so stupid.  Before I made Trustee I had got Davie down to about a hundred milligrams a day and he seamed perfectly normal.

        THE SCHEDULE TWO drawer filled my pillowcase to the top after I grabbed two sixteen ounce bottles of Tussionex Suspension after I took a good swig off of one.  Every dope feigns dream and housewife's fantasy fulfilled after I knocked of Tony's Discount Drugs in Ocean Springs, Mississippi in the early nineteen eighties.  I wrote about it here in "The Real Drug Store Cowboy," but believe it or not, I can top that.....  How about the entire contents of the Evidence Locker in the Chief of Police's Office consisting of three floors to ceiling giant metal lockers that were never even kept locked.... Gator Lock Gallon Freezer bags of ounces of pot.  Jewelry, guns, bags of pill bottles and stacks of currency....  If I didn't have a thirty page FBI Rap Sheet to prove it, I wouldn't believe it.....
      ON THE WEEKENDS this little hillbilly town was as slow and quiet as you would imagine.  No Interstate highway thru the Parrish, it was literally Mayberry RFD, quite.  They would let me out to help feed the inmate from trays from the local hospital made by old black mammy women that were fucking delicious.  Grits and eggs, Chicken on Sundays, forget about it...  Then I was to clean the floors in this small metroplex of offices. Forty, fifty-foot gleaming hallway with four or five offices on each side and not a soul in sight.  The doors were locked and the Dispatcher could not leave her microphone and Telex machines.  This was before cell phones and video everywhere.  After spending weeks calculating the odds of success and working up the balls, I placed a chair outside the Chief of Police or Sheriff's Office I forget now, but I saw them big ass cabinets slap full of fruits of criminal endeavors gone wrong.  Standing on the chair I removed a drop ceiling panel, pulled my self up and set on the top of the office wall separating the office from the hallway.  I replaced the panel, reached over and picked up a drop ceiling panel in the Chief's Office, set it aside and dropped down in the office.  Dragged a chair over there and replaced the panel, took what I wanted, just one bag of pot a week or so, and walked out the door.
        I HAD TO do a proper inventory of course and just like I said, slap full of drugs, guns, jewelry, and cash.  I still had my gloves on from feeding the five or six inmates and was in and out in less than a minute or two.  Every Sunday I'd re-up and never even came close to getting caught...

        MY MONSTER WHISPERED in his sleep.  Before I made trustee I was in the "Block's," they called it.  Every few weeks we would change cellis just to break up the monotone and that's how I wound up with this Monster in my cell.  They didn't call this eighteen-year-old black as night kid "Ugly," because he was ugly as sin; he was called 'Monster," because he was messed up thru and thru.  They would lock us in two-man cells about ten o'clock, we'd be asleep by eleven-thirty, twelve o'clock.  I always wanted the top bunk unless I was by myself.  I'm laying there almost falling asleep and I hear this soft tapping noise, and then it would stop.  Then start back up again.  I figure this kid jacking off and so I'm going to holler at him he need's to knock it off at least until I get to sleep.  I ain't trying to hear all that... I look down at him and he is stiff as a board laying straight up and he is pounding his head on the little half ass pillow they give us or a rolled up blanket.  I think I asked him what the fuck he was doing and he told me that's how he got to sleep....banging his head on the pillow.  But that's not the strangest part.....
           HANDS DOWN the scared-est I ever been in my life was that first night in a cell with that little bastard.  I could whoop his ass and a couple his buddies in a fist fight;  I wasn't scared of him like that.  Scared in the sense that what could happen to go to sleep locked in a cage with someone you don't  know, never met, probably in jail for a violent crime, and oh, by the way, his nickname is "Monster."   I have been in dozens of these situations.  You just got to be ready to throw down and people know it.  Middle of the night, there's only six or seven people in there and every time someone rolls over or fart's or get's up to piss you hear it.  And if you don't, the stainless steel sink and commodes I seen in nearly every jail have a jet engine capabilities that just roar so loud for four or five seconds and can inhale an entire Army blanket and a couple pillowcases and towels for dessert.
             I'M ON THE TOP bunk, middle of the night from a dead sleep right over my right shoulder I get awaken by whispering just feet from my ear.  I can't tell you how scary it is to wake up by whispering in a jail cell, I was literally frozen with fear until I could get my mind around what was happening.  This crazy little monster bastard was conspiring in his sleep with someone or another arranging yet another dastardly deed, right from his jail cell, in his sleep!  You know you're a bad person when you start committing crimes in your sleep....
         EVERY JAIL OR PRISON I ever been in has at least one state raised, a career criminal and lifelong fuck up covered in bad jailhouse tattoo's made out of Bugler Tobacco packs burnt, mixed with a little water to make ink of sorts.... This dumb fuck was about fifty, the color of Hazelnut coffee creamer and tall and lanky with a one gold tooth he kept a shit eating grin on his face so you wouldn't miss it, but it really looked like he was just snarling at people.  On his way to Angola with a fresh forty-year sentence for robbing a little neighborhood grocery store for sixty dollars.  He was from New Orleans but said he grew up in that little town and had already done twenty-eight years at Angola and he looked like he wouldn't lose no sleep if he had to poke a few holes in you...

       "SOMEBODY SHOT MY NIGGER in the ass...."  
I finally made out what he was whispering about the third night for I kicked his crazy ass out of my cell.  I could not begin to chronicle for you the list of crazy shit came out his mind.  It was literally like talking to somebody from the Seventeenth Century.  And you know the saddest part of it?  I guarantee you I could slip off behind these still numerous Louisiana Plantations today, and you will find people living like they did three hundred years ago... 


Copyright 2016 by Mark Anthony Given 
All Rights Reserved 

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