When your life literally goes up before you in flames, sometimes the only thing you can do is shake your head and wonder, “Why me?” That’s what George Frobish, manager of Clearmont, Indiana’s “Hometown Orphanage,” was doing last week. On the previous Tuesday evening, a car had plowed into his orphanage, the building had caught fire, the firefighters had sopped the office to stop the conflagration, and now Frobish sat in a makeshift chair and surveyed the water-laden closet that was in ruins.
“I can’t tell you what this means,” he says haltingly. “Chew ain’t cheap around here.”
You see, when the firefighters aimed their hoses at the office, they completely drenched Frobish’s year-long supply of chewing tobacco, almost 50 pounds of it. Frobish nods. “Sure, they had to do it. I mean, heck, three of the kids had to go to the hospital for smoke inhalation and I sure didn’t want ’em to burn up. That reminds me, I gotta call the hospital and see if they’re still there. And yeah, everyone else here is gonna be a little cold at night ’til we get them windows back in. But my chew! That’s—well, that’s just the way it goes, I guess.”
The driver of the car that crashed into the orphanage is under investigation for operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, but even if he is convicted, it is doubtful that he can make amends, as he is unemployed and without a bank account. Adding to Frobish’s problems is that some citizens of this small town look askance at feeding someone’s tobacco habit.
“I think he should just quit,” says Melody Sims, a neighbor who lives a few blocks down the road from the orphanage. “You should see the walls in that place; they’re absolutely brown with spittle.”
“It isn’t my fault I’m addicted,” rejoins Frobish. “It also isn’t my fault that fool driver busted in on the home, neither. I shouldn’t be punished ’cause of someone else’s foolishness.”
Just then, a little girl, not more than 9 or 10, wanders into the room. She’s wearing tattered clothes and shivering. “Mr. Frobish,” she asks in a high, quivery voice, “are we going to be able to eat tonight?”
Frobish looks at her and smiles; you can tell he sincerely cares about his wards. “No, probably not, honey. But I’m hopin’ if Daisy”—he glances at the terrier scratching itself in the corner of the room—“brings in some critters later on, we’ll be able to cook up a good breakfast tomorrow. Frobish estimates that he’ll need about $500 to get enough chewing tobacco to last him through the year. “And that’s not even the good stuff,” he says. “But I’m willin’ to sacrifice for the sake of the kids.”
So that’s what’s needed–at least $500 to help this man return to the life he had before an incident not of his making changed everything. When you look into the eyes of little Daisy, it doesn’t seem to be asking too much.
Blog By Neil Starkman