Monday, March 1, 2010

Magpie Tales: Band-aids and boardgames

We are standing behind the complex where he lives, at the edge of the woods. He is five years old, tawny brown hair with a grin. His eyes carry shadows.

That's the boom boom trail...we don't go down there.

My mind turns this over slowly, examining it for anything that could be good, coming up with naught. An orange cat walks lopsided toward us, its back feet skittering to the side, ribs forming ridges in nappy fur. Milky eyes peer over its ragged smile and its cries sound like an abandoned baby.

This is my cat. He walks funny. Want to pet him?

A head pokes out a screenless window to see who is talking, then darts back inside. Muffled voices, then a burn scarred face appears, then disappears back inside, shutting the window. Meth she'll mumble, one day as we talk on the stoop. The breeze carries the aroma of sweet smoke.

My dad is over at Billy's. I can't go there, when he is there.

Empty beer cans pile in an altar, random debris littering its base, leftovers from last nights sacrifices to Bacchus. I can still hear their raucous echoes in the blood beating bass drums in my ears, and just try to breathe. A cop strolls through the alley between the buildings, eyeing us then moving on, his heavy belt jangling.

Want to play hide n' seek.

I feel the march of a thousand ants on my arms and neck. We play. We play to make it all go away. For a brief few moments maybe it does. I make calls, file reports. In two weeks, he will fly out of the second story window, in a rain shower of glass.

We will hear stories. He will get a new home. I will not see him again.

This is not pretty.

Sometimes it isn't.

But I keep going back to broken homes and busted lives, with band aids, board games and hope.

I can't save them all,

But maybe just a few...

This is the weight that I carry.

This was written for the photo prompt at Magpie Tales.

111 comments:

Brian Miller said...

For those of you that read the Brotin Tale on Saturday, that was fiction. This is not. Just a small glimpse into the world in which I work.

I wrote it a few weeks ago after a rather heartbreaking week and when I saw the prompt for Magpie, it just seemed to fit.

Kay said...

Well, you get my vote! your very good at what you do, Mr. Miller. Very good, indeed. and i do believe you just moved up one more notch on the saint totem :)

christine said...

A very interesting slant on the story, very readable I liked it.

Christine

Lorenzo said...

And a weight you carry with great skill and elegance. I hope sharing it with us lightens the burden. Your writing, as always rings true. I knew it was not fiction even before reading your comment. Well done, Brian.

She Writes said...

Brian-your work world would undo me.

Jessie said...

your imagery is wonderful, "An orange cat walks lopsided toward us, its back feet skittering to the side, ribs forming ridges in nappy fur. Milky eyes peer over its ragged smile and its cries sound like an abandoned baby." and then, "I feel the march of a thousand ants on my arms and neck."

this brought tears to my eyes.

there is so much power in your words.

throwing roses onto your stage with smiles,

Cop Mama said...

Sorry you have the weight on your shoulders, my friend.

I too have worked in this world and I must say, I hate it! I hate the cruel, sad world some children are brought into. But thank goodness there are people out there like you with "band aids and board games" because someone needs to have hope!

Six Feet Under Blog said...

I love the way you put your life into stories. I love the photo prompt.

buffalodick said...

You can't save them all, but you can't stop trying either..good man, Brian!

järnebrand said...

I felt the march of a thousand ants on my arms and neck to. As a teacher I deal with teenagers mostly. Some of them would have needed someone like you who helped them when they were five, too. You are doing a great job, the most important job there is. Protect and save our children. This post is very powerful and touching. I can see the face of that kid before me, if I close my eyes.
You are very talented, and you use your talent very well. Thank you so much for sharing with us.
/Jo.

Baino said...

I saw that Marie Osmond's son took a leap from a a tall building this week. Very sad. Counselling is a tough pursuit, you can't save everyone but if you get through to one, that's a small victory. Nicely done Brian.

Ronda Laveen said...

Love and hope are the two most important things to give.A little piece of hope can keep a person afloat. Drowning is pretty much assured if that piece is not there to hold on to.

TechnoBabe said...

Real life isn't pretty in every home it it? At least in your work you are able to help some. I wish there were people like you when I was young.

Grand Pooba said...

Wow, this was real? Seriously heartbreaking.

jake (to the) holla said...

i pictured that in vivid detail... always such a masterful artisan with your words, man! definitely a heartbreaking depiction of the rough situations out there in the world... phew...

jake (to the) holla said...

i pictured that in vivid detail... always such a masterful artisan with your words, man! definitely a heartbreaking depiction of the rough situations out there in the world... phew...

subby said...

I gathered this was real, Brian. Mom used to work for a place called Devereaux, here in MASS. And the stories she'd tell me ***SHUDDER*** When I think of what I went through as a kid...but I try to keep it all locked up...

The Retired One said...

thank goodness there are people like you that do what you do, Brian...I simply could not do it.
I took one nursing class where I worked with troubled kids in a live in situation, and it nearly broke my heart then.
I KNOW you are excellent at it and they are very lucky to have someone with such a big heart working with them.

Life with Kaishon said...

Oh. This makes me so sad. As a social worker I encounter things like this too often. When I first got out of college I had hopes of changing the world. Now, not so much. It hurts my heart to think of it.

doubtfulpoet said...

Nice and simple to follow :) again you're teaching me stuff! I might even understand this writing lark by the time I hit 25 :D

blueviolet said...

I don't know that I could do it. I'm not sure I could leave it behind when I got home every day. More power to you, Brian. You're doing a good thing.

LadyCat said...

Thank you for sharing this part of your life. I admire those of you who are out in the trenches, trying to make things better. It is a very harsh world for too many.

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

Brian: Sobering to think of the things people like you, on the front lines, witness. How do you manage the vicarious traumatization it must cause when the help fails, when there are not enough resources, when people refuse the help offered, when you see things no one should have to look at ...?

Do you know about EMDR therapy for all forms of trauma (it has many other applications too)? You can use it on yourself. Even without knowing the theory or the protocols, one basic premise is that bi-lateral stimulation of the 2 brain hemispheres helps traumatic events to be processed more skillfully by the brain.

Bilateral stimulation takes many forms and can include what our legs do when we walk for a while or jog - or you could also just sit and tap on one knee with you hand and then on the other with your other hand for a couple of minutes while thinking about the event that was distressing.

In earthquake and war zones therapists familiar with the technique go in and teach victims the 'butterfly tap'. You cross your arms and put your right hand on your left shoulder and your left hand on your right shoulder and tap alternately (not at the same time) - tap left - tap right (bilateral stimulation). It helps the brain to diffuse the trauma in both hemispheres where it gets the maximum 'metabolization'.

If you already know all this, I hope you are having a good laugh. If not, you could give it a try. :)

Anonymous said...

USA

Daniel said...

Very dark. Too dark for me. It seems my mind can't shake what I just read. I wish it was fiction, that this was all just to get a reaction. Damn.

William Manson © 2010 said...

having worked there myself I can relate, its not easy, as dark as coal at times, well written as always :)

Tom said...

must be hard to sleep some nights, with these kind of thoughts in your head.

dopey said...

Those children's lives are very dark and sad. But in those dark moments where they are huddled in a corner, the happy moments you give them playing hide and seek give them a place to go to escape. If you can't save them at least you give them some light in their life.

Prayer Girl said...

You have made me so curious. For some reason I do not know what world you work in. My curiosity is high.

PG

Devin Daniels said...
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Matty said...

As I read this, I had the impression it was something from your job. You have quite the capacity for tolerance.

slommler said...

I applaud your boardgames and your smiles and I hope it brings more than just a few minutes of joy! Well said Brian!
Hugs
SueAnn

Cat said...

Oh wow. Very nicely done!

willow said...

You're a good man, Brian. Keep doing what you do. Excellent piece.

Mighty M said...

I remember reading a profile about you last week or so that said 90-95% of what you write is true, so I pretty much knew this was not fiction when I started it.

Sounds like a job that may be more gut-wrenching and heartbreaking at times than rewarding. Poor kids. I hope some of them move on to better lives.

otin said...

That was more horrifying than anything fiction. Reality can be real ugly sometimes. I don't envy what you do, but I do praise it!

CottageGirl said...

Gosh, Brian ...
I'm sure with your sensitivity, your clients have the best possible person helping them, whether they like it or not.

Your writing is so heartfelt as well as so eye-opening to a world much different than most and yet so common.

The pale observer said...

Sad. Wish we could protect all kids - and have them live in a safe, happy world. It's SOOOO not the case though.

You are strong to work facing that fact every day.

5kidswdisabilities said...

Oh, that is so sad..
Surely there are some happy outcomes with band-aids and boardgames. I want to hear about THEM!!!

Anonymous said...
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Maggie said...

It would be difficult for me to come back home and change my *family mode on* I'd be talking about work 24/7 to get it out of my system or something.

Ariel said...

This is so touching. You do a great job. Each child is special and how much you learn about them!

secret agent woman said...

This must be the post you mentioned. It is surely not an easy weight to carry, but I figure those of us who can do it, should. For those children, it's everything.

Tracy said...

I don't know how you do it, Brian, but I am so thankful for people like you. I love your writing, but this particular piece broke my heart.

C.M. Jackson said...

your story makes my toughest day look like a walk in the park--thank you for doing what you do

Brian Miller said...

i do love what i do...no day is the same really. i really should be thanking parents. i see kids 5-10 hours a week, its what happens when i am not there that makes the difference. teachers go through similar things in the schools, i have a lot of respect for them too.

Magpie said...

What a wonderful vocation you've chosen - or has chosen you...both your writing and your gift of touching children's lives in a positive way. Thank you.

Catalyst said...

Tough work, Brian. Tough writing.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Brian Miller said...

anonymous...i get your point, now go away...

♥ Braja said...

No, I'm sorry, that doesn't work for that picture.

That story needed a 1,000kg picture....

Vicki Lane said...

Good writing -- heartbreakingly real.

rel said...

some find the weight unbearable,
others bear-up under the weight; each plays a part in the other's life. and that's the way of it.
rel

Queenmothermamaw said...

My youngest daughter is a MSW and she is now director of a family shelter. Not quite as bad as children only, but pretty tough to take. I do hope you get some closure with being able to share your stories. I am a retired home health RN and I have seen my share of sad stories too. Blessings
QMM

The Muse said...

it takes a special spirit...
i think you have it...

Suz said...

hard to get through
but I did...thank you

Uma Gowrishankar said...

Brian, really beautiful and heart rending. The world the five year old in your story and Mangala Ratwa in my story inhabit is diametrically opposite. Very soon and inevitably the world of Mangala will be busted. What's important is to have people like you who make a difference. Keep the good work going.

Bachelor said...

I commend you for your loving efforts. Very good post! :)
The Bach

chiccoreal said...

Raw and gutsy nerve in this work. Inhabiting the very real roles people must live each day bearing life's slings and arrows. Hope the bandages and boardgames can sustain the floodgate found here!Excellent work in the here and now! Thank-you!

lakeviewer said...

I didn't know about your work. Thank God there are still people like you hanging in there, reaching out.

PropellerHeadMom said...

I admire folks like yourself who can do that kind of work in those type of situations. Keep up the great work Brian.

Gillian said...

Incredibly powerful Brian.

clean and crazy said...

i am glad i am clean today and my children do not need a visit from you.
you are an angel in these hard times for children, no matter what their mom's and dad's think thank you for helping those you can.

Green-Eyed Momster said...

This touches my heart on many levels. I can't even imagine.....

I'm glad I got my sh!t together when I did.

Oh gosh, Brian...

Thanks and smiles!~

Marla said...

Brian ~ Fostering for six years, I know these stories. I am so thankful for men like you. I am thankful for you. You are a good man and we are thankful.

spacedlaw said...

Moving story, very spare.

little hat said...

Weight. What a simple take on this one Brian. Love the way you break up the pasages with the voices. Went for a stroll back through some recent blogs Brian. Like you poetry. great stuff.
I work with young people but have never done your line of work. You gotta be strong.

Escapist said...

A story u have put urself , at least out of fiction world..Very turn in and up kind of pages ,i could find in your blog.


Jolliieess;)

Protege said...

Very touching. It takes a man with a big heart to be able to deal with this much pain every day.
Lovely and poignant writing...
xo
Zuzana

Anonymous said...

Do not give to me minute? ciallis on-line professional Wanna very nice joke?)) Did you hear about the butcher who accidentally backed into the meat grinder? He got a little behind in his work.

SUN DANCE HILL said...

Superb! Obvious in your emotions that this writing is truth, and a sad truth at that. Wonderful that you are one of the ones that try to make life a little better for those unfortunate children, it is a thankless job for the most part... I know what you are talking about! This piece was very moving, I like the boy's lines, they spoke volumes. Thank you!

Yousei Hime said...

What a heavy poem. I like it despite the grim tone and topic.

Thanks for stopping by. Glad you liked the rabbit haiku.

the walking man said...

all to familiar Brian, all too familiar.

amy said...

God bless you, Brian, for the soul touching work you do.

I've often wondered how it is that people such as Mother Teresa, Pastor Wurmbrand, Greg Mortenson, countless police officers, social workers, soldiers, & yourself...those who must face the raw deal of evil in this world, can continue on -- because I think I would crumble under such weight..

And yet, there is no greater proof of God's grace in this world than the fact that you carry on...

And not just carry on, but going forth with a spirit of light a hope.

You have my prayers and deepest respect.

Lyn said...

A weight worth carrying..very good observations, so visual..it's the right path you follow.

Chhaya said...

i am not an emotional person... life has shown me enough and its really tough to make me choke on words... this post of yours did it...

wonderfully written, Brian.. the fact that its not al fiction makes it even more hard hitting..

ahhh... life...

Jingle said...

Good Morning, Brian:

I image that if u record down such experiences along with interviews with some particular families or kids, after 365 days or a year, u can publish it as a book and become a New York Times bestseller...

I took educational classes and in one class, we learned about such lives in inner cities, drugs, rapes, gun shots, broken classrooms, and prisons are things they deal and think daily.

Thank U for bringing such aspect of life into spot light.
I admire your wit and courage!

Jingle said...

I hope that u enjoy a sunny and smiling Tuesday!

Life is unfair sometimes,
We have to face the music,
Choose to make a difference,
and Move on.

Everything u do will be awarded...
Keep Rocking!

Jingle said...

http://jingleyanqiu.wordpress.com/2010/03/01/awards-on-the-sunshine-blogger-buddy-and-more/

U Deserve Tons' of Awards or Honors.
Hope that U Enjoy A Day
As Remarkable As Your Spirits.

U R the Best!

Everyday Goddess said...

what a strong spirit you have. I'm sure your involvement in the lives of the children you see means a great deal to them. bless you!

mo.stoneskin said...

I can't believe you got your cat drunk.

Jen Chandler said...

My goodness. The pain you must see! But the hope you must give! I applaud your bravery, Brian. Not many people would go where you go. You are a hero.

Jen

Nessa said...

The world is incredibly hard for some people. And every kind moment makes a difference to them.

RnPB: Ch 013 - Clean Up

Kathy's Klothesline said...

I suppose the burn-out rate is high in your job. Many years ago I was an ER nurse and found it to be an excellent opportunity to educate the many young parents (some as young as 11 and 12) who were also born to very young parents. A vicious cycle that seemed impossible to break. A lot of apathy in those situations. If I reached at least one of those young girls, it was worth all those long evenings when it seemed all I did was sponge one fevered baby after another. I would always grab a washcloth and soap; I gave many a two year old the very first bath since being born. All my patients left the ER clean!

Kathy's Klothesline said...

I suppose the burn-out rate is high in your job. Many years ago I was an ER nurse and found it to be an excellent opportunity to educate the many young parents (some as young as 11 and 12) who were also born to very young parents. A vicious cycle that seemed impossible to break. A lot of apathy in those situations. If I reached at least one of those young girls, it was worth all those long evenings when it seemed all I did was sponge one fevered baby after another. I would always grab a washcloth and soap; I gave many a two year old the very first bath since being born. All my patients left the ER clean!

Tabor said...

I did not know that this was the life you worked in. I admire you for your strength and I hope you find respite in something else that gives you more strength to do what you do.

JeffScape said...

Exhausting lifestyle, it can be.

Teri said...

Brian--This is the first time I have been to your blog and I certainly will be back. I have book-marked it. I love the way you write! It has just the right amount of detail without overdoing it. And, there is so much emotion in your words. I read down further and felt just the same about the other writings too. Very nice! Thanks to Willow for pointing me here.

Mama Zen said...

This really touched me.

Barbara said...

Thank you Brian, for doing work the rest of us could not face day after day.

Anonymous said...
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steviewren said...

Oh Brian! What a burden you must carry in your soul for these little ones. God bless you for being willing to deal with such sadness on a daily basis.

sheila said...

That's a lot to bring home at night Brian. Beautifully written though. :)

melancholymoon said...

you can't save them, maybe just a few... it's true you know.. we can't save them all... if it's just a few we can save, well, it's still worth everything, don't you think so? :) Keep up the good work!!

william said...

SORRY TO HEAR YOUR DAY HAS BEEN CRAP MATE, HOPE IT GETS BETTER AND THANKS FOR TAKIN TIME OUT TO VISIT ME MUCH APPRECIATED :)

dustus said...

I like the poetic way you weave in sensory detail. Enjoyed it.

Nancy said...

Bless your sweet soul, Brian.

Captain Dumbass said...

I could never do that kind of work. Could never be a cop either. Good piece.

Fragrant Liar said...

That gave me chills. Even after I read it a third time. That's got to be excrutiating work. I couldn't do it, though I know it's much needed--especially for the kids. I'd give you a big hug right now for all you do and all you bear for that job. Plus, you write like a poet.

sewa mobil said...

Nice article,
Keep posting stuff like this i really like it. Thx.

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Thanks for dropping by, Brian. Glad I found your blog through Magpie!

martha said...

That was heartbreaking. As a teacher in a post-Communist world, I have had too much experience of the hopelessness of young people whose parents' world completely stopped making sense and thus so did theirs.

Beautifully written, but painful.

Jennifer Morrison said...

Brian, I wanted to cry only halfway in. Such power in the small (but right) bits of information. Terrible and beautiful. Sometimes all we’ve got is the hope.

Peter Goulding said...

Don't honestly think I'd be mentally strong enough for that, Brian.
Kudos both for the writing skill and for the job you do.

AmyLK said...

It certainly did fit the prompt. This world is hard to work in. You have to remember to take care of yourself while you are helping them. Thank you for trying to protect our kids!

Selma said...

WOW. You are one top notch writer. I am blown away by your use of imagery and the powerful touch of the underlying tone of sadness that runs throughout. What a treat to come across your work!

The Hausfrau said...

Beautiful, and sad--even more so since it's all too real...

Corrie Howe said...

Reminds me about the story of a storm which washed up thousands of some kind of sea creature. A little boy is walking along the shores and throwing them back one at a time. Someone tells him it is futile. His response, "Not for this one." And he tosses another back into the waves.

Goofball said...

wow that is heartbreaking indeed. Makes me silent....and thankfull for my childhood

Anonymous said...
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