I stole a kid when I was fifteen.
I also stole sixty bucks from my uncle Les and the keys to his ’91 Bonneville. The car and the money got my ass kicked by Uncle Les two days later, but the kid got me sent to Juvy until I was eighteen.
I didn’t do anything weird with the kid. I was sick of getting my eyes blackened by Uncle Les, so I took his car. On the way out into the parking lot behind our apartment building, I saw this kid throwing rocks at the dumpster. He said he lived in the adjacent complex and asked where I was going. He looked a lot like my little brother, Harry. Scrawny blond kid. Harry was six when he died a few months prior. No one told me how he died, but I knew it was something to do with my mom because that’s when I had to come live with Les. I guess I missed Harry, so I asked the kid if he wanted to go with me. He said his name was Brontosaurus.
“What’s yer favorite dinosaur?” he asked.
He nodded. A good answer. He followed me to the car and shouted, “Yer name’s Raptor then.”
I had my learner’s permit and a couple hours of practice, but Peoria felt like a big city to me, so we stuck to the back streets. Harry was excited about me getting my license. He loved cars. I told him we could drive anywhere he wanted after I turned sixteen and he said he wanted me to drive us down to the riverfront where those casino boats were. I took Brontosaurus down there, but he said it was boring.
I took him to the Hardee’s for a biscuit and an orange juice, and then we went to the Esquire Theatre and watched The Last Action Hero. He got bored halfway through, so he pulled out a couple toy dinosaurs from his pocket. We went to the park afterwards and he kicked around in a sandbox. I asked him if he had any brothers or sisters.
“Only me,” he said.
“Mom? Dad?” I asked.
“A mom,” he said with a handful of sand in his mouth. “She’s not home though.”
“Where is she?”
“I don’t know.”
The sun was almost gone, which meant Les had probably woken up and noticed his missing car, which meant I was already in for it. If this boy lived in one of the complexes on my street, I figured staying with me for the night wouldn’t be any worse than whatever home he had. The nights were still warm in September, so we fell asleep in our car seats.
The next morning we drove around until the science museum opened. We ate breakfast and lunch in the cafeteria. We walked around under giant plastic molecules and learned about static electricity and inertia. Towards the back of the concourse we found the dinosaur exhibit. Brontosaurus lost his mind. A lady working security let him touch the teeth of the animatronic T-Rex. I spent the last of Les’s money on a blue shirt with multiple dinosaurs on it for the kid.
Brontosaurus said he was tired after the museum. He wanted to go home. I tried to coerce him to keep hanging out, but he was getting grumpy, and I was out of cash anyway.
When I pulled into the parking lot, Uncle Les was standing there. There was also one policeman. Les kept a safe distance from the cop as he stared a hole through me. The cop was calm with me as he told me what kind of trouble I was in. Instead of walking the kid back up into his apartment, the policeman put him into the back of his cruiser. Brontosaurus was okay with it. I had learned earlier in the day that, second to dinosaurs, police officers were his favorite. He poked his head out of the window and waved goodbye to me with a wide, loose-tooth smile.
Les really let me have it that night. The next day, a social worker came with the idea of sending me to a school for troubled kids, a juvenile detention center over in Pekin. It was a simple answer for Les.
The counselors at the center told me what I had done was wrong. I didn’t think so, but I told them that I understood because I figured that’s what they wanted me to say. My Uncle Les came to visit once, and then I never saw him again. Which was fine. No one ever told me what happened to Brontosaurus or where he went.
I walked to the old apartment complex a few days after my release. No one stayed in those places long—Uncle Les included—so I didn’t see the boy around. I decided that he must have gone to foster care, which sounded nice. I pictured him being adopted right away. A nice family and they took him to the museum whenever he asked. I didn’t picture him in any trouble or any harm, but I wondered if he even cared about dinosaurs anymore.
Lanny Durbin lives in Springfield, Illinois, plays in some bands and drives a Buick. His work has appeared in Hobart, The Fiction Pool, Toasted Cheese Journal and Flash Fiction Magazine. He can be found on Twitter @LannyDurbin