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Orion is Left-handed

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The Bad: Tom, a boy in his mid teens, escapes an abusive dis-functional family life and starts his journey. The Good: Tom experience life with a functional family. The Ugly: Tom experiences a homosexual rape which begins events that lead to murder charges. Epiloge: Tom has an epiphany about his future.

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The Bad

There was an eclipse on the day I was born. My brother, Ben, said he remembered that it got real dark that day. I would not realize how dark my life would be until I was fifteen years old.

All my memories of life before I started school are good. Dad worked hard on the farm, Ma took care of the house and Ben would play with me when he got home from school.

My first beating happened one day after school. I got off the bus, changed clothes and collected the eggs from the chicken coop. I ran toward the house so I could finish my chore and play outside before it got dark. I fell and the eggs broke.

When I reached the house, Dad was standing at the door with his belt in his hand. The first blow wrapped across my left shoulder there was a loud pop then pain. I fell forward surprised and crying. My brother came out to help me, but Dad hit him with the belt. The belt popped over and over first on Ben then on me until the Old Man could no longer catch his breath. My back burned as I watched him stumble into the house. My brother held me as we cried.

By the time I was ten, there was no time to play after school. The Old Man spent most of the time drinking whiskey in the house. Ben and I took care of the chickens and cows, and I had a new chore, burying the whiskey bottles so the neighbors would not see them.

One day Ben said we had to plant the field or we would have no crops in the fall, but when he tried to start the tractor, it would not start. The Old Man staggered into the tractor shed with the belt in hand. I got a few strokes when I tried to stop the beating, but Ben got the worst of it. He beat Ben until Ben passed out. The Old Man puked then grabbed my arm and pulled me towards the door. As we left the shed, I looked back at Ben lying in the dirt unconscious and bleeding.

Ben was gone the next morning. Ma said he ran off. I wondered why he had not said good-bye to me. I was lonely and very sad that he had not taken me with him.

The sheriff came to the farm after Ben had missed a week of school. The Old Man stayed in the bedroom while Ma talked to the sheriff. On his way back to his car, the sheriff stopped to look at me. When he put his hand under my chin and raised my face, I could not look at his eyes. He looked at the welts on my arm then walked to his car. As I watched his car leave the farm, I knew a beating was coming, and it did.

I thought the beatings would increase after Ben left, but the Old Man seemed to have run out of steam. He never left the house, and his drinking increased. We told everyone he had injured his back.

Ma arranged to lease the land to a neighbor, and she sold all the equipment that had any value. I took care of the animals. We sold eggs, raised cows and pigs for meat and planted a garden. There was enough food, but not much money, and we always had to buy whiskey for the Old Man.

When I turned fourteen, I was bigger than the Old Man, and he seemed to be afraid of me. I was shaving twice a week, and some of the girls at school thought I was cute.

Everyone I knew wanted me to play football and basketball, but I did not want people to see the scars from the beatings. It was bad enough that the guys in gym class saw the scars. Besides, since I had to do my chores after school, there was no time to for games. Also, I had learned to escape by reading books when my chores were done. Steinbeck was my favorite. He seemed to understand farm people. I daydreamed about traveling around the country with my dog.

On my fifteenth birthday, some of the kids from school took me to a café after school. We sat around talking and laughing. One girl tried to teach me to dance. Later, she drove me home, and, after she parked in our drive, we kissed. It was really exciting, but the Old Man stormed out of the house before the second kiss.

I got out of the car and walked toward the Old Man. I was thankful he did not have his belt. At least the girl would not see the beating. In the house, the Old Man grabbed his belt and staggered toward me. As he lifted the belt, I grabbed it with my left hand, pulled it from his hand and punched him on his chest. He staggered back then fell forward landing on his hands and knees. I hit him on the side of his head. He slumped, face first, to the floor. As I stood there wondering what had happened, the Old Man started sobbing. I hit him again then he passed out.

I stood there staring at the unconscious body until I heard Ma screaming at me. I remember thinking I should give her a couple of whacks with the belt, she never tried to stop the beatings, but I dropped the belt, walked to my bedroom, stuffed some clothes and the few dollars I had saved into a backpack. As I left the house, Ma was bent over the Old Man. I heard him moan before the door closed.

I walked for a few hours then slept under a bridge until dawn. When I stopped to eat at a roadside café, a man in a farm truck offered me a ride. He was going south. I figured it would be warmer and easier traveling down south, so I took the ride. At Interstate 80 the guy was going east. There was nothing to the East that interested me, so he dropped me off at a truck stop.

Now I had to stop running and start thinking. Where was I going? Late in the afternoon, I decided to go to Salinas, California to see the land Steinbeck had written about. It was farm country, so I figured I could find work. I was bigger than most men, and I was shaving twice a week. I could pass for 18.

Before dark, I caught a ride in a cattle truck. We made it to Cheyenne, Wyoming before dawn. The trucker dropped me off at the junction of Interstate 80 and Interstate 25.

The early morning wind cut right through my clothes, chilling me. I shivered as I went into a truck stop and sat at the counter. The food was filling and the coffee warmed me. I felt real good.

A guy sat down next to me, and asked me to buy him a cup of coffee to warm him. I looked at him. He smiled, and I noticed he was missing four front teeth. He was old, at least forty, and his coat was dirty. I ordered the coffee for him.

The guy’s name was John. He told me there would be no work as far north as Salinas this time of the year. I would have a better chance of finding work in the Southern California. When the waitress would no longer fill my coffee cup, I left a tip, paid the bill and walked out the door. John followed me. The next thing I knew, we were at the Interstate 25 southbound ramp with our thumbs out. It was warmer now, the Sun was shining, and the wind had died down.

Two days latter, we were in New Mexico. My money was gone, but it was warm during the day and I had never laughed so much in my life. John would tell one story after another. He had been “on the road” since he was a kid, and he had been all over the country. John “borrowed” some money from a stranger, and we bought two cans of pork and beans and two coffees.

We turned west on Interstate 40, and stopped at a Rest Area. I had always imagined New Mexico to be desert sand, but the countryside was beautiful. We washed up in the restroom, then went to the back of the Rest Area and settled under a tree. We watched the families pull in. Some people would let the kids burn off some energy, and some would walk their dogs, but most would use the restroom and leave. Although the evening air was chilly, I fell asleep right after the sunset.

The Sun was shinning when I woke up, John was gone, and so was my backpack. I was down to the clothes on my back.

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