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IN THE PATIO



It was hotter than hot in the orphanage and we could not sleep. It was almost as if someone had thrown a hot, wet blanket over you and it was very hard to breathe. However, that was just part of the problem. One of the boys had dropped the soap sock down the toilet, it ran over and water covered the bathroom floor. Therefore, we all had to clean it up and go to bed without any supper.

I was exceptionally hungry, as I had not eaten anything since breakfast. That morning, I threw my school lunch away, because we kids had to carry it in a brown paper bag. That was a sign you were from the orphanage. I did not want anyone at school to know I lived at the orphanage.

About 10 of us decided to sneak out my bedroom window and head out into the unknown world, the world outside of the orphanage fences. We had heard they threw away lots of good food at Morrison's Restaurant Cafeteria at the South Gate Plaza Shopping Center, so off went our little herd of orphans headed out into the world in search of food and drink.

As we walked toward the shopping center, we passed a building called the ‘Patio Restaurant.’ The establishment, now closed for a few hours, still had the smell of cooked food coming from the back window. It drew us like bees to honey.

We walked around and around the building, trying to find out where that delicious smell was coming from. Several of the boys were looking through the garbage cans. Robert noticed the back window was slightly open and called for us to come over. That wonderful smell was being blown through the back window by a large fan on the kitchen.

As we stood in line taking turns smelling the wonderful aroma coming from the restaurant, one of the boys leaned against the lower pane of glass and it slid out of its metal case. Of course, it did not take us long to discover that the other plates of glass would also slide out. One after the other we removed the glass, carefully placing them beside the back door. Within minutes, all 10 of us were standing inside eating candy, pie and cake. We had never eaten like this before in our entire lives. It was like being in candy heaven. After we ate all we wanted, we cleaned up after ourselves and went back out through the back window. We replaced the glass and returned to the orphanage for a good nights sleep.

All day the next day, we talked about what we had done. Finding a candy heaven was the greatest thing that could ever happen to us. We boys agreed that we would return every night. We’d eat what we wanted, clean up our mess; leave and no one would be the wiser. We felt no one would be hurt or injured by what we were doing as long as we did not damage or break anything.

This worked out rather well for the first few days, but then some of the boys talked about taking cigarettes and matches. Most of us were against it, because that was stealing. Eating food was okay, because this was America, and everybody should have the right to eat food and be full.

I would guess we ended up taking about 10 cartons of Parliaments with the recessed filter. That was the first cigarette I ever smoked. It is unbelievable how a cigarette hanging in the mouth of a 9-year-old can make the girls forget your big elephant ears. However, eventually you will run out of cigarettes and then your ears seem to get big all over again, all of a sudden.

About three weeks later, Wayne Evers and I decided to return to the Patio Restaurant to get another few cartons of cigarettes. When we got to the restaurant, I helped Wayne into the window, because he was too small to reach the window ledge.

After he climbed inside the building, I also climbed in and ran to get several cartons of cigarettes. I was the first one to go back out the window so I could help Wayne get back out and down to the ground again.

As my feet hit the ground, I ran quickly over to the bushes to hide my cigarettes. Just at that moment, I noticed a police car coming around the corner toward the back of the restaurant. I lied down very quickly in the bushes and watched as the police officer got out of his car. He walked very slowly up to Wayne, who was sliding backward out of the window. The police officer, saying not a word, began helping Wayne out the window.

"Don't pull on me, Roger," Wayne yelled.

The police officer did not say a word; he just kept pulling on Wayne. Once again, Wayne hollered at me not to pull so hard. Then he began kicking his legs. All at once, he fell out of the window, landing on his stomach.

"You dumb turd," he hollered.

When he stood up, he finally saw the police officer standing behind him!

I did not see Wayne for about two or three days. They finally brought him back to the orphanage after he got out of the juvenile court for “being a thief." I gave him just a few cigarettes out of my two cartons of Parliaments. I did not want to run out of cigarettes and have the girls tell me my ears got big again, at least not any sooner than was necessary.

Was my running away the reason I began to smoke and the reason I continue to smoke cigarettes, even today? Was my running away the reason I learned to steal and became a thief for many years?

When we are cold, hungry and lonely, we will do whatever is necessary to survive. Our minds begin to tell us that we are justified in doing ‘whatever is necessary’ to take care of and protect ourselves. It does not take long before stealing, lying, cheating and even selling ourselves becomes a normal everyday thing. It becomes a life, which has no feelings of guilt.

Once you make the decision as a child to do ‘adult things’ to protect yourself, you can never ‘be a kid’ again, NOT EVER!



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