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George Pollock

State Kid
Issue 2
Juvenile Fugitive

Morning light filtered through a majestically towering green mantle, playing upon the
face of a figure rolled into a tight fetal ball. The figure jumped to life.

“Yuck,” Billy yelped, dancing and swatting at himself. He pulled off all his clothes to
reveal nasty critters all over him.
“Yuck! Yuck!”
He jumped around naked smacking himself right and left. He picked up his clothes,
shook them, and threw them against against a tree.
“Damn.”
Ugly red bites covered his body. He touched the blood-caked wound on his right leg.
“Ah-h-h-h.”
There was good news: He was alive.
That moron Stojak had actually tried to kill him! It had happened so fast. Now he knew
how easy it is get killed. Ten seconds after sitting at the dinner table he had bullets
whizzing around his ears.
Stojak shot to the top of his list of all-time worst foster parents.
***
Well, here he was—the end of the road: no roof over his head, hungry, dirty, alone, the
cops after him. Was this what all his foster homes had been preparing him for? Judging
from his Department of Social Services file, yes.
His “social history” was a documentation of behavioral problems, accompanied by high-
concept notes: “Internalizes and transfers negative feelings in disruptive and anti-social
acting out” and judgments: “Relates poorly to foster family's natural children, preferring
to read alone for hours and sometimes for days.”
Translation: troublemaker. This official identity had followed him from home to home.
The only trouble was that it skittered over the truth like wind-blown New England leaves
in November. Much of it was no more than hearsay repeated and amplified. Much of it
was made up by foster parents to justify sending him back when the real reason may have
had nothing to do with him. One foster parent, in an especially malign fabrication, said
he was a fire-setter. He wasn't and never had been. But there it was in his file and there
it stayed.
As time went on, however, he fought back, and more and more of the negative book on
Billy Stone came to be true. No one called him a “state kid” and got away with it. In
school after school, he rearranged sneering faces with jackhammer fists. And when the
foster parent's own kid did something, he refused to take the blame for it.

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If he had just given in and accepted victimcy, he undoubtedly would not have been
considered so troublesome. But he resisted. And the more he resisted, the more deviant
he was considered.
So it had been for young Billy Stone. Unlike the familied he had to live by his wits and,
when forced to, by his fists. Like many foster kids, he was on the direct prison track.
The prisons are full of former foster kids seething their way through caged, often
truncated, lives. Even as Billy Stone dashes for freedom, the odds say he will also end up
rotting in prison.
But let us not give up on our young fugitive quite yet. There is always the possibility that
he will beat the odds and be among the few survivors. Perhaps he will be the one out of
thousands who actually thrive. These are the miracle foster children who take a relentless
regimen of rejection and pain and disappointment and turn it into steely strength and
determination and uncommon sensitivity to others.
Unfortunately for our hero, they are as rare as blue lobsters.
***
Billy picked up his clothes, shook them again, and put them on. Where in God's name
was he? In his panic, he must have covered miles. How far was he from civilization? At
this point, he hoped it was a long, long way. Civilization meant police.
He pushed though thick brush and soon came across hiker trails, which he took, helping
him cover ground faster. After more than an hour hiking more or less in one direction, he
climbed to the top of a ridge to see what he could see—and got a surprise: a recreation
area with a little lake, a sandy beach, a dirt road, camp sites with picnic tables and grilled
barbecue pits, portable toilets, and a boarded up refreshment stand. On the side of the
refreshment stand was—a pay phone!
Hey, all the comforts of home!
Billy studied the area for a long time. He saw no sign of life. It was still very early
Sunday morning. He was thirsty and dirty and the lake and toilets beckoned. He decided
to take a chance. Crouching, dashing from cover to cover, he made a final sprint for the
refreshment stand. Looking around, he put a coin in the pay phone—and got a dial tone!
Cool.
He heard a car. He plastered himself against the back of the refreshment stand on the
opposite side from the road. The car approached the stand. It was a police cruiser. The
cruiser stopped. Billy held his breath. He was no more than 20 feet from the cruiser,
separated by the stand. He heard a car door open.
“I'm going to put that phone on the hook,” an officer said.
In his haste, Billy had left the phone dangling. Click. The phone was back. Billy held
his breath just a few feet away around the corner of the stand. Two steps by the officer
his way and Billy was a goner. He closed his eyes and prayed.
“Maybe he was here and tried to make a call,” the other officer said.
“Who would he call? His lawyer?”

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“Sounds like a bad one. Did you see the mess he made of the house? He kicked in the
damn bathroom window on his way out.”
“Yeah. It's something. People take a kid in and he turns out to be weird. Guess he just
about scared the daughter to death.”
“Let's go. If he's here, he won't be for long without food. Let's check some of the fast-
food joints.”
The cruiser sped away. Billy breathed again.
“Thank you, God,” Billy said. “Thank you, God!”
He used the portable toilet. Then he walked over the sandy beach to the lake and
splashed some water on his face. He washed down ugly red claw marks on his right leg.
He stood up and looked around. The place was beautiful.
Across the lake was a great stand of pines with picnic tables beneath them. The sun was
out fully now and Billy lifted his face to its warmth. For a moment, he almost felt good
—until he realized he was standing right out in the open while the whole city of Fairview
was looking for him.
He checked the phone for his coin—it was there, and he plucked it out—and hustled back
up the ridge. He sat on the ground and counted his money. He had $3.45. He was
hungry. He couldn't go to a fast-food place. He had heard with his own ears that the cops
would be there.
A supermarket? Too many adults who would notice a kid in a supermarket by himself.
What kid would go into a supermarket by himself and buy a hunk of bread and cold cuts?
No, a supermarket would be dumb, dumb, dumb.
His stomach pleaded. How to get food? Where? He didn't know where he was. He
didn't know a soul. He sat for a long time, shivering and thinking ...
***
Billy heard voices. Then he saw a middle-aged, foreign-looking couple coming up the
dirt road looking at a map. He watched as they put their backpack and map down and
went into the portable toilets. Billy swooped down from his rocky perch. He scooped up
the backpack and map and scurried off with the stolen booty like an opportunistic
raccoon.
It was his first theft, regardless of what the foster parents said.
A safe distance away, Billy opened the backpack. Inside was a sumptuous picnic lunch.
There were thick sandwiches of various kinds of meats—no one-slice of baloney jobs—
and bananas, oranges, cheese, cookies, even a bottle of wine. Billy never had wine
before. He also found a multi-function Swiss army knife.
In the distance, he heard a loud string of foreign words. First the man, then the women,
then the man, then both of them babbling on at the same time. It sounded like German.
When the jabbering stopped, Billy took out a roast beef sandwich made with a fresh roll.
While chomping at the sandwich, he unfolded the map and studied it. According to the

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map, he was a few miles into Caulfield Forest, which was huge, dwarfing surrounding
towns.
The size was good, Billy thought. But he was too close to civilization. He had to get
deeper into the forest as quickly as possible. The police would be all over the place soon.
Sandwich gone, he pushed into the interior.
After hiking for some hours, Billy picked a cozy. well-hidden spot and settled down to a
long, immensely satisfying Sunday brunch, complete with well-chosen and expensive
wine.On that Sunday, no resident of Fairview dined better than did the juvenile fugitive,
Billy Stone.
He had come far in less than a day on the run, from eating English muffins on the Stojak
toilet to gourmandism in a Garden of Eden. Although Billy didn't like the taste of the
wine, he drank most of the bottle. But soon his head was light, his legs rubbery, and the
trees began moving. Tottering, he lowered himself to the ground where he lay on his
back with one hand on his overstuffed belly and the other grasping the near-empty wine
bottle.
He was soon snoring.
***
Many hours later, Billy awoke in the pitch black thinking he had gone blind or was dead.
To his great relief, his eyes adjusted; he was alive and he could see. But he had a killer
headache. He had a full-blown hangover, another first. The firsts were falling in fistfuls.
First time running away. First time being shot at. First time being attacked by a dog.
First taste of wine. First theft. First time getting drunk.
He could hardly wait for the next firsts. First set of handcuffs? First ride in a police
cruiser? First time before a judge? First sentencing? First strip-search? First day in
juvenile prison?
What time was it? What day was it? Early Monday morning, maybe, about two or three?
It was a wild guess. In the inky dark he could hardly see his own hand. The only sound
was the moaning of giant pines and the rustling of leaves in a gentle summer breeze.
Even the birds were asleep. Strangely, in a situation in which the average kid would
probably be crying for his mama, Billy was glad to be in the dense black forest. It was a
protective friend.
We should not romanticize things, however. His head throbbed. His stomach churned.
He shivered with cold. Stamping his feet to scare up a little warmth, he slapped at
swarms of buzzing mosquitoes; they were obviously enjoying their found weekend
brunch, a delectable entree of maddeningly sweet warm blood of chilled, goose-bumped
teenager.
To take his mind off the misery, Billy thought of what he would say to Miss Casey.
Should he apologize for letting her down again? But why? What had he done to
apologize for? Is looking at a girl a crime? And, anyway, he wasn't sure what was
”going on down there” had anything at all to do with Joy. Lately it had been happening
at the strangest times and for no reason at all. But how could he explain this to Miss

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Casey? How could he even talk to her about this? He'd end up sounding exactly like
what they were saying he was—some kind of pervert.
***
Finally, morning rays filtered through the pine mantle. Billy stood, stretching and
shaking critters out of his shirt. Ouch! His head still hurt. If that's what wine does to
you, no more for him, he decided then and there. It didn't taste that great anyway.
He heard a roar overhead. He grabbed the map and backpack and dove for cover. A
helicopter flew right over him, so close he could read its lettering: STATE POLICE.
Yikes. They called out the staties! He wouldn't last another hour. With the local cops he
might have a chance—but the staties? He was dead.
Billy heard barking and voices, lots of them. Dogs! He was shocked. Did they want him
that bad? Why? He never killed anybody.
He could never outrun dogs, not with a bum leg. Plan C, Billy, Plan C. Think, man,
think. He ran. As he did, he spun scenarios. Nothing worked against dogs and searchers
laying down a dragnet.
His right leg burned, oozing warm blood from the now reopened wound. His legs were
lead weights. Stumbling, the barks and voices nearer, he pitched forward—and lay with
his face in the dirt, chest heaving, sobbing, waiting for the handcuffs.
“Get up, young man,” a gruff voice said. Billy lifted his dirt-streaked face to see a gray-
bearded man offering a hand. “Give me your shirt, quickly. These dogs are stupid and
easily confused.”
The barking was louder. Billy looked in its direction, then at the old man. He took the
man's hand and got to his feet. In no position to argue, and not having come up with plan
C, Billy took off his shirt and handed it over.
“That way,” the man said, pointing “No more than two miles. A big stone structure. Wait
there. Go!”
Billy dragged himself off. The old man backtracked, dragging the shirt on the ground.
The dogs soon reached a spot where the scent went in different directions as well as in
circles They rushed around, yapping in confusion, all wanting to go in a different
direction.
“Damn,” said Captain Wally O'Toole. “They lost him. I don't believe it. How did they
lose him?”
“This kid is something else,”another police officer said.
“Like a damn Indian,” said another.
“He's a kid,” said Captain O'Toole. “That's all. We'll get him. Let's go.”

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