Academic journal article TriQuarterly

Scraps

Academic journal article TriQuarterly

Scraps

Article excerpt

Police, Ma'am, you called us? May we come in? Doesn't look like much was burned. Did you put out the fire yourself? You say you got home a few minutes ago from class, that would make it about 10:30 P.M., right? And you found this pile of ashes in the hallway here, just the way it is now? Look, Jack, even the linoleum's melted. So I'd say it was burned right here and not somewhere else and then dumped. I wonder why the smoke detector didn't go off. Probably not enough smoke.

What was burned, Ma'am, do you know? Yes, I see there are a few charred scraps of paper. But why would someone want to burn your journals? Where's your daughter now? What was the fight about? Well, Ma'am, these things don't stay personal when the law's involved. This is arson, even though Linda obviously didn't try to set the whole place on fire.

Is this her picture here on the table? She's a pretty girl. Fifteen, you say? We'll have a look around, see what the neighbors know. Sorry, it's our job to investigate, and that means asking the neighbors if they saw anything. She's probably run off to a friend's house. We'll be in touch. Let us know if she comes back. Sounds like one very angry teenager.

I see, I see, I see, I see. Uh huh, yes, I see. No. I can't possibly come up there. I have a lot of business trips and meetings in the next few weeks. I know it must be rough going, but after all, she's your responsibility. I pay the child support and college for the other two besides. Perhaps, if you'd been more consistent in disciplining her as she was growing up--my analyst says you always punished her too much and then gave in when she got upset. You're too weak. Four years worth of work, huh? All your notes for stories, novels, articles, research projects up in flames, huh? Poems, too, gee, that is too bad. Well ... good luck!

No sign of her yet, Mrs. Toland. As police chief, I'll tell you we see this kind of thing every day. Teenagers don't have enough responsibility. Truancy laws are still on the books, but there's no teeth in them anymore. Kids don't have to go to school. So they're running around getting into dope and the hard stuff.

How much is Linda into drugs? Well, I realize you didn't mention it, but I took it for granted. I mean, what else does she do all day at the beach with her friends except toke up and booze up?

Thanks for bringing her picture down. Such a pretty girl! Fifteen? Boys really go for these golden girls. Does she have a lot of boyfriends? Just the steady one, eh? I hope she has the sense to use birth control. Well, at least you don't have to worry about that. Did you turn her on to Planned Parenthood, or is that something she found herself? But I'll bet you were relieved.

Don't be so hard on yourself. Families break up, mothers have to go to work. What are you studying at the University? History was always my weak subject. Are you on Aid there? Food stamps, too, I suppose. Well, it just gives me a picture of Linda's home, you know.

So you had a fight with her because she wanted to go on a weekend camping trip with her boyfriend. And you said--what was it? I have it in my notes here--you said you wouldn't give her money for the Halloween dance, the yearbook or anything else if she went. But does that work really, Mrs. Toland? I mean, most kids these days, when they need money, they sell some herb. Doesn't Linda do some selling? Not that you know of, eh? No, I know nothing works. Believe me, I sympathize. I get a lot of mothers sitting in that very chair telling me they can't go on.

Now, besides truancy, alcohol, drugs, sex and arson, what else has she done?

Mrs.Toland, is Linda in jail? Susie says she tried to burn your apartment down. Is she coming back? What are they going to do to her? Can I visit? I've never been in a jail before. My mom says I can't visit her, but what does she know?

Hello, Mrs. Toland? This is the Attendance Office at Grant High. …

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