–“Mom made me eat dirt”, where one of the first few statements Franklin made after being taken out of his house.
While a smooth DJ informed him about the newest piece of the most awesome music ever made in the history of pop, Gerard Way spend a good twenty minutes inhaling the smog of morning traffic jam through his rolled down car window. Weird character he was he disliked inhaling his own post-used nicotine air, so he’d always rolled down the window of his old blue pick-up truck if he felt like smoking a Marlboro red.
Smoking, one addiction he hadn’t quite yet. Maybe he would try to give that one up next year, or maybe every person was granted one addiction to keep them sane. Gerard had to say he’d agreed with that theory, his own theory. Okay maybe two addictions, because his cup holder held a steaming cup from Starbucks.
Coffee and cigarettes, that wasn’t too bad right? Kept him alive and rolling although it sometimes took toll of his appearance. One, because he couldn’t sleep at night he was a horrible morning person. Which meant he never had time for a decent shower or a decent shave in the morning. His stringy charcoal hair fell in a swooping hurricane most of the time, topping his head with a rough style he conveniently called: out of bed, which didn’t lie far from the truth. Because of his Italian background he was blessed with an olive tint and cursed with a premature stage of stubble that couldn’t quite be shaved, even if he granted himself five minutes longer in the bathroom.
Okay, he could look like a freak sometimes. His growing collection of shitty horror movies (that could be labeled as his third secret getting-out-of-hand hobby) didn’t help whipping away that impression. But that wasn’t his main concern at the moment.
No, his main concern and reason for inhaling more smog then actual nicotine was ‘a case’. And not just ‘a case’, but his first case. After nine months of being an interne at a few social workers agency and non-profit organizations he finally had his first real deal. He’d been a hard worker, following trainings in the evening hours, he was nearly ready to receive his bachelor’s degree. Maybe after that he’d aim for a master’s, but first things first, turning that internship into a real fully paid job. And don’t fuck up his first case.
Gerard liked that thought, having a steady paycheck every month, another step closer to stand completely on his own. Or ‘spreading his wings’, which sounded more poetic then the rock hard fact that he still lived with his parents at the age of twenty-three. In the basement, as some forty year old virgin who got his kicks from Star Wars movies. He was more of an old fashion comic book guy anyway and not much of a virgin, but that aside.
“Fuck!” He cursed bitter as he didn’t pay enough attention to the road, nearly slamming into the car in front of him. As he hit the break his engine turned off and a great deal of his morning coffee spilled over his papers.
Another well spent fuck! hissed through his car. Trying to get his engine back running he peeled the sticky papers from each other. Great start of the day, destroying the files of your first case.
The car moved a few inches forward, someone behind him honked and probably flipped him the finger. He didn’t care, inhaling the last bit of his cigarette he tried to save as much of the file as he could.
A photo of a teenage boy dripped from sugary coffee. With his sleeve he tried to get the stickiness off. The photo was out of date, the boy, not older then twelve when taken gave a distressed first impression, as an animal being cornered. Bangs of greasy dark brown hair falling in front of his face, clearly nobody had cared much about his personal hygiene back then. The worn out shirt he wore on the picture gave away his skinny frame, boney and fragile. A shame, being fragile must have been the last impression the boy wanted to give. Glaring up as defensive as he could, lips turned into a tight line.
It made Gerard wondered how his first case would look like now, seeming he couldn’t have been older then twelve on the photo. According of what he’d heard from Brian, his boss, the boy had lived on the streets for a while after he ran away from his last foster parents.
“A shame, kid deserved better.” He told himself, balancing his cigarette between his lips. While keeping track of traffic he started peeling off the next few pages, they’d turned into a brown watery mass but where still readable. Good, it would be bad to fuck up your information about your first case. Careful he placed them out on the dashboard.
Bio, said the title of the first page, Name: Franklin Anthony Thomas Iero Jr. Age: 16 (October 31, 1994).
The next paragraph started with, Background information, he read the pages a few times over and over in slight disbelieve and a feeling he couldn’t quit put into words, it made his stomach wringer into a little ball and his lips turned into a fine line.
Franklin A.T. Iero Jr., has been placed in foster care since the age of six through the evidence of multiple cases of abuse and neglect, see report. His mother suffers from a severe case of paranoid schizophrenia. She thought her son was possessed by the devil and tried to get rid of the demon inside of him. –“Mom made me eat dirt”, where one of the first few statements Franklin made after being taken out of his house.
Because of the mothers mental illness she couldn’t be held liable for the abuse. She now remains hospitalized in the New York State Psychiatric hospital.
After that a list followed psychiatric evaluations, doctor appointments and copies of the birth certificate. Sadly enough there hadn’t been any willing relatives to take the boy in.
Gerard read the other pages briefly, being in a short amount of time. And he believed in starting with a clean slate, even if you where in jail. How more you knew about a person how more you’d develop an opinion about them before you met the person in real life.
He knew first handed how it was to walk around with a label, even if it’s aged and out of date. Once a fuck up, always a fuck up. That’s why he’d been so grateful with his internship at Hope House, a small town organization who gave children from all ages and backgrounds a chance to do something productive. It lay only two blocks away from Belleville’s elementary school and was near Branch Brook Park and a small-town grocery shop. There were all sorts of activities vary from after school education till music lessons. It also had a small gymnasium at the back and a playground that needed some drastic maintenance. But money is and would always be a problem for non-profit organizations.
“I guess this must be it.” He muttered to himself as he took a left turn and drove up to a grey unwelcoming building: Newark Re-educational Centre. After parking his car he tried to ruffle his hair into something more decent. Maybe he shouldn’t have thrown his alarm clock through his room this morning, oversleeping on your first meeting doesn’t normally give a good first impression. Maybe he should have thought this more through. A good first impression matters, which he was probably going to fuck up with his ruffled shirt and worn out leather jacket. Not to mention his pair of bleached jeans stained with something that better be ketchup. Shit, maybe he should rethink buying something like a suit and actually learn how to tie a tie.
Pushing his shirt into his jeans he straightened his back and got out of his car. ‘I’m not going to fuck this up, Christ I won’t be the worst looking guy in there so I’m not going to fuck this up.’ Filled with courage and mental pep talks he headed over to the main door, then halfway turned around to hurry back, cursing at himself for forgetting his suitcase.
Being fashionable late he hurried inside and been told to sit and wait by an unfriendly old bitch who sat behind a counter. A window, probably bullet-prove separating them.
The woman reminded him of his sixth grade teacher Miss Beasley, or like they all called her Miss Beasty. One icy look from her and you’d be sitting right on the spot she wanted you to park your ass.
Feeling lucky he dared to stretch his arm far enough to grab a leaflet, why not do something productive while reliving some sixth grade nightmares right?
The beady eyes of Miss Beasty followed his every move, making him feel like he was held at gun point.
After ten minutes of intensely staring at a leaflet (if it had spontaneously combust he wouldn’t have been surprised), trying not to flex a muscle, Miss Beasty got a call and informed (ordered) him to put all his possessions in an iron tray. ‘Precautionary measure,’ she called it while some satisfaction shimmered behind a pair of thick glasses, holding back a wry grin. He could be wrong but this might just be a set up to make him feel more like the shy-near-to-tears sixth grader he’d been.
Not very enthusiastic he tossed his wallet, pocket money and package of cigarettes in the tray. It wasn’t good enough, he needs to take off his belt as well. He wondered if he would have made a better fashionable entre, this safety measure would have been overruled.
When the wicked witch of the west felt like she’d stripped off enough of his dignity she got out of her glass cubicle and walked him through a long hall, ending in a room large enough to be a decent living room. But apparently the crisis hit this centre as hard as anyone else. The room didn’t give any impression of warmth and pretty much passed its purpose, living room. There were two lines of tables and chairs, a few teenage delinquents were playing cards. One sat alone, carving obscene words in the wood. Nobody seemed to be surprised as a war scream echoed through the building and died abruptly.
Miss Beasty finally dumped him in a small office where anyone with claustrophobia would get hysteric in less than a second. It was stuffed, piles of files shoved into an iron bookshelf and an unoccupied computer screen flickered. A smell hung around he couldn’t entirely place and his seat on squeaked if he shifted.
‘If they make me wait her longer than ten minutes I’ll be carving obscene words in the desk with my ballpoint.’ Gerard thought a little grossed out as he noticed some mouse feces underneath the table.
Luckily he didn’t had to wait that long, a giant appeared on the doorstep. The man immediately took his worries away about making a bad first impression. The giant wore a heavy metal shirt a band that Gerard didn’t know and by the overly use of gore and blood, didn’t want to know. To point out his adoration for his taste of music he seemed to have stopped taken a decent shower for a while now and hadn’t seen (or ever) heard of a brush.
“I’m Mark Cooper.” The rocker introduced himself and turned his full body around to give a big rant to whoever deserved it in the hallway. “Annoying little…” Before giving Gerard a chance to be formally mannered Mark pulled a teenage boy in who didn’t looked too pleased. “This little angel over here is Frank. Frank is very happy to be qualified enough to give foster care another chance, aren’t ya Frank?” Mark announced tugging the boy away from the door.
“I guess.” The young man said dubious, struggling to keep on his feet while being dragged into the room.
Gerard looked a little thunderstruck from the supposable case worker to Frank, the case he was about to take over. “I’m Gerard.” Giving his manner another chance he held out his hand to Frank who seemed ready to either bite or spit at him. But to keep up the formality Frank took his and shook it lightly with clammy cold fingers.
“I’m Frank, sire.” The last word came out trained, martial.
“Great, now that you two have met, let’s get to the case.” The rocker sat down and ducked his chubby hand into the first drawer. Frank seemed to be familiar with the bluntness of his case worker and got himself an iron tip-up seat from the corner.
Mark hum-humed and uhu-uhumed through a few files he’d rattled up from the drawer and eventually sighed, looking back up. Gerard wondered if Mark expected him to start asking question but when he coughed uncomfortable Mark took that cue to take his task as informer.
“Frank has been here for three months now, behaved, maintained the rules and hasn’t been much of a problem. He’s clean now, doesn’t have any STD’s and got all his shots.” Marked informed and for a moment Gerard got some animal shelter déjàvu, because this talk sounded much like the talk he’d had with his family when he was a proud eight year old, ready to take Rover home.
“-There have been a few incidents including a few fights.” Mark continued glared suspiciously at Frank. “Two of them where –as he claims- out of self defense.” Clearly Mark didn’t believe much of that because he bluntly snored. “-Scores an average D on most his test, we haven’t had time for a full IQ test yet but we figure he’ll do just fine on a public school if he’s kept on a lease-“ Mark chuckled, he was the only one. “- He’s a little backstabber, lies a lot and he can be a handful. But other than that he’s a little charmer, ain’t ya?” He asked, directing at Frank who stared dully at him.
“I guess.” A short nod and a shorter answer. During the rest of the conversation Frank didn’t show any interest and gave a bored impression. Hanging on his seat with his arms crossed and his shoulders hunched up, just staring straight forward as Mark talked. Gerard observed the teenager for a while, from the corner of his eyes he gave his first case an examining look.
Frank hadn’t changed much from the boy he’d been on the picture. Still the same boyish features, but his eyes were deep set and in a way mistreated. Hollow maybe, colored like it was brushed on by a brush of a fresh witch-hazel. They seemed off-focus dwelling over something. His flawless skin tightened around his jaw line every time Mark went into detail of his personal issues, clearly he didn’t wanted to be reminded of his flaws. Or wanted some respect and privacy.
Clearly someone had told Frank to give a decent first impression, his dark half long flailing hair swirled in gel hiding the fact he hadn’t seen a hairdresser in a long time. A tiny ring had been pierced through his nose. Another one was pierced through the left side of his bottom lip, the skin around it was thick and swollen even a bit bruised up, making his lazy scowl a little misshapen.
When their (one-side) conversation ended, Mark handed Gerard the files and with that handed Frank over.
‘Kodak moment,’ Gerard thought slightly disenchanted by Mark’s careless way of signing his client over. Who knew, he might be as careless in a couple of years, seeing client after client and only knowing them through paperwork. Forget their faces only remember their numbers and ZIP code.
“I guess that’ll be all, don’t be scared to give me a ring if you want too.” Mark told him standing up already and heading for the door. “Frank you’re bags will be in the hallway.”
Frank jerked up the moment Mark got off his seat. “I know, chill-“
“-Frank!” Mark cut him off with a powerful yell followed by the eyes of the tiger.
“I know, sire.” Frank replies through gritted teeth, throwing his gaze down.
“And don’t forget to put you chair back, learn to clean up after yourself!” Mark continued, motioning at the chair. Frank did as he’d been told and putted the seat back in the corner. In the mean time Gerard places the given files in his suitcase.
The three of them left the small office in silent, getting caught in the riotous noises from the hallway, for the first time Gerard noticed the bars in front of the windows.
Mark accompanied them until the living area where he noticed the boy carving words in the table. When yelling at the boy didn’t work he walked up to him and yanked him off the seat. The card gamers laughed and cheered as Mark dragged the fussing kid off, pushing him hard-handed into another part of the building.
Both Gerard as Frank stared at the now empty seat until the group died out of laughter and caught up with their game of cards.
For the first time he was the one in charge, still a little unfamiliar with his new responsibility he stared up at Frank. “Did you want to say goodbye to him, or anyone else?”
The teen shrugged as he stared up at him, for a boy his age he was pretty short, maybe 5’4 if he was lucky. “No.”
Gerard wondered if he heard correctly but when Frank kept staring up at him he nodded. “Alright then we better be going, I promised the Palmers I’d be there by six.”
“The Palmers huh?” Frank said. “AKA my new home?”
Gerard could have smacked himself in the face for being so thoughtless. “Yeah, sorry I’m kind of new with this.”
“I figured.” Frank replied, losing interest and taking a few steps towards the hall. “Can we go?”
“Yes, let’s go.” Gerard replied. In silence they walk to the reception where Miss Beasty was typing away some paperwork. For the heck of it Gerard threw her a thankful smile as he collected his items back from the iron tray. When he didn’t get anything more than a confused icy look he gave up, some people are impossible to please.
Buckling his belt on he looked at Frank, who’d taken place at one of seats, fumbling with a pair of lashes. Frank must have caught his questioning look. “They don’t let you keep your lashes here. Policy, might kill yourself or someone else with them.”
“So you walk around with lash-less shoes all the time?” Gerard asked puzzled.
“No, I wore those Velcro ones.” Frank told and tapped against a pair of blue worn out sneakers. Being done with tying his shoes he hopped up and walked to the corner where someone kindly enough had dumped a grey backpack and an old trunk. A very small trunk for someone who needed to pack up his whole life to move it to another place.
Frank spotted his confusion for the second time: “I don’t have much stuff.”
That saddened Gerard who had more stuff laying on the bottom of his god damn closet then what Frank had in that trunk. Instead of asking more he said: “Let’s go.”
Their walk to the car also remains in silence, Frank gazed around like a tourist. An anxious tourist who looked like he hadn’t seen daylight in a long while.
There wasn’t much to look at though, the centre had been placed in an area out of sight of the city so the juveniles couldn’t cost too much harm. Mainly business where in this area of Newark and most parts had gone bankrupted in the last couple of years. It looked old, used up and a little sleazy.
After dumping Frank’s trunk in the back, Gerard was glad that he could drive away from the re-education centre and make speed on the highway. As he drove into the direction of New Jersey he peeked over at Frank.
“What happened to your face?” He asked, brushing over his own lower lip.
Frank mimicked his motion subconsciously and winched when his fingers touched the sore spot. “Got in a fight.”
“That’s not a very good start.”
“I know, I know.” Frank waved it away and stared at the dashboard. “So ‘the Palmers’ huh?”
Glad to hit a subject he actually knew something about Gerard nodded. “Yes, the Palmers. Very nice people I’ve heard.” Keeping one hand on the steering wheel he reached around and got his suitcase from the backseat. Using his knees to keep the car steady he opened it up and went through a few papers, maybe he had to think about buying a few maps or covers for his important paperwork.
“Here it is...” He muttered and just avoiding the bumper of a Dodge. “Shit, damn it keep the speed up you moron!” He cursed at the driver up front who gave him the finger. “Anyway-“ His right grabbed the wheel again while his eyes screened the paper. “-Yeah, their good folks. They have one son who’s adopted, named Christopher he’s about your age that should be good , you’re going to the same school. And-“ He eyed back at the road a moment to see if it was Dodge-bumper-clear. “-They have three other kids who are under foster care like you, but they’re younger. Two six year old twin sisters named Mari and Mel. And… youngest kid’s named Danny, just turned five.” He passed Frank a family picture taken at a Charity raise from their local church. Frank’s face wrinkled when he studied the picture.
“Great, you’re going to dump me with Christians… just my luck.”
“Luck or faith.” Gerard said and took the picture back, he honestly didn’t see why Frank was so negative. There had to be worse families to live with and with all respect sure the photo was a little sugar coated, but good advertisement for a foster home.
“I’m hooked up with the Brady Bunch…” Frank uttered, massaging the bridge of his nose. “Of course, why not? Why the fuck not?”
Slightly annoyed Gerard frowned and looked over to the teen that seemed ready to hang himself. Sure he didn’t think this job would be easy and he knew he wouldn’t become homies with the kid instantly. But was it so hard to be grateful? At least a little for getting an opportunity to finish up high school, become a part of a loving family and have a extremely motivated case worker?
Clearly not because Frank fumbled out a wrinkled packaged of cigarettes and was on the verge of lighting one. Stress related or brat related, who could tell on such short notice?
“Frank, don’t smoke in my car.” He said completely hypocritical.
“This is a truck.” Frank pointed out, dumb ass, would his preferable next word but he clenched his jaw. “And your truck smells like smoke.”
“Because it’s my tr- car.” Gerard kindly pointed out, smart ass, being is preferable word of choice. “My car, my rules.” Right after he said that he knew how much that made him sound like a douche. Not to mention a horrible authority figure.
Frank must have thought the same, probably with a little more teen slang. “Then I won’t smoke in your car.”
“Peachy.” He muttered graving for a cigarette by now.
“Peachy…” Frank said slowly. “Pea-chy.” On monotone this time. “Peachy, who says that beside a B-movie actor from the seventies?”
Gerard grunted and clenched his hands tighter around the wheel. Connecting that annoying grin with his dashboard would get him into trouble that was for sure. And even if he felt much for lowering himself down to the teen’s level, all he did was glare at him and for the rest of the trip keep his eyes firmly on the road. This wasn’t exactly how he’d picked his first case.
Kay, some sideway information about this story. I watched a episode of Dr Phill about the horrors of foster care and it struck me how people can treat kids that already have been through so much. During the show a story started to connect in my head and a few days ago I finally wrote a little piece down. I’m still not entirely sure how this will turn out, but I feel good about the first chapter.
Please do leave a comment for me, I could use a good reply.