Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Something Tells Her: Jane, a 12-year-old Foster Kid, Screams "NO!" to Attempted Rape, and Then ... Well, Here Are Excerpts.

In my new novel, Something Tells Her,  Jane is abandoned as a baby and raised in multiple horrific foster homes. After her latest abuse, an attempted rape, she screams "NO!" and runs out the door. Twelve years old, on the street, alone, no family, nobody, no money, how can she possibly survive?

She can't -- except that Jane  is no ordinary foster kid. She doesn't understand "can't."

Something Tells Her is fiction based on real-life --  my own childhood  and that of four younger siblings spent in multiple abusive foster homes and group homes. Against all odds, the five of us reunited and built successful, happy lives filled with family.

I have ten grand kids, for example. Hanging out with my granddaughter Mia, 12, has given me an inside look on how a 12-year-old girl thinks, feels, and acts. Mia is the girl on the cover of Something Tells Her.

Gabbing all the way, Mia and I walked to a nearby park with swings and play equipment. We were two kids having a ball, until some girls her age showed up and  she dumped me.

I was relegated to watching, listening, taking notes. But I learned a lot about young girls from Mia and also from my three other granddaughters, Bela, Talula, and Riley.  The credited editor of Something Tells Her, Miabela T. Riley, is a combination of their names.

Something Tells Her is now available on Amazon.

Following are short excerpts:

Excerpt One

To Mr. and Mrs. Williams, struggling to pay the bills, Jane knows she is nothing more than a sum of money from the state. She wishes that were not so, but always, always hopes for more. She dreams of the same kind of love that she sees Kate getting every day.

So when Mr. Williams suddenly dropped his gruff ways toward her and started looking at her and talking to her in a friendlier way, it felt good. Before, he slipped sweet treats to Kate alone. Now, he also gave them to Jane as well, with a smile.

One Saturday afternoon, Mrs. Williams and Kate were out and Mr. Williams and Jane were alone in the house. Jane was in Kate’s room drawing at her desk when Mr. Williams came in.

He was a little tipsy from drinking. “Got a nice fresh cantaloupe,” he said, slightly slurring his words. “Want some?”

Jane loves fresh fruit, but almost never gets it. As a general rule, fresh fruit is too expensive to waste on a state kid -- slang for foster child or ward of the state. And this is the first time Jane has been offered it, though Kate eats it all the time.

Jane’s first thought was: yummy. Her second thought was: Gee, maybe he likes me and is going to be nice to me. So she smiled, took the piece of cantaloupe, and said, “Thank you, thank you. Cantaloupe is my very favorite.”

He brought over a chair and sat down beside her. He put his hand on her shoulder as she ate the cantaloupe. He stroked her hair. In a kindly voice, he told her that she was “beautiful.”

Although boys like the way she looks -- she can tell by the way their eyes follow her -- no one has ever told her she is beautiful. Hearing it was as sweet as the cantaloupe.

Smiling, Mr. Williams moved closer. He kissed her tenderly on the cheek. Jane took a big bite of the cantaloupe, saying, “Oh, this is so delicious. Thank you so very much.”

You’re welcome,” he said, in a warm, fatherly voice.

He gently pulled her closer to him. And then, as his lips were about to meet hers, alarms inside of Jane started clanging. Pushing herself away from him, she jumped up screaming.

No! No! NO!”

Mr. Williams’ eyes all but popped out of his head. Friendly face gone, he glared at Jane. “You little brat!”

Fatherly smile now replaced by a twisted face, the man moved toward Jane with outstretched arms. “Come to papa, little girl,” he said. “Come to papa.”

Just as he was about to grab her, Jane reared back and kicked him as hard as she could -- right between the legs. With a howl, he grabbed himself and fell to the floor.

With Mr. Williams on the floor yelping like a hurt dog, Jane ran out the front door and kept running. She didn’t know where she was running to. She just ran and ran until she was so winded she couldn't run anymore. 

She plopped down on the edge of the sidewalk near the entrance to a big shopping center. There she sat, knees to her chest, head dropped, gasping for breath, trying to get control of herself.

Excerpt Two

In the car, Jane said, “Mr. Williams tried to touch me in a bad way.”

Not taking her eyes off the road, the assistant said, “I'm so sorry, but could you please save it for the social worker? Thank you.”

Jane sighed, folded her arms, and didn't say another word.

After a half hour drive in silence, they arrived at the Department of Social Services in Boston. Jane sat in the waiting area for over an hour before being seen by a social worker, a woman Jane had never seen before.

The social worker listened to Jane's story, took notes, and was genuinely appalled by what she heard. “Don't worry,” she said. “You're safe now. We're going to take care of you and find you a good home.”

But, with Jane's file in hand, listing her as a repeat “maladjuster” with “severe behavioral problems,” the well-meaning social worker could not help but take her story as more of the same. She ended the session with the usual feel-good, no-promise words that Jane had come to know so well.

Jane’s story of the cantaloupe-bearing, sex-seeking foster father never gets written down, never becomes a part of her official record – but what the foster parents and their daughter said about her, does.

As usual, the adults are believed, Jane is not, and her supposed lying, disobedience, disrespect and non-stop trouble making makes it into her personal profile.

Excerpt Three

As a professional knowing how to deal with troubled kids, Dr. Blake arrives with a big smile, empathetic eye-contact, and a warm two-handed clasp of Jane’s hand.

"Hello, Jane,” Dr. Blake said. “Nice to meet you. I understand you like to read and write.”


Dr. Blake, used to attention-deprived kids jumping at a chance to be heard, waits for the usual long, childish rambling. Instead, she gets no more than a “yes” from a young girl calmly reading her face.

Dr. Blake continues. “I’m sure you must enjoy your reading and writing. What is it you like best about them?”

It's another world.”

Dr. Blake waits for more. No more comes.

After several more questions with the same lack of response from her patient, Dr. Blake ends the session. After a few more similarly unproductive sessions, Dr. Blake diagnoses Jane with Social Anxiety Disorder. She writes out a prescription for medication and dismisses Jane -- a routine diagnosis and prescription. 

Her job is done.

Jane fakes taking the pills.
NOTE: The story of Jane Joy reflects the way the foster care system was in the bad old days of the 1950'sand 60's, a pattern of  abuse, exploitation, and official negligence. While being in foster care still involves great emotional pain and  hardship, things have improved greatly.  See previous story. 

Also, now the emphasis has shifted from long term foster care to returning kids to their families as soon as possible. If that can't be done, efforts shift to adoption as explained here.

Below is my granddaughter Mia as she posed for the cover. It depicts a scene in the novel in which something tells Jane that she should stay out of rough waters -- which, she later learned, drowned another unwarned girl.

After performing in The Wizard of Oz, Mia poses for photos with her mom and grand mom.

As a performer, singing and dancing, Mia is making her mark. In Something Tells Her, so does Jane Joy. -- by rewriting the script for what is possible for a 12-year-old girl entirely on her own in the world.

So long and keep moving.

                            Amazon E-Books by George Pollock

"State Kid: Hero of Literacy" is fiction based on his real-life experiences growing up in foster homes; "Last Laughs," is the true story of how five foster kids (he and four younger siblings) found their way in life and each other. "Killers: Surprises in a Maximum Security Prison," is the story of his being locked up for 23 hours with killers in a maximum security prison; "I, Cadaver" is about his postmortem adventures and mischief in the anatomy lab at UMass Medical School. “A Beautiful Story” demonstrates the art and process of creative writing as a 16-year-old boy goes all out to write a story that literally saves his life. "Unlove Story," is the true story of a husband -- writing anonymously as "Elvis" -- who is dumped after 38 years of marriage and lets it all out on love, marriage, life, everything. A guy doing this? It's unheard of.

For the Barnes and Noble Nook:

A Beautiful Story
A Long, Happy, Healthy Life
I, Cadaver