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"GEORGE AND THE DEVIL"

"GEORGE AND THE DEVIL"

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Published by Gebre Menfes Kidus
This is a true story. Please be forewarned that it contains graphic language and disturbing material.
This is a true story. Please be forewarned that it contains graphic language and disturbing material.

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Published by: Gebre Menfes Kidus on Mar 03, 2014
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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04/30/2014

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GEORGE AND THE DEVIL
George and I were digging up palmetto roots under the relentless rays of the Florida panhandle sun. George had only been with us for a few
days, recently sent to us from the E&O (“Evaluation and Observation Unit”), where one was initi
ally incarcerated for approximately 3 months
before being moved to an “outside vocational group.” We were both patients/residents/inmates at a place called “Anneewakee,” which was supposedly a Native American word meaning “land of the friendly people.” The
re were indeed some friendly people at Anneewakee, but there were also monsters and demons that prowled too often undetected. Our group of twelve was clearing an acre of hardscrabble palmetto and pine tree land in order to build wood cabins in which to live. In the meantime we slept in Camel tents, two people to a tent. So we were motivated to work hard and fast in order to achieve our goal of living in solid structures that would better protect us from rattlesnakes, wild boars, alligators, and the capricious elements. The Gulf coast was three miles to the south, and to the north lay nothing but swampy, dense, and uninhabited panhandle wilderness. No need for electric walls and razor wire. You could take your chances with the ocean or with the swamps. Or you could do the safer thing and steal a bicycle and flee down the lone two-lane road that led to
Tallahassee 60 miles away. That’s what one guy tried. Problem was, it takes a few hours to get to Tallahassee on a bike, and it doesn’t take
long to realize
that somebody’s gone. The police were alerted, and the
poor guy was caught only ten miles en route to his escape. He was expedited back to the E&O for another three month sojourn in padded confinement.
 
Most of the people at Anneewakee were “juvenile delinquents” sent
there by court order. Others, like me, were sent by their parents for one reason or another. My crime was that I had been expelled from three different schools, and my psychiatrist persuaded my parents that living with hardened criminals under the authority of pedophiles would somehow motivate me to care more about math. So here I was digging up palmetto roots with our new group member George. I had been in the group for almost a year, so I was pretty well acclimated to how things worked. You see, at Anneewakee there was no predetermined sentence. You had to earn your way out of the place.
The more you complied, the more you “worked on your problems,” and
the more you demonstrated a willingness to obey authority and cooperate with the group, then the more privileges you could earn and
the better chance you had of eventually “terminating from the program.”
From day one, as I sat in the solitary confinement of my padded cell in the E&O, I decided that I would accept these conditions and do my best to adhere to them. I realized this was really my only choice. It was very clear: rebellion would keep me confined, and compliance might one day get me released. It was 1983, I was 14 years old, and the only thing I knew about Communism was that our USA hockey team had beaten those Commie Russian bastards a few years earlier in the winter Olympics at Lake Placid, New York. Of course it never dawned on me that most people in Russia were much freer than I was. George had been quiet since his arrival to our group. He was large and slovenly, and could easily be described as
oafish.
 He had clear innocent eyes that never quite met your gaze. So here we were, laboring away in the heat of the afternoon. He dug away with his flathead shovel, and I swung my pickaxe. I had earned the right to wield a pickaxe. George was new and so he was relegated to a flathead
 
shovel. A spade shovel had to be earned. Every object at Anneewakee was considered a potential weapon, and they had somehow determined that it was easier to kill someone with a spade shovel than with a flathead. We had been conditioned to accept this as perfectly logical. We dug and swatted away the variety of stinging, sucking, biting flying insects that pervaded the north Florida swampland. The layers of insect repellent were thick enough to permeate the air with a ubiquitous
chemical sweetness, but they didn’t do much to deter the mosquitoe
s and dog flies. We wore snake guards around our calves on account of the Timber and Eastern Diamondback rattlers that were prevalent in the area. Palmetto bushes are rattlesnake havens, and we were uprooting their territory with reckless abandon. You ha
ve to talk when you’re working. There’s nothing else to do.
Conversation alleviates the boredom and helps pass the time; and the more interesting the conversation, the better. In the E&O I quickly learned that there were plenty of fascinating conversations to be had with my comrades in consignment. As a virginal adolescent, I was fascinated to listen to the boastful sexual exploits of a 15 year old guy who was locked up in my ward. We would play checkers in the afternoon and he would regale me with explicit accounts of his
numerous sexual conquests. I didn’t understand the mechanics or lingo
of half of what he said, but I was enthralled nonetheless. It was obvious to him that I was quite wet behind the ears, so he was kind enough to balance his boasting with tutorial information without me having to
inquire. Even so, I still didn’t understand much. But I must confess that listening to his stories was some of the best entertainment I’ve ever
had to this day.

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flotus111 added this note
The story kept me interested-it was a good read. I really enjoyed it. Great job!
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