Mr. Elser’s fourth grade class in the little town school included the four of us, a band of orphanage misfits. In addition to me, the three other eleven-year-olds were boys: Emil, Roman, and, Albert. When the sun touched Emil’s hair it looked like he had shiny golden reddish stripes in his thick curls. Emil—a sweet boy who never could do anything right— was an easy target for Mr. Elser’s attention almost every day. In addition to the daily trouble from Mr. Elser, the other boys in the school regularly chased Emil until he stumbled and fell down or was overtaken.
Each time Emil was in trouble in school, he received punishment in the orphanage when Sister Ariana hit him. I knew that Emil didn’t make the boys chase him. Sister Ariana announced in the dining hall a few times that Emil was a really bad boy as she looked at him with serious concern. Maybe she did not know about the boys. I wished I could tell Sister Ariana about the boys chasing, or Mr. Elser. Yes, Emil was not a fast runner and he did cry quickly—he seemed mostly scared. If I tried to tell her, she would be very angry. If I were a boy she would hit me all the time, too.
Once Emil was running so hard to escape the boys that he unsuccessfully threw himself over a high spiked iron fence. The blood dripped down one of the spikes. The other boys disappeared. I climbed way up there to help get Emil’s leg off the spike so he could get down. His red dirty face was full of tears. The ripped brown fabric of his pants exposed the open wound in his flesh. Emil left a bloody trail as I helped him walk back to the orphanage. After a while he couldn’t walk anymore, so I carried him. His face grew paler and paler. When we finally arrived, I sat on the staircase with Emil in my arms and waited. Sister Ariana appeared and yelled at him, and then she quickly sent me away.