Categories > Books > Outsiders > Epiphany

Golden Opportunity

by EmilineHarris 0 Reviews

Category: Outsiders - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Drama,Sci-fi - Characters:  - Warnings: [!] - Published: 2008/06/21 - Updated: 2008/06/22 - 3659 words - Complete

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Disclaimer: The Outsiders are not mine (though a girl can dream, right?). They continue to belong to S.E. Hinton. :)

Dallas opened his eyes when he felt the world stop rotating around him. Instead of finding himself in a familiar dark alley, or on the high school football field, Dally noticed that he was somewhere completely different this time. From what he could tell, it seemed like he was in a cheap suite at some rundown hotel.

The room that held him reeked of age. The furnishings were simple, almost nonexistent—just a bed, a dresser, and a single, stationary sink in the corner with a mirrored medicine cabinet hanging above it. The room’s single window was covered by old and tattered paper thin curtains, and the light from the street was easily filtering through them. Dally stepped forward, pulling the curtains aside with one hand, and peered out the window. He was three or four stories up, above a city street lined with small trees. It didn’t look like any street he had seen in Tulsa, but it had the same small town feel—the same bleak notion of being trapped within its limits and unable to go anywhere else.

It was growing dark out, the sun had descended from the sky and the night’s first stars were just beginning to grace the darkened horizon. Dally narrowed his eyes and looked for a landmark, a clue as to where he was this time. He didn’t see the Tulsa water tower anywhere. Even the people that walked down below were nondescript—not greasers and not Socs. either—just middle class folk on their way to or from work, depending on what shift they were dealt.

Dally sighed and pressed his forehead against the cool pane of glass. He would give anything to be back beneath that streetlight again. Back in the company of the friends he knew, and the cops that had fired their deadly bullets. Whether he had agreed to these glimpses or not, Dally didn’t want to see anymore. He was getting tired of waiting and wondering …

Dallas turned from the window and crossed the room toward an open door. He peeked outside into a hallway lined with more doors, dimly lit from its tall ceiling by a dingy overhead chandelier. There were stairs to his right, coming up from the lower floor, and Dally slowly walked toward them. He leaned over the wooden railing that separated them from the narrow hall, and craned his neck to see just what was down there. It seemed that the floor below him opened up into some sort of gathering place, a large sitting room packed full of couches and chairs and tables to play board games on—certainly uncommon for any hotel that he had ever been in—and the muted chattering of young voices floated up through the still air.

Dally pulled away from the railing and made his way farther down the hallway. The wooden floors were dusty and looked as if they would let out a loud groaning creek at any second. Dally smiled to himself. If only he could have been invisible like this back in the real world—he could have gotten away with so much more …

As he inched his way farther down the hall, Dally heard the sound of footsteps coming up the stairs behind him. He slunk back into the shadows and leaned up against the wall, eyeing the stairs cautiously. Dally watched, curious, as a larger woman with a stack of folded clothes made her way to the room that he had just left. From where he was standing, he could see her place the pile down on the bed, and then head over to the window to adjust the curtains. Maybe this was a hotel after all, and a full service one at that—the maids even did your laundry! Dallas watched as she exited the room and then headed back down the stairs the way she came.

His eyes still on the woman, Dally moved farther along the wall and bumped up against some sort of frame with his shoulder. He turned his attention toward it and noticed that it was a plaque, hanging amid other framed photos and landscape pictures. “Omaha Home for Boys,” he read out loud, “established 1920.”

The words slowly sunk in and Dally felt a strange knot forming in his stomach. Omaha. His instinct had been right. He wasn’t even in Oklahoma anymore. Was this why Darry didn’t know the whereabouts of Sodapop and Ponyboy? Was one, or both, of them here in this very building?

Dally continued down the hall and toward the final doorway at the very end of it. The room had been dark when the woman had come upstairs, but now a corner of it was illuminated by a bedside lamp. Dally stepped into the room to investigate. As he entered, he noticed two twin beds with a small table in between to his right and two dressers and another small sink to his left. Sprawled out on one of the beds was Ponyboy.

Pony looked pretty much the same as he did the night of the rumble—although he hadn’t been roughed up and his reddish brown hair was ungreased and short, cut closely around his ears. The length would have been a shock, but Dally had seen how Ponyboy looked out at the old church in Windrixville—now that had been an astonishing sight! At least the kid wasn’t blond like he had been back at home. Dally never liked his own blond hair. Such a light, wispy color seemed as if it should have been reserved for girls and Socs. It certainly wasn’t for tough hoods from the wrong side of town—or for young greasers like Ponyboy.

Dally sauntered around the bed that Ponyboy was lying out on, his back propped up with pillows against the old metal headboard, and then sat down next to him. Ponyboy’s eyes looked dreamier than usual, but they had that familiar contemplative look, that look that meant his mind was far away from his body and the rigors of his daily life. Even so, for all the similarities, there was something not quite right about Ponyboy and Dally couldn’t put his finger on it.

Dally turned his gaze to the space on the wall that Ponyboy was staring at. There was nothing interesting there, just the same old wallpaper as out in the hallway. He looked back into his friend’s eyes, and nearly fell over when Ponyboy lifted a rolled joint to his lips and inhaled deeply. Dally hadn’t noticed that he was holding something … So that’s why there were no lights on when the old lady had come upstairs.

Dope? Ponyboy’s smoking harder stuff now? Dally thought, surprised he didn’t speak the words out loud. Maybe Ponyboy had been addicted to nicotine since he was ten or so, but he didn’t seem the type to waste his life with real drugs.

“I see you’ve come across Ponyboy,” the voice said—impeccable timing, as always.

“No kidding?” Dally replied, his voice flat and monotone. “I could’ve guessed that he’d be in a boys’ home somewhere. But why Omaha? Why not somewhere in Oklahoma? And why the drugs?”

“Full of questions, are you?” The voice replied, sounding halfway amused. It hesitated for a moment and then continued. “Soon after Darry lost his job for getting into an altercation with his boss, Ponyboy and Sodapop became wards of the state. They were placed in the Tulsa Boys’ Academy on the west side of town, but they caused too much trouble there so they were kicked out.”

“What bunch of idiots would send a couple of greasers to a west side academy?” Dally scoffed. “They wouldn’t stand a chance someplace like that.”

“Sometimes the state means well, Dallas. But it didn’t work out, so they were relocated here instead.”

“What do you mean, they?” Dally asked, raising an eyebrow as he scanned the room. “You mean Sodapop is here someplace too?”

“Of course … Only a bunch of idiots would split up two brothers.”

Dally got the feeling the voice was mocking him, and, frankly, it pissed him off. “I’ve had about enough of you!” He exclaimed, his voice loud and stern. “Instead of snide remarks, how about some answers?”

The voice was silent for a moment. “You’ll get all the answers you want, Dallas. You just have to be patient first.”

There it was again. That patience word. Dally had never been the patient type, why would he suddenly start now, just moments before he finally died? The voice made absolutely no sense sometimes!

“So why the drugs?” Dally pressed on.

To his surprise, the voice began to explain. “Growing up without you in Tulsa, meant that Ponyboy never had a negative role model—or rather a person that showed him what not to do. You probably didn’t notice it, but the youngest Curtis was scared of you, Dallas. He respected you like everyone else, but he hardly liked you… You were too threatening, too hard, too bitter—too mean for him to actually like you as more than just a member of the gang.”

“Gee, thanks,” Dally muttered sarcastically, “for making me feel so good about myself.”

“That’s not the point here,” the voice continued. “Without you around, Ponyboy got into more trouble than he normally would have. While living on the west side of town at the Boys’ Academy for a while, Ponyboy was able to associate with some of the richer kids that lived in the area. With all that money to spend, they get their kicks differently than you greasers do. Instead of simple cigarettes, Pony was able to try out some other smokes too. That is, until he and Soda were kicked out.”

Dally sighed in spite of himself. He didn’t want to hear anymore about how his absence had turned Ponyboy Curtis into some sort of druggie. Even he, Dallas Winston, the toughest hood from Tulsa, hadn’t been into drugs, although he wasn’t exactly sure why—maybe the thought of being happy and carefree, even if only from a drug induced stupor, made him nervous. After all, happiness had never been part of his day to day lifestyle.

“So now they’re here … And Darry doesn’t know?”

“They lost touch with Darrel, just before they made the move to Omaha. Darry was usually too depressed to even see them when they were still in Tulsa … He blamed the whole thing on himself. He felt that, if he didn’t lose his job and take up drinking after their parents’ passed, he might have been able to maintain some control over the situation.”

Dally looked over at Ponyboy and felt his anger rising again. The voice was speaking so matter-of-factly about everything—how could it not be upset over the unfairness of the entire situation? After all, the voice didn’t know the Curtises. It didn’t realize that their bond as brothers was stronger than any familial relationship Dally had ever experienced. Or did it?

Dally threw his hands in the air. “Enough …” He yelled, aggravated.

“But you said you wanted answers,” the voice chided.

“I know I did. But not now, okay?” Dally said firmly. He realized that he was consciously trying to keep his voice from breaking and taking on the pleading tone he had used with Johnny just before he died.

Dally hated that tone. He hated the way it came out all high pitched and emotional and downright weak. He hated the way it implied that he cared or that he had feelings other than those of self-preservation. It nearly made him sick that he could sound that way.

Shifting his gaze around the room again, Dallas waited for the voice to cut in with some different remark, but it never did. Instead, the quiet was stifled as the noise from downstairs gradually lifted and filled the entire floor. Dally pulled out a cigarette from his pocket and looked over at Ponyboy. He lit it up and placed it to his lips, inhaling deeply and closed his eyes to intensify the feeling. At least this would help to calm him down.

Three cigarettes later, Dally was jolted back to reality by the sound of more footsteps. He opened his eyes and looked toward the doorway. In minutes, Sodapop came bounding through. Although he was wearing the same contagious smile from Tulsa, he looked slightly different too. The main thing, his golden hair, which had always been the pride of both himself and the gang, was cut short—even shorter than Ponyboy’s.

It’s probably something they do to break you, like in jail. Dally though as he stood up and made his way across the room. Like any greaser, he understood the importance of tuff, greasy, long hair—even though he hadn’t cared for hair oil himself. It really was a shame to see Soda without his.

Although Sodapop was clad in jeans and a t-shirt, like always, nothing was stained with grease from work at the DX. Instead, it looked as if he had rolled around in a barn somewhere, as he was covered in what looked to be mud.

Soda made a face as he entered the room. “Are you smoking that in here again?” He asked suddenly, motioning toward Pony’s hand.

Ponyboy offered a sheepish grin. “I had to do something!” He exclaimed. “This place is driving me crazy!”

Soda just shook his head. “You know what Ms. Raber will do if she catches you with that,” he scolded. “I told you I’d stay with you until you’re eighteen and old enough to leave this place, but if you get kicked out of here there’s nothing I can do.”

Ponyboy sighed and put the still smoldering weed out by grinding the edge of it into the bedside table. “Happy now?” He asked. “That cost me money, you know.”

“Yeah, money that I shouldn’t have given you,” Soda retorted, heading over to the dresser and pulling out some clean clothes. “You know I work hard at the stables outside of town. I don’t figure on giving you any more money if you’re going to waste it on drugs.”

Ponyboy rolled his eyes, but stayed quiet.

A small smirk crept across Dally’s face. At least Ponyboy was using his head and not back talking his older brother this time around. Maybe that was one thing that had changed for the better.

Soda flopped onto the foot of Ponyboy’s bed and handed him a piece of paper. “Take a look at this while I take my shower,” he said happily. “It’s our ticket out of here.” He smiled brightly and then hopped up and left the room for wherever the community bathroom was.

Dally watched as Ponyboy studied the paper briefly and then slammed it down on the bedside table. He apparently didn’t believe it to be the same saving grace that Soda did.

When Soda reentered the room, Ponyboy looked at him questioningly. “How is that going to help us get out of here?” He asked skeptically.

Soda, who was shirtless with a towel wrapped across his shoulders, picked up the paper and looked at it again. Dally got a good look at it too, and noticed that it was a flyer advertising some local amateur rodeo contest.

“I was working at the stables late tonight, and someone had left a stack of these in the main office,” Soda explained. “The top prize is a spot on the local circuit …”

“But you haven’t even been in a rodeo since you were small … Since Dad made you stop after you tore a ligament.”

“I’ve been practicing though,” he replied, setting the paper down for a moment and then turning his back to Ponyboy. He dropped the towel away from his back and shoulders, revealing a set of large purple bruises, presumably from falling off of a horse.

Ponyboy looked concerned. “Soda, those look terrible. You could really hurt yourself.”

“Yeah? Well I didn’t,” Soda said nonchalantly as he pulled on a white undershirt and sat down on the second twin bed. “And I really think that I have a shot. We could be out of this place and on the road together in under a month. Ms. Raber and the rest of the staff here wouldn’t even know what happened to us.”

Ponyboy didn’t look convinced.

Soda eyed him. “You got any better ideas?” He asked. “I know you do a lot of thinkin’ while you’re in here by yourself.”

Ponyboy sat quietly for a moment, his eyes growing large and almost tearful. It seemed like he was working out what he wanted to say in his head, that he had been thinking about saying it for some time now but never had the chance. “Wouldn’t it be easier if we just hopped on a train and ran away from here?”

When Sodapop provided nothing but a blank look, Ponyboy continued. “We can go back home, Soda. Back to the house … Back to Darry,” he pleaded. “Oklahoma ain’t that far.”

Soda looked at him impatiently. “Ponyboy, don’t you get it? There is no house anymore! Remember? We got that letter from Darry while we were back in Tulsa telling us how he missed a bunch of payments and lost it—how he got so drunk with Keith Mathews that he wasted what was left of Mom and Dad’s account on pool hustling. We don’t have anywhere to go back to!” Soda screamed, his eyes getting watery too.

“But, maybe …”

“No!” Soda yelled sternly, shaking any tears away. “There’s no where to go. Look, Pony, you’re my kid brother and I love you—I’d do anything for you—but you need to realize that we’re here because we aren’t wanted back in Tulsa. We dropped out of school, started causing trouble … We’re damn lucky that social services got to us before the cops, otherwise we’d both be in juvenile hall right now.”

Dally shook his head. Sure, Soda had dropped out of high school after his parents passed away, but Ponyboy had been able to stick it out. Ponyboy was too smart for that sort of thing. Like Darry, he could have been able to make something of himself. He deserved better.

“This might as well be juvenile hall,” Ponyboy mumbled.

“Aw, Pony, don’t say that,” Soda said, his voice taking on a more soothing tone as he scooted next to his brother and draped an arm across Ponyboy’s trembling shoulders. “At least we’re together here. You know, not in separate cells, or in separate buildings or something.”

Ponyboy eyed Soda cautiously. “Can’t we at least try to go back? See if maybe things ended up different than we think they did?”

Sodapop sighed. “Look, kiddo, I can guarantee you that nothing is any different than we left it. The high school is the same. The teenagers in it are the same. There’s nothing there that we haven’t seen already. Our only chance out of this boys’ home is this rodeo.” He reached for the flyer and shook it a little bit. “I know I can do it.”

“What makes you think Ms. Raber is going to let you enter?”

“She ain’t gonna know about it,” Soda replied with a wry smile. “Its tomorrow—Sunday—we’ll just tell her that we’re going to church and we’ll head to the fairgrounds instead.”

Ponyboy smiled too. “I guess it’s better than nothing,” he agreed.

“Now get some sleep, little man. Tomorrow is a brand new day.” Soda smiled, moving back onto his bed, and then shimmied his way under the light covers. He padded at his pillow with a tight fist and then laid his head on it, closing his eyes.

Ponyboy sighed, then got up and pulled the bedroom door closed. He took off the jeans he was wearing, draped them over the foot of the bed, and then climbed under the covers. After turning off the small lamp on the bedside table, he curled up on his side, facing Soda’s direction. He was far from convinced, but Dally noticed a sad hopelessness in his eyes that meant he was on board.

Dally kept watch over the youngest two Curtis brothers, sitting down in the corner by the windows. It didn’t seem particularly late, but he could completely understand why they had opted for going to bed. It had to have been hell living under the same roof as dozens of other boys from disadvantaged homes. It had to have been terrible abiding by some stranger’s rules and schedules. It certainly couldn’t have been the same as kicking back with the gang back in the Tulsa they all knew. Dally was glad that, at some point, he would be able to leave this place—he couldn’t leave soon enough—but he felt somewhat sorry for this Pony and Soda. How long had they been here? How long would they continue to be here if their rodeo scheme didn’t work out?

Dallas rested his head against the wall behind him and closed his own eyes. Although he hadn’t been at it long, the glimpses had really taken their toll. What was merely seconds back in the real world was turning into quite the little expedition.

Maybe a little sleep would be good for all of them.
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