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SKIN THAT NIGGER



This was one of the few times when I had run away from the orphanage by myself. I just could not take going to school any longer. I walked right passed the school without even looking. I threw my schoolbooks in the bushes, and off I walked down Spring Park Road.

I could not understand why the other children in our school hated us kids from the Children's Home Society Orphanage. Or, why they always made fun of us. Was it because we didn't have lunch money and carried our sandwich in a brown paper bag? What had we ever done to them? Why did they always find it necessary to laugh and make fun of us?

Five days a week we went to school, and then we went back to the orphanage and worked until bedtime. It was the same routine every day, year after year. On Saturdays and Sundays, we scrubbed and waxed all the floors and the two stairways. Then we cleaned all the toilets and sinks in the bathrooms, kitchen, and washrooms. Whatever daylight was left, we spent raking acres, and acres of leaves, and pine straw. Then we placed it in the azalea beds.

Several times I had thought about killing myself, but I was just too scared to do something like that. I thought about asking some of the other boys, who were really sad and lonely, to do it with me. But I was afraid that they might report me to Mother Winter's, the head matron. I do not think she really cared if I died one way or the other. One time she told me that she would kill me. I was staring at her face when she said that, and I think she really meant it. The veins in her face were real big and blue, and her eyes were coming out of her head a little bit.

"So, today I'm just going to go to wherever somewhere is," I thought to myself, as I slowly walked along the side of the road.

I walked over the Main Street Bridge and headed into downtown Jacksonville. Generally, when I had run away, the orphanage would call the police and I would have to run when they found me. This time I just did not seem to care.

As I walked around looking in the department store windows, I thought about what had happened the night before. How Mother Winters had called my dormitory house-parent, and had me report to her room at the dining-room building. When I arrived, I knew from the look on her face that I was not in trouble. I sat down on the end of her bed and I folded my hands on my lap. I stared at the floor and began swing my legs back and forth. I sat there listening to her hum, as she began to shower.

"Roger, dear. Hand me that robe on the end of my bed," she hollered.

"Yes, Ma'am, Mother Winters."

I reached over, picked up the long, white robe, and I handed it to her through the crack in the doorway. When I turned around, I noticed all the horse statues lined up in a row. I had given her one almost every Christmas. Every penny that I had ever received at Christmas from the Jacksonville Kiwanis Club had been spent buying the pretty ceramic horses for Mother Winters. God! How much I wanted her to like me.

"Roger, dear. Did you take a shower tonight?"

"No Ma'am, Mother Winters. It wasn't shower time yet. We were still watching the television."

I jumped when she opened the bathroom door. Her robe was open and I could see the front of her body. She walked up to me and opened her robe. She gently sat me down on the end of her bed, took my head in both her hands, and placed it against her breasts. I closed my eyes and waited for her to masturbate. It was the exact same routine every time.

"I wonder if she is ever going to make me do it to her. I'm eleven and I ain't never really done it," I thought to myself, as I crossed over the street.

I walked around for hours. There were times when I did not even know where I was in Jacksonville. It really did not matter where I was, so I just kept walking.

As the sun slowly disappeared behind the trees, I began to wonder what I was going to do for the night. My legs were tired and I needed to find a place to rest. I sat down on a city bus bench, for just a moment, but jumped right back up when I saw a bus turn the corner. The bus pulled up and came to a stop. When the door opened, I stood there looking at the bus driver. I did not know what to do.

"Well," he said.

I was very embarrassed and did not want to get into trouble. Having several dollars in my pocket I stepped on, paid the toll, and took a seat in the rear of the bus. I continued to ride for several hours, falling asleep, and waking each time the bus would come to a stop. After about an hour, there was no one on the bus except the driver and me. I noticed that he kept looking at me in the rearview mirror, so I decided to get off. I reached up and pulled the cord, making the bell ring. The bus came to a stop and I exited through the back door. I choked on the exhaust as the bus pulled away.

It was very dark and I had no idea where I was. Off in the distance I could hear a train whistle, so I began to walk in that direction. Several minutes later, I came to what appeared to be a train-yard. There were train tracks everywhere. I stood there wondering if I might be able to sleep in one of the many empty boxcars parked along the track. As I walked down the tracks, several men began shouting at me. When I did not move, they ran toward me. I spun around and began running in the opposite direction. Within five minutes, the two men had cornered me beneath the railroad-overpass. One of them grabbed me by the shirt, hit me with his flashlight, and threw me to the ground.

"Hey, there's another one over here," yelled the second man.

I was surprised when the man pulled out a gun and pointed it at me.

"This one over here is a Nigger."

"Bring him over here!" hollered the man, holding me at gunpoint.

"This is the same bastard we ran out of here last night," said the man, as he reached our location.

I looked at the black man and saw that he was scared to death. He was shaking so badly that he could hardly walk.

"What did I tell you last night, BOY?”

“You'se said you would skin me alive, if I ever came back here," said the man.

"Let's skin that Nigger," said the man holding onto me.

"How old are you, boy?"

"Eleven," I replied.

"You get your little ass out of here and don't you ever come back. You understand?"

"Yes, Sir!" I said, and I meant.

The man loosened his grip and I slowly moved away from him. I turned and started walking in the direction of the tracks.

"Not that way! That way!" The man stuck out his finger and pointed.

"I'm lost and I don't know where I am."

"THAT-A-WAY!" he screamed.

I began waking backwards, away from them. After about twenty feet I stopped.

"MOVE," he yelled at me again.

"What are you going to do to him?" I asked the two men.

"I am going to skin this here black bastard."

”Please do not hurt him. I'll take him away with me, really I will."

I watched as one of the men flashed a large Bowie Knife into the beam of his flashlight.

"Please, let him go. He ain't hurt anybody," I pleaded.

The two men grabbed the black man and threw him to the ground.

"OH GOD! OH GOD!" I screamed.

The black man rose to his knees and began begging for his life. The two men began laughing and one kicked the man back to the ground with his foot. I just sat there on the ground, shaking and crying.

"Here, take this damned monkey with you," said one of the men, as he continued to laugh.

I tried to get up but I could hardly walk. I crawled through the dirt on my knees. When I reached the man, I helped him to his feet. He and I began to run, holding onto each other. We must have fallen ten times before we got fifty feet away from the two men. The black man was screaming like a crazy person. Even after we were far away, he was still shaking and acting as if he was not right inside his head.

That night he and I slept behind South Gate Plaza, over on the South side of Jacksonville. We found refuge on two old couches that someone had dumped behind one of the stores.

Late the next morning when I woke, the black man was gone. I sat there on that old couch for several hours, wondering if those two men would have really skin a human being alive.

My mind was very confused. I was searching for a place in the world that had to be better than the world that I lived in at the orphanage. No matter where I looked, I just could not find that world.



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