The feeling rose in my stomach again, but I was too weak to even move. I puked, this time all over my shoes and down the front of my shirt. It was dark, hot, humid and stinking. I was slumped next to a dumpster by some small, roadside truck stop, broke, sick and lost. Not really lost, I just didn't know exactly where I was. The truck stop was closed. It was really just a restaurant; sorta run-down, but over the past day or so I heard a lot of trucks stop there.
Lights and the sound of a car broke into my misery. It would be the family who owned the restaurant. They had left earlier after closing the restaurant about 8:00. I didn't want them to see me, even though the dumpster was at the side of the building in the shadows. I got up to move back into the woods behind the building, but I was so weak. I struggled to my feet and leaned against the wall. I managed to take a couple of steps, but stumbled, tripped on some garbage, and fell, striking my head against the dumpster. I went down with the ringing of the dumpster in my ears.
"What the fuck was that?"
"I don't know. Probably some bum trying to get a meal out of the dumpster."
"Oh, no. Kevin, go see. But be careful. Here, take Jonathan's baseball bat."
I heaved again, but it was dry, the cramps tearing at my gut. I thought my stomach would turn inside out and come out backward. All I could do was listen to his footsteps as he came across the gravel parking lot. As he neared the shadows, he slowed.
"Anyone in there?" he asked. I moaned.
"Who the fuck are you?" I didn't know if he could see me. "Who's there?" I heaved again, and nothing came out.
He came right up beside me. Obviously I wasn't threatening. I looked up at "Kevin." He was silhouetted against the lone light in the parking lot. "Get up. Who the fuck are you?" he said again. "Get out of here."
I looked at him. "Help me," was all I could say, and heaved again.
"Ma! Ma, it's a kid. He's about my age. And he's sick."
"Sick? How is he sick? What kind of sick?" It sounded like a younger voice than the one standing over me, and it was coming from the parking lot, getting closer.
"Help me, please," I said again.
"Oh, my god, it's just a boy," said the woman's voice. "Get him up. Get him inside."
"Ma, he's covered in puke."
"Oh. Damn. Get the hose."
"Get the hose and hose him off."
"He'll get . . . uh, never mind."
I heaved again.
"Hurry up, Kevin."
"What's going on?" Another voice, this one younger.
"There's a boy back here and he's sick."
Kevin came with the hose. He turned it on me. The water was freezing, and it felt great, but it was a shock.
"Fuck," I said.
"Well, at least he's conscious."
Kevin hosed me off, soaked me, trying to get the vomit and stench off of me. Front and back. I just lay in the mud, too weak to move.
Finally he turned it off and coiled the hose onto its holder.
"Now, let's try to lift him and take him inside. Kevin, you grab one side, I'll get the other."
"I can help."
"He's pretty big, Jonathan."
"No, he's not. I can help."
I didn't give a rat's ass who did what, I just heaved again. But nothing came out.
"Okay, scout, you support his back while we pick him up."
On the count of three, I was brought to my feet. I didn't help at all. The world was spinning around me and I hoped I could stay conscious until they got me inside.
I tried to help as we came to some steps that lead up to a broad porch. Kevin and the Jonathan held me up while the lady opened the door, then they got me inside and paused. A set of wooden stairs faced us.
"Ready?" the woman asked. We started up the stairs, me making a feeble effort to help them lift me. "Into Katherine's room," she said.
They sort of let me fall onto the bed. "Strip him and cover him up," the woman said as she turned to leave. "You've done it before."
Kevin pulled my t-shirt off me, untied my wet shoes, pulled them off, and then struggled to pull my wet socks off. He hardest was getting my jeans off, but I raised my butt off the bed to try to help. He pulled from the ankle and the jeans slid off, taking my briefs with them to the knees. He simply reached up and grabbed them off, too.
Then he pulled the covers from under me, and back up over me.
I looked at him as he sat down on the bed. I was shivering hard.
"Hi," he said softly. "I'm Kevin."
"I-I-I'm Justin," I said in a whisper. "Thank you."
"It's okay. You need anything? You should probably have some water so you don't dehydrate." He sounded like he knew what he was talking about, but I knew if I had anything I'd just throw it back up. I shook my head no.
"Sleep," I whispered. He nodded, squeezed my hand, and turned out the light as he left.
The last night in my home town, after Kyle and everyone had gone to sleep, I lay there awake. I wanted to suck Kyle's cock. No, I didn't. Yes, I sorta did, not because I was in love with Kyle, but because I was so lonely for Danny. There was no one I could do that with, because there was no one I wanted to do it with. My lover was 1500 miles away. And I was afraid the bond was breaking, at least on his part. What if he turned straight? Could that happen if I wasn't there? Was I merely an obsession of his, and once out of his grasp he would forget his love for me? There were so many other people in the world. Especially in California. I would lose him forever.
I had to see him. I had to get to Danny. I had to, right now. I had no money, absolutely none but the 15 dollars in my pocket. Frank had cleaned out my bank account. All the money I had earned over the summer was gone. There was only one way I was going to get there.
I crept out of bed. Kyle stirred a little, but did not wake up. I picked up my clothes and crept out of his room. Still dressed in only my boxers, I went down stairs, grabbed my parka, let myself out quietly and closed the door behind me. I dressed, and began walking toward the highway.
The town was dark and quiet. The air was crisp and still. Whatever snow we had received that winter had melted in a January thaw, and it hadn't snowed since so things were dry. Streetlights cast spooky shadows as I walked block after block. It was a small town -; people weren't out at night much, but I tried to pay attention. A few times I heard cars coming and I was able to duck behind something in time -; a tree, a car parked by the curb, something.
At the highway I turned west and kept walking. Nothing in town was open. Snyder's drug store was across and down the street. Two car lots lay ahead of me, then a few car repair places. Toward the edge of town things got a little lower-scale. A used tractor place, a used truck lot and a huge junk yard. The sidewalk ran out just before the used tractor place, and I was walking along the shoulder of the road. Becky's farm was out this way, about five miles out of town. If I walked at five miles an hour I'd be there by 3:30. Of course, I wasn't sure what I was going to do, but it was a thought.
As I walked, I began to think, which in that frame of mind was dangerous. I had no plan how to get to the town in California where Danny was living. It wasn't one of the big cities. Danny said in many ways it was like the town where I lived in the Midwest. But he was near the ocean. And it was generally warm. And it wasn't anywhere near me.
Danny would be excited to have me there, I was sure. I hadn't told him I was coming; it was sort of a last-minute decision. In fact, I hadn't talked to him in a couple of days. He hadn't answered my last three e-mails. Things had been so hectic that I hadn't really noticed, but now that I thought about it, I hadn't chatted with Danny for about five days.
That was really odd. We either got on AIM or e-mailed just about every day when I was home. I didn't when I was at Kyle's because I didn't want to tie up the computer. I wondered if Danny was mad at me because I wasn't available as much. No, not mad. Bored? Nah. He still loved me. I could hear it in his last e-mail. Actually, it was pretty much over the top. Hehehe.
Over the top. He really gushed. How much I meant to him. Not how much he missed me; that seemed to have become my theme. But Danny made sure I knew how much I meant to him. Maybe I meant a lot to him, but he didn't miss me. Obviously. It had been six months. He hadn't offered to have me come visit. I thought he would at Christmas, but he didn't. He never even mentioned it. He didn't want me to, I guess. I meant a lot to him, but not enough to actually want to see me. Because he had someone else. He'd found a boyfriend there in California. Going to the beach and swimming, nearly naked, with other kids his age. He'd fallen for some guy with a cute body and lickable nipples. He was fucking another boy. They'd caught each other's eyes, joked around in the water and become friends.
They saw a lot of each other. Mrs. Reynolds drove them to the beach a couple of times a week while this new guy helped Danny feel at home. He started staying over night now and then at Danny's, sleeping in the bed -; in the spot -; that I had always slept in. And as they became closer friends, they became more familiar with each other, until the night when, overcome with raw lust, Danny had laid new kid on his back, sucked on his nipples, then slowly lowered his underwear and taken new kid into his mouth. He sucked while new kid stared wide-eyed at Danny, then narrowed his eyes in ecstasy. His breathing became ragged as Danny took him deep, rolling the kid's balls in his fingers and rubbing the spot just below his sac. As the climax came, new kid lifted his butt off the bed and thrust into Danny's throat. He unloaded shot after shot of hot, California teen cream into Danny's throat, and Danny eagerly swallowed it, hungry for the taste of cum. After that they lay together, the kid's cock leaking onto Danny's leg, and fell asleep.
Fuck that. Why the hell did I want to go to find Danny anyway? He had some new lover and was probably already into fucking the snot out of him. Hell, I'd pushed Danny into the dirt once; this time it would be a lot worse.
See what I mean? It's bad when I think by myself.
Sure enough, at 3:26 I came to Becky's farm. It was dark. Everyone asleep. I knew they would be, and I wasn't quite sure what to do. I walked into the yard and up to the milking house. It wasn't locked, which I knew, and I went inside. The heater was on in there and I just stood for a while warming up. I clicked on the light, found a pencil and some paper and wrote a note. "Becky -; Don't worry about me. I'll be back. Thanks for everything. I love you. J." Then I dated it.
I wedged the paper under some others sitting there hoping it would take a few days for them to find it. That way no one would come looking for me right away and I could get to California. It should take only three days at the most, and once there I would use Danny's phone to call back and tell everyone I was okay.
I crept back across the yard, down the lane and back out to the highway. There was some traffic, which slowed me down because I had to hide each time. In four hours I was exhausted. Walking along a road side, ducking into a ditch when cars came, is not fun. And I was freezing, especially my toes. I started dreaming up some story to tell anyone who picked me up.
I pressed on until the sun began to brighten the horizon behind me. Then I figured it was a little more normal to see someone out walking along the road and I stopped ditch diving. Pretty soon a beat up old delivery truck came along. I was tired and cold and I wanted to rest, so without thinking much about it, I turned to face the truck and stuck out my thumb.
No one ever gets that lucky. My first hitch hike and the guy slows down for me. He pulled off the road a few hundred feet ahead of me and I ran stiffly to the passenger side.
When I was in he pulled back onto the highway.
"I'm, uh, Justin," I said, and kicked myself mentally for giving my real name. Jeez, I'd already forgotten about the story.
"Right. I'm going to assume that's not your real name, but that's what I'll call you." Well, that worked out okay, then. "Where ya headed?".
"As far as you can take me."
"I can take you to Omaha. That's where I'm headed."
The cab was warm and I opened my jacket. The truck was loud and it wasn't easy to talk, but he seemed a little bored.
"You hitch-hiking across the country?"
"Well, trying to get to California."
"Er, no reason."
"No, a small town north of Los Angeles."
"Looking for work. I have a friend who lives there. Says he can find me a job."
"Uh-huh. How old are you?"
"Eighteen." Minus two.
"You don't look eighteen."
"Dammit. Everyone says that. Everyone tells me I look sixteen. Jeez, I hate that. I wish I'd just get it over with and look eighteen." The best defense is a good offense.
"Whoa, guy, don't get weird on me. I didn't mean to upset you."
"Aw, it's okay. But I just get tired of it. I got friends who have little brothers that look older than me. It's not fair."
"Well, don't worry about it. It's what's inside that counts."
I just stared out the window of the truck and hoped he bought the act.
"Been out long?"
Huh? He knew I was out?
"Hitch-hiking. Been out long?"
Oh. Shit. I hadn't worked out that part of the story.
"Uh, since yesterday. Overnight."
"Where'd you start from?"
"Back east a ways."
"Not gonna tell me?"
"I'd rather not."
"Okay by me. Did you sleep at all?"
"Nope. Too cold. The last driver let me out about 2:00 this morning and I've been walking since then."
"You must be tired."
"A little, yeah."
"Go ahead and sleep. We got a ways to go."
I took him at his word. I worried for a moment he'd do something while I was asleep, but I was too tired to think about it for long. I leaned against the door and was out cold.
I woke up when the truck motor shut off. I took a moment to realize where I was. Then I remembered I was in the cab of a truck on my way to see Danny. We were stopped at a filling station. Fred wasn't in the truck.
I opened the door and climbed down. Fred was filling the tank on his side of the truck.
"Hi," he said. You slept a long time.
"What time is it?"
"Doesn't matter to me. You okay?"
"Yeah, sure. Why?"
"No big reason. You were talking a little in your sleep."
"Oh, shit. What did I say?"
You didn't really say many words. Telling someone to shut up. And something about a girl named Dani."
Oh. Yeah. Dani. Uh, she's, um, she's a good friend of mine. Real good."
"Is that why you're going to California? To be with her?"
"Um, I'd rather not say."
"Yeah, I understand."
"Where are we?"
"Just south of Omaha. I got some deliveries to make in the area then I'm picking up a load and heading back. I actually came a little south out of my way to drop you off here. This is Highway 50. You can't hitch-hike on the Interstate. I'm sure you knew that. So I brought you here so you could maybe get a ride. The Interstate is about a mile from here, so if you're lucky you'll get someone who's headed there. But if you don't, just head West -; that way -; and keep your thumb out."
I pulled my coat around me and stuck out my hand. "Thanks, Fred."
"No problem, Justin. Good luck. Hope you find what you're looking for." He held on to my hand tighter. "Be careful. There are a lot of crazies out here. I'd like you to be able to take Dani to the prom."
He knew I wasn't 18.
"There's a Mickey-D's up the road if you're hungry. Take care." He hung the nozzle back on the gas pump and went inside. I walked toward the highway, and when I got there, stuck out my thumb and kept going. I'd gone almost a mile when an old Volkswagen bus slowed and pulled over. I jogged to it.
Inside were a man and woman, about 45, and two kids in their teens -; a boy and a girl.
"Where ya headed?"
"Hop in. We're sorta going that way, too. You can ride until we pull over for the night."
And I did. They were actually going to New Mexico, but West is West. Turns out the mom and dad were old hippies who were taking their kids back to places they had gone during their hippy years. The guy was now a computer programmer. They lived in Wisconsin, and he mostly telecommuted with his company in Texas. They had recently bought and refurbished the old VW bus to make the trip more authentic. The kids were sort of groovin' on it, which surprised me. It wasn't all a hippy-trip. After New Mexico, where it was warm, they were going skiing in Colorado. The kids were home-schooled, so it was a learning trip, too.
We had a nice chat. They were all pretty cool. I dodged their questions where I could, and gave a few honest answers. It was really starting to bug me with all these lies. I had been brought up not to lie. I hated doing it.
And I was hungry. Very, very hungry. My stomach would make growling noises while we talked. They had some munchies with them, but nothing substantial.
It started to get dark as we drove across Kansas. The dad said they were stopping in Garden City for the night. I could get out there. About 8:00 we pulled into a motel on the edge of town. The dad checked in, and everyone piled out to haul luggage inside.
"Thanks for the ride, guys," I said.
"Wait," the mom said. "We're going for dinner. Want to come with us? Nothing fancy. Just the truck stop over there." It was a huge, busy truck stop. I felt the few folded dollars in my pocket.
"Uh, no thanks. I think I'll try to catch another ride."
"At this time of night?"
"I don't really have any place to stay, and I really want to get there."
Brice, the son, who was about my age, came up to me. "Thanks for riding along. You helped make the trip bearable. Otherwise we would have had to listen to my parents talk about their hippy days. Believe me, being enclosed in a drafty VW bus who's heater doesn't work is bad, but throwing in hippy stories is cruel and unusual punishment."
I laughed. "Well, thanks for letting me ride along."
The dad came over as Brice was walking away. "Be careful, son. There are a lot of crazies out there. It was a lot safer hitch-hiking in my day, but even then it was dangerous. Now -; well, I wish you wouldn't. Buy a bus ticket or something. Don't hitch-hike."
"I know. But I don't have any money. I have to do this. I'll die either way. If I don't get there, I'll die. I know it."
He stuck out his hand. "Good luck."
I took it. "Thanks." He pressed a $20 bill into my palm.
"Get something to eat," he said, and walked away.
I did. I walked to the truck stop and sat at the counter near what looked like truckers. I tried to listen, to see if I could find out where some of them were going. But I didn't learn much. There were mostly eating, and talking about smokies and detours and the people they worked for.
I had a hamburger and fries, and jeez they tasted like steak and a baked potato. I was soo hungry. I just drank water to save some money, but the meal was worth the price. I was hundreds of miles from home in about 18 hours. The trip was going to be a cinch.
It was dark when I paid the bill and left the restaurant. I knew if I stood along the highway no one would see me. So I planted myself at the end of the truck stop driveway, under a street light, and waited for truckers to leave. I had picked up some cardboard and made a little sign that said "California" on it. After about an hour and a half someone approached me on foot. He was a short guy, about my height, but stocky, and about 40. Or more.
"Hey, kid, you going to California?"
"That's what the sign says."
He chuckled. "Yeah, it does. How old are you?"
"Right. Well, I'm going to Las Vegas and then to Reno. Come on."
"What's the catch?"
"None. Well, one. You gotta stay awake so I have someone to talk to."
"Let me run and get some Coke."
"Okay. Meet me at my truck, over there. The red one."
I came back with two bottles of Coke. The door was open and I climbed in. Semis are huge things. I had never sat that high in a moving vehicle. He wrestled the beast into gear and slowly let out the clutch. The huge truck lurched forward. I could see the concentration on his face as he spun the steering wheel and shifted at the same time. We moved past the other trucks, down the driveway and out onto the highway. There was a stoplight, and then we turned onto the highway and began to pick up speed. The truck stop was on the edge of town, so it wasn't long before we were going 60 miles an hour down the deserted two-lane road.
"My name's Bob," he said. "What's yours?"
"Justin." Damn! It was, like, automatic.
"Good name," like he expected it to be a fake name.
He asked if I liked baseball, and I said yeah. So we talked baseball for about an hour. It was great. I wasn't drinking much pop, because I knew I'd have to pee if I did and I didn't figure Bob would want to stop much. But it did help me stay awake.
There were a couple of minutes of silence, then, "Why ya running away?
"You. Why are you running away?"
"I'm not . . . "
"Yes you are. And you're not 18."
"Yes, I am."
"Sorry. You're 16, maybe 17. But not 18."
"I look young for my age."
"Maybe. Nope. Don't worry. I'm not going to turn you in. Most of the kids your age who are hitchin' have a good reason. Usually abusive parents. Sometimes a lost love. So why are you?"
"Both of those reasons."
Actually, only one reason. Lost love. I wonder if there was really any love in my house. Maybe at one time. Well, whenever Danny stayed there. But I think it could all be boiled down to his one reason. Lost love. Absent love.
"Both. Your parents beat you?"
"Mostly they abandoned me. My dad left before Christmas. Then my mom started drinking and brought home this guy who found out I was . . . er, who just hated the fact that my mom had a kid in the house. He stole my money, he beat me up, he yelled at me -; stuff like that. So I left."
"And you're going to California why?"
"My friend lives there."
"Ya love her?"
"Um, yeah, I do."
"Did she move out there?"
"Don't be surprised."
"If she's found a new boyfriend."
"Oh. I won't. I sorta think he . . . I mean, she . . . has."
"I meant ‘she.'"
"I know what you meant. You said ‘he.'"
"I know what I said. I didn't mean it. I'm tired." I took a swig of Coke.
We rode on and talked some more. He was married, but was on the road three or four nights a week. He had a teenage daughter and a nine-year-old son, and was really sad he couldn't see them more. But he had been with the trucking company a long time, earned good money, and had some seniority. He couldn't give it up.
You wouldn't believe what people do in their cars. I saw three different guys stroking their cocks as they drove. One was holding his hard cock against the steering wheel letting the vibrations get him off. A woman was getting fingered by some guy. A girl was blowing her lover. Two people were actually fucking in the back seat while someone else drove. One guy was driving naked. And I could see all of it from so high up. People are weird.
"Like the view?" Bob asked.
"Wow." It was all I could say.
"I see this all the time. Pretty amazing. People think no one can see them below the widow level. Hell, from up here you can see almost everything. And I have, just about."
We drove into Colorado, which I always thought of as being mountainous, but in the eastern part it was as flat as Kansas. What a rotten deal.
I thought about home. Or what used to be home. I'm sure Kyle and them would be frantic about me, but I couldn't do anything about it. If I called them then they'd know what I had done and would have to report it. I couldn't contact them if I wanted them to be innocent. And I wasn't about to get them in trouble. Not for anything. I thought about them a lot. Kyle had his bed to himself again. It had been almost 24 hours since I'd left now. Kyle might have figured I went back home, but when I didn't show up in school he would have figured something out. Becky might have found the note. No doubt they had already contacted Danny.
Danny. I wonder why he stopped emailing me. I missed him. I couldn't tell him, either. I'd have to just wait until I actually got there. Then he'd be overjoyed to see me.
Or would he? Did he want to see me again? Shit. He had a boyfriend. One that was already sucking him off, maybe fucking him. Jeez that moved fast. What would happened when I showed up on the front doorstep? They might not even let me in the house. But maybe I could talk to him. Maybe he'd fall back in love with me when he saw me.
But I doubted it.
So we drove on. We stopped once in the foothills, then began the long climb over the Rocky Mountains.
Bob had to concentrate on the gears a lot so we didn't say much for a while. I sorta dozed for a while, but since the engine speed kept changing I didn't really get any sleep.
We went about six hours and he pulled into a rest-stop along the Interstate. We both went inside to pee and wash up. When we went back out he climbed into the sleeper of his cab. He patted the mattress next to him.
"You can sleep here if you want. Don't worry, I'm not gonna molest you. But I gotta sleep. You can do what you want as long as ya keep quiet, but I suggest you sleep."
It had been 29 hours and I didn't think twice. I crawled into the space next to him, closed my eyes and slept.
He was honest. He never laid a hand on me. I woke up about five hours later as he was crawling over me to get out.
"Gotta pee and then hit the road again," he said. In fifteen minutes we were up to speed and flying down the back side of the Rockies toward Utah. We stopped for lunch in across the state line and I used up more of the $20. He didn't use the CB radio much, but at one point there was a warning that the weigh station was open ahead.
"Fuck," he said, and made ready to pull in at the next rest stop. "I gotta stop and fix my log."
"Driving log. We're required to log all the hours we drive. We're only allowed to drive so many hours before we sleep, and then we're required to sleep a certain amount. I have to fix this so it looks like I've slept enough." We pulled in next to dozens of other truckers, who I assumed were all doing the same thing. As we started up again he pointed to the sleeper.
"Get in there till we get past the weigh station, and don't say anything. I might have to get out and open the back of the truck or talk with them, but you stay in there. If you've been reported missing they'll find you and take you out. Pick up your pop and anything else that looks like you've been here. Don't make any noise.”
We made it past the weigh station with just a brief stop. I hid in the sleeper while he chatted with the inspector, and thought about what a mess I'd caused. What if I'd been reported? Maybe I had set a whole chain of things into the works. My friends would be worried about me. Would they report me? Would their parents care? What sort of pain was I causing? Was any of this worth it? I no longer knew if Danny wanted to even see me. But I did know I had four really great friends back at home, one of whom opened his bed to me as unselfishly as Danny had. Actually, even more unselfishly. Kyle didn't love me the way Danny did. Danny opened his bed, but he got something out of it. Kyle didn't. He just got cramped. There was no sexual gratification, or even emotional. He did it for me, period. And I had left without saying good bye.
I didn't want to start crying; if the inspector had heard me and then discovered me crying, he would have figured Bob had kidnapped me and we'd both be in big trouble. So I curled into a ball and stayed like that till Bob ground the gears into first and we started moving again.
We continued on across Utah and more mountains, talking about lots and lots of things. He asked more about my family. He asked a lot about Danny -; and I kept emphasizing that Danny was a girl, and once I got used to describing everything about him as a girl it got easy. But I'm not sure he bought it. We stopped to eat again and I used the last of the money the dad had given me in Kansas. As we neared Nevada, his cell phone rang. He answered it and listened.
"Oh, fuck. You're kidding. How the hell am I supposed to do that? Shit. I can't do that. It's gonna add another whole day to the trip. Fuck you. You call Michelle and tell her. I'm outta here."
"Trouble?" I asked.
"The fucker in Las Vegas where I'm supposed to be dropping this load just filed for bankruptcy. He can't pay for it. They want me to double back and take it to Albuquerque."
"Yeah. It ain't gonna help you."
We talked about my options. He decided to leave the Interstate and take me to a lesser-used highway and then drop down to the Interstate that would take him to New Mexico. It was about 4:00 in the afternoon.
At an intersection he pulled to the side of the road.
"Hey, Justin. I gotta let you out here. It's gonna take me long enough to get to Albuquerque now. I don't know how much traffic there is out here, but I think you'll be able to find a ride." He took out a road atlas and pointed out where we were, just north of the Arizona border. "You'll have to cross this little corner of Arizona before you get into Nevada," he said.
We shook hands. "Thanks, Bob. Good luck with the load. I hope you get home soon."
"I will. You take care of yourself. And please be careful. I wish I could take you all the way to California. I don't like people having to hitch-hike. It's too dangerous. You're a good kid and I'd hate to see anything happen to you."
I closed the door and walked toward the west. He tooted the truck's loud air horn twice, waved and turned the other way, back to New Mexico.
I decided to walk. Well, actually, I didn't decide to; the decision was forced on me. There wasn't a car for miles. It was warm, no doubt, but Bob had given me some bottles of water out of the cooler in the truck. I decided walking wasn't bad. I'd been sitting in vehicles almost 36 hours, so this was okay.
I walked toward Hurricane. Why that name for a town hundreds of miles from any ocean? Who knows. For some reason I was more unsure of hitching here than before. I just trudged along, and I didn't even stick my thumb out for any of the half-dozen or so cars that passed by. The sun was setting, and I was noticing how worn out my body was. I had to sleep. But where? I knew the town up ahead was pretty small and the presence of anybody new would be noticed. I also was afraid that if I just slept out in the open somewhere some snake or wild animal would find me. I had no idea what to do. And I was fucking hungry.
So I walked on into town. There was a small park with a bench, and it would have been great for sleeping if it hadn't been out in the open. But it was. I sat for a while as the sun sank lower and it started to get chilly. That would be another problem. Cold.
As it got darker I wandered around town. It was a much smaller town than mine, kind of run down, and you could tell no one there had much money. There were alleys behind some of the houses, and some garages along the alleys. A few of the garages had side doors and I tried a them. Most were locked, but one was open, and I poked my head inside. It was empty, completely, except for a workbench at one end. It looked like no one lived in the house that went with the garage. I jumped up onto the workbench, lay down, and just went to sleep.
I woke up about 7:30 in the morning, the sun coming through one of the windows. I could hear mice scurrying about. A few days ago that would have bothered me. Now I was freezing, hungry and an experienced traveler. I hopped off the bench and glanced out a window. I wanted to make sure no one was watching as I left the garage.
I walked back toward the highway out of town and passed by a café as I did. The smells were almost erotic and they nearly gave me stomach cramps. But I had only my original $15 left, and I knew if I were going to be on the road a few more days I'd need all of it. I decided to hold out for lunch. Maybe dinner. One meal a day.
I walked out of town in the mountain air of Utah, the sun bright over head. Still not much traffic on the road and I didn't mind walking for a while, so I didn't try to hitch. Whenever I got tired I'd just find a rock to sit on. About 1:00 I was tired so I climbed up on a boulder about 20 feet from the road, and heard a buzz. I looked down and saw my first real live rattle snake. I hate snakes. Even garter snakes give me the creeps. I was up on the rock and it was on the ground, but still, I felt woozy. It was a stand-off. Now, I've read books that say snakes are just as scared of us as we are of them. Right. No snake was as scared as I was at that moment.
I waited it out as long as I could, then I got an idea. I stood up on the boulder, a good four feet off the ground, and peed on it. Dropped my drawers and let it go. Felt great. The snake was p.o.-ed, so to speak. It uncoiled and sped away. Woo-hoo. I climbed down off the rock and scooted back toward the highway.
Now I was ready for a ride. But no car came by for an hour. I was getting tired again, and very, very thirsty.
I had walked most of the day, practically fainting from hunger and thirst, when a car passed me. I hadn't stuck out my thumb, but it pulled over anyway. The guy about 20 got out and came back to me.
"You okay?" he asked.
"I could use a ride," I answered.
"Well, California if it's all the same to you. But anywhere."
"Hop in, man," he said.
"Where are you going?" I asked.
"Don't worry about it." He handed me a bottle of water which I sucked down in three gulps. He started back onto the pavement and down the road. I fastened my seatbelt.
He handed me a bag of chips and a cookie. Not nutritional, but filling.
He was very kind. But my luck had run out. About 30 miles later he asked how I was going to pay for the ride.
"Yeah, pay. For gas. For the food I gave you. For my time."
"I don't have anything to pay you with." I was scared.
"Only fifteen bucks."
"So let me out here."
"Nope. You gotta pay."
He rubbed his crotch. "I'll think of a way."
"No way, man. Huh-uh."
"You're gonna fucking pay."
"Stop the fucking car."
I swung at him and he moved out of the way, but the car swerved dangerously back and forth across the road.
"Hey, you little shit. Stop that."
"Let me out."
"Suck my cock."
"No, you faggot." I couldn't believe I said that word, but I did mean it and I did want him mad. It's hard to explain. I mean, I would never say that to someone in other circumstances. But this seemed appropriate.
"I'm not a fucking faggot, but you're gonna be a cocksucker."
I pulled the handle of my door and it swung open.
"Close the fucking door," he shouted. "Close it. Close that door."
I unsnapped my seat belt.
"Close that door, cocksucker."
I was done talking to him. He stepped on the brake and headed for the shoulder of the road. I braced myself against the dashboard as the car slowed. Then, while it was still moving, I dived out and rolled.
I jumped up and began running. He came after me. The headlights were still on. I ran straight away from the car toward some cacti. He chased me and I started to circle back toward the car. He was catching up as I reached the car, which he had left running. I jumped in, slammed it into gear and tore down the road. He stood there screaming after me. I went about thirty miles, then, afraid I would be caught with a stolen car, I pulled off, turned off the car and got out. I flung the keys into the desert night, then started walking. I knew even if he got a ride to the car he probably didn't have a spare set of keys, and I had a good head start on him.
I hadn't had any rest, and god I was tired. The highway sign said there was a junction about three miles ahead, and I trudged toward it. In about 45 minutes I got there. Two highways intersected, and at the intersection was a small café and filling station. "Westward Corners" it called itself. It was closed. A sign on the door said it was open 5 am to 8 pm.
I was starved. Desperate for food. I walked to the rear of the building to find a small shed and a big dumpster. I stared at the dumpster. I couldn't bring myself to do it. I tried the door on the shed; it was locked. But there was a window on the opposite wall, and it slid open. I wiggled my way in and found I could make a bed out of the stuff stacked against one of the walls. I tried to lay down, but my stomach began to cramp up and I had to find food. Maybe, must maybe, they had left the back door of the restaurant open. I wiggled out again.
Nope. Locked tight. I looked again at the dumpster, and another cramp seized me.
So I dived. I found the remnants of some sandwiches there. It was the grossest thing I've ever done. But I was soo hungry. There was a water spigot with a hose attached on the back of the restaurant and I got a drink there. Then I wiggled back into the window, lay down and fell asleep.
Six hours later I woke up with stomach cramps that were nothing like the hunger pangs of earlier. I was sick. I just made it to the window and heaved. I was sweating. I retched again and then fell back into the shed. I could hear noises outside. Someone was throwing something away in the dumpster. Morning was coming and they must be getting ready to open the rest stop.
I had to stay hidden. The cops were going to arrest me for stealing that car. I knew the driver was out there and they were looking for me. Yeah, they wanted to pick me up and take me home and they'd make me stay there. Sweat rolled down my face as the energy drained from my body. Sleep was fitful. I couldn't let anyone see me. The highway patrol would have drawings and photos of me. I was in big trouble. The delirium grew as the fever did.
Danny. Danny would help me. If I could just get word to him. He'd get me out of this. He'd make them understand.
Wait. No he wouldn't. He had a new lover. He'd ignore my pleas. Or worse, he'd report me. Yeah. He'd report me. He'd call the cops and tell them where I was. That would get me out of his life so he could move on with his new boy friend. Or maybe girl friend. Maybe he had gone straight. He had. I knew it. No, it was a boy friend. No. Yes. A cute one. A cute one who knew how to make Danny cum over and over. No, Danny was lost. He wouldn't help me. He'd get me thrown in jail. Grand theft auto.
The cramps were getting worse as the day wore on. Sunlight heated the small shed and the air was stale. I lay doubled in the fetal position all day, trying to conserve my energy. I'd have to make my get away at night, when no one was looking. I'd have to hide in the forest, among the rocks, in caves, wherever I could. I slept again and tried to keep from puking. Just showing my face at the window would be dangerous, I knew, because the cops were crawling over this place. I just knew they were.
As the sun sank the shed cooled a little bit, but I didn't. I shivered, but not from the chill. I slept more, and when I woke up, I knew I was in real trouble. Diarrhea. I lept out the window and ran back into a small woods along the road. I just made it.
But when I got back to the shed I couldn't get back in through the window. I collapsed from exhaustion.
"Hey, wake up." I heard the voice in the distance, but I didn't recognize it. This feeling was familiar. Trying to fight my way back into consciousness. I struggled toward the voice and it got louder in my ears. Finally I was able to force my eyes open.
"Hi. You're awake." I didn't move. "Aren't you?" I still didn't move. I was stunned. I knew I was dead. I was looking at an angel. A certifiable seraphim. A boy angel. Gorgeous. He had a halo. No, wait, it must have been his hair. The most perfect golden hair god could create. Unbelievable. And smile. His face lit up with the smile, offset with dimples that would hold a golf ball. I didn't notice any wings, because I could not get past the face. His eyes held me -; green and deep and lively and perfect. He was perfection. I heard angels sing when he spoke again.
"Are you awake?"
I tried to talk, but my throat was dry and all I could croak out was, "No, I think I died."
He giggled, but all I heard was the soft tinkle of golden bells.
"Believe me, if you've died, you've gone to hell."
"Well, anyway, do you remember me?"
"I've never seen you. Where am I?"
"In our house. Actually, in my bed. I carried you into the house two days ago. You were sick out by the restaurant."
"Yeah, I remember getting sick. But not anything after that."
"My name's Kevin, Justin."
"How'd you know my name."
"You told me when I brought you in. Actually, I took you to my sister's room, but we were afraid you'd puke again, so I moved you in here after a while."
"So I'd puke in your bed."
"I was pretty sure if you were gonna do that again it would be the dry heaves. You want something to drink?"
He handed me a glass of water he had brought with him. I drank it all down, then was afraid I'd be sick again.
"I don't think you're gonna get sick again. I brought you some cottage cheese and some toast to eat, if you're hungry."
"How can you be sure?"
"I think you probably got food poisoning. Did you eat anything out of the dumpster?
I blushed deeply.
"It's okay. We've had it happen before. Let me guess. A sandwich. With mayo. Of course it had mayo, we put mayo on everything."
"My family owns the restaurant. We go through a lot of mayonnaise."
All I could do was watch him. The waterfall sound of his voice, the movement of his perfectly bowed lips had me spellbound. I ate a bite of the cottage cheese and nibbled on the toast.
"The mayo was probably spoiled from the heat and it make you sick. You've been down for two days. But you're looking better now."
He got up and walked to a battered wooden desk, sat down and opened a book. "I'm gonna get some homework done while you eat. Then maybe we can talk."
I tried to eat slowly. My stomach still felt unsettled, and I didn't want to tempt fate. I'm not a huge cottage cheese fan, but this tasted okay. The toast was great.
I finished and set my plate on the table, but Kevin didn't see me. He was concentrating on his book. I lay back down and rolled onto my side. I got a good look at the rest of him. He was sitting, so it was hard to tell how tall he was, but I could see the rest of him. He had strong arms with a fine sheen of blond hair. With muscles at the biceps, he was built, not slim. You could tell he worked out. He was wearing shorts and his legs were muscular too, covered with slightly darker blond hair. He wore a pair of gray sweat socks but no shoes.
But my eyes kept wandering back to his face. It really was perfect. He looked over at me and seemed surprised to see me looking at him.
"Oh, you're done."
"You know, you have a talent for stating the obvious."
He blushed and smiled. "Yeah. Well, do you want to talk? Why were you puking behind the restaurant?"
"Cuz I ate some of your food," I said with a smile.
He chuckled "It doesn't really make you sick, as long as you order it inside. Okay, let me try again. Why were you behind the restaurant?"
"It was the best place to find to be sick."
"C'mon, Justin. You're going to have to answer. You're a runaway, right?"
"Your parents don't understand you."
"Hell, that would be the good part. My parents don't know I exist. Dad took off about seven months ago. Mom took up with some drunken ape-man, and I've been sleeping at my best friend's house since then."
"They beat you?"
"No, just ignored me. Well, ape-man tried to beat me, but he was too drunk. I called my friends and they helped take care of him.
"How'd you end up in Bumfuck, Arizona?"
"Is that where I am? You'd think the state would have certain regulations on what you can call a town."
He laughed again and it was pure joy to hear. "Yeah, well, it's the third time I've asked you why you were here and you haven't given me an answer yet."
"Ya have to ask the right question."
"No, I don't. I just want an answer. How'd you get here and why?"
"I've been hitchhiking since Tuesday. That's when I left my hometown. Don't bother to ask, I'm not going to tell you. I got lucky with a couple of rides, but the last one was mean. He tried to beat me up and rob me. When he pulled over to the side of the road I got out to run and he chased me. But I got back to the car, which he had left running, jumped in and drove off. I got about 40 miles before I stopped, threw the keys into the desert and started walking. And I found this place. Or rather, that place," I said, jerking my thumb at the restaurant across the lot.
"And where ya headed?"
"I got a friend there."
"No. Best friend. Well, one of two best friends. Except I'm not sure if he wants to see me again."
"Can't tell you that, either."
"Why doesn't he want to see you?"
"I think he's moved past our friendship. I haven't any responses to e-mail lately. I think he's lost interest in the friendship. I guess it happens when friends move away."
He paused uncomfortably long. "Yeah. I guess." He looked out into space.
He roused himself and said, "You can stay here until you're feeling better. We've taken in strays before."
Yep, dogs, cats, kids. You aren't 18 are you?"
"No," I said sheepishly. I looked down. It was then I noticed I wasn't wearing any clothes except a pair of boxers that were too big.
"Where are my clothes?"
"Being washed. You puked all over them. Those are my boxers, but you can, um, keep them."
"So how long were you out behind the restaurant?"
"Well, I guess I got there Thursday night. After I ditched the car I started walking and got here after dark. The place was deserted, so I tried the door to the shed. It was locked, but I found a window I could open and crawled in. I made a bed in there and slept. But I was hungry. I tried the back door of the restaurant but it was locked. My only choice was the dumpster. If it means anything, it was a good sandwich. Tasted a little funny, but okay."
"Yeah, that would be the food poisoning, that funny taste. Then you climbed back into the shed and laid there till you got sick?"
"Did you get sick in the shed?"
"Uh, no, I made it to the window."
We chatted a little more, getting to know each other. About fifteen minutes later, the door opened and a kid about 13 came in. He had many of the same features as Kevin, but was small and thin. His smile was as radiant, though.
"This is my brother, Jonathan. He's 13. He helped get you up here."
"Hi," I said.
"Hi," he said shyly. We shook hands.
"Mom says to get to bed. We gotta get up early in the morning."
"Where do you want me to sleep?" I asked.
"Uh, no. It's your bed."
"Stay there tonight. I don't want to change the sheets. I'll sleep on the floor again. I don't mind."
"No, man, I'll do it."
"Justin, you can have the bed one more night. Then we'll see what happens."
Thank god. I was exhausted and I didn't want to sleep on the floor.
"Ya wanna clean up before you got to sleep?
"Yeah, I'd like to."
He showed me the bathroom and left me alone. The shower felt great and I stayed in a little longer than usual trying to wash away the grime. The past. My fears. My life.
The room was dark when I came back in. Both boys were asleep. I crawled into bed and was out in a few moments. I don't know why, but it almost felt like home... a home where I could be happy.
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