Wednesday, July 5, 2017

"Escape From Nowhere" by Jeannette Eyerly

Published:  1969
Setting:  Modern Day


A young girl tries to evade family problems by turning to drugs.

Carla is a high school student.  Unpopular, and overweight.  You also get the feeling, straight away, that she's socially awkward (which speaks volumes to the fact that she only has one close friend and no social life).  Carla's lack of social life seems to distress her mother more so than herself as she's constantly being compared to her older, popular sister, Diane (who has escaped to college).  Carla's father is a successful businessman.  Not only does he make great money, he's only home once every few weeks.  With his father absent, her mother tends to drink...something that her father denies.

The story really begins fifty pages in when, after Carla spends the evening with her best friend instead of eating dinner with her mother, she returns home to find her mother drunk on vodka.  Not only has her mother failed to deliver (or even remember) a message from Carla's crush (a nice college boy, Tom) but she's drunk once again.

In a frenzy of anger, Carla runs blindly into the winter night and straight in front of a car driven by none other than the fabulously popular, soul-searching pot-smoking Dexter Smith.  She escapes with only a sore knee.  

Enter Dexter's world:

There was an "Apartment for Rent" sign in the front yard of the building where we paused.  At one time, certainly, it had been nice.  Built of brick and stone, two entrance lights as big as honey dew melons, guarded its entrance.  Only one was lighted, but above the doorway I could see the words "The Lotus" carved into stone.

Dexter opened the door, held it for me.  The vestibule was small, stuffy, and so hot you could smell it.  Unclaimed magazines and newspapers lay in an untidy heap on the floor.  An old steam radiator the kind I remembered from the house on Beeler Street where I'd lived when I was very small, hissed and sizzled beneath a brass-framed bank of name plates on the wall above it.

Dexter grinned.  "....this apartment belongs to a friend of mine, an older fellow.  He doesn't mind if I and some other kids he knows drip in now and then and make ourselves at home, even if he's not there."

...despite the queer lights and the apartment's furnishings...or lack of them...the kids themselves were so relaxed and friendly when Dex offered me a lighted cigarette.  I took it without thinking.  Yet the minute I had it in m hand, I knew there was something different about it.  Not smooth and firm like a regular cigarette, but also smaller and thinner, too....

Before Carla knows it, she's whisked into the underground teenage drug-dealing life of Dexter.  Not only does she help him roll marijuana sticks (and later sell them at a party) but she also really begins to enjoy smoking pot, herself.

He lighted another and moved closer to me.  His arm was around my shoulders but it was light and presureless.  "I don't need to ask if you're happy.  I can tell.  The problem is, if you're going to stay happy you have to work at it, see?  You have to learn to cool it.  Cooling it is the big thing.  You have to get high, see, and not have anyone know it.  You have to cool it, stay cool and look out the window at all the stupid people rat-racing around, working at their pointless jobs, discriminating against their themselves airs...and generally making you as unhappy as they are themselves."

From people in general, we went on to society, then back to our parents, teachers, and all the squares me knew.

Dex really had all the answers.  I felt as if I, too, was beginning to see things clearly for the first time.  But, best of all, I liked cooling it.  I liked looking out the window.  At everybody.

Before long, Carla is consumed by the lifestyle of a drug user.  She smokes pot daily.  Several times a day.  She admits to herself that she is addicted and becomes agitated when she can't get ahold of it.  Not only that, her grades are slipping.  She loses all her friends...except for Dexter.

The story climaxes into a brilliant disaster when, upon entering Dexter's private location he's designated as the place where he plans to write a book, she realizes just how deeply Dexter has been drawn into the world of drugs.  In addition to having her deliver drugs he was selling on several occasions, he has shelves upon shelves of drugs...uppers and downers and who knows what else.

When Dexter injects drugs via a needle and falls into a comatose state, she must get help....and in doing so incriminate her own self.

Carla narrowly escapes jail time.  She receives probation so she can resume some sort of life, although she's gained a reputation as the girl who was with the drug dealer who overdosed.  She also receives that belated phone call from Tom, so we sort of get the idea that perhaps a romance will finally blossom between the two.  The family also is trying to reconcile as a whole so there is some semblance of a happy ending for Carla, after all.

As for Dexter, he appears to be brain damaged and currently resides in an asylum.  The doctors don't know if he'll ever recover.  He works on his book everyday.  A bunch of typed words that make no sense...

This is one of those stories designed to really put a fear of drugs into teenagers and younger adults.  You get the whole idea of pot as a gateway drug.  I often wonder if the author meant to predict the idea that had Dexter not ended up harming himself to the extent that he did, maybe Carla would have ended up doing some harder drugs.

Either way, this story packs a definite punch. 

My Rating:
4 Stars

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

"Drop-Out" by Jeannette Eyerly

Published:  1963
Setting:  Modern Day

The house was so quiet when she finally dared call Mitch that even the sound she made dialing and the phone's distant pealing ring seemed enough to waken all the sleeping house.

Mitch's "Donnie?" was so guarded, yet excited, that he scarcely seemed to hear her answering "yes."

"I have to see you.  I've got news wonderful news."  His voice dropped so low she could scarcely hear.  "My folks were gone when I called before.  Now I can't talk so well myself.  But if you could get out for a little while, I could meet you at the corner."

"I--I wouldn't dare.  If my father found out..."  The proposal was so audacious she would have laughed except for fear.

Mitch was laughing softly, almost triumphantly.  "Before long it won't matter if he does find out.  That's why I have to see you."

"Mitch, tell me."  She felt a small pulse, like something come alive, beating in her throat.

"I have to see you to tell you.  No one will know you're even gone.  I'll meet you in fifteen minutes at the corner."  He laughed again softly before the click of the receiver sounded in her ears.

He was waiting when she got there, his eyes glinting with excitement as she slipped into the seat beside him.  "Hi!"  He said, and the new happy sound was in his voice.  "Hi...Donnie Donaldson!"

She was starting so incredulously that Mitch, laughing, almost shook her.  "Don't look so goofy!  Don't you get it?  I've got a and I are getting married!"


A high school couple, both with family problems, who have left school and plan to marry find their troubles just begining.

As you've probably guessed, this is one of those typical stories where the young couple in love (and who have been forbidden to see each other by at least one nagging parent who just has no idea what they are talking about).  So, they decide to just run away and get married. You know, because being totally independent with tons of responsibility and no way to take care of such responsibilities is worth it as long as you can drop out of school and be together....right?

Except, it's really not so typical at all.

Things were off to a bad start at the very beginning.  I mean, if you can't even take a two minute car ride with a boy who is taking you home after school, the game ought to already be over.

Donnie's heart gave a fluttery little bounce that was a mingling excitement at Mitch driving her home and alarm if her father should find out.  But her father needn't know!  And it wasn't as if she was doing anything wrong.

Smiling, she held out her hand...

There was even that one, nagging Jan Brady friend who always knew better....and she didn't mind to say it!

"You can count me out of that scheme," Roz said coldly.  "And you'd better count yourself out of it too, Donnie Muller.  Unless you want to be in trouble."

"Just for a little while,"  Donnie said.  "Just for a little ride."  As she spoke she moved seemingly without volition, toward the car.  "You can come, too,"  she said, knowing that Roz wouldn't;  suddenly, wildly, not caring that Roz would be left standing there alone.

She slipped into the seat beside Mitch.

"You'll be sorry,"  Roz said.

As if all the warning signs weren't there already, Romeo (Mitch) was even a delinquent!

There had been trouble in Boomtown the night before.  A bar-tender who refused to sell beer to minors had been roughed up.  Police were called and a half-dozen teenage boys were arrested...Donnie guess that when trouble came to Boomtown, Mitch Donaldson was there, and it was true.

However, none of this could budge Donnie's new-found puppy love.  Not until the couple were well on their way did trouble stir in paradise.  You could call it a series of bad luck incidents, or perhaps the omens were more obvious.  But after the car breaks down and the couple lose their money (Mitch loses his wallet with ALL their honeymoon and rent money), they can't even afford to pay for Donnie's hotel room!  Mitch convinces her to abandon her suitcase (with all the belongings she came with) to avoid the charge.  

Meanwhile, they become homeless in a strange town before the message finally arrives to Donnie from the cosmos in the manner of an older gentleman at the unemployment office:

With a feeling of loss that she could not explain, again took the Help Wanted:  Women ads from her purse.  Tears leaked slowly from her eyes.  "Bar Maid.  Casualty Claims, Clerk, Cook and Customer Relations; Designers, Egg Handlers Housekeeper, Nurse."  The type blurred and cleared.  Experienced.  Experienced.  EXPERIENCED.  Mature Woman ONLY HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES NEED APPLY....

It was while they were standing four hours in the unemployment line, both nearly freezing to death, that the first pangs of falling out of love seemed to finally fall over Donnie:

Even when she was thinking about Mitch, as she was willfully doing now, nothing seemed to happen.  She didn't feel anything at all.  There were no sudden little stirrings of her pulse in throat, temple, or wrist.  No involuntary, almost convulsive shivering that had nearly always seemed to shake her when she had seen him coming toward her.  A feeling of panic rose in her chest.  "What if I don't love him," she thought wildly.  "What will happen if I don't love him...and we're married?"

Things just seemed to further fall apart once the couple had their car repaired and were well on their way again.  Mitch happened to read the heading in the local newspaper and realized that the great one-hundred-dollar-a-week antique-trading job he'd been offered by an elderly man was actually a huge three-state chop shop deal.  The man had been recruiting troubled young teens to work for him with the promise of good pay....and Mitch was only spared being busted because of the delay due to car trouble!  Had he been there only a day earlier, he too, would have now been in prison on serious charges!

After the bitter truth settled in (that there was no job for Mitch to go to, and no way for them to live without a guaranteed income in this new town) it seemed they both willfully resigned from the idea of marriage...and really from the idea of dating altogether.

In a way I thought it unrealistic that two teenagers who were so adamant on being married and staying together, could just totally abandon the relationship altogether.  But, considering the forlorn feeling of homelessness, being hungry and broke as well as missing her younger sister...I could totally understand and relate to the feeling of relief that Donnie must have felt.  The feeling that she had the chance to redo things, to fix her life, to have that exciting college experience and to date more sophisticated boys who were going places in life.  I think I would have probably felt the same.  

Still, the ending sort of brought a tear to my eye:

Leaning lightly against Mitch, she felt wise and not unhappy.  Despite all that had happened, in a way they were the lucky ones.  For if Mitch, in looking at the down-and-out, out-of-luck, out-of-work, had seen himself a dozen years form now, she had had her vision too.  Of poverty, unhappiness, perhaps a broken home.

Now there was a future.  Perhaps not with Mitch, perhaps with another boy yet unknown.  Something better lay ahead for both of them. was dark when the stopped in front of her house.  Through the front window she could see the Christmas tree softly glowing.  The porch light was on...

She got out of the car and trudged up the sidewalk.  She did not cry.  She did not look back.  Hard rules were the only ones worth keeping.  She straightened her shoulders as she opened the door.  Even before she stepped inside, Blossom came running.

Interesting Names of Places:  Boomtown.  Seriously....I suppose it's booming!

My Rating:
4 Stars