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Please read “About this project and the Author” for more information on my project. In this excerpt, Daryl describes his first night with his new family…

“Welcome back to our show and to tonight’s story. Before the break, I told you I was taken away from the safety of the orphanage by a family who brought me to their home. They are a young couple in their late twenties or early thirties and have a son who can’t be more than two years older than me. I no longer remember their first names or what I used to called them so for the purpose of our story, let’s call them Mr. D, Mrs D and Little D. What I can remember is the nickname Little D gave me pretty much from the get go: “Bastard”. It would tempting to dismiss it as kids just being kids. However, when you consider the whole picture, with at the center of it his parents and their character, I’m sure that little man knows exactly what he is doing and I have a pretty good idea who taught him that word. The son is the spitting image of his father which, put mildly, is nature’s sweetest revenge for what they are about to do to me.

I get a taste of what my life has now become on the very first night I sit down for dinner with my new family. After a quick survey at everyone’s plate around the table I can see that steaks are on the menu. But when I look at the plate set in front of me, I see a large and dark brown sausage, the kind I have never seen before. Curious, I ask what it is and when they tell me it is “blood sausage”, I look at it in disgust and say out loud I can’t possibly eat blood. Without saying a word, Mr D stands up and casually walks behind me. To my relief, I am convinced he is coming to take the blood sausage away and replace it with steak. Instead, he grabs the hair at the back of my head and smashes my face in my plate, splitting open the skin under my chin and breaking the plate in half. This was so unexpected, I didn’t have time to react and hold myself back a little which could have diminished the violence of the impact. Mr D walks back to his seat as casually as he travelled to mine and resumes eating his meal as if nothing has happened. Mrs D doesn’t skip a bite of her steak and Little D, well, Little D is quite amused.

As for me, I am frozen in shock not only from the violence of what Mr D has just done or from the pain, but also from the overwhelming fear I can sense tightly wrapping itself around me. The shock and the fear are so great, I don’t even have the reflex to cry. I remain still, dripping blood over the broken plate for a few seconds and with pure instincts, I begin eating what only a few seconds ago repulsed me. The taste and the pain I feel when I open my mouth make me gag at every bite but I force myself to eat just enough of it for Mr D to leave me alone. It works. For now.

That same night, just a few hours after dinner, while Little D is enjoying a warm bubble bath, I am told to wash myself in the kitchen sink. When Mrs D tells me to take my clothes off, I briefly look at her and as I am about to object, I have a flash of what happened earlier at dinner and proceed to begin removing my clothes, even though I am absolutely mortified to undress in front of a complete stranger.

At Ville Joie, we never stripped naked in front of the others. There was an unspoken rule about keeping a certain decorum, as well as an emphasis on the respect of everybody’s personal space which, in retrospect and given the environment, was a pretty good idea.

So I reluctantly do as I am told and remove all of my clothes in front of Mrs D, feeling humiliated. She puts a chair near the kitchen counter for me to climb on and then get on the counter itself. My chin is hurting and swollen from earlier and I sit naked on a towel laid on the counter with my feet in the sink. I wash myself, doing the very best I can to avoid doing or saying anything that would upset anyone and once I am done, Mrs D who has hardly said a word to me ever since we left the orphanage except to ask me to get naked, hands me a towel and watches me get off the counter and get back on the ground. I am wet, dripping on the kitchen floor and since I am afraid this will get me in trouble, I begin wiping my feet with the towel. While I am bending down to do so, Mrs D slaps me behind the head and calls me a little moron for using the towel to dry my feet before using it to dry my face. I fall, one knee to the ground from the force and the surprise of the hit and stay still, waiting for a second slap to come. It doesn’t. This, I will soon figure out, is their pattern; they will hit me hard but not necessarily repeatedly.

I rise back up, more out of resignation than pride, and dry myself as fast as I can just so I can put on my pajamas and I go to bed with my ears ringing from the two blows to the head I received in the last few hours.

I think of Ville Joie and how much I miss Allan already. Getting ready for bed in Happy Town sure was a lot of fun. We would have a little snack, head for the showers, brush our teeth and laugh as we stood around the water fountain. Then it was off to bed to be tucked in by the educators. After lights out, with our beds side by side, Allan and I would wait for the others to fall asleep to have our most meaningful conversations. In the nights following the start of our friendship, we mostly talked and strategized about marbles. But, as time passed, we began discussing more serious subjects, with finding a family as the recurring one. We weren’t sure which one of us would be the first to leave but we discussed and accepted the fact that it was inevitable, that we would one day be separated and we both agreed it made us sad.

As I think of my friend who is safe at the orphanage as I lay in bed with my eyes wide open unable to fall asleep, because of the pain of course, but also because of this strange and foreign feeling now growing inside of me. It isn’t sadness or fear of the unknown; I am already familiar with those. No, this is an entirely new but intense emotion.

I may very well come from a place called misfortune, a neighborhood as poor as it was ugly where none of us had nice clothes or any toys, where I spent most of my days as dirty as a child can get. Heck, even my own mother turned her back on me. But it wasn’t until I spent a few hours with this new family of mine that I discovered the terrible meaning and the burning feeling of shame. In the next three months or so, an entire lifetime I swear, the D’s will make sure the fire of shame rages inside of me for years to come…”

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Contact: steve.marchand@rogers.com

This project is entirely written on an iPad…

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