Take A Hike

by James Pavian

This is a work of fiction. No resemblance to persons living or dead is intended. If you are underage, or if possession of this text is illegal in your area, leave now. Authors retain rights to and title to their submitted works. And please play safe—you're worth it!

Oh, shit. Oh god oh hell oh man oh—

"Go!"

I lost the bet. I lost the fucking bet. I've got to—

"Come on, man! Get your ass out there!"

It's just a collar. Lots of the goth kids wear collars. It'll be okay.

Terry's place is on Harrison Avenue. The street is busy, but not too bad. At least it's a whatchmacallit—a through street, so there's no stop light. People will be too busy watching traffic to do much sight-seeing. I hope.

Here goes.

"Remember, man—no running! Like we agreed!" Terry shouts, and then he locks the door behind me. I don't know what I expected—news cameras maybe, or passing tour buses. I have to walk around the block, that's all. Just walk around the block, take a picture of the ShopQuik to prove I did it, and come back.

I head down Harrison toward Locust, as ordered. Everybody can see me, now, in a bright red tank top and jogging shorts and the collar. The goddamn collar. If I'd known what Terry had in mind, I would not...People on the sidewalk look at me and their eyes practically fly away to focus on something else. I'm wearing this big, thick, studded collar like people put on pit bulls and stuff, with this huge silver buckle —and it's locked! I'm a sixteen-year-old boy in a bright red tank top and jogging shorts with a dog collar locked around my neck, walking down Harrison Avenue trying to look invisible.

Hah!

Here comes the corner. Right turn onto Locust: so far, so good. So far—so fucking far!

Somebody honked! Maybe it wasn't for me. Maybe somebody changed lanes, or something. Just keep walking! At least there's no one else on the sidewalk, now. I don't have to look anyone in the eye. Hah, Terry! You should have made me walk against the traffic!

I'm blushing just thinking about that, I can feel it.

Wait a minute! Adams Avenue is going to be the tough one: it's a one-way and I will be facing the traffic. And that's where the fucking ShopQuik is, across Adams, right in the middle of the block! And I have to stop long enough to get the picture!

A stupid jack-off contest: who can shoot first. I can't believe Terry came so fast! If I hadn't seen it soft when he pulled it out, I'd be sure he'd primed it. But fair's fair. Couple of seconds' difference, and he'd be out here wearing this shit and I'd be waiting to unlock his door.

It's like I can feel people in cars staring at me, but I don't dare look. I mean, if they're not staring and they see me looking at them, they'll see me!

Why is Locust Street so short, for Pete's sake? I'm almost to the corner, and the light just went red. That's okay, though—at least it means the traffic on Adams will be moving. I just have to time it right. Oh, hell! Some little kid is looking at me out the back window of his car, yelling something. "Mommy, Mommy," maybe. "Mommy, there's a freaky kid wearing a dog collar, Mommy!" I can read his twisted little mind!

Just keep walking. I've got to get to Adams Avenue before the light goes red. If the light goes red on Adams, I might as well be on the six o'clock news. "Stay tuned for extensive coverage of a weird-ass boy walking down Adams Avenue wearing a dog collar! Where are the police when you need them? Film at eleven."

Okay. I'm on Adams, almost to the half-way point, and the traffic is moving nice and fast so even if they see me, they don't have much time to look. Adams has four lanes, and stoplights, and places you can't park from 7 AM to 6 PM because it's full of cars, and buses and trucks and an old Ford with some kids in it pointing at me and yelling "faggot!"

I want to die now, please!

I wonder if Terry knows I'm gay. Maybe that's why he's doing this! Maybe this is his way of saying he doesn't want to be friends any more, because he thinks maybe I'm in love with him, or something. I wish I was. I mean, I am in love with him, but he's straight! What if this is the end of our friendship? What if I get back to his place and he's not there, or something? What if he's just going to leave me out here like this?

Okay, there's the QuikStop. Just stop long enough to—oh, hell! The light changed. The traffic's stopping! Shit! I'm standing next to a bus! How the hell can I get the picture if there's a bus in the way? Some girl on the bus is pointing at me, and now her girlfriend is crowding next to her to look out the window!

It's all right. She doesn't know me—she can't! The world is full of girls who don't know me; why should one of the girls who does know me be on the fucking Adams Avenue bus? Maybe I can get the picture if I walk past the end of the bus.

Shit! God hates me! There's a beer truck in front of the QuickStop. How come he gets to stop in the No Parking lane to unload beer? Fuck it! I can take a picture of something else to prove I made it to the middle of Adams Avenue—there's a tobacco shop! I'll get a picture of that!

Fine. Gawk at me. Point your finger and laugh.

Just take the picture.

Give me the finger? Asshole! Fuck you! The traffic's moving again. Got the picture. Now, all I have to do is turn onto Maple Street, and the worst part is over. I'm half-way to Terry's place!

Any chance of a lightning strike, God? Just keep walking. Maple's three stores ahead.

Some asshole's slowing down to get a better look! "You're blocking traffic, asshole!" Oh, crap! Now everyone's looking! "Beam me up, Scotty!"

Two stores.

Keep walking. Just keep walking. Maybe I could run, just to the corner—no! Then all those staring assholes would know how dumb I feel!

A beauty parlor.

Maple street. It's short, like Locust. It just looks longer, like in the movies when the monster's after you, and all of a sudden the hallway stretches out, like to infinity.

There's a stop sign at Harrison, but it's just a sign, not a stop light. Just keep walking. Every goddamn horn isn't about me!

One foot in front of the other.

A green Toyota is slowing down. Matching my speed. "Hey, bitch! You selling?"

Give him the finger. "Not to you, bitch!" Why the fuck did I say that? He's going to kill—

"Eat shit!" Good. He's pulling away. Everyone behind him is staring now. They drive past and I can tell: they're looking in their side mirrors.

Here's Harrison. Finally! I turn.

The car next to me is turning! Oh, dear Lord—Okay. He was just turning. Three-quarters of a block and I'm back to Terry's place. I'm almost there—don't start running now! The worst part is over. Or mostly over. I did it. Or I will have did—done it. Fuck you, Terry! I did it!

I can see my reflection in a window, and I stop to look. I'm a freak. Okay, so I'm a freak. Big deal. Bet you wouldn't have the balls to do this, Terry, even if you are straight. Especially because you're straight. Faggot walking down the street in a red tank top wearing a dog collar, that's cool! Like being a porn star, or something. Go ahead and look, people! Look at the faggot—the damn good-looking faggot who's got way more balls than you!

As soon as I get into Terry's house, I think I'm going to kiss him!

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