It was late, past midnight. Our house was dark and silent. They were asleep and had been for several hours. The piece and quit suddenly ended then. I shot up in my bed at a piercing scream. "Ponyboy's having a nightmare again." I thought as I jumped out of bed and hurried to my brothers' room. But wait. that wasn't Pony screaming. I pushed the door open fast and saw Sodapop underneath the covers, shaking with cries, as he sobbed into the sheets. Ponyboy was sitting in the bed next to Sodapop, startled. I rushed over and pried the sheets off my brothers face, as Soda tried to hold them down. "Sodapop, what happened?" I asked, sincerely concerned. Boy, did Soda look upset.

"Darry?" Soda asked meekly.

"Yeah honey. What happened?"

Soda sat up quickly and clung to me, burying his face in my shoulder. "I thought it was real." He said muffled, into my t-shirt.

"Soda?" Pony asked. "Are you ok?" Soda shook his head.

"You thought what was real?" I asked holding onto my brother.

"This dream I had. It was horrible."

"What happened?" I asked, rubbing his back.

"Those social service people- they took us away and we had to go live in a different state. no, a different country and it was awful, Darry. It was horrible!" Soda sobbed.

"Shhhh." I held Soda close. "It's ok. It's all-right. Just a bad dream. That ain't ever gonna happen, I promise."

"I know, it was just so real that it scared me, Darry. It scared me something awful."

"Of course it did. Don't worry though. It ain't real. Here, lie down, little buddy."

"I ain't going back to sleep. There ain't no way I'm going back to sleep." Soda cried refusing to lie down. "I don't ever wanna dream that again."

"Calm down, kiddo." I said, rubbing Soda's head.

"Darry, please don't make me go back to bed. Please?" Soda pleaded, crying again and holding on to me tighter. I could feel him kind of shaking.

"Ok, ok. Calm down." I said. "Come and watch some TV or something. Get your mind off of it."

"I wanna too." Pony said.

"Go to sleep." I told him. "Fine." Pony grumbled, lying back down.

I walked with Sodapop out to the living room and he turned on some crazy show. I don't remember what. He put his head down on my shoulder and tried to stay awake for as long as his exhausted body would allow him too. I put an arm around him and rubbed his shoulder and eventually he fell asleep. I put a blanket on him and sat down in a nearby arm chair. I was afraid he might dream again and wake up in a panic if he was by himself. I can still pick my youngest brother up but I haven't tried picking Soda up recently. I suppose I might have been able to carry him to bed if I'd really tried but I was afraid I'd wake him. So we both slept in the living room for the rest of that night. Or at least he slept. I had been lying awake in my bed all night before that, and now I was sitting awake. It didn't make much difference to me. I was just hoping I might get at least five minutes of shut-eye.

***

I woke up late that Saturday morning. Gosh but my head hurt. I wasn't quit sure why. Maybe it was because I was overtired or maybe I'd hit my head while roofing and I just didn't remember. It didn't really matter how though. The point was that it hurt. I forced myself up. I couldn't lay there any longer. It was already almost noon and I had things to do. I wondered why I hadn't been woken up earlier by something. Things aren't usually to quiet around here.

After getting showered and dressed I walked back out into the living room. It was obvious that my brothers were up and about because everything that I had cleaned up the night before was now all over the living room again. I sighed and walked into the kitchen, opening the fridge to get out the chocolate cake and then going over to the cupboard to get out the coffee beans. I could hear loud voices coming from down the street were the lot is and I figured they were all out there playing football. I wondered why I'd slept so soundly. I'm usually the first one up.

As I walked into the living room to drink my coffee and read the paper, the front door swung open and Soda came tumbling in, Steve right behind him. I was reminded that it had rained the night before because of the mud that was covering both of them. "Morning Dar." Soda said flopping down on the couch.

I could've fallen out of my seat at that moment. "Soda, you're getting mud all over the place!" I shrieked.

Soda lifted an arm up and studied the couch pillow. "It'll come out." He said, trying to rub it off with his muddy hand, only causing more of it to smear everywhere.

I sighed, giving up. "I suppose you expect me to wash those close now." I mumbled, looking at his filthy attire and becoming almost positive that those stains would never come out.

"That'd be nice." He grinned.

"Where's Pony?" I sighed.

"On his way back from the lot with Two-Bit. Hey, if you think I'm dirty you ought to check out those two." Soda said.

Wonderful. I thought. "Go get cleaned up."

"I thought maybe I should keep this mud on for a while. I heard it's good for your skin." Soda said.

"Go clean up before you make an even bigger mess." I laughed. He got up and headed for the bathroom and at that moment Pony and Two-Bit came trotting in. "Out!" I yelled when I saw them. "On the porch! Do not take one further step into this house!" Soda was right. Steve and he were not at all dirty compared to those two. They both found it quit amusing and I couldn't help but grin even though I was freaking out about the state of the living room carpet. "Go hose down or something." I said. "You guys look like you jumped into a pit of mud."

"Well, we kinda did." Ponyboy said, looking at me through the screen door.

"Ya'll don't have enough sense to play a football game elsewhere when the grass is soaking wet?" I asked them.

"Well, golly Dar. There ain't much other place except the house and you would've gone crazy if we were playing tackle football in the living room." Pony said.

"Oh c'mon Darry. Don't tell me you wouldn't have come out and joined us if you'd woken up on time." Soda said, coming out of the bathroom showered and dressed in clean clothes.

I considered that for a moment. "It's unlikely." I said. "Now like I said. You ain't coming into the house looking like that." I turned my attention back to Ponyboy and Two-Bit. "So do something. I dunno what, but clean up."

"The hose is mine." Pony yelled and jumped off the porch and ran towards the side of the house to find it. Two-Bit followed close behind.

I shook my head and turned back to the paper. "It might do you some good to go with them, Steve." I said as I read an article about the public school system. I then became bored with that and got up to join my now semi clean brothers and friends in a game of poker. Pony, who wasn't paying attention and had yet to notice that I had sat down right beside him, was lighting a cigarette. I took it away from him and put it out. "No smoking in the house." I said sternly. He sighed and looked back at his cards.

"Hey, check this out." Two-Bit laughed. He had found the newspaper and was looking through it. "This guy is suing McDonalds because he's been eating their food for three years every day and now he's fat!" He broke down laughing hysterically. (There really is a guy who's suing McDonalds as you probably know, so it wasn't my original idea.)

"You gotta be kidding me." Soda said. "Lemme see that." Two-Bit, who was still cracking up, threw the paper to Soda who scanned through the article. "That is to funny." Soda laughed, handing the paper to Ponyboy who was busy laughing too.

I rolled my eyes. "Stupid." I muttered. "That's one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard of."

"What a dumb ass." Pony laughed.

I reached over and gave him a hard flick on the mouth. "Mind your language." I warned.

"Ass ain't a bad word." He said. "OWE! Ok, ok. Sorry."

"Hey Dar, this chick called earlier today. She was asking for you." Soda said.

"Who was it?" I asked.

Soda shrugged. "I dunno. She didn't give me her name she just asked if a Darrel Curtis still lived here. I told her yeah and then she asked to talk to you but you were sleeping. Then she just said thank you and goodbye and hung up."

"Strange." I said, trying hard to think about who it could possibly be. "Why couldn't you just ask her what her name was."

"I didn't get a chance to." Soda said. I sighed. "I bet she'll call back. She sounded real upset when I told her you were sleeping."

"It's Darry's secret lover." Two-Bit suggested and ducked my swing. I spent the rest of that day wondering who it was that had called.