4. How It Began


Now to take a step to understand what just happened. On that night we accepted three more into our group. Should we have done it? I don’t give a damn what you think, but you’re welcome to your opinion anyway. So, who were these people that joined us that night and challenged our authority? Good question, let’s run a bit of a background check. First up, Mr. Justin, Justin what?

Justin Connor was boyfriend to one Angela Martin, sister of one Josephine “Jo” Martin. They moved here from Mississippi or something like that, a small town similar to our own. They knew how it worked, and how to work it. They came from problem families like us. Angela and Jo had run away, Justin wandered. They stayed together as we did. Justin was 19 I believe, Angela was 18 and her sister was 15, going on 16. She was a bit young to be with them, but I guess they had their reasons. They were fearless and would march headlong into the depths of Hell, should it be necessary.

They didn’t tell us much about their family lives, but hey, give it time. They were smart as anything, had a lot of street smarts. They were into the drugs and what not a bit, not Jo yet. Angela was very protective of her it seems. Jo was still young; we couldn’t blame her for being overprotective. Some of us could relate, having siblings of our own, some that we could live without and some that we’d die for. We set aside differences as quickly and easily as possible, established peace, and stayed at the bridge that night. They had challenged us against bad odds, and I give them credit for that.

Justin was just a little bashed in and bruised from our scuffle, just like most of us. Angela wasn’t hurt too bad at all; she just didn’t want to fight. Jo had never been in such a big fight and lost hard. Seems a few tough blows to the stomach had cracked some ribs, but she swore she was okay. Angela was concerned, but we convinced them to try and sleep. We stretched out and slept in little couples. Melissa stayed with me, hugging her sister close. Seth and Eileen found a corner, as did Shawn and Christine. Looking over at the trio I saw Justin and Angela hugging close with Jo sitting quietly on the side. She didn’t belong here, but what was there to be done? The night wore on and one by one, we drifted into sleep.

The morning sun rose slowly; and there was that returning chill. My eyes were heavy with weariness; I rubbed them to awaken myself. Everybody was in the same place that they were when they fell asleep. Running through names and faces I realized Melissa wasn’t where I thought she’d be. I got up carefully in the early morning hours and walked quietly to the railing of the bridge. Melissa was standing there with arms folded, staring out into space. Moving up behind her I followed her glance. Hugging her close, we rocked a bit in the dawn.

“Isn’t it pretty? The sunrise, a new day is dawning, life goes on. What are our plans for today, if there are any?” She was still looking out at the distant horizon.

“Today I’ll go with a few of the guys, straighten out your father. Then we can go and do whatever you want, this day is yours.” Her father, his memory had faded, but was not forgotten. Under normal circumstances she’d never let me even think it. The rules were changed now; times were different. What did I expect her to say? What reaction did I want? I’d have to hope for the best. Her silence was disturbing.

“Fine, but on two conditions. One, you don’t hurt him.” She turned around to face me; I met her with a smile. “Two, I’m going with you.” My smile disappeared in an instant. We couldn’t take her; it was too much of a chance. But she’d already decided…

I hung my head down to show I was thinking, and moved a few steps away. I couldn’t argue; she’d win hands down. Who would I take? Let’s see, Gus, Locke, Seth and Shawn were musts. Eileen and Christine well, we’d see about that, it was up to them. Someone would have to stay with her sister, keep her away. I wasn’t going to wake anybody up…wait a minute, forgetting three aren’t I? I don’t know about them, they’re so new to the clan, well, time will tell. I wasn’t going to wake people up. I nodded a somewhat disagreeable sign of agreement, which she responded to with a hug. We stood and watched the sun rise in its entirety.

The next to awake was Seth; he left Eileen to sleep. She needed it; lately there was a lot on her mind. I told him about our course of action, and he agreed to go along with me. Next after Seth was Christine. We asked her whether she wanted to go or not, to which she said she’d stay at the bridge with Melissa’s sister, Andrea. In the meantime we each lit a cigarette and watched the smoke float up into the morning air. Next of our bunch was Jo. She seemed lost, dazed and confused; she was awake but wouldn’t come over to us. Some of our youngest members weren’t heavily involved; they had limits that we understood. Looking down from the bridge I saw Locke and Gus taking a stroll.

Seth and I threw stones out into the river to let them know we were there. They looked up, laughed, and returned a few to us. We signaled for them to be quiet, so they started up the hill. With a loud yawn we turned to see Shawn waking up, smiling about being so obvious. Justin was also rubbing sleep from his eyes, his movement set Angela into action, and Seth gently whispered to Eileen to wake her up. By ten we were all perfectly awake and gone through at least two cigarettes apiece, with the exception of Jo. We made our plans and decided to carry them out as soon as possible.

Jo, Andrea, Christine and Eileen would stay on the bridge. Melissa, Gus, Shawn, Seth, Locke, Justin, Angela and myself would go to the house to settle the score. We set ourselves into motion, heading out for the house. The walk was quiet, rules and standards explained, the mood understood. The house itself had two doors, front and back, and we decided to wait outside of each. We decided Locke should go to the back door, in case the lock needed to be picked. With him went Shawn, Seth and Gus. With me went Melissa, Angela and Justin. Of course we rang the doorbell, to be polite. Also, to catch our “victim” by surprise. We waited momentarily for him to answer the door.

“Mind if we come in sir? We have to talk.” His expression faded, his eyes dilated, color disappeared. He turned to run and we ran, cutting over furniture, after him. Shawn was there to meet him at the back door when Locke swung it open. He picked up the man and tossed him back, into us. We caught him and held him down in a chair. Our back door gang was sure to keep him there; Justin and Angela took seats to talk quietly. I stepped forward, Melissa in tow.

“Now, there seems to be a bit of a problem between you and me, understand? You don’t seem to know what it means to be a proper father, and I don’t like it. I see how you’re treating these kids, and that’s got to stop, hear me? Now, we aren’t going to hurt you here today, we’re giving you a second chance. Your daughter seems to believe you’re a good person. Now, we’re warning you, quit or we come back and have another little chat. Course, it’ll be a bit more painful. You understand me scumbag?”

I smelt alcohol on his breath, figures. He woke up and started drinking without a pause; that would really mess him up for awhile. Meaning? They, being Melissa and Andrea, couldn’t go home until he was somewhat normal again. His eyes were wild and random, but he focused.

For a moment he stared at me, and from me to his daughter. He knew he was screwed, but he made a lunge anyway. He was pulled back down in the chair. He didn’t understand. I cleared my throat to continue. Justin jumped up and stepped over.

“Listen here, you straighten out or we come back here and do it for you, get me?” I couldn’t have said it better myself or in as few words. The man’s eyes narrowed, but he understood. Melissa stepped forward to look at him up close. She whispered something we couldn’t hear, gave him a quick hug and walked away. We let him go and followed her out the front door. Moving briskly we walked at a calm pace, straight back to the bridge, in complete silence. The few that had stayed behind saw us coming. Seeing everybody was present and looked unharmed they were happy.

“Well, what happened?” Christine got the question out before Eileen could. We smiled about it because we knew they each wanted to be the first to know. Shawn explained while we thought about what to do next in order to burn time. School was open, so we headed there. Might as well show the new kids round, right? Course, and so we did. We all went this time, lighting a smoke along the way. Can’t have a good day without a few, right? Or you wouldn’t know? Oh well, life goes on. The halls were free of the “busy bees” that were off in their classes, learning no doubt. What a waste of time, you can learn all you need to know to survive from life itself. No textbook ever told me about the important stuff, and they never will.

Our school wasn’t big on security; sometimes they didn’t even know we were there. The bell rang as we wandered around, but we didn’t have a problem getting through. We had a reputation here too, just like everywhere else. The problem was, Justin, Angela and Jo didn’t quite fit into that rep, as well as Andrea. The crowd parted for our passing, we waited for the fools to run back to their ignorant teachers, like lapdogs always wanting to please. Suck ups, they wouldn’t go too far in life. They’ll all learn, the hard way. As for me, I want to be standing there right when they do. Why? So I can laugh and know that I’m better off, to see perfection falter, that’s what I want to see.

Course there was a slim chance of ever seeing it, but what the hell – why not hope? We cut through for the hell of it, just to see what would happen. Seems we lost track of a few people. Turning around we scanned the area. The four that I just mentioned were elsewhere. The remaining six of us split up and took different halls. Less than five minutes later there was a yell, to which we responded as quickly as possible. Arriving on the scene we nearly knocked each other over, but instead tottered a bit. We ended up in the parking lot, where a circle was formed of kids staring at the center. Pushing and shoving our way through we saw a fight had begun. More like four fights at once, and the odds weren’t too great.

We were the instigators? We knew them well, they tried to form a gang, but couldn’t keep it together. They’d challenged us and failed miserably, seems they’d gotten back together while we were away. We each grabbed the closest ones and taught them a thing or two about respect. This was probably the biggest fight they’d ever seen, as well as the shortest. If we hung around more, this kind of thing wouldn’t have happened at often. Oh well, so it goes? We had more important things to do than babysit. True the school was incompetent, but that was the parents’ problem, not ours. We took the few that belonged with us and were on our way.

Justin was shook up about what happened, he just wouldn’t calm down. Way too much energy, sleep was a must. I would’ve hit him just for a moment of silence, but…

I was better than that; we were better than that. We supported each other and that meant tolerance at all times. It sucked but that was the way it worked. After awhile it’s rote, it goes with the whole “group” experience. He was babbling on and on about some sort of plan, who knows? We tuned him out for the most part; and I know I would continue to until he started making some sense. From here Shawn and Christine went their own way; Locke and Gus had left before we got to the school. We agreed to go to my house, being my family gave up on worrying about any of us, and my mother seemed nice. She really didn’t make comment about whom I came home with; she didn’t want to know. Can you really blame her?

The afternoon was wasted on nothing, and by the time we reached the house it remained the same. The peaceful yet disruptive silence gave an edge to the setting sun. We stopped for a while to watch it go down, and from there arrived at the Thompson household. There was a light left on by the front door, it was always on. When I was young my father came home late from work one night. He couldn’t see, tripped over who knows what and broke his leg. I still think he was drunk, but I was young. All I remember was his yelling in the middle of the night; woke up half the neighborhood. Idiot…

The house was dark; meaning family was out or something. It was a Friday night, they could have been anywhere, didn’t bother me any. Up the stairs was my room, and that’s where we hung out, blasting music, talking, whatever. Justin, Angela and Jo were introduced around a bit more; we understood each other. They fit in perfectly. After awhile of small meaningless conversation, Justin spoke out.

“You just let them get away with that kind of thing? I mean, you don’t do anything?” His voice was slow and cautious; the words well picked, thought out, careful. I wasn’t sure of what he was talking about until…course. How could I be so blind? He meant like a “terrorist situation”, another Columbine, if you will. Was he insane, or were we? Glances were exchanged; we couldn’t agree to something of this…risk. People could die; it was that simple. The scariest part of the conversation was that he was serious. Dead serious, as serious as a heart attack…

So what to do now? What would you do/say, how would you react? I turned to Melissa; her face was blank. I looked across, face to face; person to person, each held a similar stare. What could we do?

“Well?” He had a child’s enthusiasm, eager to do and accomplish. What he was talking about was too much; it was suicide! We were kids, still very young, why throw our lives away? But he had a point, that school needed something to shake it up, help it wake up a bit, see more. That school could have that happen any day now. Innocent people would get caught in the crossfire. We couldn’t let that happen any more then we could go in and do it ourselves. I had an idea. It wasn’t a great one, there were a hundred and one bugs in it, but it was a plan nevertheless. As a group I think we could figure it out.

“Here’s what I’m thinking. We go through with it, but carefully and well planned out. Nobody gets hurt. Unloaded weapons, masked faces, all that, whole nine yards. Basically we’re just going to shake them up a bit, pretend to go through with it, then take off when we get our chance. Nobody gets hurt; they get a taste of reality and straighten up. If we’re careful, we get off scot-free, they’ll have learned their lesson, and things will be a bit more controlled round here. I know, there’s a lot to risk, but we can plan in more depth tomorrow, but that’s the main concept. Well, so we consider it?”

Nervous glances exchanged, we concluded with one spoken word, “Agreed”.

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