Prologue: Caged

(February 19, 1969)


I was caged.

Then, I was driven.

Driven to Cherokee.

A hazy memory of riding caged in the back of a police car.

Two shadows in the front seat, the county sheriff and a female escort.

Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” buzzing from a tinny transistor radio.

Outside, the Iowa landscape bleak:

Cloudy and cold, condensation and frost riming the windows, piles of dirty snow dotting the countryside.

I, cargo.

Destination: Cherokee’s other place, the outline on the hill.

Shifting, crossing my legs…

Please, can we stop?

Hot and steamy inside.

Shivering, my teeth rattling.

Please…I have to go!

Hear something, George?

Naw, nothin’ important.


Cargo has no voice.

Madness has no voice.

Listen, crazy girl…

Two voices: We have come to take you away, ha, ha…

“I’m crazy, crazy…”

Fragments, crazy-quilt impressions, acid flashbacks…

I, crazy?

* * * * *

From I, Driven: a memoir of involuntary commitment ("Prologue")

© 2008-2010, by Jennifer Semple Siegel

Excerpt may not be used or copied without author’s permission.


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Friday, September 19, 2008

Excerpt--February 18, 1969: A Possible Scenario at the Police Station


(Sioux City Police Station)

A distraught teenager, Jennifer L. Semple, stormed into the police station, alleging that Harley D. Semple, her grandfather, has been attempting to restrain her against her will.

For her own safety, the girl was moved to a locked interrogation room.

Opal Casey, police matron, interviewed the grandfather and filled out “Mental Illness, Inebriety or Epilepsy,” an informant’s report.

Harley Semple

Jennifer needs help, I’m afraid. I don’t know what to do.

Opal Casey

You could commit her to Cherokee for observation.

Harley Semple

Seems rather drastic, but what choice do I have? She’s so angry, and the drugs...she scares me.

Opal Casey

(Sighing as she scribbles in his name on the information form.) These kids today... (Shakes her head.) Don’t know what’s good for them, what with all these strange drugs and immoral ways. What is the world coming to, anyway?

Harley Semple

(Scratching his forehead.) I don’t know, but if she gets wind of this, she’ll despise me...

Opal Casey

You’re doing the right thing.

Harley Semple

I don’t know if I can do this. (Pauses.) Who’ll pay the hospital bill, anyway?

Opal Casey

(Taps her pen.) I’m afraid you’ll be financially responsible, Mr. Semple.

Harley Semple

(Wringing his hands.) I don’t know. We can’t afford hospital bills; my wife and I are on Social Security and barely making it now. This would kill us financially.

Opal Casey

(Takes in a deep breath and sighs.) I can’t tell you what to do here. It’s your decision.

Harley Semple

(Scratches his chin.) Can’t you sign as informant?

Opal Casey

(She sets down her pen and steeples her hands.) I don’t know the girl. I see she needs help, but, to what extent, I can’t say for sure. It’s really your word against hers.

Harley Semple

(Burying his face in his hands.) Oh, God, I’d rather die than betray her. (Raises his head. Pauses, as if he’s formulating a thought.) It’s not the money, really. If I thought committing Jennifer would help, I’d do it in a blink and worry about the money later. But she doesn’t trust me as it is; this would kill anything between us.

Opal Casey

(Silence. She sighs and picks up her pen again. She taps it against the paper a few times. Then she scratches out “Harley Semple,” and scribbles in her own name.) This is between us, Mr. Semple.

Harley Semple

(Brushes his hair back with his hand. Softly–) Thank you. (Buries his face in his hands and visibly shivers.)

With one scratch of Mrs. Casey’s pen, Woodbury County and Iowa assumed financial and legal custody of the girl.


Excerpt copyright 2008, Jennifer Semple Siegel.

Text may not be reposted or republished without permission.



Page 1 of Jennifer's court records filled out by Opal Casey


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