He tried to pretend it didn't bother him, his father, and his father's attitude. His father didn't care if he was drunk in the gutter or dead in a car wreck, and it didn't bother him none.
But in the kitchen with the cheap table and the flimsy linoleum, the fading light coming through the faded curtains, his father's dead eyes, it bothered him.
Getting rip roaring drunk would help. It always did. So Dallas stared back at his father with his own dead eye stare and he flung the bottle off the table and heard it shatter as he left.
He walked with his purposeful stride toward the nearest honky tonk. He heard the thump of the music, once in his head and once in his chest as the last of the light faded from the sky.
"Whiskey on the rocks," he said at the bar and watched as the bartender splashed cheap whiskey over the ice cubes and thunked the drink down in front of him. He drank until melted ice cubes turned to water in his glass and then he ordered another one, and another one.
As Dallas was pretending he wasn't bothered by his father Johnny was holding in a scream as his father whipped him with the heavy leather belt that hung from a rusted nail in the kitchen. The silver buckle hit square in the small of his back and Johnny squeezed his eyes shut, clamped down hard on the scream that tried to rise out of him. Ponyboy thought he was tough because he wouldn't make a sound, but Ponyboy didn't know it was worse if he did.
Johnny also saw the light fading from the sky and coming in faded squares onto the kitchen floor.
As Dallas tried to pretend he didn't care Johnny wished like begging that the beating would end before he was bloody and unconscious on the kitchen floor.
As Dallas smashed the bottle in his kitchen Johnny's father threw the belt across the room where it slammed into the wall and thumped harmlessly to the floor.
"Ya worthless son of a bitch," he muttered at Johnny and left. Johnny let out his held breath and rubbed the sore spots, considered himself lucky because he was still standing.
He was seeing double and started to feel sick, but he was clutching the bar and looked sober enough, so when he ordered another drink he got it.
From the first sip he knew it would put him over the edge, and he could feel the headache spreading like water through his cells, could feel the room begin to spin in great swinging arcs and Dallas squeezed his eyes shut but it only made it worse, the world spun faster.
"Aw, fuck," he said as he headed for the door and felt minute relief from the cool night air, but the relief was short lived. He puked in a colorful splashing gust and grimaced from the taste of puke in his mouth, held onto the wall as his stomach cramped and he bent over, dry heaving because there was nothing left.
Johnny left his house as Dallas was arriving at the honky tonk, as the last of the light faded from the sky.
In the darkness it was okay to cry and Johnny did, the tears silently sliding down his cheeks.
He wiped the tears away with the rough sleeves of his jean jacket as he neared the Curtis house. That's where he liked to go when he was hurt, because someone always took care of him there.
No one was home, the door was open but no one was home and Johnny felt the disappointment like a whip with the belt and he shook his head, started walking away.
There was a fire and voices at the vacant lot and he passed it by, not up for seeing anyone not in the gang, not up for strangers' stares and questions.
He headed out toward the honky tonks, thinking he might find Dally or Two bit, and maybe they'd buy him a beer. He looked too young to buy them for himself. Shit, he could use a beer.
He wasn't drunk in the gutter but it was close. He sat on the sidewalk, feeling the cold cement beneath him, thinking it might feel nice just to lie down, the cool cement beneath his cheek. So he did, the tips of his blond hair damp and dirty, the sand grains digging uncomfortably into his cheek.
He sat up, peered way up to where the voice had come. Johnny.
"Dal? What ya doin'?"
He stood with difficulty and leaned against the wall at his back. The stars twinkled coldly from their places, but Dallas never noticed them. If he had looked at them now they'd be tiny white lines in his blurred vision. That's how they looked to Johnny because his old man had blackened one of his eyes and everything looked blurry, smeary, like a painting someone left out in the rain.
"Hey, uh, Johnny," He noticed Johnny's bruised appearance and felt something he'd felt before. Lust.