Previous | Orphan Survival Stories Index | Next
"Get into the library and do your homework," said Mr. Henderson, the house-parent who looked after us boys at the orphanage.
"I didn't get any homework this time. It's Friday, Pop Henderson," I said.
"I really don't give a damn. Just get your little butt in there, sit down and STUDY SOMETHING!" he hollered.
I walked into the small library where five or six other boys were doing their homework and took a seat at one of the two large, wooden tables. About 15 minutes later, the library door flew open. Pop Henderson was standing there with a very mad look on his face. Pointing his finger at me and two other boys sitting around the table he said, "You, you and you. Come with me right now."
I got up from the table, placed the Hardy Boys Mystery book back onto the wooden shelf and followed the other two boys, who were now following Pop Henderson. Up the front stairs we headed, all walking at a fast pace in a single file line. Finally, we stopped at the entrance leading into the small bedroom where the three of us slept.
"You gonna tell me who did this?" he asked."
The three of us boys looked back and forth at one another, as though we had no idea what he was talking about. Pop Henderson grabbed me by the arm, pulled me into the bedroom and closed the door, leaving the other two boys standing in the hallway. He reached over and opened my locker door, which was located behind the door leading into the room.
"What is this?" he asked.
"Nothing. Just underwear and stuff like that."
He reached into the closet and jerked out a towel that had been wadded up into a small circle on the third shelf. As he jerked the towel from the closet, a small baby squirrel and several bread crusts fell onto the floor.
"This crap is what I am talking about," he said looking me directly in the eye.
I just stood there biting my lip and not saying a word.
"Get the thing and flush it down the toilet."
"But it's just a little bitty baby, Pop Henderson."
He reached over, grabbed one of the pillows off the bed and shook the pillowcase causing the pillow to fall to the floor.
"Put the thing in here."
I reached down, picked up the baby squirrel and placed it into the pillowcase. Then I started picking up the bread crusts, which we boys had brought back to the dormitory from the dining room after supper earlier that evening.
"Give me the critter," he demanded holding out his hand.
"Please. Can I put the bread in there with him so he can eat tonight?" I asked.
"He won't be needing to eat tonight."
He raised the pillowcase above his head and began to swing it around in a circle as fast as could.
"What are you going to do?"
Just at that moment, Pop Henderson let go of the pillowcase. It flew across the small room and hit the wall right next to the window. I ran over to the pillowcase, picked it up off the floor and began to cry as I slowly looked inside. When I opened the white bag, I could find nothing inside except the breadcrumbs. I stood up and looked around the room, but I saw nothing.
"Is it dead?" he asked.
"I don't know," I answered wiping my eyes.
"Take the thing down stairs and put it in the garbage can in the garbage room."
I walked over to the bedroom door and opened it. Standing there were the other two boys, both in tears. Without saying a word, the three of us 8-year-old boys walked down the back stairs to the garbage room. I placed the bread crusts into the garbage can. The other two boys went back to the library to finish up their homework and I walked back up stairs to my bedroom. When I arrived, there was Pop Henderson sitting on my bed holding the small squirrel in his hand.
"Thought you fooled me, didn't you?"
"We can't fool you, Pop Henderson," I stated looking down at the ground.
"I don't know what to do with you, Roger Dean."
"I'll be good forever, Pop Henderson. I'll do anything you want, if you'll just let him go and be free."
"Can you say, please?"
"Please," I said back.
"I had best not find it in here tomorrow!"
He got up, laid the small animal on the bed and then walked out of the room. Late that night, I opened our bedroom window and slid on my butt out onto the small porch roof. I placed the little squirrel on the limb of an oak tree.
We boys watched him for about an hour and then we went to sleep. We never did see the baby squirrel again after that.
That was the first time in my life that I learned the power of the word, "Please."