I'd Tried Drinking Once

One if the first rules Darry had made after our parents were killed was that I couldn't go near Buck's. The second rule was no drinking. He could tolerate me smoking, but he was not going to let me drink and that was final. I had no problem with those two rules and thought it would be easy to follow them. After all, I didn't like Buck and I had seen what drinking can do to a person at Johnny's house. So I figured Darry's rules would be simple to follow. I was wrong.

It all started on a Friday afternoon after school let out. Johnny and I were walking across the school yard glad that the day was done, but not wanting to go home yet, when Curly Shepard showed up on his bike. He hadn't been in school that day and I was sure that he would get suspended because of it. Curly didn't care though. He thought he had better things to do than go to school.

"Hey Curtis!" Curly yelled.

"What?" I asked as soon as Johnny and I reached him.

"What are you doing tonight?"

"I don't know," I replied. Ever since the accident, life as I knew it had changed. Darry started working at two jobs and Soda worked most nights at the DX station with Steve. I was often alone on Friday nights unless Johnny or Two-Bit came over.

"My brother is having a party," Curly told me. "You should come."

I looked to Johnny for help, but he only shrugged.

"Come on, Curtis," Curly said impatiently. "When was the last time you did anything fun?"

Curly had a point. It had been a long time since I'd gone out on a Friday to do anything. I found it hard to go out and have a good time with my folks being gone. Darry was starting to tell me to get my nose out of the books I was reading and go outside. Even Soda was starting to invite me places, much to Steve's annoyance.

Darry came home that afternoon just long enough to change clothes for his second job and make sure that I had something to eat for supper. Normally, the three of us tried to eat supper together, but on Fridays, it wasn't always possible.

"Darry, is it okay if I do something with Curly tonight?" I asked as I watched him button his shirt.

He looked at me in the bathroom mirror. "What exactly will the two of you be doing?"

"He said Tim's having a party."

"Where?" Darry turned to face me.

"He didn't say," I replied. "Come on, Darry, you've been telling me to go out more."

"What are my rules?"

I sighed. "Don't go near Buck's and no drinking."

"Will you be home by midnight?" Darry was looking at me with his arms crossed over his chest as I nodded. "Alright, I guess you can go, but if you break either of my rules, I'll skin you."

"I won't," I promised, not knowing that in just a few hours, that promise would be broken.

Shortly after seven, I found myself sitting in the back seat of Tim's car, watching the street lights go by as he drove to where the party was. Curly sat next to him in the front seat, talking about the good time we were going to have.

"The two of you better not do anything stupid," Tim said, glancing at Curly.

"Lighten up, Tim," Curly snapped. "This is a party and I plan to have a good time."

"Well, here we are," Tim announced as he parked the car. The three of us got out of the car and I saw where 'here' was. Tim's party was at Buck's. The one place I wasn't supposed to be at.

"I'm not supposed to be here," I said, images of Darry's face if he found out coming to mind.

Curly grabbed my arm and pulled me towards the sounds of Hank Williams. "Oh no you don't. You're here now, so you might as well stay. Darry doesn't have to know."

"Well, maybe for a little while."

"So kid, what do you want to drink?" Tim asked me once we were inside.

"Pepsi," I answered, knowing Darry wouldn't object to me drinking pop.

Tim went to the bar and returned with two bottles of Pepsi. One for me and one for Curly.

"I didn't ask for pop," Curly grumbled.

"Tough," Tim replied. "That's what you're getting."

I opened my Pepsi and looked around at the crown that was there. Half of them were already drunk and I was feeling uncomfortable. The only people I knew there were Tim and Curly, unless you counted Buck.

"I can't drink this," Curly said, setting his pop on a table. "I want the good stuff."

He wandered off and returned a few minutes later with two bottles of beer.

"Curly, Darry would kill me if I drank that stuff," I protested as he handed me one of the bottles. I had already finished my pop.

"Darry isn't going to know if you have just one beer," Curly told me. "Just one, Curtis. You can have Pepsi the rest of the night. Darry will never know."

Curly watched me as I held the bottle under my nose and smelled it. The stuff smelled awful.

"Here, I'll take a drink first,"Curly said and he took a swig of his beer.

Despite the sounds of Darry's voice reminding me not to drink playing in my head, I followed Curly's lead and took a big gulp of the beer in my hand. The stuff tasted as bad as it smelled. My first thought was to put the bottle down. I had tasted it and didn't like it, but I held onto the bottle and finished it.

"Have another one," someone I didn't know said to me after I threw the bottle in the trash. They handed me another beer and I looked across the room to see that Curly was already staggering around.

I walked over to join him. "Are you sure Darry won't find out?"

"Relax," Curly told me. "You'll be home by midnight like promised and unless Darry kisses you good night, he'll never smell the alcohol on your breath."

"After I finish this beer, I'm drinking Pepsi," I said, even though Curly was walking away and didn't hear me.

I never did return to drinking Pepsi. Instead, I had more beer and I was feeling more relaxed as I was drinking them. I don't know how many I had, maybe four, when I ran into the bathroom feeling sick. As I was sitting on the floor in front of the toilet, I heard the door open and felt a strong hand on my back.

"I though I told you and Curly not to do anything stupid," Tim said from behind me. "What am I supposed to tell Darry? I have to have you home in a half hour."

"Just tell him I'm sick," I pleaded.

"Do you honestly think he'll believe that?" Tim asked. "I already have Curly passed out in the back seat of the car. Darry might not know where the party is, but he's not stupid, kid. He's going to know you're drunk. You can barely walk straight."

"How come you're not drunk?" I asked, finally feeling like I could stand up long enough to get to the car.

Tim guided me out the door, making sure I didn't fall. "Kid, I know how to control my drinking. You better hope Darry's either not home or in bed because if he's waiting for you, you're going to hear it."

I sighed as I slumped down in the front seat. My head was throbbing and the thought of facing Darry wasn't helping.

When we got my house, Tim started to help me to the front door, only we didn't make it. I ended up throwing up in the bushes instead and as I did, the front door opened.

"Ponyboy?" The sound of Darry's voice broke through my throbbing head.

"Go easy on the kid, Darry," Tim said. "I have a feeling Curly was behind this and I will be poounding his head in once he wakes up."

"Thanks for bringing him home, Tim," Darry said and I felt him take a hold of my arm. "I'll be having a talk with Ponyboy."

Tim left and Darry pulled me into the house and had me sit on the couch. He was furious. More furious than I had ever seen him and I didn't blame him.

"Did I not tell you that drinking was forbidden?" He asked and I knew he was trying not to yell. We both knew he'd wake up Soda if he did.

I nodded, afraid to speak.

"Who gave you the beer?" Darry demanded.

"Curly and some people I didn't know," I groaned as I put my head in my hands.

"How many did you have?"

I shrugged. "Four?"

Darry sighed and sat down in the arm chair. "Did you think I wouldn't find out?"

I didn't reply. Despite Curly telling me that Darry would never know, I knew all night that Darry would find out. Like Tim said, Darry wasn't stupid.

"You broke one of my rules, kiddo," Darry said.

"I'm sorry," I apologized.

"Now, I can't trust you," Darry told me. "I thought you were smarter than that. How am I supposed to trust you now? If the fuzz had shown up at that party, you would have been thrown into a boy's home. I don't want that, do you?"

I shook my head wordlessly.

"I'm grounding you for two weeks," Darry said standing up. "But it's going to take longer than that to regain my trust. Now go get some sleep."

"Darry, I really am sorry," I said as I stood up to go to my room.

Darry gave me a sad look. "I know you are, Pony. I just wish that I could trust you and I hope you've learned from this."

I walked to my room and laid down, feeling sick. Sick from being drunk and sick from guilt because I had let Darry down. I had learned something alright. I learned that I should have listened to the warnings in my head all night and that drinking wasn't worth it. I also learned that it's not always a good idea to do what my friends are doing. After all, if I hadn't listened to Curly, I wouldn't have been in this mess.