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WHAT IS THIS?



"Roger Dean, you get your little butt over to the main office! RIGHT NOW!" yelled the matron at the orphanage where I lived.

I jumped up from the dirt pile where I was playing and tried as best I could to dust off my short pants. Then I started running toward the main office building.

The closer I got to the building, the faster my little heart was beating. I had been summoned to the ‘front office’ many times when I had done something bad, but the ‘main office’ was another story all together. Only kids who were being sent off to the reform school and prison were called to the ‘main office.’

When I reached the front door, I stopped and peaked through the large glass door. All at once a large woman jerked open the door and began shaking her finger at me.

"Well, get in here. I don't have all damn day," she exclaimed.

"Yes, ma'am," I replied.

I was pushed along the long hallway by her finger stuck in the back of my back. As we walked along, I looked from right to left. I looked into each and every office door, as we passed them by. All I could hear was the sound of typewriters clicking away.

"I wonder if their writing something about me? I wonder if I’ve done something bad and they’re going to send me off to the big prison? I thought.

“TURN RIGHT! TURN RIGHT!” screamed the gray haired woman as she grabbed me by the arm and herded me into a small office on the right side of the hallway.

"Sit down in that chair," she said pointing to a wooden chair next to a large metal desk.

"I didn't do nothing wrong, did I? I questioned.

"Just sit there and do not ask any questions. Premo?" she asked.

"What's a "premo?"' I asked.

"It means you are to keep your big mouth shut, until you are spoken too. Understand?" she said.

I sat there with my little hands folded on my lap. I could hardly believe all the activity that was going on around me. People were coming and going. Phones were ringing right and left, and those never-ending typewriters kept going clickety clack, clickety clack.

"What is this?" asked the woman as she held out a hand drawn picture of a naked woman.

I knew it was a woman and that she did not have any clothes on, but I did not know what to say to her.

"I don't know," I said.

"Then what is this?" she said as she showed me a hand drawn picture of a naked man.

"It's a man with no clothes on," I said.

"And what is this?" she said as she showed me the picture of the naked woman once again.

"I don't know," I told her.

"Don't play stupid with me?" she yelled as she shook the paper in front of my face.

I sat there totally petrified. My heart was beating 90 miles an hour. I knew very well that the cartoon picture was that of a naked woman, but I was afraid that I would get into trouble if I told her I knew what it was.

For more than half an hour, she kept hounding me. Over and over and over, she kept on. The same questions on and on and on. Finally, I covered my face and blurted out, "It's a picture of a lady without no clothes on."

"And just how would you know that?" she asked.

"I don't know. I just know."

"Stick out your hand, young man," she demanded.

When I looked up, she reached over and picked up a large, tan colored, wooden ruler off her desk. I held out my hand and closed my eyes. She struck me across the hand as hard as she could.

"But I didn't say noth'n bad," I said starting to cry.

"You don't know what this is, right? she asked again as she held up the picture.

"No ma'am," I said.

She walked over to the desk and sat down. Then she began to write on the paper that had the picture of the naked woman on it. Then she stuck it into a large brown file folder.

"Are you sure that you do not know what this is?" she asked again as she pointed at the folder.

"I don't know," I repeated as I shook my head back and forth. "Can I go back to my house now?"

"Just keep your mouth shut," she said.

I folded my hands back onto my lap and just sat quietly. Several minutes later, two men dressed in suits appeared in the doorway.

"Any results?" asked one of the men.

"He was unable to distinguish the difference," she told them.

"Well, I guess that settles that," said one of the men.

I sat back in the chair while she walked the two men back to the front door of the main office. When she returned, she told me to go back to my dormitory.

"You had best learn to keep your mouth shut," she said as I was walking down the hallway.

I didn't have the slightest idea what she was talking about or what was going on.

At the time, it did not occur me what was actually happening. As I now look back, I tend to think that the two men might have been police officers - law enforcement officials, who were looking into allegations that Mrs. Winters, the head matron, was molesting me and several other boys at the orphanage. Even had I been questioned about the molestation, I would not have admitted it. ‘Mother Winters’ was the ‘Supreme Being’ at the orphanage. As far as we kids were concerned, she was the ‘Supreme Being’ of the world. There was no one who would not believe every word that came out of her mouth. There was no one in the world that was bigger, smarter or meaner than Mother Winters. There was no one who could tell her what she could or could not, do. We kids knew it and the orphanage made sure we kids knew it well.



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