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KHAKI SHORT PANTS



Lining up at the orphanage laundry room door every morning to get our clothes for school is something that I will never forget for as long as I live on the face of this earth. That is most likely the one single thing in my young life, more than anything else, which caused me to fail in school.

If the clothes we were given did not have great big tears or holes in them, they were always two sizes too small. No matter what you did, you could not make yourself look presentable. Some of the other kids in the classroom would always make fun of us. Sometimes, they would tear our pants or our shirts when we were out on the playground or at recess, so our underwear would show through. Then the girls would laugh at us.

One morning, I wanted to look really special, because a new girl had just come to our Grade 2 class. She was assigned to sit right next to me, and she kept looking and smiling at me a whole lot. I think she liked me, because the other kids made fun of me. They laughed, because I counted on my fingers, instead of counting with my brain as the teacher said to do.

When I got in line with the other boys to get my clothes for the day, I saw a pretty green and white, stripped shirt down near the bottom of the big pile of clothes. I kept moving backward in the line, so I could get in just the right spot to get that shirt when the matron finally got down to it. That worked well too, because I made it just in time. She handed me the shirt and a pair of light brown short pants, and then she laughed calling me, "Mr. Khaki Short Pants."

I was so very happy that day and I ran all the way upstairs to put my good clothes on. I was smiling and yelling as loud as I could with excitement. I was really glad too, because I was would be happy when the new girl saw me in my nice green and white shirt, and khaki pants. But when I looked at the shirt, I noticed the collar had been cut off and I almost cried.

"I don't like looking like I donít have no collar," I told one of the boys.

One of the older boys told me they had seen one just like it before. It was made that way in the factory and the rich people who bought nice clothes probably wore that shirt, and then gave it to us by an accident. Now I was really happy all over again, because I got to wear a rich person's shirt. I really wanted to go to school that day to see the girl in my class and learn how to count numbers with my brain.

After we all dressed for school, the orphans once again lined up and the orphanage people handed us one nickel each. It was to buy our milk at school. Then they handed us our brown paper bag lunch. I started walking toward the school, which was right next to the orphanage outside the large fences and white gates. When no one was looking, I ducked into the azalea bushes and buried my brown paper bag lunch underneath a pile of leaves. If the new girl in my class didnít see it, she would not know that I was from the orphanage. Everyone from everywhere knew that only orphans carried a brown paper bag lunch to school every day.

I brushed the leaves from my knees, came out of the bushes and headed toward Spring Park School. When I turned the curve and walked outside the large white orphanage gates, several of the boys who were always making fun of us ran up behind me. One of them tore the back pocket off my brown pants and threw it over the fence; he ran away laughing as hard as he could. I tried to look at the back of my pants, but I could not see that far behind me. Therefore, I took out my shirttail and tried to cover the tear in my pants, but it would not cover up very well.

I decided I would not go to school that day, because of my torn pants; I would just take the beating when the orphanage found out I had skipped school. That way, the girl in my class would think that I was just sick that day and could not come to school. Then everything would be okay and she could start liking me all over again the next day.

I walked very slowly past the school and down to some houses so I could find a place to hide all day, until I saw the other kids going back to the orphanage when school got out. Then I decided to run back to the orphanage for the lunch I had buried in the leaves, so I would not be hungry all day long. I grabbed the lunch, ran back out the gate and looked for a place to hide, until the school let out that afternoon.

In a little while, I saw two police cars going into the orphanage gate. I knew the school had called the head matron and that she had telephoned the police. I also knew they were going to put me in those great big chains, as they did Eddie Gillman and then take me away to the big prison. That is what Mrs. Winters said they would do to me, if I were ever bad or ever ran away again.

It was too late for me to be good now. I tried to think of a way that I would not get my pants torn by those boys. Then I could just go on to school like before, as if nothing happened. However, I couldnít undo the things that had happened, so I was unable start all over again. It was too late now and I was scared.

I started walking really fast to the orphanage. When I entered the large, white gates, I walked directly toward the police cars sitting near Mother Wintersí office. One of the police officers saw me, pointed at me and they all started running toward me. I was really scared and stared running around the girls' dormitory. I ran as fast as I could and jumped up onto the large wire fence. I tried to climb over the high fence, but the police officer grabbed me by the shirt. He jerked me down, threw me into the dirt pile and jumped on top of me to hold me down, until Mrs. Winters arrived.

Mrs. Winters grabbed me by the shirt and pulled me up off the ground. She called me a, "big-eared little mother-f%^$#^".

I do not remember much after that part, because my brain would not work any more. I guess I was just too scared to think any more. I do remember asking Mother Winters to let me keep my shirt, but she ripped it off me. I never saw it again after that. The other boys told me that it was being kept as evidence against me, so they could put me in prison one day and be rid of me for good.

Well, I did finally make it to prison 13 years later, but I never saw that shirt as evidence in the courtroom. Of course, by then I knew the shirt would not be there. However, as I was standing motionless in front of Judge William Warren Taylor, my eyes looking at the floor, he sentenced me to three years, five months and 28 days. I sure thought about that damn green and white shirt without a collar, and that very pretty little girl who sat next to me. That is all I wanted that day. Just one day when someone would like me and be kind to me. I just wanted to go to school, be good enough to be smiled at and to one day, be able to count numbers with my brain, like normal kids.



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