Tim lifted his head and groaned as the sun hit his eyes. He scrunched up his face and, feeling his painful, swollen nose protest, remembered that he had broken it again. Not that it mattered; it was a small price to pay for stomping the socs the previous night.
The greasers had won the rumble. The socs would have to keep to their side or so help them. It was a time to be victorious: they had proven that money, cars and college funds didn't matter. They had beaten the socs with brute force and team work. Friendship, loyalty, greaser pride. It ought to be a time for celebration, but Tim had an ominous, sick feeling in his stomach.
Clad in just a pair of jeans and moving slowly so not to aggravate his broken ribs, Tim walked downstairs and out into his back yard. It was a sweltering day even though it was barely just past sunrise. Today would be a sticky, humid day. Sitting down on a stack of tires, Tim lit up a cigarette and inhaled deeply. Even the nicotine hit couldn't relax him. Something just didn't seem right.
Ten minutes passed, and Tim's brow already had beads of sweat surfacing. This weather was awfully oppressive. The air was warm and sat heavily, seemingly pushing down on the tall, slightly built hood. It needed to rain, it had to. That would clear the air. Yesterday they had a downpour, but obviously not enough to cool Tulsa into a liveable environment. Clearer air would settle Tim. It was the humidity that made him so on edge, it was the only reason he hated living in the south.
Tim doubted the socs would actually stick to the agreements of the rumble. He remembered talking to Steve Randle about it a few nights before. Steve was sure that the rumble was the change they'd all been hoping for, the final battle in this rich kid versus poor kid war. Tim wasn't so naïve. He knew whipping the socs wouldn't make a damn bit of difference. Tim and his buddies would still be the punks who worked hard for fuck all; the socs would still be the bastards who got all the breaks in the form of a trust fund and a daddy in a high powered job, willing to give his golden boy a job right next to him. Socs would still taunt greasers when they had too much liquor on a Saturday night. Greasers would still hunt down socs to jump when they were angry and needed to take it out someone they felt bitterness towards. The socs wouldn't stick to the agreements drawn up before the rumble, Tim knew this for sure. He knew, because if it was the other way round and the socs had won, the greasers wouldn't have stuck to the rules either. But still, at least the greasers would have this to wave in the socs' faces. They'd remind the socs of this for years to come.
Tim showered and dressed, deciding to head to the basketball court where his gang hung out. There was a grocery store opposite, he could pick up a hotdog and a Pepsi to settle his hunger. As he walked through the back alleys his senses were in overdrive. Tim was worried about an immediate uproar from the socs, he knew they'd want to hit back and worried that it would be before his gang could recover from their injuries.
When he rounded the corner he saw his gang sitting around in the shade at the back of the abandoned basketball court. He walked over the chipped and cracked tarmac, wondering why his boys weren't whooping and cheering at their success. Something wasn't right. Something was really, really wrong. The humid air pushed down hard on Tim, with enough force to nearly floor him. His breath caught at the back of his throat, and he had to remind himself to exhale. He was the gang leader, they couldn't see him worried.
"You boys hungover?" he asked nervously, trying to sound as relaxed as possible.
Silence. What the fuck was wrong?
"You not heard, Tim?" Curly asked him slowly.
What was that look on his little brother's face? Sadness, that was evident. But pity? He had a pitying look, like he was really worried about Tim.
"After… after the rumble…"
Tim knew it, he knew the socs would strike. He had no idea it would be the very same night, but he wouldn't put it passed the cowardly rich kids to play dirty. "The socs?" he asked, his mouth suddenly dry.
"No, Tim. Not the socs… the fuzz, man. The fuzz." the last two words were spat out, Curly's anger towards the police was unmistakable.
"They haul someone in?"
"Naw." Curly mumbled, looking down at his tennis shoes.
Tim's patience wore out, unable to handle the suspense. "Spit it out, for fuck's sake!"
"Winston." his brother said, looking him straight in the eyes. "They got Winston."
Tim felt like he'd been hit in the stomach with a sledgehammer. Usually hearing about a run in between Dallas and the fuzz was nothing to be alarmed by. It happened too often for a reaction, and Dallas was too tough to worry over. But not this time, Tim knew by the look on his brother's face. He knew by the sympathy radiating from his gang. They had all lost a buddy, and Tim had lost a true friend.
Dallas Winston was dead. This was what hadn't felt right when he woke up to the oppressive heat. A shift had occurred: Dally was dead.
"I don't understand." Tim whispered, turning his back on his guys. "What happened?"
Again, it was Curly who spoke: perhaps the rest of the boys were too scared to talk, perhaps they felt it was something that a brother should say. "We don't know exactly, Angel heard it off Sylvia, and she weren't making much sense… Johnny… the kid that killed the soc. He died last night, cos of that fire in their hideout. Dal blew up and robbed a store, and apparently he was packing heat… so… so they shot him."
That was all Tim needed to hear. Without a word, without turning to look at his gang, he walked away. He walked for a good long time, until he couldn't walk anymore. He reminded himself to breathe. Dallas Winston was dead. He wondered why he hadn't instinctively known when he had woken up. It was in the air, it had been pushing down on him all morning. It was the news that was pushing through every inch of Tulsa, carried in the non-existent breeze.
Tim couldn't let the gang see him as weak; he was their leader, he had to be in control, had to be unwaveringly tough, or they'd lose respect for him. Besides, the gang didn't need him right now - they were all friends, any grief they were feeling could be worked through together, as buddies. Tim didn't have that luxury. They were his gang - family even, but they weren't his friends. They couldn't be: they worked as a group because they had a pecking order, Tim wasn't their equal, never could be. He didn't allow himself to get close to any of them; he had to maintain his authority.
Dally. Now he was Tim's equal. Dallas was the only one Tim could really be himself around - he didn't have to be a leader, or a punisher, or a brother. He could just be a buddy. Tim laughed bitterly. It wasn't the most conventional of friendships, but it worked for them. Dally was his drinking partner, fighting ally and wingman. Dallas was Tim's best friend, his only friend. And now he was gone.
If Tim could ever admit to needing someone, he'd realise he had always needed Dally more than he needed Tim; Winston had the Curtis brothers and the rest of their outfit. A group of buddies. Tim thought about them for a moment. They'd know what he was going through. He thought about the quiet kid that had killed the soc. The kid looked up to Winston like he was a brother; he was in awe of him. Yet it wasn't tuff old Dal that would be remembered. Johnny would die with a legacy, Tim thought. He had killed a rotten soc - no greaser had ever done that before; he'd be remembered on the east side for years to come. And then, he had saved those kids from a fire, so all the adults in Tulsa would think of him as a hero. He had the respect of everyone. Dally was only respected by JDs for his toughness and smart mouth. They'd forget him soon enough though.
Tim arrived home and opened all the windows and doors. It was too damn hot, he felt like he was suffocating. He had to tell himself to breathe again. As he steadied his breath, the lump in the back of his throat throbbed threateningly. 'Don't fucking cry', he thought to himself, and immediately the lump subsided. 18 years on the east side had honed Tim's control of his emotions to the point of barely feeling anything. It had been a long while since he had last needed to consciously calm himself down.
Footsteps on the stairs told Tim he wasn't alone in the house, he turned and saw his sister Angela enter the lounge. Her face was covered in running mascara and her cheeks were blotchy from crying. "Ha-have you he-heard?" she choked out.
"Yeah, kid. I heard." Tim gave away no emotions, Angela hated that she couldn't read her brother. She wished she could understand him better, be there for him more.
"Are you alright?"
"Better than Dal at any rate." He laughed, then his felt sick. That wasn't funny.
Angela gave Tim a soft smile, a smile full of pity. He felt somewhat comforted that both his siblings knew he was putting on a front, and were letting him. He was thankful for that.
"I just can't believe it. He was so young, so…" Tim watched his sister fight back tears, and leave the room when she couldn't. Tim didn't like to be around girls when they cried. He thought of going after her, but decided against it. He was suddenly angry at Dallas Winston, remembering how Angela had a crush on him, remembering that Dally had used her, just to piss Tim off. He was such a punk.
The past few months Tim and Dallas had fought like cat and dog. They always got into fights, but it had all been accelerated. Dallas had beaten him half to death when he found out about Tim's thing with Sandy. Sandy was dating one of Dally's friends, and when he found out about them, he lost it. But beatings were nothing to hoods like Winston and Shepard so Dallas had taken it one step further. Tim arrived home one day to find his little sister making out with Dally. As fury rose to the surface and Tim was about to punch Dallas into next week, Winston stood up and said, "That's about even now, dontcha think? Stay away from Soda's girl." and walked right out.
Dal had got hauled into the cooler a few days after and that could have drawn a line under everything that happened, but Angel wouldn't shut up about that goddamn hood, she'd really fallen for him. That pissed Tim off something awful, so he went after Dally's broad. Sylvia was an easy lay, but for some reason Dallas was kinda stuck on her. When he got out of jail just over a week ago, he slashed Tim's tires as soon as he got out. Tim knew it was because of Sylvia, but he still broke Dally's ribs in response.
It should have been Dally's turn to retaliate. Dallas should be thinking of a way to get back at Tim. But that would never happen now. The game was over, and Dallas hadn't survived.
Tim choked on a sob. It hit him out of nowhere; his eyes stung and the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. 'Stop', he pleaded in his thoughts. It didn't work. "Stop!" he yelled, this time aloud. It did no good, a tear formed in the corner of Tim's eye.
The heartbroken teen exploded with a raw, animalistic growl. He kicked the coffee table, a stack of magazines slipped onto the floor. He rammed his foot down on the centre of the table, and it collapsed beneath his Converse. He charged over to the wall and knocked the content of the shelves onto the worn carpet. Then he punched the wall. Once. Twice. Three times. On the third time he felt his bones crumble, he yelled out in satisfied agony. The physical pain took over the emotional pain. Tim went to the kitchen, took whiskey from the cupboard then returned to the lounge, sinking onto the couch. This pain was something Tim could handle; it was always preferable to emotional hurt. He began to relax, gulping down some liquor and lighting a cigarette with his good hand.
Tim sat on the couch for about four hours. Until the alcohol was gone, until the pain had become a dull ache. In this time he had perfected his cool stance; the look he had yesterday before the rumble. A cold, hard, emotionless look. And he was working on making his insides match.
Tim left the house, not bothering to close any of the windows. As he walked, he felt splatters of rain on his bare arms. Rain, at last. The more he walked, the heavier the water fell. The downpour washed away the stuffy atmosphere, the sickening heat and the oppressive misery that was carried in the air. And with it went Tim's sadness and loss. He had pushed his grief deep down inside, and would ignore it from here on out. He was on his own from now on, by choice.
He saw his gang taking refuge from the rain in a burger joint across the street. He walked in, hollered at the waitress to bring him some fries, and stood in front of his men. "OK, boys." He said coolly, a smirk spreading across his face, "Let's give the fuzz hell!"
The Tulsa hoodlums erupted with noise, filling the diner with a riotous war cry. Tim cast his eyes over the wild, no-good, dangerous teenagers, and thought to himself with pride, 'For Dallas.'