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Chapter 5: Scene 17: They can't keep me here ‘til I'm twenty-one. Can they?


       He's going to let me go home. McGill as much as said he'd work it out. I have to tell somebody. Tony's staring out the only window at a little patch of grass and the blank wall of another building. Thug Randy has his head in an old comic book. Pat's leaning back on the plastic-covered couch, his eyes half-closed. He'll have to do. Talking to a zombie's better than talking to myself.

       "McGill's gonna let me go home."

       Pat's eyelids flicker. "You just got here."

       "He said he was going to call some people. Make a plan."

       Pat snorts. "He always calls. Everybody that comes in here gets a plan. He's just building a file on you."

       "But he said there are other options ..."

       "He said the regular stuff. Same ol' same ol'." Pat sits up and scratches behind his ear. "How old're you? Sixteen?"


       "So he can keep you six years, 'til you're twenty-one. It's the law ."

       "He can't do that. Besides, he could see I don't belong here."

       "Wanna bet? A guy got hurt, didn't he? While you was doing the gas station job."

       "It wasn't like that."

       "Sure." He leans back on the couch and closes his eyes all the way shut.

       Twenty-one? Six years? I'm still trying to deal with it when Tony walks up. "How'd McGill treat you, farm boy?"

       "They can't keep me here ‘til I'm twenty-one. Can they?"

       He crows. Really crows, crows like a rooster. "Gonna lock you up permanent , huh?"

       I splutter but not much comes out.

       "Don't shit a cow. They can't keep you in here forever. You got rights. You got a lawyer? They got to let you have a lawyer."

       "Oh, yeah, my lawyer." I think about Jackson making out wills and land contracts for a living and him fumbling through his briefcase at my hearing . "You know what he told me? I'm lucky my hearing was before the next election ."

       "The voters get to vote on sending you up?"

       "Sort of. Something about fixed sentences . There's a list. You do one of them and you do the time . Do the crime , do the time. That's what they call it."

ThinkLink: Have you ever had a nickname you didn’t like?

        "Tough shit. Maybe I'll start reading the papers." Tony leans back and stretches. "Hey, man, you really live on a ranch ? I say we call you Cowboy."

       Geez, I think, anything but Cowboy.

       "Your ranch have cowboys and horses?"

       "It's a wheat ranch . We used to have a couple of horses, but Pete and Red, they're my uncles, drive a pickup . We run some cattle , small herd."

       "See? That makes you cowboys. Me, I'm a city guy. Look for the action."

       "No cowboy stuff. Mostly we plant wheat . We grow it. We harvest it. Next year we do the same."

       Tony shrugs. "Say, Cowboy, what else you got on your record ?"

       "Me? Nothing."

       " Jaywalking ? Cutting school ? Hey, Girlie, maybe you're too goody for here. Play that up big with McGill next time you see him. Melt his heart."

       "I got a runaway ."

       "More like it." He grins. "Maybe you and me can get out together, pull some stuff. You could be a lookout. You know, the innocent -looking guy standing out on the sidewalk. How're you at..."

       "You can get me out of here? I get to go with you? What if McGill finds out?"

       "Don't sweat it. He knows we'll all be on the run if we get a chance. You play your cards right maybe they'll put you in Taylor Cottage with the rest of us." He looks me over. "I don't know. Taylor guys don't usually have Assault on their sheet. Maybe they'll stick you in a high security unit ."

       After four long days of me sweating it out, McGill finally calls me back. "We got approval from Administration to try you out in Taylor Cottage. It was a close call with Assault on your record . Don't brag about it. And don't get in fights. Remember what I'm saying."

       "But I thought. . . I mean, you said you'd make some calls."

       "And I did. These things take time."

       He looks down at my folder. Taylor, Smalyor. I can see he's not going to let me go home, so where does it matter where I'm going?

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 Updated on 5/13/04

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