A Blind Pig story

I brought my family to the city when I was looking for work almost ten years ago. I took a job as a cab driver to fill in time until something better came along. Nothing ever did, so that's what I am now - a cab driver. It's not what I ever saw myself doing, but it puts food on the table, so that's good enough.

Jenny was just a baby when we came here. Dirk came after a cold night a few years down the line. All we could afford when we got here was this dirty little tenement flat. We did our best to make it somewhere worth living in, repainting it as we got the money, buying second-hand furniture and ornaments. Over the years it's become home. The rest of the building still feels like Sodom and Gomorrah rolled into one sometimes, but we try keep to our little island of normality.

Jenny's almost a teenager now, still all blonde curls and dimples, pretty as can be. I worry about her a lot, just like any good father would. I only want what's best for her. There's nothing wrong with that, is there?

My wife, Angie, used to wait tables in a diner and keeps on at me to let her go back to it. It wouldn't be right, though, with the kids and everything. Kids need a full-time mother. Kids need a good, stable home. Still, sometimes I think it would be good for us to have the extra money; I'm never going to earn enough to get us out of this place.

When we first moved in the neighbours really got to me. A lot of them are Haitians and Jamaicans and immigrants from God knows where. The noise from their shouting and fighting kept us awake at nights, the piles of garbage they left attracted rats and roaches. Half the time they let their kids run around like animals, wrecking the place and making trouble. Still, we keep to ourselves and there are rarely any real problems. At least there didn't used to be.

I feel sorry for the Lewises. I really do. No one deserves what they’ve gone through. I still remember Susan as that angel-faced little toddler that Jenny invited to her fourth birthday party. They moved into the building not long after us, into an apartment down the end of the corridor. It was natural that Jenny and Susan would become friends, seeing as they were the same age. I was so happy that she'd found a nice, clean white girl to play with. Angie and I used to baby sit for Susan, letting her stay for sleepovers whenever Jenny asked.

It was terrible what happened to her.

For a public school the junior high we send Jenny to isn't too bad. You hear all these stories of kids taking guns to school or selling drugs in the toilets. This isn't that kind of school. I wouldn't let Jenny go if it was.

I'm not saying it's ideal. There's still some rough and tumble, and Jenny's told me about the other kids playing tricks on their teachers and everything. I feel like I should say it was all so much better in my day, but kids don't really change. Not most of them, anyway.

Whatever doubts I may have had about the school were buried when they took that tough stand with Susan Lewis. I'm not saying it's her fault, or anything. Scabs is a terrible disease and God knows the victims don't need punishing, but at the same time it's not right for them to be around normal kids.

The principle, Miss Martinez, seemed not too sure of herself at first. She was new there and I don't think she'd ever had a student go Scab on her before. I joined together with some of the other parents to tell her we didn't want some half animal mixing with our kids. I mean, kids are kids, right? They fight in the playground. And if you've got some kid who's half ferret it's only natural that they'll bite. And that spit of theirs is going to have all of those Scabs germs swimming about in it. It only stands to reason that it's not a good idea for them to mix with our kids. There's special schools for their sort.

Miss Martinez tried to tell us how most people were carried the Scabs virus anyway. Maybe that's so, but that doesn't mean you've got to take any more chances. If they were her own kids she would have seen that. The petition changed her mind in the end. Apart from the Lewises there were maybe another dozen parents who wouldn't sign. All but the most woolly-minded liberals could see the sense.

Dick and Ina Lewis stopped talking to us then. There was a big fight first when they tried to tell me that Susan was the same girl she'd always been. They couldn't understand why we were acting like this about a kid we used to think of as our other daughter. I tried to make them see how I was just trying to protect the other kids, but they couldn't see how this was different to hurting Susan. I wish it could have been different.

Anyway, it wouldn't have been fair on Susan. Kids can be monsters. I remember what it was like for me, and all that was wrong was I was a little plump. I can't imagine what it would be like if I'd had fur and a tail. Susan would have hated it, I'm sure.

After the incident at the school someone put us on the Humans First mailing list. I never found out if it was one of the other parents thinking we were like them or Dick and Ina trying to make us feel bad. Either way the literature they sent taught me a lot. I learned that there are people out there who have the same concerns as me, but most of them are just petty and small-minded. I think of that biblical passage about how God hates the sin but loves the sinner. I don't hate the people with Scabs, but I do hate the disease. Maybe hate isn't exactly right - it scares me. I've seen what it can do to a family and I worry about it destroying ours. There's a bit difference between that and what these Humans First nazis want.

Jenny's a smart kid. She does well at school and she's learned the difference between right and wrong. I've always made sure she understands that. That's why it came as such a shock.

I knew she wouldn't be seeing Susan at school now and I figured that she'd avoid her the rest of the time too. I mean, girls of her age worry about trying to dress and act the same as each other, always scared that if their friends think they're different they won't like them any more. How different can you get than hanging around with a Scab. It just seemed so obvious that I didn't even tell her not to. Not at first, anyway.

I was coming home from work after doing an afternoon shift and saw Jenny down the corridor, coming out of the Lewises' door. I pressed up against the wall and somehow she didn't see me. I waited there until I heard the click of our own front door.

After dinner I asked Jenny casually whether she had seen Susan lately. She got that evasive look she only gets when lying and told me that yeah, she'd seen her around. I still feel bad for hitting Jenny then, but I needed to make her understand what a stupid thing she had done. Angie left the room. I could see in her eyes she didn't like what I was doing but knew it needed to be done. Being a good father isn't all smiles and cuddles.

Once Jenny had stopped crying I let her know that what she had done was wrong. Susan had been her friend once but that had to stop. It was dangerous and nothing was worth that risk. I could see in her face that she didn't really understand and I thought about slapping her again to make my point, but figured that would be too much. I told her she didn't have to understand, that all she had to do was obey me.

She sulked for days, but I could tell I had got through to her. Over the next week I took extra care to let her know how much I loved her. I never want her to see me as some kind of ogre.

I know I wasn't the only one in the building to worry about Susan Lewis. Almost no one spoke to the Lewis family at all. I felt bad for them, but what can you do? In my more selfish moments I hoped that they would move out. I know I'd have found it hard in their place.

From time to time I'd see Susan in the corridor or outside in the area of cracked concrete that passes for a playground here. None of the other children would play with her. I was pleased to see that they didn't tease her either. I guess they were just afraid. She never met my eyes.

One day Angie told me Susan had come to the door while I was out at work. She was crying and demanding to know why we were all being so mean to her. Angie tried to tell her that no one wanted to hurt her, but she wouldn't listen. She kept saying she wanted to see Jenny and hear from her whether they were still friends. Angie ended up having to close the door in her face.

Jenny heard all of it and it took hours to calm her down. She was still red eyed and teary when I came home. She asked me again why she and Susan couldn't still be friends. It broke my heart. I can't stand to see Jenny like that. She told me that she'd be careful, that they wouldn't touch or anything. For a moment I almost weakened, but then I thought of Jenny as some terrible half thing. I felt so angry with Susan for doing this to my daughter.

I knew sooner or later she would start seeing Susan behind my back. She'd be more careful this time and it would be harder to catch her at it. I couldn’t punish her for something she hadn't done yet. I despaired.

In the end I suppose I had no choice.

As much as I respect Dick and Ina they were never as good parents as Angie and me. They let Susan play outside at all hours, dark or light. In a neighbourhood like ours it was only a matter of time until something happened to her.

The police were very good about it all. There's nothing that gets a community up in arms like a dead child. At the same time the child was a Scab, so the feelings were a bit dampened and confused. It was a difficult balancing act for them.

After a thorough investigation lasting a few weeks they arrested a Scab vagrant who had been seen in the area not long before it all happened. Apparently he had a record for indecent assault. The fact that her body hadn't been molested didn't seem to matter. Justice was seen to be done. Everyone was happy.

Well, almost everyone.

Dick and Ina moved out within the month. I can’t say I blame them. The memories must have been too much to stand.

Jenny went through her period of mourning as well. I tried to be as much comfort as I could. I always try to be the best father I can, even if it means doing things I don't like. Doesn't every child deserve a father like that?


(c) 1997 XoYo

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