Sold ! by thadeusz
The present story is pure fiction, but the haircuts described are real !
I know I could be very severely punished for writing this text, but I feel I must explain to all what happened. I am thus only writing here because of my numerous sins and for my redemption.
When my great grandfather left Germany for the States, his name was Ristelberger and he was a very religious man. He was a preacher and led his community to the States. He had raised his son alone, after the death of his wife, and he had trained him to become his successor, the minister of the small community. My grandfather changed his last name into Ristel, but remained very strict and very religious: he was a vicar but had no formal diploma and raised he my father in the respect of the true religion.
My father did not become vicar: he started to work in a shop and ended up being the shop owner and shopkeeper. He was nevertheless very religious and married a young lady from a similar family, from the same community. They had to wait a long time before I was born: I arrived when they had nearly lost any hope to have a child. For that reason they called me "Immanuel”, a Hebrew given name meaning "God is with us” or "God's present”. My parent wanted to name me in that way to protect me and to keep me on the right religious path. They did not realized that it was difficult to have such a name and that I much prefered when my friends called me "Manu” and told me to abandon my parents' church.
Shortly after my birth my parents had two other children: my sister, named Sarah for the same religious reasons as me, and my young brother very simply named Peter.
Our parents raised us in a very strict way. At home, the discipline was strict and the usual punishment for any lack of respect of the rules was "some good ones of the cane”, with a certain favoritism for my sister.
Our haircuts were very traditional : as far as Sarah was concerned, she had long brown plaits but Peter and I had our blond hair cut once a month by Mother and Father. We had to sit on a big chair in the kitchen. We received then what is known as a traditional bowl cut: Mother combed carefully our hair, she then took a big bowl, put it upside down on our heads and cut every hair that protruded, respecting the line defined by the bowl. This line was above our ears leaving the ears and the lower back part of head plus the neck completely exposed. Father finished the job by using his old fashion razor with a long blade to get us rid of any hair below that line. Later I discovered that this haircut was rather old fashioned, and even went back to the middle ages, but since all the boys of our community had exactly the same haircut, I realized nothing as long as I was with them.
We had also nice clothes : solid gray flannel short trousers held by suspenders made in the same flannel, a white flannel shirt and a gray flannel jacket. In fact we had no collar on our shirts. It was hot in summer and cold in winter, but we were told that we had to wear all that for the Glory of our God. Sarah had a dress in the same flannel with a white shirt with collar, but no jacket or vest. Mother made all our clothes herself.
We proudly went in this attire every Sunday to church where grandfather served as vicar. Father and Mother followed us with clothes which were similar to ours !
Father had very precise ideas about what was good and what was bad: alcohol was dreadful, but contacts between boys and girls before the marriage (except for our sister) was an awful sin. Smoking was of course prohibited. Dancing was also forbidden because that would be a way to rejoice which was not "joy coming only from the Bible”: dancing was thus Satanic in nature, except when it was performed for religious activities in church.
Father was certainly not a racist, he kept explaining that God had created all creatures and that all men were equals. Nevertheless, he also said that it was good to keep separate what God had separate by giving different colours of skin and shapes of nose. It was thus not a sin to speak to an African-American, but it was plainly wrong.
Father and Mother had been careful and they sent us to a school created for and by the congregation. The headmaster was our grandfather and we were rather proud of that. All kids there were dressed more or less like us and obeyed the same disciplinary rules. Peter, Sarah and I respected these rules, not knowing that another type of life was possible. Our school did not go beyond Junior High School and that was good enough for the children of the congregation. There was a sort of 9th grade organized by the school, but it was mostly devoted to teach girls how to cook and how to keep their future household clean, and to teach boys how they should behave respectfully of their betters at work.
Unluckily, Grandfather, Father and Mother considered that I had to study longer than that and go through the complete High School system in order to be accepted in a college and thus become a licensed vicar with a formal diploma. So, I started my 9th year in a school which was totally new for me. I was ready to learn a lot and to respect my parents and their rules. I went there dressed as usually, with my usual haircut and a Bible in my pocket. I was really ready to keep up the family tradition.
Everything changed once I was in High School: it was no longer a congregation school but a town school. There were black and white students learning together, and also boys and girls. My comrades started to make fun of me because of my first name, my clothes and my haircut. My school mates called me sometimes "Imma” or "round head”, and I hated that but said nothing: I had been trained to be polite and to respect the other people. I survived during a full school year, studying as well as I could, but constantly mocked by the other pupils. There was also another problem for me: there was there a beautiful girl named Rosita. Rosita was in my class, she was an excellent student and … she was black. I was strongly attracted by her although I knew that it was wrong. At home I started dreaming of her and I had strange new feelings. I confessed all that to Father who said that I should avoid being near her and who gave me a solid punishment: since I was no longer going to the "little school” but to the "big school”, he chose to give me in our courtyard 10 lashes with a specially bought new whip. I fell provisionally cured, but the day after I was again in class with Rosita …
From then on, when my father felt that I did not behave as he wanted me to do, he told me to take off my jacket and my shirt, go to the little courtyard in front of our garage and put my hands on an horizontal bar he had attached to the wall. He then whipped me as much as necessary.
At the end of the year, my classmates started to discuss about their holidays. Several wanted to go to a scout camp, others told us that they were going to a JROTC camp or to a Navy cadet camp, several had plans to go to a plain summer camp, with boys and girls together. Some were going during a few weeks to some vacation place with their parents and were then going to spend the rest of their holidays working in some shop in order to have pocket money for the next school year. Then they all asked:
"Immanuel, what are YOU going to do ?”
I had to confess, and it was a difficult confession, that I would first go to a prayer camp where I would learn more about praying the whole day long, and that I would spend the rest of the time with my grandfather helping him and learning my future "trade” i.e. becoming a minister of the "true religion”. My friends asked me how much my grandfather would pay me for that job, and I had to say that he was paying me nothing: he was offering me the great opportunity to work for free for God and that was enough. I said so, but I felt that it was ridiculous.
Indeed my friends rapidly tried to convince me that it was stupid, that there was not one "true religion” since they belonged to different communities, and most important for them, that working without being paid was simply anti-american and thus stupid: only a moron would accept that. The last blow came from Rosita who asked me where I would buy my summer clothing: I also had to tell her that I would keep my usual flannel outfit and all my school mates started to laugh. I felt very bad but said nothing.
I went to the prayer camp (for boys only, there was another one for girls at a distance) and after that I worked for my grandfather, cleaning his house and listening to his preparations of his sermons. I felt worse and worse, thinking about the dream holidays of my school friends
When I went back to school, the situation became unbearable, especially with Rosita who was now sitting next to me. My comrades decided that and that my clothing and haircut were a shame for the class: all the boys had long hair. I explained all that at home (except for Rosita) and after more than a month discussions I made my point: I would not be able to study well if I had not a certain clothing and haircut freedom, a freedom of which I had not dreamed a few weeks earlier. My parents told me that they understood the situation and authorized me to wear more usual clothes for a boy my age and to go alone to a more trendy hairdresser. My father insisted that all this should remain reasonable and that I should keep going to church dressed as before, disguising as much as possible my new haircut.
But things occurred in a very unexpected way, at least for my parents. I started to wear only jeans and t-shirts, including at church, and I let my hair grow as long as possible "forgetting” to go to the hairdresser but using the "haircut money”, added to my "pocket money”, to buy alcohol and cigarettes. I managed to get a full time job for the holidays after my 10th grade: it brought me some money and, most important, it kept me far away from the prayer camp. I had lied to my parents and I had told them that this was some compulsory "on-the-job” training for school. Since they did not know a thing about the real school system, they accepted what I said.
At the end of the summer, my hair was starting to be really long.
My schoolmates liked this and decided that they would call me "Manu” and nothing else from then on and I suddenly felt relieved from the weight of that stupid "Immanuel”.
The next year I started my third year in highschool and I looked now much more like my school mates than like a good kid from the religious school.
One Saturday evening my Father became furious and told me that by going to church dressed in jeans and t-shirt, I was insulting God. I replied that I was tired of his angry God of vengeance, I wanted a God of love only and maybe no God at all. After that, I rapidly left the house and joined my new friends.
We went to a bar in a neighborhood where I had never been. My friends knew we could dance there all night. The police came and arrested me: one of the officers knew very well my family and he was furious because he had seen me dancing with a girl, Rosita, who was an Afro-American girl who was known to drink beer. In order to make everything worse, I was smoking.
The officers brought me back to the police station and booked me. Since they felt that I needed a serious correction, they kept me in a cell but let the others go (as they usually did for my school friends when they were "mistakenly” arrested). On the contrary, they kept me and I was charged with drinking underage. I claimed that it was false, that I had not drunk a drop of alcohol, that they could check it by checking my blood, etc. But they did not want to listen to me: they had a good reason to let my father give me a very serious correction. The policemen brought me to court the next Monday, after they let me spend for the first time in my life a full weekend far from church, in a dirty cell. The Judge remanded me to my parents' custody suggesting, because of my young age and my lack of criminal record, that "a good spanking would be enough”. Father took me home, silently. I could see that he was furious. I was expecting him to tell me to go to the courtyard and "take the position” so he could give me an olds fashioned, very serious, whipping. But that was not the case: once we were back at home, he locked me in my room without saying a word. He only did one thing: he took my watch and my wallet away, and I noticed that the computer I used to study had already been taken out of my room. I knew that I could not do my homework and study my lessons for the day after. I was really frightened because I thought that my parents wanted to stop me studying, and that meant having to remain out of school, far from Rosita.
Nobody came to speak to me and I did not receive anything to eat or to drink, luckily I had received two slices of bread and a cup of coffee before leaving the police station. There was no noise in the house, I did not hear my parents nor my brother and my sister. When the evening approached, I tried to put on the light but nothing happened: there was no electricity anymore in my room. So I did the only possible thing: I decided to lay down on my bed and to close my eyes, waiting for a severe punishment.
In the middle of the night, two men came briskly in my room and suddenly there was light. They gagged me, put a solid leather strap to block my ankles and another one to keep both my arms fastened to my body. Then one of them took me in his arms and transported me to a small van. The van left our home: I had not seen my parents or my brother and sister.
A little bit later the van arrived on an airfield and I was put, like a package, in a small plane. Later the plane took off: it was my first trip in the air and I was not really happy with it. I was later transferred to a bigger plane where there were already two other boys and a girl. I later learned that they were named Samuel, Joshua and Rose. All of us were strapped, but the straps were not too tight and did not hurt. We were placed in different seats, far from each other and attached to the seats according to airplanes regulations. After what appeared to be a very long trip during which I felt awfully hungry and thirsty, we arrived in a sunny and hot country which could be somewhere in Africa, Arab country or in the Caribbean sea or any other remote place: I still don't know. The same men took me out of the plane, unstrapped my feet and led me to what appeared to be a small village made of miserable tin houses.
I soon learned that this was in fact the place where my parents wanted me to stay. The two men pushed all of us in front of a man and the one that appeared to be the chief said:
"Professor Bollard, these are the new kids.”
This so called ‘Professor' Bollard replied:
"That's OK Frank. And you Luke, thank you for carrying these kids when it was necessary. You are good assistants.”
This is how I learned that that the chief of the two kidnappers was named Frank, and that the guy who had carried me like a bag of potatoes was called Luke ! Useful, since I met them often afterwards.
Bollard told us that this place was our new boarding school:
"I am your new headmaster and you are now boarders in this boarding school. Your parents want you to be disciplined and they want you to learn here to pray and to behave properly according to God's laws. You are now my sons and my daughter”, and he pointed to each of us adding "Immanuel, you are from now on boy 13571; Samuel is boy 13572, Joshua is now boy 13573 and Rose, you are girl 13574. You will all learn to toil in the fields and earn your food. Rose, girl 13574, you will also learn to cook and take care of your future home.”
He then turned towards me and added:
"Immanuel, boy 13571, you will also learn to become a preacher like your great grandfather. You will forget about this bad idea of going to college and get a formal degree.”
One of the men took my gag away and Bollard asked me:
"Are you now ready to make amends for your bad behavior and to study better than you did ?”
My reply was still full of anger:
"My behavior was not that bad, it was only the type of behavior normal boys had in the real world. OK, I did a mistake last Saturday, but I won't repeat it. And also, I had good marks at school. And moreover I like studying the way I did, I want to go to college and I don't want to become a preacher. I want to become an MD.”
Apparently this did not please him, so he told the two men who had brought me like a packet:
"Give them all the appropriate welcoming treatment and put boy 13571 in a cell for a week.”
Frank and Luke took us to a big building. Rose was led to a separate room and I have never been close enough of her to be able to speak with her. To the three boys, an attendant told:
"Take all you clothes off, and when I say ‘all', it means ‘all'.”
I hesitated and one of the two guys, Luke, got hold of me and stripped me rather brutally of all my clothes, socks and shoes included. In the process he had torn to pieces my nice t-shirt. The attendant explained then that we would be "disinfected”. In fact, he threw some powder on each of us with the order to spread it on our body "in order to scrub”.
I had hoped, after such a trip, to have a shower and I asked for it, but the attendant said:
"Water is rare and expensive here. Boys like you don't deserve it, only disinfecting powder.”
Joshua spread the powder very well, touching his private parts and the attendant punched energetically his nose for that, saying:
"No sex here, you young devil. This is taboo. You will get 10 of the whip to remember that.”
Joshua, still naked, was immediately led to a big bar placed near a wall on two pillars. The height of the bar was adjustable, and Luke adjusted it Joshua's height. The tallest assistant, Frank, gave him 10 lashes in such a way that we would all remember what was strictly forbidden here and with the first lash, Joshua started to shout. He continued until the attendant calmly said:
"If you continue, it will be one lash more for each shout. Yelling is not permitted here. You will all remember that here it is immediate punishment but also immediate reward if you ever deserve it !”
With that Joshua stopped shouting but started crying silently.
Each of us boys received then uniform undies in white thick cotton, very uncomfortable: a t-shirt with long sleeves and a boxer without any fly, then we got blue denim overalls, again in a very thick and unpleasant cloth. The overalls had to be worn with the braces carefully attached by buttons and a blue denim jacket, without any pocket. We were also told to wear the jacket permanently buttoned, collar and sleeves included, which made it very hot and uncomfortable in this hot place. On top of all that, we received a blue cap in the same material as our jacket and overalls. The attendant told us that we had to wear the cap permanently, when we were outside, but whenever we entered a building, we had to take our cap off and place it under the braces of the overalls, under the jacket. Finally, we did not receive socks but a pair of plastic sandals. The attendant finally said that once a week, each of us would receive a fresh and clean set of uniforms but that in between "you have to stay clean with what you got”. In order to end this session, the attendant ordered the two assistants to fix an electronic bracelet on our right ankle. He then explained:
"This bracelet cannot be opened without my key. So you will have to keep it and we will know at each moment where each of you is since your bracelets are tracked by my computer. There are no walls to stop you, but this bracelet will tell us where you are. Don't try to escape, you would be captured and then the punishment would be very severe.” He then gave the dreadful order:
"Frank, Luke, give these young scoundrels a decent haircut.”
Frank and Luke took us by force to a small adjacent room where there was one single and very ordinary chair. Frank pushed Joshua to the chair and told him to sit. Joshua was young, probably two year youngers than I was and I did not know why his parents had sent him here. Later he told me that his parents got a divorce, remarried, had new babies and decided to get rid of him in what appeared to be a decent religious institution. Joshua had long brown curls and was clearly frightened. It did not last long: Luke started to use the clippers while Frank was holding him. Joshua started to shout that he did not wanted to lose his curls and Frank told Luke:
"This boy deserved 10 of the whip, give him now a complete one.”
Luke carefully started to shave Joshua's head, leaving no space forgotten, passing several times on the same spot with clippers without guards. He pushed and pull Joshua's head and moved it in all possible directions. He finally left Joshua with a baldy. The boy could not see himself since there was no mirror, but he looked more mature and that comforted me because I knew that I would also get a short haircut and that all my work trying to let my hair grow would be lost.
After Joshua, Luke got hold of Samuel and told Luke:
"This is a decent boy, give him a regular haircut.”
Luke, obediently, gave Samuel a clean haircut, 1/8 inch on the sides and 3/4 inch on the top, with a line clearly marked above the ears. This did no longer look like the Samuel I had seen in the plane, but here also he looked more mature. In any case, he remained silent. His haircut looked a bit like the haircut mother gave me and I regained hope. Samuel told me later that he had stolen money in his father's desk in order to buy booze and that his parents had decided to send him here "for a time” because of that.
Then Frank got hold of me. I could feel that he was holding me firmly in such a way that I was not able to move. He told Luke:
"Give him also a regular haircut”
Luke started to give me the announced haircut and I could feel the clippers on the same place as the shaving tool Father used to finish our home haircut. When he was done, Frank asked me:
"Do you like it this way, without your curls ?”
Since I had no mirror to look at, I quickly passed my hands on my head and said:
"Well, if I have to be treated that way, I will try to live with it.”
"That's true”, added Frank, "you are of the disobedient kind, the reasoning type of boy who does not obey God's orders without thinking first about it. Luke, give him a full baldy so that his head is cleared of the bad influences coming from these long hair.”
Frank took again possession of me while Luke started to smile, taking the guard off his clippers. He started to shave whatever was left of my hair. He pushed and pulled and moved my head in all possible ways, like he had done for Joshua, but now I could feel exactly what it means to have your head quickly rotated when you don't really expect it, or pushed, or pulled. When Luke was done, Frank released me and told me to pass now my hands on my head: I had also a baldy, very well done I must admit.
Frank then told us that we would have a refresh every ten days, except if it was on a Sunday, in which case it would be the following Monday. He would in any case take us from class and bring us in this room whenever it was time to do so. He then told the three of us:
"I will now lead each of you where he belongs.”
Samuel and Joshua told me later that they had been taken by Frank to the boys quarters, where they had received some food and some water. Immediately after that they were sent to work in the fields. I never knew what happened with Rose after she got her girl uniform. I was led to another place …
I was led by Luke to a sort of central square. In a corner of the square, there were several big slabs. Luke lifted one of them and I could see a sort of cave. The assistant then placed a ladder and told me to go down: he added that I would have to stay there during a full week "to get cured of your sins”. Once inside, I realized that I was in the darkness. I felt like in prison, not really knowing what a prison was. I started to hate this place more than ever before and decided that I had to leave as quickly as possible. The worst of it was that I did not know long my parents wanted to keep me there.
A certain time elapsed, I slept or dreamed, from time to time I got a visit: Luke came down with bread and water, nothing else to eat, and a lamp which he kept on during a short while. After what appeared to me to be a very long time, Luke came back with Frank and they told me to get out of the cave. I received a new haircut, similar to the previous one, and a clean set of uniforms. I was then led to the boys section where I could finally speak with Joshua and Samuel, and others.
After that, the days, weeks and months went by, very monotonously. Every morning we had to pray first, then get clean and we could eat something. It was enough for our young bodies, but it was not very good. Then we spent the whole morning learning about the Bible. I was told to prepare some speeches based on the Bible, as if I were a real preacher. After a very simple lunch we all went, singing prayers, and we worked in the fields "in order to better our souls”.
Samuel behaved very well, at least by their standards. In fact he told me that he hoped to be sent back home soon and that once there "he would find a way out of his ridiculously biblical family”. In fact, after about 16 months, Samuel was told that his parents wanted to see him back home. So we parted.
Joshua kept complaining and crying: he wanted his mother. He was punished several times until he understood that he would not go back to his parents before he was old enough to take care of himself: "Your parents do not want to see you anymore”, said once Bollard to the poor boy. After that he stopped complaining, but also he stopped doing anything. It was like having an automaton looking like a boy and that was it. He nevertheless succeeded in avoiding too many visits to one of the numerous "punishment bars” placed in this camp.
I kept behaving as I had always done. I did not shout nor cry, but in my pseudo preaches, I could not resist saying what I believed was the truth: showing that the Bible was full of contradiction and of brutality. I tried to do it intelligently, hiding the true message of my text behind lots of praises for the Holy Bible, which was no longer Holy for me ! From time to time, Bollard noticed it and then I got 10 of the whip and a stay in one of the caves. It was bad, but I refused to abandon my intelligence to these people. The bad thing was that I had had to abandon my studies in favor of stupid biblical studies.
After a certain time, I realized that this led me nowhere and I started to behave according to what was expected from me. I learned everything that was in the Bible and I was now able to preach in the proper way, or so I thought. I felt bad about it, but there was no whipping any more. The better thing was that I was no longer shaved as severely: after about 2 years I had reached 2/8 inch on the sides but 2 full inches on the top !
A certain day, I realized that it was my 18th birthday. I was of age now, but nothing happened. So I went to Bollard's office and told him that since I was of age now, I wanted to go back to the States, whatever my parents had in mind. He replied in a way I had not expected:
"We are not in the States here, and the coming of age occurs later here. Don't panic, everything is under control. Your parents and your grandfather want you to stay here several more years in order to be completely ready as preacher, even if it is without a diploma. Go now, and resume your studies.”
I said nothing but I decided to escape. After a few weeks I figured out how to open unnoticed my bracelet without key. One night, I opened my bracelet, left it under my bunk and left the camp. I walked in a sort of savanna during hours and finally, just after sunrise, I reached a little village. I found there a police station and told my story to the police: after all, my parents always told me "when in trouble, go to the police”. The policeman was very kind, he spoke English and told me to rest while he was organizing things. He apologized, but the only place where I could rest was a prison cell. I entered this cell full of confidence and fell rapidly asleep on the cell bunk. I had not realized that the kind policeman had locked the door of this nice little cell. A few hours later, I was awaken by Frank and Luke who strapped me once again, with the help of the kind policeman. Luke took me once more as a bag of potatoes and threw me on the back of a jeep which went back to the "Bollard's School”.
As soon as we arrived there, Luke unstrapped me and Frank led me to the clothing hall. Frank first told me to undress completely, which I did knowing his brutality, and then gave me a solid whipping, which I had expected. The attendant gave me then a new set of uniforms: in fact it was identical to the previous one in shape and type of cloth, except that it was now completely red: I had become a "red boy”. Frank and Luke led me then to Bollard's office. The "professor” told me that I had behaved very badly:
"You are no longer worthy of becoming a preacher. We will make a farm labourer of you. No Bible studies anymore, but hard work in the fields ! And if your work is not satisfactory, Frank will help you to become better with his whip. But we don't want you to go away once again, so Frank will give you some special treatment, NOW.”
Frank took me with him to the place where we usually received our haircuts. This time, I expected mine to be very short. Frank placed on my right ankle the bracelet I had left under my bunk, adding a new lock. He then fixed solidly a ring on my left ankle and attached a chain to this ring. At the end of this chain was a heavy metal ball. Frank commented all this as follows:
"The double lock on your bracelet will be more difficult to unlock, but the ring you cannot open. You will keep this ball during three months at least, while working in the fields. This way, we know we are not going to lose you.”
Luke gave me then a zero haircut leaving me completely bald under my new red cap. I was also told that I would from then on stay with the "red boys” and that any contact with the "blue boys” was strictly forbidden.
After that, I was ordered to go to one of the caves for a week and that was really no fun, although I had expected this. At the end of the week, I was extracted from the cave and told to go to the "red boys cage” where I had to live from now on, when I was not working in the fields. I tried to behave as expected in order to have the possibility to escape again: I considered that as my duty. After 3 months Frank took my ring off and life started to be more bearable. I still did not know when I would be released, so I carefully prepared another escape. It took me 5 months to be ready for that, with a small bag (stolen from the kitchen while on kitchen duty) full of food and water. One night I left the camp thinking that I would now be free.
Two days later, Frank and Luke had caught me and I was back in the camp.
They brought me immediately to Bollard's office and the "Professor” told me:
"You did the worst possible thing, leaving again and showing you had no respect and no confidence in your leaders. You will go immediately to the cave, as you are, and stay there until your parents have decided what should be done with a scoundrel like you.”
I was thus taken to one of the caves, astonished that they had not whipped or shaved me ! It did not last very long: I had no watch to measure the time, but after three times "receiving bread and water” I was brought back to Bollard's office. The "professor” gave there and then his final sentence:
"Your parents want to get rid of you. It will be done according to their desire. You have sealed your own chains Tommy, since this is your new name for ever and ever. Immanuel is dead.”
Frank and Luke took me to the usual clothing hall where I was once more told to get rid of all my clothes. I then had to put my hands on the usual "punishment bar” and I received the expected whipping. After that, while I was still naked and facing the wall, Luke told me to raise my feet, one after the other, and he sealed one ring on each of my ankles, and also sealed a ring on each of my wrists. Between the ankle rings, Luke sealed a chain. There was no lock anymore, just a chain sealed on my ankles. The attendant told me to turn around and to face him. He gave me then a piece of what appeared to me at first to a be a piece of brown very thick cloth with buttons. I did not identify it at first but the attendant shouted an order:
"Place this between your legs, without undies, and fold it in order to bring one part forward, one part backward.”
It was stiff and difficult to fold, but I obeyed. When I was done he went on:
"Now button it on the sides, in order to form a short.”
It was not comfortable, especially without the undies, but it was definitely some kind of clothing hiding my private parts. I then received another piece of cloth with buttons and a hole in the middle for the head. The same orders were given. This appeared, once folded on the back and front, to form a sleeveless heavy tunic, without collar, once it was buttoned on the sides. All this occurred in silence, except for the attendant's orders, as if some special ceremony was taking place.
I was then told to turn again and face the wall and to hold the punishment bar. Luke ordered me to raise one foot, then the other, and he thus attached brown plastic very light clogs on my feet. He told me then again to lift my feet and every time he glued a heavy and solid metal sole below my raised foot in a way I could not undoo.
The attendant told me:
"Tommy, since this is now your name, you are not going to leave the chain. You could also have your hands chained if needed. So the only pieces of clothing you will get from now on are pieces of cloth which can buttoned, like the ones you now wear. When needed, they will be changed. For your clogs, like a horse, when needed you will get new soles.” He told then Frank "Take him now for his final haircut.
I started to be anxious because I did not understand what it could mean for me "not to leave the chain”. After all, I had not committed any serious crime and trying to escape now that I was nearly 19 seemed very reasonable ! Frank handcuffed me, keeping my hands in my back, and then told me to move towards the "haircut room.”
Moving with the chain and the heavy soles was difficult, so I hoped that this "you are not going to leave the chain” would not last too long. The brown uniform I was now wearing was dreadfully uncomfortable because the material used was so thick that it did not adjust to my movements. It was dreadfully stiff and I had the impression to have clothes made of cardboard and I told so to Frank, meaning that these pieces of uniform were too small for me. But Frank replied:
"Everything will be OK after a few weeks. Your uniform is in leather and must adjust to your body, and you must adjust to wear such a uniform from now on. Moreover, you will be able to keep it for a very long time: leather does not wear out as quickly as woolen cloth. So you should be happy about this change.”
It is thus that I realized with horror that I was now only wearing a pseudo short and a pseudo tunic made of hard leather. I had also pseudo clogs with soles making me feel like I was a horse !!! I had no time to think about this, Frank pushed me to the chair where I had already been seated for my haircuts. This time, my hands were in my back and in order to have me seated in the best possible way for him, Frank raised slightly my hands and folded my arms. It was maybe the best possible way for him, but it was very tiring for me.
Luke came then with his shaver and reduced my haircut to a complete zero. He did it in the usual way, pushing rather brutally my head, turning it in all possible directions. I had been pleased to have a semi long haircut before my first escape, but now nothing was left, at least that's what Luke told me. He then did something new: he poured a cream on my head and made sure that there was cream everywhere. He then left me waiting during a long time.
When Luke came back, he cleaned my head from the remaining cream and said:
"That's good, you have now a permanent baldy. You will never more have to be shaved, which is really adapted to your new status.” He then blocked my head in such a way that I could no longer move it, it was a torture.
Luke started then to do things on the back of my head which I could not see. He scratched, or scrubbed, or scraped: I don't know how to describe it. It lasted a very long time. After a certain time, he said:
"It is done now, you have been correctly transformed Tommy” (Tommy was my new name) "but you remain number 13571, now more than ever. There is only one thing missing for your transformation. You must have something on your head to protect it from the sun, now that you don't have any hair left. You don't deserve to wear a cap, so I place now this beret on your head.” And he did what he said. "But you have no pocket to keep your beret, so you will wear it permanently, inside and outside, day and night, attached by this little leather chin strap.” And Luke took the two ends of a chin strap fixed to the beret and attached them just below my chin. "Remember that from now on you are not allowed to take this chin strap off. Not even when you sleep.”
"But Luke”, I dared ask since things could not become worse, "what am I to do when I wash ?”
"You don't wash completely anymore, boy. You just keep apparently clean and you do whatever is necessary to avoid bad odors. Stand up now, 13571.”
It was not easy to stand up after all that time, but I did my best to do it and Luke helped me a bit. He then led me to a small building, leaving my hands tied in my back. In the small building, there were several cages and I was led towards one of them, in which Luke locked me. There was no furniture in the cage, only a stack of hay. Three other similar cages were occupied, each one by one single boy wearing the same attire as I did. One of them looked at me and said:
"So they did to you what they did to us !”
"What is it ?”, I asked.
"Well they gave you a new name, placed you in chains, gave you this painful leather clothes and put your number on your bald head.”
"What ?” was my only reaction.
"Yes, they tattooed a cross on your head and underneath your head they also tattooed your number. That's why they force you to keep your hands in your back, in order to keep it clean while it is drying”.
"Did they do the same to you ?”
"Of course” and Johnny turned so that I could see the back of his head. I was now really horrified and anxious for my future, so I asked:
"Why did they do that ? What are they going to do with us ?”
"I don't know and the others don't know either, but it will not be funny.”
"What's your name ?”
"Well, they told me that from now on it was Johnny. They also said that if I tried to use the old one, I would be whipped. What is your name ?”
"Well, I better give you only my new name in that case ! It is Tommy. Who are the two other ones ?”
"On the left, there is Park and on the right there is Bob. We all had nice biblical names, but since we revolted and refused to study more of that stupidity, they changed our names and placed us in irons.”
That's when Frank entered with the evening meal in a big pot. He got food out of it and placed it in three bowls which he gave to the other three boys, telling me that I had to keep my hands in my back to protect my new tattoo and could thus not eat that evening. Since I could not eat, I wanted to sleep, so I looked for a bunk, found none but only a stack of hay on which I decided to fall, face down with my beret, so that the others would not see me crying.
The next day, my hands were freed and I got some food. The four of us were trained to move and work with our chain. We were also told how to take care of the leather and buttons of our new clothes. A special lesson was devoted to show us how to clean our chain and our clogs, soles included. Finally, Frank told us that:
"Now you are ready. Tomorrow or the day after will be the great day.”
But the next day another prisoner came in our small building. Joshua entered the room in the same attire as we, with his hands in his back and we could see that he too had been tattooed. He too was wearing a beret with a little strap. Joshua was nearly 17 now, he was strong and worked well in Bible classes before I became a "red boy” and lost contact with him. So, I did not understand what could have happened with him and I asked him:
"Joshua, what happened to you ? Why are you here on the chain ?”
Joshua replied crying, saying:
"Frank told me that I am no longer Joshua. He also said that Brat is my new name and that I would be whipped if I used the old one, but my number is still 13573. Luke even said that it is for ever. I will always be chained and remain Brat.”
"But what did you do to be punished in that way ?”
"They told me that I created problems for my parents because of an heritage. So my parents got rid of me. I think they will tell everybody that I am dead. That's probably why they changed my name. Do you think they will kill me to get rid of me.”
That was of course a possibility, but they would not have gone through all that stuff of a new uniform and a chain and a tattoo if it was only to kill us, so I fell I could reassure Joshua, now called Brat. But taking in account everything they had taught us before Brat's arrival, another idea started to take shape. It was dreadful and I did not want to mention it to my present co-prisoners.
So I told Joshua:
"Brat, since it is your name, don't be afraid. My new name is Tommy. Let's hope we can stay together and work well so that they will be pleased and release us.”
While saying this, I still had hopes that later I would be able to escape and come back to the States. Brat, as he was now called, and me laid down on our respective stacks of hay and tried to sleep as well as we could.
The next morning, Frank entered our building before sunrise and addressed angrily Brat, to call him by his new name:
"Your parents hesitated, and now we lose a week because of that. Try to be trained fast.”
Then started, for the sake of Brat, the exact same training we had already undergone. Frank was angry because of this repetition, but I thought that whatever they wanted to do with us, and I had a very precise idea, this gave us more time to learn to walk and work with our new outfit, which was probably the main purpose. After two days, Frank calmed down and decided to let the doors of our cages open so that we could have more walking space inside our tiny building (which had a completely locked door). In fact when Frank was not present, we discussed freely and we even touched each other's bald head ! I discovered that it was better for me to clean my clothes as well as I could, everyday, especially my short, and I used hay to do it since we had nothing else. Altogether I was adapting rapidly to my new situation.
More or less one week after Brat's arrival, Frank told us in the early morning to move quickly and go to the institution truck. Bollard was there and told us to "jump onto the platform”, which was difficult because of our chain. We helped one another and did what was required. Luke attached handcuffed each of us and attached us to the van. "Professor” Bollard spoke in these words:
"As far as the world is concerned, your old nasty person has been declared dead. You, with your new names, will now be conducted to a slave market where you will be sold, which is legal in this country. The money your sale will produce will be sent to your parents as ‘repayment for the loss of a son'. Your parents are aware of all this and fully agree. One last word, behave well now and serve your masters as they deserve, otherwise you will be whipped or worse !”
The truck left the camp, we were all silent. The other boys were stunned, but I had expected that much and was thus somehow prepared, Brat was crying and calling his mother. It is precisely then that I started to thank God for making me intelligent and able to imagine what could happen.
We arrived to a real town with a big square where many slaves like us were sold. I told Brat to try to give a good impression so that we would be able to stay together, bought by the same master. Johnny asked me if I would also accept him and I told him that I would, but that it depended now from the buyer.
Luckily we were all bought by the same master, who was a kind man. Immediately after the sale, he put us on a leash and told us to go inside his van which left immediately the market for the master's farm.
This happened many years ago. Brat, Johnny and me became good friends and I believe good slaves; although it is not to me to say so, but to my master. In the beginning we worked very hard in the fields and slept in a small cabin, on the floor with hay as only protection.
After a time, I got used to that way of life, regretting nothing since in exchange of my hard work the master was providing me with food, clothes and shelter. I had not even to think about my work, just obey orders. The only annoying moments were the days when I had to raise my feet, one after the other, to let the master servant change my soles. On these days I felt again I had been reduced to the level of a horse.
I think I worked harder than the others, so the master gave me from time to time a woman, leaving us in a relative intimity. This gave my body some rest, and fulfilled some necessity. It also gave me children, with whom I did not speak: they were raised by their mother and the master got young slaves, born on his estate. The master also noticed that I cleaned my clothes every day, and he mentioned me as a model before taking me inside his house to serve him and help his young child who had problems studying. Johnny stayed on the estate, but Brat was sold to another master because he was not very joyful and worked like an automaton. I don't know what happened to him after that.
My master discovered this text, and I explained to him, rather trembling, that I had used his son's paper and pencil to write it. I was afraid he would severely punish me for writing it. Probably whipping me, or even killing me for being such a traitor. But it was the contrary: the master found the text "funny” and in any case "unbelievable”. He gave me double ration of food during a month, and a woman during that period. This is the end of my story.