Dustin Drake Deleware and the Boy Who Cared Not What They Say

 

Chapter One: Don’t jump! You’ll squash my fort.

 

He was upside down again—the weird boy that no one spoke to.  No one knew why he did it, nor did they care to ask him.  Speaking to him, after all, was social suicide.  Not that Dustin cared about that anymore.  He had already committed it.

Last night was the end-of-year party, down at The Old Mill by the lake, and Dustin was meant to bring the keg.  He had failed, but it was much worse than that.  He also lost the beer money.  It wasn’t his fault.  Kevin and his gang of merry miscreants jumped him.  There was nothing he could do.  Nothing except hide, of course.

When he had arrived at the party empty-handed, he was practically excommunicated.  As if it wasn’t bad enough that summer vacation had started, and he’d be stuck at home with his freak brother and sick mother for the next few months.  He knew his sister wouldn’t be there.  She was too busy with herself.  And his father?  He only ever came home when the bars closed.

This was it.  The beginning of the end.  Dustin sat on edge of Malone Drive’s steepest cliff, staring down at trees below and beach in the distance.  He wasn’t going to throw himself over, of course.  He just liked the view, and it was the one place he knew he’d be alone.  Well, most of the time.

The weird boy was still hanging from a tree about twenty feet to Dustin’s right.  It didn’t bother him that much.  The kid was just so strange.  He was always alone and always doing weird things.  Occasionally, Dustin had even heard him talking to himself.

“Excuse me!”

Dustin looked around.  He could have sworn the weird boy had said something, but he couldn’t believe it.  The kid never talks.  Not to people, anyway.

“Umm, excuse me!”

It was the boy.  Dustin turned his head and looked at him but didn’t say a word.  He watched as the boy jumped from the tree and approached him.

“If you’re planning on jumping, can you do it around the bend?”

“What?”  The kid was definitely crazy.  “What are you talking about?”

The weird boy was now less than five feet away from him, holding onto the guardrails on the side of the road.  “If you jump here, you’ll flatten my fort.”

“Your what?”  Dustin couldn’t believe what he was hearing.  He was sure this kid was a niner, the official term for a grade nine student at his school, which meant that he was at least fourteen.

“It took me all month to build.”  The kid looked sincere, which confused Dustin.

“You’re joking, right?” Dustin leaned forward and peered down the cliff.  Sure enough, just where the 30 foot drop turned into a slope and disappeared into the trees, there was a fort.  A really, real fort made from fallen branches, leaves and old tarp.  “Oh,” he said but decided not to move.  “It’s cool.  I’m not going to jump.”

“You sure?”  The boy inched closer.  “’Cause after last night, I’d probably want to jump too.”

Dustin looked up at the kid.  He looked even smaller up close.  He was skinny and barely over five feet tall.  “What are you doing out here?”

The boy shrugged his shoulders and clumsily plopped himself down next to Dustin, who immediately surveyed the area to make sure no one was watching.  “Not much.  Just exploring, I guess,” said the boy as he scratched at his knee.  “I live just down the road.”

Dustin looked at the kid like he was crazy.  “You live on Malone Drive?”

“No,” the boy laughed loudly and clapped his hands.  “Just up the hill, on Rex.  First house on the right.”

Dustin didn’t reply and just stared out at the lake.

“My name’s Allan,” said the boy and he offered Dustin his hand.  “Allan Lowland of the Highland.”

“What?” Dustin raised an eyebrow.

Allan stared at his hand and then back at Dustin for a long, awkward moment and then slapped it back down in his lap.  “Because I live on a hill… Highland, get it?”

“Yeah,” Dustin faintly shook his head.  “I got it.”

“So, what’s your name?”

“Dustin,” he replied without thinking and mentally kicked himself for being so stupid.  As if things weren’t bad enough, now this weird Allan kid’s going to call his name every time he sees him.

“Dustin, what?”

Dustin looked at the boy, becoming frustrated with his presence. “What’s it to you?”

But Allan didn’t seem to get the message.  He just smiled and threw a rock over into the trees.  “Just asking,” he said after a while.  “Just always wondered your name.”

“Me?”  The thought gave Dustin the creeps.  “Why?”

Allan shrugged again.  “Just figured I should know your name.  Friends usually know each other’s names.”

“We’re not friends.”

The boy smiled and nudged Dustin’s shoulder.  “Not yet.”  He then scooted back, away from the cliff, and climbed to his feet.  “Anyway, I gotta go for lunch.  Want me to bring you anything back?”

Dustin laughed, mainly in disbelief, and shook his head.  “No, that’s okay.”

“A sandwich then,” the boy said as he turned and ran up the hill.  “I’ll bring you one!” he shouted just before disappearing around the bend.

“I won’t be here!”  Dustin shouted back.

 

Chapter 2: The sun tickles.

 

A sandwich fell from the heavens and onto Dustin’s lap.  He had meant to leave, and nearly did several times, but realized he didn’t have anywhere else to go.  He figured he no longer had any friends, a notion that was easily reinforced by the lack of received texts on his phone, and there was no way he was going home before five.

“You stayed,” said the cheerful voice of Allan as he sat back down at Dustin’s side.

“Yup,” Dustin said with a huff of regret.

“Hope you like bologna and tomato and lettuce,” said Allan.  “And I hope you don’t like onion, too.  ‘Cause I told my mom not to put any on…”

“It’s okay.  Thanks.”

“Oh!” Allan jumped onto his side and reached into his large cargo-shorts pocket and pulled out a bottled water.  “Figured you’d be thirsty,” he explained and handed the drink to Dustin.

Dustin took the drink and opened it without hesitation.  In a matter of seconds, the bottle was nearly half empty.

“Thirsty, huh?”  Allan eyed up his friend.

“Yeah, it’s getting hot.”

Allan nodded in agreement and tugged at the front of his shirt to let some air in.  “Hey,” he said with an excited smile on his face.  “Wanna go for a swim when you’re done?”

“Nah,” Dustin shook his head.  “Don’t got my trunks.”

“What do you need trunks for?  You’re wearing shorts.”  Allan leaned forward and grabbed at the back of his t-shirt, grunted and then pulled the shirt over his head and onto his lap.  “It’s the perfect day for a swim.”

“You can go,” Dustin said plainly.  “I won’t stop you.”

“No way.”  Allan spun his shirt into a knotted mess and wrapped it around his head.  “I can’t leave you alone.  You still might jump, and I’m not letting you squash my fort.”

Dustin couldn’t help but laugh.  It was hard to tell if the kid was serious.  “How old are you, anyway?” he had to ask.

“Fourteen—ish.  You?”

“Sixteen—ish.  I’ll be seventeen in August.”

“That’s when I’ll be fourteen.  Well, minus a week and three days.”  Allan smiled and scratched at his knee.  “You sure you don’t want to go swimming?”

“I thought you were a niner.”

“What?”

“I’ve seen you at the high school.”

Allan nodded.  “Yeah.”

“So you’re a niner?”

“I guess so.”

“But then shouldn’t you be older if you’re going into grade ten?”

“Nope.”

“Why not?”

“Because they bumped me up a grade.”

“Really?  So you’re smart?”

Allan shook his head.  “No.  Just good at school.”

“That usually means you’re smart.”

“There’s no such thing,” Allan said a-matter-of-factly.

“What?  That makes no sense.”

“Sure it does.”  Allan stood up and stretched his legs.  “Come on, let’s go to the beach.”

“I told you, I’m not swimming.”

“I don’t care.  You can watch me swim.”

Dustin shook his head and took a bite of his sandwich.  “You go ahead.  I’ll stay and watch from here.”

“No way.  I still don’t trust you.”  Allan placed his hands on his hips and tapped his foot.  “Besides, I need someone around in case I drown.  I’m not very good at swimming.”

“Then don’t go swimming.”

“I have to.”  Allan dropped into a crouch beside Dustin.  “How else am I gonna get better?”

Dustin merely shrugged and took another bite of his sandwich.

“Come on,” Allan moaned and let out a frustrated sigh.  “I won’t tell anyone we hung out, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“Nah, that doesn’t matter anymore.  Everyone already hates me.”

“So then what are you worried about?”

“I just don’t feel like swimming.”

Allan sat back down beside Dustin.  “Well… then I can show you my fort.  It’s pretty cool…”

“That’s okay.”

“…I was thinking on camping there one night.  That’d be awesome.”

“Does it have cable?”

Allan looked puzzled and shook his head.  “Course not.”

“Then it wouldn’t be awesome.”

“You don’t need a TV for awesomeness.”

“Yeah, but it helps.”

“Well, if TV’s so great, why aren’t you at home watching it?”

“You ask a lot of questions, you know that?” said Dustin as he felt his patience wearing thin.

Allan frowned and looked away.  “Sorry.  I’m new at this friend thing.”

“We’re not friends,” Dustin reiterated.

“No.  Not yet,” Allan agreed.

The two sat in silence.  Allan stared out at the water while Dustin stared down at his feet.  He could hear Allan beside him, every now and then, laughing to himself.  There didn’t seem to be any particular reason to laugh, other than the fact that he was weird, but every time the kid would randomly giggle, Dustin would find it harder and harder not to laugh as well.

“What’s so funny?”  Dustin couldn’t take it anymore. He had to know.

“Nothing,” Allan shrugged and scratched at his bare belly.  “It’s just nice out.  The sun’s nice and hot and wind’s really slow.  If you sit still and take in the heat, it tickles your skin after a while.”

Dustin laughed and shook his head.  “Really?  That’s what you’re laughing it?”

“Yeah, why not?”

Dustin shrugged.  “It’s just weird.”

“Nothing wrong with that,” Allan decided.  “Weird is much more fun than normal.”

“Except when you get beat up.”

Allan looked at Dustin and cocked an eyebrow.  “Are you gonna beat me up?”

“No, why?”

“Then I got nothing to worry about.”

 

Chapter 3: Oh my god, I’m gonna die!

 

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the sun was kicking Dustin’s ass.  His forehead was sweating and his shirt was sticking to his back, and Allan was still randomly giggling.  Only now, he was lying on his back with his hands tucked behind his head.

The kid was always smiling, always happy, and it irritated Dustin.  He had no reason to be so joyful all the time.  He was weird and had no friends… and he was weird.  People talked about him behind his back and stole his lunch money.  He was always picked on and tormented and treated like a contagious disease.  It didn’t make any sense; he should be miserable.

But he wasn’t.

This strange, scrawny little niner was insane.  He had to be.  It was the only explanation.  But strangely enough, Dustin was starting to envy him.  And the more he thought about it, the more annoyed he became.  He didn’t want this.  He wanted to patch things up with his friends and get on with his life.  How else was he going to survive the whole summer?

Dustin couldn’t take it anymore.  It was far too hot to care about being seen with the weird the boy, and he stood up and tore off his shirt.

This immediately attracted Allan’s attention, and he sat up.  “Whatcha doing?”

Tucking his shirt into the back pocket of his shorts, Dustin marched down Malone Drive, toward the path that led to the beach.  “Going for a swim!”

Allan’s eyes perked and he jumped to his feet. “Yay!” he squealed happily and rushed to catch up with Dustin.  “Does this mean that we’re friends now?”

“No,” Dustin said without hesitation.  “It means it’s hot.”

Dustin marched and Allan trotted along the pathway through the trees and onto the beach.  The moment they arrived, Allan kicked off his shoes and plopped down on the sand and pulled off his socks.  “Can you teach me how to do the backstroke?” he asked, staring up Dustin hopefully.

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t know how to do the backstroke,” Dustin explained as he took off his shoes.

“Oh, okay.”  Allan tucked his socks inside his shoes and stood up.  “Then I’ll teach you first.  After that, then you can teach me.”

Dustin raised an eyebrow at Allan.  “I thought you said you couldn’t do the backstroke.”

“I can’t.  That’s why you can teach me after.”

Dustin shook his head as he emptied his pockets and dropped his money and keys in his shoes.  “I don’t think it works that way.”

“Sure it does,” Allan said in certainty. “How else did anyone ever learn to do anything?  They had to start somewhere.”

Allan grabbed the waist of his shorts and pinched the tab to his zipper.

“Woah!  Hey, what are you doing?!” Dustin pleaded as he searched the area for onlookers.

“I don’t want to get my shorts wet…”

“Well I don’t want to see you naked—so forget about it.”

Not surprisingly, Allan didn’t care and continued to unbutton his shorts.  Then, in one fell swoop, he dropped his shorts to his ankles.

Dustin immediately looked away and shielded his eyes with his right hand.  “Hey!  That’s not cool!”

“I’m wearing underwear…”  Allan giggled and kicked his shorts over to his shoes.

“You better not be lying,” warned Dustin as he cautiously peeked through his fingers.  Sure enough, the scrawny boy was standing in front of him, wearing nothing but a pair of dark grey boxer-briefs and a smile so big it looked painful.

“See?” said Allan. “Told you.”  And he turned around and ran toward the water.  “Last one in buys the ice cream!” he shouted through giggles as he clumsily tromped through the sand.

“Hey, wait!” Dustin yelled back.  “That’s not fair!”  And he bolted after him as fast as the hot sand would allow.

He could see that Allan was struggling to keep his pace.  The sand was brutally hot and dry, and the poor kid’s legs were tiredly flailing from side to side.  It didn’t help much that he couldn’t stop laughing, either.  It was obviously making it hard for him to keep his breath.  Unfortunately, it was also contagious.

Dustin couldn’t help it.  The weird kid was always laughing.  It was infectious, and he wanted to resent it, to hold it back and maintain his normality.  Regular people, the ones that had friends and got invited to parties, don’t laugh for no reason.  But Dustin did.  It just happened.  It was like a slap in the face that he didn’t see coming.

The fact that he was running didn’t help at all.  It was hard enough to breathe steadily at top speed.  Add laughter to the mix and the next time you gasp for air, all that comes out is long, loud, utterly disastrous snort.

Allan heard it.  His head whipped around and he cackled at the top of his lungs and stumbled forward.  That tiny moment of carelessness allowed Dustin just enough time to catch up and, despite the laughter, and just before Allan toppled over, head first into the water, Dustin scooped him up by the waist and twirled him around in the air.

The momentum threw him off balance and sent Dustin veering to the left and then clumsily hopping to the right before the two went crashing down into the water.  Allan was first to break away, and he rolled over onto his back and sprawled himself out in the shallow water to continue laughing.

Dustin, however, choked back a massive gulp of water before he was able to push himself over and cough up half the lake.

“I win!” Allan shouted in victory and thrust his fist up in the air.

Stretching out and moving his arms and legs back and forth like he were making a snow angel, Dustin raised his head and looked over at Allan.  “No way.  You weren’t even touching the ground when I was already ankle-deep.”

“Nuh-huh,” Allan refuted.  “I felt the wet on my toe before you got me.”

“That’s a lie and you know it!”  Dustin chuckled and splashed at Allan.

Allan sat up, squinting to shield his eyes from the water.  “Okay, fine. But I only have $3.75, so you’ll have to get a small ice cream.”

“It’s okay,” Dustin decided.  “Keep your money.  I don’t really want ice cream anyway.”

Allan shrugged and lay back down.  “Fine.  Your loss,” and he began to glide his arms back and forth against the surface of the water.  “Now, about that backstroke…”

“I told you, I don’t know how.”

“That’s okay.  I’m confident we’ll figure it out.”

Dustin rolled his eyes again, only this time he was smiling.  “So what’s it like being a brainiac?”

“Hur?”  Allan cocked an eyebrow and stared over at Dustin.  “Oh that,” he recalled.  “I’m a liar.”

“What?”

“A fibber?” Allan sat up and spun around to face Dustin.  “I didn’t really skip a grade.  I just hang out at the school because my dad works there.”

“Then why aren’t you in school?”

“I am in school.”

“I don’t get it.”

“Home school.”

“Really?”  Now Dustin sat up to face Allan.  “That explains a lot.”

“Yeah, I guess,” Allan shrugged and picked at his toe.  “I was picked on a lot, so my dad decided to take me out and teach me himself.  Mainly ‘cause there’s no other schools in the area.  But I’ll be going to the high school after the summer.”

“Really?”  Dustin frowned.  “Hate to break it to you, but high school’s worse than the elementary.”

“I know.”  Allan shrugged again.  “But I don’t want to be a hermit all my life.  Besides,” Allan grinned slyly at Dustin, “now I have a friend in grade 12.  No one’s dumb enough to pick on me with a friend like you.”

“Geeze your timing sucks, kid.  I just lost all of my friends in single night. Next year’s not looking too spectacular for either of us.”

“Then we’ll protect each other.”

Dustin laughed and playfully punched Allan’s knee.  “And what are you gonna do after I graduate?”

Allan looked up at Dustin and curled his lower lip to the left.  “I dunno.  Guess I just figured you’d be taking that post-secondary program in the wood-working shop.”

Dustin was confused for a moment.  “Have you been spying on me or something?”

“No,” Allan replied honestly.  “I’ve seen you around.  I mean, I’ve seen lots of people, but I remembered you because you built that really cool model house.”

“Oh yeah…”  Dustin had forgotten about that project, which was weird because it had taken him the better part of two months to put together.  He really enjoyed it too.  He had to draw up the blueprints and build everything to scale of a real house.

“You should be an architect,” Allan decided.  “You’d be good at it.”

“You think?”

“Yeah,” Allan nodded with a smile.  “But you should take that post-secondary course to make sure.  Learn the trade and stuff.”

“Gotcha,” Dustin laughed and lay back down.  “But that’s only a two year course.  What are you going to do in grade 12?”

Allan rolled onto his side, right next to Dustin, and trailed his finger along the surface of the water.  “It’s only a year.  I’m sure I can survive that.  Besides, in grade 12 I’ll be bigger than all the other kids.”

“Not at the rate you’re growing,” Dustin teased.

Allan laughed and splashed some water at Dustin.  “Shut up!”

“You know, there is another way to make high school easier…”

“What’s that?”

“You could try being normal, maybe?”

Allan got a disgusted look on his face his shook his head.  “No way.  I like who I am.”

“Yeah, but most people don’t like, uh, weird kids.”

“I don’t care.  I’m not going to change because someone else thinks I should.  That’s a stupid reason.  Besides,” Allan grinned, “look where it got you.”

“Square one,” Dustin nodded in contemplation and sat quietly for a while.  Then it hit him.  “Lowland,” he said in barely a whisper.”

“Huh?”

“Your dad’s Mr. Lowland.  Eleventh grade English.”

Allan nodded.

“Geeze, no wonder you’re so weird.  That guy’s awesome!”

“Taught me everything I know,” Allan beamed proudly.  “He’s your teacher?”

“Yeah, he was.”

“Does he read to the class, too?”

Dustin’s face lit up and he nodded.  “Yeah, he’s crazy when he does that.  I feel like he should have been a Broadway actor or something.”

“Nah, he’s more of a writer.”

“Really?”

“Mm hmm,” Allan sat up straight.  “He was published once, back in ‘92, but hasn’t had any luck since.”

“What did he write?”

“The End.”

“The end of what?”

“That’s what it was called.  It was an Armageddon-type book.  Zombie-like creatures and stuff.  It was good, I really liked it, but Dad says he had it published twenty years too early.”

“I’ll have to look for it at the library or something.”

Allan grinned up at Dustin, intrigued that he was interested.  “I could loan you a copy.”

“For real?”

“Yeah.  Heck, my dad’d probably give you an autographed one for nothing.”

“Thanks.”

Out of nowhere, Allan jumped to his feet and placed his hands on his hips.  “It’s time!”

“Time for what?” Dustin stared up at the boy.  Water rolled down his legs from his waterlogged underpants, which were drooping low against his waist to reveal the pale white skin of his lower abdomen.  He was definitely outdoors a lot of the time, as the rest of his body was nicely tanned.

“Time to backstroke!”  Allan pivoted on his right heel and marched further out into water.  “Come on, Dustin.  We’ve got work to do!”

“What?”  Dustin stood up and, recalling Allan’s low-riding underwear, tugged his shorts up before running after him.  “But you can’t swim, doofus.”

Allan obviously didn’t care.  He was determined to figure it out.  Dustin could see it on his face.  So he followed, if for nothing else but to make sure the kid didn’t drown himself.

“Come on, Dusty.  This spot should be perfect!”  Allan turned around.  The water was now up to chest and much, much colder.

“Are you kidding me?!”  Dustin squealed as the water kissed his midsection.  “And don’t call me Dusty…”

“Sorry, Dusty,” Allan giggled as he jumped up and down.  “Now, who’s going first?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, in order to learn out to backstroke, you need someone to hold you up at the top of the water.”

“How’d you figure?”

“I saw it on TV.”

“Well, there’s no way I’m trusting you to hold me up, so…”

“Great!  You can teach me first.  Then I’ll teach you,” Allan decided as he waded over to Dustin.  “Now,” Allan jumped as high up out of the water as he could manage, “catch me!”

Dustin didn’t catch him.  Instead, he sunk all the way down to Dustin’s feet.  He knew because the kid’s bony arse jabbed the top of his big toe.

Moments later, Allan returned to the surface, gasping for air and coughing at the same time.  “Ugh!  Gross, I think I just swallowed a minnows.”

“A minnows?”

“Yeah,” Allan wiped his hair away from his eyes, “like a zillion of them!”

Dustin laughed and stepped back.  “Well, you should have waited until I was ready.”

“Really?” Allan’s smile grew and his eyes lit up.  “So does that mean you’ll help me?”

“Okay, fine.  Just no promises, all right?  I have no idea what I’m doing.”

“That’s okay,” Allan bounced closer.  “Neither do I.”

“So long as we don’t die?”

Allan grinned and gave an enthusiastic nod.  “Exactly,” he agreed, just before his face went blank and he looked down into the water.  “Uh-oh.”

“What’s the matter?”  Dustin moved closer, stopped and then quickly stepped back.  “Oh god, are you peeing?  That’s nasty, man.”

Allan shook his head and slowly started to walk back toward the beach.

“Hey!  What are you doing?”

As soon as the water was just barely below Allan’s waist he stopped and stared down at himself.  His face was pale and he looked worried, like he wanted to scream but couldn’t find the words.  Dustin watched as Allan slowly tugged the waist of his boxer-briefs away from his body and peered inside.

Dustin moved closer, but not too close in case Allan really was peeing.

Allan frowned as he stared down at himself and appeared to almost be in tears.  “Oh my god,” he said and glanced over at Dustin.  “I’m gonna die.”

 

Chapter 4: Your house smells like…

 

“I’m having a ‘Stand By Me’ moment, Dusty,” Allan stared into Dustin’s eyes, his lower lip was trembling as a single tear rolled down his cheek.  “You gotta help me, man.”

“What are you talking about?”  Dustin cautiously moved closer.  “What’s going on?”

“A leech!”  Allan bawled and stomped his feet, in an attempt to rid himself of some nervous energy.  “It’s in my pants,” he tried not to think about it, but too many horrifying scenarios were racing through his mind.  “What if it’s laying eggs?!”

“Oh…”  Dustin couldn’t help but laugh, until he realized what it was that Allan was asking of him.  “Is it… you know, feasting on anything important?”

Allan couldn’t reply.  He was too busy freaking out.

Realizing this, Dustin stepped in front of him and very slowly moved his hand toward Allan’s waistband. “Okay, just hold still,” he tried, but Allan was shaking and humming as he stared up at the sky.

Dustin continued, his fingertips touched against the band, causing Allan to flinch and step back.  “Stop moving!” he said sternly.  “And make sure no one’s watching.”

“Just get it out.  Please, just get it out!”

Dustin curled his fingers behind the waistband of the boy’s boxer-briefs and slowly pulled them outward.  As the elastic stretched and the sun’s light found its way into Allan’s shorts, Dustin saw it.  It was tiny.  Really tiny.  And it was squiggling and squirming from side to side like it was fighting for dear life.  The leech, that is.

Dustin didn’t want to help anymore.  It looked really slimy and gross.  The last thing he wanted to do was touch it, and at a very, very, excruciatingly close second was getting caught with his hands down Allan’s pants.  The angle was awkward, too.  The leech wasn’t on his most private of parts, but it was close.  Maybe an inch or so higher, right above where he could see a small tuft of hair.

Dustin looked at it for a moment—the leech—as he tried to think of the safest, quickest way to get the thing off.  He knew that he wasn’t supposed to just pull it off because that could cause the slimy critter to upchuck or something.  So he reached for it with his right hand, his left holding the boy’s underwear out of the way, and pressed his fingernail down beside the leech’s sucker.  “I can’t do this alone,” Dustin said to Allan, realizing he needed his second hand to hold the leech and throw it away once it was off.

“I… I can’t,” Allan struggled.  “What?”

“Just hold your shorts, okay?”

Allan nodded and hooked his thumbs in his waistband but continued to look away.  Meanwhile, Dustin shuddered and gagged as he gently wrapped his fingers around the tiny little leech body while continuing to slowly push his nail against the sucker in an attempt to break the seal.  “It’s coming.  Just a little longer, kay?”

Allan didn’t reply but managed to nod.  And after what felt like an eternity, the leech finally let go and Dustin whipped the little guy out into the lake.

“Jesus!” Allan squirmed and shook as he re-secured his boxer-briefs and darted toward the sandy beach.  “I’m done swimming today!”

“What?  But what about the backstroke?!”

“Forget the backstroke!”  Allan was already running up the beach toward his clothes.  “I need to sterilize my genitals!”

Dustin laughed as he walked out of the water toward Allan.  “I thought you were Mr. Nature,” he said when he arrived next to Allan. “I mean, you have a fort and everything.”

“Shut up,” Allan said in monotone. “That doesn’t count.  Leeches and… well, you know.  They don’t mix.”

“So what, you’re just giving up and running home?”

Allan nodded and then shook his head.  “Yeah… uh… No, I mean, I’m just going to clean up.  I don’t want to get an infection. Not down there.”

“Makes sense,” decided Dustin.  “So I guess I’ll see you around then?”

“What?”  Allan stopped dressing himself and turned around. “You can come.  It’ll only take a minute.”

“Uh… nah, that’s Mr. Lowland’s house.  That’d be weird.”

“No it won’t.  He’s not even home,” Allan promised.  “He’s still got lots of work to do at the school.”

“But there’s no students there…”

“Yeah, but he still has to finish grading exams and file final reports, and then he has to put together next year’s lesson plans.”

“Oh, I didn’t even think of that.”

“So you’re coming then?”

Dustin thought for moment.  It was still too early to go home.

“I still owe you that ice cream,” Allan tempted.

“Fine,” Dustin gave in.  “But I’ll wait out front, okay?”

“All right,” the boy agreed as he concentrated on fastening his shorts.

“Hey, uh,” Dustin held out his money and keys, “can you hold onto this for me?  I don’t wanna get it wet.”

Allan looked at the money and up at Dustin and gave him a devilish grin.  “Yeah… sure.  I can do that,” he said and snatched the cash from Dustin’s hand.  “How much is this?”

“Like fifteen, I think.”

“Okay,” Allan dropped the money and keys in his cargo pocket, “you’re buying the ice cream!”

Dustin rolled his eyes.  “Kay fine, whatever,” he said and started to follow Allan off of the beach.  “Can we put our shoes on at the road?  I don’t want to get sand in my shoes.”

“I guess,” Allan replied without looking back.  “I was just gonna carry them till I got home.  I have a hose out back.”

“You live that close?”

“Yeah,” Allan said as if he were repeating himself.  “Just up the hill, first house on the right, remember?”

“Right.”

Just as the two reached the road, Allan spun around to face Dustin.  “Oh, I almost forgot.  Mom says ‘not the face’.”

“What?”

“If you were going to beat me up, not to hit me in the face.”

“Oh…”

“I told her I had a new friend.”

“And she told you to tell me that?”

Allan nodded.

“That’s kinda sad.”

“So is getting punched in the face.”  Allan twirled back around and started tiptoeing up the road, toward Rex.

Dustin really didn’t want to go anywhere near Allan’s house now.  He kept thinking of the kid’s mother standing over him, suspiciously asking questions.  The thought was terrifying, especially if Mr. Lowland came home.  The more he thought, the more he wanted to go home.  But Allan had skipped ahead and was already waiting at the top of the hill.  Besides, it was still too early to go home.

He’d never even noticed the little street before.  Rex. It was a small dirt road with a small sign that was just barely visible through a bunch of leaves and branches.  “I bet it’s hard to order pizza up here,” he said when he caught up to Allan.

“Yeah, but mom usually just makes that herself.”

“Oh yeah?”  Dustin loved pizza, especially homemade pizza.

“Yup. We have a stone oven out back that she uses.”

“I bet you smoke your own meat too, huh?”

Allan shook his head.  “Never, ever again,” he said, waving his arms out in front of him like he was some kind of angry conductor.  “Dad tried that a couple years back—we were all sick for a week.”

“That sucks.”

“Ow,” Allan swerved to the left and started hopping on one foot. “Damn dirt roads!” he bellowed after he reached the grass and shook his fist in the air.

“You okay?”

“No, it hurts,” Allan frowned.  “The world is against me today.”

“I told you we should’ve put our shoes on at the road.”

“No way!  Where’s the fun in that?”

“Uh, not hurting your feet on gravel?”

“Noted.” Allan gave a nod and then randomly sprinted toward a two-storey brick house.  “Come on!  I’ll introduce you to Spot!”

Dustin jogged after the boy and followed him to the side of the house.  “You have a dog?”

“No.” Allan reached his arm over the top of a wooden fence.  “A ferret.”

“You have a ferret… and you named it Spot?”

“Yeah,” Allan nodded.  “What else am I gonna call him?”

“Dunno,” Dustin admitted.  “Just… nope, I dunno.”

Allan opened the gate and jumped inside.  “Quick!” he urged.  “He’s sneaky!”

“Wha…?!” Dustin jolted forward and rushed into the yard, just in time for Allan to slam the gate shut.

“Phew!”  Allan wiped his forehead with the back of his arm.  “That was close.”

“I don’t see him.”

“That’s because he’s inside,” he said as if Dustin were nuts.  “We can’t let him out. He’s a ferret.  He’ll climb the fence and be gone forever.”

“But then… you said…”

Allan grinned up at Dustin then turned around and walked away.  “Come on, the hose is over here.”

Dustin followed Allan around the corner, and Allan grabbed the hose from the side of the house and turned it on.  “Are you naturally this weird?” asked Dustin, “Or do you actually have to try?”

“It’s a gift,” Allan explained as he leaned forward and hosed off his head, whipped his hair back and then stuck the hose down his pants.  His eyes widened and teeth clenched as he whined and hopped from side to side. “Geeze-us that’s cold!”

“Hey!”  Dustin panicked.  “My cash is in your pocket!”

“Oh yeah,” Allan dropped the hose and jumped back.  “My bad.”

“And I thought you said you didn’t want to get your shorts wet?”

“I didn’t.  Not with lake water,” Allan explained.  “And it’s a good thing, too.  I could have bled all over them!”

“Well, go get changed, or whatever,” Dustin urged, suddenly realizing how much he really didn’t want to be here.

“Okay, hose off your feet first, though.  Don’t want sand in the house.”

“I said I’d wait outside,” Dustin reminded him.

“But you said you wanted to meet Spot.”

Dustin rolled his eyes.  “That was when I thought he was outside.”

“Come on!”  Allan picked up the hose and sprayed Dustin’s feet.  “Lift!  Get the sole!” he demanded.  “Now let’s go.  Quit being a wimp.”

“Nah, I’d rather…”

Allan wouldn’t take no for an answer and grabbed Dustin by the arm and pulled him toward the glass sliding door on the deck.  “Come on!” he grunted.  “Mom doesn’t bite!”

“Seriously?!” Dustin tried to tug his hand away, but Allan, for a tiny guy, had a really tight grip.

“Come on already!  Mom’ll love to meet my new best friend.”

“I’m not your friend!”

Allan stopped and let go of Dustin’s arm.  “Really?”

“Yeah,” Dustin scratched at the back of his head.  “Really.”

“That’s a lie.  Anyone who’s had their hands down my pants is definitely my friend.”

“I was pulling off a leech.”

“If you weren’t my friend, you wouldn’t have done it.”

“I’m just a nice a nice guy, that’s all.”

Allan spun back around and reached to slide open the door. “Shut up and come inside.”  He turned back around, his lips pouted and eyes sad, “Please?”

“Okay, fine,” Dustin gave in.  “But only for a minute.”

“Excellent!”  Allan jumped and high-fived the header of the door then disappeared inside the house.  “Mom?!  I got a friend!”

Dustin stepped inside the house and looked around.  The place looked normal.  He wasn’t exactly sure what he was expecting, but normal definitely wasn’t it.  Next to the door, to his right, was a dining table, followed by a breakfast bar that bordered the kitchen, and to his left was a living room with two couches, a recliner and an LCD television.  Very, very normal.

“Mom!  Mom?”  Allan circled back from down the hall that led to the front door.  “I don’t think anyone’s home,” he said in obvious disappointment.  “Now she’ll never believe me.”

Dustin stepped further inside, after placing his shoes and socks that he was carrying at the door.  “It smells like…”

“Cookies?!” Allan blurted.

“No.  Kind of like…”

“Brownies?!”

“No… that’s definitely not it.  More like…”

“Cake!  It has to be cake!”

“No.  Spinach.”

“Damn!”  Allan marched into the kitchen and opened the oven.  “Looks like Mom’s making another weird casserole.  Gross.”  He then looked up at Dustin.  “Want to stay for dinner?”

“No,” Dustin sat down at the breakfast bar.  “I have to be home around five.”

“Oh,” Allan frowned again.  “Bet you would’ve stayed if it really was brownies.”

“Maybe,” Dustin lied.  But even if he wanted to, he had to be home by the time his father left for work.

“Anyway, come on!”  Allan grabbed Dustin by the arm and tugged him toward the hallway.  “You can play with Spot while I get a shower.”

“A shower?  I thought you were just gonna change?”

“Are you crazy?!” said Allan, as he started walking up the stairs.  “I was practically eaten alive by a big, black parasite, and you don’t think that calls for a complete sterilization?  I need to make sure I’m not carrying its larva.”

 

Chapter 5: Dude, your ferret’s definitely gay.

 

Dustin was awkwardly sitting on Allan’s bed staring at Spot the ferret, who was staring right back at him, curiously tilting his head from one side to the other.  Allan’s room was much closer to how Dustin had expected his house to be.  It was weird.  Not in a bad way, though.

The bed was in the floor.  Literally in the floor, like someone had cut a hole in it and filled it with a mattress.  There was no box spring or bedframe, just a mattress in the floor.  He had a wrap-around desk that circled almost the entire room and had tons of books piled on top and under it.  There was also a bunch of model spaceships hanging from the ceiling, a few more that were only half-assembled on the other end of the desk, and the ceiling hand been painted black with white, star-like spatters.  He had three computers, too—a laptop, a desktop and another desktop that had been taken apart.  There were also tons of toys; large bins of them.  They were filled with army men and dinosaurs and robots.  Then there were the walls.  They were painted.  Painted with stick men and obscure tanks and UFOs and castles and—what could be—dragons.

Dustin liked it.  It was different, weird as hell, but in a good way.

Spot started humping his knee, and when Dustin reached over to get him off he hissed and angrily snapped at his finger.  So he left them there.  There was nothing else he could do.  He didn’t want to hurt him, and he wasn’t sure how fragile ferrets were.

“Allan!”  Dustin shouted.  “Can you hurry up?!”  He stared at Spot, who now looked like he was drunk.  His eyes were only half open and it looked like his tongue was poking through his teeth on the left side.

“Coming!”

Dustin heard the water shutting off and, just like magic, Spot jumped up, whipped around and ran out the room.  “Thank god,” Dustin sighed in relief and glanced at his shorts for stains.  Fortunately, there were none.

Moments later, Allan walked in the room with only a large, pink towel wrapped around his waist.  “So!” he said and held out his hands to display two small boxes.  “Martians or dinosaurs?”

“What?”

“Band-Aid.  What kind?”

“Depends, what kind of dinosaurs?”

“Good point.”  Allan dropped the box of Martian Band-Aids on the floor and examined the dinosaurs.  “Looks like the basics: T-Rex, stegosaurus, triceratops and brontosaurus.”

“T-Rex, definitely.”

“I dunno,” Allan unraveled a row of bandages, “I kind of like the stegosaurus.”

“T-Rex or no deal.”

“Fine then!”  Allan shoved the dinosaurs back in their box and tossed it over his shoulder.  “Martians it is!” he said and quickly ducked down, retrieved the Martian box from the floor and pulled out a bandage and stomped back out the room.

Seconds later, he returned with a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and a bag of cotton balls, which he set both items on the end of his desk, next to his dresser.  “So, how’d you like Spot?”

“Dude, your ferret’s definitely gay.”

Allan looked over his shoulder, at Dustin, with a raised eyebrow.  “I don’t think that’s possible.  Animals don’t care what gender they screw.”

“Well, he really liked my knee.”

“It is a very nice knee,” Allan said then turned back to his dresser and opened up the top drawer.  “I’m about to get dressed, so if you don’t want to watch, I suggest closing your eyes,” he warned.

Dustin closed his eyes.

“Are you peeking?” Allan asked.

“No.”

“’Cause I won’t be mad if you do.”

“Not interested.”

“Kay.  Your loss.”

Dustin listened as Allan opened and closed several drawers and shuffled back and forth on the smooth wooden floor.  There were a few grunts and a couple gusts of wind with swooping sounds before he felt the mattress start to flex and shake and bounce.

“Decent!” Allan announced and Dustin opened his eyes just as Allan, who was standing in front of him on the mattress, pulled a baggy pair of black sweats up to his waist and then plopped down and sat next to him.  “So what kind of ice cream do you like?” he asked as he started to slide into his socks.

“Chocolate.”

“Me too,” Allan smiled at him.  “But with chunks of chewy fudge or brownie batter.  That’s the best.”

“Or glazed.  Like when they dip it in chocolate.”

“Mm, that’s good too,” Allan agreed, then jumped back up to his feet.  “Just need to disinfect and bandage up and we can go.”

“Okay.”

Allan bounced across the mattress and then glided across the floor and collected the peroxide and cotton balls, then quickly returned next to Dustin on the bed.  He then soaked a couple of balls and reached for the band of his pants and pulled it down just low enough to access the small dot that the leech had left behind.

Dustin watched.  He didn’t even mean to.  In fact, he didn’t even think about it.  The boy was distracting like that.  There was something about him that made you want to watch.  Especially now.  Dustin wouldn’t dare admit it, but the kid was all kinds of cute.  He had his clean, white t-shirt carefully tucked under his chin, and his tanned chest and tummy were lean and just barely showed the outline of what could someday turn into muscle.  Then there was the look on his face.  It looked like he was constipated.  His teeth were clenched but his jaw was crooked so that he could poke his tongue out the side.  His hazel eyes were focused on the task at hand, and his still-wet hair was stuck to his forehead in thick, slightly curled strands.

Allan’s tan line was the most distracting.  It started where shorts usually ended.  The skin below that was already several shades lighter, even though it was still early in the summer months.  While Allan dabbed at the tiny wound with the cotton ball, Dustin found his eyes trailing off on their own.  They followed the pale skin past the dabbing fingers and over the bunched up waistband.  The sweats he was wearing looked new, like they’d never been worn before.  They were definitely made for warmer weather, as the material was quite thin.

Then Dustin realized what he was doing and looked away.  He wasn’t gay.  He didn’t look at other boys, not like that.  It was weird.  And his dad would kill him if he ever found out what he had just been thinking—where he had just been looking.  Besides, Allan was barely 14, and he was nearly 17.  He wasn’t completely sure, but it was probably illegal to think what he was thinking—not that he was actually thinking what he was thinking he was thinking.

“There!”  Allan pressed his thumb down on the edges of the Band-Aid.  It was a white bandage that had a picture of a small UFO and a green alien making the piece sign with its long, thin fingers.  “What do you think, is it me?”

Dustin glanced at the bandage and nodded.  “Yeah.  Definitely you.”

Allan smiled and then pulled his pants back up to his waist.  “You all done checking out my junk?  ‘Cause I really want some ice cream now.”

“I wasn’t checking out your junk!” Dustin said defensively as his cheeks burned red.

“Okay, whatever.”  Allan stood up. “Wanna go?”  And he offered Dustin his hand.

“Sure.”

Dustin let Allan help him up and the two wobbled off the bed.  “Aw, man,” Allan said with a giggle.  “You got my bed all wet.”

“Huh?”  Dustin looked back, remembering that his shorts were still wet.  “Oh, whoops.  My bad.”

“That’s okay,” Allan turned back around and picked up his old shorts to fish out Dustin’s money and keys.  “I’ll forgive you, but only because you’re buying me ice cream.”

 

Chapter 6: Aren’t you afraid your head’ll pop off…?

 

Allan was attacking a massive, triple-scooped, chocolate double-brownie-bit ice cream on a chocolate dipped waffle cone, while Dustin casually licked his medium-sized soft chocolate ice cream that had been dipped with a chocolate glaze.  His was on a regular cone, though.  The shop was much quieter than he was expecting.  The first day of summer vacation and only a few people were at the beach enjoying a cool treat.  It was kind of eerie, and Dustin couldn’t help but think that everyone was staying away because they knew he’d be there.

It was probably for the better, though.  He didn’t necessarily want to be caught in public, socializing with the weird boy who hangs from trees.  Of course, he didn’t look nearly as weird right now as he usually did.  But that could just be due to the fact that he wasn’t currently hanging from a tree.

“So why are you always hanging in trees?”  Dustin blurted, without realizing he had spoken out loud.

“I like to hang,” the boy answered simply enough.

“Really?”  Dustin felt disappointed.  “That’s it?”

“Yup,” Allan gave him a quick toothy grin then returned to his ice cream.  “I try to break my record.”

“What’s that?”

“Sixteen minutes, forty-two seconds.”

“Aren’t you afraid your head’ll pop off or you’ll pass out?”

Allan shook his head. “Nah, I’ve had a lot of practice.”

“You realize everyone thinks you’re a freak, right?”

Allan grinned again. “Of course.”

“And that that’s probably why you had to be homeschooled?”

“Part of it, probably.”

“Well, maybe when you go back to school next year, try to cut back a little.”

Allan thought about it for a second.  “Maybe.  Or maybe I’ll invite people to join me.  To see who can hang the longest.”

“No,” Dustin shook his head.  “You really don’t want to do that.”

“You’re probably right,” Allan decided.  “I’ve been practicing too long.  It wouldn’t be fair.”

“Yeah,” Dustin couldn’t help laughing.  “That’s exactly why…”

“So what do you have be home for?”

“To watch my brother.”

“Your parents have a date?”  Allan perked up and wobbled his eyebrows.

“What are you doing?”

“Trying to look bowchicabowwowy.”

“It’s not working.”

“So where are they going?  A movie?  Dinner?  To a hotel for a romantic night out?”  Allan wobbled his eyebrows again.

“Stop doing that—and no.  Dad’s gotta go to work.”

“What about your mom?”

“What about her?”  Dustin snapped at him, which he immediately regretted when he saw the look on Allan’s face.  “Sorry.  I just don’t like talking about my mom.  It’s…”

“It’s okay,” Allan said sincerely.  “I get it.”

Dustin saw the look on Allan’s face.  It was sympathy.  He felt sorry for him, and Dustin didn’t like that one bit.  “She’s not dead, dummy.”

“Yeah, I can tell.  What’s she got?”

“None of your business, okay?”  Dustin tried to explain as calmly as possible.  “Look, I better go.  It’s getting late.”

Allan frowned and nodded without looking up from his ice cream.  “All right,” he said in in barely a whisper.  “It was fun hanging out with you today.  You’re much better company than a tree.”

Dustin stood up and stepped over the concrete bench he was sitting on.  “Yeah, you too,” he said and turned to walk away.

“Dustin!”  Allan jumped up from his seat.

“Yeah?”

“Will I see you again?  Tomorrow maybe?”

Dustin shrugged his shoulders and stepped back.  “Dunno.  Maybe.”

 

Chapter 7: Can you please hold my wiener?

 

“Dustin! Someone’s at the door for you!” shouted Brice, Dustin’s ten-year-old brother.

Dustin wasn’t expecting anyone.  No one liked him anymore.  “Who is it?!” he yelled back as he put down the book he was reading to him mother.

“How should I know?!” Brice yelled with impatience.  “Come on, I’m gonna die!”

“Okay, I’m coming,” he said. “Be right back, Mom.”

Dustin walked out of his mother’s room, smoothing over his hair in case one of his friends came back to accept him back, and walked down the hall to the front door.

It was Allan.  He was standing there smiling, holding a soggy looking cardboard box in front of him and wearing dark blue basketball shorts and another white t-shirt.   “What are you doing here?” he asked, more out of surprise.

“I found out where you lived and thought I’d bring dinner,” he said and held out the box.  “Can you hold my wiener?”

“What?”

“Hot dogs.  Foot-longs from the best butcher in town.  Got some fries, too,” Allan said happily.  “You hungry?”

“Umm…”

“I hope it’s okay,” Allan stepped forward, just over the threshold.  “I didn’t know what you guys liked on them, so I just had Mr. Stanley put the stuff on the side.”

Dustin stepped in front of him.  “This is nice and all, but what are you doing here?  How did you even find me?”

“Sorry,” Allan’s smile faded and he looked a little scared.  “I hadn’t heard from you in a week, so I asked some people if they knew where you lived.”

Dustin’s face went pale and his head dropped.  “Who… who were you asking?”

“Don’t worry, I’m not stupid,” Allan assured him.  “I didn’t ask any kids, just the ice cream man, who told me he’s seen you around the skate park on Osborne, and then the mailman, who said he can’t give that information away but then said you were somewhere around Ferber Avenue.  From there all I had to do was go door-to-door until I found someone who knows your mom.”

“Wait, what?  You went door-to-door?”

“Yeah.  It wasn’t too bad.  Only took a couple of hours.  But by the time I found you, I was hungry, so I went home and told my mom I was bringing you dinner.  She’s the one who gave me some money to pick this up.”

“Dustin, who’s at the door?  Are you coming back, or am I watching TV?”

Allan’s eyes lit up. “Is that your mom?” he asked and handed Dustin the box.  “It’s me, Mrs. Delaware!  Allan Lowland.”

“What are you doing?” Dustin asked angrily.

“Trying to say hello to your mom.”

“Well don’t,” Dustin pleaded.  “She’s…”

“I know she’s sick, Dustin.  Ms. Glass from down the street told me.”

Dustin sighed out of frustration.  “Ms. Glass has a big mouth.”

“Leukemia, right?”

Dustin didn’t answer.

“Is it okay for me to go say hi?  Please?”

“No it’s not okay.  It’s weird.”  Dustin leaned up against the wall, the scent of the foot-longs and fries filled his nostrils and caused his stomach to growl.  He felt bad for the kid, he really did, but he was out of line.

“Dustin?” his mother called for him.

“Yeah, Mom?”

“Introduce me to your friend.”

Dustin pushed himself away from the wall and put the foot-longs on a side table by the door.  “Fine,” he said to Allan, “let’s go.”

Allan kicked off his shoes and followed Dustin down the hall.  When they arrived at the door, Dustin stopped and stared Allan right in the eyes, trying to figure out what he was up to.  Allan just smiled up at him and patiently waited for the door to open.

“No getting all weird, okay?” Dustin warned and waited for Allan to nod in agreement until he opened the door.

Allan stepped inside.  The room was quite large and so was the bed the tiny woman was lying in.  She was definitely sick.  She was really thin, wore a knitted hat on her head to hide her lack of hair and her skin was so pale it was almost translucent.

Allan just smiled and walked over to the bedside.  “Hi,” he said cheerfully and offered his hand.  “I’m Allan.  My dad’s your son’s English teacher.”

Mrs. Delaware smiled weakly and reached for Allan’s hand and held onto it lightly.  “Pleased to make your acquaintance, Allan.  Dustin’s told me all about you.”

Allan grinned and shot Dustin a look.  He was standing in the corner trying to hide the fact that his face had turned three shades of red.

“Really?”  Allan beamed.  “That’s great.  Good things, I hope.”

“I think so,” Mrs. Delaware assured him.  “Don’t let Dustin fool you.  You’re growing on him.  I can tell.”

Allan smiled wider and sat down on the edge of the bed and randomly reached over and adjusted Mrs. Delaware’s hat.  “Wicked rib stitch,” he admired.  “Did you do that yourself?”

Mrs. Delaware smiled and looked impressed.  “You knit?”

“Not much.  I’m crap at it,” he admitted.  “But my mom’s a pro.  So’s my dad, actually.  But you didn’t hear that from me.”

“Your secret’s safe with me,” Mrs. Delaware promised and locked her lips and threw away the key.  “So what are you and Dustin up to?”

“Not much really,” Allan shrugged. “I just brought some food over.”

“So that’s what that smell is.  I thought Mr. Stanley had come for a visit.”

“Nope, but I brought his foot-longs over.  Got ‘em from the Summer Stand.”

“I miss those,” Mrs. Delaware smelled the air.  “Guess the aroma will have to be enough.”

“But I brought some extras, you can…”

“I’d just chuck it up in five minutes.  Don’t want to waste it, you see.”

“Oh right,” Allan recalled.  “My bad.”  And he sat quietly for a moment, until, out of nowhere, he said, “Me and Dusty are planning on going camping this weekend.”

Dustin jumped away from the wall in a hurry and moved toward Allan.

“He just didn’t want to ask ‘cause he figured you’d say no.”

“Camping?”  Mrs. Delaware smiled and held her hand out at her son and shushed him.  “Where to?”

“Just down by the beach,” he told her.  “I built a fort just down the drop from Malone Drive.  It’s pretty cool.”

“That sounds exciting.  Do you have a camera?  I’d love to look at some pictures when you two get back.”

Allan grew a devilish grin but avoided eye contact with Dustin.  “Sure I do.  I’ll just borrow my Dad’s Cannon—so does that mean he can go?  Tomorrow?”

Mrs. Delaware smiled.  “I don’t see why not.  Dustin’s sister will be home to look after the house and lord knows he’s got to get out of the house.  He’s starting to grow roots.”

“Really?  That’s great!” Allan leaned forward and gave Mrs. Delaware a gentle hug, taking extra care not to break her.  “Thanks a bunch!”

“No, thank you, Allan,” she said and looked over at Dustin.  “Why don’t you two go eat those dogs before they get cold?  I think it’s time for a nap.”

“Okay, Mrs. D,” Allan stood up and walked toward the door.  “See you when I get the picture developed!”

Allan and Dustin left Mrs. D to rest and went to the living to eat the foot-longs and watch Brice swear at his video game.  When they arrived, Brice had already helped himself to a dog and fries and was munching on them as he bellowed at the television.

“That wasn’t cool, you know,” said Dustin when he sat down.

Allan plopped down beside Dustin on the couch.  “Yeah, sorry.  I shouldn’t have set you up like that.”

“Not that—but that was a low blow, too—I meant…”  Dustin didn’t want to say it out loud.  He didn’t want to sound like a jerk or ashamed, because that wasn’t it at all.  He just didn’t like people, especially Allan, seeing his mother in her condition.  It made him feel weird, vulnerable, like his family was charity case and they needed help.

“I know.  I shouldn’t have come.  I shouldn’t have bugged your mom, and I definitely shouldn’t have brought you dinner.”

“No,” Dustin dropped a fry in his mouth.  “That part was okay.”

Allan grinned again and fished a dog out of the box.  “So you wanna go?” he tried.  “Camping, that is?”

“Don’t have much choice now, do I?”

“Sorry,” Allan repeated.  “I just…”

“I know,” Dustin faked a smile.  “You think we’re best friends and you want to hang out.”

“Yeah…”

“You’re just lucky I have nothing better to do.”

 

Chapter 8:  A mattress?  Really?

 

Dustin really wanted to go home.  Or, more specifically, he really didn’t want to be sitting in his English teacher’s living room, listening to both of Allan’s parents reminiscing about their many adventures while camping.  They thought they were being sly with all of their hidden meanings and dirty grins and wobbly eyebrows, but Dustin knew what they were talking about, and it was really, really gross.

On the other hand, Allan was practically bouncing off the walls he was so happy.  When Dustin had arrived, Allan had marched him in the house and in front of his parents like they were back in second grade and it was show and tell.  It was kind of weird to Dustin.  He’d never felt like he was all that much to talk about, but Allan seemed to be able to go on forever.  He was just so proud to have a friend—not that he and Allan were friends.  This whole thing was only temporary, until his real friends took him back.

Fortunately, every awkward moment eventually comes to an end, and after about the zillionth time Allan had retold The Leech Story, he finally suggested that they get ready to leave.

Dustin was ready.  He was ready the very moment he stepped inside.  But, apparently, Allan had a list.  And the list had to be followed or, as Dustin understood it, the world would end as they know it.

“Let’s see,” Allan examined The List as he paced back and forth in room.  “Three pairs of underwear; check.  Three pairs of socks; check.  Two combs; check.  Two bags of fresh marshmallows…” Allan poked at the bag and squished it around in his hands, “check.  Eight Semi-sweet Hershey’s bars; check.  Two boxes of graham wafers; check.”

“How long is this list?”  Dustin dropped is overnight bag and fell back onto the far-too-far-down bed.

“Shh!” Allan demanded.  “Almost there—three shirts; check. Two sweaters, one raincoat; check, check.  “Two pairs of shorts; check.”

“You realize it’s only one night, right?”

“Two pairs of pants; check.  Yes, but you can’t be too careful.  Rope; check.  Matches; check.  One dozen half-frozen wieners… Three-quarters frozen; semi-check.”

“We’re not going to have to go on a search for half-frozen dogs, are we?”

“Shhh!  One mattress…  Uh oh.”

“A mattress?  Really?”

Allan carefully folded the list and slid it inside a pocket on his over-sized overnight bag.  “Well, yeah.  You can’t expect me to sleep on the ground.  That hurts!”

“Is it an air mattress at least?”

Allan shook his head.  “Nope.  Me and my dad pulled the old one out of the basement earlier.  It’s not that heavy.  We could even use it to carry our bags if we wanted.”

“Why would we do that?”

Allan shrugged.  “For the heck of it, I guess,” he said and then grabbed his bag.  “Come on, let’s go grab it and get out of here.”

“Kay,” Dustin said with a grunt as he rolled off of the bed and onto the floor before climbing to his feet.  “At least this’ll be the comfiest camping trip I’ve ever been on.”

“You can count on it!”  Allan grinned his now-famous grin and even gave Dustin a thumbs-up before he left for the stairs.

Dustin followed nervously in behind Allan, who was wibbling and wobbling down the stairs.  Every single step he took, Dustin was afraid he was going to topple over and fall head-over-heel to the bottom.  “You need a hand?” he offered.

“Nah, I got it,” replied Allan, and he hopped down the remaining five steps.  “See?”

“Don’t do that.”

“Why?”

“Because I’d rather go camping then spend the night in the emergency room.”

“Noted,” Allan said with a nod.  “Now come on, the mattress is this way!”

 

Chapter 9: What do you mean you LOST The List?!

 

“And in three, two, one!”  Dustin and Allan let go of either end of the mattress and watched as it tumbled and bounced and flew all the way to the bottom of the cliff and nearly squashed Allan’s fort.

“Oh my God, that was AWESOME!”  Allan jumped in celebration and kicked a stone over the edge of Malone Drive.

“Damn,” Dustin peered over the edge.  “We almost had to sleep under the stars with the mosquitos.”

“Come on!” Allan ran toward the path.  “Let’s go set up camp before the sun disappears!”

“I’m right behind you,” Dustin reassured him, as he looked up at the already-reddened sky.  “I told you we should’ve left earlier!”

Allan’s bag was first to hit the ground, followed by Allan, who had tripped over an invisible stone.  “Owww…  It’s not my fault!” he said as he cradled his knee in his hands while hissing and hawing until the pain subsided.  “Mom and Dad talk too much.  Wouldn’t have been so bad if you said something.”

“What was I supposed to say?” asked Dustin, placing his bag down next to the mattress and then stopping to admire the fort.  “You know what?  That does look pretty cool.”

“Told you!” said Allan as he hobbled over to Dustin’s side.  “Took me forever to build, too.”

“Does the inside have a floor, or are we sleeping with the bugs?”

“Floor.” Allan nodded.  “Definitely a floor.”

Dustin stepped closer.  “Good,” he said and turned back to Allan.  “Shall we check it out?”

“Yeah, okay,” Allan agreed.  “Just help me with the mattress.  I gotta run home and grab the firewood.”

“Huh?”  Dustin grabbed one end of the mattress and inched toward the fort’s entrance.  “You do realize we’re surrounded by wood, right?”

“Yeah, but I don’t have an axe.”

“Good point.”

The two awkwardly stumbled through the four-foot-tall door and dropped the mattress down in the corner.  The fort was fairly decent size.  There was enough room for the double-sized mattress and room to walk around it comfortably.  Not that anyone over five feet tall could actually stand up straight, but they were there to sleep, not bounce.

“Okay, be right back,” said Allan, the moment the mattress hit the floor, and bolted back outside the fort.

While he was gone, Dustin fetched their bags inside and set up the bed for later that night.  After that, he had just enough time to collect some rocks to put a round the fire pit before Allan returned.

“Good idea!” Allan grunted and dropped the logs down on the grass.  “I didn’t even think of that.”

“It’s not much, but I think it’ll do,” added Dustin.

Crouching down by the fire pit, Allan started placing logs inside.  “So, what do you think? Will it work?”

“What?  The fire or the fort?”

“Well, the fort mainly, but I also have no idea what I’m doing with these logs.”

“I meant the fort, but maybe I should take over the log stacking?  We’re never gonna start a fire with that mess.”

Allan blushed.  Before that moment, Dustin didn’t even think such a thing was possible.  “It’s okay, Nature Boy.  I’ll teach you how it’s done… then you can teach me the backstroke.”

“What?” Allan started to laugh.  “There’s no way in heck I’m going back in that lake.  At least, not until morning.  Bet there’s more leeches out at night than in the day.”

Dustin cheated.  He retrieved a bottle of Zip-Lite from his bag and doused the logs with it.  And with one quick strike of a single match, he dropped it into the pit and the fire roared to life.

“AWESOME!” Allan hopped over to the fire with marshmallows and wieners.  “I’ll have to remember that trick.”

Dustin grinned.  “It’s actually kind of hard to forget.”

“Uh-oh,” Allan dropped the wieners and marshmallows down beside his sitting-log.  “I think I forgot something—where’s The List?”

That was impossible.  “What did you forget?  You have half your house in the fort.”

Allan marched toward the fort and pushed open the door.  “We don’t have anything to drink!” he sounded really upset.  “Where’s The List?!”

“It’s in your bag, I think.”

Allan disappeared inside the fort and Dustin could hear him muttering and tossing things around from inside.  “It’s not here!” he said in a panic and stormed back outside.  “Where did you put it?”

“I didn’t touch it,” Dustin swore.  “Honest.  Never laid a finger on it.”

“You lost The List?!”

“No, I told you, I haven’t touched it.”

“You lost it, admit it!”

Dustin couldn’t help but laugh at Allan’s hysteria.  “Okay, fine.  I lost it.”

Allan’s eyes bulged and his hands turned to fists.  “You lost The List?!  What do you mean you LOST The List?!”

“What?!” Dustin shook his head in confusion.  “I told you I haven’t touched it…”

“But you just said…”  Allan stopped, took a deep breath and smoothed out his shirt.  “Okay, don’t panic,” he said and started to pace back and forth.  “We just need to retrace our steps.”

“You mean, from your bedroom, to the back yard where we got the mattress and then straight here?”

“Yes,” Allan nodded.

“I saw you put it in the pocket on the side of your bag.”

Allan stopped pacing, turned around on his left heel and marched back inside the fort.  “There’s like a zillion and three pockets on this thing!”

This time, Dustin followed Allan inside to help him look.  “It was the big one, with the zipper,” he pointed to it, and Allan’s shaky fingers struggled to get it open.

“AHA!” he squealed in celebration and threw his hand up in the air, holding The List in his hand.  “I found it!”

“Hey!  I helped a little!”

Allan nodded.  “Yes,” he patted Dustin on the head.  “You were a very good navigator.  Thank you,” he said and then carefully unfolded The List and re-read every single line.

“What’s the deal with The List, anyway?”

No answer.

“Allan?”

He turned his head, only half paying attention and cocked an eyebrow at him.  “Oh, right.  Me and my grandfather made it.  Just before he passed away last year.”

“Oh,” Dustin frowned.  “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.  He was pretty old, like 92.”

“Really?”

Allan nodded.  “Everyone on my Dad’s side of the family are practically immortal.”

“Hmm, that would explain why you look so young.”

Allan looked away from the list and stared at Dustin.  “What are you trying to say?”

“That you look younger than you are…”

Allan smiled.  “Yeah.  I always get ID’d outside bars,” he said in a strangely serious tone.  “But anyway, can you come help me?  We need 48 bottle of water and 12 cans of Old Al’s Cream Soda.  And a cooler filled with ice.  And we could use some more logs.”

“Umm, but who’s going to watch the fire?”

“Put it out.”

“But…”

Allan rolled his eyes and started kicking dirt at fire pit.  “We have lots of logs.  We’ll just start over.”

“But… how are we gonna get the old logs out?  It’s gonna be hot.”

“Hmm, I’ll bring tongs.  That’ll do’er,” decided Allan.  “Big tongs.”

“Okay, fine.  But before we go, check your list twice.  We don’t want to be crossing Malone Drive after the sun goes down.”

Allan stared up the sky.  “Uh-oh.”

 

Chapter 10: Admit it.  You think I’m sexy!

 

That was it.  They were done.  They had to be.  There was no way in hell that they could have forgotten anything else.  Allan had a cooler that was so massive that it was built with two wheels and a retractable handle, and that was filled with 48 bottles of water, 12 cans of Old Al’s Cream Soda, 4 large bags of crushed ice and, just in case, 4 pudding cups 2 root beers and 1 pint of Doc & Sons Triple Fudge Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream.  On top of that, literally, they had 2 potato sacks filled with chopped logs.

As soon as they arrived back at the fort, Allan kicked the logs off of the cooler and started to reassemble the fire using his dad’s barbecue tongs.  This time he did exactly as Dustin had and arranged them into a teepee-like circle.  Then, of course, he soaked the fresh logs in Zip-Lite, struck a match, and, “WAMMO!” Allan shouted in celebration as he jumped back from the angry flames.  “It’s like magic, only much more dangerous.”

“Great,” Dustin chuckled.  “I’ve turned you into a pyro.”

Allan grew a toothy grin and ran inside the fort.  “Be right back!” he said and slammed the doors shut.

While Allan was inside, Dustin dumped out the logs and piled them up beside the fort and moved the cooler beside the door.  The sun was just barely peeking over the unseen horizon and the blood-red sky was turning black.  The moon was already in sight and looked to be nearly full.  It was kind of creepy; perfect for a night alone in the mini-woods.

Allan blasted through the door and jumped outside and Dustin was blinded by a series of unexpected flashes.  “What the?!” he quickly shielded his eyes, “What are you doing?”

“Taking pictures, silly.  Your mom said so, ‘member?”  Allan pressed the shutter again.  “These ones will be the best.  Your face was priceless.”

Dustin rubbed at his eyes while he waited for the dots to disappear and, while opening and closing his eyes, noticed that Allan looked different.  “Wait… did you change?”

“Yup,” Allan twirled around, letting the legs of his grey sweats catch the wind and then smoothed his hands over his matching hooded sweater.  “It’s getting chilly out already.”

“Very pretty…” Dustin smiled awkwardly then eased back toward the fire.  “So, what’s on the agenda?  Know any good ghost stories?”

“Hmmm,” Allan rubbed at his chin, letting the camera hang from its strap around his neck.  “Let’s roast some weenies first.  I’m hungry.

Allan grabbed the dogs and tore open the packaging.  “Do we have any sticks?”

“Plenty,” Dustin brought over a small stack of three-ish foot long sticks and dropped them beside Allan.  “There’s a zillion more just behind the fort.”

The two sat down in front of their sitting-logs and began roasting their wieners over the flames.  Allan was staring at the fire like he was bewitched.  He wasn’t even blinking, and it was starting to bug Dustin.

He flicked his fingers in front of his eyes, causing Allan to flinch and back away.  “Hey, what the?”

“Blink, damn it,” he teased.

“I was!”  Allan shuffled closer to the fire. “What are you staring at me for?”

“I wasn’t.  I was just…” Dustin had to stop and think.  He didn’t think he was staring, but now he wasn’t so sure and he blushed.

“Aww, it’s okay.”  Allan smiled over at him.  “I get it.  I’m beautiful.  People have to stare.  It’s only natural.”

Dustin rolled his eyes and looked away.  “I wasn’t staring.”

“Nuh-huh,” Allan teased.  “Admit it. You think I’m sexy.”

“Shut up,” Dustin stood up and walked away.  “Want something to drink?”

“Wha..?  I’m sorry,” Allan turned around.  “I was only joking.”

“A drink?” Dustin repeated.

“Yeah, cream soda, please.”

Dustin returned with a water for himself and handed Allan his soda.

“You mad at me?” Allan sounded upset.  “I’m sorry, honest.”

“It’s okay.  I’m just being dumb, I guess.”  Dustin unscrewed the top of his water and took a sip.  “Guess my head’s somewhere else.”

Allan looked from the fire and over at Dustin.  “Still afraid to get caught hanging out with me?”

“Nah,” Dustin decided.  “I think that ship has sailed.”

“Sorry,” Allan curled his lower lip and stared down at the grass.  “You need a hug?”

“What, no!” Dustin took another sip of his water.

“’Cause it’s okay.  No one’s around, and I won’t tell anyone.”

“Dude,” Dustin stared him right in the eyes, “I don’t need a hug.”

But Allan wasn’t having it.  He dropped his wiener in the fire, jumped up to his knees and threw himself on top of Dustin.  Before Dustin could retaliate, Allan wrapped his arms around him and squeezed him tight.

Dustin didn’t retaliate.  Not right away.  Allan even felt Dustin’s hand press against his back—until they felt something cold and wet between them.

“What the?!”  Dustin pushed Allan away and stared down at his shirt which was soaked right through.  “Stupid water,” he chuckled and placed the bottle of water down on the grass.  “And that’s why guys don’t hug.  Something always goes wrong.”

Allan looked upset, maybe even scared, and he slowly inched back to his sitting log.  “I’m sorry,” he said quietly and stared into the fire.

“It’s fine.  Just some water,” Dustin said and he pulled off his shirt and draped it over his sitting log.

“I’m an idiot.  I always mess stuff up,” Allan muttered, barely audible, and dropped his chin to his knees.

“I said it’s okay,” Dustin inched closer to Allan and timidly placed his hand on his shoulder.  “It was just a little random.”

Allan turned his head to look at Dustin and faked a smile.

“Look,” Dustin moved even closer, “we’re supposed to be having fun, and all either of us can do is act like a couple of stupid girls.  Let’s start over.”

“Can’t,” Allan said in a gurgle and then cleared his throat.  “You started with a shirt.”

Dustin laughed and scratched at his bare chest.  “Well, this is the new and improved me.”

“The new and improved you is half naked?”

Dustin nodded.  “Yeah, but only until my shirt dries.”

Allan rolled his eyes and nudged his shoulder into Dustin.  “And you teased me for over packing?”

“No,” Dustin nudged Allan back.  “I teased you for bringing half your house.”

 

Chapter 11:  We’re definitely not friends.

 

Allan leaned back against his sitting log and patted his stomach before unleashing a loud, echoing belch.  He had eaten four wieners, 2 pudding cups, half a pint of ice cream and six S’mores.  On top of that, he had washed it all down with 2 cream sodas, 1 root beer and half a bottle of water.

“You’re gonna ralph, I know it.”  Dustin eased away from Allan.

“Nah,” Allan belched again.  “Just give me a sec.  I’ll be okay.”

Dustin could see Allan’s eyes fluttering closed.  “You sure?  It looks like you’re about to topple over.”

Allan toppled over.  He lay on his side for a moment without making a sound.  “Hmmm, I think you’re gonna have to roll me inside.  I can’t move.”

“Nuh-uh, no way.  If you’re gonna puke, you’re doing that out here.”

Allan groaned and rolled onto his back.  “Come on, please?  I need you, bro.  You can’t just leave me here.  The tree gnomes will eat me.”

“Tree gnomes?”

Allan lazily nodded and lifted his head to look at Dustin.  “Yeah, they’re like monkeys, only with little hats and shorter arms.”

“And they eat people?”

“No,” Allan shook his head and dropped it back down to the grass.  “Just Allans.”

“Hmm, is that a fact?”

Allan gave another lazy nod.  “Yeah, I think they’re in the homo-erotica family—scientifically.  They eat wieners.”

“Allan wieners?”

Allan lifted his head again and cocked an eyebrow.  “What are you, some kind of perve?  I said wieners.  Like hotdogs.”

“But you said they only eat Allans.”

“Yeah, that’s their preference.  But there’s only so many Allans in these woods.”

“Dude, there’s like ten trees here.”

“Twenty-eight.  Oh, and a half.  There’s a baby tree, too.”

Dustin climbed to his feet and started kicking dirt over the fire.  “Come on, it’s time to get you inside.”

“Nuuuuuuuu,” Allan whined. “I’m not sleepy!”

“You’re practically sleeping already.”

Allan forced himself to sit up straight.  He looked like a drunk who had fallen over in the street.  “Okay, but bring the cooler.  We don’t want the bears to drink our cream soda.”

Dustin finished putting out the fire and then went to help Allan up.  “I don’t think there are any bears in the smallest forest in the world.”

“You’re right,” Allan agreed as he fell against Dustin and wrapped his arm around his waist.  “There’s only closet hippos and tree gnomes.”

“Allan…”

“Yeah?”

“You’re really weird.”

The fort door flew open and the two stumbled through.  Seeing the bed, Allan let go of Dustin and fell forward and sprawled out with a hum.  “Ah, that hit the spot.”

Dustin wheeled the cooler inside and closed the door then pushed the cooler against it to keep it shut.  When he turned back around, Allan had crawled across the bed and was fishing around inside his bag and pulled out an electric lamp.

“Wow,” Dustin sat down on the mattress beside him and kicked off his shoes, “you really thought of everything, huh?”

“Never doubt The List.”  Allan rolled back over and placed the lamp on the side.  “So now what?  We just go to sleep?” he asked as he sprawled out on his back.

“Probably not,” Dustin laid down beside Allan.  “This is where we pretend to go to sleep and end up talking all night.”

“Oh yeah,” Allan rolled onto his side. “I forgot,” he then grunted and rolled back over as he half-attempted to sit up and reach for his feet.  “Damn it all—my shoes,” he frowned.  “Can you get those for me?”

“What?”  Dustin looked over at Allan, who was trying to give him his saddest, puppy-doggiest eyes ever.  “Really?”

Allan nodded with a pouty lip.  “Please?”

“Fine,” Dustin sighed and crawled to the other end of the mattress.  Allan’s shoes were covered in grass stains and dried mud—or what he hoped was dried mud—and his shoelaces were frayed and old and looked like they’d crumble if he touched them.

“Just pull!” Allan shouted and wiggled his feet.  “Hurry!”

“Okay, okay.”  Dustin yanked off one shoe, which came off much easier than he expected, then slid off the second.  “There, you happy?”

Allan shook his head.  “Socks, please.”

“No way.”  He had to draw the line somewhere.  “You’re on your own there, buddy.”

“Ugh, you’re so lazy.” Allan sat upright and reached for the toes of his socks and pulled them both off at the same time and chucked them to the floor.  “See?  Was that so hard?”

“Not at all,” said Dustin as he plopped down on his belly beside Allan.  “So, now do you want to tell ghost stories?”

The mattress wobbled a bit as Allan snuggled down next Dustin and he stared at him with a smile.  “I don’t really know any.   Do you?”

Dustin shook his head.  “Not really.  No good ones, at least.”

“Well, we could always talk about our hopes and dreams,” Allan suggested.  “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“Dunno,” Dustin shrugged.  “Up until the other day, I wanted to be a carpenter.”

Allan snuggled into his pillow and closed his eyes.  “You don’t anymore?  What happened?”

“You happened.”

“Hur?  What did I do?”

“You said I should be an architect.”

“Oh?”  Allan opened his eyes again and smiled.  “You thinking about it?”

“Yeah, maybe.  What about you?”

Allan didn’t even have to think. “An archeologist.”  He rolled onto his back and placed his hands behind his head.  “I want to explore the whole world and find treasures from lost civilizations.  And dinosaurs.”

“Dinosaurs didn’t have treasures.”

Allan looked at Dustin and raised an eyebrow.  “That’s because they are the treasure, silly.  I want to discover a new species of dinosaur and name it after my grandfather.  I’ll call it ‘grandoeyoldasuarus’.”

“You’re joking, right?”

“Nope,” Allan slowly shook his head.  “For real.  It’s the perfect name.  He was my granddad, he was old, and he often had hemorrhoids.”

“Hemorrhoids?”

“Yeah,” Allan giggled. “Saurus.  Say it ten times fast.”

Dustin rolled his eyes.  “Yeah, I got that.”

“So, anyway, have you heard anything from your friends?”

“Nah, they’re a bunch a jerks.  I could care less about them.”

Out of nowhere, Allan poked Dustin in the side.  “Liar.  I can tell you still wanna go back to them.  A few days being friends with me’ll do that to a person.”

“I dunno, it’s complicated.  And we’re not friends.”

Allan smiled and nodded.  “Uh-huh, keep telling yourself that.  And at least with me, I’ll never cast you out and shun you just because you screwed up.”

“That’s because you don’t have any other friends.”

“AHA!”  Allan sat up and pointed at Dustin with both hands.  “So you admit it!  We’re friends.”

“Nuh-uh, I said no such thing.”

“Admit it,” Allan poked at Dustin’s shoulder.

“No.”

Allan poked him again.

“Cut it out.”

And again.

“Stop it,” Dustin tried to grab his hands.

“Admit it, Dusty.  We’re best friends forever,” he said and poked Dustin in the gut.

“Seriously, that hurts.”

But Allan only poked him more.

“I’m warning you…”

Six rapid pokes later, Dustin lunged at Allan by throwing his weight on top of him.  He grabbed both of his arms and tried to secure them against the mattress to make him stop.  Unfortunately, Allan was stronger than he looked and managed to force Dustin off of him and came out on top.

“Aha!” he celebrated and sat down on Dustin’s stomach and managing to get one of his hands free.

Allan didn’t even see it coming.  The moment Dustin felt his grip slipping, he let go of Allan’s wrist and thrust his arm forward, jabbing the boy in the gut with his finger.  Allan fell forward from the sudden attack, his chest pushing down against Dustin’s face, and he tried to wriggle his other hand free so that he could regain the advantage.

It didn’t work.  Dustin was too strong and pushed him down off of his face and managed to lock his grip back around Allan’s wrists.

“Aw, come on!”  Allan pleaded, and he sat up and tried to pull his arms free.  “That’s cheating.”

“It’s not cheating,” Dustin chuckled.  “And you started it.”

“And I’m gonna finish it!” Allan tried again, leaning forward with all his weight, but only got pushed further back.

He gave up.  It was useless.  Dustin’s grip was tighter than a boa constrictor’s, and he fell limp on top of him, resting his chin on Dustin’s shoulder.

“You win…” he said between pants to catch his breath.  “You’re a cheat, but you win.”

“I’m not a cheat,” Dustin snickered and let go of Allan’s wrists.

Allan didn’t roll off of Dustin.  He just lay there on top of him with his nose burrowed behind Dustin’s ear.

The two didn’t speak or move.  All they could hear was the sound of the other’s breathing.  Without even thinking about it, Dustin wrapped his arms around Allan’s waist and rested his hands on the boy’s back.  He could feel Allan’s muscles relaxing as the breath from the boy’s nostrils tickled against his neck.

Dustin was nervous.  He could feel his heart beating faster; it felt loud, like it was thumping against Allan’s chest.  Wherever he could feel Allan’s weight he felt tingly and it made him feel restless, as if he was covered with itches that he couldn’t scratch.

Out of nowhere, Allan wiggled his body and then giggled softly in Dustin’s ear.

“What are you doing?” asked Dustin as he tried to decide if he should push Allan off or not.

“Nothing.”  Allan wiggled again.  “Just getting comfortable.”

Dustin smiled.  He didn’t want to.  It just happened. “And are you?”

“Um, maybe.  One sec.”  This time Allan moved his hips up and down a few times and then circled once.  “There.  That’s the sweet spot.”

Dustin couldn’t help it.  Allan just kept moving around.  He could feel it happening—growing.  He willed it to stop, tried to think of nasty things, but all the wrong nasty things were coming to mind.  It was impossible.  There was just too much movement, too much warmth and far too much breathing down the side of his neck.

Despite everything, Dustin couldn’t bring himself to tell Allan to get off of him.  Even if he could, he wasn’t completely sure if he wanted to.  It was oddly comfortable and Allan’s hair smelled insanely good; almost like freshly sliced apples with a hint of vanilla.

Allan squeezed his arms around Dustin.  He was hugging him, breathing in his ear.  He was definitely not playing around anymore, which meant when Allan said that he was getting comfortable, he was being serious.  Dustin wasn’t sure what that meant, if anything at all, but it helped him relax.

His hand started to move in circles against Allan’s back, just over his sweater.  Allan didn’t move or giggle or speak, so he continued.  He slid his hand upward, just below the boy’s shoulders, and then back down again.

Over time, the bottom of Allan’s sweater began to slide up his back and soon Dustin’s fingers touched against bare skin.  It startled him at first and made him feel paranoid, so he attempted to avoid going too low again.  But he couldn’t stop thinking about it.  He had touched Allan’s skin.  It was warm and smooth and—he had to feel him again.  And not just through a thick sweater.  That was no longer good enough.  He wanted more.

The next time Dustin’s fingers trailed downward, he let them slide over the edge of the sweater and right against Allan’s bare back.  He then moved his hand back upward, right underneath the sweater and all the way up to Allan’ shoulders.

Allan shivered and pushed his hips down against Dustin’s stomach, but they didn’t stop moving.  Dustin noticed, but he didn’t mind—aside from the fact that it made his hard-on get even harder and twitch like mad against Allan’s leg.

Dustin continued to slide his hand up and down Allan’s back.  On every downward motion he’d run his fingers along the waist of the Allan’s sweats, toying with the idea of going even lower.  And he did.

Not all at once.  He took his time, tracing his fingers up Allan’s back and then down again.  On every descent, he’d move his fingertips just a tiny bit further.  Soon his hand had explored the entire top quarter of Allan’s backside, but just barely.  He was too afraid to press down too hard or go too far and have Allan protest.

But then Allan pressed his lips against Dustin’s neck again, only this time they didn’t linger in one place.  He was slowly moving down his neck, kissing him repeatedly.  It felt good.  Really good.  Shivers were rushing across Dustin’s body in tidal waves, causing his heart to flutter and stomach to tense.  He wasn’t sure when it happened.  He didn’t even realize it at first, but his right hand had slid underneath Allan’s sweats and squeezed his right buttock.

It was above his underwear but still felt incredible.  The cotton garment was thin and smooth and Dustin couldn’t help playing with it, moving it around and feeling the fabric slide back and forth against the warm skin on the other side.  Allan didn’t seem to mind.  In fact, when it happened he hummed and pushed his hips down harder.

But then, without any warning, he stopped and sat up.  Dustin nearly died of guilt until he saw Allan smiling down at him.  The boy reached for the bottom of his sweater and pulled it up and over his head.

“Woo, it’s getting hot in here,” he said and dropped the sweater down beside the mattress.

Dustin didn’t reply.  He was too busy trying to prevent the stiffness between his legs from jabbing Allan in the butt, which was insanely difficult because he was sitting right on it.  Allan was hard, too.  Dustin could see a slight bulge under his sweats—which he was staring at.

Allan gasped.  “Are you perving on my wiener?!” he asked and then ran his right hand over it.  “I bet you wanna touch it, don’t you?” he teased and slid both of hands down either side of his groin.

“No.” Dustin turned away.

“Oh?”  Allan circled his index finger around Dustin’s belly button. “You sure?” he asked again and smiled.

Placing his hands on either leg, Allan rocked back and forth.  Dustin could feel his hard-on betray him as it stiffened and jerked against Allan’s backside.  Then, out of nowhere, Allan reached back with his hand and grabbed it and gave it gentle squeeze.

As soon as that happened, Dustin saw the outline of Allan’s bulge twitch in his pants.  Dustin reached for it, pressed his palm against it and slid his hand upward.  His fingers curled around it, over the fabric, and slowly moved up and down.

Allan giggled and rocked his hips forward, pushing himself into Dustin’s hand.  Consequently, the more Allan rocked, the more Dustin’s hard-on would prod against the boy’s behind.  A small part of him still wanted to try and hide the fact that he was so aroused, but then every other part of him was frustrated with the fact that their pants were in the way.

That was it.  He couldn’t get it out of his head.  It was the next sensible thing to do.  He just wasn’t sure how to do it, or if Allan would object—not that he seemed to be doing much of that.  In fact, he was practically the instigator—the lead, the one in charge.  And now, it was Dustin’s turn.

Dustin removed his hand from Allan’s midsection and reached for the boy’s sides.  Before Allan knew what was happening, Dustin pulled him down on top of him so that he was lying on his chest and rolled him over onto his back.

Dustin was now on top of him, staring into his eyes as he moved closer.  He wasn’t sure what he was doing.  This wasn’t part of his plan, but he couldn’t help it.  He leaned forward, closed his eyes and pressed his lips to Allan’s.  He stayed there, unmoving, afraid that when he moved away that Allan would be angry and want to leave.  But then Allan kissed him back, pinching at Dustin’s lips with his own and he wrapped his arms around Dustin’s shoulders.

With his confidence renewed, Dustin moved back, breaking their first kiss and forcing Allan to let go of him, and inched his way down Allan’s chest and stomach, leaving a trail of tiny kisses from his chest and down his stomach.  When he reached Allan’s bellybutton, he pushed himself up onto his knees and stared down at the boy.  Allan was looking up at him, appearing confused and impatient, but Dustin just smiled at him.

Leaning down again, Dustin kissed Allan’s abdomen, just below the navel, and slid his hands up the outsides of Allan’s legs, all the way up to his waist.  His fingers traced along the boy’s waistband, teased against the bare skin of his stomach and then gently gripped either side of his pants.

He pulled back slowly at first in order to give Allan a chance to stop him, but all he did was lift his butt off of the mattress, so Dustin slid them down past his knees and discarded them on the floor.  When he looked back, Allan was staring at him, smiling and wobbling his hips from side to side.  His underwear was colourful.   The elastic was pastel orange with the initials ‘TTB’ in bold, white print that repeated all the way around his waist, and the cotton fabric was a pale blue with white and orange horizontal pinstripes.  And smack dab in the centre was Allan’s hard, excited, bulging hard-on.

Dustin didn’t even think about it.  He reached with his right hand and wrapped his fingers around it and gave it a gentle squeeze.  Allan shivered as Dustin slowly began to stroke him up and down, but just when he had started to push up with hips—Dustin stopped and removed his hand again.  Allan was about to protest and moved to sit up, just as Dustin grabbed the sides of his boxer-briefs and pulled them right down to his knees in one fell swoop.

Dustin couldn’t believe that he had just done that, it wasn’t like him at all, but as he stared down at Allan’s naked body, he was glad he did.  Allan’s dick wasn’t a monster.  It wasn’t fat or long or intimidating in any way.  It was thin, but not too thin and maybe a little less than five inches stiff.  He wasn’t circumcised either, which was something that Dustin had never seen in person before.

For the first since the two had met, Allan looked unsure of himself.  Although he didn’t rush to pull his underwear back up, Dustin could tell that he was thinking about it.  But instead of apologizing and helping Allan cover himself back up, Dustin decided to take a chance.  He leaned forward again, running the tips of his fingers on his right hand up Allan’s leg and circled his lower abdomen.

His index finger slowly spiraled downward and tickled against the soft, partially curly, light brown hairs that had grown around the base of Allan’s still-stiffened tool.  Dustin noticed it twitch and flex when the side of his hand brushed against it, so he slid his hand back down Allan’s thigh.  Purposely taunting the boy, Dustin trailed his fingers up the inner-side of Allan’s leg, right up to where the soft, loose skin of his pouch hung between his legs.  He could see both testicles draw upward as his fingertips grazed against its side and as his finger reached the top, right beside Allan’s erection, he wrapped his hand around it.

Allan gasped in what seemed to be both surprise and relief, as Dustin slowly stroked him, feeling Allan’s dick become tense against the palm of his hand.  The skin was so smooth and hot and he found himself fascinated with the way Allan’s foreskin slid back and forth against the plump head.

A small bead of crystal clear liquid appeared at the tip of Allan’s erection and slowly rolled down the side toward Dustin’s finger.  Dustin wasn’t sure what had come over him, but as soon as he saw it he leaned forward and placed his lips against the head of Allan’s penis.  His tongue gingerly tapped against the strange, slightly rubbery object as he tasted the natural lubricant.  It didn’t really taste like anything.  Maybe a little salty, but that didn’t matter.

His lips were touching Allan’s length and his tongue was tasting him.  It felt good.  Really good.  He could feel Allan’s head expand and contract against his tongue as the rest of the boy’s tool twitched against his lips as he struggled not to push forward with his hips.

Dustin slowly lowered his head, letting his lips feel every last inch as they slid all the way down.  When he felt Allan’s hairs tickle against his lips he stopped and let his tongue explore for a moment before he moved back up.  But as soon as he reached the top, the back of his head was met by Allan’s hand.  Dustin almost laughed.  He had ridiculed too many pornos to not think it was funny—except, when he felt Allan’s fingers running through his hair, sending tingles across his scalp and down his neck, he wanted more.

He slid back down, this time a little faster as he pressed his tongue against the underside of Allan’s length, and then back up again.  Allan’s fingers stroked through his hair again, so he continued.  He moved even faster this time, only now he wasn’t going to stop.  His slid up and down against the shaft as he tongue enveloped the round head before every descent.  His right hand slid up Allan’s leg and across his thin belly as his left hand moved underneath the boy’s thigh and up to his right cheek, which he then gently squeezed.

Allan’s hips pushed forward, forcing his entire length inside Dustin’s mouth.  Dustin heard him say something, but his voice was barely audible.  Then it hit him.  Allan continued to rock back and forth, getting faster with every forward motion—but then he stopped.  Dustin could feel the boy’s length twitching in his mouth, almost like a shiver.  And it wasn’t until he tasted something wet and salty against his tongue that he realized what was happening.  But by then it was trying to choke him.  He could feel it trying to slide down his throat, and Dustin gagged.

The liquid dribbled from his lips and down Allan’s length as he tried to clear his throat and catch his breath.  Allan immediately pulled away in a panic and sat up.  “Oh my god, are you okay?!”

Dustin nodded without looking up.  “Yeah,” he choked out and then swallowed.  “Just wasn’t ready for that.”  He wiped his lips and chin.  “I’m good.”

“I’m sorry, I really am.”

“It’s okay, really.”  Dustin smiled up at him.  “I just forgot about that part.”

“I tried to warn you…”

Dustin moved between Allan’s legs, leaned forward and kissed his belly.  “It’s fine, honest.”  He kissed Allan again a few inches higher.  “It was worth it.”  He slid his lips over Allan’s left nipple and then moved up to neck as he lowered his weight down on top of him.

Allan laid back, wrapped his arms around Dustin and pulled him closer.  He sighed as he felt Dustin’s lips kissing the side of his neck, up toward his ear and then down his jawline and over his cheek.  As soon as their lips touched, Dustin’s hips pushed down against Allan’s.  He could feel the boy’s still-hard length against his lower-abdomen as his own slid between Allan’s legs.

Their lips parted and Dustin felt Allan’s tongue shyly touch against his own.  It sent shivers down his spine, causing him to push down harder with his hips.  The tip of his length touched against something soft and warm, just as Allan pushed forward and rolled his tongue against his, and he pushed further.

Allan flinched in surprise, which is when Dustin realized what he had done, and it excited him—a lot.  Allan’s tongue rolled past his own as he rocked back and forth, hoping to find his way back to where he was.  He could feel Allan’s buttocks brushing up against either side of his length.  He was between them.  His hard-on was sliding between Allan’s cheeks, inevitably touching against his centre.  A place where no one had touched before.  No one but him.

Dustin pushed harder, secretly hoping that he’d accidently find his way inside, hoping that Allan wouldn’t notice or wouldn’t mind or…

There it was.  He had touched it.  He was sure of it.  Allan didn’t even flinch that time, which meant he didn’t mind.  Dustin pushed forward again.  He could feel the tip press against Allan’s entrance, when all of a sudden Allan jolted to the side and slapped Dustin’s hand, causing Dustin to pull back.

“Never on the first date!”  Allan scolded him and shook his finger.  “I’m not just some floozy, you know!”

“I…”  Dustin’s cheeks burned red as he tried to think of the right words to say, just as Allan reached forward and grabbed him between the legs.  Dustin wasn’t sure how it happened, if it was the shock or the adrenaline or the fear or all of the above, but the second Allan grabbed him he exploded.

The hot, sticky mess shot up into air, spattering his chest and stomach, and even a little found its way onto Allan’s chin.  It was insane, embarrassing, and extremely hilarious.  Before Dustin could recover, he started to laugh. His entire body tingled, his nerves were shot from the sudden rush of guilt—it was too much to handle. He couldn’t control it and he fell over onto his side, leaving Allan sitting upright, still stunned at the sudden glob of mess on his chin.

“What the heck just happened?!”  Allan wiped at his chin with his forearm.  “What’s so funny?”

Dustin couldn’t reply.  He was laughing so hard that he was having enough trouble trying to breathe.  He rolled onto his back and wiped the tears from his eyes—until he realized something.  He wasn’t laughing anymore. He was crying.  It didn’t make any sense.  There was no reason for it.  It was stupid and embarrassing and extremely confusing.

Allan crept up to Dustin’s side and laid his head on his chest. “Hey, what’s wrong?”

Dustin shook his head.  He still wasn’t sure he knew.

“It’s okay—I’m sorry,” Allan tried again.

“I don’t even know.”  Dustin wiped at his face again, trying to calm himself down.  “I just… I guess… I dunno.”  Staring up at the scrap-wood ceiling, Dustin could feel Allan’s fingers trailing up and down his chest and stomach.  “Everything changed so fast.”

“I didn’t mean to slap you…”

Dustin laughed faintly and shook his head.  “No, it wasn’t that.  I deserved that.  I mean, my life changed.”

“Huh?”

“Mom got cancer, Dad became an alcoholic, my sister doesn’t even look at me anymore, and my brother…  Now I lost all of my friends and, as if everything wasn’t screwed up enough already, I think I’m probably gay.”

“I’m your friend,” said Allan, offering the one thing he thought that Dustin would appreciate, as he took Dustin’s left arm and wrapped it around his shoulder then placed a kiss against his forearm.

Dustin shook his head.  “No.  We’re definitely not friends.”

Allan didn’t move or speak or even breathe, but Dustin could feel the boy’s muscles become tense, like he was getting ready to move, maybe even leave.  But before he could, Dustin squeezed him close and secured him snugly at his side then kissed the top of his head.

“I think it’s safe to say that we’re much more than friends,” he said as he kissed Allan’s head again and inhaled the scent of his hair.

Allan’s arms tightened around Dustin and he felt the boy’s lips gently touch against his chest, just as a cool, wet droplet fell from his cheek and rolled down the side of Dustin’s neck.  Allan moved his head back and stretched his neck toward Dustin, placing a quick kiss on his cheek before settling back down beside him.  “Thank you,” he said.  “I’ve always wanted a friend.”

Profile photo of TurtleBoy
TurtleBoy

I'm a writer, web designer, illustrator, student, mentor, movie-buff, bookworm and I'm also gay. My goal is to help make the Shack Out Back community more interactive and expressive.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.