Orphan Survival Stories Index |
Once again, I sat alone in my bedroom. I had been sent to bed because I refused to eat a plate of boiled okra and eggplant, which we had been given for supper.
Slowly and very carefully, I opened the large window in my upstairs bedroom so I could hear the other boys playing outside. I placed my chin on my hands and just sat staring over at the girls’ dormitory. I moved my eyes to the left when I heard Mother Winters, the head matron, yelling at someone. I could now see the large dining room building.
Some of the girls were hauling large pots and pans back into the kitchen after they had scrubbed and rinsed out back of the kitchen. Thin, tiny little girls were carrying heavy metal pots, almost as big as they were.
"I like you Elaine," I thought as 11-year-old Elaine Smith came walking out of the dining room carrying a large mop bucket.
I turned around and began to listen just in case the matron of our dormitory might come up the back stairwell. Slowly, I raised my hand to try and wave at Elaine. We kids were absolutely forbidden to talk or even make a hand motion to anyone of the opposite sex.
"Get you little ass in the bed!" yelled the matron as she came walking past my bedroom.
My little heart almost jumped out of my chest.
"Yes ma'am," I said jerking my hand behind me.
"What are you doing up in that damn window?" she asked.
"Why ain't we allowed to like nobody here?" I asked the matron.
"Because nobody likes you. That's why. Now get away from that window," ordered the matron.
"But in the Bible it says… " I started to say.
"SHUT YOUR MOUTH AND GET INTO YOUR BED!" she hollered as she reached in and turned my bedroom light on.
I walked over to my locker and took out my folded pajamas. Then I changed, and turned down my bedspread and sheet.
"Can I have permission to go to the bathroom before I go to bed?" I asked.
There was no response.
"MISS! MA'AM! Can I use the bathroom?" I asked again as I walked over to the doorway and stuck my head out into the dark hallway.
Still there was no response.
I reached over, turned off the light and made my way back over to the open window. I pressed my face against the screen as hard as I could, trying to see if Elaine was still mopping. All at once, the window screen fell off and slid down the front porch roof. I heard it crash as it hit the ground. I ran as fast as I could and got into my bed. In less than a minute, the matron was standing at my bedroom door with a large piece of the screen frame in her hand.
"Didn't I tell you to get away from that damn window?" she asked.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean for it to fall out. I really didn't," I said as I began to cry.
As she moved toward me, I covered my head with my spread. All at once, she hit me across the legs with the heavy wooden board. I screamed as loud as I could and jumped off the bed. I could not hold up my weight and fell to the floor. I immediately grabbed hold of my legs, which I thought had been broken.
"What were you doing up in that damn window?" she asked.
"I was just look'n," I said.
"Looking at what?" she continued.
"I was just look'n over at the girls working at the dining room kitchen."
"And just what were you thinking when you were looking at the girls?"
"I wasn't thinking nothing. Really I wasn't," I tried to explain.
I knew right then and there that I was in some very serious trouble. I knew better than to ever say that I was looking at a girl.
"YOU’RE A DAMN PERVERT!" she screamed.
I jumped off my bed and ran toward the open window. I dove out of the second story window and landed on the roof of the front porch. Very slowly, I began to slide head first toward the edge of the roof. There was no doubt in my mind that I would be killed when I hit the ground. I began to scream as I slid along, scrapping my hands on the course, gray, tile roof.
That was the last thing I remembered, before waking up in the infirmary building. My legs were not broken, but they both swelled up like purple balloons.
Yes, it is very easy for one to recall and remember specific childhood memories, especially when each and every one of those memories was intended to break a child's spirit. It is not hard to remember a memory that lasted nine long years - a 3,291-day memory of a child wanting nothing more than to like someone of the opposite sex and to have her like you in return.
Yes, there was once a time when we, as kids had our share of losing. There was once a time when they had us locked in an iron cage. For nine long years, they tried to break our spirits. Yes, even today, 40-some odd years later, we as grown-ups can still feel the pain.