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The gun went off and my best friend fell to the ground. I pulled out the sack and my gun; I raised my right arm and pointed the gun at the guy standing in front of me. I took one step towards him and then handed him the sack. He grabbed it from me then looked down at Tommy, crying in pain, on the ground. His eyes full of fear, he took off running. I bent over Tommy who was lying in a pool of blood. Tears streamed down my face. My eyes burned, and I could feel the heat and anger running through my body. I yelled for help. No one came. The once crowded field was now empty. The world spun around me as I looked at Tommy’s face. I set the gun down and then laid Tommy over my right shoulder, using my opposite hand to carry the gun. I then walked the distance across the field into town.
I’m Taylor Landers, and this is my story.
* * *
I ran and ran along the path that was covered by tree, big oak and pecan trees hovering over it so as to shade the path for all of the couples who want to go on nice romantic walks or for someone to walk their dog. The pecans would fall from the trees and onto the pathway so that when you walked on them they would crunch under your feet. They were the kind of perfect pecans that you would enjoy eating.
I looked over my shoulder at my best friend, Tommy. He was right on my heels carrying the football we were playing with. I ducked behind a bush, with Tommy following me. The bush was deeply covered by trees and other bushes, so you would have to look very closely in order to find us. I pulled Tommy’s head down as I peeked slightly over the top of the bush.
Three boys ran by, kicking dust up behind them. The first one was scrawny and not built at all. His name was Johnny Bell, the richest guy at the school along with his two other pals. Even though Johnny was scrawny and you would only notice him in the halls of the school if you looked really hard for him, due to his height, people still followed his lead and did what he told them to. Maybe it was the money. Or maybe it was the fact that his dad was the owner of the only car dealership in town. Word was that Johnny could get special deals on any car he wanted, and at our age, everyone wanted a nice car to impress their dates, drive around town all cool, or just so that you could say that you had one with an extremely nice engine.
The thing about Johnny was that he didn’t care if people only wanted to be his friends just so that they could take advantage of him. As long as he had friends, he was okay with it. He liked the popularity, attention, and the fact that he didn’t have to do any work at all because other people would do it for him. In fact, he might not even have friends if his dad didn’t own that car dealership, and everyone, including him, knew that.
The next guy that followed closely behind Johnny was a strong, medium sized guy. His name was Billy Tosh. He was the school’s running back on the football team, and every girl wanted to be with him. But, there’s only girl he wanted to be with, Tiffany Sheff, and ever since her entrance into “popularity” every guy wanted to be with her also.
The last of the three was Blake Long. He was the strongest and the tallest of the three. Unlike Billy, Blake played hockey and was the biggest flirt. Billy could commit to something and could stay committed. Blake couldn’t. He was one of the most popular guys at the school, but there were only a couple of girls that were interested in him. They, of course, didn’t know his reputation. They were soon to find out, though.
Blake had been going to Keefer High School since his freshman year and had been living in town since he was born. His dad owned a real estate agency, the only one for miles. His mom was a house mom and didn’t do much to support the family. This was because she didn’t have to. Their family was supported enough by their dad’s business. Unlike Johnny and Billy, Blake wasn’t an only child. He had a younger brother and sister that were both in elementary school.
I guess you could say that of the three guys that were chasing Tommy and me, none of them had a single issue with their lives and everything was perfect for them. At least, that’s how they presented themselves. Everyday the victims of these guys wished that their lives were as perfect as theirs. Except probably one person, me.
“C’mon man, let’s go while they are gone,” Tommy called to me as he jogged to the path that was going to be our route home. I scrambled onto my feet and grabbed the football out of Tommy’s hands. I threw it into the air and then caught it, twirling it between my hands as I thought about what just happened.
“You know what I don’t get, Tommy?”
“What’s that?” replied Tommy, acting as if I don’t get a lot of things.
“Because they have nothing better to do with their lives?” Tommy asked as we walked along the path, shuffling our feet along the ground, creating clouds of dust.
“I mean, what did we ever do to them? There has to be some way to have their so called wonderful lives come crashing down.” Of course, I knew that there was no way that anything like that would happen.
Tommy didn’t say anything. He just looked at the trees that made a roof over the long winding path that was just outside of town. I started to think about the three guys again, and I thought about how Billy actually wasn’t that bad. He just got sucked into the wrong crowd. I would say that about the rest of them, but Billy actually used to be the other party member of Tommy and me.
Ever since freshman year Billy began to get more and more distant until eventually Tommy and I gave up on talking to him. We all three had been best friends since we could remember. Tommy’s parents and my parents were still close friends with Billy’s dad, but anytime we were around Billy when Johnny or Blake weren’t with him, there was always an uneasy awkward feeling that seemed to always be covered up by someone saying, “Sooo..”
My parents still ask me any time that they are going to go see Billy’s dad if I want to tag along. I always refuse. As much as Tommy and I would like to have Billy back as our friend, we know that things will never be the same. It’s just an unspoken rule.
We arrived at the end of the path that led into a large field. On the other side of the field you could see the edge of the town. The town had about 500 people in it. The adults, kids, and elderly people were divided pretty evenly throughout town. There weren’t too many elders or adults and just enough kids running around causing trouble. Oftentimes kids from larger cities that surround the town would come and hang out here.
The town felt very homey and safe. Everyone knew everyone, and it was extremely hard to get away with anything. Some people have, though.
“Go long!” I yelled to Tommy as we walked across the field. Tommy ran far in front of me. I passed a clean spiral that cut through the air quickly and then landed into Tommy’s hands. I sprinted in front of Tommy so that he could hand the football off to me. He took off again across the field, and I threw another perfect pass that whipped through the air. This pass being a little harder than the last, it slapped against the palms of Tommy’s hands.
“Nice pass,” he said to me as he jogged back to me. We walked the rest of the length of the field until we came into town. Tommy had to get home for dinner, and I had nothing better to do than to work on my ‘30 Chevy Truck that was my pride and joy. I had just purchased it with the money that I’d been saving since I was born. I said goodbye to Tommy and started walking towards my neighborhood. Tommy and I lived in different neighborhoods that were only about two minutes away from each other. Billy lived across the street from me. Johnny and Blake lived down the street from Tommy.
Billy’s dad owned the movie theatre and since everyone in town saw a movie almost every night, the money flowed easily into his house. His mom died when he was ten. She had cancer and ever since then Billy’s life had been hard until he started hanging out with Johnny and Blake. When he started hanging out with them it was like what Tommy and I couldn’t do for him; he started having fun again. Billy was really close to his mom, and she was always the parent to be there for him while his dad was busy dealing with business.
Tommy and I tried hard to cheer him up after his mother’s death, but nothing seemed to work. Eventually, we just gave up when he started hanging out with Johnny and Blake, especially when he joined the football team freshman year and went directly into stereotypes. I mean come on, isn’t that what life is about-stereotypes?
As I came to my street I saw my truck parked by the curb outside of my house just as I had left it. I decided to let my parents know that I was home and to get a bite to eat before I started working and getting greasy, when I wouldn’t be allowed in the house. I walked up my flat driveway and through the open garage door. Since it was Saturday I guessed that my dad was most likely working around the house and my mom grocery shopping.
I walked into the house from the garage door that led into the kitchen, and sure enough, my mom was unloading the groceries. “Hey, I'm just getting back from playing some football.”
“I can tell. You have dirt all over you. I don’t want the dirt all over the house, especially not in the kitchen,” she told me as she shooed me out of the kitchen.
I laughed as I started to walk towards the stairs and I added, “I'm about to work on my truck and get a bite to eat.”
“Alright, that’s fine, honey. Oh, and your father and I are going to this dinner that he’s having at the office tonight, so if you want to go see a movie or have someone over or something then that’s fine.”
“Alright, cool,” I said as I was running up the stairs to put my football away. I already knew who I wanted to see a movie with tonight and possibly take out to dinner. Her name was Rikki Carsleign, a girl who I have liked since sixth grade.
Tonight was my chance to ask her on a date, and I was sure of it because the other day I heard something about her liking me. I kind of laughed to myself as I thought about how bad it would suck if it weren’t true. I picked up the house phone that was in my room, the long cord extending all the way to the other side of the room.
I dialed her number. This was something that I had never had the guts to do before. While it rang I went over what I was going to say. Ring one, “Hi Rikki just wondering…” Ring two, “If you would like to…” On the third ring someone finally picked up. “Carsleign residence,” said her mom. At least I was pretty sure it was her mom. It didn’t sound like Rikki.
“Uh hi, this is Taylor Landers, Rikki’s friend from school,” I replied, my voice shaking as I was trying to sum up what I was to say to Rikki.
“Ah, Taylor! Rikki’s told us a lot about you.” I guess this was a good thing, “So I’m guessing you would like to speak with Rikki then?”
“What? Oh, yeah. Yes, please,” I answered as my mind zoned back in to what was going on. Her mom went to go get her, and my mind immediately went back to trying to figure out what I was going to say. I heard the phone being picked up off a table. As I thought about asking her on a date, I just got more nervous so I decided to try my hardest to relax.
Rikki’s voice came through the phone, “Hello?”
“Hey Rikki, this is Taylor,” I answered, trying to make my voice sound as normal as possible.
“Oh, hey Taylor! What’s up?” My mind went blank as I was trying to put together what I was going to say.
“Uh, hey so I was just wondering what you were doing tonight?” I stuttered my way through that sentence pretty well, I thought to myself.
“I'm actually not doing anything,” she said casually.
I rushed my way through the next sentence, trying to get it over with as soon and as quickly as possible. “Oh, cool. Yeah I’m not doing anything either. Hah. Nope I’m not. So since we aren’t doing anything, you know, would you like to see a movie tonight with me?”
What a bad idea it was for me to rush through that sentence because then she asked, “Wait, huh? Sorry, I couldn’t understand you. Slow down, please.”
Great. Just great. Now I have to ask her all over again. Just get it over with only more slowly now, I thought to myself. “Would you like to go see a movie tonight with me?”
“Yeah, that would be great!” she exclaimed. She sounded so casual and not nervous at all that I was embarrassed by the fact that I was sweating my way through trying to ask her a simple, well not so simple, question.
We figured out the time when I would pick her up. As I hung up the telephone, I sighed with relief. Yet, I couldn’t help but smile. I looked at my watch and then ran downstairs to grab a sandwich.
The engine in my truck seemed to be working fine. I got all the parts put together correctly, and it ran smoothly with not too much of a roar. I popped the hood one more time just before I left to make sure everything was okay. I made sure not to touch anything because I didn’t want any grease on my jeans or especially not on my favorite Rolling Stones T-shirt.
Once again, the engine looked fine so I closed the hood. Billy was leaning against the side of my truck. I didn’t have anything to say at first, as I stood there astounded, but I managed to spit out a few words that sounded something like, “Uh, hi. What are you doing? Do you need something?”
Billy just nodded his head as he noticed how uncomfortable I was. I was also very shocked. Especially after what happened this morning, he was the last person I would expect to be leaning against the side of my truck. “Do you need something?” I asked again.
“Eh, not really. Look man, I just wanted to apologize about this morning, really it…”
“Don’t worry about it. I understand.” Usually when Billy apologized, which he hardly ever did, this was my answer. I didn’t usually cut him off though, but I was in a hurry to pick up Rikki and I didn’t want to have to listen to him come up with some lame story about why he was chasing me.
“You in a hurry to get somewhere?” he asked as I was pushing him out of the way so I could unlock my car.
I looked at him, wondering why he was so interested in me all of a sudden, “Yeah, I got a date,” I answered sharply.
“Really, with who?”
“Why should you care?” I answered as I started stepping into my truck.
“Oh alright, well then, I’ll let you go then I guess. Maybe we could hang out later?”
“Sure,” I said. I jumped into my truck and started it. Slamming the car door, I drove off. Looking in the rear view mirror I watched as Billy walked the ten feet back across the street, his head hanging low, and then back into his house.
I was so confused. Just this morning he was chasing Tommy and me, and I wanted revenge. Now was talking to me like we were old friends, like he was apologizing for stealing my ice cream or something.
I turned on the radio, trying not to think about what had just happened; I was already nervous enough about my date with Rikki. My car turned on her street, and immediately my hands got sweaty and I could not think of anything to say when I rang the door. I told myself that everything was going to be okay. Tonight was going to be the best night of my life. Tonight was the night I finally got my dream date. Everything was perfect. Nothing could possibly turn this night into horror and terror. Nothing could make this night not perfect.
Who was I kidding?
My car stopped outside of her house and I turned the keys. The radio went off. The car was dark and quiet. I pulled the handle on the door, and the car door opened with a squeak. My foot hit the ground, the second one quickly following mimicking the first. The car door shut, and I walked up to the door, the same door I was so afraid to walk up to in sixth grade.
My mind raced as I thought about what was going to happen. My hand knocked on the door twice. Rikki’s mom answered, “Hello, you must be Taylor?”
I smiled and nodded, answering with a “Yes, ma’am.”
“Well come on in, and I’ll get Rikki.” I stepped inside. Her mom went to the edge of the stairs and called for her. Rikki skipped down the stairs, jumping a step or two, happy as she always was. She looked at me and smiled with the biggest smile, her dimples huge and her eyes twinkling. I smiled back at her, equaling her marvelous smile. I told her mom that I would have her back by eleven. She then said thank you and goodbye.
I opened the car door for Rikki and then went around, getting into my seat. “Do you want to listen to some music?” I asked her as I started the car.
“Nope, let’s just talk,” she answered with a smile. I pulled away from the house and started driving to the drive in movie theatre. On the way there we talked about everything imaginable. There was always something new.
We came to a stop light just in front of the theatre, and I looked at Rikki as she talked about how she went to her friend’s house last week. She seemed to exaggerate her stories just so they would be that much more interesting for people to listen to. She pointed out my window and said; “Look at those punks over there by that run down gas station. I wonder what they want.” I turned my head and saw a gang of guys leaning against the wall talking and laughing.
“I don’t know, but whatever they want, it’s obviously not good.” We finally pulled into the movie. The movie was some chick flick with a bunch of girls chasing after this hot motorcycle dude. It seemed to go by so quickly. The strawberry and blueberry drinks stained our mouths as we talked through the entire movie. I had backed the truck up so that we could sit in the bed of it because my truck wasn’t a convertible. Popcorn got everywhere because we kept trying to throw it into each other’s glasses after we got done. This night was way too perfect.
Once the movie ended we got back into the cab of the truck so that I could take her home. I asked her once again if she wanted to listen to some music, but she replied with the same answer as she did last time, which was fine by me. I took the same way home as I had coming to the movie. When we passed the gas station Rikki said, “Hey look, they’re gone. I wonder where they went.”
I didn’t think much of it as I answered, “Eh, who cares?” I smiled at her, “That group usually hangs out in that spot and no one ever does anything about it. I guess it’s because they haven’t done anything wrong, yet. Who knows though, right?” She just nodded her head in agreement and changed the subject.
The car ride home was great. We were laughing and smiling the entire time. Things were fantastic. I mean, come on, my dream girl since sixth grade was in the seat next to me and I was taking her home from a date. We pulled up to her house and I walked her to the front door. I gave her a hug and watched her walk into the house.
I couldn’t stop smiling the entire way back to my house. Everything was going just the way I had planned it, even my favorite Beatles Song was playing on the radio. When I pulled onto my street it seemed different. I looked ahead and saw a ton of flashing lights. Police lights. I heard sirens. Police and ambulance sirens. I shut off my music and drove closer to the mayhem, only to find out that it was all taking place at my house.
I was so perplexed. I had no idea what was going on. I parked my car across the street in front of Billy’s house. My fingers turned the keys and ripped them out of the ignition. I shoved them into my pockets and pulled the same door handle I had when I was so happy. I stepped out of the car and slammed the door.
My feet carried me across the street, my arms pumping as fast as they could. I ran through the yellow “Caution Do Not Enter” tape. Someone grabbed my arms and pulled me back, “Young man, no one is allowed in!” The voice seemed distant. “Young man, I will not ask you again, stay back!” the same voice yelled at me again, but my mind was somewhere else.
“Taylor! Taylor!” I recognized the voice. It was my dad’s voice. I turned my head and saw my dad standing between two tall police officers. The emotions on his face looked like he had just gotten out of being tortured.
“Dad!” I yelled at him as I wrestled out of the man’s arms and ran over to my dad. “Dad, what’s going on?” I asked him, barely being able to make it to where he could understand me because my voice was shaking and quivering so much.
“We aren’t for sure yet. They think that…they think some street gang broke in.” He took me by the shoulders and turned me to face him. “I need you to be calm.”
“Where is mom?”
My dad’s face dropped, and he let go of my shoulders. He answered, not being able to look me in the eye, “We don’t know yet.” I turned and looked at the house, remembering the gang that was by the gas station and how they were there before the movie and not after. I could not believe what was going on.
I backed away from the house. The crowd’s voices seemed distant like they weren’t in the same world as I was. I turned and sprinted back to my truck. My head pounded as the sirens continued to wail. I got into the driver’s seat of the truck. I lay my head on my steering wheel. The world seemed like it was falling apart all around me. I could see neighbors coming out of their houses to go and join the mob of people that had gathered around in front of my house. The sirens seemed to quiet down as the flashing lights got brighter. The entire sky was lit up with the colors red, blue, and white. I shut my eyes as thoughts started flowing into my head about who would do this. I could still see the flashing lights through my eyelids.
I brought my head up and fumbled in my pockets for keys until my fingers gripped tight around them. My hand shaking, I put the key into the ignition and turned it. I looked at the crowd, once again seeing Billy looking at me with eyes full of fear. He started to walk towards my car and towards me. I shook my head at him.
My car took off down the street, leaving Billy standing there helpless, watching me race off towards ruining my life.
I raced for Tommy’s house; the only place at this point that I thought would be safe from all the commotion. I sped my truck up until it started to sputter, causing the car to jerk. I came to a screeching halt in front of Tommy’s house. The car still running and the driver seat door flung wide open, I ran to his front door. I pounded my fists on his door as hard as I could until he came out. “Dude relax! What’s your problem?” he asked me as he grabbed my fist in mid air before I accidentally punched him. I explained what happened, mumbling most of it so that I was surprised he understood it.
We got into my truck and I started driving towards the gas station. “Where are we going?” Tommy asked as we came to central town.
“To the broken down gas station.”