For no apparent reason today, while putting the finishing touches on cyber-wraith and the big-haired demon wench, I remembered a weird episode of my childhood.
Relax, I’m not about to reveal that I was ritually abused by Satanists who forced me to bite the heads off sloth babies or anything. (That’ll be another journal entry entirely.) It’s just one of those odd little things where you’re a kid, and something happens, and you don’t know what it means, and then years later you happen to think of it, and suddenly go “Whoa! Damn! Now I get it!” Except that I still don’t really get it.
Mom was out of town, and I was staying with a friend of the family–I vaguely recall he was high up at our church. Given the nature of said church, he was probably a pro-life, anti-gay type of the sort that I now loathe, but despite this, he was a very nice guy, good with kids, and a generally decent guy. Somewhere I’ve still got a music box in the shape of a sleeping bunny on a cabbage leaf that he gave me for Christmas one year. His niece was there also, and I vaguely recall another girl too, but it’s all got the dream-like patina of things that happen when you’re seven.
This was in Arizona, and one day we all drove out past the tan sand and the sagebrush to this place. It was a home for troubled boys who had found God. We watched this video about the place’s goals–it was very generic evangelical stuff, saving the youth through manual labor and the Power of Jayeezus, and I recall the head of the place making a little presentation, obviously trying to convince the fellow from the church of something. (This sort of thing was not at all important to a seven year old, but were I to hazard a guess now, I’m guessing he was trying to solicit money from the church in some fashion. The whole presentation was about how groundbreaking the thing was, so I’d imagine it was kind of a pilot program that needed money to expand. Or something. I dunno.) Presumably most of the troubled youth where elsewhere doing manual labor or something, but there were a couple inside building with us–with almost two decades perspective now, I’d guess they were the ones who could be counted on not to misbehave or queer the deal. They were all very quiet and didn’t say anything.
When the presentation was done, one of these silent boys–who seemed very old to me, which means they were probably in their mid teens–handed each of us girls a bag of assorted candy. Didn’t say anything. Even at the time, I was smart enough to figure out that this was an attempt to impress the guy from the church by buying off the spawn, but hell, it was candy. (Almond Joy, as memory serves.) The boy who gave it to me, however, stuck in my mind simply for being absolutely blank. It’s hard to explain, but I remember his sheer blankness making an impression. When you’re a kid, you expect one of two responses from people dealing with you–either they smile, ‘cos you’re a little kid, or they look annoyed, ‘cos you’re a little kid. But this guy just–nothin’. He’d been told to do this job, and quite obviously at what point in the presentation to do so, he was doing it, and he might as well have been feeding chickens or hammering nails. Which doesn’t mean anything by itself, since I’m no good with kids either, but something about the whole experience was so odd that it’s stuck in my memory for nineteen years.
For no apparent reason this surfaced in my mind today, and I went “Huh. I bet that was a dumping ground for juvenile delinquents or something. Work houses for kids goin’ bad (or believed to be going bad) complete with religion rammed down throat. I don’t approve of that sort’ve thing, but then again, since I’m not willing to do it myself, I suppose I don’t have much place to judge, and if it helps any of ’em, etc, etc. Still. Weird. Why would you take a couple of small girls out to one of those? Couldn’t get a babysitter?” Now, I have absolutely no evidence that anything bad was goin’ on there, and in fact, I don’t even remember where it was or what it might have been called. I’ve never heard anything much good about that sort’ve place, but then again, you never hear anything good about orphanages or foster homes either, and they provide a neccessary service and presumably do rather more good than harm, despite Oliver Twist and The Talisman. Still, I remember how vaguely troubling the blankness of those kids were, even to a seven-year-old scarfing down candy. Had some bad mojo been going down there, I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised. Weird stuff.
I have no idea why I thought of this today, but y’know.