There is no escape from Dolphin Street; at least that is how I feel with the beginning of spooky season. It is time to talk horror. Just a couple of weeks ago, Spirit Halloween stores opened up nationwide at the usual sites of abandoned businesses. Stores already have Halloween displays and cards, and school has started, which shocks me on a different level. On X, there are countdowns and such for the days until Halloween. There seems to be no escape, so I am posting an excerpt from my horror book about runaway teens.
In writing Escape from Dolphin Street, true crime was an inspiration. While I was working at the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park in 2002, I followed a story each day in the local paper in a series of articles. The crimes happened in Billings, Montona, and involved murder and a body under a trapdoor on the wrong side of the tracks. The street punks involved were a colorful assortment of damaged individuals, and I imagined a story of runaways who cross paths with villains of that sort. The story became a gay, twisted coming-of-age tale through the lens of an ABC Afterschool Special under the influence of Rob Zombie.
Excerpt from Escape from Dolphin Street — Violent Playground:
Ill prepared for a journey on foot with meager bags, a knapsack, and a skateboard, the trio stood at the precipice of the train trellis. The tracks crossed a gulf that divided the shorter path to town. Kelly stared at the bayou watching the greenish brown water flow between its banks far below. Tanya stayed away from the edge afraid of falling in. Jason chuckled as he realized heights were not her thing. He looked back to see if suburbia was still in sight and it was not. Disappointed to not see it disappear, he adjusted his skateboard which he had strapped to his pack. Kelly was about to step out onto the trellis when Tanya interrupted her attempt.
“That’s a nice shiner, honey.”
Kelly gingerly touched her bruised face while her red hair flowed back in the breeze.
“Hey, you didn’t notice mine,” Jason said matter-of-factly, only half joking.
“You always look beat up,” Tanya said.
Kelly lightened up and laughed. “Yeah, that’s why we’re here in this paradise.”
“And to think I got up early for this.” Jason mocked.
Tanya eyes narrowed to slits. “No one asked you to come.”
“I’m glad you’re here, the both of you,” Kelly sincerely said
Jason felt sheepish with gratitude. He looked down at the swirling muddy water, remembered the dream of drowning and the rocks thrown at him, and swallowed back his dread. “Thank you, it means a lot to hear that.”
Kelly followed his stare back to the water. The current seemed strong and there was no telling how deep it was below. Eyes back to Jason’s face, she stated the obvious. “I had to go, I couldn’t take it anymore. Last night was the worse… in a long time.”
“I understand.” Jason wanted to mention the phone call, but did not dare.
Tanya shivered. “I don’t think I can cross. I mean it is so far down.”
Jason turned his attention to his semi-adversary and decided not to provoke her until she was halfway across the trellis.
Kelly was steely in her determination. “There is no other way, nothing seems as fast. We have to cross here.”
“Are you sure?” Tanya swallowed.
Jason had had enough and he did not want to stand there all day. “Come on you two, follow me.” Acting tough, Jason stepped out onto the tracks and walked forward. He made the mistake of looking down and almost lost his balance. Quickly, he righted himself and gave a dare look in Tanya’s direction.
Kelly tentatively followed. Looking down into the abyss, she reassured herself with prayer: “As I walk through the valley of death, my Lord will protect me.” Kelly spoke it like a mantra, silently over and over.
Tanya started after them, careful of foot placement. Step by step, track board by board passed beneath her feet.
Jason felt exhilarated to be first, to be the leader as the wind buffeted his clothes. Danger was a turn on that faded the memory of his dream.
I am finally in control of my destiny.
The picture is of the body chute (death tunnel) at the haunted site of Waverly Hills Sanitorum in Louisville, KY. It was used to wheel the bodies of TB victims out of the facility, unseen.