Chapter 9: Watch your World Burn
The ride down Jay Mountain hill took less time than it had to get up – and not only because of gravity.
"Holy crap, Dallas. Slow down just a bit would you?" He looked over at me with a smirk and took the next corner on two wheels. I took a quick glance back at the two boys in the backseat, and it was easy to see that this ride wasn't doing either of them any good. I nudged Dally in the arm and nodded by head at them, Dally took a glance in the rear view mirror and watched him smirk again. I rolled my eyes and gripped at the dashboard as he took another corner too fast.
"You're going to kill me Dally." I said as he crossed in front of a truck coming from the opposite direction. "Dallas." I snapped warningly as he skidded into the drive-thru. I took a deep breath and rested my arm against the window-ledge. "OK, what do you boys want?" Ponyboy asked for a Pepsi, and they both asked for a couple sandwiches and banana splits. Dally ordered us both drinks and got himself three burgers, and I got a salad.
We parked over at the far side of the parking lot and we all started to chow down on our food. The boys dove into their meals like it was the first thing they'd ever eaten.
"Glory," Dally said as we watched them shove the food into their mouths. "You don't need to make like every mouthful's your last. I got plenty of money. Take it easy, I don't need you getting sick on me." I looked at me over his drink. "And I thought I was hungry!" I smirked and nodded, taking a sip of my own drink. This comment only seemed to make Johnny eat faster, and I started to worry that he would choke if he didn't slow down.
"I didn't tell y'all something," Dally said as he finished his third hamburger. I couldn't help but think that he was setting a bad example for eating slow enough not to choke. "The Socs and us are having all-out warfare all over the city. That kid you killed had plenty of friends and all over town it's Soc against grease. We can't walk alone at all. I started carryin' a heater..."
"Dally!" I turned my head to the side to look at Ponyboy. I had turned in my seat so that my feet were crossed and resting on Dally's leg. I could tell he wasn't impressed, but this wasn't the time to be making petty argument. "You kill people with heaters!"
"Ya kill'em with switchblades, too, don't ya, kid?" Dally's voice was stone cold. I saw Dally gulp and was about to draw the subject away from this, but Dally kept going. "Don't worry, it ain't loaded. I ain't aimin' to get picked up for murder. But it sure does help a bluff. Tim Shepard's gang and our outfit are havin' it out with the Socs tomorrow night at the vacant lot. We got hold of the president of one of their social clubs and had a war council. Yeah" The look in Dally's eyes was one of remembrance, and I was taken back to the city we grew up in. I was taken back with him, and I smiled. "just like the good old days. If they win, things go on as usual. If we do, they stay outa our territory bu good. Two-Bit got jumped a few days ago. Darry and me came along in time, but he wasn't havin' too much trouble. Two-Bit's a good fighter. Hey I didn't tell you we got us a spy." I rolled my eyes in annoyance, because all I wanted to do was hit him and Cherry over the head with a wooden board.
"A spy?" Johnny had been diving into his banana split, but now he was looking up at us, curiosity in his eyes. "Who?"
"That good-lookin' broad I tried to pick up that night you killed the Soc. The redhead, Cherry what's-her-name."
There was a half second of silence before Johnny started to gag, and Ponyboy fumbled with his own hot-fudge sundae. I on the other hand, felt my face turn as red as that good-lookin' broad's hair.
"She's ain't good lookin'!" I snapped. "She low and disgusting, and her boyfriend deserved to be killed!" I punched his arm and threw open the car door. I made my way around to the front and dropped down on the hood, wanting to cry and scream all at once. It wasn't like this was new – Dally hitting on girls and calling them hot or whatever right in front of me – but him saying it about Cherry was like a knife in the back.
I could hear the boys talking as I sat on the front of the car. I didn't expect Dallas to come get me and tell me he was joking or anything – why would he do that? I heard him say something about picking up his own kind, and clenched m teeth around the straw of my drink. I got up and walked over to stand under a tree that stood all on its own. I leaned back against the rough bark and starred at the car, wishing I could shot daggers into Dally's head. Sometimes I questioned my reasons for dating him, and at times like this, I couldn't come up with a good one. I caught him glance in my direction once, and flipped him the finger before shifting to the other side of the tree. I stood there breathing deeply for a moment, but that was when I heard Dally snap out something, and he called my name. I was tempted to flip him the finger again, but when I glanced around the tree, he looked ready to kill someone, so I made my way back over to the car.
"What do you want?" I asked sharply. Dally glared at me and gabbed a finger at Johnny, not looking too happy.
"You wanna tell her what you just told me, Johnny?" I turned to Johnny who looked pale as a ghost, if Dally was made at Johnny, this wasn't good.
"I said, um..." He trailed off, seeing me about as angry as Dally was probably wasn't helping anything. He knew we'd never hit him, but as with everything Dally does, rumors were always flying that our arguments turned into fist fights sometimes. I took a deep breath cause the rumors weren't always lies, and I got back into the car. I tried to calm down enough that Johnny wouldn't look so panicked to tell me whatever he had told Dally.
"You can tell me, Johnny." I said softly. "It's alright." He took a shaky breath and looked up at me. I saw a lost boy in those black eyes of his – a lost, scared boy who only wanted someone to love him.
"I said we're goin' back and turn ourselves in." He said it as calmly as possible, but I could hear the tremble in his voice. Dally knew better than to yell at him, it shook Johnny up so bad.
I felt a heavy slab of cement drop on my chest, and air seemed impossible to reach – I could understand Dally's reaction now.
I blinked at Johnny, and then turned to Dally, who was glaring at the steering wheel with such hate that I thought he was going to rip it out.
"I got a good chance of bein' let off easy," I distantly hear Johnny's voice. I heard something in it that sounded like he was trying to convince himself, or the two of us. "I ain't got no record with the fuzz and it was self-defense. Ponyboy and Cherry can testify to that. And I don't aim to stay in that church all my life." I could see where he was coming from – having lived in an abandoned house for years while in New York was not an appealing lifestyle. I could only imagine that the church was worse than that. But for Johnny to want to go turn himself in to the cops – who he had a deathly fear of – was something that my mind wasn't able to wrap around.
"We won't tell that you helped us, you two, and we'll give you back the gun ad what's left of the money and say that we hitchhiked back so you won't get into trouble." He paused in his rant. I'd never heard Johnny say so much in the whole time I'd known him. He was serious about this. "Okay?" He was looking at the two of us with big eyes, wait for one of us to say something. Only problem was, I didn't know what to say.
I rubbed at my eyes, suddenly feeling like I hadn't gotten enough sleep, and I wished to be anywhere but here right now. Dally was chewing on his ID card. It gave his age as twenty-one so that he could buy liquor. I had one too, but Dally did most of the buying of drinks anyway.
"You sure you want to go back?" I asked and Johnny nodded. I looked at Dally, silently telling him to say something to make Johnny change his mind. He sat up a little straight in his seat and pulled the card from his mouth.
"You know us greasers get it worse than anyone else." He said, and I figured that it wasn't all that strong an argument, since everyone on our side knew that whether they'd been to jail or not.
Johnny nodded again. "I'm sure. It ain't fair for Ponyboy to have to stay up in that church with Darry and Soda worryin' about him all the time. I don't guess..." I knew what was coming as Johnny paused to swallow. It showed in his eyes even as he tried to hide the eagerness. "I don't guess my parents are worried about me or anything?" I wanted to hit something as hard as I possibly could. Why wouldn't he give up? It was going to eat him up until he got him in trouble.
"The boys are worried," Dally said in a sort of calm voice. "Two-Bit was going to Texas to hunt for you. Mia's been chewing herself up with worry."
"My parents," His words were slow to come out, like he knew what could possibly happen if he asked the question again. "did they ask about me?"
"No," Dally snapped out. "they didn't. Blast it, Johnny, what do they matter? Shoot, my old man don't give a hang whether I'm in jail jail or dead in a car wreck or drunk in a gutter. That don't bother me none." Johnny stayed silent, and I could see the hurt in his eyes as he starred at the back of the seat. I wanted to reach over and wrap him in a hug, but Dally would probably snap. His whole life he had talked about tough love being the way to make people grow up and get smart about the world, I'd never thought I would follow his methods.
"Johnny, Johnny come on, listen to me." I tried to use the opposite approach that Dally had used. Johnny looked up at me and I tried to forget how badly I wanted to get that look out of his eyes. "I know you want them to love you and – stay out of this Dallas!" I turned to glare at Dally when his mouth opened to say something. He gave me a look and turned back to the steering wheel, and I turned back to Johnny. "But sometimes we don't get what we want. You really think I wanted to get kicked out of my house in New York? Sometimes we get stuck with people who don't love us as much as we wish they would, but we just have to live with that and deal with it. Understand?" When he didn't react, I figured out where Dally's anger came from. I held my breath until my face turned red, but couldn't help it. "Johnny. You're lucky that you at least have another group of people who cared for you. You don't need your parents when you have all of us who'd do anything for you. You think I had that when I was growing up?! I had a group of criminals who all thought that girls should bow down to them and whatever they wanted. All the guys I was around were cheating, fighting, idiotic jerks who couldn't stay sober for a week. You need to learn to live without them, OK?" When he still didn't answer, Dally cussed beside me and shoved the car into gear. He was pissed now, since normally I could talk anyone into going along with what I said. I could feel the anger coming off of him in harsh waves.
I turned back around so that I was facing the road that blurred in front of us. I knew Dally meant what he said about his parents. Both our fathers had been drunk idiots who we had never respected – even to this point. We'd grown up without our parents around, and neither of us could understand why Johnny seemed to need to have the love of his parents so bad.
All I wanted was for the look that was now in Johnny's eyes to go away. He was a good kid, a good fighter and though a little slow on understanding things, he was a smart too. His only problem was that he couldn't taken being called out for being sensitive, and Dally and I telling him that he didn't need his parents the way we just were wasn't exactly the best way to keep him feeling good.
"Blast it, Johnny," Dally's voice made me jump a little as he reached a straight of road and picked up a bit of speed. "why didn't you think of turning yourself in five days ago? It would have saved a lot of trouble."
"I was scared," Johnny said from the seat behind me. There was a short pause. "I still am." He ran his hand through his cut short hair and sighed. "I guess we ruined our hair for nothing, Ponyboy."
"I guess so." He said, and it was the first thing I'd heard come out of his mouth since he told Dally about guns killing people.
Dally was scowling and all I could do was sit quietly and hope that Dally didn't drive us off the road in his anger.
I took a glance in the rear view mirror at Johnny, who was looking so sad I almost wanted to cry. I hated being mad at him, and seeing him so sad made the anger fall away. I nudged Dally and nodded my head at the backseat. Dally took a quick glance and sighed through his teeth.
"Johnny," He bit out. I heard the pleading note in his voice that he only ever used when he really wanted something. "Johnny, I ain't mad at you. I just don't want you to get hurt. You don't know what a few months in jail can do to you. Oh, blast it, Johnny," He ran a hand back through his hair – which I was noticing once again needed to be cut. "you get hardened in jail. I don't want that to happen to you. Like it happened to me..." He looked at me and I could see the silent plea for additional help, but I shrugged. He gave me a glare and I tried to think of something to say, but couldn't. How could I top Dally admitting to how hard it was when we were kids?
The remembrance of the jail cells and the dark streets, plus the dark shadows that loomed in the darkness, waiting to jump out at you crawled forward in my mind, and the bright sun that still held some heat, didn't feel so warm anymore. There was nothing I could say that would have as much meaning as that short statement.
"Would you rather have me living in hide-outs for the rest of my life, always on the run?" I looked at Dally, and then at Johnny. Johnny had looked up to Dally since we first got to Tulsa. The look I saw in his eyes was one of pure loyalty – he'd do just that if Dally told him to, and that was almost scary.
I had turned in my seat, and was about to answer the question when the car jerked forward and back from Dally slamming on the brakes.
I spun back around and was about to snap at him for the sudden stop when I saw the smoke – rising from the church.
"Oh, glory!" Dally whispered, and all I could do was stare with my mouth open at the church, with flames licking their way through the roof.
"Let's go see what the deal is," Ponyboy said and jumped out of the car.
"What for?" Dally asked in an irritated voice. "Get back in here before I beat your head in." But both boys were now out of the car and making there way across the space that was left between the car and the crowd that was standing a safe distance from the church. "I'm talking to deaf people." Dally said as he cursed under his breath. "Get going after them!" He snapped and I rolled my eyes, but didn't argue. This was no time to argue.
I jumped out as he swung the car around to get it closer to the church and parked it before coming after me. I saw Ponyboy and Johnny standing next to a man who was calling after the kids. Just than, a woman came up beside them, looking frantic. I started to jog towards them, but before I got there, Johnny and Ponyboy took off towards the church. The man took hold of Ponyboy's arm, but he pulled himself loose and kept going.
"Hey!" I called after them as I picked up my pace. "Stop! Don't you dare go in that church! Why are they going in that church?" I demanded as I got up to the two adults.
"There are kids in there!" The woman said frantically, and the man started to comfort her, guiding her towards another group of adults who were watching over the children – the ones who weren't stupid enough to sit in a church while it burned around them.
"Oh no." I said and started after the boys who were now getting into the church through a window that Ponyboy had broken with a large rock.
I reached the window and was about to start through, when a hand grabbed my arm and pulled me back, I spun around to see Dallas holding tight to my arm.
"Don't you dare, Mia!" He snapped. "They're stupid enough. You don't need to go along with them." I glared at him, but something about the way he was looking at me told me that it was a bad idea to argue at this point. It hadn't been an easy-going day so far for him, and I didn't feel like making things worse than they were turning out to be now. So I stepped back and let him get close to the window.
"For Pete's sake, get outa there!" He glanced up at the roof. "The roof's gonna cave any minute.
Forget those blasted kids!" I bounced on my toes for a second as another kid dropped out the window. Next thing I knew, Ponyboy was flying out the window, Dally's jacket burning.
Dally grabbed him and pulled him to the ground. That was before the scream – Johnny's scream.
I didn't hesitate to jump at the window to get through, the thought of Johnny dying in this rotting, burning church made me want to cry already.
But the frame of the window was burning, and it started to cave as I pulled through – a large piece hitting me in the shoulder.
I managed a strangled scream, even as the smoke coming out the window started to clog my throat. But I still tried to pull myself through, only to have hands grab my shoulders and drag me to the ground. My eyes burned with smoke, but I saw Dally standing over me for half a second before he was through the window. I tired to get up after him, but the pain in my shoulder seemed to scorch the rest of my body, and I collapsed with a heavy breath hissing through my teeth. I blacked out at that point, my last thought being the hope that Dally and Johnny made it out of this alive.