From Chapter One
Winter 1970, Daly City, California- I'm alone. I'm hungry and I'm shivering in the dark! I sit on top of my hands at the bottom of the stairs in the garage. My head is tilted backward. My hands became numb hours ago. My neck and shoulder muscles begin to throb. But that's nothing new - I've learned to turn off the pain.
I'm Mother's prisoner.
I am nine years old and I've been living like this for years. Every day it's the same thing. I wake up from sleeping on an old army cot in the garage, perform the morning chores, and if I'm lucky, eat leftover breakfast cereal from my brothers. I run to school, steal food, return to "The House" and am forced to throw up in the toilet bowl to prove that I didn't commit the crime of stealing any food.
I receive beatings or play another one of her "games," perform afternoon chores, then sit at the bottom of the stairs until I'm summoned to complete the evening chores. Then, and only if I have completed all of my chores on time, and if I have not committed any "crimes," I may be fed a morsel of food.
My day ends only when Mother allows me to sleep on the army cot, where my body curls up in my meek effort to retain any body heat. The only pleasure in my life is when I sleep. That's the only time I can escape my life. I love to dream.
Weekends are worse. No school means no food and more time at "The House." All I can do is try to imagine myself away - somewhere, anywhere - from "The House." For years I have been the outcast of "The Family." As long as I can remember I have always been in trouble and have "deserved" to be punished. At first I thought I was a bad boy. Then I thought Mother was sick because she only acted differently when my brothers were not around and my father was away at work. But somehow I always knew Mother and I had a private relationship. I also realized that for some reason I have· been Mother's sole target for her unexplained rage and twisted pleasure.
I have no home. I am a member of no one's family. I know deep inside that I do not now, nor will I ever deserve any love, attention or even recognition as a human being. I am a child called "It."
I'm all alone inside.
Upstairs the battle begins. Since it's after four in the afternoon, I know both of my parents are drunk. The yelling starts. First the name-calling, then the swearing. I count the seconds before the subject turns to me- it always does. The sound of Mother's voice makes my insides turn. "What do you mean?" she shrieks at my father, Stephen. "You think I treat The Boy' bad? Do you?" Her voice then turns ice cold. I can imagine her pointing a finger at my father's face. "You ... listen ... to ... me. You ... have no idea what It's' like. If you think I treat It' that bad ... then ... It' can live somewhere else.
I can picture my father- who, after all these years, still tries somewhat to stand up for me - swirling the liquor in his glass, making the ice from his drink rattle. "Now calm down," he begins. "All I'm trying to say is... well no child deserves to live like that. My God Roerva, you treat ... dogs better than ... than you do The Boy."
The argument builds to an ear-shattering climax. Mother slams her drink on the kitchen countertop.
Father has crossed the line. No one ever tells Mother what to do. I know I will have to pay the price for her rage. I realize it's only a matter of time before she orders me upstairs. I prepare myself. Ever so slowly I slide my hands out from under my butt, but not too far- for I know sometimes she'll check on me. I know I am never to move a muscle without her permission.
I feel so small inside. I only wish I could somehow ... Without warning, Mother opens the door leading to the downstairs garage. "You!" she screams. "Get your ass up here! Now!"
©1998. All rights reserved. Reprinted from The Lost Boy by David Pelzer. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.
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No Man's Land
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