The Freak

by Benjamin J. Conner

To Frank Miller - an unwanted boy.

The sky was blue, the wind was calm and only a few white and fluffy clouds were seen high above. Trees were swiftly passing by the closed windows of the old gray Ford which could only gain speed with loud grinding and clanging that could be heard from miles away. The grown ups in the front of the car sat in tense silence smoking one cigarette after the other. Sunlight heated the dirty seats and turned the inside of the car into a smothering, foggy smoke box.

On the back seat 10-year old Frankie leaned his head against the plastic interior and watched the countryside go by.

His eyes were empty; there was no expression on his face at all, no smile, no fear, no nothing. He felt dizzy from the previous night. The headache had slowly subsided, but the sickness from the car's movement was more than present and produced a continuous murmur in his tummy. With his filthy hands the young lad wiped away the sweat from his forehead and was reminded of the wound on his cheek as the touch produced an itching pain. Frankie could still feel the cold sharp glass as it cut through the skin and underlying tissues of his face. It didn't hurt at first, but as the warm blood began running down his cheek and neck he was shocked and began to scream in fear and pain.

Though the bleeding had stopped,and he had gotten some stitches, he nevertheless touched his cheek and looked at his fingers to see if there was any blood on them.

"How did this happen?" The nurse asked the woman, who with some effort was managing to act like a normal, caring mother, while the documentation was being done.

"I don't know actually, he said he fell and cut himself on a broken vase."

"Did it happen today?"

"No, yesterday evening. I tried to bandage it myself, but it wouldn't stop bleeding.

The nurse turned to Frankie and stroked her fingers through his hair.

"Did you fall Frankie?"

"Yes Ma'am."

"And how did you cut yourself?"

"Yes Ma'am."

She looked concerned and paused for a second. "Frankie? Do you understand me?"

"Yes Ma'am."

"What day is it today Frankie?"

"Yes Ma'am."

The boy looked at the wall and didn't seem to be fully conscious.

"Uhm Lady, he's a little bit slow, can we please get it over with, we have an appointment." The mother said to the nurse.

"I'll do my very best, but I think we better take an x-ray. Would you mind waiting outside, Mrs. Miller?"

"I'll wait here and no x-ray, thanks. He is fine!"

After a little debate Frankie got his stitches and they were able to leave the little city hospital 15 minutes later. The nurse made a note for the doctor, that something was mysterious about this case.

Frankie was a handsome little boy, dark brown hair, remarkable eyebrows and a little freckled nose. He had a compact body with marvelous pale skin. From the outside he looked like a lively and sweet boy with a huge heart. But inside he was very quiet, never complained, never said anything if he wasn't asked, never moved without being told and never played like other kids his age - he was a well trained dog so to say.

The people that were responsible for the boy's upbringing, his "parents", looked like normal village people. No expensive clothes, no fancy haircut or any kind of makeup, they were just normal people from what one could see. A little bit messy perhaps.

The car moved on. Nobody said a word - the only sound that could be heard over the muttering of the engine, came from the burning paper that covered the tobacco as the lady on the front seat sucked on her cigarette with a strained expression on her face. Sometimes she would turn her head to check on the boy. He usually got a reproachful look then, as if she had hoped for him to have disappeared, but wasn't lucky. Most of the time he didn't respond to her agitated looks. If he did, a harsh "What are you staring at, freak?" was heard. It was heartbreaking how she talked to her own flesh and blood when nobody was around.

Frankie wondered when he became a freak and what a freak was made of. Sometimes the boy compared himself with other kids his age, but couldn't see any differences. But like any child, he believed what he was told over and over, and besides that, it had never done any good for him to say anything to his parents, or to question their statements, so he decided it was best to stay quiet and bear with his burden, no matter what.

As he moved a little on his seat the insistent smell from his unwashed socks crept up his nostrils and diverted him from his sore back.

Frankie was used to pain; it had always been part of his life. Many times he wanted to cry, but he wasn't able to anymore. He begged for one single tear - especially when he saw other kids on the street crying, after they had fallen down or had a fight - but he stopped crying years ago; no tears were left in his vulnerable and stricken little body. It would be a waste of time anyway, because nobody would listen to him. He wasn't allowed to leave his room, or the house. All he could see through the dirty window in his room was the other side of the street and some kids playing outside now and then.

There was one boy, probably at the age of 12, who sometimes looked up to Frankie's window and waved at him with a friendly smile. That was the only contact with other kids the little fellow had on a regular basis.

Frankie never played outside and he never had any real friends. The only friends he had, were a little Superman figure and a little cuddle toy that was as dirty and smelly as the floor in his carpet less room. And whenever he was close to feeling well again, his parents made sure that his suffering didn't end.

The only thing Frankie knew, was that he was a freak - that he was an unwanted and useless boy that didn't have the right to live. Whatever he did, nobody would care about him, nobody would help him if he was hurt or soothe him when he was sad. So he was thankful for his parents to let him live on, even if it was hell on earth, not that he knew any different–. Though he was treated worse than an animal there was some part of his mind, deep down, that would not allow him to wish for his life to end. That's why he was thankful anyway.

The car stopped at the next gas station. It had been the only sign of civilization for about 50 miles - no houses, no people, no nothing for nearly half an hour.

"HEY FREAK, can you hear me?!"

The boy looked in to the rear view mirror at the face of the man in the driver's seat and nodded. He was unsure if it was suitable to say a word, so he remained silent.

"If you need a piss, go now! If not, you'll have to piss your pants cos I ain't stop again, GOT ME?!"

With another nod the freckled boy opened the back door of the car and stepped out. Feeling the fresh wind on his face, he took a deep breath. Through his socks, the dirt and the little stones from the desert-like ground pierced themselves into his feet, which had never seen shoes. Frankie tried to disregard the pain as he walked to the toilet - taking one careful step after the other.

"GET YOUR ASS BACK IN THE CAR, FREAK!" The man shouted after he had made it about half way to the toilet. "Had your chance - next time you better run!"

Frankie stopped where he was and looked over his shoulder towards the man, his father, who was climbing back in to the old rickety Ford. If he had been able to, tears would have filled his eyes and streams of sadness would have run down his face.

He thought of his options.

Being short of ideas on how to empty his bladder he just let go while he slowly walked back to the car. The warm urine filled the jocks he wore and drowned his little ball sack before it made its way down the legs of his jeans and soaked his dirty socks before forming little puddles on the dusty ground at his feet.

"FUCK, look at this little shite...he pissed his pants." the man said as he turned around a moment before the car would hit the street again. Frankie felt awful for having peed his pants and was unsure what to do next. Again, this was all his fault.

Yes, he definitely was a freak.

"GET it off!" The woman shouted from the front seat.

Frankie was upset - he didn't know what to do. His breathing became fast and shallow as a familiar fear began knocking at his door.

"I said GET YOUR PANTS OFF!!,or shall I do it?" She leaned in closer and started to roughly pull on the boys pants.

Feeling the pressure, he did as he was asked, he opened the fly of his jeans and undressed.

"God damn it. Your underwear and socks also, or do you think we can take that stink of yours all the way home? You have produced enough trouble!"

With trembling hands the boy removed his underpants and socks, as had been demanded, and sat half naked in the back of the car feeling shy and vulnerable. His legs were still a bit wet from the urine and his genitals, which had pulled tight against his body felt cold and exposed.

The woman opened the side window and threw the clothes out of the moving car. They were never seen again.

"God, I can't take it anymore." The woman said to her husband while she shook her head and compulsively lit another cigarette.

During the next hour nothing else was said. Though the situation was embarrassing, the moments of silence, as always, were a pleasure for Frankie - if no one talks, nobody would be blaming him for anything. But being that exposed made him feel even more sick. He closed his eyes and imagined how it would be to fly high up in the sky like a bird and see the world from above, before he fell asleep to the grumbling sounds of the old Ford.

Wearing only a pair of blue boxers and a dirty white shirt, Frankie lay huddling on the dark gray floor of his barren room, his head buried in his arms. It was late afternoon the day before, about 6pm and only a little light from the setting sun made its way through the dirty window. The walls were painted in a dirty brown with dark stains that matched the ones on the striped mattress which was lying on the ground next to a little pot which he used to pee in.

Through the locked door he could hear his parents quarreling over the sound from the TV in the living room. They were already drunk - as always. On good days, they didn't drink until later in the evening and sometimes even came into Frankie's room, throwing him some dry bread or the leftovers from dinner. On bad days he didn't get anything to eat and was sometimes beaten up just because he was there.

His father would rip open the door and accuse him of something like letting Champ the dog out, hiding the TV remote or even worse - emptying the whiskey. Frankie never did anything like that. How could he - he was locked in his room, living the life of a forsaken prisoner. And he didn't understand why - it must be because he was a freak, there was no other explanation.

"Bettyyyy.....BETTYYYYY! Where's the fuckin WHISKEYY?!"

"HOW DO I KNOW? Get off your fuckin ass and look for it yourself!"

"I did. Can't find it!" He said and continued muttering to himself "The freak.....again.....I knew it....he needs to disappear!"

Betty mumbled something that Frankie didn't understand. He could hear his dad angrily stumbling towards the door of his room. His fear increased as the steps came closer and closer, and he jumped as the key was slowly put into the lock and the door opened.

"Hey Freak - did you take my Whiskey?" He said with a drunken but taunting voice.

The little boy, not daring to look into his eyes, buried his head even deeper in his arms and shook his head. He knew that there was only one chance to get out of this without being hurt - don't move, don't speak, don't look - don't even breathe.

Fear took over control. Frankie started to pant. His body released lots of adrenalin which made him tremble all over. His skin felt as if it was burning; he became wet with sweat in a second. It made him feel cold and warm at the same time.

He was waiting - waiting for the man to come closer and hit him. Usually it would only be one or two slaps - hard slaps that would shock his head. Or if he was lucky, his father would not go for his head - perhaps he would beat him somewhere else. That would be perfect; if he hit him on his arms or his legs - it would hurt at first, but not so much and he wouldn't have a headache or blurred vision after wards.

So he started to pray as silently as possible. "Please, pretty please God, don't let him hit my face, please God, don't let him hit my face, please God, please, don't let him hit my face...."

"BEETTTYYYY? YOU WON'T BELIEVE it....he's fuckin prayin.....WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? Jesus fucking Christ?"

Frankie didn't look up, didn't move and didn't answer.

"I asked you a question freak! CAN'T YOU HEAR ME? God you're so useless."

"I FOUND IT." Betty yelled from somewhere else in the house.

The man threw his cigarette butt at the 10-year-old, turned around and left the room without locking the door. Frankie thought he had gotten lucky - nothing happened and the fear slowly disappeared. His muscles loosened up, his heartbeat slowed down and he even dared to look up to see if his torturer was really gone. With a deep breathe he started to relax.

A minute later the door opened without warning and his father rushed in, holding a bottle of whiskey and a glass in his hands. Frankie knew what would happen next and his body immediately cramped up again in a rush of adrenalin and fear.

The drunken man smashed the glass at the wall, grabbed the head of the innocent child and pushed it into the boy's neck so that he had to look into his torturers face.

"I got something for you......I know you like it......SO THAT YOU NEVER EVER TOUCH MY WHISKEY AGAIN YOU STINKING FREAK!"

With that he brought the bottle to the boy's mouth and made him swallow the burning and breathtaking fluid. Frankie nearly vomited but there was no chance of getting away - his father had a firm grip on his hair now.

Some whiskey made its way down to his stomach and some of it was spilled all over his face and body, into his nose and eyes; Frankie begged with his eyes which were rolling, filled with resignation. But his dad wouldn't stop, even when he noticed that his boy was short on oxygen. Of course he didn't want to spend all the precious whiskey on his unwanted son. So he stopped seconds later when Frankie fainted. The man let go off him and the prisoner slumped on his mattress. He wasn't moving anymore, his body dead still - his shirt was wet, his eyes were closed and whiskey was drooling from his mouth.

"Fuckin useless!" The man said as he left the room and took a deep swig of the dark brown fluid.

Hours later - in the middle of the night - Frankie woke up and felt as though he was spinning upside down. He immediately puked on the floor and felt a hammering headache next to the dizziness from the alcohol that had flooded his weakened body. As he tried to get up, his legs gave in and he fell down again. It was just too much for the little guy. He was exhausted, feeling half dead and unable to take it anymore.

Frankie reached for one of the larger pieces of the broken glass. He asked himself why he deserved this and what he had done to be such a freak. Holding the sharp object in his hand the boy paused a moment before he slowly but vigorously slashed his left cheek. Seconds passed before any pain was noticeable. He so much wanted to cry and thought that this would help - finally. But it didn't.

Instead, the trembling got worse and he didn't know what to do - so lonely, so helpless. So he started to scream for all he was worth. Anger and pain combined to an ear-splitting crescendo that could be heard everywhere in the neighborhood. He felt his warm blood flowing down his cheek and neck before his eyes rolled up and unconsciousness overtook him; the piece of broken glass still in his left hand.

The next thing he remembered was, that he entered the hospital with his mother, but he was still in shock. What happened during the evening and this time was beyond his memories - he didn't even know what day it was.

Half naked on the back seat of the old Ford, Frankie woke up and looked around seeing unfortunately; the same car, the same persons, the same day. He so much wished for himself to be dead - he didn't want to be a freak anymore. It must be a total horror trip for his parents, and he thought of jumping out of the car.

If he was able to hit the street head first, he would probably die. What a wonderful thought that was - free as a bird, high up in the sky; no torture or prison anymore. What a relief.

Some minutes later the car stopped in front of their house. The untended garden completed the image of the dirty and misplaced property.

"Hey Freak. Get out!" was heard from the front of the vehicle.

The boy stepped out of the car covering his genitals while his father spoke to him through the open window.

"You stay in the garden until we get back in 10. Got me?!"

Frankie nodded being unsure what this meant.

"And don't you dare to leave the premises. Or they will come for you and you'll spend the rest of your god forsaken life in a dark and muddy place surrounded by stinking rats that slowly eat you up bite after bite. And nobody would hear you screaming!"

Frankie didn't know who "they" were, but being half naked, he wasn't about to go anywhere.

While they drove off, probably to get more whiskey, Frankie sat down in the high grass, put his arms around his knees, closed his eyes and tried to hide himself while the sun burned down on his head. He was thirsty but somehow thankful that he hadn't been immediately locked away in his room.

Still, there was a strange feeling about the situation. He smelled that something was up, but was unable to see the meaning in all that had happened.

Minute after minute passed without them coming back. Though they were far away, Frankie could hear his parents talk about him - how much they hated his presence and how they could get rid of him, because nobody would want him anyway.

While his head was spinning with thoughts of what his parents must be saying about him he fell in to a deep sleep under the hot afternoon sun.

Frankie's parents were driving along the busy streets. They were heading for the mall to get something to drink and have a strengthening meal, which was more than the boy wouldn't get today. Only one intersection until the entrance to the parking area.

With a deafening bang the car was hit by a heavy army truck. The metal body gnashed as the front of the truck forced itself into the internal space of the old Ford. Glass shattered, plastic broke and the tires that were pushed sideways over the rough street squeaked before they burst in a muffled explosion.

Silence filled the street. The dust cleared to reveal the remains of the old Ford wrapped around the front of the big truck.. No screams were heard, no dogs were barking.

The torturers were gone.

The police officer left his car and walked towards the house where, according to his records, the victims lived. He didn't know if there was anyone else living in the house, but didn't find any mention of relatives in the computer. So this was his only chance to inform anybody about the tragedy.

When he stepped on to the premises, he removed his hat, placed it under his arm, wiped away the sweat and walked on to ring the doorbell. There was no answer. No sounds from inside. He tried again. Still no answer. As the officer turned around and slowly walked towards his car he heard a weak whimpering which he couldn't locate at first.

After he stopped for a moment to find the source of it, he stepped into the high grass and found a little boy, half naked, lying in the sun bleached grass, moving from one side to the other - his eyes were closed.

The policeman immediately knelt down and put his arm under the filthy young lad who seemed to be in a state of shock or trance. He couldn't get him awake no matter what he did. It was a terrifying view to find him like that. Putting his arms under the little boy's weak body, he carried him to his car and spilled some cold water over his head after he placed him on the back seat. Carefully he tried to avoid contact with the bandage on the boy's cheek. Before he drove off, he called the hospital.

Sometime later, the sun was already setting, Frankie woke up lying in a clean, white bed. He was wearing a patient gown, and felt much better and fresher than hours before.

The police officer watched the boy opening his eyes, came closer and spoke to him.

"Hey! There you are."

Frankie looked into his eyes which were full of hope and confidence. Still, the boy had no expression on his face at all.

"Can you hear me?"

The boy nodded.

"I'm a police officer and here to help you. My name is Liam McAllister. What's your name?"

"Frank Miller." He whispered.

Remembering the names of the victims from the car crash, officer McAllister knew, that the boy had just lost his parents. He felt nervous about telling the boy about the loss and decided to do that later on, when he would feel better.

"Good Frank, you can call me Liam or Lee if you like. I found you in the garden. Can you remember how you ended up there?"

Frankie shook his head.

"And do you know why you weren't wearing any clothes over your private parts?"

Again, no positive answer.

"That's ok Frank, don't worry. I'll take care of you."

Liam McAllister felt sorry for the young and innocent boy and wondered what happened to him. He softly stroked along his forehead and through the dry brownish hair while his eyes were glued to the neglected beautiful face in front of him. His protective instinct woke up and he was feeling fondness for the little one.

"Don't run away. I'll be right back!"

Frankie grabbed him by his arm with a firm grip and begged in a pleading voice.

"Please.....don't leave me! Please!"

And so Liam stayed where he was continuing to stroke the little boy's forehead, his healthy cheek, his shoulder, arms and his delicate fingers.

Frankie had never felt anything like that before. Someone actually seemed to care for him. Was he dreaming? How could the man really like a freak like him. It was a confusing situation but he loved it. Feeling someone's soft and loving hand on his skin instead of being hit with it, was the best feeling he had ever experienced.

The warm and sensual strokes made him feel better - somehow alive; the anger, the was all being erased by this simple act of love being given to a lonely child.

Water in Frankie's eyes formed a bear tear that finally found a way down his face. The first tear he had shed for years. God what a great feeling that was - intoxicating. He immediately wanted to stop the hands of time - nothing should be allowed to change this wonderful and loving moment..

"Don't worry Frank, your parents will come and get you as soon as they can." Liam, the police officer said, thinking that it would be a good idea to not frighten the boy any further. Secretly he hoped that he would not be the one who had to tell the young boy that his parents were dead. Though they had just met, he liked the boy and didn't want to be the one to give him the painful news.

As Frankie heard what was just said, he winced. He had nearly forgotten about his torturers but was now reminded of what would await him at home. Within a second the boy changed from relaxed to dead-still with a hunted look in his eyes. As the fear returned, accompanied by anger he pulled away from the soft touch, no longer able to accept it.

The officer was confused by this and excused himself saying "I have to leave for a few minutes but I will be just down the hall. Ok Frank? I will be right back."

Frankie's alarm bells were going off and the moment Liam left the room, panic took over. He jumped up from the bed and left the room as fast as he could, trying to find a way of putting those new feelings into a box and take them with him.

Frankie was standing on the hospital roof looking down on the streets, the cars and the people walking by. He felt as free as a bird.

And now that he had learned that someone might care for him, that there were people out there who actually weren't disgusted by his presence, he felt good. Not only good. He felt brilliant, wanted, liked, in some ways loved and would never forget this feeling and didn't want to go back to where he was before. Never, ever did the boy wanted to go back to his parents again or change what he felt right then.

"I'm Frankie. I'm alive and I'm NOT A FREEEEAAAK!"

As he yelled that to the world, his eyes filled with tears. Tears of joy, tears of anger, pain and of resurrection. Nobody would harm him anymore; no chance. Finally he smiled and didn't feel bad about anything, neither his parents nor his own life.

With that, ten year-old Frankie jumped.......

Personal statement to the story:

Many kids, especially children who are gay or are unwanted and tortured by their parents, still commit suicide these days due to the burden of not being accepted in the world they live in. Each of us is asked to open his/her eyes and watch out for those helpless little ones and do the best he or she can, to save the souls of our beloved children. And keep in mind - be honest, because not telling the truth can lead to big misunderstandings and this caused the death of Frankie in this story. Suicide is no solution at all!!!

To Be Alive
by Tod Greyson
A poem inspired by this story.

What does it mean to be alive? I look out the window of my small dark world and see a bright sun in a blue sky. Soft white clouds drifting by on sweet scented winds. I hear children laughing and playing amidst the gentle encouragement of their mums and papas. Is this what it means to be alive?

What does it mean to be alive? For me it means a dark room with a locked door and a window with bars. It means hunger, thirst and the smell of my own unwashed body. It means harsh words and the pain of deserved punishment delivered amidst coarse, drunken laughter.

What does it mean to be alive? Oh how I long for that life in the bright place, but I only deserve this life in the dark place, because I am a freak and a burden. I know this is true because my mum and papa tell me so and I believe them. I would cry for this truth, but I don't remember how.

What does it mean to be alive? I heard once that there is a papa way up in the sky and his name is God. I heard that he has made a home for me where I can be in the bright place all the time. I was told that he loves me and that it doesn't matter if I am a freak and a burden. If this is true then why does he make me stay here in this dark place?

What does it mean to be alive? I don't know. I single tear runs down my cheek. I am so tired. I curl up on my tattered mattress and with my thumb in my mouth, I gently rock myself to sleep.

Please God, can I come home now? I don't want to be alive any more.

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