Sometimes when I describe my childhood, someone will ask, "Why didn't you run away?"
I once met a guy who did run away when he was real young. He actually got away too, and never got caught. How he managed to remain a nice fellow is a mystery to me. Perhaps being a nice fellow is one of the requirements.
You'd think that it's gotten easier or harder to do such a thing, over the years. I wonder. It's certainly different, but is it harder? The same obstacles would be out there. The system would try to catch you, and now they've got things like billboards, and photo's on milk cartons to make it harder, but with each obstacle comes something that would make it easier. In my home state, an empty soda bottle is worth a dime. Imagine how much money you could get together after a home college football game, just picking up trash.
I wanted to run away from the time I was 9 or so, until I actually got away when I was 18. Then when I was 18 I immediately got trapped by society, and that was even worse. Somewhere in my late 30's or 40's, I finally became sort of free, but by then, it's not the same thing at all.
I'll call our hero Roy. He's in second grade. He has a single friend he shares this stuff with, I'll call him Darryl. Darryl was a kid who lived on Hansen Lane. His dad was the first "drunk", I ever met. I'd seen my dad drunk, but he didn't act like that. Darryl's dad was drunk enough to fall down, but he had enough sense to stay seated.
~~~~~~~~~~~~ Chapter 1 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The first practice trip was scary. School helped a lot. We had a train ride field trip, in kindergarden. All you had to do was walk up to the window, tell the guy where you wanted to go, and hand him the money. I sat and waited until a lady with my hair color and a couple of screaming babies sat near the ticket window. The guy at the ticket window asked me why I was buying my own ticket, and why I wasn't sitting with my mother. "Mom said I could buy my own ticket!! Cindy stinks terrible! Please mister, can I have my ticket? Before I get stuck with taking care of Jonny, and mom drags Cindy up to the ticket counter."
He took my money, and handed me a ticket. Then I asked him for a bus ticket from Racine to Madison. He looked at me and started to say something, but I again said mom told me I could buy my own tickets! He printed it and took the money. I went straight from the ticket counter to the bathroom, and sat in a stall for exactly 4 minutes. I flushed the toilet, and went straight to a seat behind a post in the lobby to wait for the train. They have nice efficient trains in Chicago, right on time.
The train ride from Chicago to Racine went without hitch. It was half an hour until the bus came, so I sat and watched the second hand on the clock go round. It seemed to take for ever, but finally it was 5 minutes before departure time, and I moved to the bus boarding area. The bus was there. I got on and chose a seat next to the isle in the middle of the bus. Nobody asked me any questions, but if anybody had, I was going from my dad's custody to my mom's custody, and was sitting exactly where I was told to sit.It was around 3:30 when I got home.
My mom screamed, she always screams. She grounded me for 2 days, and I expected that. I was back by mid afternoon, but she screamed about my work not being done before I went fishing. Did I ever return from fishing in mid afternoon? She didn't notice that. She only noticed that the trees in the beds by the driveway hadn't been watered yet today. My fishing tackle had been stashed down the road, about 30 yards back in the fence line since Saturday.
She was sure I was at Cherokee Marsh, fishing all day. I wasn't allowed to go there by myself, I was only supposed to fish the Yahara between the lakes. The truth was, if I went out to the north side of town to fish, I always went to Governor's Island, but I didn't want her to know that.
The marsh is pretty much just that, a marsh with a little bit of a lake in the middle of it. Most of the guys who fish there, fish from shore. They're mostly there to drink beer, and leave a trash all over the place. They catch a catfish once in a while, but they lose a lot of tackle. When I go there, I take an inner tube and dive for their lost tackle from the bottom and off the logs. A few men fish from boats, usually real expensive boats, and they lose expensive stuff. I like finding those expensive new lures. Lou told me that no matter where you go, if guys fish out of expensive boats, they'll lose expensive lures. He also told me that if you offer to sell them those lost lures when they're taking their boat out, they'll usually buy them back. Lou's a smart guy, everything he's ever told me has worked pretty good.
Her boyfriend got in my face before dinner. He said if any of the trees
in those raised beds die, he'll ground me to my room for a month, one
month for each dead tree. He says then I can study, because I'll never
learn how to work, and people who can't or won't work, need to be
doctors or lawyers.
How am I supposed to keep those trees from
dying? I spray water from the hose on them, and they still wilt. I
make little pools of water around them, and they still look about half
dead. He screams at me every time he has to replace one that died in
somebody's yard, but I can't go over there and water it. Lou says some
people just need to scream at somebody to let off steam. Lou says if he
screamed at his own employees, they might take a swing at him or quit,
so I'm probably really important to his business.
Daryl wanted to go on the trip, so I had to tell him all
about it. I told him all about coming back, and it went without a
hitch. He was just interested in the joy ride, so it was too risky to
take him on the test trip. Lou says to never take anybody along.
The first time I met Lou, we were both wading around Governor's Island, looking for lost fishing tackle. I never knew adults did that but he told me they do it all the time. He said the ones who lose the tackle are never the ones out looking for it. We talked about fishing for a few minutes, then he turned and went back around from the direction he'd come in. Since he'd already gotten all the stuff from that side, there was nothing to do but go back the way I'd come. Back where my bike was. There was this guy close to the beach, picking broken glass out of the water. He made a big deal out of showing me a piece of a 7-Up bottle from the '50's. He said you can't get green glass like that anymore, but he didn't say why. I fish with the stuff I find, or I sell it to guys in the parking lot. He wasn't cleaning up the beach, there isn't any broken glass there. I wonder, what does he do with that broken glass?
People always tell kids to never talk to adults. What they say is 'never talk to strangers', but they don't mean kids, they always mean adults. They always say it different too. They never count other kids as strangers, but it's always another kid that's going to try to take your money or beat you up. Some adult you've never seen before? Some adult you've never talked to before? What do I care about them? When Matt talks about people screwing him over, it was always been somebody he knew real well, never strangers. None of my friends have ever said anything bad about an adult stranger. Lou says the most dangerous adult out there is the one who says he's a friend, or that she's going to help you. He says I'll need to avoid talking to adults, but he also says I'll need to be real good at it. He told me he likes the libraries a lot. Especially special libraries, like the law libraries in court houses, and the libraries in universities. I'm trying them, and they're not bad. Nobody treats you like an idiot. All you have to do is tell them you're working on a project for school, and they either help you or send you to a different library. Nobody asks for ID or anything, as long as you don't want to check out books. Most of them have free internet too, internet that nobody can trace because it's not coming from your house or your school.