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LIFE CHOICES



"KISER, get over here!" yelled the coach of our high school.

I ran as fast as my 12-year-old body would travel to get over to where he was standing.

"How many times have I told you that you are to show up for gym in tan colored shorts?" he asked.

I stood looking down at the ground not knowing what I should say to him. My first week of junior high school, I had told the matron I needed tan colored shorts for gym. She told me I would wear what was available and that was just the way it was.

I was not sure if he knew that I was from the Children's Home Society Orphanage. I thought it might be best if I tried to tell the coach that I had asked for the new shorts, but the orphanage told me they would not buy me any. I guess I was just too embarrassed to say anything. I looked up and started to speak to the coach, but stopped. By then, there were 20 or 30 other boys standing around the coach.

"WELL!" he said as he moved both his hands to one side.

"I can't get any tan shorts," I said.

"And why not?" he asked.

"I just can't, coach. I can't say why."

"You had best not show up here tomorrow without a pair of tan shorts. You got that Kiser?" he ordered. "Okay, you fellows give me two laps around the field."

I turned and started running around the track with the other boys. Once again, my back was against the wall. I was in a ‘no-win’ situation. When the bell rang, I did not even go back in the school to finish my last two classes. Generally, my mind would race around in a never-ending circle trying to find a solution to whatever problem I might face at the moment.

It was once again, time for me to run away from the orphanage. I always ran away when my back was against the wall. I now had nothing to lose. I had missed my last two classes and I knew that the Dean would call the orphanage and tell them. I knew I would surely be locked in the closet for a day or two and possibly beaten with a bamboo cane pole.

This time, I did not even run away. I just slowly walked away. There was no use for me to run any longer. I was tired of running and I was tired of trying. My life was now hopeless and I knew it. Slowly, I shuffled my feet as I walked about from street to street. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I continually pushed myself forward.

When I reached Post Street, I stopped and staring at the house where "Mr. Bill" lived. Carefully, I reached up and knocked on the front door. I waited, but there was no answer, so I sat down on the front porch step and waited.

Many of the older boys who ran away from the orphanage always came to see Mr. Bill. He gave the boys hot food and a place to sleep in return for sexual favors. I never did stay with Mr. Bill, not even one time, but now I was giving the thought great consideration.

"Well, hi Roger Dean," said Mr. Bill as he came walking up the sidewalk.

I did not say a word. I just waved at him.

"What's the matter?" he asked as he looked down at my wet cheeks.

"I'm in bad trouble, Mr. Bill," I said.

He unlocked the front door, and he and I walked inside. I explained to him that I had missed my last two periods of class and that I did not have any gym shorts. He walked over to the telephone and called the school. He explained the situation to the Dean's office and they agreed not to call the orphanage.

When he was done talking with the school, Mr. Bill hung up the phone. He stood up and then walked over and sat down on the couch beside me.

"Why did you come to me?" he asked.

"I was gonna let you ‘do it’ for some shorts for school," I said.

"Come on," he said as he took me by the arm.

Out the front door we went. We walked as fast as we could over to the Five Points area. He took me into a clothing store and bought me two pair of gym shorts for class. After that, he took me to the bus stop. He and I rode the bus over to Spring Park Road where the orphanage was located.

"You go on home. Everything is going to be al right," he said.

"But… " I started to say.

"No ‘buts’ about it," he said patting me on the back.

"Thank you, Mr. Bill," I replied as I got up to get off the bus.

"Hey! Your shorts," he said as he threw the bag at me.

I caught the bag and then walked back over to Mr. Bill. I gave him a hug around the neck. Then I got off the bus and stood waving at him as the bus disappeared around the curve on Spring Park Road.

How do I feel about Mr. Bill when I think back to those days? I am not exactly sure how I should feel. When a child has no one to turn too and I mean no one, he sometimes has to make life choices based on the lesser of two evils. I guess I take the lesser of those two evils and try to squeeze a drop of ‘goodness’ from it. If I did not do that, considering all the bad that happened to me as a child, I would be left with nothing, except the evil.



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