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RUNNING TO WHO KNOWS WHERE



As I look back on one particular night, I remember us boys from the Children's Home Society all ranging in age from 8 to 12. We were cold and a little bit hungry as we walked the darkened streets of Jacksonville, Florida.

This was one of many times that we ran away from the orphanage for no particular reason. Maybe because we were hungry, maybe one of us had been beaten or molested by the matron, who knows? I guess there comes a time in every young life when inexperienced ‘buzzards’ have to spread their wings and venture out into the unknown.

I remember the cold breeze hitting us in the face, as the speeding cars passed us by. We walked hunched over with our hands in our pockets and our shoulders shrugged up around our necks trying to stay as warm as possible. We stopped for a moment to rest after making it to the South Gate Plaza Shopping Mall on Atlantic Boulevard.

We stood watching as families walked out of the stores carrying armloads of Christmas gifts to their cars. We were motionless as we stood and watched, and we didn’t say one word. We watched as little children and their parents laughed and played with each other. We could hardly believe all the gifts they were loading into their cars.

"It’s Christmas time in the city," sang one of the boys in a low whisper.

"Ding-a-ling," he continued to sing very softly.

"SHUT UP!" said one of the other boys as he turned around and pushed the boy in the middle of his chest.

"It's just a Christmas song," said the young boy.

"JUST SHUT UP!" I said.

We stood silently looking at the thousands upon thousands of red, green, yellow and blue Christmas lights that decorated the outside of the Southgate Plaza Shopping Center. Not one of us said a word as family after family came out of the shopping mall. We just watched as other children ran around laughing and playing.

"Go ahead and sing that song anyway," said the older boy.

"Silver bells, Silver bells. Its Christmas time in the city," sang the young boy.

"Ding-a-ling, Ding-a-ling, Silver bells, Silver bells. Make 'em ring. It’s Christmas time in the city," he sang on.

I looked around at each of the boys in our group. The reflection of the Christmas lights reflected off the wet cheeks of one of them. I am not sure what was going through the minds of the other boys as we stood there. I do know that it saddened me to see all those little kids laughing, and being hugged. Lucky little kids who had their very own mothers and fathers, not to mention all those presents. To know that shortly they would soon be warm in their very own house. A house where they had their very own room and very own toys.

Suddenly, the silence was broken as a man yelled out, "Get your damn ass in that car and keep your damn mouth shut!"

The man shoved the woman against the side of a car. When the woman hit the car, she slid down to the ground. The little girl ran over to her mother and started to cry.

"You shut your mouth too. Get your little butt in the back seat of the car!" he demanded.

He jerked the little girl up by the arm. All at once, he reached over and slapped the girl across her back as hard as he could. We boys just stood there too afraid to move a muscle.

"Get your ass up and get in the damn car," he yelled at the woman.

Slowly, she got to her feet and walked around to the other side of the car.

"I said get in the damn car!" he yelled again, pointing at her.

She opened the car door and sat down in the seat. The man stepped into the car and closed his door. For several minutes, they just sat there. He continued to yell and screamed at her. However, we could not understand what it was he was saying. All at once, he reached over and slapped the woman across the face, and then he grabbed her around the throat.

"HEY MISTER, you ain't supposed to hit no woman like that!" yelled the older boy with us.

The man let go of the woman, put the car in gear and squealed his tires as he left the parking lot. We boys just stood looking at each other. No one said a word as we walked back into the gates of the orphanage. We knew there was nothing for us inside that place. Therefore, whatever goodness was to be found in the world, it had to be found outside the gates of the orphanage itself.

Seeing that man knock that woman to the ground, then slap his little girl across her back made us aware that the world outside the orphanage was not as kind, friendly and loving as we had thought.

There were many more times that we boys ran away from the orphanage. However, running away never was the same to us after that. There was nothing ‘good’ for us to search for anymore. When we ran away after that, we really did not have a place to run, so we just started running to ‘who knows where.’

I often receive mail from readers offering various opinions as to my writing skills or subject line. All replies are appreciated and taken to heart by this author.

A few of you write to express some disbelief that blatant abuses I graphically describe could happen on such a major scale. It seems some would rather believe abuse of this magnitude happened only on rare occasion; others would suggest the abuse inflicted was more in line with well-deserved punishment for disobedient children.

From general mail received, I gather in conclusion most of you are in agreement that orphanage life is not ideal. Yet, you still see it as far from the worst thing imaginable. Orphans are housed, clothed, fed and schooled. I find all of you sympathetic to the fact that orphans have no parents. However, most of you seem to believe they have a home. Home is the misunderstood word. Parents make a home. A home without parents is just a house, a residence and a street address.

As I sit down to compose this letter, the first thought that comes to mind is the necessity to tell you I do not write fiction. What I write is fact. Are the abuses I write about within acceptable limits because people think it does not happen often or is just punishment for an ‘errant child?’ Your thought is you could not do that to your child, never in a million years. Perhaps the operative word here is ‘your.’ That is ‘your’ child and you love ‘your’ child. I am glad you do and I am glad you cannot do this to your child. However, is that it? Is this where love ends, with ‘your’ child?

There are no rights in an orphanage. Not even the right to go to the bathroom or get a drink of water without first having to ask permission.

However, always wanting to please the readership of my web site, books and stories, I take my first stab at writing pure fiction.



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