“Whatcha gonna do now, boy?”
Dylan turned and saw his father glaring at him, his fists clenched, his blood-shot blue eyes sparkling with an insane rage. Dylan had nowhere to run, the only escape route being over the balcony and a twenty-five foot fall to a marble floor.
His father’s hands were clenching and letting go as he approached his son. “Answer me, you little wimp, whatcha gonna do now? You’re trapped, there’s no place for you to go except down – like the loser you are.”
Dylan looked desperately around. His father had his arms out keeping Dylan from running along the landing to the stairs and his bulk blocked the entrance to Dylan’s bedroom. He was trapped. He felt a flutter in his chest and then a feeling like a hiccup at the base of his throat. No, not now, please, he thought recognizing the symptoms of an oncoming panic attack. Calm down, keep it together – find a way to get out of this.
“You’re shakin’ like a dog shittin’ peach seeds,” his father’s gruff voice reverberated against his now aching chest. “You gettin’ all scared, you gonna start cryin’?” he taunted.
Dylan saw his opening and dove under his father’s arm into his bedroom. He landed on his stomach, rolled over and kicked the bedroom door closed. It shook in its frame when his dad began pushing against it and rattled the locked knob. Dylan always kept the little button on the knob pushed in in anticipation of circumstances such as this.
“Little girly boy,” his dad said, the sound of his voice indicating that he’d moved away from the door and had headed for the stairs. “What a waste of space you are.”
Dylan stumbled up and grabbed the box he’d picked up from the post office. He ripped the paper open and tore at the cardboard flap. The bottle of Xanax fell out and he grabbed it shaking so hard that when he popped the lid off the white pills scattered across the shag carpeting.
He got on his knees and found two of them and stuffed them in his mouth. He bit down and the pasty, acrid tasting medicine almost choked him. Dylan took in deep breaths and kept swallowing, finally getting the noxious stuff down his throat. He lay on the bed and willed himself to breathe slowly and deeply.
His first panic attack had occurred six months ago at school. He’d thought he’d been having a heart attack and his teacher had shuttled him to the school doctor. After taking his pulse and watching Dylan shake, his eyes huge and frightened the doctor pressed a stethoscope to his chest. The arrhythmia had been obvious as the doctor listened and noticed Dylan’s heart would skip a beat every other time.
When the doctor had asked him if he felt a strange sensation in the bottom of his throat, like a hiccup, Dylan had nodded his head. He’d grown accustomed to that feeling until it had just seemed normal. The shaking, rapid heartbeat and pain across his chest were also things that he’d accepted as being perfectly alright. But as he heard the doctor tell his dad that he’d been suffering from a panic attack and that his heart had been affected, Dylan realized these things were not good and he swore to himself that he’d keep up with the doses of Xanax.
After he and his dad left the school instead of taking him to a heart doctor, his dad took him home. He had been in one of his rare happy moods. Dylan remembered his dad had been angry that he’d had to come to the school, but after talking to the doctor his dad’s mood did a complete 180; he acted as happy as though he’d just won the lottery. It puzzled Dylan, but he’d been too grateful for the reprieve from his father’s abusive tongue to question it.
The pain in his chest had lessened and his legs no longer shook. A wave of shame enveloped him as he thought about his panic attacks. He truly was a loser, just as his dad said. But his dad didn’t know how strong and fearless he could be. He didn’t think his dad would have the guts to break into strange houses and steal valuable things. His dad had to pick on kids to feel big. Dylan swore to himself he would never be mean to a kid. And then he thought about Riley and assured himself that he couldn’t have hurt her, even though he couldn’t remember, he just knew he couldn’t have killed her. Or could he have?
Is that what that nosy old man, Eloy had been trying to get him to confess? The thought caused his breath to catch and again he had to will himself to calm down. Why had Eloy been so nice to him? Did he dare trust that old pervert? Sure, he’d said he’d been innocent of child molestation, but Dylan knew prisons were full of so called innocent men. Yet, Eloy had treated him decently.
When he’d visited Eloy and had not answered any of the old man’s questions, and in fact asked him who he’d been expecting to use the sword on Eloy had chuckled and said, “I guess we both have secrets. Maybe someday you’ll be okay with opening up to me, and maybe I’ll let you in on a couple of mine. But, in the meantime,” the old man had gestured to the cell that Dylan kept in his front pocket, “we can help each other if we find ourselves in a jam.” Dylan had handed him the phone and Eloy had entered his number. “You get into any trouble, or need some help I’m on speed dial. Use it, soldier!”
Dylan opened his cell phone and then changed his mind. He didn’t need that old man’s help. Hadn’t he escaped his father on his own? Everyone thought he’d been nothing but a wimp, but Dylan knew that he only used that persona as a disguise.
He jumped from his bed and tore off his pajamas. The smell of his leather jacket and pants made him feel powerful and brought a thrill to his solar plexus. He slicked back his hair and stared as the transformation from geek to thug materialized. Shedding his glasses for the blue contact lenses his hand no longer shook. Tucking the switchblade into his pants pocket he felt that he’d have no trouble sticking the blade to the hilt in his dad’s fat gut. This Dylan, this confident and violent Dylan could not understand why the other Dylan quaked so in front of his old man. This Dylan hated his father and did not harbor an ounce of pity for him. Someday, he swore. Someday, that stupid pig will pay. But tonight he had work to do.
Using his rope ladder Dylan went out his window and scaled the wall. The sound of his dad’s laughter at the sitcom followed him through the gate and out into the street. Dylan took a deep breath of the warm night air and felt free. No one could stop him. Staring at the shadows he thought about the attack behind the drugstore. Let that sucker come at me again, he felt the hard metal of the switchblade in his pocket. I won’t show that sucker any mercy this time.
He felt invincible and the booty he got from these jaunts confirmed how successful and capable he really was. No matter what his dad said about him, Dylan knew a stupid, wimpy boy could not do what he did almost nightly. He laughed aloud and ducked beneath a tree. His targets tonight were the Boyd’s. Dylan had been watching them for the past two weeks and knew tonight they’d be gone for three hours, and sure enough, their car had not been in the driveway. He stealthily made his way to the kitchen door at the back of the house.
Most of the residents at Rubicon had chosen this same cheap door. There were glass panes that were framed by 1” by 1” strips of wood. The frame around the bottom pane could be pulled free, the glass pane slipped down and out giving easy access to the lock on the other side. He stepped into the Boyd’s dark kitchen and silently closed the door.
The house felt empty, yet Dylan stood for a few seconds listening. When he’d been satisfied no one had been home he went up the stairs to the bedrooms. He knew exactly what he had come for. When he’d first begun breaking into homes many times he’d not found much of value. He’d gotten smart and began to notice jewelry, or new cameras, or anything of value on his neighbors and the kids at school.
Donnie Boyd, a kid in a few of his classes had been sporting a 24 karat gold ID bracelet. What a dumb kid! The teachers all liked Donnie and thought him very industrious for working during the summer. Donnie always aced tests and volunteered to clean the black board. What a suck up!
Donnie had not been better than him. Donnie had worked all summer at a dead end job in order to buy that bracelet. And here, Dylan had been able to get it in just a few minutes of work. Didn’t that prove that Dylan had been better, smarter and braver than Donnie? What schmucks the Donnies’s of the world are.
And then he remembered how Donnie had told him he’d put in a good word with his boss if he ever wanted a job. Donnie had looked straight in his eyes and smiled. Dylan had been better than that. He’d never have to waste his time at some minimum wage job. Sure, there were risks, he could get caught, but he felt confident they’d never be able to lock him up. And like Bob Dylan’s song, Eternal Drifter, Dylan knew as the Donnie’s of the world bowed and scraped and did the right thing, he would slip unnoticed through their world to eternal freedom. And, he realized, he could never afford to trust anyone. He could trust only his mother. She appreciated him more than anyone ever would.
He held the gold bracelet in his hand. It had been heavy and Dylan’s heart soared with joy. He’d get a lot of money for this. Soon, he decided, very soon he’d be able to blow this messed up community . . .