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by Roger Dean Kiser
THE PUKE ( To “puke” means to tell on someone)
“Kiser, get down to Hatton’s office,” yelled my instructor of the dry cleaning department.
I began turning off the steam going to my press as it was almost time to shut down the operation and return to our dormitories.
It took me about seven or eight minutes to reach Mr. Hatton’s office. I wasn’t exactly sure why I was being summoned as Mr. Hatton’s department had he nothing to do with me. I was under the direction of the Guidance Center and the psychologist, Doctor Robert Loyal Currie.
As I entered the two story building, located next to the large steel water tower, I asked one of the boys where Mr. Hatton was. Just at that moment he came walking out of the bathroom.
“WHAT DO YOU KNOW OF THOSE TWO RUNNING LAST NIGHT? He screamed.
Shaking my head and motioning with my outward hands, I motion that I had no idea what he was talking about. I had not even heard that anyone had runaway.
“I don’t know nothin’ about nothin’ like that kind of stuff,” I replied, as I began backing away from him.
“I think you’re lying to me young man.”
“No sir, Mr. Hatton sir. I wouldn’t lie.”
“You lie to me I’ll beat the pure living shit out of you. You got that mister?”
“Yes sir, Mr., Hatton sir.
“Are you telling me you know nothing of those two boys from the laundry who ran off last night?”
“I don’t work in the laundry Mr. Hatton. I work in the dry cleaning department.”
“Did you hear me say you worked in the God Damn Laundry?”
“No sir, Mr. Hatton. But that’s where I work. I don’t know any body from the laundry. I just go there to use the bathroom and then just once in a while.”
One of three boys sitting on the wooden bench snickered. Director Hatton said not a word but quickly turned and looked directly at the boys, pointed and then shook his finger.
“You were trying to make a damn fool of me, BOY!” he said, as he turned sharply back to me.
“No sir Mr. Hatton.”
“You come with me,” he instructed, as he opened the office door.
My heart began to race knowing that I was on my way to the White House for a beating. As I exited the doorway I immediately turned to my left trying to head toward the Dining Hall and White House buildings. All at once someone grabbed me by the arm and snatched me off my feet.
“This damn way, sonny boy,” he ordered, as he opened the other door, entering into the other side of the same two-story brown building.
GET OUT OF HERE, he yelled at the two or three boys who were sitting in the room. Quickly they jumped up and ran out the doorway. Very slowly, he walked over and closed the door and in a very casual pace he walked over and stood directly in from of me. All at once he grabbed me around the neck with one hand he pinned me up against the wall.
“You ever talk to me like that in front of the other boys and you’ll end up in the God damn nigger grave yard. You understand that?”
I was so scared that I could not answer. Besides, he had me around the neck so tightly that I could hardly breathe, much less speak.
“I would never mean no disrespect to you Mr. Hatton, sir.”
“Now, what about them boys from the laundry room?”
“I don’t know nothin’ about no runnin’ away.”
“You are not going to tell me, are you?”
“I ain’t no puke, Mr. Hatton.”
“SO, THAT’S THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER?”
“I don’t know what you mean, Mr. Hatton.
“You know about those boys but you are not going to tell because you’re not a puke tattletale. Am I right?”
“I don’t even know the names of no body from the laundry. I mean no body at all.”
“I heard you were going to run with them but you chickened out. Am I correct?”
“I ain’t got no where to run to, Mr. Hatton. I cam here from the orphanage in Jacksonville and I sure don’t wasn’t to ever go back there and live with Mother Winters. I rather be here with Mr. Sealander.”
“If I take you down to the damn White House and I beat the holly shit out of you, I think you might just tell me a few names. What do you think?”
“I can’t tell you about what I don’t know about Mr. Hatton.”
“Well, if you did know who these boys are and if I take you down, would you tell me?”
“I don’t know. Maybe, if you hurt me real bad like you did the last time, maybe I might, I don't know.
“You telling me you had rather be here at this facility than back at the orphanage?”
“Yes sir, Mr. Hatton.”
Slowly, he removed his hand from my neck, turned around and walked to one of the chairs. He turned two of the chairs facing one another and then instructed me to sit down. Continuing to stand, he placed his foot in the other chair and stood there silently staring at me. I tried to smile but I felt as though my face was tight and about to crack. Not knowing what to do I raised my eyes from the floor and looked directly into his eyes. The hardness and meanest in his face and eyes had all disappeared.
“What happened to you at that orphanage boy. What did they do to you?”
“I can’t tell what all Mother Winters did to me ‘cause I ain’t no puke, like I told you in the other room.”
He reached out and placed his hand on my shoulder, squeezed and gently patted twice.
‘Was there really an ounce of compassion in this mean and cruel man?’ I thought.
“Get back to your dormitory son and get ready for chow,” he said, softly.
I got up from my chair and turned to walk out the door. All at once he kicked me in the bend as hard as he could, knocking me against the wall and then to the floor.
Shaking and scared, I looked up in to his face and I thought to myself, ‘I didn’t think so.’