The very last time that we went out as the paw brothers was an event that set us on our separate paths, a defining moment that would resonate throughout the rest of our lives. It was sophomore year at Garces, I’m fifteen and I am invincible. It was after the spring dance and Chris Gill asked his father if he could spend the night with us and he agreed. It was the first time Chris was ever given permission to come to Delano to hang out with the scoundrels of the city. By that time we had told Chris about all of our exploits in Delano, stealing Ronald McDonald, breaking into cars, any kind of vandalism you can think about, and he wanted to be apart of it. It was his initiation into the Paw Brothers and he was looking forward to whatever would happen that night.
That night, I had made out with a redhead with braces that I would never see again. I was reeling, my ego was on super high, but I was tired, beat, from a night of dancing. It was Tommy, Alan, Chris, and myself and we spent the night at Alan’s house off Sixth Avenue on the east side of town. A couple of houses from Alan’s house was parked a truck with a 22. rifle hanging in a rack of the rear window. He had been eyeing it for weeks. He really wanted that rifle. Up until that point he had been using a BB gun to shoot out windows from cars, houses, lights, anywhere there was a chance of shattering glass. I didn’t have a BB gun, my parents wouldn’t allow it, but I was there with Alan at every shot and every laugh, every broken window and every light fixture.
Alan really wanted to get his hands on that gun, for what I don’t know, but it couldn’t have been for anything good. I wanted to sleep. I told him we were all tired and we could get it another day. But he insisted.
“We go whenever you want to go.”
“Alan we’re tired.”
“That’s bullshit.” Alan said. He sat up in his bed. He looked down at Tommy and me with his arms folded on his chest. We were trying to get some sleep on the floor of his room. I turned my back to him, tried to ignore him, but he kept on with that mouth of his about how much he wanted the rifle. I lost it. I shot up from the floor and said, “You really what to get this fucking thing?”
“Yes I do.”
“Fine, we’ll fucking go then!” I was so pissed.
We dressed and devised a crude plan. Alan would shoot out the window of the truck and Chris would take the 22. and bolt it to where Tommy and I were waiting across the street. It was about two in the morning. No one was about. The night felt cold and fresh and filled with possibility. We took positions along the street and Tommy and I kept watch for any cars. I would give the signal to shoot and when I did Alan shot at the passenger side window of the truck. Both he and Chris ran to us across the street.
“Fucking thing didn’t break.” Alan said.
“What’d you use?” I asked.
“Dumb ass. You need a BB. The pellet only smashes against the window.” Tommy said.
Alan loaded a BB into his gun and he and Chris ran back across the street to the truck. That should have been our premonition, our divine intervention, but we were to naïve to realize the situation we were in. When he shot the window the sound was odd in that otherwise silent place. The glass crashed to the street and Chris Gill hesitated and then took off running, leaving the rifle behind. Alan cursed at him, reached in the truck and pulled the rifle off the rack then ran toward us across the street. I was already laughing so hard that I could only jog around the block. On the corner there was a large car trailer. The owner of the corner house raced stock cars and usually had the trailer parked on the corner of the street. Tommy was already ahead of me. Even though I was clear across the street from Chris, he was almost to me he ran so fast. At the time, Chris was thee track stud at Garces. He was one of the fastest cross-country runners in the county. A real golden boy, blonde hair, blue eyes, he’d never been in trouble with the law his entire life.
As soon as I passed the trailer a bright light engulfed Chris, his hands immediately shot up. His eyes were wide with fright.
“Get your fucking hands up!” An officer commanded.
He was out of the car so fast that I didn’t know what to do. I froze and looked around. Chris was no more than ten feet away from me. A hand took me by the shoulder and helped me onto the trailer hitch. It was Tommy. A light shot beneath the trailer, missing my foot by inches. I could hear the officer telling Chris to get on the ground and to put his hands behind his head.
“Crying is not going to help you. You’re fucked. Who are you out here with?” The handcuffs clicked loudly in the barren streets.
“Get up. On your feet.”
The police car door opened and I could hear Chris being put in the backseat. Moments later the cruiser lurched forward and made a sharp u-turn, missing us by about foot. A few inches more and he would have seen us. I clung to the back of the trailer. My whole body was trembling. The car made a turn on Alan’s block and I shot forward wanting to run down the alley. Tommy Wilson saved me a second time by pulling me back, the cruiser’s spotlight shone bright against the landscape. Chris Gill later told me that he saw my head poke out from behind the trailer while he sat in the backseat of the police car.
We waited a few seconds before darting into the alley and jumping into a dumpster. We listened. Didn’t hear anything. We exited the dumpster and Tommy left his pellet gun in there. We ran down the alley. My feet hardly touched the ground. I ran faster than I had ever run in my entire life. When I got to Del Vista Elementary school I hit the fence running and vaulted it in one motion. We hunkered down and surveyed the landscape. There were no police cars anywhere. We waited for a long time before we decided that our best bet was to try and make it back to Alan’s house. If either Alan or Chris didn’t mention our names, we could get away with it, if not, well then what else do we have to lose? We’re screwed anyway.
It was a long way back to Alan’s house. It took us through the apartments behind the Delano Hospital and circled back on Fifth Street, the street directly behind Alan’s house. The entire trek took us half an hour, where during that time the only person we saw was from so far off that I couldn’t determine who or what it was. When I poked my head through Alan’s curtains I heard the phone ring. We hurried in and took our places alongside the bed, where we should have been sleeping in the first place. Again, I was shaking uncontrollably, excited because I hadn’t been arrested by the police. The phone rang for some time then stopped. No one answered it. Tommy and I whispered with voices of excitement, hoping that Alan and Chris had kept their mouths shut. The adrenalin wore off and soon we were asleep.
I woke up to the pounding of the front door. This time Engel woke up, I could hear him cursing as he walked down the hall. Another pounding and Engel is almost to the door telling the officer to hold on and then a moment of silence, like a pause in life. The front door closes. “That Goddamn Kid!”
Moments later Engel and Caroline stormed into the room and checked the window. Tommy had purposely left the screen off, leaning it against the house.
“They’re all gone.” Caroline Said.
“No, they’re not, there’s Mark and Tommy.”
I was pretending to sleep when Engle shook me. I did my best acting as I blinked my eyes a couple of times and slowly sat up.
“Mark, do you know where Alan is?”
I looked puzzled and then I looked to the bed.
“You mean he’s not asleep?”
“No, he’s in jail!” Caroline said as she fought back tears. By this time Tommy pretended to wake up and I informed him of Alan’s incarceration. Engle told us to go back to sleep and they left. So far so good, are names were not implemented. I knew that Alan wouldn’t say a thing about Tommy or I, but I wasn’t sure about Chris. I liked him, he seemed like a good guy, maybe even a friend, but I hadn’t known him for that long, not like Alan and Tommy.
I had dozed back to sleep when I was awakened by yells and crying coming from the living room. I heard Engle cursing and Caroline crying, asking how could Alan do such a thing and on and on. Tommy and I just lay there and listened, laughing to each other. When Alan did finally enter the room he didn’t say a word, he just walked to his bed and sat down with his shoulders hunched forward like a defeated soldier contemplating some monumental defeat. Tommy and I sat up and watched Alan until he made eye contact with us. He smiled and so did we. I shook my head.
“I told you not to go.” I said.
“I told you not to go, but you wouldn’t listen.”
“What happened?” Tommy asked.
Alan said that when he saw the cop car turn the corner he dove onto a lawn across the street, throwing the rifle and BB gun somewhere in the bushes, laying with his arms and legs extended on the lawn, hoping the cops wouldn’t find him. The next thing he Alan knows there is a gun pressed to the back of his head, an officer telling him not to move. They asked him where the guns were and he told them they were in the bushes somewhere. It took sometime to find them in the dark, the officers pissed, their flashlights illuminating the yard like sentries in search of clues for some urgency.
He came into his room to get changed. He had to apologize to his neighbor and clean up the glass he shattered. He was tired. He hadn’t slept all night and the grilling he received from his parents lasted almost an entire hour. We asked about Chris. He didn’t know what happened to him, only that he knew that he hadn’t said anything about us because the cops kept asking Alan about any other accomplices, the questions themselves revealing that they really didn’t know there were any other persons involved. I felt bad for Alan as he sat there, sulking, but as I left his house I was ecstatic because I hadn’t been caught, for seemed I was lucky on such nights. Tommy and I left Alan’s house and we walked to the dumpster to retrieve his BB gun. It was in the exact spot where Tommy had left it.
When we got to my house Tommy called his grandma to come pick him up, and soon I was alone again, my parents tending the jewelry store on an early Saturday morning. I was happy, happy I didn’t get caught, but there was a looming feeling that I carried with me for the rest of the day. It was as if I lived in a sort of hesitation, a brief pause before every moment. Now, when I look back, I think I knew that our days of sneaking out into the night were at an end. Alan would go on to get a two years worth of probation and Chris’s dad would get him a lawyer and acquit him of all charges, forbidden to hangout with us ever again.
I miss running down the middle of the obsidian like street, luminous after a day of rain, hiding in backyards or abandon houses, always laughing. It was like that for us when we would go out at night. There was just something about that time, the silent night. For me, it was the unabated freedom that I experienced when no one was around, and the love I had for my friends, my brothers, that gave me the feeling of endless possibility.