Jack Dunphy drove his sixteen-year-old fist into the face of the kid who was sitting on him and felt the nose give way under his knuckles. Hot red drops freckled his face, and then the weight was gone from his chest. He got up and ran. He didn’t run home. He ran to the tracks that bisected his little hometown and, when a freight train finally slowed at the Willow Street crossing, he scrambled into an empty boxcar. His father had warned him; next time he was caught fighting, it was back to military school. He took his father’s warning seriously, but that didn’t change the fact that he was five feet nothing and had acne so bad that his face was more pus than skin.
It was dusk when the train rolled past the refinery on the edge of town. The flames dancing on top of the smokestacks seemed significant to him, burning away the waste. He leaned back against the wall of the boxcar and watched the flames recede. The vibrating steel excited his whole skeleton.
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