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THE PICTURE


"And just what the hell do you think you are doing there?" said Pop Henderson, our house parent at the orphanage.

"It's a picture of my mommy," said Emmett Gillman as he looked up at the wall where he had hung the small picture over the head of his bed.

"Get that piece of shit down right now and I don't want to see it up there ever again. Do you understand me, boy?" said the tall, thin man.

"We live here too in this house. It's our house too and I don't see why we can't put up pictures of our family," I said.

"You damn kids ain't got no God damn family. When are you going to get that through your thick skulls?" he asked.

No one said a word. We just got real quiet and looked down at the floor.

"I SAID TAKE IT DOWN!" demanded Mr. Henderson again.

Slowly, Emmett reached up and carefully removed the picture of his mother from the wall.

"Give me that damn picture," said the house parent.

"Can Emmett keep it if he keeps it inside his wall locker?" I asked.

"NO!" he screamed at me.

I looked over at Emmett, who was now holding the small picture tightly against his chest.

"You better give him the picture or your gonna get it real bad, Emmett." I said.

Still he moved not a muscle.

"I will ask you one last time to give me that damn picture," said Pop.

Emmett raised his head and looked at Mr. Henderson. Slowly, he removed the small picture from his chest, ripped it in half and let it fall to the floor. I moved back from Emmett, 'cause I knew Pop Henderson was gonna slap him across the face real hard.

"PICK IT UP!" screamed Pop.

All three of us boys ran toward the picture so we could give it to him, before he got any madder at us. Robert, Emmett's brother slammed his shoe down onto the pieces of picture, just as I was about to pick it up. Pop Henderson then backed out of our bedroom door and walked down the hallway to his room.

"You better give him that picture," I told Robert as he picked up the two pieces of picture and held them together.

"It's not fair. That's our momma. She's going to come back and get us one day. She promised. It's the only picture we got."

Just at that moment, Pop once again appeared at the bedroom door with a large, leather belt thrown across his shoulder. He held out his hand and just stood there, quietly, staring at the three of us. Robert was redheaded with freckles and had quite a temper. I could not believe he was going to stand up to Pop Henderson.

"Robert, hand me that picture and that will be the end of it," said Mr. Henderson.

Robert just stood staring directly at Pop. Then he took the picture, tore each of the two pieces in half again and let them drop to the floor. I could tell Pop Henderson was about to explode. All at once, he jumped at Robert and then he began hitting him over and over with the leather strap. Robert just stood with his eyes closed. Then he fell down on the bed and curled up into a tight ball as Pop kept on beating on him.

I reached down, picked up the four small pieces of the picture and I held them out to Pop. He just kept on beating Robert across his back. Finally, Emmett ran right at Mr. Henderson, almost knocking him over. Then Emmett ran out the door, down the hallway and down the back staircase.

Pop sat down on the edge of the bed and was breathing real hard like. Then he got up, walked out the door and went to his room, which was down by the corner where the hallway turned left. Robert sat up on the bed and looked at me. I was still holding out the pieces of picture. He reached out, took the pieces and put them back together on the end of the bed.

"How we gonna fix it?" I asked him.

"Where's Emmett?" he asked.

"He ran down the stair when Pop Henderson was beating on you," I replied.

"Can you go and get him for me?" he asked.

I walked out of the bedroom and down the staircase. At the foot of the stairs stood Emmett. I told him Robert wanted him to come upstairs. By then, about 15 of the other orphan boys had gathered to see what was happening. All of us walked back up the stairs and found Robert standing in the hallway next to the bathroom. He motioned for Emmett to come into the bathroom and we all followed.

Robert flushed the toilet and then threw the pieces of the picture into the toilet bowl. Around and around and around they went. Then they disappeared with a sucking sound, down to the sewer hole in the ground.

"Don't nobody really want us no way," said Robert.

We all just stood there not saying a word, 'cause we already knew that Robert wasn't telling no lie.


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