Teena Maguire should not have tried to shortcut her way home that Fourth of July. Not after midnight, not through Rocky Point Park. Not the way she was dressed in a tank top, denim cutoffs, and high-heeled sandals. Not with her twelve-year-old daughter Bethie. Not with packs of local guys running loose on hormones, rage, and alcohol. A victim of gang rape, left for dead in the park boathouse, the once vivacious Teena can now only regret that she has survived. At a relentlessly compelling pace punctuated by lonely cries in the night and the whisper of terror in the afternoon, Joyce Carol Oates unfolds the story of Teena and Bethie, their assailants, and their unexpected, silent champion, a man who knows the meaning of justice. And love.
About the Author
Hometown:Princeton, New Jersey
Date of Birth:June 16, 1938
Place of Birth:Lockport, New York
Education:B.A., Syracuse University, 1960; M.A., University of Wisconsin, 1961
Read an Excerpt
A Love Story
By Joyce Carol Oates
Carroll & Graf Publishers
Copyright © 2003
Joyce Carol Oates
All right reserved.
She Had It Coming
After she was gang-raped, kicked and beaten and left to
die on the floor of the filthy boathouse at Rocky Point Park.
After she was dragged into the boathouse by the five
drunken guys-unless there were six, or seven-and her
twelve-year-old daughter with her screaming Let us go! Don't
hurt us! Please don't hurt us! After she'd been chased by the
guys like a pack of dogs jumping their prey, turning her
ankle, losing both her high-heeled sandals on the path
beside the lagoon. After she'd begged them to leave her
daughter alone and they'd laughed at her. After she'd made
the decision, Christ knows what she was thinking, to cross
through Rocky Point Park instead of taking the longer way
around, to home. To where she was living with her daughter
in a rented row house on Ninth Street around the corner
from her mother's brick house on Baltic Avenue. Ninth
Street was lighted and populated even at this late hour.
Rocky Point Park was mostly deserted at this late hour.
Crossing the park along the lagoon, a scrubby overgrown
path. Saving ten minutes, maybe. Thinking it wouldbe nice
to cross through the park, moonlight on the lagoon, no
matter the lagoon is scummy and littered with beer cans,
food wrappers, butts. Making that decision, a split second out
of an entire life and the life is altered forever. Along the
lagoon, past the old waterworks boarded up and covered in
graffiti for years, and the boathouse that's been broken into,
vandalized by kids. After she'd recognized their faces, might
even have smiled at them, it's Fourth of July, fireworks at the
Falls, firecrackers, car horns and whistles, the high school
baseball game, festive atmosphere. Yes she might've smiled at
them, and so she was asking for it. Might've been an edgy,
nervous smile the way you'd smile at a snarling dog, still she
smiled, that lipstick smile of Teena Maguire's, and that hair
of hers. She had it coming, she was asking for it. Guys who'd
been drifting around the park for hours looking for trouble.
Looking for some fun. Drinking beer and tossing cans into
the lagoon and all the firecrackers they had, they'd set off.
Throwing firecrackers at cars, at dogs, at swans and geese and
mallards on the lagoon sleeping with their heads neat-tucked
beneath their wings, Christ! It's hilarious to see the water-fowl
wake up fast and squawk like they're being killed and
flap their wings like crazy flying away, even the fat ones. The
All-Niagara Falls High School game went into extra innings,
now the brightly lit baseball field was darkened, bleachers
emptied, most of the crowd gone. Except these drifting packs
of guys. The youngest just kids, the oldest in their late twenties.
Neighborhood guys whose faces Teena Maguire would
know, maybe not their given names but their family names,
as the guys knew her, at least recognized her from the neighborhood
though she was older than they were, calling out
Hey! Hey there! Mmmm, good-lookin'! Hey foxy lady, whereya
goin'? After she'd smiled at them not slackening her pace.
After she'd reached for her daughter's arm like her daughter
was a small child and not twelve years old. Show us how your
titties bounce, foxy lady! Heyheyhey whereya goin'? After she'd
gotten herself trapped. After she'd teased them. Provoked
them. Bad judgment. Must've been drinking. The way she
was dressed. The way Teena Maguire often dressed. Summer
nights, especially. Partying over on Depew Street. Party
spilling out onto the street. Loud rock music. That kind of
behavior, she had it coming. Where's her husband? Doesn't
that woman have a husband? What the hell is she doing out
alone with her twelve-year-old daughter, in Rocky Point
Park at midnight? Endangering the safety of a minor?
Endangering the morals of a minor? Look: Teena Maguire
probably was having a few beers with the guys. Smoking
dope with the guys. Maybe she was hinting at something
she'd like to be paid for? In cash, or in dope. A woman like
that, thirty-five years old and dressed like a teenager. Tank
top, denim cutoffs, shaggy bleached-blond hair frizzed
around her face. Bare legs, high-heeled sandals? Tight sexy
clothes showing her breasts, her ass, what's she expect? Midnight
of July Fourth, fireworks at the Falls ended at eleven.
Still there's partying all over the city. How much beer has
been consumed in Niagara Falls tonight by residents and visitors?
Better believe it's a lot. Like, the volume of water
rushing over the Horseshoe Falls in a minute! And there's
Teena Maguire, drunk on her feet, witnesses would report.
One of her boyfriends, guy named Casey over on Depew, a
keg party at his place spilling out into the backyard and street
and neighbors complaining, wild weird bluegrass music
Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder for hours. This Casey,
he's a welder at Niagara Pipe. He's married and has four kids.
Separated from his wife, must be Teena Maguire's doing. That
woman! What kind of a mother would drag her young
daughter with her to a drunken party and then on foot
through Rocky Point Park at that hour, what kind of poor
judgment, she's lucky it wasn't worse what happened to her,
and what happened to the girl, couldn've been a lot worse if
they'd been black men, coked-up niggers invading the park
it would've been a hell of a lot worse, the woman had to be
drunk, high on coke herself, partying since early evening and
by midnight you can figure the state she was in, how the hell
could Teena Maguire even recognize who had sex with her?
And how many?
Some of the things that would be said of your mother Teena
Maguire after she was gang-raped, kicked and beaten and left to die
on the floor of the filthy boathouse at Rocky Point Park in the early
minutes of July 5, 1996.
Rookie Cop, 1994
He wasn't that young. He didn't look young and he
didn't act young and most of the time he didn't feel young.
He was a rookie, though. A damn rookie almost thirty years
old and just out of Police Academy.
Weird a guy like him wearing a uniform! He had not the
temperament for wearing a uniform. He had not the temperament
for following orders, saluting. He had not the temperament
for listening closely to others, designated as
superiors. (His superiors? Bullshit.) Since grade school he'd
had trouble with authority. Restless under the eye of anybody
and looking to find his own private way, sullen and sly
like a chimp hiding something behind his back.
What he liked was the idea of justice, though. Putting-things-back-to-right
he liked. Such abstractions as law, good
conduct, valor in service, eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth.
The U.S. flag had a powerful effect on him sometimes.
Not if the damn thing hung down limp but if there was a
wind, not too strong a wind but a decent wind, making the
red-white-blue cloth ripple, shimmer in the sun.
Saluting that flag, he'd feel tears come into his eyes.
Also, he liked guns.
Now he was a cop and wore a gun on his hip, holstered
up, liking the familiar weight of it, like an extra appendage.
And the eyes of strangers drifting onto it. With respect.
The police service revolver he was issued, like his badge
and uniform, he liked, and other firearms he would acquire
singly, as a collector. Nothing fancy, he had not that kind of
money. A cop with his shrewd eyes open, he knew there was
money, different sources of money, available, if not immediately,
then someday. He would pursue these sources. In the
meantime, his purchases were modest. He liked handguns,
and he liked rifles. He had not (yet) much experience with
a shotgun, so he could not speak for that. (No one in his
family had been a hunter. They were city people: factory
workers, dockside workers, truckers. Dublin in the 1930s,
Buffalo/Lackawanna in the 1940s. He was mostly estranged
from them now, and the hell with them.)
A gun excited him. It was a good feeling. Quickened his
pulse so he could actually feel it. Sometimes, a tinge in the
groin. What that meant, he had little curiosity about
knowing. He was not a man to examine his own mind or
motives. Frowning into a mirror, he saw what had to be
done, and done deftly: brushing his teeth, shaving, dampening
and combing his hair, practice-smiling to flash the idea
of a smile but not to show his crazy-crooked left canine
tooth. He was a man of little vanity, though. Asked the barber
to shave his head at the back, sides, keep the rest trimmed
short so it more resembled wires than human hair, glinting
like something that might cut your fingers if you touched it.
It wasn't 100 percent true, he didn't feel young. A gun in
his hand, he felt pretty good. Cleaning a gun. Loading a gun,
aiming a gun. Firing a gun (at the firing range) and never
flinching at the noise or the recoil. Noting calmly if you'd
struck your target (heart, head) and if not, how far off you
were. And try again.
The thing about guns: you were always improving. A matter
of discipline, progress. In school he had always been uncertain
of his standing, sometimes he did all right and his teachers
praised him (such a tall snaky-lean kid with moody eyes and a
close-shut unsmiling mouth, his nervous teachers were quick
to praise him), other times he fucked up. Hit-or-miss it seemed.
Books made him uneasy, resentful. Damn words, numerals.
Like stones shoved into his mouth, too many and he'd choke.
But guns. A gun is different. The more you handle a gun,
the more expert you become. And the gun gets comfortable
with you, too.
His NFPD uniform wasn't his first. He'd enlisted in the
U.S. Army out of high school. In the army they'd taught him
to shoot. Almost he'd been selected for an elite sniper team.
But he hadn't been that good, for those guys were really
good, awesome. He'd conceded it was probably just as well.
Might've liked it too much. Killing.
They'd sent him to the Persian Gulf. Operation Desert
Shield that became Operation Desert Storm. Only just a few
years ago in his life but it seemed longer. In the life of his
country, so fast-moving and not-looking-back, the Gulf
War was nearly forgotten. He wasn't a man to look back, and
he wasn't a man of regrets. What happens, happens. He'd
returned to the States with a medal for valor under fire and
the exposed areas of his skin permanently clay-colored,
lizardy. Ever afterward his eyes would appear lighter than his
face, spook eyes some women would call them, shivering at
his touch. In the Iraqi desert he had participated in killing an
indeterminate number of human beings designated as enemies,
targets. These had been Iraqi soldiers of approximately
his age and younger. Some of them a lot younger. He had
not seen individual enemies die but he'd smelled their deaths
by frying, explosion. Inhaled the unmistakable burned-meat
odor, for he'd been downwind from the action, either that or
not breathe. Telling of the Gulf War to those few persons to
whom he spoke of such matters he would say the worst that
had happened to him was fucking sand-flea bites. In fact, the
worst that had happened was diarrhea. And one bright hallucinatory
morning in the desert he saw his soul curl up and
die like an inchworm in the hot sand.
At first he'd missed it. Then he forgot.
Back in the States he learned to be a cop. He got married
to a girl he'd known in high school. He wasn't ambitious
careerwise but he had certain goals. He saw that the civilian
police were a branch of the U.S. armed services and the same
authority/rank bullshit prevailed. That was all right with
him, mostly. If authority merited his respect, authority had
his respect. Captains, lieutenants, sergeants, detectives. They
liked him on sight. They trusted him. He was an old-style
cop of another era. In his patrolman's uniform he made a
strong impression. It surprised him to learn that most cops in
the NFPD had not fired their weapons at any human targets
let alone killed these targets let alone felt good about it and
though he would not tell anyone on the force about his Persian
Gulf experience, for he was not a man to talk much
about himself, somehow he exuded that air.
Yet his first partner, an older, paunch-bellied cop who
had not advanced beyond patrol after eighteen years on the
force, requested another partner after only three weeks.
"Guy like Dromoor, no question he's smart, he's a born cop.
But he's too quiet. He don't talk, it makes you talk too much.
And when he don't answer you then after a while you can't talk
either, then you start thinking too much. That ain't good."
In the NFPD he had bad luck at first. But usually balanced
He was hurt, sure. Pissed. That his first partner had
dumped him. His second partner, a guy nearer his age, hadn't
lasted long either. Not Dromoor's fault, just bad luck.
He'd been on the force just seven weeks. It was a domestic
disturbance call. Late one muggy August night on the East
Side where the smoke haze from the chemical factories makes
your eyes sting and breathing hurt. Dromoor was driving the
patrol car. As he and his partner J.J. pulled up outside a bungalow,
an individual looking to be a white male, mid-thirties,
was pulling away from the curb in a rust-stippled Ford van.
It was J.J.'s call to pursue the van. What was inside the bungalow
would be discovered by a backup team. The chase
lasted eight minutes involving speeds of sixty, sixty-five miles
an hour along narrow, potholed residential streets in that part
of the city of Niagara Falls few tourists have discovered. At last
the van skidded, fishtailed, collided with parked cars, and the
driver was thrown against the front windshield, lay slumped
over the steering wheel. There was reason to think he was
unconscious. Very possibly he was dead. The windshield was
cracked, there was no movement inside the cab. There came
J.J. and Dromoor behind him, both with guns drawn J.J. was
anxious, excitable. Dromoor perceived that this was not a
familiar experience for him J.J. called out for the driver of the
van to lift his arms from the wheel, keep his hands in sight, stay
in the vehicle but keep his hands in sight. The driver of the van
was unresponsive. He appeared to be bleeding from a head
wound. Yet somehow it happened, Dromoor would replay the
incident many times afterward seeking the key to how precisely
it happened, that the driver of the van stooped to
retrieve a .45-caliber revolver from beneath his seat and
opened fire on J.J, through the side window as J.J. approached;
and there was J.J. suddenly down in the street, a bullet in the
chest. Dromoor, approximately three feet behind his partner,
was struck by a second bullet in his left shoulder before he
heard the crack! before he felt the impact of the bullet which
carried no immediate pain with it, no clear sensation other
than a rude, hard hit, as if he'd been clubbed with a sledgehammer.
Excerpted from RAPE
by Joyce Carol Oates
Copyright © 2003 by Joyce Carol Oates.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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