The Devil’s Playground
Eduardo. Their seemingly orderly life began to come apart the night their little two-room house caught fire. The little boy, one of five siblings, couldn’t begin to fathom the significance of this moment and the cascade of events that would flow from it, as he sat quietly across the street watching his family’s life go up in smoke. His father, who until then had been a responsible, hard-working man, was so shaken by the tragedy that he turned to the bottle. His mother, a Christian woman, became increasingly bitter with his drinking and the violence and infidelity that came along with it. The family moved to a tough neighborhood in a new town looking for work and a new start. This further severed ties with relatives and friends leading the young family to become isolated.
As the environment at home became increasingly tense the boy escaped to the streets during the day, returning home just to sleep and eat. As time went on, school became ever more difficult for him. He couldn’t sit still, and chafed at the discipline in the classroom. Not even the one Christian physical education teacher who took an interest and tried to reach out to him was able to keep the troubled youngster engaged. One school after another expelled him for indiscipline until even his classmates signed a petition to have him removed. But in the streets he found acceptance. There he found friends who shared his dislike and distrust of authority, friends who, like him, had no father to show them what it meant to be a man. They experimented with alcohol and then drugs and liked the feeling of freedom that it gave them. They discovered that as a group they could be quite intimidating, forcing weaker children and then teens and eventually adults to give up their money. When this didn’t satisfy, they turned to burglaries, robbing houses across town and then retreating to the safety of their neighborhood.
They were making quite a name for themselves and the older boys in the neighborhood eventually recruited them for small-time trafficking of marijuana and crack cocaine. His distraught and overwhelmed mother prayed for him but seemed unable to overcome her own sufferings to get through to her son. A head on collision with the law seemed inevitable.