Misjudged – Part Seven
“Jason, what the hell?” asked Greyson. Scarlett was still behind him and Cash, and Tommy’s mom continued to scream. Jason stood with his shotgun at the ready, breathing heavily, as though he had just sprinted through the forest.
“You know this psycho?!” Arnold yelled.
Cash walked towards Jason and pushed the shotgun so it aimed at the ground instead. “Stand down, dude.” Cash looked at Tommy’s family. “He’s a friend.”
Scarlett joined them, took the gun from Jason and asked, “What are you doing?” She examined the shotgun. “And when did you get a gun?”
Jason took the gun back from her and said, “I heard a bunch of shouting. I recognized your voices but there were some I didn’t know, so I thought y’all might be in some trouble.” Jason looked at Tommy, who had started coming out from behind his father. “Then I heard Tommy’s name thrown in and I got real worried. Didn’t want anything to happen to my new pal.”
Scarlett glared at Jason. “So you brought a gun? What if you accidentally shot Tommy?” Jason and Scarlett continued to argue, Cash and Greyson chiming in every once and a while.
Arnold went to grab Tommy’s shoulder, only to find that he had moved closer to Jason. He looked at his wife, who he thought was keeping a better eye on Tommy, and let out an angry breath. Jason and the others were laughing, now.
“How do you know my son?” Arnold glared at the three teens. “Is it because of you three? I thought you said that you wouldn’t do anything to hurt him!”
Tommy’s mother moved closer to her son.
Jason put his gun down on the ground and held his hands up. “I wouldn’t hurt a hair on Tommy’s head, soldier’s promise.”
“Sir,” began Greyson. “Jason is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.”
Tommy’s parents looked skeptical. “How did you become homeless, then?” asked Arnold.
Jason sighed. “I was in the military, and used some things I wasn’t proud of to deal with the stress. Used up all of my money and realized I didn’t want to live that way. So I got some supplies with the rest of my money and I’ve lived in this forest ever since.”
Arnold side eyed the teens. “Then how did you meet them?”
Scarlett spoke before Jason could. “What’s with all of the questions?”
Cash rolled his eyes. “Scarlett, you did basically the same thing as Tommy’s dad before we brought Tommiy to visit Jason, and you already KNEW him!”
Jason chuckled. “I caught these two young men a few years ago doing something in the forest they weren’t supposed to be doing. I told them my story and gave them a long lecture.” Jason put his arms on Greyson and Cash’s shoulders. “Now they bring me cans every month, so I have something good to eat.”
Tommy jumped away from his mother to stand with Jason and the teens. “I brought him a bunch of cans today, too! And Jason even wrote a song for me!”
Tommy’s parents felt cornered. All they’ve heard was about how terrible these three teenagers are, and now they didn’t know what to think. Could an entire town be wrong about how they perceived someone? That seemed impossible, to them. However, they seemed to check out ok. But Tommy was so young, could he have possibly been brainwashed by these kids? Or was Tommy right, while everyone else misjudged the three solely on appearances?
“Hold on, did you say you were in the army?” asked Tommy’s dad. “At the local base?”
Jason blinked and stood up straighter. “Affirmative, sir.”
“That’s weird,” mused Arnold. “I did some work with a squad here a while ago, must’ve been in the late 70s. What squad number were you in?”
“That’s the group I was with.”
next: Misjudged – Part Eight
previous: Misjudged – Part Six
first chapter: Misjudged – Part One
more by CASSIE GAMMIE
photograph by Jordan McQueen