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George Pollock

State Kid
Issue 37
Manning the Battlements

In the wee hours, Fairview University students began arriving at Granite City School with
bedrolls and bulging overnight bags. All wore red flags tied at the right knee in support of
Billy Stone.
“Come in. Come in,” Billy said. “Bunk down in the dining hall -- unless you want to feel
the thrill of being locked up.”
Many opted for a cell as an exciting change of pace from a boring dorm room. Vans
arrived, dropping off groups of East Side mothers, including Mrs. de Cruz, then quickly
drove off.
“Welcome, welcome,” Billy said. “Don't be nervous. You're just visiting. You all get to
walk out of here.”
Not one East Side mother wanted anything to do with a cell.
Next came Father Thom Colahan from St. Sebastian's with a timid knock at the front
entrance. Billy opened the door. Squinting, the good Father said, “I am looking for a
runaway girl named Joy Stojak. I have been told that the school has information about her
whereabouts.”
“Come in.”
Billy led Father Colahan straight to a cell and locked him in.
“What are you doing? I'm here about Joy Stojak. Her parents want their daughter back.”
“I'm sure they do.”
“What are you doing? You can't keep me here. I have to say early Mass tomorrow. I have
to ...”
“We all have things to do, Father,” Billy said, cutting him off. “By the way, I heard that
your sermons on that juvenile fugitive ... what was his name? Oh, yeah, Billy Stone. I
heard those sermons were great. Bet you're glad he's behind bars.”
Father Colahan immediately ascended the pulpit. “Surely, he is a child of God as we all
are, but the Lord has taught us that His wrath shall fall upon all violators of the innocent.”
“Right. What that kid needs is a good dose of wrath,” Billy said as he walked away. Over
his shoulder, he said, “Oh, glad you got our message.”
***
Later, Billy returned to Father Colahan's cell with a tray of sandwiches and a thermos of
coffee. He pulled up a chair outside the cell.
“Have something to eat, Father. I guess I owe you an explanation. You see ... I'm Billy
Stone.”
“You're who?”
“Billy Stone... you know, the deviant.”
Father Colahan's mouth fell open.
“Well, I'm really not. It's all a big lie.” He passed a copy of his Factual Report through the
bars. “Read this. What really happened is all there.”
“Where is the school staff?”
“Locked up.”
“I don't understand.”
“I've taken over the prison.”
“Don't give me that. Let me out of here at once!”
“Sorry, Father.”
“Let me out of here now!”
“Does the name Billy Ruggieri ring a bell with you?”
“No.”
“Maybe I can jog your memory. He's a friendly, nice-looking kid who ended up here for
stealing from convenience stores. But the real reason he's here is because he has no
family and nobody wants him. He's gullible, not very smart and he has trouble reading
even simple words. So I've been reading to him and he's been talking to me about things.
I'm Billy's best friend. He told me all about how you took him to your camp one
summer.”
“I may well have. It's well known that I have opened up my summer camp to many
underprivileged boys.”
“Yes, that's what I understand.”
“What are you getting at?”
“Father, the sleeping arrangements at your camp were, shall we say, unconventional.”
“What are you saying?”
“Do I have to spell it out for you, Father?”
“How dare you insinuate ...”
“Shut up.”
The priest gasped.
“Billy told me what went on at that camp. He is confused about it and all torn up inside
because, as you know, he is a good Catholic and he worships you. His faith is all he has
in this world.”
“Prove it. Who would believe you?”
“There were many others. I have their names right here. Let me read them to you, in
alphabetical order. You tell me when you've heard enough.”
Billy began reading names.
“Stop. Stop. Please stop.”
Father Colahan grabbed the bars with both hands and hung his head.
“Father, you're a predator. You prey on poor, unwanted, vulnerable boys with nobody to
protect them. You are guilty of the ultimate betrayal -- of God and of His most helpless
children. May God forgive you.”
Father Colahan sank to his knees and covered his face, sobbing.

“However,” Billy said softly. “I have no wish to pursue this.”


Father Colahan took his hands from his face and looked up at Billy.
“What do you want?”
Billy told him.
***
Billy went to Director Carson's office to try to get a couple of hours rest. He immediately
fell into an exhausted sleep. It seemed like he had just laid his head down when an inmate
guard shook him.
“A car,” the inmate said.
Groggily, he looked at the big clock. It was 3:45 A.M.
“A car,” the inmate repeated.
Finally awake, Billy jumped up. Man, this was one busy place considering the hour. The
welcoming committee got ready to do their visitor routine. Billy looked out the window
and signaled okay. It was David Weatherall.
“Am I happy to see you,” Billy said, going out to meet Weatherall. “Is your father
coming?”
“No.”
“Oh,” Billy said, disappointed.
“But I got someone even better -- Congressman Waters.”
“A United States Congressman? How did you do that?”
“Billy, Weatherall Industries is his biggest contributor. Without us, he wouldn't be a
Congressman.”
“He's a law-and-order guy! Why didn't you get some liberal?”
“Weatherall Industries doesn't give money to liberals. He's flying out from Washington
this morning. He'll be here about ten o'clock, I figure.”
“Question. What's to stop him from calling Carson or the police?”
“All he knows is that there is a tense situation and that his immediate presence would be
helpful and appreciated.”
“He follows orders like that?”
“He wants to get re-elected in the fall. He's way behind in the polls and he needs
campaign money.”
“Question. Why would your dad do this?”
“He didn't. I did. An heir-presumptive has certain perks.”
“You let him presume.”
“Yes.”
“A United States Congressman -- imagine that. What about clothes?”
“In the car.”
Weatherall reached into the back seat and pulled out an armful of men's suits. Billy
smiled and the two went inside.
“Sir, all of the finest material and custom-cut with no consideration of cost,” Weatherall
said, with a devilish grin. “Please, sir, look them over while I bring you an outstanding
selection of accessories.”
***
Weatherall left and returned with accessories for the well-dressed young gentleman -- a
rack of ties and a shopping bag with boxes of new shoes, new men's hose and packages
of men's silk handkerchiefs.
“Did you burgle Kabachnick's?”
“No, they're mine. Growing up, Dad insisted that I wear a business suit around his
executives and employees. 'You're going to take over some day,' he said. 'You have an
obligation to look the part.' The suits were worn once or twice. I think you'll find one that
fits.”
“So you don't intend to walk in your father's footsteps?”
“No.”
“Have you told him?”
“No.”

“You know, David. I'm not the rebel here. You are. We have to talk, assuming I am alive
after today. Now, if you please, kindly select a cell. This season the accommodation of
choice for Fairview students is a prison cell. Very in.”
“They know they'll never see one for real.”
“Good night, my friend from another planet.”
“Same to you.”
***
It was 4:10 A.M and still no army outside. Why not? Things were going to plan. Why?
Billy's mind raced -- and went back to what he had read about Waterloo and Napoleon's
battle of nerve and chess-piece moves against the aristocratic Lord Wellington. Napoleon
lost. Now, with his own battle to fight and with the guns still silent, he must not repeat the
French Emperor's mistakes.
What was Wellington, that sly fox, up to hanging back this way? He had to know what
was happening and that time was working against him. Billy had already avoided
Napoleon's greatest mistake at Waterloo: He had kept overall strategy firmly in his own
hands while assigning underlings specific duties.
Kali, Durk, Angel, Johnson Johnson, Billy Ruggieri and all the others had been rehearsed
and then rehearsed some more. He had gone around talking to their people, asking if they
had questions, making sure every inmate knew what to do. Fairfield students had their
orders. The East Side Mothers had theirs.
What was our young battlefield commander missing?
***
After much soul-searching, after calls back and forth through the night, Debra Florsheim
confirmed TV and press coverage -- in exchange, she carefully pointed out, for nothing.
“All you're doing is protecting a source,” Billy told her.
“Don't tell me my business, you little Hitler.”
“Okay, okay.”
Now, he could do no more.
He went to his office where Joy and Vera were sound asleep. He stood over them,
watching their peaceful faces and unlabored breathing. Here he was, standing in Carson's
office in the dead of night watching Joy and Vera sleep. Seeing them, knowing that they
were with him -- he teared up. He went to his cot and surrendered to physical and
emotional exhaustion.
***
The next thing he knew Kali was shaking him. Durk, Angel and Johnson Johnson were
looking down at him. All were in neat white shirts and ties. He jumped up and looked at
the clock. It was 7: 09! He looked out the window. Still no army. What is Wellington up
to? Whatever it was, it was working for Billy -- so far.
Carson would be walking through that door in twenty minutes! He always arrived at 7:30,
exacty thirty minutes before the day-shift guards began arriving at eight. Vera and Joy
were in their cots moaning and stretching.
“What time is it?” Joy said.
“Time to get up,” Billy said. “We have to move!”
“Hey, relax, man,” Kali said. “Things are cookin'.”
“You guys look good,” Billy said. “Like management trainees at GE. Perfect.”
Billy followed Kali and the others to the dining hall, passing cells containing Captain
O'Toole, Father Colahan and Dr. Bridges. “Good morning,” Billy said to each as he
passed. “They need food.”
“Done,” Angel said.
“We also took care of the guys in the Shoe,” Durk said.
“I'm impressed. No students in the cells.”
“No. They're in place,” Kali said.
They arrived at the dining hall to a sea of white shirts and ties and East Side mothers all
having breakfast. All the chairs and tables had been arranged as planned.
“I want to tell you,” Kali said, “those cooks got out a lot of meals this morning. Good,
too.”
“I think they were struttin' their stuff for their Moms,” Angel said. “I mean pancakes and
eggs and home fries and a choice of three juices! Give me a break.”
In a voice all in the dining room could hear, Billy said. “You all look like law-abiding
wimps. Perfect! ”
Billy left to a forest of double thumbs-up. He took a quick shower and went into his
office to await the arrival of Director Carson and the day-shift guards.
***
At 7:28, Director Carson pulled in. He stopped at the end of the driveway, got out of the
car and inspected the tasteful sign saying Granite City School for Boys. It needed to be
painted and he made a mental note of that. He got back in the car, drove up the driveway,
and into his reserved parking space. He got out and walked toward the front entrance,
stopped and went back to the car. He had forgotten something, a folder.
Inside, the welcoming committee was dying. The inmates heard the crunch of Carson's
feet on the gravel as he approached the front entrance. They heard him unlock the door
and saw the doorknob turn. He walked in saying, “The sign... it needs to be ...” and the
welcoming committee was all over him.
Within a few minutes, he was cuffed and gagged and sitting in a cell in a catatonic trance,
staring straight ahead, unblinking, like a man who had just experienced the unspeakable.
“Did you see the look on his face?” a member of the committee said.
“Yeah,” said another. “Now that was one surprised dude!”
Soon the arriving day shift was on ice, too. They had been redirected by night-guard
Wally Witkowski to a side entrance for a “security check.” There, one by one, like cattle
being herded from holding pen to the butcher's blow, each guard had walked into the
waiting arms of the welcoming committee. Billy gave the astonished guards his by now
standard pitch, which slipped off his tongue easily, like a well-traveled lawyer explaining
charges to criminal suspects and their best bets for leniency.
He also gave each guard a copy of his Factual Report.
“Required reading,” he said. “If you can't read, someone will read it to you. If you still
don't understand, we'll explain it to you.”
He called Debra Florsheim.
“We're ready for the TV crew.”