1968 we moved from Virginia to California to a
house on Soak Hides Road. The first summer I was
there I met Danny. He lived two buildings down
from me. I could walk along a dirt trail through
the brush that covered the hills between his house
had an old car his father didnt want anymore.
It didnt ever run at all. One day he was
puttin on a new muffler when I got there. I dont
know if he heard me coming; I could make almost
no noise when I was walking on sand. Danny was
under the car on one of those roller things. His
legs and shorts were sticking out, and his tidla
was sort of hanging over one leg. Id never
seen one before. Weird! I just stood there, not
knowing what to do next. So I hollared, "Hey,
Danny, its me!"
rolled out from under the car. Totally not knowin
he was showing Paris and France to the world.
He chatted me up for a while. He said he knew
all about Soak Hides Road; thats where an
old tannery used to be. The one where they brought
skins from the cows to make them into leather.
Then he asked if I wanted to go down to the movie
theater to see that Alfred Hitchcock one Notorious
cause its got Cary Grant in it. I said I
could sit through it.
theater was one of those thats so dark and
you cant see your hand in front of your
face. You can believe theres no one else
there but you. Youre safe from everything
outside. Protected. Cause no one knows youre
there. Like a hideout. Danny was real quiet the
whole time we were there. He sat really still,
not moving which was just fine with me.
day Danny took me back behind the barracks where
he was building a fort in the boonies. It was
just a square shed he was making from leftover
wood from a construction site. I watched him work
on the old rusty nails and bang them with a hammer
til they were straight. Hed hold them down
with his forefingers which were kind of large
and knobby at the ends. He would work on two or
three nails at a time and showed me how to put
an old board full of nails up on a bench and nail
the nails backwards pulling them free with the
top of the hammer.
the end of the summer, the fort had a door on
hinges and a plain hook lock. There was a bench
inside and wed sit there together sometimes
and hold hands. One time he put his hand on my
knee and then started scooting it up my pants
leg. I said, "Danny!" and he stopped.
heard some kids outside laughin. They said, "Whats
going on in there?" We could hear them running
away. As if we cared.
Dannys bedroom at his house, he had a collection
in a steel box. There was a pin thats pink
and smooth with a girl with her white hair up.
In a black silk bag he had a watch, gold and silver,
with a second hand in a tiny circle that goes
round and round. There were coins, too, Kennedy
half dollars and real silver quarters and dimes,
before they started adding copper to money to
make it cheaper.
asked him where he got this stuff and he said,
"Ill show ya." So he takes me
down to where the officers live. He led the way
down the path through the boonies. The trail went
out one way to Mount Moro. But down by the base
there were six big houses they had built a couple
a years before. "This one near the road is
easiest," Danny said. "You take the
front, Ill take the back. Look under everything."
looked down the street. There was not one car
in a driveway, but that didnt mean much,
cause the colonels and generals had two car garages.
Between the house and the boondocks was a row
of trees. They had cut the branches off all the
trees from the ground up to about 12 feet, so
it looked more like a park. The tops of the trees
grew together to form a canopy over the yard.
They had dug up all the roots and bushes and put
in thick green grass that ran right up to the
sand and stopped. It looked funny like a rug.
was still peekin around the corner of the house,
when Danny said, "Got it!" He came up
holding a dirty brass key. "It was under
a rock next to the pool," he said, grinnin
like a banshee. "Theres always a key
on the property."
went around to the front door. "Act normal,"
he said. I must have looked like a deer in headlights.
"The opposite of how you look now,"
he said, putting the key in the front door. "O.K.,
follow me," he glanced up at the windows
on the second floor. "Were going up
the stairs to the left."
key turned easily in the bottom lock and the door
opened. The front hall was marble with a small
table and a mirror over it. You could see into
the main room where there was a fireplace. The
house was huge inside. Danny disappeared around
thought two hours went by but it was probably
two minutes. The door to the left at the top of
the stairs was closed. Danny just went right up
there and opened it as if he owned the place.
I forced myself to follow him. Danny had pulled
the top dresser drawer out.
isnt it!" he shouted. There were tape
cassettes from one end to the other. He went to
the other side of the room where another dresser
was. He yanked the drawer but it wouldnt
come out all the way. He tossed stuff onto the
floor, mens socks. There was a red velvet
box in his hand. He opened it right under my eyes
so I could see the gold cufflinks inside. Then
he scooped them up and put them in his pocket.
downstairs," he snatched a plastic bag out
of the trashcan next to the door and we ran. At
the bottom of the stairs he turned right and went
into the dining room. There was a small chest
next to the door. He dumped it upside down into
the bag. You could hear the silver clanging against
outta here," he hauled the bag up and wrapped
the top of it around one wrist and held it into
his stomach as he went for the front door.
raced out the back and through the brush toward
the mountain. I was afraid to look. I couldnt
feel my legs; it was like they werent attached
to my body. We got behind one hill. Brush surrounded
us on four sides, dead quiet. I thought I could
see a bright white light flashin from the road.
we need to get to the fort," Danny said.
But half way up the trail he started coughin.
I could hear the phlegm in his chest moving around.
He sat down on the ground, handing the bag of
stuff to me.
go to the fort," he said. "Ill
meet you there."
you all right?" I said.
Will you go? Go now!" he shouted in my face
and started coughing again, to beat the band.
ran up the hill on the sandy path. My breath was
hot and my head was scrambled up, confused. I
got to the fort in about ten minutes. I just sat
on the bench thinkin for the longest time. It
was obvious Danny had no intention of coming there.
didnt know what to do with the loot. I left
it all in the bag and put it under the bench.
Then I found some pieces of board and set them
together like a shelf, so you couldnt tell
there was something under it.
that things got kind of strange between me and
Danny. I went by his house but there was no one
around. When I checked the fort, the stuff we
stole was gone. I tried to quit thinking about
him. But I couldnt help wonderin what he
was up to.
One day it was about 90 degrees so I put my swimsuit
under my clothes. I was tired cause the coyotes
had kept me up all night, runnin up and down our
fire escape. I walked down the road to his building
by myself. I heard a loud crack and when I came
up to his yard I saw him standing under the telephone
wires with a gun.
Danny," I shouted. "Wanna go swimmin?"
There was a pool down towards Oceanside and I
figured hed been there before.
not allowed to go swimming," he said. He
pointed the gun at some birds sitting up on a
pole and fired. One of the birds tilted slowly
backwards and fell head first to the ground.
ran up to where it landed. It was jerking and
twitching like it wanted to live. I thought I
should to do something to save it but I didnt
dead," Danny said, coming up behind me. I
ignored him and watched as the twitching stopped
and the eyes closed, forming tiny xs just
like in the cartoons.
cant believe you did that," I yelled.
It didnt sound like my voice.
yeah?" Danny said, and pointed the gun at
crazy," I puffed up my face and tried not
I turned around and walked towards the road, past
his old car and down the driveway.
was about a year later when my Mom showed me his
picture in the paper.. The article said Danny
had died at the age of 18. The cause of death
was cystic fibrosis. I asked Ma what that was.
She said it was an incurable disease. She said
he always knew he would die. It was why he was
so thin all the time and wore coats in the summer.
Funny I never noticed.
us with your comments.