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Living in an orphanage has to be one of the cruelest things that can possibly happen to a young child. From the age of 6 until I was 13, I could not possibly count all the tears I saw shed by innocent little children living in the Children's Home Society Orphanage in Jacksonville, Florida.

I will never forget trying to stop a 6-year-old boy from cutting his wrist with a piece of sharp bamboo. Another young boy about 10, tried to drown himself by placing his mouth over the sink faucet in one of the upstairs bathrooms. Another boy threw himself off the heater building and into a large clump of bamboo hoping that one of the sharp shouts would go through his stomach. As for me, I tried to stick a butter knife through my heart, while I was hiding in the dormitory kitchen.

By the time most of us kids were 10 years old, we had become somewhat hardened because of the hurt, pain and agony we suffered almost on a daily basis. Many of the children at the orphanage had become cruel and most had become selfish and self-centered. You never saw a smile on any of the children's' faces and rarely did anyone hear the sound of laughter.

Living in an orphanage is much like living in a prison. At it's best, it is a closed society where everyone is afraid and distrusts everyone else. Every child is afraid to speak his or her mind - afraid to voice an opinion for fear of being ‘ratted’ on.

ANY disagreement, whatsoever with another child would cause the matrons to have the two children, no matter what their age or size, fistfight with one another, until blood was drawn or until someone was knocked unconscious. I could not possibly count all the times we kids were called into the ‘arena’ and someone was left lying bloody in the dirt. However, I do recall the last time I was called upon to do the dirty deed:

"Kiser and Gillman, get out into the field!" the matron yelled.

We knew when we heard those words that we were headed to the ‘arena’ for a fistfight.

"But I didn't do anything wrong," I told the matron.

"It's not you ass hole. It's Emmett Gillman. Get a move on," she said as she pushed me in the back of the head.

Everyone in our building headed out back of the boys’ dormitory. They gathered where there was a large clearing between the many pine trees that scattered the orphanage grounds. All the boys formed a large circle around Emmett and I.

"What did we do?" I asked once again.

"Emmett is telling lies about Mother Winters," said one of the boys.

"She did it. She made me suck on her titty," screamed Emmett as he began to cry.

I stood with my fists balled up and ready to fight. I knew that what Emmett was saying was the truth. I knew it to be true, because Mother Winters had also made me do the same thing to her over at the dining room office building.

"Kiser, you had better hit that little bastard or I'll set two of the bigger boys on your little ass!" yelled the matron.

Both Emmett and I just stood looking at each other. Both of our little hearts were beating as fast as they could. We walked around in a small circle just staring at one another and waiting to see who would throw the first punch.

"Get in there and beat the shit out of those two," the matron yelled as she pushed Eugene Corruthers into the circle.

Eugene came into the circle swinging both of his fists like a madman. The next thing I knew, I was lying on the ground rolled up in a tight ball. Eugene then started beating the hell out of little Emmett Gillman and kicked me in the sides. Then it all stopped about as fast as it started. Slowly, I uncurled from the ball and looked over at Emmett. He was a bloody mess from being kicked in the face by Eugene. I just lied there on the ground looking at his bloody face. I could hardly tell who he was.

Many of these same children grew up and made a life for themselves out on the street. I would guess that about half made their way to jail or prison. From what I have been able to find out, only three actually ended up committing suicide. Most of the kids went from relationship to relationship. I do not think there was one of them who ever found 'true' happiness. I am sure that most of the kids searched for happiness, but they never found it because they did not have the slightest idea what they were looking for.

I have to admit that it is an absolute miracle that this orphanage did not produce a serial killer or two, or three.

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