Hiking with a friend in the mountains above Dolores, this flock of sheep aggressively blocked us and we were forced to stay in the vehicle. What struck me was the lamb that loitered in front of the vehicle. She (or he) seemed lost for a moment. The Crippy, my novel of mystery, science fiction and fantasy, deals with such a lost sheep – a child pawned to a drug dealer – as this.
One of the themes in The Crippy involves who a child belongs to. Is she the ‘property’ of the parent? Should the State intervene when a parent is neglectful, abusive and take the child? If you saw a child about to be placed in grave danger, and you knew that Child Protective Services wouldn’t lift a finger to save her, would you take custody of that child to protect her? Even though you might face a kidnapping charge?
That’s the setup in The Crippy. Mitch Cantsee, a man with a record, who’s dealt drugs and who was forced to sign away the rights to his own children while he was laid up in prison, can either allow Sam, an 8-year-old girl, to be placed in harm’s way in the drug trade when her mother tries to sell her for a teenth of meth, or take her in a pawn for meth to protect her from some of the same things that made his life a living hell when he’d been Sam’s age.
Does he have the right to? Does he have the right not to? Underneath the A story, the outside story which involves a secret code and those who would do anything to decipher it, lies this inside story, this moral dilemma for Mitch Cantsee.
At first, he doesn’t know if he should take Sam for her own protection, but he does. Is he trying to make amends for abandoning his own children? Even he’s not sure. But Sam seems to have special gifts which makes others – governments, otherworldly creatures, spies – hunt her for what she knows, and for what she can decode. Because that’s what she is: a crippy, someone who can unravel any code.
Mitch becomes Sam’s protector in a world filled with spooks and hi-tech creatures neither of them understands. All they know is that this brave new world is hostile, alien, and that they must run. At the heart of the story is the idea of home, the irresistible pull of belonging. And what we belong to isn’t so much a place or a certain group as it is to a feeling, to the love which binds to one another. The Crippy is ultimately about family, about our notions of what family is, and whether the addicted and fallen can redeem themselves and regain their place within the family of human beings.
Should a man who’s given his children up ever earn his right to raise a child again? And can an orphaned lamb ever really find her place among a new flock?
To buy The Crippy in softcover or e-reader formats, you can go to https://www.amazon.com/Crippy-Michael-Just/dp/1533034699/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1518209793&sr=8-1&keywords=the+crippy