Joy Ward’s Story: Broken Bottles

Joy Ward’s Story: Broken Bottles

This is my story –of a 13-year-old victim who reported to the police in 1956. Ancient history? Perhaps, but it may give some insight into why victims don’t report and the surreal experience of doing so. That said, I firmly believe that victims should speak out and identify themselves. It is not their shame! Not publishing names “in order to protect the victim” implies that somehow it is the victim’s shame. Rapists are the ones who deserve to be identified and shamed.

This story happened to me when I was a child. About twenty years ago, I wrote about it in a writer’s workshop – the names are all fabricated but the story is mine. I was writing about it forty years after the fact, and the details about the courtroom were a blur. I came face to face with him a neighbour’s and felt that crazy transference of guilt. When the Jian “Creep” story was dominating the press I remembered this story from twenty years ago, dug it out, and thought your site would be a great place to share it with others and help them understand what I went through.

I might add that I am fine now and I think I was fine –after the initial trauma– at the time. I may not be the best judge, though. I think I have had a great life. I think maybe the biggest thing that helped me was that I was so grateful to still be alive after it was over. It could have been worse.

Thank you for your courage.

I Didn’t Break Any Pop Bottles

“Hey, you! C’mere a minute. I wanna see you.”

Linda Balfour* jerked upright from the pond where she had been examining the movements of some tadpoles, checking to see if they had legs yet. Linda liked tadpoles, and, though she wouldn’t tell him, sometimes she called them by her dad’s name for them: polliwogs. That name seemed more suitable for the strange creatures who seemed not to know who they were. Black teardrops with tails. But the legs weren’t right. They were so smooth before, darting around in their puddles; the inevitable legs did something wrong to them.

“What are you doing here?” The man’s voice was demanding.

“N-nothing.” But she knew she was probably beyond her boundaries.

Linda and four of the other kids in the neighbourhood had gone for a bike ride. Then they had decided to check Simpson’s gravel pit. Just to see what was there, actually. It wasn’t really forbidden; it was just a place they didn’t normally go, but at this time of year it often had pools of water on the clay bottom and pools of water often held interesting things. Linda was the biggest and oldest of the group and was aware that if they were doing “something” she would be held responsible. She often played with the younger kids; she liked their activity. Most of the girls her own age were too concerned about hair and music and boys and growing up. She was growing up too; actually, she was ahead of most of them physically, but she didn’t recognize it or care. She did have thirteen year old girlfriends and they whispered and giggled together and pinned Fabian, Ricky Nelson, and Elvis on their walls, but she enjoyed her ten year old buddies too.

“Don’t run. Stay there.” The man spoke firmly.

Linda looked around. The kids were still up on the rim of the pit with their bikes. She was the only one so far who had scrambled and slid down the cliff-like walls to the water. They had ridden past the spot where the smooth twin paths skirted the edge of the pit but she couldn’t resist the pull of the tadpoles she knew would be there and the desire to be the first to make them flicker around. She waited, wiping her hands on her jeans, knowing she was about to be scolded for trespassing, embarrassed in front of the little kids, and probably was going to cry. She warily watched his approach.

“What are you doing here?” he demanded.

He walked easily up to her. The man was wearing a tight T-shirt, faded jeans and leather work boots. He had a dusty cap on his head and was well-tanned. He looked like a working man, like a man who would work around a gravel pit. He looked as if he should be there. Linda felt out of place.

“Are you one of the kids who’ve been breaking pop bottles around here?” Anger tinged his voice.


Linda felt a bit of relief now. She knew she wasn’t guilty of that. She would never deliberately break pop bottles. Breaking things wasn’t done, especially glass, and besides, they were worth two cents each. “No, I haven’t broken any pop bottles.”

“Are you sure?”

“No. I mean, yes. I mean I didn’t break anything.”

“Well, somebody’s been breaking pop bottles around here. You sure it wasn’t you?”

“I’ve never even been here before!”

Linda was shaking her head and denying the crime with all her self. If only she could convince him she didn’t break the bottles, maybe he would let her go and not worry about the trespassing and not tell. And it was true. She never had left the road before.

“Well, if it wasn’t you, who was it?”

“I-I don’t know. It wasn’t me.”

She had to make him believe her. She just wouldn’t do anything like that.

“Come on up here, I’ll show you where they’ve been breaking pop bottles. Somebody’s been doing it.”

He indicated the side of the pit away from the road where she had come in. Not quite as steep, it led up to the surrounding maple bush. She looked for support to where the other kids were. They were there but kind of shrinking behind their bikes and trying to slink backwards out of sight as if they were in school and the teacher had asked a question about the homework they didn’t do. Oh well, she was the oldest, and she was confident of her innocence. If that was what he was worried about, she definitely didn’t break any pop bottles and he would have to realize her truthfulness. She followed him up the slope, both of them slipping a bit on the loose gravel, bending over and using their hands where it was steepest. At the top, he stopped and pointed into the bush.

“Over here.”


“In the bush a bit.”

There was a slight path leading away from the edge in the direction of the main road. Just for a second, Linda considered running, but her bike was over on the lane, he would probably catch her and, besides, she didn’t break any bottles. She walked into the sudden shade, watching where she stepped, expecting to see piles of broken glass. There wasn’t any.

“I don’t see any broken glass.” She turned. “Where…

He was reaching for her.


He had his hands on her arms now. His stubbled face was coming closer.

“What are you doing?”

“Be quiet. I’m not going to hurt you.”

One grubby hand was on her breast now. Confused and shocked she tried to push it away. She didn’t think of her breasts as something for a man to put a hand on or to want to touch. She just knew she needed a bra now.

“You dirty bastard!”

The intensity of her voice and the swear word surprised her. She was usually shy and good.

He was pushing her down to the ground now on to the grass and leaves. Trying to kiss her, or rather, stick his hard tongue in her mouth. Linda compressed her lips, turned her head away and away, pushed at his hands, twisted to try to escape his weight.

“Let me go!”

“C’mon now,” he panted. “You want it. You’ve been here before.”


“I saw you here before. You know you want it.”

“No, no, I’ve never been here. It wasn’t me!”

He had to believe her. Linda had read enough “True Confessions” and given in to curiosity enough with the boys and talked enough with the girls that she knew what the man meant but he couldn’t be talking about her! She knew this was wrong, it wasn’t fair. He had the wrong person. She didn’t break pop bottles and she didn’t go all the way.

But he was reaching under her shirt now, still lying on her, scratching her neck and cheek with his rough face.

“Come on, you want it. Just keep still. I won’t hurt you.”

“You are hurting me!” she argued.

He wasn’t logical. Everything he said was a lie. Then logic and reason and truth broke down. She started to cry. She tried to call “Help!” but her contracting throat distorted the word. She heard loud hysterical sobbing. She thought it was the other kids.

“Shut up! Stop crying! I’m not going to hurt you.”

“I can’t,” she tried to tell him.

The sobs continued. Someone kept saying “No, no, no, don’t!”

“Shut up!” Now his voice changed and his hands stopped fumbling around her body. They went to her throat. “Shut up! Stop that noise.”

Linda felt the strength in the hands and the body and the purpose in the thumbs. She saw a headline from last month’s Toronto Telegram: “Thirteen Year Old’s Body Found in Parking Lot.” Her mother had been really upset and protective then because she had known the thirteen year old’s parents. That headline was Toronto, but this was here, and the reality that she might never leave this piece of ground silenced Linda. She saw her parents finding her. She saw her headline: “Thirteen Year Old’s Body Found near Gravel Pit.” All she wanted was to be able to leave there, to see her parents, to ride her bike home. She felt cold and numb and she watched.

As the sobbing lessened the pressure of his hands lessened and he returned to what he wanted. He started to take her jeans off. They were her favourite ones; so she hoped he wouldn’t rip them, but she didn’t help. She was quiet, watching. She was wearing her Girl Guide belt, a very simple one to undo. The clover-shaped metal piece just hooked into the other end, but he didn’t know how to work it. It seemed to take forever.

“What the hell is this?” he muttered.

Linda almost smiled. She felt smug at his stupidity. She couldn’t cry but maybe the silent buckle would deny him.

“Damn,” he said. “Undo it.”


Emboldened by his clumsiness with the buckle and the absence of his hands from her neck, Linda refused and watched.

He was straddling her now, pinning her by sitting on her legs, silently working at the buckle with both hands. Linda watched, considered struggling again, remembered the feel of those strong hands on her neck, and chose to wait, chose not to risk their threat again. She watched the two people in silence. She watched his untidy brown hair, his weasel eyes, the dampness on his forehead, the dust-filled creases on his cheeks, the snake curling around an anchor on his right forearm, the nondescript once-white T-shirt, the jeans faded and embedded with cement dust. She watched her buckle finally being thrown aside, her zipper undone, her jeans and panties being tugged and pulled until the girl was exposed. She watched as the man undid the zipper of those dusty jeans, reached inside and freed his penis. It seemed like not a part of him; it sprouted from the faded jeans incongruously and poked at her stomach and her legs and the part of her that was like not a part of her. And she watched, frozen.

“Open your legs.”


“Open them!”

Now it was pushing at a tender place that was a part of her. “You’re hurting me,” Linda groaned.

“Open wider,” he commanded, as it invaded deeper, hurting more.

Linda was crying again, silently now, but the man wasn’t noticing, he was intent, straining, tight, and then, still.

He lifted his upper body off her, and, still on his knees, concealed himself, and closed his zipper again. Linda, still the observer, noticed some moisture on him and on her upper leg. She wondered, faintly hoping, if he was done. Would he still be mad at her? Now what?

“O.K.” He slowly got to his feet.

“Can I go?” She sat up slightly.

“Yah, get outta here. Don’t tell anybody.” He reached down, squeezing both of her arms with a viselike grip, then releasing her as if he was burnt.

“I won’t. I promise.” She cautiously started to pull her clothes back up.

“Go home. Don’t tell anybody.” And he was gone, in the direction of the pit.

Linda scrambled to her feet and began running even before she had her jeans buttoned. She crashed through the bushes, around the trees, tripping, recovering, stumbling on, half crying. Which way did he go? Don’t go that way. She ran freely, desperately, expecting at any moment to meet him again and to feel those hands again. But she broke out of the bush on to the road, found her bike just where she had left it on its kickstand, and bounced over the potholes out to the main road, still in reprieve. On the way, she passed a black ’51 Ford Tudor that had not been there when she and the kids had ridden in, a lifetime ago. Once on the pavement, she pedalled blindly, going so fast that the wind dried her tears instantly. Home, she had to make it home before he caught her again. She was sure he would change his mind and fulfil her headline. She met a woman in housedress and apron, half-running, half-walking toward her. She thought she recognized Jerry’s* mother as she whizzed by, but she didn’t stop. She had to get home. He might be right behind her.

She threw her bike down in the driveway, crossed the cement pad in front of the porch in one step, snatched open the screen door, stepped into safety and slammed the wooden door behind her. She slumped back against the door and stood there, breathless but free of fear at last.

June*, Linda’s mother, a stout, solid woman was sitting in her usual place at the kitchen table, with her usual afternoon coffee and usual library book. She glanced up when the screen door opened, then continued reading. When Linda didn’t move, June looked up and saw.

“What’s wrong? Linda, what is it?” She rose slowly and then quickly crossed the worn linoleum, reaching out to Linda.

Linda couldn’t look at her. She knew she would tell her mother what happened, but she didn’t know how to start. And she didn’t want to start. She knew her mother was going to be hurt and she knew she would fuss. All Linda wanted was peace, safety, to be left alone. But she knew that what had just happened was wrong and she knew she could not keep it a secret. Her mother already knew there was some kind of devastation; she was reflecting it on her worried face as she hugged her stiff daughter. Would her face ever be not worried again, Linda wondered. She shrugged out of her mother’s arms and looked away. June reached for her again but Linda twisted free.

“Linda, what happened?”

And so she started, “There was a man, and he said I was breaking pop bottles at Simpson’s pit, and he said he’d show me where and…”

The whole story came out. Linda told her mother without hesitation, speaking calmly, watching again. She did not feel ashamed; she felt triumphant. She was alive, not a headline. Throughout, June paled and her eyes filled. She stopped Linda once to take her into the living room where they could both sit down. She rubbed her hands together, licked her lips nervously, gasped, made sympathetic noises, frowned, set her mouth firmly and occasionally questioned. While she was telling her mother about it, Linda could sense her gentleness and caring but perversely resisted it. She didn’t want to need sympathy. She resisted being touched.

After the telling, June wiped her eyes on the corner of her apron and sat up straighter. She put her hand, reddened from the berries she had been canning that morning, on Linda’s shoulder softly and said, “I have to call your father, and Millie*, and maybe the police and….Will you be OK?”

Linda nodded.

She sat, drained, on the couch, looking out the window, hearing, but not hearing, the various conversations that occurred around her. She was still relieved, and was savouring being relieved. She wanted to be happy because she was alive and she wanted her mother to be happy too. She didn’t want to catch the anger and sorrow she could sense in her mother because then she would have to stop being happy she was alive and be sad because the other had happened.

Linda registered a few of her mother’s phrases.

“Can I speak to Wes Balfour*, please.”

Linda cringed. She wished her father didn’t have to know. How could she look at him now, knowing what she knew about men?

“Millie, would you be able to come over?”

Good, she liked Millie, the neighbour across the road. Billy*, her son, was one of the kids who had been there. She wondered what they had said. There was a knock.

“June, what happened? Where’s Linda? Is she O.K.?” Millie was out of breath and her words ran together.

“Yes, no, …”

“Marion* phoned just before you did. She saw Linda tearing home. Jerry* was hiding under the porch crying and she found him and he told her a man had taken Linda into the bushes and…”

“Sh. She’s here. She’s all right. No. She’s not hurt, but she is. I don’t know what I’m saying. I don’t know what to do. Wes will be here as soon as he can..”

“What happened? Did he…?”


“Oh God! The son of a bitch! Who? Did she know him?”

“No, but she can sure describe him. I think I’d better call the police. I could kill him with my bare hands. If he was here, I would.”

The two women hugged and cried and looked at Linda. Linda knew they were talking about her and there was something she would have to do now to assure them she was O.K.

“Mom, are you going to call the police?”

“What do you want, Linda? I know we should and he should be caught and…,” June stopped herself. “It might be hard for you. You’ll have to tell them all about it.”

“I want to get him. I don’t want him to get away with it.”

Linda had been thinking about the police and people knowing. She also had been thinking about the fear which was just now subsiding and she had decided.

The police were there within ten minutes. Two of them.

“Hello, Linda, I’m Sergeant Kemp* and this is Constable Johnston*. We have to ask you some questions.”


“Your mother says a man attacked you at the gravel pit up the Essex Road. About what time did it happen?”

“I’m not sure. Just after lunch. Twelve thirty or quarter to one. No, maybe it was later, we blew up Jerry’s tire first.”

“O.K., can you tell us what happened.?

“We were at Simpson’s pit and this man came up to me and asked me if I had been breaking pop bottles. I never broke any pop bottles, but he said…”

The police left, with their notes and Linda and her mother sat down at the kitchen table. Linda traced the diamond patterns which crisscrossed and framed the little flowers in the blue and white oilcloth and didn’t know what to say to her mother. June wasn’t saying much either. She would start to talk and then stop.

“Mom, are there any cookies?”

June had cookies out in ten seconds. Linda poured her milk and her mother’s coffee and wondered if this familiar action would ever seem normal again.

Before they were finished, the police car pulled back into the driveway.

“They must have forgotten something,” June said, and went to the door to see.

Linda stayed at the table. She had told them everything. Soon her mother came back.

“Linda, the police have a man in the car they would like you to identify. If you feel like it. You could look out the window, but it would be better if you came out. It’s up to you.”

“How could they get him so fast? They must have known who he was. This is impossible! I can’t.”

“They just want you to look at him, if you feel like it.” June reached for her daughter’s hand.

“O.K. But you have to come with me.”

“I’ll be there.”

As they went out, the police officers were just getting a man out of the back of the cruiser. She recognized the jeans first. Faded and caked with dust. Then the face that she had seen too closely. The police officer looked at her.

“Is this the man?”

“Yes, that’s him.”

“I’ve never seen her before in my life.”

Linda cracked. “You dirty liar!” she snarled.

She couldn’t believe it. Just over an hour ago this man had been pushing her into the ground and she didn’t feel as violated and betrayed as she felt now.

“Now, Linda,” said her mother reaching for her hand.

“That’s enough, she can go inside,” said Sergeant Kemp.

He followed Linda and her mother in while the other officer bundled the man back into the car. “Thank you, I know that was hard. We were lucky, he was working at a construction site near the gravel pit and we have been watching him. Now, can you come down to the station and make a formal statement?”

“Can we wait until her father gets home?” June asked.

“Yes, as long as it’s today. She will have to be examined by a doctor too. Perhaps you should do that first. I’ll call for you if you like.”

“Would you?” June said. “The phone’s in here.”

Linda was still shaking with indignation. He was lying, again. Now she was determined to get him. She didn’t care about doctors and statements. He had to pay for lying, for implying that she was lying. It was his word against hers now.

Sergeant Kemp came back into the kitchen and faced them. “You have an appointment at three thirty, Meredith Clinic,” he said. “Now, we’re going to take him back to the station and then come back and ask you, Linda, to show us where it happened. We will be with you. Mrs. Balfour, you don’t have to come. You can, but it’s rough ground.”

“I couldn’t,” June said. “Does she have to go there again? Couldn’t you…”

“Yes, she does, Mrs. Balfour, I’m sorry.”

When they came back, Linda was ready. She rode silently out to the gravel pit, showed them where the car had been, and where she was when she first saw him. Again she scrambled up the side of the pit and walked into the cool shade. Still no broken glass, but flattened grass marked the spot.

“What’s this?” said the constable as he bent and picked up something shiny.

“My belt buckle! He couldn’t undo it right. He was so stupid. He took it right off.”

She showed them the belt, still hanging loose. It pleased Linda that they had found this evidence. Now they would believe her.

The doctor was not their usual family doctor. He had been busy. Dr. MacLeod* was younger and straightforward.

“Linda, I know you’ve had a bad experience, but what I have to do is examine you to verify your story and make sure you are O.K. I’m sorry, I hope you understand I also have to ask you some personal questions.”


“Do you understand what intercourse is? I guess you learn about that in school these days, or did your mother tell you?”

“Yes.” Linda tried a joke. “Well, if I didn’t before, I sure do now!”

“Yes, well, now don’t be upset; this is just between you and me, but I need to know if you have ever had intercourse before. Sometimes kids your age have done some experimenting, you know–playing doctor?”

Linda wasn’t sure she liked the twist this was taking. She guessed he wanted to know if she was a virgin. She wondered if he somehow knew what the man had said about her having “been there before” and “wanting it” and if the police had told him to check. She didn’t know what to say; she didn’t think that any experimenting she had ever done was in the same class as “intercourse”, but she could hardly lie to the doctor and say that she had never done anything.

But today she had been raped no matter what she had done before, surely he could tell that? But she muttered, “It wasn’t really the first time.”

The doctor made a notation and then said, “Now, before I examine you, could you tell me what happened today?”

“I was out at a gravel pit and he came up to me and wanted to know if I had been breaking any pop bottles around there and I said, ‘No,’ but he didn’t believe me and he….”

The clerk at the police station was businesslike and brisk. Linda and her parents sat hunched toward the fronts of their chairs, while Sergeant Kemp stood in the corner. Another policeman wearing a dark grey suit asked the questions and the clerk recorded everything in shorthand.

“Now, Linda, you realize this is a very serious charge and you must tell the truth, and give us all the details. Try to remember everything. Now, tell us in your own words what happened today.”

Linda hesitated, she couldn’t get started. Her mother squeezed her hand and said, “It’s all right, Linda, tell them everything.”

“Well,” she cleared her throat. “We, my friends and I, were just fooling around and decided to go up to Simpson’s gravel pit. Sometimes there is a pond there with tadpoles. I went down to the water and the others didn’t and that man came up to me and asked if I was the one who had been breaking pop bottles, but I wasn’t, but he said I was and said he would show me…”

When they got home, Millie, who had been babysitting Linda’s younger brothers, had some supper ready for them. Linda’s parents picked at their food. Her father soon left in stormy silence for his workshop and Millie and June sipped at coffee, started and discarded various conversations, while Linda ate. She finished and said, “I think I’ll go out and see if anyone wants to play baseball.”

June looked up in protest, then subsided. As Linda was leaving she heard Millie say, “She’s taking it well, doesn’t seem to be too upset.” Linda thought about that. Why shouldn’t she take it well? It wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t the end of the world. It literally wasn’t the end of her world and it could have been.

She told only two of her girlfriends what had happened, but they seemed so shocked that she didn’t get much beyond the broken glass.

Life resumed. Her parents didn’t talk much to her about it. Sometimes she heard them calming each other’s short angry outbursts. The court date was set and in the meantime Linda went down to Toronto to visit her older cousin.

The first night, Darlene* said, “Your mother said you might want to talk about what happened or you might not. Whatever you want is fine with me.”

“I’ll tell you,” Linda decided. “There’s this gravel pit up the road from our place and I was there and this guy came up to me and accused me of breaking pop bottles…”

The week before the court date Linda had to go to the Crown Attorney’s office.

“Linda, you will have to take the stand in court and the judge will want to hear your version of what happened.”

“Do I really have to do that? I thought I already made a statement.” Linda thought about getting up in front of people and telling all those details and didn’t like it.

“Yes, I’m afraid so, unless you want to let it drop…”

“Not on your life,” Linda’s mother interrupted. “We–she hasn’t gone though all this just to let him get away with it!”

“All right, Linda, could you just go over your statement with me again, just to make sure that everything is consistent. It’s been a while now since…”

“I haven’t forgotten anything,” Linda stated. But she started again. “At Simpson’s gravel pit, a man came up to me and asked if I had been breaking pop bottles. I said I never broke any pop bottles in my life and…”

Wes, June and Linda were very silent in the car on the day they went to court. Linda and her mother had to find the Ladies’ Room as soon as they got there. They waited outside the courtroom on hard wooden chairs lined up around the edge of the high-ceilinged room. Dust danced in the sun that managed to streak though the tall, narrow, grimy windows. The sun had no lightening effect today, either on the institutional green walls or on Linda’s spirit. She tried to be a watcher again, watching the girl sitting watching the dust and trying not to meet the eyes of any of the other people who were waiting too. Linda felt as if they all knew why she was there, as if they could see into her mind and watch her being violated. Soon they would be hearing, if not seeing. Linda’s father stood up and paced from dirty window to dirty window. He wiped his finger on one window sill and then looked at it in disgust and wiped his finger on his pant leg.

“Wes,” said June, “don’t.”

She brushed at the smear on his suit. Linda watched them but sat, not moving, feeling every breath and heartbeat in her stomach. In her mind, playing over and over was the opening scene–”…and then he asked me if I had been breaking any pop…” Abruptly, the door opened and a man in a white shirt with rolled-up sleeves beckoned them all in.

The courtroom itself was a bigger version of the waiting room. The judge at the front really was wearing a black gown and a few suited people moved purposefully around, but most were like Linda and her family, staying close together, glancing around, shuffling from foot to foot, whispering. Near the front, Linda saw him. He was hard to recognize without his jeans and his stubble. He was wearing a wrinkled brown suit and looked smaller and older. Beside him, pinched and tense, was an obviously pregnant, but thin, red-haired woman. Her pallor was obvious through her freckles and she was shredding a Kleenex methodically. Linda was surprised to think of his having a wife, of his being human. She watched them with quick little glances and saw him reach for her hand, saw her pull it away.

Then the next case started. It seemed to be about a speeding motorcyclist whose dangerous passing caused a car to go off the road. The motorcyclist reminded Linda a bit of her man. He was wearing black jeans and a T-shirt, which revealed muscular arms and a tattoo, and he spoke defiantly and with a touch of bossiness. Linda followed the dialogue, thinking that they took a long time talking about details, but that the motorcycle guy would probably get off. He seemed so sure of his denial of wrongdoing.

“I never made him go off the road.”

“Did you pass the Blue Chev Belair?”

“Yah, but I was under the limit.”

“Was there any oncoming traffic?’

“Yah, but it was ‘way back.”

The questioning lawyer paused as if he had run out of ideas and then zeroed in.

“How did you know he didn’t go off the road.”

“I didn’t see any dust.”

“How did you know.”

“I looked in my mirror.”


“To see if he was O.K.”

The motorcyclist deflated. He knew he had convicted himself, and so did the judge as he determined the fine.

Linda marvelled at the quickness and incision of the lawyer, fearing at the same time that when it was her turn she would be likewise demolished. She hoped the man would be the one to be victimized, but then, taking a quick peek in his direction, she decided that he looked as if he already had been.

When the clerk called Richard Davidson* and named the charge of Indecent Assault, Linda’s heart stuttered, her stomach dropped out, and her desire to urinate almost overwhelmed her. The thought skimmed past, “Why not rape?” The judge ordered the courtroom cleared, except for the involved parties. She saw Davidson put his head into his hands, his elbows on the table in front of him and his wife wiped at her eyes.

The clerk called her name.

She began, “I was exploring Simpson’s gravel pit with some friends. I know I shouldn’t have been there, but…”

The Crown Attorney interrupted, “Could you tell the court when this occurred?”

“This summer, July Fifth, about one o’clock–in the afternoon.”

“And what happened?”

“I was at the edge of the pond and a man came up…”

“Is that man here?”

“Yes. Over there.”

Linda moved her hand slightly in his direction and looked over carefully in case he was looking. He was, but it was not the same look that had paralyzed her. Now his eyes were red-rimmed, terrified.

“Are you sure?”


Well, the features were the same, even if she had been expecting the monster and not the human.

“Then what happened?”

“He asked me if I had been breaking any pop bottles and I said I’d never even been there before…”

“Had you been there before?”

“No, not down by the pond.”

But Linda wondered if the lawyer believed the man who had said she was there before and that she wanted it.

“Carry on.”

And she did, through all the details which were so hard to say in public. She thought they would think she knew too much. Her inquisitor was kind but thorough. Linda was always aware of Mrs. Davidson*, when she wiped her eyes again, when she clasped her hand to her mouth, when she just looked down at clenched hands. She also became more aware of him, struggling to absorb his different demeanour. Then she was finished and it was his turn.

Back in her seat, Linda tried to make her heart settle down and tried to understand her unexpected feeling of being in the wrong just because she told on him.

Fragments of the questions and answers now being exchanged filtered through her confusion.

“…thirty-two…three children…seven months pregnant…not well…out of work…good father…thought it was someone else…didn’t mean to hurt…sorry…drinking problem…”

Linda’s father clenched his fists and stared at his feet, his jaw set. Her mother sat up straighter, seemed larger. She leaned forward, frowning, as if to stand up, but Wes put his hand on her arm and stiffened himself. They both resumed masks of polite indifference.

“Please let this be over. Let me be anywhere else but here,” prayed Linda. Her throat was getting bigger and her need to blink and sniff stronger. Richard Davidson* was becoming a real person who had troubles, who deserved pity, who didn’t need some fresh teenager to tell stories about him. Why did I do it? That poor woman, she looks hungry. What will she do if they send him to jail? What do the kids look like? Red hair, or brown? Would they miss him?

“…guilty of the charge of indecent assault. Six months definite and three months indefinite.”

It was over. The doors opened and the people who had been crammed into the waiting area poured back in to the court room.

Wes and June gasped and looked at each other. “Is that all?” June whispered. “I could kill him. Don’t let me near him.”

“C’mon, let’s get out of here.”

Wes wheeled around looking for the nearest exit and pushed past the lawyer in the aisle. June followed him. Linda, still stunned, missed their wake, and was trapped in the eddy of people. As she manoeuvred in the direction of the door, she was suddenly somehow marooned in a calm place, face to face with the Davidsons*. She looked into the angry tear-washed eyes of the wife and the sad, dead, but still-familiar ones of her assailant.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered.

Engulfed in the crowd again, she plunged on, trying to catch up to her parents. She needed them now. Somebody had to tell her that she didn’t break the pop bottles, because she didn’t know if she did or not. She didn’t know why. Why her? It had all started with looking for tadpoles with legs. Linda pictured those strange creatures, forced to grow up, with legs they didn’t want, and tears rolled down her cheeks as she hurried after her parents.



*All names in the story have been changed.



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