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I was 14 years old when the court decided to allow me to live on my own. It was either that or I would be sent back to the boy's reform school in Marianna.

The juvenile court had set me up with a job at Murphy's Heating and Sheet Metal Shop. They also paid for my room for four weeks. It was at a boarding house located on Forsythe Street. That was about two blocks from the juvenile court building.

Every day, I got up at four a.m. and began my four-mile walk to the Arlington area where the shop was located. The first week that I walked to work, it rained four of the five days. I was soaked to the bone by the time I arrived. Nevertheless, I worked hard all day and held my own.

Each day after work, I walked the four miles back to my room where I would change my clothes. I then walked down to Crystal Hamburger and bought myself five small hamburgers for 50 cents. Then I returned to my room, locked the door, ate and lied on my bed until I fell asleep.

On Friday I was paid. I asked one of the men that I worked with how I could cash my paper check. He took me into the office where they cashed it for me.

When I got back to the boarding house, I walked up the stairs to my room. As I made it to my door, I noticed that there were three or four sailors standing in the hallway. All of them were drinking beer. They were laughing with one another and they were talking very loud. When they saw me, they all walked into the room next to mine and closed the door.

As I changed my clothes, I could hear them through the wall, getting louder and louder. All at once, I heard a girl yell and then she started laughing. I opened my door and walked into the hallway. Just at that time, several sailors came out of the room.

"Where you headed kid?" asked one of the men.

"I'm going to eat some Krystal," I replied.

"Can you pick us up some?" asked one of the sailors.


They handed me $4 and told me to bring them back 20 burgers and five French fries.

When I returned, I gave them their food and took mine to my room. Over the next few hours, many more people joined in the party. For hours they continued to drink. The more they drank, the rowdier they became.

"Get that damn slut out of here," yelled one of the men.

I heard their door open and a loud yell. Then I heard someone fall out into the hallway. After their door closed, I slowly opened mine and peeked down the hallway. There was a woman sitting on the floor, her back against the wall. I noticed that her lip was bleeding.

"Are you okay?" I asked her.

"Can you help me to my room?"

I walked out into the hallway and helped her to her feet. She hobbled as she leaned against my shoulder. Her remaining hand on the wall balanced us as we walked down the hallway.

"I'm in Room 20," she said.

I helped her around the corner to her room. She unlocked her door and I help her to her bed. She crawled up onto the bed and just lied there not moving a muscle. I took the key from her hand and laid it on the dresser. Then I walked down to the bathroom at the end of the hallway, where I got some toilet paper for her lip. Then I told her, "Bye" and I locked her door as I left.

As I was returning to my room, I saw three sailors standing out in the hallway, all still drinking beer. A fourth was standing in the open doorway of my room. As I approached, he moved out of my way. Not one of them said a word. As I entered my room, I closed the door behind me and locked it. When I sat down on my bed, I noticed that my dresser drawer was open. Quickly, I ran over to the dresser and looked inside. My heart raced when I saw that all my money was missing. I sat down on the floor, breathing as hard as I could.

"OH GOD! What am I going to do for food money?" I whispered.

"Those sailor guys stole all my pay money," I said aloud.

I walked back over to the door and opened it. Slowly, I looked out into the hallway and saw that there was no one there. All at once, I heard a loud commotion around the hallway, near Room 20. I made my way to the corner where the hallway turned and peeked around the corner to see what was happening.

"Screw that slut. Let's go," said one of the sailors as he started down the staircase.

The other two men with him just kept laughing and banging on her door.

"Open the damn door, you slut," one sailor kept yelling.

I wanted to say something to them about my money, but I was just too scared and afraid.

"Come on. Let's get out of here," said one of the sailors.

The three of them headed down the stairs and out the front door they went. I stood there for the longest time, my face held against the cool wall, worrying about my money and what I was going to do for food. Suddenly, the door of Room 20 opened and the woman came out into the hallway. She walked down to the bathroom at the far end. When she closed the bathroom door, I turned and walked back to my room. I locked my door, lied down on my bed and started to cry.

"Are you awake?" asked a voice at my door.

I wiped my eyes on the bed sheet. Then I walked over to the door and opened it. There stood the woman from Room 20.

"Thank you for helping me, sonny. My name is Gloria.

I reached up and wiped my eyes as the tears were still running down my cheeks.

"What's wrong?" she asked.

"Those sailor guys stole all my money."

"Those bastards!" she yelled.

"I don't know what I'm going to do for food.

"Come on," she said as she reached out and grabbed me by the hand.

The two of us walked to her room where she sat me down on the edge of her bed. She picked up her purse and began to rummage through it.

"Here. Take this," she said as she held out a $10 bill. "If you run short, just let me know.

"Thank you ma'am," I said as I stood up and took the money from her hand.

"No. Thank you for being kind to me.

She reached over and pulled me close to her. Then she wrapped her arms around me and she hugged me as tightly as she could. I remember feeling her warm braless breasts against the side of my face. I stood there in a total state of teenage shock.

"Would you like to spend the night in my room?" she whispered.

"No ma'am" I told her shaking my head back and forth real fast like.

"Well, if you change your mind, you just come and knock on my door."

"Thank you for the food money. I will pay you back. I really will.

"I know you will," she said as she kissed me on the forehead.

I walked out into the hallway and turned around to look at her. She smiled at me and then closed her door.

I stood there for several minutes thinking about what had just happened to me. I wanted so much to knock on her door and tell her I wanted to stay the night. However, I was just too nervous and scared. Even if she did let me back in her room, I would not know what to do or say. I knew about the sex thing, but did not have the slightest idea on how to start the process.

Several times, I raised my hand to knock on her door. However, every time I did, my heart began to race and I shook so badly that I could hardly stand upright. Slowly, I lowered my hand, turned and walked back to my own room.

Over the next eight months, Gloria and I became very good friends. She never would take back the $10 I owed her. In fact, when she had men callers to her room, she would have them pay me to go to the Crystal and pick up food for them. She always made sure they bought food for me too, as well as give me a great big tip.

One Friday, she told me she was going out of town for the weekend. I never saw her again after that.

Many times over the months, I heard sailors call my friend "a slut. I am not sure if what Gloria was doing was right or wrong. That was not for me to say. All I knew for sure is that she was a very kind person. A person who cared about me and she was someone who added much to the life of a very lonely little teenage boy. A boy who had nothing in life to look forward to, except walking to work many days in the rain and staying all alone in his boarding house room.

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