Tales From Long, Long Ago
I'm over at Tam's place
(one of my daily reads, and ought to be one of yours, too...) and I read her post about a kid in Indianapolis
allegedly getting almost snatched off the street
by a predatory goon.
Boy, that'll take you back.
See, the exact same thing happened to me, also in Indianapolis, over 35 years ago.
Maybe. I'm still unclear on the exact sequence of events.
Long story short, Dad got transferred from Dallas, TX to IndyPolis, IN in 1976 where we endured three years of frozen hell until Mom griped enough for him to find a job down in Houston.
While up there, we were kind of scraping by. Mom wasn't working, Dad took the only car to work everyday, and that left me to schlep myself to school via shank's mare. Fortunately, Public School #77 was barely three blocks away. This was OK in spring & summer, but kind of a PITA for a skinny Texas kid when the snow piled up.
Here's the neighborhood:
Red Circle - My House
Green Circle - Mertz House
Yellow Circle - Stewart House
Blue Circle - Weinberg House
Purple Circle - "Grandpa" the Crossing Guard
Orange Circle - Front Door of PS #77
(Click pic to embiggenate)
Now, I honestly can't remember if this all happened in 3rd or 4th grade. I'm betting it was 4th grade, 'cause I knew 99% of the kids in the neighborhood, and knew that in all the dotted houses, they all had stay-at-home Moms, just like I did. Hell, I was in those houses as often as I was in my own.
In addition, "Grandpa", the septuagenarian school crossing guard that always accused us kids of "playin' mumble-peg!" was a constant fixture at Michigan & Arlington Ave, and would have been in shouting distance for the entire walk.
It's the middle of winter. I'm on Michigan St., trudging through fresh-fallen snow that's up past my knees, and not paying attention to anything other than putting one foot in front of the other, and not slipping off the sidewalk. I can hear the Emery girls (Heather & Holly) chatting and giggling about half a block behind me, and there's a group of 2-3 kids about the same distance in front of me.
Somewhere along the stretch by the Stewart house, I can recall a beat-to-shit white van come chugging up the street. Due to the plowed slush and ice chunks in the gutters, it's well out towards the middle of the street. I don't pay attention until I hear someone yelling.
Keep in mind I've got this enormous fur-hooded anorak on, with a stocking cap pulled down over my ears under that. After another yell, I remember looking up and seeing some guy, maybe in his mid-20's, squatting in the open side door of the van.
I suppose he was yelling something at me, but I didn't hear it. I remember turning to look and saying "What?" or something to that effect, and the guy said something again, but for the second time I missed it. About the time I got my hood down, the van accelerated away, the door slammed shut, and it made a turn at the corner and was gone.
As God is my witness, to this day I have no idea what the guy said. I completely missed it. So, I finished the walk as usual, and had forgotten about the entire deal by the time my butt hit the school desk.
Third period, however, I was pulled out of class and marched down to the principal's office and given the 3rd degree by a herd of office staff.
"Who was in the van? Did they try to kidnap you?? Did you realize you were almost snatched!! Did you know them? What did they ask you? Did they touch you?" and on & on & on.
I'm sitting there thinking "What... The... Fuck... is *WRONG* with you people???" Nothing like that happened! I don't even think that did happen! And how did you know about it at all??
About that time Mom shows up, as do the Indy Police, and it's like being in a squawking hen convention. I was as perplexed as I've ever been in my life.
It seems that either the Emery girls or that other group of kids may have heard what the guy in the van was yelling, and it got deciphered as "Get in the van so we may offer you candy but we're gonna molest you and leave your corpse in the park".
This person told that person, that person told that person, someone eventually told a teacher, and it went up the chain lickety-split, apparently growing in detail with each telling.
Y'know, for all I know the guy was asking directions to the gas station. Or he was telling me I had a nice tight ass. (I did, way back then...) I just don't recall.
I doubt anything would have come of it. By that age, we were pretty well indoctrinated with the "Don't get into cars with strangers" message.
But ya never know... Perhaps if it wasn't for all those kids within sight, I might now be a pile of moldering bones on the bottom of Eagle Creek reservoir.
Hug your kids, folks. Teach 'em well. Arm 'em to the teeth.
'Cause, really, ya just never know...