Wilson began working at an upholstery shop on the northeast side. It didn't pay much, but he was glad for the work. I was surprised how little trouble he had getting up with the alarm.
We signed Joy up for ballet classes in the suburb near my Dad’s. Every Saturday that fall, I dropped her off at class and went to do laundry at my dad's. We also signed Junior up with a gym near his house and paid for his and Cheri's piano lessons at the Park. In addition, Wilson and I attended most of Junior's floor hockey games and were proud when Cheri won an award in tennis.
But Misty wasn't a joiner. She had briefly been in Girl Scouts, but never asked to be part of any other program, never indicated any special interests, and we, deep into our own problems, never thought to help her find some.
Misty, like Cheri, started her real trouble after leaving elementary school and beginning junior high. There being several elementary and junior high schools in our large city, kids moving to seventh grade often found themselves surrounded by a whole new group of children. I often wondered if the pressure of a new school and the change in peer group at such an insecure age had anything to do with the troubles inner city kids had. Maybe junior high kids should be kept with the same group of children they'd gone to elementary school with, rather than shuffling the children as you would a deck of cards.
Because of Misty's truancy, the school district was now picking her up in a van every day from her mother's house and taking her to a special school. But the costly effort had no effect on her uncooperative attitude or interest in learning.
An Asian gang had jumped Savannah and Yvonne’s girl, Marci. Marci had gotten away, but Savannah was left. She had been gang-raped. Only thirteen, Savannah was already drinking heavily, had left school, been beaten several times, been stabbed in the throat, and had had clap (gonorrhea). I tried to get Savannah into treatment. The hospital was ready to take her, but no one in the family would help me to get her there. At the duplex Annie and Savannah were staying at with other people, (Candis was in the custody of her dad at the time.) I tried to talk Annie into helping me with Savannah.
"Well Savannah don't want to go, and if Savannah don't want to go, I can't do nothin," Annie said.
Busy at the kitchen table trying to hack a dirty cast off a little boy’s arm, she stopped a moment to take drag on her cigarette. I didn't know who the boy was. The son of the person Annie was staying with I guessed.
"Well, could we just trick her? Just tell her we're visiting someone?"
"Na-e, she won't fall for that," Annie said as she worked.
It was clear I wasn't going to get any help, so I gave up. After all, these adults were heavy drinkers and living homeless, transient lives themselves. Savannah was only a kid and wasn't near as bad off as they were, so in their minds, I was silly to suggest she needed help.
"By the way”, I said gesturing toward the boy. “How come you don't just bring him down to the hospital and have them cut that cast off? It would be easier."
"Nae, his mom don't want to bother with that."
More likely she didn't want to sober up for it or was hiding from social services.
One day, as I came into Wanda's duplex, Julia jumped up from the table in confusion, looked frantically around for a place to hide, and then ran into the basement. She had been sniffing paint and didn't want me to know.
Wilson and I began to talk about the troubles all the teenagers were having and wondered if there was something that we could do to make it different. For a little while, we even bandied around the idea of running a home for Indian kids. At the time, the Native American community in this city was predominately located within a two-mile radius. It was estimated there were approximately 15,500 Indians in the area. According to statistics, Native Americans had a higher infant mortality, lower education attainment, higher unemployment rates, greater incidence of poverty and disproportionately higher chemical dependency rate than other people groups in the state. Statistics said that 40% of this state’s Indians had a serious problem with alcohol, as opposed to only 8.5% of the rest of the state population. It was considered the single most serious problem Indians faced because it contributed to the three leading causes of death in adults: cirrhosis of the liver, suicide, and homicide.
And many youth were following their parents’ path.