By Bruce A. Smith
The Men of Honor of Unity House is a novel based upon my experiences as a therapist at a residential foster care facility for young men coping with sexual assault charges. In 2001, during the Anthrax scare that followed 9-11, my agency’s director and I mapped out a plan for how we would deal with our men, aged 12-18, if we had to go into lockdown in the event of a local terrorist attack. The following pages are based upon those discussions.
The plot so far: A 2-kiloton suitcase nuke has exploded in Worcester, Massachusetts, and the staff of Unity House form the Men of Honor Society for two purposes: One, to keep the seven teen-aged boys of Unity House busy and not fighting each other, and two, to act as a rescue group to the local neighborhood. Due to the destruction and radiation, the police and army can not get into this section of Worcester. The people living on Marion Avenue and Plantation Street have only the Men of Honor for assistance.
To read more of the Men of Honor:
Chapter 12 – The Code is tested
Day Two – 4:30 pm
Our discussion was broken with the sudden “Thrump!” of a body slamming against a wall, and the screaming of bloody teenage anger.
“Give me my fucking Walkman back, you fucking little freak, or I’ll kill ya. I can’t fucking believe you stole my music… you’re just fucking listening to it, right here!”
We ran out in time to see Kevin P throw Deon across the Commons after he had just bounced him off the kitchen wall.
“Fucking A!” Kevin screamed. “This little piece of shit went into my room and stole my Walkman and my 50 Cents CD. I just caught him listening to it… I’m gonna kill him if you people don’t do something about him… He’s going into everybody’s stuff. You can ask anybody.” Kevin P stared at Terry and me.
TT went over to check on our human cannonball, Deon.
“Take a time-out Kevin,” Terry commanded. “No violence in this house, ever. You are on restrictions, and no privileges. Got it?”
Kevin P looked away and shrugged.
“You got it, Kevin?”
“We’ll need him to help unload the truck tomorrow,” I whispered to Terry.
“You’re on restrictions, Kevin, but that does not exclude you from helping with us with chores, like unloading the food truck tomorrow.”
“What else of yours is missing?”
“Nothing, now. I got it all back from that freak.”
“Next time, you tell us that your possessions are missing before you fly off the handle. Got it?”
Then, Terry marched over to Deon and TT.
“He seems to be okay, Terry,” TT said. “I don’t see any bruises or broken bones.”
“Well, that’s a relief.”
“You sure know how to take a hit, Little Brother.”
“But, you’re going to have to learn how to keep your hands off other people’s possessions,” he continued.
Deon lost his smile. Not even a smirk remained on Deon’s face after ‘God-TT’ withdrew his admiration.
“And you’s gonna have to earn everybody’s trust again. That’s not easy, Little Brother. Will you give me your word that you will try?
“Yeah,” Deon squeaked out softly.
“I didn’t hear you, Deon.
“Yes, sir. I’ll try.
“That’s better; I can hear you now, Little Brother…Terry, Dave, and I will help you earn everyone’s trust again. It’ll be in little ways probably over the next couple of days. We’ll let you know when opportunities come. Okay?
“In the meantime, you need to take a time-out for ten minutes, and you too, lose privileges.
“Now, go to your room, and we’ll tell you when you can come out.”
“Yes sir.” Deon slinked toward his room.
“You’ll also have to recommit to the Code of Honor before you can wear your colors, Deon,” I called out. He didn’t respond.
No acknowledgment – a fight for another time, I thought.
“Nice intervention, TT,” I said.
“Thanks,” he replied.
Day Two – 7:30 pm
For dinner we had fish cakes, and Kevin A surprised us all by whipping-up a wonderful salsa.
“I had a foster mother show me how to do it in a placement up in Medway,” he said. “She was a cool lady, and she was going to adopt me, but she was Mexican and my social worker wouldn’t let her since the state said we had to be the same kind of people.” KA’s voice trailed off as he finished his story. I think he told us a little more than he wanted to, but the joy of cooking had taken him past the sentries of his fear.
After dinner, Karen proved herself remarkable in another way. She was a great storyteller, really sassy, and the guys loved it. She knew her Annanzi stories cold.
Annanzi is a trickster spider from West African culture and is like coyote to southwestern tales. Of course, the guys loved Annanzi, the cleverest creature in all of God’s creation. He always overcame adversity, and more importantly did it with style.
The Men of Honor could do worse than have a spider as their emblem, I thought. At least it’s not a skull. Or crossbones. Or daggers….
In a lull between stories, I told Kevin P and Deon to give me their scarves back and to prepare for a re-initiation into the Men of Honor due to their behavior earlier in the day. Deon balked, but when TT gave him the “look” he changed his mind.
I had Kevin first, then Deon, re-read the Code of Honor. Then, I spoke.
“Men of Honor, Terry and Karen. We all know what happened today. Kevin P lost his temper, and even though he was certainly provoked, he broke the Code of Honor by being violent. That is a violation of our Code.
“And Deon stole. Kevin caught him with his music and that, too, is a very serious violation of our Code.
“Nevertheless, they have stood before you and recommitted themselves to our Code. I say that they have honored us and have honored themselves by doing so, and thus should be allowed to wear their colors. What say you, Men and Women of Honor?”
“Oh, let them wear their scarves if they want to, dude,” Willy said.
TT jumped right in.
“No, wearing the Scarf of Honor is not something that anyone can do if they feel like it. They have to earn the right to wear it, and they lose the right by not living up to the Code. I say they have paid their penance, and by standing before us and reciting the Code, they have earned the right to wear their scarf once again.”
“I agree with Tiny T,” said Trey. “Wearing the scarf has to mean something, otherwise, why wear it? It just becomes one more stupid thing, otherwise. I think they should shake hands, too, to really prove that they are honorable.”
“Yeah,” Kevin A chimed in. They should shake hands.”
Kevin P looked at me. He looked like he never ever wanted to get close to Deon again, let alone shake hands with him.
Regardless, I motioned toward Deon.
“Kevin P took a step toward Deon, but Deon didn’t move. He didn’t even look up at Kevin P.
“C’mon, Deon, shake his hand,” I said.
Deon didn’t move.
“C’mon, Deon, shake his hand. C’mon,” Kevin A encouraged, almost ordering Deon to do so.
“Deon,” TT said, to no response. “Deon, look at me.”
Still no response.
TT walked over to Deon and placed his hand on Deon’s chin, lifting his face towards his. “Deon, can you look at me?”
“Yeah, I can look at you.”
“Don’t be disrespectful, Deon. You’re bigger than that. I’m just asking you to look me in the eye and listen to me.”
“Do you want to be a Man of Honor? Do you want to be respected and honored by me, and Terry, and your house brothers? Wouldn’t you want your mother to honor you, if she is still alive?”
“Well, just do what I ask. Shake Kevin P’s hand to seal the deal on your stealing earlier today. It makes up for it, and makes you a Man of Honor in my eyes, and I know it will make you a Man of Honor in your mother’s eyes, too.
Deon stuck out his hand toward Kevin. All eyes went towards KP who hesitated, then realized it was his moment to act, and he did.
We all sat down and breathed a sigh of relief, that the righteousness of the Code had been upheld. Then, Karen broke the lull.
“Hey, TT, why don’t you lead us in a prayer? It’s getting late, but I’m sure you know a prayer that would finish up this fine night of fellowship and honor.
The idea made me a little squirrelly, since I have an aversion to Christian dogma comparable to my distain for screeching chalk on blackboards.
“Dear Lord,” TT began.
Oh shit, not Lordy-lord stuff. I turn off the radio whenever I hear a country tune with “The Lord” in it, and I love country music. I’ve even lived in Nashville, once upon a time.
TT continued, and I endeavored to lighten up. After all, a ‘Man of Honor maintains his sense of humor.’
“Dear, Lord and Heavenly Father, this is TT talking to you with my Brothers and Sisters here at Unity House.
“We thank you Father, for protecting us, and seeing us through this time of outrageous tribulation. This time of destruction. This time of oblivion.”
God he’s a preacher.
“You have saved us dear Father from our enemies and have brought us together. We have all risked danger today to serve you by helping our neighbors here in Dorchester Hill. But you have stood with us Lord, and we are strong.
“We thank you Lord, Jesus…”
God, he’s gonna go on a while, isn’t he?
“Yes, we thank you for bringing into our lives the lovely and mighty Karen, our Sergeant. Jackson, who like an Angel in the Night has come to brighten our day. We hope, Dear Father, that you protect her husband, John, as well.
TT took a breath and kept going. “I thank you Jesus, for inspiring all the Men of Unity House to become Men of Honor. To open their hearts and see the greater glory of their souls.
“I thank you for letting me be with them at this time of danger. May I serve to your greater glory as we find our way through this Valley of Darkness. Amen.”
“Amen,” the guys said, a little off the beat and behind the cue.
“Sleep tight everyone,” said Terry. “Lights out in thirty minutes.”
And that was day two.
Oy veh. It seemed like a year, but a good year.