short fiction to benefit a cause I truly believe in—PROTECT, The National
Association to Protect Children, a wonderful organization that works to change
the laws of this country to give more protection from abuse and sexual predators
to children. http://www.protect.org/
Heroes, the stories were all to be about someone protecting a child or
someone vulnerable. I knew immediately what my story had to be. I just didn’t
know if I could write it.
about my age to get a job as a juvenile justice officer (read: housemother)
working with young girls who had been remanded to custody. I saw and did a lot
of things during that time, but there was one incident that had been branded
into my memory. I foolhardily responded to a call for help from one of our
released girls and put myself into as much or more danger as she was in when
she called. If not for a strange elderly man who helped us, I have no doubt
that neither of us would have survived.
why he had come to my aid or how he had been able to help me. So it seemed very
unbelievable. Truth is often stranger than fiction, but if you write it as it
happened, it won’t work as fiction because of that very incredible strangeness.
So I gave the story a supernatural twist, and “Mr. Nance” was created, based
solidly in a real situation with details I had never been able to forget.
my surprise, I’m one of the writers featured on the cover, along with Joyce
Carol Oates, Charles de Lint, Harlan Ellison, David Morrell, Reed Farrell
Coleman, Joelle Charbonneau, and Hilary
Davidson, as well as Andrew Vachss, one of the founders of PROTECT.
you to check out the anthology and perhaps buy it to benefit this great cause.
the phone call right as I was leaving work that hot summer Saturday evening in
1968. If it had been three minutes later, someone else would have picked up the
phone, someone like Naomi, who would have just said, “Sorry, no can do,” and
gone back to reading Blazing Hearts
after hanging up and writing down the call for her shift report. As Naomi was
fond of telling me, she had common sense, which was not so common anymore.
Girls,” I answered. “Sofia Noguera speaking.” I hoped it was a wrong number,
and I could finish making my getaway. My roommate Kathy had already headed out
to the car and would be waiting impatiently for me, so we could head back into
the city and probably go to one or more of several parties friends were
background behind her childish voice, I could hear someone yelling and
pounding. Not that unusual for a Saturday night where she was. Chantay was an eleven-year-old
former inmate at Bright Hill, who lived with a heroin-addicted hooker mother in
the projects. “You gotta help me.” She started sobbing. “Mom and a guy are
nodded off in the bedroom, and another guy’s wanting to come in and screw her.
I told him she was out, and now he wants to come in and do me instead. He’s
big, real big, Sofia. And mean. He’ll hurt me bad. I know it.”
the door on him and put the burglar bar up. But he’s all drunk and really going
at that door. I don’t think it’ll hold. You got to come get me and take me back
to Bright Hill.”
juvey jail looked better and safer to her than home, but that wasn’t unusual
with our girls. I could see Chantay, bright but failing school, tall for her
age, big and pudgy, but still childish in face and act and thought. What could
some grown man want with her sexually?
send the police.”
on weekends. They don’t set foot here from Friday ‘til Monday. They won’t help
me. You got to come get me. Please.”
somehow. Move a chair in front of that door, as well as the burglar bar. Go
into the bathroom and lock that door behind you, too. Then stay quiet as can be
in there. Okay?”
got to come get me.” She hung up the phone on that last plea that was as much a
demand as an appeal.
REPLIES TO COMMENTS (because Blogger):
(Yes, I’m reduced to this again. I was able to log on as my husband and comment for a while, but Blogger has apparently caught on and put an end to that in its unremitting hatred of me. *sigh*)
Mary, thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed the story.
Paula, you’re right. It’s a wonderful cause and a fantastic anthology.
Debra, I believe real strongly in this cause. For example, PROTECT was instrumental in getting the “incest loophole” changed in the states where it was law. Yes, there were several large states where a predator could get out of going to jail if the child he molested was related to him!
Marilyn, I’ve often wondered about that. I don’t think the man who helped me was necessarily an angel because everyone seemed frightened of him. I’ve never figured out exactly what happened there, and this story was part of my efforts to do just that.
Reine, it’s a wonderful book, full of great stories. A great bargain. And Thomas Pluck deserves so much credit for putting it together!