Lockdown: Guadalupe Middle School
You can’t miss the suggestion that it’s about a school shooting—if the title doesn’t give it away, the cover art will—and yet, that’s not what it’s about. Yes, there is a school. And yes, the reader learns early on that a gun comes to school this day. But when it comes to the story, the gun is the seed, the gun is the shadow, the gun is a brief stutter in the book’s steady heartbeat.
Lockdown is about a community. It’s about children who function as adults, and about adults wrapped up in childish concerns. It’s about the wealth of the poor and the poverty of the rich. It’s about how we can help each other, and how we really haven’t a clue what drives our kids, our husbands, our best friends. It’s about unexpected strength and unseen weaknesses.
It’s about a school community, and all the worlds contained therein:
Its tiled walls had once been a mosaic. Under the years of filth, felt pens, and chewing gum lay a mural somebody had spent a lot of time on. Up at the top (beyond the reach of student arms) was a row of surprisingly ornate hand-painted tiles—a sort of picture frame, wrapped around a sky as blue as the afternoon beyond the archway.
Linda studied the brutalized surface, trying to pick out the design. The tiles themselves were a mix of tidy rectangles and anarchic shards: a long rectangle evoked the school’s façade; in the blue sky, a spatter of chips made for an Impressionistic, breeze-stirred flag; ten thin triangles shaped the circle of a wheelchair. Some of the tiles were painted, rather than pieced: a woman’s face here, obscured by felt-pen beard and horns; a cluster of high-top shoes there; a brown hand sinking a basketball.
Linda stepped closer, her attention caught by that face: a woman with an expression of authority, captured in a few deft lines. Wasn’t that the school secretary? Bemused, Linda let the Señora drive her back to the elementary school, all the while composing a refusal, polite but firm.
The job would be thankless. If Guadalupe’s new principal man- aged to get test scores up five points, the school board would demand to know why it wasn’t ten. If absenteeism and violence fell a notch, why not two? Playground bloodshed, drugs, and student pregnancy would be daily concerns. It would be terrifying and exhilarating and the mere thought of it made Linda want to take to her bed.
But that night, she had a dream of using her thumb-nail to scrape the felt-pen from that tile face. The next morning, Gordon asked why her sleep had been so restless. The next day at school, her thoughts kept going back to that mosaic. And when the final bell had rung, Linda picked up the phone and called the district office with a list of demands—a very long list.