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Are You Scared Yet?

by J J Janicki

Chapter 18

Stephan's master plan was this: I had to convince my mom that she should start back to school somewhere in Seattle. Simple.

Only, about six hours later, I thought to myself that it couldn't possibly work, it was too much to hope for. And that's in spite of the fact that I've always had a fairly optimistic outlook on life. No matter how bad things look, eventually it's going to work out all right.

So by no stretch of the imagination am I a hard-headed realist, but I'm still more in touch with reality than Stephan usually seems to be. I loved him for his optimism, but sometimes, you have to face facts. I looked at him, blissfully asleep beside me, and I sighed. Then I went downstairs and found Elliott nursing his first cup of coffee.

So if there's one thing a realist needs first thing in the morning, that's it, and after a few sips it was time to start investigating. I'd more or less promised my mom to see what I could find out, so I peered over my cup at Elliott and started, "So. This might sound like a strange question, but right off the top of your head, do you know of any universities or colleges in Seattle?"

"Definitely, " he replied without the slightest pause, "you could start with The University of Washington. Reason I know, they're in the Pac-10. If it's a Division One school, then I know where they're located. So for example, Washington State is in Pullman, Oregon is in Eugene, Oregon State is in Corvallis, Stanford is in-"

"Well, I think my mom would just be interested in the school, not what athletic conference they're in, so... University of Washington, huh? Probably pretty big then.... Enrollment-wise."

"Oh, I'd bet on it.... So your mom's thinking about going back to school?"

"Yeah, " I said wryly, "now she wants a degree in Women's Studies. They're probably not many schools with programs like that, but at least I can check it out for her."

"So is your mom one of those radical feminists?"

"No, she's kooky."

"Like Shirley MacLaine?"

... "Close enough."

"That's cool, I guess.... But anyway, I'd almost bet that the U of W has a Women's Studies program."

And sure enough, they did, but after taking a look at their course offerings: "Indigenous Feminisms", "Masculinities: Contestation, Circulation, and Transformation", (which sounded threatening) "Cross Disciplinary Feminist Theory"... and so on, (I stopped counting at fifty), I was starting to wonder, because it all sounded so serious. They even managed to make "Queer Desires" (Women 464) sound like not very much fun. I really like my mom the kook, but my mom the militant? I wasn't too sure about that.

But, oh well, there was no way she could start classes until the Winter Quarter and the deadline for her to apply for that was September 15th. And besides, after a quarter -or even before - she could decide on something else. Like Oceanography, for instance. Global Health had a nice Florence Nightingale ring to it... or Drama! Or how about Digital Arts and Experimental Media?

Or possibly Slavic Language and Literatures. (Among other course offerings there was first and second year Bulgarian.)

But never mind all that, because the first trick was getting her in Seattle.

So first, I rehearsed. There was no way of predicting the direction a talk like that could veer off to, but I didn't think it would hurt to anticipate some of her possible objections. Only, knowing how much was at stake made me nervous. So of course there was a good chance I'd sound nervous on the phone, and if that was the case, then all my planning ahead might only serve to make it sound more contrived...

And parents are good at picking up on things like that, so finally I just gave up and made the call, whether I was ready or not.

But I still can't believe the direction our conversation went off to and how quick it happened. Once past "Hi mom" and she'd call me right back, I started, "Well, believe it or not... you know... well, you said you were interested in Women's Studies, right?"

Then I took a deep breath and started over. "So I've been looking... some, and I think I've found a really good school. It's at the University of-"

"New Mexico, " she finished. "Say it's the University of New Mexico, because that's exactly what I'm thinking myself."

So finally I managed, "No, that wasn't it. What's in New Mexico?"

"Well, aside from what I've just mentioned...", then after a short pause, "But since you've gone to all that trouble, what school were you thinking of?"

So it sounded as though her mind was already made up, but in spite of that I stammered, "Well, the University of Washington. It's in Seattle and um... well, I looked and they say that it's one of the best schools... around for... well, you know... for Women's Studies."

Meanwhile, Stephan was googling "New age, New Mexico". Then he punched my arm and pointed out the first result. It started like this: "From DH Lawrence to Jack Kerouac, New Mexico has long been a magnet for artists, misfits, seekers and visionaries." We were facing an uphill struggle.

It really seemed that we were, because even though she didn't have access to her computer at the time, apparently she still had a mother's intuition. "Well, I appreciate your taking the time to look, Nathaniel, but... why Seattle?"

So I could've mentioned that, within the lower 48, Seattle was about as far away from Orlando as you could possibly get, but I forgot. Even if it didn't matter, because if you fly like most people, then it's only only about six hours.

But I was also going to mention the weather. It's warmer in Seattle in the winter than in NYC. Not that it ever really gets warm in Seattlein the winter -and it's often not so warm even in the summer... but that's good too, right?

Well, possibly, but I never mentioned that either. Instead I started with: "I just think it would be a good city to live in. I mean..." (flash of inspiration) "I was going on the assumption that you were wanting me to be with you."

"Well, of course I do! I've missed you, Nathaniel, and I'm hoping that you've at least missed me a little." That's why with her, it's never a good idea to play the guilt card, but with so much at stake I still wasn't ready to give up completely.

"I've missed you a lot, I really have, but... well, if we move to New Mexico... well, that'll be the fourth time for me in just a few months, you know?"

"So wouldn't Seattle be your fourth as well?"

"But I don't know anybody in New Mexico. I'd have to start all over again... making friends, and... well, the thing is, I do know somebody in Seattle." (And at that point, I heard a sharp intake of breath from Stephan, so I glanced over, and his eyes were practically bugging out.)

"You know someone in Seattle, " my mom started speculatively, "It's not someone you met in one of those chat rooms, is it?"

"No, it's nothing like that. I don't mess around with that, because you never know who you're really talking to. I know that much, mom, but..." (I was almost in over my head anyway...)

So, "You remember Stephan?" (He gasped.) "He's the best friend I ever had, " I continued, "and you said yourself how nice he seemed to be, but you see, we're... well, we're alike, all right? I mean, it's not like... well, you know, because we talked about it once, remember? But we're not... I mean, we didn't... do much... you know, when they invited me to go with them... you know, right after school let out, but..."

Then I trailed off and started sniffling, and whether it's over something important or not, if I start doing that, it's not on purpose. But it's been known to happen and whenever it does my mom is always going to try to console me. Of course, if what I was upset about wasn't very important, she'd point that out, but...

But this was different and she knew it. (Fortunately, she didn't catch that near slip of mine. "We're not..." present tense. That was close!) (And that probably had as much to do with me losing it just a little as anything, because I was afraid I'd just blown it all to hell.)

Only, I hadn't. "Nathaniel, I'm listening to you, all right? But I'm a little mixed up. So in the first place, are you saying that the Traffanstedts are living in Seattle now?"

"No..." sniff... "Stephan is. He's with his sis-" (sniff) "-ter.... But he hates it, because his sister..." (sniff)... "well, she's not very responsible. And it's going to be hard for him to study like he should. But-"

"So why isn't he with his parents, then?" interrupted my mom.

And it was a good place for it, because that last line of reasoning was doomed almost from the start -the bit about his not being able to study -unless...

Well, never mind. But giving her the lowdown on Stephan's dad at least allowed me to stop sniffling. Because it was embarrassing and I feel better if I can play the role of a worldly-wise (and somewhat gossipy) pragmatist. And it was just as well that I'd shifted into that role, because that's when my mom mentioned that she'd finalized divorce proceedings. My dad was still in parts unknown, but we both knew it was only a matter of time. Then he was going to prison, there was no way around it, so...

"He left us, Nathaniel. I'm sorry it had to work out this way, but it was his doing."

... "Yeah, I guess." (While not totally unexpected, it still hadn't completely settled.)

"So that brings us back to where we're going to live, " continued my mom, "and if you honestly think you'll be happier in Seattle, I'll at least consider it. I can't give you a definite answer right now, but I suppose I could take a look at what the University of Washington has to offer. All right?"

"Yeah, okay, " I said very carefully. Because I almost knew right then that she was going for it.

I mean, I wasn't positive, but as soon as I hung up I said, "I think she's going for it. She's going for it, Stephan, I really think she is!"

"I can't believe you told her about us. I can't believe you did that, " said Stephan, "and you almost spilled everything!"

"But I caught myself just in time.... Yeah, that was close. But really, she's cool with it. At least the part about me being gay... even if she probably wishes I'd wait a little longer, and okay, I'm sure she has some doubts about your mom... whether she'd approve or not, but the thing is, your mom's already sent you off to your sister's, right? So apparently it's all up to her now. Your sister, and like you said, she's not going to care one way or the other. Right?"

"If she knew I was gay, she'd probably want to send me back. She's like a Barbie. Or a cheerleader. You know, the bitchy kind? It used to make me sick.... But she's not going to care if I'm at your place most of the time.... Do you really think your mom's going for it? Really?"

My mom believes in lots of kooky causes, like for example: children's rights. So in that case, it's only that a lot of people in our society think the idea of children's rights is the height of permissiveness, but I'm not assuming that it's automatically wrong, and more importantly, she doesn't either. So maybe there's something to this New Age stuff after all.

I guess so, because I thought I'd have to wait a day or so for her answer, only I got it about two hours later.

And she went for it. She'd be in Seattle on Saturday, August 29th. Only thirty-six days more days!

So first we asked Elliott about taking a different route to Vancouver, and we were fairly sure we'd have no trouble talking him into it. Up until then he was planning to go up to the Trans-Canada Highway and then on to Vancouver, but the problem was, first he'd go to Calgary, then through a good deal of Banff National Park... and then through Yoho National Park... followed by Glacier and Revelstoke National Parks... then he'd start going back down to Vancouver, and it would be 1343 miles. But if he were to take the Interstate into Seattle, thenon up to Vancouver, it would only be 1197 miles. Although we might take a few scenic detours just to make up for not being able to see any of Banff, Yoho, Glacier and Revelstoke, so in that case, it would be...well, a little further, but even so...

Only he said, "The truth is, I'm not sure if I have enough money to go either way. I might have to give up on it."

"Oh, " I said. And then I thought about it for a few seconds, and, "Hey, Stephan, how far is it from Vancouver to Seattle?"

So after quickly consulting the road map atlas: "143 miles."

So okay, then. Problem solved. "The thing is, Elliott, my mom's going to pay my way to Seattle, all right? 'Course, she'll probably be thinking about me flying out, I guess from Billings, but if I said I wanted to go by bus, I'm sure she'll be okay with that too. So if I were to say that you're a good friend of Carlie's, and you're almost seventeen and just as responsible as... You want to be an Eagle Scout? That'll work.... So anyway, you're very responsible, so I don't think she'll mind you driving us to Seattle. She'll probably say it sounds like fun. And it really will be. So if I want to go that way, of course she'll pay for the gas. And food and other expenses. So it'll take just as much gas for me and you and Carlie and Earl-I'm not going to mention Stephan -but still, it'll take as much for four of us as it will for five. So what do you think?... It sounds like a pretty good plan, to me."

I thought it was almost perfect, but after a pause Elliott said, "Well, yes and no."

"I can pay for the gas up from Seattle to Vancouver easy, " said Stephan. "I won it playing darts, so it doesn't matter, because I'd really like to see Vancouver."

"Yeah, me too, " I added. "So once Carlie and Earl are on their way back from Seattle... if they can go, that is... and I sure hope they can, but anyway..."

Then Elliott cut in again with: "Look. It's not just the money.... I have to think about it, all right?"

Well, not only did he think about it, until Sunday he wouldn't even tell us what the problem was. So that left us to wonder if he'd had a falling out with Markus. That was Earl's guess.

Then once when it was the two of us, Stephan surmised that possibly one was simply telling the other that they should wait awhile longer, and maybe for them, it was a good thing.

Then he added that he was still glad wehadn't waited, so there was that much, but even so, I had to blurt out, "But it won't be as much fun if they wait!"

Stephan glanced over at me and asked, "Well, how would youknow? It's like I said, I'm glad we're not waiting until we're eighteen... or fourteen for that matter, but one thing we'll never know is whether it would've been better if we'd waited. We both would have wanted it, but if all that other stuff hadn't happened and things had stayed the same, then maybe neither one of us would have ever felt like we had nothing to lose by coming out, so maybe we would have just kept feeling each other out until we were sixteen or eighteen, but if we'd waited that long, don't you think we would have still been in love?"

"Well, yeah. I'm sure of it, but-"

"And either way, " Stephan continued, "it's going to be just as much fun.... Or, at least, I sure hope so. As much as it is now."

"I hope so too.... And I can't see it ever not being fun. Because for one thing... um... well, um-"

"Our dicks should be bigger, " Stephan finished.

"Yeah, Stephan, by the time we're sixteen, I'm sure they will be. And I'm sure we'll be able to make the necessary adjustments."

Then we both started sniggering again.

So we were still on track and that was the most important thing, but even so, it's something that bothers me to no end: the idea that at thirteen, we're too young, that we shouldwait... until when? It's definitely not fourteen. Fifteen, maybe? That's a little more acceptable. Except for one thing. In most states, it would still be illegal. In fact, it would still be illegal in some states until we're eighteen! Why?Because the state wants to protect us. From what? Sex, of course.

It wasn't long after...well, it was back in the third chapter when I was talking to my mom in general terms about being gay. Only I trying to get an idea as to when I might reasonably expect to be having some sex.

But I didn't get an answer (because I was limiting myself to generalities), so a few days later I called one of those gay hot-lines. It could have been worse, because by now I have the feeling some of those guys on call wouldn't have even talked to me. It might have ended this way: "You're twelve. And you're upset because your cousin doesn't want to jerk off with you. Well, look kid, we deal with real problems here, so why don't you do us both a favor and wait until you have some real problems of your own, all right? Good bye."

So if I'd thought of it, then I might have said, "If I'm thinking about killing myself, is that enough of a problem to bother you with?" I wasn't thinking about offing myself, but someone else my age, who knows? It happens. And sometimes you almost have to know that the reason is that the twelve-year-old is gay and nobody will even talk to him about it unless they limit themselves to platitudes about waiting until he's old enough to talk about it.

Because in so many words, that's what the guy I talked to was saying.

I'll admit this much, though: aside from the fact that I'm once again a little off track, if I were in that guy's position and say, a nine-year-old asked a question like that, then I have no idea how I would have gone about answering him. Is it because I think nine-year-olds shouldn't mess around any? Beyond a doubt, boys that age have been doing stuff like that for time immemorial -not all boys, but certainly some - and I've already said that I wouldn't have minded if Stephan had showed mehow to go about it at that age, so my not knowing what I'd say to this imaginary nine-year-old doesn't mean that I think it's wrong, but I suppose the truth is that I'm as much a product of our society as anyone else. I wouldn't even be comfortable talking to a nine-year-old about something like that. I don't think I should be, but I'd be scared to. Soo...

So okay, then. The fact that I didn't mess around at age nine because I didn't have a clue in no way makes it any less fun right now. So ifStephan and I had continued cautiously feeling each other out until we were fifteen or sixteen, once past that, I wouldn't be in mourning over what we didn'tdo when we were thirteen, because we'd still be having loads of fun. I'm glad we didn'twait that long, but the way society is now...

"Yeah, I guess if Elliott or Markus think they should wait, it's their life, " I finally admitted.

"Well, it's very big of you to say that, " said Stephan.

"Oh, shut up, " I replied.

That afternoon, (Friday), our bunny rabbit costumes arrived. Two sinister-looking Frank the Bunny suits and three Bugs Bunny suits, but not our ears and tails, and after trying on one of the Bugs Bunny suits, we quickly surmised that if Elliott was going on the trip, then the head would have to go. Most of the time he'd be driving, and the problem was, you had almost no peripheral vision with the head on. So I could easily see him saying that it was unsafe and if we were ever pulled over, then the officer would probably be looking at it the same way.

But of course, that was if Elliott was even going and then we still had to talk him into wearing the suit -along with a pair of rabbit ears -which hopefully would arrive by Monday...

So we hid the suits in the attic. Because, after all, we also had to convince Carlie, and we didn't know how that was going to work out either.

At least we saw no signs of squirrels.

Like I said, though, until Sunday none of us had a clue as to what was going on with Elliott. Only, Carlie was saying that we were still going on a road trip.

"To Yellowstone, " added Earl.

Well, we'd talked about it and we definitely wanted to see it before it blew up. It was the cover story in the latest National Geographic. "Yellowstone -Supervolcano - What Lies Beneath The Park". Although at the end of the article a geologist who was supposed to be the preeminent expert said that he thought the caldera was safely bottled up because of the earth's crust being much thicker than it was 640, 000 years ago (last major eruption) and much muchthicker than 2.1 million years ago. Even though there was still that "you can't ever tell for sure" bit. So the one 640, 000 years ago was about 1000 times worse than Mt. St. Helens and the one 2.1 million years ago was roughly 2500 times worse. If we have another like that, it'll be all to fucking hell and the end result will be another ice age that might eventually wipe out all life forms on Earth.

I was still going on "Current stirrings may be the remnants of of a past eruption or early harbingers of a still far-distant cataclysm, " though. As in not in our lifetime. Even if you can't ever tell for sure, so yeah, Stephan and I thought it would be an interesting side-trip.

But I still had to ask. "So now you're thinking you'll drive out-of-state after all? You sure that's a good idea?"

"We're not driving, we're going by horseback, " said Carlie.

"That would be wild!, " said Stephan, "Where will we get our horses from?" The closest either of us had ever been to being on a horse was at a pony ride, but apparently hethought that idea made perfect sense.

"Well, I'm not positive, but I think I can talk my uncle into it, " started Carlie.

Then Earl cut in with, "I looked it up, and it's only 340 miles."

So in the first place, I think the site Earl visited for that information must have been giving mileage in terms of how a crow flies, because I looked it up later, and it's 443 miles -by highway, because obviously horses can't go the same way a crow would go. So, what with private property, you'd almost have to follow a road as long as that road isn't an Interstate, because they do not allow horses on Interstates, but even if it was "only" 340 miles, I still thought that was 338 miles too far. Generally speaking, of course, but Stephan was still all for it. And of course Carlie and Earl were too, even though Carlie's only previous experience in riding a horse was when he rode in front of his uncle around the barn a few times, and Earl had once been in a donkey race at a county fair. And he fell off. But in spiteof all that, they all thought it was a great idea.

So in the second place, I still doubt if Carlie's uncle would have let us borrow his horses, but what Carlie was thinking was, he'd let his uncle run his Hemi Plymouth at a drag strip while we were gone. His uncle had been bugging him about that for quite awhile, apparently.

My horse was named Atilla. It could have been Buttercup and I still would have had my doubts, but in spite of that, I allowed myself to be boosted up -and, believe it or not, Atilla was as gentle as he could be. (He was a gelding.) But I was still expecting him to be sneaky or at least a little resentful.

Only he wasn't. He was very docile, as was Stephan's horse (Benito, who was also a gelding), and Carlie's (Annie) and even Earl's. (Adolph. He was a gelding as well.) Those poor horses.

At first it wasn't too bad, but that was because we were letting them walk. We had to get used to it, after all, but they weren't trying to throw us off and they didn't seem to be inclined to break into a full gallop, so it wasn't much longer until we had the horses cantering or trotting or something. Only, your legs have to be opened up wider than normal, because horses are sort of wide, and if you're not used to it, then that in itself is going to cause some sore muscles -it'll not take long at all -but when you start cantering or whatever, then you're bouncing. Not very high, but still, up and down, and after half an hour of that, me and Stephan were thinking about riding side saddle, no matter what it looked like... except we were afraid we'd fall off... but fortunately, Carlie gave up first. As in: "Oh... this... ouch!... This... whoa! Shit!... Whoa, damn you!"

So Annie did -thank God -and then Carlie said, "I'm... getting... off!"

And even more fortunately, Atilla, Benito and Adolph also knew what "Whoa, damn you" meant, and we all limped back to the barn where Carlie's uncle was laughing his ass off. And I think the horses were amused as well.

But driving back from our great experiment, I said, "Hey, Carlie. You know anybody who has some elephants?"

So Carlie promptly gave me the finger, but once back, we discovered our road trip was on after all. And we also found out what had been bugging Elliott. Almost out of nowhere, Markus was wanting to come out publicly. And not only that, he thought Elliott should as well. At a new school Elliott was supposed to do this, so of course he was having some second thoughts. He asked, "Seriously, are you guys -when you get to Seattle, are you going to come out?"

"No way!" said Stephan.

"Yeah, we're not much into being martyrs right now, " I added. "We'll be in the eighth grade in a public school, so it'll be enough of a problem getting used to that, but come out?... I don't think so."

Earl asked, "But if you were back in New York, then would you?"

"In the eighth grade?Hell, no.... Are you and Carlie planning on coming out?"

"No, we don't want to be martyrs either, " said Carlie. "That's when you get killed, right?"

"Well, we could be, " said Earl.

"That's what I thought, " said Carlie. "No, I don't want to."

"But by the time you're Seniors, you think you might then?" (Elliott.)

Well, we all doubted if we would then either. Stephan and I, if we were back in New York, maybe, but we wouldn't be flaunting it.

And if we're still in Seattle... well, again, maybe by the time we're Juniors or Seniors, because if nothing else, you'd figure Seattle's big enough to have places gay kids can meet and talk.

"Yeah, maybe I'll mention that to Markus, because Vancouver's pretty big, too, " said Elliott, "but I sure don't want to... flaunt it yet."

"So we're all going to think about how he can maybe convince Markus, " said Earl, "but first, we're going on a road trip, right?.... Because that'll give us more time to come up with a good way of convincing him not to come out right away. So you're going to, right?"

So Elliott said if we wanted to pay for the gas, he would. He might as well, because he was more than 1800 miles from Greensboro, and what his dad had told him was: if he ran out of money, he was on his own.

Only then Carlie mentioned that we wouldn't be going straight from Yellowstone to Seattle, no, from there we'd go on to Las Vegas.

I was dumbfounded. "Las Vegas?"

"My mom lives there, remember? So my dad said he'llpay for the gas down there -so if your mom's going to pay for the gas from here to Seattle, well, guess what, it's only 1166 miles from Vegas to Seattle, so..."

"If we're going to Vegas, then we might as well go on to Buffalo Bill's, " said Stephan. "That's where the Desperado is."

It's a roller coaster. When it first opened, it was the tallest, fastest and steepest in the world. and even though it's no longer number one in any of those categories, I still thought there was a good chance it would scare the shit out of Carlie and Earl,! It was only 44 miles from Las Vegas to Buffalo Bill's in Primm, which is just before you reach the California state line. So we'd visit there, then we'd go straight up to Seattle.

Only, looking at the map, we noticed that we wouldn't be too far from Death Valley. The highest temperature ever recorded in the U.S. was at Furnace Creek, CA. And that's in Death Valley. 134°. Imagine!

Well, okay, it happened in 1913, but still, the average summertime high is above 120° and some of the vistas looked soo awesome... so brooding and mysterious...

So we'd to go there too.

Only, then Yosemite National Park is pretty much on your way from Death Valley to Seattle... not straight there, but even so...

"And you know what? Then we could cut across California to San Francisco, and then we'd get on U.S. 101 and just follow the Pacific coast right on up to Seattle, " said Earl.

It looked interesting. Of course I‑5 is the way most everybody goes if they're driving, but it doesn't follow the Pacific coast. From the looks of the map, you probably couldn't even see the Pacific from I‑5

So if we were going to stick to the coast, I thought we ought to go on up to Olympic National Park. I especially wanted to visit the Quinault Rain Forest. It's also called the Valley of the Rain Forest Giants because of all the big trees. Record size. And it gets over 150 inches of rain a year!

So that's how our planned road trip to Seattle went from 1197 miles to 3069 miles. Barring any more side trips.

We could make the trip before Carlie and Earl started back to school, because if ever we were almost out of time, we'd hit the Interstate and, if necessary, drive all day and all night. So no problem there.

I didn't think I'd have much trouble talking my mom into letting me go, except for one problem that I was almost sure was going to come up, and that was: she'd want to talk to John about it, because she'd want some additional assurance that A: it was all right with him if Carlie went along and B: she might also want to know if John really and truly thought Elliott was as responsible as I was letting on.

So after thinking it over, I decided Elliott shouldn't try passing himself off as an Eagle Scout after all. Although he could still be responsible. How responsible? So much so, he even got his gas at a full-service island. Always!

That was my idea. It came from a warning I once saw while my dad was pumping gas which said: "It is unlawful for any person under the age of sixteen to dispense flammable liquids or operate dispensing equipment." (So at this point, Elliott could lawfully pump his own gas. Except for the second part of that warning, which read): "All dispensing shall be supervised by a qualified attendant who shall be at least eighteen years old." So there. (I decided I wouldn't press my luck and say that Elliott was so responsible, he also demanded to see the attendant's qualifications, though.) But I was sure John would get a good laugh out of that if Carlie were to mention in passing just how law-abiding Elliott was. As in: "Dad, will you please tell him that nobody reads those notices in the first place?" (There was another notice that said you should always discharge your static electricity before fueling, but I'm not sure if that was a law or just some friendly advice.)

But there was alsothe possibility that while talking to my mom, John would mention who elsewas going. Earl wouldn't be a problem, but Stephan would be. So...

Plan B then. Only, that plan was to call my mom right then and ask if it was okay, and that was because John was visiting a lady friend again, so of course my mom couldn't talk to him. Because as long as it was okay with her, (and assuming that she'd transfer the money I needed for the trip right away) then we would be leaving Tuesday, just two days off.

So. Deep breath. Very deep breath, because our entire road trip was at stake. I was on the verge of hyperventilating, I was taking so many deep breaths. And that would never do, of course. I needed to be calm, cool and collected. So...

"Well first, Stephan, go ahead and call your mom. Then if that goes okay, you have to call your sister to make sure everything's cool on her end and she'll back you up, all right? (Supposedly, Stephan had joined the Boy Scouts and they were about to take off on a camping trip. To British Columbia! For three weeks!)

Always tell the truth. Even if you have to make it up.

But then, telling the whole truth had stopped being an option when Stephan got off the bus in Dickinson.

So after Stephan took a few deep breaths of his own, he called his mom's cell and...

It went like this. "Hi mom, remember me?".... "How am I doing? Well, I'm about to sweat to death for one thing. It was close to ninety today, and hardly anyone in Seattle has air conditioning, so everybody's about to die! And you know what? Next week, it could hit a hundred. They're saying it's the hottest anybody can remember." (Yes, we checked.)

But after commiserating about the weather (we thought it would be a nice touch): "So how you guys doing?"... "Well, that's good, I guess.... I mean, I hope it works out, but-" (They were considering a plea bargain.)

As it turned out, though, a trial date hadn't been set and the way it was looking, it wouldn't be any sooner than sometime in October. But meanwhile: "Well, anyway... I think you might like this, I've joined the Scouts."... "Yeah, I do like it. It's totally different from what I thought it would be like."... "So-"... "Ashley? Yeah, she's behaving herself, mom. No problems. But what I wanted to ask you about is... well, we're going on a camping trip. To British Columbia. For three weeks! Almost in-"... "No, money's not a problem because we had some car washes. And besides, we'll be roughing it most of the time, so-"... "Well, sure I'm going to be careful, mom."

And it was downhill from there, right up to the part about calling her in about three weeks.

Only now he had to call Ashley, and at times, it was tempestuous, because she was making some snide remarks. Like for example: "So how's it going with your boyfriend?", but Stephan just told her to mind her own business. So then Ashley made a remark about how their mom was going to react if she knew what was really going on. Only, Stephan reminded her that she'd been lying too and if she'd spent any of his support money, she might be in really big trouble. So they argued about that for awhile with Stephan finally saying that he didn't care if she used some of the money, but... he was about to take off on a camping trip because he'd joined the Boy Scouts. Except, of course, he'd told their mom that they were leaving from Seattle, not from North Dakota, but as long as she'd back him up, then if she needed to use some of his money, he wouldn't ever say anything about it.

And he'd see her around the end of August.

So now it was my turn, and after listening to Stephan, I just knew something had to go wrong... as in against all odds, we were so close but yet so far...

But all I had to do was just tell the truth. With a several details left out of course, but Carlie was going to Las Vegas to visit his mom and his dad was paying for the gas. And Carlie's friend Elliott would be driving the entire way and he was seventeen and he was so responsible, sometimes it was funny. (After putting my story about him always using full-service pumps together, I thought I should go ahead and use it.) And my mom thought it was funny too, so at thatpoint...

It was time to go for it. "So here's what I'm thinking. It's really not quite as far from Las Vegas to Seattle as it is from here to Seattle. So I know I could fly, but Carlie's been a really good friend. He's cool. And Elliott's okay in spite of being worse than an Eagle Scout sometimes, but he's a really good driver and see, they've never been to the Pacific Northwest, so-"

Then my mom interrupted to ask exactly what I was trying to get at.

So... "Well, I was thinking that instead of paying for a plane ticket, you could just pay for the gas from Las Vegas to Seattle. I mean, I'll pay for a lot of it myself, because believe it or not, I haven't spent much of what you've sent me. There's nowhere to spend it, mom, can you believe that? But anyway, you could even take it out of my allowance later... well, not all of it, but at least some, but I'd really love to make a trip like that because we'll be camping out and driving up the coast, and we'll be careful, I'm sure Elliott will see to that, so what do you think?"

Soon as my mom could stop laughing, she said the money would be in my account.

We were sore that evening and I had a feeling it would be worse when we woke up. So no matter how much I was looking forward to it, I was glad Saturday, August 1stwas still six days off. So no, I certainly didn't think we'd be messing with our butts that night. Stephan and I wouldn't be, and neither Carlie or Earl were likely to be calling us candy-asses. That's what I thought.

But I was wrong.

It's called Bag Balm. It comes in a square green can. "Since 1899, Bag Balm has been the farmer's friend helping keep diary cows from becoming chapped..."

And so on. It's goop diary farmers put on cow udders, but for example, bicyclists swear by it. They get saddle sores too. Sometimes, in really bad places, but Bag Balm to the rescue. Skiers use it to protect against chapping and wind burn. Antarctic explorers use it to treat frost bite. (So maybe Canadians wearing kilts use it as well. Maybe they can go commando, even in the dead of winter.)

Or maybe not, but Bag Balm is also great for diaper rash. Or dish water hands. It's great for all sorts of things beyond chapped cow udders...

It was Carlie's idea, and God, did it ever feel good. It was so soothing...

We ended up having group sex after all. When we first started applying that goop to our poor bottoms... I did Stephan, he did me, while Carlie and Earl did each other... and Elliott was catching it all on my camcorder... and every once in awhile, he was stillsaying he couldn't believe his good fortune...

But anyway, it wasn't long until we were purring like kittens. Except for Elliott, who was just doing a lot of heavy breathing. And a couple of times he hinted that maybe he had a sore bottom too.

Although he still understood.

It wasn't long until everybody was feeling much better though, and then Earl mentioned that he was pretty sure Bag Balm would also make a good lubricant...

So Carlie and Earl said they would... My goodness!... but first, they wanted to see me and Stephan getting it on. Oh, good God.

So I was reluctant at first. I know we said we would... eventually... but-

"We haven't reached that point yet, " said Stephan. We will Saturday." (One thing we'd be buying at the Wal-Mart in Dickinson was a two man tent.)

Only, "So? You can still sixty-nine, " said Earl. "You watched us on your camcorder, so it's only fair."

"It sounds fair to me, " said Elliott.

So I was about to tell him to just hush, but before I could, Stephan asked Earl, "So... you're going to, um... fuck?"

You have a tendency to get off on being perverse, you know? Different people have different ideas as to what's perverse and what's not, but the bottom line is: it is a trip! We were busily sixty-nining and Stephan was pushing his finger... um, two fingers...

So I stuck two fingers up his butt.

After awhile, though, it was hard to keep up with everything, and that included Carlie and Earl. Because after all, Stephan and I were concentrating on each other.

But it didn't matter, because it's on my camcorder. The playback was hot. Earl was sitting in Carlie's lap facing him, then he hunched up a little, then he started easing back down... so Carlie's dick was disappearing... but then Earl started bouncing up and down and squealing. Meanwhile, Carlie was trying to be very matter-of-fact. Only that didn't last long either. You can get off on just the audio. They were loud!

And then we were pooped out. (Carlie said we could catch him on the receiving end next time.)

But still, Bag Balm?

Well, we suffered no ill effects, and the next morning, we weren't even sore. It is awesome!

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