Jackie looked at Goody without responding to the woman's question about how she'd ended up homeless. She wondered how much to tell this stranger—whether to dig up a past that was so painful, so dark.
Twenty years earlier there'd been no reason to doubt that Jacqueline Grant had a bright future—a stable family, loving parents with rewarding careers, well-adjusted as a first grader in an exclusive private school where her intelligence was recognized and would be nurtured to its full extent. clear indications of extraordinary musical talent—she sang as much as she talked, and she'd taken to the piano like it was an extension of her being. But one summer day her sunny world ended abruptly when she witnessed her older brother in a drug-induced rage kill her father, and then her mother, using the hand ax he'd long ago cherished as a boy scout. After she ran to the neighbors and the police got there, she saw them in the front yard shoot her brother in self-defense when he rushed out the door and attacked them screaming obscenities and swinging the bloody weapon.
The shock of such a sudden and horrific event was too much for Jacqueline's young mind and she was instantly overcome with paralysis—unresponsive to questions, unable to speak, staring blankly into the distance, her only movement other than rapid breathing was uncontrolled trembling in her hands.
Upon discharge from Children's Hospital three months later her speech had returned, but her former effusive self was now flat and turned inward. Since her only relative was her mother's black-sheep sister who was a hooker in LA, her court-assigned social workers agreed that would not be an appropriate environment for a seven-year-old girl, especially as fragile as Jacqueline, so she was given over to the foster care system. Her first placement was with the Hanson's, an elderly couple in the far reaches of Northeast Portland who already had five kids in their care. "It's a good income," Dilbert Hanson always said when asked why so many. Although the following eleven years passed her through five different foster homes, some better than others, some worse, somehow, she managed to make it to high school graduation, then, at the age of eighteen, cast out into the world on her own.
So, with the deranged act of a high school football hero high on crystal meth, the promising future of an exceptionally bright young girl was hurled into the uncaring lottery of random fate. Fate where nurturing support was replaced with the cruel uncertainty of life on the other side of the coin that dictates the rules of the game—the game of life.
Refocusing her attention on Goody, Jackie said, "My story ain't all that different from lots of others like me. A streak of bad luck, that's all. It'll break in my favor someday. I'll be okay."
Accepting Jackie's unwillingness to talk about her past, Goody said, "Okay. But what if I could change your run of bad luck. I could do that if you want."
"You don't even know me. How do you know I wouldn't rip you off? Take advantage of your rich-lady "do-good" scheme, whatever it might be."
"I'll take that risk. I just don't think you would. Rip me off, that is. What I think is that you're smart enough to take advantage of my "do-good" offer," as you call it, but in a good way."
Jackie started to reply but stopped when Mary set a plate with pancakes, two sausage patties, and two sunny-side-up fried eggs in front of her, then set a plate with a single poached egg on a slice whole wheat toast before Goody. "Refresh that coffee?"
"Yes, please," Goody said, then cut into the toast, careful to keep a portion of the oozing egg attached to the forkful of crusty bread.
The two women ate in silence, Jackie shoveling in the food as if she hadn't eaten in a long time while Goody slowly savored her egg. Finally, after, pushing the empty plate aside and another swallow of the Stumptown coffee, Jackie said, "So, what do you have in mind, Mrs. Do-Goody?"
"I'm flexible, Jackie," Goody replied, ignoring Jackie's sarcasm. "Rather than conger up some rich-lady "do-good" project that might not take full advantage of your capabilities, I want to know what you'd propose. Although there are conditions I'd put on anything we do together."
"Yeah, like what?"
"For one, it has to be legitimate, nothing criminal. Two, I'd want it to help people, not just be intended to enrich ourselves. Three, it should be something you could eventually take over and make yours. I won't be around forever."
"Wait a minute. Are you saying you'd put up money to start a business, or whatever, you and me would run it for a while, then you'd bow out and it would be mine?"
"Yes. That's exactly what I have in mind. What do you think?"
"I think you're either crazy as a rabid racoon, or else my streak of bad luck is about to make a U-turn."
Goody, chuckling as if to herself, waved Mary over to their table. "Check, please, Mary. Jackie and I have to get going. We have things to do."