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 A Novel

Far Gresham

by

R.E. Prindle

Clip 4

  12.

     David Hirsh had failed to obtain homage from me at the well on Kishenev St.  He was not disappointed.  He had his heart set on a public humiliation before the whole school as his son had been in kindergarten.  He considered his promise to his father fulfilled by the attempt at the well.  He now set in motion his heart’s desire.

     The gulf between our two groups must have been enormous.  My encounter with the Stouts had given me some inkling of the distance but pride refused to allow me to recognize the truth.  I annihilated the reality.  The neurotic distortion of reality overruled my conscious grasp of the facts.

     David Hirsh, while keeping an eye on me and my fellows as we tramped the back alleys of the twelve blocks to Longfellow in the third grade quickly apprehended the difference in my status.  Our clothes, our walk, our talk, our bearing vastly amused him.  It occurred to him then, that, as he and his associates  had prevented Blacks from attending Emerson, he might now prevent me as well as the other inmates from attending Longfellow on approximately the same grounds.  As he claimed that the Blacks would have been a detrimental influence at Emerson, he now conceived the notion that our tag-tail lot would be a detriment to the Longfellow kids.  Such a punishment of myself produced a feeling of mellow resplendent satisfaction in him.  Truly, in his mind, a Biblical sense of justice would prevail.  The punishment would fit the crime.

page 151.

     There were Hirshes and Websters enrolled at Longfellow as well as others who disapproved of our mixing with their own.  David and Beverly discussed the matter with other parents.  They in their turn, half from conviction and half to please Hirsh, agreed to the plan.  Thus David Hirsh believed that he had a good chance of excluding us as we were segregated in class already and no one objected.

     Hirsh had gone further.  He had sounded out the school board, even presented his arguments forcefully.  The objections centered on where we would be schooled as law required all children to attend school regardless of race, religion or creed which was assumed to include parentage.  Longfellow, was, after all our district; other schools were as close but there was a reason we attended Longfellow.  Parents at those other schools had made effective protests to keep us out.  At some time in the past Longfellow had been designated to bear our burden.

page 152.

     Hirsh had listened passively; thought on it, decided that that approach could not be successfully pursued.

     He countered that as the Catholic orphans were educated intra-murally so might we be.  This was countered by two arguments:  There wasn’t space to educate the various grades nor could the school board afford the added expense.  As might be expected the economic argument was the conclusive one.  It was suggested to David Hirsh that if he were willing to bear the expenses…?  Hirsh was not willing to bear the expenses.

     Hirsh had failed.  He had also created a certain amount of ill will toward himself among the more charitably and democratically inclined.  Many thought that the plan ran counter to American ideals, which, indeed it did.

     It was at this point that Solomon Hirsh learned of David’s intent and decided to caution his son.  Solomon had advised David that more danger than reward awaited him if he persisted.  David had given the bow to his father’s wishes but he felt strongly enough to persist.  David Hirsh had mis-guaged the influence of the Webster-Hirsh powers.

     After his failure at the well on Kishenev, which was nearly self-ordained, Daved accepted a less satisfying course of action.  He knew that he could not succeed with the schoolboard.  He now directed his energies toward the principal of Longfellow, H.M. Thudbarrow.  Defeated in his greater plan, he now remembered that as the Blacks were compelled to sit through recess, he would now compel the orphans to do the same.  Force main as used with the Blacks was out of the question.  He would require a more subtle deceit.  He thought that I would be sufficiently humiliated to satisfy him.  He thought that matters would then be returned to the status ante quo kindergarten.  As he thought about it he created in his mind the additional beauty that I wouldn’t even know I had given homage.

page 153.

     Principal Thudbarrow was, as might be expected, a pushover.  He was invited to meet with Hirsh and other interested parents at a dinner at the Valley Country Club.  There wined, dined and treated with the utmost and most flattering respect he was persuaded to comply with Hirsh’s plan.

     Our teacher, Bevis Marks, could trace her lineage back to, if not the Founding Fathers, at least the beginnings of America.  Her ancestors were on the ship that brough the first Jews to America in 1654.  They arrived at the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, later New York.  Her name had originally been Marquess, as those Jewish immigrants were Portuguese Jews via Amsterdam through Brazil.  Her ancestor had debarked as Marquess but was next seen as Marks.

     Different events have different effects on different minds.  Whereas the knowledge of the death camps in Europe was making Hirsh hard and bitter, the same events had reactivated and intensified Bevis Marks awareness of the brotherhood of man.  She had seen the pictures of Jews segregated and waiting in line with bars of soap in their hands.  What was now proposed seemed but little different to her.  Yet her choice was to quit or comply.  Like Eichmann she chose to comply.  She had misgivings of course but in the circumstances so has everyone; better to keep her place rather than lose it over some miserable orphans.

page 154.

     David Hirsh’s plan was set for execution.  I walked into class that morning and immediately was aware that something was up; what I couldn’t guess.  The Eloy cast satisfied glances at me all morning.  Bevis Marks seemed somewhat agitated.  I just couldn’t guess what was up but I waited apprehensively and alert.

     As recess time approached Miss Marks became more agitated.  Her head wagged from side to side.  A major element in the success of any plan is surprise; surprise had been lost.  I watched and waited.  Miss Marks cleared her throat to announce recess.  Her eyes closed; she raised her left hand to her waist and held her right hand breast high as though picking an imaginary berry from an imaginary bush.  This was it.  I waited expectantly.

     She explained that several of the parents had been complaining about their children having to mix with us.  We were not keeping our place.  In other words as Blacks were expected to shuffle and address their masters apologetically so were we.  As the Jews of Central Europe were supposed to be obsequious before their betters so were we.  As the Poles were expected by the Nazis to be trained to be less than men, so were we.

     She explained that a bench had been set aside for we orphans.  We were not only not to be allowed to play apart from the Eloy we were not even to be allowed to play while they played.  We were to sit and watch.  My deck had been quickly shuffled past my eyes and the scene of the Black kids in kindergarten presented itself.  I was outraged.  I wouldn’t allow it to happen to those Black kids and this White Nigger wasn’t going to do it either.

page 155.

     I began to protest but was rudely shoved aside by some of the Eloy.

     ‘Get going, Gresham, we’ve got you now.’

     I looked across the yard.  A bench had been set up by the side of the road where we were to sit.  David and Michael Hirsh had obtained a ringside seat.  They didn’t mean to miss the show.  Brooklyn St. terminated into Rivington which ran alongside the school on the East side.  The bench had been set up facing Brooklyn.  David and Michael Hirsh sat in their car on Brooklyn facing the bench.  The two were in a state of high exaltation.  This was it!  This was when they got theirs back.  It couldn’t fail.

     For me it was a time in which, if time does not stand still, the moments are incredibly prolonged.  It was one of those times when an eon elapsed between the classroom and the bench.  I was holding back, dragging my feet.  A few of the Eloy walked behind us like cowboys driving cattle.  My decision was ahead however not behind .  I exhorted some of the orphans not to accept the plan; not to take a seat on the bench.  The desperate thought had entered my mind that even though I refused to sit on the bench, if the rest of the White Niggers did I would be implicated with them.  They were only too willing to accept their fate.  Black or White, a nigger is a nigger.  The scene in kindergarten kept flashing through my mind.  I failed to prevent any of the orphans from taking the bench.  Even the boys who considered themselves tougher than myself took the bench.  One of the girls grabbed my arm to pull me down.

page 156.

     ‘Come on, Far.  You heard Miss Marks, we have to sit on the bench.’

     David and Michael Hirsh rose in their seats in anticipation.  I pulled free and hissed:  ‘You have to sit.  I don’t.’

     I grabbed a ball and ran off toward the well in the upper yard.  Longfellow had the largest grounds I’ve ever seen in a school.  It must have been set on ten acres.  My move was totally unexpected.  The Eloy stood yelling after me, clenching their fists and pointing to the bench.  The orphans looked expectantly after me to return.  Bevis Marks became distressed.  It’s the exception that destroys the rule.  I stood glaringly exposing the injustice of the deed.

     The Hirshes stared at me through their windshield in disbelief.  David Hirsh had always been mystified as to why his plan had failed in the second grade.  He had come to the conclusion that he had failed because he had confronted me directly.  He now, proving Mrs. Miller’s dictum, attempted to sneak up on me.  Incredibly that seemed to be failing also.  Activity near the bench recalled his attention to that area.

     The Eloy had begun to play before the orphans.  Miss Marks had not anticipated anyone of us not taking the bench.  As she watched me playing catch by myself she was overcome with shame.  She invented a new rule.  If one of the Eloy couldn’t play then one of the orphans could substitute.  She sent an Eloy to recall me to be a substitute.  One of the girls, a good hearted soul, jumped and ran to tell me what she considered to be the good news.

page 157.

      Hirsh found hope, he would settle for me as a substitute, still in a subservient role.  But I was not to be swayed.  Let the others accept their status.  I was made of sterner stuff.  I was not to be tempted.  I rejected the role.

     My rejection of the offer registered with Hirsh.  He knew bitter disappointment.  His hands which had been tremblingly clutching the wheel in anticipation stopped shaking; his forehead slowly settled against the wheel; a bit of disappointment burped from his throat.  Michael’s head involuntarily swiveled to the left as his eyelids hooded his eyes and the corners of his gaping mouth arched toward his chin.  Damn! Damn! Damn!

     David Hirsh ignited the engine, pushed the gear shift out of neutral, slammed it into first, roared around the corner pounding the horn with his fist.  All heads turned to look.

     Never! Never in David Hirsh’s life had he ever been so frustrated.  Feelings stirred deep in his bowels; he must have satisfaction.

     For the next two days recess was repeated in the same fashion.  The Eloy playing, the orphans sitting, and I off by myself.

     Failed evil is a strong rebuke.  The situation vexed Bevis Marks.  Had the plan been successful she would not have had to review her actions.  It had failed; I was a living rebuke.  The burden weighed heavily on her. 

     There were others who had seen, who were watching.  Homeowners across the street had stared wonderingly.  There had been cars that stopped while drivers stared uncomprehendingly.  Pedestrians had watched, picked their teeth and ponderingly even asked questions.  Acton Burnell, the janitor, stood before a window in the furnace room flipping raisins in his mouth and evaluating the situation.  Acton Burnell was the wild card.  Neither Hirsh nor the other parents had taken him into consideration.

     Acton Burnell, holding an insignificant job, was a thirty-first degree Freemason.  He was two degrees from the top.  Most of the important men in town belonged to the Masons including Solomon and David Hirsh.  Inside the lodge Acton Burnell outranked them both.  Burnell was a man of mediocre talents, he had never risen in the world.  He had a very high opinion of himself which his position in the Masons confirmed to him.  His lack of success in the world frustrated him and made him a sort of socialist is a malcontented sort of way.  From the furnace room of Longfellow he was a meddler who sought importance by frustrating the will of others.  He had a longstanding grudge with Solomon Hirsh which translated in his mind to all the Hirshes, big or little.  He saw his opportunity to embarrass his enemy.

page 159.

     At the same time, Bevis Marks could stand no more.  Powerless against Thudbarrow she was still aware of the motive sources of the situation.  The third day- all these matters are governed by the rule of three- was a Friday.  The weekend intervened.  Acton Burnell did his work, the neighbors and passersby registered their opinions.  Miss Marks went to talk to David Hirsh within the synagogue, as it were.  Her anger and shame overcame her timidity.  Over the weekend she talked to David Hirsh bluntly.  She told him he must withdraw his demand or suffer consequences.  She wasn’t clear as to what the consequences would be but there would be consequences.  David Hirsh as he stood frowning, listening to Bevis Marks, realized that it was too late to avoid consequences.

     Acton Burnell had taken actions, the complaints of  others had been registered and reached the right places.  The branch broke carrying Hirsh to the ground with it.  Recess was conducted properly on Monday.  The individual is important.  Unbeknownst to me I had inflicted a serious defeat on David Hirsh.  A very serious defeat that was to produce pain for David Hirsh.  Oh yes, but David and Michael Hirsh still had the means to pass the pain back to me in an even more severe form.

     His and Michael’s pain had been considerable; so much so that David had lost control of himself pounding in a maddened way on his car horn, subconsciously calling the world’s attention to his anguish.  He felt as though he had been unmanned.  His mind processed his failure as violent sexual aggression toward him by me.  There could be only one response.

page 160.

     God is capricious.  In the Biblical interpretation of reality God now began to turn his countenance from the Hirshes.  Had David been consistent, which he wasn’t, he would now have sught ways to propitiate his god.

     Just as my challenge to Michael in kindergarten had removed him from the role of leadership for which David had been training him, so now my defeat of David, of which I was oblivious, removed him from the possibility of attaining the leadership for which his father, Solomon, had trained him.  Not that the leading townsfolk cared a whit about the propriety or impropiety, justice or injustice of the act; the important thing was that David had shown poor judgment.  David Hirsh had failed and exposed himself and his class to ridicule.  He was too obtuse and self-absorbed to hear the murmurs or notice the querulous sidelong glances, but David Hirsh had fallen from his charger that day.  The truth would slowly dawn on him as the realized that his seat at the Valley Club, that controlled affairs in town, had suddenly fallen below members now more prominent.  Solomon Hirsh knew mortification as the main prop of his own importance fell away.  The townsfolk realized there would be no Hirsh dynasty.

     David’s homelife had been unsettled by his return to Judaism.  Beverly had not the facility of living with one foot in the Jewish world and one foot in the Christian world that David had.  To David it was second nature.  Besides the gois asked for nothing from the Jews but easy going compliance with custom, with manners.  The Jews had a much more demanding education and a much stronger class system than the goiish world; just being fun didn’t go very far in their world.  Beverly’s malaise spilled out into their relationship muddying what had been a clear matrimonial stream.

 page 161.

     Other external problems were brewing also.  The wind from the waters blew across the Valley portending great changes.  In the postwar years great retail chains moved into the small cities to challenge the established local department stores. Stores built up over decades that had seemed magnificent paled before the universal flash of the chain stores.

     Like all small town merchants the Hirshes and their fellow merchants had combined to prevent the entry of such stores into the core, or Downtown, area.  At that time there were no shopping centers.  All, or nearly all, of the retail trade was confined to a small downtown area.  Within that area, the main street was a monopoly of choice locations to which entry could be controlled.  An individual or small chain had to pass muster with the established merchants before they could obtain a lease, retail opportunity was circumscribed.  Sears and Roebuck, the biggest and most aggressive of the national chains, which had just received authorization to enter the Valley was thus forced to build further out on the edge of downtown.  These department stores were big stores, rather than being isolated they created their own centers or extended the commercial core to include them, such as a great mountain is said to create its own weather.

     Stores like Sears disrupted the monopoly of the established merchants.  By extending the shopping area they created opportunity for others.  Thus the social balance was upset.  Just as ancilliary shopping centers develop around regional malls, the streets surrounding Sears became valuable retail spaces.  Thus Sears created its own body of allies against the old merchants.

page 162.

     Tradition can be an albatross.  On the eve of the impending entry of Sears the confidence of the merchants in the inability of Sears to compete was matched only by their fear that Sears could.  Thus the news occurring when it did unsettled David Hirsh even more.  The aftermath of the war, me and now Sears.  David’s former paradise was becoming ruled by anxiety.  Of his three problems he thought he could do something about me.  Had he studied himself he would have seen the difficulty of his position and directed his efforts into productive channels.  His disappointed amour propre ruled his emotions.  He, Michael and five confederates went into a huddle.

     David Hirsh had immediately determined on the nature of his ‘revenge.’  For he thought that I had humiliated him again.  He thought it was intentional and personal.  He understood it as gross sexual violence against him.  David Hirsh was neither insane, in any conventional meaning of the word, or stupid; but he perceived the world through a set of filters that destroyed all perspective.  He could perceive only his direct unintelligent needs.  Neither he nor Jack Darwen would ever understand that they caused their own problems.  There was no one on whom to avenge themselves, they had only to accept their own lack of vision concerning their problems and correct it.  Neither had the greatness of soul to understand this simple fact or the skill, or even cunning, to subvert it.  They would never ‘know themselves.’

page 163.

     Michael Hirsh had to be personally involved, in fact the perpetrator of the revenge.  At Emerson this would have presented no difficulties but at Longfellow the thing was slightly more difficult.  A confrontation at Longfellow had to be arranged.  Most of Michael’s relations and associates attended the upstairs fourth grade class.  We had been carefully segregated from them so I knew none of them.  Four of them were recruited to aid Michael as well as a member from our classroom, Lous Shriver.   With the addition of Michael that made six.

     Our classroom was merely a converted part of the furnace room.  The classroom was separated from the furnace room by a painted wooden tongue and groove wall.  This sort of wall must have been conventional because the same construction was used for the furnace room of the Children’s Home.  A door allowed entry from the classroom.  Acton Burnell frequently passed through the classroom on his way to the furnace room.

     Hirsh determined that I should be lured into the furnace room.  By now deceit was a necessary and integral, even pleasurable, part of his method.  He had somehow reasoned that my refusal to sit on the bench had been deception of some kind on my part.  The governing document of the Bible decreed that deception must be met with deception.  Sexual violence by sexual violence.

     He sent Michael to lure me into the room.  He thought, not improperly, that I knew Michael fairly well.  But I couldn’t remember him.  When I had died on the playing field of the second grade I had obliterated all memory of the perpetrators.  He hailed me before the door to the furnace room after class.  I didn’t know him, said so, and left.  They conceived this as the height of effrontery.  I, a White Nigger, a Samarian, an inmate of the Orphan’s home had rebuffed Michael Hirsh.  Their appetite was further whetted.

page 164.

     Since I wouldn’t be cozened by Michael Hirsh, they decided to try again with the boy from my class, Louis Shriver.  Shriver was no friend of mine.  He had always displayed superiority and condescension to we of the Home.  Of all the Eloy he expressed the most resentment at having to attend class with us.  As I thought of myself, he thought he belonged in the upstairs Fourth Grade class.  I was none too amenable to accept his invitation either.  But as I could see only he and I, I perceived no danger and I entered the furnace room, which I had never been in before with only ordinary suspici0n.

     In those days every building, or at least every building I ever saw, was heated by a coal burning furnace.  These were monstrous structures.  The main body was twenty to thirty feet in circumference; ducts radiated out from the top like a crazy octopus leading to the various rooms to be heated.  Coal was bought and stored by the ton.  Longfellow had a long row of bins across the back of the room which held five tons of coal when fully stocked.  The room was accordingly very warm and very dirty.  Coal dust hung heavy in the air as coal had been delivered just that day.  The large dingy room was lighted by a single sixty watt bulb suspended among the ducts.

page 165.

     Shriver entered and I followed.  Shriver firmly pushed the door shut.  I stood with my hands in my pockets looking at him quizzically.

     ‘So, what do you want?’  I said.

     He suppressed a giggle as the other five stepped away from the wall leering as viciously as they could.

     ‘Well, well, well, Gresham.  What do you have to say for yourself now?’  Michael Hirsh jeered as his movie began to unreel in his mind.  In his movie I had instigated, according to his script, the events of the last several years.  He thought I had memorized the role assigned to me in his movie and would play my part out to the end.  I had no idea of his movie,  I hadn’t seen it.

     ‘What do you guys want?’  I said innocent of any wrongdoing.  I was dismayed but couldn’t imagine what my crime was.

     ‘Well, ‘ Michael continued according to his script, oblivious of my incongruous participation, ‘I don’t want your apology anymore, Gresham.  You’re going to have to be taught a lesson.’

     ‘Apology for what…’ I began.  I thought they were going to beat me up.  My body tensed with apprehension; I waited to see who was going to swing first.  Two boys had slipped behind me, just then the grabbed  my arms.  I immediately began kicking out with my legs and feet supported by the two boys.  Two other boys grabbed my feet and lifted me off the ground.

     I was yelling by this time hoping someone would hear me.  In their excitement and shouting they had become oblivious to everything.

page 166.

     ‘OK.  Get his pants down.’  Hirsh shouted to Shriver.

     ‘OK.  Turn him over.’

     I was struggling and couldn’t say whether I was penetrated or not.   The indications are that I might possibly have been.  I knew I had been thoroughly humiliated.

     What their full intentions were I don’t know, but just as Michael was beginning to express satisfaction they heard a cough.

     ‘Hey, there’s somebody in here.’  They said, dropping me on the floor and leaving quickly.

     I sat there on the dirty floor on my bare ass, my pants still around my knees.  The coal dust made me sneeze.  I sneezed three times.  Ever after I sneezed three times every morning after I rose.  Another psychosomatic reaction to add to my collection.  My consternation was great; my mind was in a turmoil; I don’t know what I thought.

     Acton Burnell had been present in the shadows of the coal bins.

     Once he perceived the situation he had coughed loudly several times.  In the noise and excitement he hadn’t at first been noticed.  He had recognized Michael Hirsh.  David Hirsh was a powerful man; Solomon Hirsh even more so.  Acton Burnell needed his job.  He had done everything that he thought he prudently could.  He remained in the shadows not offering me any assitance.  He cooly reasoned that the information could be discreetly used against Hirsh.  Hirsh had set off another chain of events.

page 167.

     I pulled up my pants; frowning mightily I walked through the classroom.  Opening the outside door I mounted the three steps that led to ground level.  Michael Hirsh and the Eloy were waiting for me at the top of the steps.  It was not their intent to beat me further but to tempt me with the possibility of retaliation or satisfaction and then retreat before me to frustrate me further.

     ‘Alright, you son-of-a-bitch, and I mean that literally, let that be a lesson to you.’  Michael shouted as they retreated beyond close range. 

     I knew the game from the well on Kishinev St.  I didn’t waste any effort in pursuing them.  Besides, I was stunned and confused.  They saw that I wasn’t going to give them any satisfaction by running after them.  They turned, the six of them, and walked away.  They hurled a few imprecations over their shoulders, congratulated themselves repeatedly on a job well done and disappeared down Kishinev St.

page 168.

13.

     Too young to deal with or understand such horrific memories, I suppressed this one as I had suppressed my murder in second grade.  Thus when Michael Hirsh and his accomplices presented themselves before me in triumph expecting abject submission they were sorely disappointed.  I merely looked through them.  Having blocked them from my memory as dead I could not recognize them in life.  Indeed, of the six, I had only seen Hirsh and Shriver, the other four I had only seen in the darkened furnace room under stress.

     So as not to have to mingle with us, the other fourth grade class recessed on the other side of the school.  The East side was sort of a ghetto for the various classrooms of we orphans.  One of the four from time to time would come around to our side to gloat.  Glances were exchanged between Shriver, those boys and the Eloy who had been informed of what had happened.

     The result was that David and Michael Hirsh were stung by what they considered another defeat.  The supreme injury having apparently failed him, David Hirsh thrashed about wildly for something, anything that would be effective.

     While I appeared unaffected to observors, or at least, the response could not be interpreted to their satisfaction; the rape had a tremendous volcanic effect on my character.  The act is the most violent violation of dignity that a man can perpetrate against another.  The purpose of the act is quite simply to emasculate the enemy; to emphatically subordinate his manhood to the perpetrator’s.  Bereft of his manhood the victim should have no choice but abject submission to other men.  The process is the one by which homosexuals are created.

     Mrs. Miller could have given me daily enemas for weeks without affecting my manhood.  David and Michael Hirsh had sought to emasculate me.  They expected me to submit to, even solicit, their embraces thereafter.  That they failed merely betrayed their ineptness as men.

     I had to deal with the problem.  This was done on the subconscious level.  Once again, I had suppressed the memory; I wrestled with it through acts and symbols.  The eruption, the explosion went on for three weeks.  Mercifully the effects were demonstrated at the orphanage and not the school.  Hirsh’s informants failed him.  They either didn’t tell him or were so confused by the symptoms that they didn’t know how to tell him.

     My previous emotional battering had left me hanging onto a knot tied into the end of a long rope.  When I now let go I found I had nowhere to fall.  I had to live with things.  The initial reaction was one of extreme mental turmoil as I wrestled with the injustice subliminally.  My mind perceived that I had been subdued by greater force and numbers under dishonorable conditions.  I didn’t know the term force majeure, but when I learned it I intuited its full meaning.  No one can be responsible for being unable to resist force majeure.  Thus while I could exculpate myself I still could not exonerate myself, nor could I redeem myself.

    On the ground floor of the Children’s Home in a corner room past the tongue and groove wall of the furnace room was a recreation room for cold and rainy days.  It was used mainly by the younger children.  I had never visited it before but now I found myself passing the tongue and groove wall in front of the furnace room in terror.  In my own way I was trying to put myself back in time among the younger kids before the rape had happened thus negating it.

     One day shortly after the rape a matron was trying to push open a window.  The windows were at the top half of the half basement room and difficult to reach.  The matron was having a difficult time opening it.  The window swiveled outward from the top.  She had released the catch but couldn’t push the window open.  Seized by a desire to redeem my manhood I leaped up forcing my way past the matron.  Suspending myself from the exposed pipes crossing the ceiling, I attempted to kick the window open.  I swung back and forth kicking at the window with my oversized shoes.  With each kick I shouted out:  ‘There was no one to help me; there was no one to help me.’  My hopes of redemption were shattered when I put my foot through the window.  I screamed loudly so that I drowned out the sound of the breaking glass.  My hopes of redemption fled through the broken window.  Terror and shame seized my soul.

page 171.

     Dropping to the floor in a semi-crouch I fled the room scampering down the hall past the tongue and groove wall of the furnace room sideways much like a monkey.  I screamed and howled as I went.  I had failed to redeem myself.  I had aggravated the situation further.  I collapsed in the corner by the door to the room with the paper press.  My arms were held as useless appendages before my chest with my legs pulled up before me.  I wasn’t crying, as the matron thought, I was howling with terror.  The matron had no understanding, nor could she have had.  She repeated over and over as consolingly as possible:  ‘Oh, we don’t care about the window Farley, we don’t care about the window.’  Neither did I.  I was disconsolate.  My reaction pertained to matters much deeper.  Matters that I didn’t have the words to explain to the matron.

     My self-esteem was at its lowest ebb.  I was incapable of analyzing the facts.  What was immanent to me was that nobody liked me.  I spend days wrestling with the problem following one line of reasoning after another, searching for a solution.  Finally in desperation, as an ultimate attempt, I thought that if people didn’t like me as a boy, perhaps they might like me as a girl.  I would try anything.

page 172.

     The solution was as clear to me as anything has ever been.  My clarity of mind was as an oily spot on a turbulent ocean.  My mind was in a turmoil but my myopia was clear.

     I went to the third floor to the house mother of the girls and asked her for a dress.  She was taken back; she tried desperately to convince me of the error of such an extreme act.  But I was desperate; I begged, pleaded and demanded.  It seemed my only hope.  I had to be liked.  Like Pontius Pilate she washed her hands of me and gave me a dress.

     I had the same shoes.  I caused quite a sensation as I emerged from the orphanage into the yard.  Had David Hirsh been watching at that moment he would have gotten quite a charge.  I received nearly every response there was but the one I wanted.  I was cute, I was charming but the scales slammed down on the side of rejection.  With still further saddened eyes I perceived the reality of it.  Rather than being able to win their love I had only brought on total rejection.  Staring bleakly into the black hole of despair I handed back the dress and put on my pants.

     I assumed the mantle of an ambivalent sexuality.  By all rights I should have become a homosexual.  I had been fully emasculated.  In a manner of speaking my genes had been rearranged; the chemistry of my brain had been altered.  I had been changed into an emotional cripple.  In the normal course of reaction I should have sought to claim the love of men by offering myself for their sexual desires.  I became a mixture of effeminacy and masculinity.  But for a curious concatenation of incidents and reactions I would have been condemned to a life of degradation.  When Michael Hirsh had humiliated me in the second grade one result was that I began to be constipated.  I then mentioned the constipation to Mrs. Miller which I wished I hadn’t done but, in the course of the enema she had seared into my brain that all men are liars, cheats, sneaks and thieves.  I now knew this to be true.  Thus even though I may have wanted the love of men to compensate for their rejection my recognition of the truth of Mrs. Miller’s dictum made me deny them.  I didn’t want to turn out like Mrs. Miller.  Thus I was given the time to understand and work the problem out to its resolution without enduring degradation.  Wasn’t God good to me?

page 173.

     Saved from the worst by the evil I endured I still was a lost lamb grazing on a barren heath.  I lived rather aimlessly.  I did what was expected of me as I had no idea what else to do.  I became ridiculously compliant; so eager to please that no one had any respect for me.  It was probably at that time I developed an autonomous other existence.

     I had become obsequious.  I thought I was generous and good natured.  When people took advantage of what I thought was my good nature I became enraged.  Another me appeared beside myself who tried to guide me to proper responses.  I knew what was best but was compelled to do what wasn’t in my best interest.  When the time came to make a decision, I always sacrificed my interests to others.  Thus there was me, the shriveled corpse of myself that had died at recess in the second grade and this autonomous angel who watched over me in disgust and despair.  Truly the trinity.  Emotionally I was flotsam and jetsam, but I was intellectually and morally intact.  I would not destroy my own life.

pp. 174-175

     14.

      While my mind grappled with the new world I faced, provided by the rape, autumn went through its manifold changes and winter arrived.  The Christmas season is placed at the beginning of winter.  Christmas brings with it thoughts of harmony and good will.  Love fills the air and with that thoughts of charity.  Men and women who have hated each other all year cease their depredations on each other, perhaps, for a brief moment.  The folk determined that something nice should be done for we ‘underprivileged’ inmates of the orphanage.  No White Skin Privilege there.

     It was decided to give us a Christmas party complete with presents.

     Was it merely a twist of fate or was it guilt?  The party was to be given by Fortress of God Congregational Church.  Now these disciples of the religion of love were the very same people who denied us humanity at Longfellow.  These were the very same people who sat us on one side of the room so that we wouldn’t mingle with their precious own.  These were the very same people who had made the inmates sit on the bench during recess.  These were the very same people who had pushed me away from Susan Webster as they hustled her off down Kishenev St.

page 176.

     And now they had the effrontery to offer me, us, some lousy presents to propitiate their…what?  Nothing.  They felt no guilt.  They merely wanted to make themselves feel good at my, our, expense.  Charity?  Charity did they call it?  Charity was only another means of self-gratification to them.  I knew that we would be expected to give a display of gratitude to them.  Gratitude for what?  Some garment they wouldn’t let their own kids wear.  Some wretched piece of cloth that would immediately brand me as inferior if I wore it to school?  What price infamy?  I wanted no part of their charity; I didn’t need them to brighten the Christmas of this ‘underprivileged’ child.

     I informed the Home I wouldn’t be attending.  Farley regrets he is unable to attend today.  They informed me I would be.  They won.

     We were all put up in our Sunday…uh…well, we were tidied up.  Fortress was a longer walk than to the Catholic Orphanage so that our original compactness was strung out over three or four blocks as we approached Fortress.  I had kept to the rear hoping to escape the humiliation and slip back to the Home but a matron kept pushing me along.  I used all my skills, walking beside her then pretending to pick up a stone in my shoe to drop behind and then disappear but she was too wary for me.  Experience cuts both ways.

page 177.

     The congregation of Fortress was wealthy.  The Church was a large battlemented old structure.  The congregation took the name Fortress seriously when they designed the church.  It was sort of a cross between a castle and a cathedral.

      I’m sure we made a marvelous sight as our ragtag group filed into this bastion of respectability, this citadel of riches, in a seemingly unending stream to defile those sacred pews.  We were led into a small amphitheatre on the second floor.  The pews and railing were a rich sumptuous mahogany while the floor was a resplendent white oak.  The contrast was dramatic if not particularly tasteful.  Garish would be just this side of the right word.

     Several of the parishiners stood as guide posts along the way to indicate the path.  They were in their Sunday best as they beamed smiles of loving kindness down on us.  The contrast between our appearances here was striking too; they looking like a million dollars we looking like small change.  The wonder and gratitude of the other inmates made me sick to my stomach.  Couldn’t they see through all this?  Didn’t they know they were being used, a mere sop to another’s vanity?

     Following my habit I had hung back looking to the right and left, studying all the little architectural details.  The room was full with nearly everyone seated when I entered.  I didn’t know who she was, but Beverly Hirsh was standing by the door gushing and cooing.  ‘Oh, they are all so darling; I’d just love to take every one of them home with me.  I think it’s so unfortunate that these lovely children should have no one to love them.  When I see this I  just can’t help thinking how fortunate my Michael and Sharon are.’

page 178.

     Something rose from my toes in revulsion.  How could this woman deny us basic respect at Longfellow and talk like that at Fortress of God?

      As Major Bowes or someone of that ilk said of the wheel of fortune:  ‘Round and round she goes; where she stops no one knows.’

     David Hirsh and I had a one sided relationship with each other.  He knew who I was but I didn’t know who he was.  But when I had accosted Susan Webster some several weeks before one of the Eloy who pushed me away had said:  ‘Gawd, wait till David Hirsh hears about this.’

     I somehow confused David Hirsh as Susan Webster’s father.  I had then loaded the opprobrium of my rejection on that name.  My anger welled up in front in me.  I decided to take a wild chance.  I looked at that woman and asked loudly:  ‘Is David Hirsh here?’  Beverly Hirsh didn’t know me, so she bent over slightly, pleased that her husband might receive a speech of thanks.  She thought perhaps I had been appointed to make that speech as I came in last.  She beamed down at me and said:  ‘Why, yes, this is David Hirsh.’

     A railing divided the three tiers of pews from the stage.  A Christmas tree had been placed in the area which was surrounded by the scores of presents.  David Hirsh was just on my left on the other side of the railing arranging the presents.  He too thought I was going to make a little speech of gratitude.  He straightened up with a smile.  As he turned around he was saying:  ‘I’m David Hirsh, what….’  When he saw me the smile disappeared.  His blood froze in his veins. 

     I raised my clenched fists, took a step back, spread my legs and fairly shouted at him:  ‘You’re a rotten guy.  I don’t like you.  I think you stink.’

     Glowering furiously at him I climbed to the third tier and took a seat.  I was angry.  I was really angry.  I heaped all my accumulated resentments into those words, the resentment I could remember and those deep in my subconscious.

     David Hirsh had every reason to believe I knew who he was.  On the irrational level he had a long going relationship with me.  He believed he occupied the place in my thoughts that I did in his.  On the rational level he had every reason to think I recognized him from the well on Kishinev St.  Because of my peculiar psychological tic, I didn’t.  Nor did I recognize him as the man who spoke to me as I sat on the lid of the garbage bin which I should have.  I had insulted him for a reason of which he knew nothing.

     David kept up his front.  I could hear him exclaiming sincerely hurt:  ‘My God, you try to do something nice for people…’  He was almost in tears.  ‘You give up your own time…I could be sitting home enjoying my family instead of being here with these…’  He caught himself in the nick of time.  He put his hand over his lower face to recover.

     ‘Who was that boy?’  David asked one of the matrons innocently or, perhaps, to establish my guilt with others who were nearby.

page 180.

     ‘Farley…Far Gresham.’  She replied

     ‘I…I can’t imagine what I might have done to him.’  David opined.  In his clever way the sentence had two meanings.  On the lower level it seemed to proclaim innocence; on the upper level he was slyly proclaiming that he didn’t know the extent of the damage he had caused me.

     David wished to maintain the appearance of the old trooper and declined being relieved of his duties.  He began calling out names while passing the packages to runners.  The inmates accepted them with squeals of delight.

     A matron came to me to ask why I had done what I had.  I couldn’t have explained it.  If I had tried to Iwould only have muddied the waters, besides David Hirsh wasn’t guilty of what I would have to accuse him.  Also I thought, Hirsh would know himself.  How he did know, but it wasn’t what he thought.  He didn’t know about Susan Webster.  But all his other efforts to punish me had come boomeranging back on him.  Not only did he not have submission but I was apparently more defiant than ever.  I had scored a hit; a palpable hit.

     Hirsh selected a present and called my name.  My passions were still roiling.  I declined to answer.  He stared blankly in front of him.  The contest had assumed very real proportions to him.  He imagined I was baiting him for the last five years.  He called out my name again.  I still declined to answer.  A matron pointed to me and took the package to deliver it to me.

     I shouted out with all the vehemence of my suffering:  ‘I don’t want it.  I don’t want anything from you.’

     I was creating an unprecedented row.  The Fortress people looked at me, then at each other while they muttered among themselves.

     The matron brought the present pleading with me to accept it so that I wouldn’t offend their charity.  Arms folded across my chest, I yelled out:  ‘I don’t want their charity.  Not here, not at Longfellow.’

     She sighed and laid the package on the arm of the chair.  It may still be there unless one of the other inmates claimed it.

     David Hirsh excused himself rubbing his eyes.  It would be a couple days before his turmoil ceased.

page 182.

     15.

     Up to the time of theparty Beverly had not been interested in my situation.  If the topic came up she dismissed it as male stuff and went about her business.  She had not dissented from David Hirsh’s plans but neither had she interested herself.  But now, as she said, ‘her eyes were opened’ about what kind of boy I really was.  Her husband was a good man who dispensed charity liberally with either hand she thought; which was certainly true as far as it went.  David was kind and good to his family; on his public face he did maintain appearances of benevolence and generosity.  But on the same basis Eva Braun had no complaints about her beloved; Mrs. Al Capone could recite the same litany.  Nevertheless from what Beverly saw and understood I had gratuitously insulted her ‘tall Israelite.’  Nor did Beverly blame only me.  She included all the inmates in her condemnation.  For the action of one individual she condemned all.  Beverly became a bigot by so reasoning.  She was a believer in the Bible, the rock from which the death dealing waters of bigotry flow.  God chose his special people arbitrarily with no consideration of merit.  Beverly and David Hirsh received ‘the bounty of the Lord’ on the same basis.  Both she and he cherished their election.  Thus unaware of the basis of her thought she resented the insult of the unworthy to the worthy.  She filed the little grudge away in her heart.

page 183.

     The Valley did not receive much snowfall.  The old folks would entertain us with stories of drifts covering trees at sometime in the not so distant past but I waited my whole childhood and youth and never saw more than a foot fall at a time or ever accumulate more than a foot.  Shortly after Christmas break as January began, crisp and cold, we awoke one morning as dark clouds moved swiftly in from the North-west.  We walked to school in inspissated gloom.  As I turned in my seat to look out the window the first pellets of a major storm began to fall.  Within minutes the storm increased to a full scale blizzard.  Driven to the earth by strong winds the snow began to accumulate rapidly.  Within an hour there were three inches on the ground.  It was snowing furiously.  Some of the students became alarmed.  Fears arose of one of those legendary storms our elders said they had experienced but for which they relied only on each other’s word for confirmation.  I was amazed at the ferocity of the storm.  One couldn’t see across the yard but I had never seen more than a foot at a time.  I wanted to see snow up to the second story windows but I didn’t believe the oldsters.  I didn’t think I would see it then.  It would have had to snow for days.  I didn’t believe it.

page 184.

     Beverly Hirsh looked out her window into the dark pelting gloom.  At first she was irritated because her plans were disturbed.  Then rising like a piston for a new explosion her recent injury flashed up from her subconscious.  The flash of the explosion drove the piston back down.  Here was her golden opportunity.  She quickly called a few mothers to arrange a surprise for their little ones.

     She and the other mothers quickly made up hot spiced cider and cookies.  They took them down to school, setting up in the atrium.  Classes were called.  Cookies and hot spiced cider were served.  But not to us.  The moment for charity was past. This was a new year.  Beverly’s moment of vengeance had arrived.  The Orphans were turned out into the cold to find their way home.  A little extra taunt was reserved for me.

     Three little first graders and kindergartners were assigned me to take back to the orphanage.  I protested, I didn’t want them, why couldn’t they go with the rest?  I was given the responsibility for them.  I was made to wait while all the others left.  I couldn’t understand why a special provision was made for me.  I soon learned the reason.

     I was called up to the atrium for ‘instructions.’  The aroma of the hot spiced apple cider filled the atrium.   The parented kids were laughing, eating and drinking.  Some gave me coy smiles.  I didn’t recognize or even know Beverly Hirsh but it was she who walked over to me to triumphantly say as she patted me on the head:  ‘Take care on the way to the orphanage little boy.’

page 185.

     I and my charges were then released to begin the walk back.  The snow was driving in from the north into our faces.  By then it had accumulated eleven inches.  I was only four feet tall while my charges were all around three feet.  My galoshes sank in over their tops filling with snow.  The others were nearly crotch deep in the snow.  I was angry at the school for turning us out.  I had no sympathy for my little fellows.

     I sniffed the air.  It wasn’t cold.  The temperature must have been right at thirty-two degrees.  All my instincts told me the storm wouldn’t last.  Even at the school I had argued for waiting until the afternoon by when the storm might have stopped before sending us off; the storm had to end soon.

     I had my hands in my pockets trudging grimly and glumly into the storm.  The snow came down in little round pellets not flakes.  As soon as you removed your foot from your last step the little pellets rolled into the footprint and nearly obliterated it.  Unlike flakes which accumulated on your hat and shoulders the pellets bounced off.  I wasn’t worried.

     I walked without consideration of my charges who were hopping and lunging through the snow trying to not fall behind.

     ‘Farley, Farley, wait up, we might die out here.’  They were nearly panicking.  They thought it was possible they might die.  We were all raised on horror stories where it had snowed so hard that people became blinded and died because they couldn’t find their way back to the kitchen from the outhouse.  I could see fine.  It couldn’t snow any harder than this.  I told them so.

page 186.

     ‘Aw, don’t worry. This storm will be over before we get back.  I’ve never seen more snow than this and I’m a lot older than you are.’

     My answer flabbergasted them:  ‘You’re not that old Farley.  You’re a kid just like we are.’

     ‘No, I’m not.’  I said hotly, disgusted that they could put me in a class with themselves.  ‘This storm will be over before we get back, take my word for it.’

     My word was cold comfort for three little kids who could barely plow through the snow.  Desperation forced them on.

     We had been spotted through a window by a kind hearted lady.  As she opened her door I could hear her saying:  ‘Oh my goodness, there are some children walking in this terrible storm.  They might die out there.’

     The others heard her too.  They gave me an apprehensive look when they heard that we might die out there.  They looked at me;  I shook my head no, not possible.

     ‘Oh children, oh, you children, what are you doing out in this storm.  You might die.  Why don’t you come in here with us until the storm is over.’  The tender woman called solicitously, coming to the edge of the snow on her porch.

page 187.

     I was enraged that we had been forced out of the shool in the middle of as ferocious a storm as I would ever see.  I wasn’t afraid but the thought of the parented kids sitting in the atrium sipping hot spiced cider galled me to the depths of my being.  I suspected too, that , if they hadn’t sent us out to die, they wouldn’t have cared if we did.  I was not in a charitable mood.  I hated this woman for her decency.

     ‘We’re doing just fine, Lady.’  I scornfully replied.  ‘We don’t need your lousy charity.’  Besides once they saw we were from the orphanage they probably would have turned us out again, or couldn’t have waited to get rid of us.

     ‘But children…’  She remonstrated.

     The others were compelled to jump from step to step as, for them, the snow was very deep.

     ‘Farley.’  They shrilled, throwing their arms up imploringly.  ‘I’m afraid.  Maybe we should go in there.’

     ‘Go on, if want, the storm is going to end soon; it can’t go on.’

     I kept walking as we talked.  By the time the exchanged was finished we had passed the woman’s house.  They were more afraid to go back than go on with me.

     The wind kept howling driving the pellets into our faces.  Leaning into the wind we trudged on.  Then just as I suspected it would, I noted a lessening in wind pressure; the snow descended on more of a straight line.  Then a half block before the fence of the Children’s Home came into view the wind died down.  Through the dense snow I could see the fall becoming sparse as the trailing edge of the storm was visible against a blue sky and bright sunlight.  As we reached the end of the fence the storm cloud slipped over us bathing us in the bright sunlight of an afternoon in the high thirties.  Within steps the snow level settled several inches under the heat of the sun.  By the end of the block at Sandy the gutters were running with water.  Some of the pavement was already bare.

     ‘See.’  I said triumphantly.  ‘I told you it would be over before we got back.  There wasn’t any reason for us to leave the school.  They just hate us because we’re from the Children’s Home.’

     Safe, their spirits revived immediately.  ‘Aw, Farley, you didn’t know, how could you know, you’re just a little kid like us.’

     ‘Of course I knew.  And I’m not a little kid like you.  I’m a lot older and smarter.’  I retorted, walking scornfully faster now that there was no reason for me to escort them.  I opened my jacket to cool off.

     We passed the garbage bins and turned the corner into the yard where Mildred had come out to the sidewalk to greet us.  Then I learned a second reason I had been kept back after the others.

     ‘Farley, you’re safe.’  She said.

     ‘Of course I’m safe.’  I replied defiantly.  ‘What else would I be?  I can take care of myself.’

     ‘Oh Farley.’  She said placatingly.  ‘We were worried about you.  We thought that maybe you and the children were lost…or worse.  All the others were back long ago.

page 189.

      I grappled for words.  I gave up.  I couldn’t have expressed my feelings anyway.  I was also becoming tongue tied by constant denial.  I had no real idea what had happened at the well on Kishinev St. but Mildred was the only one who I knew was responsible.  I had since learned that the kitchen pump had never been broken.  I could only conclude that she had meant to hurt me for some reason.

     I had no recourse against her, just as I had no recourse against those who had turned us out into the storm.  There was no one to complain to, I just had to endure.  Thus Mildred’s solicitousness  now had a hollow ring to it.  Too, I knew that I had been slandered by being held back.  The others had been back long ago.  I was made to look incompetent.  I felt this very keenly.

     ‘Yeah, well here they are now, safe and sound.’  I said as I brushed past her barely acknowledging her.

     It was impossible to explain what I didn’t know and could not interpret.  I went to bed that night in high dudgeon.  Forces seemed to be multiplying against me.  I had neither defense or offense.  I was faced merely with a hostile universe.  My actions were also incomprehensible to my charges who told a story that amazed their auditors both inmates and administrators.

     School was called the next day although there was no reason for it.  By the time I got out to play there was barely four inches of snow on the ground.  Three of the girls who had heard  my charges’ story came out to help me roll snow balls for snowmen.  Only a foot in circumference the balls picked up gravel from the bare strip of ground emerging behind them.

page 190.

     ‘You know, Far.’  One said.  ‘Those kids were really scared yesterday.’

     Yesterday was a long time ago, we were now living today, I didn’t worry about yesterday anymore.  Besides I had been turned out into the storm too.  I had called the storm.  I knew there wasn’t any reason we had to leave the comfort of the school.  How was I to blame?

     ‘Yeah?  Well, so what?  They got back here alright.  Nothing happened.’  I flipped off unthinkingly.

     ‘Well, you could have been more considerate of them.  They said you didn’t even care whether they were there.’  She remonstrated.

     ‘So what’s the problem?  I said the storm would stop and it did.  They shouldn’t have sent us away from school.’  I replied quizzically wondering why they persisted.  We had been treated like dirt.  That’s the way it was.  What did I care about those kids?  Why were they more important than me?  Why didn’t they blame the school for turning us out?  Why didn’t they blame the school for separating me and them from the rest?

     ‘Still, you should have been more thoughtful.’

     ‘Oh yeah?  Well, when people are more thoughtful to me I’ll be more thoughtful to others.’

     In a small way the scales had balanced a little for the Hirshes.  Prior to the Christmas party few, if any, knew Hirsh was harassing me.  The Christmas party had shown how ‘I really was’  I had been induced to defame myself.  All of the students and teachers had cooperated in sending me back alone with my little charges.  I was too young to worry about intent beyond the vague feeling that they hated me.  Beverly Hirsh, the daughter of the Religion of Love had indulged her basest passions.  She had violated every precept of the Christian religion.  Twenty centuries of history had slipped her mind as primordial passions directed her actions.

page 191.

     Thus the attitude toward me both at Longfellow and the Home had changed.  My attitude too had changed.  I knew that I had to be wary of everyone.  I knew that I could count on no support from anyone in my life.  For the first time in my life I realized I was alone with no end in sight.  Mighty adults had turned me, a mere nine year old, out to die.  They had done it in such a way as to cause me to defame myself as the other three kids would have died under my care.

     The next day at school an Eloy girl came over to me to coo tauntingly:  ‘Gee, Farley, too bad you couldn’t stay.  While you were walking back in the snow storm we were all safe and warm drinking hot spiced cider.  It was really good.’

     ‘Yeah, I know.’  I said.  ‘I had more important things to do that sit around drinking cider with you.’

     The perfidy of the whole thing sank into my consciousness.  They had meant to humiliate me.  She was disappointed by my reply.  Straightening up she gave me a petulant look, saying:  ‘God, you’re a jerk.’

     I disregarded her.

page 192.

16.

     My situation would soon worsen.  All our training had been to educate us as niggers.  We were not to excel; we were not to challenge the Eloy for supremacy.  So long as we accepted our place we were treated as part of the Biblical brotherhood of man- the slave part.  The brotherhood of man is not to be misinterpreted.  The Bible is not an egalitarian document.  It definitely does not say that all brothers are created equal.  It nowhere says that all brothers are equal.  It says that there is a hierarchy at the top of which is God.  Under God are the Chosen People; through them the word of God is disseminated to others.  The others have a subservient position to the Chosen who, themselves are stratified and subservient to God.  In the Jewish understanding the Jews are the Chosen People; in the Christian understanding themselves are the inheritors of the New Dispensation of Christ.  The elite govern the rest.  One is a brother only if one accepts one’s divinely appointed place.  If not one becomes sub-human and no longer part of the brotherhood of man. You’re just an Amalekite to be exterminated.

page 193.

     I was about to become excommunicated from the brotherhood, pushed beyond the pale.  I was about to become a non-person, without rights or status.  I could be stolen from, cheated or lied to without incurring censure.  The crime that so condemned me was identical to the crime that first brought me disgrace.  I was an uppity nigger.  I didn’t know my place.  They lynched them in the South for the same crime but I was in the civilized North.

     The decade after the war was a decade of quiz shows.  The quiz show was a most popular form of entertainment.  Every immigrant delighted to show his assimilation.  We didn’t have radios at the Home but I had somehow contrived to hear quiz shows; I was entranced by them.  Taking advantage of their popularity WKNX, a radio station, had decided that a children’s quiz show would garner a large audience.

     Schools throughout the city were encouraged to hold competitions in each classroom to select a team of four.  The classrooms then competed with each other.  Third grade classes against third grade classes, fourth grade classes against fourth grade classes and so on.  Our classroom was notified to select a team.  I desperately wanted to make the team.  But, I wasn’t an Eloy.  Only the Eloy could represent us.  Yet America was a democracy, the competition had to be open to all.

page 194.

     One of the principles of a dominant group is to deny opportunity to the subordinate group.  This will ensure the appearance of inferiority.  Denied the opportunity to exercise the political, the subordinate group will be unable to rule or govern well should the opportunity arise for an individual, thus the ‘innate’ ability of the overgroup will be self-evident.  The undergroup is loaded up with morals and becomes at best pious but inept.  I dimly perceived the issue and fought to escape it.  The other inmates accepted their role.  They knew that there was no place on the team for them.  The race doesn’t always go to the swiftest.

     I was a bright kid.  I was well read with a retentive memory and reasonably quick recall.  In the open competition I actually was on the final four.  I was happy and content.  I thought the competition settled.  But then that night the scandalized Eloy went home to tell their parents.  Since the snow storm they all knew who I was.  The parents in turn got on the phone to each other.  A selected representative, got on the phone to Bevis Marks.  Integrity is a rare commodity.  Don’t look in the mirror, you won’t find it.  Miss Marks had never had a class like this one.  Everytime she turned around she was asked to act against her priniciples.  She always did.  She began to look at her German counterparts more respectfully.

     She announced that the competition would have to be reopened because one of the orphans had been sick the previous day and couldn’t compete.  One of the orphans hadn’t been able to compete?  I almost laughed out loud.  We stood in a line to answer questions; whoever missed one moved down the line one while the person next to him moved up.  I stoutly held my position answering questions amid the shouted derision of the Eloy.

page 195.

     Desperate they finally had Shriver ask if I had read a certain book.  Like a fool I answered him.  They then fed an easy question to the Eloy on my left who had the answer told him audibly enough for Bevis Marks to hear it.  She said nothing.  A princlple is nothing if it’s flexible.  She then asked me a question about the book she knew I hadn’t read.  I was forced to move down.  The competition was immediately ended.  The Eloy had prevailed.  Honor meant nothing to them; integrity meant nothing to Bevis Marks.

     I was now too aware to be angry.  I was becoming aware that fairness had little to do with people.  I still wanted to attend the radio show.  I learned the location of the studio; I was an audience of one as our class went down to defeat without apparent resistance.  They couldn’t even answer any of the questions.  They turned and gave me black looks as I watched their humiliation.

     What could I say?  Unless you’re Black you probably have no idea what it feels like to know your protests are not worth making.  They will neither be heard nor considered.  Many souls were crushed by the children of the God of Love and Justice in the fourth grade.

     Nor did the representative of the God of Justice, Bevis Marks, administer the Law with an even hand.  She was the accomplice of the Eloy in their machinations.  Was her earlier display of shamed integrity merely indignation at being exposed on point as the obvious malefactor?  Was the dressing down of David Hirsh caused merely by the embarrassment of being the obvious administrator of shame?  Perhaps.  But she continued to administer the wishes of the Eloy throughout the school year.  It is also true that she submitted her resignation at the end of the year, packed her bags and left town.

pp. 196-197.

    17.

     The fruits of the investigation of the administration of Jack Darwen were revealed to us at this time.  One afternoon the word was passed around that the Darwens were leaving.  The reasons were not given but they were obvious to me.

     Councilman Adamski had listened to what I said.  He had been incensed that Darwen used his position to exploit the ‘slave labor’ or the inmates.  As the son of an immigrant he believed in the ideals that he had been taught in school were the ideals of every American citizen, nevertheless, he was a realistic man.  He realized that his objections about ‘slave’ labor might be laughed away by others.  The city had had anonymous callers advise them that something funny was happening to the stores.  He pursued that angle.  It didn’t take him long to note the discrepancy between purchases, use and the inventory in the pantry.  He also realized with minimal further investigation that the stores were disappearing on a regular basis.  From there it was no large thing to catch Darwen in the act as he was scarcely concealing his doings.  As a matter of fact I was present when the authorities caught him.  He gave the ‘little dummy’ a long lingering look.

page 198.

     Even caught in the act Darwen thought he could brazen it out.  Jack Darwen had supreme and unwarranted confidence in his abilities coupled with a sovereign contempt of everyone else’s intelligence.  It made no difference to him that his life was a long succession of failures.  Not only his ego but his sense of perception was surrounded by a thick callous that protected him from reality.  He fell back on the explanation of the con man.  It was luck.  The only difference between himself and John D. Rockefeller was luck.  Why, hell, if Jack Darwen had had the bucks of Rockefeller he wouldn’t be giving away dimes, he’d be giving away the big cartwhells, silver dollars.  Perhaps he would have but Jack Darwen wanted credit now for what he ‘would’ do if he had Rockefeller’s bucks.  The generosity was already a fact, nay a deed, in Darwen’s mind.  Rockefeller was a cheap son-of-a-bitch.  But Jack Warden’s string of luck had frayed and snapped.  The Old Master Fiddler had broken all the strings to his bow.

     Still, his job was on the periphery of accepted society.  He was after all an appointment of the city council.  To fire him in disgrace in itself would have disgraced his sponsors.  To have arrested and jailed him would have been an admission of poor judgment on the part of the city administration.  A fall back plan was in readiness for fallen members.

     Darwen’s wife Angela who was liked, admired, respected and, dare I say, courted, was also an element in his favor; to disgrace him would be to disgrace her too.  He was allowed to resign.  Not only resign but a gala farewell dinner was prepared in his honor.  The dinner was a major event at the orphanage.  We were all tidied up in the Darwens’ honor.

     The dining room was reorganized into a reasonable facsimile of a banquet hall.  A dais was arranged against the front windows for the Warden’s and guests of honor.  Our tables were in three long rows down the room.

     Darwen made a little farewell speech.  I knew why he was leaving I was delighted to have supplied the reason for his dismissal.  I was alive with excitement.  As he finished his little speech I piped up:  ‘Gee, Mr.  Darwen, why are you leaving?’

     Darwen was taken by surprise.  Flustered, he muttered something about other plans.

     ‘What other plans, Mr. Darwen?’  I sang out.

     The curiosity of the other inmates was piqued.  A shout of  ‘What other plans?’  was sent up in a universal chorus.

     Darwen pushed his lower lip out, looked down at the table, picked his spoon up from one side of the plate and laid it on the other.  Angela leaned over and whispered in his ear:  ‘Private plans.’

     ‘Oh yuh.  Private plans.’  He muttered. 

page 200.

Continued on Clip 5

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One Comment

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