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Chapter 11: Scene 40: Group Homes


       I laugh with the rest and the tight muscles in my back sort of float loose. I coat my soggy hamburger with ketchup and chomp a big piece out of it.

       One of the kids at Randy's table leans over and says, "I'm leaving tomorrow for the Gleason group home up in Portland ? They got good food there?"

       "Depends on who's doing the cooking," Hi-Lo answers.

       Randy pokes his pointy nose in again. "Like I said before, I ain't never going to no group home again, I'd rather rot here first. They gotta let me outta here sometime, and I can hold out as long as they do."

       "Shut up, Randy." Tony waggles his hand. "Anything's better than being here. Still, group home workers tell you what to do all the time and they make you go to school or work every day."

ThinkLink: You go to school "on the outs," how is it different from the school at Fire Oak?

       "Going to school on the outs is a pain," Pat says. "I'd sit there, wondering what in the heck was going on, and I'd look outside at the kids sneaking a smoke next to the parking lot. First thing I know, there I was, out there with 'em, puffing away."

       Randy's been leaning over, trying to hear, and he busts in again. "There's nothing like being on the outs . Nobody telling me what to do all day and all night." His grin cracks his weasel face open. First time I ever saw him smile.

       "Yeah, I know whatcha mean," Pat says, like he forgets he's talking to Randy. He catches himself and leans in close to Tony and me and talks real low. "It helps to know some place to go. There's a safe house in Portland , close in to downtown. They let kids stay in the basement, no questions asked, it you do little stuff for them and you don't make no trouble. It's on Emory Street, past a park on Southwest 23rd. The number's 2321. Tell 'em Pat sent ya, like in the movies."

       I say it over in my head ... 2321 ... 2321 on Emory, past a park on Southwest 23rd.

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