Chapter 13: Life's Greatest Moment
It didn't take me long to get ready at Buck's after I got on the bus to get there. The car had been taken to the hospital by an unknown person, and even though all I wanted to do was bang Dally's head into a brick wall, I'd left it there. Why? I was asking myself that question a lot at that moment. I'd threatened him not to come to the rumble, yet made sure he had easy transport to get there... I don't know where my mind was when I decided to catch the bus, but it certainly wasn't where it should have been.
It was just after 6:30 as I walked into the Curtis' house to find it as loud as it always was before a rumble.
"... I hear they pay a lot for funny things." I raised my eyebrow as I walked over to the table where Soda and Steve were playing poker.
"Do I wanna know?" I asked as I pulled up another chair and watched the two of them play. Soda laughed.
"Ponyboy's tryin' to grow a beard for the rumble." I looked up at Ponyboy as he came out of the bathroom.
"Really now?" I asked, and smirked. "Hate to tell ya, Pony. I don't think you'd look any good with a beard." Ponyboy's faced turned a shade of red and he mumbled something before disappearing into up the stairs to his room. I smirked, he was so easy to embarrass sometimes, it made for some good laughs.
Darry came down the stairs a moment later in a tight black shirt that showed of all his muscles and I feared for the Soc that got to fight him. A lot of Socs from past rumbles have needed stitches after fighting him, he had a nasty left hook that if you weren't ready for it, you'd end up flat on the ground with no air in your lungs – or knocked out cold.
"Why aren't you at the hospital, Mia?" Steve asked after a moment of only the sound of music blasting through the speakers. "Figured you'd be there as late as you could." I shrugged. I didn't really feel like spilling the whole reason why I was here, since if it wasn't for our fight, I would've stayed with Dallas until I had to leave – probably would have just left when he made a break for it, since I knew he wasn't going to stay in the hospital.
"I just figured I'd come early. Besides, Dally has been in a bad mood for the past couple of hours, and I didn't feel like dealing with his snappy attitude." Ponyboy came down the stairs at that moment and I noticed that he looked a little pale. His shirt was a bit baggy on him, and I figured that was from staying up at the church.
Soda was being his usual self – cracking jokes and messing around – and keeping everyone amused.
"You like fights, don't you, Soda?" Ponyboy asked suddenly.
"Yeah, sure." He said, sounding a little puzzled. "I like fights."
"How come?" Ponyboy pressed.
"I don't know." Soda answered, sounding like he really had no idea. I'd never thought about why I liked fights, I just did. "It's action. It's a contest. Like a drag race or a dance or something."
"Shoot," Steve interjected. "I want to beat those Socs' heads in. When I get in a fight I want to stomp the other guy good. I like it, too."
"It's a good way to burn energy." I added. "Man, if I hadn't fought so much in New York, I'd've been in jail a lot more than I was. I never really thought about it, I guess I like'em too." Darry was leaning in the doorway of the kitchen behind Ponyboy and he turned to look up at him.
"How come you like fights, Darry?" He asked, and Darry just gave him a look. But Soda answered for him.
"He likes to show off his muscles." He said, and I snickered when Darry sent a look at him too.
"I'm gonna show'em off on you, little buddy, if you get any mouthier." I rolled my eyes and rested my head down on my arms as I crossed them on the tabletop. I glanced at Ponyboy, who seemed to be thinking hard about our answers. I wondered where the thought had come from in the first place?
"I don't know if you ought to be in this rumble, Pony," Darry said out of the blue, and I looked up in surprise. I saw fear flash across Pony's face before it disappeared.
"How come?" He asked. "I've always come through before, ain't I?" Darry gave him a proud grin.
"Yeah," He said. "You fight real good for a kid your size. But you were in shape before. You've lost weight and don't look so great, kid. You're tensed up too much."
"Shoot," Soda said, and I glanced at him to see that he was trying to get an ace out of his shoe without Steve noticing. I hide my grin because he wasn't all that good at it. "we all get tense up before a rumble. Let him fight tonight. Skin never hurt anyone – no weapons, no danger."
"I'll be okay," Ponyboy pleaded. "I'll get hold of a little one, okay?" Darry still didn't look too convinced that him going was a good idea.
"Well, Johnny won't be there this time..." He trailed off, and I fought against my emotions to keep from flinching. "but then, Curly Shepard won't be there either, or Dally, and we'll need every man we can get."
"What happened to Shepard?" Ponyboy asked in confusion. He hung around with Curly Shepard a lot, and it was amusing sometimes to see the two of them together since they were so different. I remembered the time they played chicken with cigarettes held to their fingers. Tim told Dally and me about it later that night. I guess he was passing by them and saw what they were doing before cracking their heads together.
"Threatened to kill'em both if I ever caught them at that again." He'd said before turning to his newest blonde and heading off somewhere in the mess of the crowd.
"He's in the cooler," Steve said, bringing me out of my thoughts. He saw what Soda was up to and kicked the ace out of his shoe. "In the reformatory." I grimaced, remembering the reformatory in New York – far worse than the one here, but than again, it seemed that all the reformatories I heard about were just as bad as the next.
"Let me fight, Darry." Ponyboy pleaded again. "If it was blades or chains or something like that it'd be different. Nobody ever gets really hurt in a skin rumble."
"Well," I could see Darry caving. For being such a tough guy, it wasn't hard to make him cave on some things. "I guess you can. But be careful, and if you get in a jam, holler and I'll get you out."
"I'll be okay," Ponyboy said. "How come you never worry about Sodapop as much? I don't see you lecturin' him." Darry grinned and put his arm across Soda's shoulders.
"Man, this is one kid brother that I don't have to worry about." Soda gave him a gab in the ribs, but he was smiling. "This kid can use his head." Soda gave Ponyboy a look of mock superiority, but Darry kept going: "You can see he uses it for one thing – to grow hair on." I laughed out loud as Soda took a swing at him, and Darry ducked. He took off for the door. I stood up to follow, and saw Two-Bit's head poke around the door as Darry went leaping through. He jumped as he went down the steps, doing a somersault in mid-air before he bounced up and kept going.
"Welup," Two-Bit said in his usual, cheery voice. " I see we are in prime condition for a rumble. Is everyone happy?"
"Yeah!" Soda yelled and went flying down the steps with another mid-air somersault, following his brother. He made his way down the walk on his hands and did a cartwheel with no hands, beating out Darry's simple somersault.
I felt the energy pumping the blood through my veins and I grinned as I watched Steve go running across the lawn in leaps before he froze and flipped backwards. I watched as Ponyboy and Two-Bit both pulled a no hands cartwheel off the steps and rolled to their feet before I follow.
I took a running leap from the steps, flying into a somersault in mid-air and popping back up onto my feet before leaping back in the air and going into feet over head flips down the walkway a few steps before snapping back to my feet. The boys cheered loudly as I did a final backwards flip, landing down in the splits.
"You still got it, Mia." Soda said as he pulled me to my feet. I grinned widely as we all started running down the street, doing random flips once and a while as we went.
Darry had taken a course at the Y and spent a whole summer teaching the rest of us how to do the stunts. It was fun, and good for fights.
I jumped up onto Soda's back and he caught my legs before spinning the two of us around in a circle. I whooped in joy, seizing the feeling of power sliding through my body.
"I am a greaser," Sodapop chanted as I slipped off his back and jogged a couple steps before doing one more flip. I didn't want to use up all my energy before the fight. I felt like I'd never lose this feeling, but I knew that once I started fighting, I was going to need all this and more. Since it varied on how long the Socs could last in a fight, this could go on for a while. I couldn't be wheezing halfway through and get knocked out because I couldn't throw a decent punch. "I am a JD and a hood. I blacken the name of our fair city. I beat up people. I rob gas stations. I am a menace to society. Man, do I have fun!"
"Greaser... greaser... greaser..." Steve taunted. "O victim of environment, underprivileged, rotten, no count hood!"
"Juvenile delinquent, you're no good!" Darry and I shouted in unison.
"Get thee hence, white trash," Two-Bit said in a snobbish voice. "I am a Soc. I am the privileged and the well-dressed. I throw beer blasts, drive fancy cars, break windows at fancy parties."
"And what do you do for fun?" Ponyboy asked in a serious, awed voice. His eyes wide with curiosity, and dancing with laughter.
"I jump greasers!" Two-Bit did a cartwheel, landing right beside me and wrapped an arm around my shoulders. I laughed and took a can of beer that he had hidden in his jacket when he offer it to me. He always drank until he was high before a rumble, I just liked the way it added to the buzz already coursing through me. I took a long swig from the can and leaned against Two-Bit's shoulder to look up at the stars. Clouds were starting to move in, and it looked like it was going to rain.
"Hey, Two-Bit," Ponyboy's voice came from behind us, and I turned my head a little as he came up on the other side of Two-Bit. "how come you like fights?" He looked at Ponyboy like he'd grown an extra head or something.
"Shoot, everybody fights." He said, and I shook my head.
"That's such a good answer for you, Two-Bit." I said, and he sent a playful punch at my arm – not my bad one thankfully. It didn't hurt real bad anymore, but that might have something to do with the fact that I haven't used it for anything serious in the past 24ish hours. But this rumble was going to have it searing in pain, and I just hoped it wasn't enough to make me black out or anything like that.
"Listen, Soda, you and Ponyboy," Darry said as we got closer to the lot. "if the fuzz show, you two need to beat it out of there. The rest of us can only get jailed. You two can get sent to a boys' home."
"Nobody in this neighborhood's going to call the fuzz," Steve said. "They know what'd happen if they did." I couldn't imagine there being anyone in the neighborhood who'd care enough to call the cops. Not like fights and yelling were anything new around here – it happened practically ever night.
"All the same, you two blow at the first sign of trouble. You hear me?"
"You sure don't need an amplifier," Soda said before sticking his tongue out at the back of Darry's head. I shook my head and tried not to laugh. For all the reputations we had for being tough and unfeeling, we did so many little things that reminded me that we were all just kids – like a greaser sticking his tongue out at his older brother.
Tim Shepard and his gang were already at the lot when we arrived, along with one of the gangs from Brumly. Everyone was standing with their group, casting glances around once and a while, some of them were passing bottles between a couple of them. Tim was standing with his right-hand man, Steven I think his name was, and glanced up as we approached.
Tim and I had never really gotten along – not as well as he and Dallas did when they weren't trying to knock each other out. We were always fighting over the smallest things, and avoided each other as much as possible. It was kind of hard considering he and Dallas got along – sometimes.
Tim was older than I was – only by a year, but he held it over my head a lot. He was more like the hoods in the movies in the sense that he looked the part. He was tough, rock solid, and didn't back down from a fight. He had a scar going down the side of his face from a girl he'd upset the year before, it ran right down from his temple to his chin. I remember hearing that she'd been pissed off about something and caught him with a broken pop bottle. I'd laughed so hard when I hear, and to this day
I wished I'd gotten to meet the girl. We probably would have gotten along very well.
Tim's gang was mostly like him, they were all tough as nails and didn't back down from anything. They went from 15-19 and looked like they wouldn't hesitate to kill someone if they needed to. I'd dated one of them for about a month before breaking it off. The kind of attitude he'd had from taking Tim's strict discipline had made it unbearable sometimes to be around him. Plus, he'd had a serious drinking problem, it literally. killed him, I remembered the funeral
The Brumly boys were pretty young looking guys, but all of them had been caught and sent to Juvie for one thing or another. They didn't look that bad until you got to know them a little, or learned of their rep. Dally dated one of their sisters a long time ago and swore he'd never do it again. They were very protective of their siblings – especially their sisters. When he broke it off with the girl, he came back to Buck's with a black eye and a busted lip.
Tim and the guy who ran the Brumly gang stepped forward and shook hands. We always did this to show who's side we were on, and if you went against it, you were going to get it. That was how things worked around here. A lot of people thought we were all cheating, stealing, stupid hoods who didn't respect anything in life beside ourselves, but the truth was that we ran our lives in a very organized way. Things were done a certain way depending on the situation. The funeral for example, I'd broken it off with him because I couldn't take his personality anymore, but Dally and I had gone to the funeral out of respect for the gang. Socs always seemed to think that they had more respect than anyone else, but when it came down to it, I always felt like we had the most respect.
Tim came over to us and I watched him study Ponyboy for a moment.
"You and the quiet black-headed kid were the ones who killed that Soc?"
"Yeah," I heard him put the pride into his voice, but when I looked at him I saw that he looked ready to get sick.
"Good goin', kid.
Curly always said you were a good kid. Curly's in the reformatory for the next six months." He grinned, and I could only imagine the the pride he had for his younger brother. "He got caught breakin' into a liquor store, the little..." I stopped listening for a moment as Tim continued to ramble off words that he called compliments towards his brother. I looked around, knowing I wasn't going to see any other girl standing around the place. I was the only girl I really knew who fought with guys. Most girls called me weird for it, but I'd been told by a few that thought it was cool and brave. I didn't really care, since I'd been fighting most of my life with guys. It was always amusing to fight a guy who didn't really know who I was, or who hadn't fought me before because they always tried to go easy and I normally won
"Go figure he went for the liquor." I said when he was finally done. Tim looked over at me. He knew what I meant, since Curly was on his way to having a drinking problem himself. He partied too much – even for a greaser.
"At least he has a good reason to miss the fight." Tim shot back, and I narrowed my eyes at him.
"At least Dally knows when to quit. Curly will be able to drink himself across town soon enough." Tim opened his mouth to say something else, but closed it and shook his head, a smirk on his face.
"You ain't worth the energy. Don't you think you need to save your adrenaline and insults for later?" I rolled my eyes as he turned to talk to someone in his gang, and I turned to Soda and Steve who were sending practice gabs at each other.
"All ready for this fight, Mia?" Steve asked as he got Soda into a headlock. I smirked.
"I'm always ready for a fight." I said as I looked around again. I didn't know about the others here, but the no weapons rule made me nervous. Not because I normally used one myself, but because we didn't have any in case the Socs decided they'd break the rules and bring some blades with them. Our gang never really fought with weapons anyway, but I knew Tim's gang, as well as the Brumly boys, used weapons when they fought – whatever they could quickly get their hands on.
""Hey, Curtis!" Tim's voice called across the lot, and everyone turned.
"Which one?" Soda called back. It was confusing sometimes, having multiple fighters with the same last name when that was what we all went by.
"The big one. Come on over here." I started to turn back to Soda and Steve when I saw the fancy mustangs pulling up to the lot. Ponyboy came to stand with us as Two-Bit came over and the Socs came to a stop a little ways from where we were all standing around. Two-Bit had a half finished cigarette that he passed to me, and I took a long drag off of it. My nerves were at full alert, and I felt my muscles go as tense as they possibly could as I let the smoke out slowly and crushed the rest into the ground with the toe of my boot. I was ready for this fight. I was tired of being afraid to be jumped every time I walked out the door without someone with me. I was tired of the Socs' thinking they were better than the rest of us. This was what I'd been waiting for, for a long time.
As I looked over the boys stepping out of their fancy cars, I figured they must have mistaken this for a insult fight and not a fist fight. They all looked like they were going to the theater to see a movie with their girls instead of coming out here for a fight. Than of course, these were probably their old clothes. Their pants all looked freshly ironed and their shirts didn't seem to have a single crease out of place.
When I'd first started to go to the high school, I'd felt out of place in the sea of mostly perfect clothes. But that had been before I'd discovered the personalities behind the clothes.
One of the Socs stepped forward.
"Let's get the rules straight – nothing but our fists, and the first to run lose. Right?" Tim finished his beer and tossed the can to the ground a little ways away.
"You savvy real good." There was a tense silence that followed, everyone waiting for someone to step up and start the fight. Darry solved the issue by stepping forward. A circle was formed on the ground by a nearby street light. It was like a scene out of a movie, and for a moment I pictured the tall buildings and darkened streets of my childhood.
"I'll take on anyone." He said, and for a moment, the Socs all stood silently in front of us, but they soon parted and a blonde-haired guy stepped forward. He looked strangely familiar, but I couldn't place why.
"Hello, Darrel." He said and even his voice sounded familiar. I glanced at Darry in time to see something flash behind his eyes before it disappeared.
"Hello, Paul." He said, and Soda gave a squeak behind me. Paul... Paul... Pa – oh. Paul Holden had been the best halfback when Darry was on the football team. I remembered them hanging around a lot. I'd never talked to the guy really, whenever I happened to walk up to Darry when he was around, he made an excuse to leave and gave me a dirty look on the way.
A moment of thick silence followed, and all I wanted to do was reach out for one of the Socs and hit him to get this going. But Darry had to be the one to start it now – that was the rules. Whoever stepped up first was the one to start the fight.
"I'll take you." Paul said eventually, and I almost thought I saw a smile cross Darry's face. I could see that he had no interest in trying to start the old friendship up again.
The two of them started to circle each other in the light coming from the street light, sizing each other up and keeping track of the others movements, trying to find out the weak spots before the fight really got started. The tension was growing, and it felt like everyone was holding their breath, waiting for the action to start. I was a coiled spring, and if they didn't start soon, I was going to spring loss and start this thing myself – screw the rules.
"Hold up!" The voice came from my left, a familiar voice. "Hold it!" Darry turned to look and Paul threw the first punch – a hard hook to the jaw the sent Darry a step back before he was coming back at the guy with a hard swing to the shoulder.
Time to party.