Categories > Books > Outsiders > Epiphany

Phaeton's Ride

by EmilineHarris 0 Reviews

Category: Outsiders - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Drama,Sci-fi - Characters:  - Warnings: [!] - Published: 2008/06/21 - Updated: 2008/06/22 - 3441 words - Complete

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Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters you recognize.

The morning sun rose golden and bright in the eastern sky. As the lengthening rays poured in through the thin curtains, Dally groaned, stretching his legs to relieve his stiffening muscles. His back hurt—he had been slouched in the corner all night long—and he noticed, with a strange sense of reality, that the rumble had actually left him somewhat bruised and injured. Running a hand through his light hair, Dally’s gaze shifted around the room. He half expected to be someplace else when he woke up, but he was strangely happy to see that he was still in the boys’ home.

Ponyboy and Sodapop were still in their beds, sleeping and otherwise dead to the world. They looked so peaceful, comfortable even, that it was hard to tell that they were unhappy and wanting to be back at their real home just the night before.

Dally sighed. He felt so helpless. He wanted to rush over and shake both of them awake—grab them by the shoulders and knock some sense into them—to get them out of the room that seemed smaller and even stuffier than it had earlier. He wanted to help them devise a way to get out on their own again, away from the rules and expectations of some unfamiliar adult. Keeping a teenaged boy—and a greaser no less—in one place for too long was like caging a wild animal. It wasn’t natural … It wasn’t fair.

But maybe that would all change. Today was the big day—the day of Sodapop’s rodeo.

Dally sat silently for what seemed like hours. He watched as sun began to highlight each corner of the room around him. He studied the cracks in the ceiling and the tears in the wallpaper until he noticed movement in Soda’s direction—he was waking up. Sitting propped up against the metal headboard, Sodapop rubbed the last remnants of sleep from his eyes and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. He stood up, stretching his arms to the left and right of him, and walked over to his dresser, grabbing a clean pair of socks, jeans, and a flannel shirt from its drawers. After changing into his new clothes, he walked over to Ponyboy’s bed, sitting down on the edge of it.

The old springs made a creaking sound and Ponyboy groggily rolled over. “What?” He mumbled, almost incoherently.

“Rise and shine,” came the cheerful reply.

Ponyboy just looked up at Sodapop. “What time is it?” He asked quietly, rolling over and then burying his head underneath his pillow. He sounded like a little kid that didn’t want to go to school. Dally remembered when he had pulled that same stunt with his old man. It never went over very well.

“It’s time to get up,” Soda replied flatly. “We gotta get going if we’re gonna make Ms. Raber think we’re heading to services.”

Ponyboy grumbled, but slowly complied. In a few minutes he was dressed too and they were heading out of the room.

“I almost forgot,” Soda announced suddenly before bounding back inside. He returned carrying a beat up looking cowboy hat. “I knew I didn’t bring this hat for nothing …”

Ponyboy cracked a smile—his first one of the morning—and Sodapop draped an arm around him. “I can’t ride without my lucky hat,” Soda drawled, his voice soothing. Dally didn’t remember Ponyboy being this needy before. He had never realized how much Ponyboy looked up to Soda, how much he needed his brother to love and comfort him, and how much Soda had needed the same from Ponyboy. It was almost as if he was looking at the two of them through different eyes …

Soon, they were all on their way downstairs. Dally followed as they walked through the large sitting and game area that he had seen the night before and on towards another set of stairs at the back of the building. They took those to the ground level and were heading down a dimly lit hallway to a set of exit doors when a voice called out behind them.

“Just where to do you two think you’re going?”

Soda turned to face a short, stout woman with gray hair and tired green eyes. She had her hands on her hips and she didn’t look happy to see two of her charges heading toward the exit unsupervised. “Howdy Ma’am,” Soda replied. “We’re just on our way to Sunday services …”

“If that’s okay with you,” Ponyboy added quickly, his voice innocent and even.

She eyed them suspiciously. It seemed that she knew better than to trust the likes of Ponyboy and Sodapop Curtis, especially when they were in cahoots. “I suppose there’s no harm in that,” she said with a small smile. “I’m not sure if you boys have heard, but there’s a rodeo in town today and I don’t want you two caught up in that mess … Please come back as soon as the good Father at Holy Family has finished saying mass.”

Soda nodded. “Of course, Ms. Raber,” he said smoothly. “We’ll say a prayer for you and the other boys too.”

Ms. Raber smiled, this time her tired green eyes twinkled happily. Dally couldn’t believe that she had fallen for Soda’s little act. “Why, thank you, Sodapop. I appreciate that …” She said.

Soda smiled, giving her a little nod with the brim of his hat and then turned toward the door. He grabbed Ponyboy by the arm and they both headed outside. Once out on the street, Soda laughed loudly and looked at his little brother. “How about that? Didn’t I tell you getting Ms. Raber to let us go out would be a piece of cake?”

Ponyboy still looked slightly unconvinced. “Just wait until we don’t come back in an hour. She’ll send someone out looking for us …”

“Aw, Pony,” Soda sighed. “You worry too much. You’re getting to be just like Darry …”

Dally followed the two of them down the street, listening in to their conversations. Ponyboy did seem to be a little less carefree and more concerned about everything lately. But maybe he had a right to be concerned. There was no telling what an old lady like Ms. Raber would do if two of her wards turned up missing after a Sunday morning mass …

Dally pulled a cigarette from his jacket pocket and lit it as they walked. The sun was bright and warm, and after spending the night in the boys’ home, it was surprisingly nice to be free again. It was like getting out of jail or something.

As soon as they entered the fairgrounds, Soda approached the sign in table and waited in line with a group of other rodeo hopefuls. When it was his turn, he stepped forward and filled out the necessary paperwork, then handed it to the woman that was helping him.

“Call is at 12:30,” she said routinely, not even looking up as she fiddled with his papers. “Riders begin numerically at 1:00. Good luck to you, son.” She handed over his contestant vest and riding number.

Soda grinned. “Thank you, ma’am,” he replied. “Luck from a pretty lady never hurt no one.”

The woman looked up at him, catching his gaze, and eyed him strangely. A small smile crept across her softly lined face. She was probably old enough to be his mother.

Old broads never seem to mind flirting from younger guys, Dally thought to himself as he looked on. Makes them feel all girlish and giddy again.

No matter where he was, Soda had always been one to sweet talk some lucky girl—his boyish good looks and contagious smile had never held him back when women were concerned. Back in Tulsa, Dallas was always happy to have him around. Whenever they’d go out with Steve or the other boys, they never had any trouble picking up girls. Dally knew that his looks certainly hadn’t attracted any prospective dates. Get Sodapop to reel ‘em in and let your tuff attitude take over from there—that was his dating philosophy. Even with a cute guy right there, no greasy girl could resist a tough as nails hood like Dallas Winston … His reputation had gotten him many things, and action with the opposite sex was one of perks that he had thoroughly enjoyed.

Sodapop stepped away from the table holding his vest and number and then walked over to Ponyboy. “I’m all set,” he said happily, removing the cowboy hat from his head and placing it on Ponyboy’s. “Now we wait. It won’t be long now.”

Pony adjusted the hat so that it wasn’t falling in his face and looked over at Soda who was adjusting his vest.

“Excited for the big ride today?”

Dally was caught slightly off guard. The voice hadn’t made an appearance since he nearly lost it at the boys’ home the night before. “I guess,” he replied, trying to sound uninterested.

“Good, because I’m excited … That Sodapop Curtis has turned into something of the risk taker. He’s a fun one to watch nowadays …” The voice said.

“What the hell’s that supposed to mean?” Dally asked flatly, figuring an explanation of some sort was on the horizon. He wasn’t quite sure if he even wanted to hear it. He looked over at Soda who had taken the hat back from Ponyboy and was tossing it up in the air, trying to catch it with his head. It seemed that each one of his friends had been worse off in this strange reality—and he hoped that things wouldn’t be the same for Soda.

“The Sodapop you knew always looked for action—drag races, fights, girls—and that certainly didn’t diminish with your absence. If anything, he’s even more reckless now. Almost to a fault. Even though he still tragically lost his parents, that hasn’t translated over to his own self image. You see, Dallas, Sodapop doesn’t see that he’s mortal, that he can be hurt, and that the events going around him actually have an effect on other people, like Ponyboy for instance.”

“So he didn’t have me around … Big deal,” Dally replied. “He still had his brothers to ground him a little. He still had the gang.”

“What gang?” The voice scoffed. “Did you forget that Steve does his own thing now, that Two-Bit is usually in jail or off drinking or brooding somewhere? Soda doesn’t have the gang that was familiar to you. He doesn’t have the same group of guys to lean on and learn from and share experiences with … It may be hard for you to see, Dallas, but your absence set off an entire chain reaction. You can’t pin point one thing you did for Soda to make him who he was. It was the lack of many things that brought him to where he is right now.”

Dally rolled his eyes. “The Soda I knew would have taken the exact same risks. He would have entered this rodeo too … He would have done anything to try and make a better life for his little brother.”

“Maybe so, but you’ll see how careless decisions only make things worse. You, of all people, should be able to understand that concept,” the voice replied.

Dallas could feel himself getting angry again. Was the voice implying that his decisions back in Tulsa had been careless? That was a load of crap! Maybe they weren’t thought out completely and meticulously analyzed, but his decisions were definitely not careless. And they had definitely not, nor would they ever, make things worse for anyone.

“If there’s one thing you’ve showed me, it’s that these glimpses aren’t about me,” Dally hissed, trying to turn the attention away from himself. “I’m not the one riding in this rodeo today—Soda is—so let’s not forget that … Okay?”

The voice seemed to chuckle a little bit. “Okay, Dallas … Maybe you are catching on after all.”

Dally ignored the comment. He didn’t want to be praised over something that he didn’t believe in. Was he really catching on? He sure didn’t think so. He just didn’t like fingers pointing at him. He turned his attention back to the Curtis brothers, hoping the voice would leave him alone.

“You and me, little brother,” Soda was saying as he ruffled Ponyboy’s short hair. “We’re gonna be out of this town in no time.”

Ponyboy met his brother’s gaze and looked at him nervously. “Well, you be careful out there,” he said. “Darry’d kill you if he knew you were doing this.”

Soda laughed. “Heck. Ms. Raber would kill me too … But she don’t know either!”

Ponyboy made a face. Dally couldn’t tell if it was fear for his brother, worry, or something else altogether. He sure looked young though—like a kid without anyplace to go. The look in his eyes was very similar to when he and Johnny had come to Buck’s that night, looking for advice.

“I’ll be down in front,” Pony said, hesitation evident in his voice. “I’ll see you when your ride is over.”

Soda nodded and pulled this brim of his cowboy hat down slightly, a gesture that the hero of an old west movie would do for a pretty lady. Then he turned and strutted over toward the group of contenders that were gathering on the other side of the grounds. Ponyboy watched him walk away and then, once Soda had disappeared into the crowd, headed in the other direction.

Dallas followed Ponyboy to the first row of the bleachers and leaned up against the railing that separated the spectators from the participants down on the arena floor. He pulled a cigarette from the pack in his pocket and hastily lit it up as he took a look around.

The whole place was full and surging with adrenaline and testosterone. It seemed as if all of the cowboys from the Midwest had gathered at the county fairgrounds, and all the residents of Omaha had come out to see them. Men and boys were milling around on the sidelines, bragging about themselves to one another, each one thinking that he deserved the amateur title more than the next guy. Dally took a long drag from his cigarette. For some reason he was all keyed up—and he wasn’t even riding today—maybe it was the unseen presence of the voice that had gotten to him. He looked over at Ponyboy who was nervously rubbing his hands together and then shoving them in the pockets of his oversized sweatshirt. He seemed to be nervous too.

Dally thought for a moment. Back in Tulsa, Sodapop had been a good rider. He could handle the broncos and keep up with the best … Certainly there was nothing to worry about.

He looked on from his spot down in front as the contest kicked into gear. With each number that was called, a rider took his turn. Some hadn’t been so good, some had even been disqualified for failing to meet their eight second requirement, but most were taking in high marks—anything from eighties to eighty-eights, one guy even scored a ninety-one. It would be tough for Sodapop to compete, even if he had been practicing at the stables where he worked.

“Next up, number sixty-six, Sodapop Curtis.” The contest announcer read to the crowd.

Taken by surprise, Dallas turned his attention to the commotion at the far end of the arena. Ponyboy made a small nervous sound in his throat, his eyes glued to the same place as Dally’s—the gate where Soda was mounting his horse.

A single shot rang out and the gate flung open as the horse carrying Soda wildly bucked out into everyone’s view. Sodapop spurred the horse, his free arm reaching towards the sky, before the animal’s front feet hit the ground.

One second, two …

The ride continued as the horse threw its body weight around, charging farther out into the ring for all to see. Soda anticipated each movement, fluidly riding and spurring in synchronicity with each powerful buck of the bronco. A smile was evident on his face, and even from far away no one could deny that he was enjoying himself. He was living it up. His plan was in motion and he was doing a pretty good job so far.

Three seconds … Four …

Dally gripped the railing in front of him with both hands, leaning forward as if it would give him a better view of the action taking place in the dusty ring. He glanced over at Ponyboy.

“Come on, Soda,” the younger boy muttered to himself. “Come on, now.”

Five seconds …

Dally turned back towards Soda’s ride and watched as the horse bucked violently, this time catching Sodapop slightly off guard.

Six seconds …

Soda’s free arm, which had been so steady merely moments before, jerked back in an effort to regain some of the balance he once had. Spurring again, this time rather shakily, Sodapop completely lost his center of gravity and was thrown up into the air, his other hand pried loose from its tight grip on the hack rein.

Seven seconds …

With nothing else to grab on to, Sodapop was seemingly launched from the bronco’s arched back like a pebble through a child’s sling shot. The toes of his boots pointed up towards the sky as his body crashed down to earth.

Eight seconds …

Dally felt his skin turn cold and his stomach start to churn. Soda had hit the ground hard and was lying at an odd angle. Twisted and on his side, he wasn’t moving. In fact, it was hard to see if he was breathing or not. Filled with such vibrancy only seconds before, a split second in time had reduced to a feeble lump on the dusty ground.

Without thinking, Dally hopped over the short wall that separated himself from the main ring and ran hard, his feet pounding the ground with each stride. He could hear Ponyboy shouting out behind him, apparently being caught up by a security officer that had stepped forward during Sodapop’s brief ride to make sure that the crowd was under control.

“You don’t understand … That’s my brother!” Ponyboy yelped. Dally felt his stomach sink farther toward his running feet as continued on his way. Pony had never seemed that young before back in Tulsa, or that helpless. Today, he had acted and sounded just like a child—a child without parents, a child without a path to follow, a child without a future …

As he ran, Dally got the feeling that Soda and Ponyboy wouldn’t be traveling on any rodeo circuits anytime soon. With a spill like the one Sodapop had just taken, they might not be traveling anywhere together for a long time …

Dallas had sprinted halfway across the ring, when he heard the buzzing of the overhead lights. “No! Not now!” He yelled out, knowing the voice could hear him and that this glimpse was close to ending.

Only twenty more feet to go … Sodapop was right there. With each new step, the ground seemed increasingly unsteady and the stands that were built up on either side of the main arena began to spin around him. “Don’t you dare!” Dally hissed. “This isn’t over yet! I’m not finished here!”

He was so close. He had to make sure that Soda was okay, that things would be all right in the end.

But the voice had other plans.

As quickly and abruptly as it had begun, the glimpse ended, throwing Dallas into another cyclone of motion. Dally tried to fight it, continuing to run his hardest amid the flurry of activity around him. Eventually realizing that he wasn’t actually going anywhere, he slumped to the ground, defeated.

“Damn you!” He shouted angrily, pounding the earth hard with his fist. “I wasn’t finished! I wasn’t done there you son of a bitch!”

Met with darkness and silence, Dallas furiously waited for the spinning to subside.
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