Thursday, May 26, 2011

36 Oz. of Courage

Eugene Hackett (Rattler from the De Soto gang) sat alone in the darkness finishing his third beer of the young evening. His uncle had left for Vegas, then the electricity and phone had been turned off due to lack of payment. Eugene cursed his uncle's stupidity. If Lyle Hackett did not get lucky in Vegas, the place would be dark until he turned a couple of good drug deals. In the meantime, there were no lights, no hot water, and no food in the house. Just beer. Lyle always had plenty of beer around.

The inconveniences and the alcohol stoked Eugene's already sour mood. Sullen idleness always seemed to bring his thoughts back to the night at the rec center. The memory of that arrogant coach who humiliated him at the rec center demanded vengeance. Eugene had held his anger for nearly two weeks, finding a twisted sense of pleasure in anticipating the moment of payback. Now, with thirty-six ounces of artificial courage goading his anger, he could no longer resist the urge.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Proud of What?

Shawna had scarcely breathed since she heard the officer utter the word charges. Arrest Mom? No, this isn't supposed to happen. The cops are supposed to warn her to cut me some slack and then leave. I don't want Mom in trouble with the law. I don't want to move out. Destiny didn't tell me about this.

The senior officer addressed Shawna. "Do you have somewhere to stay?" Her mind was racing. She didn't want to leave home. She didn't want this to happen. But how could she back out now? "I'd like to stay with my dad, if it's all right with him," Shawna said. Ten minutes later, with a small bag of her possessions in hand, Shawna walked out the door with her father. She knew Destiny would be proud of her for hanging in there to the end. But Shawna felt anything but proud of herself.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Parent's Rights and Wrongs

Stevie turned toward Jon with a despairing, questioning look. "CSD? A hearing? Possible charges?" she said with voice quavering. "Can they really do this, Jon?" Jon nodded slowly. "The Child Rights Act allows children fourteen and above to leave home if there is evidence of mistreatment. It happens every week at school."

"But that pornography on her computer, it was awful," Stevie argued plaintively. "And I didn't mean to break her monitor, but I had to deal with that... that trash in her E-mail." Jon shrugged to express his helplessness. "It's the law, Stevie. I don't like it, and I don't agree with it, but it's the law. There's nothing I can do."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Who's Guilty Now?

The next events progressed so fast that Shawna thought she was in a time warp. She described what she knew about the computer incident to the two navy-clad Los Angeles police officers, both women. Each officer took turns briefly interviewing Shawna and her mother separately, including trips to the garage to inspect the damage. Jon and Collin were politely instructed not to interfere. Collin clung to his father, fighting back tears.

Stevie dabbed her eyes with a tissue during the process, glancing often at her daughter with pained disbelief. Shawna was torn between feelings of sadness for betraying her mother and a dogged insistence to follow through with her plan.

Finally the officers called the family together in the entry. "Based on what we have seen and heard this evening, Mrs. Van Horne," began the senior officer, a stocky Asian with black hair pulled into a short ponytail, "and in compliance with the Child's Rights Act in force in South California, your daughter must find another place to stay until CSD holds a hearing to discuss possible charges."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Called the Police

The timing could not have been better, Shawna assessed. Her mother appeared at the door of her bedroom. Ashen-faced, she spoke to her ex-husband as if Shawna were invisible. "Jon, the police are here. They say Shawna called them. They want to talk with her." Jon turned to his daughter. "The police?" he said in disbelief. "Shawna, what are you thinking?"

Shawna was flooded with uncertainty. Had she actually called the police and reported being abused by her mother? It seemed like a dream now, but she had done just that less than an hour ago. Now the police were here. What would she tell them? What would they do to her? What would they do to her mom and dad? She felt Destiny egging her on. "All I want is a life of my own," Shawna repeated as she led her parents out of the room.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Hoping Destiny Is Right

"Shawna, you know your mother loves you. She would never hurt you. She said she was sorry about the computer monitor; it was an accident. But she was very upset about the emails," Jon said.

Shawna heard the doorbell ring in the entry. Her heartbeat quickened at what was about to happen. She hoped it worked the way Destiny said it would. "But Mom treats me like a child, Daddy," Shawna said, hoping to coax her eyes full of tears again. "Whether she broke my computer on purpose or not, I don't really know. But she came into my room and took it without my permission, and that's not right. All I want is a life of my own."

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Wrong Right

Shawna took advantage of the momentary silence during the conversation with her father about the vulgar emails from Rik. "Mom violated my rights, Daddy. I don't have to take this kind of abuse. I could move out if I wanted, and she couldn't do a thing about it." Jon cocked his head at her suspiciously. "What are you getting at, Shawna?" The look on his face revealed that he knew exactly what she was getting at. "You know," she said matter-of-factly. "The Child's Rights Act (CRA). I know all about it. You've used it to get kids at your school out of bad home situations. The school counselor told me so."

"Shawna, the CRA was designed to protect teenagers from abusive parents," Jon argued. "People who beat or rape or steal from their kids, people who force their kids into performing occult rituals or dealing drugs. It's not an excuse for kids to leave home whenever there's a disagreement or conflict." "But if a kid's rights have been violated, that's abuse. The counselor said so."

Monday, May 9, 2011

Can't Quit Now

"Mom said Rik is the boy you planned to meet at camp," Shawna's dad said. "It was all in the email." Shawna knew she was in too deeply. She couldn't quit now. "That's not true. I told you, it was a joke. I never meant to go through with it. Me and Destiny were just having fun. Mom has this all bent out of shape."

For the first time since her father walked in, Shawna saw a shadow of doubt flit across his eyes. It's my word against Mom's, she thought, watching him process what she had told him. That's what you're thinking now, isn't it, Daddy? And you can't really trust the word of an ex-wife.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Guilt is Extra Baggage

"Tell me about this Rik guy and the email," Jon said. Shawna had mentally rehearsed her response before her dad arrived. She looked him in the eye because she knew it was more convincing. "Daddy, it was nothing, just a computer joke, I swear. I've never even met Rik, and I don't intend to. Mom trashed my computer before I had a chance to explain. She's blowing the whole thing out of proportion."

Shawna felt a disquieting pang of guilt invade her before she finished the explanation. An excuse is the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie, one of the youth leaders at church had once said. Shawna knew her story was an excuse at best, and she didn't like how it made her feel. Destiny had told her that guilt was just extra baggage from spending too much time in church.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Mom Intentionally Broke My Computer

Jon entered, dressed in a nice shirt, sport jacket, and slacks, his school counselor clothes. Shawna had always thought her dad dressed well—for an adult. He sat on the edge of the bed with elbows on knees and hands clasped. "Your mom is very upset," he said evenly.

Shawna figured it was best to stay on the offensive. "She's upset? What about me? Do you know what she did to my computer? Did she tell you she broke it into a million pieces?"

Jon stuck to his point. "Mom and I are upset about the emails she found." "She had no right to sneak into my personal stuff," Shawna whined, producing another tear.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Destiny Said To ...

Shawna remembered one more thing Destiny told her to do if her mom gave her serious trouble about anything. She felt a little weird about doing it, but Destiny said it was necessary to make sure her mom gave her the space she deserved. She took her phone to a corner where she would not be heard outside her room and made one purposely tearful phone call. Then she sat down on the floor to wait.

About forty minutes later, Shawna heard her dad arrive. Listening through the door, she could hear her parents talking, but their voices were too low for her to get much of the discussion. After ten minutes, there was a soft rap on her door. She immediately recognized her father's voice when he said, "Shawna, it's me."

"Come in," she responded, sniffing loudly to keep up the abused-child act.