Thirty years ago, I was studying criminology and volunteering at a youth detention centre. I visited the centre once a week for one year and learned a lot about teenaged girls in all sorts of legal trouble and emotional distress. I watched them interact, witnessed their despair, and listened to them talk with gullibility and hope about their futures and, in many cases, their mothers . . . mothers who rarely visited and who clearly preferred their new boyfriends to their daughters’ company.
I never pursued a career in criminology for a number of reasons and I stopped volunteering to venture into a different line of work. Then came marriage and a family. For some reason, though, those days at the detention centre are on my mind again.
Currently, I’m writing a short story based on a real incident in the centre. I don’t know why this particular memory has resurfaced after all these years, but I know it’s important enough to explore on the page. While I’ve been working on the piece I’ve been recalling other incidents at the centre. Those incidents have got me to thinking about kids’ problems. And kids’ problems have made me think about runaways . . . those who feel trapped in hopeless situations. Out of this, another idea has formed and it's now an integral part of a new novel I’ve started.
I have no idea if writing about this part of my past will cause the memories to fade permanently. Maybe they shouldn’t. Maybe the plight of runaway teens should be exposed and written about and shared and over and over again until folks show a tiny bit more compassion or understanding to street kids. Because as tough and belligerent and street-smart as they seem, there is still gullibility and flickers of hope behind many of those harsh stares. You just have to watch and listen awhile. I’m not sure how my novel will end, but I know that the journey will make me rethink a thing or two.
By the way, the short story is tentatively called "Birthday Girl".
To read excerpts of Fatal Encryption and Taxed to Death, visit http://www.debrapurdykong.com/.
Fatal Encryption is available through amazon.com at http://tinyurl.com/ddzsxl and Taxed to Death can be found at http://tinyurl.com/czsy5n