WARNING! This story contains racial slurs. It is not the intent of the author to offend anyone, they are simply a part of the story and the obstacles in life.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Whenever You're In Trouble...
Chapter Song: Stand By Me, Ben E. King.
Eight-year-old Charles Swan, or Charlie as he liked to be called, squirmed around in the uncomfortable straight backed chair. He was trying his best to be a good boy, but the sun was shining and he was bored listening to his father and his cronies talk. Grown-ups never talked about fun stuff, like baseball cards or comic books.
Charlie fidgeted some more in his seat while his dad got a haircut and talked about local politics with his buddies. He stared out of the storefront window watching a group of boys his age go by. Charlie knew the kids, two of them were trouble with a capital T. He wondered what they were up to.
Probably going to chuck rocks at the old abandoned warehouse on the edge of town. If I did that, Dad would skin my hide for sure, he thought. Not that I really want to anyhow. No, what Charlie really wanted to do was go to the movies and watch the special showing of the Superman serials. There was a fifty cent piece burning a hole in his pocket. Just enough to get a ticket. He frowned at the fact that there wouldn't be enough for a soda-pop or a candy bar.
More kids ran past the barbershop laughing and having fun. He just couldn't stand it anymore! There was no way a boy his age could stay inside on a sunny Saturday morning and behave himself. "Dad, can I go to the movies? Please?"
Geoffrey Swan looked over at his young son, giving him a stern gaze for interrupting when adults were speaking. Manners, loyalty, honesty, fairness and respect ranked high in Geoff's world and that was the way he was raising Charles. He held up his hand to the other men, pausing the conversation so he could have a minute to speak to his child. "Charles, it's rude to interrupt the conversations of others. You know better."
Charlie looked at the ground, scuffing his toe against the floor, wishing he could run away and hide. "Sorry, Dad."
"Don't be so hard on the boy." The barber, Mr. O'Brien was looking at him with sympathy. "This is a pretty boring place for a young lad."
"Andy's right, Geoff. Charlie's a good boy, not like those little hooligan's I caught vandalising the empty shoe factory last week." Sheriff Johnson gave Charlie a stern look. "You steer clear of those Mallory boys, son. You'll only find yourself in trouble if you hang around them."
"Yes Sir." Charlie looked up at Sheriff Johnson with a little bit of hero worship. The cop looked an awful lot like Dick Tracy, except there were no real bad guys in Forks to hunt down. "I promise, Sir. I won't get into any trouble."
Geoffrey Swan looked at his young son, and felt sorry for him. He supposed there was no harm in letting him leave. "Alright, kid. You can go. Be home by three to do your chores and help your mother set the table for supper." He reached into his pocket and handed Charlie a quarter. "Here you go, have fun at the movies, son."
Charlie practically flew out of the shop, tasting freedom on the breeze. His Buster Browns hit the pavement hard, carrying him fast toward the movie theater. He didn't get far though. Just as he turned the corner, he saw the Mallory boys and another bully, Matt Sullivan, beating up another kid. Charlie could tell the young dark-haired boy was trying to hold his own and give as good as he got, but it was three on one.
"Damn, dirty Injun! Go back to the rez, Squanto!" shouted ten-year-old Stephen Mallory, right before throwing another punch. "Get him Stevie!" yelled Matt. "Show that cowboy killer who's boss!"
Blood was flying out of the young boy's nose. Charlie could see one of the kids eyes starting to swell already. He felt sick to his stomach. It wasn't a fair fight. Not by a long shot. He just knew whoever this kid was, that he hadn't done anything wrong. The Mallory's and Sullivan were what his Dad called 'small-minded'. He couldn't not do something. Charlie rushed forward, shouting at the bullies. "Hey, leave him alone!"
Bobby Mallory narrowed his eyes at Charlie. "Swan you big sissy! I never took you for a featherhead lover. Get outta here before we send you to scratch in the dirt at the reservation too!"
Rage clouded young Charlie's vision. He dove into the fight, fists flying, landing blows left and right. The other boy was a little startled, but quickly caught on. Charlie was on his side. The other three boys were kicking and spitting, trying to win, but they didn't know that Charlie's father had started teaching him how to box on Sunday afternoons. He danced back to back with the other boy, moving fast and hitting like a hammer.
Then as fast as the fight began, it was over. The Mallory's and Sullivan took off running. Charlie looked down the sidewalk and saw why. Sheriff Johnson was yelling at the three troublemakers, chasing after them, followed closely by Charlie's Dad and his friends from the barbershop.
Geoffery Swan took in the sight of the two battered boys and felt a small swell of pride. He'd told his son time and again that fighting was never the right answer, but a boy needed to know how to defend himself if the occasion arose. Apparently, this was that day. There was no doubt in his mind as to what started it all. The Mallory's and the Sullivan's came from a long line of hard-headed bigots. They'd all heard the scuffle and racial slurs from inside the barbershop. He was certain that the young boys had learned those names from their parents own lips. His son had stood up for what was right and Geoffrey Swan was proud of him. "Are you two okay?"
"I'm fine, but I think I broke Bobby Mallory's nose." Charlie waited for a reprimand, but none came. Instead his Dad clapped hand on his shoulder and turned to the small Quileute boy whose lip was busted open and bleeding. Charlie had been right. One of his eyes was swelling shut.
"How about you kid? Anything broken?"
The boy looked up at him with pride and a grin on his face. "No sir. We beat the stuffing out of 'em."
Geoffrey Swan bit back a laugh and handed the boy a handkerchief. "Here, hold that against your lip to stop the bleeding. What's your name young man?"
The youngster drew his back straight, speaking in a voice belonging to a man of power and dignity, responded. "William Black, sir, but you can call me Billy. My Father's at the general store. He said I could take a walk while he got supplies, and then those three kids got the jump on me." He looked over at Charlie. "Thanks for standing up for me."
Geoffry Swan knew of the Blacks. William Black, Senior was Chief of the Quileute People. He had seen him before in Forks, and had heard nothing but kind words about the man from the local business owners. He turned to his friend, the barber. "O'Brien, why don't you go get Billy's father. We'll wait here in case Sheriff Johnson comes back."
"Sure. I'll bring him back as quick as I can." And he did.
Less than five minutes later, Mr. O'Brien returned, followed by a very tall man with long black braids like Charlie had only seen on The Lone Ranger. His brow was creased with worry, but pride and authority radiated from his being. When he caught sight of his son, Chief Black gingerly placed a hand on the side of his face carefully assessing the damage. "This eye looks bad. We'll stop by the Ateara's on the way home and have him make you a poultice for it."
Billy cringed at the thought of the stinky concoctions his friend Quil's father, Mr. Ateara made. The medicine man didn't believe in putting a steak over a bruise like lots of people did. No, he was always doling out some smelly, sticky gunk that made you want to hurl on your shoes. Not this time, he thought. No way, Jose. He cringed away from his father's touch. "I'm fine, Pop. I don't need to see Mr. Ateara."
Chief Black just brushed it off and turned to Charlie. "I heard you stepped in and defended Billy."
Charlie looked up at the big man in awe. "Yes, sir. They called him bad names. Dad says that's not right, and it was three on one. That's not a fair fight. We woulda' licked 'em good too if they hadn't run away."
"Would you, now?" Charlie's father laughed a little at his son's proclamation. These two boys were pretty proud of themselves, that was for sure. "You're right, son, it wasn't a fair fight." Geoffrey held out his hand and introduced himself to William Black. "I'm Geoff Swan, and this is my son, Charles."
Chief Black accepted his hand gratefully. "William Black. It's nice to meet you." Then he turned his eyes to small boy who had valiantly defended his son. "It seems you have the heart of a warrior, young man. Not only did you stand up for what was right, but there's barely a scratch on you. I owe you my thanks." He looked back up at Geoff Swan. "It would be an honor to my family and our people if your family would join us for the afternoon tomorrow in LaPush. I would very much like get to know the parents who have taught their son to see past the color of another man's skin. Perhaps our children will become friends."
Geoffrey Swan accepted the invitation with a smile. "I am sure my wife would enjoy that very much. Thank you."
As William Black and Billy walked away, little Charlie Swan thought that perhaps grown ups did do some interesting things after all and tomorrow couldn't come fast enough.
Charlie and Billy ran laughing out the back door of the Black's house. The two boys were so glad to be set free for the afternoon that they couldn't help it. As soon as they were out of sight, both peeled off the starched button-up shirts forced on them by their parents, tossing them in a nearby tree to put back on later. It just felt all wrong to get dressed up. Charlie was more comfortable in his jeans and a t-shirt.
Mr & Mrs. Black had been really nice to him, but he felt a little uncomfortable with all the attention. It was no big deal. He just jumped in and helped. He didn't even have a black eye from the fight to show for it like Billy did. Now that was cool. He could tell everyone he licked those bullies and point to his purpley eye to prove it. Charlie wished he at least had a busted lip or something for his trouble. Kind of like the war wound his Dad had. A big old scar that ran down his arm from a bullet grazing him. That was super cool.
"Come on Charlie! Let's go!" shouted Billy, racing as fast as his feet could carry him. He wanted to go to the little store on the rez and check for new baseball cards.
Charlie chased after him, but Billy Black was faster and he had to stop outside the store to catch his breath before going in. When it finally felt like he could breathe again, he burst inside, ready to spend the money that had been burning a hole in his pocket since yesterday morning. Sodas and candy outside on the picnic benches seemed like a really good idea. He was so absorbed in wondering if Billy would like strawberry or grape soda best, that he failed to notice the mean stares from the man and woman behind the counter. Happy as only an eight-year-old on a sunny day could be, Charlie plunked his loot down and pulled out his fifty cent piece with a huge smile on his face.
The man behind the counter stared him down, arms crossed over his chest as if he disapproved of his very existence on the planet. "Kika! Get out of here!"
Charlie stood in shock. The man's eyes were filled with hate. Hate like he saw yesterday in the Mallory brothers. Nobody had ever looked at him like that before. He couldn't move. His feet were glued to the floor like in a bad dream. His cheeks flamed red and then the woman behind the counter moved towards him. For a second Charlie felt relieved. Maybe she was going to tell him what he'd done wrong. It was a short lived feeling. She fixed her angry eyes on him, voice was thick with disgust. "Hokwat! Go home. You're not welcome here."
"I just want to pay for the soda pops and candy, please." His eyes were round as saucers. Not quite knowing what to do, he said the first words that came out of his mouth. "I promise, they're not wooden nickels. You can change them. My money is good." It sounded stupid, he knew, but he thought maybe it wasn't the same kind of money they used. He'd never been outside of Forks before. Maybe they have different coins on the reservation.
The woman put her hand on his shoulder, pushing him towards the door and the man behind the counter raised his chin. "We don't take money from Hokwat's. No palefaces are welcome here. Go back to where you belong, and don't come to La Push again."
Kika! Kika!" The mean woman shoved him hard towards the door, sending Charlie stumbling. Embarrassed, trying desperately not to cry, Charlie tried to right himself and regain his footing, but she grabbed him by the shirt, pushing and dragging, muttering words under her breath that he didn't understand. Basi, tabilichli, lilap, kika... he didn't know what the words meant, but he was sure it couldn't be good.
Suddenly, the woman stopped. Astonishment mixed with fear fell over her face. She quickly let go of Charlie, making him fall hard onto the wooden floor.
"Atila-cha' -chid!" The voice was young, but the power laced in it was unmistakable. Charlie Swan peered around the woman to see Billy Black, standing tall, proud and very, very angry.
The woman held up her hands in protest. "Tsatili! Tsatili!
Billy eyed them all and for a minute Charlie saw the same indignation on his face that he had yesterday when the bullies were calling him names. He wondered if Billy was gonna start throwing punches and quickly scrambled to his feet, rubbing his sore bottom. He wasn't sure, but there was probably going to be a bruise. He inched back toward the counter and stood next to Billy Black. "This is my friend, Charlie Swan. He's with me, and his parents are guests of my father's today."
It must have meant something to the people running the store. Their eyes widened with surprise. The man behind the counter looked at Charlie a little bit kinder, but still disapproving and spoke. "Hista tala."
When Charlie didn't respond, the man repeated the word impatiently. "Hista tala!" Wondering if he should ask what it meant, Charlie tried to summon up all his courage, but Billy elbowed him in the ribs. "Give him your money, so we can leave."
Charlie handed over his coins The man counted out his meager change and put his things in a brown paper sack. "Thanks." Billy grabbed him by the arm and dragged him toward the door. He was getting a little sick of being pushed around today. The woman called towards to them, her voice sugary sweet like a mother and a fake smile plastered on her face. Looks like Howdy Doody, he thought. "Thank you, boys! Come back again soon!"
Billy turned his head and glared. "Was ho!" Again, it was another word Charlie didn't know, but something told him that Billy wouldn't be bringing him back here again anytime soon.
Once outside, the two boys breathed in the fresh air and made their way down to the beach to sort through their loot. Charlie didn't say anything to Billy and Billy didn't say anything to Charlie. Both were feeling pretty low, kicking at the pebbles beneath their feet. Grown-ups were mean, kids were stupid and life wasn't fair.
Finally making it down to First Beach, they settled onto a picnic table. Charlie opened up the bag of treats he'd picked out so carefully at the store. All the wind had been taken out of his sails. His eyes cast down at the table, he wondered if Billy even wanted to hang out with him now. Seeing his pale hands, he knew it was all because he was white. His skin was white and Billy's was copper colored. So what? he thought. It's just skin. Everybody's gotta have something to keep their guts from spilling out.
"Can I have the grape soda pop?" Charlie was startled and looked up to see Billy grinning at him. "Unless you want the grape one. I like strawberry too."
Charlie mirrored his smile and felt his little shoulders relax. "You take it. I really like strawberry." He tore open a package of scooter pies and handed one to Billy. The two munched silently for a few minutes, until Charlie worked up the courage to ask about the bad words that the people running the store said to him.
Billy shrugged his shoulders. "They're just words, Charlie." Seeing that his friend wasn't going to be swayed, he took a deep breath. "Ok. Hokwat means white man. But, the way they said it was the mean way, like calling you a paleface. Kika means get out of here, and she also called you dirty, annoying and weak. I asked them what they were doing, and they tried to say nothing. Oh, and I also told them no way when they said to come back again."
Charlie looked down at the table, his feelings hurt all over again. He picked at the candy wrapper, trying to figure out if he did something wrong to make them angry.
Billy felt sorry for Charlie. It wasn't his fault grown-ups were just as dumb as kids sometimes. "Hey, do you like baseball? I got some packs of baseball cards to open."
Charlie grinned. "Yeah I do! Dad promised me he's gonna take me to a game. Maybe you and your Dad can come with." He got out his pocket knife and carefully slit open the package that Billy handed him.
"Wow, that's a neat pocket knife!" Charlie handed it to Billy to use and he looked it over carefully. His Pop was teaching him to carve, but he didn't have his own knife yet. "I got it at the general store. It's a Swiss Army knife. Look on the other side. There's a little pair of scissors and a toothpick too." The boys got caught up in looking at the knife and the cards. Billy was still feeling guilty that Charlie got dumped on today and that he had to fight for him yesterday. So, he gave him the best of the cards from the two packs. Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays.
While they had been sorting through the cards, Charlie had been thinking. Grown-ups never listened to kids and grown-ups were never afraid of kids. But the two back in the store did and he wanted to know why. "Can I ask you somethin', Billy?"
"How come they listened to you and were nice? Grown-ups never listen to kids, and if you yell at them like you did, you get in big, big trouble."
Stretching his arms wide in gesture, he told him, "Cuz I'm gonna be the big Chief someday. Right now, my Pop is Chief of the tribe, so they they gotta show us Blacks some respect." Billy smiled like he'd just gotten away with murder.. "I told them you were my Dad's special guest, and now they're probably afraid he's gonna make them talk to the council. I scared them, alright. Big time!"
Charlie's mind was swimming with ideas. If being a Chief meant people had to listen to you, even little kids, that was what he wanted to be when he grew up. "That is so cool! I wanna be a Chief too! Then everyone will have to do what I say!"
Billy just shook his head. "You can't. You're not Quileute. Only Quileutes can be Chiefs, and even then it's only the Black men that can be Chief," he pointed out.
Charlie was thoughtful for a minute. It's not true. Sheriff Johnson's the Chief of Police. That's IT! "I know! I'll be the Chief of Police for Forks! Then I can be a Chief just like you, Billy! We'll run all the mean bullies out of La Push and Forks and everyone will have to do what we say!" He was so excited by the idea that formed in his head, that he handed over the admired pocket knife to Billy. He owed him for today. "Here, you keep it."
Billy looked at him warily. "Are you sure?"
"Sure, I'm sure!" I can get another in the general store. They've got loads of them. 'Sides, you stuck up for me today, and you gave me all the cool baseball cards," he explained.
It wasn't a fair trade and Billy knew it. He wanted that knife, he really did, but he didn't have anything to give Charlie in return. Yeah, he'd stuck up for him today, but he figured that only made them even for yesterday. The baseball cards didn't cost half as much as the knife did. Then suddenly an idea struck him. He could tell him a secret. A big, fat secret he'd been dying to tell someone, anyone. He couldn't tell his friends. They all have loose lips, he thought. But, Charlie's different. I just know I can trust him.
Then, as soon as the idea hit, Billy realized the problem with his plan. His shoulders slumped and he looked defeated. Charlie was confused. He held out the knife in the palm of his hand. "Don't you want it? I thought you liked it?"
Billy shook his head. "I can't take it. It's not a fair trade. I don't have anything to give you, and I really, really want to tell you the biggest secret in the world to make it fair, but I can't because you're not Quileute!" Billy tugged at his hair, frustrated and upset. This was all wrong. For the second time in two days, the color of his skin was screwing up his life.
Charlie Swan was a smart kid though, and he remembered something he'd seen at the movies. "I know, Billy! We can be blood brothers!" He opened the knife excitedly. "I cut my palm a little bit, and you cut yours, and then we mash our hands together so our blood gets all mixed up. Then you'll have some of my Irish blood and I'll have some of your Quileute blood-"
"and then I can tell you my secret!" interrupted Billy, jumping out of his seat he was so excited. "Here, I'll go first." He snatched the knife and winced a little scraping the blade on his palm, leaving a shallow inch long gash. Billy handed the knife back to Charlie who did the same. They held their hands up, palms out and laced their fingers, pushing the cuts together as tight as they could. When it was over, they looked at each other in wonder.
"Do you feel Irish now?" laughed Charlie.
"I dunno, but now that you're Quileute, I can tell you my secret." Billy looked around the beach to make sure there was nobody around to overhear him. He could get in really, really big trouble for this. But the way he figured it, he'd only tell Charlie about his Grandfather. He was dead now, so nobody could ask him about it if Charlie told. Yeah, that would work, he thought. He took a deep breath and leaned in real close. "The legends of my people say we're descended from wolves. I can't remember all the stories, but the legends say that some of the tribe can actually turn into wolves."
Charlie wrinkled his brow, thinking this little piece of information over. No way it's true, he thought. He didn't want to make Billy mad or hurt his feelings. He thought it was real and that was what counted. "Gee, that's a cool story, Billy. Thanks for telling me about your people." There! That was the kind of respectful answer his Dad had taught him to give.
Billy rolled his eyes. "No, Charlie, that's not the secret. Well, it's part of it, 'cuz only tribe can know about the legends, and I could get in big, big trouble for telling you. You believe me, right?"
Charlie shrugged. "Sure, I mean, it's just a story, but it's a cool one."
"No, Charlie! It's real." Billy's shifted around, looking over his shoulder, checking to make sure the beach was still deserted. "I saw one," he breathed. Charlie's eyes flew open wide, his jaw dropping a little. Billy Black took a little boyish satisfaction in his reaction and leaned even closer, his words rushed and excited. "Two years ago, before my Grandfather died, my Pop took me into the forest, and Grandfather was there. He blew out of his skin and turned into a giant wolf!" He slapped his hands down on the picnic table for effect, happy that he made Charlie Swan jump. As a matter of fact, he looked a little green around the gills and Billy wondered if he'd gone too far.
For his part, Charlie wasn't sure what to think. He just knew it couldn't be true, but Billy was good at telling stories and he was scared silly. His eyes darted to the woods. Charlie gulped- hard. "Do, do you think... are there more? Out there?"
Billy shrugged. "Sure, sure. I mean, where there's one there's always two, right?" He felt smug, and satisfied. He was sure he'd said just enough and not spilled enough beans to feel super duper guilty. But he knew he was pushing it and cast around in his mind for a way to change the subject. Looking down the long stretch of sand, he saw his two friends coming their way.
"Hey, wanna meet my friends? You'll like Quil and Harry. We can all go fishin' together. Pop got me some new minnow lures at the store yesterday."
"Do we have to go into the woods?" Charlie didn't want to sound like a sissy, but he was a little afraid.
"Nah, there's a stream behind my house we can fish in." Billy jumped to his feet. "Come on!"
In the space of one weekend, a lifelong friendship was born. One that defied the odds of the time they lived in. Little did the two boys know that down the road, their own kids would be best friends. That one of them would date a vampire and one would become a wolf. Thirty years later, Charlie would remember the story Billy told him and wonder if maybe, just maybe, there was a grain of truth to it after all.