I shook Pony awake once I woke up and realized how late it was. Darry would kill him for being out so late, I knew that.
"You better get home," I told him, "I'm gonna stay all night out here, like anyone will care anyway,"
It was freezing, and I curled up into myself on the bench before Pony took off, and I heard him running home. I would have gone with him, usually, but I knew he might get yelled at or worse and I didn't really want to be there for that. I hated it when people were at my house when it happened to me.
It was hard to get to sleep with it being so cold and all, but I was nearly asleep when someone slammed into me. I thought it was my old man at first, then maybe the socs that we pissed off that night, then I realized it was just Pony.
"C'mon, Johnny, we're running away," he said, crying and starting to run. I got up and ran with him, what the hell. He was crying, both of us out of breath when we finally stopped, and I knew Darry had screamed at him and maybe hit him before he even told me.
"I think I like it better when the old man's hitting me," I said, "at least he knows I'm there," Pony, man, he didn't get it, how good he had it. His brothers really cared about him and worried about everything he did, worried about where he was and everything all the time. I didn't have that. I'd never have that.
He wanted to walk to the park and cool down so I went with him, smoking a cigarette and freezing my butt off. Maybe I would go home with him now that Darry yelled and everything. It would be fine now, and at least his house was warm. I rubbed my arms through my thin jacket, and I could see our breath.
We were sitting on top of the jungle gym when we saw the car, that blue mustang. That was the car I'd seen that day in the lot. That guy tonight, the drunk one, Cherry's boyfriend, he was the one who beat me up that time. I hated that guy. That ring, those rings he wore. I touched the scar that was on my cheek. They got out of the car, five drunk socs. We were dead.
In the moonlight I could see the light shining off those rings, and I saw the silver flask he was drinking from. I felt tense, I felt adrenaline starting to slam into me. This wasn't fear. It was something else.
"Let's take off," I said, and it wasn't cause I was scared, not exactly. I didn't want to be here.
"Naw, here they come," Pony said, so we waited it out. It didn't matter what they said and what we said. They were gonna kill us. Why we waited for them to get to us was beyond me, but when the talk was over we took off. I ran one way and Pony ran the other, maybe we were trying to confuse them. They were all older than both of us and bigger, and drunk. I felt the knife that was in my back pocket. I'd use it if I had to. I'd use it.
I ran but they were right behind me and one of them grabbed me and shoved me to the ground, knocking the wind out of me. Before I could even begin to get up one of them, or maybe the same one, kicked me right in the stomach. I groaned and curled away, and all I could think of was that time in the lot. That time, man, one of them was holding me down and the guy with the rings was pounding on me. My nose was bleeding and my lip was split and bleeding all over my shirt and I didn't even feel the cut on my cheek, the wide open gash that was bleeding all over my jacket and the ground and the soc's fist.
"Stay down, pal," one of them said to me, and I turned over but I couldn't get up yet. My stomach felt like it was trying to twist inside out, waves of pain were doubling me up. It would have been a good time to run but I was dying, I couldn't move.
"Johnny! Johnny, help me!" Ponyboy. None of them were near me, and I sat up, the pain finally subsiding. All the socs were around Ponyboy at the fountain, shoving his head under the water, laughing. That was the worst, maybe. That laughing.
Maybe everyone has a breaking point. Maybe I'd had enough of all this. My old man hitting me all the time, my mother screaming at me. That's what they did when they weren't ignoring me. Then the socs, always having it out for us and for what? Because we didn't have as much money as they did? But I hated them. And that time I got beat up in the vacant lot, it did something to me. I could barely remember it in this funny way. I knew it happened, I saw that scar every day and remembered it, but it wasn't normal. Dally says I almost died, or that he thought I was dead or something. I blacked out in the whole thing and they probably kept beating me, maybe they were trying to kill me, or maybe they were just too drunk to stop.
Pony wasn't struggling as much anymore, and they were gonna drown him while I watched. They would because they were drunk and they were privileged and nothing they did mattered, and we didn't matter. That's how it was.
So I got up and pulled that knife out of my back pocket and flipped the switch and it popped out, all that stainless steel. Six inches. It would be enough.