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Are You Scared Yet?

by J J Janicki

Chapter 11

When I was six, I woke up Christmas morning a little before daylight, and... "It's Christmas!"

It was the same way the next year, and it was almost like that when I was eight. It was the most exciting time of the year, I could hardly wait!

When I was nine though, I almost ruined it. I wasn't past being a little kid, far from it, so if not for the fact that I'd been in their closet a few weeks prior to that, I would have been as excited as ever. It could have been fantastic. I'd run into the living room, rip open that big box that had me almost dying from curiosity, and... "Oh man, oh man, I cannot believe... this is a really big telescope! 90mm! Oh my God!"

Although, at least I hadn't taken it out yet, so I still didn't know if I'd be able to see the rings of Saturn or the moons of Jupiter - or people without their clothes on - so I was definitely looking forward to all that, but it could have been so much better if only I'd waited... or if they'd hid it better... but still, it could have been a complete surprise. Because, believe it or not, I didn't always get everything on my wish list.

Like the sail boat, for instance. That was out, even though I was only asking for a little one-man boat. You'd think you could sail it on the Reservoir in Central Park, but no, you can't. I didn't get the jet skis I wanted, either. And the ATV also turned out to be a non-starter... and really, the telescope seemed to be a bit iffy because of a kid downstairs who'd recently been caught looking into other people's windows. So I had to think that possibly my parents could read my mind because sometimes it seemed as though they really could. (For the record, though, there are some people you don't want to see naked. They might be very nice otherwise, but you definitely do not... )

Well, it wasn't the highlight of the life, so I mostly stuck to astronomy after that.

Actually, though, I was trying to draw another analogy - to the agreement Stephan and I arrived at - and with any luck I still might be able to find it. It came a little before that naked lady. And it was...

Simple. We wanted every step to be special, to be almost like Christmas, so we weren't going to unwrap all our presents at once.

Although when he first mentioned trying to replay it the way it could have been, I was thinking in terms of waiting till later on that night before giving him his first blow job, not an entire week. I mean, were we trying for sainthood or something?

"It'll be something to look forward to, " said Stephan. "It'll be almost like Christmas morning. " (He didn't always get everything he wanted either, by the way. )

"Yeah, but... well, if we already know what we're getting... One week??... Why wait that long if it's not even going to be a surprise... well, except for how good it feels, but-"

"But it can be a surprise. "

"Well, aside from... well okay, how?"

"You don't know when it's going to happen, that's why. It could be that afternoon, it could be that night, it might even be close to midnight, but it'll happen. That day, it will. Haven't you ever heard how anticipation makes it that much better?"

"Yeah, I've heard of that, Stephan, but... do you have any idea what it's like?"

"Being on the receiving end? No, I don't. You already know that. But trust me, I intend to find out. So what do you think?"

When it comes to a poker face, I'm usually not very good at it, but... "Um... well, that sounds interesting, Stephan... So okay, you're on. We'll just do it that way. "

To be honest, the prospect of him doing me first was attractive. It's one thing to talk about it, but actually doingit is a momentous step. I could just imagine it.

But I still wanted to do it to him first, and from the way he was talking it seemed that he was thinking his day to remember was going to start sometime after daylight. Only, it actually starts at midnight.

Oh, he was going to be surprised all right, I was almost sure of it.

I like being surprised, but I think I like surprising other people even more. And the thing was, even if we were going to wait awhile before getting to the good stuff - as in really, really good - we could still surprise each other. All it takes is a little imagination.

As I mentioned, I hadn't gotten much sleep the night before. And I also hadn't gotten much Wednesday night because of camping out and of course, Tuesday, I was tied up for the most of the night. So even though I could have kept going awhile longer just on adrenalin, when Stephan said he was awfully sleepy himself, I thought it was a wonderful idea.

It was so wonderful, I was surprised to discover that I'd actually gone to sleep... for maybe two hours. For awhile, I was simply lying there reveling in the wonderfulness of it all, so I didn't really wantto go to sleep, but eventually I did in spite of myself. I was a bit sleep-deprived, after all, so it helped, but when I woke up again it was even morewonderful. Stephan was still sound asleep, but it was just a nice, peaceful feeling. Blissful. Close to euphoric, in fact. And I'm not sure about this, but it seems like euphoria would sort of negate feeling peaceful. But I was looking at him, and right then he looked so beautiful, so at peace, so...

What I felt was awe. I don't think I've ever felt so happy in all my life.

Then after a little bit, he mumbled something - but still in his sleep - and then he rolled over towards me until his left thigh was over my right thigh. So now I was even happier, although I was feeling a little less peaceful. Blissful and euphoric were both still very much in play though, because I was already on my side facing him, so in no time at all his thigh was sandwiched between mine, and needless to say...

Well, I didn't want to wake him up, but I've also mentioned always wanting a little more, so I sort of sleepily pulled him up close until we couldn't get any closer. I could feel his breath on the side of my face, and it was such a wonderful, blissful, almost peaceful feeling... it was indescribable.

So I probably should stop trying to describe it, but really, it was awesome. Only, of course, I started getting hard, it didn't take any time at all. So I still felt blissful about it - and wonderful as well - but wherever you go, there you are, and when I felt him starting to get hard again as well, that's when it hit me: I'd give him a wet dream! Probably it would still only result in some dampness, but...

First, I wanted to make sure he was asleep. If he were half-awake, it would be nice, but I hoped he was still sound asleep. Because if that was the case, he'd think he really was dreaming. Dreaming that he was being jerked off. Slowly and gently, but eventually his breath would start to quicken and he'd find it difficult not to start squirming. Only I would just keep pulling slow and steady. Although I supposed at that point I'd also start massaging his balls. And maybe a little below that. Depending on whether or not he was still pretending to be asleep. Not that it mattered if he was pretending or if he was watching with wide-eyed wonder, but if it was me, I think I'd pretend, then once it was over, I'd sigh, open my eyes and say, "Thanks. That really was nice. "

So for ten or fifteen minutes I was pretending I was asleep while trying to figure out if he was or not. I finally decided he was right after he almost hit me in my nose with his arm: he just sighed, shifted a bit, and then his arm flopped over. I was pretty sure he'd never hit me in the nose if he wasn't asleep. Only now the trick was to somehow reposition myself, because if he was almost on top of me, it wasn't going to work the way I wanted it to.

So that took a few more minutes' worth of carefully easing away from him, and this also took some will-power because I liked the way it felt with him so close. I'd feel his penis getting stiff, then it would start going soft, only then it would start crawling up my side again, and that's interesting. But beyond that there was the feeling that he trusted me completely and it was also like I was willing to put up with almost any amount of discomfort, because we were in love, but...

It still wasn't the most comfortable position I could imagine. My arm was about to go to sleep. And besides, he said he only wanted to sleep two or three hours anyway.

So with mixed emotions and ever so carefully, I started easing away so I'd have a little more room to work, and when it was over, Stephan said at first he really did think it was a dream. It was about the best he'd ever had, so he hoped it didn't end too soon, because he was thinking he was in his room at home and he was wondering how I got there. You know how it is when you're waking up, facts are often fairly confused, so somehow he knew it was me, and it seemed like it had happened before. I'd jerked him off and he'd done the same to me, but still, he was worried about his parents walking in on us, and that caused him to wake up with a start. Sometimes that's how wet dreams work out, though: just when things are getting good, something awful intrudes, and it becomes a would-be wet dream.

Once I dreamed that for some reason I was about to be arrested. Probably because I was doing it with that street musician I mentioned in chapter three, only we were doing it on the corner of 81stand Lexington during the evening rush. He was jerking me off and I was doing it to him, only he was still playing his electric organ while I was pulling on his other organ. It was a very long organ - his other one - at least four feet, but as skinny as mine. So at first I was enthralled and enjoying the sensations, only then I realized where we were doing it and, sure enough, the police showed up. That was a very bad feeling. But what's interesting is that while I was definitely concerned about being arrested, at the same time I was also worried about the other boy - in fact I was feeling fairly distraught. "What were they going to do to him? Would I ever see him again?"

Curiously enough, though, Stephan said that's what woke him up: he was worried about me getting into trouble and how he might not ever be able to see me again. I bet Sigmund would have a lot of fun with that. "Ahem. Although your animal instincts are still very much in play - neither of you wants it to end prematurely - at the same time, you're deeply concerned about the other person, which is a commendable attribute. However... " and so on...

Personally I think it's commendable without any subsequent qualifiers whatsoever.

But meanwhile, back at the Traveler's Rest Bunkhouse... Stephan gasped, his eyes popped wide open and he started, "Oh! It's... " (giggle) "... Never mind. I'm asleep, " and he shut his eyes again. He enjoyed it and so did I. In a way, I guess I enjoyed it even more knowing that I didn't have to worry about waking him up, because I got to explore all those other erogenous zones. Although I suppose if someone is slowly pulling on your dick, then there's hardly a place that isn't.

Honestly, now I was enjoying going slow. Think about it. When when you're in the middle of a wet dream, do you ever want it to end? No way. But of course, it always does, and once you're over feeling pissed off about it, you accept that simple fact of life, but- I'm right at the edge of something here - realizing that it's not a dream but reality and that it's only going to keep getting better for who knows how long...

Well, why would you ever want to spoil it by opening all your presents early?

So I've managed to get back to my analogy again.

But still, maybe I shouldn't beat it to death with a hammer.

So shortly after Stephan returned to earth, he was wondering if I wanted to go back to sleep myself.

I thought about it, and then I asked, "Are you still sleepy?"

"Not nearly as much as I was, but-"

"So surprise me, then. But not right away. "

... "Well, that's cool enough, I guess, because I have to think of something, but while I'm thinking, you hungry? I'm about to starve. "

"Yeah, I guess I am a little myself. "

"So... well, you know how to cook?... 'Cause I don't. "

"Oh. " I was hoping that he did, but... "Well, how about some soup? We got-"

"What I was really thinking about was scrambled eggs and bacon, " he interrupted. "That would be awesome. "

Then he looked at me hopefully. Damn. He doesn't want Eggos that you can just pop into a toaster, no, it has to be-

"Can you? Do scrambled eggs and bacon? That would be so great... " And now he was looking at me entreatingly, almost.

Well, how hard can it be? You just slice some bacon so it'll fit into the pan... and I'm pretty sure you're supposed to turn it over a few times... that's what the spatula's for... I guess... then when it looks like it's about done, it probably is... so you take it out... and your grease is already in the pan... so then you get some eggs and you-

"I mean, you can, right?"

So, trying not to let on about how unsure of myself I was, I shrugged and said, "No problem. " Then I crawled out of bed and advanced on the cooler. But I still felt like I needed to walk myself through this, so I started, "So okay... Right... So first... "

And after telling him that the bacon always came first, I sliced two pieces in half and plopped it into the pan. "'Course I've never used this burner, but I'd think... yeah, medium, that ought to do all right. So anyway, you have to turn it a few times, that's what the spatula is for, to flip the bacon over once it starts popping. So-"

"If it's gonna do that, then maybe you ought to put your shorts back on, " Stephan advised.

(And Stephan decided to pull his boxers on for awhile too. ) Then he squatted across from me - still looking hopeful - and...

That part came out all right. Nothing to it, just keep turning it - and pressing it down every once in awhile so it would sizzle - so at least it soundedlike I was making some progress... and sure enough...

"Looks like our bacon's about done, " Stephan said.

"Yeah, I think so, " I agreed, "So okay, we take it out with the spatula, and... you see any paper towels or anything? We have to put the bacon somewhere until... Eggs. I sure hope this works.

"I guess we could use that towel Carlie wrapped everything up in, right?"

"Yeah, that should work, " I said. And I almost asked if he'd settle for a simple bacon sandwich, but I got distracted while he was folding the towel on the floor just so. Because while still squatting, his right leg went out, and there it was again. (I'd never looked up his shorts before. )

But at least he hadn't ordered his eggs fried. Had that been the case, I would have tried to talk him out of it, because I'd had some experiences with trying to fry an egg. But whether fried or scrambled, the first problem is cracking the egg cleanly. Making a nice, clean break without the shell coming apart is important, because otherwise you'll have bits of egg shell mixed up with the egg. But still, I was fairly sure I could manage that much.

Even if it wouldn't hurt to mention why it might notwork the way I hoped, so while eying egg number one a bit suspiciously, I remarked, "It would be good if these were eggs laid by free-range chickens. "

"I thought chickens were just chickens, " said Stephan, "What's free-range mean? Does that mean they're running wild?"

Well, stalling couldn't hurt anything, so I explained as best I could. "My mom knows more about this than I do, but according to her, the chickens aren't cooped up in those little cages all the time. She says that's inhumane. But they're not exactly running wild, they're in a big pen, with lots of room to run and play, and they got some exercise equipment... or at least they can chase bugs and dig up dirt and do all the things that makes a chicken happy... but see, unhappy chickens, when they lay their eggs there's usually a lot of membrane inside the shell and so that makes it harder to crack because bits of shell are more likely to stick to the membrane... Or at least, it's possible, but with happychickens, there's not as much membrane, so... you just give it a firm tap on the edge of the pan, pull the shell apart, and... well, I guess that chicken was in a good mood! Cool!"

And while it seemed as though the chicken that laid the second egg might have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed, all the small pieces stayed connected to the membrane, so after a little salt and lots of pepper, I was scrambling the living hell out of those eggs. I was scrambling like mad because I didn't know what else to do with them.

But Stephan said those were the best scrambled eggs he'd ever eaten and I thought they turned out pretty good myself. I was practically beaming with pride.

I did want to remain humble though, so I admitted that the reason I was so good at scrambled was because whenever I tried fried, I kept breaking the yolk whenever I tried flipping it over, so if that was the case, "I might as well just scramble it, right?"

"I like scrambled better anyway, " said Stephan.

"You ever watch a short-order cook? Some of them, they can flip an egg way up in the air, you know? Up, then back in the pan, always on the side he wanted it on... so when I was ten, I thought maybe that was the secret to not breaking the yolk. And besides, it really looked cool, so I tried it at home. "

"So did it work?"

"It ended up on the ceiling. "

"Doofus. "

"Yeah, I guess... But you say scrambled turned out pretty good, huh?"

"It sure did, Nathaniel. "

That was another revelation. It shouldn't have come as a surprise, because after all, if you're going to be around each other constantly, then there has to be some ebb and flow, and just feeling like I was taking care of him was wonderful as well. We were still going to be depending on take-outs from the restaurant a great deal, but what I was feeling was like a warm glow inside and it's one of the best feelings in the world.

But then, sex left me feeling just as good I guess.

Well, it's a different kind of "best feeling in the world", and maybe it's having both of those feelings that makes it so special. Because when he finally came up with a way of taking care of me...

It started like this: we were sitting on the floor feeling full and contented and talking about this and that when he asked, "Remember 'Silver Bullet'? That movie about a boy in a wheelchair because he's a paralytic, and his uncle and a werewolf, you remember, right?"

"Well, I remember wishing... or at least, I wouldn't have minded-"

"You're now crippled... So soon as I can fill the tub... " (sigh)... "I guess I'll have to give you a bath. I hope I don't have to be giving you one for the rest of your life, but for now... " (sigh)... "I suppose we'll do the best we can. "

Sometimes, it was like we could read each other's minds. Although I hadn't been thinking about him giving me a bath, that came as a surprise, but what I was about to say when he interrupted was that I wouldn't have minded giving that crippled boy in the movie a bath very much at all. The boy who played the cripple might mind my making such a comment (even if he's getting close to the big 4-0 by now) but it was only a movie and I thought he was cute.

But meanwhile, back at the Traveler's Rest Bunkhouse, once into the role of being Stephan's care-giver, my more primitive urges had faded into the background. Generally speaking, you wouldn't want your short order cook to have a hard-on while he's preparing your meal anyway, but...

But it wasn't long until everything was mostly at ease, and by the time I was basking in my glory, feeling full and contented and making small talk, I'd forgotten about it entirely. After all, we're not bonobos... not all the time...

Although soon as I knew what he had in mind...

"Oh, don't worry about it, " said Stephan, "at your age, it just happens. " (Snigger)... "It sure did go up quick though... But we're still not going to worry about it, okay?"

"Well... I'll try... I sure wish that darned thing would quit doing that, though. "

"No, Nathaniel, it's good that it keeps doing that. That means it's not crippled, and you sure wouldn't want it to stop working, now would you?"

"Well, no, I don't guess. So-"

"So we'll just slip your shorts off, and... Shit. First, I need to run your water... So don't go anywhere, and as soon as we've taken care of that, we'll be good to go. "

Well, I was beginning to think he neverwas going to get that taken care of. (It was too hot. No, it wasn't hot enough. Too much water. No, not quite enough)... so while I at least remained hopeful, after about five minutes my erection decided it was a false alarm.

But finally... he didn't drop me, we were both concerned about that... but finally... "Yeouch!... Damn, Stephan, I'm sure glad you didn't try putting me in when you thought it was too hot!"

"Oh hush. It's not that hot-"

"It is that hot!"

"Just ease down... You'll get used to it. "

So that took a few more minutes. To get used to it, I mean. Prior to getting used to it, I didn't think it felt very erotic, but eventually, it was nice and soothing, even if I was probably going to come out looking like a prune. Before he got me into the tub I wouldn't have thought that "soothing" would be an adjective I'd be using in trying to describe things - "aroused" would seem to pretty much rule that out - but once I got used to the water, it honestly was. Soothing. It was like I was a little kid again and he was my big brother, and it almost seemed innocent. We were good role-players. So I was a crippled boy and Stephan was only doing what had to be done. He remained professional and, once again, he washed my hair and my face and my arms and under my arms and my chest and my back... and my chest... and my tummy and my...

"Guess we need to get your feet now, don't we?" said Stephan. So he was still pretending to be professional about it, even though by then he was obviously aroused as well. At his age though, it happens, so there was no need to worry about it. Much.

He was washing between my toes. "This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed at home... " and so on, but because my feet are ticklish, I wasn't sure if I wanted him to get to the "Wee wee wee" bit.

So innocently as I could manage I remarked, "Gosh, Stephan, it looks like you're getting a... stiffy too... You're tickling!"

"Oh, well... it happens to me too... Sometimes. "

"But it's nothing to be ashamed of, right?"

"Of course not. It just happens, that's all. "

"So can I see it?"

"... You're supposed to be crippled. "

"Well, I'm not supposed to be blind... and I haven't ever seen a big one like yours before... so I was wondering if-"

"I gotta finish giving you your bath first!... Okay?"

... "Well... okay, I'm sorry. But... I don't know, sometimes I just have these urges, and... well, I'll play right, I promise... but can I look at it later on maybe?"

"Maybe. I need to think about it some, but... let's finish your bath first. "

And so he washed my calves and behind my knees and then moved on up my thighs and then... and then...

"I guess we need to drain some of the water out now. "

So that took a little while longer, and I was getting goose bumps, only these weren't as much from anticipation as they were from being exposed to an air-conditioned room right after being in a tub.

"We need to find a tub at a flea market or some place, " Stephan remarked. "Maybe one of those old-timey deals... You getting cold?"

"Yeah, but only where the water ain't no more, other than that, I'm fine. "

"... Well, we're almost finished, so... you think you can hang in there just a little longer?"

"Yeah, okay, " I chattered. By then, most of me was out of the water. I was sitting in some, but other than that, it was uncomfortable. But then I noticed that his stiffy was sticking out of his fly. Only he was pretending he didn't notice it, so I pretended I didn't either. But I did feel better. Another revelation!

Obvious pun aside, it was, because you'd think the novelty of it would have worn off by then, but it hadn't! I didn't say anything - because like I said, I was pretending not to notice - but inside I was like: "Ohhhh!" So maybe it was because we were pretending. It can a lot of fun, you know?

Especially when he told me about the facts of life. He'd started washing it because it had to be done, so it wasn't long until I was squirming.

So he casually remarked, "Sort of tickles, doesn't it?"

"Um... yeah... you might say so... Why does it do that?"

"That's an interesting question - as to why it does that - but it does... but all boys can have that feeling, did you know that?"


"Really. And it can feel even better, did you know that? An awful lot better. "

"No way, man!... Well, it does seem like it could feel a little better, but still-"

"So I take it that you've never given yourself a quiver?"

"What's that?"

"You've never made stuff come out of your penis?"

"Stuff? I'm always peeing, but... you mean there's some kind of other stuff?... Oh boy... Well... it is... sort of... feeling- Oh!... maybe just a little-"

"Better? It's feeling better?"

"Yeah, I... think... that was the... word I was... looking... "

"So you want me to show you how to make it feel a whole lot better?"

I most certainly did.

So he showed me how and all I can say is, wow.

Well, okay, wow!!!! along with all the interesting sound effects up until I reached that part, and it's also a good thing that the tub wasn't filled to the top because, had that been the case, there would have been water all over the floor. It almost felt like the time I found out what happened if you kept messing around with it and I didn't think it was possible to even come close to ever recapturing that feeling again.

I liked playing make-believe when I was little, but then I mostly outgrew it. But maybe that was only because I never knew just how much fun make-believe could be. And since it was only a little past three in the afternoon... how much better could it get?

It wasn't that we didn't try, but as the day wore on it seemed to be taking more and more time to recharge our batteries, and by that evening we were almost worn out. So we were just talking about things.

Although we were still talking about sex, but we were mostly talking about it in a theoretical sense, because we were discussing the first three chapters of my story. As in thisstory, that much I'd finished. So assuming that he'd have his laptop with him - which he did - I'd saved those chapters on a memory stick.

So while he was reading, though, it wasn't as much about sex as it was about whether or not he appreciated my efforts. I was probably acting like an expectant poppa outside the maternity ward: I was anxious. I hoped he liked it - I realize that's an obvious thing to say - but then I always hoped my mom would like what I wrote as well. Not that I ever presented anything of a pornographic nature to her - I guess that's also fairly obvious - but...

Well, of courseI hoped my mom liked it. Really, I hoped everybody in the whole wide world liked it, but I particularly wanted her to like it, and she almost always did whether she was just trying to make me feel good or not. She's my mom, after all. So even if it made me feel good, it's not like I should put too much weight on her opinion.

So in that respect I have to take Stephan's with a grain of salt as well... but he liked it a lot, even if he wasn't too sure about the way I ended the third chapter. He said I should have ended it here: Then he (Earl) went under. He'd just found a place too deep to wade. Way too deep. Then, seconds later, he came thrashing back up and sputtered, "I can't swim!" Then he went back under again. I had a perfect cliffhanger ending, only then I gave it all away.

So a bit wounded, I said, "Well, I couldn't end it that way... And anyway, I ended it with not one, but three cliffies. Three!"

"Yeah, but I could tell you weren't being serious, so... well, except maybe for the last one, where Earl's voice sounded funny, but see... I mean, it's a good story, Nathaniel, but so far, the one thing it seems to lack is conflict. Good stories always have some, and to be honest, there doesn't seem to be any in yours so far. It's like you never want to be serious about... well, about anything. "

"Well, can't I be serious about notbeing serious? I mean, I could be realserious if I wanted to be. The deal with my dad... it does bother me because he could be a good father when he wasn't too busy... so there's lots of potential in that and it's the same with your parents. But I'm not very good at that. "

"Well, me neither, I'd rather not think about it... But still, I'm just wondering where you're going to get your conflict from, that's all... Once you were serious though, and that gave me goose bumps. When you were talking about being in love, I was like... God! It still blows me away. "

So his saying that did help some - quite a bit, actually - but still, "Yeah, well, that's because you're self-centered. And speaking of conflict, if your parents ever find out where you're at right now, I bet we'd have some conflict there... "

Stephan giggled, "So that's why I'd just as soon not think about it, okay?"

Then we lapsed into thoughtful silence for awhile - thinking about what we didn't want to think about any more, so it honestly wasn't working out very well - but eventually he brightened and asked, "Well, how about Carlie and Earl? You think they're gonna have any conflict?"

"You're not hoping they do, are you?"

"Well, no... I'm like you, I try to avoid it as much as possible and I don't want people I like to have any, so it's not like I'm looking for it-"

"Well, unless you want to count telling Julian Pryor to go fuck himself, I guess not. "

"Except he didn't know what I said, so that doesn't really count, either. "

It really was a perplexing question, how to have some conflict when we didn't want to have any, but then the next morning at a little after ten, Carlie anxiously tapped on our door and asked, "Hey you guys, you ready to go? I've got a problem. I'm about to go out of my mind, so... " Conflict! Yes! ... I mean, "Oh no!... "you want to ride around for awhile?"

The first thing I noticed was that he was driving his dad's Lexus that day. It was in good shape for a car with almost 300, 000 miles on it - the air conditioner didn't work, but aside from that it looked good and ran good. There were some fuses in the electrical system that needed to be replaced, but it had a killer stereo system.

Only that wasn't the source of conflict, it was just the first thing I noticed. That, and the fact that we both couldn't sit in front because it has bucket seats. So we'd both be in the back seat. But we'd lean forward, so hopefully Carlie still wouldn't have any trouble explaining why he was about to go insane.

"So where we going?" I wondered. I thought that was a good place to start from because we weren't headed towards Oxmar, we were going in the opposite direction.

"The hospital in Bismarck, " Carlie started, "that's where Earl's at now. Last night we had to take Abe. He wasn't getting better, he was getting worse. He couldn't even walk. Not since... well, really not since Thursday, only I didn't know... and Earl didn't know either... but... God. What a mess. "

I'm just reporting what Carlie said - almost verbatim - so, understandably, I still wasn't sure what he was trying to tell us. "So is it serious? Abe, I mean, is it bad?"

Carlie sighed. "From what they were able to find out last night, it is and it isn't. That pulled muscle was no such thing, he had a blood clot... It's in a minor vein - that's what they said in Bismarck - but the bad news is it's in his leg, so he might not be able to walk any for a month or even longer. and I'm not sure if me and Earl can take much more. I know we need to help... and we want to... but Abe can absolutely drive you crazy!"

So I was about to say that, even though I didn't know him very well, I already had the the impression that he could try your patience, but I didn't get any further than "Well, I-" before Carlie started venting in earnest.

"You know where his bedroom is? Upstairs. You want to know how much junk he has all over his stairs? You wouldn't believe it. You just wouldn't believe it, not in a million years. And we had to move all that junk. Only he said it wasn't junk, it was worth something and he wanted it where he could find it so he didn't want us messing it up but we couldn't get him up the stairs without probably killing ourselves and him too if we didn't move it... " (At times, there could be a comma deficiency, but that's because, once started, he wasn't overly bothered with them. )... "and the thing was, " (Except for sometimes when he needed to catch his breath), "we tried to tell him it would be better if he slept downstairs but he said he couldn't sleep any place but in his own bed and I'll tell you something else, his vocal chords sure as hell aren't crippled, but we finally got him up those damn stairs in a chair and I don't know how we kept from killing ourselves but we tried to pick him up with our hands under his legs, but he kept yelling, 'You're killing me, you're killing me, it hurts, put me down!', so we did. So we'rethinking that he'd give up on upstairs, but that's when he came up with his stupid chair idea. We kept trying to tell him it wasn't going to work, but noo! But we finally got him upstairs and in bed and we're killing him the whole entire time... I swear, he almost busted my ear drums. But we got him in his bed only then he was wanting to kn ow if he was supposed to sleep in his clothes and... "

And now that I have the gist of it, I'll try to summarize, starting with the sensitive issue of an old man wanting to be undressed. Completely.

... Well, okay, I'll start somewhere else, then. I mean...

Maybe it's that we'd just as soon not be introduced to what we'll probably be looking like if we ever reach Abe's age. If I ever do, then I suppose I'll have the right to do as I please, but I'd just as soon not deal with it now and, poetic justice or not, that's also how Carlie looked at it. Fortunately, though, Earl said he'd take care of it, they finally had him in bed, so Carlie could go on back downstairs.

Only, two hours later Abe woke them up hollering about how they had to take him back downstairs, because he couldn't sleep and he was hurting worse than ever.

So they went bounding up the stairs and then Carlie was like: "Um... well, I... um... I mean... well, could he... well, you know... "

Or in other words: "Oh dear. "

And Earl wasn't thrilled to death either. So let's see here...

Well, let's try summarizing one more time. They were waiting on Abe hand and foot and there were times when he tried their patience.

But at any rate - I'm through summarizing now - the pain in Abe's leg kept getting worse and worse until finally he relented and said they could take him to another hospital. Obviously they didn't know what they were doing in Dickinson, so they ended up in Bismarck, even if it's eighty-six miles further on up the Interstate. Once they'd finallyconvinced Abe, they weren'ttaking any chances on him changing his mind, so Carlie called his dad right away. Only he was tied up - as in being en route to tow someone - so he said, "You better drive him in yourself. And hurry!... But be careful with my Lexus, you hear?"

And so they did. I'm not sure about the careful part, but they did hurry. Only from the way they were talking, they were probably going to keep Abe at least overnight - much to his displeasure - so...

So since it was on the way to Bismarck - only about thirty-five miles away - that's how we ended up seeing New Salem Sue, the world's largest fiberglass cow. It's quite a sight.

Stephan thinks he'd like to be a doctor. Even if at last count, there were at least fourteen otherthings he'd like to be as well. (If it's a doctor though, he's now thinking about specializing, and it'll be in a field that isn't likely to involve patients like Abe. ) But anyway, Stephan looked at that cow and then he walked underneath it and finally he said, "It looks like endomyocardial fibrosis to me. Fairly advanced case, I'd say. "

So of course we were looking at him like, "Huh?"

"Bulging veins. Don't you think so?"

I googled "bulging veins" later, and... he's right.

We saw that cow, so I thought I should mention it. One way or another, I was going to get it into this story. It's an amazing sight. Almost surreal.

Really, it was! In fact, I could even send a pic of New Salem Sue. Just ask, okay?

And that was not a thinly-veiled plea for more feedback, either.

Actually, it was pretty blatant. I'll carry on, no matter what, but I honestly wouldn't mind.

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