Singletrack Mind Chapter 3, 4

I could feel jealous stares from the drivers stuck in Friday morning traffic as I zipped between the lines of stopped cars on my bike. At least, I assumed they were jealous. Maybe they preferred to sit in their big, polluting hunks of iron and thought I should be in one too. I took this same route to school every weekday, same time, same traffic jam. Everything was the same as always this morning, yet I knew that from now on, nothing would be the same. Ducking in front of a big idling SUV, heat radiating through the grille, I hopped over the low concrete barrier and cut diagonally across the huge expanse of the mall’s mostly-empty parking lot. Now that I didn’t have to worry about being flattened by a truck, my mind wandered back over the events of the first week of the rest of my life.

Last Friday, Dave came out to my place to feed his tractor obsession. He really is crazy about tractors and any kind of heavy equipment, but we wound up spending more time on our mountain bikes. And even more time discovering that each of us had been wrong to think we were the only gay teenagers in real life in the entire northeast, let alone our school. We definitely proved that there are at least two of us!

That Saturday morning, waking up with Dave beside me was a bit of a shock. I mean, I’d never shared a bed with anyone before in my life! Plus it was already mid-morning and the bright sun was beaming through the windows. I NEVER sleep late in the morning! Only, we were kept busy kinda late the night before. The memory of how we’d kissed and licked and tasted each other for hours was very distracting, and I narrowly missed running into a delivery truck that was backing up. I reluctantly dragged my mind back to the present while navigating the side streets that bypassed most of the rush hour congestion. But yeah, Dave had been so cute waking up that morning! All confused and shy until he realized where he was. We’d kissed a good morning kiss, then other things came up that demanded to be taken care of. Afterward, we were both in such a state of dried, sticky mess that showers were urgently required.

Later, once we were both cleaned up and had found some clothes that fit Dave, we went over to the house to scrounge up some breakfast. As we were walking back, Dad rolled into the yard in his pickup. If he was surprised to see Dave still there he didn’t say anything, instead he had immediately started in on the “do I know your parents” routine. Mom used to do that whenever my friends had come over, and it always bugged me, but Dave didn’t seem to mind. It was quickly established that Dave’s folks and Dad knew each other somehow, so that was okay. In fact, Dad surprised both of us by offering him a job for the summer, details to be worked out later, if Dave was interested. Which he was! I thought he was gonna kiss Dad right then and there! THAT might not have gone over so well!

That afternoon we had just hung out, neither of us feeling very energetic. Dave wanted to wander around the sheds checking out some of the machinery. I don’t know which was making him happier: the thought of us working together this summer or the prospect of being around the tractors and stuff! Both, probably. His mom called him as we were dozing off in the warm June sunshine, and Dave had to get back home soon. I kinda hoped we might have gotten together that Sunday, but he said there was some family thing happening, and anyway he had to study for the math exam on Monday. I offered to help him study, and he had looked at me for a minute before deciding that it was better if I didn’t come over. Dang.

Sunday I had spent recuperating, doing some laundry and cleaning up the motorhome. And daydreaming and thinking. Plus I helped Dad replace the leaking hydraulic fitting on the new tractor. As we were doing some other regular maintenance chores we had chatted about the endless list of projects he had planned for the house and property, and about the upcoming landscaping jobs for the summer. Several of those required putting in new lawns, including one big expanse of grass at the new recreation center in town, so he needed a crew to cut the turf. Dad had planned for me and Dave, along with one or two other kids he hadn’t hired yet, to work with Theo on harvesting the sod, which was cool; we’d be working in the fields all around the house, so I could sleep in a bit longer and walk to work. And, it had occurred to me, nobody would think twice about Dave staying with me in the motorhome for a few weeks.

Whoa. THAT thought very nearly caused me to collide with a school bus that was just making the turn into the school yard, which earned me a few jeers from the kids inside. I peeled off towards the bike racks, parked, locked up and headed for the door nearest my locker. Dave and I had agreed to keep a very low profile at school, especially after last Monday, when he met me at the bike racks and his group of friends had seen us talking and giggling for ten or fifteen minutes, then they came over to see what was up. Dave explained that my dad had offered him the summer job and went on a bit about all the tractors and stuff, which seemed to satisfy their curiosity. After that, we were careful not to appear too anxious to be together, but it was tough, for me! Anyway, it was final exams all week, so everyone was distracted and the schedule was all messed up. We did manage to get together at lunch a couple of times, just to sit outside and talk by ourselves. And I had gone over to his house after school twice during the week, but his mother was home, so we got to cuddle and kiss a bit, but that was all.

I couldn’t resist detouring down the hall where Dave’s locker is. The possibility of just seeing him was irresistible! And there he was, but with Andy and Chuck and a couple of others, fooling around with a soccer ball and taking up most of the hallway. Our eyes made contact as I edged past and Andy must have noticed Dave’s head tracking me as I went by because he looked over his shoulder to see who it was. I just gave a nerdy little wave and said, “Hi, guys,” as I continued on my way to my own locker. Huh. I felt a twinge of something tug at my emotions, and it was more than just wanting to be with Dave. I think I actually missed being part of a group of friends, something I hadn’t had in a few years, not since leaving Boston. I dumped my stuff, taking only what I needed to write the Physics exam. Then there would be one in English Lit. after lunch and that would be it for the year! Well, we were supposed to come in for a couple of classes next week, but they were mostly just to get our marks and stuff. A lot of kids blew them off, especially if they had summer jobs starting.

Physics was pretty easy. And anyway, the exam only counted for part of our final mark; the rest was from physics labs and classroom work, and I could probably have passed if I’d answered only half the questions, but I liked Physics and mostly it was common sense anyway. The exam finished early, so I was outside in the sunshine in my usual spot, thinking about Dave and what it was going to be like working with him, and being with him, and what I might do to his sexy body when we were alone again. I looked around from time to time, expecting to see him coming out to join me. The bell rang, and a lot more kids were streaming out of the building, but no Dave. Perhaps his exam ran late, or something. Andy, Chuck and the other guys had come out and were sitting together over on the other side of the basketball courts from me, chatting and digging into their lunch bags. But no Dave.

Fifteen minutes later, after I’d eaten my lunch, I saw Chuck nudge Andy and point in my direction. The others looked over at me too, then. Then all five of them got up, picked up their stuff and headed over to where I was sitting. Now what? I got that ice cold feeling in the pit of my stomach that I used to know so well from my old school. I hadn’t experienced that particular fear since coming back east, but that was because I had deliberately tried to remain as invisible as possible. As they came up to me, I prepared to receive the usual warning about how nerds and dweebs shouldn’t try to mingle with the cool kids then the usual threats about what would happen if I didn’t just disappear.

“Hey,” said Andy as he and Chuck dropped their backpacks on the ground and sat on one side of me. The other three whose names I couldn’t recall sat on the other side.

“Hey,” I said, looking around, waiting for the first move to happen.

“Dave was at your place last weekend,” Andy continued.

I nodded.

“I think he’s in love…”

Whoa. Panic. For so many reasons! They know? About Dave? About me? But how? Dave told me they’d kill him if they found out, and…

“…with all the tractors and stuff. That’s all he’s talked about all week. Hehe. He’s nuts about ’em, always has been.”

“Heh,” was all I could manage. “Um, is he around?”

“Oh, he forgot he had some Student Council thing to go to. Anyway, he said to ask if you wanted to come with us to the Burton trails tomorrow. My dad is driving me and Chuck and Dave. These guys don’t ride,” he indicated the nameless three. “We ride the Diamond trails, but there are other ones too, if you’re not used to the technical stuff. But Dave said you’d ridden singletrack before?”

“Um, yeah. Some. Uh. Sure, sounds like that’d be good. So, what time and where should I meet you guys?”

“Cool. We’re picking Dave up at his house around 10,” Andy said, getting up and reaching for his bag.

Chuck picked up his backpack and added, as he started to walk away, “Oh, and I took a look at your bike. You might want to change those brake pads before tomorrow. Too bad you don’t have proper pedals or suspension, man.”

I watched as they headed back to the school building. I wasn’t sure if I had just been issued an invitation or a challenge. I guess Dave hadn’t told them anything about my trails, or my other bike or anything other than playing around on the backhoe. The bell was ringing. I picked up my stuff and started walking back. At least Dave wanted me to come with them. And there would only be Andy and Chuck as well, and Andy seemed to be okay. Chuck was a bit snotty, I thought. I hoped I could keep up with them on the bike; for some reason, I was more worried about disappointing Dave in front of his friends than humiliating myself.

The English exam went okay, I think. Not my favourite subject by any means, but at least I’d read all the books and could remember most of the important stuff. And I was pretty good at padding my answers with lots of words. Heh. The atmosphere in the hallway as I made my way back to my locker was a mixture of anxiety over the exams and jubilation because school was almost over for the year. I stuffed as much as I could comfortably carry into my backpack. I’d come in for the one day next week and pick up the rest. Down at my bike, I unlocked the chain and wrapped it around the seat-post, then I bent down to look at my brake pads. They were worn, all right, but not that bad. I picked a piece of gravel out from the gap.

“Hey, nice butt!”

I jumped up and spun around to see Dave doubled over in laughter. I looked around in panic, in case someone was listening, but there was no one near enough. I started breathing again.

“Hehe! Your face! You should see your face!”

“Yeah, well wait ’til I’m finished rearranging YOUR face!” He sidestepped as I went for him, running a short distance before stopping as I crashed into him, both of us laughing and play fighting. “Hey, where were you at lunchtime?”

“Oh, I forgot that we were supposed to meet with the principal about the year-end assembly next week. They’re giving out some special award to one of the teachers. Not that anyone’s going to be there. Over half the kids in my class will have already started work. Or they’re taking off somewhere. Hey. Andy said they spoke to you about Burton tomorrow. You are coming, right?

“Uh, yeah. I mean, I don’t mind if you guys want to go alone. I don’t want to drag you down, you know, like if I can’t keep up or something. Chuck seemed to think…”

“What? No, man, you’ve gotta come! Have you ever been to Burton before? There’s trails all over the mountain, it’s awesome. And forget Chuck! He’s a pretty good rider, but I don’t think you’ll have too much trouble keeping up. Anyway, he’s probably added another couple of pounds of gear to his bike. Hehe. He has to have all the new go-fast stuff, but I think he just needs to lose a few pounds himself.”

We started walking towards his house, me pushing my bike alongside. I quizzed him about the other guys’ riding abilities, the trails, the facilities at the mountain, Andy’s dad and his truck. I hate going anywhere without knowing as much as I can ahead of time! I thought I knew the way to Dave’s house, I’d been there three times now, but as we were cutting across the little park, he went left instead of right. I stopped and looked puzzled when he grabbed my arm and pulled me along, saying “Just put your bike down here for a minute.” Then he pulled me closer and kissed me on the lips, pausing long enough to say, “We’re hidden, nobody can see.” I glanced around as far as I could while our lips were locked together, and it was true: a secret spot. Dave’s tongue was already busy and mine picked up the rhythm quickly. We hugged and pressed as close together as we could.

“Mmmm. I’ve been thinking about doing that all day!” he said, as we broke apart. We could hear kids coming into the park from the other end, so reluctantly I picked up my bike and we continued on our way. His mother’s car was in the driveway, so there would be no fooling around at his house, and anyway I wanted to get back home to make sure my other bike was adjusted, lubed and ready for the next day. I didn’t want anything to slow me down! I told him that I’d be there before ten o’clock the next morning. He said to just bring enough money to cover the trail fee and lunch, and to fill my water bottle at home because the water at the mountain had an odd taste. I hopped onto my bike and, waving goodbye, set off for home.

Once home, I checked out my good mountain bike from end to end, making sure everything was in perfect adjustment. Up on the maintenance stand, I ran it up and down through all the gears a number of times, tweaking it here and there until I was satisfied. I took a short test ride out to the gravel pit and back, then wiped it down and put it away again. I was still a little nervous about how I’d do compared to the others the next day, despite Dave’s reassurances. I spent some time obsessing about whether it would be better to eat a big meal that night and a light breakfast tomorrow, or the other way around. I can feel myself get bogged down in indecision and I hate that, but I can’t help it! I get obsessive about these things! I could hear that Dad was home and at least a couple of other vehicles had come in as well, so the usual Friday night gathering was getting underway. I wandered over to the house to see what there might be to eat, and found Dad in the kitchen, doing something to a big platter of ribs.

“Hey, Dad!”

“Hi, Chris. How did the exams go?”

“Good. Physics was easy; English wasn’t too bad, either.”

“Great. Listen, you have to go in to school on Monday, right? Can you and Dave start with Theo on Tuesday then? It looks like the weather will hold and I want to get going on those lawns before it gets too hot. Oh, and if you know someone else who’s looking for work, we need one more. They’ll be on the crew with you, so someone who can handle stacking sod all day.”

“I don’t know anyone offhand, but I’m going biking with Dave’s friends tomorrow, so I’ll ask.” I watched as he slathered some special concoction onto the stack of raw meat. It smelled good, and I don’t have any qualms about eating meat, but suddenly that’s not what I wanted right then. “Um, is there any pasta left over from the other night?” Dad always made way too much. “I’d kinda like to eat early tonight.” Plus I’d recalled that pro bike racers ate a lot of pasta.

“Sure. Probably a good idea, because these won’t be ready for at least another hour and a half. In the left-hand fridge, somewhere near the bottom…” Dad’s voice trailed off as he carried the meat out to the patio. There were two refrigerators in the kitchen, and another one out by the grill. Dad must have been a caterer in another life. I found the pasta, which still smelled wonderful, dug out a large amount and put it in a microwave container and nuked it. I scouted around until I found some boxes of pastries and extracted a couple of those. I had plenty to drink in the little fridge in the motorhome, so when the microwave beeped I balanced the pastries on top of the pasta and headed for my little RV home.

I checked my messages as I ate. There were a couple of emails from guys back in San Diego. One of them was coming east to Philadelphia with his family in August, then they were going to Orlando, and he wondered if that was anywhere close to me. Like, no! More than 400 miles away. Don’t these people ever look at maps? I answered these, then checked around on Facebook and looked at a couple of forums. I Googled the park at Burton and found a trail map and a bunch of comments from guys who had ridden there. I examined the map until I had a good idea of the layout, and a couple of the comments were useful, too. Feeling a little more sure of how things would go tomorrow, I browsed over to read some more chapters of this story about vampires I’d found. It felt weird not having any homework or studying to do! I got into bed a little earlier than usual, and I lay there thinking about having Dave staying here for at least a week. We’d see how things worked out after that, but I was pretty sure we could convince Dad and Dave’s parents that it was a good idea, somehow. Just thinking about it got me all hard, but I resisted jerking off; I had to save all my energy for tomorrow. I’m not sure which I wanted more: to keep from embarrassing Dave, or to impress his stuck-up friends.

In the morning I probably checked over my gear at least three times before it was time to leave for Dave’s house. I was getting nervous about the whole thing, and nearly called him to cancel out, but I didn’t. Once I got going, being on the bike calmed me down, as it always did, and the ride into town was good. Even though I got to Dave’s house with plenty of time to spare, he was already outside tuning up his bike and getting ready to go. A black pickup pulled into the driveway and Andy, Chuck and a man who looked to be a little younger than my dad got out. Andy introduced me to his dad, who disappeared into the house. As Dave and Andy were talking, I could see Chuck looking around and then realizing that the cool bike next to Dave’s must be mine, and it sure wasn’t the crappy beater that I ride to school. Heh.

As we loaded Dave’s and my bikes into the bed of the pickup, I saw that there were three others already there. That meant that Andy’s dad was going to ride, too. I guessed that the expensive frame with the trick suspension, disc brakes and fancy computer was his. There was a proper bike rack bolted to the bed of the pickup, but it could only fit four frames. Andy produced a heavy blanket from inside the truck to wrap around my bike. Then Dave, Chuck and I squeezed into the back seat, me in the middle, the other two got in front and we set off. Chuck was careful not to let his leg brush against mine, and Dave seemed to be doing the opposite. His arm was spread across the seat back, and the smell of him brought back mental images of the two of us together in my bed. I had to think of other things or something would come up that would really make Chuck wonder about me!

After half an hour, we rolled into the parking lot at Burton. There were a lot of big trailers over in one corner, with sponsors’ names and logos all over them. Andy’s dad headed over to see, while we unloaded the bikes and got organized. Dave clued me in that Andy’s father had a company that marketed sporting goods, mostly winter stuff, plus hiking boots and poles, but he knew the people that ran the trails here. Apparently he also knew a few of the guys in those trailers because he called us over and introduced us. There was to be a mountain bike race tomorrow, and things were being set up. Plus, a few of the teams were here today to scope out the trails. Best of all, we got passes to spend the day riding for free! He was going to stay and chat for a bit, and we’d meet up later. The four of us walked our bikes through to the other side of the trailers, glancing sideways at the team riders who were mostly sitting around drinking coffee and looking like they’d just woken up.

I knew that we started with a pretty good climb to get up to the trails we were going to ride. Chuck had stopped to make some adjustment to some new piece of gear and Andy was with him, so Dave and I got to the hill first. Dave went first, then I followed. It wasn’t too bad, nothing steeper than on my own trails, but it was a cruel way to warm up! We were about two-thirds of the way up and I heard someone coming up fast and close behind me. If Chuck and Andy had caught us already, and while going uphill, then I was seriously outclassed! Crap! There was nowhere to get off to the side at this part of the trail, so I summoned up every ounce of energy I could muster and kept on going. Finally the trail widened out enough so that I could let them go by.

“Lookin’ good, dude!” It was two of the team riders who pulled around me and chased on up the hill. I spared a glance at their Lycra-covered butts, then checked quickly behind for anyone else, but the trail was empty. Dave was just putting his foot down when I got to the top.

“Man, those two passed me like I was standing still,” he said. “And they weren’t breathing hard at all!”

“I know! Awesome!” I paused to catch my breath after that little uphill sprint. “I thought it might be Chuck and Andy, at first.”

“Ha! I don’t think so! But here they come, now,” he said, nodding toward the brow of the hill while clipping one foot back into the pedal. Andy appeared, followed by Chuck, both of them breathing hard and being followed by more of the team riders, who cut around them and flashed past. “We’d better move out of the way, here.”

We had the choice of half a dozen trails that branched out from where we were. I was a little relieved to see a couple of guys marking off the toughest one for the race tomorrow and directing Dave to take one of the other loops. I clipped in and followed behind, close enough to see how he handled the corners, but leaving enough room for sudden braking. He obviously knew the track well, picking the best lines and handling the jumps with ease. He’d yell to warn about rocks or holes or soft spots, and it didn’t take me long to get into the rhythm of the trail, linking turns and keeping my speed up. I started to relax and have fun. On the loopbacks I could see that Andy and Chuck were not far behind us, and I could hear them whooping and yelling back and forth too.

Dave went to the right at a fork, calling out to watch for jumps, and they came up quickly. Nothing too high, just enough to get some good air; three of them in a row. Then a couple of slightly higher ones that were just about at my limit, but I finessed the landings okay. I could see an even higher ramp coming up, but it was clear that most riders took the detour around it, as Dave did. I followed him, being in no rush to break any bones or anything. He skidded to a stop under some signs where several trails converged. I came to a halt beside him, with Chuck and Andy coming in a couple of seconds later.

“Hey man,” Andy said, punching me on the shoulder, “You sure you’ve never been here before? I have a hard time keeping up with Dave through that last section!”

“Dude, you were flying!” Chuck added.

“So which way do you want to go from here?” Dave asked.

“Not Larry’s Leap, there’s always too much traffic.”

“And not Shooter, it’s almost straight downhill.”

“So, Snakebite!” called Dave, taking off in that direction. After riding for another hour, our stomachs were urgently demanding lunch, so we made our way back to the parking lot and restaurant area. Andy’s dad was still hanging out with the racing crowd. Or maybe he was back there again after ripping up the trails. But it looked like his bike hadn’t moved. While Andy and Chuck went over to check on any lunch plans, Dave and I wandered over to check out the team bikes and contemplate the riders in their team jerseys and shorts.

“You’d look good in bike shorts like those,” Dave mentioned, secretly squeezing my butt.

“You, too. And one of those jerseys. But then everyone would be all over your hot body!”

He checked for eavesdroppers behind us. “Hehe. I wouldn’t mind doing something to your hot body right now!” His hand slid up under my t-shirt.

“Shhh!” I brushed his hand away. “You’ll just have to wait until Tuesday!”

Andy and Chuck were heading in our direction. Dave said to me, “Glad you came? I told you it’d be cool.”

“Yeah, I’m glad I came. I don’t know why I always thought those two were kinda stuck-up and snobby, y’know?” I looked into those deep blue eyes. “I guess I thought you were, too.”

“You thought that? Huh. Nah, they just didn’t know you. None of us did; you’ve always avoided everyone all the time, since you got here. Like, you were way off in some other world.”

I thought about that for a bit. “Yeah, I guess I was. It seemed safer. But I think I’m ready to come back now.”

Published November 1, 2011

Leave a Reply

Marked fields are required: *