Moon Over Manifest
by Clare Vanderpool
Gideon Tucker (Jinx)
Spoiler alert: Abilene's wish came true.
Oh, sorry, we'll be more specific. Jinx is actually her dad, Gideon Tucker.
Who's Your Daddy?
Abilene feels super connected to the boy in Miss Sadie's story. After all, they've lived very similar lives. But where Abilene had a loving father with her on the road, Jinx was stuck with an abusive uncle—and that made all the difference.
When Jinx's mom dies, and his uncle Finn takes him under his wing, you'd think he'd be nice to the kid. After all, he is family. But Finn is not exactly the cuddly type:
All Finn ever told me was that if it wasn't for him, I'd be dead or in an orphanage someplace where they feed the kids rat soup and make them scrub toilets day and night. (16.70)
Not the most encouraging words, that's for sure. And yes, Finn teaches Jinx the art of the con, but he's really just using him to make money for himself.
It's no wonder that when Jinx hears a preacher one day talking about finding peace, it really appeals to him. As he explains: "Said he'd had sadness and hardship that had left him wandering. Then he'd decided he didn't want to wander anymore." (16.69) Sounds a lot like what Jinx must've been thinking, huh? And that sermon plants a seed in Jinx's head: he doesn't want to work for Finn anymore.
That night, Jinx shows his first real signs of growing up. When Finn tells him to tie his old partner Junior up, Jinx stands up to his uncle for the first time: "'Just let him go and let's get out of here,' I said" (16.94). We love the spirit, but Finn's not down with it. When Jinx tries to give Junior the chance to escape, Finn knocks him out. And in case that wasn't enough, he then kills Junior and blames the death on Jinx.
Here's the thing about Jinx: even though he thinks the death was an accident, he totally blames himself. Basically, everything that Finn tells him, he just soaks up, internalizing until he's totally torn apart. He believe to his core the words Finn hurls at him:
Yes, sir, there's a shadow of bad luck all over you. First your daddy leaves; then your mama dies. Now poor, stupid Junior. (16.108)
Jinx is just a kid—and a kid in a pretty terrifying situation, to boot—so we're not surprised that he takes those words to heart.
When Jinx finally ends up in Manifest, Shady's fatherly care and his friendship with Ned go a long way towards helping Jinx stop "wandering":
He knew he might be fooling himself into thinking that he could stay. That he could leave his past behind. But he'd met Ned and was living with Shady. He was going to school. Leading a normal life. And for now, he felt safe. (13.2)
His sense of belonging increases as he helps the town gain some power over the mine owners, so he feels comfortable enough to ask Shady about his bad luck:
"Shady? […] D'you think a person can be cursed? […] Like when a fellow doesn't mean for bad things to happen, but they just sort of follow him around like his shadow." (29.78-82)
But nothing Shady says can really help, especially when Finn shows up again. What with the police after him and Finn trying to kill him, how could he not wonder if he's cursed? And when Finn dies… and then Ned… it's just too much for him: "He left and never came back" (39.11).
Nothing anyone could say or do could ever convince him that Finn had been wrong.
One Giant Leap
Even as a grown man with a daughter, Jinx (a.k.a. Gideon) still clung to that belief. When Abilene got sick, he tried to get as far away from her as he could—for her own good. As she explains: "He thought he was still a jinx and, one way or another, my life could not be good with him" (39.27). Seems like he's still that scared little boy.
But lucky for him, his daughter ends up finding her way to maturity, and she's the one who reaches back and guides him for a change:
As Gideon and I sat for a spell, just the two of us, right there on the train tracks, I told him the story I'd needed to hear. And I knew he needed to hear it too, all the way to the end. (43.1)
After conning him into coming back for her, she helps him see that he has a family and a home and that he's not Jinx anymore. No, he's Gideon Tucker, and he belongs in Manifest.