The gang reads

Chapter 6

Chapter Six

A/N: I do not own the Outsiders.

"Alright. Chapter five." Soda said, slightly nervous about what the book would reveal next.

"I woke up late in the afternoon. For a second I didn't know where I was. You know how it is, when you wake up in a strange place and wonder where in the world you are, until memory comes rushing over you like a wave."

"And that's why you're not a morning person."

"Shut it Two-Bit."

"I half convinced myself that I had dreamed everything that had happened the night before. I'm really home in bed, I thought. It's late and both Darry and Sodapop are up. Darry's cooking breakfast, and in a minute he and Soda will come in and drag me out of bed and wrestle me down and tickle me until I think I'll die if they don't stop. It's me and Soda's turn to do the dishes after we eat, and then we'll all go outside and play football. Johnny and Two-Bit and I will get Darry on our side, since Johnny and I are so small and Darry's the best player."

"So like this?" Darry reached over and began to tickle his youngest brother. Soda set the book down and helped out a bit.

"Uncle!"

"Alright."

They missed the small look that had passed between Two-Bit and Steve. It was simple: Thank God Pony's not bashing Darry anymore.

"It'll go like the usual weekend morning. I tried telling myself that while I lay on the cold rock floor, wrapped up in Dally's jacket and listening to the wind rushing through the tree's dry leaves outside. Finally I quit pretending and pushed myself up. I was stiff and sore from sleeping on that rock floor, but I had never slept so soundly."

Soda paused there and looked at his little brother. For as long as he could remember, Pony always had nighmares.

"What Soda?" Pony asked, as he noticed him staring at him.

"I'm not sleeping on a stone floor for you to get a good night's sleep."

"Good. I'm not asking you to."

"I was still groggy. I pushed off Johnny's jeans jacket, which had somehow got thrown across me, and blinked, scratching my head. It was awful quiet, with just the sound of the rushing wind in the trees. Suddenly, I realized that Johnny wasn't there. "Johnny?" I called loudly, and that old wooden church echoed me, onny, onny,…I looked around wildly, almost panic-stricken, but then caught sight of some crooked lettering written in the dust of the floor. Went to get supplies. Be back soon. J.C. I sighed, and went to the pump to get a drink. The water from it was like liquid ice and it tasted funny, but it was water. I splashed some on my face and that woke me up pretty quick."

"Of course it did." Steve muttered. He remembered some of the conversations he had with the kid before and after he'd taken a shower. The kid was easier to talk to when awake, that's all Steve had to say.

I wiped my face off on Johnny's jacked and sat down on the back steps. The hill the church was on dropped off suddenly about twenty feet from the back door and you could see for miles and miles. It was like sitting on the top of the world. When you haven't got anything to do, you remember things in spite of yourself. I could remember every detail of the whole night, but it had the unreal quality of a dream. It seemed much longer than twenty-four hours since Johnny and I had met Dally at the corner of Pickett and Sutton.

"Wouldn't it be less? Seeing as it wasn't that evening yet?" Two-Bit asked, and then ducked. When he didn't feel the fluffy goodness of the pillows, he looked up to see everyone staring at him.

"What?"

"Dude, you made sense!" Soda said, getting a laugh out of everyone.

"Maybe it was. Maybe Johnny had been gone a whole week and I had just slept. Maybe he had already been worked over by the fuzz and was waiting to get the electric chair since he wouldn't tell where I was. Maybe Dally had been killed in a car wreck or something and no one would ever know where I was and I'd just die up here, alone, and turn into a skeleton. My over-active imagination was running away with me again. Sweat ran down my face and back, and I was trembling. My head swam, and I leaned back and closed my eyes. I guess it was partly delayed shock. Finally my stomach calmed down and I relaxed a little, hoping Johnny would remember cigarettes."

"Pony, if you become an author," Darry said, "leave out any imagination. It might be a little too nerve wracking."

"Yeah, yeah. Everyone's a comedian." Pony grumbled.

"I was scared, sitting there by myself. I heard someone coming up through the dead leaves toward the back of the church, and I ducked inside the door. Then I heard a whistle, long and low, ending in a sudden high note. I knew that whistle well enough. It was used by us and the Shepard gang for "Who's there?" I returned it carefully, and darted out the door so fast that I fell off the steps and sprawled flat under Johnny's nose. I propped myself on my elbows and grinned up at him. "Hey, Johnny. Fancy meetin' you here." He looked down at me over a big package.

Steve, Two-Bit and Tim took one look at Pony and burst out laughing.

"Oh get your mind out of the gutter." Darry said, slapping Two-Bit over the head while pelting a pillow at the other two.

"I swear, Ponyboy, you're getting' to act more like Two-Bit every day.""

"And that's a bad thing?" Two-Bit asked.

"Yes." Almost everyone else stated.

"I tried unsuccessfully to cock up an eyebrow. "Who's acting?""

"Hey! There is only one Two-Bit Mathews!"

"Sure, Two-Bit."

"Whatever you say."

"I rolled over and sprang up, happy that someone was there. "What'd you get?" "Come on inside. Dally told us to stay inside." We went in. Johnny dusted off a table with his jacket and stated taking things out of the sack and lining them neatly "A week's supply of baloney, two loaves of bread, a box of matches…" Johnny went on. I got tired of watching him do it all, so I started digging into the sack myself. "Whee!" I sat down on a dusty chair and stared. "A paperback copy of Gone with the Wind! How'd you know I always wanted one?""

"Because it's you and it was a book?" Steve asked.

"Shut it Randle."

"Johnny reddened. "I remembered you sayin' something about it once. And me and you went to see that movie, 'member? I thought you could maybe read it out loud and help kill time or something." "Gee, thanks." I put the book down reluctantly. I wanted to start it right then. "Peroxide? A deck of cards…" Suddenly I realized something. "Johnny you ain't thinking of…" Johnny sat down and pulled out his knife. "We're gonna cut our hair, and you're gonna bleach yours." He looked at the ground carefully. "They'll have our descriptions in the paper. We can't fit 'em.""

"Smart." Darry said.

"Stupid" Soda interjected.

"But smart." Pony finished.

""Oh, no!" My hand flew to my hair. "No, Johnny, not my hair!""

Steve burst out in laughter. "You know how girlish you just sounded?"

"What if it were you?" Pony asked amid the gall of laughter.

That shut them up nice and good.

"It was my prided. It was long and silky, just like Soda's, only a little redder. Our hair was tuff—we didn't have to use much grease on it. Out hair labeled us greasers, too—it was our trademark. The one thing we were proud of. Maybe we couldn't have Corvairs or madras shirts, but we could have hair. "We'd have to anyway if we got caught. You know the first thing the judge does is make you get a haircut." " I don't see why," I said sourly. "Dally could just as easily mug somebody with short hair.""

"So true." Two-Bit muttered.

""I don't know either—it's just a way of trying to break us. They can't really do anything to guys like Curly Shepard of Tim; they've had about everything done to them. And they can't take anything away from them because they don't have anything in the first place. So they cut their hair." I looked at Johnny imploringly. Johnny sighed. "I'm gonna cut mine too, and wash the grease out, but I can't bleach it. I'm too dark-skinned to look okay blond. Oh, come on, Ponyboy," he pleaded. "It'll grow back." "Okay," I said, wide-eyed. "Get it over with.""

"You, dear sir," Two-Bit said with a look of shock on his face.

"Are a good friend." Steve finished. No one else there would have done that.

"Johnny flipped out the razor-edge of his switch, took hold of my hair, and started sawing on it. I shuddered. "Not too short," I begged. "Johnny, please…" Finally it was over with. My hair looked funny, scattered over the floor in tufts. "It's lighter than I thought it was," I said, examining it. "Can I see what I look like now?" "No," Johnny said slowly, staring at me. "We gotta bleach it first." After I'd sat in the sun for fifteen minutes to dry the bleach, Johnny let me look in the old cracked mirror we'd found in a closet. I did a double take. My hair was even lighter than Sodapop's. I'd never combed it back to the side like that. It just didn't look like me. It made me younger, and scareder too. Boy howdy, I though, this really makes me look tuff."

"No it doesn't." Two-Bit said, confused.

"Sarcasm goes right over your head doesn't it?" Steve asked.

"Yep."

"I look like a blasted pansy. I was miserable. Johnny handed me the knife. He looked scared too. "Cut the front and thin out the rest. I'll comb it back after I wash it." "Johnny," I said tiredly, "you can't wash your hair in that freezing water in this weather. You'll get a cold." He only shrugged. "Go ahead and cut it." I did the best I could. He went ahead and washed it anyway, using the bar of soap he'd bought. I was glad I had had to run away with him instead of with Two-Bit or Steve or Dally. That would be one thing they'd never think of—soap. I gave him Dally's jacket to wrap up in, and he sat shivering in the sunlight on the back steps, leaning against the door, combing his hair back. It was the first time I could see that he had eyebrows. His forehead was whiter where his bangs had been; it would have been funny if we hadn't been so scared. He was still shivering with cold."

"That's not good." Darry looked grim. "If you two had gotten sick, it might have been worse. No one but Dally knew where you were but you had no phone to reach him with."

""I guess, " he said weakly, "I guess we're disguised." I leaned back next to him sullenly. "I guess so." "Oh shoot," Johnny said with fake cheerfulness, "it's just hair." "Shoot nothing," I snapped. "It took me along time to get that hair just the way I wanted it. And besides, this just ain't us. It's like being in a Halloween costume we can't get out of." "Well, we got to get used to it," Johnny said with finality. "We're in big trouble and it's our looks or us.""

"Could someone tell me what the point of that was?" Tim asked. "Dally said to not go outside, and he wouldn't have picked a place for you two to hide if there were a ton of people there. Was Johnny going to throw a party or something?"

"I guess it was so we could feel safer, I dunno."

"I started eating a candy bar. "I'm still tired," I said. To my surprise, the ground blurred and I felt tears running down my cheeks. I brushed them off hurriedly. Johnny looked as miserable as I felt. "I'm sorry I cut your hair off Ponyboy." "Oh it ain't that," I said between bites of chocolate. "I mean, not all of it. I'm just a little spooky. I really don't know what's the matter. I'm just mixed up." "I know," Johnny said through chattering teeth as we went inside. "Things have been happening so fast…" I put my arm across his shoulders to warm him up. "Two-Bit shoulda been in that little one-horse store. Man, we're in the middle of nowhere, the nearest house is two miles away Things were layin' right open, just waitin' for somebody slick like Two-Bit to come and pick 'em up. He coulda walked out with half the store.""

"Now there's a complement."

"Your ego's bigger than your sideburns. I think you can live without one or two adorations of your illegal talent."

"He leaned back beside me, and I could feel him trembling. "Good ol' Two-Bit," he said in a quavering voice. He must have been as homesick as I was. "Remember how he was wisecrakin' last night?" I said. "Last night...just last night we were walkin' Cherry and Marcia over to Two-Bit's. Just last night we were layin' in the lot, looking up at the stars and dreaming…" "Stop it!" Johnny gasped from between clenched teeth. "Shut up about last night! I killed a kid last night. He couldn't of been over seventeen or eighteen, and I killed him. How'd you like to live with that?"

"But it was self-defense!" Soda cried. "It wasn't murder."

"Beside, Johnny probably did the Soc a favor. Better to die on a greaser's blade than by a grenade halfway around the world." Steve muttered.

"There is no good way to die, Steve." Pony said, but even he felt nervous talking about the war. It was a taboo subject; if they didn't talk about it, it didn't exist. Simple.

"He was crying. I held him like Soda had held him the day we found him lying in the lot. "I didn't mean to," he finally blurted out, "but they were drownin' you and I was so cared…" He was quiet for minute. "There sure is a lot of blood in people." He got up suddenly and began pacing back and forth, slapping his pockets. "Whatta we gonna do?" I was crying by then. It was getting dark and I was cold and lonesome. I closed my eyes and leaned my head back, but the tears came anyway. "This is my fault," Johnny said in a miserable voice. He had stopped crying when I started. "For bringin' a little thirteen-year-old kid along. You ought to go home. You can't get into any trouble. You didn't kill him.""

"Out of complete and utter curiosity, why didn't you listen to him?" Steve asked.

"You'll see."

""No!""

"Glory, Soda!" Darry said, rubbing his ears. "You didn't have to shout."

"But I wanted to."

"I screamed at him. "I'm fourteen! I've been fourteen for a month! And I'm in it as much as you are. I'll stop crying in a minute…I can't help it." He slumped down beside me. "I didn't mean it like that Ponyboy. Don't cry, Pony, we'll be okay. Don't cry…" I leaned against him and bawled until I went to sleep. I woke up late that night. Johnny was resting against the wall and I was asleep on his shoulder. "Johnny?" I yawned. "You awake?" I was warm and sleepy. "Yeah," he said quietly. "We ain't gonna cry no more, are we?" "Nope. We're all cried out now. We're gettin' used to the idea. We're gonna be okay now." "That's what I thought." I said drowsily. Then for the first time since Dally and I had sat down behind those girls at the Nightly Double, I relaxed."

"Someone call the newspapers! Pony knows how to relax."

"Shut it Steve."

"Seriously kid. You are wound up."

"We could take whatever was coming now. The next four or five days were the longest days I've ever spent in my life. We killed time by reading Gone with the Wind and playing poker. Johnny sure did like that book, although he didn't know anything about the Civil War and even less about plantations, and I had to explain a lot of it to him. It amazed me how Johnny could get more meaning out of some of the stuff in there than I could—I was supposed to the deep one. Johnny had failed a year in school and never made good grades—he couldn't grasp anything that was shoved at him too fast, and I guess his teachers thought he was just plain dumb. But he wasn't. He was just a little slow to get things, and he liked to explore things once he did get them. He was especially stuck on the Southern gentlemen—impressed with their manners and charm. "I bet they were cool ol' guys," he said, his eyes glowing, after I had read the part about them riding into sure death because they were gallant. "They remind me of Dally.""

At the part where Pony explained that Johnny got stuff when it wasn't thrown in his face, Darry began to wonder if that wasn't the case for Soda as well. He was bright, in his own right.

"Dally?" Two-Bit laughed at the thought of Dally being gallant.

"Dally?"

"See?"

"No one was disagreeing with you Two-Bit."

"I said, startled. "Shoot, he ain't got any more manners than I do. And you saw how he treated those girls the other night. Soda's more like them Southern boys.""

"Okay!" Steve threw his hands up. "How many more complements are there in this dang book? Greek god, doll, southern boy… the list is endless."

"You're just jealous."

""Yeah…in the manners bit, and the charm, too, I guess," Johnny said slowly, "but one night I saw Dally getting picked up by the fuzz and he kept real cool and calm the whole time. They was gettin' him for breakin' out the windows in the school building, and it was Two-Bit who did that. And Dally knew it. But he just took the sentence without battin' an eye or even denyin' it. That's gallant.""

"I guess it is." Soda sighed.

"Wow, I never knew Dally took the fall for me. I just thought no one called the fuzz."

"That was the first time I realized the extent of Johnny's hero-worship for Dally Winston. Of all of us, Dally was the one I liked least. He didn't have Soda's understanding or dash, or Two-Bit's humor, or even Darry's superman qualities. But I realized that these three appealed to me because they were like the heroes in the novels I read. Dally was real. I liked my books and clouds and sunsets. Dally was so real he scared me."

Darry, Soda and Two-Bit looked over at Pony. They were touched that he felt so highly of them to compare them to heroes in his novels. It was the highest complement coming from him.

"Johnny and I never went to the front of the church. You could see the front from the road, and sometimes farm kids rode their horses by on their way to the store. So we stayed in the very back, usually sitting on the steps and looking across the valley. We could see for miles; see the ribbon of highway and the small dots that were houses and cars. We couldn't watch the sunset, since the back faced east, but I loved to look at the colors of the fields and the soft shadings of the horizon. One morning I woke up earlier than usual. Johnny and I slept huddled together for warmth—Dally had been right when he said it would get cold where we were going. Being careful not to wake Johnny up, I went to sit on the steps and smoke a cigarette."

"Pony, you're sitting on the steps of a wooden church smoking." Darry said, shaking his head.

"Yeah, pretty dumb huh?"

"The dawn was coming then. All the lower valley was covered with mist, and sometimes little pieces of it broke off and floated away in small clouds. The sky was lighter in the east, and the horizon was a thin golden line. The clouds changed from gray to pink, and the mist was touched with gold. There was a silent moment when everything held its breath, and then the sun rose. It was beautiful."

The group of boys—minus Pony—took a minute to visualize it in their heads. It did sound amazing. Darry looked over at his little brothers, and promised himself that he'd see one of those with Pony. If only so that he could see it for himself.

""Golly"—Johnny's voice beside me made me jump—"that sure was pretty." "Yeah." I sighed, wishing I had some paint to do a picture with while the sight was still fresh in my mind. "The mist was what was pretty," Johnny said. "All gold and silver." "Uhmmmm," I said, trying to blow a smoke ring. "Too bad it couldn't stay like that all the time." "Nothing gold can stay." I was remembering a poem I'd read once. "What?""

"Kid, if I can't do it," Tim chuckled, "I doubt you can."

"Nature's first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf's a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sake to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay."

Everybody was staring at Ponyboy, who had recited the whole thing as Soda read it.

"Glory kid! You still remember that?" Steve asked, running his hand through his hair.

"I like it," Pony shrugged.

"I should think so," Soda responded.

"What does it mean?" Two-Bit asked, genuinely curious.

"It depends on how you look at it," Pony responded.

"Huh?" Two-Bit asked, getting more and more confused.

"Soda, just read, will ya?" Pony said, laughing.

"Johnny was staring at me. "Where'd you learn that? That was what I meant." "Robert Frost wrote it. He meant more to it than I'm getting, though" I was trying to find the meaning the poem had in mind, but it eluded me. "I always remembered it because I never quite got what he meant by it." "You know," Johnny said slowly, "I never noticed colors and clouds and stuff until you kept reminding me about them. It seems like they were never there before." He thought for a minute. "Your family sure is funny.""

"And what does he mean by that?" Darry asked, his mood darkening swiftly.

"Chill, Dar."

""And what happens to be so funny about it?" I asked stiffly."

Darry smiled at his youngest brother, happy to not be the only one who thought Johnny was making fun of them or something.

"Johnny looked at me quickly. "I didn't mean nothing. I meant, well, Soda kinda looks like your mother did, but he acts jut exactly like your father. And Darry is the spittin' image of your father, but he ain't wild and laughing all the time like he was. He acts like your mother. And you don't act like either one." "I know," I said. "Well," I said thinking this over, "you ain't like any of the gang. I mean, I couldn't tell Two-Bit or Steve or even Darry about the sunrise and clouds and stuff. I couldn't even remember that poem around them. I mean, they just don't dig. Just you and Sodapop. And maybe Cherry Valance.""

"YES!" Steve jumped up and punched the air. "You, Soda buddy, just got dissed."

"I don't think so."

"Pepsi, you got compared to a Soc. That's the lowest of low."

"Pony would never insult me."

"Johnny shrugged. "Yeah," he said with a sigh. "I guess we're different." "Shoot," I said, blowing a perfect smoke ring, "maybe they are.""

"I don't believe it."

"Believe it Tim."

"By the fifth day I was so tired of baloney I nearly got sick every time I looked at it. We had eaten all our candy bars in the first two days. I was dying for a Pepsi. I'm what you might call a Pepsi addict. I drink them like a fiend, and going for five days without one was about to kill me. Johnny promised to get some if we ran out of supplies and had to get some more, but that didn't help me right then. I was smoking a lot more than I usually did—I guess because it was something to do—although Johnny warned me that I would get sick smoking so much. We were careful with our cigarettes—if that old church ever caught fire there'd be no stopping it. On the fifth day I had read up to Sherman's siege of Atlanta in Gone with the Wind, owed Johnny one hundred and fifty bucks from poker games, smoked two packs of Camels, and as Johnny had predicted, got sick. I hadn't eaten anything all day; and smoking on an empty stomach doesn't make you feel real great. I curled up in a corner to sleep off the smoke. I was just about asleep when I hear, as if from a great distance, a low long whistle that went off in a sudden high note."

"How did you lose that much money?"

"How did you have that much money?"

"Who from our gang would be up there?"

The questions were like rapid fire.

"I stink at poker, we agreed to wait until we got back—if we got back—and you'll have to let Soda read to find out."

"I was too sleepy to pay any attention, although Johnny didn't have any reason to be whistling like that. He was sitting on the back steps trying to read Gone with the Wind. I had almost decided I had dreamed the outside world and there was nothing real but baloney sandwiches and the Civil War and the old church and he mist in the valley. It seemed to me that I had always lived in the church, or maybe lived during the Civil War and had somehow got transplanted. That shows you what a wild imagination I have. A toe nudged me in the ribs. "Glory," said a rough but familiar voice, "he looks different with his hair like that." I rolled over and sat up, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes and yawning. Suddenly I blinked. "Hey, Dally!""

"Dally!"

"Good, you'll be able to get something not related to baloney to eat." Darry nodded. He got worried when it said that they weren't eating much.

""Hey Ponyboy!" He grinned down at me. "Or should I say Sleeping Beauty?" I never thought I'd live to see the day when I would be so glad to see Dally Winston, but right then he meant one thing: contact with the outside world. And that suddenly became real and vital. "How's Sodapop? Are the fuzz after us? Is Darry alright? Do the boys know where we are? What…""

"Now that's what I call rapid fire questions." Steve said, in awe.

"I think that's the most the kid's said after waking up." Two-Bit chuckled.

"Yeah, get yer jollies."

Darry on the other hand was touched that Pony, despite his feelings, thought enough of him to ask about his well-being.

""Hold on, kid," Dally broke in. "I can't answer everything at once. You two want to go get something to eat first? I skipped breakfast and I'm about starved." "You're starved?" Johnny was so indignant he nearly squeaked. I remembered the baloney. "Is it safe to go out?" I asked eagerly. "Yep." Dally searched his shirt pocket for a cigarette, and finding none, said, "Gotta cancer stick, Johnnycake?" Johnny tossed him a whole package. "The fuzz won't be lookin' for you around here," Dally said, lighting up. "They think you've lit out for Texas. I've got Buck's T-bird parked down the road a little way. Godshamighty, boys, ain't you been eatin' anything?" Johnny looked startled. "Yeah. Whatever gave you the idea we ain't?""

"Because all you have left is baloney?" Steve made a face.

"Dally shook his head. "You're both pale and you've lost weight. After this, get out in the sun more. You look like you've been thought the mill." I started to say "Look who's talking" but decided it would be safer not to. Dally needed a shave—a stubble of colorless beard covered his jaw—and he looked like he was the one who'd been sleeping in his clothes for a week instead of us; I knew he hadn't seen a barber in months. But it was safer not to get mouthy with Dally Winston."

"Smart kid," everyone there muttered under his breath

""Hey, Ponyboy"—he fumbled with a piece of paper in his back pocket—"I gotta letter for you." "A letter? Who from?" "The President, of course, stupid. It's from Soda." "Sodapop?" I said, bewildered. "But how did he know…?" "He came over to Buck's a couple of days ago for something and fount that sweat shirt. I told him I didn't know where you were, but he didn't believe me. He gave me this letter and half of his pay check to give you. Kid, you ought to see Darry. He's takin' this mighty hard…." I wasn't listening. I leaned back against the side of the church and read: "

"That obvious?" Darry muttered into Soda's ear.

"Blind squirrels would have been able to tell you were worried about him, Darry."

"You've spent too much time around Two-Bit."

Ponyboy,

Well I guess you got yourself into some trouble, huh? Darry and me nearly went nuts when you ran out like that. Darry is awful sorry he hit you. You know he didn't mean it. And then you and Johnny turned up missing and what with that dead kid in the park and Dally getting hauled into the station, well it scared us something awful. The policed came by to question us and we told them as much as we could. I can't believe little old Johnny could kill somebody. I know Dally knows where you are, but you know him. He keeps his trap shut and won't tell me nothing. Darry hasn't got the slightest notion where you're at and it is nearly killing him. I wish you'd come back and turn your selfves in but I guess you can't since Johnny might get hurt. You sure are famous. You got a paragraph in the paper even. Take care and say hi to Johnny for us.

Sodapop Curtis

"Nice letter buddy." Steve said, serious for once.

"Where'd you find the time?" Two-Bit asked.

"When I was at the desk at the DX." Soda shrugged.

"He could improve his spelling, I thought after reading it through three or four times."

"Hey!"

"An insult!"

"Can it, Steve!"

"Three or four times? Wow, that's almost obsessive."

"I don't obsess."

Everyone shot Pony a look of disbelief.

"I think a lot."

""How come you got hauled in?" I asked Dally.

"Because he's Dallas Winston." Tim replied with a smirk.

"Shoot, kid"—he grinned wolfishly—"them boys at the station know me by now. I get hauled in for everything that happens in our turf. While I was there I kinda let it slip that y'all were headin' for Texas."

"How in the world did he come up with that?" Soda asked.

"Johnny always wanted to go to Texas. Guess he remembered."

"So that's where they're lookin'." He took a drag on his cigarette and cussed it good- naturedly for it not being a Kool. Johnny listened n admiration. "You sure can cuss good, Dally." "Sure can," Dally agreed wholeheartedly, proud of his vocabulary. "But don't you kids get to pickin' up my bad habits." He gave me a hard rub on the head. "Kid, I swear it don't look like you with your hair all cut off. It used to look tuff. You and Soda had the coolest-lookin' hair in town." "I know," I said sourly. "I look lousy, but don't rub it in." "Do y'all want something to eat or not?" Johnny and I leaped up. "You'd better believe it." "Gee," Johnny said wistfully, "it sure will be good to get into a car again." "Well," Dally drawled, "I'll give you a ride for your money." Dally always did like to drive fast, as if he didn't care whether he got where he was going or not, and we came down the red dirt road off Jay Mountain going eighty-five."

"The man was insane, that's all I'm gonna say." Darry said.

"Wow, and I thought Dally was gonna get another death threat." Steve muttered.

"I like fast driving and Johnny was crazy about drag races, but we both got a little green around the gills when Dally took a corner on two wheels with the brakes screaming. Maybe it was because we hadn't been in a car for so long. We stopped at a Dairy Queen and the first thing I got was a Pepsi. Johnny and I gorged on barbecue sandwiches and banana splits. "Glory," Dallas said, amazed, watching us gulp the stuff down."

"Pigs." Steve sneered.

"Baloney." Pony sang/hissed.

"I meant pig. As in Dally, being a pig for watching you eat."

"Nice save." Soda gave his friend a pat on the back.

""You don't need to make like every mouthfuls' your last. I got plenty of money. Take it easy, I don't want you getting sick on me. And I thought I was hungry." Johnny merely ate faster."

"A Dally order? Disobeyed?" Two-Bit gasped, clutching his heart.

"It must not be Johnny!" Steve cried.

"I didn't slow down until I got a headache. "I didn't tell y'all something," Dally said, finishing his third hamburger. "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 said, frightened. "You kill people with heaters!" "Ya kill 'em with switchblades, too, don't ya, kid?""

"Uncalled for!" Tim yelled. "It wasn't the kid, it was Johnny and Dally knew it."

"Dally said in a hard voice. Johnny gulped. "Don't worry," Dally went on. "it ain't loaded. I ain't aiming 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 log. We got hold of the president of one of their social clubs and had a war council. Yeah"—Dally sighed, and I knew he was remembering New York—"just like the good old days. If they win, things go on as usual. If we do, they stay outa our territory but good.""

"Wish it would stay that way." Steve muttered. He was always getting Socs hounding him around the DX on his way to work.

"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. He, I didn't tell you we got us a spy." "A spy?" Johnny looked up from his banana split. "Who?" "That good-lookin' broad I tried to pick up that night you kill the Soc. The redhead, Cherry what's-her-name.""

"And that's the end of that chapter." Soda smirked. "Tim, it's your turn to read."

"No, I don't think so."

"Please?" Everyone but Darry begged.

"Oh, fine. Give me the stupid book."

A/N: Yes, this is an update. Not a test. I had some free time today, so I thought I'd finish up and post this chapter. Someone asked for an update before the end of the month, so I'm updating.

Thanks to Today-Only-Happens-Once for more comment ideas. If anyone else has something that they want to add, just PM me.

Review, please!

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