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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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My ears are still ringing from last night. Damn music was up too loud at the dance. Brooke sure knows how to cut a rug. So does her sister. Poor Mattie had no choice. He had to get up and dance, and she took him right where she wanted him. He didn't do too bad, but he looked like a fish out of water for a while.

I think she likes him.

Mattie does pretty well with the line dances, though. Guess we're both a little rough around the edges. I found out Jeff has a girlfriend, too. She came over from Cut Bank. It's a little more than fifty miles off, but it's still close enough to get him into trouble, if he doesn't keep his hands to himself.

There's an envelope on the kitchen table with my name on it. It's from the rodeo association. I tear it open. My share of the purse was about three hundred and fifty. That's what the check says, anyway.

I guess I'll have to get Momma to take me to the credit union tomorrow so I can tuck it away, let it hang out with the other little earnings I've made along the way. Maybe, come school time, I might have enough to get a car when I get my license.

For some reason, I pull my permit outta my bill-fold, hold it longways so I can eye it. It looks like a mugshot. I have this look on my face like I was caught in the act of something. What I was caught doing, I don't know. Maybe it had something to do with Mattie.

My eyes were open a bit wide, like I was gonna sneeze. My pupils are wide open, like I've been sniffing glue or something. My hair is all over the place, I was wearing a cap and they made me take it off. I also look like I'm twelve. If I ever got pulled over, I'm sure the officer would hafta double-take.

The day is warm already. I can feel it inside just by looking out the window. The dogs are in the shade, sleeping. If I was so inclined to do nothing with myself, I might just prop myself up against the tree and join them.

It's the ass-end of the week. Brooke told me her and her sister were gonna go to the crick and fish. I know that getting Mattie to go along's gonna be like pulling teeth.

He must still think girls have cooties. Sometimes, I don't doubt it myself.

# # #

A straw of XNR432J will set a breeder back about four large. There're only a few ranks that go for that much, especially for such an ugly cow.

A contractor can make a shit-ton of green off a good bull.

# # #

I set my tackle box on the shelf in the garage next to Dad's. Make sure to put his fishing line back where I found it. Not a damn thing biting, but people don't go there to catch anything. Nothing but dinky mountain whitefish anyway. Not enough meat to put on a cracker.

I was helping Brooke with her cast. Stood behind, arms around her, helped her throw out. I know she could do it herself, but leave it up to a girl to bat her pretty little eyelashes and ask for a man to help. We stood there and held the stick the line was on, had my arm at my side. She reached down and grabbed up my hand. Squeezed it like it meant something. I've felt that squishy feeling inside before... the one when you know you feel you're in love. But I can't feel it with her. She's pretty, and I really want to feel something for her.

I stop and think, try and remember where it was I felt that way. It was Jeff, I think. Always around Jeff.

I remember, back at the crick, I looked over my shoulder. Mattie was lookin' right at me, trying to do what I was doing with Brooke's sister... trying to show her how to throw out a line. She wasn't having it. She just pushed him away, told him "I can do it!" He blushed bright red, kicked the dirt. Gotta give the kid points for trying. Suave isn't his cup of coffee. I should tell him not to try so hard. Go with it.

I feel like I'm in a dream when I walk from the garage to the kitchen. Lost in a thought about Jeff, feel myself getting a bit on the hard side. If nobody's around, I might have to take care of that.

"Looks like you got some sun."

I look up. "Huh?"

Dad's standing at the kitchen sink, scrubbing the oil off something with dish soap and a wire brush. I think it's from the lawn tractor. "Your shoulders are really red."

I look at my arms. My shoulders are looking a little on the lobster side. Farmer's tan's a bitch. Mattie and I looked like we were wearing tee shirts when we weren't wearing shirts at all. Now my arms are gonna look funny. Off balanced. "Guess I shoulda' put on some sun screen."

He dries off his hands. Walks over as to get a better look. "Does it hurt?"

I look at my arms again. "It doesn't hurt at all. Maybe it'll just tan out and not peel..."

He smacks my arm, right on the burn.

I cringe, jump back, hold my arm. "Yeah, fuckin' hurts now."

He just giggles a little, goes back to the sink. "I think your mom put some sunburn lotion under your sink. You should put some on there before it gets too much worse."

"I suppose."

"By the way," he looks over his shoulder at me, "How much you get from the rodeo?"

"'Bout three fifty. Gonna have Momma take me to the credit union tomorrow."

"Smart kid. You hold onto that. Never know when you're gonna need it." He goes back to his brushing.


"Yeah, Lem?"

"I was wondering if maybe next year, if you and Momma were okay with it, if maybe I could start riding beef next year?"

He stops, looks over his shoulder again. "You wanna ride beef?"

I nod my head.

"You know what your mom's gonna say."

"But I've been doing real good with the broncs, and I think I could hold my own on a bull. I mean, Jeff's doin' it, and... lotsa' kids are doin' it. Momma said I might be ready for bareback."

He sighs. "Lem, barebacking is a far cry from bull riding. Horses don't have horns. They're lighter, move different."

"But horses move quicker. And they can jump higher."

"Then why can't you just do barebacking? Ronnie's doing bareback riding and he seems to like it."

"But I wanna be a bull rider. I always have, Dad, you know that. People don't fuck with a bull rider."

He kinda chuckles. "Lem, don't let mom hear you talk like that."

I feel my cheeks burning. "Sorry." Came out a bit quieter than I thought it would, but he just keeps on scrubbing.

"Let's just get you through this season. After winter, let's see how you do with a year of bareback, then we'll talk about your riding beef."

"I'll be eighteen by then. I'd be able to ride bulls, anyway."

He looks me square in the eye with that look like he's starting to get pissed. "You wanna ride next year at all? Keep it up, kiddo."

I know better than to test his tone. "Sorry, sir."

He holds the part up to look at it, see if he missed anything. It's round, looks like a belt spool of some sort. "Don't worry 'bout it too much. You got plenty of time to ride. With the way you been ridin'," he looks at me and smiles, "I'll just bet you'll be a famous PBR rider someday."

# # #

I decide to get out to the pasture and do something I haven't done in a while. I lead Smokey along at a good clip and take to throwing rope to the dummy. I'm riding around in circles, pretty wide. I come in close to the cooler, throw out the lariat, and hook it.

I tie the rope off to the hitch. Smokey knows he's supposed to draw back, keep the rope tight. I hop down and run to the cooler. Smokey's pulling the whole cooler backwards. I don't know what I'm gonna tie off when I get there, it's not like an ice chest has legs. I get right up to it and the head comes separated, flies back a bit. I'm near the business end of one of the rubber horns, almost takes me out at the leg.

Smokey stops, stomps his foot and whinnies at me like he's laughing.

"Gee, thanks asshole. You're the one that's pulling too hard."

He blows out a breath, shakes his head.

"That was close." I look over my shoulder. Mattie's leaning up against the fence.

"Haven't done roping in a while. Gettin' a bit rusty."

"Why don't you do a few runs with me at the field next practice?"

It's all Mattie and me used to talk about. Someday, we were going to take over the world. We'd be the best ropin' team the world ever knew. He's the one that stayed the course. Tying calves was fun and all, but adrenalin is boss. "Naww, don't wanna give people the wrong impression."

He scratches the side of his head. "What's that supposed'ta mean?"

"Not a damn thing. I'd rather ride a buckin' animal." I grin at him, give him a nudge." Chicks dig it." I start rolling my rope. "Why didn't you ever get into bronc riding?"

"I'm not good at it like you. I'd fall off."

"It's just like tryin' your hand at anything else, Mattie. It takes practice."

"I guess." He thumbs at his nose, pulls at the brim of his hat, sticks his hands back in his pockets. "I'd rather watch you. It's more fun." When I look over, he's red in the cheeks. I wonder where his mind goes sometimes. "Are you doing anything on the 23rd of next month?"

"What, August?"

"If that's next month." He grins.

"Why do you ask?"

He looks down at his boots. Kicks at a rock, looks back at me. "Well, if it'd be okay with your mom and dad, Ronnie bought some concert tickets from Jeff for the Rascal Flatts show down there in Helena. Ronnie wanted to go, but he can't on account of his girlfriend bein' a bitch."

"Jenny, a bitch? Nawwwww."

He just kinda giggles.

"What'd she do?"

"Well, they'd planned on going camping up in Canada for her birthday. He thought she'd be up for the concert, but she hates Rascal Flatts."

"That'd do it."

"Well, he said he'd give me the tickets if my folks said it was okay. They'll only let me go if you go. Dad said you'll have to keep me in line."

I laughed at the thought of it. Mattie should be the one keepin' me in line. "I'll ask, but I don't know if Momma'd let me. You know how she gets." I take off my hat and wipe the sweat off my brow. "Your parents are actually gonna let you stay with Jeff?"

"Well, he's heading down with his girlfriend. We'd be crashing with him and his relatives. Turns out my dad works with his uncle on occasion. They both do forrest service work when fires break out an' everything. He trusts them enough."

# # #

I put my duffel bag through the back hatch. Jeff's girlfriend drives an Explorer. Enough room for everyone, but the gas is gonna kill us. I'm surprised Momma was so easy going about everything.

She's standing right behind me, Momma is. I turn around and she gives me a hug, squeezes the holy living crap out of me. Rocks me back and forth a bit. "Be careful, will ya'?"

"I'm going with Mattie. What's the worst that could happen?"

"I don't want to think about it." She always has this way of handing me stuff, like money, when she doesn't want others to see. She slips a few folded bills and something plastic, like a credit card. She pulls me close. "Don't spend it in one place. This is just for you, so keep it safe. You get Hope a tank of gas the first time you guys fill up, okay?"

I look at the card in my hand. It's her Conoco card. There's also a fifty.

"Put that in your pocket." She closes my hand around it.

I pull out my billfold and put the money inside, put the Conoco card behind my learners permit.

"No partying. No drinking or anything. You be careful at the show, or it's your last." She kisses me on the cheek.

Jeff pulls the seat forward so I can climb in. Mattie's waiting for me. Smiles when I get in. Jeff pushes the seat back and hops in. I buckle my seatbelt and try to get comfortable. Mattie brought his pillow to lean against. Good idea. I should have thought of it. Hell, if worse comes to worse, I can just crumple up my hoodie or something.

Hope turns around from the driver seat, holds out her hand. "I'm Hope, by the way." She's a blonde girl, straight hair, green eyes, thin. Her chest reminds me of that George Carlin joke about the seven dirty words. Tater-tits. I can see why Jeff likes her. I haven't had a chance to talk to her yet, but Momma talked to her a little while I was bringing my stuff out.

"I'm Lem." I take her hand, shake it gently.

She pulls the Explorer in drive, starts up the lane. I turn to Momma. She waves at me. Jeff and Hope start talking about the best way to get to the main highway. She seems like a no-nonsense kinda girl.

I look over at Mattie. "This should be fun."

"Be nice to get away from the chores for a few days. Did you bring your boot polish?"

I shake my head. "Didn't think to bring it. I bet we can find some down there."

We sit for a while, listen to the radio. We turn off the dirt road onto Highway Two, take it west toward Burlee. We pass the store, and before I know it, we're in the middle of nowhere. It's a little warm. The sun's hitting my arm, it's making me sleepy. I'm about to zonk out.

The sound of the wind outside the car, the gentle rocking. I rest my eyes a bit, feel the warmth. The weight of the world is off my shoulders for the next five days, I just want to live it up for a bit.

The next time I open my eyes, we're already half way between Shelby and Conrad. Mattie's fallen asleep. He was having a dog dream and knocked into my foot. It's funny how fast sixty miles goes by.

Jeff looks over at Hope. "How you doing?"

She looks at him, back at the road. "Good." She kinda shrugs, fiddles with an air vent.

I lean forward. "How long you think it's gonna take to get to Helena?"

She looks at the clock radio. "We're bout two hours off yet."

We're closer to Shelby than I thought. "Oh. Okay."

"We'll stop in Great Falls and fill up. Stretch the ol' legs a bit." She smiles at me. "You okay for an hour or so?"

"Yeah. Should be good. Might have to stop for Mattie, though. He's got a bladder the size of a dime."

She nods.

"We should get lunch, too." Jeff readjusts his sunglasses. "Guess a burger wouldn't go amiss."

I sit back and look out the window. The grass on the prairie is dry this year. A good chunk of it's already turning brown. It'll take a good thunder storm and we'll have some hellacious grass fires.

I fold my hands in my lap. Lean over a bit toward the window, rest on my hoodie. I close my eyes, and let myself fall into a deep sleep.

# # #

Lynrd Skynrd is on the radio as we're coming into the valley. Freebird. I can see Helena in the distance. A few more buildings every mile. Pretty soon, they're gonna be stacked on top of us. Hope seems to know her way around pretty good.

Mattie's knee's going. He's looking out the window eyeballing a couple head of deer on the hill. The buck is leading his harem into the trees. He turns his knees toward me, pushes his legs out and tries to stretch his elbows out. Big yawn. He catches me lookin'. Blinks at me. "What?"

"Nothin'. You see that buck back there?"

"Yeah. I was counting his points. Looked like fourteen or fifteen. Can't tell."

Jeff looks over his shoulder at us. "God, I wish I had my rifle." He leans forward. "Can't wait till fall."

Mattie nods blankly. I don't think he's ever shot anything himself. The kid hardly likes to be dirty, so I really can't see him skinning an animal. For being such a quiet kid, he can be pretty rough and tumble at times. He looks at me.

Jeff sits back in his seat, Mattie gives me a toothy grin.

I can't help but smile back, but I don't know what's in his head. What? I mouth at him.

He shakes his head, shrugs his shoulders.

"Damn, where'd this summer go?" Jeff's movin' his head around like he's looking for something lost, like the summer's hiding by the side of the road somewhere. "Two weeks 'till school starts again. Fuck."

"It'll be Lem's birthday not too far after that." Jeff and I stare at Mattie. I don't think Jeff would even give a shit, and I don't know why Mattie'd even bring it up.

"Well, we'll hafta' get a case'a beer and make a man outta ya." Jeff laughs.

"Be nice to the kid." It's the first time I've heard Hope talk since Great Falls. I guess she's been off in her own little world. "How old you gonna be tunrin'?"

I look at the floor, at the hole in one of my socks. Sunday's best, I guess. "Uh, sixteen."

"Awesome. You excited 'bout gettin' your license?"

"Don't make a lotta difference. Won't have a car for a while, and I'll 'prolly hafta drive Chase around. I can take it or leave it."

"You're the only kid I've ever heard say that."

Jeff points out his window. "We're gonna want this exit."

Hope flicks on the blinkers and veers to the right. We drive along the frontage road for a bit before we take a left into a neighborhood. The house we stop at is sittin' on an acre, up against the hill. Other than some dogs up the street, the place seems pretty quiet.

The house is wood. Stained dark cherry or something to the like. There's a pair of antlers hanging over the garage, a few dream catchers on the front stoop. Makes me wonder if Jeff has some Indian in his background.

His uncle steps out on the patio, looks us over. He's a tall, skinny dude. Not wearing a shirt. Sunburnt, but really well toned for his age. I can see the family resemblance. This man doesn't seem like the type to have antlers hangin' on the wall.

"Hey, kiddo," he says when Jeff gets out of the car. "Who's this pretty little thing ya' found?" He's walking down the steps toward us.

"Uncle Lane, this' Hope." He folds the seat forward, lets Mattie and me out.

I step out onto the driveway. Stretch my arms above my head. When I turn around, I find Mattie's staring at my stomach. My shirt came untucked when I was stretching. He turns red and turns away. Makes for the back of the car.

"Little one's my best friend Ronnie's little brother Matthew..."

Mattie peeks around the back of the Explorer, shy-like, waves, goes back to unloading shit.

"...and this is his best friend Lem."

I'm standing close enough to shake the guy's hand. "Name's Lane." He gives me a suspicious look, looks at Mattie, then back to Jeff. "Guess y'all run in packs these days."

I don't get it. Guess Hope doesn't either. She looks confused.

"Not like that at all." Jeff pulls out his cigarettes. Lights one up and hands the pack to Hope.

"What you have up your sleeves tonight?"

Jeff shrugs. "Haven't really thought about it."

"Got a chest of cold beers in the back. Don't know if I exactly like the idea of the kids drinkin', though."

"They're solid. I don't think Matthew drinks. God knows he hasn't said more than a sentence since I met him."

# # #

Lane's tending to the grill, wearing an apron that reads Fuck the chef, I have the beer! Lane looks like he's in his late thirties. He's got that little bit of gray on his temples, could light a match on his five o'clock shadow. He's ruggedly good looking, like an older version of Jeff. They both have that addicting smile, the kind of smile like someone's up to no good.

Jeff's sitting on a lawn chair, next to Hope. Hope's sunning her legs. Somehow a bottle of Bud Light has managed to find its way to my hand. Mattie's being good, nursing a can of Pepsi. I happen to be sittin' next to the barbecue, so I get picked on to help with dinner.

"Hey, Lem- keep an eye on those kabobs for a minute, would ya'?" Lane walks inside.

There are about three skewers a piece on the cooktop. Steak. Onion. Red bell pepper. Cherry Tomato. Repeat. I grab a set of tongs next to the grill and start flipping everything.

Mattie gets to his feet. "Where's the restroom?"

Jeff looks over his shoulder. "Other side of the kitchen, first door on the right in the hallway." Jeff pulls out his cigarettes, looks in the box. "Fuck that noise. I'm all out." Looks at Hope. "You got any?"

She shakes her head.

Lane walks out. Has a bottle of barbecue sauce and a brush.

"Uncle Lane, you got any cigarettes?"

He stops and stares at Jeff. "You know I gave that shit up ages ago."

"I think I'm gonna run down to the corner store. You wanna go, Hope?"

"I've been driving all day. Just take the keys, I'll hang out." She shakes her hair to the side. She's got a lot of trust stayin' alone with a guy she hardly knows. Well, I guess me and Mattie are gonna be here.

Lane pulls out his wallet. "I need a few bags of ice." He hands me ten dollars, but keeps talkin' to Jeff. "Take the boy here with you."

Jeff nods.

I follow him through the house and out the front door to the Explorer. He puts the keys in, turns it over. Opens the console box between the seats, tries to fish something out. I can't really tell what it is, but he sticks it in his lap. It looks like a black cloth bag or something, like what someone might stick a set of sunglasses in to keep 'em from getting scratched. He puts the car in gear, hits the gas a bit hard. The wheels screech as we back out, then we rocket up the street a ways.

Jeff stays pretty quiet till we get a block or two off. "Never remember where this fuckin' place is."

I don't care if it takes us an hour. I don't know why, but I'm getting that funny feeling again. I just want to stay here, sitting next to Jeff in this car. "Wanna smoke?"

"Um, no thanks. Don't smoke." He knows that.

"Whatever." He pulls the draw string on the bag, pries apart the knot. He pulls out a small metal thing that looks like the cigarette lighter in a car. One end is beveled, the other has a rubber part on it. He sticks the rubber part between his lips, lights the other end with his lighter. Takes a good long drag, holds his breath.

It smells like burning sage. It's dry, sweet. I think he's doing pot. "What if someone sees you?"

"Maaaannnn." He giggles. "You know how many times I've done this, drive and smoke? People get too paranoid, sometimes."

I don't know what to think.

He takes another hit off the pipe, wheezes a little bit. The windows are wide open and I can't help but wonder if someone walking down the road might smell it and call the cops. I'm getting that tingly feeling in my balls, the one that tells me I'm getting in trouble.

There's a Kum N' Go on the corner ahead of us. Jason pulls into the parking lot, parks toward the back fence away from the pumps. He puts the pipe down, leaves it sitting under the ashtray. It's still smoldering.

"He wanted a few bags of ice, right?"

I hand him the ten that Lane gave me.

"This'll get us three bags or so." He opens the door and hops out. Heads for the store.

The fucking pipe is still smoldering. I thin wisp of smoke is coming out the end of it. Moving like a shoelace in the breeze. I can't take my eyes off the damn thing. I've only ever heard about shit like this.

I look up and see a state patrolman pull into the other side of the parking lot. He parks in front of the store a bit around the corner from us. The cop gets out, rests his hands on his gun handle. Not like he's gonna pull it out, just like he needs a place to keep is hands while he walks around. His belly is large, hangs over his belt. He has arms that are probably as big around as my thigh. This is not a guy I would want to fuck with.

He walks slowly up the sidewalk toward store. Holds the door open for a lady with a kid in one arm and a bag of groceries in the other. Says something to her. She gives him the bag of groceries, I can barely hear her thanking him. She's leading him to a car that's about four parking spots over on this side of the store.

The pipe looks like it just fizzled out, but it still reeks of weed in here. My heart's beating a billion miles a minute. My hand starts shaking.

The woman leads the cop around the side of her car, she puts the kid in the back seat. "If you wanna just set them in the front seat, I really, really appreciate this."

The cop pulls at his brim. "No problem, ma'am." I look at the fence at my right. Stare at it. The cop's not really there. I can't see him. Out of sight, out of mind. God, what would happen if I'd just run away right now? Damn it, Jeff.

The world feels like it's falling away underneath me when I hear the door open. "Shit!" I look over and see Jeff standing there.

He tosses a bag of ice at me. "What?"

I shake my head. "Nothing... nothing." I put the ice on the floor by my feet, feel like I could just die right now.

"You look like a sheet. Feeling okay?"

I nod toward the cop, who's talking to the lady.

Jeff shuts the door and turns over the engine. Looks at the cop, then at me. "So?"

I point at the pipe, a bit forcefully.

Jeff just shrugs, puts the Explorer in reverse.

"Excuse me, young man?" The cop's walking toward us.

This is it. I'm fucking going to jail. Mom's going to kill me. I should have stayed at Lane's with Mattie and Hope.

Jeff parks, looks at him. "Yes sir?"

"You know your driver side reverse light is out?"

"Is it, now?" Jeff looks at me, like he expects me to know something. Looks back at the cop. "That's not good, is it? You know where the closest auto parts store is? We're down from Burlee for the weekend."

The cop is at the window. The pipe is right fucking there, just sitting there. He looks down the road, points back over his shoulder. "Take this one down to the second light, take a left. There's a Checker a block down on the corner. Can't miss it."

"We'll hit it right now." Jeff smiles, nods his head.

"Sounds like a good plan." He tugs at his brim again. I can see myself in his glasses. A big, reflective billboard of guilt. He turns toward the store and goes to walk off.

He didn't see it.

Then he stops. Just fucking stops. Looks over his shoulder at Jeff. "I'm in a good mood today. Next time, you might wanna leave your pipe at home." He starts walking again. Goes into the store.

I'm stunned. I feel my face burning.

Jeff backs out and starts heading for home.

I'm getting light headed. I can't breathe... fuck. I grab my shirt... can't breathe. Lightheaded. "Fuck! Fuck!"

Jeff pulls the car over, grabs my arm. "Breathe, man. Breathe!" He puts his hands on the side of my face. I'm freaking out, and I still feel like I'm melting. "In, out... slowly..."

He gets me calmed down a bit. The walls don't feel so much like they're coming in on me anymore.

He squeezes my shoulders. "You okay?"

I swallow, nod.

"You don't have asthma, do you?"

I shake my head. "No. I... no. I think I just panicked."

"Okay, look. Things didn't get out of hand. It worked out fine. I would have taken responsibility, and they would have let you go."

"Fuck Jeff! I just had a beer!"

"Lem. Re-fuckin'-lax, would you? You're way too uptight. Weed isn't a huge deal like it used to be."

I just look at him, try to squint and look mad. I'm still scared shitless.

He starts forward, but misses the road to Lane's. Instead, he makes a turn a few streets over, starts up a hill. It's pretty well abandoned for being right in the city. Lots of trees. He parks off the side of the road, just before it turns into a parking lot.

"Dude, the ice's gonna melt."

"Don't worry 'bout it. We're not gonna be here long."

My stomach is turning. I don't know what's going on.

"I want you to think about this before you say anything. Just think about it. I'm going to take a hit, an' I think you should take one, too. Just to relax. You can say no, but before you do, just think about it. It won't turn your brain to crap unless you do it constantly. I won't let anything happen to you, if you do." He takes a hit. I think he's feeling bad about it.

I'm looking at the Ford logo on the dash. I guess this is what they meant by peer pressure. I'm lost, in a way. "I've never smoked in my life."

"It's not hard. Just breathe it in, hold it in your lungs as long as you can. It'll help you relax."

"Jeff, what if we get caught? What if Mattie tells my parents?"

"Lem, Mattie's not going to say anything. Ronnie and I hit up all the time. Mattie's been there a time or two. Never did it himself, but he never said anything either."

I take the pipe from his hand. Turn it over and look at it. See it from all angles. Jeff holds the lighter toward me. I put the pipe to my lips. Spark the lighter. When I breathe in through the pipe, the flame leans over. It's heavy smoke. Burns my throat. I stop and just start coughing. I can't stop, it hurts too much. I've got tears in my eyes, they're watering.

He slaps me on the back, between the shoulders. "You'll be fine. Just breathe."

It takes a minute, but the coughing stops. My mouth is dry, there's a funny taste on my tongue. Other than a sting in my throat, I don't feel any different. "What's supposed to happen?"

"You'll get a bit light headed. You might need more before you get high. That wasn't much'uva hit." He sits, thinks about something. "You know what shot-gunning is?"

I shake my head.

"'Kay. Lean over. I'm gonna take a hit, then I'm gonna blow it in your mouth. Just breathe it in. It's easier than smoking it yourself."

He's gonna what?

He takes the hit. It's a big one. I just expect I open my mouth, he blows the smoke in. He signals me over with a finger. I open my mouth a bit, lean in. He grabs the back of my neck, pulls me over. Our lips are touching, like we're kissing. He starts the exhale. Blows it in. I suck the smoke in, but I'm lost again. I want to kiss him. I want to taste his tongue. His exhale stops, breathes in through his nose.

I don't know what posesses me. I push my lips against his, harder. I don't know much about kissing, but I don't want it to stop. Holding my breath, keeping it in. He sticks his tongue in my mouth. I just let him. A few small moments later, he pushes me back. "Whoa, Tonto. Save it for Mattie."

I sit back against the seat. Feel scared again. What the fuck did I just do? When I finally breathe out, there isn't a lot of smoke. Just a little fog. My face is numb. I cross my arms, sit here kind of balled over. "Wait? What about Mattie?"

"Just joking around. I know you and Brooke are kind of a thing, anyway." He takes one more hit. "Be careful who you go around makin' out with. People might think stuff."

"Sorry. All this crap happening... guess I was just lost." My head is starting to lift a bit, like it's spinning. It's a numbness I've never felt before. It's not in one place, it moves around. I feel it in the tips of my fingers. It moves from there to my shoulders. Down my back. Starts again in my feet, like a wave. Moves up my legs. I'm controlling it, the numbness. It's in my crotch now. I'm starting to get hard. Fucking horny.

Jeff's been talking. We're actually down the road from his uncle's house. I didn't even know we'd started moving. "...Him and mom don't talk much. She thinks he's a little off. That's what grandma always called it... being off."

"Huh? Okay?" I feel like I could explode. Just. I need to tug the string in the worst way. Imagine myself making an ass of myself, humping Jeff's leg. I could be everything for him.

"You could be what?"

"Huh?" I blush. Shit. Didn't realize I said anything.

We're in the driveway. He's got the ice packed under his arms, starts up the steps. I close the car door behind me. "Jeff?"

He stops, looks down from the banister. "Yeah?"

"You won't tell anyone about that, will you?"

"Why would I?" He's giving me his bird look.

I shrug. "Sorry. I need to ask Mattie something, would you tell him to come out front?"

"Mum's the word, kid." He walks in.

I sit down on the step. Wait for a bit. I don't know if Mattie's coming out, if he's even gonna say anything. The world feels like it's falling away from under me. I feel like a baby deer looks when it's trying to walk the first time.

Out of nowhere, Mattie sits down next to me. "What's up?"


"Lem, are you drunk?"

I grab his arm, stand up. "Come here." I pull him through the house, make sure nobody's around. I push him into the bathroom.

"What are you doing?"

It sounds loud enough that everyone in the world could hear him. "Shhhh!" I close the door, lock it. I keep the light off. I push him, hold him against the wall, feel his sides under his shirt. His soft skin.

He whispers. "Lem?"

"Shhh." I unbutton my pants, let them fall to the floor.

My head spins. I feel Jeff's sides again, pull him up to my body. I swell when he squeezes me back. His sweet smell. Jeff. I guide his hand to my parts, cup my hand around his hand and make him squeeze me. He starts squeezing on his own, rubs a bit. I move his hands down my underwear. Jeff can do whatever he wants to me right now. I might just let him.

He squeezes my cock. Pushes my underwear down a bit, starts playing with me. I'm wet already, almost dripping. "Touch me how you did before." I keep a hold on him.

Mattie lets go. "Lem? Dinner's almost..."

I grit my teeth, try to picture Jeff in the dark. Mattie's voice ruined the illusion. I keep hushed. "God damn it. Just fucking do it." Jeff's hand grabs me again. Fingers press up on me behind my nuts, build up pressure.

I squeeze Jeff tighter. Get my hips going.


My eyes roll back. I don't know I'm cumming. I've just spent my whole load, and I don't feel it, it's intensity, until the last throb. My face is wet around my eyes. I feel weight on my chest, even though we're standing there. I step back in the dark, try not to bump into anything. I pull my pants up, grab the door knob and open the door.

I look up and down the hall. Nobody's around. I look back at Mattie. He's standing there, cum all over his shirt. Arm and hand covered. He blinks at me, looks confused. Really confused. He looks down at the mess on his hand, then back at me.

I can't say anything. I don't know what just happened, what I've just done. Let the lion out of the cage, is what. I back away, out the door. Just leave Mattie in the bathroom. Alone in the dark.

# # #

Mattie walks out with a different shirt on. Lane looks him over. "What, gotta change for dinner?"

Mattie blushes, looks down at his shirt. "Um, spilled some soda on the other one. Thought I'd change before it got too sticky." He looks at me right when he says sticky. I feel awkward right now, knowing what I just made Mattie do. He doesn't seem to bothered by it. I don't think he knows what to think. Hell, neither do I.

"Well, grab a plate. There's catsup and sauce in the kitchen, there. Got veggies and salad in the fridge. Couldn't hurt to get those out, I suppose." He walks into the kitchen.

Hope and Jeff fumble with the paper plates, try to get a few separated.

Mattie and me, we just stare at each other. He looks different. It's like something, a door, opened up inside him. I've always been able to read him. I can't. I can't fucking tell what's going through his head. He's blank.

Hope's holding out a plate to me. "Lem... Lem."

I look up. Take it from her. "Thanks." I try to smile. Feels fake. I line up behind Jeff and Hope. I feel Mattie move in behind me. I don't want to look at him.

Jeff plops two kabobs down on my plate, gives me his gruff smile. "A little meat for you, sir."

Is the trying to be a smartass? Must be looking to far into it.

I sit down and stare at my plate. I'm starving, but I don't feel like eating. I better before Mattie thinks somethings wrong. I take a skewer up, pull the meat off with my teeth.

Mattie sits down next to me, a little bit closer than normal. He knocks his knee to mine, like he's trying to get my attention.

I look at him, in the eye. He flushes a little, grins this silly smile. His leg pushes against mine, almost knocks my plate off my lap.

"Careful, Mattie."

"Sorry." He scoots away a few inches, his leg starts bobbing. He starts eating, doesn't look at me. Feels like I'm being ignored.

I guess all I can do is eat. Pretend everything is normal. Just wish that everything was normal.


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