“You’re the ugliest child I’ve ever seen.” She assessed the boy with narrowed eyes, slicing the air with her words. “I see why your mom didn’t want you.”
Of all eleven boys in the foster home in Chicago, Kay G was the youngest. And the ugliest too. Or at least that’s what his foster mom said. While she sold wigs and costume jewelry in the shop each day and his foster dad worked his job at the post office, little Kay G was left at home with the ten older boys. They hated him. He was only five years old when his brothers punched him in the face for the first time and locked him in a closet.
“God, let me die.” He groaned the prayer in that dark, small space.
The next time the brothers dragged him to the closet, they dumped a jar of bugs onto his head first, before shutting him up in the dark with the crawly creatures.
Again, his prayer punctuated the darkness. “God, let me die.”
Another time, they tied him to a pole in the basement and beat him.
“Take me to work with you,” he begged his foster dad. “I’ll be quiet and even sit in the truck all day.”
“You’re okay.” The man looked at Kay G with soft eyes, patting him with a tender hand. But since he didn’t know what lurked in his own house, he left the little boy home again with his older brothers.
Each night, Kay G’s foster mom made him kneel by the bed and recite his prayers.
“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” Then the boy scrambled into his bed and pulled up the covers. When the woman left the room, he tossed the blankets aside and slid out of bed, again sinking to his knees on the floor.
“God, this is my real prayer this time.” He squeezed his eyes shut, but tears leaked out anyway. “Don’t let me wake up.”
When Kay G took a bath, the world outside the bathroom door melted away. He positioned his friends—Mr. Bubble and Mr. Potato Head—near him on the bathtub’s ledge.
He rearranged Mr. Potato Head’s features again and again. “There’s no way he’s ugly to me.”
Then he lined up his green Army men—his protectors—in formation on the side of the tub. Their guns were aimed at the door.
One day, Kay G dressed up and went with his foster family to a place called church. Everyone smiled there—even his foster mom and brothers. A powerful man wearing robes stood behind a big box and spoke. As little Kay G listened, peace floated down and settled on him. And in that instant, he knew he was born for it: he was born for love. And more than anything, he wanted to be a preacher with a beautiful choir, and he wanted to heal people.
After the service, smiling women pressed in around Kay G, the new foster kid. “Well, isn’t he the cutest thing?”
But he darted past them and ran as fast as he could to the pastor. He grabbed onto one of the man’s legs and wouldn’t let go.
“Well, hello, little guy.” The man leaned down and patted him on the head. His foster mother scurried over and after yanking on the child, she finally pried him loose.
“What’s wrong with him?” said the preacher, his voice low.
She smoothed her hair and waved away his question with a gloved hand. “That’s how they all act.”
After that day at church, Kay G loved Jesus until his heart hurt. He played preacher back at the house, but everyone hated him even more. And on the school’s playground he had “Foster Kid Disease.” No one came near him. And so he perched on his own slide to watch the other kids play. Sometimes an errant ball flew his way, and he snagged it from the air and kept it. If he had touched it, no one would’ve wanted it back anyway.
In third grade, a kid named Tuffy rose to the top of the bully ranks. Everyone was afraid of him, but he set his sights on Kay G. Tuffy kicked him, punched him, stole his lunch, and grew more demanding each day.
“I don’t like this. I want an apple fruit pie.” His face twisted into a grimace, and he spit out some profanity. “Bring me an apple fruit pie tomorrow.”
The bullying kept on for three years. But during the summer before sixth grade, Kay G became friends with one of his foster brothers and confided in him. His brother gave him a solution: he taught him how to wrestle.
“You gotta stand up to him,” his brother said, his eyes intense.
And when school started again in the fall, that’s what Kay G did.
“Gimme your lunch,” Tuffy said, contorting his face. Just like old times.
“No.” Kay G, now much taller and bigger than Tuffy, pulled his lunch bag to his chest, crossing his arms over it.
The bully’s eyes turned to slits. “What did you say?”
“Then we’re fighting out back after school.” He sneered. “You better be there.”
The slow march of the clock on normal school days sped up that day for Kay G. Too soon, the final bell rang, reverberating throughout the neighborhood, announcing the fight to the world. The students stampeded outside in one great herd for the coming attraction and formed a large circle on the playground. In the center of the circle was Tuffy, kicking and chopping at the air, practicing his warm-ups. Back in the classroom, Kay G hovered near his teacher.
“Why are you still here?” She peered at him while squaring a stack of papers into a neat pile.
He snatched some scraps of paper from the floor and threw them into the trash. “I thought I could help you clean up today.”
She furrowed her brow and then glanced out the window at the playground. “What—?” She scuttled closer to the glass and squinted at the scene outside. “Ah, I see.” She turned to Kay G. “You don’t want to fight, do you?”
He shook his head.
She planted her hands on her hips, her eyes wide. “Well, you better deal with him. He won’t quit if you walk away.”
As Kay G plodded the path to the playground, his legs turned soft and his knees wobbled.
“No one’s on my side,” he whispered, swallowing hard.
All eyes were fixed on him. When he at last neared the gathering, the circle of students broke open for him to enter.
*Tune in next week for the continuing story about the life of Kay G Wilson, friend to north Minneapolis, mentor/international peace activist, founder and president of Hope Ministries, spokesman for the Charez Jones Foundation, co-facilitator of Criminals and Gangs Anonymous (CGA) Minneapolis, founder of 500 Man Peace March Minneapolis, spokesman for United in Peace, Inc., Minnesota, and humble servant of Jesus Christ.
*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date
*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.