In my previous post I included a screen cap where you can see a character grabbing the arm of my protagonist. The character is secondary but as work continues I’m finding he is a bit special to me. Not sure how this happened and maybe I’m basing him on a kid I knew when working as an art teacher in the juvenile justice system or managing youth programs on the outside but more likely he best represents what street kids have in common. That sense you don’t matter to society, that you are surplus to requirement. The Vietnamese, I was told years ago by a colleague who speaks that language, call them ‘the dust of life’, in Brazil and elsewhere in south and central America they are summarily murdered, bashed and if good looking are raped by police, criminals and private security guards. This stray kid in my comic strip is one of those street kids, dumped by his ‘caregiver mother’ probably too preoccupied with her own ‘issues’ which include ensuring a steady supply of sex, alcohol and drugs and as for the ‘father’, often his identity would be uncertain or as often happens, he is serving a long sentence or has moved on to a new ‘relationship’. Busy making more clients for social workers and prison guards.
We call these kids ‘throwaway’ in that the mother throws the kid out when it has grown from pet-child that is a ticket to social housing and the single mother pension into a troubled young person that needs love and proper parenting. Statistics show that here in Australia 48 percent of kids in the street or in state care are throwaways.
I might sound harsh but let me tell you just this one little incident that happened at a drop-in center I was running in the late nineties. Interested in photography I used to take portrait shots of some of our clients and one day noticing the patterns made by shadows of nearby trees on a corrugated-iron wall, I asked a boy who was then in his mid teens if he could stand against the wall, took the shot and lowering the camera found he was crying. No one, he told me trying to force a smile, had ever taken his picture.
Except maybe a mug shot at the local police station and that again just reinforces the sense of alienation these children feel. What is to other children an irritating part of being member of a family, grandma chasing you around wanting to take pictures, becomes the rejected child being recorded as something dangerous to society that if it cannot be safely locked up at least can be identified as we do for the safety of society, the various types of venomous snakes. What is usually an expression of love, an adult taking the picture of a loved child, is inverted into an expression of hate intended as much as anything else to humiliate and destroy.
The kid grabbing my protagonist’s arm and who dresses in a private school uniform is as I said, a secondary character. Why and how he came to dress like that will be revealed later in the story. I feel he should be more important but to do that would be to tell a lie. His life doesn’t change as in going from rags to riches like all goodies in a Hollywood film but rather he exists in an unchanging self-created space in which he can sleep, eat, dream and play with his few possessions one of which is a scooter he found chucked on the street and that he repaired and that is now to him a status symbol and his freedom to move within the city environment. Mostly he is ignored but is often actively driven away by the other kids and of course by society at large. He doesn’t do anything wrong, he just survives as best he can in a loveless and often dangerous environment. His goal, because all characters in a story have one even if it is forever elusive, is to find the two people who made him and, if he succeeds, then what will he ask them?