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FIRECRACKER EDDIE



"It only hurts for a little while. That's what they tell me. That's what they say. It only hurts for a little while. Then all your heartaches will pass away."

Every time I hear the words to that song, it reminds me of when I saw the first boy hauled off and dragged away from the orphanage by the police. He was one of my orphanage brothers and was never to be seen or heard from again. It is something burned into my memory; I shall never forget the pain and sadness I felt that day.

I was playing in the dirt pile out by the orphanage heater room. There were large clumps of bamboo and I was hiding behind them, when Eddie Gillman came running into the bamboo with two large men chasing him. One of the men grabbed him by the neck, threw him to the ground and started kicking him in the back. The other man grabbed Eddie by the hair, pulled him to his feet and then dragged him by the hair over toward the office building. One of Eddie's shoes came off and I ran over to pick it up.

When I got back to the bamboo area, I noticed there was something inside his shoe. I sat back down in the dirt, took everything out of the shoe and then threw the shoe against the tin heater building. There were several pennies, a nickel, a picture of an older woman and three firecrackers.

About that time, one of the officers came toward me and asked me where Eddie's shoe was. I told him that it was over by the tin building. The man walked over to the building, picked up the shoe and then came over to me. He hit me in the leg very hard with the shoe and told me to leave things alone that did not belong to me. I asked him what Eddie had done and where they were taking him. He said they were taking him to prison where he belonged and he would take me too, if I did not shut my little mouth.

The man walked back toward the office, sat the shoe on his car and entered the building. Several of the other boys came running over and asked me what was happening. I told them they were taking Eddie to the big prison and that was all I knew. Emmett (Eddie's brother) started to cry so I gave him the picture of the woman I found in Eddies shoe. Emmett told me that it was their mother and he ran off to his bedroom, which was against the rules. Then the office door opened and the two men came out with several women and put Eddie in the back of the police car.

By then, a whole bunch of the boys were screaming and crying. All of us just stood there, until the car went out the big white gate. I got up, walked toward the gate and watched, until the car had turned the corner. Then I saw Eddie's shoe fall off the car. I ran over to the shoe, picked it up and brought it back to the dirt pile. One shoe? I sat there for hours looking at Eddie's shoe and I knew he would never return, just like all the others who disappeared. I kept wondering how a little boy could be taken to prison like that. That is just the way it was in the orphanage. We all disappeared, one at a time and then there were none.

"It's so easy to be smart with somebody else's heart. But I don't know how to start forgetting you. What can I do? It only hurts for a little while. That's what they tell me. Just wait and see."

My brother Eddie is now serving a life sentence in a Georgia prison. I do not suppose it is because of the two pennies, the nickel or the three firecrackers. I think it all started with the picture of that strange woman in Eddie's little shoe.

THE END RESULT OF ONE ORPHAN'S LIFE

ACTUAL COURT TRANSCRIPT: "On count one (1) I'm going to sentence you to life in confinement and I'm going to sentence you to 10 years in confinement on count two (2), with that second stretch to run consecutive with the life sentence I'm imposing. I do not feel there to be any reason to try to probate any part of your sentence, because you are not amenable to any rehabilitation or anything like that. Do you understand these sentences?"

EDDIE GILLMAN: "Yes, sir."



NOTE: Eddie died in prison two years later.



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