Thanks for reading!

Any use of real places, events, corporations or products within this text are strictly for the purpose of adding realism and authenticity to the writing. Critiques are always welcome. Also, please let me know what you think of the format. If you want more information about any rodeo events, there are tons of resources online.

Written exclusively for Nifty Archives. This story involves sexual relationships between boys, aged 15 and older. If this is illegal in your area, please do not read on. This story is work of fiction. Any similarities between real places, people, and events is completely coincidental and unintentional. If you read the archives frequently, then you know the drill. Take the rest with a grain of salt. This story is (c) 2007-08, Milos. All rights reserved! Please do NOT repost this story without permission.

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It's strange not having any chores to do. Now I really don't know what to do with myself. I've been sittin' here lookin' at this damn box on my desk for the better part of the morning. I should really get up and check out the campus. Have a look around. But I don't feel right having this thing staring me right in the face.

An HP Compaq 6820 Notebook PC, it reads on the side of the box. I'm almost afraid to touch it. It's sitting on top of the printer box. Few other nick-nacks around. One of those laser mouses. I figure I could read the instructions.

I open the top of the box with my pocket knife. Find a bunch of papers and CD's in a plastic wrapper right on top of everything. I tear into it and pull out the thickest book. Flip it past the first few pages. Thanks for the purchase of your new... Shit. This ain't helpin'. Guess I'm too impatient.

I pull the styrofoam packing stuff out and start putting things down on the desk. Unwrap things as I go. Hold up a square plastic thing and eyeball it. I think it's the battery. Do I put this in first, or do I hafta plug it in THEN put the battery in? Where the fuck is the power cable?

I don't know if I can deal with this. I put the book down and throw on a shirt. Adjust myself before I step into the hall. I walk down a few doors and knock on Jarrod's door. Grab the knob and push it open. Peek my head in.

Jarrod's propped up on his elbow watching something on the TV. He's still between his covers, so I guess he just woke up. I've always been an early bird, anyway. There's a playboy on the ground next to the bed, but I'm not gonna make any wagers. He looks up at me.

"Sorry to bother you. Didn't realize it was this early." I scratch my arm, try a sheepish grin. "Second nature, I reckon." If he'd shave, he wouldn't be too bad lookin'. Shit, what am I thinkin'?

"What's up, man?" He's soft spoken, has a nature that kind of reminds me of Mattie in a way.

"I have this computer my Mom bought me, and I hate to say it, but I don't know nothin' 'bout the damned things. I was wondering maybe if you had some spare time, if you might be able to help me set it up?"

"Are you serious? You've never used a computer?" He sits up and leans forward on his elbows. Looks at me like I'm an antique of some sort.

"Well, I've used one at school, but I've never had one. I know how to open Microsoft Word and Solitaire."

He laughs. Looks at his alarm clock. "You know what? I might have some time to break away from this awesome basic cable programming." He stands up, grabs a towel off his dresser. "Let me clean up a bit first. I'll be over after my shower."

I head back to my room to finish unpacking. I don't wanna do it, but might as well get it outta the way sooner than later. Turn the alarm clock radio on and find a local country station. Just jam out and put my things away.

There's a knock on my door.

I turn the radio down and pull the door open.

"Is that country music?"

I nod. "Yeah, what's wrong with that?"

"We'll have to work on that." He steps around me and looks over the crap I have spread out on my desk. "This looks pretty easy."

"You need the instructions?"

He shoots me a dirty look. "Let's get this thing fired up." He puts the battery on the bottom of the computer. Goes through the box and gets the plug. Plugs it into the wall. He takes the mouse outta the package and plugs it in, too. Hits the power button.

A little HP logo flickers onto the screen, starts flashing all sorts of white text. "Is it supposed to do that?"

"You gotta give it a minute so Windows can start up." He looks over his shoulder. "You play Quake Arena?"

"Play what, now?"

"You've never played Quake 3 Arena? Everyone on this floor has a client and we play these huge LAN games. It's fun."

"I ain't got any idea what you just said."

"I'll fix you up." He looks over by the printer box. "You need office installed?"

"You just put the CD in, right?"

"To install it, yes."

"Don't I need the CD each time I run the program?"

He sighs. "You should really look into a basic computer class."

"I reckon I should."

"How the hell you go this long without a computer, anyway?"

I shrug. "Don't know. Just never had much use for one. Never been interested."

"By the way," he smiles, just keeps staring at the screen, "one of the girls in the housing administration thinks you're hot."

My cheeks burn.

"Who's that?" He points at a picture of Mattie and me that's sittin' on my desk.

"That's Shadow. We've been best friends since I was four."

"Oh. He going to school here?"

I shake my head. Makes me realize how much I miss him. How much I just wanna go home right now. "No, Arizona."

He looks at me, serious written on his face. "Do you have any friends in Spearfish?"

"I haven't met anyone other 'n you and Mos."

"God, I remember what it's like when you first get to college. Don't worry, I'll try to help you get sorted out." I hear it in his voice. Pitty.

# # #

When 681 was younger, a time or two before they tried to use him as a riding steer, they tried to use him a few times for roping events. Backdraft was a slick little shit back then, and he knew how to keep himself from getting tangled up.

The one time someone got him by the horns, the roper tripped him and somehow broke his back leg. Good thing for 681, injured rodeo animals are treated better than most animals. Even before his leg was casted, they couldn't keep the damn thing down. Word has it they had to sedate him while they set his leg.

# # #

It's starting to get a little bit late. The sky's starting to caramelize, and I'm supposed to go hang out with Jarrod and a few of his friends. He said they were going to go out for food and then probably get a few six-packs and go back to one of his friends' apartments, seeing you can't drink in the dorms.

I've got a pretty good idea about the lay of the campus. The most important building, far as I'm concerned, is the cafeteria. It's clear across the campus from me. I've eaten there a few times. Not as bad as high school food, but I don't know if I'd be able to do it every day.

There's a gym on campus, too. I know I could use a little work. Bulk up a little bit. Get my back and neck muscles toned up a little so I don't fuck myself up so bad riding. I'll have to hit Target to get some shit to workout in.

The library over there. One of the lecture halls next to it.

I see a building off to the south, next to the geological center. I haven't found the Ag building, and I wonder if that might be it. I walk past the theatre, head on up the hill a little ways. Pass the science and geological buildings, find myself wondering who in the hell would want to look at rocks all day long.

There are some guys and a few girls in the parking lot off to my right. They've got out a few roping dummies and some lariats.

This has got to be the Ag Center. I stand shy of the group and just watch for a minute. Put my hands in my pockets.

One of the guys looks over his shoulder. He's got a blonde girl on his lap. "Howdy." Nods at me.

A few of the others turn around and look me over. One of them gets a quick glances and goes back to twirling his rope. Casts out and misses.

"I take it this' the ag building?" I scratch my arm. Came out a bit softer than I thought.

The guy turns his head toward be again. "Wha'ssat? Come on over here. Hardly hear 'ya."

The blonde girl leans around him and smiles. "Yeah, he's hard of hearing. Selective."

He squeezes her. "Hey, now." Starts tickling her.

She tenses up, guffaws. "Damn it, Brian! Stop it!" She gets out of his grip and darts a few steps outta reach. She smiles at me. "So, what's your name? You goin' for an ag major or somethin'?"

I walk forward a bit. "Uh, I'm Lem. Don't know what I'm doing here, yet." Pull my hand out of my pocket and scratch my arm.

"You're new here, ain't ya?"

I feel myself blush. "That obvious?"

A guy with a lasso walks up and stands next to me.

I nod toward his rope. "You, uh, mind if I try?"

He looks skeptical.

Guess I'm not all hicked out like I normally would be. Wearing khaki shorts and a tee shirt. Sandals. Left my hat at home. Guess I could have worn my straw hat, but now I look like any other stoner out on the campus with this getup and Mattie's bracelet around my arm.

"Okay." He hands me the lariat.

I hold it in my open hand, look at it. Seems like it's wound right.

"You know how that works?"

I must look confused or something.

Brian leans forward. "Come on, Taylor. Just let him figure it out his self."

Taylor shrugs. Steps back. "All righty."

I take the noose into my right hand, get it where I want it. Twirl it above my head a few times to get the feel. It's been a while.

"Oooh. Gettin' fancy!"

"Shut up, Taylor!" The girl smacks him on the arm.

I just shake my head and take the toss. Get it right around the horns and dally back a bit. Almost pull the whole dummy over.

Taylor's got a look on his face like he can hardly believe it.

Brian just smirks and shrugs his shoulders.

I start rolling the rope back up, hand it back to Taylor with a nod. "Montana high-school state champion bareback two years runnin'."

Brian laughs out loud. "Knew it!" He slaps his knee.

"How the hell did you know?" Taylor stands there with his arms crossed.

"It's all in the wrist, man. He's got better throwin' action than you do. I knew he was rodeo when he grabbed the rope from you, just by the way he was lookin' at it. I didn't wanna say shit, man." He laughs again. "Knew it'd ruffle your feathers."

Taylor spits off to the side. "Whatever." He walks over to the other group of guys, takes a crack at the other dummy and misses.

I walk up next to Brian and the girl. "He seems nice." I chuckle lightly.

"He can be a little hostile, sometimes. It's just the way he is." She smiles at me.

"He threw one hell of a little tantrum when he fell off that horse at CNFR." Brian ticks his tongue and shakes his head. "Needs to get his crap together with an attitude like that. Don't fit nobody good."

"Lem, that's a very unique name." She smiles, holds out her hand. "I'm Brynn, this' my man, Brian."

I nod at her and shake my hand. "Miss." Shake his hand. "Nice to meet you both."

"You doing rodeo here?"

"Yeah. Gonna try to get to CNFR."

Brian raises his eyebrows. "Ooh. CNFR? What in?"

"Bull riding."

"Well, hell! It's good to get a few new riders in here. Seems like everyone who comes up from highschool just wants to ride horses."

I grin. "Been there, done it. Would have ridden sooner if my parents woulda let me."

"How well you do with bull riding?"

I shrug. "Pretty well, I guess. I outrode Hinkley Miller at the Burlee Fair on my second ride ever." I run that through my head a few times. Damn, now it sounds like I'm gloating.

He leans forward. "No shit?"

"No shit. Hink's pretty cool, too. Hung out with him and Tyler while he was back in Shelby."

"Tyler Wheston? That's pretty wild."

Brynn leans against Brian. "So what are you taking?"

"Don't know yet. Getting the required classes outta the way first before I decide. Meet a few more people and see. Wildlife Management sounds kinda cool."

"Well, if you're interested, the Ag department throws a barbeque after freshman orientation for everyone who wants to come on over."

I try to smile. It just reminds me that I still don't have any friends here. "Sounds fun."

"Oh, and we're taking Jordan over there snipe hunting tonight, if you'd like to join us. He's never been. Have you?" Brian grins ear to ear.

Brynn slaps him on the shoulder. "Be nice to the kid. You guys are so mean."

I shake my head. "Don't worry about it. I've taken my share of people snipe hunting. Sometimes you can get them out a second time to track down Nauga, too." I check my watch. Sigh. "As fun as that sounds, I promised the RA in my dorm I'd hang out with him. He's gonna introduce me to a few people in his circle."

"Which dorm you in?"

"Brooks Hall."

"Well, tell you what, give me your number, because we're going to the lake this weekend. We'd love it if you came along."

"I just got my phone, so I don't really know my number."

"Here, let me see your phone."

I reach into my pocket and hand her my phone.

She dials something into it and hits the send button. Her phone is sitting beside Brian on the tailgate. It lights up. Vibrates so hard it sounds like it's gonna jackhammer a hole right through the truck. "There, now I got your number." She types in something else. Looks at the face, and hits another button. She hands it back to me. "And now you have mine, too. Just let me know if you need anything." She winks at me.

Brian must be pretty dense, because I'd swear she's hitting on me right now. I guess she could just be really friendly. Not that Brian would have to worry about me making the moves on his girlfriend.

I nod at them both. "Well, thanks kindly. It was nice to meet you both, but I better get."

# # #

"Hey." He sounds a little down when he says it.

I sit on my bed, move the phone to my other hand. "How's Arizona?"

"Eh, it's okay."

"What's wrong?"

"I fuckin' miss you, that's what's wrong. I'm half way thinkin' about packing my shit and driving up there."

"You know I'd kick your ass if you did."

"Would you kiss it better after you were done?"

"Maybe after I was done being mad at you."

He laughs softly. "You always know how to make me feel better. Oh, guess what mom got me!"


"You're supposed to guess."

"A hamster? I don't know."

"Lem Taylor, you smartass. She got me a laptop."

"Hope you had a better time setting yours up than I did mine. Had to have the RA here hook it up and install everything."

"Mine's an Apple. Just pulled it outta the box and turned it on."


"I know I am. Speaking of which, I have a surprise for you."

I feel myself raise an eyebrow. "You do?"

"You alone?"

"You're not gonna pop outta my closet or something, are you?"

He laughs. I love it when I can hear him smiling. "I wish I could. You got AOL Messenger?"

"Jarrod set it up, I think. He's my only friend on there."

"Sign on. Let me find you."

I walk over to my desk, hit the power button. "Let me get it started." I sigh. "How you know so much about this shit, anyway?"

"Computer courses in Billings. Everyone had to take them."

I shrug. "More than I can say for me." I click on the little AOL icon on the desktop. It pops up the program. "Ok, it's running, now what?"

"What's your screen name?"

"My what?"

"Look at the top of the program. It should say your screen name."

"Oh. That. Bull Rider Lem, I think."

Suddenly, a little box pops up on my screen.

"Is that you? Says you want to be my friend."

He giggles. "Yeah."

I click the little accept button. Then another box pops up. Matthew Hedquist is requesting a video chat. There's red text under that. "It's telling me I don't have a camera connected."

"It's okay. You don't need one."

I hit the accept button. A little box pops up, this time there's video of Mattie sitting at his desk. The video kind of jumps here and there. "Well, I'll be damned."

He smiles and waves at me. "Wanna just talk with the text?"

I wave back, like he could see me. "I better. Momma's gonna be pissed if we talk too much longer on the phone. I type really slow, though."

"Don't worry about that."

I shrug. "Okay. Um," I feel a small pit in my stomach. "I love you."

He smiles at me, blushes. "Now you're in trouble!"

"What did I do?"

"Just you wait 'n see. Love you, too."

It feels good to hear him say it. I hang up the phone and wait for him to do whatever it is he's doing.

A box pops up. MatthewHedquist: Moo!

I have to hunt and peck for the keys. BullRiderLem: o haha

MatthewHedquist: god i miss you.

BullRiderLem: miss u to

MatthewHedquist: so are you alone?

BullRiderLem: i reckon i am

He smiles at me. Stands up and lifts his shirt up a little bit. Raging fucking hardon.

I almost fall outta my chair. BullRiderLem: u aint wearing any pants?

He sits back in his chair. MatthewHedquist: havent been all morning

BullRiderLem: Don't you have a roommate or something?

He smiles. MatthewHedquist: I got a room to myself

BullRiderLem: that was hot. I feel myself swelling up. My guy pops out of the fly in my pajamas. BullRiderLem: you got mine all worked up.

MatthewHedquist: been walking around all morning with a stiffie. got the idea last night, thought i'd mess with your head

BullRiderLem: your messin with my head alright

MatthewHedquist: just you wait. The image in the box moves funny 'cuz he's moving his laptop. He sits down on a bed, leans forward and adjusts the screen a little. His room's pretty bright, must have two windows in there at least. He scoots back. See the side of his ass, his leg.

I rub my cock. Put my feet up on the desk.

He takes off his shirt and lies back against his headboard. Scoots toward me a little and opens his legs wider. Rubs himself a few times. I've got a front row seat to Mattie's crotch. God, I love this kid.

He starts working himself. Starts off slow and picks up a little speed. His room must be warm, because his balls are drooping. Hanging a little over his ass crack. Can almost see everything.

I catch myself doing it, too. Didn't realize I'd started. Tugging the string nice and slow, gettin' that twitchy feelin in my spine.

He rolls his hips, adjusts himself a little. Starts working a finger to the spot I love best. Takes himself some long strokes. The look on his face is priceless.

I wish I was there with him. All I can do now is take care of myself. I shift my butt a little bit and tug my pajamas down to my knees. Just keep my eye fixed on Mattie, squeeze my nuts and work my dick. Ain't nothin I want more right now than him in me--just wrecking me.

He shoots his load across his chest. Breathes for a minute, running his finger through his mess. Puts his finger in his mouth.

God, I'm gonna lose it. Just... About... "Uhhh..."

The door pops open. I about crap a puppy. It's not all the way open, just a little.

I know I locked the goddamned thing. What the fuck is going on?

The door opens a little wider. I can just barely see a hand on the knob, part of someone's shoulder. Sounds like he's talkin' off down the hall. Shit! Shit! Shit! SHIT!

I work my pants back on. Just hope to God that he doesn't look in before I'm decent. Still got a serious hardon.

FUCK. Mattie's still on my screen, naked as a jay bird. How do I turn this fuckin' thing off? SHIT! I don't know what to do.

The door opens a little more.

I yank the power cord outta the wall. WHAT THE FUCK? IT'S STILL ON! Shit. SHIT! I can't think of anything else to do other than slam the laptop shut. I stand up and walk back toward the bed, outta view so I can fix my junk. Just wonder how much this guy saw. Who the fuck is coming into my room, anyway? My balls hurt so bad right now.

He steps in and stops. Just stares at me. Puts his duffel bag on the floor. He's about as tall as me, looks me right in the eye. Short, dirty blonde hair. Gray eyes. Has that Daniel Craig look about him, like the new James Bond, but there's still a lot of kid left in him. In wrinkled jeans and a faded black tee-shirt that looks like it's too short for him. He's what Momma might call striking, but he looks like he could be a serious douche bag, too.

"Hey. Sorry, I didn't wake you up, did I?"

I look around the room like an idiot. "Me? No, I was already up." Scratch the back of my head. "Just fixin' to do something with myself."

He doesn't look amused. I get the feeling he thinks that he's stuck with this little hick all year. I also get the feeling he's not my people. He sighs, reaches out to shake my hand. "Dane Burke." Must not have seen anything.

I grab his hand lightly. "Lem Taylor." Don't ask why, but I have this thing about touching anything but the faucet and soap after my hands've been on my cock. I could ride a horse or a bull, be out workin' in the fields--hell yeah, I'll shake the manly right out of that handshake. I don't know why it feels so fuckin' weird, seein' it's just a part of me. I drop his hand. He must think I'm a pussy or something.

"Your face is all red. You okay?"

Fuck. Try to shrug it off. "Must be my allergies."

He nods. Closes the door behind him. "Tell me about it. Spring sucks." He picks up his duffel and moves toward the closet.

"Where do you come from?"

"Albuquerque." That explains the tan skin. "You?"

"I'm from northern Montana."

He nods his head kinda blankly.

Figure I can at least make a decent first impression. "You need help unloading anything?"

"I don't have much. Got a few boxes in my car, but that's about it. Computer, XBox, TV- you know, the important shit."

I sigh. "I guess so."

# # #

The professor sits at the front of the classroom. He's got a projector connected to his computer. Up on the screen, he's got the clock open.

I find a seat about half way back on the far left side. It's a pretty big room. Almost reminds me of one of those hotel conference rooms.

The clock reaches nine o'clock on the dot. He closes the clock and stands up. Paces in front of the room like he's in the military. "It is now after nine. If anyone thinks they can sneak in after this point, you're late, including today. Don't be late to my class. If you're more than fifteen minutes late, don't bother showing up. It's a distraction."

This guy means business.

"My assistant is working on some other stuff for me, so I'm taking attendance for today. He'll be taking attendance starting tomorrow." He walks over to a dry erase board, flips it over. His name's written on the board. Looks up at the class. "I'm Doctor Jackson Craft. Call me Doctor Craft, please. It's a thing of respect." He walks back to his podium. "Lets get attendance out of the way."

He goes up and down the list, calling out names and writing them into a seating chart.

"Eric Taylor?"

It doesn't register with me at first. I'm a bit out of it right now, for some reason.

"Eric Taylor?"

I raise my hand. "Here. I go by Lem, sir."

He looks up at me, over his glasses. "What kind of name is Lem?"

There're a few quiet giggles here and there. Fuck, I thought I left high school behind. "It's my middle name."

He looks back at his roster. "Okay... Lemuel. Moving on--"

"It's just Lem."

He scratches at his beard and stares at me. Looks like that sweater's a little too big for him, too. Sighs. "Where are you from, Lemuel?"

"It's Lem. I'm from Montana."

"Do all people from Montana talk over their teachers?"

"I, uh..."

"James Tillis?"

Okay, now I'm getting half way to pissed. I figure I should just remember that shit rolls downhill.

He walks to his dry-erase board. "Lemuel, what were your thoughts on Catcher in the Rye?"

What the hell's he talking about? I shrug. "Ain't never read it."

"Required high school reading in most places. Freshman year for most, and you're telling me you ain't never read it?"

"With all due respect, it wasn't required where I went to school. And if you don't mind, Lem'll do fine, thank 'ya kindly."

There are a few more giggles. I notice this guy across the room staring at me, almost like he's trying to tell me to shut up with his eyes. Trying to ward off trouble.

Craft sits on the edge of his desk. "This is college level lit, Mister Taylor. How do you think you'll make it through if you haven't read the basics? How will we" he points his finger up, makes a circle with his hand, "as a group, be able to have a discussion if you don't understand what you're reading?"

I bite on my bottom lip. I must be turnin' red, and if I'm not, I feel the steam coming out from under my collar. "Hell, who said I wouldn't understand it?"

"Well, I'd assume the obvious roughneck lifestyle isn't always conducive to reading, but still--"

Everyone in the room stares at me. I'm leaning against the back of my chair, bracing myself against God knows what, arms crossed, bundle of twitchy red nerves. And damn it if my fists aren't itchin' right now. "Oh, man, who the hell do you think you are talkin' to someone like that? I mean, seriously! I was just trying to tell you the name I go by and you completely insult me an' where I come from?" Everyone gasps.

He grins slightly. Meanly. "Ba dum tish. Well, why don't you do us both a favor and go back to that little bungalow on the prairie or whatever you people live in over there and stop wasting our time? Mmm?"

I just sit here, smoldering. No use saying anything else.

He shakes his head and walks to the board again. Uncaps a marker. "For those of us who can read, we're going to switch things up a bit and start with Dante's Divine Comedy. We'll use some old copies I've got, but you'll have to go to the college bookstore and get a copy so you can do your assignments." He looks right at me. "A bookstore, for those of you who don't know, is a place that keeps these little things called books, and you can buy them."

What an asshat.

# # #

By the time class lets out, I'm surprised there ain't smoke coming out my ear holes. All the guy did all period long was insult me.

My hands are shaking for some reason, so I figure I should stop by the cafeteria for something to eat. I don't have any classes until next period, and I'm gonna need some time to cool down before I snap the next person I see in half.

I get an egg sandwich on an english muffin. A greasy little thing, but it's comfort food.

Jarrod stops in front of me, on the other side of the table. He's got a paper coffee cup in his hand. Balances a blueberry muffin on top of it. "You look like someone just pissed in your Cheerios."

God, I must look about how I feel. I shake my head. "This english lit guy, he's a fuckin' douche bag."

His eyes widen. Pulls himself a chair and sits down. "Oh, good God, you got Handy Jack Craft, didn't you?"

I snort. Already starting to feel a little better. "That's Doctor Handy Jack Craft."

"Shit, man, I'm sorry. I wish I knew you had him so I could have at least warned you."

"All he did was pretty much insult me all period."

"You're his mark?"

"His mark? What, he gonna whip out a deer rifle and start hunting me down or something?"

"No, no--there's always someone in each of his classes that he just tears apart. Keeps at it all semester. I'm surprised that nobody in administration's picked up on it. But he's always a douche, and now that you're his mark, you're gonna have to live with it." He shrugs. "Most of them drop his class and he moves on to someone else. But if you can go through it, keep on top of all your assignments and get perfect attendance, you're gonna be the only one in the class that gets anything better than a B."

"Why me?"

"You did something to give him ammunition. What did you say?"

"He was taking attendance and I told him I go by Lem, not Eric."

"Yeah, that'd do it. Well, look at it this way, he's conditioning you, and the further along you two get, the more he'll like you. The insults will get worse, but if you take another class with him, you're going to be one of his favorite students, and he'll start showing you respect."

"How many students under his thumb make it through?"

"His assistant is the only one in the last three years."

I shake my head. "God, this' like something out of a bad movie."

# # #

North Dakota gets chilly this time of year. Everything after this rodeo is gonna move south for the colder months. Not that I'll be riding down south at all. Four college rodeos and I'm off the fuckin' circuit for three months, at least. Well, that's what the doctor said.

Brynn came up with Brian to watch him ride. She decided to come with me to the hospital after it happened, so she's sitting in the waiting room when I come out.

I'm carrying a stack of papers in my left hand, and a small box of industrial strength pain killers between my teeth. Thank God we rode up in the same car together or I'd be hosed right now. "Brynn, you really didn't have to wait around for me."

She walks up to me when I go to check out. "Here, let me get those, hon." She takes the box outta my mouth, gets the papers from me. "What did the doctor say?"

I frown, sigh. "Broke my radius, fractured my ulna." I've only had this cast on for about an hour and it's already startin' to itch me. "Doctor doesn't want me riding for three months. Can you believe that?"

"Does it hurt?"

"Sorta. Does but it doesn't, you know? I can't describe it. The doctor said my adrenalin is probably masking the pain a bit, and it's gonna hurt like hell later on. They gave me enough of this high powered stuff to hold me over a few days."

"Are you right handed?"

"Fuckin'... Yeah. An eight year old with Down Syndrome could write better than I could write with my left hand. It looks like chicken shit. Now Handy Jack is really gonna tear the shit outta me."

She rubs my back. "Don't worry, you'll work through it. I'll help you where I can." Her smile's as sweet as a teaspoon of sugar.

"I appreciate it." I try to smile back. In all my years riding rodeo, the worst I've ever got were a few bruises.

Brian walks in through the sliding doors. He's caked in mud and dirt. "Oh, God! They got your jerkin' arm!"

The orderly shoots him a dirty look. She hands me a few papers to sign.

"Brian, you embarrassed him! Now he's all red." She scowls at him.

I shrug. "Guess he's got a point." Chuckle.

"You sure made falling off that bull look graceful." He puts his arm around Brynn's shoulder. "The way you hit your arm, I didn't think you'd broken anything."

She pushes him away. "You smell like a dirty cow." Gives him a kiss on the cheek.

"Did it hurt when they reset it?"

"I was on painkillers, but yeah, hurt like hell." I go to scratch my arm, but I'm blocked by this sandpapery shell.

"I've had my share of broken bones, that's for sure. Least I have this purdy little thing to piece me back together." Brian smiles at Brynn.

She looks at me. "He'd cry like a little baby if a bee stung him. Somebody has to keep him together."

The orderly smiles at me. "I'm just waiting for the papers to come down from radiology. If you guys'd take a seat, I'll call up and get those down here as soon as I can, then you're free to go."

We head over to the seating area.

"Hey, Lem. 'Jeetyet?" He's pokin' fun at Jeff Foxworthy.

I try to roll with it. "Nawww, 'djoo?"

"Nawwww... Yumptuh?"

I nod. "Last thing I had was that hotdog before my ride."

"We'll stop and get some dinner before we head back." Brynn leans back a little. "You'll 'prolly want something in your tummy before you take any more of those painkillers."

"God, Momma's gonna crap a foal when I tell her about this." I pull my cellphone outta my pocket, look at the face. For some reason, I dial Mattie's number.

He answers very quietly. "Hey."

"Did I call at a bad time?"

"I'm in the library. Hang on." A minute later, he picks back up. "Sorry. What's up?"

"I fuckin' broke my good arm."

"What? How the hell you manage to do that?"

"Tumbled off a side of prime rib. How else?"

"You okay?"

"I'll be better when I can ride again."

He sighs. "God, I wish I could be up there with you. You know I'd take good care of you."

I laugh. "I don't think I'd get any homework done. You stay put and take care of yourself. Don't worry about me."

"What did your mom say?"

"I haven't called her yet. Waiting to get my release papers."

"She's gonna be pissed."

"I know. You're the first one I called."

"What color's your cast?" Leave it up to Mattie to ask a question like that.

I laugh. "Um, it's kind of a dirty blue. Almost like Ronnie's new car."

"Okay." He pauses. "You getting home for thanksgiving?"

"Momma's gonna make me one way or another."

"Well, one way or another, cast or not, you're all mine."

Please let me know what you think of the story. Send critiques to with the subject "Lem.". Thanks for reading!