It’s been a while since I did this so let me explain. A while ago I decided to take one of my own photographs and then ‘prove’ the old adage that every picture tells a thousand words. This is now my sixth attempt at this so maybe I’m getting towards my first book!
So first the picture…and then the story….
There were mixed emotions as I walked towards the house for the first time in two decades. The house had been empty for nearly all that time, the gates were rusted shut and the building looked ready to collapse. I wished it would.
Then I noticed workman there and my heart sank as I longed for the destruction and maybe some relief from the nightmares that had haunted me since I’d lived, and suffered, there. I thought coming back might help and I would help me finally get a proper night’s sleep, free of the haunted dreams that brought back the horrors I had suffered in that house.
I’d hoped it would have gone by now or had maybe been transmogrified beyond recognition but the remaining structure hadn’t changed save for the dilapidation. If I’d had a bulldozer I’d have been through those gates and battering the whole lot to the floor.
I mentioned mixed emotions because I had some wonderful times in that house. After my parents had sadly perished in a car crash it had been my home along with up to twenty other children who found themselves parentless for whatever reason. And we’d had some fun there while we waited to either be adopted or get to an age where we could set out on our own into a world we knew very little about.
It was as idyllic as it could be; until HE came.
We had to study of course and there were rules as to what time lights out was each night but generally we were treated like adults and had plenty of time to play like children should. There was a garden out back where we each had a plot to grow whatever we wanted and there was ample space and hidey-holes to play any number of variations of hide and seek. We all had ‘chores’ to earn our keep but we swapped these on a regular basis so everyone got a turn at the good and the bad ones. It was all pretty fair and we appreciated that and it helped everyone get along with each other. In fact it wasn’t until HE came that I ever saw anyone have even a cross word let alone a punch up.
And then everything changed. Our beloved principal succumbed to the virulent cancer that we hadn’t known had been snapping at her vital organs for years and she was replaced by the very embodiment of Satan. Our lives were about to be battered like the cells in our former principal’s ailing body by the most cancerous and odorous person it has even been my misfortune to meet.
Day one should be a time to introduce yourself, start getting to know those in your care and find out how the place is run. HIS day one started with a new timetable which included chores being allocated in alphabetical order and those chores would be stuck to. If your surname began with an A you would get a better job, if your last name was Zappa you wouldn’t be so lucky and toilet scrubbing would be your permanent role.
Now when someone starts doing something that you don’t agree with you may think it a good idea to state how things had been before and how well it worked. I thought that and was only trying to help when my hand shot in the air and I muttered,
It didn’t take long to work out I had made a grave error but I didn’t expect my life to become hell for trying to help.
HIS eyes glowered as they met mine and I could see he was seething as she shouted with such venom that the whole room gasped,
‘WHAT IS YOUR NAME BOY?’
‘Jeremy’ I replied.
‘Jeremy WHAT?’ he bellowed.
‘Jeremy Adams…..sir….’ I was getting less and less comfortable now.
‘ADAMS!! Then what are you complaining about? Your name is now Zadams and you just volunteered for toilet cleaning duty, unloading the coal truck each week and cleaning out the cess pit.’
I turned and looked at Nigel Yates next to me and, bless him, he looked pretty relieved. And who could blame him?
That was the first and last time that anyone ever suggested anything and probably the last time that anyone put forward an opinion. Until the day HE stopped being the principal.
Before that glorious day I received the cane at least twice a day and even now my hand seems to be smarting from the welts that he’d ingrained there. He was a mean, vicious creature and that was to everyone, the other staff included but no-one dared voice their thoughts. Staff left regularly, some having breakdowns in front of our eyes. To young, impressionable kids this bullying and victimisation would have ripples throughout the rest of our lives.
He saved his truly abject hatred for me and would relish any opportunity to beat or at least berate and belittle me. He didn’t need an excuse or reason; I was just a victim and, by his treatment of me, everyone else was kept in line.
Until his final day; which I remember pretty well. They found his body bloody and battered at the front of the house and traced his fall to the small attic window that elevated from the roof. Quite what he’d been doing up there no-one ever discovered and how he managed to fall was inexplicable.
Unless you were there. Unless you were the one that had called him up there and told him you’d thrown his cane through the window onto the roof so he’d lean out to get it. Unless you were the one that had then pushed him and thrown his cane after him. In that case, maybe it wasn’t so inexplicable after all.
Suicide they’d said; or an accident. No-one knew but me. And maybe now you understand just how many mixed emotions I had upon returning to that house.