Far Gresham Vol I
‘Well, good luck Mr. Darwen.’ I sang out with unconcealed glee. ‘And don’t ever forget The Flying Horse Of Oz.’
Darwen looked up and gave me a sharp look of mystification; he hadn’t any idea what I was talking about.
Cries of ‘Good Luck’ came from what the Old Master Fiddler called ‘those little morons.’
The Old Master Fiddler went off sans fiddle. He had disappointed his sponsors one time too many. Angela Darwen shared his ignominy. I don’t know whether I was proper in idealizing Angela Darwen. She gave the appearance of model proper woman, but perhaps the attitude was only a pose she adopted to offset Jack Warden’s galumping greed. Perhaps she and he were partners in crime. Certainly she must have known of his doings. He boasted of his doings, if not openly, certainly with a conspicuous lack of discretion, within hearing of we inmates. He made no especial effort to be discreet.
Perhaps in her private face she laughed with him about the stupidity of those he attempted to defraud. Probably she conspired with him as they sat around their table at night. Then in her public face she tried to offset the relative openness of her husband’s methods. I fell in love with her public face. I shall never know her true character. Yet, her public face was a good face, an honorable face that gave womanhood a good name. If she was two faced, at least she had a Jekyll that far exceeded her Hyde.
The Darwens were gone. I would soon follow. At ten the boys were let out to foster homes as the fear was that the bigger boys would induce the younger ones into homosexual practices.
My departure would come after the school year ended. There were still four months to go at Longfellow. There the negrification of the inmates of the orphanage continued. Quite apart from my ‘duel’ with the Hirshes, relentless pressure was put on us to ensure that we didn’t excel or perform well. It was necessary that the best of us perform less well than the least of the Eloy. No Eloy was to be embarrassed before his mates by being below one of us.
As I mentioned, a delegation had been sent to the Home to notify them of my intractable behavior. An attempt had been made to make me accept my place. My fury at the request had been so extreme that I learned then that I would have to learn to control my temper. As a member of a class that was fed continuous denial and frustration this was no easy task, but I saw its utility and strove to bring my temper under control.
At school it was not permitted for any of us to excel the least of the Eloy. As among Blacks there were those of us with superior intelligence. Like Blacks we were expected to play dumb. Should we refuse we could be cheated and denied. There was no one to take our side.
Miss Bevis Marks was either incapable of maintaining order in the classroom or she had been compelled to be the agent of repression. She gave the Eloy a free hand to prevent us from excelling, allowing them even to discipline us during lessons.
We had already been segregated and made to sit against the wall. The others did so in humble submission. As I said I had refused. I had taken a seat along the windows which had now been isolated by the placing of communal tables in front of and around me. I, as it were, sat on my throne in isolation.
The force of necessity required common intercourse. While maintaining a distinction between the two groups our lessons had to be in common. As part of our studies we had to memorize the multiplication tables through twelve. As part of drill Miss Marks had an open competition. Two teams were organized. Boys against girls was decided against as that would entail Eloy mixing with orphans and even having to root for them. Thus the teams were organized as Eloy versus Orphans. Most of the Orphans refused to try to win. They had been very intimidated, but there were a few of us with spirit. The teams had been further divided so that Eloy girls opposed Orphan girls and Eloy boys opposed Orphan boys.
As was predictible the Orphans lay down for the Eloy. Even Jack Johnson would have been ashamed of himself. As the first half of the contestants were finished we had lost all the contests. But then one of our girls, who must have been a closet scholar, was whizzing through the sevens well ahead of her competitor. It was apparent that she was going to win when an Eloy girl jumped up and knocked the chalk from her hand. She was pushed and shoved as she groped for the chalk on the floor while the tables were whispered to her competitor. We shouted and complained at her unfair treatment but Bevis Marks did nothing to either stop the harassment or to chastise the Eloy later. The Eloy girl was delared the winner. Miss Marks participated in and endorsed the disgraceful behavior of the Eloy. Like her German counterparts such as Adolf Eichmann, Bevis Marks preferred her security to just acts.
When my turn came I was well ahead of my competitor. Action was necessary to prevent my winning. The blackboard was against the tongue and groove wall of the the furnace room. I was doing the nines as Louis Shriver jumped up screaming imprecations into my ear. I might have been able to withstand his shouting but he had taken up a position in front of the door to the furnace room. Subconscious memories overwhelmed my nerve. My eye was fastened on that door; my mind went blank. My opponent hadn’t gotten nine times nine while I was down to three times nine, the easiest three nines, when I froze up. My opponent was allowed to change answers and was given answers until he finally finished. No matter, I had choked. I had been intimidated. The memory was permanent. I could have and should have won regardless of everything else from Bevis Marks’ indulgence of the Eloy to Shriver’s shouting to my subconscious recollection of the rape. I had choked, they had gotten me. My will to win had been permanently thwarted.
At the same time I, we, learned the lesson that rules were to advance other people. I, we, were outside the law. A double standard existed. There was no one to protect us or demand our rights. The staff of the orphanage sympathized with our oppressors; no parents, no rights. The school, each teacher, the Eloy were against us. They had rights, we didn’t. We were as Jews in Germany under Hitler, but we were in America, the land of the free, the home of the Bible.
Thus I and the others adopted a strange character. Tough among ourselves and obsequious to others. Quite Negroid. These two emotions struggled within us. We wanted to demand human rights from our brothers but we knew that absolute power, a complete lack of morality would be used to deny us.
Justice may be defined as the will of the oppressor.
The Eloy had established a point. The school administration made no effort to restrain them. I was the focal point. Word was passed to the other orphans that conditions might change for them if I was brought into submission. The Eloy tried to turn the orphans against me. This was meaningless. We already fought constantly. I was one of the oldest and most experienced hands in the orphanage. I could hold my own among them. I didn’t mingle with them at school anyway.
There was absolutely no solidarity among us. Unlike Negroes and the Jews who could count on group solidarity we had none and never would. I knew what the Eloy were doing; I knew it was an empty threat.
To the south of Longfellow was vacant land and industrial areas crossed by the railroad. The residential area was to the North. I found that the Eloy were waiting for me after school. There was no actual attempt to beat me up but I had to dodge elbows, collisions and swung objects. Their need was for me to respond to their provocations by fighting. As a troublemaker I could then be set upon with impunity. I knew, or at least, I sensed this.
The whole of it, school and orphanage was wearing on me. Like the cat in the trap everytime I looked I was still there. There was no escape for me. Even the library was losing its solace. So to evade harassment and to postpone my return to the Home I began to take long walks which brought me back to the Home at dinner time, six o’ clock.
I evolved several routes, wide loops that took me into many areas of town. My favorite loop was one that took me North to the railroad tracks. As I balanced myself along a rail, a light industry was to my right; open marshy fields to my left. It was a barren scene, for whatever reason no trees grew in the area.
I was balancing myself on a rail one day when I noticed two men talking animatedly in a back court of a building. One was obviously the owner while the other was his foreman. Apparently lots of merchandise was missing. Someone was stealing it. The owner was a thick headed man, he couldn’t figure out who. I was standing on a rail watching with my hands in my pockets when the owner said: ‘I’ve noticed that kid hanging around lately. Maybe he’s stealing this stuff.’
I listened in amazement as the owner settled on me and rejected the obvious.
‘Hey kid, come on over here. I want to talk to you.’ He ordered.
I was amused. I didn’t have anything to do. I also knew how to put a stick in his spokes. I walked over, hands in pockets, skipping over the puddles, to stand before him. As was our habit to show disrespect I sucked in the flesh below my lower lip up under my teeth balancing my head on my spine where it bobbed as though on a swivel.
‘Yeah.’ I breathed as stupidly as I knew how.
The owner was going to accuse me of theft. He thought better of it just as he began to speak.
‘Listen kid you…you haven’t seen anybody hanging around here have you.’
What a stupid question. I only passed through two or three times a week. ‘Why?’ Spoken in the same manner.
‘Oh, uh, well, we’ve had some stuff missing.’ He said grudgingly.
I knew what they thought of my appearance with my spiky hair, ill fitting clothes and clown shoes. They were wrong. I couldn’t control my appearance. But just as the owner’s clothes and the way he wore them bespoke his status and morality, so did his foreman’s. The foreman’s demeanor, clothes and the manner he wore them, especially his belt buckle worn over his hip, bespoke his status and morality. You had to be blind not to see that he was the thief.
‘Who’s got a key?’ I asked in an irrelevant manner.
‘Oh, n0, no. Only two of us have keys. Me and Steve here.’
‘What’s Steve do at night?’ I asked in as weird a voice as I could muster as I ran back to the railroad tracks cackling demonically.
As I looked back the owner was looking at Steve. Perhaps he realized the truth, perhaps he didn’t. I continued on down the line.
Nelson St. crossed the tracks. Here I usually got off the tracks to wait for the train. It was the time just before the locomotives, the old black choo-choos, were being forced off the roads by those grim efficient workhorses, the Diesels. In the locomotives the fire box generated a lot of heat. The engineer was always leaning out the window. Engineers were authentic boyhood heroes. They were well in front of firemen and policemen as idols. None of us had any higher ambition than to be an engineer of a big black eight wheeler. We would have accepted a six or even a little switch engine but eight wheelers were the goal. I’d heard of big ten wheel drives but I’d never seen one, nor had anyone I knew. Engineers were our heroes.
I stood there, often joined by other boys, waiting for the magnificent chuff of escaping steam, the smoke from the stack and the thrilling sound of the steam whistle.
My heart beat faster as the magnificent steel beast hove into view. What an epitome of power, the shape, the odor, the whoosh of the drivers even the splayed cow catcher in front. Sometimes we would drive the engineer crazy by standing within three or four feet of the rails to feel the wind split and be knocked backward by the noise and whoosh of the driving rod. The huge drivers towered over us, glinting in the light as they drove the train onward.
The next pleasure was to stand back to read the names of the railroads on the boxcars. Consolidation had not yet taken its toll. Lines like the Pere Marquette and Erie still existed. The mystery of it all enveloped our minds. The greatest thrill of all, every American boy’s God given right was waving at the engineer and having that mighty man of legend wave back. It was his duty; it was his sacred obligation; it was the unwritten law of the land that he wave to his faithful adoring subjects; it was his joy. We all gave glad homage.
I was keen on the right, for as I gave homage I received homage as the engineers waved cheerfully and even sometimes shouted ‘Hello there.’ This was the only acknowledgment of my humanity that I received. I cherished the relationship. I waved and shouted with the absolute assurance that my salute would be returned.
I was dumbfounded one day when an engineer disdainfully flapped his hand at me in a gesture of dismissal, with a disdainful expression of revulsion on his face. The engine was only a six wheeler, but an important principle had been violated. I was struck dumb. Perhaps Hirsh felt the same indignation toward me as I now felt toward this renegade engineer. The insult was more than I could bear. A cold grey fog gripped my heart. This was an offence that could not pass.
I had not been alone, there were a few of us boys there. Perhaps our appearance was not exemplary but that engineer had had no right not to return our salute. I organized the others to be there the next evening. As the train come chuffing up the engineer leaned out the window looking down to watch his drivers roll expecting an adulatory wave. We had collected rocks. We fired several volleys at his engine. We knew we couldn’t hurt the engine but we or, at least I, knew that we were committing sacrilege. The engineer knew too. He was startled and amazed. The thing was unheard of. He had been taken by surprise. His engine had rolled through before he could say anything.
The next day we were there and fired our volleys of stones to the consternation of a different engineer. That night discussion in the roundhouse centered on the boys who were throwing stones at the locomotive. The engineers felt the insult to their race just as we had to ours.
We were back the next day ready to throw rocks at the locomotive. As soon as the engineer was within shouting distance he leaned far out the window and in the most sincere tones shouted out to us:
‘Boys, boys! Why are you throwing stones at my engine?’
The exchange had to be quick as the locomotive was rolling.
‘Because one of your engineers wouldn’t wave to us.’ I shouted back.
The engineer understood the need of consideration. A great breach of etiquette, an actual crime, had been committed.
‘Tell me which one.’ He shouted back. ‘I’ll take care of it.’
The train had crossed the road as I shouted back a description of the guilty engineer.
The engineer was almost out of shouting distance when he shouted back: ‘I think I know who you mean. I’ll take care of it.’
We saluted each other in mutual trust. There might be one bad engineer but the whole race of Casey Jones, a line of heroes, couldn’t be bad. The engineers located the guy. He was forced to confess.
The next day we were back at the crossing when the six wheeler approached. The offending engineer was at the throttle. We waited anxiously to see his response. He gave us a half hearted wave as we returned the salute in the same manner.
The next day the engineer who had obtained justice for us was at the throttle.
‘Everything all right?’ He shouted down.
‘Yes, thanks.’ I shouted giving him a big wave.
A great breach in tradition had been repaired; but within weeks the tradition disappeared. Steve Brady and Ben Dewberry and Casey Jones vanished along with Sitting Bull, Black Kettle and Roman Nose and the buffalo as the more effecient Diesel replaced our beloved locomotives. A great era in American history disappeared without a trace or notice. Oh, once we saw an engineer looking out the glassed in cab of the Diesel. He may even have given us a futile wave but we turned our backs and walked away as he answered our scorn with a shriveling blast on the air horn. Why does true love got to go bad?
As the new year evolved the trees speckled their branches with new growth. April showers did indeed bring May flowers while David Hirsh gnashed his teeth in despair of me. I seemed to epitomize all his troubles to him. My success with the engineer was achieved only because a great wrong had been committed which was obvious to both sides and probably to any third parties who might have known of it. The details were worked out as between equals. David and Michael Hirsh were clearly in the wrong. Their procedure was also wrong. They had never made their grievance known to me. Nor could they, for they had committed the wrong; I was the innocent party but I had nevertheless insulted their dignity. We could have talked it out had our social positions been equal. It was impossible given their opinion of themselves and myself. They had to try to cheat homage from me.
My conduct at the Christmas party had prejudiced my case. I was the apparent aggressor. I had been induced to defame myself. He had irrevocably damaged his credibility by segregating us on the playground in the fall but my conduct had given him a freer hand with me. He was baffled by his apparent inability to administer corporal punishment to me. He had done everything to me, short of shooting, which appeared to have no effect. His means for a direct assault were now very limited. I had already been ostracized; I was now no longer trusting. The response to my actions at the Christmas party now gave a different avenue of approach. If he couldn’t obtain obeisance he could defame me in the eyes of the community; or he thought he could direct me to ruin my life.
Now, David Hirsh had always been watching me from a distance. By which I mean that he either parked his car where he could observe or concealed himself where he could study me. He had even got Mildred to let him stand in the kitchen where he could observe me at table. In so doing he had studied the scene around the children’s home.
We were easy targets. The streets around the Home, as with all the streets in the Valley, were lined with rows of magnificent trees; chestnut, oak, maple, a wonderful canopy of what we called shade trees. The fence around the orphanage enclosing the playground was set a foot behind the sidewalk. During the warmer parts of the year there were always several men standing alongside the trunks of the trees or loitering along the fence. These men were always willing to befriend us. Some perverts were anxious to befriend the little girls; some were homosexuals who were anxious to befriend the boys.
The authorities were incapable of protecting us from them. The administration had made attempts to have them run off but these men had successfully maintained that the streets were public thoroughfares that gave them the right to use them as much as anyone else. The authorities must have been morally and legally bankrupt for they remained to prey on us. Cute little girls, dressed badly, could be had for a candy bar and the attention they couldn’t obtain in the Home. Boys could be had for the same or less. The city claimed to be powerless against these bums and perverts, the administrators were forced to close their eyes.
At eight and nine we were susceptible to suggestion. David Hirsh saw a way to influence my development. That spring for the only time in my life I repeatedly heard the expression: As the twig is bent the tree inclines.
Every locality has its ne’er-do-wells who are willing to do dirty deeds dirt cheap, favors for the hope of future rewards from ‘the really big men’ of the town. The big men of every town need ties with these men for they frequently have dirty deeds to do; deeds which if discovered would compromise their position. You might say that these men function as gloves to keep the dirt off the big men’s hands; sort of a human prophylactics.
David Hirsh had connections with the fellow who identified me to the barber. This man managed to maintain an appearance of respectability to the point where David Hirsh could talk to him, not be seen with him, but talk to him. This man then had connections to an even lower strata of humanity who had nothing to lose. He knew the alcoholics, the hopheads, drug dealers, petty criminals and if necessary could find a way to contact the big boys down South. David now spoke to him, explained what he wanted done and left the problem of finding an accomplice to him. The task was a simple one but they managed to muff it.
I was walking back to the orphanage from school with a boy named Billy Batson. Lebel St. abutted the playground in mid-block. As we emerged from the alley into Lebel we crossed this intersection along the back fence. I noticed two unsavory characters of thirty or so leaning against the fence. I didn’t recognize the guy from the barber shop but I knew the character of these guys who hung around pretty well. Their faces also betrayed the fact that they were up to something.
Billy was not very alert or perhaps he was willing to recieve apparently considerate attention from whomever would offer it. I had increased my angle through the intersection to avoid these guys. Billy nearly walked right into them. The one guy sat nervously on his haunches. The guy from the barber shop assumed the same position he had at the shop. He apparently kept a clear conscience by directing his confederate but not actually dirtying his hands himself.
Confused by our appearance the guy’s glance shifted back and forth from Billy to me. He nudged his confederate who poked a finger at Billy. Speaking in the most violently derogatory manner, he said: ‘Hey, you stupid little bastard. You’re a worthless little son-0f-a-bitch.’
Billy looked at him, his eyes wide, he began to tremble. Perceiving his danger I turned to come to his assistance. I had these vagrants pretty well figured out. I began to form insults in my mind.
The accomplice quickly continued: ‘You’re a no good little bastard. Your whole life’s going to be a failure. You’re going to spend your life in prison. You’re destined to be a good for nothing jailbird.’
I was moving fast now, I got up a good wind and was about to shout my insults at the confederate when the barber shop guy looking down Lebel past me said: ‘Whoa Tom, I think we got the wrong one.’
So they had, but they had caught Billy Batson at a susceptible moment. They had caught him in a hypnoid state and given him a post hypnotic suggestion. They had imprinted his destiny. Bill’s life was destroyed. In after years his mind fulfilled the prophecy. He died within prison gates. I had escaped a destiny through the error of the two thugs.
Tom’s companion had been looking past me at David Hirsh parked in his car on the other side of the alley we were forced to use. He had watched Billy and I emerge from the alley with a wry smile. We couldn’t walk down the street, we had been compelled to skulk down alleys out of sight, the same as his ancestors had in Europe. David felt a glow of poetic justice as he slipped the monkey from his back onto ours. Hirsh had signaled by pointing at me. The opportunity was lost. It was possible that they may have been able to imprint me but I think I was too wary. I had watched these men and their ways. I was alert to them, I don’t think they would have succeeded.
David Hirsh was disappointed in the failure of his plan but ‘back to back, belly to belly, he didn’t give a damn because he had another ready.’ Actually the men at the fence were one part of a projected two phase plan. They were to have started the nail while Michael Hirsh was to drive it home.
The children of the orphanage were not as impoverished in the nickle-dime sense as it might appear. Just as Darwen had us scavenging paper, there were other ways to scavenge up smaller amounts of money. There was a hiatus of twenty-five years or so beween periods when empty bottles didn’t have a redemption value. Soda came in bottles then, not in cans, but there was a two cent deposit on bottles. People invariably threw them away. Thus the streets, as it were, were paved with gold. Money could literally be picked up from the streets. It wasn’t considered the most respectable way to make money. Michael Hirsh, for instance, never picked up a bottle in his life, but it was still honest.
We of the orphanage did not scruple to collect them. Thus we always had some money. Penny candy could be literally had for a penny, or even, two for a penny. Regular sized bars that were three or four times the size of a candy bar today could be had for a nickel. The smaller pleasures of life, the ones that children value the most, were easily within our reach. Movies for instance were a dime, five bottles.
Supermarkets did not exist in the Valley in 1948. It would be 1952 before a ‘giant’ 20,000 square footer was built. So little corner grocery stores were located on corners every few blocks or so. Each of these had magnificant stocks of penny and regular candy. There was one of these stores two blocks down Sandy from the Home.
It was a classic of its kind. For whatever reason they were always run down and dilapidated. Like the ark they all looked like they had been deposited by the flood. The dirt in front of them always had the grass worn off, a few tufts surviving here and there under the shadow of large trees. The stoop up to the store never looked like it could hold your weight. The stores were always unpainted, sagging unevenly. Inside the floors were wavy or pitched at an angle. The counters were worn, unpainted and showed their age.
The owners always had a matching appearance. You didn’t have to ask who owned the store. They were a step or two below the type chosen as administrators of institutions like the Children’s Home. They were broken down men running broken down stores. But the stores were comforatble and endlessly fascinating to a little boy.
A few of the Orphanage boys had been recruited by the Hirsh faction to harass me. I wasn’t aware of this as there was no difference in the way things were normally done in the Home. We harassed each other as a matter of course. The limits of harassment were prescribed by our proximity. Retaliation was always close at hand.
This Saturday they encouraged me to go down to the corner store. I protested that I had no money. They insisted, I went. Lo and behold at the corner of the fence on Sandy was a small collection of bottles. Imagine my surprise when they said that I had seen them first, which wasn’t true, and they were mine. I didn’t argue.
As we walked up to the store there they were. Michael Hirsh and his fine friends. I was small for my age, they were all three or four inches taller than I; besides their shoes fit and their clothes looked like they were bought with them in mind. They apparently anticipated my arrival which I did note. I didn’t note that my fellow inmates had disappeared.
It was evident that Hirsh and his friends were there to intimidate me. This was my home turf, once again they had preserved the element of surprise. Having seen them coming I jeered right back. ‘Hey, Hirsh, what are you doing here, slumming?’
Words were exchanged as I walked past them into the store. I gave the owner my bottles and collected my dime. There used to be a candy glued to a strip of paper. Little tidbits like the chocolate chips that go into cookies. The strip of paper was about two inches wide. You could order two, four, six inches, a foot depending on your means. I had my mind set on that particular pleasure. That style of candy was kept on a big roll on the counter.
As I got my dime back and tried to order, Hirsh and his friends jostled and shoved me away from the counter into the center of the store. Unlike at the well they were prepared to defile themselves by touching the Samarian. They obviously wanted to defame me as a troublemaker by getting me to fight with the resultant damage to the store in the melee. I pushed and shoved in self-defense. No blows were struck by either side as that would constitute starting a fight with the consequent opprobrium as aggressor. That clever little fellow Abel managed to saddle Cain with that label.
‘Hey, mister, why do allow a troublemaker like Far Gresham in here.’ Hirsh sneered using my name for effect.
‘There wouldn’t be any trouble if a jerk like Michael Hirsh weren’t here.’ I jibed in return.
The owner looked over at us with the patience that only a retailer knows and said: ‘Hey, why don’t you boys stop acting like babies; or conversely, why don’t you babies start acting like big boys?’ Wow, a literate store owner.
Using my name as often as possible to make the man remember me Hirsh and his friends impressed on the man that I was the troublemaker, not only there but everywhere, inveterate and incurable. They said that I should be thrown out; he shouldn’t do business with me. The owner was a man of weak character. He did know me, he didn’t know Hirsh and his friends, but they were well dressed. While he vacillated the attention of Hirsh and his fellows was distracted. I pushed through and asked for a length of candy. The owner quickly snipped off what I asked for in the hopes of ridding himself of the problem. Hirsh and his pals continued to bump against me. Taking my candy I pushed through them and bounced out the door into the sunshine. The six formed a queue behind me. I had crossed the six feet to the sidewalk when I heard Michael Hirsh call out: ‘Hey, Gresham, just hold on a minute.’
I turned and said: ‘What do you want now, Hirsh?’
His fellows fell back to one side watching intently tongues between lips. Adopting his most insulting attitude Hirsh strode up to me. If I had to fight I was going to lose my candy. I too became belligerent. Instead he reached around and pulled a big Baby Ruth out of my back pocket.
‘What’s this Gresham? I didn’t see you pay for this. Looks like you’re a thief Gresham.’
As Hirsh stood there brandishing the candy bar at me, the owner strode to the door. Seizing my opportunity I shouted to him, pointing at Hirsh: ‘Hey mister, Michael Hirsh here has a candy bar he stole from you. Better lock him up or make him pay for it, he’s got lots of money.’
Hoist by his own petard Hirsh turned red, threw down the candy bar in the dust and stalked off followed by his guffawing friends. I sang out after him: “Hey Hirsh-she, looks like you’re a thief my man.’
A couple years later he wouldn’t have been so foolish as to have taken the candy bar out of my pocket himself. But we live and learn.
As the incident at the fence was to have given me my identity, slandered me to myself, this plan which misfired because of Michael’s ineptness, was meant to convict me to myself and to slander me on my home turf. Had the plan worked a reputation would have been established for me. Not only would I have been slandered irreparably to others but I would have had to accept the same opinion of myself forever.
This failure cost Michael Hirsh the respect of his friends; for he, in fact, had been caught with a stolen candy bar in his hand. His friends didn’t see it quite that way but Michael Hirsh had stolen; he was in fact the thief. Michael could never again aspire to be their leader. Thus by their own vindictiveness the Hirshes had destroyed their own happiness and prosperity. As the saying goes: They were their own worst enemies. They dug their own grave wide and deep.
Acton Burnell had watched the developing situation of myself and the Eloy with dismay. His sense of honor and decency had been offended by the segregation of the orphans on the bench. His low opinion of the Hirshes and their ilk had been confirmed by the incident. He had witnessed my rape with its display of deepseated contempt and hatred. Not that Acton Burnell became my advocate or sympathizer, for, like nearly all men he believed that in the same situation there would have been six boys on the floor with him standing triumphantly over them. The same would have been true, he thought, had there been a hundred or a million. There was also the fact that I had been penetrated. Forced or not the fact lowered me in his estimation.
But his sense of justice was offended. He did know how overwhelming were the odds I faced. He was privy to all that transpired at the school. His rank in the Masons informed him of local machinations. He was not prepared to overtly come to my aid but he determined to do what he could covertly to defeat the Hirshes’ will.
Thus on a Saturday Acton Burnell was standing in the trees on Sandy across from the playground. The guys who hung around the Home had an array of abilities to tempt us. There were fairly expert carvers and whittlers with a variety of knife tricks, they could whistle like birds and perform excellent animal imitations; they knew a variety of magic acts, coin tricks and such, they displayed little tricks of natural phenomena, and oddly enough some of them were read. They knew Kierkegard, Schopenauer, Kant, they had read all six volumes of Casanova, or said they had; furthermore they were willing to perform anytime until they learned that they were not going to be successful with you.
I was outside the fence wandering among this little bazaar of performers when Acton Burnell, under a giant chestnut, motioned me over to him. He may have thought I recognized him and I may have but away from school the janitor had no identity to me. But hands in pockets I wandered over to him to see what his trick was. Acton Burnell was aware of what Hirsh was attempting with the men at the fence and Michael’s attempt to compromise me. I had perhaps narrowly missed being imprinted by the men at the fence who got Batson. Other attempts were being made to bend my twig in the direction I was wanted to follow. Michael’s attempt had been foiled mostly by his youthful ineptness. Acton Burnell caught me on a day and in a mood when I received the imprint that would guide my attitudes and protect my life from ruin. Acton Burnell was my savior.
He was a cultured man. Self-educated. In my opinion he wasted his time over the philosophers but if he found peace, so be it. I stood in front of him head angled up sharply waiting for him to speak. He began:
‘Always read quality books. Learn to revere Pythagoras, Parmenides, Socrates, Marcus Aurelius and the great philosophers. Read Shakespeare, Hardy and Trollope. Do not waste your time with trash. Ignore that bottomless pit of evil and ignorance, the Bible.
Above all always be honest. You can cheat an honest man but you can’t take away his integrity by doing so. It is better to have no companions at all than to have bad companions. Never let anyone make you compromise yourself, they may tell lies about you but a man’s honesty will always vindicate itself in the end. Remember what I have said. Now go.’
The message flowed into my mind like a barrel over Niagara. I looked at him silently for a moment; then turning without a word I walked away. As though in a trance I walked to the library to sit the rest of the day. I neither thought nor pondered. The ‘living water’ of Acton Burnell just seeped into my brain. I was armed and armored.
When David Hirsh learned of Michael’s new humiliation which was once again due solely to their own malignancy it was more serious than it might appear in the telling. He was wroth, he seethed. His own humiliation at the Christmas party, for which he had laid plans for revenge, now combined with Michael’s humiliation into a living tower of rage. the situation was becoming uglier. David was now nearly at his wit’s end. Notions of actual murder flitted across the surface of his brain.
He called his boy to him and solemnly said: ‘We’re going to have to give him a Black Sabbath.’
Michael’s five friends were accordingly gathered and quickly drilled in their duties. The Saturday after Acton Burnell imprinted me the six showed up at the Home on Sandy. Confederates within the Home lured me out into the street. The Eloy stood in a row down Sandy facing into the playground. Many of the inmates were dispersed along their line. The line had been choreographed. Once I was in place among other inmates and some of the perverts Michael Hirsh and the Eloy began a series of chants. As they chanted they brought their right clenched first down against their left clinched fist as an indication that they were going to crush me without mercy.
‘Gresham.’ They pointed at me in unison turning like a singing group, ‘is outside the law.’ They then reverted to their former stance facing the playground.
‘Gresham.’ Turning and pointing again. ‘Is to be denied food and drink, land and air.’
‘Gresham, Gresham, Gresham come forward and receive thy chastisement.’
I and the perverts were watching in astonishment. No one knew what was happening. One bum turned to me in awe and intoned in a low voice: ‘Just say to them, Aw your mother wears combat boots.’ This was a saying in use to defuse badinage and abuse that might lead to a fight, or to prove one’s manhood. Someone might say: ‘You’re in big trouble buddy.’ One replied ‘Aw, your mother wears combat boots.’ which was an acceptable response to defuse the situation. I took his advice. In a quavering voice that betrayed some apprehension I yelled out: ‘Aw, your mother wears combat boots.’
The Eloy turned in a fury: ‘Gresham, Gresham, Gresham, come before us to receive they chastisement.’
I can tell you, I was dismayed. Stood and watched them. They continued their ritual. Apparently it was necessary for me to come before them which I refused to do. After a while they left, marching off in file shouting: ‘You’ll be sorry.’
Thus I had been given a Black Sabbath.
Acton Burnell and some few others realized that something had to be done as the matter was reaching a frenzied pitch. I would have to be saved from David and Michael Hirsh while David and Michael Hirsh would have to be saved from themselves.
David Hirsh had been severely affronted by my conduct toward him at the Christmas party. Beverly Hirsh had seized an opportunity by casting me out into the storm. David had laughed and approved but had not derived any satisfaction from my discomfiture as he had not planned it. He still longed to gratify himself for that incident. Beverly’s act had been dissonant in David’s eyes. While I had been punished the punishment bore no relation to the offence. According to the Biblical antecedent the punishment had to fit the crime. Apparently I would be punished until he found one that did.
He had no immediate remedy but his mind was ever fertile in the area. Slowly a plan emerged. His plan was to be effected on my birthday. But as my birthday was on a Wednesday that year and school was still in session the event had to be arranged for the twenty-ninth. Memorial day weekend. Not as satisfactory as actually my birthday but appropriately it would memorialize my offence. As usual it would take the guise of charity. Beware of geeks bearing gifts.
David’s own life during this preiod was becoming more complicated. The repercussions arising from our segragation on the playground were slowly making themselves felt. David himself was not yet aware but as might be expected Beverly had noticed a shift of status among the women’s groups. The shift was not yet significant but she had noticed a shift in the current.
At the same time ground had been broken for the new Sears store. The excavation site was more than a city block with adjacent parking which was something Downtown didn’t have.. The hole was imposing. There was more to it than that, for the Sears store represented the course of the future while Hershey’s represented the accretions of the past. With a single turn of the key in the lock of the Sears store, Hershey’s would be hopelessly old fashioned. Inevitably, but worse still the commercial philosophy of the Hirshes would be rooted in an invalidated tradition. As Henry Ford said: History is bunk.
The Hirshes would now learn the truth of that statement as their successful past precluded a successful future.
The Hirshes and the other merchants who had exuded confidence in the inability of Sears to compete in the ‘special’ environment of the Valley now began to have second thoughts. As the piles were driven fear entered their minds. Great changes, of which Sears was only one, were taking place in society. Blacks began to appear on the fringe of Downtown. Where they had shopped previously I have no idea but convention had forbidden them Downtown. Black immigration flowed on during the wars. Now the First Ward which had been their designated area was full to overflowing. The Valley was no longer a White town.
For the first time also vague disquieting dissatisfaction with the management of the environment was, not making itself heard, but whispered in the wind. Great subterranean changes were shifting the landscape. Men’s minds were becoming disquieted but they didn’t know why. Ignorant of the true sources they took inappropriate action.
All these things acted on David’s mind. He was not reflective, these influences mingled with his despair of me. All his misgivings and frustrations were devolving on my head.
So, on that Saturday we were lined up to the march over to Pfeffercorn Island for a picnic given us by unknown benefactors. Pfeffercorn Island was adjacent to the Court St. Bridge over the Valley River. The river flowed North into a bay and as it did a slough sliced around behind the projecting land which made the island. It was a fairly large island that was part park, part dump. The front half was landscaped while the back half had been used to dump landfill and what appeared to be slabs of concrete from roads. It was an excellent place for a variety of purposes.
I was getting tired of charity. I just didn’t have it in me to do that song and dance for them. I didn’t want to go. Unlike the Christmas party I didn’t give up easily but put up a strong resistance. In this world however, might is right, I found myself on the sidewalk after breakfast with the others. It was an hour’s walk to Pfeffercorn Park. We walked along strung out over three blocks, sometimes four. We were herded back into a more compact body. I walked along in grim silence. I was annoyed by the amused, even laughing, glances of passing drivers. Some even had the effrontery to honk their horns as us in derision. Try to be as cheerful as I might I was reaching the end of yet another tether. Dark, dark emotions were beginning to swirl in my mind. At ten my perception of reality was improving.
Games had been devised for us but I had no inclination to join in, preferring instead to investigate the waterfront or hang around the bandstand. During the morning we had the park to ourselves but about one o’clock others began arriving. Among them was a very large body of Eloy, including David and Michael Hirsh. I groaned when I saw them. I tried to avoid them but they wouldn’t ignore me. I was slowly driven toward the back of the island. I and a couple others were playing on the edge of the dump. Things were made uncomfortable for me there; nothing overt, just taunts and teasing.
I induced my companions to go out into the dump to play Beau Geste of the Foreign Legion or Cowboys and Indians. The dirt and concrete had been dumped in long rows across the island which formed ridges and valleys of eight or ten feet in height. One could march up a ‘sand dune’ bearing the standard and tumble down into the vale under that blazing Saharan sun.
I was content but my companions soon left me alone to play the hermit of the burning wastes. Still, considering that altered me, I wasn’t unhappy. But then a face appeared above the crest of a dune.
‘Hey, come on Farley, you’re wanted.’ Said an orphan.
‘Oh yeah? Is it time to go then?’ I asked.
‘No, it’s something else. They want you.’ He said.
‘I don’t know. Some game.’
‘Well, let someone else do it; just let me know when we’re ready to leave.’
Soon a house mother appeared. I was more than suspicious. Dark premonitions blazed from my eyes and forehead. She said I was wanted to participate in something. I knew something must have been afoot then. I declined suggesting she get someone more deserving. She virtually dragged me out of the dump back to the area to the West of the bandstand and just on the other side of the parking lot.
A large tarpaulin lay on the ground covered with sawdust. The thing had humiliation written all over it. I didn’t want to have anything to do with it, especially as I saw the Eloy drifting over to watch. There were about eight of us, we had apparently been chosen for various reasons.
Several strange men were supervising. They had nothing to do with the Children’s Home. I tried to back away but the men kept catching me and pushing me forward. They were receiving a reward. They were being allowed to participate in the humiliation of those less fortunate than themselves and just as defenseless as they had allowed themselves to become. One, an Italian, Joe Speso, was especially elated. Speso was an actual immigrant. He no longer had a pronounced accent but still had a noticeable one. Immigrants had not necessarily desired to become American. That is they didn’t wish to shed their national trappings in favor of American ones. In many cases they wished to impose their own national systems on the American one. The result of that conflict was the hybrid society we know. American attempts to enforce Americanization sometimes took relatively brutal forms. The European and Pacific wars had done much to homogenize the American and European nationalities. Foreigners had earned the right to be Americans by participation in the wars. Traces of the old attitude remained.
Speso himself had never intended to remain in the United States. His intention had been to make a bundle and then return to Sicily and sit in the sun. The Great War had delayed his plans to return to Palermo, there was no need to got back and be drafted into the Italian army. After the war other delays had prevented his return at all. He had led a disgruntled, disconsolate life ever since.
Speso had been a victim of one of the last of the ‘Americanization’ gangs only recently. He had been walking down the street when three late teens accosted him. Since he had an accent they demanded he recite the pledge of allegiance and kiss a little flag one took out of his back pocket.
Joe Speso demurred, pointing out he had been in this country for forty years and he had two sons who served in Europe. The boys persisted. Joe was not a big man so at great cost to his mental equilibrium he complied. The matter became known. Joe Speso was now being given a chance to redeem his injured psyche by injuring ours. I alone intuited this. The other men, like Speso, had stories of the same nature if differing facts.
The eight of us were strung out in a line facing the tarpaulin. I was on the extreme right. The sawdust was arranged in shallow areas at the ends leading to a higher ridge toward the middle with a conspicuous little peak in the very middle. I could see a few coins amidst the sawdust. I did not want to participate. I knew I was being besmirched. My body felt as dirty as my mind was dark. At that moment the Eloy appeared bright and clean while I felt dark and dirty.
As I looked down the line I saw Dave Gore staring at the peak. His face was drawn, looking almost as in a state of shock. I sensed that the peak contained a reward for him. But reward for what, I wondered? There was something in his strained anticipation that indicated he had either compromised himself a great deal or committed a great wrong.
I wondered. I went through my recall of recent events to see if there was anything he could have done to me. I could think of nothing but it was possible that he thought he had done something vile to me. It also occurred to me there was something sexual in his distracted stare. I thought that perhaps he had offered himself. Gore was a pretty capable guy. It was possible that the Eloy might have compromised him in that way to emasculate or subordinate him.
I didn’t like the looks of the whole thing. I had decided not to participate. As I was watching and wondering I was vaguely aware that the thing was about to commence. The others were on the mark quivering with anticipation.
I heard someone say: ‘He goes first.’
Gore dove into the peak. He hadn’t been sold down the river. He triumphantly held the twenty dollar bill aloft as though he had expected to find it. Twenty dollars then was equivalent to at least two hundred now. My, that was big money. I gasped. What could he have done to earn that? As soon as it was seen that he had his twenty the rest of us were released to scramble in the sawdust in a frenzy for nickels, dimes and pennies.
I stood staring in disbelief. Joe Speso was saying gleefully. ‘Dive in there boy, there won’t be anything left.’ The sun was in the West where it reflected off the windshields of the cars parked opposite but through the reflection of sun and cloud speckled sky I caught a glimpse of two guys, David and Michael Hirsh who were watching with glee and anticipation.
David Hirsh had set this whole thing up. My refusal of his Christmas present was in his mind an arrogant act. His reasoning now was that no one could refuse money. Thus, somehow his mind would take great pleasure in seeing me grovel in the dust for pennies. For, the bills and fifty cent pieces and quarters were all distributed to the left of me. We all had been directed into certain areas, prevented from going to others. The twenty dollar bill had been meant to tantalize us, me into a terrific frenzy. It had them but not me.
We were also being trained to be servants of the big men. For to get the really big bucks we would have to do whatever it was that they required. We would have to look to them for favor. I sullenly rejected the plan.
‘Hurry boy.’ Speso laughed at me incredulously. ‘Or it will all be gone.’
I stood there sullenly. Then at a signal from Hirsh which I didn’t see he pushed me down onto the tarpaulin. I could see the Eloy watching with disdain and contempt. Charity is a wonderful thing; it makes the giver feel so good at the expense of the recipient.
I was on my hands and knees. For a brief moment the contagion of the frenzy drew me in as I picked up a few pennies. Then the darkness gripped my mind again. I stood up and threw the pennies down as a dark frown froze my forehead. By now the money was all picked up so that there was no longer any need to constrain me.
‘I don’t know what’s wrong with that boy.’ I could hear Speso saying: ‘Money on the ground just waiting to be picked up and he doesn’t even appear interested.’
I not only appeared uninterested I wasn’t interested. Now I was being defamed for not wanting to be defamed. Hirsh was very clever. I was damned if I dove in, especially as the paper and big coins were not at my end, and damned as stupid if I didn’t. I retreated back into the shrubbery with a glowering mien. I was in a trap from which it was impossible to extricate myself.
I didn’t blame anyone in particular. I blamed the whole of society as these great heavy blows bludgeoned my psyche. I could physically feel the thud to my psyche as my brain crushed and splintered beneath the blows. Dark evil thoughts commingled with my inherent brightness. Acton Burnell’s advice contested with the reality of Mrs. Miller’s obervation. Did David Hirsh have what it would take to drive me under? I knew that the universe was evil, I became partially tongue tied.
For some reason my mind fixated on happier kids. I guessed that somewhere in town a wondeful birthday party was going on with a dozen well to do happy children dancing around a wonderful cake in beautiful clean clothes and shoes that fit and beautiful shiningly clean faces. I understood that they could only be as happy as there were because they knew that somewhere else other children were miserable. Their content depended on the discontent of others. They had it not within themselves to know content except with the knowledge of the misery of others. Their mothers would remind them lest they forgot. They could only be relatively happy. I was the miserable kid to whom they compared themselves to make themselves happy. In an excess of misery I hated them. My attention was drawn to a departing car as David Hirsh blew his horn driving off gleefully.
His need was so great that he distorted what could at best have been only a half victory into a total humiliation. He had given me trauma from which I could never recover and would be a long time ameliorating.
The fun was over, we were gathered for the walk back to the orphanage.
‘Hey, Gresham.’ One of the Eloy taunted, not knowing that I had taken nothing from the pile. ‘I get lots more every week as an allowance than the pennies you picked up from the ground. Enjoy your money Gresham.’
I was too young to conceal my bitterness, he was rewarded with the blackest of brows.
We were ordered into formation for the return trip back to the orphanage. Our long line filed down the roadway off the island. People stood watching with arms folded across their chests as though we were part of the booty in an imperial triumph. There were smiles and laughs and discreet murmurs of look at that one. Had I been less inured to the abuse I might have rushed them or still worse screamed in impotent rage.
As if that was not enough to endure I was admonished by one of the girls. She was quite sincere. It was impossible for me to hate her knowing as I did what she too was compelled to endure, but I could not help despising her. She was even beneath contempt.
‘You know, Farley, when people are trying to be nice to you, you should be a little appreciative. I noticed at the Christmas party that you didn’t take your present. Here, when they wanted to give you money- MONEY- you wouldn’t even take that. You’re going to give us a bad name (I choked back a laugh) and people won’t give us charity like this. If they don’t, it will be because of you. I don’t even know why they specially chose you, you don’t deserve it.’
‘I wasn’t specially chosen. Everybody got a turn; I was just in the last relay.’
‘You’re a liar Farley Gresham, you eight boys- BOYS- all boys, no girls- were the only one’s chosen and you don’t even appreciate it.’
‘Oh yeah, hum, the only reason I did it was because they told me everyone else already had. Heck, if I’d known that you could have had my place. You could have gotten down on your hands and knees and scrounged for pennies. You’d have liked that.’
As for charity if I had had some way to make them stop I would have. If my attitude would end charity I would have redoubled my efforts. But she said we eight were the only ones. I had already perceived that Dave Gore was being paid off. That meant that the other six were being rewarded for something. But what?
I was toward the back of the line naturally, now I began walking up the line looking for Dave Gore. He was about a quarter from the lead. He was marching along totally preoccupied, his hand in his pocket around the money. His face was strained and he was sweating like a dope fiend. It wasn’t hot enough to sweat. I walked along beside him shifting from front to back studying him curiously. He seemed oblivious to me and all else.
Finally I said: ‘Hey Gore, what did you do?’
He immediatley assumed an offensive posture, drew back his fist and in a low husky voice barked at me: ‘You get away from me Gresham, or I’ll knock you out in one punch.’
He wasn’t going to knock me out with one punch but then I wanted an answer not a fight. I decided to persist one more time.
‘Aw, come on Gore, you must have got twenty-five or thirty dollars. That’s a lot of money. It was in that little peak where everybody could see too, how come? What did you do?’
He cocked his arm further and thought about taking a step toward me. Eyeing him closely I backed off and started drifting back to the end of the line.
Gore was a pretty good athlete. At games he could make the Eloy fourth graders look bad. I didn’t think he was paid that much for anything he might have done to me, I just couldn’t think of anything that happened that he could have done.
Memory is pervasive, whether suppressed into the subconscious or in free access, memory always directs our actions. I couldn’t recall my rape but all the relevant information affected my thinking. The drawn look, the sweat at the payoff, it all indicated sex. He must have been seduced with the promise of the payoff. I doubt that he would have taken cash for it so it must have been that he wanted something else. He wouldn’t have been able to explain how he got the money to pay for it if he had shown up with the thing so they chose this method to get it to him and save the appearance of his honor. The question was who? If I hadn’t been so young and blocked I would have put it all together.
All contests are fixed. I was dimly aware of it if still disbelieving it. They must still have had use for him or they wouldn’t have kept their word. Hirsh had used the time honored method of using other people’s money to pay his debts. Money had been collected from a sucker list for the picnic. the suckers’ money was on the blanket to pay the wise guy’s debts. It’s the same principle used with lotteries today; except with lotteries you don’t have to collect charity; you sell tickets to suckers.
What the other six guys did I don’t know but they had the demeanor of petty criminals. Gore had kind of an aristocratic look, unlike the others.
A dark bubbling porridge boiled at the bottom of my brain. It would be very difficult for me to ever be cheerful. The school year was almost over. I didn’t see how I could last another year at the Home. I began to hope fervently that my foster home would be better.
There were only a few days left to the end of the school year. I knew that I would be leaving the foster home soon. I gritted my teeth and hoped for the best. On the last day of school Billy Batson and I were accosted on the corner across from the school by a couple of Morlocks who may have been sixth graders. My own mental condition was far from whole but I was facing up to things. Batson on the other hand had had his mind thoroughly cowed. I yearned to help him but life in the Home and at Longfellow had overwhelmed him; he was beyond my or anybody’s reach.
The purpose of these sixth graders was to terrorize us. Whether they acted of their own accord or as agents is irrelevant; it was the kind of hazing that bigger boys do to smaller boys. They pointed out a corner room on the third floor and said that was Mr. Oagar’s room. He was the fifth grade teacher. He was a mean vile guy. We were already assigned to his room. He was going to make mincemeat of us, they said, especially me.
I listened with the appearance of trepidation. I asked questions leading them on. When they reached the proper pitch of excitement I dropped my bomb on them: ‘Oh yeah? Well, I won’t be attending Mr. Oagar’s class.’
‘Oh yeah? Why not?’ They jeered.
‘Because I check out of the orphanage now. I won’t even be in this school district.’ I said without certain knowledge that I wouldn’t be in the school district.
Oddly enough my answer seemed to desolate them as Batson and I moved off toward the Home.
Unbeknownst to me the situation between Hirsh and I had become so appalling, the future looked so dangerous for me, that efforts were being made to get me to a safe place out of range of Hirsh. Even Acton Burnell was alarmed and involved.
Shortly after the end of school in June I was called down to the Orphanage office. There in the cold efficient style of the attendant, who could not afford personal involvement because of the potential heartaches involved, I was given instructions to find the house of John H. Warden and dime for bus fare. I was told to collect what I wanted to take with me. I put my hands in my pockets and fingered the dime; I had everything of value to me from the Children’s Home in my pocket as I stood. I was admonished not to spend the dime for other things as I wouldn’t get another and would have to walk. I was no fool. A dime was very nearly big money to me; I was used to walking. I pocketed the dime, shoved the big front door open and stepped out into the June sunshine.
Word had gotten around that I was checking out. I walked down the curved driveway. Three or four boys were waiting for me at the corner of Sandy and Nelson. They were standing there gabbing about Barney Oldfield. Their minds raced while they spoke in awe of Oldfield going a mile a minute. I thought I was going to have to push my way through but it was their intention to ignore me. Perhaps my refusal to join Derringer’s faction when I entered the Home was now being returned on me in the manner they interpreted my refusal to join. I stood listening to them for a minute trying to think of something devastating to say. At that moment a squadron of three Jet planes approached from the South. Jet propulsion, as it was known in those days, was brand new. The Jets produced a new level of noise, to which people had not yet objected they were so in awe of the new technology. In the early days the planes flew over low enough to see the insignia on the wings, if not so low as to make them out.
I saw the planes approaching at their incredible speed. Just as they were directly overhead they passed through the sound barrier. I swear it was visible. The air was shattered as the Jets punched through. I involuntarily screamed out ‘Hawkaa.’ The great shimmering waves of the sonic boom descended on us. We were literally lifted off our feet as the street post rattled, the street light wavered over the intersection, doors and windows rattled audibly. From somewhere came the sound of shattering glass. The sound was a single well rounded short boom. The sound was visceral, tremendous. It was much louder and more compact than any thunder I remembered. Our hearts palpitated. We stared after the contrails from the departing planes as the great roar of the jets, diminished compared to the sonic boom, but great, enveloped us, ruling out conversation until the noise abated while the planes had disappeared from sight long before.
The boys were looking from face to facc with awe. I said: ‘So what’s so special about sixty miles an hour. Those planes were going ten times that fast.’
‘You lie, Gresham, nothing can go that fast.’
‘Ha! Well, you saw it. They broke the sound barrier. You have to go six hundred miles an hour to do that. Six hundred is ten times sixty. So who’s Barney Oldfield? So long, boys, I’m on my way out of here. Enjoy your stay.’
‘Yeah, well, we’ll see you around, Gresham.’
‘Not if I see you first.’ I replied stepping through the plane of the sonic boom out of a dismal past into what I hoped would be a happier future.
My path law down Nelson to Main St. which joined the East and West sides. As I trudged down Nelson my thoughts were concentrated on the trials of the past and my hopes for the future.
I had no concern with poverty or material deprivation. I never considered myself ‘poor’. The disparity in material goods between myself and others had merely seemed contrived not organic. I considered myself the equal of anybody. Indeed, the evidence before my eyes was that I could hold my own intellectually with anyone. I was superior to most. Life appeared to be a set of circumstances in which fate had given me a most disadvantageous start. I had high hopes of reversing the circumstances.
I did not understand or even know of the permanent damage that had been done to my psyche and personality. I couldn’t perceive how my behavioral modes had been imposed on me or how I appeared to others. I knew by the criticisms of my upper self that I invariably made weak or inappropriate responses to life’s little situations. I didn’t know how my sub-concious controlled my conscious actions nor of the suppressed memories that directed my conscious self against my will. David and Michael Hirsh had in actuality entered my mind and directed my actions according to their desires. In many respects I was their puppet.