Rules of the Road

by Geron Kees

Chapter 3

©2016 by Geron Kees. All rights reserved.

The next day was made of memory stuff. Brian's dad took the morning off from work, ran him down to the DMV, and they got the Bee's title switched over and acquired a new set of tags. After that, they stopped by his father's insurance agent and got insurance for the car, and Brian wrote his first check from his new checking account to pay for it. Up to then he'd just been a savings account guy; his dad told him straight up to get a checking account now that he had the car, because he was going to need it, for sure.

Just before noon they were back home, in the driveway, his dad smiling and standing by while Brian mounted the tags in the car's brackets.

"Feel good, Brian?"

Brian grinned, tightening the last screw. "You know it, dad. I can't wait to show the guys at school."

His dad looked at his watch, nodded. "I have to get in to work. Do me a favor and be careful out there, okay? That damn Mopar is not your mom's car, by a long way from Tuesday. It's a rocket disguised as transportation."

But his dad grinned when he said it, and Brian wasn't offended. "Admit it - you kinda like this car, don't you, dad?"

His father nodded. "It's okay, I guess." His eyes were fond as he came over and put his arm around Brian's shoulder. "Promise me you'll be careful in it."

"I will, dad."

His father squeezed him. "I was thinking, son, that you kind of jumped the gun on me on this. I'll say now that I intended to buy you your first car as a graduation present next year. I kind of thought you'd be okay driving mom's car until then."

Brian wasn't totally surprised to hear this. His dad had bought Brian's older sister her first car - it was kind of family tradition among the Temples. A couple of his cousins had also gotten their first cars that way.

"It's okay, dad. I just really wanted this car."

"I know. But since you paid for it yourself, I was thinking that if you decided to build it a little, I'd pay for that instead."

Brian grinned. "You just told me to be careful in it, and now you want to make it faster?"

His dad laughed. "It's what its all about, Brian. It's always about being quicker than the other guy. You'll see. This car runs well for stock, but the first time you run it against something with some extra toys in the engine block, you're going to see it's not as quick as you think it its."

"Yeah. I kind of knew that already." Brian shrugged. "I've ridden in Colin's car. He got it to run a thirteen-four in the quarter at the track."

Brian's dad looked at him. "That's not too shabby, but it's not going to make him king of the road, either."

"Yeah. I know." He looked up at his father. "But I just got it, dad. I want to drive it some before I pull the engine and then not have a car for awhile."

His dad shook his head. "No, we won't do it that way. I'll buy you another 383, and we can put it on the stand in the basement and build it together. You know - take our time about it. Then, when it's ready, we can swap the motors in a single afternoon. You won't be without a car at all."

Brian was thrilled. "Dad, that sounds really cool. I think I could get along with that idea. When do you want to start?"

His dad squeezed his shoulder again. "Let's talk about it at dinner. I need to go, and so do you. Your fifth period class starts in about thirty minutes."

Brian felt excited as he got into the car to go to school. It was the first time he'd driven it by himself, and the first time he'd be driving it into the lot at school. Everyone was at lunch right now - a lot of people would be outside the building, enjoying the warm late-Spring day.

It was a seven-minute drive to school, which meant five minutes in the Bee. It was hard to keep the car under sixty, and for an essentially boxy vehicle it handled the narrow and twisty back roads Brian had to travel to get to the main road with surprising agility.

When he pulled into the school parking lot he drove around the side of the building to the rear lot where the guys with cars hung out. Lunch was still out, and people milled around the dozen or so hot cars parked along the back row. One of the cars was Colin's 'runner, and there was an open spot next to it. Brian arrowed the Bee slowly across the lot, conscious of the heads turning to watch him come.

Colin was standing in front of his car with Ed, and Dave Routh, the boy who'd gotten his car dented up at the Kennedy faction's Burger King. They all turned to watch him drive up, and Ed beamed and waved.

"I was wonderin' if you were gonna make it, dude," he said, coming to the window as Brian pulled the car to a stop and shut off the engine. "We all gotta go back in in like ten minutes."

"I'm here," Brian said simply, opening the door to get out.

Several of the guys were making their way towards the Bee, and Colin was busy making a slow circuit of the car, his expression neutral. He paused to look at the Bee logo on the tail of one rear quarter-panel, did a little shrug, then came up and grinned.

"It's clean as shit, Brian. Sorry I didn't get over to your place see it. Just busy."

"It's okay," Brian said, smiling. "You can see it now."

"How's it run?"

Brian shrugged. "It's stock. But it runs pretty good for that."

Colin grinned. He had curly light brown hair and green eyes, and the girls all liked him, though he was kind of awkward with all of them except Marianne Davis, who'd had a crush on him for the past two years. Colin got along with her because he wasn't interested in her, and therefore wasn't nervous about her. Marianne was cute as could be, but a little bit of a tomboy, and Brian had thought more than once that if the girl had some sort of magic happen to her that turned her into a guy, he wouldn't be able to keep his hands to himself.

"Are you ready to try me?" Colin asked, already knowing the answer.

"Nah." Brian shrugged. "I already know you'd take me. For now."

Colin, squinted at him. "What's that mean?"

"Well, my dad wants to help me build an engine for it. I'm thinking about doing it."

That didn't make Colin happy. Brian's dad was no one to fool around with, car-wise, and most of his friends knew it.

"Hmm. That's cool." But Colin didn't sound like he really thought it was cool. He sounded like he didn't like the idea at all.

Behind him, Ed made a huge grin and then silently laughed. Ed had a slightly evil streak in him at times, and he often let it out when Colin was around. Brian understood that Colin brought most of it on himself. The other boy was highly competitive as long as he was sure he could win; much less so if he thought he'd lose face. That Colin suffered from a fragile ego was something that Brian understood all too well; the why of it was a mystery, though. Colin had everything going for him, and little reason to feel uncomfortable about it.

"You going out cruisn' Friday night?" Colin asked, changing the subject.

"Fuckin' right." Brian grinned. "I can't wait for it."

Colin nodded, looking a little brighter. "We could hook up, maybe cruise together. If you want."

Brian understood that one. Colin wanted to make Brian chase him all over creation and have a difficult time doing it, which would make Colin feel he was one up, and put Brian in his place as second best.

"Maybe. I have to see who wants to ride with me, and shit like that."

"Well, let me know." Colin gave the Bee a last look, and then managed a genuine smile. "It's a pretty car, man. Hope you're proud of it, 'cause you should be."

When Colin wanted to be nice, he did it all the way.

"Thanks," Brian said, grinning. "I am."

Colin headed back around to his own car, to where Marianne Davis was now standing at the driver's door, waiting to talk to him.

Ed came up." Man, Colin was dripping some envy there, dude."

Brian laughed. "Be nice, Ed."

"Hey - I could see it. You should have heard him while you were coming across the lot."

Brian looked interested. "Yeah? What'd he say?"

Ed laughed. "He said, 'man, it doesn't even have wheels on it'. Told ya he'd say that."

Brian just sighed. Colin was the least of his worries right now.

Dave Routh walked over and clapped Brian on the shoulder. "Man, it's really a pretty car, Brian. I'm jealous as shit."

Now, that was more like it. It was okay to be envious if you owned up to it a little bit.

Brian looked over at Dave's Nova, noticed the gray spots where Dave had been fixing dings. "Looks like you got most of them, Dave."

"Yeah, there's a couple left. When I'm done I'm gonna get it painted. My dad said he'd loan me the money."

"Same color?" Brian asked.

"Hell, no. I don't want those Kennedy assholes to even know it's the same car. I thought about painting it red."

That was a far cry from the car's current sea-green color. But Brian nodded. "Novas look good red."

Eventually, they all went in to classes. Brian locked the Bee, looked back over his shoulder at it before he went inside. The car looked right at home in the company it was keeping there in the lot, in no way a poor showing. The dark inlets of the dual hood scoops looked like squinty, sinister eyes, and the stocky stance of the car made it seemed poised for a leap into space.

Yep. The Bee was gonna be quite at home in the car part of the lot. So was Brian, it seemed.

After school, Brian couldn't wait to get to the parking lot. Ed was already there, standing by the Bee liked he owned it, proudly showing it off to a couple of Chevy guys from the other end of the row, Wade Tomlinson and Mike Zurka. They all turned as he came up, with the two new guys giving Brian the nod.

"Nice car, Brian," Wade said, and Brian could see he meant it. "Mind me asking what you paid?"

"Fifteen," Brian said, grinning.

Mike made a noise. "Damn. You stole this motherfucker, Brian."

Brian liked both guys, but especially Mike. He was blonde and blue-eyed, cute in a boyish way, and Brian knew he'd jump into bed with him in a heartbeat if the opportunity was offered.

But Brian also knew that Mike was straight. He had a girlfriend of sorts, Molly Stanburn, and the two of them had been caught fucking by Molly's dad one warm night on their screen porch. The ruckus had been noisy and unpleasant; but in the end, the Stanburn's had allowed Mike to keep seeing their daughter, and Brian wondered if they were allowing him to stick around so they would know where the father was if something surprising happened.

Brian nodded. "I'm starting to realize that."

Ed came over and nudged him. "Look."

Colin was driving out of the parking lot, and Marianne Davis was running after him. Colin had to see her in the rearview mirror, but he didn't stop. He got his 'runner out to the road, turned right, and laid on it, burning rubber straight into third gear.

"Fucking asshole," Ed said. "I heard him say earlier he would give Marianne a ride home."

Marianne was walking back now. By this point she would have missed her bus; Brian waved at her. She saw him, but it took her full minute to get to where they stood.

"Hey," Brian said, matter-of-factly, as she came up to them. "I saw you missed Colin. Need a ride?"

She smiled. "Thanks, Brian. Yes, I could use one."

"Come on, Ed. Let's take Marianne home. See you, guys." He waved at Wade and Mike, who nodded and headed back to Wade's car, a brown '69 Chevelle SS. Wade turned at the last moment, waved at Brian to get his attention again.

"You gonna be at the shopping center later?"

The car crowd at Proctor hung out in the back corner of the parking lot at the little strip mall in Alna, the closest thing around that resembled a town until you got to Utica. They could often be found there after school, and in the evenings - especially on and off during the weekend. That Wade expected him to show there just confirmed that the other guys had already accepted the Bee as one of their own.

"Maybe later. I will if I can."

Wade nodded, waved again, and ran to catch up with Mike.

Marianne lived a short distance from Brian's house. She slid into the front seat between Brian and Ed. Brian was immediately aware of the softness and warmth of her against him, and wished again that Marianne was a guy.

"You gotta do a burn out in front of the school," Ed said, as Brian started the car. "Come on, man. It's tradition."

Brian didn't like the idea of jumping on the Bee cold. So he sat there, engine idling, until it warmed up a bit.

"This is a pretty car, Brian," Marianne said, giving him a bump with her arm. "It looks a lot like Colin's car on the inside."

"They're both b-bodies," Brian said. "The outsides are different but a lot of the guts are the same. The interior dimensions are identical, pretty much. The Roadrunner's dash is different, but the seats and stuff are the same."

Marianne grinned.

"What?" he said, unable to suppress a smile as he looked at her. Yeah, Marianne was really cute. For a girl.

She shrugged, also in an appealing way. "Nothing. Guys are all cute when you get them to talk about their cars."

"Yeah?" Brian grinned.

"Uh huh. Colin is the same way."

Brian looked over at Ed, but neither of them said anything. That Marianne could still say something nice about Colin after the way he had just treated her only showed she was stupid in love with the guy.

"We're warmed up now," Ed said, looking at the temp gauge. "Can this thing light 'em up?"

Brian laughed. "Let's go and see."

The road in front of the school was two-lane blacktop, straight and smooth, the lines on it freshly repainted by the county. They needed to turn right to go home; but tradition was you turned left and then jumped on it, so that you would roar by the front of the school where the buses stood to pick up the kids. That way you got maximum exposure, maximum word of mouth.

Brian had been planning just to turn right and head on home; but when he got to the road and looked left, he was surprised to see that five or six buses were still there, along with maybe a hundred kids, still loading. That was enough of an audience to make a small detour worthwhile.

He waited until traffic had vanished on the road, then pulled out, tromping on the gas pedal before he was entirely straightened out just to ensure that the sticky Goodyears would break loose.

Oh, and that happened. Brian was a little shocked when the Bee roared, the back end broke loose and went sideways, and as he whipped the wheel to straighten her she caught the road and leaped ahead, still burning rubber; he hit second and the tires gave forth an enormous chirruup! against the pavement, the car surged forward, and then the school was gone, left behind in a cloud of tire smoke.

Fuck. That was way better than he'd expected.

"Awesome", Ed breathed, grinning over at him. "Anybody that didn't catch that had to have had their head straight the fuck up their ass."

Marianne patted his arm. "There's no seatbelt in the middle," she whispered.

Brian laughed, let off the gas, and backed the Bee back down to the speed limit. "Sorry. Did it scare you?"

"A little. It's fun, though."

To his unending surprise, Marianne stretched out a little and kissed his cheek. "Thanks for the thrill."

Brian looked at her, caught Ed grinning ear-to-ear on the other side of her.

"Uh - sure."

They went "around the block", taking a left at Blackcastle Road and making the circuit back towards their neck of the woods. Marianne seemed to be having fun, favoring both Brian and Ed with smiles and the occasional pat. By the time they got her to her house Brian was seriously wishing he could be attracted to her sexually, because he could feel her there, next to him, and feel also the way she touched against him.

It was relaxed and it was comforting and it was friendly, and Brian could feel a little bit of magnetism there, the girl like a cute memo holder pinching a sheet of paper to his refrigerator door. Brian was sure he'd have enjoyed kissing her, even though she didn't have a dick. Sadly, that was as far as it was likely to go, though, so...why try?

Ed slid out and let her out, then crawled back in, and they waved to her as they drove off.

"Fuck. Colin's a stupid shit," Ed said. "Marianne's as cute a little package as you'll find in that hick school, and she has more personality then the whole cheerleading squad put together." He shook his head. "Some guys get all the luck, and then they just toss it away. Stupid."

Brian laughed. "I've known her a few years. She's always been cute."

Ed grinned. "Yeah, I saw that little kiss. Sweet. Think she might be interested in some of that boxer bone you're carrying?"

Brian felt his face grow a little warm. "Nah. She's in love with Colin. I've also known that for a few years, too."

Ed shook his head again. "What a waste of perfectly good girl."

Brian had planned to head home from there, but Ed was feeling adventurous, and soon talked Brian into a little cruising before winding up the ride.

"Where do you wanna go?" Brian asked, pausing at the stop sign at Route 5.

"Maple Hill would be nice," Ed said, looking innocent.

Brian sighed, looked at his watch. It was a quarter after three. There was time. Brian knew his mom wouldn't expect him for dinner until six.

"Nobody will be there this time of day, will they?"

Ed gave a him a look. "Shit. They go to their hangout after school just like our guys go the Twin Center in Alna. Broad daylight is a good time to check out the competition, too." He leaned closer, offered Brian a knowing look. "They won't all be drunk, either, so it's probably safer, too."

Brian had to grin at that. "True shit."

It was a fifteen minute trip. On the way, two guys in a Chevelle tried to run them from a stop light; but the car they were in was stock, probably the driver's mother's car, and it wasn't up to taking on the Bee by any means. They left the other vehicle in the dust, and Ed reached over and patted Brian on the shoulder.

"One down, a million to go."

The shopping center at Maple Hill was considerably larger than the one in Alna. The Burger King sat out front, by the road, with its own small parking lot cordoned off from the larger mall lot by sidewalks and curbs. But the place was surrounded by acres of pavement, most of it covered with cars.

They pulled in, and Brian drifted the Bee to one side and stopped so they could check the place out.

"Mopars over there," Ed said immediately, pointing to a few cars parked together by one of the lot's tall light poles.

The guys there were already looking out of their wondows at Brian's car. Sighing, he let off the brake and began to coast towards them. The cars looked to be a '70 GTX, a '70 'Cuda, a '69 Charger, and a '71 Challenger. The drivers were seated in all of them, and a couple of the cars looked to have passengers as well.

As Brian started to circle the group, the driver of the Challenger - a purplish-blue ride with a black vinyl top and aluminum slots - stuck his arm out of the window and waved. Brian stopped, backed up, and turned the Bee so that he could pull up to the guy's window.

Brian positioned their windows so they could talk, and shut off the car's engine. The other driver was blonde and green-eyed, smiling in a way that was fairly striking, and, Brian thought, not short on cute in any way. His passenger was a black dude, energetically handsome, and looked like he could twist the lug nuts off the car's wheel studs by hand. He also was smiling and seemed cool.

"Nice," the other driver said right off. "Haven't seen a Super Bee around here in a couple of years."

"Thanks," Brian said, grinning. "I like your Challenger, too. Even if it's a little hard on the eyes."

The other boy laughed. "It is, I admit it. It's called Plum Crazy. It's an original color, though. What about yours? Most of the Bees I've seen are blue, yellow, or green. Never saw one that color before. It's pretty cool."

Brian shrugged. "Someone special ordered it, I guess. It's the original paint, though."

The other boy squinted at him. "I've seen you someplace before. You go to Kennedy?"

Brian looked at Ed a moment before looking back. "Nope. We're from Proctor."

The Challenger guy laughed, and so did his passenger. "Hey, you don't have to say it that way. You can't help where you live."

Brian relaxed a bit. This wasn't so bad.

He nodded. "Yeah, we're not looking for trouble. You got a baseball bat in there?"

Blondie grinned. "You heard about that? I wasn't there, but I heard about it, too. That was some of our football-heads in action."

The black dude leaned over and pushed the driver. "Hey, I'm sitting right here, man."

Blondie held up his hands. "Present company excepted. You weren't there, Deke. You're not an idiot like Dave Mahowsky and his bunch."

Deke nodded. "I'd get mad, but happens I agrees with ya." He grinned. "So I won't tell Dave you said that."

Blondie turned back to Brian. "I heard your guy was coming through a lot and eyeballing some of the Budweiser crowd. They don't like that - guys from your school driving through and eye-hustling shit."

Brian nodded. "I know the guy. He didn't mean any harm. He's a car nut, and he was just looking."

"Shit," Blondie said suddenly. "I know who you are. You're the guy that put Frank Owens on the mat at the intramurals the other week."

Deke leaned forward, looking at Brian. "Fuck if it ain't. Hey, Swiftie. That's a nice right you got there, buddy."

Brian was a little shocked to be recognized. He tried not to grin, didn't quite manage to pull it off. "I got lucky."

Deke laughed. "The hell you did. That's a bullet you got attached to that right wrist, man."

Ed gave Brian a slight push. "You're famous, dude."

Brian felt a little light-headed. This was the first time anyone had ever recognized him just from his boxing. It felt weird - but good.

Blondie stuck a hand across to Brian's window. "I'm Alan. This is Deke. Otherwise known as Deke Gonna Getcha on the field. He's an offensive lineman for the Colts."

The Colts were Kennedy's football team. Brian had probably seen Deke before at a game, but it was hard to recognize guys with helmets on.

"Cool," Brian said, grinning at Deke. "You guys got us last year. We're looking forward to the rematch."

Deke grinned. "I was a junior then. Not this time, though. Bring it on, man."

Brian nodded. "I'm Brian. This is Ed beside me."

Ed waved a finger in salute, and Alan nodded. "Hey, man. Nice hair."

Ed laughed. "It's paid for."

Alan grinned, patted the Bee's door. "What's under the hood?"


"Cool. Me, too. It's a good engine. Yours stock?"

Brian grinned. "So far."

Alan nodded. "Yeah. I got plans, too. Just have to save up the cash."

The GTX's driver's door opened, and a guy got out and came around to slide between the Bee and the Challenger. He was careful not to rub too hard against either car.

"You guys are having too much fun over here," he said, smiling. He looked at Brian. "Hey. Nice car. We need a Super Bee around here to liven the place up."

Alan shook his head. "Back off, jack. These are Proctor guys."

The new boy sighed, looked disappointed. "Well, the car's still pretty."

Brian laughed. "Thanks." He stuck out his hand. "Brian, and that's Ed."

"Tim. The car really is pretty nice. Too nice to be sitting in the lot at Proctor. You should get a transfer, man."

"Don't piss him off, Tim," Alan said, grinning. "This is the boxer who said bye-bye to Frank a couple of weeks back."

Tim looked at Brian all over again. "No shit. That was a helleva match. You're faster than my sister is with guys, man."

Everyone laughed.

He and Tim traded engine info. The GTX was a 440, and had run mid-thirteens at the track. Brian was impressed, and said so.

"It's a rebuild," Tim said. "I put in a better cam and put on headers, and changed the intake to an Edelbrock Torker. Also traded the Carter AFB for a Holley carb. Made a hell of a difference."

"I guess so," Brian said. "Remind me to stay away from you on the road. I -"

He broke off, as something rumbled by behind them. All heads turned to look.

In the rearview mirror, Brian saw the car. It was a dark green Chevy Camaro SS, a '69, with black stripes on either side of the low snorkel scoop squatting on the center of the hood, and a trunk-mounted mini-spoiler on the rear. The car wore chrome Cragars on her feet, and the paint glowed with a deep shine that reeked of money-spent.

Brian could feel the vibration from the sound emitted by the car's dual exhausts. The Camaro wound its way slowly among parked cars and pulled up beside a small knot of GM muscle cars parked closer to the Burger King.

"Sounds good," Brian said, once the newcomer had shut down his powerplant.

"It should," Alan said. "That's Jeff Breakman. That's a 427 you were hearing, and it runs. Twelve-two, just the other day at Cicero, and in street trim."

Brian felt his eyebrows go up. "Damn. That's pretty good."

"Quickest car at Kennedy," Tim said. "Beat Mahowsky's goat without much trouble."

Brian was impressed. "So what's this guy Breakman like?"

Alan and Tim looked at each other. "His old man's a lawyer," Tim said. "Jeff is kinda quiet. I don't really know him that well."

"Who does?" Alan added. "He's cool enough, he's just not a joiner. When he comes through here he stops and talks to the Chevy crowd for a few minutes, but he never comes over here. He's cool in school, though. Just quiet."

"Boy loves that car, though," Deke put in. "You get too close to it, he gets hyper."

Alan and Tim both nodded at that. "He's got a lot of money in it," Alan said. "I don't blame him."

Brian watched the Camaro in his rearview mirror. The driver wasn't visible - too much light reflecting from the car's windshield. He was pulled up next to another Camaro - a red '70. Both drivers had their side windows down, and both drivers had their arms resting atop the doors. Brian could see their arms move now and then as the two Chevyheads traded talk.

Alan tapped on Brian's door. "Don't get any ideas. Your Bee couldn't take that car with me and Tim here both pushing you."

Brian looked over, grinned. "I wasn't thinking about running him. I was just wondering what it was like to drive something like that every day."

Tim made a sound. "My buddy Billy ran his Harley against it. He lost. He said that car could make you cream your jeans just pulling away from a stoplight." He looked at his watch. "Shit. I gotta go to work. You guys be cool."

Brian and Ed both waved.

They listened as Tim got into his car, started it. It sounded good, but didn't have quite the rock-and-roll sound of the Camaro. Tim pulled out slowly enough, glided over to the exit onto Route 5. When he pulled out he goosed the GTX, and the wheels spun and the car took off. They could hear Tim banging his way through the gears as the car vanished down the road.

Alan smiled. "Tim plays that four-speed like my mom plays the piano. Got talent, but doesn't know when to stop."

Brian grinned. "I wanted a clutch originally. I liked this car so much I bought it even though it was an automatic."

"I'm an auto over here, too. Hey, you can't outshift an automatic. Good thing, because I was never much good with a clutch."

Brian looked at his watch. "Well, we'd better get moving. Nice to meet you fellas. Stay outta trouble, huh? No more baseball bats, okay?"

Deke gave him a mock angry look. "Don't make me come over there."

Alan laughed at that. "I'd actually like to see that, Deke. You trying to crush the guy with your bare hands while he's busy knocking your teeth out with his."

Deke's mouth dropped open. "Oh, no. I can't have that. I need my smile for the ladies."

Brian grinned, waved, and started the Bee.

"You guys stay cool, okay?" Ed called.

Alan nodded. "You, too."

They pulled out. Brian looked in his rearview mirror for a second, and saw the Camaro guys across the lot with their heads out the windows, looking. But they were too far away, and their faces were just blobs of white.

"Told ya it would be cool to stop here," Ed said. "Those guys were okay, huh?"

Brian nodded. It hadn't been the fiasco he'd been expecting, at all.

They crossed the lot, went around the entire shopping center and back out to the far exit onto Route 5. Brian considered a squirrelly take-off, but then sat on the idea while it was still in formation. No telling if there were any cops around, and to be pulled over in front of the Kennedy car crowd would be about the worst thing imaginable.

So he simply pulled out when traffic allowed, crossed to the gap in the median strip, and eased the Bee into an open slot in the oncoming flow.

Ed grinned. "I wondered if you were gonna put on a show or not."

Brian looked over at him and smiled. "Shit. My luck, there'd be a State boy parked right there someplace, and I'd have to go home and tell my dad I got my first ticket. Not this guy."

Ed sighed. "Man, I can't wait for Friday night." He patted his front pocket. "You're gonna toke up with me a little, aren't ya?"

"Sure," Brian said. "You know I always take a few hits. I just don't want to get so stoned we just sit in one place and stare at some trees or something. I wanna drive the Bee, not use it as a living room couch."

"I don't have any change for beer this time," Ed said. "You treating?"

Brian nodded. "I'll go a six pack. You think we need more than that?"

Ed grinned. "Depends on if it's just you and me. I talked to Annabelle in Biology class today. She heard you got your new ride. She said to tell you if you needed a back seat for cruising on Friday, she and Missy would be available."

Brian considered that. He liked Annabelle, and considered Missy okay - she was kind of necessary baggage if you took Annabelle anyplace, as the two girls went everywhere together. That Annabelle liked him Brian was aware of; that she had only watched him from a distance had also made an impression upon him. Annabelle was a cool partyer, and she was just fun to be around, too. And that she liked him without throwing herself at him was something that made her company easy to deal with.

He looked at Ed. "I was really just thinking of you and me for the first cruise. I wanna do some running, maybe, and two extra people in the back seat is an extra two-hundred and fifty pounds, at least."

"Cool," Ed said. He nodded. "That's what we'll be out there for, no shit. I gotcha. Just thought I'd put that in there."

Brian grinned. "What - you hoping Missy might put out, or something?"

Ed smiled. "Shit. Wouldn't hurt you to polish that thing a little. You don't wanna be a virgin all your life, man."

Brian laughed. "I'm not a virgin."

Ed looked interested. "Get the fuck out. You never told me."

"I didn't know you then. I was fourteen."

He was referring to Chris, of course; but he had no intention of telling Ed that. But sex was sex in that respect; once you'd had it with anybody, you no longer could be considered a virgin.

"What was she like?" Ed asked.

Brian could only sigh, remembering Chris's beautiful face, his beautiful smile.

"Special, man. Really, really special."

Ed looked at him, his grin slipping. "Little hurt there?" he asked quietly. "Sorry, man. Just tell me to shut the fuck up next time."

Brian shrugged. "It's okay. I don't really want to talk about it, though."

They were silent for a few minutes.

Then Ed looked over at him. "You're lucky, dude. I don't even have a memory that hurts."

Brian just nodded.

Ed realized he needed to change the subject. "So. Friday night, just the boys. Smoke a little, drink one maybe, and then tear up some road?"

Brian nodded. "Sounds like a plan."

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