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Chapter 16: Scene 61: What's left for me to do? Run


       I go back and stand at the window looking at the night and think about what Tony'd do. Run. What Johnny'd do. Run. So, what's left for me to do? Run. It decides itself. I hear footsteps coming up the stairs. I pull the screen almost closed, get into bed, clothes and all, pull the spread up over me and try to look like I'm asleep.

       It's only Sam. He undresses in the dark and climbs into bed without saying anything. I wait a long time after I hear the Montgomerys climb the stairs and go down the hall to their room. The old house creaks once in awhile, but that's all. At last, I ease out of bed and stand next to the window. I'm shivering even though it's not cold. I push on the screen, an inch at a time, and it tilts open. I tie my shoelaces together and hang my shoes around my neck. I duck my head out of the window and crawl out onto the porch roof. I reach in for my sacks, ease them out the window and hold them both with one hand. When I look back at Sam, he's got his back turned to me and he's breathing deep.

       I start down the roof. Slip a few inches. My legs scrape on the shingles. I press my heels into the roof until I stop. A minute ... two minutes ... no sound from inside. Down the road, a dog barks. I scootch on down toward the tree. A big black bird flies off a branch and squawks at me. I listen for Montgomery again. It's quiet.

       When I get to the corner of the porch, I stop and put on my shoes and drop my sacks off onto the lawn below. I look down. What if Old Man Montgomery's down there, ready to grab me? I grab a branch and hang from it. It creaks, but it holds me. I drop off into the black. When I hit the ground, I look around one more time before I lope off toward the freeway .

       This afternoon in the van, it seemed like we got to the Montgomery's just a couple of minutes after we left the freeway . After I've been walking eight, maybe ten minutes, I wonder if I'm headed the wrong way. Then I see the on-ramp . I worry about walking under the lights, but how else can I hitch a ride into Portland ? People in a little town like this will let Montgomery know right off if they see a strange kid wandering around in the dark. I've got to get out of here before daylight.

       I duck below a concrete barrier and wait. I did it. I'm free. No ornery old man's going to tell me every breath to take. I look at my watch. Almost midnight. Five minutes pass. Ten. No cars. While I hunker down, I get a sinking feeling I shouldn't have run off so quick. Maybe I will turn out like Johnny. Hit the road as soon as things get tough. Can't go back, though. I'd sure wake Montgomery up, trying to break back in. Hell, what if he's looking for me right now? I shudder. He might be out in the yard or calling the police. He'll wake Sam up, yelling at him, "Where'd he go? You know. Tell me."

       A white sedan comes up on the ramp, and I crouch down lower. Might be a state patrol car . Unmarked. Or a local cop. I stay down behind the barrier until it's far down the freeway . A few minutes later, a pickup slows down at the intersection below and turns onto the ramp. I step out onto the edge of the pavement so the driver can see me. "Going to Portland ?" I call to him through his open window.

       He pulls over and stops long enough for me to get in. "Sure am. I'd be glad for the company. Where you going this time of night?"

       I slide onto the plastic-covered seat. "I've got to get back home so I can go to school tomorrow. I've been visiting my cousin." One thing I learned from the guys at Fire Oak, always have a good story ready. It must sound all right to the driver, because he talks on and on, about places he's fished, his pickup , his girlfriend. The faster he talks, the faster he drives.

ThinkLink: If John spent an hour driving with the guy in the truck, how far do you think Kenwood is from Portland?

       About an hour later, he stops in the middle of a story about a deer-hunting trip. "This is the off-ramp to downtown. I'm going on to Vancouver , across the river, so I'll have to let you off here."

       "Thanks a lot," I tell him. "This will be fine. I'll walk down into town and get a bus home." I hear myself lie as good as Randy. Creepy thought. I climb down out of the pickup and walk toward the lights of downtown.

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 Updated on 5/13/04

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