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All characters depicted in this story are over eighteen years of age. Any resemblance to any person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
I was not happy to say the least. It was the summer before my senior year of high school, I had just turned eighteen, and how was I going to spend it? Working on my grandparent’s farm in the middle of nowhere. I was currently riding in the passenger seat of my Mom’s BMW, watching the wide open grass fields of Kansas roll by. My forehead vibrated against the window of the glass as I glared outward at my new found prison.
“There’s where you’ll be going to school in the fall,” Mom said as we passed a large cluster of buildings. The school was surrounded by evergreen trees, giving it a stark contrast to the corn fields that rose up in the mid July heat around it. My glare was unchanging as I watched the school roll past.
Let me back up a little bit.
My name is Jason Clark. I was being transferred from Wichita to Dawson, all because I had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. A “friend” of mine had invited me to a small party over at what he had claimed was his brother’s house, and then abandoned me along with over a pound of marijuana when the cops had kicked in the door.
I had managed to convince the judge of my innocence and avoid jail time, but my parents were not convinced. Of course, the drug charge on top of an already small list of run-ins with the law since I was sixteen didn’t help matters. Thus, they were moving me from a city of over three hundred thousand people to a town of less then two hundred. “For your own good” was phrase they had used whenever I tried to argue against them.
Mom turned right off of the main highway and onto a smaller blacktop. A few abandoned, rusting oil wells and storage tanks sat on either side of the road, making the place feel even more abandoned by humanity. On our left, a set of railroad tracks cut through the Kansas prairie. But, like the tanks and wells, the iron rails had gathered rust and weeds from years of neglect.
“I’m sure you’re going to enjoy this,” Mom said, trying to break the uneasy silence.
“I’d rather be with my friends,” I muttered.
“Your ‘friends’ are the reason you’re here, Jason. Besides, I’m sure there’s all kinds of people around here your age. You’ll make some new friends in no time,” she said. I simply grunted before I returned to resting my head against the window. The car ride continued on in silence after that. I watched as the fields changed between the tall greens of corn, to the low golden waves of wheat, and the wide wild grass of pasture.
The car made a sudden bump as the tracks that had been running on our left suddenly changed course and crossed the road. My forehead cracked against the glass, causing me to grimace in pain.
“There’s Dawson,” Mom said, oblivious to what had just occurred. I rubbed my forehead and allowed my vision to clear before I looked to where she was pointing. A single grain elevator rose above a small cluster of buildings and trees. My heart sank further as I watched the small town draw closer and closer. Unlike the massive concrete cylinders that stood several stories tall along the rail yards in Wichita, this grain elevator was barely three stories tall and made entirely from metal. Even from here, I could see the rust forming on the roof of one of the storage cylinders.
I let out a sigh before I returned to my original position of looking out the window. Before all this I had plans, goals for this summer and my senior year. As a young man, freshly legal, I was hoping that I was going to finally lose my virginity this summer. I had tried several times in the past, what teenage male hadn’t? But like most teens, none of my attempts had been successful. Now as the small town drew closer, it was looking like that I was going to spend another year as a virgin.
The town was about as small as I expected. Three blocks wide east to west, three blocks long north to south, with the railroad marking the town’s southern boundary. Main Street was the only street that was paved, all the rest were gravel. I watched as the town rolled by, spying a few guys my age playing basketball at a rundown court next to Main Street.
‘At least there’s someone in this town that’s my age’ I thought to myself. The black BMW continued east, passing the town and crossing a creek that ran along the town’s eastern edge. The road turned from blacktop to gravel, making the ride much bumpier then it had been. We suddenly turned right onto a small dirt trail that led through a field toward a small cluster of trees.
The farmhouse was a large two story structure with faded and flaking white paint. A large shed sat next to the house with a few trucks and a tractor visible inside. The barn, which sat across the driveway from the shed, had stone making up its ground floor with shining metal tin rising up to make up the hayloft.
A large black and white Australian Shepard rested on the back of a flatbed truck in the shade çıtır escort of the shed, its pink tongue hanging out of its mouth as it panted from the heat. It stared at us with icy pale blue eyes as Mom brought the vehicle to a halt.
“There’s Sam, you remember Sam don’t you Jason?” she asked as she put the vehicle in park and shut it off. I vaguely recognized the dog from my last visit here. He had been a small pup then, not the fully grown work dog that he was now. I didn’t say anything as I opened my door and climbed out into the summer heat.
I rose to my full height of six foot two and stretched, feeling my mussels pop after the long car ride. Reaching down into the car, I grabbed my hat and placed it on my head. I wasn’t skinny by any means, but I wasn’t fat either. Rather I was broad shouldered and built like I was ready to work or play football. I was wearing a brown t-shirt, blue jeans, and a pair of worn work boots, along with the tan Stetson marshal that now rested on my head.
For those of you who don’t know, my hat is the same style worn by the main character in the TV series ‘Justified’. Most people assumed I wore the hat because I was such a big fan of the show. In reality, I had been wearing it long before the show had ever premiered. I wore it for two reasons: it felt comfortable, and it irritated my mother to no end. She always insisted that a kid in the city should never wear a cowboy hat, but I kept sticking the damn thing on my head every time I stepped out the front door regardless.
“Well well, look who came dressed to work,” called a deep rough voice that reminded me of Sam Elliot’s. I turned toward the back porch of the house and spotted my grandfather. He was a tall, skinny man wearing blue overalls and a sun faded white cowboy hat. A black pipe hung out of his mouth with bluish white smoke curling up around his face.
“Hi Grandpa,” I said. I may have been upset with my parents and this whole situation, but that didn’t mean that I blamed him or Grandma for any of this. If anything, they were in the same boat I was.
“You two made it just in time, your grandmother just finished with supper. Come on inside and get yourselves something to eat,” the farmer said before he turned around and opened the door to the house. I took a moment to check my cell phone. It was fifteen minutes after six.
“Supper? Doesn’t he mean Dinner?” I asked in confusion.
“They’ll explain everything later,” Mom replied before leading the way into the farmhouse. I grabbed my rucksack full of spare clothes and followed her inside out of the heat. After saying hello to Grandma and eating meal which consisted of hamburgers and baked potatoes, I bid my mother farewell as she left to return to Wichita.
“You stay out of the cards, Jason,” Mom said as she drove past.
“Don’t stay a stranger now, Sally,” Grandpa called as she pulled out of the driveway and vanished into a cloud of dust. I stood and watched, unsure of what do with myself now. Turning around and heading back into the house, I hung my hat on a hook by the door before grabbing my rucksack.
“If you two don’t mind, I’ll be headed to bed now,” I said. My grandmother nodded.
“Of course, Jason dear. You must have had a long car ride, have a good sleep,” she said. I climbed up the old, worn wooden stairs, following the layout of the house purely from memory. My grandparents had raised three children counting my mother, so at the top of the stairs sat three bedroom doorways to choose from. I wound up picking my uncle’s old room. It was a simple, small room with a desk under the far window, a small narrow bed in the corner, and an open closet to hang clothing in.
I sat my rucksack by the desk and closed the door, too tired and irritated to really care about unpacking. Sitting down on the bed, I kicked my boots off and plugged my phone in to charge. Taking another look around the small room, I sighed inwardly. It looked like the room a monk would get at a monastery.
“Just perfect,” I muttered under my breath before I got ready for bed and settled in for a long night of getting use to the new place.
Morning came much quicker than I anticipated. I awoke to find sunlight streaming in through the window. A quick glance at my phone told me it was ten in the morning. With a groan, I rolled out of bed and got dressed. I even slid my boots on in the process, but I refused to lace them up until later.
Walking downstairs, I found a plate of breakfast waiting on the dining room table for me. Bacon, eggs, toast, hash browns, all things that I absolutely loved for breakfast. And all things my hardline health mother had absolutely forbidden me to eat.
“Good morning Jason. It’s been so long since you stayed with us, I wasn’t sure if your breakfast tastes had changed. I hope I got everything right,” Grandma said as she appeared in the kitchen doorway. I sat down at the table and gave her a genuine smile.
“Everything looks perfect, thanks,” I said before I demetevler escort dug in. She smiled before she turned and disappeared into the kitchen again. I wolfed down the food before I finally laced up my boots and grabbed my hat. I just knew that I had a long day of work ahead of me. Stepping outside into the yard, I found Grandpa leaning on a shovel as he looked out over the farmyard. His black pipe puffed in his mouth like usual.
“Here,” my grandfather said as he tossed me a set of keys without even looking in my direction, “Head into town, get a feeling for the lay of the land.” I looked between the keys and my grandfather in confusion.
“Don’t I have chores or something to do?” I asked. I had been sent here expecting to work, and that’s all I had really assumed I was going to get done.
“We’ll worry about that later. Right now, take the flat bed, head into town find yourself a friend or two. You look pitiful just standin’ here with your teeth in your mouth.” I thanked grandpa in earnest, who simply grinned around his pipe. Sam simply yawned at me as I approached, showing off his rows of white teeth before lying back down lazily.
“You gonna ride into town with me?” I asked. The dog perked up slightly, but otherwise didn’t budge. Shaking my head, I climbed into the truck’s red cab and started the engine. The 1976 Ford F150 roared to life and chugged like the well-oiled machine that it was. I backed the truck out of the shed and sped off down the driveway. Even though I had my driver’s license for two years, my parents had refused to let me get a vehicle. My only real experience came from the few times when I was allowed to drive the BMW, and when the usual driver in my group of friends was way too drunk.
Needless to say, the freedom I was experiencing now was refreshing. To feel the roar of the machine and the wind from the open window was almost enough to make me forget the anger I harbored over being sent here in the first place. As I turned onto Main Street, I took a moment to study the town’s main drag more in detail. Out of all the buildings, only a couple of houses had a second story. Many of them had once been shops, but they now stood derelict and collapsing. As I neared the railroad crossing, I noticed that one of the shop fronts was still in good condition, and open.
The place was called “The Dawson Meat Market” according to the sigh that hung above the front door. It didn’t look like much, but I could see someone standing behind the counter inside. Pulling the truck into a parking space, I climbed out and walked inside.
“Howdy,” the man behind the counter greeted. He looked to be in his mid to late fifties with parts of his hair starting to turn gray.
“Umm…Hi,” I replied as I looked around. Aside from the glass under the counter, there were only two shelves. The one to my left contained various snacks and chips, while the one to my right held table salt and flour.
“You’re new in town ain’t you? Can’t say that I’ve ever seen you in here before,” the man said. I nodded.
“I’m staying with my grandparents, I just got in yesterday,” I said. The man looked past me to the truck outside. His eyes lit up and he broadened into a smile.
“Ah I see, you must be Ben Clark’s grandson. I’m Randall Peterson, your grandfather and I do a lot of business together,” he said as he held out his hand. I shook it.
“Nice to meet you, my name’s Jason.” I refrained from asking what kind of business Randall and my grandfather had. Judging by the meat hooks that hung from the ceiling in the back, I’d rather not know.
“So what can I do for you today, Jason?” Randall asked.
“You got anything cold to drink?” I asked, noticing an older cooler standing behind the shop owner. Randall nodded as he opened the cooler and produced a small glass bottle with a brown liquid in it.
“Here, this is some of my wife’s home brewed tea. We usually sell it for a couple bucks, but you can have this one on the house. Consider it a Welcome to Dawson gift, and payment for taking your grandmother this for me,” he said as he placed the bottle on the counter, followed closely by a white paper bundle filled with dried sandwich meat.
“Thanks. Do you know any place where people hang out around here? The town seems kinda dead if you don’t mind me saying.”
“If there’s no one down at the ball court you could check at the filling station around the corner, there’s usually someone there,” Randall said. I didn’t recall seeing anyone at the basketball court when I had passed it on my way in to town, so the gas station would be my best bet. Saying my thanks and scooping up the items, I returned to the truck. Sam perked up as I approached and let out a small whine, licking his chops once as he looked at the small bundle in my hand.
Sam cocked his head to the side and licked again.
“No means no, Sam. It’s for Grandma.” The dog barked once before laying back down again, as if to tell me to fuck off. I shook dikmen escort my head and climbed back into the cab before driving around the corner.
The gas station was a low lime green building that had a single pump and a garage. Only one person seemed to be around. A guy in his teens was leaning against the open garage door frame. He wore a faded pair of overalls, a grease covered white shirt, and a sun faded Yankees baseball cap. Judging by the amount of grease and motor oil that covered him, I guessed he worked in the garage and was taking a break with the heat.
“You lost stranger?” My eyes narrowed as I put the truck into park. There was something about this guy’s voice that seemed off. Maybe it was the twang that came with it, or the fact that it was quite as deep as I would have guessed.
“I just got into town and my granddad said to go out and get to know the place,” I replied, still sizing him up.
“People around here aren’t gonna like it too much if you’re stopping and staring at everyone,” the guy said as he stood up straight and made his way over to the passenger window of the truck.
“Sorry. Like I said I just got here, and you’re the first person I’ve seen who’s even remotely my age.” The guy’s hazel eyes narrowed slightly as he studied me up and down.
“What’s your name?”
“Jason Clark.” His eyes brightened and his lips cracked into a grin at that.
“You must be the grand kid Ben was talking about. I’m Charlie,” he said as he stuck out his hand, which I shook.
“So where you from Jason?” Charlie continued.
“Wichita.” The brightness in Charlie’s eyes returned.
“A city boy, eh? Well I’ll tell you what Jason, I’ll ride along with you for a little while and show you around. That way people are less inclined to take a shot at you when you’re staring at them all creeper like.” I couldn’t tell if Charlie was joking or not, but by that point it didn’t matter as he was shouting inside the shop, letting his father know that he was leaving.
As we rode around town, I got to know more about Charlie. His last name was Peterson, meaning that Randall was his uncle. Charlie explained that aside from the Clarks, most of the families living in Dawson were distant cousins, the modern day descendants of the town’s founders.
“It makes dating a bitch,” Charlie said, “It’s too risky to date someone from here, so we gotta go to Herington or Lost Springs or White City if we want some action.”
“What, they don’t approve of sleeping with your cousins here? This place is far enough out in the boonies that you’d think it’d be a common occurrence.”
“Oh yeah, like we haven’t heard that one before. Just keep your pride tight, Jason. You’re the new meat in town, and that means all the girls are gonna want to get their hooks into you.” I snorted at that. I had already resigned myself to the fate of the eternal virgin this summer.
“Sure, like anyone would go for me,” I said.
“Hey, driving ten miles may not seem like much for a city boy like you. But out here with high gas prices, you can bet your sweet ass they’ll be taking a second look at you,” Charlie said. I looked around outside of the cab. We were almost done with our second circling of the town.
“Where is everyone anyway? With the way you talk, you’d think that the town is full of people.”
“It’s over 90 degrees outside. Chances are everyone’s either at home in the air conditioning or down at the creek.” We were stopped at a stop sign now, and I took the chance to wipe away the sweat that had formed on my brow.
“Neither one of those sounds like a bad idea right now.”
“You ever been swimming outside of a public pool, city boy?” Charlie asked. I shook my head. All of the streams and creeks in Wichita were too polluted to swim in, so a pool was all I had been limited to. As we turned toward the railroad tracks, I noticed that Charlie was smirking out of the corner of my eye.
“It’s an interesting feeling, you know? Knowing that you’re about to change someone’s life.”
On Charlie’s instruction, I parked the truck along the side of the tracks next to the old grain elevator. The two of us then set off down the tracks, following the rusting old rails east.
“The railroad can’t decide if they want to use this line again or just come through and tear out the tracks. So for the time being, everyone uses the old line to their advantage,” Charlie explained as we neared an old wooden bridge. From here, I could easily see why this place would be a popular swimming spot. The creek emptied into a large, deep pool beneath the bridge.
Trees and the bridge itself provided shade from the hot summer sun, and the vegetation growing around it was just enough to provide some privacy.
As we neared the swimming hole, I realized that I heard voices. A few guys and girls were swimming around the pool. One of the girls, a tall brunette with an hour glass figure, stepped out of the water when she noticed Charlie and me.
“Hey Charlie, who’s your friend?” she asked, placing her hands on her hips. I couldn’t help but stare. She was wearing a purple bikini and the sunlight glistened off of her skin with all the water droplets. If I had to guess, I would have said she was about a D cup, and she had no problem with showing them off.
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