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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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Flashback--October 12, 1968: "A Mother's Warning"

Mother in front of her Canoga Park Home (Late 1960's)


Mother called about 2:00 a.m.

I grabbed the phone before it awakened everyone, including Mrs. Horton, that old busybody.

I knew it was Mom even before she spoke, the only person I know who calls in the middle of the night, rip roaring drunk.


“Yes, Mother.”

“How’d you know it wush me?” Her petulant, little girl voice.

“I read your mind.”

Mom’s into all that Edgar Cayce and astral projection stuff.

“Shee? You shouldn’ pooh-pooh the shupernat’ral.”

“Okay, I won’t.”

She called to warn me, in her slurriest voice: Mo and Auntie had cooked up a surprise birthday party; my quiet celebration with my grandparents and great aunt would now be a full-blown affair with some of my California relatives and friends of Auntie and Mom.

Great. A fucking circus.

Anytime my family gets together, it is a circus, filled with fussy and feuding relatives.

“Act bijchin’ shurprised.”

I assured her I’d be surprised.

Mom kept me on the phone for the next hour, lamenting her lousy life, and complaining about my brother Sidney, Larry (my stepfather), and having to deal with Mo.

Better her than me.

Mom was angry with her best friend Cee, but it wasn’t clear why. If it was a man thing, I didn’t want to know. Mom’s affairs have always baffled me. As she slurred her way through the early morning, I muttered “um” and “un-huh,” etc. at appropriate intervals, drifting in and out of consciousness. Still, I was glad to be warned about the surprise. Mom passed out; I knew because she snored in my ear. She’d be out for the night; in the morning, Mo probably found her slumped over the dead phone.

I quietly hung up.

Far out! I’m 18!


"Birthday" (The Beatles)



Excerpt copyright 2008, Jennifer Semple Siegel.

Text may not be reposted or republished without permission.



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