Written by Danny
Waking up in empty beds alone
I awoke the next morning just as BJ was trying to descend from the top bunk. Unfortunately, he has a peanut for a brain, so instead of using the ladder at the end of the bunks he chose to use my lower bunk as a step.
Having been jostled awake, I groggily groaned out a question, "What happened last night?"
"Cool! You are awake too!" BJ said with a yawn, "You know what?"
He paused long enough to allow an explicative loose exactly the way an exploding balloon would not, "I decided something last night; I'm going to change your name to..."
His feet hit the floor with a thump as he said, "El'Dorkous Supremeous!"
Not really awake yet, his words didn't make a whole lot of sense. I started to ask him what it meant while trying to move for the first time but I was taken by surprise by the sudden and rather overwhelming pain. So, instead my question came out something like, "WhaaouCH!"
Even to me that sounded very babyish so I quickly tried to cover it up by saying loudly, "What does that mean?" I asked.
BJ was pulling off his pajama bottoms and pulling on his swim suit all the while making a kind of fitful groaning sound when he asked, "Need some help?"
I spoke as I yawned, "Yeah, I think maybe I do."
I quickly discovered that about 80% of my pain was due to the vicious sunburn on my arms, legs, face and neck that I got from being out in the sun so long yesterday. Only about 20% of my pain was actually coming from the gash in my back that I had managed to reopen thanks to that bath spout.
BJ bent over like he was going to help me setup, but instead took hold of my hair and pulled jokingly.
"You do and you'll be singing three octaves higher!" and though it hurt, I thrust my hand out and seized his inner thigh.
"I was only joking!" he said with a yelp and then properly aided me in sitting upright though he too was whimpering nearly as much as I was.
I took a breath to ask him again what "El'Dorkous Supremeous" meant, however I couldn't ask due to gagging from a stench that was emanating from his body.
"Oh my gawd you stink!" I shrieked.
He laughed, slapped my sun burnt forearm, which I will add hurt to a magnitude of ten-bazillion. He then jumped backward out of my reach before he said, "Oh yeah? Well that's like a skunk saying a rose garden stinks!"
He thrust two fingers into his nostrils, which made him sound like he had a head cold when he spoke. "At leath mine ith only from dith junk mom put on our thunburth to help uth heal fathter."
I was launching mental nuclear missiles from my eyes at BJ while attempting to put out the fire on my arm by blowing cool air on it.
"What do you mean only?" I asked absentmindedly.
Once again BJ tittered, "Well I ain't the one that's wearing a diaper filled with pee and poop!"
I looked down to see myself wearing nothing but a big blue disposable diaper and I felt myself bushing as I looked up to see BJ now pinching his nose and trying not to laugh to much.
Before I could say anything or stop him he shouted, "Mom, Simon's awake and needs his poopy diaper changed!"
Had my skin not been burnt and my back so sensitive, I would have flew through the air and smothered his face in diaper gravy. In its place, I had to settle with sitting in a dirty diaper and feeling betrayed.
As it turned out, I had made a significantly foul mess of myself during the night, which wasn't such an unusual thing for me to do. I'd spent so much time aboard the Banachelli wearing diapers day and night that now I have to actually make a continues effort to keep control of my bodily functions. Mom and dad had been helping to try and re-potty train me and though during the day I had seen a slight amount of improvement, at night it was a different story.
After pulling on the back of my diaper to check how extreme the mess was, BJ's mom made me head off to the bathroom to take another bath. Much to my embarrassment, and given the fact that I had managed to hurt myself taking a bath last night, she had insisted on bathing me this time.
Mercifully my little guy seemed to be sleeping through the whole ordeal and I managed to get all the way through the bath without dieing from embarrassment.
After helping me step into a GoodNite and then a pair of cut-off jeans she let me look at my back in the mirror before tapping new gauze over the freshly opened wound.
"It looks worse then it is." She told me while placing the last piece of tape on my back.
She ran a finger over one of my other healing scares, "Hey that tickles!" I announced and pulled away.
"You poor thing!" she said and I turned around to see she was on the brink of crying.
"It's ok, really! It hardly hurt anymore anyway!" I lied, feeling awkward.
"I hope they locked up the man that did that to you." She said and I nearly told her that there was no need, because I had killed him.
However, I managed to say instead, "Can I go have breakfast now?"
She cleared her throat proper, sniffled the way a lady does, smiled through her pity for me and tossed my green t-shirt at me so that it draped right over my head. I didn't try to block or reach for it; instead I just let it fly and then fall where it pleased. I supposed I was trying to be cute; at any rate she stopped being emotional and I was able to avoid another emotional scene.
From the conversation at the breakfast table, I found out that I hadn't been patched up last night by Mrs. or even Mr. Otteranski. My nurse had been none other then yesterdays Centurion of the Sun.
"Wait, he came in?" I asked in disbelief.
BJ pointed toward the side window, which was now covered with several pieces of wood nailed to the window frame. "He heard my mom scream and came through there."
"I'd say she gave him one heck of scare!" Mr. Otteranski laughed revealing a mouthful of eggs and bacon.
With mouth agape I asked, "Where is he now?"
"Where do you think?" BJ said stabbing the air with his finger.
I was still ticked with BJ for this morning and I gave him a cursed expression, which he returned by sticking his tongue out at me. Just as he was taking another bite I gave him a kick under the table. It must have hurt because eggs shot out of his mouth and nose.
"You alright?" his mom asked slapping him on the back, "Did you choke?"
"Oow! Mom!" BJ protested, "I wasn't choking and besides that doesn't help anyway!" he complained further.
I have a feeling that BJ realized he had that coming from me because he didn't rat me out this time and once his parents were sure he was ok the conversation continued as though it hadn't been interrupted.
"We all had a good laugh once everyone figured out it was all just a false alarm." Mr. Otteranski said shoveling in another fork full of eggs.
Mrs. Otteranski began to cluck like a mad hen, "False alarm? The boy..."
I very much dislike it when people talk about me in the third person; especially when I am only a few feet away but she had her feathers rustled and I wasn't going to risk a pecking.
"...was bleeding all over the place." She finished.
Mr. Otteranski belched and nearly spat out his eggs, "Excuse me!" he said while thumped at his chest, "Dear it wasn't all that bad. You make it sound like he was run threw."
"Run threw?" I finally spoke up.
Now I knew darn well what it meant but it was the first time since I had been home that I had heard anyone use those words. To me, those were pirate words.
BJ, who was speaking with his mouth full and wielding his fork like a sword, demonstrated by pretending to stab me in the chest. Catching on I followed his lead, took hold of his fork and fell dead against the back of my chair.
It would have been funny had it not hurt like heck when my back made contact with the spindles of the chair back. For a few pleasant moments I had forgot that my back was so tender and as of last night, freshly wounded.
"Oh fudge me!" I exclaimed, except I had once more used the other `F' word.
BJ thought I was still acting and shook his head, "You idiot! The dead don't speak!"
Without saying a word Mrs. Otteranski turned around from the sink and in her hand she was holding a bottle of Joy dish soap. She didn't say anything; she only looked at me and made the bottle dance back and forth. I got her message loud and clear.
"Sorry!" I said solemnly.
A blob of egg came from out of nowhere and hit me just to the left of my nose.
"Oh sick!" I exclaimed while reaching up to remove it.
I looked in the direction that it had come and Mr. Otteranski was sitting, looking at the ceiling and was failing wretchedly at appearing innocent.
"Honestly dear!" Mrs. Otteranski said giving her husband's ear a playful twist, "Sometimes I think you are worse then your sons."
I spent the rest of my breakfast pondering Mrs. Otteranski plural use of the word `son' and felt very warm inside knowing she meant both BJ and myself.
After breakfast Mrs. Otteranski handed me a plate full of eggs, bacon, toast and hash browns sealed with plastic wrap. It felt heavy enough to feed five men and still have some left over.
"Be a dear and take this up to him." She said patting my head and kissing my cheek. I remember that she smelled like fresh cut flowers and fried bacon.
I smiled up at her, "Thanks" I said and then turned toward the door where I found Mr. Otteranski holding the screen open for me.
"Tell him I said thanks." He said while handing me a thermos full of what I assumed was coffee.
As I left BJ and his parents behind I looked down at the plate full of food and felt myself being sucked backward, sucked back in time, back to the Banachelli...
Back to before I killed Runt...
Before casting Madam-M and the others adrift
Before being made the new Captain of the Banachelli...
Back even before the great storm that Madam-M called Katrina...
Back to before the deaths of Mr. and Mrs. Wriggle...
And back before Madam-M's arrival.
One instant I was standing barefoot on the wooden steps of our vacation home with a belly full to bursting and the very next instant I was standing in oversized shoes, deep within the belly of the Banachelli and covered in human filth.
"Oh my..." Mr. Wriggle held his nose, "You are the foulest smelling..." he didn't finish his thought but instead stepped to one side and beckoned me toward the stairs.
My legs found it more then difficult to obey my brains commands to walk. They were shaking and had they not been so cold I am sure they would have been hurting something awful!
"Can't you go any faster you miserable little shit!" Mr. Wriggle said before sniggering to himself at his own wittiness.
I wanted to say, "Well if you hadn't put me in that disgusting pit in the first place maybe I could walk!" but I was cold, tired and nearly broken.
Had it not been for the other boys sneaking me food and telling me about the leaking water pipe I am sure I would have broken days ago.
I had taken maybe three steps when out of the corner of my eye I saw a hand extend up through the other grate and give me the universal sign for `OK' before disappearing from sight once more.
Not thinking too clearly I stopped and thankfully Mr. Wriggle's hand upside the back of my head stopped me before I had turned and given Segal away. Of course at the time I had no idea that is who was occupying the pit adjacent to my own but before this day would be over I would know the truth about Segal and be on a plane home.
"Oh you little..." the remainder of Mr. Wriggle's words were a string of explicative that I think best to leave out. Suffice it to say that he wasn't happy about getting his precious sausage fingers covered in poo from my hair which seemed to get tangled in his ring.
"What the!" he said just before yanking his hand free along with a sizable chunk of my soiled hair.
My cries of pain were drowned out by his curses and he desperately tried to wipe his hand clean with a blue lace handkerchief.
How'd you find me?
I had no sooner lifted my aching body to an erected state than I was snatched by my neck and hauled like the morning's garbage bag all the way to the back washroom where I was sprayed down with icy water from the hose. Actually, I knew the water was cold, but I didn't much notice it given that my body was already about the same frosty temperature.
Once the fat frog was satisfied that all the filth had been blasted off my body he just dropped the hose and never bothered to offer me a towel to dry myself or even clothes to cover my nudity. I would have even settled of one of the dingy gray/white cloth diapers. He did however take a moment to remove his robe, toss it into the deep basin before washing his hands and arms three times. I remember thinking how out of place his bright green satin pajamas seemed in this grey dingy place.
For no apparent reason I was given a brain-jarring slap across my face before being ordered to, "March your worthless hide to your bed!"
I must not have been moving fast enough because after taking maybe four steps I found myself once again dangling by my neck from Mr. Wriggle's fat fingers.
In the room the flashlights had already been
lit, and the six yawning and eye-rubbing boys,
When I was hurtled into the room and Mr. Wriggle had stormed off expelling curses as he did so, every boy stopped what he was doing to give me a wide, friendly, sleepy grin.
"Whoa it's Ron!"
"Glad y'r back Ron!"
They each said sort of talking over one another but I got the gist of it.
And lastly there was Lowell who walked up to me, gently petted the red mark left on my face by the beast who'd just delivered me, "You alright?" and rapped a blanket around me.
I felt like breaking down and crying at seeing him warm, rested and smiling.
"There ya go Simon!" he said and then caught himself, "Uh, sorry I mean Ron!" and giggled with that award winning laugh of his.
I nodded and noticed all the boys still looking right at me so I said, "G-g-good m-morning!"
The words came out feeling strangely shy and
I crossed the room to my bunk, which
`Odd' would be the word I would use to describe the feeling of being completely nude, nearly froze and yet unashamed while a warmth begin to fill me. Then again, maybe it was just my body beginning to thaw out.
"What happened before? Where did that guy go? Why was he screaming about ghosts?" I asked softly.
While I had been curled up on the floor of the pit, I had almost begun to think I had dreamed the boys' visits; I was still finding it almost impossible to believe. What could have happened to make them treat me so differently? Was it only that I spoke up when I hadn't done anything? That did not seem like much of a reason, but I could think of nothing else. All I hoped was that they were not just setting me up for a fall.
"Ron! Ron! Come on! We'll be late!" Micky called out.
I looked toward the doorway and saw Micky, Peter, Timmy,
I wasn't up for arguing or asking why so I just let the blanket drop to the floor completely unashamed of my near nudity, for I still had the oversized shoes.
When I tried to stand I discovered that
sitting down on the bed turned out to be the wrong thing to do. Even having
"Ya all right, Ron? Sure an' bein' in that flippin' place ain't no picnic. We know!" Micky said placing my right arm around his neck to support some of my weight.
I nodded as I answered, "Y-yes, I-I th-think so. Th-thank you!"
"All right then," Micky said, "But see here Ron, ya gotta ge' down y'r oatmeal. If'n ya don't ya ain't never goin' to last a day. Dat little we done gived ya ain't goin' to do it for ya in da factory, nor any place they put ya to work 'round chere. But 'specially the plastic factory!"
da truest words ever spoke!"
"But they won't give me anything more," I groaned as we walked quickly, "I still have something left in my bowl."
Micky snorted, "I know, I seen. One flippin' lump hard as a murderin' stone by now's my guess. But y'll be findin' `ore in y'r bowl t'day. I..." he paused long either to consider his next words, "I been makin' 'rangements."
"An' he done it if'n he says so," Peter said, bouncing his head in rhythm with his footsteps, "Ya can b'sure on dat!"
Micky gave no sign of even having heard this, "Just see ya eats any dang thin' whatcha get, Ron!" he said.
Micky stopped and had Peter take his place but he continued speaking, "And don'go runnin' nowhere once we been to the facilities. Don'go for y'r oatmeal `til ya seen me first. Ya got dat?"
"Got it!" I replied.
"Right," Micky said poking a finger into the air, "now I gotta have a chat with some'n. Al'ya watch out for `im!"
With that, Micky raced up the stairs, disappearing through the door that led to the hall. I hurried along with Lowell and the other boys, or at least tried to hurry. My legs were stiff, and I was barely able to control them. It was like being tethered to two toddlers both wanting to wander off on their own.
As I climbed the first step, I stumbled and started to catapult forward, taking my two human crutches with me. Like whips, hands darted out from either side of me wrapping my body in many small wiry fingers.
Until we reached the top of the stairs and started through the door, all of the boys' fingers remained tightly gripped against my nude body.
In the hall we joined up with a line of boys all yawning and shivering, with arms wrapped around themselves and dancing about to protect themselves against the early morning chills as they waited their turns. Not a one of them seemed to take notice of the fact that I was naked.
I saw at once that Micky was not in the same line, but he had joined up with another. He was holding a whispered conference with Paul, my washing partner in the kitchen. They appeared to be casting secret glances in my direction, which gave me a sinking feeling in my stomach. After all, it hadn't been very long since I had been an outcast.
What could Micky be saying about me, if indeed I were the subject of the conversation, except to poke fun at me? Besides, I was used to being teased and turned upon. It had happened so often that I almost expected it. So when Micky joined us back in the line, I could only look at him warily.
Then the first thing Micky said was, "Hold out da hand ya eat with, Ron."
To do what with? Grab it and twist it off? Or put a spider in it, a trick the Peter back home might find humorous? I did not put out my hand, or even move for that matter.
"Come on," said Micky impatiently, "Sure an' I ain't goin' to bite ya."
I looked around and saw
all the boys grinning, including
Boldly, or so I hoped it appeared, I stuck out my hand. Micky then immediately pulled from his pants pocket a small, brown-paper packet, opened it, and poured the contents into my outstretched hand.
It looked like ... it felt like ... could it be? "S-s-sugar?" I stammered quietly, "Is it sugar?"
Micky grinned, "Ain't nothin' else."
"Bet ya thought it'd be a bug `r sup'n!" Peter giggled and widdled his fingers like a spider, while those around us just grinned knowingly.
"But ya ain't to go eatin' it, not now anyways," Micky said getting serious again, "Wot ya got t'do is curl y'r fingers 'round it like such." He demonstrated by making his hand into a fist
I did as told, "Like that?"
Micky nodded. "Now ya keep y'r fingers like that `til Cho gives ya y'r oatmeal. Then, 'fore ya pick up y'r cup, ya pass y'r hand over the oatmeal, open up y'r fingers just 'nough to let go'a da sugar. It ain't much, but 'nough to help ya get started on gettin' the stuff down."
"Oh, thank you!" I said nodding my head in an understanding fashion, "But won't they see what I'm doing? What if they catch me?"
"Ya'll do it," Micky said matter-of-factly, "We all done it one time or 'nother. They didn't catch none o' us!'
"Nope! No'a one!" said Peter proudly.
"But what if Cho doesn't give me any fresh oatmeal?" I continued questioning.
"She will!" said Micky, his face expressionless. "I made 'rangements." And Micky had indeed, for when I held out my hand for the bowl, it was filled with hot, fresh oatmeal. How Micky had managed the "'rangement" with Cho, I had no idea. However, now was not the time to think about it.
I could hear mumbles coming from the direction of the Wriggles table and though I was nearly certain it was due to the lack of clothing on my personage but my imagination was having a field day and was scaring the life out of me.
My heart was lodged in my throat and I knew that I had to give every bit of attention to keeping myself from trembling dangerously as I took the bowl with just one hand, while I passed my other hand over it, letting the sugar fall into the oatmeal.
"Did he finish the other?" the sharp voice of Mrs. Wriggle cut through the room.
The bowl shook violently in my hand. Bowl, oatmeal, and sugar almost went crashing to the floor. From behind me could be heard the collective sucking in of six breathes.
"A-a-appeared that he did, Mrs. Wriggle," said Cho, who mercifully stood just far enough away from them so they could not witness her face turning as pale as the oatmeal.
"Hmmmmph!" sniffed Mrs. Wriggle, narrowing her eyes and turning to Mr. Wriggle with tightened lips to obtain a second opinion.
"Get to your seat then!" snarled Mr. Wriggle after a few moments spent in deciding, no doubt, if it was worth his trouble to go digging into a bowl of sticky oatmeal to see if a hard lump still remained from a previous meal. Thankfully he decided to content himself with merely glaring at me as I shakily made my way to my place at the table.
There was no doubt that the sugar helped me get the oatmeal down, and even though not three days earlier it was something I would have turned my nose up to in disgust. Something else, however, helped get down the oatmeal as well. That was an under-the-table dig in the ribs made by Micky's elbow. Though the expression on Micky's face never changed as he spooned into his own oatmeal, I knew what the dig in my ribs meant. It was Micky saying, "There, told ya so. Sure an' didn't I know ya could do it?" And this all happened right before Nihau and Rubella Wriggle watchful eyes!
There was no question about the benefits of a stomach full of hot oatmeal, no matter what the quality, over one so empty that, excepting the earlier presence of a few trifle bits of smuggled food, it was shrunk almost to my backbone. Now, if only the oatmeal proved enough to help keep me going at the plastic factory.
Any hopes I had in that direction, however, soon evaporated when I walked through the factory door and was struck by the noise, the fumes, and murdering heat pouring out from the furnaces. Even with food now in my stomach and knowing I had friends at the Banachelli Home for Boys, how many days could I survive in such a hellish place? By early afternoon, I was sure that I wouldn't last even that one-day.
As I made my way to the cooling oven, my throat parched and my eyes burning, precariously balancing a shovel full of hot plastic that had spilled to the floor, I felt my legs wobbling frighteningly under me. I knew I was not keeping up the pace expected of us boys and felt certain that as I passed Harpo, that I was being narrowly watched. Then suddenly, without warning, I felt myself lurching forward. There was no way to stop myself, and I knew I was going to fall into one of the cooling ovens or perhaps worse, up against one of the searing hot furnaces.
As it turned out, neither of those things happened. For just as had happened earlier that day, a set of wiry fingers clamped themselves like manacles around me, pulling me back upright again. The fingers belonged to Paul, the boy from the kitchen.
"Hey, what do you think you're doin'?" Harpo snarled as he caught Paul straightening my shirt. Thankfully, Cho had been ordered to find me some clothes just before the lot of us were marched off to the factory this morning.
"He was 'bout ta fallin' an...' Paul began quickly but was cut short.
"Well, never you mind!" snapped Harpo. "Anyone 'round this place makes mistakes, they got to pay for 'em. Only way lessons get learned. What he does ain't none o' your business." He poked Paul hard, "You got that, boy?"
Paul bit his lip so hard it turned white. "Yes sir, Mr. Harpo!" he whimpered with his eyes fastened tightly on Harpo's boots.
"All right then, don't you go forgittin' it. Now both o' you git back to work!" With a last ugly look over his shoulder, Harpo stomped off.
"Th-th-anks," I said under my breath to Paul.
"Weren't nothin'," Paul muttered, adding in an self-conscious manner, "Micky said I should look out for ya." He turned on his heels to leave, but hesitated before turning back again.
Looking nervously over his shoulder in Harpo's direction he said, "But keep ya eye out for y'r own back." He made a rude gesture toward Harpo then broke into a trot and dash off without looking back again.
"Keep ya eye out for y'r own back?" I mumbled to myself, "For what? Or who?"
I gave my pants a heave upward for they were about three sizes too large and then got back to work.
Pull me from the storm
As we were dragging our tired selves out of the plastic factory I heard someone cursing from back inside, "And as far as I am concerned you are already gone!"
I'm not sure why I stopped and turned; maybe I thought that they were speaking to me. When I turned and looked back through the door I saw Harpo's fist colliding with Paul's face and the resulting spray of blood that seemed to hang in the air like little glinting droplets of liquid fire.
"Hey! Leave him alone!" I screamed and started running back toward the furnaces as fast as my legs would carry me, which wasn't very fast at all. By the time I reached Paul, he was already dead.
Harpo stood over Paul's motionless body and it wasn't until I looked up at Harpo and saw the look of alarm on his face that I realized I wasn't the only one that had tried to come to Paul's aid.
I turned my head to the side and witnessed every boy that had been in the factory that day standing behind me. Their attentions seemed to be equally divided between Paul's bloody body and Harpo.
With diminished power behind his words Harpo tried to regain control and authority. "I'm gonna give you worthless bed pissers just two seconds!"
A trickle of urine began to run down the inside of my left leg as he stepped over Paul and was within reach of me. "Or maybe yah want to end up like `im?"
Off to our right came the most terrifyingly demonic sound. It was as if Hell had just opened up and something feral and enraged had emerged; I knew what it was immediately.
The sound was so loud that Harpo jumped backward tripping over Paul's body and fell on his butt with a bone jarring thud. A streak of fur shot out from the shadows and launched itself at Harpo. He screamed in agony as Vera sank her claws into his back as he was attempting to get up.
Vera seemed to move so fast that Harpo couldn't stop her from ripping through his shirt and slicing open his arms, back, neck and face. And as quickly as she had appeared, she vanished again, leaving Harpo gasping in pain and looking around frantically for her.
His eyes landing on me but they didn't seem human; they were cold and dark like sharks eyes. Harpo put a hand on the floor to steady himself as he attempted to stand again. Without breaking eye contact with me he lifted his body back to an erect posture and his lips began to curve up in a deadly smile.
Behind Harpo I saw Vera crouching, preparing to pounce again. I remember considering how mangy and unfavorable she seemed in that split second before she once again attacked.
Harpo howled with pain as Vera tore at his calf muscle. Loosing his balance he staggered backward, fell against one of the furnaces and collapsed to the ground leaving much of his flesh sizzling and smoking on the side of the furnace.
When it was apparent that Harpo wasn't getting up again one of the boys, whom I didn't know, stepped past me and walked up to Harpo who was face down, motionless on the floor. The boy looked at Paul's blood covered face and then spat on the back of Harpo's head.
I watched as each boy did the same and when the last boy had spat I turned and started for the door with only one thought in my head, `Go get Lowell and get out of here'!
As the Banachelli came into view it became apparent that something was not right. Every window was brightly lit up and there seemed to be some kind of disturbance occurring inside.
The main door swung opened and the light from inside escaped past the recognizable form of Mr. Wriggle standing in the doorway eclipsing much of the light. My feet slowed and then stopped all together. The lack of forward momentum caused an argument to ensue between my brain and my feet.
Looking down at my feet my brain asked impatiently, `Why did you stop?'
`Sorry we're not going another step!' my feet replied.
Rather perplexed my brain said, `What? Well you have to!'
`Nope, it's no use! We've decided, not going to move, no way, no how!' my feet said resolutely.
`But, but I am the Brain! You have to listen to me!'
My toes curled within my shoes, `It's no use trying too tell us what to do. We are through listening to you!'
"What's he doing?" someone whispered behind me.
"Shhhh! He's thinking!" someone else answered.
A hand came to rest on my right shoulder but I didn't look to see who it belonged too.
"I can't go in there." I said speaking more to myself then anyone else.
"Then let's get out a here b'fore he comes after us," the voice beside me offered.
"Can't!" I answered.
We were far enough away still that we could have took off, and I am fairly sure that is what my feet were planning.
"What's that ol' fat toad doin?" someone half shouted.
"Looks like he's dancin' now don-it?" Someone observed.
It was truly a befuddling sight to witness Mr. Wriggle's silhouetted form twirling about. Something like that was just so unexpected, so unbelievable that I questioned whether I was actually awake or if I was sleeping and dreaming this ridiculous spectacle.
There was a large flash of orange light from above Mr. Wriggle and we had just enough time to wonder what had caused it before we heard the loud crack of a gun being fired into the air.
Everyone scattered in all directions except toward Mr. Wriggle. That is everyone, except for myself and the one that was standing beside me with his hand still resting on my shoulder.
"Stark raving mad that one!" the boy said and I glanced over and seen that it was the same boy that had given Micky the little brown bag of sugar.
He smiled at me and I smiled back.
"Poppy," he said.
"W-what?" I asked.
He repeated it with more gusto, "Poppy!"
I didn't know if he was suddenly speaking another language or what.
"W-what's th-that m-mean?" I asked a bit rudely.
"Don't mean nut'n; it's my name." He said really grinning now.
"Oh, uh... O-OK sure, P-p-poppy." I acknowledged.
"They call you Ron right?" he asked.
I looked down at my shoes hoping that my feet might give up their strike and get back to work. That's when I noticed that the front of my pants were soaked. I looked over at Poppy's pants and they too were wet, and much more so then my own. When I lifted my eyes back up to his I saw that he wasn't looking at me. He was looking toward the Banachelli.
"Where'd he go?" Poppy asked.
Mr. Wriggle was no longer standing in the doorway but the door was still open and the light was still spilling out.
"Simon" I said into the evening air.
"That y'r real name?" Poppy asked as he gave my shoulder a squeeze.
I took in a deep breath and as I let it out I said, "It's my only name!" and I took off running for the open door with determination fueling a growing fire within me.
Several of the other boys had once again taken to following me, but not all. I would guess that more then half of the boys had taken the opportunity to get away and I couldn't blame them.
To them I am sure that my strides looked less like a runner and more like a lame mutant struggling against ever increasing gravity.
With approximately twenty-five feet before I reached the open door my right leg bucked under the strain and my knee hit the hard pavement leaving a streak of skin and blood. Someone must have been right on my heals because when I stumbled I felt someone kick the sole of my left shoe. An instant later their body crumpled on top of me.
"Aaaah, get off!" I cried out!
My cry was followed by a loud popping sound and someone screamed, "He's shooting at us!"
"No look at his arm!" one of the boys shouted.
Despite the plastic armor that encased my upper torso it felt as though I was having every molecule of air forced from my lungs.
When you can't breath seconds seem like minutes and minutes seem like eternity. In reality Poppy was only laying on top of me for a couple of seconds before he slid off me and onto his back.
Air rushed back in and I pushed myself up so that I was kneeling on my undamaged knee. I noticed Poppy's elbow was bent in the wrong direction.
I was about to scream for help when someone took hold of my ear and pulled me to my feet; it was Mr. Wriggle.
"Gotcha you lithle sheet!" he spit as he spoke.
He was drunk and the front of his clothes were covered in vomit.
Clutching my ear he pulled me close so that our noses were touching and he belched in my face. How I managed to keep from blowing chucks is beyond me.
"Listen here you lithle sheet!" he spat.
"Did ya just call `im a sheet?" one of the boys asked.
The question surprised us both. Mr. Wriggle attempted to refocus his vision, "What?"
The same boy chuckled, "Ya just called `im a sheet!"
Mr. Wriggle looked at me, then the boy, then back to me again, "You, you, you know what? I think he's right!" he said exploding with laugher.
"He's stinking drunk!" another boy remarked.
Releasing my ear and taking hold of the back of my head he put his mouth against my ear, "You got some very intel... intele... uh... smart friends," and proceeded to vomit down my neck and back before passing out.
Thinking fast one of the boys had taken hold of my arm and pulled me to one side just as Mr. Wriggle fell face down on the pavement with a squish.
"Thanks for that!" I said to the boy who was still holding my arm.
He grinned and gave me a salute, "Anytime!"
I was shocked to find Poppy standing up and looking almost normal, well as normal as a Banachelli boy could look anyway. His arm was hanging limply to his side and his face was white as a new baby diaper.
It was hard not push the aromatic bouquet of liquored and vomit out of my mind as I asked, "You alright Poppy?"
With glassy eyes he looked up, shook his head softly and said, "Think I broke my arm."
The boy who had saved me from being flattened like a pancake asked, "Do it hurt?"
Poppy looked down at his arm and screwed up his face like he was thinking really hard, "Kind a tingly."
From behind us there was a crash that drew our attention away from Mr. Wriggle and the continuing commotion inside the Banachelli. There was another crash, and another; like glass being smashed.
From a rust colored brick building a girl came running out wearing a stain covered pink nightgown. At first she looked like she might only be six or seven years old as she ran towards us crying and looking terrified. When she got close enough I realized that I had seen her before. She was the same girl I had come to the aid of when to bullies were trying to take her broom from her.
Feel the fire
sully waters of the Ohio River flow steadily, snaking, bending and
at times ostensibly turning back on itself as it proceeds on its quest to pair off
with the mighty Mississippi River at the junction of three states, Kentucky,
Illinois and Missouri. The combined waters continue to flow south past
few miles above the Gulf of Mexico the
flow of the
the island has no name, however, the folks that live in those parts refer to it
as The Dragon Nursery or Dragon Island due to the fact that is a
nesting ground for a winged creature once believed to be extinct. No it's not a
fire-breathing reptile, but during the spring and early summer months it rules
the skies for a hundred of miles in all directions. If you ever see just one or
two you'll find yourself in awe of it but if you were to ever see them in mass
you might as well lay down because you'll be dead soon enough. It is a species
of Dragon Fly that is only found living near the mouth of the
are no bridges to cross from the main land to
before my arrival in
It is at this point that recorded history ends and local legends begin. Some believe that the captain and crew died of fever; others say they died at the hands of the local Indians and still others believe that the current residence of Venice, Louisiana are descendant of the original crew who had taken native brides and settled the land. Aside from myself and a few close trusted friends, no one actually knows the true fate of the Banachelli crew except for one family whose origins go back to Captain Benjamin Mecums.
After abandoning his ship, he married a young native girl and settled down on what is now known as The Dragon Nursery.
entire island has been in the Mecums family ever since. Though the history
books don't mention it, Benjamin Mecums was one of the few black men to ever
own black slaves. He became a cotton farmer, and used it to produce what was
soon known as the finest cotton diapers to come out of the
thirty years he grew cotton until he died of smallpox in 1905. By then an
entire band of Mecums populated the island, and were quite adept at growing and
producing cloth diapers. The Mecums were renowned for their diapers, though
notoriety was not something they required, nor wanted for themselves. They were
cagey and secluded, immensely secretive and intensely devoted to keeping others
from intruding into their little part of the world and disrupting their
livelihood. Throughout the generation they continued to present themselves as
simple cotton farms, and it was well known that they produced cotton and were
prosperous. The Mecums Cloth Diaper Company was very noticeable on the mainland
just across the
to the invention of disposable diapers by Marion Donovan in 1950, Mecums Cotton
Diapers could not be produced fast enough. They were shipped up the
it could never be proved, it was widely believe that anyone with any amount of
power within the region had been bought, bribed or blackmailed by the Mecums.
Anyone that ever tried to stand against the Mecums generally turned up missing
or had an over-night change of heart. For
the better part of the fifth and sixth decade of the nineteenth century, the
Mecums ran southern
Toward the latter part of the 1960's the demand for cotton diapers was on a steady decline as disposable diapers were gaining notoriety. Since generations of Mecums had been raised and taught to deal outside the law, they began to branch out into other lines of business. Before long many of the Mecums began to move away from their island and migrate farther and farther north opening a full range of shops and businesses and though a few actually ran honest, reputable businesses, most continued their shadowy dealing even into the twenty-first century.
In the spring of 1961 a young Mecums boy
graduated high school and the next day was one of the first to leave
Make the heartache disappear
As the girl reached me, she fell on my neck sobbing and pleading for someone to help her little brother Quade. At first it was difficult to understand what she was saying but then there was a momentary flare-up of light from inside and through one of the windows the upper half of a small boy could be seen with his hands held out in front of him as though he were attempting to shield himself.
At once I understood what she was pleading for and though I had no idea what to do, I knew something had to be done.
Pushing her off my neck I looked into her eyes and said, "Stay here!"
I then turned to the boy who had pulled me out of the way of Mr. Wriggle falling and asked, "Can you help Poppy?"
He gave me a left-handed salute, "Y-got it!"
I then pointed to three boys that were standing shoulder-to-shoulder and was about to speak when from inside came the ghastly scream of a child. Everything inside went deathly still.
With my heart racing within my plastic imprisoned chest I found myself already moving toward the door when I heard one of the boys say, "Let's go!" and stormed in behind me.
Inside we found ourselves enveloped in a world of pure fantasy. Everywhere we looked there were stuffed animals, vibrantly painted furniture, and toys, toys, toys! It couldn't be real; it just couldn't be, not this part of the world, not in this neighborhood. Every wall was painted with a different nursery rhyme mural. The floor was tiled with a mosaic of colored tiles about one inch square that made it seem as we were standing at the edge of a storybook countryside scene.
The staircase was covered in blue and white tiles, which created the illusion of water trickling down each step, then flowing across the floor and vanishing down a darkened hallway. The rest of the floor had bright green tiles with the occasional red, blue and yellow tile imitating a grassy meadow where wild flowers grew.
One of the other boys that had accompanied me into this odd place remarked in a still small voice, "Smells like baby-powder and bubblegum in here."
I took a whiff of the air; my nostrils quivered and my mouth went dry. It was difficult to image that something bad could ever happen in such a fanciful, child friendly place.
Moving cautiously we quickly discovered broken glass and china was strewn everywhere and the floor crunched beneath our feet as we moved toward the room where the whimpers of a child seemed to be emanating from.
One of the boys whispered, "Boy it sure is quiet in here!"
And another added, "Yeah, three quiet!"
Upon hearing that, I stop and turned to ask him what he meant but noticed that, despite telling her not too, the girl had come in with us.
She gave me an embarrassed half-smile which I reciprocated as it struck me that none of these surroundings seemed unusual to her.
As I turned back around and walked several paces forward I was abruptly stopped dead in my tracks. Slouching in a blue upholstered rocking chair was a diminutive dark skinned man. He was drinking what looked to be beer from a glass baby-bottle and watching reruns of the TV game show, Family Feud; I couldn't help but find that ironic given the current situation.
He was wearing a dingy-white, beer, blood, food and vomit stained undershirt and aside from a single, laceless brown dress shoe, he had no other clothes on. Over one of his hairy legs was draped a leather belt. It took several seconds before he noticed us but when he did he eyed us as though he couldn't decide if we were real or figments of his inebriated imagination. He must have reasoned that we weren't one of his drunken hallucinations because he asked, "What the hell are you little pissers doing in my house?"
Any bravery we'd had felt while still outside was lost now as we stood trying to reject the desires of our feet to flea. The girl, who was staying directly behind me, was clutching the back of my shirt fearfully and breathing in such a manor as to cause the hairs on the back of my neck to quiver.
The man rose slowly and I realized he wasn't as short as he had first appeared while slouching. His beer gut hung below his shirt and covered much of his pubic hair however his man sized genitals seemed to hang nearly half way to his knees.
"Y'all those little shits from that orphanage ain't ya?" he bellowed while pointing at us with the belt in one hand and with his other hand he cradled his baby bottle of beer to his chest like he was hugging a teddy bear. He saw the girl behind me and his eyes turned red with anger.
She spoke, "Daddy please?"
Despite my fear I couldn't help but wonder how a Caucasian girl like herself came to have a black man as her father. I never did find out the answer to that question.
Over to my right there was a rustling sound. I looked and saw a caramel colored boy with dirty-blond curls on his head. He appeared to be maybe five or six years of age and was curled up in a ball behind a grandfather clock that was painted bright-yellow and the glass that covered the face of the clock had been smashed.
The boys' dark eyes met mine and I motioned for him to come to me. He shifted slightly but the man snarled, "I told you not to move!"
The boy froze as tears flowed like a torrent down his cheeks, onto his knees and down his bare shins.
The man took a step toward us but stopped as something caught his attention at the window. His eyes bulged as he took several steps backward, scanning from window to window and seeing the faces of dozens of boys peering in. When I saw their enraged faces pressed against the glass I knew that Poppy and the others had brought reinforcements.
The man's voice quivered as he spoke, "What's going on here?" I noticed his accent was notably northern.
I looked back to the boy who'd now buried his face behind his folded arms; I spoke softly, "Q-quade, c-c-come on."
The boy looked up but didn't move. One of the three boys standing behind me supplemented my beckoning with, "It's ok; he ain't gonna `urt ya no more."
Behind me the girl was pulling harder then ever on my shirt. I knew that by clutching my shirt the way she was, it helped her to keep from loosing her battle with fear but the front collar was beginning to choke me somewhat.
The man took another step away from the windows, "Look here, I-I don't want any trouble!"
"Q-q-q-quade's c-coming w-w-with us!" I said and I knew with my stuttering it didn't sound very intimidating at all.
Two of the boys that came in with me moved to the side and helped Quade to his feet.
The man seemed to be getting over his initial fright at seeing all of us but gambling that he'd back down again I thumped my plastic chest armor and through clinched teeth I said, "T-t-try s-someth-th-thing, p-p-pplease! I-I'm b-b-begging you!"
The boy outside the windows began to pound their chests repeatedly and the man took several more steps away until he was against the far wall.
Along with Quade, his sister and my three Banachelli brothers we slowly backed out of the room and made our escape. Standing just outside the door we found ourselves surrounded by the swarm of Banachelli boys all looking at us in amazement.
I quietly asked the girl, "Have you and your brother got somewhere to stay?"
"Gammas! Gammas!" Quade answered for her and I took it as meaning Grandma's.
I looked at Quade and for the first time I realized he was wearing a clear plastic pants over a cloth diaper that was so thick that it made him stand like he was astride an invisible Shetland pony. When he walked he resembled a penguin wearing a curly wig. In the moonlight I could see he was biracial and had the same facial features as his sister.
For a fleeting moment I was nearly able to put voice to my puzzlement but the question of their family ties was ejected from my forethoughts and my anger with his father reignited when I saw the red welts across his chest, neck, face and shoulders left by the leather belt. Even with his caramel colored skin it was apparent that by morning he'd be sporting raccoon bruises around both of his already swollen eyes.
A part of me wanted to go back in and strangle the man with that belt. However, it was evident by the way all of the Banachelli boys were gaping at us that they were expecting something to be said. I looked at Quade and his sister and announced, "They're going to go stay with their grandma across town." The crowd erupted with cheers and whistles of triumph!
After seeing Quade and his sitter off I turned to the three boys that had gone in with me and was finally able to ask, "Three quiet? What was that supposed to mean?"
The boy that had said it shrugged and smiled, "It's one more then too quiet"
The other two boys started laughing and I slapped my hand to my forehead in disgust, "Oh brother, I just had to ask!"
"WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING?!" Mrs. Wriggle's voice detonated over the crowd.
Every last one of us turned to find her standing like a Harpy on a bad day; beside her stood the broken nosed, bleeding and still intoxicated Mr. Wriggle. He was holding a thick bloodstained cloth diaper to his face and was looking to his wife as though he was the one she just yelled at.
Behind the two of them stood eight men enveloped in shadow making they appear even more ominous. Where they came from and who they were remains a mystery to this day.
Sure there were ten of them and yes they were much bigger then any of us but there were a lot more of us then there were of them. Maybe I was still hopped up on the adrenaline from rescuing Quade from his abusive father because I was sure we could take them down.
I yelled as loud as I could, "Everyone get them!" and charged forward.
As I sat at the base of the ladder within the Banachelli's bowels and tried not to allow the stench to overwhelm me one again, I couldn't help but wonder what had happened to the comradely and bravery the boys had all displayed in aiding in the rescue of Quade from his abusive father. As I had charged the Wriggles and the eight men none of the other boys followed me and thus I was stopped by a single blow across the back of my head. I awoke an unknown amount of time later sitting at the bottom of the pit where this time I was left to rot with no clothes, no shoes, no food, no light, and no hope of release.
Whether I kept falling asleep or going unconscious from the screaming pain at the back of my head, I did not know and until I was rescued, I had no idea that I had been locked in the pit for over a week.
Like someone calling from deep within a cave I heard my name echoing faintly within my head.
Several bits of dirt fell on me and I heard the metal grate overhead squeak and thought I must be dreaming.
"Come on Simon! Wake up!" someone whispered.
I think my eyes opened but it was so dark I couldn't tell for sure.
Another voice spoke sounding much closer, "It's alright, I got you! We're going to get you out of here!" The voice was deeper and sounded vaguely familiar.
Every nerve ending in my practically frozen body screamed with pain as I felt someone lifting me. I must have blacked-out after that because I don't remember anything until I tried to opened my eyes again and saw daylight and heard the peculiar droning sound of an engine.
The very first thing I saw was a single white billowy cloud that peacefully glided across a brilliant blue sky. I don't think I was fully awake yet as I watched the cloud until my attention was drawn toward the various greens of the southern landscape below. It was then that I became aware that I was in, what I imagine anyone on the ground that looked up might classify as a bush-plane. The mechanical purrs of the engine saturated and consumed all coherent thoughts.
I tried to move but my left arm was pinned. I
looked and saw
My eyes moved away from
I was staring at the gaping hole that used to be occupied by his right eyeball and realized that was why he had not seen me stirring.
"Hey," I called but the engine overpowered my voice.
I shouted "HEY!" and
"Hey Kido," Segal sounded as bad as he looked, "You missed all the fun." He tried to smile but flinched at the stabbing pain.
I started to weep as the emotions began to flood in.
"Hey-hey-hey, there's no need for that now." He fumbled to find my bare knee and squeeze it. "We're safe now and you'll be home before you know it."
When he withdrew his hand a bloody handprint
remained on my leg. Up until that very second I had not completely believed
that he was one of the good-guys and was never one of the men that had abducted
me. I have since learned that prior to my abduction, he had been working
undercover to protect my family and me. He too had been captured that same
night in the cave beneath the old barn in the sports park back in
I had never flown in a single-engine plane before and to be sitting in the copilot's seat with all the controls right there in front of us, all the instruments in our face as the plane clawed for altitude, jerking and sliding on the wind currents as Segal kept the nose of the plane pointed toward the horizon, had been interesting, exciting and scary all at the same time.
The steady droning purr of the engine was interrupted by a sputtering sound. Segal reached out and flipped a switch and the engine became steady again. I surveyed the instrument panel and deduced that we were flying at six thousand feet and headed northeast. The drone and the sea of green trees and rolling farmlands, speckled with lakes, swamps and itinerant rivers.
That is when the thinking started; of Jamie,
my brother who for all I knew was dead or lost; of Bull, Tate and his little
brother Mikey who was my friend too; of all those
boys we had left behind and whether they will still be there when we finally
tell the police were they are being held and forced to work. My thoughts then
turned to my mom and dad who by now are beginning to believe that I really am
dead. I wonder if
I felt my eyes beginning to burn and knew there would be more tears. I had cried a lot in recent days, but that was gone now. I didn't cry now. Instead my eyes burned and tears came, the seeping tears that burned, but I still didn't cry. I wiped my eyes with a single finger and looked out of the corner of my eye, first at Lowell who was trying to be in the fetal posision but couldn't quite manage it with me in the seat with him; next I looked to Segal, our pilot to make sure he hadn't noticed the burning and the tears.
Segal sat large, his swollen hand resting against his chest and his other hand holding lightly to the yoke. My eyes followed down to his legs and feet, which were covered in human waste while resting upon the rudder pedals. He seemed more a broken machine than a man; it was as though he were an extension of the plane.
On the dashboard in front of him gleamed drops of blood from where he had coughed violently onto the dials, switches, meters, knobs, levers, cranks, lights and handles that were wiggling and flickering, all indicating nothing that I understood and glancing up at Segal once again I realized I didn't understand him anymore then I did the plane.
He turned his head so that he could see me; he seemed to brighten up a bit and smiled reviling his broken, blood covered teeth in the process. "You ever fly in the copilot's seat before?" he asked as he leaned over and shouted to overcome the sound of the engine.
I shook my head. I had never seen the cockpit of a plane except in films or on television unless you count the time mom and dad had taken my brother Jamie and I to an Air Show and we got to walk through an old B52 bomber and for a brief moment I had got to look into the cockpit but it didn't even look remotely like this plane; it was loud and confusing.
Segal leaned over again, "First time huh?"
He smiled again before continuing, "It's not as complicated as it looks. Good plane like this almost flies itself." Segal shrugged.
"Good plane?" I thought as I peered out the side window at the gray duct-tape that was wrapped around the wing and flapping in the wind.
"Makes my job easy." He said as he reached over and took my left arm. "Here, put your hands on the controls, your feet on the rudder pedals, and I'll show you what I mean."
I looked down at the pedals and then back to Segal, "I better not." I said barely loud enough to hear myself but he must have read my lips because he smiled again.
"Sure you can do it! Just try it and..." he had said something at the end but I had not heard it over the roar of the engine.
With a quick glance at Lowell who was still sleeping, I nodded, scooted my diaper butt, which I momentarily wondered about since the last I remembered I had been naked. Anyway, I scooted to the very edge of the seat so that my bare feet were now resting on the rudder pedals while I reached out and took the wheel in a grip so tight that my knuckles were white. I pushed my toes down on the pedals and the plane slid suddenly to the right.
"Not so hard. Take her light, take her light!" Segal shouted so I could hear him.
I eased off the pedals and noticed that
"See?" Segal let go of his wheel, raised his one hand into the air and took his feet off the pedals to show that I was actually flying the plane myself.
"Simple! Now, turn the wheel a little to the right and push on the right rudder pedal a small amount."
I glanced at Lowell who was now sitting up and biting his bottom lip. I did as instructed and the plane immediately banked to the right, and when I pressed on the right rudder pedal the nose slide across the horizon to the right. I left off on the pressure; straightened the wheel and the plain righted itself.
"There you go! Now you can turn. Bring her back to the left a little."
I turned the wheel left while I pushed on the left pedal with my toes, and the plane came back around.
"It's easy!" I shouted into
Segal smiled large though I could tell that just behind the smile was a whole lot of pain, "All of flying is easy. Just takes practice and learning. Like everything else in life."
Just before taking the controls back, he reached up across himself to rub his left temple. "Aches and Pains—must be getting old." And started to laugh which got him to coughing as blood once again sprayed from his mouth.
Leaning back into his seat and took control
He had noticed the same thing I had noticed,
that Segal had once again merged with the machine and