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Lost In A Desert World

Creator: Roland Johnson (author)
Date: 1994
Source: Available at selected libraries

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Shorty McVeigh knew what was going on. He knew. But there's only so much that he could do. He used to like me a lot; he used to take me around to make rounds with him. I think I was his favorite. Not that it was favoritism -- he had another person that used to go off, get upset, and he used to take him around too on the wards, so that would kind of help him a little and after a while he got used to it and he kept kind of quiet.


Well, I was tired of going on punishment wards, scrubbing cribs and cleaning up mildew and scrubbing benches and stuff. I used to just scrub cribs all day. I got tired of it.


But Shorty McVeigh used to take me around on the wards every time he would make the rounds. He said, "If you don't stop doing this, you will never get out of here. You will always be on punishment wards." He said that, "Your behavior wasn't too cool." I listened.


Yeah, Shorty McVeigh was like a companion, a friend, that I could talk to, that could understand things about a person; he could really seek out things -- what was going on. He was a supervisor. He'd sit down and talk with me, talk about different things, things you should not do, things you should not have done.


"You should not go on a punishment ward. You're too smart for that. Don't make me put you on a punishment ward."


Well, it learned to me this was my doing; this was my behavior; that I was placed in there just to show me to stop; to cut out my behavior. Shorty. . .Shorty McVeigh. I liked that. I was acting like a child. Shorty McVeigh helped me with this.


And I stopped it. He coaxed me and said, "That's not nice, to break windows and do things like that. You doing harm to yourself, instead of helping yourself to get better." So he talked to me and tried to encourage me; he took me around in the wards with him while he was making rounds. And I stopped.


It took me a long time. I was trying to avoid things when I was there. But it's kinda hard to avoid things, because you hear a lots of things. You try not to let it bother you, but sometimes in the inside of you it builds up anxiety; that tension builds up, that you want to go after somebody. They're saying things to you or about you; they're doing that. But all the time Shorty McVeigh would say, "You can't do that. Don't do it. It's not worth it. You'll get punished for it. It's not worth it. Just let it go."


It took for a while -- months and months and months; years and years -- till it changed; till I said, "This is it. I'm tired of it." So then I behaved myself and didn't do it no more. I decided myself.


I remember we had a very big snowstorm and Shorty McVeigh used to made us go out and shovel snow, make the paths. "Well, maybe I'll take you for a ride in the car somewhere." That's what he used to do. He would take me to his house and show me his big garden. He had a nice garden up there; he didn't live too far from Pennhurst. He showed me around and he brought me back.


At the time he passed, I did not go to his funeral because things was very upsetting to me. There was other people, other patients, that went to his funeral. But I didn't go. I could've gone; I decided not to.


Well, I stopped being afraid as I got older. Things was looking up for me, that I was going out and going home and getting out of Pennhurst and being with my mother. And all of a sudden it just stopped -- just like that.


I used to go to the dentist; the routine was like once a year; they cleaned my teeth and I had a lot of cavities filled. And I had teeth broked -- cracked. That happened in the patients' cafeteria. One of the persons threw a stool because he was upset and cracked my tooth. He wasn't upset at me; he was just upset in general. And I had to go to the dentist. I had nosebleeds that would just start; I went to the 'spenser to make it stop. And I remember fighting. A little boy would always call me names -- "knucklehead" -- and I would call him "stupid." That boy beat me up; I beat him up. My lip got cut and they had to suture it up. I told them I fell down steps, so I won't have to go on the punishment.


I had a very bad cold, very bad cold, I hadda be admitted in the hospital. I had chest X-rays; I had a fever, a cold or something in the lungs.


And my ears would be ringing, just be ringing. I don't know what for. The doctors say there's nothing you can do about that. They still ring.


They used to spray people with bug juice -- what's it called -- wintergreen, for the little bugs that crawls around -- lice. They spray you for it. We stand in long lines and they sprayed us in the locker room. They put it on your penis. And you had to suffer with it. And that stuff burnt. That's what they did. And then we all had to take a shower after they sprayed. And then anybody got caught doing anything would get more punishment.


Shorty McVeigh's wife used to work at the laboratory. She was the vampire! (I didn't call her that.) She used to take blood and then she used to work at the morgue room. She knew me. She used to draw blood from me all the time. She would take the blood all the time because I had gonorrhea, syphilis. It was from other boys having sex with me. They kept me on the hospital ward about six weeks on penicillin, til I got rid of it. It was a couple times. Those boys wanted me to have sex with them. Eddie T. the most; he got caught messing around with some girl, a crippled girl, and the parents sued Pennhurst. Eddie T. tried to help her out of the chair so she could have sex with him; broke the inside her, her vagina, and they sent him to court for doing that. He had to go to jail; I don't know what happened after that; we didn't see him no more.

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