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CHAPTER TWELVE






(1)

Arthur decided that the younger ones should be on the spot at the Zanesville Youth Camp. After all, it would give them experiences every child should have: hiking, swimming, horseback riding, camping, sports.

He approved of Dean Hughes, the tall black recreation director with the flattop haircup and the Vandyke beard. He seemed like a sympathetic and trustworthy young man. All in all, there seemed to be no danger here.

Ragen agreed.

But Tommy bitched about the rules. He didnt like having his hair cut, having to wear state-issue clothing. He didnt like being here with thirty juvenile delinquents.

Charlie Jones, the social worker, explained the setup to the new boys. The camp was divided into four progress zones, and they were expected to move through a zone each month. Zones 1 and 2 were the dormitories in the left wing of the T-shaped building. Zones 3 and 4 were in the right wing.

Zone 1, he admitted, was the pits. Everyone dumped on you, and you had to wear your hair cropped close. In zone 2, the boys could wear their hair longer. In zone 3, they could wear their own clothes instead of state-issue clothes after their daily work assignments. In zone 4, instead of living in a dorm, they could have their own private cubicles. Zone 4 boys didnt have to do regularly scheduled events. Most of them were trusties, and they didnt even have to go to the Scioto Village Girls Camp for the dances.

The boys laughed at that.

They would move through zones 1 to 4, Mr. Jones explained, by the merit system. Each of them started out the month with 120 merits to his credit, but he had to have 130 to move on to the next zone. A boy could earn credits by special work and good behavior, or he could lose them by disobedience or antisocial behavior. Merits could be removed by the staff or by one of the trusties from zone 4.

If any of those people said the word Hey, that cost a merit. If someone said, Hey, cool it, two merits were lost. Hey, cool it, bed, meant that in addition to losing two merits, the offender had to stay in bed for two hours. If he left his bed and someone said, Hey, cool it, bed! Hey, cool it, that was a loss of three merits. But if someone said, Hey, cool it, bed! Hey, cool it, county, that cost four. And county meant the boy would cool off in the county jail.

Tommy felt like throwing up.

There were lots of things to do around there, Charlie Jones said. He expected the boys to put in their time and behave themselves. Any of you boys think youre too good or too smart for this place or try to run off the state of Ohio has another place for you. The Training Institution of Central Ohio is called TICO for short. And if you get sent to TICO, youll sure as hell wish you were right back here. All right, now get your bedding in th& storeroom and then go to the mess hall for chow.



That evening Tommy was sitting on his bunk wondering who had gotten him into this and why he was here. He didnt give a shit about merits and rules and zones. As soon as he got the chance, he was busting out. He/hadnt been on the spot coming in, so he didnt know the way out, but he noticed there was no barbed wire or walls around the camp, just woods. It shouldnt be hard to get away.

As he passed the mess hall, he smelled good cooking. Hell, no sense jumping into the fire until he knew what was in the frying pan.

One of the other new boys in zone 1 was a little lad with glasses who couldnt have been more than fourteen or fifteen. Tommy had noticed him in the line-up, wondering if hed blow over in a breeze. He was struggling under the weight of his mattress and bedding when a tall guy with long hair and weight lifters muscles tripped him. The kid bounced back up from the ground and butted the big guy right in the stomach, knocking him over.

Musclebound looked up surprised at the kid standing over him with his tiny fists clenched. Okay, you little prick, Musclebound said. Hey!

Stuff it up your ass! the boy said.

Hey, cool it! the big guy snapped, getting up and brushing himself off.

The little kid had tears in his eyes. Cmon and fight, you big bastard.

Hey, cool it, bed!

Another boy, scrawny but taller and two or three years older, pulled the little kid away.

Back off, Tony, he said. Youve lost two merits already, and now you gotta stay in your bed for two hours.

Tony calmed down and picked up his mattress. Hell, Gordy, I wasnt hungry anyway.

In the mess hall, Tommy ate in silence. The food wasnt half bad. But he was starting to worry about the place. If they let the big boys rag you and take your merits away, he knew he would have to be very careful of his temper.

Back in the dorm, he noticed that the scrawny boy called Gordy had the bunk next to his and had brought part of his dinner to the little one. They were sitting and talking.



Tommy sat on his bunk and watched. He knew one of the rules was no eating in the dorm. Out of the comer of his eye, he saw Musclebound coming in the door.

Look out! he whispered. That big bastard is coming. The kid called Tony slid his plate under the bed and leaned back. When Musclebound checked things out and was satisfied that the kid was in his bed, he left.

Thanks, the kid said. Im Tony Vito. Whats your name? Tommy looked him in the eye. They call me Billy Milligan.

This here is Gordy Kane, he said, pointing to the scrawny boy. Hes in for selling pot. What did they get you for? Rape, Tommy said, but I didnt do it.

Tommy could tell by their smiles that they didnt believe him. Well, he didnt really give a damn. Whos the bully? he asked.

Jordan. From zone four.

Well get even with the bastard, Tommy said.

Tommy was on the spot most of the time, and he talked to Billys mother when she visited. Tommy liked and felt sorry for her. So when she told him that shed divorced Chalmer, he was glad.

He hurt me, too, Tommy said.

I know. He always had it in for you, Billy. But what could I do? I needed a roof over our heads. Three children of my own, and Challa just like my own daughter too. But now Chalmers gone. You be a good boy and do what they tell you, and youll be able to come home soon.

Tommy watched her leave and decided she was the most beautiful mother hed ever seen. He wished she was his. He wondered who his own mother was and what she looked like.

(2)

Dean Hughes, the young recreation director, noticed that Milligan lay around most of the time, reading or staring in a trance. One afternoon he approached the boy directly.

Youre here, Hughes told him. Youre going to have to do the best you can. Be happy. Get involved in something. What do you like to do?

I like to paint, Allen said.

The following week, at his own expense, Dean Hughes bought Milligan paints, brushes and canvases.

Want me to paint you a picture? Allen asked, setting the canvas up on a table. What would you like me to paint you? Make it a old bam, Hughes said. Windows broken. Tire hanging down off an old tree. Old country road. Make it look like it just got done rainin. .

Allen worked all day and all night and finished the painting. The next morning he gave it to Dean Hughes.

Man, thats good, Hughes said. You could make a lot of money with your artwork.

Sure would like that, Allen said. I just love to paint.. Hughes realized he was going to have to work at getting Milligan out of his trancelike behavior. One Saturday morning, he took the boy out to Blue Rock State Park. Hughes supervised as Milligan painted. People came by and watched, and Hughes sold them some of the artwork. Hughes took Milligan out again the next day, and by Sunday night they had sold four hundred dollars worth of paintings.

On Monday morning the director called Hughes into the office and informed him that since Milligan was a ward of the state, it was against policy for him to be selling artwork. He had to contact the people, return their money and get the paintings back.

Hughes hadnt known of the policy, and he agreed to refund the money. On the way out, he asked, Howd you find out about the sales?

People have been calling here, the director said. They want more of Milligans paintings.

April passed quickly. As the weather warmed, Christene played in the garden. David chased butterflies. Ragen worked out in the gym. Danny, who was still afraid of the outdoors from having been buried alive, stayed indoors and painted still lifes. Christopher, who was thirteen, rode horseback. Arthur spent most of his time in the library reading law statutes in the Ohio Revised Code, saying he would get on a horse only if he were playing polo. They were all happy to move to zone 2.

Milligan and Gordy Kane were assigned to work in the laundry, where Tommy enjoyed tinkering with the old washer and the gas-fired dryer. He was looking forward to moving to zone 3, where he would be allowed to wear his own clothes in the evenings.

One afternoon Frank Jordan, the musclebound bully, walked in with a load of laundry. I want these washed right away. Im expecting company tomorrow. .

Thats nice, Tommy said, going on about his business.

I mean wash them now, Jordan said.

Tommy ignored him.

Im a zone-four trusty, you prick. I can take your merits away. Youll get bumped out of going to zone three.

Look, said Tommy, I dont give a damn if youre in the twilight zone. I dont have to wash your goddamn personal clothes.

Hey!

Tommy looked up at him furiously. What right had this common thief to remove one of his merits? Stuff it, Tommy said.

Hey, cool it!

Tommy clenched his fists, but Jordan walked off to report to the man in charge that he had given Milligan a hey-cool-it.

When Tommy got back to the dorm, he learned that Jordan had given Kane and Vito each a hey-cool-it as well. All because he knew the three of them were friends.

We gotta do something about this, Kane said.

Ill do something, Tommy said.

What? Vito asked.

Never mind, Tommy said. Ill come up with something. Tommy lay back in his bed thinking about it, and the more he thought, the angrier he got. Finally he got up, went around back, found a section of a two-by-four and started toward zone 4. .

Arthur explained the situation to Allen and told him hed better get over there before Tommy got into trouble.

Dont do it, Tommy, Allen said.

Shit, Im not letting that big bastard get away with taking my merits, bumping me outta going to zone three.

Youre going off half-cocked.

Ill half-cock that son of a bitch with a busted head. Hey, Tommy, cool it.

Dont say those words to me! Tommy shouted.

Sorry. But youre going about this all the wrong way. Let me handle it.

Shit, said Tommy, throwing the two-by-four down. You cant handle your own ass.

You always did have a fresh mouth, Allen said. Beat it. Tommy left the spot. Allen walked back to the zone-2 barracks and sat down with Kane and Vito.

Now, this is how were going to do it, Allen said.

I know how well do it, Kane said. Well blow the damned office up.

No, Allen said. We assemble the facts and figures, and tomorrow we march into Mr. Jones office and tell him how unfair it is to have our own peerskids who are common criminals, no better than we arestand in judgment on us. Both Kane and Vito stared, open-mouthed, at Allen. Theyd never heard him talk this smooth, slick way before.

Get me a paper and pencil, Allen said, and lets get this worked out properly.

Next morning the three of them, with Allen as spokesman, went to see Charlie Jones, the social worker.

Mr. Jones, said Allen, youve told us that when we come in here, we can air our feelings without getting into trouble.

Thats right.

Well, weve got a complaint about this system of having our peers punish us by removing our merits. If youll just look at this chart Ive drawn up, youll see how unfair it is.

Allen reviewed the tally of hey-cool-its Frank Jordan had issued against them, describing in each case how it had come about as a result of a personal grudge or refusal to do his chores or run his errands.

Weve used this system for a long time, Bill, Jones said.

*That doesnt mean its right. A place like this is meant to prepare us to fit into society. Hows it going to do that if it shows us society is unfair? Hows it right to place kids like Vito here at the mercy of a bully like Frank Jordan?

Jones pulled at his ear as he thought about it. Allen kept hammering away at the unfairness of the system, while Kane and Vito kept silent, impressed by the fast-talking of their spokesman.

Ill tell you what, Jones said. Let me think about this. Come back and see me on Monday, and Ill let you know my decision.

Sunday evening Kane and Vito were playing cards on Kanes bunk. Tommy was lying around, trying to piece together what had happened in Mr. Jones office from what Kane and Vito were saying.

Kane glanced up and said, Look what the cat drug in.

Frank Jordan walked up to Vito and dropped a pair of muddy shoes on top of the cards. I need these polished for tonight.

Well, then, you can do them yourself Vito said. I aint polishing your damned shoes.

Frank punched him in the side of the head, knocking him off the bunk. Vito began to cry. When Frank walked off, Tommy moved quickly. Halfway down the aisle, he tapped Frank on the shoulder. As Frank turned, Tommy swung a roundhouse punch, catching him on the nose and slamming him against the wall.

Im gonna have you in the county, you bastard! Frank shouted.

Kane, who had come up alongside, lashed out with his foot, knocking Franks legs out from under him and dropping him between two bunks. Tommy and Kane piled on, punching away.

Ragen watched as Tommy fought to be sure he was in no danger. Had there been a real threat, he would have intervened. He would not have swung wildly and in anger, as Tommy did. He would have moved in, planning where to hit and what bones to break. This was none of his affair and he wasnt needed.

The next morning Allen decided theyd better tell Mr. Jones what had happened before Frank Jordan gave a damaging version of the incident.

You can see Vitos head, swelled up where Frank hit him without provocation, Allen said to the social worker. Hes been taking advantage of a system that gives him authority over kids like Vito. Like we said the other day, its wrong and potentially dangerous to put that kind of power into the hands of criminals.

On Wednesday, Mr. Jones announced that henceforth the reduction of merits would be done only by the professional staff. The merits that Frank Jordan had unjustly removed from others were to be paid back out of his own account. Jordan was bumped all the way back to zone 1. Vito, Kane and Milligan now had enough merits to move on to zone 3.

(3)

One of the privileges of zone 4 was being allowed to go home on trial visit. Tommy looked forward to his furlough. When the time came, he packed his bag and waited for Dorothy to pick him up. But the more he thought about leaving, the more confused he felt. He liked the place, but he still wanted to be back at Spring Street, knowing that Chalmer would never be there again. Just him and Challa and Kathy. There would be good times at home for a change.

Dorothy picked him up and they drove back to Lancaster without talking very much. He was surprised .when, a few minutes after he got home, a man he had never seen before dropped in for a visit. He was a big, beefy-faced man with a barrel chest. And he chain-smoked.

Dorothy said, Billy, this is Del Moore. He owns the bowling alley and lounge where I used to sing in Circleville. Hes staying for dinner.

Tommy could tell by the way they were looking at each other that there was something between them. Shit! Chalmer out of the house not more than two months, and now there was another guy hanging around.

That evening at dinner Tommy announced, Im not going back to Zanesville.

What are you talking about? Dorothy asked.

I cant take that place no more.

Now, that aint right, Billy, Del Moore said. Your ma tells me you only got about a month to go.

Thats my business.

Billy! Dorothy said.

Well, Im a friend of the family now, Del said. Its not right to be causing your ma so much worry. You got just a little time to serve. You stick it out or youll have to go over me.

Tommy looked down at his plate and ate his dinner in silence.

Later he asked Kathy, Whats with this guy?

Moms new boyfriend.

Well, Jesus, hes acting like he thinks he can tell me what to do. He been coming around here a lot?

Hes got a room in town, Kathy said, so I guess no one can really say theyre living together. But Ive got eyes.

During the next weekend furlough, Tommy met Del Moores son, Stuart, and liked him right away. About Billys age, Stuart was a football player and an all-around athlete. But what Tommy liked most about Stuart was the way he handled his motorcycle. He could make that bike do things Tommy had never seen before.

Allen liked Stuart too, and Ragen respected him for his athletic ability and his skill and daring. It was an exciting weekend, and they all found themselves looking forward to spending more time with this new friend, who accepted them without questioning their strange behavior. Stuart never called any of them absent-minded or a liar. Tommy thought he would like to be like Stuart someday.

Tommy told Stuart that after he got out of the youth camp, he didnt feel he could live at home anymore. He didnt fhink it was right, with Del spending so much time there. Stuart told him that when the time came, theyd share an apartment together.

You really mean it? Tommy asked.

I mentioned it to Del, Stuart said, and he thinks its a great idea. He figures well sort of keep an eye on each other. But a few weeks before he was due to be released from Zanesville, Tommy learned that Dorothy wouldnt be coming up for her regular visit.

On August 5, 1973, Stuart Moore had been riding his motorcycle in Circleville. Turning a fast corner, he crashed into the back of a boat on a trailer; both cycle and boat burst into flames on collision. Stuart was killed instantly.

Hearing about it, Tommy went into shock. Stuarthis brave, smiling friend who was going to conquer the world engulfed in flames. Tommy couldnt stand it any longer. He didnt want to be here anymore. Then David came to feel Stuarts agony and to cry Tommys tears . . .



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