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On Audrey Wiggins’ thirteenth birthday, her parents gave her a monogramed silver six-shooter. After the birthday bliss—the streamers, balloons, butter-frosted cake, and a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday” from the whole family—her parents proudly presented the gun.
“Now our baby is all grown up,” Mrs. Wiggins said, dabbing tears from her eyes.
“We are proud of you, daughter,” Mr. Wiggins declared solemnly. “We hope you may have many honorable occasions to put it to good use.”
“Thank you…Mom and Dad,” Audrey said, bewildered, stroking the carved initials A. W. on the gun.
“Oh, no!” Mrs. Wiggins looked startled. “You must not call us Mom and Dad anymore. You must call us by our real names: Pulling Jack and Killing Nancy.”
“Pulling Jack and Killing Nancy?” Audrey sampled the words on her tongue. Suddenly she tasted acid in her throat. She thought, not for the first time in her short life, something is terribly wrong in our family.
Her parents had told her for years that on her thirteenth birthday, she would be “initiated” into the family business. Her older brothers, Creed and Jason, had been initiated for some years, and her younger sister Allison eagerly awaited her turn. Audrey had known all her life about the family business which Pulling Jack and Killing Nancy headed, and which she must join one day. She only had to walk into the house to see it.
Lace curtains glimmered in the windows. The coffee table was piled with elegant fruit-baskets and frilled doilies. Intricately carved statues lined the staircase: Judith with the Head of a Viper, Zeus with a Poised Thunderbolt, Aphrodite Rising. And a large banner flaunted itself over the front door:
THERE IS HONOR AMONG THIEVES.
Another banner read; THE LOVE OF MONEY IS THE ROOT OF ALL GOOD.
And yet another banner, which Dad had labeled the TEN COMMANDMENTS:
YOU SHALL LIE
YOU SHALL STEAL
YOU SHALL MURDER
YOU SHALL COMMIT ADULTERY
YOU SHALL COVET
And so on and so on.
Audrey’s parents sat her down in the parlor chairs. Pulling Jack said, “This is a serious discussion, Audrey. You are no longer a child. So we will not shelter you like a child. From now on you must defend the family business or die. Say it after me: you will defend the family business or die.”
“I will defend the family business or die,” Audrey said numbly.
“Tomorrow,” Killing Nancy said nervously, “tomorrow won’t be like any other day. You won’t learn your lessons with Allison anymore. We’re going to take you around town—to some banks.”
“You’ve got to learn the trade,” Pulling Jack said. “You’ve got to learn the trade! You’ve got to learn the trade!”
“I’ve got to learn the trade,” Audrey echoed. But her heart gave a sad thrust. Audrey liked being homeschooled, sitting quietly and poring over books, helping little Allison learn her lessons. In the Wiggins household, the curriculum through seventh grade was Biographies of Famous Gangsters, Gangster Math, Gangster Science, Gangster Rhetoric. She knew Gangster Sign Language better than scholars know Latin.
Audrey loved reading more than anything, but her parents pressed her, “Think! Ask questions. How did the famous gangster escape—or fail?”
“What in God’s name are you doing?” Killing Nancy had demanded one day, when Audrey sneaked a library book into the house. It was Little Women. She tore it away from Audrey and examined it. “Sissy literature,” she declared, “mush and milk. Not an outlaw in the book! Throw it in the fire!”
Audrey wept because she couldn’t finish the book. She sobbed out, “I…can’t! It’s…it’s the library copy!”
“What do we care about other people’s property?” And Killing Nancy threw Little Women into the fireplace. “To the time-out chair, and no dinner for you. Bad girl! Shame on you!”
After that, Audrey’s library was strictly monitored to make sure she only read things like The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, The Glory Days of Jesse James, Of Bugs Moran and the Mafia. And now that she was thirteen, no books were allowed in the curriculum. Pulling Jack said, “You’ll start small. You’ve been shoplifting candy since you could walk. Now you’ll move onto jewelry stores. Then it’s banks, and after that, bigger stuff.”
She was on her way to becoming a sociopath, somewhere between Judas Iscariot and Jim Jones and Bloody Mary.
One rainy night after Audrey’s birthday, Pulling Jack and Killing Nancy sat around the parlor, reading Mafia newspapers. Killing Nancy knit socks as she read absorbedly, and Pulling Jack puffed his cigar. Creed and Jason were out cruising town with their hooligan friends. Audrey stared out the window into the falling sheets of rain, wondering, where do the stars go on rainy nights? Just then the phone chirped—it was Jason.
“You’ve got to save us!” he cried. “Major drug bust.”
“Well, what have I taught you?” Pulling Jack roared into the receiver. “Make your getaway while you still can! Run the cops over if you need to. Save the family honor!”
“Can’t. They’ve already raided the trunk and the glove box and every hidden compartment and are about to take this phone. I’m so scared, I’m sweating cold rain. What should I do? We’re going to jail! Can you please bail us out?”
“Bail him out!” Pulling Jack was so puffed out with rage that he strained at his gold shirt-buttons. He dropped the smoldering cigar onto the floor. “What have I taught that young man? Let him break out of jail himself, if he was so stupid as to get caught!”
“You’d better bail him out,” said Killing Nancy, who had dropped a stitch during the uproar. Killing Nancy had a peculiar fondness for her children, even when they weren’t honorable gangsters.
“Off we go,” Dad said, reaching for the Disguises Closet. He put on a fake gray mustache, long gray wig, applied stage-makeup, and reached for a crutch. “You too, Audrey-gal. Grab your six-shooter.”
Audrey scrambled to obey, while Allison whined, “Can’t I come too? I never get to see a drug-bust!”
“No, Tootsie,” Killing Nancy said, “you have to go to bed. You’ve got to grow up big and strong to be Mommy’s gangster.”
Audrey would remember that night all her life: the lights flashing blue and red, the rain-slick pavement, the smell like a dead skunk in the air, the policemen’s flashlights bobbing, Pulling Jack’s sneer as he threw one and then another officer to the ground, giving Creed and Jason time to make their getaway.
In the midst of the sirens and screeches, Audrey thought Protect the family honor! and bam! went her fine silver six-shooter. It wasn’t enough. The sheriff shot Creed between the ears, his blood pouring like water as he slumped over the stolen Prius’ front seat.
“Ignorant, lousy, God-cursed—bleep, blankety-blank blanks, all of you!” howled Pulling Jack.
Creed sat propped in the whiteness of a hospital room and would not respond to anyone’s questions, because he was deaf now. What a tragedy. The bullet had grazed his auditory nerve. He went straight from the hospital, not to deaf school, but to prison—but not for long. He put his gangster sign-language and Morse Code to good use and broke out of his cell, accompanied by a killer known only as T.
Hearing was never much use to Creed; he was the strong silent type and only listened to himself. After he returned from prison, he changed. Every third word he spewed was some variation of the F word. He reasoned, “I can say anything I want, because I can’t hear myself, and I can’t help it, and if you don’t like it, you can go—”
“Creed is our model boy,” Killing Nancy told her fellow homeschool mothers. “He does what that Bible verse says—let our speech always be seasoned with cyanide.”
Creed’s epscade had little effect on the family business. Life went on as usual.
Every Wednesday night, the Wiggins kids got out their six-shooters, put on their finest clothes, and went to the Homeschool Punks Parent-Student Meetings at their local church, First Baptist Chapel of St. Capone. Speeches by popular authors and speakers in the Trigger Full movement electrified the audience. They came home laughing and chattering, determined to be better gangsters and hate society more than they had before.
“The law-keeping snivelers are out there!” shouted a zealous woman. “They’re out to poison your child’s mind. Don’t send your child to public school!”
“Don’t let your children marry whomever they please,” another speaker insisted. “Bring them into arranged marriages with other trusted thugs from your community. Our goal is to have more and more homeschool punk babies and fill the earth and overrun everything and take back what belongs to us!”
They had a refreshment-table filled with stolen candy. Several students pantomimed The Hanging of Billy the Kid, and one overachieving sixth-grader recited portions of the Communist Manifesto, to the cheers and hollers of the doting parents.
On Sundays, Audrey quizzed Allison on her Gangster Catechism.
“What do you do when a boy wants to marry you but he’s not a gangster?”
“You shoot him,” said Allison, scowling. “Now may I please play jump-rope?”
“What do you do when he offers you an engagement ring?”
“You ask ‘Is that stolen?’”
“What if he says no?”
“You pull out your six-shooter and kill him.”
“Then what do you do?”
“You get into your car and run away, laughing.”
“Good job, Allison. You can jump-rope now in freedom.”
As Audrey retreated, she heard her younger sister singing as she jumped rope: “Al Caponey, ate corn poney, called Bugs Moran on the telephony, stuffed his face with pepperoni, robbed a few banks but wasn’t no phony, stole the jewels from Miss Zeroney. Stole a cape of ermine seal. How many jewels did he steal? One hundred, two hundred, three hundred—”
“I hate my life,” Audrey said aloud, for no reason—and then clapped her mouth in horror.
Had anyone heard that?
What was getting into her these days?
Creed crashed through the living-room with his walker, all deaf and frustrated, kicking over the vases in his toddler-like rage. Jason was away at Joint-Rolling 101 Club with his buddies, then up for an evening of stealing birdfeeders.
She went to the garage to hide from her thoughts, but piles of Jason’s stolen birdfeeders crashed on her head and gave her a minor concussion. After dancing about in agony, she ran into the house screaming for ice-packs.
“God, it hurts! I slammed my head! Doesn’t anyone care what happened to me?” she cried.
No answer but laughter from her family members. At that moment, her head throbbing like a pricked pincushion, she felt so isolated and helpless and different.
“Do any of you care where I go at night?” she demanded.
“No, dearie. As long as you’re at somebody’s unsupervised party or shoplifting or setting houses on fire, we don’t mind,” said Killing Nancy merrily.
“I was just wondering what you’d think if I ran away.”
“We love you. Why would you do that, tootsie?”
“I just want to. And I’m starting to hate my family.”
Killing Nancy looked horror-stricken. “Why, Audrey, are you getting a temperature, or is it just your age?”
“Seriously, I’m real mad.” Audrey grinned in her fury.
“We don’t harm our fellow homeschool punks, baby, just the law-keepers out in the world. You are in the world, but you are a gangster, and you must defend the family honor! Remember that John Dillinger said: A kind word with a gun gets more than a kind word alone.”
Audrey looked around at the house, like it was dry tinder. She caught sight of her face in the looking-glass, which was cracked from Creed’s fists. Her face terrified her. She was splotchy and wet and bruised and evil. She looked like dry tinder, covered with lighter fluid, just waiting for the match.
“Oh God, I’ve got to escape,” she muttered. The urge in her was unbearable.
Slam! went the door of Audrey’s house. She had nothing but her thin sweater and the silver six-shooter tucked into her skirt for survival.
On the outside, she looked like an ordinary-sized teenage girl, ponytail and glasses and sneakers, but her heart was screaming. Dirty, dry leaves blew along the gutters. Rain plopped down and stained the sidewalk.
“So I’ve run away. What are my parents gonna do? Call the police? Hah. My parents are the most wanted couple in forty states! Police, my foot!”
She was free; she could visit all the libraries she wanted. She could read Little Women, Little Men, Jo’s Boys, An Old-Fashioned Girl…why, she could read the Holy Scriptures, she could sing hymns, she could ring a Salvation Army bell. She could visit a homeless shelter; she could be laughing and collecting coins, she could be trash-picking alongside the road.
For the first day of her escape, she wandered to a local forest preserve and laughed. “Hah! Hah, hah, hah, hah, hah, hah…” until the squirrels and blackbirds fled into the maple-trees. But this magic feeling couldn’t last, clearly.
Her head still throbbed, and crazy ideas swarmed into it like bees. “I want books, I want life, I want life-heaped books, I want to rob a bookstore and read all the books—not for stealing, just for joy’s sweet sake!”
Yet she wouldn’t rob or steal anymore. She’d march into the library, hobo girl though she was, and ask for a library card. Then she’d check out every book in the library, take them into the forest, and read them by the light of her makeshift fire. Pulling Jack and Killing Nancy and Creed and Jason were far away. They wouldn’t hear her leave-crackling footsteps in the forest. She could read and the world would be all right.
“Little girl, are you looking for a library card or for a decent bath?”
The librarian was a nearsighted, sixty-year-old woman with hair the color of noodles on the bristles of a Brillo pad. She wore a pinstriped yellow dress, and she liked to tease the spring chickens, as she called children and young people. As she gave Audrey her library card, she tried smiling at the girl—but Audrey just scowled.
“You heard about the gangster drug-bust down at Knipe’s Drugstore, didn’t you? Some kids robbed cough medicine. The Wiggins family again. Won’t they ever catch the punks?”
Audrey snatched her new card and headed for the section marked ADULT NONFICTION. Books with brilliant colors told her of exotic places to fill her head and her daydreams. She could’ve stayed all night. But this magic feeling couldn’t last, clearly.
Walking with her arms stuffed full of World Book encyclopedias, out in the open, she rammed into a young boy on the sidewalk. The boy had earbuds in his ears, and he rode a jeweled skateboard.
“Stop, you blankety-blanked nerd!” Audrey screamed at him.
The boy stopped, brushed his hair from his face, and blinked his stunningly green eyes. “What’s the buzz, kid?”
She put a finger to her lips. “My name is Audrey, and don’t tell a soul my name.”
“Mine’s Tom Bean Grassdigger. Nice to meet you.”
Audrey couldn’t help it. She laughed until she spilled her World Books across the pavement. Good-natured Tom Bean picked up her books and carried them on his skateboard.
“My skateboard is named Aunt Jemima,” he said. “I’m gonna cross the USA and win championships with this skateboard!”
Audrey struggled to keep up with Tom Bean. The tomato-colored sunset gave way to a cold November night, ice crystals forming on all the windows.
“Where do you live?” asked Tom Bean.
“I’m homeless,” said Audrey, simply.
Tom Bean stared at her a minute. “Oh.”
“Don’t ask any more questions.”
“I’m not asking a question,” he said, awkwardly, “I’m just pointing out to you that there’s a shelter down the highway, if you need food and a place to spend the night. My mother says, whenever we pass homeless people in our car, don’t give them money. If they’re wise, they’ll find a shelter. If they’re bums, they won’t.”
Audrey glowered. “Your mother sure does know a lot about life, doesn’t she? Why don’t you run away from home, from that nasty old wise mother of yours? I’d run.”
“Gosh,” said Tom Bean, “You never even met my mother. I meant no harm.”
“I meant no harm, either.” Audrey suddenly felt like crying. She admired Tom Bean’s brown muscled arms, his smile, the way he carried those books so lightly on his skateboard. He was like a sparrow flying at night. And he was kind. Her parents had never said a word about non-homeschooled boys being kind.
“You can come to my house…homeless girl…I mean, Audrey. I got Hostess treats and juice boxes and frozen pizza for supper. You could sleep on the living room floor, if you don’t mind.”
“You called me what?” cried Audrey.
“Oh. I stuck my foot in my mouth…I’m sorry I called you a homeless girl.”
Audrey wiped her face. “I’m sorry. I thought you called me a homeschooled girl.”
He sighed. “God, I wish I were homeschooled! Ninth grade’s Hades. Imagine a world with no lockers or hallway gossip, no greedy grade-snatching, no competition except against yourself. Imagine doing school in bed half the day and playing video games the other half. Imagine writing your own curriculum. What I wouldn’t give to be homeschooled!”
Audrey could hardly listen to this ignorant boy. Didn’t he have any idea? Didn’t he know that homeschooling meant ruin and murder and arson? Didn’t he know that she’d spent her entire homeschool career crying for freedom?
“I’m not exactly a normal kid,” Tom Bean continued. “They call me ADHD, and ADD, and obsessive-compulsive, and I’m not sure what else. I don’t care what people think of me. I’m just unique. I spend my days alone in my room, listening to old Beatles songs on cassettes. You ever heard of the Beatles? Long-haired, hippie guys from the 1960s? ‘Blackbirds, fly. Blackbirds, fly, into the light of a dark black night. All your lives, you were only waiting for this moment to arrive.’”
“You are confusing me,” said Audrey. She was sincerely confused, having never listened to music except gangster death metal. Her mother had rocked her to sleep as an infant with I Shot the Sheriff.
Blackbirds? All I know is blackmail!
Tom Bean grinned. “Hey, I wanna write a song for you right now. I wanna go home and show you my keyboards and sound equipment and junk. Next to riding skateboards, I love keyboards. I like writing songs for random strangers, you dig? And I think you’re kinda cute.”
Audrey had never felt so warm and precious as when Tom Bean gazed at her from his skateboard, outside his house, his arm around her shoulder protectively. She felt lovely. Her past was nothing. Coldness disappeared. She was nothing but the spirit of a lost blackbird…come home at last.
The clock read well past midnight, when Audrey and Tom Bean finally stopped geeking out over Rubber Soul. Audrey felt dizzy every time she thought, I’m in a stranger’s house, in a strange boy’s house, and nobody knows where I am, and I’m free!
“Gosh,” said Tom Bean. His earbuds jerked from his ears. He snapped off the Walkman he’d pulled from his dad’s junk drawer. “Did you hear that? Mom’s home. What should I do, smuggle you under the sofa?”
“Your old witch of a mother? Tom Bean! Why wouldn’t she want to see us together?” Audrey wondered.
Tom Bean gave her a meaningful look. “Don’t be stupid. I was thinking tonight, you were the smartest girl I ever knew.”
“Why do I have to hide? You’re not calling the cops, are you?”
“No. But Mom…you can never tell with her.”
“My mother said you needn’t be ashamed of anything you do. If you don’t get caught, that’s all that matters. And if you do get caught, run for your life.”
Tom Bean’s eyebrows questioned her.
Audrey blushed fiercely. “Alright, I’ll hide from your momma, but why are you so good all the time?”
“Dunno; I was just brought up that way. My Mom collects barrels of clothes for homeless kids and works at shelters. But she says her house is not a homeless shelter. If I’m caught with you in my room, my house will be like jail. Mom’s got a temper.”
He was impossible! Something about Tom Bean drove Audrey nuts. Yet she liked him dearly…he was the only one to make her feel she belonged in the world. If only Tom Bean could get rid his authoritarian mother, life would be just wonderful.
“I’ll tell Mom about you tomorrow,” said Tom Bean, “and see if she’s got a place for you at the local homeless shelter. I swear it.”
Homeless shelter! Audrey’s eyes blazed. Tom Bean saw it, and he retreated as though from a rabid tiger. That generous offer had been dead wrong.
Audrey clasped his hands. “No homeless shelters! Please! I’ve got this idea. I can’t stay at your house, clearly. I’m gonna make me a shelter in the forest preserve, pick nuts and berries, and camp out. Nature is my forever home. You can visit me in the forest preserve, bring me food and gifts, bring me books and clothes, things like that.”
He chose not to question Audrey living illegally in a forest preserve.
“Hand me your knapsack,” said Tom Bean. Then he raided his refrigerator, filling her knapsack, loading her down with food. He threw in tomatoes and squash. Threw in cans of Dr. Pepper and Orange Crush. Threw in cheese sticks and frozen fish. Threw in plastic containers with suspicious-looking leftover casseroles.
“You’d give me all that food? Really? Thank you,” Audrey wept.
“Stay longer. I’ll hide you in my house!” said Tom Bean.
“This is not a Russian covert spy operation. I’m thirteen—I’m an adult, and I can look after myself. I’m not dependent on teenage boys. But you sure are a sucker for kindness, Tom Bean Grassdigger. Thank you.”
Audrey trembled as she held out her hand to Tom Bean. Impulsively, he threw his arms around her. Then Audrey sneaked out his door, across his backyard, and headed for the forest preserve. Like a blackbird, she flew into the light of a dead-black night.
She built a fire with sticks and lived in an abandoned deer-hunting shelter.
Five weeks rose and fell in the forest preserve. How long could a young girl hide?
Her home was no larger than an outhouse, and smelled wretched, like dead skunks. Four feet long and four feet wide. The tin ceiling echoed with rain. Shrubs and poison ivy were all around. Coyotes howled through the night. Leaves crackled. Fear haunted her days.
Audrey scratched tally marks on the walls of the deer-hunting shelter. Five weeks had passed. Five weeks since she escaped the Homeschool Punks. How long would she make it? Her arms and legs, once pale and spindly, grew thick and sturdy. Her six-shooter was poised in her brown fingers. She poured raw bird-eggs down her throat and chased possums, desperate for a taste of meat. She picked and ate berries by the bucketful. Although they gave her terrible stomach cramps, and others looked poisonous, she kept picking and eating, picking and eating like a buzzard. Nothing filled the hungry longing inside her.
Like a shadow, she quivered whenever she heard leaves rustling. Then Tom Bean’s friendly face peered over the walls of the deer-hunting shelter. Delight poured into her heart like warm sunshine. He would whistle “Here Comes the Sun,” to let her know it was he. Audrey was delighted to find fresh library-books, beautifully bound books, nice smuggled books. She spent her days alone, reading books, and longing for one more glimpse of Tom Bean.
Tom Bean Grassdigger!
He was the best friend in the whole wide world. He meant more than the sky to Audrey. He was the bread and water she lived upon.
Yet her thoughts too often turned to the Homeschool Punks. Though she was disgusted, she was homesick, a little, and missed her siblings—not often Creed or Jason, although they were kind to her occasionally, but Allison, dear little Allison. Poor Allison! Pulling Jack and Killing Nancy were fast corrupting Allison for her upcoming Initiation Rite, when she would receive her own monogrammed silver six-shooter.
Audrey’s six-shooter was her only reminder of the Homeschool Punks. “What will I do with you?” she whispered, stroking the gun. She was afraid to touch it, lest it break the spell of her charmed life and bring her back to that Hades of a home. She was afraid her hand would break loose from her mind’s control and pull that trigger…
No matter how dirty her life in the forest preserve was, that gun remained silver and shiny and deadly. She buried it under a pile of horse-blankets, but it glimmered still. At night, she tossed feverishly on the ground, thinking of that gun. That gun! That hateful, infernal six-shooter!
How will I ever get the polish off that gun?
Tom Bean never knew, never saw the six-shooter. If he’d seen it, that boy would have surely called the police. He never would have befriended Audrey Wiggins, the Homeschool Punk.
I can’t let Tom Bean see. Yet I’m afraid! I’m afraid of being alone in the forest, alone in the forest with a gun!
I’m afraid of being in the forest with just ME.
Then the blow fell…
One morning, leaves crackled, and a small voice broke through the maples. Audrey jerked up from the U-V volume of the World Book. She’d been absorbed in reading about the history of umbrellas. A small face peered through the holes in the deer-hunting shelter.
“Open up, Audrey Wiggins! We know you’re in there!”
Audrey dropped the book, flattened herself against the brick walls. Bang! Bang! Crash! A sledgehammer beat down the door. Then, in stepped Allison Wiggins, dressed in cowgirl boots, a sneer on her face, a silver six-shooter in her hands.
“Allison!” Audrey forgot fear in her astonishment. “Allison, did you run away also?” She sincerely hoped she could persuade Allison to stay with her and hide.
“We’re all looking for you. Now I’m the hero. I found you!”
“What are you going to do with me? Where did you get that six-shooter?”
Allison grinned smugly. “My parents let me have my Rite of Initiation early. They gave me my monogrammed gun. It’s because you left us, Audrey, and now I get to fill your place, carry on the family business.”
“I will never come home. Little twerp, go on home. I’m done with you!”
Allison froze, the smile rotting into her candy-apple face.
“Why do you have a book? Who’s been bringing you those books? A bum? Audrey, you look just like a tramp, you’re dressed in rags, and you smell so terrible I can hardly stand being here. Tell me everything.”
Audrey stitched her lips.
“Pulling Jack smashed three windows when he knew you’d run away, Audrey. Killing Nancy was nicer. She said she’d give you a few weeks to come to your senses, like the Prodigal Son. But Pulling Jack is tearing up creation, trying to find you. So are Creed and Jason. The family is in turmoil. We haven’t robbed a bank in five weeks!”
“Good for you,” grumbled Audrey. “You people should sign up for Bank Robbers’ Anonymous.”
“What was that?”
It wasn’t Allison’s voice. It was Tom Bean’s voice, breaking through the forest. Tom Bean had dropped by for his daily visit, to cheer up Audrey and bring her library books and collect her used books.
Sweat broke along her temples. No, Allison, please God, God, if You do exist, make Tom Bean go away, GO AWAY!
Tom Bean faced Allison, and in the moment when shock registered on his face, Allison drew out her silver six-shooter slowly, deliciously, as though sucking a lollipop. Tom Bean’s face drained white, and he threw his hands up.
“What the hell is going on here?” cried Tom Bean, scared out of his wits.
Allison savored the boy’s terror, and, feeling especially proud of herself, said, “Are you Audrey’s boyfriend?”
“No…wha…what are you talking about?!”
“You are Audrey’s boyfriend. And I am Allison Wiggins, the Homeschool Punk, Audrey’s little sister. And I am going to shoot you. I will defend the family honor.”
All at once, Tom Bean broke free like a wild bobcat, scattering library books in his path, yelling like a banshee. Audrey’s heart sank as she knew where that smart boy was going—he was going to the Forest Ranger’s cabin, where they had a payphone, to call the police. He wouldn’t waste a bloody second.
Sure enough, Tom Bean called the police, and a search party entered the forest preserve. Allison fled to join her family on the highway, leaving Audrey huddled in the deer-hunting shelter.
To calm her nerves, Audrey tried humming, There are places I remember, all my life, though some have changed…in my life, I love you more. Even while the sound of police sirens and policemen’s voices picked up, and the search party drew closer, and she neared the end, she knew there was nobody in her life she loved more than Tom Bean. He had tried to protect her, and he had, and he had!
Policemen approached Audrey’s hideout.
“Audrey, surrender. Lay down your weapons. You are a member of the wanted Wiggins family of the Homeschool Punk movement, and you have fled the law. I repeat, YOU HAVE FLED THE LAW. OPEN UP!”
Fled the law! Audrey had done far greater damage than flee the law. She had fled her old life, and her old life would catch up to her. She would not escape. Instinctively, her hand flew to the silver six-shooter. A. W.
As Audrey came out to face the policemen, Tom Bean grabbed her and held her body close to his. “I’m sorry, Audrey, I don’t know what happened. I wanted to help you, and I was so shocked. I don’t know what got into me!”
Did Tom Bean still love her, even in the midst of this chaos? I want to say I’m sorry, Tom Bean, and I do love you. But some things in life, they’re so far-reaching, that even the words I’m sorry mean nothing.
Audrey grabbed for her friend Tom Bean to return his embrace, but the policemen were too quick. They were coming at her with their handcuffs. Her mind snapped back to punk mode, and a primitive survival instinct took over.
Flash-quick, Audrey pulled out her six-shooter, too horrified to think. She stared for a long moment into Tom Bean’s eyes. Then she pulled the trigger.