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Hacktreks Travel

Hacktreks 2

First Chapters

FIRST CHAPTERS: Works in Progress Chapters 1-5

By Cody Cobb
Chapter 1

"I didn’t know I was sitting right next to the world’s greatest liar!
This is too cool!"

Abiturient - A pupil leaving school for a university

Harry Tarcher hated pigeons. He loathed them almost as much as he despised New York City. Harry and the Big Apple go way back together-35 years. He’s lived there since the day of his birth. On the fifteenth day of the fifth month in the year 2003, the single greatest event happened to him.

His uncle was in ill health when he dictated his last will and testament, which explains why he left it all to Harry. When word of his newfound real estate reached him, he could hardly believe it. He’d been waiting all his life to leave that god-forsaken hellhole of a city, away from all those damned pigeons.
The inherited land, devoid of any advantageous wildlife whatsoever, was perfect for a guy like Harry Tarcher. It was free, vast, cheap to maintain, inaccessible to the public, and, most importantly, sustained a continuous dearth of pigeons. The closest town to the 18,000 acres-Graff, Texas-was only 12 miles away and nothing more than a parking lot for a nearby university; so Harry knew there’d be plenty of beer.
Without troubling himself to all the confusing legalities of obtaining a simple gun license, Harry always carried around his 9mm handgun (in case there might be a pigeon!). To his benefit, the lack of trees and other plant life provided ample grounds for shooting things. Harry figured whenever he needed more money for ammo, he could simply contract for more nuclear waste dumping.

It couldn’t get any better than this, he would think aloud. To him, settling on barren land with nothing to lose was the pinnacle of human achievement. As he lay in the bed of his 1992 Chevy, he mused over what to do next.
Maybe now he could get to work on that bomb of his.
"But I’m going to be late!"
"I don’t care! You’re not leaving this house until you give your mother a kiss!"
"Mom, please! The plane’s leaving in an hour!"
"This might be the last time I ever get to see my only son for a good while, so I want a hug at least."
"Alright, alright, on the cheek…"
"There, that wasn’t so hard, now was it?"
"No, mom."
"Oh, Dustin-"
"Yes, mom?"
"Be careful, have fun, make me proud, and don’t do-"
"Bye, mom."
As Dustin Miller bolted out the door, she silently finished her sentence: "-drugs…"
Karen didn’t have to worry about her son doing drugs-he eschewed the stuff like Karen did the rest of her family. She was just trying to be the good mother, that’s all. She has always kept close to Dustin, providing him with all the unconditional love one could ever ask for. Dustin never had asked for any.
Her husband, the late Geoffrey Miller, passed on at the ripe old age of 28 due to pneumonia; leaving Karen to rear little Dustin all by herself. She worked endlessly at making sure he studied hard and grew up without much trouble. It was a rather incredible feat, considering she had almost no experience as a city girl. However, spending most of her life in a piss-ant town like Graff, Texas convinced her that almost anything is better than rural life.

Her hair was completely gray by the time she was 33.
Dustin, on the other hand, couldn’t be healthier. His physical condition was top-notch and his mental skills fast approached what most people would describe as "genius" status. He was a straight-A whiz kid in high school, graduated a year early and received a full scholarship to a college of his choice. He also had no friends. Thanks, mom!

When the time to decide which college he’d go to came, Dustin chose the Roger E. Cayce University near Graff, Texas. The particular reasoning behind this decision rests solely in the fact that Dustin knew Karen wouldn’t dare travel to any place within 50 miles of Graff; he had heard many unsavory stories about the town from her. He was free now; he could do whatever he wanted, and he didn’t want Mother interfering.

You’re supposed to arrive at the airport an hour early. That way, you can stand around doing nothing for 50 minutes. While replete with most other virtues, Dustin is a five-year-old in line for Texas Thrill-coaster when it comes to patience. He never did like to travel, and on the rare occasions when his mother would drag him along, he hated every moment of it. Today was no exception-only mother wasn’t with him.
As Dustin stepped into the airplane, the rush of noisome odors nearly shoved him backwards. So strong were the scents of messy babies, slowly decaying seniors and under-washed strangers all jam-packed in the narrow, claustrophobic aisle way that Dustin almost reconsidered the trip entirely.
Oh God, save me!
Dustin would have passed out at that moment had he not seen her in seat 13C. A tingly sensation raced throughout his now perspiring body as he recalled his seating assignment: 27B. No, dammit! I wanna sit next to her!
He needed to think of a plan soon, before someone else took the seat. I know, thought the child prodigy, I’ll sit right next to her! It was a brilliant plan, flawlessly executed with polished aplomb.
Dustin, now not even noticing the rancid stench of baby puke three seat rows ahead, had to think quickly what to do next. In another dazzling display of strategic genius, Dustin eloquently introduced himself with a resonating, "Heya."
"Hi," responded the blue-eyed blonde.
"Just going to Dallas, or you going somewhere else afterwards?"
Shocked by the stranger’s audacious approach on her personal affairs, Alexis acerbically answered: "Dallas? What are you talking about? This plane’s going to San Francisco!"
WHAT?! But…but the ticket says- the look of horror on Dustin’s ensuing countenance triggered Alexis to fess up to her heinous crimes.
"Oh, I’m just kidding you," she said, trying hard not to giggle. "No, after we land, I’m driving down to Graff"-Dustin’s horror suddenly alleviated-"to visit my boyfriend,"-only to come back-"Larry. By the way, I’m Alexis."
"Dustin. Isn’t that odd, I’m on my way to Graff, too. Going to Roger E. Cayce University this fall."
"Nice to meet you, Dustin. Larry goes to Cayce. He’s on the football team. Lead Quarterback."
Just freakin’ great! My chances of making it with Sex-Goddess are asymptotically approaching zero! Dustin, receiving an astonishing 102 in the class, always thought in terms of trigonometry when upset. "Wow, what’re the odds?"
"Odds of what?"
"Never mind…"
"Ladies and gentlemen, we’d like to welcome you aboard American Airlines flight 502 non-stop flight to Dallas, Texas. If Dallas is not in your travel plans, now would be a good time to disembark. If you give your attention to Jimmy up in the front of the cabin, he has a few demonstrations to show you before we take off . . . before off we take . . . .off…"
"Ooh, be quiet! The flight attendant is going to explain to us how seat belts work!"

I know she’s trying to be funny, why am I not laughing? Laugh, you fool! Laugh! Dustin had intended a sincere, light-hearted chuckle at the joke. The English language, however, can hardly describe what actually followed. "Guffaw" isn’t a powerful enough word; "cachinnate" just doesn’t cut it; and "heehaw" barely scratches the surface.
"HahAHehehEeheeH-snort - haheEhe.."

The look of disgust on her face was more than enough to tell him he had really blown it. It was the look of "you mean to tell me I’ll be sitting next to this guy for close to 3 hours?!"
Sensing the danger of the situation, he coolly explained, "sorry, but just you saying that made me think of something really funny that happened a while back." That was complete bullshit, of course, but it seemed to work well with Alexis.
" ’sokay, sometimes I get so rowdy that I actually cackle!"
Note to self: you are smooooth.
"So, what classes is Larry taking, if you don’t mind me asking?"
"Not at all! He’s in the Agricultural Technology program!"
"Hmm, I don’t think I have any of the same classes. I’m just taking all the basics. I don’t really know what I want to do."
"…will prevent you from drowning in case we crash in water, are located under the seats…"
Finding humor in that statement, Alexis remarked, "just what kind of water is she talking about? Lakes? Rivers? It’s not like we’re going across the freakin’ Atlantic!"
All right, another joke. Take it easy this time, take it easy…
Score! Silence…crap, you’re losing her! Say something, SAY SOMETHING!
"So, uh, how long you gonna be in Graff? Few days?"
"Oh no, I’m moving in with Larry. I always spend the summer at my grandparents. You know, to help around with day-to-day living. Granpappy’s nearing 85 and he still pays his own bills"!
"Aww, how nice of you! I wish I did something nice like that for my grandparents. They died last summer, though." His shoulders both slouched lugubriously as he finished the last sentence.
"Things happened. Old age?"
"No…diving accident…both occurred seconds apart…faulty regulators. We won a huge lawsuit against the manufactures. It was pretty big news at the time."
Alexis gasped. "You mean to tell me your grandparents were the ‘SINKING SENIORS’?! How terrible!"

The story, as it happened, is far more complex and confusing than the newspapers reported.
Ever since Mr. and Mrs. Miller entered their sixties, long after they were already bored with life, they decided to do something exotic. Every summer, for the next 13 years, they went scuba diving.
Being the frugal and possessive people they were, the Millers always brought their own equipment with them. This had two benefits: 1, they wouldn’t be charged the insane prices for rental equipment that most gullible tourist buy without suspicion; and 2, they could be certain that their equipment was working properly and had been maintained well.

The first factor that played part in their watery demise was the ineptitude of baggage handlers at DFW Airport. As the driver of the luggage train took a sharp right on the tarmac, two bags fell out. The two bags-which belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Miller-were promptly run over. Afterwards, the parts inside, which totaled well over a thousand dollars in expenses, hardly resembled scuba gear at all.

Knowing they couldn’t waste the money already put into their weeklong stay in Florida, the Millers simply opted to rent the scuba gear instead. They told each other that they would do it this one time only, considering the situation. They were right.

It turned out that the rental gear was rotten. The indolent shopkeeper was too lazy to, well, keep shop. Four out of five times he didn’t check the equipment when a customer returned it. As a result, stagnant salt waters corroded the vital parts in most of the regulators.

As the experienced divers they were, Mr. and Mrs. Miller had the sense to check their equipment before using it. Everything would have gone fine had not a careless woman (who was in the same diving party as the Millers) forgotten her contacts that morning. She thought she could do okay without them, but her fatuous arrogance proved deadly when she picked up and misplaced the wrong scuba gear. Being a neophyte diver, her gear (the gear Mrs. Miller mistakenly used on the fatal dive) was not properly tested for any deviations or anomalies. Had Mrs. Miller responded to her gut instinct that something was awry and checked the regulator once again, she would have noticed the dilapidated diaphragm inside. She excused the feeling as nothing more than acid reflux.
Mr. Miller, on the other hand, suffered from his own incompetence. He, unlike his beloved wife of 47 years, was very trusting. Seeing the faded "GUARANTEED SAFE!" sticker on the side was good enough for him. Who needs a functioning exhaust valve anyway?

Most of the new divers stayed close to the surface when the time came to jump in. The Millers wanted to see all the pretty marine life instead. They were several dozen feet down when disaster struck. Mr. Miller was the first to go when he caught sight of a harmless nurse shark, panicked, and exhaled to quickly, effectively destroying what was left of the exhaust valve.

Mrs. Miller, seeing her husband thrashing around violently, soon followed suit as her frantic breathing busted the shoddy diaphragm in her ostensibly safe regulator.
It took the rest of the dive group nearly an hour to realize their senior members had long sunk to the bottom of the gulf.

When news of their deaths reached other relatives, they did what every other American would’ve done: sue! Dustin’s paternal uncle, Frank, realized before anyone else that suing the rent shop would get them, at best, a few measly thousand dollars. Encouraged by their lawyers, they decided the manufacturer was to blame and sued them for several millions. Not wanting to be associated with the now infamous ‘SINKING SENIORS,’ the manufacturer swiftly settled out of court for a satisfying three million.

Karen didn’t pursue the matter as much as one would think. She was indifferent to the whole matter and didn’t see any reason in suing the company that had "killed" them. Frank, who was always partial to (read: madly in love with) Karen, successfully persuaded her to collect a small portion of the settlement ($250,000) only by convincing her she could help set up Dustin’s career with it.

" ‘All’s well that ends well,’ says Shakespeare. They died doing what they loved most, and now their grandson is pretty much set for the next couple of years of his life, if those investments do well."
"That’s a very positive outlook on things, Dustin."
"Yeah, I guess. The first thing I’m gonna do with the money is buy me a brand new Ford F-250, 7.3 Liter Power Stroke Turbo Diesel, 4x4 drive!"
Dustin was too busy concerning himself with his dream truck to notice the sniffling old man wearing a bad hairpiece standing outside of the aisle.
"Uhh," said the confused man in a drawn-out undulating manner, "let’s see here…uhh…13A…hmm…"
Crap! He’s gonna take my seat! Think, Dustin, think!
"Uh, yeah, some guy back there took my seat. Said he wanted to sit by his boy. I just grabbed the nearest seat available."
"Sniffles" glanced quickly at the plethora of empty seats then asked, "Uhh…what’s yer…umm…seat assignment?"
Dustin, frustrated by the man’s failure to simply take one of the thousands of empty seats available, blindly answered, "18D."
"Sniffles" timidly turned around and left for a few seconds, came back, wiped his nose with the sleeve of his coat resulting in a trail of mucus 8 inches long, and said "Umm, yeah…yuhh…there’s, uh, nobody there."
Then sit in the freakin’ seat, you moron! Can’t you see I’m trying to score?!
"Is that so? Well…I’ve already put my belongings in the overhead compartments, and it’d be a real hassle to move ‘em. So could you go ahead and sit somewhere else, please?"
With a half "yeah" half "uhh" reply, the human snot factory dismally obliged.
"I didn’t know I was sitting right next to the world’s greatest liar! This is too cool!"
"I’m that bad?"
"It got old McSniffles out of the way, did it not?"
"You see right through me."
"I knew this wasn’t your seat the moment you stepped on the plane. It’s okay. I’d rather have you next to me than catch a cold."
I love this girl!

Chapter 2
Gonoph - a pickpocket; thief

Had Curt Tersely passed 6th grade English Class, he might know why people always snickered after learning his name. However, like every other 16-year-old in middle school, he found going there to be a waste of time. Besides, he would reason, pickpocketing is way more profitable.
The formula for his thievery was simple, easy to execute and virtually risk free-if done correctly. It involved staking out at random airports, filching funds from lost tourists and robbing small children like a common schoolyard bully.

Curt would travel across country, jumping from airport to airport with no real destination or plan. The only inconvenience in doing this is that he’d spend the bulk of his life living in airports, forcing him to steal just a little extra for the outrageously priced food (for example; the $3 he spent on the bland pretzel currently in his hand). Whenever he wanted to jump airports, he’d merely steal a ticket (and complementing ID) from someone who closely resembled him and go to whatever city was listed on it. He was lucky to have the kind of face that nobody really remembers, since a lot of other people had it, too. His present field of operations was located at Dallas International Airport.

As a professional pickpocket, Curt insisted that the most effective method was the "Feigned Reading Technique." This rather simple, albeit ingenious, move is accomplished by pretending to read something with one hand (typically a large magazine, to hide the face) while the other hand (usually concealed by an overcoat) surreptitiously reaches in a person’s pocket or purse. Purses are preferred, because they aren’t physically attached to the victim.

Curt had a pretty successful career so far, if you can call it that. The only trouble he ever ran into took place in Miami International Airport, where he wasn’t the only petty thief. The "mark" he picked to steal from ended up delivering similar reciprocity. When he "bumped into" his target, Curt walked away with $50 in hand and missing over $300 from his back pocket. From then on, he never took money from Hispanics.

Now entering his ninth year as a pickpocket, he needed new ideas. There was hardly a method or scheme that Curt hadn’t already tried at least once in his history. To this date, he knew of 313 (often very clever) ways to rob people blind, many of which he himself created. But nowadays, he was bored silly-a feeling that he attributed to his loneliness.

He wanted a partner. He’d gone over a thousand times in his head what he’d do with one. Curt would fake an injury after "accidentally" falling, hoping to coax an unsuspecting bystander into helping him while his partner would rummage through the Good Samaritan’s neglected belongings. The next long flight (always the best ones, since the passengers were generally tired) was arriving in one hour. Curt had nothing better to do until then, so he threw away the remainder of his insipid $3 pretzel (about a $1.53’s worth) and set out on the quest to find one.

As a practitioner of the trade, Curt knew finding a fellow pickpocket would take a little more effort than simply scouting out crowds of people. The best (or worst, depending on how you look at it) place to be, then, was the escalators. Running into another pickpocket would be easy in such a crowded, chaotic location. All he had to do was set a trap.

He remembered a trick he used once (although forgot what, exactly, for), where he punctured a flap of his wallet with a partially unfolded paperclip, created a small hole on the inside of his back pocket, and placed the wallet-complete with the protruding paperclip-snuggly inside. If a pickpocket tried to steal his wallet, the paperclip would scratch the skin on his sensitive ass, telling him that some outside force was moving the wallet.

Thirty minutes of going up and down, up and down, up and down passed before he felt the tingling sensation down there. He turned around, grabbed the arm of the thief and shouted, "Ahh-HA! I’ve caught you, you sneaky little . . . girl?"
Curt stood dumbfounded as he tried to make sense of the situation. Here he was, his hand holding the most beautiful creature he’d ever seen in his life. His apoplectic trance ended as the escalator reached the bottom, causing him to stumble backwards. He had no choice but to let go of her arm, allowing her room to get the hell out of there.
"Hey, come back here!"
The young woman, not wanting to be scolded for her actions, did no such thing. Instead, she thought it’d be best to continue running in the opposite direction. Curt soon regained his balance and sprinted after her, shouting all the way.
"Somebody stop her, she has my wallet!"
She was a small agile 17-year-old who spent her free time at the gym. He was an out-of-shape, habitually lethargic 25-year-old. Naturally, she out ran him.

"Stop! Stop! Somebody stop that thieving little bit-OOMPH!" Curt wasn’t paying attention to where he was going as he ran right in front of an airport shuttle (those really fast moving electric cars with the loud drivers). The shuttle weighed much more and traveled much faster than he, so when the two bodies of mass collided, it was Curt that moved.

Kim, seeing her prosecutor down on the ground, figured now would be an okay time to quit running. All those who previously had their heads trained on her now refocused their attention to the limp body prostrated across the floor. A throng soon formed around the unconscious man. Kim thought she might as well steal a few wallets while they were so distracted.

"My legs no longer have feeling. That was the longest flight I’ve ever been on."
"I’ve been on worse. Once I flew all the way to Japan!"
"Whoa," said Dusting, stopping dead in his tracks, "what’s going on over there?"
"I dunno, looks like someone bit the dust."
"Let’s go see, shall we?"
"I’m in no hurry," responded Alexis.
The two approached the crowd about the same time as airport security started to disperse it. They caught one witness by surprise as she was turning around to leave.
"What’s all the hubbub about?" asked Dustin.
"Um! . . .uhh…" said Kim, nervously, "some guy got hit by a shuttle cart."
"Hah! Moron!"
"Dustin! How awful! Is he alright?" inquired the sympathetic Alexis.
"Uhh…yeah, I think so," said Kim, furtively reaching into Alexis’ handbag after seeing a wad of money in there.
Dustin felt the need to offer the two females his thoughts on the poor victim's situation: "Wow, sucks to be that guy."
Kim tersely concurred and briskly strode away.
"Where to now?" asked Dustin.
"I guess this is where we go our separate ways."
"Yep. Well, maybe I’ll see you later in Graff. By the way, how exactly are you getting there?"
"I’m taking a greyhound and-hey! Where’s my money?!"
"My money! I had it right here in my handbag. I had over $300 in there. Now it’s gone! What am I going to do?!"
Thank you, God! I really appreciate the favor!
"Oh no! You sure it’s not somewhere else?"
"No, no, I specifically remember putting it in here, and now it’s gone!"
"Well, I was going to take the bus down there as well. I wouldn’t mind paying your fare."
"No, I can’t ask that from you. I’ll get Larry to wire me some money."
"Don’t be impractical, that’ll take too long. Besides, I’ve got plenty of money to spare."
Way to go with the "mentioning the lots of money" move! She’s yours now for sure!
"Alright. If you insist. Lead the way."
She loves me. I just know it.
Dustin would have rented a car, but he was not of legal age to do so. This could be a good thing, because at least he wouldn’t be the one driving for three hours. The $146.23 he spent for bus fare was worth it for that reason alone.

They boarded the greyhound bus and found that most of the front seats were vacant. Dustin wedged his suitcase in between two identical carry-ons. Alexis elected to keep her luggage next to her legs, close and safe. Dustin situated himself beside Alexis' bags, mildly perturbed by the wall of black nylon and zippers that separated him and his future love life. He craned his neck to see over a shoddy gucci-clone hand bag and smiled at Alexis. "Well, here we go!"
"Thanks for the ride, I really appreciate it. Who knows how long it would've taken if you weren't there."
All the more reason I should be yours!
"So, Dustin, what made you want to go to Cayce University?"
Dustin receded back behind the wall of luggage and half spoke, half mumbled, "I wanned to getaway frum my mom…"
Not satisfied with his answer, she poked her head over the bags, "Hey! Get back up here and talk to me!"
"I’m tired. It’s been a long day."
"Well, answer my question and then you can sleep."
"What question?"
"The one I just asked you!"
"Well, ask it again."
"Ugh! What made you want to go to Cayce University? You said on the plane that you could’ve gone to any college you wanted to, but didn’t say why you chose Cayce."
"Oh, that…well, my mom is way to overprotecting and controlling. I know she means well, but she can get pretty infuriating sometimes. Even after I leave to go to college, she’ll move nearby and try to control my life. I had to find a place I knew she’d never travel to."
"Graff? What’s so bad about Graff?"
"Nothing, as near as I can tell. All I know is that she promised to never set foot in the place again, and that’s just perfect for me. That’s where she grew up, you know."
"Oh, well, don’t you think your education might suffer? I mean, Cayce isn’t exactly Harvard or Yale."
"I’ve thought about it some, and it doesn’t really worry me. I figure since I graduated a year early I’ll have plenty of time to fix things, if Cayce doesn’t work out."
"You don’t think you’re wasting your time?"
"Meh, it’s an experience. I’ve got a good half a century ahead of me, and I’ll never get to do something like this ever again."
"That can be a good thing. But if I were you, I’d go to one of those fancy schools."
"Look, you don’t understand…"
"I don’t? She’s your mother, how bad can it be?"
"That’s what you don’t understand. You can never know her as well as I do. She destroyed my childhood trying to make me into some sort of ‘genius child.’ She’ll keep on trying to control my life until she dies, always trying to make me into something she never was."
"And that is?"

"That’s the problem, I don’t know."
The urgent warning of a man in the front row disrupted their conversation. "LOOK OUT!" The cry suddenly dissolved into a cacophony of screams as the bus driver swerved to miss a speeding red sports car. The driver had not seen the red car when it pulled up beside the bus in an attempt to pass it on the narrow two-lane road. The driver of the sports car thought he could make it in front of the bus before the turn in the road came. By the time it reached the turn, it was too late to back out-another car was just coming around the bend. The driver floored the accelerator, speeding dangerously in front of the bus. The bus driver barely slowed down in time to avoid hitting the car, and ended up swerving off the road.

A shallow two-feet-deep ditch on the periphery of the road was enough to send the bus tumbling. Passengers flew about the cabin, lifted from their seats by centrifugal force. Windows shattered, hurling bits and pieces of razor-sharp glass everywhere. Fecal matter escaped the confines of the toilet in the back area, causing the surrounding area to smell like shit.

The driver of the red sports car did not stick around when the bus finally came to a rest after smacking into a tree. Dustin and Alexis quickly scrambled out of a busted window when the bus finally stopped.
"Fuck! Holy Shit! That was fucking intense! Oh God! Are you all right? I’m glad I had my fucking seat belt on. Holy Christ…"
Alexis, choosing not to punctuate every sentence with profanity, said, "We better check with the bus driver to see if any other people are hurt."
"Oh, right."

The settling twilight made it difficult to distinguish one person from another, so they had to guess which body outline belonged to the bus driver. When they drew near a man coming out of an emergency exit, they saw that he was bleeding from the forehead. He started to chase them with his shoe and accused them of being "aliens bent on taking over the planet!"
"Watch out!" said Dustin, overpowering the 65-year-old man with ease.
"No! No! I won’t let you take this planet!"
Alexis turned to Dustin, "He probably has a slight concussion. Find something to restrain him with so he doesn’t do any more damage to himself or anyone else. Here," she said, removing a belt from a busted suitcase, "use this."
After he tied the delirious stranger to a tree, he followed her back into the overturned bus.
"Is everyone all right?" she had to ask, as the nighttime sky provided little light for her to see with properly.
"Ahhh," a distant voice in the back moaned, "I think my leg is broken!" An audible 'crack' was heard as he tried it. "AHHHHH! . . . .yep, definitely broken…"
"Alright," advised Alexis, "stay there. Dustin, see if anyone has a cell phone."

In all, there were 13 passengers. Three of them had cell phones and out of those three, only one was covered in that particular area. The owner of the phone, unfortunately, had left it unplugged and turned on all last night, so it was about as helpful as a small rock.
Not finding a working cell phone, Dustin postulated the next best thing to do: flag down a car. Eight vehicles passed the wreckage before one eventually stopped.
The dilapidated truck’s right window receded into the door, revealing a middle-age man with a face that couldn’t charm even the lowliest of goats. "Holy moly, mister, is anyone hurt?"
Dustin took a moment to reflect on the stranger’s physical impurities, then responded, "Just a few broken bones and bruises, nothing life-threatening. Listen, do you have a cell phone on you?"
"Yessir, I sure do!"
"Call 9-1-1, tell ’em that there’s been a bad accident on . . . what road are we on?"
"Interstate 84."
God, you’re ugly!
"All right, well, you call the police, I’m gonna go see if I can flag down some more help."
Back in the bus, Alexis was busy trying to pacify a petulant passenger that had a compound fracture in his upper arm.
"Don’t move it, or you’ll hur-"
"AHHHHHH!!! Watch it, you bitch!"
"Fine," she snapped, "deal with it yourself! I was only trying to help."
"Alexis!" shouted Dustin from outside the bus.
"I got a guy with a cell phone, he’s calling 9-1-1. Wait…now he’s telling me that the lady on the phone says we should try to avoid moving anyone, even if they say they’re not hurt."
"But what about us?"
"I guess we’re fine."
"Well, I’m going to sit down until the authorities get here."
"Yeah…me too…"

Chapter 3
Absquatulate - to depart in a hurry; abscond

"Holy shit, Harry, you’re crazy!"
"What can I say?" retorted Harry, "I love to speeeed!"
"You almost got us killed back there!"
"Quit bein’ such a fucking pussy, Ralph. I knew that it wasn’t gonna hit us."
"But I saw thuh bus flip over! I done saw it! Somebody mighta gotten hurt!"
"Better them than us," said Harry, shifting the car into its sixth and final gear. "’sides, they were goin’ too slow."
"What’s the big hurry?" Ralph asked as the needle in the speedometer jumped toward 130.
"You’ll see…"

Curt’s trap for pickpockets might have been ingeniously designed; it was, nevertheless, anything but well thought out. He didn’t think to remove the contents of his wallet beforehand. After all, he was going to catch the thief, right?
Not that losing $500 was a big deal to Curt. In just thirty minutes following the run-in with the girl and the airport shuttle, he was able to steal it all back-and then some. After doing so, he intended to either beat that girl senseless, or convince her to join forces.
Or both.
He just had to find her first. And in an airport as large as the one in Dallas, finding a specific 17-year-old female with wavy blonde hair and a nice figure is about as easy as operating a screwdriver with your feet. The only distinguishing feature about her that Curt could remember was her brilliant green eyes. They shone with such radiance; he figured he could easily spot them in a throng of people.
That is, if she was still in the airport. After being responsible for what took place earlier, a rational person might not want to hang around. He decided to take his chances and look for her anyway. It’s not like he had anything better to do.
If Curt had remembered what happened the last time he had "nothing better to do," he might have prevented what happened next.
He eventually found the girl. She was stalking a couple and was just about to strike when he walked up from behind her and said, "You have something of mine."
She turned around, recognized his face, panicked and kneed him hard in the groin.
The ensuing pain was so intense; Curt could hardly scream anything at all.
"Help! Help! He’s trying to rape me!" shouted the crafty vixen.
"What?!" mouthed Curt, thinking, "That BITCH!"
Two armed guards tentatively made their way over to them. "Sir, step away from the girl," said the largest of the pair, coolly.
Curt struggled to respond coherently, still groping his damaged manhood. "I…wasn’t…trying…to…rape…her…"
"I said step away from the girl!" this time forcibly.
"But I-"
"Cuff him, Murphy," commanded the large one.
Murphy approached the still-hunching Curt and handcuffed his hands behind his back, effectively preventing him from conciliating his now-swelling jewels.
"Now, let’s all have us a talk," said the large man. "You too, missy," he said, nodding towards Kim.
Murphy led Curt and Kim into a backroom then promptly closed the door. "Alright, he said, what the hell is going on?"
"What happened to the other guy?"
"The fuck you care? Answer my question."
"She stole my wallet," Curt said, motioning toward the now-grinning Kim. "Just check her coat."
"Don’t tell me what to do, shit-fer-brains."
"It’s the other way around, Officer," said Kim. "He stole my wallet."
"I thought you said he was trying to rape you?"
Without missing a beat and with composed confidence, she answered, "That was just to get your attention. Regardless, check his coat and you’ll find my wallet in there."
Curt couldn’t resist chuckling at what she said, because he knew it was absurd. He did not know, however, that on the way to the room, she had slipped her wallet inside his right coat pocket.
"Mind if I take a peek?"
"Not at all, Officer."
"What have we here?" asked Officer Murphy sardonically, pulling out a small butterfly-laced tri-fold wallet. "Is your name ‘Kim,’ sir?"
"What the bloody hell! That’s not mine!"
"You’ve got that right!" remarked Kim.
"No! I mean I didn’t take her wallet!"
"The evidence says otherwise."
"Thank you, Officer," said Kim. "May I have my wallet back and leave now?"
"Just a second…"
For the first time in the talk, Kim started to look nervous. "Yes?" she asked, sheepishly.
Curt, being the resourceful thief he was, had already begun to pick the lock on his handcuffs with a spare hairpin he always stored in his back left pocket.
"I’d like to search your coat first. Then you can go."
"Ummm…" she said, shifting her eyes back and forth between her alleged assailant and the skeptical security guard.
He reached into one of her pockets and pulled out three billfolds and a wad of cash (the same cash which had previously belonged to Alexis). "I take it these are all yours?"
Now sweating, she hysterically glanced about the room, trying to think of a way out of her current situation (something that, up until now, she had been quite good at). Her glowing green eyes connected with Curt’s, and it was at that moment she saw that he’d freed himself from the confines of the handcuffs. He nodded at her, and then motioned his eyes toward the guard’s nightstick.
Before Murphy could utter "Well?" in response to Kim’s silence, Curt shot up, snatched the nightstick and delivered a pinpointed blow to the temple, knocking Murphy out cold. He pointed the stick at Kim and said, "I need to talk to you."
"We don’t have time," she rejoined while retrieving the wad of cash from the guard’s lifeless hand.
"I know, let’s get out of here."
Hearing the conflict from outside the door, the larger officer entered the room just as Curt opened the door. All he could manage to say was "What the-" before Curt’s club came crashing down over his head.
Like almost everything before, things did not go as Curt planned. Hitting the large man with the nightstick was about as destructive as shooting a mountain with a pellet gun.
It was Kim who moved in for the kill. She sent several "signature kicks" to the poor man’s family jewels. Curt winced as the guard went tumbling down.
He kicked the man in the face for good measure, threw the nightstick away, then turned to Kim and said, "Alright, now let’s get out of here."
"Do you have a car?"
"You’re coming with me? I don’t even know your name!"
"Curt. Now let’s get going, before Godzilla wakes up on us."
"Alright, follow me."
"Where to?"
"My car…"
"Oh. Right."
They both raced out of the room and down the corridor, only to run into a phalanx of off-duty security guards sitting around a table.
"Hey," demanded one of them, "what are you doing down here?"
"Go back," yelled Curt.
"Yeah," agreed Kim.
The two of them about-faced and ran in the opposite direction as before. They passed the large security guard as he was struggling to balance himself.
"Stop them!" he shouted, and the other security guards all jumped up from their break and proceed to pursue the two fugitives.
A half-minute later they came to a T-intersection in the hallway.
"Crap! What do we do?"
"Go right," said Kim.
"No, left!"
They had plenty of time to decide. The guards, not used to this kind of physical requirement on their part, were far behind. Kim eventually conceded and they both turned left. She was just as surprised as he when they found out his judgment was correct.
"Look," she said, "there’s the parking garage. My car’s on the fourth level."
"Is it really your car?"
"No…not really, but I have some stuff in it and-"
"There’s no time. I assume you know how to hotwire?"
"You bet."
"Wait, no need to. I’ve got an idea…"
He advanced to a limo driver holding a "Stevens" sign and said, "Yes, we’re the ‘STEVENS’."
"May I see some ID?" asked the driver.
"You certainly may," said Curt, pulling out the wallet with the real Mr. Steven’s license in it. Kim was impressed by his craftiness. She would’ve never thought of it. It pays to be an experienced pickpocket.
"Alright, Mr. Stevens, come right this way. I’m Earl, I’ll be your driver for the evening."
"Hiya Earl," Curt said, putting on a convincing façade. "Think we can hurry it up a bit? Our flight was a little late, and we’re supposed to be there by 8:00."
"No problem!"
Curt turned to Kim to give her a thumbs-up signal when Earl stopped and asked, "Hey, where’s your luggage?"
"Uhh…" Curt blurted, trying to think of an excuse. "We…uhh…you see…"
"It got placed on the wrong flight. The airport personnel said it’d arrive tomorrow," interrupted Kim.
"Oh, sorry to hear that sir.. Well, here’s your limo. Hop on in."
Curt and Kim both sighed in relief when they saw that the windows were tinted. They climbed in the car together, knowing they had successfully eluded airport security. Now they could take on the world!

Chapter 4
Formication - sensation like ants crawling on the skin

They were still roughly an hour from Graff at the time of the accident. Most of the passengers had closer destinations and/or relatives from which to get lifts. Dustin and Alexis fared no such luck.
Most other businesses were closed at that hour, so they couldn’t go anywhere else but the Motel 6 glowing amiably about fifty meters away.
"Well," said the man behind the counter, "we only gots one room that’s clean. Mary here clogged the plumbing witha…whatju say it was, Mary? Aww, don’t matter what it was. Point is, whatever it was caused them there toilets to overflow in mosta the rooms. Only the one in the waaaaaay back is fresh. And that’s because it don’t got no plumbin’! If ya’ want, I could hook you guys up with a bucket to shit in…you knows…if you needs to."
"That’s…quite alright…" explained Alexis, "we should be fine for the night."
"Alrighty, then. Total’ll be $53.95 for the two of yous."
They should be paying me to sleep in this place!
"Here ya’ go," said Dustin as he counted out the bills one by one. "Um, just a question, but how many beds are there?"
"Well, that’s a relief," said Alexis, giggling.
As they strolled listlessly past seven of the understandably vacant rooms, the malodorous stench of backwash attacked their senses, convincing them to pick up the pace a little.
The faded outline of "Janitor’s Closet" could still be seen on the door. The pathetic attempt at covering the persevering silhouette (masking tape and notebook paper) had disappeared in the wind long ago.
"That’s not very charming," remarked Dustin.
"After you," Alexis jokingly gestured.
He opened the door and almost choked on the aroused must. "Eck, this is terrible!"
"Yeah, well, turn on the lights, I can’t wait to see what this…place looks like."
The lighting in the room consisted of an old-fashioned over-head light and a cheap $3 lamp on the beside-table. To put it lightly, the moon was more luminous. When Dustin pulled the string on the dangling ceiling light, the entire contraption came crashing down on his head.
"Oh my God! Are you okay?"
"I’m fine, just a little tense. Say, did you happen to catch that man’s nametag at the front desk? I think it said ‘Norman’ on it."
"Haha, very funny."
"Hey, turn on that light over there, will ya’? Oooh, I get the right bed!" He ran and jumped to his bed. Alexis switched on the lamp just in time to see the entire structure collapse from underneath him.
"Goodness!" she shouted, "Are you okay? Still…?"
"Uhh," murmured the dazed and confused Dustin, "I think I broke my bed."
"My God, you’re bleeding!"
"Uh? Where?"
"You cut your arm. Here, let me fetch some bandages from the bathroom."
Dustin’s stupor ended when he heard a bloodcurdling scream emerge from the "bathroom."
"Dustin! Come quick! There’s a huge fucking rat in the closet!"
"Huh?" grunted Dustin as he clambered out of the former bed. Alexis use of profanity--despite it being as forced as the laughter from a studio audience--did indeed sound urgent."Where is it?"
"There," she pointed, "Right there!"
"Oh, Jesus! That mother’s huge!"
"Kill it! Kill it!"
"I don’t care! Squash it, step on it, beat it with a stick, just make it go away!"
"Well, I’m not touching it, you can-"
"Ahh, it’s moving! Catch it!"
"Hand me that broom."
When Alexis grabbed the broom’s rotten wooden handle, it crumbled in her hands. "Ewwww! There are termites in the broom!" As she said this, a few of them decided to crawl over her arm. The sudden sensation caused by the insects’ tiny little feet on her skin sent Alexis flailing wildly about the room.
"Get ‘em off me, get it off me! Dustin!!!"
"Not now, I got the rat cornered. Hand me something to hit it with."
"Here," she said blunderingly handing Dustin his pitiful excuse for a suitcase, "use this."
He threw it. Missed.
"Give me something else! Never mind," he said as he yanked the lamp away from the bedside table, "I found something."
Only when his hand let go of the bedside light did he realize what he had done. "Shit," he said, right as the bulb popped. The rat, of course, escaped through the walls unharmed and only slightly peeved.
After Alexis scrapped the last of the termites from her arm, she turned to Dustin, riled by their attempt to devour her flesh, "To hell with this, I’m calling Larry."
"Alexis, it’s half-past 12:00. Do you think Larry’s really going to appreciate your calling him in the middle of the night?"
"No…I guess not…"
"Look, that rat’s gone. Let’s go to sleep and in a few hours we can go rent a car and-"
"Oh my God!"
"What? What is it?"
"Ohmagod ohmagod ohmagod!!!"
"I haven’t called Larry since I arrived at the airport this morning. He has no idea where I am!"
"Hmm, that is a problem…"
"I need to get to a phone. You have to get me to a phone!"
Think of something, you fool. She’s getting away!
"Alright, they might have a phone at the front desk."
No! That’s not what you’re supposed to say. Idiot!
"No, you’re right… Larry won’t appreciate being called so late. I’ll call him first thing in the morning."
You are the MAN!

After a brief silence, Dustin timidly asked, "So…uh…what are the sleeping arrangements now?"
"I think you know," she said, winking.
Well, cowboy, I guess it’s your lucky day!

"Here," she pointed at the busted bed, "you can move the mattress on the floor right here."
"But…but I thought you’d-"
"What? You didn’t actually think you were gonna sleep in this bed, did you?"
"No! No! Of course not!"
"Oh, well… that’s a shame…"
Argh…mind games…must…resist…urge…to…kill…
He would’ve prepared the makeshift bed much sooner had he not hurled the only remaining source of light at the wall. He also would’ve seen Alexis change into her nightgown a lot more clearly, had it not been for his premature reaction.
Dustin almost fell asleep when he heard a tired, hesitant voice call out his name: "Dustin?"
"For what?"
"For helping me get through all this."
"Oh. You’re welcome."
Whatever trouble he had during the day, the dreams Dustin had that night more than made up for it. It was a very good night indeed.

"Well, what is it?"
"It’s a bomb, retard."
Ralph didn’t take too kindly at being addressed as "retard," but he said nothing. He didn’t want to piss off his new boss so soon.
"What kind of bomb?"
"Christ, haven’t you been listening to a word I said?"
Ralph gulped nervously and retracted his round, undersized head like that of a turtle. He knew that if he didn’t "stop being a dumbass, cocksucking smuck," he wouldn’t get his money.
"Look, remember how I told you about the nuclear"--nukular--"waste dumping I got going on my land from the government? The money’s fine and all, but I plan to dig up the waste and make my own bomb with it! I searched the internet and learned how to do it, I just need somebody to help me get the stuff. I already put all the other stuff together."
"But ain’t ‘dat stuff dangerous?"
"Of course not," Harry lied. "Not with these suits I bought from the army surplus store."
"But how we gonna git to the stuff? Don’t they bury it in them metal vaults?"
"Ralph, stop being a dumbass, cocksucking smuck. Didn’t I tell you I’ve got it worked out? The government official told me that they bury the shit at night. Why, I do not know, but that’s not important. The point is, you’re going to sneak up when they’re burying the stuff and take just a barrel or two."
"Just me?"
"What? No! I said ‘we,’ didn’t I?"
"Course I did! We're a team, remember?" Harry feigned frienship by patting Ralph aggressively on the back.
"I"--pat!--"guess so…"
"Good! I’ll work on the plan in detail tomorrow morning while you’re out getting some more beer. Until then, I need you to sign this little contract here saying you’re fully aware what we’re doing in case we gets caught. Nothing important, I just don’t want you squealing on me in court."
Ralph snatched the flimsy stationery from Harry’s menacingly waving hand, flattened it on the workshop bench, and signed:
Ralph Miller

Chapter 5
Anorchous - lacking testicles

Curt knew someone was bound to eventually report his or her "stolen limousine." He discussed the situation with Kim and together they quickly thought of a plan. They silently rehearsed it twice before actually using it.
"Uh, Earl?"
"Yes, Mr. Stevens?"
"My wife needs to make a pit stop. Could you pull over at the nearest restroom?"
"No need to, Mr. Stevens. This is a state-of-the-art limo." Earl followed his statement by pressing a button on the dashboard, sending a compact, metal toilet pan sliding out of Kim’s seat.
"Uh," she protested, "I’m not going in that."
"No problem, Mrs. Stevens! Not many people choose to use the ‘Kar Seat™’ so you’re not alone. Here, there’s a pretty nice lookin’ gas station up ahead. I’m sure they’ll have clean bathrooms."
"Thanks," they mutually replied.
Earl pulled up past three readily available parking places and into the station’s only handicapped spot. "It’s only going to be for a second," he reasoned.
"Earl, I’m going to go get a few snacks while she’s in the john. I’ll be right back."
"Better hurry, then, Mr. Stevens. It’s almost 8:00!"
"They’ll wait for us," assured Curt.
Kim rendezvoused with Curt as he entered the "Stop ‘n’ Go" variant (affectionately christened "Shit ‘n’ Git" by a gang of 12-year-old badasses). "All right," she asked, "now what?"
"Well, first off, I’d like to clarify what happened in the airport earlier today."
"Listen, I can explain-"
The sound of the subsequent bell after a man named Jim entered the store was followed by his vociferous announcement: "Nobody move, this is a robbery!"
Six pairs of hands immediately shot up into the air-including Curt’s and Kim’s.
"I said don’t move, God dammit!" For some inexplicable reason, Jim felt the need to unload half of the clip in his MAC-10 into a nearby video poker machine. "Next person to move gets that," he yelled, pointing his gun towards the porous pile of bullet-riddled machinery.
The hands tentatively made their way back to their former positions; their owners more confused than ever.
"Curt," whispered Kim, hands once again by her sides, "Do something."
"I dunno, anything!"
"Shh! Keep quiet!"
While Jim was forcing the clerk to "hand over the all the cash" (which, unfortunate for him, amounted in the aggregate to a little over $23), Curt explored the aisle for anything of use in subduing the degenerate. He ended up settling on a tin can of God-knows-what soup.
Jim turned around just in time to see a fast-approaching metal cylinder make its way towards his forehead. Mere microseconds after it made contact with the upper portion of his forehead he yelped something that resembled "fuck," dropped his gun and stumbled backwards into the counter.
His back slid down the counter until his body came to rest L-shaped on the floor. Kim saw that his legs were wide open and once again went in for the kill. Curt, seeing this wanton display of malice, shuddered empathetically in horror.
Jim, like the large man at the airport, did not struggle much afterwards.
"Grab his gun," Kim said.
"Way ahead of you," Curt pointed out as he unloaded the clip. "Hey Jackass, I’ve got news for you: you’re going to jail."
The would-be-robber moaned a sigh of grief and then promptly passed out from the overwhelming pain in his lower region. When he’d wake up the next day, "they" would be so swelled to the point that he’d wish he never had any.
"Curt, we gotta get out of here!"
"We never can stay out of trouble, can we?"
"I mean now!"
"Alright, alright, I’m coming."
They ran out of the store as fast as humanly possible. Earl, having had a front row viewing of the incident from the seat of the limousine, was tucked snugly under the dashboard, so he failed to see his "passengers" flee from the scene of someone else’s crime.
Curt easily spotted Jim’s getaway car: it was the red mustang with no rear bumper that still had its engine running. The owner of the vehicle won’t need it anymore, he explained to Kim.
"Where to?" she asked.
"Somewhere quiet."
"Is there such a place?"
"Who knows?"
He peeled out of the station and onto the feeder-just as the police arrived. Curt didn’t want to stick around afterwards; he figured somebody had already phoned in about the vicious beatings earlier at the airport.
Five minutes passed before either of the two spoke. Then, Curt: "Now we can talk."
"Alright, shoot."
"Listen, the reason I approached you wasn’t because you stole my wallet. Well, actually, it was, but it’s not what you think. I set a trap for pickpockets, because I wanted one as my partner."
"Yeah, you know, two people helping each other out in accomplishing a given job."
"What kind of job?"
"Pickpocketing, of course!"
Kim sat dumbfounded for a moment. Finally, she broke her silence with, "Pickpocketing? You’re a pickpocket too? And you want me to be your ‘partner’?"
"Let me get this straight: you went through all this trouble just to get a little help with petty thievery?!"
"Look, I didn’t intend it to be this way. Things got fucked up-"
"You can say that again!"
"Are you going to help me or not?"
"How can I refuse such an opportunity!" She paused to let the sarcasm fall in place. "Christ! Are you even listening to a word you’re saying?"
"I take that as a ‘no’?"
"Not at all! At least, not yet. Let’s hear what you have in mind."
Curt, now pleased with the sudden change in direction the situation had taken, began to explain how his "Fall ‘n’ Stall" (a name which he came up with himself) plan would work.
"You know," said Kim after Curt finished informing her of his scheme. "That’s actually a pretty damn good plan. I think I’ve seen it done before, though."
"Don’t matter to me, I’ve never tried it. That’s what’s important."
"Alright, but where are we going to try it out?"
"I try to stick to airports. That’s where you make the most money. Believe me, I’ve been doing this for nine years."
"Nine years? You’re kidding me. Pickpocketing? You can’t be much younger than 25, and here you are telling me you’ve been pickpocketing for almost nine years? Don’t you have a future? Any goals? Ambitions?"
"I try not to think about it…"
"Well, you can’t pickpocket all your life, can you?"
"It shouldn’t last much longer, anyway. The way I figure it, I shoulda had my midlife crisis a few years ago."
"That’s terrible, surely you’re good at something instead of just pickpocketing?"
"Promise not to laugh?"
She promised.
"Bowling. I’ve always wanted to be a professional bowler."
"I won’t laugh I won’t laugh I won’t laugh…"
"Alright, go ahead and laugh."
"Is it that ridiculous?"
"I’m sorry, but I just can’t picture you as a bowler. I mean, when I think of a bowler, I think of some fat, balding guy name ‘Tony’ with a toothpick in his mouth."
"Why’d you have to say that?"
"My dad was a fat bowler…and he had a bad comb-over…and his name was ‘Tony’."
"Oh my! Did he have the toothpick as well…?"
"Cigarettes, actually."
"Wow, I was really close!"
"Yep, Tony T. Tersely, world-class bowler from age 3 to 39."
"Retired?" She was kind enough not to giggle at the last name.
"Nope, heart attack. He was one strike away from getting a perfect 300. The ball wasn’t even halfway down the lane when he keeled over dead ’cause his heart had one too many cheeseburgers. He didn’t even get to see that one last pin wobble like crazy yet still not fall."
"Let me guess, you want to bowl a perfect game in honor of him?"
"Heck no! I’m doing it for me! To show him that I’m better than he ever was."
"By knocking down ten little white pins ten times in a row?"
"Excuse me?"
"13 times to get a 300, you have to bowl 13 strikes."
"Thanks for the lesson, I’ll keep that in mind."
"Let’s change the subject, shall we?" pleaded Curt.
"Good idea," said Kim. "So, where to now?"
"Where’s the nearest major airport?"
"It’s not that close, but I’d like to make a stop on the way there. Let’s go to Austin."
"As long as I don’t have to drive all the way. What’s the special stop?"
"I wanna visit my Grandfather’s old ranch in Graff. I haven’t been there since I was six."
"I see no harm in that."

If you don’t move, it will go away. If you don’t move, it will go away. If you don’t move…
Dustin had no idea how long the rat had been laying on his chest. He didn’t really care much to think about it. His mind was focused on a more pertinent subject at the moment; namely, how the heck he was going to get the monstrous rodent off him.
"Alexis…" he whimpered.
Alexis rolled over in her bed, stretched her arms and legs, brushed her long, silky hair out of her eyes and yawned a response, "yeeesss?"
"Alexis," still barely audible, "there’s…a…huge…rat…on…my…chest."
Immediately she sprang into action. "Again? Where? Kill it!"
"Shhh! Shh!" he tried hard to suppress his volume-he didn’t want the fluctuations of air in his lungs to stir the rat awake. "Be quiet! Alright… listen… quietly… take… a… pillow… and… knock… it… off."
She grabbed the largest of her three pillows and, with a scream that could shame Tarzan, swung with all her might. Had she not screamed, she wouldn’t have woken the not-so-small rodent. Had she not woken the rat, it wouldn’t have bitten Dustin on his inner thigh. Had it not bitten Dustin, his and Alexis’ destination wouldn’t have been sidetracked with a visit to the hospital.
"AHHHH! That sonofabitch bit me! Holy shit! It might be rabid! Did you see the foam from his mouth?! Oh God!"
"Oh my God, I’m so sorry!"
"Call the front desk, tell ‘em to send an ambulance immediately!"
"How bad is it?"
"It’s bleeding. Oh God, he broke the skin. The virus could get through. Oh my God!"
"There’s no phone in the room. I’ll be right back." In three minutes she returned with the same man who’d assigned them their room last night.
"Now lemme get this straight: you was bit by a mouse?"
"It was a huge fucking rat, and it has rabies! Oh God, this fucking hurts!"
"Now calm down, where’d it bit you?"
"Right here," he said, pointing to the microscopic puncture marks in his left thigh.
"Shucks, that ain’t nuthin’. Would you like a band-aide? You’re lucky that sucker didn’t go fer yer pecker." The balding man with bad teeth couldn’t help but snicker at the poor wimp.
"What’re you laughing at? This is serious! I need a rabies vaccine now!"
"Oh hush up, you’ll be fine. Rabies virus only travels three inches a day, and you’ve just been bit in the leg. No need to hurry."
Now how the hell can a retard like him know that?
"Well," interjected Alexis, "could you at least point us in the direction of the nearest hospital?"
"You two on the bus headed fer Graff, right? The one that flipped last night?"
"Uh-huh," uttered Dustin.
"Well, then I s’pose you’d wanna go in that direction, right?"
"Yeah, sure."
"Then the nearest ‘spital is gonna be Cayce School of Medicine, if ya’ don’t mind bein’ treated by students."
"Shouldn’t be a problem," remarked Alexis. "Besides, I bet it’s probably free."
"I guess you guys’ll need a rental car to get there, too?"
"Is there a place nearby where we can get one?" inquired Dustin.
"Not exactly…in fact, it’s only two blocks away from the med school. Tell you what, since y’all the only customers we’ve had in days, and since yer boyfriend here got bit by a rat while on our premises, I guess I could go ahead and drive y’all down there myself."
"Thanks, but he’s not my boyfriend."
Aww, why’d she have to say that?
"Suit yerself. Go gather up all yer stuff while I pull the car ’round."
After the man left, Alexis turned to Dustin and said, "Close your eyes. I’ve gotta change out of my pajamas."
Did she just say "pajamas"?
"Relax, I wasn’t gonna look." A blatant lie. He turned around to pick up his few possessions that were offensively strewn about the room as if he were already in his dorm. While bending over to retrieve a dirty sock, he saw the outline of her perky teenage breasts cast upon the wall by the room’s only window.
Whoa mama!
"Okay, it’s safe to turn around now."
When he did, he’d apparently forgotten that he was sporting only boxers. She looked down at them for a moment, saw his perpendicularity, blushed lightly and asked, "Just what were you thinking about?"
"What are you-" Dustin noticed where she was staring and then saw his ol’ eager self down there. "-Oh God! I’m. . . uhh…I’m sorry. No! Uhh…Jesus, where are my pants?" His countenance now flushed scarlet, Dustin blindly ran about the room in desperate search for his jeans.
In medical terms, what happened is known as "vasodilatation of the penile veins in response to sexual stimulus." In layman’s terms, it’s called "getting an boner." To Dustin, however, it’s recognized only as "complete, utter humiliation."
The worst part about the incident to Alexis, though, was the ceaseless apologies that followed: "I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m so sorry!"
She had to scream to get his attention. "Dustin! Snap out of it!"
"I don’t know what came over me, I swear!"
"Of course you do! It’s okay, though, you’re only male."
Dustin really wished she hadn’t winked when she finished that last part. Now he was more confused than ever.

The amusingly uncomfortable situation was interrupted by urgent honking from outside. They finished getting dressed and made a last-minute sweep of the room for any items they might have missed.
When they came outside, they were greeted by an atrociously loud station wagon with only three doors. The missing rear-left portion of the car was maladroitly mended with duct tape and ply wood. Its painfully raucous noise level came from the fact that the car lacked a working muffler.
I’d rather walk.
"Hope on in!"
Hesitantly, they entered the car by the two functioning doors on the right side. Once inside the deathtrap, the decibel level seemed to drop only minutely.
"So, what’re y’all’s names?" The man had to shout to be heard over the racket. "I’m Devin."

*To be continued

© Cody Venk June 2003

Chapters One and Two are revised version of a former offering.
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