Life and Fiction

In the novel Monster Slayer’s Son Jilleta John is attacked; her attacker cuts her throat and leaves her for dead.  But she survives. Is it possible to survive such an attack or does the chapter stretch the limits of believability?

Let me tell you a story.  This one is a true story:

Nearly thirty years ago we lived in southwestern Colorado just off the Ute and Navajo Reservations.  My husband was an elementary principal and had  the pleasure occasionally of running into students he had taught in high school out on the Reservation.  His former students were now grown up and coming in to register their own young children for kindergarten in town. Why did they leave the Rez?  Access to jobs and health care were two of the basic reasons young parents moved from the Rez into the nearby towns. But they weren’t the only reasons.

One fall day two former students, “John” and “Julie”, now married to each other came in with their five year old son.  I happened to be at the kindergarten registering our five year old at the time. We had lived several houses down from Julie’s family in Utah Navajo Development Council Housing during our time out on the Rez; we knew her well.  As we both filled out paperwork we chatted about old times, catching up on the goings on in the old neighborhood and with the young couple.  Both John and Julie had completed college–Julie in nursing–they were happy and successful.

In the course of the conversation my husband asked how they had come to live in Colorado.  The wife then told a story I have never forgotten. They got married shortly after finishing high school and moved into a UNDC house.  They lived in the last row of houses facing the paved road running north up toward Blanding, Utah.  John was commuting to a job over at Black Mesa in the coal beds.  The work paid fairly well but the commute was long and he sometimes worked nights. Their first child was born during that time.

One night late, while John was at work a man broke into the house and accosted Julie. Her young baby was asleep in the next room. She knew the man–they had attended high school together.  I imagine the man had been drinking.  Whether his initial motive was robbery or rape or an alcohol fueled fantasy of some sort was never clear to me and probably never entirely clear to Julie.  What was clear was that a very dangerous man had entered her bedroom.  She told him to get out.  During the ensuing struggle the man pulled out a knife, cut Julie’s throat, and left her for dead.

After he left the house Julie managed to crawl to the front door.  She steadied herself in the doorframe and then stumbled over to the next-door neighbor’s house, holding her throat together with her hands, not knowing if her assailant was still out there waiting for her in the dark.  She pounded on the neighbor’s door, waking up the people inside.  When they came to the door she collapsed into their living room.

The medical clinic in the community is about a quarter mile from UNDC housing but it is only open from 8 AM to 5 PM.  The neighbor frantic, called the clinic doctor who agreed to come down and open the clinic.  Then he bundled Julie into the car while his wife went next door and snatched up the baby.

The doctor provided emergency care stabilizing Julie and called for a life-flight into the closest hospital–sixty-five miles away in Colorado.  At this point in her story Julie pulled down the collar on her turtle neck to show me the scar on her neck, a scar that ran across her neck from ear to ear.  If I hadn’t seen it myself I might have  trouble believing anyone could survive the attack she had just described.

John took over the story.  They moved into town so they could go to school.  They needed other options than what was available on the Rez.  They wanted a different plan for their future.  And they moved into town to be closer to medical care and regular law enforcement.  Even though they  knew Julie’s assailant and could identify him by name and description justice was slow in coming and sentencing options were limited back on the Rez.

The human spirit can be incredibly strong.  The impossible can and does happen and people survive against the odds.

Against the odds?  If life is a gamble you better hold on with your winning hand.

Find a copy of Monster Slayer’s Son on Amazon to find out what happens to Jilleta John!


About Karen Hopkins

Karen Hopkins (1949-) was born in Los Angeles and raised in Martinez, California. At seventeen she moved to Talcahuano, Chile. After completing her university degree she worked in London, England for Pan American Airlines and traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Middle East, and India. For twenty-six years Karen taught Spanish and English as a Second Language in a variety of settings including a private school in Panama, the "most remote school in the United States" in Ticaboo, Utah, the Navajo Reservation, and a teacher exchange in Hermosillo, Mexico. Karen and her husband traveled extensively throughout Mexico and Central America, spending many summers in the highlands of Chiapas and Guatemala . Karen currently lives in Southern Arizona, near the Mexican border.
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