Orphan Survival Stories Index |
NO HEART, NO BRAIN, NO MIND
The excitement was high as all of the orphans were herded up into a big circle, which was a common ritual, if we were to attend any type of function outside of the large, wire orphanage fences. As there was a big celebration held at Spring Park Elementary school, which was right next door to the orphanage, we practiced for days to enter the sack and three-legged races. We tied our legs together during practice with strips of bamboo and ran the races, until we were positive we could win.
We walked from the orphanage to the school in our usual two abreast formation, just as we had done for our breakfast, dinner and supper, day in and day out for years. Of course, everyone attending the celebration was staring at us as we filed onto the schoolyard like a band of young Nazi Storm Troopers. God knows, I hated being stared at like that. I felt like nothing more than a ‘thing’ and I know that the other boys did too. To make matters even worse, if one of us missed a step or skipped a stride, they would run up on you from behind. They would slap you in the back of the head, sometimes so hard that it would knock you down to the ground. Then all the girls in our class would laugh at us.
Generally, I would just try to shut out the rest of the world and pretend that it was not out there, that there was nobody out there except me and the other kids from the orphanage. However, that was very hard to do when you were picking yourself up off the ground and hearing everyone laugh at you. In addition, knowing that you had to face them next day in school was terrible, especially facing the girls.
Everyone lined up and the orphans were always teamed together. We knew this and made sure, when we lined up to march to the school playground, that we were in line next to the person we had practiced with. We were good, we knew it and we were going to kick some butt. All of the red, white and blue ribbons with gold writing on them were going to be won by us and taken back to the orphanage. We would hang them on the wall in the television room for the whole world to see one day.
As the races started, we took the first two or three first-place ribbons with ease. We felt a little bad, because some of the kids who were not from the orphanage who had lost, were crying, and being hugged and consoled by their moms and dads. So when the next race began, we lagged back a bit and took second place. We had talked it over amongst ourselves and decided it was not fair to the other kids, because we had practiced so much and were so much quicker.
I lined up for the sack race and was looking for my partner when I heard someone crying. I walked over by the metal swings and saw the matron slapping him across the face with the burlap sack. He was screaming that his eye was hurt; the sack had popped him in the eye when she hit him the first time.
“You little bastard, you could have won first place, if you had not been laughing the whole time,” she yelled at the boy.
He rolled up into a ball on the ground, but she just kept hitting him over and over with the sack. Finally, Mrs. Cherry, one of the teachers, came running over and grabbed the sack out of her hand, and told her to calm down a bit. The boy got up and I took him over to sit down in one of the swings, until he could catch his breath.
By now, all the boys from the orphanage had gathered by the swings and it was decided that we would not enter any more of the races. Eugene Caruthers picked up the three first-place ribbons. He told us he was going to give them back to the teacher and they could do the races over again, and give the ribbons to the other kids. I grabbed the ribbons from his hand, told him that we won them honestly and that the other kids were not going to get them. The other boys agreed with me, so I stuck the three ribbons in my back pocket and walked away to get a drink. I walked over by the school building and just stood there, watching the other kids running the different types of races. I watched how their moms and dads yelled and screamed for them to win. The kids that won the race ran up to their parents. The dad or mom then hugged and kissed them, and would sometimes pick them up and hold them in the air making them scream for joy.
The boy who had been beaten with the sack came over and sat on the ground beside me.
"They are winning all the ribbons now," he said.
"So what," I told him.
"It is not fair."
I reached in my pocket, took out one of the ribbons and threw it at him.
"Here's you a damn ribbon!" I told him.
He picked up the ribbon and tore it in half, long ways and threw it on the ground beside him.
"That's not what I mean!" he yelled.
I picked up the two pieces of ribbon and placed them in my pocket. The boy stood up, walked behind me and started banging his head against the red brick wall of the school building as hard as he could. I grabbed him by the collar of his shirt, pulled him away from the wall and said, "What the heck is wrong with you?"
"Nobody cares if we win or lose," he said while walking away rubbing his eyes.
I stood there for about 10 minutes just looking at all the other kids from the orphanage watching the other kids win all the ribbons. I sat down on the ground, took all the ribbons out of my pocket and tore them in half, long ways. Then I went underneath the school building through a special hole that only we orphans knew about. It was a special place where we used to hide when we were beaten or ran away - a place that no one in the world knew about except us. We had a deep hole dug in the sand for a bed and we had an old blanket to keep warm when it was cold. There were several old, wooden fruit boxes to keep our stuff in. I sat there for the longest time wishing I never had to go back to school, ever again.
The next thing I remember, I was in juvenile hall locked in a big wire cage. The next morning, I was taken downstairs before the judge. He asked me why I had done what I did. I told him I did not know what he was talking about. He told me that I had broken out about 15 of the school’s windows with large rocks. In addition, he said I was screaming as loud as I could over and over and over, "YOU LOSE! YOU LOSE! YOU LOSE!"
I was taken to see some type of special doctor, who asked me what was wrong with me. I told him about the races at the school, that we should have gotten the ribbons. And I told him about my friend, who was beaten with the sack. He got up from his big, brown chair and walked out of his office for a minute. When he came back, he handed me a peanut butter log and squeezed the back of my neck. "What's wrong with me?" I asked him.
He patted me on the arm and pulled me out of the chair. He bent down on his knee and held me by both my arms, looked me in the eye and said, "There's something wrong here boy, but it's not with you and don't you ever forget that."
He took me back to juvenile hall and went into the office to talk to the judge. It seemed like they talked for a long time. When he came out, he put me in his car and took me for an ice cream. Then he returned me to the orphanage. After that, the orphanage people rarely called me a "bastard" again. They just called me “the nut case.”