Regardless of his history I decided to take a chance, and, against my better judgment, placed him under my wing. It was slow going in the beginning since children don’t come with instruction manuals, including already broken miniature convict ones. Yet as he became acclimated to his surroundings, and comfortable with me, his life story began to emerge. However his story isn’t what interested me since it was as basic as all the other stories of young convicts. It begins with a nonexistent parent, (or a set of who were present without being present). Add in a heaping portion of abuse, mix it with a pinch of drugs, and it winds up being a fully cooked, extremely violent adolescent. In short, without being shown an ounce of compassion, or given ant guidance, this kid didn’t have an iota of a chance at a normal life. However, as the actual person behind the façade began to make an appearance, I quickly realized there were many things that separated him from the pack. To begin with, Peanut was sharp, witty and most importantly attentive to whatever I taught him to ensure his survival. In a short amount of time, his mannerisms began improving, and I watched proudly as he began being polite to those that were deserving, while stoned faced to those that were not.
This kid never blamed anyone for his actions, and had a carefree attitude about the horror he called a childhood. This so called childhood might not have appeared to bother him, but I silently cringed as he nonchalantly allowed the atrocities to roll off his back as a duck would shed water. He became passionate about attending church services. This wasn’t a case of a convict getting a temporary conscience, and then behaving like an animal the moment he left church. As a matter of fact, this kid was so serious about his religion, he even encouraged me to show up for Easter Mass as he received his first communion. I managed to wrangle up a pew’s worth of convicts, then I watched the ceremony like a proud parent; and I honestly felt like one.
I witnessed him being compassionate in ways he should not have known how to be. I saw this firsthand, after he came to me with a problem with which he needed assistance. I was unsure what his request might be, but instead of asking for something for himself, he asked me for guidance in order to help another miniature convict – and this one was already swallowed up to his neck. I explained why I was reluctant to get involved, however instead of giving up, he carefully articulated his request again. This time he added, with or without me he had to try. Like the day I stood with my chest puffed out at that church pew, I stood proudly in that dirt covered yard, as he was right to try helping someone else in need.
I might have initially saved this kid a world of grief, but that single comment did far more for me than I could ever do for him. It became my equivalent to the mahi-mahi steaks I had given to those seniors. As the same way I had left them wondering if I had caught those fish, now I wondered if he knew how that single statement had affected me. In short, this kid managed to nourish my soul, and he often did the same for others that were around him. After thinking I could give myself a pat on the back for many of his new found ways, a single untold story changed my perception of how he could have become so compassionate. During the course of an uneventful evening, I spoke of donating money to send a child in need on a fishing trip. It was then Peanut admitted during one of his many times living in a shelter, that the same organization I planned to donate to, had taken him out for a day on the water. He smiled and began explaining how several men unknown to him, were especially kind during the choppy boat ride out. As the vessel neared the fishing grounds, a different set of men showed him how to hide the hook within the bait. Then, after dropping his line into the water, he waited patiently while listening to several fish stories.
It was only a short wait before his rod began to arch, and with a bit of coaching, and a drop of cheering from the other fisherman around him, he struggled to pull in what he assumed to be a monster fish. However, as it came closer to the surface, it frightened him, as the last thing he was expecting to see was a creature with a set of wings. He had hooked what he could only describe as, a “flat dirt covered bat.”
After the creature was on board, and Peanut was assured of his own safety, he ran his hand across it and felt the coarse texture of its skin. He emphasized how both of its sinister black eyes were staring angrily at him. Yet, after turning the fish over to remove the hook, curiosity forced him to inspect the animals white underside, before running his hand down its pointy tail. From his description, I could only assume he had caught a sting ray, or what most fisherman would regard to as a trash fish. However being edible, it was kept, filleted and fried for dinner by his mother. It was the single time in his life he was able to provide for his family, and it was a simple meal he will never forget.