“I didn’t mean to bring that up,” Jordan said.
“I know,” Paul said. “Maybe that’s why I am how I am. Maybe I’m just destined to be like my dad.”
Jordan shook his head. “It’s definitely a choice. I’m not saying our dads didn’t have an impact on us. It would be hard for either of us to avoid being like our dads, but we have the choice.”
“You realize you only believe that because your father taught you that.” Paul meant it to prove his point.
He turned and started walking again, and Jordan followed. “He taught, and I choose to accept it. And if you were cursed to be like your dad, you would have fought those boys no matter what I said.”
Paul gave it some thought. “But it’s harder every time.”
“I’m proud of you every time,” Jordan said.
Paul smiled. No one had ever said that before. Sure, his teachers were glad his grades were good, and his mother told him she loved him about a million times a day, but no one had ever shown pride in him.
That one word took all the anger out of him. It felt like someone had seem him for the first time.
“Thanks.” Paul thought that was a pretty stupid word for how he felt, but it was the only one he could think of.
They came to the turn that led to the the cul-de-sac where his house was. It was also close to the choke point where Dorny lived. He’d leap out a window if he saw Paul walking by. Paul didn’t feel like being told he was going to Hell for another hour.
“Let’s try something,” Jordan said. He started walking toward the next cul-de-sac.
Paul followed him despite being unsure what the plan was.
Jordan took the next turn and stopped at the first house. The houses were little more than a series of cookie cutter like designs that butted up against one another. One back yard’s brick wall was mere inches from the next.
“I think if you take this wall down the side of this house, your house is the one behind it.” Jordan pointed as if trying to remember a map he’d looked at. “It might make your neighbor mad if he sees you, but it’s worth a shot.”
The wall wasn’t much taller than Paul was. He could reach the top by stretching out his arms and hopping.
“Worth a try.” Paul said.
He managed to get a grip on the top of the wall, and Jordan gave him a bit of a boost until he reached the top and stood up. A dog roughly the size of a bus rushed up and snapped at Paul. It was a miracle he didn’t fall over. The fall was just barely as frightening as the dog. Luckily, the dog’s attack ended at Paul’s sneakers. On its hind legs, it was too short to reach, but it was so big it couldn’t jump up to get at him.
“Are you ok?” Jordan’s question was a strange combination of a whisper and a shout.
The dog let out a bark that seemed loud enough to blow Paul’s ear drums. Paul decided to scramble back down the wall before the giant animal found a way to get at him. The barking continued even after Paul got down and headed away with Jordan.
“It was a good idea,” Paul said.
“We’ll try the next house,” Jordan said. “You’ll have to walk down one side wall and along the back wall, but it should still work.”
They moved to the next house and manage to get Paul up to the top of the wall. This time, there wasn’t a dog in the yard. Paul worried the plan wouldn’t work every time, but he had a shot to avoid Dorny this time.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Paul told Jordan.
“Sure.” Jordan turned and started heading to his own house, which was perhaps two miles in the opposite direction.
Paul stood. The two walls between one house and another were each thick enough for Paul’s foot, and they were close enough together that Paul’s foot couldn’t fit between them. So it wasn’t like he had to tight-rope his way home. It was just a little intimidating being twice as high as we was tall, but once he found his footing, it was a brisk walk along the wall. Paul was actually more worried what he’d do if the people who lived on either side of the walls he was on looked out and saw him, so he rushed down the wall and saw his backyard.
He made it to his back yard and scrambled down. If anybody saw him, they didn’t say anything.