Troy ran down the street, his heart beating so loudly it drowned out the sound of the cars driving past. His muscles burned and ached, but he kept running, afraid someone was following him. He finally took a sharp right behind the old diner. He stopped by the dumpster, his hands on his knees, panting. He looked down the road and breathed a sigh of relief when he saw it was empty.
“Troy!” The voice startled Troy, and he turned to see his friends Aaron and James leaning against the dumpster, smoking cigarettes. “You took over a half hour! Where are the smokes?”
“Cool it, Aaron. I got your cigarettes.” Troy threw a pack of Camel at Aaron. “Besides, I got somethin’ much better then that.”
“Out with it man.” James stepped forward towards Troy and blew smoke in his face.
“You can’t tell nobody, ya hear?” Troy reached into his pocket and pulled out a small handgun. Aaron and James both stepped forward in disbelief and stared at the gun. Troy thought he heard a car and stuffed the gun back in his pocket.
“Where did ya get that?” Aaron threw his cigarette on the ground and stepped on it. He ran his hands through his greasy, black hair.
“I knocked over old Mrs. Caliber’s house. Who would’ve known she had a gun on top her refrigerator next to her cash plate?”
“That’s sick, man.” James looked excited, and Troy knew that wasn’t good. James was the idiot of the group. When he was younger, kids called him carrot top spaz. This came from his short red hair and constant eagerness. If it weren’t for Troy and Aaron, James would have no friends.
The conversation ended when Aaron’s girlfriend, Bianca, came out of the diner’s back door. She ran up to them, her long pigtails hanging down her back.
“You three up to somethin’?” Her voice was harsh and deep, but she was real pretty to look at. All three were shocked when she agreed to out with Aaron. He was not considered the most attractive guy, but he wasn’t bad looking.
“Nah, just hanging.” Troy tried to sound casual and cool.
“Yeah, Troy was just showin’ us the gun he stole,” James blurted out. Troy punched James in the stomach. He fell backwards and hit the concrete hard. “Man, what the hell was that for?”
“I said not to tell!” Troy kicked him.
“You serious?” Bianca’s face was snow white. “You guys are screwin’ with me, right?” Troy pulled out the gun and showed it to her. She stumbled back and stared at it. “Are you insane?”
“I’m not gonna hurt nobody, just keepin’ it around. Don’t tell ya, hear?” He stuck it back in his pocket and looked real serious. “I gotta get going anyway. Ya’ll keep quiet ‘bout this!” The three nodded and watched him disappear down the road.
“You don’t think he’s going to do something with it, do you?” Bianca held onto her boyfriend’s arm.
“I know Troy; he wouldn’t do anything,” Aaron comforted her.
* * *
“You’re going nowhere; you’re worth nothing!” Troy’s voice echoed in their tiny shack called a house. His father sat on the couch, Corona in one hand, a cigarette in the other. Troy opened the door to leave the house.
“Go to hell!” his father shouted back at him. His father then threw the empty bottle at Troy’s head. Troy closed the door just in time and heard the bottle shatter against the wood.
Troy’s legs took of running towards the lake. He was there in half a mile. He collapsed on the sand, lit a cigarette, and looked out over the water. He just sat and thought about the three things he always thought of: his family, Sophie, and Brian Canter.
Troy’s mom left him when he was two. His dad immediately turned to the bottle. His sister, who was seven at the time, took it hard. She had to raise Troy and take care of her unemployed, alcoholic father. She never had a normal life growing up in that situation. She constantly skipped school and stayed out late with boys. Finally, at sixteen, she got pregnant and ran off with her boyfriend, leaving Troy and his father alone to cope. Troy’s family was regarded as worth-nothing scumbags. At first, Troy tried to fight that accusation; he tried to prove that he was different. Finally, he let them think what they wanted.
Sophie had been one of Troy’s good friends since he was ten. She wasn’t like his other friends; she didn’t see him like others did. Troy had been practically in love with Sophie since they met five years before, but he didn’t feel like he deserved her. He’d been with other girls, but none made him feel like he did when he was with Sophie.
Brian Canter, on the other hand, was Troy’s worst enemy. He was handsome, smart, and rich, but that didn’t bother Troy. What bothered him were Brian Canter’s lies. Brian Canter spread every bad rumor ever heard about Troy and his family since the fourth grade. His stories were believed because of his family’s good name and social standings.
Troy took out his gun and turned it over in his hand. A picture of Brian Canter’s face appeared in Troy’s head. Later that night, a gunshot was heard by the whole town.
* * *
The next day, Troy went to school with the black eye his father gave him when he got home the night before. He skipped his first period but got up the courage to go to school for the second period. Sophie, whose locker was next to Troy’s, was concerned about his eye. He tried to act casual and told her it was no big deal while he stuffed his books in his locker. While doing this, something flew out of Troy’s pocket and hit the floor with a clang. Sophie’s blue eyes widened and she gasped. Troy turned to see his English teacher, Mr. Johnson, behind him, holding the stolen gun.
“Will you come with me?” Mr. Johnson asked Troy.
“I have class,” Troy told him.
“Now!” Mr. Johnson’s voice was stern.
Aaron, Bianca, and James were there to witness Mr. Johnson taking Troy by the arm and leading him to Principal DuGray’s office. Troy looked back over his shoulder to see Sophie in tears. When he could no longer stand the sight, he faced forward, willing to take his punishment.
Mr. Johnson knocked hard on Principal DuGray’s door before opening it. “I found who did it,” he announced before tugging Troy through the door way. “He had the weapon in his pocket and everything.” He threw the gun on the principal’s desk.
Principal DuGray looked at Troy intently. “Troy Gibb, eh? Shoulda guessed it was you,” he sighed and looked at the gun. “So you admit to it, Mr. Gibb?”
“To what?” Troy asked sharply.
“Don’t act dumb, Mr. Gibb. It won’t help!” Principal DuGray glowered at him.
“I’m not acting anything!” Troy pulled his arm out of Mr. Johnson’s grasp and sat in the seat before the principal’s desk. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“Don’t waste my time! We all know you hate Brian Canter; it’d make sense that you’d murder him. You had a gun in your pocket. Last night, everyone heard a gun shot. This morning, Mr. Dently found Brian dead by the lake while he was fishing. The lake is only a half mile away from your house. It all leads to you!” Principal DuGray was practically yelling as he accused Troy.
“I didn’t kill nobody!”
“Where were you last night?”
“Walking ‘round till late.”
“No. Why would I kill Brian Canter anyway?” Troy jumped out of his chair, his face full of disbelief at the accusation.
“He talked about your family. He brought you down. He told the whole town your secrets.” Principal DuGray spoke softly, trying to bate Troy in confessing.
“That lying son of a b**** made it all up!” Troy bellowed.
Principal DuGray sprang to his feet. “So you admit you hate him?”
“That wasn’t a secret!”
“Did you hate him enough to kill him?” Principal DuGray’s voice was as sharp as knives.
“No!” Troy’s heart was in his throat, pounding hard.
“Just admit to it, Mr. Gibb. Whether you confess or not, the whole town will know you did it. You will be known as a murderer. Everyone, even your friends, even Sophie, will know you’re nothing but a murderer, nothing but the same old piece of s*** the rest of your family was!”
“That’s not true!” Tears were rolling down Troy’s face and his voice cracked.
“What do you have to live for?” Troy could hear the disgust in Principal DuGray’s voice, even though it softened.
The principal’s words raced through Troy’s mind. He saw Sophie’s face, crying. He had no chance to win her love now, even if he didn’t go to jail. The whole room seemed to be spinning. His heart was beating so loudly it felt like it was in his ears; it drowned out whatever Principal DuGray was saying to him. A sweat broke out on his brow. Finally, he sunk into the chair below him. “Fine! I confess!” Tears rolled down his cheeks. He knew everything was gone.
That day Troy Gibb was arrested for the murder of Brian Canter.
Exactly seven years later, by a stroke of luck, Troy Gibb was released from jail. He walked the streets of his old town, noticing how everything had changed in seven years. Aaron got married to some girl he met when she came through town. He had one kid and moved to Las Vegas; he worked there as a blackjack dealer. James was locked up in an asylum two years later; Troy never learned why. Bianca went to New York to become an artist. His dad died five years before of alcohol poisoning. Principal DuGray became mayor of the town and Mr. Johnson principal of the high school. He never heard what happened to Sophie. He liked to think she got her dream and now lived on the beach with her husband, two kids, and a cat. He stood now, a twenty-two year old with a criminal record who didn’t even finish high school. He had to somehow make his way in the world.
No one ever found out that Troy didn’t kill Brian Canter. The night Troy was on the beach, Mr. Dently was hunting in the woods. He saw something moving in the trees. Thinking it was a deer, he fired his gun towards the moving object. He was shocked to see it was the Canter boy. Mr. Dently brought Brian to the lake and pretended to find him the next morning. He still lives in town with his wife and four kids. Every day he feels regret for letting an innocent boy’s life been thrown away because of a crime the boy never committed, for crime that he himself, Mr. Dently, committed.