Granted: My Close Encounter with a Possible Pedophile
In 1978, my family moved our mobile home from a trailer park on the east side of Carson City to a trailer park on the west side of Carson City. My mom always said, “The west side is the best side.” So we were “moving up.” Plus, we were moving away from the K-Bar, my dad’s favorite bar which had been across the street from our old park. So things were “looking up” too.
It was the summer before third grade. I had been nervous about making new friends, but our new park had plenty of kids. I met Tammy first and then she introduced me to Grant.
Grant and I clicked immediately. He always said nice things to me and noticed things about me that made me “different” from my family–a message I was already desperate to hear given my family was riddled with addiction and drama, and I had reached an age where I was growing wise beyond my eight years. Grant “got” me. He said I was going to be someone someday.
I tried my first avocado with him–it was his favorite food and became one of mine too. Just a little salt with it. We often danced to Donna Summer’s latest album. Well, Tammy and I danced. Grant just clapped his hands—he was shy about dancing. And we always went to the carnival together when it came to the Mayfair parking lot across the street. Tammy was with us most the time. We called ourselves the Three Musketeers.
We’d take long walks together in the sagebrush fields that surrounded Tiger Drive and talk about our dreams: I wanted to be an artist when I grew up, and he wanted to be a full-time photographer someday and was saving his money for a camera. I can’t remember what Tammy wanted to be.
Grant was a great listener. He hung on every word I said.
My parents didn’t like him because he was “different for his age.” They were always bugging me to play with my other friends. But so what if he was different for his age? I was different for my age too. I couldn’t figure out what the problem was. He was my best friend, and I trusted him. After all, he was fifty years old and a prison guard. What wasn’t there to trust?
TIGER DRIVE Update
Something very moving happened this week. As you know, the hardcover of Tiger Drive released earlier this month (the paperback and ebook comes out on Feb. 14th). I was humbled to learn that the librarian of my hometown high school had ordered a copy for the high school’s library, and she was reading it. In fact, several friends on Facebook posted pictures of the hardcover as they received it, and then . . . crickets. I heard nothing. Naturally, people are busy. Just because they ordered my book, it didn’t mean they were going to drop everything to read it. But as a first-time author, I can tell you this silent period is scary. Did I offend someone? Do they think they wasted their money? Was I wrong to write this story? Should I have taken previous agents’ and peers’ feedback to “soften it up” a bit? I reminded myself that the books is out of my hands. To let it go. And then I woke up to the following email from the librarian:
Thank you. Thank you for your book. Thank you for your stories. Thank you for being a model for my students who so desperately need to know there is a chance at something more.
I had set Tiger Drive down for a bit because it made me cry. I have a student who is just like your character WJ. He just withdrew from school to pursue an alternate diploma. He’s got the weight of the world on his shoulders and he’s angry. I just see him in WJ. I saw him going down the path of falling in with the wrong people seeking acceptance and ending up in prison. I thought of another one of my students who just two years ago was killed here in an utterly stupid and avoidable minor drug deal. All of these kids who I love–I just want so much for them to know there are people who care about them, that they have support, and they can improve their lives.
AND…the women’s march last weekend–that’s what made me feel more than just anger at Janice [the mother in Tiger Drive]. Just thinking of a woman who feels trapped and powerless and having kids with no sense of control over her body or her life choices–it all overwhelmed me.
Well, Tiger Drive just got to be too much for me. It just hurt.
Then last night I picked it up again. I stayed up because I couldn’t stop. Way too late I finished and I cried again. This time with relief. I needed the characters to get through. I needed WJ to let his guard down and Carrie to have to chance and even Janice who pissed me off to no end…I wanted her to feel empowered and needed.
Thank you for this book that touched my heart and pushes me to continue to fight for these kids. They need as many people as possible who believe in them and support them. Thank you for being (although you don’t even know it) a model and a success story we can use to make connections with our students. Thank you for being you and being committed to offering a ray of hope to these kids who need light in their lives.
We exchanged a few emails where I thanked her and told her that it’s because of people like her that there are adults like me. She made a meme for this and put it on her desk at work as a reminder that she is the difference.
Our conversation inspired me to reach out to my eighth grade English teacher, Mr. Tobey, to tell him how he impacted my life, because he probably had no idea, and how he inspired Mr. Hill in Tiger Drive. Next week, I’ll tell you more about my call to Mr. Tobey.
Until then, thank you for being you.