Mike and Danny: The Snowstorm
by Rock Lane Cooper

This is a work of gay erotic fiction. If you are offended by such material or if you are not allowed access to it under the laws where you live, please exit now. This work is copyrighted by the author and may not be copied or distributed in any form without the written permission of the author, who may be contacted at: rocklanecooper@yahoo.com

Chapter 2


It's early evening, and light snow is starting to whirl down softly in Cheyenne. Charlie pulls the big rig off the highway to get something to eat at a truck stop outside of town and fill up his thermos with hot coffee.

Inside the diner, a trucker coming from the other way tells Charlie the snow will get worse as he heads east. "In Scottsbluff it was a-coming down to beat all hell," he says with a drawl, mopping up brown gravy with a slice of white bread. "Makes a man like me wish he'd never left Georgia."

"Is that a fact," Charlie says straddling an empty stool at the counter to sit down beside him.

Under his fleece-lined jacket, the man is wearing a plaid Pendleton shirt with a V of yellowing thermal underwear showing at his open collar. A thick tuft of dark curly hair is visible at his throat, like it's trying to crawl out.

"Tell ya, I've had enough of this here winter shit," he laughs. "You Yankees can freeze yer balls off up here, and yer welcome to it."

Charlie chuckles. A guy from northern Michigan, he's grown up with snow and cold. "Don't bother me much, I guess," he says and glances between the man's legs, where a good size bulge pushes out the front of his jeans, the denim faded blue where he's rubbed himself a lot against something. Or just rubbed himself. Charlie has done it enough, bored sometimes with the endless miles he's seen on countless cross-country trips.

Charlie sets his thermos on the counter and looks up at the specials board. "What's good to eat?" he says.

"Meat loaf's not bad," the guy says. "You know what they say, don't let your meat loaf."

Charlie smiles and waits for the waitress. And he watches as two young men—not more than boys really—come in from outdoors, looking around the diner. Their coats are covered with snowflakes, and they're stamping their feet, like they've been outside for a while. Only one of them wears a cap. The other's hair is wet with melting snow.

The way they stand together, he can tell they're probably looking for a ride. And something else about them tells him they're buddies. It's in the way they glance at each other without talking, like they know what each other is thinking.

Sure enough, it's a ride they want. He can hear them asking at the other end of the counter. And they're not having any luck. Drivers are going in the wrong direction, or they don't want a couple hitchhikers.

Charlie watches them out of the corner of his eye as they make their way along the counter. One of them does all the talking, and he flashes a big friendly smile, like he's used to asking for things from strangers—and getting them. The other is the quiet one of the two, more thoughtful-looking. He has dark eyes, and without warning Charlie begins to feel his heart stirring deep inside his flannel shirt.

"Either of you heading east?" the talkative one says when they get to Charlie's end of the counter.

"My friend here is," says the driver from Georgia. "You're not gonna turn down a coupla good lookin' boys in this weather, are ya?" he says to Charlie, winking.

"All we need's a ride to Grand Island," the one says who's been doing all the talking. His wet hair has curled up, and a drip of melted snow is slipping down the side of his face.

Charlie takes a long look at them both, like he's thinking it over, but he's already decided he might like their company. Something he's never cared for about trucking is all the time on the road alone. Especially with only an empty room to call home when he gets there.

He finally nods. "I'll be going through Grand Island," he says. "You're welcome to come along."

He looks to the other kid, whose eyes smile back at him. "Thank you, sir," the boy says.

And in half an hour they're climbing into Charlie's 18-wheeler. He has left the engine running, and the heater has kept the cab more or less warm. The two of them have a rucksack, which they shove under their feet, as Charlie switches on the wipers to whisk away the snow that's collected on the windshield.

By now he knows their names. The talkative one with no cap is Kirk, and the other one is Rich. They've been working for a ceiling tile outfit, and they've been going from job to job since September. Now they're headed back home for the rest of the winter.

Kirk is wide-eyed and wanting to know all about the truck. How fast can it go? How many gears does it have? How many gas tanks? Does Charlie own it? What does he haul? Can you sleep back here? He's noticed the ledge behind the front seat, where there's a bunk long enough for a man to stretch out.

"Yes you can," Charlie says.

"Can I try it?" Kirk says.

Charlie says OK, but he's looking at the boy's boots, which are wet and covered with mud. "You gotta take them off first."

Which he does. And he's soon crawled up into the sleeper and is crowing with approval. "Rich, you gotta try this," he's saying. "There's enough room for both of us."

Rich glances at Charlie. In the overhead light there's a feint shadow of whiskers on his chin and along his jaw.

"Go ahead," Charlie says and watches as Rich bends forward to unlace his wet work boots and take them off, his socks bunching down around his toes as he pulls his feet out. Then he turns in the seat, lifting one leg up and brushing against Charlie's shoulder as he crawls up beside Kirk.

Charlie reaches his hand to the boy's butt to give him a boost, and his heart quickens as he feels the muscle of both cheeks tighten and flex under the denim.

There really isn't room for two in the sleeper. He can only guess that the two boys are really so close that they are happy to be piled in together—even want to be—that they have a friendship that's more than rough talk and shoulder punches. In a world where men learn to keep their distance, it warms him to know that these two can still act like boys. It won't always be that way. He knows.

He switches off the overhead and the cab fills with the soft light of the dashboard panel. As he puts the truck in gear and begins to pull the rig back onto the highway, there's the familiar growl of the engine under the push-pull rhythm of the windshield wipers. And he notices the sideways slant of the thickening snow falling through the lights and neon around the truck stop.

Behind him in the sleeper there is wrestling and laughter, and he lets a warm, sweet glow fill his chest. From there it spreads and settles between his legs, where a thickening makes itself felt in his shorts, and his dick starts pushing for room against his leg. He smiles to himself, recognizing how the laughter has turned to giggling, and he guesses that one of them has snuck his hand into the other's crotch.

The wrestling keeps up for several miles until it stops with some heavy breathing, and the two of them are quiet for a while. Charlie wonders if they're so tuckered they might just fall asleep back there. But before long Rich comes tumbling down onto the seat again and sits looking out the side window. A roadside sign glides by in the night. Through a layer of snow you can make out the words: "Welcome to Nebraska. The Cornhusker State."

"Warm enough for ya?" Charlie says. "I can turn up the heat." He knows the air leaks in around the door on that side, and it gets cold on the floor.

"No, sir, I'm fine," Rich says. He's sitting cross-legged on the seat, toes tucked under him.

"Your buddy coming down, too?"

"No, he's asleep."

And they talk for a while about being out on the road, how people don't like to stop for two hitchhikers, how cold and tired they both got just getting from Sheridan down to Cheyenne.

"If you want, you can put your feet over on me," Charlie says. "Keep 'em warm."

Rich takes his eyes from the road to look at him.

"I don't bite," Charlie says and grins.

"Sure," Rich says and turns sideways in the seat, putting both stocking feet against Charlie's hip. He wiggles his toes for a minute, getting comfortable, and the sensation sends waves through Charlie. It's been a long time since anyone, young or old, has touched him.

Glancing over at Rich, he takes in the boy's legs in his jeans and the breadth of his young shoulders. His head is turned back to the road and the steady fall of snow sweeping through the bright headlamp beams. "Better?" Charlie says.

"Yessir." Rich wiggles his toes again. "Thanks."

Charlie is smiling to himself. In the dim light he's noticed that the boy's zipper is open. Now he's sure his two hitchhikers were fooling around in the sleeper.

As if reading his thoughts, Rich looks down, reaches with one hand to grab the bottom of his fly, and with the other tugs up the zipper right to his belt buckle. Both feet press for a moment against Charlie, and Charlie pretends not to notice.

They drive on in silence for several miles. He passes another truck going slow and keeps an eye on the rear view mirror as he pulls ahead. When the driver flashes a high-low beam, he signals a thanks with his taillights and changes lanes again.

Finally he offers to turn on the radio. "Not much out here but country and western. Or there's a bible preacher from Del Rio, Texas, comes in loud and clear at night."

When he gets no answer, he discovers that Rich has fallen asleep, his head tipped back against the window behind him, his arms folded across his chest. Charlie takes one hand from the wheel and puts it on the boy's feet, his socks still cool and damp from a day of walking through mud and slush.

He drives on, glad for the company on this lonely Panhandle road. Glad for the touch of someone else. Glad to share the warmth of his body.

And what comes back to him is the memory of another night, at a truck stop in Elko, Nevada, after he'd got gassed up at the diesel pumps and was parked at the edge of a big lot sleeping a few hours before getting back on the road. About a half hour short of dawn, there'd been a rapping on the door, and he looked out to see a cowboy with a leather valise in one hand and a guitar case over his shoulder.

"Give a guy a ride?" he wanted to know.

"Depends on where you're going," Charlie said.

"Don't much matter. Anywhere outta here will do."

Charlie yawned and said he was heading east. Salt Lake, Omaha, Chicago.

"That'll do."

And the cowboy climbed in.

His name was Randall. He couldn't have been more than twenty-two. He'd grown up in Amarillo, and sounded about as Texas as a man can get, but seemed not inclined to ever go back there.

He'd been working on ranches since he was a teenager, and until a week before, he'd been with an outfit west of Winnemucca. There'd been some disagreement, Charlie gathered, a long festering slight that suddenly boiled up into a fistfight, and Randall had up and quit. He still had a scrape on one ear and rubbed his shoulder where he said he got thrown into a corral fence and then kicked when he was down.

Charlie didn't quite make sense of it all and felt maybe some key parts of the story had been left out or glossed over. As they rode along, he was mostly taken by the cowboy himself, the nervous energy that let him never quite sit still and the way his eyes almost knifed into Charlie whenever they looked at each other.

He was lean, as young cowboys can be. His jeans and denim jacket had been worn hard, and his boots were beat up, the leather cracked, and the heels caked with dirt and dry cow shit. He wore a dusty black hat and a big silk bandana wrapped twice around his neck, buckaroo style.

He had a bag of apples in his valise and fished one out, slicing off pieces with a buck knife he pulled from his pocket, wiping the blade first on his thigh. The knife looked like it could have been last used for cutting calves. But when the cowboy offered him a slice of the apple, he took it and chewed it slowly, letting the tart sweetness fill his mouth.

They rode on into Utah, stopping for some breakfast and sitting together in a booth, eating plates of steak and eggs, drinking weak coffee.

"Dang Mormons can't make coffee worth shit," he said loud enough for the farmers in the next booth to hear. And Charlie began to get an idea of how this cowboy might easily talk himself into a fistfight.

After big slices of lemon meringue pie and paying the bill, they stood together at the urinals in the men's room, for a long blissful piss. Charlie took an interest as the young cowboy opened his wranglers but got only a quick glimpse of a long dick that hung there before he stroked it with his fingers and then produced a thick steady stream aimed straight into the water. Meanwhile, he was looking up, reading the penciled phone numbers and messages on the wall.

"Do I want a B-J? What the hell's that?" he said.

Charlie glanced over his shoulder and saw only an old guy by the sinks with the water running, pumping the soap dispenser. He lowered his voice and said, "I think it means some guy wants to suck your cock."

"A guy?" Randall said, his voice filling the men's room.

"That'd be my guess," Charlie said, trying not to sound too well informed.

Randall had a puzzled look and said, "Why can't he just come right out and say so?" He was waggling his dick now as he peed, playing with the steady stream against the porcelain.

This was about all it took to give Charlie's dick a lift and enough size to make finishing off and stuffing himself back into his shorts a little awkward. With his big ass, there wasn't much room left in his jeans for the extra freight.

He went to the sink to wash his hands and splash water on his face. But in the mirror he kept watching the cowboy, still leaning into the urinal, legs wide, the seat of his jeans snug around his butt. A can of snuff rode high in one back pocket, the round tin almost worn through the denim.

Finally, his hat tipped forward as he looked down, shaking himself and arching his spine while he put his dick back into his jeans. He turned, punching the flusher, and pulled up his zipper as he walked over beside Charlie. In the mirror, he was studying his reflection and seemed satisfied with what he saw.

Charlie was wiping his face with paper towels to keep from just staring. His chest was filling with darting whirls of feeling, his heart like an unbroken horse churning up dust as it circled and reared inside a high-fenced corral.

The October day was warm in the bright sunshine, as they walked back to the truck, gravel crunching under their boots. Randall stopped and took off his hat to look up at a mountain ridge white with new-fallen snow, squinting in the sun and running his long fingers through his hair. His shirt was big on him, and as he raised his arm, Charlie could see that his stomach was flat as a stove lid.

"Damn, I do love this country," the young man said half to himself. "Sure beats hell out of Amarillo."

"You decided yet where you're going?" Charlie said, hoping the cowboy didn't take a mind to get his stuff out of the truck and leave him right then and there.

"Nope," he said. "But it'll come to me."

They climbed into the truck and pulled back onto the highway, not saying anything more, just watching the road and the stream that ran along it, water washing blue-black over rocks, and the cottonwood trees on the banks bright yellow in the fall sunlight.

They rode for a while with the windows rolled down to let the cool high plains air pour into the cab, and the cowboy unsnapped his shirt, which fell open on one side to show his smooth chest and a curve of muscle under a small puckered nipple. He let his knees spread wide and once or twice grabbed his crotch to make himself more comfortable.

"What do you think about when you're driving?" he said out of the blue.

"Nothing much," Charlie said. Nothing much besides wishing he didn't spend so much time alone. "What about you?"

He laughed. "Oh, I'm just sittin' here thinkin' I could do with one of them B-Js."

This was not what Charlie expected to hear. The cowboy, who had his head turned looking out the window, suddenly turned back to him, a wide grin on his face, his eyes cutting straight into Charlie's. "You ever had one?"

"Can't say that I have," Charlie said. It was a lie, but not a big one.

"I reckon it could be some fun," the cowboy said and slouched down a bit in the seat, grabbing his crotch again to adjust himself in his wranglers. And that was all he had to say about it.

After a few more miles of drumming his fingers on the armrest and singing to himself, he reached in the sleeper, where they'd stowed the guitar case, and he got out his guitar, strumming a few chords as he tuned the strings. And for the next hundred miles and more, rolling past the salt flats and on through Salt Lake City, he sang cowboy songs, with the sweetest, tenderest voice Charlie had ever heard come from a man.

They were mostly sad songs—lonesome cowboys, cowboys getting shot and dying, or shooting someone else and getting hanged. His voice broke on some of the high notes, but the feelings were raw and real. The boy knew how to sing from his heart, and his heart was big as a barn.

"Anything you wanna hear?" he'd said finally.

Charlie wondered if he knew "Crazy." Whenever he heard it on the radio, it made his heart ache, but he loved the bittersweet feeling anyway.

"Is that a cowboy song?" Randall said. "Don't know as I know a song by that name."

And Charlie explained that it was a song by Patsy Cline. And then he realized that working a ranch, outdoors, a cowboy might not know much radio music. So he tried singing it and found that he knew most of the words.

Randall took it all in, like he was learning something new. "Ah, it's about lovin' somebody who doesn't love you back," he said. "I guess I know something about that." And he tried to find the chords on the guitar that went with the song. "How does it go again?" he wanted to know, and for another thirty or forty miles Charlie sang the song until Randall was singing it along with him.

Patsy Cline's version was just fine, and Randall never got the song quite right, but hearing a man's voice sing it made Charlie feel almost mournful. He was not a guy who cried real easy, but for a while there were hot tears in his eyes.

"Who-hoo," Randall said finally. "That's a dandy. You feel it right here." He slapped his hand flat on his chest. "And you can feel it down here, too." He dropped his hand between his legs and squeezed the front of his jeans. "Boy, do you feel it down there."

They rode on into Wyoming, and the afternoon sun sank in the autumn sky behind them. Out on the flat sagebrush plains, and the wide straight highway, they picked up some speed and covered mile after mile in a shared silence, staring ahead at the road, the cowboy finally nodding off, his arms still wrapped around the guitar.

Charlie nudged his shoulder and pointed back to the sleeper. "You can stretch out back there if you're tired," he said. Randall roused himself enough to consider the offer and then, without a word, crawled up behind Charlie. For the next hour or two, Charlie was alone with his thoughts, mostly aware of the cowboy just inches from the back of his head.

His dick had never really relaxed since they were standing together in the men's room, and now it felt even more urgent between his legs. It kept stiffening against his thigh, and against his skin he felt the drops of wetness oozing from him whenever he was aroused—aroused and yearning like this.

His breath kept catching in his lungs, and he knew it wasn't the altitude. Now and then, he would glance over at the seat where the cowboy had been sitting. The guitar had slipped to the floor, the long neck leaning up against the door, the shiny veneer surface and the strings still warm, as he imagined, from the cowboy's touch. And he touched himself, stroking his balls and the length of his penis with his fingernails.

When he let his mind go, he thought of the horseshoe buckle on the cowboy's worn leather belt and what it would be like unbuckling it and opening his jeans to bury his face inside, breathing in deep the smell of him. Then pulling down the front of his underwear and putting his lips against the warm skin, giving his belly whiskery kisses. Until his kisses found the cowboy's curly patch of dick hair and his swelling dick under that.

Then he'd give the cowboy a B-J he'd never forget. And he kept stroking himself.

And maybe the young man would decide to stay with Charlie. Just ride with him on down the road, a sidekick, a buddy, a partner, his friend forever. And as he felt his heart open in that rising flood of loving emotions, there was a gush of his cum pouring into his jeans, wet and warm against his leg, one surge after another, soaking into the denim.

When he came to himself again, he was passing a car with a U-Haul trailer, on a wide stretch of new interstate, and clocking fifteen miles an hour over the speed limit. The reality of the flat Wyoming sagebrush plain settled once more into focus, stretching out in endless clarity in all directions. And he was once more just a truck driver, with miles and miles to go.

It got to be early evening. He pulled off the road in Rock Springs, tired and hungry. As he stopped at the diesel pumps, he turned in the seat and took a look at the cowboy, who was still sleeping. His hat covered his face, and his slender body lay there like he had fallen from the sky. His stomach was so flat it sank under the belt that held up his jeans. You could easily slip your hand in.

"Hey, Randall," Charlie said, wanting to reach out and shake him, but not sure he should. "You about ready for some chow?"

The cowboy stirred and lifted his hat to look around, like he wasn't sure where he was. He blinked and saw Charlie, then grinned.

"You got me in the middle of a good dream," he said, but didn't elaborate.

A service station attendant had jumped up on a stepladder in front of the truck and was washing the windshield with a wet sponge.

After Charlie parked the truck, they went into a diner not much different from the one where they'd had breakfast in the morning. They sat again together in a booth and ordered chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes, swimming in gravy. The coffee this time was strong, and Randall pronounced it good.

They didn't talk much. Charlie mostly looked at his food, aware of the clammy wet spot in his underwear and trying not to connect the memory of his feelings with the young man sitting across from him. Randall seemed still half groggy from his big sleep.

"I'm gonna need some shut-eye," Charlie said after they'd found some pinball machines and played a few games. Randall, now wide-awake after four cups of coffee, was having a winning streak.

Charlie watched him for a while crouched over the machine, one cheek full of Copenhagen, boots square on the floor and butt in motion, his body tense, every muscle willing the balls into pockets and through chutes, careening again and again off the flippers, racking up noisy points.

And then Charlie left, walking out into the night, autumn darkness closing in and a cold moon looking down at him over a mountain ridge. He got some clean underwear out of his travel case and went to the men's room to pull down his jeans in one of the stalls and change. There was a big crusty stain of his cum on the pair he took off, and they were so strong with his smell he tossed them into the trash on the way out the door.

Across the highway there was a motel, and he thought for a moment of getting a room with a hot shower and asking the cowboy if he wanted to spend the night in a real bed. But his cash supply was low, and he had bills to pay. And—the real reason—he couldn't imagine getting any sleep with Randall anywhere near him.

Wanting to touch him would be so strong. And he was sure it would be all over if he did anything like that. He'd seen too many guys walk away from him when he'd let his feelings show. One or two had tried to punch him out, and he'd surprised them by being good with his fists.

And even though Randall was just a hitchhiker—not someone he'd ever see again—he wanted to make it last as long as he could.

He got into the truck and climbed into the sleeper without taking his boots off, pulling the curtain shut behind him and covering himself with an old quilt. Randall, when he got back, could have the seat up front. He felt for a moment the lingering presence of the young man's lean body under his own, but soon the fatigue of the day overwhelmed him and he was falling into a deep sleep.

Some time later, he didn't know how long, he was aware that the truck door had opened, the overhead light popping on and then off again as the door swung shut. Then after a while, coming to with a start, he realized he was looking at Randall's face, inches from his own. "Charlie, Charlie," he was saying.


"It's kinda cold out here. Can I get in there with you?"

And without getting an answer, he was crawling into the bunk, pushing the length of himself against Charlie, lying there for a moment and then turning his back, still pressed against him. His butt—the one that had moved with his hips as he humped the pinball machine—was nudged firmly into Charlie's crotch.

"I reckon you would've thrown me out by now if this wasn't OK," he said.

"It's OK," Charlie said, now fully awake. His dick had sprung to life against the back of Randall's wranglers, working into a spot right next to his tin of Copenhagen.

He lay still for a moment and then put his arm around Randall, finding the snaps on the front of his shirt and pulling them open to slip his hand inside, searching for and then finding one of his nipples, which was hard as a BB shot. Randall sighed and his body went through a little contortion that Charlie could feel down to his boots.

Then he slipped his hand down, down, over the cowboy's belly, under his belt buckle, and into his jeans, coming to a stop in the curly hair over his dick. And his body twisted in another contortion, the back of his head pushing into Charlie's face.

Then Charlie got out from behind him and said softly, "Lie back, why don't ya?" and bending down under the low ceiling, he got over the cowboy and opened his jeans. Under them, he discovered he had no underwear. And a plume of sweet, sweaty warmth quickly rose from between his legs.

In a band of light that fell through the sleeper curtains, he could also see something he hadn't noticed in the men's room. The cowboy had never been cut when he was born. As his dick lengthened under Charlie's touch, he saw the foreskin cling tight to the head, which bulged firmly under it. It was a beautiful long cock, almost too big for the young man it belonged to.

He cupped his hand under the cowboy's balls, which hung full and loose. And then he closed his eyes and guided the end of his dick into his mouth.

Randall squirmed again under him, sighing. One boot kicked against the wall; one knee rose and then fell again. His hands came together on both sides of Charlie's face, rubbing his three-day growth of whiskers.

"This is one of them B-Js, ain't it," he said in a quiet drawl. Charlie just nodded.

The cowboy was a mouthful. Charlie felt the end of his dick against the back of his throat and opened as far as he could, wanting now to swallow all of him. He held the hardening cock with one hand, circling the slick foreskin with his tongue, the tang of precum spreading in his mouth.

With the other hand he pressed between the boy's legs until with one fingertip he found his butt hole, stroking it in little circles with the same movement as his tongue. This produced a continuing chorus of sighs, and the cowboy was now lifting his hips to push down his jeans and twisting and kicking in all directions, his belt buckle clinking.

Charlie now sucked hard, a finger slipping into the cowboy's butt, which pinched down and let go, over and over. He was more gasping now than sighing, and the gasping sounded like sobs. His arms flung up and over his head, knuckles thumping on the ceiling. Then they came down again on Charlie, fingers digging into his shoulder, pulling on his shirt.

Finally he gave out a high little cry, like a child lost in a big supermarket. And then he came, head rocking from side to side, his cock rigid in Charlie's hand and filling his mouth with wave after wave of warm cum.

When he was done, he lay unmoving. Charlie got out from between his legs and squeezed down beside him again, reaching to touch his face and finding it wet with tears. The young man's hand came up to meet Charlie's, lacing fingers together with his. And they lay together like that until Charlie reached for the old quilt and pulled it over them.

Randall slept, and eventually Charlie did, too, the weariness of a long day finally overcoming him again.

The next morning, it was after dawn when he woke up.

He climbed over Randall, still asleep, and started up the truck, intending to get some miles behind them before stopping for breakfast. As the engine warmed, he turned to look at the young man, who lay on his side, jeans down around his knees, his cock and balls hanging down across one naked thigh, full with sleep and morning dreams.

Charlie pulled on the old quilt to cover him and closed the sleeper curtain, remembering that when he woke up the night before, he said he'd been having a good dream. He had forgotten to ask about the dream and wondered what it was.

At Rawlins, he pulled off the road at another truck stop. And when Randall woke up and learned where they were, he pulled up his jeans under the quilt and sliding butt-first into the seat said he reckoned he'd head north from there. He knew a cowboy with an outfit not far from Cody. He might find work up that way.

And Randall had left him in Rawlins. Charlie stood for a while by the truck after saying a quick goodbye, watching him start to walk away, with his valise in one hand and guitar case over his shoulder.

"You know," Randall said turning, "that B-J's the most fun I ever had with my boots on." He winked and waved and then kept walking, the edge of the Cope tin catching the morning light and throwing a little shadow across one back pocket.

In the months and now years that have passed, Charlie has never forgotten him. Whenever he thinks of that ride together—and of that night—his heart aches as much as it did when he climbed into the truck and got back on the road, heading home to Michigan. He had a wishful idea for a long time of meeting him again at some truck stop, and once or twice he thought he caught sight of him somewhere, but it was as though the high plains of Wyoming had swallowed him up forever. Almost like he never existed.

Riding now on a snow-driven night, with a sleeping boy on the seat beside him and another one in the bunk behind them, the memories well up and he feels both full and empty. The times he's had were good ones, and he wouldn't trade them for gold, but they were all too short. Like the stretches of open road where you drive for miles and never see another soul.

At Grand Island, the snow is blowing hard and still coming down. There's a new truck stop along the interstate south of town, and the parking lot is filling up with trucks and cars waiting out the storm. He decides to find a spot and do the same.

He wakes up Kirk and Rich and says, "We're here." They come around slowly and groan when they look out at the snow.

"What time is it?" Kirk wants to know.

"About two a.m." Charlie tells them.

"Is Mike or Danny gonna come get us this time of night?" Rich says.

"They better," Kirk says. "Let's go find a phone."

And they pull on their boots and get out of the warm cab, jumping down into a blast of cold wind that whips a spray of snowflakes inside, sharp as needles.

"Thanks for the ride, sir," Rich says to Charlie, as Kirk disappears behind the truck, heading toward the bright lights of the station. Then Rich swings the door shut and is gone, too.

Charlie laughs and thinks about going inside. There are hot showers and rooms for truckers to play pool and watch TV. He wonders if a hamburger and fries might be good. He shakes his thermos, and it sounds nearly empty. If nothing else, he could go stretch his legs. Maybe find a magazine. Ask somebody how long the storm is supposed to last.

He could stay just where he is, but doesn't feel like sitting alone with his thoughts.

There's a knocking on the passenger door, and he guesses one of the boys has forgotten something. He reaches across to open it.

A figure stands there, hunkered inside a heavy coat with the collar turned up. With one hand, he's hanging onto a black cowboy hat covered with flecks of snow.

"Give a guy a ride?" he says.

He's carrying an old leather valise and has a guitar case over his shoulder. And in the light from the station Charlie can make out a lean young face that looks like it hasn't changed at all since an October morning in Rawlins, Wyoming.

"Depends on where you're goin'," Charlie says and smiles. "Get in."

End of chapter 2. More to come. . .

More stories. There's a novel-length story called "Two Men in a Pickup" and other stories posted at nifty.org. You can find links to them all, plus pictures of the characters and some cowboy poetry at the Rock Lane Cooper home page. Click here. If traffic is heavy, there is now a duplicate home page. Click here.

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© 2004 Rock Lane Cooper