I lay in bed wide-awake. Despite the fact I was exhausted from all that peeing on trees I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t stop thinking about my past. When people asked me what was the difference between Chinese and Japanese I couldn’t give them a decent answer. I knew the Japanese didn’t get along with the Chinese or vice versa but I was fuzzy on the exact reasons why. There were computers in the orphanage but they were always being used so I couldn’t just goggle it. I tried looking it up in the library but the only book I found about history was a kid’s book for toddlers. All I found in it was a poorly drawn Chinese person, the kind where the teeth stick out and the eyes are just slits with the words "The Chinese came from China" on the top of the page. I already knew that, and if I hadn’t I think I could have figured that out. I slammed the book shut in disgust and asked the librarian if we had any more books on Chinese history. Well just to add to my day the librarian turned out to be Nun Moe who had volunteered that day. This was probably to try and censor our books. I remember we had to hide all the Harry Potter books from her to make sure she wouldn’t try to burn them.
"Why would you want to learn about your history? You have no history! That’s why you’re here!" she said.
"But I couldn’t be here if I didn’t have history," I said feeling bold that day. I usually didn’t bother talking back to Nun Moe, as she would just get madder.
"God brought you here. The end!" she said in a "that’s the end of this conversation" tone of voice.
"But I think there is more to it than that," I said in more of a whisper hoping she wouldn’t hear me. But she did. She must have the ears of an eagle when she wanted to.
"Are you saying God isn’t a good enough answer?" She sneered back at me so I let the subject drop. So that was the end of researching my history. I’d learned a little in history class, but that was more world history like the Boson Tea Party. We weren’t going to talk about Pearl Harbor until next year. I knew the Chinese had invented ice cream. Yet it was made of rice, which I can’t imagine would be as good as chocolate chip.
I’d met one other kid who was Japanese at the orphanage. We started talking and he asked me about my family history, which would have been normal and easy to answer had we not both been orphans. I admitted I really didn’t know that much about my history. His expression changed and he stood up and glared at me.
"You don’t know about your history?" Then he pushed me down.
"For shame" he said pointing down at me, "Your ancestors must be disgraced to have you in their family. How can you bring them honor if you don’t even know all the work they already did for you?"
I was floored. Kenya my social worker told me not to take it personally. That he came from a very traditional family, and was just upset because his parents had been killed in a car accident.
"I’m sure your ancestors are very proud of you," Kenya told me.
"I sure hope so," I said.
I really liked Kenya. She was very nice and understanding. I didn’t care for my other social worker, Miss Born, mostly because she always referred to me as a juvenile delinquent. I really shouldn’t take that too personally either. Social worker probably just see so many troubled kids they start assuming they are all the same. Miss Born was very skinny, but not in an attractive way. It was more of a "Good Lord Eat Something!" skinny way. She looked like she had been locked up in a Turkish prison to get that skinny (Or whatever prison no one wants to be in). She always had her hair in a bun like an old librarian. She also had real dark thick glasses that looked like the kind Drew Cary wore. She always wore a work pants suit that had a tie. But I had a hard time taking her seriously. I just couldn’t get used to seeing a girl wearing a tie anymore than seeing a man wearing a dress. It just looked so odd.
Kenya, her apprentice, on the other hand, was totally different. She was the only social worker I knew who wore overalls to work and her hair was braided with beads, so she jingled when she walked into the room, like an elf in a Christmas play. Some people might find that annoying which Miss Born did, but I liked it. It reminded me of Christmas, which always put me in a good mood. I also liked her because she always sided with me much to Miss Born’s disapproval. Miss Born believed everything that Nun Moe told her, as if it had come from the word of God. And Miss Born always wanted to discuss it with me.
She’d sit down, and say "So Trooper", while not taking her eyes off her clipboard.
"I heard you put graffiti all over the walls in your last foster home," referring to the wall-coloring incident with Lex.
"That wasn’t me it was Lex," I said.
That’s where the trouble started with Miss Born because whenever I denied what I was accused of she would look up from her clipboard, and sigh heavily like the weight of the world was on her shoulders.
Then she’d say, "Well Trooper let me explain the story the way I heard it," which she did.
I would sit and wait till she was finished repeating the entire version of the story Nun Moe had told her. Then I would try to explain it the way it really happened. Then Miss Born would sigh heavily again, as if she was truly exhausted from talking and explain her version of the story again, as if I had not heard her the first time. When I tried again to explain what really happened, she would sigh yet again and say, "Ok Trooper, have it your way", and change the subject as if I was being unreasonable.
So I would give up. There was no point trying to get her to believe me. Kenya, on the other hand, always believed me. When I told her my version of what happened (the right one), she always tried to make me feel better, while Miss Born would glare at Kenya from her clipboard. Half the clipboard would be covering her face but I could always see her eyes looking up at us, which showed that she was mad. Miss Born didn’t like Kenya getting close to any of the kids as she thought it was unprofessional. Luckily Kenya didn’t think so.
The next day at school they served sloppy Joes. I looked around for an empty spot at a table, but so far no openings. So I gave up and started to go to my usual unoccupied table. As I was walking over I saw the girl with long braided hair glare at me. I kept my eyes forward and looked straight ahead. That was a mistake because I didn’t see her foot reach out to trip me. What she hadn’t counted on was when I tripped I corrected myself half way and lurched backwards. The Sloppy Joe flew off my tray in her direction and landed on her lap with a plop. She let out an ear-piercing scream as if a severed head was in her lap. Then she stormed out of café with the whole cafeteria dead silent. I was turning bright red. I marched over to my usual spot and pretended to eat like nothing had happened. Only I had nothing to eat now because she’d walked off with my Sloppy Joe on her lap.
"Hey," said some kids from her table. I gulped, as if I’d just swallowed a piece of my invisible Sloppy Joe.
"That was great," said one kid that was wearing a sports shirt.
"Yeah, Linda never saw that coming," said another kid with a baseball hat sitting next to me.
It turns out Linda (the girl with a Sloppy Joe on her lap) was a drama queen. Few kids at school dared to upset her, but when they did, it was always funny to watch.
"I bet she’s at the principal’s door right now asking for you to be expelled," said the kid with the sports shirt starting to laugh.
"Yeah, I haven’t seen her that mad since Jean Wilkes wore the same dress as her," said the other kid laughing so hard milk came out of his nose.
After that I was known as the Sloppy Joe kid, loved by half the school as being daring and loathed by the other half who sided with Linda. But half was better than no half and I could live with that.