Orphan Survival Stories Index |
She reached over and picked up their small, silver dinner bell and hang it three times. All the children stood up and placed their chairs under the table. Filing behind one another, they walked out of the dining room and headed out onto the breezeway porch leading back to their dormitories.
"Just a minute young man," said Mrs. Winters.
The entire line of children stopped dead in their tracks. No one moved a muscle for fear that they were the one Mrs. Winters was speaking to.
"Kiser, Evers and Jornigan. Step out and back to the dinner table," she ordered.
The rest of the children then continued out of the dining room area and ran as soon as they could to reach the sidewalk outside the breezeway.
"Who did not eat their eggplant?" Mrs. Winters asked.
"I ate all mine," said Wayne.
"Me too," I replied.
Immediately, she looked over at Tommy, who was staring down at the ground.
"I really can't eat that stuff, Mother Winters. It tastes real bad to me," he said.
I did not know what to say or do. I was the one who had not eaten his eggplant. Tommy had not eaten his eggplant either, but he had given it to another boy who ate it for him. I guess he thought that he had been caught. Mrs. Winters grabbed Tommy by the arm and shoved him toward the table.
"Eat that damn eggplant!" she demanded.
Tommy began to sob and then fell to the floor crying. The matron grabbed him by the shirt collar and pulled him up to the top of the table.
"EAT!" She screamed as she shoved his face into the plate.
"It's not his eggplant, Mother Winters. It is mine," said Wayne staring directly into the eyes of the matron.
Very slowly, she turned her head finally making eye contact with me.
"And?" She said looking at me like an old witch.
"I could not eat it either, Mother Winters, ma'am. It looks like somebody’s heart - like something from inside a dead body. It's all purple and shiny like," I said.
Mother Winters picked the plate up from the table and dumped the eggplant onto the dining room floor.
"You three,” she said pointing at us, "Get down there right now and eat that damn food! RIGHT NOW!"
Slowly, we bent down on our hands and knees overlooking the disgusting food.
"You little bastards had best eat every damn bit of that food. You will learn one day that you are damn lucky to have it. There are kids overseas who would love to have that food," she said.
"Can we send it to overseas?" asked Wayne.
The next thing I knew, she kicked Wayne in the right side. He fell against me forcing me into the food. My hands slid through the slimly mess and I hit my chin the hard floor.
"Get a rag and clean up that damn mess, and get your little butts back to the dormitory and into you beds," she ordered.
It took us about 15 minutes to clean up the food. Then we walked back to the boys’ dormitory. As we entered the dormitory, we walked up the stairs to our bedrooms. I could hear the sound of the little 12-inch black and white television sounding out the words "M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E."
Yesterday, as I sat in my living room watching my 60-inch, big screen colored television I heard those same words once again as I flipped past the Disney Channel. I immediately rose from my chair. I walked out to my truck and off I headed to the grocery store. When I entered the Winn Dixie Super Market, I walked directly to the produce department where the eggplants were displayed. I just stood there unable to touch them. I looked at the purple color and the shiny skin. Slowly, I reached out and picked up the vegetable. I held it in my hand for the first time in 49 years. I raised it to my nose, but it had no smell. When I turned around, I saw a woman staring at me.
"This is an eggplant," I said.
"I know that! I don't eat them myself. They look like a great big heart to me," she said laughing out loud.
"I know," I mumbled as I smiled back at her.
Like a skilled surgeon, I carefully placed the large heart back in the case for someone else to enjoy.