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WALK A MILE IN MY SHOES



“You grab that damn chair you little bastard. If you let go again, I WILL BEAT YOU TO DEATH!” screamed Mother Winters, the head matron of the orphanage.

I stood naked, except for one Buster Brown shoe, on the screen-in porch; my seven year old body shaking with fear. I could feel the blood running down the back of my legs as she continued to beat me with the green stalk of bamboo. The cold metal chair felt good against my face, as the tears rolled from my eyes.

I looked up as a siren sounded and saw a police car roll to a stop in from of the dining room. Two policemen jumped out of the car, began running up the cement walkway, opened the screen door and stood there looking at me.

“What the damn hell is going on with this child?” asked one of the officers.

Within several minutes the story had been told. I was wrapped in a green blanket, placed into the back of the police car, and taken to Spring Park Elementary School. The police instructed Mrs. Dryer, the Principal, to call the parents of a student named Lionel and ask them to come to the school, as quickly as possible.

Earlier that morning Lionel was sitting atop the baseball diamond pitcher’s mound. There was red clay all over his clothes. As I approached him I saw that he had newspaper wrapped around both feet.

“Lionel, how come you ain’t got no shoes on?” I asked him.

Lionel told me that his father, in a drunken rage, had thrown him and his mother out of the house; that his mother was afraid to go into the house to get his shoes for school. In tears, he told me how several of the school bullies had laughed, then pushed him down and rolled him around in the red clay.

I sat down in the red dirt and began unwrapping the newspaper from his feet. Then I took off one of my new Buster Brown shoes and placed it on his right foot. The two of us walked into the school building wearing only one shoe.

Before returning to the orphanage I was unable to find Lionel to retrieve my shoe. When it was learned that I had lost my shoe I was sent to the office to see Mother Winters.

As the story unfolded, I watched as Lionel sat in a wooden chair, all draw up into a ball, and shaking from head to toe.

I reached down and took off my one reaming shoe and held it out to Lionel. The room fell totally silent.

“You can have this shoe too. I’ll be dead before the next day,” I told him, as I bit my lip and looked at Mother Winters.

Mrs. Drayer covered her face, with both hands, and quickly walked out of the room.

One of the policemen reached out and took the shoe from my hand. He knelt down and placed it on Lionel’s left foot and then rubbed him on top of his head.

Mother Winters grabbed me by the arm and jerked me toward the door.

“Will you remember me?” I asked Lionel.

He looked up, stuck his finger in his mouth, and then looked down at the wooden floor.

The next day Mother Winters sent me to school with newspaper wrapped around both my feet. Mrs. Drayer, my teacher nor any student said a word.



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