BOUND FOR DALLAS
Tim Healey knocked on the door of the white, clapboard house. It was a sunny, warm, breezy day, in the early afternoon. After a few seconds the door opened and Tim was greeted by his best friend, George Robbins, rotund and scraggly, as always.
“Hey, Tim,” George said. “What’s up?”
“Are you home alone?” Tim asked.
“Yep. My mom is at a church meeting. Come on in.”
Tim stepped into the house and followed George through the living room to the kitchen. They sat down at a small breakfast table.
“How about a chocolate chip cookie,” George said. “They are deee-licious. I made them myself.”
“Sure,” Tim replied.
George rose from the table, went to the fridge, removed a carton of milk and poured two glasses. On the way back he picked up a few cookies from the kitchen counter.
George noticed the purple bruise on Tim’s face, just under his left eye. “I see your Dad’s been knocking you around again. Geez, Tim, what was it this time?”
Eating his snack, Tim tearfully replied, “Nothing I deserved. My mother told him yesterday that I had been disrespectful. So, last night he took me to his office, said he had a project to finish. As you can see, I was the project. Right out of the blue, he laid in to me, didn’t say a word – he just kept hitting me.”
Disgusted, and angry, George said, “Tim, you are not a punching bag. Your Dad should not be doing this.”
Munching a cookie, Tim replied with fierce determination, “Well, he won’t do it again. I am leaving town, tonight.”
Surprised, George said, “Leaving town, where?”
“Dallas – I’ve got a grandmother there,” Tim replied.
“How will you get to Dallas?” George asked.
“Goin Greyhound. My bus leaves a little after midnight and I intend to be there.”
George was scared for his friend, but he knew that Tim would not survive the constant punishment from his father.
“Tim,” George said, “be careful out there.”
Tim smiled, raised an arm, made a fist and shook it, almost defiantly. “I’m bound for Dallas.”
The Greyhound Bus Station in Jacksonville, Florida at 12AM was mostly deserted, except for a few winos and homeless people lurking outside the terminal doors. Inside there were a few weary people sprawled across chairs and benches. The midnight cleaning crew was busy removing trash from the terminal, sweeping and mopping floors, scrubbing bathrooms.
There was only one ticket counter open and it was occupied by James Hogan. He was a heavyset man with a sour look on his face. He was nauseous and coughing, fighting off a bad cold. He was wearing a cheap pair of dime store reading glasses and was perusing the pages of a magazine. He happened to look up from this idle distraction and saw a young boy enter the terminal. The boy resolutely marched straight to the counter and stopped. Hogan observed that he was dressed in a light blue jacket, blue tee shirt, faded blue jeans, and a worn pair of tennis shoes. He had a face full of freckles and an ugly bruise under his left eye. He was holding a large brown paper bag, and the contents were secured by a crude looking wire.
The young boy, with a slight tremor in his voice, said, “I need a ticket for Dallas, Texas, sir. How much would that be?”
James Hogan suspected that the boy was a runaway, and he looked a little beat up, maybe by an adult. He decided to give the kid a break.
“Cost you twenty bucks,” Hogan said.
Tim Healey took some money out of his pocket and slapped a twenty-dollar bill on the counter. “Fine,” he said. “When does that bus leave?”
Hogan issued a ticket to Tim and said, “Bus leaves from Gate Six in about ten minutes. You made it just in time. You take care now and stay out of trouble.”
“I’m already in trouble,” Tim replied.
The young boy made his way to Gate Six, boarded the bus and found a front seat by the window. He fell asleep as the bus departed Jacksonville. He felt free for the first time in his life. This would not be a day where he would suffer unnecessary and brutal abuse from his father.
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