“Hey, you alright?” Nick asked Ty sitting next to him on the porch.
“Yeah, I just don’t know how to live like this. As lousy as it was inside, I knew the rules. I knew how to live it. I knew what was expected. I mean, one building with 1700 people and I could do it with my eyes closed. In fact, that’s how I did most of it. . . Here . . . just the three of us and I can’t get it right.”
“Well how did you learn to do it on the inside?”
“I don’t know, I just watched and did what they told me.”
Nick stood up and faced him, “What’s the problem then? Come on, we’re going to pick eggs. Are you scared of chickens?”
“Come on and we’ll find out. Here, take this basket,” he said, shoving the basket at him. He took it and followed behind Nick. They went to the back of the barn where a chicken wire coupe was made. It was about ten feet wide, six feet high and about twenty-five feet deep. Along the side, against the barn, were boxes with straw in them. Nick went and got a coffee can full of feed from the barn.
“Here’s how it works. See that guy there, with all the color? Well, he’s the rooster. He’s the only one who will peck ya. If he gets close, just give him a little boot with your foot. Even if he pecks you it doesn’t really hurt. Now, in those boxes there are eggs. There are also a few made of stone. They are there to tell the hen what we want. Sorta like starter eggs. We leave them. When we go in, one can throw the food out and the other can collect the eggs when the hens get up to eat. So which would you rather do, throw the chicken feed or collect the eggs?”
“Um, I’ll collect the eggs.”
“OK, come on in then,” he said, as he undid the catch and slipped inside, closing it behind them. The chickens rushed towards the open gate trying to get to their freedom. Ty screamed as they rushed them.
“Shush, if you scare them too bad we won’t get any eggs from them tomorrow. Here, you go over there and I’ll start feeding them over here.” Nick threw handfuls of feed on the ground as he called, “Here chick chick chick, here chick chick chick.” As the chickens got up to feed, Ty collected the eggs in his basket. He collected about eight eggs and made his way back to the door. As they opened it to leave the chickens rushed to get out. This time two made it.
“Darn! Those two again. Last time it took me almost a week to get ’em.”
“Sorry, it’s my fault. I took too much time getting out.”
“Nonsense, if you moved any faster you would have just vibrated through the door like it wasn’t there. It just happens. Nobody’s fault, it just happens.”
“Well, why not build a Sally port?”
“A Sally port. Look, when you go into a prison yard, there is a small box you drive into first. Once they close the gate behind you, then they open the one in front of you. Then if someone tries to get out, they can only go in the small space. It’s easy to get them back in then.”
“That’s brilliant. Let’s show pa. If he likes it, you can help me build it.”
“Me? Build it? I don’t know anything about building stuff.”
“No problem, you can draw a picture of it and we’ll build it together.”
“I can probably do that. Pictures are easy.”
“Come on then, let’s do it and then show pa.”
“What about the chickens that got out?”
“Let them run for a bit. They’ll stay around where they get fed.”
“Then why keep them penned up?”
“Fences don’t just keep things in, they also keep things out. Like foxes.”
“Oh . . . I guess the chickens and I have some stuff in common. We both want out but don’t realize that it is safer where we were.”
“I guess, but there is adventure ahead of you. Life inside was the same from day to day. Look, I’m no superman. I’m the same age as you almost, maybe a few months difference. I survive here and you will too. Stop worrying so much. I’ll tell you what to do and you’ll be safe and learn. Trust me. Look, yesterday you had never seen chickens and today you have them working for you. How many eggs did you get?”
“Only about eight. Some didn’t have any eggs.”
“Well they don’t lay every day and if they get scared, then they stop too. We just had a pretty big storm so eights not too bad. Not bad for your first day. And you survived it. The next time we collect eggs you’ll know how to do it. And you’ll know what to expect. So there will be nothing to be afraid of. See, it’s just a matter of learning the things you don’t know. Let’s take the eggs in and then we’ll saddle Camile up.”
“It’s pretty muddy in the corral.” Ty said as they walked by it.
“We can take them for a walk if you’re alright with it then?”
“I thought they were supposed to take ‘us’ for a walk. I walked the warden’s dog on Tuesdays. The little shit would take six steps and then I had to carry him. I don’t think I can carry a horse.”
“Well, you have to hold them just right,” Nick said, trying not to laugh.
Ty stopped at the door to the house and turned around staring at Camile standing in the corral. “She’s awfully muddy,” he said seriously.
Nick couldn’t contain himself now as he reached out and grabbed Ty by the collar and pulled him inside. Laughing, he placed his forehead against Ty’s. “I was joking you silly goose. I meant that we would ride them and go for a walk. They are cold and exercise on a cool morning feels really good to a horse.”
“Oh,” Ty said, knowing he was out of step in his thinking again. Nick saw the disappointment in Ty’s eyes at being made fun of. It touched Nick’s heart.
“Look, you’re too serious. You need to laugh a bit.” Nick took the basket of eggs from Ty and headed for the kitchen. Ty followed. He watched as Nick rinsed the eggs off and carefully placed them in the bottom of the egg basket, putting the older eggs on the top.
Nick looked at Ty leaning against the door frame with his hands in his pockets. His eyes were unfeeling in their stare. He was someplace distant. “Where are you?” Nick asked.
“Oh, I was in the yard. It is nine o’clock. Morning exercise period. Big Bruce would have just relieved me of my breakfast and Chocolate Attitude just gave me the look that said he wanted me for his exercise. Since his eyes met mine, it was too late to hide or find someone else to be with. If I did he would make it worse later.” His eyes welled up and he turned away. Nick moved in behind him and wrapped his arms around him lovingly as he kissed the back of his head.
“You never have to go back there Ty. Put it out of your mind.”
“I’m trying, but every step of the way reminds me that I don’t belong here.”
Nick took him by the hand and led him up the stairs to his room and led him over to his bed. He sat down with his back against the headboard and pulled Ty in to sit against him. He wrapped his arms around his waist and interlaced his fingers. He sat quietly for a few minutes before he spoke.
“Ty, tell me why you don’t belong here.” he asked in almost a whisper, his lips brushing his ear.
“I’m no good. I’ve been thrown away,” he said, quietly. His eyes closed, reveling in the embrace.
“You had no control over any of it.” Nick whispered as he kissed him gently on the neck.
“If there was anything worthwhile in me, then someone would have saved me from it all.”
“I’m here to save you from it now.”
“Are you? Others have kissed me and said they would protect me.”
“Others didn’t love you.”
“That’s just a word that people use to get what they want. In the end, they throw me away.”
“Then you think we are doing this to get what we want?”
“Everybody has a reason.”
“What do you have that we want?”
“I don’t know.”
“I’ll tell you if you kiss me.”
He turned his body at the waist and kissed Nick.
“I want your heart.”
“I think you have it.”
“Can I keep you anyways?”
“Yeah, forever I hope.”
“Stop fighting us. There is nothing we want except your love and happiness. We’re here to rescue you. Let us rescue you.”
Ty moved over on the bed and turned to face Nick. “And when I’m rescued?”
Nick slid down on the bed and pulled Ty overtop of him as he spoke. “Then you can rescue me from life without your arms . . . your lips . . . and your love.”
“I don’t know how to rescue you, how to love you.”
“You’re doing fine,” Nick said, as he pulled Ty’s butt tight against him. They could feel each other’s hard length through their jeans. “Keep doing what your heart tells you. One other thing.”
“Promise me you’ll never leave me.”
“You would want such a promise?”
“I would die for such a promise.” He pulled Ty into a deep kiss as he moved his hips against Ty’s. A horn sounded breaking the silence.
“It’s for you,” Nick said, pulling his lips away.
“What is it?”
“Fed – Ex.”
“What? The Feds are here for me? I didn’t do anything that bad!”
“Come on, you silly thing. It’s your clothes!”
“Oh, yeah, of course it is. I was just kidding ya. I knew it all the time.”
“Right, come on.”
They ran down the steps and out on the porch to find Oggie signing a form while the guy in the blue outfit set the boxes on the porch. There were a lot of boxes.
Ty just looked at them. “They all can’t be mine.”
“They aren’t,” Oggie said, rooting around for one of them. He came up with a very small one and pulled a pocket knife out of his pocket and cut the top of the box open. He folded the knife expertly and slipped it back into his pocket. He opened the box and pulled out a leather sheath with a belt loop on it. He handed it to Ty.
“This one I ordered as a little welcome home gift to you. Now the rest of them are for you.”
Ty looked at the sheath. It said “BUCK” on it. He unsnapped it and pulled out what was inside. It was a knife! He turned to Oggie and held it out to him. “Oggie, prisoners aren’t aloud to have knives.”
“Yep, you’re right, prisoners aren’t.” He ignored the proffered knife and turned and went back in the house saying, “But you’re a free boy here and a country boy needs a good knife.”
Ty stood looking as he walked away and finally put his arms down as he studied the first real symbol of freedom that was placed in his hands. He turned and sat down on the steps and studied the knife and felt the sharpness.
“Ouch!” he yelled, as blood ran from his thumb.
“Let me see,” Nick said. “Good, it’s not too deep. Suck on it a little. Look here, never feel the length of the blade to check for sharpness. Always gently and across, like this,” he said, demonstrating the proper techniques. “I guess Pop figured you’ll need it to open all these boxes. Let me get you a band aid for that cut. Then we’ll carry these things upstairs.”
Ty sat on the steps sucking on the wound and staring at the cherished gift Oggie had placed in his hand.
Nick returned with the band aid and placed it firmly around his thumb.
“Now, let’s get your things upstairs and take a look at your new stuff. I can’t wait to see you in your new duds.” He grabbed a couple boxes and propped the door open, waiting for Ty. “Come on, grab a couple, you’re letting the flies in.”
Ty got up and carefully put the knife back in the sheath and then pushed it into his pocket. He snatched up two boxes and caught the screen door from Nick with his elbow before following Nick upstairs. They returned, each grabbing two more boxes and making their way up the stairs.
Ty just sat and looked at all the boxes that littered his room while Nick retrieved the last couple boxes.
“What are you waiting for? You’ve got a knife, start opening!”
Ty’s eyes lit up and he reached for his sheath and he carefully unsnapped it and opened it. He picked up the first box and inserted the blade under the first flap and pulled it towards him, cutting the tape that held it shut.
“Stop!” Nick yelled.
Ty froze, a look of panic on his face.
“Ok, time for a little class on knives. You’ve never had one before, have you.” It was a statement, not a question.
“These things can be a great tool or they can cut. You’ve already seen a little of what can happen when you don’t handle one properly.” Nick pulled his knife out of his pocket. It was well used and showed years of wear on it. He picked up a box and stuck his knife in the flap. “Always cut away from yourself and anyone else. You could slip and cut someone in front of you or yourself. Remember that your leg is under the cardboard. Never muscle it, let the blade do the work. Never draw it towards yourself.”
Ty pulled his knife out and reinserted it under the flap, going away from himself.
“That’s right, see. It’s just a matter of having the right information. And now you know for the next time. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you. Now you know, so have at it and cut these open.”
Ty cut the flaps on all the boxes, leaving the three with hats for Nick to open. He was afraid he might damage them.
“OK, let’s get the shirts and pants out and see how they fit.” Ty pulled out all the shirts and stacked them on his bed, followed by the stacks of pants and jeans. While he did, Nick collected boxes and took them downstairs. He returned to see Ty sitting naked, his feet folded underneath him, his hands on his knees. Ty stared at the stacks of new clothes. He silently wept, just staring at them, afraid to touch them.
Nick noticed how frightened he looked and saw the tears. He went in and sat next to him placing his hand on his back. “You should be happy right now. Why the tears?”
“I don’t know. It’s like . . . it’s like I’m afraid. Something bad will happen if I touch them.”
“Then let me help you. If it’s bad, let it happen to me. Let’s try a shirt and see if I measured right.”
“If you didn’t, then can we measure again?” Ty’s eyes lit up, remembering how he did it.
“We don’t have to wait to do that,” Nick said, fitting the first shirt over his arms and let it hang on his shoulders, unbuttoned. Nick leaned forward and kissed his lips. Then moved to his neck and slowly kissed and sucked on his collar bone. As Ty’s breathing changed, he kissed down to his nipple and his tongue teased one until it was hard and raised. He teased it some more as Ty gasped, pulling Nick on top of him as he fell backwards on his back. Nick once again started at his mouth and worked his way down his neck to his nips. Attention to his other nipple brought Ty to a squirming mass of tormented boy flesh, writhing underneath Nick, looking for relief and release.
Nick moved down his muscular but lithe frame, kissing as he moved across his tight, undulating tummy. Ty whimpered and squirmed under his administrations, thrusting his hips up as Nick swirled his crown. Ty grabbed his head and thrust his hips forward and back as he neared his internal explosion. Nick tried to suck him inside out, as his hands grabbed his hips, his fingers pulling the mounds into him. Ty let out a burst of animalistic cries as his orgasm hit. His load seemed more copious than usual and he thrust forward accordingly through several blasts rather than the usual one or two. He collapsed, breathing heavily as his oblivion ebbed and reality began to make itself known again. He pulled Nick up to his face and studied his eyes for a moment before he slowly brought him in to his lips and kissed him. He hugged him and Nick felt his sobs as his body reached for breaths in between.
“Shush,” Nick whispered. “You’re alright, I am here with you. That was for you, only for you. I want nothing from you except to share your happiness. You are safe and these things are yours. I have my own. I need to tell you something now I think you need to know. Are you listening?”
Nick moved up on his hands, his waist still pushing into Ty’s. He looked in his eyes, “Ty, Oggie did the same for me as he did for you. He isn’t my biological father. He and my mother were lovers, after my father had died. Mom got sick and he took care of her. I was five. I didn’t have any aunts or uncles. I would have been put into a children’s home. He saved me and loved me just like he is doing for you.”
“But you look so much like him.”
“He looks a lot like my dad did. He adopted me and has loved me ever since. He thinks I’ve forgotten it because I was so young, but I remember. He is as good a pa as you could ever ask for. Let him love you too. He’ll do what he says.” Nick let himself down and lay hugging Ty tightly to him.
Ty’s mind reeled at this revelation and all the implications that it had. He felt less like an outsider, more like he and Nick were learning together. Even though Nick had been there long before, he felt more his equal somehow.
Nick regained his composure, “You won’t mention it, will you?”
Ty shook his head no. But a new sparkle now lived in his eyes.
“Let’s get you outfitted. Then we’ll get it all washed up and soft feeling.”
“If it’s alright with you, I think I should like to wear it crisp from the store. I’ve never felt new clothing on me before.”
“Alright then but you better put a t-shirt on first or the sizing will rub your nipples raw.” He tore open a package of T-shirts and tossed one at him. He took off the shirt Nick had put on him and then put on the T-shirt.
“Which do you want to try first, boxer or briefs?”
“Briefs I think,” he said, taking a package and opening it brutally. He held a pair up to look at them and then slipped a leg into the first hole. He stepped into them, pulling them up. He reached inside and adjusted things as a boy does when wearing something so confining. He put the shirt back on and Nick handed him a pair of jeans. He held them and smelled them. He eyed the labels and how they were attached. He slipped them on and then the belt. He marveled at the feel of them. Then it came time for the boots. He had three pair to choose from.
“Try them all on first to see how they feel, then choose,” Nick suggested. “Besides, I want to see how you look in them.”
Ty tried them all on, deciding that he still didn’t like the feel of the snake skin, even though they looked cool on him. He decided on the square-toed cowboy boots. He liked the way his socks felt and that they stayed up on their own. When he was lucky enough to have any, they always piled up about his ankles. He stood up and walked around a bit. He grabbed his new Buck knife and undid his belt to slide it on. Nick helped him position it correctly so it wouldn’t get in his way getting on or off Camile.
“One more piece,” Nick said, grabbing a brush and brushing Ty’s hair. He grabbed the black felt hat and placed it on Ty’s head. He turned him around to face the mirror. Ty froze, staring at the image before him.
“Is that really me?” he said, unbelieving.
“Yeah, and you sure look hot.” Nick got a worried look on his face. Ty noticed.
“Looking that good, I ‘spect you’ll have a lot of choices before you.”
“What do you mean?”
“Nothing, don’t worry about it. You look hot! Come on, let’s go show pa.”
They went down the steps to the living room. “Wait here, let me go get him.”
Nick disappeared into Oggie’s office and reappeared with Oggie in tow.
“Where the devil are you dragging me to . . . Wow!” he stopped cold in his tracks. “Well, aren’t you the handsome young man. Turn around once for me slowly.”
“Nice ass, huh pa?”
“Well, as posteriors go for the male of the species, I would say yes. It appears to be nicely formed.” Oggie stammered through his answer. “I think this calls for a celebration. Let’s go into town for stakes. I’ll call Sharon down at the Sawdust Grill and see if they have a couple of rooms and we can spend the night. I’ll give Chey-tan a call and see if he can feed for us in the morning. You look awesome. How do they feel?”
Ty was smiling over Oggie’s approval. “They feel . . . new. In more ways than one. I feel sorta like I’ve stolen somebody else’s body.”
“Well, you are supposed to feel different. It’s the new you. You have a new life, it’s only fitting that you have some new threads to start it off in.”
Ty ran to Oggie and hugged him, “Thank you.” He squeezed him hard and Oggie pulled him away. Kneeling down to be eye to eye with him he spoke.”Now, don’t you be afraid anymore. You are a new kid with a new life and new family to help you through it. You just hang with us kid and you’re going to be alright. And Monday, I think I want to sit down with you and talk to you about drawing. I want to see what you can do. I have a sketch pad here and some pencils. Just draw some stuff for me would ya?”
Ty took the sketch pad and pencils smiling. “I don’t know what to say. What do you want me to draw?”
“Anything your heart desires.”
Nick took him by the hand, “Come on. We need to cut all the tags off of your new stuff now that we know it all fits and then wash it. I’ll give you a hand. You need to learn how to run the washer and dryer anyhow. We can start a load and then take the horses out for a walk. You might want to change your felt for the straw. It’ll keep it nice and felt is too warm for riding in the summer.”
The boys removed the tags and put the first load of whites in. They gathered whites from Oggie and Nicks stuff to make a full load.
“It’s like the dishwasher, try and make it a full load if you can. That way, we aren’t pumping extra stuff into the ground. Besides, soap cost money and we don’t want to waste it.”
“Yeah, but I don’t think you’ll be washing it in the sink if you can’t make it a full load.” Ty laughed.
“You’re probably right, but I might wear something else so that the stuff can wait for more to come along.”
“Come on, let’s saddle up.”
“Can we take my paper and pencils? Is there some way to carry them?”
“Sure, we’ll put them in my saddle bags. Let’s make some sandwiches. I know a place where the view is beautiful. We can stop for lunch there and you can draw if you want.”
“Sweet! That sounds like fun.”
“See, saddling isn’t that tough and Camile really likes you. Horses like to work. It makes them feel good. And you’re learning really fast too.”
“Yeah, it took me a lot longer.”
“Were you afraid of everything too?”
“No, it was different for me. See, I had just the opposite problem. Mom did everything for me. She protected me, did for me, taught me and loved me. Then one day, she was gone. I had to learn to do all those things for myself. I guess I was a little scared now that I think on it. But pa held me and loved me and was patient with me. I owe him a lot.”
“Me too,” Ty said quietly. “I owe you a lot too and it’s only been three days or so.”
“Nah, you owe me nothing. I don’t do things for you to build a debt. I don’t keep score. You see, when I do something nice for someone, it makes me feel good inside. Your smile makes me twice as happy inside because I helped make you that way. It’s a strange feeling of power. You feel like you have the power to make someone happy and that’s really something. Anyone can make you sad or angry. But it takes someone special to make you happy. So when I can, it makes me feel special. It is a feeling I like to feel.”
“Come on, there’s a meadow at the top of this hill. We can stop there for lunch. It’s one of my favorite places. I come here to think sometimes.”
“Does it have a name?”
“Nope, never thought it needed one. Over here.” They rode up to the top of the knoll and stopped under a big tree. It had big leaves and provided lots of shade.
Ty thought it to be a perfect tree, on a perfect hill overlooking a perfect life. “Can I name it? Please?”
“Sure, what shall we call it?”
“I don’t know yet.”
“I like to come up here, because it keeps me small.”
“What do you mean, it keeps you small?”
“When we rode up here, we came to this tree because it has the comfort of the view and the huge shade. If I were this tree I would feel pretty good about myself, wouldn’t you?”
“Yeah, I suppose so. What’s this tree got to do with feeling small?”
“Well now, if I were this tree and I looked out over this valley, I’d see that without every thing else it wouldn’t be so beautiful. I’d ask what the other trees saw and felt. This would be a pretty desolate, unimportant, knoll without this tree. So, it reminds me that I can stand out and be seen as important, but in the grand scheme of things, I’m nothing without the rest. Look out there over the high desert. That’s life without this tree.”
“I guess I still don’t get it.”
“Without someone to see what you stand for, then you stand for nothing. For me, that translates to needing to be needed. I want to be needed. For me, that is more important than being loved. No matter what I have to offer, if I’m not needed, then the rest is unimportant.”
“I think you think too much. I’m here to tell you that I’ve been needed and unloved. I’ll take loved over needed any day.”
Nick stepped down off his horse. “Would you? You seem pretty comfortable in a situation where you are unloved but needed and pretty scared when you are loved and not needed.”
Ty stepped down from his horse and they dropped the reins to let them graze. “Won’t they wander off?” Ty asked, concerned.
“Not while we need them,” he smiled.
“Is that why you tell me you love me? Because I need you so much?”
“For me, love includes a need to be needed.”
“So when I’ve lived here a long time and I’m not afraid of everything, will you stop loving me?”
Nick stopped and looked at him like he’d been slapped. “You know what? That’s a fair question. I think I know the answer already, but I want to ponder it a bit, just to show you that I am taking it serious.” He sat down and pulled the top off of some high grass and sucked on the stalk a bit as he surveyed the valley. Ty looked at him and went to the horse and got his sketch pad. He sat down facing Nick and started sketching. He paused to look over the valley. Then he started sketching again, his hands worked faster and faster over the page. Nick glanced over and saw him sketching feverishly.
“Can I see?”
“No, it’s bad luck to let anyone see it unfinished.”
“You don’t believe that do you?”
“No, not really, but it’s not very good. I haven’t drawn anything in a long time. It was usually on a piece of notebook paper.”
“Let me see, please? I won’t laugh, I promise.”
Ty stood up and handed him the pad and walked quickly away towards Smokey to put his pencils away. He glanced over his shoulder to see if he could glimpse a reaction from Nick. Nick was sitting with his knees up staring at the page, his mouth open slightly. He fanned through the empty pages finding one nestled in the back. It was of him, lying naked. The realism was spectacular. The shading made it sensual, the pose erotic.
Ty walked up on him, “Oh, you found it. I wasn’t sure if it would make you angry or not. I drew it last night when I got up to go to the bathroom. I came back in and you had rolled over on your stomach towards the wall. You were just so beautiful there.”
Nick stared for a moment in silence.
“Say something would ya?” Ty said, feeling a little nervous.
“They’re fantastic. I think I just boned up looking at a picture of myself. You made me look so . . .”
“Hot is the word you’re looking for.”
“Yeah, well, that’s not exactly a word I’ve ever heard used in conjunction with my name. But if I imagined another face on this body I could say it easily.”
“But that is your body. See, you have a beauty mark right there above your left hip. And the roundness of your ass is perfect.”
“You think so?” Nick asked, blushing.
“Look at the muscle definition in your arms.” He pointed at his arms and then at the drawing.
“Wow, you draw fantastically. I wish I could draw like that. It’s almost like a snapshot, only better. And, on this one, where did you see the deer?”
“Oh, those I remembered from the drive up here. I just got a glimpse of them before they ran off into the woods. I wish I could see more of them.”
“You can, give me a few days. I’ll arrange it. Can you draw anything or just people and deer?”
“I don’t know, I never tried. I know how to draw people because I used to draw them for Van-go. He did the tats.”
“The tats, you know tattoos.”
“Someone would want a girlfriend done so I would go and look at them in visitation. Then I would draw them. I earned a lot of smokes doing that.”
“Are you kidding? Tried it once and thought I was going to puke my eyes out. But they were like money. I actually got a candy bar once and got to eat almost all of it myself.”
“I can’t wait for pa to see these. Well, I can wait for him to see the naked one, but this one you did here. I just can’t believe it.”
“Well, give me a chance to get a few more done before you say anything. I want to try some other things.”
“Alright, but I want to be there when you finally show him these. The look on his face is going to be priceless. Hey, let’s eat those sandwiches we brought.”
“You think they’ll be good enough?”
Nick fought back a laugh but he couldn’t keep his grin in check. “Yeah, I think they’ll be plenty good enough.”
“Why the grin then? You setting me up to take a hit?”
“Ty, you have to learn to trust me a bit more. These are fantastic. I think pa is going to be flat blown out of his mind when he sees them.”
“Really? You’re not just saying that.”
“You’re really clueless about it, aren’t you?”
“Well, jailhouse tats are one thing. This is another.”
“What do ya mean?”
“Well, in the jailhouse, I wasn’t layin’ the ink, so if it was screwed up, I was still safe. Out here, these gotta stand on their own. If they don’t, then there won’t be any green, green for the bling bling if ya know what I mean.”
“I had it right up to the green green for the bling bling part. What the hell are you talking about and what the hell is bling anyways? That’s what that one kid said. He didn’t have no bling for the thing or something like that.”
“Bling is your stuff. The stuff that tells people who you are and what you got. Like your hat and buckle, they’re kinda like cowboy bling.”
“Oh, sorta like gangster rap shit, I get it. No thanks man. I’m too real for that crap.”
“What do you mean too real? I can assure you the gangsters I was with were bustin’ real caps. Could make a guy real dead. That’s pretty real.”
“Yeah, but any kid can point and pull the trigger. That kind of change is temporary though.”
“Dude, death is not temporary.”
“Yeah, but the cause for that kind of fighting is temporary. Look, they fight over turf. This week this side has it. They kill a dude and next week they have it and it just keeps trading places. There are things worth dying for, but a few blocks of city ain’t one of them. Do you think any of those shot are remembered a year later? What I mean by real is like me and pa. What you see is what you get. When we smile it means something, when we don’t, then the meaning is plain.” Ty just looked at him and then at his feet. He stood up.
“We better be getting back don’t ya think?”
“What’s your hurry?”
“Don’t we have to get things ready for tonight?”
“No, it’s all taken care of. You got something to say, I can see it in ya. Go ahead and say it. It’s alright.”
“No, that’s ok. Let’s get onto something else.”
“Ty, you’re allowed to have a different opinion and who knows, maybe you’ll change mine. That’s what growing is all about.”
“It’s just that you guys aren’t really a whole lot different than they are. You would protect your space if people tried to take it from you. Those few blocks of city that you talk about, is their cornfield. They sell drugs and sex, that lets them be who they are and live how they want to live. You may see it as wrong, but they don’t. For them, it is the only choice they have. It is all they have. A few blocks can mean the difference between the joint or a grave and their babies having milk to drink and lunch money. There aren’t any other jobs there. They just see life differently than you do.”
“I never thought about them having babies and kids, ya know.”
“Look, when life is that bad, you will do anything to escape it, even if it’s only for a few hours. That’s why drugs are so popular. They make you feel great. Then you come down and you’re still there, in the shit. No way out. So you do some more drugs. One day at a time they escape. Sometimes one hour at a time. Then they get so focused on escape they forget those who count on them, who have to stay in it. Then one day, they’re gone and they don’t hurt anymore. But the ones left behind hurt and they have no escape. Sometime you wonder why they didn’t take you with them. Why didn’t they end their kids suffering too? It would have to be better than staying behind . . . like this.”
“Ah shit man, I’m sorry.” Nick wrapped his arms around Ty as he cried, and his tears turned into wails of anger at his mother for leaving him behind. Nick listened and held him and pulled him in tight and when he went to pull away, Nick held him tighter until all the tears subsided.
Ty cried himself out and sat up. “Do you know why I was in prison?”
“No,” Nick whispered.
“I was trying to buy some drugs. I didn’t have any money, but I knew my tight ass would get me enough. I wanted enough to follow her, to be with my mom. And every time I got near enough to maybe make it happen, I got arrested for something I didn’t have any part in. I’ve never so much as spit on the sidewalk. All I ever wanted was enough drugs to do one time. I wanted to make the escape permanent like she did.”
This time Nick was the one crying, “I’m so glad you didn’t. See, God was keeping you for me. I’m so sorry Ty.”
“No, I’m sorry I made you cry.”
“Ty, you . . . you wouldn’t still try something like that, would you?”
Ty smiled, “If you had asked me that three days ago, I would have lied and said no. But today, I have you and I have Oggie. I’m scared, but I’ll give it a try. I can always go back to the joint. It’s easy to do something like that there. But the short answer is no. I don’t feel like I want to do that anymore. I feel like there is something a whole lot better right here. You.”
Nick kissed him long, slow and deep. “Sit, draw some more. We have time.”
Ty went and got his pencils again from the saddle bags as Nick watched. When he returned he looked at Ty. “I can answer you now. I will love you always and I will always need you too.” Nick stretched out and laid his head on the outstretched thigh of Ty’s leg. He drifted off to sleep.
“Hey, sleepy head. I think my leg went to sleep. You need to wake up, I have to pee something fierce.”
“Oh!” Nick sighed as he stretched. He looked at the sun, then looked at his watch. “Man, did I really sleep an hour and a half?”
“Yeah, you did. It was beautiful watching you sleep. I really like to do it. You’re just so beautiful when you’re sleeping.”
“Oh yeah, that drool in the corner of your mouth when you wake up has to be fun to watch. And what about eye crumbs, where do they come from, anyways.” He said, rubbing them out of his tear ducts.
“The Escape.” Ty said.
“You wanted to know what name I wanted to give this place. I want to call it The Escape.”
“That fits, Escape it is. You want to go for a quick dip on the way back?”
“Uh yeah, well, I’m not so good with that.”
Nick smile and punched his arm playfully. “Come on then, let’s go have some steaks.”
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