Just One Starfish

by Grasshopper

Sunrise Gold
Brian
Chapter 10

Okay ... Brian had sent the card on Thursday night, October 23rd. Gabriel's birthday was on Friday, October 24th. It was now Thursday, October 30th, a week later, and he hadn't heard anything back. Chester and Alan tried to make him feel better:

"He's a total asswipe."
"It's really a good thing he didn't answer back."
"What a jerk."
"Forget it, Bri, he's not worth it."

Brian was trying really hard not to let it bother him. He'd done something really risky for him; just hung his hopes out on a line, but Gabriel obviously wasn't interested in knowing him at all. He felt like a fool for even imagining a guy like that would be at all attracted to a nobody like him. Gabriel probably showed the card to his pretty girlfriend, they had a good laugh and he tossed it in the trash can that sat on the tile floor in the kitchen where they proceeded to have hot monkey sex that involved creamy ranch dressing and lots of celery and black olives. No matter what his friends said, Brian sighed, he knew he was a loser.

There were Halloween decorations up all over campus. There was a Halloween Haunted House over at one of the girl's dorms. Chester dragged him saying all the moping and gloom was making him crazy. All that squealing and giggling ..... there was even a door that, Chester swore, if you opened and stepped in, naked girls jumped on you rubbing guts, and their boobs, in your face. Brian couldn't get into that at all, not the guts, and truly not the naked.

"You gotta snap outta this funk you're in," Chester urged. "It's Halloween, Dude. We got ghosties and goblins and all this other crap. Have some fun, Bri. Don't let that guy mess you up." He grabbed Annie's hand and they disappeared into the crowd.

Brian saw Alan's long ponytail over by the Spider Swamp and headed in his direction. "Here, I grabbed you a beer," his friend called handing him a red solo cup. "Hell with it," Brian said, chugged his, gulping four times, this despite the fact that Brian Perkins never drank. He choked, and grabbed another.

By the time he'd done that six times, he wasn't sure how many fingers he had on one hand, even how many hands he actually had or what direction the door was. Alan pointed him toward the exit and the cold air hit him in the face like a sledgehammer.

"God, it was hot in there."

"Yeah, lots of bodies."

"I gotta pee."

"I can understand that," Alan laughed. He kept watch while Brian peed behind the shrubbery in front of the PolySci building.

"Let me check the mail," Alan laughed as Brian wobbled across the lobby of the dorm.

"Why bother? No mail for me," Brian said sadly. "No mail for stupid me."

Alan opened #411, gathered out a flyer for Student Health Week, a letter from Chester's mom, a note saying there was a box for Alan in the mail room, three coupons for Marco's Pizza and a folded note with Brian's name on the front.

Alan looked over at Brian who was leaning against the wall by the door to their hall, his eyes closed, kind of swaying to some inner music. Shit! What if this was something bad?

"Bri, you got a note or something," he said, walking over to hand the slip of paper to his friend. Brian's eyes popped open and he stared at the paper as if it was a snake ready to strike.

"What is it?" all trace of beer gone from his voice.

"How should I know? It was in the mailbox. Here."

"You read it."

"I will not."

"Please?"

Alan sighed, "Okay, but don't kill me if it's bad, okay?" He slid his finger under the strip of scotch tape that was holding the note closed and tore the paper.

"Nooo," Brian yelped, "Don't tear it. Let me have it."

Laughing, Alan said, "Let's go to the room and get out of the lobby, Bri."

In the room, settled into his computer chair, Brian turned the note over in his hands.

"Read it already, will you?"

He opened the note and read the message, not saying a word.

"What? What?" Alan cried, curious as all hell.

Brian raised his eyes from the note and said, "He wants me to meet him in the park."

"What? What park?"

"Okay, he says Hey and to meet him at the trailhead for Sweetwater Trail at 6:00 on Saturday."

"What? Where's that?"

Brian looked at Alan. "I have no idea. What's a trailhead?"

Alan took the note out of Brian's hand and read:

Hey Brian ~
Thanks for the birthday card. The picture was great. If you'd like to see the desert, meet me at the Old Goldmine Trailhead at six this Saturday. Hope you can make it ~
Gabriel

"Well," Alan stammered, "Well....."

"Well what?"

"Where is this and do you really know this guy well enough to meet him in Shitknowswhere and is this 6 in the morning or 6 at night or what?"

Brian frowned, "I do not know. I think so. I have no idea."

"Well, shit, Bri."

"Yeah."

By the time Chester got in, Brian was a mess. His head ached from going around and around with Alan about how bad this idea was. "Ches, get in here. Help me convince Bri this is really stupid."

Chester, still floating from the last two hours in Annie's dorm room, took a few minutes to even comprehend what they were talking about. "Let me see the note," he said, poking out his hand. Reading it, reading it again, he thought for a few minutes. "These really don't appear to be the words of a chainsaw serial killer. I think he's offering something he likes to do to you, Bri. Is this six in the morning or six at night?"

"I have no clue," Brian said, "I'd think morning cause you can't see at night."

Alan groaned, "See! Maybe it is at night and he doesn't want you to see."

"Alan!!!"

"He sure has a nice handwriting," Chester commented. "Well, what are you gonna do, Bri?"

"I'm gonna go! No question!"

"Well, I have two," Alan laughed, "And they're really kind of important. Where is this Old Goldmine Trail and how do you plan on getting there? I haven't seen any mountains on the bus route."

"Oh."

Chester moved toward his computer, "Google!" A few minutes and he'd found the perfect site. "Look, it says where it is and even how to get there. I am so good !!!"

"Okay, you've gotta get like maybe ten miles out of town. How are you planning on that?"

"I don't know," Brian mumbled. "I'll figure out a way. I gotta figure out a way!"


By Friday morning, Brian was getting frantic. Short of walking the ten miles, he still didn't have any idea how he was gonna get out to the Saguaro National Park. He didn't know anybody with a car. He had to go. No way was he gonna miss seeing Gabriel, not when he had asked Brian to come. No way!

Lying in his top bunk, reading Mark Twain's words over and over, he heard feet running down the hall. His door slammed open and Jeff yelled, "I've got it. Get down here, Bri. Look at this."

Brian rolled off the side and hit the floor in two seconds, "What?"

"Here," Jeff said proudly, handing Brian a flyer:

TUCSON BUS TOURS
$10.00
Let us take you on a trip around southern Arizona
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Titan Missile Museum
Old Tucson Studios
Mission San Xavier del Bac
Kitt Peak National Observatory
Colossal Cave Mountain Park
Saguaro National Park
Oracle State Park
Tubac Presidio State Historic Park
Pima Air and Space Museum
and many more interesting sites.

Mini Buses depart: 8:00 AM, 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM
Call 520-010-714 to reserve your seat.

"There it is," Brian jabbed his finger at Saguaro National Park. He quickly scanned the flyer. "I'm gonna call now."

"Whoa, hold on, Bri. The buses run at 8:00, 11:00 and 1:00. You have to be there at 6."

"Shit!" All the excitement that had just pumped him up whooshed out and he flopped into his computer chair to stare dejectedly at the floor. He'd thought he had the answer. Damn! "I could go out there today and just wait," he said, knowing how stupid that sounded.

Alan came in from his last class of the week. "Still no ideas?"

"Nah."

"I had a thought, but you're not gonna like it cause it involves talking to that freak guy that lives over in Garrison Hall."

"I'm open to anything right now," Brian sighed, "What freak?"

"You know that guy that always wears a gray hoodie even if the temperature is like 100000 degrees, has all those piercings in his face and one half of his head is shaved?"

"Yeah, so?"

"He has a bike."

"That weird dude has a bike? A regular pedals/handlebars/gears bike? That guy?"

"Yeah, I just thought maybe ..........................."

"I'd borrow it? I don't know him. He's scary. I heard his name is Blood."

"Maybe he's really nice and shy and ........"

Chester snorted, "and scary."

"Yeah, kinda."

"God, what if I broke it or scratched it or something? He looks like he sacrifices live baby monkeys before he eats them for dinner."

"Well, then, I guess Gabriel will just not see you tomorrow then."

Brian groaned, "Okay, I'll do it, but you guys are coming with me."

They walked across the yard and into the shadowy lobby of Garrison Hall. With Alan, Chester and Jeff crowded behind him, Brian knocked on the door to room #312.

"Fuck off!" a voice yelled over loud music.

"Hello?" Brian called, "Could I talk to you for a minute?"

"Fuck off!"

"I just ......."

"FUCK OFF!!!" and the music got louder.

Brian tried one more time. Knocking, he stepped way back, falling into Chester, Jeff and Alan as the door flew open and Blood filled the doorway. "I said Fuck off. What the fuck you want?"

"I..........." Brian's voice failed him.

"He wants to know if he can borrow your bike," Chester yelped.

"Fuck no!"

"It's just for tomorrow morning," Brian kept on. "I just need to get somewhere."

"Who the fuck are you?" He glared at them.

"Me, um, Brian." He gestured back to the others, "Alan, Chester, Jeff."

Blood seemed to be thinking it over and suddenly said, "Okay, but it'll be twenty-five fuckin' bucks. Now!"

Brian scrabbled in his pockets and found $12. The guys coughed up the rest and he handed it to Blood.

"You fuckin' break it, you're fuckin' dead."

"I'll be real careful with it, Mr. um Blood," Brian babbled, as the guy threw a lock key at him and slammed the door.

"That went well, I think," Brian sighed as they walked back to their hallway.

"Okay, it's just out there, chained to the bike rack. You've got your ride," Alan said.

"But ......." Brian stuttered, "What if I scratch it or something?"

"Then, I'd say, you're a fuckin' dead man," Chester giggled.

Brian knew this was wrong on so many levels, but Gabriel's face just kept popping up in his head. He had a way to the trail. Yes !! "I can do this. It's just a bike, what can happen?"


"Okay, its ten miles to the park, give or take a few miles," Chester said, staring at the Google map. "How long do you suppose that will take on a bike?"

"For Lance Armstrong, maybe fifteen minutes, but me, who hasn't ridden a bike since I was twelve, maybe a couple of days, and if I get lost or run over by a semi or The Fuckin' Monkey Killer comes looking for me, maybe ten."

"Well, you need to memorize the map and know exactly where you're going. It'll be damn dark when you leave and you gotta know exactly what you're doing."

"I gotta be there before six, so I guess I better leave by four?? Is there a light or something on that bike? I'm gonna get run down. Jesus, I'm so dead."

Charlie came running into the room, "Here, I found just the thing." He held up a ball cap with a little light on the bill. "This'll do the trick."

Brian closed his eyes and breathed in really deep. This was so awful it was funny and the funny side was starting to tip over. "Where the hell you find that thing?"

"You want it or not?"

"Yeah, might as well. If I'm gonna look like a total asshat, I might as well do it up good." He slammed the cap on his head and turned on the little light.

"Now, you gotta have boots for the hiking part of this," Alan said, "And a clean shirt cause you're gonna stink when you get there, so you need your backpack." They loaded boots, socks, water, t-shirt, and Brian threw in deodorant and a comb.

It was 1:00 when Brian was set to go. He stared at the note from Gabriel:

Hey Brian ~
Thanks for the birthday card. The picture was great! If you'd like to see the desert, meet me at the Old Goldmine Trailhead at six this Saturday. Hope you can make it.
Gabriel

He hoped he was doing the right thing. For reasons he didn't quite understand, Gabriel Parelli had crawled inside his head and Brian wasn't going to be happy until he knew him better. He hoped Gabriel would like him back, even just as a friend. Brian could live with that. He was kinda scared to ride all that way by himself in the dark to a place he didn't know and he was kinda nervous that somehow this was all some kind of bizarre joke.


"Okay," Chester repeated one last time, "Follow the side road along I10 and get on Exit 252. Go almost six miles til the road ends and you're at the small paved road. Follow it to the Trailhead." Brian nodded his head. It was three AM and all his friends were clustered around as Brian, wide eyed, stood straddling the bike.

Alan said softly, "You can change your mind, Bri."

"Nah, Gabriel invited me and I'm going. It's no big deal." He settled his backpack on his shoulders, slid one foot into the pedal slot, and laughed, "See you guys tomorrow afternoon." He patted the note from Gabriel in his shorts pocket, zipped his windbreaker and rode off into the dark.

Riding at night was really cool. Well, yeah, it was totally cool/cold in the early November air, but it was silent and peaceful. Not a lot of traffic along I10 and the backroads were lighted and easy. Brian hit the turn off on Exit 252 about five o'clock and cruised along watching for the end point. When he turned off onto the small paved road, the lights from the highway dimmed away and he stopped. Stepping away from the bike, he stretched and did a few squats, rolling his shoulders. Rattling around in his backpack, he found the ball cap and stuck it on his head, flicking on the light. Grinning, he pulled out his cell phone and called Chester.

"Yeah, way cool."
"Nah, no probs."
"I'm on the paved road heading for the Trailhead."
"Yeah, I've got on the light," he laughed.
"Dang, it's beautiful out here."
"What time is it?"
"K, I better get movin'."

Brian rode into the small cleared area that marked the beginning of the Old Goldmine Trail. There was rail fencing, a sign and a glass enclosed map of the trail. Checking his watch, the time was 5:35. Climbing off the bike, he chained it to the signpost and walked over to the tiny public restroom facility, just really holes in the floor with the smell of lime strong in the air.

Pouring water into his hands, he washed his face, and ran deodorant under his arms. Pulling on the fresh t-shirt, he looked around for a mirror. "Great!" he groaned, finding none. Running the comb through his damp hair, he shook his head to dry himself. "I feel like a big dog," he giggled nervously.

Suddenly terrified, he heard the sound of the big Jeep rumbling its way down the last of the road toward the clearing. Oh shit! He'd wanted to know Gabriel better and this was his chance. Sitting down on the rail fence, he stared into the headlights and hoped he hadn't made a huge mistake.

Talk about this story on our forum
Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily. Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. If the email address pastes with %40 in the middle, replace that with an @ sign.]