HARRISONBURG, VA—Rescue workers and concerned neighbors gathered Saturday outside the Conklin residence on Waterson Avenue where authorities say local child David Conklin remains trapped in a dangerously lame family, a harrowing ordeal now entering its 13th tense year.
When police arrived on the scene Saturday morning, David—who recently entered junior high and is clearly not a baby anymore—was found pinned under two inflexible parents who rendered him completely immobile. Officers are working around the clock to free the boy and give him a second chance at a social life.
"At this time we're doing everything we can to make [David] as comfortable as possible," said Lt. William Barnes of the Harrisonburg Fire Department, who coordinated efforts to provide the 12-year-old with a warm North Face jacket to replace the retarded hand- me-down parka that once belonged to his older brother, Stephen. "But realistically, this situation could go on for at least another six years. That is, God forbid, if he doesn't die of boredom first."
Authorities are still unsure how the seventh grader became trapped in such a boring family, though David's 15-year-old sister, Laura, put forth several theories, including speculation that David was an accident or, alternatively, was adopted from gypsies.
With rescue efforts continuing throughout the afternoon, early hopes that David would escape through a small hole of free time between dinner and lights-out were quickly dashed when he became entangled in a family game night and was nearly crushed by the tedium of playing hand after tortuous hand of UNO.
"We're trying to get a Nintendo Wii in there to relieve some of the pressure," Barnes said. "David is in a very tight spot. Even if we get him the game console, the restrictions he's currently under may prevent him from using it."
"Our biggest fear right now is the possibility that David is being smothered," Barnes continued.
A second chance for relief came at 8:35 p.m., when David's dogged efforts to free himself forced his parents to budge slightly and consider allowing their son to watch television at friend Philip Kirchart's house. However, David's potential escape route was almost instantly blocked by a massive pile of homework.
"This is a huge setback in freeing David," said Barnes, who expressed frustration with the deteriorating situation. "If he doesn't get that diorama for Mrs. Engles' class off his back before nightfall, I'm afraid we'll just have to wait until morning."
Despite all attempts by his rescuers, David's situation has grown increasingly grim. At 4:16 p.m., the boy nearly died of embarrassment after his mother asked him if there were any cute girls in his class, and again less than two hours later at dinner, when she openly discussed his need for new underwear.
Additionally, medical experts said that David's preexisting condition, known as smartmouth, could be severely exacerbated by the dumb, unfair family environment he has been subjected to.
"This becomes an even more serious situation for someone like David," said Louis Vianna, a paramedic on the scene. "A diagnosed wiseacre in a stifling environment like that could suffer a full-scale grounding at any moment, which would cut David off from vital weekend plans."
David's agonizing experience has elicited an outpouring of support from the community. A local radio station recently held a fundraiser to purchase David the desperately needed dirt bike that the fun-deprived boy has repeatedly begged for throughout the ordeal, and people from around the country have sent letters to David, urging him to hang on until he can get his driver's license.
"No child should have to go through something like this," said Carla Berman, one of the dozens of anxious citizens keeping vigil outside the Conklin house. "That poor, brave kid. It's not like he asked to be born into this."