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MISS JACKIE GREENBALM



One of my teachers stopped me in the hallway and told me to tie my shoelace, before I tripped myself. I walked over by the bathroom entrance and knelt down to tie the frayed shoestring.

"You fat butt tub of lard," someone yelled as loud as they could.

I looked up to see what was happening. I continued tying my shoes as I watched a large group of boys following and mocking a girl named Jackie Greenbalm. She was a very quiet girl, who sat across from me in Mrs. Cherry's Grade 4 class. She was a bit heavy set and had these little scars all over her face.

"You don't need to make fun of her like that," I said as they walked by.

"Shut up Dumbo," yelled one of the boys.

When they passed where I was sitting, one of the boys kicked the bottom of my shoe as hard as he could, causing my knee to hit the wall. Quickly, I jumped to my feet and walked toward him. He reached out and pushed my face with his open hand, causing me to fall backward against the wall. Jackie made a right turn and walked into the girls’ bathroom.

One of the boys ran over, pushed the bathroom door open and yelled, "Sit on the toilet for a while lard-butt. Maybe some of that fat will go down when you flush it."

The group of boys began to laugh and then continued on down the hallway to their classrooms. I sat back down on the floor and once again, began to tie my shoelaces. When I stood up Jackie came walking out of the bathroom. She was wiping her eyes with toilet paper. I watched her as she turned the corner, heading for the front door of the school building.

I ran to the corner and yelled out at her, "Ain't you going to class?"

She never even turned around. She just kept on walking. I stood watching her as she went down the front steps and headed toward Spring Park Road. I laid my books down on the floor and ran after her.

"Why ain't you going to class?" I asked as I ran up behind her.

Still she said nothing.

"Why ain't you going to class?" I said again as I ran in front of her.

I stopped in front of her and just stood there.

"You’re gonna get in trouble. You ain't supposed to talk to no girls," she said.

We boys from the orphanage were not allowed to talk to girls. That applied to girls in the orphanage as well as the girls at school. That was a rule that no boy was allowed to break. Mrs. Winters, the head matron, told us that "talking leads to sex and there will be none of that nonsense."

"You gonna tell on me?" I asked.

She looked at me without answering. I saw that her eyes were red and her chin was quivering. Then she sat down on the grass and placed her face into the palms of her hands.

"They call me "Dumbo" all the time, 'cause my ears stick out," I said.

"I know," she mumbled.

"Just 'cause my ears stick out don't make me no real "Dumbo," like the elephant."

"It hurts me when they call me ‘fat.’" she said as she once again started to cry. "I can't help being big and fat."

"We gotta go back in, before we get into trouble," I told Jackie.

Slowly, she got up off the ground and the two of us walked back toward the school building. We both stopped at the water fountain and got a drink. Then I followed her back to the classroom. When we entered, Mrs. Cherry had already started the lesson. As she continued talking, she motioned for the two of us to sit down in our assigned seats. All at once, Jackie broke into tears and started balling. Mrs. Cherry walked over to her desk and knelt down beside her.

"What's wrong, dear?" she asked.

Jackie said not a word. She just cried and shook her head back and forth on her desk.

"Roger. Come with me," instructed Mrs. Cherry as she headed for the doorway. I got up from my desk and walked out into the hallway.

"What did you do to Jackie?" asked my teacher.

"I didn't do nothing. Honest I didn't," I said.

"Then why is she so upset?" she inquired.

"Some of the boys was call'n her fat things and all."

I stood watching through the doorway as one of the boys, who had been teasing Jackie stuck his finger in his nose. Then he reached over and wiped his finger on Jackie's hair. The entire classroom started laughing.

"Back to your desk," said the teacher as she looked around the corner of the doorway.

The classroom fell silent.

As I headed back to my desk, the same boy once again stuck his finger in his nose and held it out waiting for me to pass by him. I stopped, turned around, walked around the entire classroom and made my way to my seat. When I arrived at my desk, I reached over, picked up a book and just sat looking at the boy. The boy reached over to wipe his finger on Jackie's sweater. When he did, I threw the book at him as hard as I could. The book hit the boy on the finger knocking him clean out of his desk and onto the floor. Then I ran as fast as I could and stood behind Mrs. Cherry.

We were in the principal's office for more than two hours trying to get to the bottom of what all had happened. The bully was taken to the hospital to repair his broken finger. I got a severe paddling at school and I got a beating later that afternoon, when I went back to the orphanage. Once again, I was called to the front office of the orphanage. I was told that I was nothing more than a "little criminal."

They told me it was just a matter of time, before I would be sent off to the big prison for kids. By the age of 10, I did not care about much of anything any more. I did not even care about myself, or what someone might do to me. I was already 95 per cent dead inside. I had very little feelings left. The only feelings I can remember having were ‘fright’ and ‘fear.’

There was just something deep down inside of me that made me hate bullies with a passion. Even though I was scared and shaking, I always stood up for myself and I always stood up for anyone else, who was being pushed around. I cannot count how many times I was beaten up and left lying on the ground with a bloody nose and a black eye or two.

As the years passed, my record at the orphanage got thicker and thicker with disciplinary reports. Myself, I look upon those files and my scars as somewhat of a trophy.



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