Remember When We Hung At Dyini's?


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Chapter I: North Face Swindlers

The noon of August 24 found Reid Franchis approaching a burger joint in the town of North Face, Driport; a warm breeze washed over him, plastering his white hair to his sweaty, wrinkled forehead. A streak of sun filled his craggy face, and he winced and rose a hand to shield from it. Two men were seated on the row of stools before the counter. A lady donned in uniform was flipping patties. He took a seat, his bulky torso slamming, and rested his elbow against the counter. Reid overheard the conversation and his attention started towards it.

"Damn. Hey, overalls, y'lost a wallet?" The stout, old man with wrinkles on his face spoke. His tone was slow, a heavy Indian. He sported a baggy green shirt, and blue jeans. He seemed bothered, a worried expression on his old face, and his slouched posture and protruding chin added to his old-man appearance.

The man beside him wore overalls, just like what the foreman said, and a white shirt underneath. His hair was haggard and judging by that and his appearance he didn't seem to favour hygiene over casual wear. His physique was very lanky and he probably had the same age as the other man. "Yours's lost too?" He replied, taking a heavy swig from a bottle of Coke and setting it down beside an empty burger wrapper. His tone was identical. "I reckon it be the damn kids that're 'round, how else had my wallet been stolen as well. You should'a had been more careful rather having been ended up like I."

The lady took notice of Reid and smiled. He nodded and smiled back.

"My eyes were definitely wide-eyed open, and I'm sure as hell I had the damn wallet tied to my pockets!" The old-looking man said in distress.

Reid observed the other; despite stating he lost his damn wallet he appeared to have a nonchalant expression. "Nothing much I can do other than kissing good luck on your ass, sir."

The other man quickly stood in protest. "Argh! I'm finding that bugger myself!" Reid watched as the man trudged from his seat and quickly blending with the crowd. He cocked a brow, smiled, and shook his head. He looked back to the remaining man. "Well... His problem. I've had it with these thieves as well. I really should be more cautious next time... Gah." The lady shook her head in agreement.

Reid heard screaming from the building opposite the joint and he turned. It was some small hardware store. "You little prick! How dare you steal my purse!" A hispanic and stubby woman donned in a long dress argued with a teen-in-jeans outside the storefront. The boy was white with a beanie on his head. "The hell, woman? Blame your own ass, I been stealin' nothing." But the woman blurted out. "I got Jesus by my side you filthy spawn of Satan, I will call the cops on you or so help me!"

He had to swallow a laugh from the bickering two. A crowd quickly gathered. The boy was very unfortunate, he considered, and the woman stupid. Reid Franchis knew the man behind all the stolen items. They were both very close. He cranked his head down at his brown-leather wrist watch. 1:02 PM. Just a few more minutes and they'll both meet... 

"Anything you want, sir?' The lady caught his attention, her accent low and sleepy, a subtle Spanish. He glanced at his watch then at the sizzling patties on the stove. Maybe a quick burger would do.

"I'll have the Buy one Take one." His accent was the same, but heavier, and he enjoyed his order, ignoring the rising tension from the hardware store.

"For Christ's sake, I told you I ain't been stealin'!" The boy retorted. "I'm super freakin' pure-hearted here lady, and—"

But the lady swung a heavy slap on the boy's cheek and he started. "Pure-hearted my ass, you been stealin'!"

Alright, the boy thought as he rubbed the sore, screw this woman.

Antonio clutched his duffle bag as the boy blew a strike at the lady, and the crowd gasped in shock. He didn't gasp though, nor was he shocked. Duffle-bag tight in hand, he slid past and made through the crowd with his head low; the breeze prodded the jet-black locks draping on his sweating face. When he was out he stood beside a wooden support by the sidewalk. Even from here the clamouring crowd still grew. Jesus, what had he done? Did he regret doing it? Probably not. He waited for a truck to pass and then crossed the street. There was some retail store up front, an old man tending.

A group of guys dressed in sports wear passed when he was on the sidewalk. They conversed on something (probably football) and passed by him without a notice. They never realised he snatched twenty bucks hanging loose from one of the guys' pocket. Idiots. He quickly stuffed it in his duffle bag and head for the retail store. He checked the goods that were being sold. Just a bunch of apples and bananas. Or... Fruits. A glimmer caught his eye. A cellphone. Mine! He quickly trudged off with it in his duffle bag. He wanted to cross the street (otherwise get caught stealing) but traffic came early. Damn it. He tapped his Sneakers on the sidewalk cement as he waited impatiently for the impediment to go away. A few others surrounded him, waiting too. An old man in a baggy sleeveless drove his motor onto the wrong side and nearly causing a crash between him and a truck. Traffic got worse and now everybody's having a quarrel. God damn it!

Antonio groaned and slumped back. He was impatient because there could be the possibility of someone following him, and if you had stolen a lot of crap, stuffed in a duffle-bag, an eyeful would be following. Getting caught robbing would suck. He checked his wristwatch. 1:02 PM.

When the cars finally passed Antonio crossed and went around the back, into a tight alleyway, and found himself approaching a burger joint front. A bulky man sporting a black tank top was seated on one stool, and when he turned and noticed him Antonio gave a nod at his direction. Reid Franchis thanked the lady and left. They both greeted each other and head off afterwards, the two walking down the sidewalk and arriving at some building. They went around back where a Ford red pickup was parked. Antonio hopped next to the driver's seat while Reid took the wheel. They drove for about thirty minutes before eventually arriving at their home. It was a modest one-storey deal with yellow wooden sidings and a covered porch on a side street a couple of blocks west from where they departed. The bushes that boxed the yard was immensely shaggy and haggard.

"Pa', we should really trim the damn bushes," Antonio Franchis said as he transferred a few crates from the long-bed into the sidewalk. "Rabid animals'll probably invade us."

"Nonsense, my boy." His father, Reid Franchis assured as he lifted the hood up.

Antonio wiped his sweating forehead. "Come on. I don't want to wake up with some dumb raccoon, or whatever the residence have as pets, coming into my bedroom."

"You overthink, Antonio. That is not what I had taught you—"

"Uuuuuggghhhg. Again with that crap pa'?" Antonio said. "Yeah I get it, 'always plan tactically and never overthink'. Bleehh."

Reid heaved an exasperated sigh, shaking his head, and closed the hood of the pickup and went around back. "Go. I will tend to the cargo myself." Antonio rolled his eyes, mouthing 'whatever', and went inside into his bedroom where he changed out of clothes, laid in bed, and decided a nap. Reid finished the task and followed suit, entering the kitchen and grabbing himself a bottle of Coke. He went to the living room, turned the TV on (the weather news broadcasted), took a seat on the single couch, chugged on his soft-drink, and sat there until evening.

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Chapter II: Black Palls & School

Antonio awoke to a startling nightmare, a heavy gasp as he sat rigid. The nightly, brisk atmosphere filled the room and it didn't help to alleviate him. God, screw sleep. He relaxed himself and laid on bed, turning to the side to check his wall clock. No later than 6:00 PM. Had he really slept that long? Antonio grumbled and buried his face under his palms. Eventually he found the urge to get up and head for the kitchen. Maybe some soft-drinks will help, he thought as he round the corner. In the living room, his dad was slumped limp onto the single couch, the TV's static washing a white gleam on his bulky physique. His dad always slept at noon and would never wake up until... well, whenever he does. Antonio didn't care when anyways. So, he swept through the kitchen's arched doorway and went for the fridge, opened it, and took a bottle where he popped off the cap and took a heavy swig and burped. The drink was so damn refreshing. Finishing it, he placed it by the sink where a few unfinished dishes were left unattended. Damn it. Whenever the sink is filled with dirty dishes he would always have the same reaction as always: frustrated. Why? Because he's the one who does the dishes, who else otherwise wouldn't be his dad. Antonio mumbled something before glancing back at his dad heavy in slumber at the living room. He was so peaceful... and loud. Loud snores. If only he could head back to sleep...

Antonio head for the house's back door through the kitchen. Closing it, he went to the centre of the backyard where a dried off, withered log was and sat there, gazing at the heavenly bodies and whatchamacallits in the night sky; he probably saw Big Dipper and was amazed. From here he could hear the chirruping of the crickets and the gust of evening breeze howling before him (and freezing him); he shivered and embraced himself. He should head back and wear something thermal... Nah, too lazy. Besides, he felt serene back out here. Peace and serenity is what he often lives for, but the Franchis family, well...

Just a street across lived his cousins. They were too of the Spanish nationality. Whenever Antonio and his dad payed weekly visits there, the minute they step inside the family's abode, he would immediately be greeted with one simple word: chaos. There was Ate Tina and Ate Anina, the eldest two who loved to gossip like little girls, prancing about fashion whatnot; the middle-child, Pedro who wore a loud 'army or warfare' interest, and a raging hyperactive personality wherever he goes; the newborn, Jack who drools on him whenever he cradles the little boy and whines like the late German dictator; his grandmama' and grandpapa'; and his auntie, Maylie who nags about how her cooking could have saved world hunger. Regardless, his father enjoyed their company just as his cousins enjoyed theirs too. Antonio also loved their company the same way, but sometimes the chaos and mishaps of their cousin's family would just get to him. Hell, how else would he handle it when he barely even has a mother and lived only with has father. It would take him years to fully understand what's so great about having a big family... Well, they were his cousins anyways. Sigh.

But sometimes, Antonio would wonder what having a proper family would feel like. He lived only with his father; his mother suffered on some postpartum depression and schizophrenia and was sent off probably to some hospital in the city of Driport. Unfortunately she... well, something bad happened to her. Antonio never got see her again when he was 10 at that time; he was 17 now. 7 years without motherly love. And 7 years under his father's teachings. Yeap. Ever since the day his mother left their company his father had taken the time to teach him the ways of mafia. He would show him basic hit-and-run tactics, a few techniques that often or not would help him in his life, and generally just how a life of robbing would go. Antonio didn't detest on his father not out of fear, but because his father was his only company, and he enjoyed his father's company far better than worrying about living the life of crime. He wouldn't want to loose his father too.

Antonio wasn't the best at making friends. He never had any throughout after her mother's... you get it, so the prospect of loosing his closest companionship wounded him. "Friends are of no value, my dear boy," his father had said once when he was 11. They were on the porch shaded on a musky afternoon, him and his pa' rocking on chairs. "They only hold value for your survivability. If you can not survive in this harsh world—" he looked up to see the eyes of his pa' gazing back at him "—then you will be considered vulnerable, weak. And that is when anyone can easily snatch you and go for the kill." His father turned and reclined comfortably while Antonio fidgeted his thumbs in deep consideration. "But you do not simply make friends, Antonio. We don't have real friends. We only have foes, enemies. If we put too much trust into our 'friends' we make ourselves vulnerable to everything and everyone. I don't want to loose you, my boy. You lost your mother... Promise me you will be strong for me, Antonio." His father clutched his shoulder. He turned and saw his father's baggy eyes form a subtle tear.

"Promise me..."

The memory faded and Antonio was back in reality. He sniffled and felt something trickle down his cheek, so he held his palm on his face. He was... crying? No! He quickly wiped his own tears off, sobbing faintly, and drew a heavy breath. No, you have to be strong dude. This is for yourself. For... For pa'. He sighed and noticed now that the cold wind picked up. Okay maybe it's time he should get back inside, so he did. He stood and head for his room (passing his father), and laid on his bed, sprawled. The wall clock screamed 6:10 PM. Oh for Christ's sake.

He laid there until 30 minutes had passed where his father called. It was time for dinner. In the table he ate slow and his face nodded down. "Anything wrong, Antonio?" His father was across the round table.

"No. Nothing wrong." He replied too quickly.

Reid scrunched his brows and considered him. "Well, as you say."

Antonio quickly discarded the awful sentiments when they finished what they had. His pa' went straight for his room while Antonio did the dishes (god damn it). He quickly finished and set them aside. He'll stash them in tomorrow, he thought as he head to his room.


Morning rolled and Antonio fell off his bed with an "Argh!". He grumbled sheepishly and pulled himself up. God, today was Monday, which meant school. He grumbled again at that and checked the time. The wall clock screamed 5:02 AM. Crap, only 58 minutes. He felt the sudden adrenaline and rushed for the bathroom where he bathed and brushed his teeth. Back at his room he changed to his usual outfit: a white tank top, black skinny jeans, and black sports shoes. The day was going to be chilly so he wore his baggy yellow sweatshirt. The wall clock whispered 5:36 AM. He grabbed his bag and stepped out of his room.

"Ready for another day, my boy?" His father was idling on the couch, a newspaper on his face.

"All day's are the same!" He replied with their usual monologue: There is no 'another day', but just the same day repeating with different prospects.

He skipped breakfast (dinner stuffed him) and head off. When he stepped out a paper slammed onto his unsuspected face. What a way to start the day... He pried it off and head for the sidewalk towards school, clutching into his bag's straps. After a few blocks he reached into a slope where it led to North Face NHS and trekked it. His knees were numb when he finally reached the peek; it wasn't mountain-high, God forbid, but he felt fatigued nonetheless. Why'd they have to build it up so high? It's not like it's a tourist spot or something. He grumbled and head inside where he dumped a few books in his locker, grabbed the ones he needed, then head for the first class of the day, checking his wristwatch. 5:57 AM. When he was inside he was all alone. He dumped his bag by his desk and plopped onto the seating, and crossed his arms against the desk where he rested his chin on. Through the windows the morning looked awful. Time ticked and students filled the classroom, and one by one they occupied the empty seats.

At his seat Antonio eyed the scribbled board with his cheek rested on his upturned palm. Ms. Cagdan was discussing Math, and it bore him. But it's not because he hated Math. Sure it's a bane to every high-school students' life, popular to belief, but it really wasn't that boring at all, it's just that it gets a little... redundant, and illogical. Hell, take this situation: say you were hired by some town guy (however you call him) to create a bridge spanning a river at some place. Of course, you'd grab some kind of measuring device (he guessed a long tape measure) and measure the damn thing before actually getting to build it, given that the town guy handed out the dimensions he wanted the bridge to look like. But Math just confuses the whole thing like asking 'If you want to measure the bridge, you have to first find the angle of position A and calculate the diameter between this and that' and blah. God, what the hell are measuring devices for anyways? And teachers say we don't use calculators in our lives. He had to swallow a laugh upon sudden realisation: he was ranting inside his head. Who does that?

Class was then dismissed after a few minutes; a few painful, excruciating, and mind-torturing minutes. Antonio headed for the next class, and when that was finished he head for the other, and when that was also finished he head for the other other until lunch came.

Antonio placed his bag in his locker and shut it. He went and opened the doors to the cafeteria and lined in with the others. It was his turn so he grabbed a tray full of lunch (what the hell do these lunch ladies cook??), went to far side of the room, slipping past a few clamouring students here and there, and sat on a lonesome, unoccupied table. A wide ceiling-to-floor window towered beside him and he could see the city from here, so he watched while taking bites out of his lunch. It was a really beautiful sight. Maybe this was why they built the school in the first place, he thought while sipping off his soda. It could be; it could be not. Whichever way he stuck to his gut and assumed that was the reason. A smile crept on his corner. It was times like these, he realised, that he would think to himself and enjoy his own accompany. Sure he was alone, but it was great to talk to someone (even if it was himself), nonetheless. Antonio had no friends to share talks with, and he was alien in the social hierarchy, so having himself as a companion was enough to fill that nagging feeling of isolation inside him. Even if, he had tried to approach people and interact with them, but almost often or always they'd reject him. It hurt. He really had tried, and he was desperate. The thought from last night reciprocated, and he felt downcast. He had his father's affection and accompany, but even that isn't enough to quench that nagging pain inside him.

He wanted friends. He wanted to be like everyone else. He wanted to be noticed. But alas, life is a bitch. Is it that freakin' hard to befriend anyone? Why do they have to reject him? He thought of it and then gaped in sudden consideration, nearly dropping his soda. Was it because... they knew? They knew that he was a robber, and that his pa' was a member of some mafia? No, impossible, but the prospect of it felt surreal. His speculation resided throughout the day until the bell finally rung and the day was over. Antonio was walking on the sidewalk now; the afternoon glow loomed over him. Did they maybe... feared him? Were they afraid that he'd influence his ways to them?

When he arrived home he went to his room and slipped into bed where he contemplated the sentiments. He's probably just overthinking, and that he just sucked at socialising. But still, Antonio thought of it...

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Chapter III: Sudden Meetups

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Chapter IV: Dusty Streets & Rain

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