Tough. It's a common attribute among greasers, to varying degrees. Dangerous. It's a scary trait that most hoods (the ones to be reckoned with, anyway) pick up at one time or another. They're not t...
"I was just wonderin'. . ."
I turned to look at him. "Wonderin' what, Johnny?"
He didn't say anything and I dropped it. I wasn't in a mood to yank it out of him. It was dark and cold, and I could see my breath in the air, and I wanted to rub my hands together for warmth, but he don't need to know that I'm wishing I brought a jacket. 'Less I turn into a Popsicle, he don't need to know that.
I'd been sitting here for ten minutes, just thinking, something I didn't usually do. Mostly, though, I was just spacing out, which is something I do even less. You can't afford to space out when you look over your shoulder every three steps, 'cause then you miss a step, and then, if you're screwed, it's your own fault.
Johnny had come out five minutes ago, and we'd just been sitting ever since.
Normally, I only wanted action. I could always find action. You just gotta know where to look. But I was sort o' tired-got in a fight with a Brumly guy this morning, and I'm just now feeling it-and I wasn't in the mood, like I said.
We were on the Curtis' porch. I was only there because I had made myself scarce the last week-Christmas depresses me like you wouldn't believe-and I wanted them to know that I was still alive. I had a feeling they'd care; I wouldn't, but hey, that's just how it goes.
Johnny looked at me like I'd slapped him, and I sighed. "What were you wonderin'?"
"Who do you think the toughest hood in Tulsa is?"
I thought for a second. "That's a weird thing to be askin', huh?"
"Well, it's just-I mean, Two-Bit was talkin' to Curly earlier, and Curly said Tim was..." He looked uncomfortable. "But, I dunno, I said you." He looked up at me. "What do you say?"
"What do I say?" I had just been about to rub my hands together, finally, but now resisted the urge. "I say-"
Suddenly, cutting me off, I heard the wail of a police siren and I tensed. I always do at that sound. But I didn't do anything lately, and they can't be looking for me... What am I saying? They're always trying to catch me on a phony charge.
The siren passed and faded out but Johnny didn't say anything else. I think it got him worked up, too.
"Cool it, Johnnycakes."
He nodded, then took to fiddling with his hands, rubbing them together. We sat like that for another twenty minutes, and I was about ready to give up and go inside.
"Toughest, huh, kid?"
He snapped his head back up to look at me again, and I was grinning bitterly.
I stopped again, watching the police car cruise down the street slowly, real slowly, and then stop in front of the Curtis'. Now, I could tell Johnny was ready to run for it, but I wasn't letting some cop scare me off. At least not until I knew what this was all about.
"Boys, I suggest you move along," a tall, thin cop called out from across the street, getting out of his car-he had gloves and a coat. "We have business here. Go on."
"And what's your business?" I snapped, shoving my fists into my jeans pockets and stretching back on the steps.
He looked at me with an expression I can only describe as sad and shook his head. "We need to speak to the boys inside. Are they home?"
"I don't know," I said, being uncooperative-just like I always was with people like him. "What's it to you?"
"We need to speak to them, Dallas," said the cop who had been in the car, drivers' side. He got out now and quickly crossed the street-short, dark haired, and with a twitchy walk: Officer John Reilly, my "friend" down at the station. "Now move it. Stop being the stubborn little hood you are for just one minute and let us do our jobs. This doesn't concern you."
I was surprised, but not shocked, and I didn't let either show. Normally Reilly was the calm one, the one who patted the other guys on the back and told them, "You did good, you got all there was out of him. Now, let me try, you go relax." But now he wasn't going to take whatever I had to dish out.
"Then you tell me why you need to see them!" I raised my voice in anger, but it was still even, and I was watching Reilly like a hawk, just like he was watching me. Johnny looked torn between wanting to be by my side and wanting to run off. He wasn't no coward, he just knew when you should get going. I probably should have, too, but I was not going to let them win.
"We need to see them," the tall one repeated shortly, but in a calm tone.
"What's all this yelling about?" Darry said, cracking open the front door and then pulling it open even farther after seeing us all and taking it in. "What is this?"
"Are you Darrel Shaynne Curtis, Junior?" asked Reilly, stepping closer.
"Yes, sir. I am. What is this?"
"We need to speak with you, and then I'm afraid you're going to need to call a lawyer and come with us to the hospital."
Darry was silent for a long while and then he shook his head and pulled the door open farther, looking us over and seeing how cold Johnny was, then gesturing us inside, along with the cops. Normally, I wouldn't have wanted to be in the same house with them, let alone the same room, but I didn't want to leave Johnny alone, so I followed him in and made sure to smirk snidely at Reilly, who didn't even roll his eyes. He was starting to have me worried... but only a little.
Johnny walked into the hallway and towards Pony's room, and I followed him, but I stopped in the bathroom, which was closer to the front room, so I could hear what went on.
"Darrel, I suggest you sit down." That was the tall guy.
"I'll stand," Darry said stiffly.
"I'm officer Reilly, and this is my partner, Officer Livingston."
A sigh, but I couldn't tell who from.
"There was an accident in front of the grocery on fifth. A driver was intoxicated, and he tried to pull into the parking lot too quickly. He hit the first vehicle on the way out of the lot, and the vehicle was totaled. Your parents are in critical condition-" he didn't stop talking as I heard something heavy hit the couch, and I realized that Darry had sat down, or just collapsed-"and your father isn't expected to make it through the night. You need to come quickly."
And then there was a cough, some muffled words, and a shaky breath exhaled. Then silence. I had been rubbing my hands together by now, finally, but I stopped.
"What about my brothers?"
"Where are they?"
"They're not even home. I only got home an hour ago. I was working. Um. Uh, Pony's... P-Pony's out with Two-B-Keith. Pony's with Keith. Soda's... Where the hell is that kid?"
"You need to get to the hospital."
"What about the lawyer? Why do I need a lawyer?"
"The driver didn't make it. He hit the steering wheel and died almost instantly. So there's nothing about the accident that you need to discuss. But you need to discuss placement options for your brothers."
"Mom and Dad... They're really dying, aren't they?"
Silence. More silence. A minute. "Yes, son. Now, come on."
Feet shuffling, the front door opening, then slamming shut. But I didn't hear the sound of Darry taking his coat from the closet. He'd be pretty cold.
I shoved my hands back into my pockets and scowled, the took my hands back out to open the door. So? So what did I care? What was the big deal? They're not even my parents. Ask yourself, Dallas: Would you care even if they were your parents? No. You'd care less. I shouldn't even care at all. They're just people. People die.
But not tough people.
Not Dallas Winston.