We were more than an hour from the east gate of Yellowstone National Park. Having lived all my life in the green moistness of the Pacific Northwest, I was not captivated by the view out the window of my vehicle. There was a grandeur to the vast expanse of the high plateau, but the vista changed so slowly that I preferred a series of snapshots to a continuous movie. Kelly and I were both wide awake, Alan Vizutti was playing in the background, courtesy of the CD changer located under the passenger seat, and it was a perfect opportunity for a little conversation.
"You remember back there when I said that what I did last night was wrong?"
"Yeah." He looked at me quizzically, as if a bit anxious that I might go back to that traumatic time an hour ago.
"Let me try saying it a different way. What I did last night is against the law. It is so illegal that if anybody found out about it, I would go to jail for a very long time."
"Would they put me in jail, too?"
"No, I'm the only criminal here. The minute I touched you in the shower, the law says I was taking indecent liberties with a minor. Actually, just getting into the shower naked with you would probably have done it, if anyone had seen us. I really wasn't thinking very clearly about this, and I didn't take very many precautions to keep what we did private. So that makes my behavior not only illegal, but stupid as well."
"But nobody knew about it."
"I'm surprised half of Wyoming didn't know about it. Remember this?" I launched into my best imitation of Kelly's voice. "Unh... unh... O God... Don't stop... Unh..." I started to feel like Meg Ryan in the restaurant scene from 'When Harry Met Sally.'
Kelly blushed a deep scarlet and started to laugh. "I wasn't that loud," he protested.
"Oh, we haven't even gotten to the loud part yet. When you had your orgasm, you sounded like a wounded elk."
"Did too. We are so lucky that no one was listening. Hey, it's Wyoming, maybe they really thought it was an elk -- in heat."
"Okay. But the fact remains that as long as you are under eighteen, anything sexual we do together is a crime."
"Maybe so. Maybe not. You see that line down the center of the highway? How long has it been since we saw a car coming towards us on the other side of that line?"
"Dunno. It's been a while."
"So what would you think if I just moved over to the other side, like this!" The road was straight and flat, and I could see at least two miles ahead, so I swung over into the oncoming lane.
"Don't do that."
"Why not? As long as I can see the road ahead, it's perfectly safe."
"No, there might be another car coming. Don't!" Kelly actually lifted his feet from the floor of the cab and cringed into the corner as if there really were an oncoming vehicle.
I brought the truck back to its proper side of the road. If he had thought driving on the wrong side was just an adventure, I would have been forced to give him a stern little lecture on why it was dangerous. I was happy to see that this would not be necessary.
"We need rules, Kel, we need laws. We don't always like them, but we need them. Like, you can't vote unless you're 18 years old. Now you're only 14, but you're a smart kid and I'll bet you could be an intelligent voter, but you can't vote because that's the law. There are some people my age who are too ignorant to vote, but they can do it anyway. But we have to draw a line somewhere, and sometimes people get caught on the wrong side of that line. Maybe that's where you and I are, I don't know. What I do know is that basically it's a good law. It's there to protect you from sexual predators, people who would just want to manipulate you into having sex with them just for their own pleasure, and not care what happened to you. And a lot could happen. Sex is so powerful that if you get too much of it when you're too young it can really mess you up for the rest of your life."
"But I hear kids at school talk about having sex all the time, and they don't get arrested."
"Well, it's a little different if it's someone your own age. But in most states, if you're under eighteen, and you have sex with anybody who is more than four years older than you, then that person is committing a crime."
"So what you did with me is a crime?"
"So the law wants to protect me from you when I want to be with you, but it doesn't protect me from my own... I mean... What about that truck driver?"
"What truck driver?"
"Oh, shit!" Kelly had obviously revealed more than he intended to. There was a fierce anger in him, and it was directed against... whom? He said the law couldn't protect him from his own... something. Something had happened that was close to home, probably that Bible-thumping stepfather. He was too thin, and I had seen the welts on his back. But for right now, there was the matter of that truck driver. Kelly was blushing furiously, and appeared very interested in the backs of his hands.
"Kel, you don't need to be embarrassed in front of me. I love you. As far as I'm concerned, that means you can tell me anything, and I could never hate you for it. I know your stepfather threw you out because of something you did, or he thought you did, but I will never do that. I will never turn you away because of anything you have done." I paused to let that sink in. "And besides, you pretty much gave it away about the truck driver already."
"What do you mean?"
"The first time you got into my camper you offered to, well, to pay me, in a way. You said, 'I know how it works.' You remember?" I took his silence for agreement. "So I guess I know how you got from Cheyenne to that rest area. Is that where you learned 'how it works'?"
It took him some time to pluck up the courage to answer me. "That's what the first trucker who picked me up said. I guess I sounded pretty desperate. He said, 'Well, if you're going to ride with me, you're going to have to know the rules of the road. Here's rule number one. Nobody gives away rides for free. Here's how it works. I give you a ride, you suck my dick. Is it a deal?'" Kelly turned toward me, and he began to cry again. "I'm sorry, Uncle Art, but I wanted to get away from there so bad, and I couldn't think of anything else to do, so I said yes."
I patted his knee to try to give him some encouragement. "You did what you had to do, Kel. When you're desperate, you do desperate things. Was it bad?"
"It was awful. He took me back into that sleeper cab, and he was all hairy and fat and he smelled bad and he pushed my head down so hard on his smelly dick that I couldn't breathe and I almost threw up and when I tried to spit it out he slapped me across the face and he said, 'Swallow it, you little cunt,' and then he just stuffed everything back in his pants and got back behind the wheel and started driving and he just left me lying there and I felt so awful I wanted to die."
It was another five miles before I could find a place to pull over. In the meantime, all I could do was keep one hand on the wheel and rub his back with the other hand, while over and over saying, "You're safe now, Kelly. You're safe, and I love you. I'll never let that happen to you again." By the time I was able to stop he had calmed down, but was still in obvious distress. I turned to him, took his hands in mine, and waited until he looked me in the eye.
"Kelly, I said to you that you can't tell me anything that will make me hate you or ask you to go away. We're going to get through this together. But I need to know what happened to you, so I'm going to have to ask you some more questions. Is that okay?"
I could tell he was not completely sure, but finally he said, "Okay."
"Do we need to stay here for a while, or do you think we can still talk while I drive? Will you be all right if I get us back on the road?"
"Yeah, I think I'll be okay."
I started the truck and got back onto the highway. Once we were up to speed, I picked up more or less where we had left off. "Did that one trucker take you all the way to Sheridan?"
"No. He got in his radio and called some other trucker, and he said, 'I've got some chicken aboard this trip. Meet me at the rest stop north of Cheyenne.' I didn't know what he meant, yet. We got there and about ten minutes later another truck pulled in and the driver came over and opened my door and said, 'You're mine next, kid.' He carried me to his truck and made me do the same thing. He was younger, and he didn't hit me or call me names and he didn't smell as bad. I don't remember how many times this happened, maybe four or five, and one guy slept for a few hours, but the next morning it just started again, and I kept getting sicker, but they didn't care. Finally I just couldn't do it anymore and the last guy just opened the door again and said, 'You ain't worth shit. Get out of my fuckin' truck.' He threw out my backpack and drove away. Every time a truck came in, I hid behind the bathrooms. Finally I thought to move to the side where cars drove in and not trucks. I was hoping somebody with a family would come along, but they didn't. Finally I got up on the picnic table and went to sleep. When you shook me, I thought you were another trucker. That's why I tried to use my knife." Suddenly he looked down at his belt, and felt around his waist. "What happened to my knife?"
"I took it off when I took your clothes the first night. It's in a cabinet in the camper. So listen, Kelly. Those truckers put you through hell. Why did you offer to do the same thing to me?"
"I didn't really want to do it. But you seemed so nice, and I didn't think it would be too bad, and I just figured that what those truckers said was true. But when you said that it didn't work that way with you, and you were going to give me a ride and not make me do anything, then I just knew."
"I knew that you were the one who was going to rescue me."
I didn't quite know what to do with this piece of information. I remembered that just before he went to sleep, Kelly had said, "I knew you would come." But that little mystery could wait until later. What I needed right now was to find out just what I had gotten myself into, just how much Kelly had gone through other than meeting some complete assholes who gave a bad name to the whole trucking industry. He would probably never be able to see a big rig on the road again as long as he lived without feeling nervous.
"Kelly, what those truckers made you do. Had you ever done anything like that before?"
And slowly the story came out, how he and his friend Freddie Watson had slept together the first time Kelly ran away from home, how they had begun to explore their bodies and had discovered the pleasures of mutual masturbation, and eventually the even greater pleasure that one man could give another with his mouth. Freddie's family had gone to Reverend Foster's church, which was why Freddie was the only friend Kelly was allowed to have. By the time Kelly ran away the second time, the Watsons had left that church, and they threatened to report Foster to child services if he forced Kelly to go back before he was ready. Eventually Foster convinced Kelly that everything would be fine if he came home, and Kelly believed that he had to go because the Bible said that children were supposed to obey their parents. And then Freddie's family moved to Seattle. The Watsons insisted that Kelly be allowed to spend one last night with Freddie before they left. The clothing Kelly had put in his pack for that last sleepover were the only things he had when I found him in that Wyoming rest area. He had kept it packed in case the day ever came when he would have to get away.
I asked Kelly why, when he and Freddie sucked each other, he didn't find it disgusting the way it was with the truckers. "I love Freddie," he replied. "We didn't just do sex things. We talked about stuff, and we played PlayStation and sometimes we would just lie in bed at night and hug each other and not do sex stuff at all." This part of the story brought tears to my eyes. I was so afraid that he had gotten into sexual activity as a substitute for love. Instead, he had learned that without love, sex was empty and sometimes revolting.
Kelly's story explained why he started hitchhiking rather than going to the Watsons when his stepfather threw him out. But why had he run away twice before? What information did the Watsons hold over Foster's head? And why did the Reverend finally throw his stepson away? Much as I wanted to know these things, they would have to wait. The east portal to Yellowstone lay directly ahead.
Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.
[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]
* Some browsers may require a right click instead