Pebbles grind under his one bare foot, and shift under the boot. Long since he'd lost the distinction between the two; never has he felt it as a moral question. Without giving it more attention than his peripheral vision, he walks past a mile marker. Eyes instead following the solid yellow and dashed white perspective lines to the point at infinity, he feels with his foot the car before he hears it, knows the make by its sound before he sees it, and judges the man behind the wheel before he turns and puts his thumb out. Not to show the grizzled knob, but to hide the fingers. These hands shouldn't be let out in public, he muses to himself.
A Volvo with a bad fuel injector, yeah. A small town hero looking for somone young and easy to turn into a man's man, yeah. The car slows and stops, only ten feet past him, so he saunters to it lazily in case he'd misjudged and the guy's just a joker about to make tracks. Never let them get to ya. No squeal of tires, however; the door opens easily. The man nods him in. Balding at fiftyish, untucked shabby shirt bulging within an inch of the wheel. Happy with himself he's giving a kid a ride, and happier still the kid's good looking. Notes the man's gaze going to his crotch. You ain't nothing special, he thinks, the road's full of guys like you.
"Going west?" Baldy asks, unnecessarily. People on the road go wherever the road leads. "Commahn in." Thanks, he thinks. At least this should be good for a few miles.
"Thanks," he says, and means it as far as it goes. The car is cool, the music some post millennium country-and-western he's never heard. Hell, the last time he was on this road, the singer probably wasn't born yet. Gears shift and the windows give the illusion of movement his body doesn't feel. transition to the next phase.
"Whatcher name, son?" Comes the expected. He just smiles on the side Baldy can't see. The dots of the digital clock on the dash blink until watching him and waiting for his reply give way to the small town genes that enforce the eyes-on-the-road rule. "`Salright, son, I understand. I'm Jake." Of course you are, he thinks. A mile marker passes, counting down to the next middle of nowhere. "I gotta ask. Where ya headed?" Toward the asymptotic junction at the terminator, he muses.
"Casper, for tonight," he says, "Probably try for Shoshoni tomorrow. Then north along the Bighorn." Or south, depending on how far Baldy tries to take this. He's been chased down before by guys who went home nervous, then decided they didn't want to leave any witnesses. Second mile marker. The singer falls behind them only to be replaced by another city slicker with a drawl invented by the record company. It won't be long now.
"I take it you've been this way before," Baldy turns it up a notch, trying to get friendly. "You know, we're good people out here. Always happy to help out." Here it comes, he thinks, play your hand. He times the man by his travel clock, gauging the force of his aging libido against those who've said it before. "If ya wahnt, youkin stay at mah place t'naht; no need'ta spend more money'n ya have to." Forty-two seconds, he notes. And waits fifty.
"No thanks," he answers, "I've got somebody to stay with in Casper." An easy lie, and he knows it doesn't fool Baldy; but it's the simplest way to find out just how desperate the man is. Not even half a minute passes, but at least there's another marker he won't have to walk by.
seem to run
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"Hey, look," the warning shows in Baldy's tone, "I'm willin' to take ya all the way to Casper. The least y`could do is gimme a blow job." I bet you haven't said those two words together in days, he thinks, if ever. He gives the man a look that says it's time for him to get out. The pink in Baldy's cheeks grows darker than that on his forehead. "You better suck my cock, or y'mama's never gonna see y'agin." He can't hold back the half grin, but this time forgets to turn away.
"I've sucked a lot of cock, mister. And enjoyed it. Even used to do it for money when I needed it; but that's over. I sure as hell ain't gonna dewit fernoh asshole outa Wahohmin'." Pretty proud of himself at the impression, he waits for the inevitable.
"Whah," at the same instant Baldy's fist, "you sonofabitch," hits him in the chest, making him double over. Stars explode before his eyes as the wind is knocked out of him. He doesn't feel the deceleration until the crown of his head contacts with the dash giving him a pain that's sharper, yet not as powerful, as that in the ribs in front of his heart. Through the rush in his ears, he hears gravel facing unnatural erosion, and thinks; the price for a few miles. He's shoved back by the same meaty hand that pulls the handle on the door and swings it out. The man's neck is close enough for him to break, bite, or kiss. This is the closest you're going to get, he thinks. "Get th'fuck outa here, you cocksucker!" somewhere beyond the firefall in his head. He's pushed by the hand now strengthened by fear as much as embarassment, and allows the man to believe he's weak. So finds himself stumbling out onto the shoulder, barely upright before the gravel flies, getting its last chance leave the earth.
He laughs, at himself and at the balding man, each playing their roles to the hilt. Taking a break and a piss in the tall brush some distance from the road, he keeps watch for a return to the scene of the might-be crime; but the sun dips the distance of an hour and still no Baldy, so he resumes his pace halfway on the blacktop. His ribs are sore but not broken; and neither his pride, his stamina, nor his sense of humor have been dented in the least. After a minute or so, he walks past a marker, noting that he'd gained six. Under his booted foot, gravel shifts, and grinds beneath the one left bare.