Brownsville Tales, Jordan

by Kiwi

Part 1

'Another day older and deeper in debt.' JJ Erickson walked downtown after school was over for the day.

It was a fair way to walk, but easy going because it was mostly downhill. Going back home would be another story! Still, it was a nice day and it's good to get some exercise and fresh air after being stuck in a classroom full of smelly adolescents all day. Honestly, they'd smell better if they'd just lay-off the deodorants.

The walk was more from necessity than choice, he had no car and his bike was out of action, he needed a new tube for the back wheel. That was one reason he was going downtown, the other was that his mother wanted him to pick up her prescription from the chemist's.

It was hardly fair that he had to walk while her car was sitting at home doing nothing. She wouldn't let him use it, she never did. He'd never been allowed her car again after the night he and a crowd of dumb-arse mates had taken it out joy-riding and got it stuck in the gravel-pit down on the riverbed.

Apparently, stunt cars in the movies were special ones and not just little ladies' runabouts. By the time they found a 4-wheel drive and a driver willing to pull them out, (not easy to do at 2 in the morning), the tide had come in and the car was swamped in muddy water.

He was days scrubbing it out after that and the car was never the same again. That happened 10 years ago! He was 14 then and now he was 24, but, apparently, 'banned for life' means banned for life.

His mother wasn't a bad old stick really, but she had an unforgiving streak and a very long memory.

"Oh well" he sighed. 'Consequences. They never occur to teenagers.' They certainly didn't to him. All part of being a risk-taking teen, he guessed.

Speaking of which, there was a good example right there! A boy on a bike came racing around the corner and off down the road ahead. He was trailing a rope and towing one of those small-wheeled, kid's scooters. Sitting on that, without even holding on, was little Jordan Houston, smiling and waving like a king in his carriage.

'Silly little bugger!' John shook his head. He'd have to stop thinking about how small Jordan was; that was not fair on the kid, there was more to him than that.

People, especially young ones, came in all shapes and sizes. Some of them were overweight, some could do with more. There were dark ones, fair ones, tall and short. Some, probably most of them, fell somewhere in the middle and they all grew at different rates and times. And then there was Jordan Houston – in a class of his own.

Jordan was not just short, he was tiny, like a little boy-doll, almost. He made short kids look tall. He was not a dwarf, everything was in perfect proportions. A very nice, and cheeky, looking boy actually, when you could see him under that mop of hair. But he was little, at least 14 years old now and about the size of an 8 or 9 year old.

He was bright enough, full of fun and mischief and often in trouble because of it. He was not the most popular boy in the school, but not the least either. He had some good close friends and he was, all-round, a normal kid, apart from the size – or lack of it.

Always up for a joke, he was happy, laughing and easy-going, usually. The one thing that really got him mad was when people called him, 'Midget'. He hated that and let them know in no uncertain terms. If he'd learn to ignore them it wouldn't be so much fun and they'd move on to someone else, but he didn't.

Watching them disappear down the hill ahead of him, John was thinking that Jordan's small stature wasn't all bad. A bigger kid wouldn't ride so comfortably, sitting on the scooter like that. Part of him thought that it looked like fun, but the adult side of him thought that it was bloody dangerous.

Still in his school clothes, his bare arms and legs were a scant few centimeters above the rough road surface. Also, he'd be easily overlooked down there. Motorists tended to focus on car-sized objects. If anything happened, he'd be smeared across the road in a bloody mess! They were going too fast and, if John knew anything about kids, they'd be going even faster at the foot of the hill.

Jordan Houston would be getting a lecture next time he was talking to him.

John was delayed when walking past the Convenience Store. Two women came out of there and accosted him. One of them was the mother of a girl in Year 10, and the other was her aunt. They were concerned about the sudden change for the worse in their girl.

Overnight, almost, she'd changed from a delightful child to a surly, rebellious teenager. Her mother was sure she didn't know what to do with her.

John said, "Julie is in Year 10, is she 14 then?"

"She is," the mother replied. "she turned 14 a couple of weeks ago. Is she getting into bad company at school? Is that what's causing it?"

"No, not that I know of. I don't know Julie very well, I usually only teach boys' classes now, but from what I can see she's just a normal teenager. It's fairly normal behaviour you're describing, they all go through these phases. There's not a lot anyone can do, except wait. She'll come through it. 99.9% of them do.

The best you can do is to keep on loving her and the less lovable she is, the more she needs it. You've been lucky, the switch-over usually happens at around 13. The only thing different about Julie is that she's starting late."

"Thanks. I suppose we'll just have to hope that she is not late coming out the other side as well."

"I guess so. There's some very good books on child-development in the town library. I suggest you check them out. Don't worry, she'll be okay. I was a rotten teenager myself, I came through it."

"Yes you did, John Erickson," the aunty nodded. "I remember when you were a harum-scarum kid, always in trouble. This is a small town."

"It is!" John laughed. "A small town with a long memory. Sometimes I wonder why I came back here. My mother still thinks I'm a kid."

"She probably always will, but she must be proud of you too. You've made something of yourself and you're a good man. I never thought that would happen."

"I think, not many people did," he smiled.

"Maybe not, but they were wrong. I don't know if it's respect exactly, but I know that the kids like you a lot."

"Probably because it's mutual. I like them too, on the whole."

An ambulance, lights flashing and siren wailing, came racing around the corner and down the hill ahead of them. They stopped and watched it going, as you do.

One lady said, "Someone's in trouble."

The second one said, "Looks like it, but I always prefer to think, 'Help is on its way.'"

John thought, 'Jordan! Fuck, I hope it's not you that they're racing to.'

He hoped it wasn't, but he wouldn't be at all surprised – riding that scooter like that. Those small wheels were never meant to go at that speed. The way they'd come around the corner, with the scooter swinging out wide and almost catching up to the bike – well, anything could happen and it could be nasty.

Damm, he hoped it wasn't him. He hoped it wasn't any kids he knew, but obviously, it was somebody in trouble. The ambulance wouldn't be tearing down the road like that unless they had a good reason to.

"Well, Ladies, I better be moving on. Don't worry about Julie, she'll be okay."

"I hope you're right, John, and thanks. You have a good day now."

"Thanks. You do too. 'Bye."

He strode off down the road, crested the top of the hill and could see, away in the distance down at the bottom, the ambulance had stopped, there were 2 police cars there and a crowd of curious ghouls had gathered already. 'Never takes long.'

He was too far away to see any more with all the people in the way. The police seemed to be moving them back, and fair enough too. They weren't helping.

He hurried anxiously down the road. It might not be Jordan there, he hoped, but it could well be him. He wished now that he'd stopped them as soon as he'd seen them and before anything happened.

But, would they have listened to him anyway? Probably not – they weren't in school and he had no authority over them after hours. (Didn't have much when they were there either!)

Before he was even halfway there, the ambulance started again, went around the roundabout, came back up the hill and disappeared behind him, towards the hospital. The police cars moved away, the crowd was dispersing and traffic started moving, until a freight train rumbled over the crossing and stopped them again.

He hurried down the sidewalk, not running, but getting out of breath anyway. He was so unfit! Something was going to have to be done about that, but not now.

He met up with an old guy he'd seen leaving the scene, stopped and asked him, "Mr. Wilkins, what happened there?"

"I'm not too sure. Some kid got knocked off his bike, I think. Something like that. It was all over before I got there."

"Some kid? Who was he, did you hear?"

"No, sorry. Like I said, I was late."

"Did you see him at all? What did he look like?"

"I don't know. All I saw was the stretcher going into the ambulance. They slammed the doors and left. Story of my life really, I think I must have been born late."

"Oh. Well, someone must know. Thanks, Mr. Wilkins – be seeing you."

"Yes, you will. Goodbye, young John."

Down in the town area, he went first to the bike shop, because it was furtherest away, and then back to the chemist's. No-one he spoke to could tell him any more about the accident than what he already knew. Which was not a lot.

He couldn't believe how blithely uninterested everyone was. If it didn't affect them personally, they didn't care much. That was so not right – the Heartless Buggers!

He didn't know how affected he was, but he was worried. If it was a kid, then, chances were, it was somebody from the school. Damm, he hoped it wasn't Jordan.

It wasn't Jordan. Lost in thought, he came out of the chemist shop and literally walked into him.

"Oops, sorry. Jordan! Oh thank God it's you. You okay, Boy?"

"I think I'll live," Jordan grinned up at him, peering through his over-long fringe. "You didn't hit me that hard. But why are you glad that it's me you banged into?"

"No. I'm not glad about that. I'm just happy to see you."

"Aren't you always?"

"Not always, no, but sometimes."

"Why now then?"

"There was an accident, up by the roundabout. A kid was hurt, I was worried that it was you."

"Well it wasn't. It was Gordie Berry. He's a bit of a mess, but he'll live. Why would you think it was me, Mr. E?"

"Ask yourself, Jordan. Why would I be worried that you'd been hurt when you'd just gone racing past me, sitting on a scooter and being towed by a bike?"

"I don't know. Why?"

"Why? Because it was a bloody silly thing to do and dangerous too!"

"Dangerous? Yeah, I guess. It was fun though, fun and fast. Trouble is, bloody Gene's gone now and he took my scooter with him. Swine! Now I've gotta walk all the way back home. Unless some kind teacher is going to give me a ride?"

"A kind teacher. Is there such a creature?"

"Come to think of it, probably not."

"Don't flash your big calf's eyes at me, Boy. That won't work. I'd give you a ride home if I could, but I'm walking too."

"Walking back home now, Mr. E? Okay, I'll walk with you. We live in the same street."

"I know that. You're just 3 doors passed ours."

"Yeah. Way too close, I think."

"Enough cheek out of you! Jordan, don't go riding your scooter like that again. That could just as easily have been you being scraped off the road. At the speed you were going, it could've even killed you."

"You think? Okay, we won't do that again. Next time, I'll make Gene bloody slow down. I'll throw out an anchor or something."

"Next time? I hope there is no next time."

"Ah! Live in hope, don't you, Mr. E?"

They walked together, back up the road and to the side-street where their homes were, chatting, laughing and growling all the way. John was thinking how much he liked this kid. It wasn't that many years ago that he was a teen himself and he still knew something of their world. Jordan, once you got past the cheek, was a thoroughly nice kid and easy to have an almost-adult conversation with.

They'd just rounded the corner into their street when a big, rough, old van, pulsing the usual crappy music that all the boy-racers played, pulled in next to them. It was an ominous, evil-looking thing, painted black and with black windows.

John thought, 'Who'd drive something like that, and why?'

Jordan obviously knew and he was delighted. "Bomber!" he exclaimed. "See ya, Mr. E. I've got a ride home now!"

"But you only live 6 doors up the street."

"Yeah, I know. But it's Bomber and the Sex Machine! Total coolness. See ya." He jumped into the passenger's side.

The door slammed, the van took off with a roar and a squeal of tyres, and disappeared around the corner up the street.

'Bomber? Sex Machine?' John smiled ruefully, shook his head and went home.

He stepped over the front gate and Peter was sitting on the steps outside the house, "fixing" his bike, as usual. He'd be better off if he'd just leave the bloody thing alone and stop tinkering with it.

"Peter, who is Bomber, do y'know? He drives a big black van. Jordan Houston just jumped in and went off with him."

"In the Sex Machine?" Peter grinned. "Lucky Midget!"

"You shouldn't call him that. You know he doesn't like it."

"Doesn't like it? He hates it; that's what makes it fun!"

"Don't do it anyway. Should I be concerned about him going off like that?"

"Nah. He'll be all right. Might even get lucky!"

"Peter! Who is this 'Bomber' guy?"

"It's not a guy – Bomber's a girl."

"Really? Bomber is a girl, driving around in the Sex Machine?"

"Yeah. You can stop worrying, Bro. Bomber is okay. She's all talk really. She only comes back here to see Dave Fortune. The Mid . .. okay, Jordan, is just a friend. No-one's going to molest him. Eww. That'd be like doing a little kid!"

"Oh. Just a friend then. That's good. Thanks, Peter." He brushed past him and went inside.

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