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MOLDING THE ORPHAN



I was 12 years old the first time I was taken to the Duval County Jail in Jacksonville, Florida. It was my first time going to jail for running away from the orphanage.

Generally, I was sent to the juvenile hall, but I guess after you run away five or six times, they consider you a career criminal. This was my first introduction to the ‘real world,’ the world outside the chain-link fences of the orphanage.

It appeared no matter where I went they caged me like an animal.

I cannot say that I was not scared when I entered the jailhouse. Of course, I was always scared when I left the fenced area of the orphanage. I had no idea what was really going on outside of the large wire fences. I was searched and then placed into a large steel cell with about 20 other men in their late ‘20s or ‘30s.

After about an hour, several of them started fighting with each another and guards came rushing into the cellblock to settle the dispute. When the guards left, several of the men who were playing cards, starting talking about the “young-stuff,” which had just been brought to the cell. Every one of them began staring and laughing at me. The sex talk and the jokes became nasty - really nasty, as a matter of fact.

From the tone of the conversation, I suspected what might be planned once the lights were turned off. I stole a steel spoon from the dinner tray and slipped it in my pocket; then I went and lay down on my bunk. Under the blanket, I carefully bent the spoon handle back and forth, until the head of the spoon broke loose from the handle. I figured the handle would make a good knife, if it became necessary.

I was scared and decided when these guys went to sleep, I was going to walk over to the biggest man and stab him right in the heart with the spoon handle. I would stab him as many times as I could, before the guards came in.

Finally everyone went to bed and I lied there shaking really badly under the wool covers. I just could not stop shaking. I cannot tell you how scared and afraid I was. I had always considered myself to be a good boy and I cannot remember any time during my life, even at the orphanage, when I ever hurt anyone or anything, not even someone’s feelings. However, because of knowing fear, I knew at the age of 12, that I would never take the life of another living thing or a human being.

I will never forget that day for as long as I live. I will never forget having to think that thought. That was the first day in my life that I was called to go to war against a civilian population, the population I had heard about that lived outside the fences of the orphanage.

After about an hour, the big, burly, hairy guy finally got up and walked over to one of the toilets. After using the bathroom, he walked back toward me shaking his large penis as he walked by. He was laughing as he passed my bed. I was one scared little 12-year-old.

Later that night a young, innocent looking red-headed boy was brought into the cell-block. Within the hour several large men took him in to the shower area where he was raped over and over and over agian. Lucky for me, I was talken from the cell early the next moring and sent to the juvenile hall on Market Street.

Let there be no doubt in your mind, I would have done whatever was necessary to protect my life and myself. At the tender age of 12, I quickly learned what low life son-of-bitches these so called loving human beings really were.

I will never forget that night as long as I take a breath on this earth. That would also be the last time I would ever feel that kind of fear. That would be the last time a tear would enterer the eyes of Roger Dean Kiser. That would be the last time I would ever feel anything inside of myself.

From that day forward, every decision I would make for the remainder of my life would be made using only the thought processes of my brain. From that day forward, no person would ever control me, tell me what to do or order me around, ever again.

I would conduct the remainder of my life by calculating every possible situation, computed from every possible angle. I would consider the legal, the moral and the ethical. Even the consequences of the unknown would be taken into consideration as a possibility. There was no room left in this orphan for this ridiculous thing the world called ‘love.’

As the years went by, this type of procedure worked rather well, so well in fact that I began to believe everyone else in the world thought and felt the same as I. It was rather amazing how I could fit in anywhere I went. I would adjust automatically without thinking and meld myself to fit into whatever was going on around me. Just as the lizards did at the orphanage, ‘animals,’ like me could change colors at will. I was still one scared little boy inside, but I could play the role and I could play it well.

I had only completed Grade 6 and that made my life rather difficult. However, I succeeded by living on the streets, mainly because I had such a strong ambition to reach for the top. On the streets, reaching for the ‘top’ is not very high at all. There was no doubt in my mind that my ambition came from feeling less than equal to my fellow man. I suppose that is because of always being told I was a "worthless, retarded bastard.”

As I never had a family (that I can remember), there was no one in this world for me, except me. Therefore, I could not count on anyone. I had to make it or I would die. I ate out of garbage cans behind the stores and I slept in old houses where nobody lived. I certainly did not walk out of that jailhouse the next day with any self-esteem and that is for darn sure.

Anything that happened to me over the next 15 years did not affect me one-way or the other. I thought hard times were normal. That is just the way life is for everyone. I took it on the chin and let life roll off my back, just like water off a duck. I never looked back and I always pushed forward. That was all I knew to do. There was no other way for me.

In spite of all that happened to me, I never became hard, mean or cruel. At least, I did not act that way, even though I may have felt that way inside sometimes. I always tried to help my fellow man and I always shared my food on the street when I saw somebody hungry.

Somewhere deep down inside of me, there was this overriding compassion for human kind, even though I didn’t feel anything for him personally or individually. Somehow in my own mind, I knew how things were supposed to be and that honest-to-goodness people were supposed to love one another. I knew that humans were supposed to be smart and should care about others, because we all have to live together on this earth.

Still, even to this day, I have never met one human being, male or female, that could get inside my heart and stay there. That day in jail was the beginning of molding this boy into a man.



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