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Prison Narratives: ‘True Pain’ by Vincent Young

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VOX Press‘ book, Prison Narratives, features personal stories written by prisoners at Parchman Farm. Here a couple stories from the book by Vincent Young. The book can be bought here.

Vincent Young was raised on a farm in New Albany, Mississippi. His father was an airplane mechanic and sometimes bare knuckles fighter. He is serving a life sentence for armed robbery and aggravated assault.


X. True Pain

Vincent Young

I can only remember crying twice between ages six and eleven. Yes, I got whippings, but I always held back my tears. I only cried on the inside. I could not, and would not, let my mother see me cry. The reason is that I’m her “Little Man”, and a man does not cry.

I learned from my father to never let anyone see you cry, because crying is a sign of softness and weakness, and a man is neither. But it was something about death that tore me up. I cried like a baby when Truck died. Now I’m crying again.

It’s 1973, a slightly rainy day in October. It was cold, too. I didn’t want to go to school, but I had to. Me, my sister and Legs stood waiting for the bus. When it came I tried to get on, but Legs blocked my way. I pointed towards the house, and Legs moved out of the way. Once I was on the bus, I looked out the back window to see if Legs was heading to the house, but not this morning. Legs was following us down the road. I told my sister, and she asked the bus driver to stop so I could make Legs go back home. He did so, and said, “Boy, you got one minute.” I stepped off the bus, and beckoned for Legs to come to me. When she did, I rubbed her ears and pointed towards the house again. This time, Legs went back towards the house. That made me think, that before I got on the bus this morning, I didn’t rub Leg’s ears, which I did every morning before getting on the bus, and every evening when I got off the bus. To this day I wonder how far Legs would’ve followed us just to have her ears rubbed.

I’m in third period when I’m called to the office. I go in and find my sister and Mommy there crying. The first thought that came to my mind was that Legs was dead. Mommy saw me and pulled me into her arms, where she told me the worst news I’d ever hear in my young life, “Your daddy was killed this morning in a car wreck.” I didn’t cry right then because I didn’t want to believe what she was telling me. My daddy is the toughest man I know. He’s the best daddy in the world. He cannot be dead. How can I become what he is if he’s dead?

We leave the school and head home. Mommy’s sister is driving. Mommy has stopped crying some, but my sister is still crying.

Our yard at home is full of cars and people. It’s no longer raining, but it’s still cool a bit. I got out of the car and headed straight for the barn to find Legs. I could hear Mommy calling me, but I couldn’t turn around. I couldn’t stop the tears running down my face. In the barn I found Legs, and I sat down beside her where I cried like a baby. Legs laid her head in my lap, and I rubbed her ears as I cried. I heard someone coming and calling my name. It was my Uncle “Big John”, and he is very big. Uncle John is a logger. I’ve seen him pick up a tree and put it on his shoulder, tote it to his truck and throw it onto it. Uncle John spoke to me and Legs, sitting down next to us. He told me not to worry, that God had called daddy to heaven, because God needed some help to fight the devil. Somehow that made sense to me, because I knew my daddy could fight.

Me and Legs left the barn with Uncle John, and we headed to the house where we all went inside, including Legs. Mommy didn’t say anything about Legs being in the house, so I took her to my sister’s room where she and my cousins were at. My Aunt Molly hollered, “Vincent! Get that pig out of the house!” Mommy said, “Mary, this is my house, and no one can tell me what can or can’t be here. Leave Legs alone.” So I kept going with Legs straight to my sister’s room. Aunt Mary apologized to my mommy, and they embraced each other. Uncle John started doing what he did best and that’s telling stories. I don’t know if the stories he told were true, but they always had everybody laughing.

Like the one he told about him, my daddy, and some friend, and how they were out riding around one night. The police pulled them over for wobbling a little bit. Everyone in the car was drunk, even my daddy who just happened to be driving. Uncle John told everyone to be quiet and let him do the talking. My daddy started babbling when the officer came up to the driver’s window. Daddy sounded like a deaf and dumb person. “What’s wrong with him?” asked the officer, and Uncle John said, “He’s deaf and dumb. We’re being nice to him and teaching him how to drive.” The police officer said, “Well, now. That’s right nice of you boys, but y’all hurry up and get this deaf and dumb son-of-a-bitch home before he runs over somebody!” Uncle John said they were all so drunk that they slept in the car. He told us that if the police had told them to get out of the car there was no way they could’ve done it. That’s how drunk they were.

I noticed how quiet Legs had become once we got into the house. I couldn’t keep her in my sister’s room. All Legs wanted to do was lay in Mommy’s room extra quiet like, not even grunting like most pigs do. I wondered, “Did Legs know that God had called Daddy to help Him fight the devil?” I tried to get Legs out of Mommy’s room, but she wouldn’t budge at all. Then Mommy came in and Legs got up and went straight to her. Mommy started rubbing Legs’ ears and said, “Come on, baby. Let me get you something to eat.” Nobody said a word as they watched a fully grown pig follow Mommy into the kitchen. We didn’t go to school the next day or even the next seven days after.

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