YS- I'll try to make this intro short

YS- I'll try to make this intro short. This story is taken through Mr. Curtis' point of view, the day of his death. It's long, but this is a one shot story, so this is the first and only chapter unless there is a phenomenal response and I feel eager to write another chapter. In this story I included my own OC, Holly Ann Curtis, from Ain't Tough Enough, so it's possible if you haven't read that, you'll be lost. This story is set the eight months ago, so almost all ages are one year behind. I do not own The Outsiders, only Holly Ann Curtis. Enjoy!

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Darrel Senior Curtis POV:

"Fuck," I cussed, waved my finger where the lighter burned the skin, and looked towards the front door. Though I walked far enough from the front door to be out of earshot I apologized under my breath for cursing as if Ann, my wife, or one of the kids had caught me. When I realized that no one was rushing through the door to call me out for the curse, I relaxed, put my lighter away, and blew out the smoke evenly. If Ann wasn't home, I'd gladly smoke a joint on the porch, but she's been on my case for months to quit. I told her I would and I had for a while, but bad habits are hard to break. I chewed gum to distract myself and cleaned out each package I could find, but the damn cigarettes kept finding me and I wasn't about to deny the temptation. For Pete Sake's, I'm only human. I quietly put the package of Kools underneath my hunting cap and took another long drag of my cigarette. Again, I looked at the front door and tried to shield the view of myself from any window. I realized once I'm found I 'd be defiantly screwed.

However, it was Sunday and Sunday at the Curtsies were rarely put into action until nine or ten o' clock in the morning. Sometimes I found Sodapop in the driveway, early Sunday mornings, cleaning up the yard as his mother asked about a day ago, but today was not one of those days. The fall had bitterly entered all of Tulsa, the streets were bare, and the only noise I could hear was the sounds of cars swiftly turning into their owner's driveway. The cold that teetered on the edge of winter and fall froze my ears knuckles until they were red, while my toes curled and ached. I buried my hands under my armpits as my flannel shirt tried to keep the rest of my body warm, but the buttons were missing and my jeans had holes. A person would have to be half-crazy and drunk to come outside without a jacket. Anything for a cigarette, I suppose

"You bastard! You seething little spineless worm," yelled Mrs. Koon to her husband across the street. "Look at me when I'm talking to you!" I looked over. Mr. Koon was getting in his car as she pounded on the window.

The Koon couple had been arguing since the week after they moved in, which was exactly four years and six months ago. I've been counting. It was a bitch to wake up in the middle of the night hearing that screech by Mrs. Koon or that constant door slam by Mr. Koon, but it's not exactly like I could tell them to leave. They'd probably bite my head off. Instead, I watch the couple like the scene from a movie being played at The Nightly Double, a drive in Movie Theater. I mean when Ann and I were young and Darry was just a newborn I had my fair share of fights with my wife too. We'd argue about money and Darry and our whereabouts, just like the Koon couple. Except by the time Sodapop, Ponyboy, and Holly came around Ann and I found little time to argue or at least reasons to argue. Screaming your heads off at one another wasn't going to make the bills go away or the kids easier to raise. Maybe I should tell the Koon couple that. I pulled the cigarette from my lips and watched Mrs. Koon retreat angrily back inside. Then again, I doubt those two hardheaded fools would listen.

The wind was wild. Damn Oklahoma wind. The sun was out and there wasn't the slightest cloud lying throughout the sky. I should have grabbed my jacket off the coat hanger as I was stepping out of the house, but when your trying to sneak a cigarette behind your family's back you just don't think. I leaned slowly and quietly against the front hood of Darry's orange pickup, wanting to make sure that I was still out of view from the house. I haven't had a drag in six months. I wanted to believe Ann would go easy on me, but better to be safe then sorry. Sometimes I start thinking about the bills or the kids or the way work has been going and I find myself nervous as hell trying to find a cigarette. Not that the cigarette made the problems go away or the set a good example for the kid who found me, but it cleared my mind. Sure, I'd have to hide by the garage or the car door, but if you could forget your problems for a minute or even a second, you'd be at it too. I am and I've "quit" a hundred times. I leaned against my blue car and reminded myself that Ann and I were going out for a drive today.

As I rushed my hand through the wild and thick of curls of my brown hair, I heard the front door slam and I immediately allowed the cigarette to drop on the rubble considered to be our driveway. I dug my shoe harder within the ground, trying to burn any evidence, and possibly any guilt that entailed the supposedly wretched habit. I didn't want to turn right away to find Pony, Soda, Darry, or Holly curiously questionin' the smell of cigarette, but I especially hadn't want to turn to find Ann. There she would be standing with a disappointed look, which was bound to earn myself a day of the cold shoulder. Instead, I coughed and pretended to seem incredibly busy with something in my pocket. All I found was a crumbled up receipt from the grocery store, so I turned the paper several times and waited for a familiar voice to be heard.

"Hi Dad," came Holly's voice. Holly was my youngest, my eleven-year-old. I relaxed, turned, and smiled as Holly Ann pushed past the gate separating the driveway and the front yard. I shoved the receipt back in my pocket.

"Hi Holly baby," I tried to smile back, but I'm certain it was crooked and awkward. "Need something, kiddo?"

"Nah," she told me and kicked a rock against the gate. "Just wonderin' where ya' were."

I dug my foot harder on the dead cigarette, "Just needed a breath of fresh air, hun."

"Me too," Holly said and gave a grin. A grin I got from my father and Holly inherited from me. Mrs. Koon slammed the door across the street, again.

Holly pursed her lips and gave a confused look towards Mrs. Koon and then at me. "Why is Mrs. Koon, so mad all the time?"

I sugarcoated the answer, "That woman has a lot of worries, that's all." Why in the blazes would Holly need to know the truth? "But at least we don't have to go to the drive-in for a show," I mumbled to myself.

"Huh?" Holly turned, realized she missed what I said and wanted to be included. I told myself to shut up.

"Nothin' baby," I told her and rubbed her head like a dog. "Don't worry about it." Holly shrugged and there was silence.

The silence that was created would have been awkward if anybody else had come outside, but with Holly I didn't feel the need to start a conversation. It was not out of the ordinary for Holly to pick herself up, come outside to keep me company, and have nothing to say. If Sodapop or Darry had come outside, and even Ponyboy, I would have asked several times what they were doing and how they were. My sons would ramble on, with the exception of Ponyboy who would have given his normal diffident answers. I felt expected to keep a conversation going when with one of the boys, but with Holly I felt little pressure to do anything. Not that Holly was an extremely laid-back gal, but because her world only consisted of very little and she hardly had understood half of what was thrown at her, her life seemed simple. She was, since the day she was born, Baby Curtis.

Holly's full name was Holly Ann Curtis, which would have been Sunshine Bella Curtis if only Ann had agreed, but Ann was determined to make me change my mind. When Holly was born on May twenty-third about eleven years ago, Ann had clearly decided that this kid would have a fairly original name, like Darry had, and Ponyboy and Sodapop lacked. I tried to argue and say Sunny could be the baby's nickname, but you really can't argue with a woman who had just gone through labor. Therefore Ann, the loving mother of four, was left to debate the name of our newborn and only girl. Ann had decided on the name of her childhood friend, Holly, and eventually Ann was added onto the certificate. When Holly got older and asked how her name came to be, we tell her she was named after the Christmas plant. It was a good story. Holly was impressionable, incredibly gullible, and desperately trying to please everyone she came in contact with. She liked playing the piano and the way tennis players focused on a game. She couldn't stand fights or loud noises. Holly had the type of brown hair that was blonde as a baby and found it's way into a coffee Carmel color. She has her mother's pale green ice eyes. The only feature that was completely Holly's was her laugh. Boy, did she have the cutest laugh.

Mother Nature growled as the wind threw Holly's hair behind her and my hands retreating back underneath my armpits. I allowed the wind to rustle past us angrily and Holly continued to kick the rubble against the fence. I became impatient, bounced on the heels of my feet, and fiddled with the woolen pockets of my jacket. I wanted one more cigarette before I headed back inside. I held onto the rim of my hunting hat, so the wind wouldn't catch hold and reveal the package of Kools. It's not that Holly hadn't known I smoked once in awhile. The bad-timing kid was constantly catching me out in the driveway for a cancer stick. I bribed her not to tell her mother with dimes, nickels, and quarters. Still, I felt guilty and because I knew that Holly was keeping a secret from her mother, I tried my best to keep Holly in the dark too. I know I shouldn't have been bribing the poor thing with change, but I also didn't need a lecture of shame from Ann. Lovely and good as a wife Ann was, there isn't a man out in my neighborhood who'd allowed themselves to easily be cornered by his wife. That's just plain crazy. Holly hopped on the gate between the driveway and the front yard. I snapped out of my trance.

"Holly don't swing on that gate," I said calmly "you'll get hurt. That gate is rusted and old." Holly swung on it again, leaned over, and looked back at me.

"I won't get hurt," she told me confidently. "Sodapop and Ponyboy do it all the time." .

"They do?" I smiled weakly, then grabbed her by the collar off the fence, and gently pulled her in a headlock. "So because Soda and Pone do it, you should too?"

Holly gave this consideration and tried to squeeze away from my headlock. She was slightly laughing, "No?"

"No?" I mimicked in the questioning tone Holly's voice had, smacked a kiss on her head and pushed her behind me. "Go get the newspaper, babe."

Holly stared for a minute, trying to think of something, but gave up. "Okay. Time me!" Holly yelled and ran to the end of the driveway where the newspaper was.

For a few minutes I watched Holly run as fast she cold from the top of the small driveway to the end of the driveway. I wasn't timing her, I felt bad, but Holly wouldn't have known the difference. I tapped my foot, dug my fists in my pockets, and see if Holly is anywhere close to coming back. Bored, I threw the rock Holly was kicking into the front yard, hitting the other fence that separates Mr. Farside's house from ours. I was surprised Mr. Farside didn't run out of the house, throw a hose, and shouted at me to quit kicking rocks in his yard. I kicked another rock against a gate. The piercing noise bugged the hell out of me, so I cursed, and then apologized out of guilt. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and sighed. When I open my eyes I realized the front door swung back open and Ann sauntered her way over to the edge of the deck. She smiled like she had won a game of hide and seek. I smiled back 'cause it's contagious.

Ann and I met through a tutoring class my sophomore year in high school. Turns out I had been pretty crappy when English came into play and by some miracle Ann wasn't. My teacher strung us together and made sure that her and I met every Wednesday in the art room. We hated each other. Ann, who was just as poor as my folks, was discovered to be an incredibly uptight and serious girl about school and I, who hated school to begin with, was lucky I could even, wake up and wipe my own ass in the morning. I often bailed on the tutoring to bum around underneath a bridge and to guzzle some Coke and rum with my friends. On the other hand Ann, who dated some guy named Chuck back then, would sit in the art room doing nothing. When I was nineteen my friend, Mikey, took an interest in little Ann, who dumped Chuck for unknown reasons. I promised I'd set Mikey up, but when Mikey didn't show I felt the need to make a move. Ann was a mess of dirty blonde hair, pale blue eyes, and became wild if ya' handed her a drink. She was fun, stern, but had a good heart.

"There you are. Where have you been?" Ann asked, though not entirely too interested in the answer. She jerked her head towards Holly and back at me. "Are you timing her this time?"

"Of course I'm timing her," I sheepishly lied and held onto my cap harder when the wind picked up again. I whipped out my sarcasm, "She's breakin' a world record."

"Darrell…" Ann whined, disappointed that I was indeed not timing Holly. "You know one of these days she's going to realize you've never been timing her."

"By then she'll be too old to want to get up out of bed on Sunday morning and get the newspaper for her dad, so we all loose something special" I determined and Ann, defeated until the next round, sighed hopelessly.

"What are you doing out here in this blasted god awful wind?" Ann asked, changing the topic.

"Just a breath of fresh air," I repeated from earlier and licked my lips eager for a cigarette.

"In this weather?" Ann eyed me curiously and smirked. "Sure you weren't coming out for another motive?"

"In this weather," I confirm in a similar tone and grin. Ann tried hard not to laugh. "C'mon you know me better."

"That's right I do know you better and I think you came out for a dr--" Ann said, but was cut off by Holly. Hallelujah, saved in the knick of time!

"Back!" Holly announced and breathlessly looked over at me. "What's my time?"

Ann looked over at me playfully, with a grin on her face, and clearly disappointed Holly interrupted her investigation. I don't know if Ann was in the mood to hound me for an hour about sneaking around just to get a worthless taste of nicotine, but I didn't test her. Besides it's not as if I asked Holly to interrupt her mother, it just turned out that way. The fact that I was saved from a day of Ann's cold shoulder and discontent just happened to be…without out a doubt… an immensely good benefit. Ann leaned over the railing of the front porch, pursed her lips, and watched our youngest try to catch her breath tiredly. Holly wasn't as quick as Ponyboy and was the first to call quits when in a foot race, but I had to admit she was slightly faster then other kids I have seen. I rubbed the back of my head, tried to fix my cap, and took the newspaper from Holly, who lightheartedly grabbed it back.

"Your time?" I questioned, shook my head, and quickly made something up. "Oh, you beat your last one. What was the time of your last one?"

"Don't know," Holly shrugged and then gets back on that damn gate again. "Maybe twenty seconds? Nineteen?"

"But what was it this time?" Ann challenged, which was a good kick in the ass considering she knew I hadn't been timing Holly. I played along.

"Twelve seconds," I tell Holly not missing a beat. I slapped myself mentally for lying. The poor kid didn't have a clue.

"You hear that momma," Holly asked as she jerked her weight against that damn shaky gate, "twelve seconds. That's faster then Ponyboy."

"Holly don't swing on that damned gate…" I coughed out, but she ignored me, too excited in her recent triumph.

"Oh I'm sure your brother will be just thrilled to hear that," Ann sarcastically moaned and shot a look at me. I shrugged.

Seeing that achievement something to brag about Holly ran towards the house, shouting to Pony past the screen door. "Pony! Guess what…" she sang out wickedly, slamming the door behind her.

Ann gave me another cold glare, while I dug my foot harder into the gravel, ruining the soles of my boots. I sighed tiredly, fixed my cap once again, and pushed past the gate Holly was swinging on. Once Holly was bound to tell Pony about her latest record there was a definite challenge likely to occur and then those two crazy fools would have race after race down the driveway. Pony would beat her that came without question, not because Holly couldn't beat him, but because Pony could psyche his sister out in seconds. Pony would talk about track, his early days of foot racing down the block, and how long his legs were compared to Holly's. Holly would feel under the gun, pressed to be better, and in the end give up once her brother past her. Either that or Ponyboy would time Holly himself, which…in his book…would not be made up on the spur of the moment or because he wanted to be a good older brother. Pony would tell her the truth and Holly, convinced she did finish the sprint in twelve seconds, would mumble an accusation of Pony being a liar. Ponyboy would hear and thus shot an insult as if to settle the score and prove to his kid sister that he was the older one, not the other way around. Then the day would be filled with this unresolved quest about who was the fastest or who could beat who, which would result in--if not both--at least one unhappy camper. I didn't need that guilt. I didn't want that guilt. The cigarette would have to wait till later.

I held the screen door open long enough for Ann to duck underneath my arm and head back inside. She smirked as she passed, mumbling something along the lines of "so help me god, if there's an argument, you settle it." I shrugged Ann off, relieved that I wasn't given a cold shoulder, and hoping Holly or Pony would have some sense to throw the challenge away. Pony might have brushed Holly away if he was in one of his moods to usher Holly out of his bedroom and tell her he no longer played with little kids. Holly might have pointed out that Ponyboy was only thirteen and that if Sodapop, who was sixteen, was wiling to be with Ponyboy then Ponyboy should be eager to bum around with his kid sister. Pony would have told her she had no sense and was more scatterbrained than anyone he ever met. Sodapop might have interjected and claimed that he could beat Holly down the driveway, which would provide a long enough distraction. Sodapop would go easy on her and lose once or twice, so Holly wasn't completely heartbroken that she was slower than I let on. Sodapop was simply tuff like that.

When I walked through the door I was immediately greeted with the scene in the living room. The TV was rambling on with nonsense, there were cereal boxes with unfinished cereal bowls everywhere, and my two oldest sons, Darry and Sodapop, were wrestling. I shut the heavy door behind me, so the wind no longer passed the screen door and froze the house. By the looks of it my second oldest son, Sodapop, struggled underneath Darry's, my oldest, weight and was eager to get revenge. I took my hunting cap off, making sure my Kools stayed hidden in the hat, until I dropped them into the coat pocket of a old and no longer used Greaser jacket in a messy closet. At least if Ann did find them I could make some whimsical joke about how those Kools were from back in the day and that I surely have quit. I stuffed a scarf deep into the Greaser pocket, where the Kools would remain until I decided that temptation was brimming my lips again. I'll quit one day. Honest. Soda banged his head against the coffee table, giving a loud and laughing groan, while the milk from a cereal bowl splashed onto the table. Ann hollered from the bedroom about no rough housing in the house, but the boys and their buddies rough housed so often Ann's shouting was hardly acknowledged. Instead Darry said "we will be," and Soda's interruption was muffled by Darry's big hand and grin that said, "Mommy isn't here to save you." Darry heaved Sodapop by the foot, pulling his kid brother into a pin, where Soda struggled hard enough that Darry never had the chance to count to three before Soda crawled onto Darry's back. I nonchalantly stepped over them, grabbing the newspaper off the TV set as I did, telling myself to remind Holly not to pile mail and newspaper onto the TV set. The TV was not a table.

"Hey college boy," I said to Darry "how about you ease up on the little buddy?" Darry wasn't trying to be too rough, but Darry was always rough without meaning to be.

"And let him go free?" Darry chocked out as he wrapped his massive arm over Soda's neck, forcing him into a headlock. Soda kicked his feet relentlessly at Darry, which got Darry to let go for a minute, but caused the cereal bowl to slosh more milk onto the table.

"Just a suggestion," I told him and looked at the TV, catching a glimpse of Mickey Mouse before sitting down at the kitchen table and reading the paper. Darry tried to crawl his way onto the couch, but Soda seized that moment to sit on Darry, which once again only caused Darry to try to pin Soda down.

Darry—short for Darrell--is my oldest, at the age of twenty, and a riding on a full paid football scholarship to college. I've told myself that his talent in football came from me, so if your looking to contradict I'd appreciate it if maybe you kept your trap shut in the peanut gallery. The only reason Darry had been home this weekend was because Ann persisted Darry hadn't been at home for a while and needed to see his siblings. Darry got the hint and came home the Friday night after we saw his football match, where he played for fifteen minutes only. After awhile I figured Ann was right, the time away from college would do the boy some good and lift that unneeded pressure to be number one off his shoulders for a while. Though Darry's team won ya' can't keep him happy for too long as he pointed out: "I ONLY played fifteen minutes." I tried to tell the kid that it's got nothing to do whether Darry's capable or not, the coach just needs to play the seniors, but Darry only listened for half a second before he angrily blamed himself for his lack of appearance on the field. I tried to shut him up and say don't sweat it and that he'll get his chance, but Darry was as stubborn as his mother. What Darry said was law and no one could shake him otherwise, except Soda. On the ride home, Darry was still hot and heavy about only playing fifteen minutes, but as Ponyboy reminded him, " The coach knows your tough. He said it himself," which was no confidence booster until Soda agreed and told Darry to not sweat the small stuff. I almost pointed out that I said that, but Holly started to ramble about a dog in the lot the other day and changed the conversation. Anyway Darry lifted his spirits, came home, and has been horsing around with his siblings until each one of 'em were reminded that he was still the top dog. The oldest. The biggest. The strongest. Number one.

Anyway, Darry and I are very similar when the appearance comes into play. I'm sure the kid hates it, but people always manage to meet us and slip in, "Darry you look a lot like your dad." Though I was told I looked young for my age, forty, I couldn't help by wonder if that meant Darry looked too old and if that bothered Darry in any shape or form. I know if someone slapped me on the back as a young kid and claim I looked like my pops I'd do everything in my power to change. Luckily, no one ever did, but back then my dad wasn't around long enough for anyone to compare me to him. Darry, unfortunately, had to live his whole life with the constant reminder he looked like his father, which…hey….I didn't think was too bad. Darry's hair is dark brown and kicks out in the front, which results into a slight cowlick in the back. Darry's eyes are pale blue-green, like ice, which teeter on the edge of impatience and order. Darry was too much like his mother; stubborn and hotheaded until the point you could hardly get a word in edgewise. Darry didn't like to argue too much, but it was easy to push his buttons and once ya' catch Darry on fire it was hard to put him out, on account Darry is usually quite serious and missed the call for the funny gene in the family. Darry was the type of kid that when he was younger if schoolwork had frustrated him he'd holler he was stupid and fling every reachable object around the kitchen until Ann or I were able to calm him down. He was a screamer and I nearly wanted to shoot myself the first few weeks he came home as an infant. However, past the terrible toddler years and early into his preschools days Darry simmered down a lot, but by then Sodapop was around and Ponyboy was on his way, there was hardly enough time to pay any attention to Darry's tantrums. Turned out my god damn son of a gun became the most law -abiding out of all his friends, who always reminded me some jug headed fools I knew back in high school.

I turned the newspaper page, ignoring Soda and Darry, although the two of 'em were putting on quite a show. I read an article about a record store opening down the road and told myself to visit the place sometime. "Someone's going to get hurt," I mumbled, but neither son listened.

Darry tried to break free from the fight and stand, but Soda clawed his way onto Darry's back for a second time and earned himself another pin to the ground in seconds. "No biting Soda!" Darry cried out infuriatingly and clearly upset that Soda was "cheating."

Soda squirmed underneath Darry and moaned, "It's all fair game." Darry made a noise like "nu uh" and shot his head up at me, wishing for me to be the ref. I turned the newspaper page, only looking up to catch Darry's eye. I grinned.

"Pepsi-Cola," I said to Soda calling him by my nickname for him, "you know the rules: no pinching, tickling, licking hands, fists, weapons, or biting." I grabbed my empty coffee cup from the table. "Fight fair, kid."

Soda made a dramatic gasp and jokingly shouted, "Your in on it together." I laughed like Soda would, unsure of what it really was. I figured it had something to do with taking Darry's side.

"Well, Darry made me an offer…" I told Sodapop as I cleaned out the sticky sugar from my previous cup of coffee and glanced back.

"I'll pay you double, triple, anything!" Soda shouted.

"Yeah, where you going to get the dough little man?" I asked.

"I'll think of something…" Soda grunted as Darry pinned him again and dragged Sodapop back into the match.

Sodapop was my second oldest son, at the age of sixteen, who somehow throughout his childhood caught my teenage personality and never gave it back. Sodapop was slim, tall, and not nearly as muscled or athletic as Darry, but he's good-looking or so I've been told. Soda's hair was the color of Holly's hair, a light brown that turns into a wheat color in the summer, but not nearly as dark and was constantly combed back silky and long on his greasy head. Though Sodapop has my dark brown, hasty, and wild eyes his heart was all his own. He looks like the boy form of his teenage mother. In many ways Holly took after Sodapop in a personality that carried little worries and a need to please to everyone, but Soda and Holly's differences are too noticeable to even recognize the similarities between them. If a fight began at the house Sodapop would play peacemaker, while Holly was likely to cover her ears or go outside until the screaming stopped. If Sodapop was ever let down, I wouldn't know what to say, the kid lived on cloud nine and there isn't much one can say to happy-go-lucky Soda. At one point Ann thought the reason Sodapop was so careless was because Sodapop was born with a loose screw in his head, but I suggested that Sodapop's personality came from my side. Ann agreed and therefore whenever Sodapop found himself in a tiff Ann would comment, "…and he wouldn't be so wild if it weren't for your genes." I would reply: "Come now honey the boy's got heart," which only worked on several occasions, but was true. Sodapop had a heart and not a heart for football or irresponsibility, but heart like a mother would have. Soda cared for everyone he was close to and tried to understand anyone who crossed his path, which was hard because I didn't know many people, especially girls, who didn't ask about Soda when I was out in town. Apparently Sodapop was a doll, a real smooth talking fella, and someone who, claimed Ponyboy "people stop on the street to watch go by."

Soda didn't like the rules, never had, but there were some rules that had to be set and biting was a definite rule-breaker. Regardless of who you were, the rules remained the same and respectfully you were expected to follow them, which happened almost never around here. Someone was always playing dirty and calling in a teammate or licking the other's hand, biting a finger, pinching an arm, and each entailed a consequence of a harder and longer match. If Ponyboy decided to join in then Darry would soften up and perhaps lose, but then Holly would somehow be dragged into the tiff and then the teams would pair. Ponyboy with Soda and Darry with Holly, causing numerous accounts of cheating and every now and then, a trip to the hospital. There had been too many incidents where Holly squirmed out of the dog pile mania and decided to watch or Ponyboy would claim he had homework and saunter his way to his bedroom unenthusiastically. Otherwise the fiasco continued between Sodapop and Darry until one of them pinned the other or Ann ordered a chore to be done or demanded I tell them to knock it off before they break something. They listened, usually. I threw the newspaper onto the table and poured myself a new hot cup of coffee. My head was hurting, but not because of the kids, I always wake up with some headache. I poured myself a new cup of coffee.

Ann briskly walked into the kitchen, clearly in search of something, maybe her shoes. She gave a look towards Darry and Sodapop and raised her eyebrows at me. "Planning on doing some parenting one of these days?" She was joking.

"One day, maybe tomorrow if I'm up for it," I said like a smart ass. I raised my cup, biting into a bagel I never finished earlier. "I think Darry's winning."

Ann gave another smirk, as if to correct me on my sass, but she flashed a smile. "Darrell…please they are going to break something," Ann told me, but then quickly retreated back to her room where she was away from the ruckus.

I heard Ponyboy's bedroom door swing open. "No one can sleep in this house," Pony groggily said as he rubbed his forehead tiredly and came into the kitchen.

"Morning," I said to Pony, who muttered morning back. I asked him if he slept well, he groaned.

"No 'cause Holly had to tell me she got the newspaper in twelve seconds," Pony shot a finger at his brothers "and these two idiots have to make so much noise."

"Idiot, huh?" Darry asked as he twisted Sodapop's leg. Soda returned with twisting Darry's arm. "You want to get in on this, Pone?"

"No," Pony heatedly said, keeping true to the fact that he has never been a morning person. Holly came running in the kitchen, following Pony like a puppy. Pony looked agitated.

"I ain't kiddin' Pony. I swear…" Holly cried behind Ponyboy "I ran the thing in twelve seconds."

"Holly Ann why don't you leave Pone al--" I tried, but was cut off.

"Pony! Tag in!" Sodapop yelled underneath, but Pony coldly answered no.

"I'm not kidding. Not, Holly. No such thing as ain't," Pony suggested as if he were a teacher.

"Well, I'm not kidding when I tell you I finished the run in twelve seconds," Holly complained to Pony, who was only half-listening as he poured himself a cup of chocolate milk.

"How do I know your not lying?" Pony asked, briefly looking at Soda and Darry and eyeing up his sister like a criminal.

"Because,"" Holly shrieked and threw her finger at me "dad timed me. Right, dad?"

I rubbed my forehead as I reminded myself that I absolutely hated to be thrown in the middle. I caught Pony's disbelieving expression and I could tell that he knew I had somehow unfairly timed Holly. I wanted to tell him I hadn't timed her at all and that he probably did hold the newspaper race record, but it was hard because Holly was waiting for my answer. Her green-blue eyes searched my face for any explanation, which would clarify that Holly was an equal competitor to her brothers and no longer the baby of the family. I coughed under the pressure and tried to decide the best way to handle this. If I had told Ponyboy that Holly had finished in record time a challenge would begin between 'em. If I didn't and told Holly the truth, I'd be a liar and my youngest would probably become the victim to Pony's bragging. I sipped my coffee again, giving a sideways glance at Pony and Holly. Shoot, it's just not right to throw a dad in the middle of his two children.

"I think…" I began to tell my two youngest, sipped my coffee, and then pretended to be completely sidetracked by Darry and Soda. " Hey Darry take it easy, will ya'? You're going to kill your brother."

"I won't kill him…" Darry argued like his mother, but let go of Sodapop. Soda smacked Darry's ankles with a pillow, which once again was against the rules, but Darry made no attempt to get Sodapop back. "I'm done," announced Darry "for Pete's sake Soda you squirm like a fish out of water!"

"Gave you a run for your money, did I?" Sodapop jokingly asked and crawled his way into my armchair. Darry marched into the kitchen to get a glass of milk and you could hear the both of them breathlessly pant.

"I'll be ready next time little buddy," Darry told him emotionlessly and waved his hand without a care.

Ann returned back into the kitchen, claimed she couldn't find her shoes, and began to look in the closet. I sucked in my breath as she carelessly tore threw the jackets, bent down, and went through a bundle of mismatched shoes. I wondered if she knew where my cigarettes were and didn't jump to correct because the kids were there or truly because she was oblivious. Either way, she shut the closet door and slipped on the matching shoe she found. She asked Ponyboy if he just woke up and tried to mess his hair like a little kid, but Ponyboy claimed that his just greased his hair and didn't want to ruin it. I rushed my hand through my hair. Ponyboy and Holly were clearly displeased in my answer about the time, but neither one decided to challenge the other or press for a more satisfying response. Holly returned to her quiet self, jogging off to her bedroom doing whatever that little girl occupies her time with. Darry asked Holly if she really did beat her time. I shot a glance at Darry, who met my eyes, got the hint, and shut his trap. Holly, who barely heard him to begin with, had no response. Sodapop tried to turn the channel with his toes, but was being unsuccessful and got a 'don't be lazy' remark from Darry. Ponyboy sat at the table, pouring himself cereal, and I took a seat next to him watching Ann do the morning dishes. Ponyboy fumbled through the morning paper.

Ponyboy Michael Curtis was my youngest son, thirteen-going-on-fourteen. Now I'm not trying to shit you or anything. My youngest son's name truly was Ponyboy, which was as original as Sodapop's name. I can't quite remember whatever led me on to think Ponyboy was a good name, but when your young and brainless, like I was, ya' just don't think too clearly about anything. Ann was livid when she found out and claimed boys with strange names are made fun of, but I told her the nurse asked me what I wanted to name my son and people didn't remember fella's with normal names like Bill. I earned myself a week of cold shoulder time. Ponyboy was our dreamer and as a toddler would often take blocks and sneak into his room to play by himself, which only lasted five minutes before Darry and Sodapop came into bother him. Until Holly was born Pony's brothers and his brother's friends would use Ponyboy as a guinea pig for anything those fools were planning. As clear as day I could remember a tale where Pony was told to eat a worm in order to play with the big boys, another tale involved Pony sledding down Deadman's Road as a preschooler. Either way Pony played the victim of his brother's childish antics for a few years, but then Holly came and Soda and Darry were too old to bother. Poor kid. Pony was built like Sodapop, slim, and growing like bamboo, but he still had that boyish face and dimples that his mother couldn't get enough of. His hair was light brown, almost red, which was long on the sides and up front, leaving the rest squared off in the back. His eyes were a whimsical and dreaming greenish-gray, which he told me he hated and I laughed while saying, "…be content with what you have. Besides you get them from your mother."

Pony was smart and not study-my-brains off type of wit, but the type of IQ that made school a breeze for him and allowed him to skip the third grade when he was younger. While subjects such as mechanics and gym came easy for Sodapop, Ponyboy excelled in topics that included math and English. Ann claimed that Pony took after her family, and I played along, but I vaguely remember my mother claimed my older brother had a fairly high IQ too. I couldn't remember my brother too much; they got him in the second war. Anyway, Pony was simply different than any of his siblings; he had a different mindset, read a lot of books, went to the movies, wrote stories, and drew pictures. Darry claimed that Ponyboy was "the black sheep" of our family, which didn't make Ponyboy feel too hot, so I had to tell Darry to cool it. Besides, what Darry said wasn't in the least bit true because Ponyboy, modest, quiet, and self-conscious, never used his head. I'm certain he must have used his head while he was sitting in school, but once he was home he hurried to play football in the street, wrestle in the living room, or crack open a book that in no way stressed the importance of his intellect. When Pony was young Ann might have used the excuse "I know your smart…" whenever Ponyboy found himself in a tiff or pushed Pony till he became frustrated and turned into Darry, serious and argumentative. Otherwise Ponyboy remained near Soda's side finding many arguments silly and passing through life with an absentminded air around him.

"The paper says Paul Newman's going to be in a new movie soon…" Pony coughed out between eating his cereal.

"When's it coming out?" I asked, trying to read the paper as well, but gave up when Pony unintentionally turned to the next page. Holly ran behind me, mumbled something I didn't hear, pushed past the back door, and went outside.

"It doesn't say. I figure in a few months," Pony stated and put the paper down, tired of reading it already. I took a swig of my coffee

Soda walked into the kitchen and took the opportunity to guzzle Darry's drink down as Darry shut the fridge. Darry noticed and slapped Sodapop on the back of the head. "That was mine!"

" And boy did it taste good," Soda laughed, which caused Darry to heave him off the ground.

Ann looked over at her two sons, smiled, and returned back to cleaning her dishes. "How old are you boys again? I swear to god…"

"Well, I'm sixteen going on four real soon," Soda joked as he raised his eyebrows at Pony, who laughed at Soda.

"The way you act. I'd believe it," Darry told Soda, who threw a dishrag at Darry. I took the time to intervene before the wrestling began again.

"Easy Superman. Quit showing off and help your mother with the dishes, huh? I know she didn't dirty all those dishes by her lonesome."

"Why me?" Darry asked

" Cause I don't want you to get rusty, being up at college and all."

"I know how to do dishes."

"Well, why don't you show me college-boy? I'm old and I forgot." I joked, which got Soda and Pony to laugh. Darry bit his lip, aggravated that he was stuck with the responsibility.

"Fine," Darry grumbled bitterly "but I'm not the only one who dirtied the dishes. I've got little brothers, you know?"

"We know," Pony sassed "but were to little to do anything."

"It's a curse I tell ya," Soda grinned and put his feet on the chair across from him. Ann gave Soda a warning look as she put a dish away and Sodapop threw his feet off the chair.

There were a few moments of peace that was only filled by the banging of dishes against one another. Sodapop and Ponyboy began to have an arm wrestle, but Ponyboy just didn't have it in him. I told Pony he'd get stronger and be able to whip Soda any day. This didn't make Sodapop very pleased, so he started to ramble on about training, though no one was really listening. I asked Ann if we were going out for our usual Sunday drive, she mumbled something about the weather, and I told her we'd be fine. Ever since I was old enough to drive Ann and I would pile into the car every Sunday and went past the train tracks in the back of the neighborhood to Point Shineaway. We might have taken the kids when they were too young to stay home by their lonesome, but as soon as Darry hit thirteen we threw him the job to baby-sit until we got back.

Ann called it our tradition and I needed to get away at least once in awhile to clear my head, Ann though I was being romantic. I played along. When my dad left town I was only about fourteen and I needed to get out. I found myself constantly retreating to Point Shineway, I guess as some type of sanctuary and talked out loudly to myself until my mouth got sore. I'd talk about what Christina, my older sister, did today or how it took me seven times to get my mother's attention because Patrick, my older brother, was filling her in on some job he had gotten. I couldn't stay home, my mother was a single mother of my brother, my sister, and I and burdening her with even more problems wasn't on my agenda. Ann didn't start to come to Point Shineaway until the end of my senior year and that, back then, was strictly because I planned set her up for my Mikey, who left town shortly after graduation and gave me an opportunity to make a move. From Point Shineaway you could see the whole town until the major highway where cars pilled up, honked, and sped. All you had to be careful of was the train, which ran on awkward hours and killed a man once. I began to pour myself a second cup of coffee. Darry gave me a tired look when he thought I was dirtying another cup.

"We should leave fairly soon babe, " I said to Ann, talking about our Sunday Drive. Ann blushed quickly by being called babe in front of the kids. I figured one of the kids would have embarrassingly pointed out the silence, but Ann regained her composure in an instant.

Ann wiped her pruned hands on the dishtowel and tried to fix Darry's hair like an overbearing...well…mother. "Will you watch your brothers and sister, while we're out?"

Darry fixed his hair when his mother turned around, annoyed by her motherly tendencies. "Well I need to get back to school…"

"I'll baby-sit them," Soda piped up still trying to beat Pony in an arm wrestle. Sodapop was going easy on Pony.

"We might as well be dead …" Pony mockingly said, beating Soda or so he believed.

"Look," I said "if you watch your kid brothers and sister while we're out I'll drive you back to school tonight in your car and take the train home. That way you won't have to drive yourself."

The suggestion rolled over with Darry fine and he agreed to baby-sit only if he didn't have to drive anyone to anything. Ann began to tell Sodapop to settle down while we were out and that she didn't want to come home to a messy house. Sodapop stated he would behave as best as he could and Ponyboy muttered something along the lines of "we'll watch him," which started another wrestling war between Soda and Pony in the living room. Ann sighed tiredly, said she was going to water the plants on the front porch, and left the room probably to escape the noise. For a few minutes I watched the wrestling match between the boys, which was not nearly the same intensity Darry and Soda's match had. Soda persisted that Ponyboy say uncle and Ponyboy, the most stubborn next to Darry, refused. Ponyboy must have broken free from Sodapop once in awhile, but Soda dragged Ponyboy by the leg again and pounded him with pillows.

Darry, who sat next to me as he ate another bowl of cereal, said Sodapop cheated and as always Sodapop disagreed. Then, just for a few minutes, I talked to Darry about school and how his classes were. He rolled his eyes and said college was stupid, that the English was ten times harder than high school and the math was nonsense. My eyes started to glaze over as Darry began to talk about his English class because English was not one of my favorite subject, but I nodded my head and asked questions as if I understood anything that came of Darry's mouth. I didn't talk about football. I didn't want him in another sour mood. When Ann came back inside, stepping over Sodapop and Ponyboy, Soda's head hit the coffee table and Pony grinned, but that was only for a few moments. Ann filled up the watering can and Holly, who was outside, came back through the back door, winded, and in a rush.

"Where have you been little girl?" I asked as Holly ran off towards her room, grabbed a Ponyboy's old baseball, and ran back in the kitchen.

"Outside," she told me and went to go back out the door again before her mother caught her.

"Holly. How many times have I asked you not to run in the house?" Ann pried and Holly, afraid she was going to get yelled out, quietly gave a reasonable answer. Ann asked her not to run in the house again.

Holly said okay and went to go back out, but I grabbed her arm. "What's the rush, baby? You in a race or somethin'?"

"No," Holly explained "but Mr. Farside's dog is outside and Mr. Farside said if I got a baseball, Bullet would chase after it." Mr. Farside was our widowed next-door neighbor and Bullet was his nasty pit bull.

"Bullet eats kids…" Darry joked as he lifted his head from the paper and gave Holly a playful look. Holly retorted with "liar." Sodapop and Ponyboy were still wrestling among themselves.

Ann gave me a weary look as she watched Bullet out the windowsill. "Holly--" That son of a bitch dog went after kids all the time. The only thing that kept Bullet from killing Holly was a gate between our houses.

"I don't know if that's a good idea, baby" I started and bent Holly's fingers until they made a fist "your fingers might get eatin'. Besides, you remember what he did to that Jimmy kid way back, don't ya'?" I didn't know a kid name Jimmy.

"No…" Holly swallowed hard, eager for a story.

"Oh yeah, I forgot about Jimmy" Darry said as he watched Sodapop and Pony finally gave the wrestling a rest. Darry flipped a page of the paper.

"Whose Jimmy?" Pony asked uncertainty from the living room.

"Some kid that got eaten by Bullet," Soda joked as he leaned over the table to see if Holly believed my story.

"He did not!" Holly cried out to Sodapop who winked and laughed when Darry did.

"Aw shoot Holly " Pony said, "they're just pulling your leg."

"There is no such kid named Jimmy," Darry reassured her once she began to turn red with embarrassment. Gullible little thing, isn't she?

"That doesn't mean the dog isn't dangerous," I stated and looked at Holly "I don't want you by the dog, ever." Holly opened her mouth to explain herself, but as always was cut off.

"Holly Curtis," Ann says focusing on Holly as she held the watering can. "There's a unfinished cheerio and banana cereal with your name on it over here." Ann pointed to the cereal bowl on the table. Holly was the only one who ate bananas with her cereal.

"Oh," Holly said shyly "I was going to finish it later."

"Mhm," Ann nodded and smiled warmly at Holly, "Well why don't you finish it now before it gets mushy. Huh?"

"But I'm not hungry," Holly whined, but took a seat at the table across from Darry and in between Ponyboy and I.

"People would die to have your food. There are starving children in Africa," Ann sung tiredly and retreated outside to finish watering the plants, leaving Holly Ann little time to respond.

"Well why don't you send it to them?" Holly mumbled as she pushed the cheerios around in the bowl, unmotivated to finish her breakfast.

"Because we don't know the address," Soda said, took the bowl from Holly, and began to finish the cereal for her.

The morning continued in the same fashion, quiet one-minute and wrestling the next, but by the time Ann was done straightening up the house she ordered the boys not to wrestle anymore. Instead, for an hour or so, Ponyboy sat in the armchair as he watched Tina Louise enter the scene on Gilligan's Island. Eventually Sodapop and Holly joined Ponyboy. Holly claimed that Ponyboy was in her chair, but took a seat on the couch as Sodapop rested his feet on her thigh. Darry sat on the floor as he flipped through a magazine and then the four of them became mindless as the TV rambled on with crap I didn't know what to make of. I asked them if they planned to do anything, but be bums today except Sodapop claimed it was too cold outside, Pony said he was tired, and Darry said he worked all weekend at school that a few minutes of TV wouldn't kill him. I suggested that one of them clean the yard and take out the trash, but each one claimed that they did it last week and it was "somebody else's turn." I told Holly her room looked like a tornado hit it and she distantly said she would clean the room later before Ann and I got home from our Sunday drive.

Ann said nothing as she quickly tried to do meticulous tasks and tell Darry the rules of the house, as if he didn't know. When I saw Ann pull out of a heaping pile of laundry I asked her to just let it be and do it when she got home. Tiredly, she agreed. I changed into a pair of jeans and a wrinkled dress shirt that I didn't bother to tuck in until Ann begged me too. I didn't understand why I couldn't remain in my hunting cap, ripped up jeans, and t-shirt, but I didn't pester. My hair, dark like Pony's, remained a mess like when I woke up and I shaved as if I were going out to a restaurant. Ann insisted that she change and returned in a pale blue dress with black cuffs. Holly commented that her mother reminded her of someone she saw in a magazine. Around noon the wind had finally stopped being rough and the clouds parted in order to bring a warm sun to our neighborhood. Bored and disappointed none of my kids wanted to acknowledge the nice weather, I pushed them outside and told them to go do something. They settled on football in the street, which was dubbed fine by Darry and "practice for the game this weekend." For a few minutes I stood on the front porch and watched the boys pass the ball back and forth, argue about the calls, and insisted a do over. Behind me, past the screen door, I heard Holly insist her mother listen to her play the piano. "Please mama it'll only take a minute," Holly said. Ann wanted to leave the house, but stated she would listen to Holly play a song and one song only. Holly played "Matchmaker," her personal favorite for a while now

Out on the street Darry and Sodapop cruelly played monkey-in-the-middle with Ponyboy. I suggested that the three of them cool it before Pony got sour and then the football began. Darry played against Soda and Pony. Sodapop made a ridiculous catch, where he stood up on the fire hydrant, caught it, and easily landed on his feet. I shouted to Ann that Sodapop made the play of his life. She shouted out the window good job to Soda. Ponyboy tried to keep up with Soda's confusing and fast speeches. Ponyboy was able to quickly pass Darry, but Darry had a few moments where he caught Pony's act and stopped it. There were a few times where one of the boys would grab his brother's arm and dubbed cheater. I was to be ref, again, and I did my best to settle the arguments. I waved to the cars that passed; unsure of who they really were, and once in awhile the driver would shout hello or honk. I leaned against the front porch post, chewed on a toothpick, and jerked my head over to the front door when I heard footsteps.

Holly pushed past the front door as she followed her mother, who gave a sigh of impatience. I looked at Holly run down the steps. "I heard you in there on the piano girly. Did quite a good job."

"Do ya' want me to play another, dad?" Holly asked, already headed out to sit on the front gate to watch her older brothers in the street.

"I said one, Holly. Your father and I are going for a drive now," Ann scolded and fixed a coat hanging on her arm. Holly looked disappointed, but became quiet and said nothing.

"Maybe later, baby…" I told her softly, which only lit Holly's face up for a minute. Ann said I was too soft on Holly. I told Ann that Holly was just a kid.

Holly walked off to the street where here brothers were, begging to play with them. I took Ann's hand and pulled her down the steps as our kids argued about who could play football. Ann tried to yell some suggestions behind her shoulder, but I told her to hush and let the kids argue, ya' just can't smother them constantly. Ann insisted that the argument would start into a fairly heated fight 'cause Darry and Ponyboy were stubborn to begin with. Then Ann began to talk how the assumed fight would cause Holly to walk away and Sodapop to play peacemaker. With Holly unintended, Sodapop settling a fight, and Darry and Pone all hot and furious something was bound to occur. I told her they were not infants. She insisted that something awful would happen today. I told her she had quite the imagination.

Whatever fight had been brewing between the kids was settled the minute I sat in the car and I pointed this out, which made Ann playfully stick her tongue at me like a kid. I pulled out the driveway, turned left and stopped on the brakes, because our next-door neighbor Mr. Alexandra was pulling out of his driveway. Ann yelled behind the car to the kids "don't play with the stove." I glanced in the rearview mirror and only caught a glimpse of Darry throwing Pony a pass, while Holly stood on the sidewalk said something to Sodapop, who tried to coax her in the street. I sighed, waiting for Mr. Alexandra to pull out of his driveway. When he finally got out Mr. Alexandra raised his hand, as if to say thank you, and sped off. I started the car and drove steadily behind him. There a few moments where the silence of Tulsa, Oklahoma filled the car and that could be heard was the traffic on the opposites side of town. I passed the DX station, turned right, and headed up a hill towards the train tracks. Ann fidgeted with a coat in her seat and I looked over as she licked her lips.

I gave a weary smile, "For Pete Sake's, Ann what are you doin'?"

Ann gave a wicked smile, dug in the pocket of the coat, and revealed my package of Kools. " Surprise," she shook the package at me "Do you think I'm stupid? I heard you this morning."

"No," I told her giving a surprised look towards the Kools. I flashed a smile. She tried not to smile back.

"How often do you sneak off in the mornin' to have a smoke?" She asked.

I rubbed the back of my head with my free hand and honked at some fella who was just one slow son of a bitch. Now it's not that Ann didn't know the way a good cigarette feels after a rest, 'cause she use to smoke too, but the act was not a fine example for the kids. I didn't want to let Ann know, but I sure felt like telling her that I found my son's friends smoking around stores. I wanted to tell her they smelt like ashtrays when they came over and that she probably blamed the smell on me. Except, I didn't rat out the boy's friends, I could hardly talk about bad habit. I'm not certain what Ann would have done if I did rat the boys' friends out, she'd probably curse a storm, and promise herself to slap Dallas or Two-Bit or Steve when they next stopped by. She would not slap little Johnny; she didn't have the heart to hit him. As a kid Ann smoked just as much as I did, eager to fit-in with her friends, who were defiantly more daring than Ann. Then we got married and she continued to smoke, but Ann quit once she was pregnant with Darry. I had to hide since the moment I found out her pregenancy and the time Ponyboy ended in our family Ann persisted I quit. I promised I would.

I smiled sheepishly, unable to be serious about anything. "I'm real sorry, babe..."

"Liar," she said playfully and shoved them back in the pocket, "your lucky one of those kids didn't find you." I gave a big sigh of relief and pushed the thought that Holly almost caught me today.

"Lucky my ass," I muttered and took a turn past the DX. Ann looked over, but said nothing about the cursing. "I will quit one day, Ann, I really will." That was the truth. I promised myself that all the time.

"When?" Ann pushed.

"Someday." I said flatly, "but can I have one more, today?" I grabbed her hand soothingly; she rubbed my hand with her thumb.

She gave a tired look at me, handed me a cigarette, and shook her finger. "Fine, but that's it. Once we get home, you put those god damn things in the trash."

I lit the cigarette at a stoplight, turned in the direction of the hill, and blew the smoke out evenly. "Scouts honor."

"Your not a scout," she teasingly told me, but I made no response, I just drove.

I tightened by grip around the steering wheel. Past the tracks, I would drive about a mile and park on the top of Point Shineaway. If I were home I could hear the train from any place in the house, but especially Holly's room, which faced the hill the train passed on. The whistle was impossible to escape in neighborhood. When it whistled at five it told the kids to come in for dinner and at seven it told the kids to wake up. Still, I found the noise a bitch to listen to. She talked about her part-time job down at a telephone company as secretary. Apparently she was bitter towards a woman who had accused Miss. Matthews as over-the-night hooker. I tried to convince Ann that none of her colleagues would remember what Ann's rival said about Miss. Matthews, but Ann only seemed convinced for a minute. Ann told me she had no idea what to do. I told her she would figure it out, pressed my foot harder against the gas, and drove down the hill, eager to get to Point Shineway…you could even see our house from there.

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YS- I hoped you enjoyed this little one shot. I know it's terribly long I apologize. Please Read and Review! No Flames would be nice!