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"If it is the last thing you do on the face of this earth, you are going to admit to me that you stole that damn dried fruit. Do you hear me Roger Dean?" asked Mrs. Winters, the head matron of the orphanage.

"But I didn't take no fruit, Mother Winters. I really didn't," I said starting to cry.

"You are one worthless piece of shit! You have been nothing but a trouble maker ever since you got here," she exclaimed.

"I'm sorry I'm bad like that, Mother Winters," I said looking down at the dining room floor and shaking like a leaf.

I jerked my head backward as she hit me across the face with the small, green bamboo switch. Again and again, she hit me across the face with the long, slender switch. I moved my head from right to left, as the switch hit me across the sides of my face. I closed my eyes and gritted my teeth, just hoping she would stop beating me.

"OPEN THOSE EYES YOUNG MAN!" she screamed as she grabbed me by the shoulders and began to violently shake me back and forth.

"Yes ma'am," I said as my head spun back and forth. "I'm getting dizzy, Mother Winters."

All at once, she jabbed me in the stomach as hard as she could with her fist, causing me to fall to the floor.

"I'm sorry, Mother Winters. I really am sorry," I kept yelling at the top of my voice.

"Get your damn ass up right now!" she said as she kicked me in the knee. Then she grabbed me by the shirt collar and forced me to my feet.

"Are you going to admit to me that you stole that fruit?" she asked.

"But I didn't do it, Mother Winters. Really I didn't. It wasn't me. I don't know nothing about no fruit," I cried.

"Then who was it?" she asked.

"I can't say, Mother Winters. I don't know who stole it."

"You are going to tell me who took that damn dried fruit from the pantry or I will beat you half to death. Do you understand me young man?"

I stood at attention as she turned around and walked down the long hallway leading to her office and bedroom. A minute later, she once again appeared swinging a ping-pong paddle in her hand. The paddle was made of wood and the original rubber pads had been removed. Course sandpaper had been glued to both sides of the paddle. It was used for disciplining the children.

"WHO TOOK THAT GOD DAMN FRUIT?" she screamed again.

"I did not take it, Mother Winters." I repeated.

"SMACK!" went the paddle as it hit me across the face. "SMACK!" it went again as it hit the other side of my face. I moved away from her and placed my hands over the sides of my face.

"You get back over here! YOU HEAR ME YOUNG MAN?" she screamed.

Slowly, I walked back to where she was standing and stopped in front of her.

"I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU!" I screamed. "I'm not going to tell you who took the fruit, 'cause I don't know. So you might as well KILL MEEEEEEEEEE!"

I was shaking all over. Then she beat me in the face and hands as hard as she could with the sandpaper paddle. She only stopped, because Charity had come to work early and walked into the dining room to see what all the noise was about.

"Miss Mayme. What you do to that boy?" asked Charity, the black orphanage cook as she walked out the kitchen door.

I stood facing Mother Winters. My face was bruised, bloody and burning, as if it were on fire. I just stood staring back at her as hard as I could.

"She said she's gonna kill me, Charity." I said to the black woman.

"Ain't nobody going to be killing nobody, right Miss. Mayme?" said Charity.

Charity told Mrs. Winters that Nancy, the black maid had cooked the dried fruit earlier that morning that she had prepared it for the sick children who were in the infirmary building. That didn't seem to make any difference to Mother Winters. She hit me again on the shoulder with the paddle. Then she turned around and walked back down the dark hallway.

I will never forget that incident as long as I live. I remember it well, because it occurred on November 20th, 1953. That day happened to be my birthday and I was turning 8 years old.

For five years, I lied in my bed almost every night wishing that Mother Winters would die. I would sit at the dining room table three times a day, just staring at her out of the corner of my eye. I wished the entire time that someone would beat her to death with a ping-pong paddle that had sandpaper on it.

In spite of my hatred for Mayme Winters, I allowed her to continue to molest me for another five years. That was the only time she was kind to me, for a few moments.

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