"Dad, he's so loud!" Kenny complains as I scream. Mr. Kelly sighs.
"Vinny, you have to brush your teeth! Go to the bathroom this instant!" Mr. Kelly demands. I shake my head no and wipe my teary eyes. Nothing good happens inside bathrooms. Mr. Kelly tries to grab my arm again but I scream and hit him. "You're going to get ten minutes if you don't stop!"
I keep screaming and hitting. He finally pulls me in the other direction of the bathroom and up the stairs. I continue to fight, but we finally make it to my room and I'm made to sit on my bed.
"Ten minutes for breaking rule one and two, Vinny. When I come back, I expect you to behave." Mr. Kelly says, then leaves my room.
I quiet down once he leaves and lay on my side. I love my bed. It's soft and warm. I have to share the room with Kenny, though. He lets me play with his toys and I keep the soldier he gave me. I like the soldier; he's tough looking and can also be used as a weapon to keep Kenny from coming too close. Kenny is always trying to get me to play, so I hit him with the soldier if he gets really close to me.
Mr. and Mrs. Kelly love Kenny and the baby, Rodney. They shower them both with hugs and kissed and tickles. Kenny loves them, too. Rodney is too little to show love, they say. They laugh with each other and Mr. Kelly plays with Kenny in the back yard. They usually make me go outside with them, and I like being outside, but Kenny always tries to get me to play with him. I don't want to play with him, so I push or hit him when he gets too close. That gets me sent to my room. They keep telling me it's a bad thing to be sent to my room, but I like it. They don't bug me when I'm there. I sit on my bed, Mr. and Mrs. Kelly don't talk to me, and Kenny isn't allowed to talk to me when I'm there, either.
Kenny doesn't get sent to his room as often as I do. Mr. Kelly says it's because Kenny follows the rules and I don't. I break the four rules a lot. Except part of rule number three. I like Rodney, so I'm nice to him. He is only seven months old. He can't do much, so he just sits or lays around where Mrs. Kelly puts him and poops. He poops a lot. Sometimes he tries to crawl towards me. I love watching him. Mr. Kelly told me I was once a baby like Rodney. I don't know how I survived. Rodney can't get his own food or fight or anything. He can't even walk. Rodney doesn't get sent to his room, either, even though he sometimes throws food off his high chair at people and he screams a lot.
Kenny is five years old. I'm nine. I don't understand why we're the same height, and I especially don't understand why he weighs more than me. Mr. Kelly says if I eat, I'll grow. I eat everything they give me, but I'm still small. Kenny speaks clearer than I do, and never wets the bed at night. I still have accidents when I'm sleeping. He asks Mr. Kelly a lot of questions about me, like why I only talk to myself and why I'm afraid to change my clothes around him. Mr. Kelly tells him that's just my personality, and doesn't tell him what my Dad did to me. He also asks why my hair is so long. His is cut short, but mine hangs past my shoulders. Mr. Kelly says it's just because I haven't had a haircut in a long time.
Mr. Kelly is hard to understand. Sometimes he gets mad when I don't follow the rules and screams at me, which is scary, but usually he just makes me sit on my bed for ten or fifteen minutes. He keeps trying to get me to play with Kenny, but I don't trust either of them. Once, Kenny said 'hell' and Mr. Kelly smacked his lips. It was hard enough to make Kenny cry, but not hard enough to leave a mark on him. He and Mrs. Kelly adopted Kenny when he was two, and they love him. If he hits him enough to make him cry, but loves him, what will he do to me? Mr. Kelly doesn't love me, so I'm sure I'll get it worse once he gets angry enough.
Mrs. Kelly is always in my face. She's either telling me how cute I am or that I need to gain weight, or scolding me for being bad. She doesn't want me to touch Rodney; I think she's afraid I'll hurt him. She makes me sit at the kitchen table for meals, even though the chair isn't high enough for me to reach everything easily. I have to stretch to reach my drink. She burns my food a lot, but I still eat it because I don't know when we will run out of food. Mom and Dad use to run out, and their were only three of us, so I know we will run out of food here because Mrs. Kelly has five people to feed. I hate sitting at the table, but that's the only place I'm allowed to eat at, so I have to suck it up and deal with it.
I've been here for three weeks now. So far, I haven't been hungry or touched. Mrs. Kelly makes me brush my hair and it hurts, and sometimes when Mr. Kelly grabs my arm to take me to my room, his grip hurts. I've found out who I can control and who has control over me. Mrs. Kelly will give into my tantrums, Kenny will leave me alone if I hit him, but Mr. Kelly doesn't. Rodger doesn't even know what's going on around him, so he's not a threat. I don't talk to the Kelly's, but I've began to talk to It out loud. I beg It to tell my parents that I'm not meaning to be bad and it's the other grown ups who are making me disobey them. Kenny hears me talking to It, and asks who I'm speaking to. Everyone here says it's just an imaginary friend I developed because I've never been around anyone but my parents. The Kelly's keep acting like they know everything about me. They don't, though.
People on TV are talking about me like they know everything, too. They tell people my name is Vinny Perrio, that I'm nine years old and that my parents abandon at the mall. They show a picture of my parents leaving, then a picture of me. My olive skin is bruised, my green eyes are dull and my black hair is oily and tangled in the picture. When it comes on the news, the Kelly's change the channel, but a lot of times they leave the television on and leave the living room, so I can watch the full report about me. They've gotten shorter lately, but they're still talking about me.
"Okay, Vinny." Mr. Kelly comes back into the room. He lifts me from the bed and carries me. He knows I'll go limp and start hitting if he tries to hold my hand. I can't hurt him as much when he's holding me, but that doesn't stop me from trying. "Lets go get those teeth brushed."
I do my best to wiggle away, but his hold on me is strong. He caries me into the bathroom. Kenny is still complaining in the other room about how loud I am. Mr. Kelly sets me down on the toilet and puts toothpaste on my new Thomas the Train toothbrush. I slid of the seat and ran out of the room. As soon as I hit the hallway, though, Mr. Kelly catches me by the back of my shirt. He sat me back on the toilet and knelt down in front of me so I couldn't run again. Once again, I'm cornered in by his fat frame.
"Open your mouth, Vinny." He says.
I shake my head no and I cover my mouth.
"Do as I say."
I shake my head no.
"Vinny," he warns with a low voice. I refuse to comply. He puts his hand behind my head, keeping me from turning it away. "Vinny, you have to brush your teeth."
I still refuse.
His hand leaves my head, then he smacks my thigh. I gasp and scream, and he takes advantage of this to put the toothbrush in my mouth. I grab his wrist and try to push it away, but can't. His hand returns to the back of my head, and he forces the bristles around on my teeth. I scream and cry and kick as I remember the times Dad forced things on me. Mr. Kelly takes dozens of kicks to his stomach. He just set his jaw and kept brushing my teeth. I'm crying to the point that I'm gasping for breath through the sudsy toothpaste.
"Okay, bud," he stops, but holds the toothbrush in my mouth. I keep trying to push his hand away. "If you brush your teeth yourself, I won't have to do it for you."
I keep crying.
"Are you going to do it yourself?"
Another nod. Anything to get him to stop.
"Okay." He releases the brush and stands. I grab the handle and slowly start brushing. I watch him cautiously. Will he hit me again? "Make sure you touch all your teeth with the toothpaste, Vinny."
I still sob, but brush my teeth like I'm told. I don't like it, but I rather do it myself than have him do it.
"Get all the space on your teeth." He instructs again. I nod, and gag a little on the toothpaste. Mr. Kelly pats my back. I panic. He just hit me for the first time, what will stop him from hitting me a second? "Did you brush everything?"
I nod again.
"Good boy." He pulls a green plastic footstool out from under the sink. He keeps his hand on my back as I climb up to the sink, spit and wash my mouth out. As soon as I do, I jump down and run out of the room.
I run to the kitchen before Mr. Kelly can get to me, hiccuping and crying, to where Rodney sat in his high chair. Mrs. Kelly is cooking with the radio turned up loud, and is too distracted to notice that I'm here. Mr. Kelly never hits Rodney, so I think I'm safe near him. I tickle his bare foot. He coos and throws dry cereal at me.
"Making a mess, little Rodney?" Mrs. Kelly asks in a sing-song voice without turning away from the stove. I duck under the high chair. Once I know Mrs. Kelly isn't turning around, I crawl out from under it. Rodney throws another handful of cereal at me. I glare up at him. He's a bad boy sometimes.
"Vinny, come here. Let's talk, buddy." Mr. Kelly calls. I start to panic, and realize he could easily grab me and pull me out from under the high chair, then hurt me. I need a better spot. I decide the kitchen table is the best spot. I can hear Mr. Kelly getting closer. I sit under the middle of the table. "Vinny? Where are you?"
He comes into the kitchen, looks around, and spots me under the table. He comes over, reaches under and grabs my arm. I start screaming again. That's all I really do now. He pulls me out, kneels down and holds my arms at my side. My heart races. I can hear my pulse in my ears. My head spins. I kick him as I try to wiggle out of his grip.
"Vinny, stop!" He says. "We're just going to talk. If you can brush your own teeth, then-"
I try to cut him off with a strong kick to his crotch, but he anticipates my move and covers himself with one hand. I do my best to take advantage of this and yank against his grip, but he's still stronger than me. Now he's really angry with me. I panic more. He tightens his grip.
"Go to your room!" He commands, stands and lets go of my arm. "You just broke the rule. Go sit on your bed for ten minutes!"
I run away once he releases me. He stands and complains to Mrs. Kelly about my behavior. I'm afraid he'll change his mind about sending me to my room, and instead hurt me like Dad does, so I dart up the steps as fast as I can before he can change his mind. I take the steps two at a time. Kenny is playing at the top of the steps with little green army men. He smiles shyly when he sees me.
"Wanna play?" He asks.
My Mom always called me stupid. She tried to teach me math, but I don't understand it. I struggle with telling time, I can't always wash all the shampoo out of my hair when I shower, I have accidents in bed, and I don't write very neatly. I've known forever that I'm stupid, but this kid is much dumber than me. I know when I'm not wanted around, but he doesn't. No matter what I do, he still tries to be my friend. I don't want him as a friend. He makes It show up. It is popping up around his back now.
I shake my head no. He sighs and looks at the small green figures. He has them set up in a battle field, some hiding behind empty toilet paper rolls. They all have guns pointing at each other, and some are knocked to their sides.
"Why don't you like to play?" He asks sadly.
I don't respond. Instead, I step on his toilet paper roll barricade and kick over a few army men as I make my way onto the landing and towards my room.
"Hey! That was mean!" Kenny says. I ignore him. He stands up. "Why are you so mean to me?"
I turn to face him. It keeps hiding behind his back, peaking around his shoulders. I glare at It, hoping that maybe I can scare It away. I can't.
"Why are you so mean?" Kenny asks again. I turn my angry look to him. "I've been nice to you, but you won't be nice back!"
It pops up right in front of my face. A black space, with no other characteristics. It's there for a split second, then disappears, but during that split second, I make the decision to push it away. It moves before I can, and I end up pushing Kenny.
He tumbles backwards, head-over-heels down the stairs. About halfway down the steps, he grabs the spindles of the railing and stops himself. Then he cries louder than I've ever heard him cry before.
"Kenny? Kenny, what's wrong?" Mrs. Kelly calls out. Through big tears and gasps, Kenny responds.
"Vinny pushed me!"
I hear two pairs of feet scrambling towards us. I run to my room, climb into bed and hide under the covers.
I've done it now. I panic and start to cry. I'm in so much trouble. It keeps popping up even more, and have no idea what to do. I just curl up, cry, and wait for the pain.