Monday, August 8, 2022

Prison Narratives: ‘Scars That Are Going to Leave a Mark’ by Melvin Miles

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VOX Press‘ book, Prison Narratives, features personal stories written by prisoners at Parchman Farm. Here is a short auto-biography from the book by Melvin Miles. The book can be bought here.

Melvin Miles (#185678) was raised in Mobile, Alabama. He is an adventurer who has worked on many fishing vessels around the country. He is currently serving a three-year sentence for an intent to manufacture charge.


Scars That Are Going to Leave a Mark

Melvin Miles, courtesy of Prison Narratives
Melvin Miles, courtesy of Prison Narratives

Most of my earliest memories are almost all negative. Let me elaborate. When I was about four years old, living in Gonzalez, Louisiana, we were having a coon-ass crawfish boil with all the fixings. Fifty pounds of crawfish, sausage, mushrooms, onions, etc… It was gonna be the s**t. Everybody was there, mom, dad, my uncle Kenny, his wife and kids and a few of our closest neighbors.

All of us kids were horsing around and playing as kids will do. Then my cousin Rachel wanted me to swing her. This was back when the swings were built with the slide right by the swing so that two kids could sit facing two other kids while they swung back and forth. So I got on the slide and started swinging her back and forth. When I felt like it was going fast enough, I made my move and tried to jump onto the swing with her. My timing was just a bit off and the pivot point by the seat caught me just right and cut my dick clean off. So I fall to the ground and roll under the closest car and I ball into the fetal position, bleeding like a stuck pig screaming my head off. It took my mother and a couple others to get me out from under the car to be able to rush me to the hospital so the doctor could sew it back on. After the doctor sewed it back on, he told me I could not go swimming ‘till it healed and I get the stitches out. The no swimming had me almost as upset as the temporary amputation.

The next winter my Aunt Ursula bought me a silver bracelet that was set with turquoise. I was obsessed with this bracelet. I wouldn’t take it off for nothing in the world, nobody could get me to take the damn thing off. I thought I would lose it if I did. Finally, one day my Aunt Ursula convinced me to take it off, that nobody would get it if I did. So I took it off and we left to go swimming down by the levee.

While we were gone to the levee to go swimming our house burnt to the ground with everything we owned, including my bracelet. This was the end of the world to me, I was devastated.

Things picked up and got better until close to my 8th birthday. This is when my grandpa, who I am named after, came down with lung cancer. Paw Paw Mel was our solid rock. This is one of the most amazing people I’ve ever known. He was a professional hockey player, boxer and he was a captain on tug boats among other things, but the thing that influenced me the most I believe was that he was a boat captain. This man for me was probably the only positive male role model in my life. He was bigger than life. But right before my 8th birthday, he died with cancer and this truly devastated me.

A couple years later my mother married one big mean son-of-a-bitch who didn’t tolerate me too much. He treated me like an indentured servant. He would make me work in the evenings after school sanding cabinets. On the holidays and summers, I would have to go to work with him at Pascagoula Sheet Metal cleaning the shop and sorting the scrap metal out into bins. When I worked at the sheet metal shop, I did get paid twenty-five cents an hour. But if I didn’t do things to his specifications or slower than he wanted it done he would beat my ass with a 2X4 or the buckle of his cowboy belt buckle. One time while I was listening to him beat my mother’s ass, I loaded my 20 gauge and stepped around the corner and leveled it at him, but as I pulled the hammer back the telephone rang and he stopped to answer the damn phone. I guess it’s a good thing because from where I was I would have shot him in his back.

The next year during my summer, I can’t say vacation because I was putting in my forty hours at the shop, but hey I had a raise, I was making fifty cents an hour, my mother came down with double pneumonia and they hospitalized her. Because she was doing so bad they put her into a drug induced coma to try to conserve her energy to help her recover from this illness. So my step-father decides maybe it would be best to send me to stay with my father down in Florida for a while. The day I arrived down in Florida my step monster pulled me to the side and told me “You remember all those nice Christmases you used to have?” I said, “Yes” she said, “Well they are f****ng over with.” I started school down in Florida and soon after my 13th birthday my mother died from complications due to pneumonia.

So things rocked along with me doing my best to make her life a living hell and her reciprocating and making mine a living hell. She would cook s**t I didn’t like and try to make me sit at the table all night. One night, her mother was down from Virginia and we were eating some s**t I didn’t like but when she left the room her mother raked the s**t onto her plate and leaned over and whispered in my ear “She’s a b***h.”

Well, they put up with me through one Christmas which she made sure was not what I wanted it to be. By the next Christmas, she’d put up with all she cared to put up with. She went to dear old dad and told him it’s him or me! She was gonna leave if he didn’t get rid of me. So on Christmas Eve, they gave me one suitcase and told me to put in it what I could and drove me to the bus station on the way to stay with my stepfather.

It’s 1987 and I am fourteen years old. The fair has come to Pascagoula. The four of us Steve, Shawn, Mark, and myself are passing a booth and the carnie makes his pitch “Hey lost boys throw the ball win a prize!” This gets us to thinking and we decide this is what we will be known as, “The Lost Boys”. We start hanging out at the point in Pascagoula. This is where we hang out, getting drunk, smoking dope, and chasing girls on the weekends. Word spreads and our little gang grows. The Crips take notice and take offense. Well, they “The Crips” decide they want to beat our a***s up. Well, that doesn’t set well with the Crips, Archie Bourgeois’ nightmares, and a few other people I run with. Now we the Lost Boys, the bloods, the Nightmares, and a few others, decide we will all fight against the Crips and their people in the chow hall during lunch. The principal of our school, Moss Point High, has different plans, he calls me into his office. He informs me he knows what’s going on and that he is gonna expel me for what he calls congregation.

I transfer to Alba High School in Bayou La Batre, AL. Unbeknownst to me one of the students at my new school is dating someone from my old school. The situation follows me to my new school with the added twist of Devil Worship rolled up into it for good measure. Things really start to spiral out of control now. Apparently the people in Bayou La Batre have a problem with Devil Worshipers and it starts to run in the papers and on the news.

One day the principal calls me to the office to talk about “stuff you could bring to school.” He asks me what types of things could I bring to school that were not allowed. I tell him drugs, knives, all kinds of stuff. He says what about guns? And I say yes I guess so if I wanted to.

The next day my Aunt picks me up early so I can go to a concert and when she does the principal calls me into his office and tells me he is gonna throw me out for bringing a pistol to school the day before. He told me he had statements from six students stating I had a gun the day before on campus. I went to the juvenile division to discuss this with a juvey officer with my grandma. When the officer got up and went out for a minute, I had a chance to read the statement written by these six 15 year old students. I was amazed to see these six kids describe only two things about a gun. They all said it was a Ruger with a 3 1⁄2 inch barrel. Now for six people to look at a gun and notice the barrel length, and type of gun for that matter, and none of them describing anything else, that would be a sheer miracle.

Along the time the principal threw me out for this fabricated gun, the Devil Worship accusations began to escalate. My grandma and two of her aunts go to a meeting about the Devil Worship problem. As she is sitting there in the back this meeting, it starts to heat up and this guy gets up and says what are we gonna do about this Melvin Miles? Grandma says about this time half the community center jumps up and says “Yes, what are we gonna do about him?” So she does the only prudent thing she could and slid the hell out of there before anyone recognized her.

Now, the whole town is talking about me and Devil Worship… It’s on the news, in the newspapers, everything. About this time a guy a couple years younger than me who was involved in the aforementioned Devil Worship, by the name of Jeff Howard, kills himself. Within a couple of days, two detectives knock on our front door. I answer the door and kind of step back and one of them says, “We need to speak with Melvin Miles.” I say, “Speaking”. He says “Not you, we’re looking for the older one.” I say, “He’s not here.” As all this is going on my grandma has walked up behind me and she says “This is the only one we have what can we do for you?” These two detectives come in and inform us that they are investigating Mr. Howard’s murder-suicide, and that according to their sources I was the leader of his cult and that I’m their prime suspect in his death. As the investigation rocks on with these detectives watching me come and go for months they finally realize it’s all bullshit and after about six months they come to our house. They end up telling me that they knew I was not involved in the cult, did not know Jeff Howard, had never met him, but the detectives said that this investigation had cost the county $42,000 and they had followed the Devil Worshippers chain of command so high up that they had found people in Mobile’s politics involved in this cult and even though I was not involved in anything per se but these people in politics they were talking about had a vendetta out for me and that I had no win in Mobile, AL. And this is one of the first times I remember thinking damn I have got to be Hitler in his next reincarnation because nobody else could have amassed this big of a karmic debt.

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