The contractors we’d hired were in the process of gutting the existing family room and would soon be installing all new built-in bookshelves, a new false acoustic ceiling and hardwood flooring. Another set of contractors was installing all new electrical wiring and Ethernet cabling to support not only our home theater, but every connected device in every corner of the apartment. They were installing new Wi-Fi mesh routers, two new FiOS optical network terminals, or ONTs, and a brand-new security system. Upstairs we were installing a full suite of exercise equipment with which to keep in shape. The building had a perfectly good gym, but why leave the apartment when we could exercise in the nude without even bothering to brush our teeth?
We were turning what had been labeled the family room and what was considered to be the fourth bedroom into a true home theater with an in-ceiling, drop-down screen, a hidden laser 4K HDR Dolby Vision projector and a full reference 7.2.4 Dolby Atmos, surround-sound speaker system. The prototype Class D amplifiers I designed had worked perfectly, and Jitendra arranged for a small production run of a hundred of them to be fabricated in Mexico and shipped ahead to our apartment – more than enough for every speaker in not only the home theater, but also in most every room in the apartment. Each amp was capable of supporting 1000-watt peak and 250-watt continuous power, was compatible with power outlets worldwide from 100 to 250-volts, had built-in Wi-Fi and ethernet and supported DSD, DXD and MQA natively.
With self-programming digital crossovers and nonlinear Dirac transfer functions, they could bypass the built-in crossovers in high-end speakers such as ours, and perfectly compensate for nonlinear speaker and room acoustics. They were capable of driving each speaker with greater transparency, efficiency and precision than any other amplifier on the market. At least in my opinion, anyway. The amps came off the same production line as the servers, which was why they could be produced so quickly, but because they were much easier to produce, they were seen as a potential moneymaker. Applazon would introduce them for sale during the week of Black Friday, in the late fall, at a price point well below that of any comparable product currently on the market.
True theater-style, reclining leather seats were going into to our home theater, with enough seating for twelve people to watch at once. Instead of using blackout curtains, we opted to install room-darkening motorized solar shades over the large north- and south-facing windows. Used in conjunction with one of the new narrow illumination angle projection screens, we could preserve picture contrast without the need to block the views of the New York skyline.
A small wet bar with its own fridge, stove and microwave were going in to allow for food preparation without missing any of the action. We were spending as much money on that one room as many people would spend on an entire house, but it was our corporation that was funding it, at corporate tax rates. As we’d discussed with the Walters over dessert in New York, someday we’d have children, and then we’d have to make some significant changes to the apartment, but for now it was going to be a phenomenal pad for a couple of gay teens.
Once we’d made all the arrangements for the apartment and returned to Omaha, we decided to ship what worldly possessions we had ahead of us so they’d be in the apartment when we arrived. We inventoried everything we had and boxed up and shipped what we intended to have with us in New York, including nearly all our clothes as well as my bike. That bike would always hold a special place in my life, no matter how many bikes that came after it. Actually, Henry and I had considered buying a pair of mountain bikes for our vacation but decided against it as the national parks we’d be visiting didn’t allow bikes on any of the trails.
We carefully packed everything we thought we’d need for the next several weeks on our trip, then we placed several orders with Applazon for top-of-the-line, backcountry backpacks, pup tents, sleeping bags and other essential camping gear. We tried not to go overboard, particularly since the Tesla had limited capacity in the trunk; the truth was that most of the trip would be spent in comfortable beds, camping only when it afforded us better opportunities for sightseeing. I packed up all my new photography gear and even bought a new high-end Applazon tablet on which to review my photos and do some basic editing. Ultimately, I’d download them to a not-yet-purchased computer in our new home in New York, where I’d make full use of my skills with Photoshop. Lastly, I had the Tesla serviced and checked over thoroughly to be sure it was fully functional for the trip ahead. It was three years old now and showing some signs of its age, but the battery pack still had a capacity of 80 kWh, which was still 98% of its original specs.
After saying many tearful goodbyes, we drove up Interstate 29 to Sioux City, Iowa, and then followed the Missouri River to Yankton, South Dakota. From there we drove north to Mitchell, SD, and our first charging station. It was Henry’s first chance to see how fast chargers worked; however, while the Tesla was charging, he also saw how limited our choices for food could be around the location of a Tesla Supercharger. In this case the charger was located behind a Dairy Queen. Other than that, there was a grocery with a deli counter and a Los 3 Amigos Mexican restaurant across the street. I was a bit nervous about eating Mexican at an unknown place, particularly from what looked like a dive, but I definitely wasn’t in the mood for DQ burgers and fries. I might have to forego my plans to give up red meat for this trip, but for Dairy Queen? The Mexican place actually had a 4.5-star rating on Yelp, so that’s where we ate. Let’s face it, Chipotle it wasn’t, but it was decent, and it was fast.
The Tesla was fully charged by the time we returned to it, and with the sunroof fully open and all the windows down, we stripped to our shorts and got back in, heading west on Interstate 90, past an ever-increasing series of billboards imploring us to stop at Wall Drug. We’d certainly be stopping in Wall, SD, but any time at Wall Drug would be out of curiosity and not to buy anything. Henry was surprised that we were billed close to twenty dollars to charge the car. He’d been shocked. “Fuck, that’s even more than a half-tank of regular would’ve cost.”
“Yes, but we’re paying a premium price for a fast charge,” I pointed out. “If we were driving a high-performance, gas-powered sports sedan, we’d be filling the tank with premium gas, not regular. Do the math and you’ll realize the cost is nearly the same. The cost at home is less than half that, and there’s a 250 kWh free allowance per year, which I used up on the Midwestern trip. I figure we’re going to use close to a thousand kWh of electricity on this trip, so, we’ll spend about $260 and change, which isn’t all that much. With gas, in a gas guzzler as nice as this car, figure about 200 gallons of premium gas. Add in the higher maintenance costs and there’s no comparison.”
“Wow, got it,” Henry replied.
The trip on the interstate was pretty boring, but with the autopilot turned on, the car didn’t practically drive itself, it did drive itself. With adaptive cruise control, the car would adjust its speed for the vehicles in front of it, slowing down whenever it got stuck behind a truck going uphill, but relying on me to change lanes if I wished to pass. The autopilot on the Model 3 was much more sophisticated than that, anticipating the need to pass a truck that was slowing down and automatically watching for an opportunity to switch lanes and pass at a safe speed. It was pretty freakin’ cool. It also significantly reduced the risk of being stopped for speeding. Had I been driving manually, my speed would have certainly crept up as I drove on a road that at times was straight as an arrow for as far as the eye could see. The Tesla’s autopilot, however, didn’t get bored by a monotonous road, and it maintained the set speed and even reduced it appropriately whenever the speed limit was reduced. At first, I resented that it seemed to hold us back, but our plans were based on going the speed limit, so what was the point on taking a chance on getting a speeding ticket?
There was another reason I was glad to have a computer keeping its eyes on the road. The thing was, dressed only in his shorts, Henry Gonzalez was the sexiest boy alive, hands down. I couldn’t help but catch glances of his incredibly virile body. The temptation was too great and with the stereo playing GoGo Penguin, my right hand found its way to the inside of Henry’s left thigh. Slowly, I rubbed my hand up and down his thigh, feeling my own member straining against the fabric of my briefs. Henry surprised the hell of me when he unfastened his belt, unzipped his zipper and dropped his shorts and boxers in one smooth motion, exposing himself for any trucker who might be passing by to see. Grabbing his member in my hand, I slowly stroked him, but it didn’t take long. It was exciting, jerking my boyfriend in a place where anyone could see us. When I finished, I licked my hand while Henry cleaned himself as best he could. He’d unloaded a good deal more than I’d seen from him in some time.
No sooner had Henry recovered from his encounter with my hand than he was fumbling with my waist and zipper, too. He couldn’t remove my shorts or briefs, but he wasted little time in exposing my member, and then he did me one better, going down on me, even though the space was severely limited by the steering wheel. He didn’t let that deter him in the least as he applied his extraordinary skill in bringing me to the edge, only to leave me hanging there on the brink of my release as he licked and nibbled his way around. Finally, I told him I couldn’t stand it any longer, and besides which, I might need to take the wheel at any time. At last, he gave me what I wanted and sucked up every drop. It was the first but certainly not the last such episode on the trip.
The next Tesla Supercharger was in Wall, SD, within walking distance of the huge complex known as Wall Drug. For better or worse, Wall had the only Tesla Supercharger or EV charging station of any kind for more than a hundred miles, so we were going to have the chance to return here more often than I’d cared to. My original thought had been to stay in Wall for three nights and to make daily excursions into Badlands National Park on each of the next two days, but Henry did his homework as promised, and we realized that two nights in Wall would be sufficient, as we could make the trip through the southern division of the park all the way to the town of Custer on a single charge with power to spare. The one sacrifice we were making for driving an electric vehicle was in staying in Wall in the first place instead of camping in the park or staying at the park’s Cedar Pass Lodge. We could’ve done that if the park had even a Level 2 charging station or if we had a gas-powered car, but neither was the case.
So, while the car was charging, we sought out the best place to eat in town. There wasn’t much to choose from as most of the so-called restaurants had their share of one-star reviews on Yelp. Even the Subway had only a star-and-a-half, and I would’ve thought it was the safest bet. For lack of an alternative, the best place to eat in town seemed to be the Western Art Gallery Café, located within the sprawling complex of Wall Drug. The menu was about what one might expect for a family restaurant catering to droves of tourists on their way to the Black Hills of South Dakota. The only unusual items on the menu were the buffalo burger and the buffalo hot dog. Apparently, buffalo meat was popular here, if nothing else, as a tourist draw. Henry actually opted for the buffalo burger with bacon, cheese and fries. I might have considered the chicken sandwich, but it was most definitely deep-fried. To their credit, they had a vegan garden burger, which turned out to be as tasteless as it sounded. I did try a bite of Henry’s buffalo burger, but it tasted pretty much like any other hamburger.
Both Henry and I were still pretty starved even after eating our burgers and fries, so we looked in the dessert case and decided that the homemade donuts looked to be pretty good and a better bet than the pie a la mode or the homemade cookies. But then our server suggested something that wasn’t even on the menu: a frosted-doughnut, ice-cream sandwich. She made two for each of us, one consisting of a chocolate-frosted doughnut sandwiched between two chocolate-chip cookies with a scoop of chocolate ice cream in the center, and one consisting of a maple-frosted doughnut sandwiched between two toffee cookies, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the center. They were both delicious, especially the maple-frosted ones. The dessert made the meal, and we gave our server a thirty-percent tip for her effort.
Wall Drug was closed by the time we finished the meal, so we retrieved the Tesla and drove the short distance to our lodging. Again, there wasn’t much to choose from, but wishing to avoid the noise of being near the center of town, we’d opted to reserve a cabin at a motel that was on the other side of the interstate. Calling the place the Frontier Cabins was a bit of a misnomer. Although fashioned to look a bit like log cabins on the inside, they were simply wood-frame, single-room huts, spaced side-by-side like trailers in a trailer park. However, the room was decent and the bed comfortable even if the bathroom was a bit dated. For two nights it was adequate, but I wasn’t sure where Yelp came up with four-and-a-half stars. Having run away when I was thirteen and having stayed in mosquito-netted tents during my world travels, I had nothing to complain about. Maybe if one graded it compared to the other lodging in Wall, it rated four stars, but compared to places like the Four Seasons in New York, well, two stars would’ve been generous.
With nothing better to do and nothing of interest on TV, Henry and I spent the next few hours making love. Short of the tawdry episode on the road, this would be our first-time making love as an independent couple. We both knew we’d visit Henry’s parents from time to time, at least twice annually, and we’d likely visit the Rodriguez family and Greg and Billy, too, but the key word was visit. We now had our own home in New York, and we’d live there as a couple. Eventually we’d start our own family, and when we visited Omaha, it would be as adult children returning home, perhaps with grandchildren in tow.
Henry was insistent on making love bareback, and now that we’d committed ourselves to each other and both tested negative for STDs multiple times. I was fully on board. Months had passed since either of us had a sexual encounter with anyone else, and we were both one hundred percent faithful to one another and committed to remaining so. If we’d opted to, we could get a court order in New York that would allow us to marry before Henry turned sixteen, but what would be the point? Henry could keep his legal residence in Omaha for now, which would allow him to get his provisional driver’s license when he turned sixteen. He’d need to keep his legal residence in Nebraska for the subsequent year in order to be allowed to drive in New York City; then he could change his legal residence and obtain a New York driver’s license by reciprocity. By then I’d be twenty, at least on paper, and would turn twenty-one the following January. Henry would turn eighteen the following September, and although we could marry with parental permission before then, we’d probably wait to do so until we could do it legally as adults.
Until that time, we were as committed as any couple could be, and I’d done everything possible to allow us the legal protections of a married couple. Henry was an equal partner in my life, as I was in his. We had equal shares in the corporation that owned all of my Applazon stock and our condo in New York. I’d diversified the portfolio to the point that half the stock was from other companies, including our share of Greg and Billy’s bicycle shop in Springfield, but doing so meant paying taxes, so I limited my stock trades to no more than fifty percent of the total. There was no going back.
After spending the day driving in the open air with temperatures in the upper nineties, we were both sweaty, and the sight of Henry with sweat still glistening on his skin was an incredible turn-on. We hadn’t yet turned on the AC in our cabin, nor did we bother doing so for now, preferring to enjoy the overpowering heat of the moment that drove our lust for one another. We’d worn tank tops in the restaurant, but those had been discarded the moment we got back into the car. Now, standing before each other in only shorts and sandals, we were on fire.
Bodies slid on bodies as tongues meshed with tongues. Somehow, making out didn’t come close to showing Henry just how much I loved him. By the time we came up for air, my dick was straining against the fabric of my briefs and my shorts so much that I feared the fabric would rip. Dropping down on my knees, I undid Henry’s belt, unsnapped his snap, unzipped his zipper and slid his shorts down to the floor. Henry obliged by stepping out of them and kicking them to the side. Deeply, I inhaled his musky scent, made all the more pungent by our earlier lovemaking that day. Slowly I unpeeled Henry’s boxer briefs down and off his feet. I leaned forward and swallowed him whole. It might not have been different from anything I’d done before, but tonight it felt like a world of difference. Yesterday, I’d made love to Henry the boy. Now, for the first time I was making love to Henry the man. He might still only be fifteen, but he was as much a man at his age as I was at the same real age, out on my own and surviving as a man.
Repeatedly, I brought Henry as close to the brink as possible without sending him over the edge. I wasn’t going to let him cum until I was ready for him to cum, and he knew it. I was an aggressive bottom, and it was most often that I was in charge. Guiding him back against the bed, I pushed him down on it and lifted his legs in the air, exposing his pucker to me. The accumulated sweat and the effect of, well, repeated farts from sitting in the car all day made for a very pungent scent. I never did understand how I could be so into rimming and yet not into scat, yet the two were entirely different to me. I loved using just the tip of my tongue to give Henry pleasure, and then to thrust into his most private place, fucking him with my tongue.
I went back to sucking him as I inserted one and then two fingers. I was getting him ready for an earth-shattering climax when I impaled myself on him, but then he surprised both of us, I think, when he shouted, “Fuck me! Fuck me now!”
“But you’re a top!” I replied.
“I know, and you’re a bottom,” he agreed. “I don’t know why, but right now I want to feel you in me. I want it more than anything. Haven’t you been curious to try topping me?”
“Well yeah, but I don’t want to hurt you,” I replied.
“You won’t hurt me, J.J.” Henry countered. “You can trust me on that.” Pulling his knees back, he placed the soles of his feet over my face. It drove me insane, and he knew it.
“How do you know it won’t hurt?” I asked from between his feet.
“You may have noticed that Darren wasn’t small, at least not in terms of girth,” Henry explained. “Don’t take it the wrong way, but your attributes are more related to your length than your width. If I could handle Darren, I can handle you.”
“Yeah, but it’s been a while,” I responded.
“I’ve… been practicing. I have some dildos I ordered from the internet,” he explained.
“Damn, boy, you are way braver than I was at your age,” I said.
“But we both know your real age is only seventeen,” Henry countered. “You’re only a year and a half older than me.”
“Than I,” I countered, causing him to flip me off. Even through his toes, I could see it.
“So come on, I want you in me now. Please, what part of ‘now’ don’t you understand?”
“Okay, I wouldn’t want to keep you waiting, after all,” I replied as I slid Henry’s feet to the sides of my head, and I pounced on my boyfriend. I kissed him deeply and then started nibbling on his ear and his neck, I inhaled deeply the musky scent under his arms and suggested, “Why don’t you skip the deodorant for the rest of the trip, Babe? You’re so sexy when you don’t wear any.”
“Why don’t you skip it?” Henry asked. “You smell sexy, too, but I think we get smelly enough just being out in the hot sun all day. They might not let us in to eat lunch, let alone dinner, if we didn’t use deodorant.”
“I guess you have a point there. Speaking of lunch —” I began, but Henry pulled me down on him and kissed me deeply.
“More action, less talk, please,” he added as he again implored me, “In me, NOW!”
Obligingly, I lined myself up and slowly pushed forward. I was so afraid of hurting him, but it was obvious he’d been practicing with dildos as I slid in easily. I started off slowly at first, but Henry wasn’t having any of that as he started bucking, humping me from underneath. It wasn’t long before I felt him clamp down on me, and then his white-hot spunk flew into the space between us. That set me off as I filled him with an equally copious amount of my seed.
“Man, that was nice,” Henry said.
“Yeah, it was something different,” I agreed. “I’m still very much a bottom —”
“And I’m mostly a top,” Henry interrupted.
“But mixing it up was really fun,” I interjected. “Anything with you is fun. We do need to get some sleep, though.”
“Yeah, sleep would be good, but I’m too tired to shower now,” Henry noted. “Do you think it would be awful for us to wait to shower until the morning?”
Shrugging my shoulders, I replied, “We’ll leave an extra-large tip for housekeeping.”
As much as I would’ve thought the intense sex had relaxed me, scarcely an hour after turning out the lights, I was sitting bolt upright in bed and Henry had his arm around me, comforting me. I’d had another dream.
“No more thinking about it,” Henry softly purred in my ear. “Tomorrow, we’re gonna tackle this.”
“You know what that means, Henry?” I asked. “It means delving into the two worst events in my life. It’ll be painful for both of us.”
“You have a festering wound, J.J.” Henry countered. “Sometimes you can’t heal until you pull off the scab. You’ll never break free of your fears until you confront your past, and I’ll never get free of your pain unless I go through it with you.”
“Heaven help us both,” I said.
<> <> <>
“Well, that was interesting,” Henry said as we stripped off our tank tops and got back in the car.
“Yeah, but it’s far from the whole story,” I countered as I opened the sunroof and lowered all the windows.
“How so?” Henry asked.
“They treat the Minuteman as if it was a legacy of the Cold War, but the real story is that it became obsolete,” I explained. “We have more nuclear warheads than ever, and so do the Russians and the Chinese, not to mention what North Korea, India, Pakistan, Israel and France may have, and those are just the countries that we know have them. The Minuteman silos were too vulnerable,” I went on. “They made easy targets, which led to the doctrine of ‘Use it or lose it.’ There was a very real risk a president would launch a first strike rather than taking a chance on our missiles being destroyed while still in their silos. We still have ICBMs, but they’re mostly mobile now, hidden away to be deployed on a moment’s notice from rail cars and submarines. Then there are the warheads on cruise missiles that can fly in under the radar. The Minuteman didn’t disappear with the Cold War; it was a dinosaur.”
“Such a cheery thought,” Henry responded as I drove out of the parking lot and got back onto Interstate 90, then exited at highway 240, driving south, toward Badlands National Park. Today we would tour the Northern Unit of the park. Noticing that the Castle Trail formed a loop with the road, Henry suggested, “Why don’t we have the car pick us up at the other end of the trail? Then we won’t hafta hike it both ways. It’s a five-mile hike one way. Ten miles round trip would take us most of the day.”
“A self-driving car in a national park? Something tells me it’s not allowed,” I replied. “Besides, we’d then have to hike the Medicine Root Trail both ways, so it’s a bit of a wash, but there might be other places we’d like to do that, so we’ll ask at the visitor center.
We soon came to the northeast entrance to the park; Henry showed the ranger his military pass. His dad was a major general in the U.S. Air Force and a deputy director at Strat Com, which meant that Henry, as the dependent of someone in the active-duty military, was eligible for free admission to all the national parks. Today’s objective was to drive the length of the Badlands Loop Road from the northeast entrance to the Pinnacles Overlook and then to continue on the Sage Creek Rim Road to where it crossed Highway 504, which we’d take back to Wall. There were numerous overlooks and viewpoints along the way as well as a few short hikes and the lengthy Castle Trail, which we expected to be the highlight of the day. Facilities within the park were very limited, and other than the visitor center and Cedar Pass Lodge, there would be only limited facilities along the way, consisting mostly of picnic grounds with public restrooms. Potable water would be nonexistent, so we’d filled our canteens and filled an ice chest with ice and bottled water. Since there would be scant opportunity to grab any semblance of lunch along the way, we’d stopped first thing at the Wall Food Center, which seemed to be the only grocery store in town. We’d bought some heavily processed sliced white bread, a jar of peanut butter, a jar of strawberry jam, a couple packs of sliced pasteurized cheese and some basic picnic gear. It would be enough for a picnic lunch along the way.
The first point of interest we came to was the Big Badlands Overlook, where we stopped. I got out my new camera and shot vast panoramas as well as close-ups of interesting features. Spotting a small sapling sticking out of a tiny crack in a nearby rock, I tried out the ability of the lens to shoot in macro mode and got some amazing photos in greater detail than I’d thought possible. There was a stunning Bokeh effect at maximum aperture. Getting back in the car, we drove along the scenic route, marveling at a landscape that looked like it could have been on a planet we’d beamed down to from the Starship Enterprise.
The Badlands originated from the last eruption of the Yellowstone super-volcano some 640,000 years ago. It was a cataclysmic event that resulted in the formation of the vast caldera of Yellowstone Lake, triggering magnitude-eight earthquakes and covering much of the continental U.S. with a dense layer of ash. So much ash was thrown into the upper atmosphere that it cooled earth’s climate by some ten degrees for at least a decade. The ashfall in the Badlands was propelled by intense winds to form dunes hundreds of feet high. The dunes were stabilized by the growth of plant life and then eroded into the fantastic forms of today. Although geologically young, the formations are destined to erode away entirely, at least until the next eruption. That Yellowstone remains active is evident from all the thermal features, including Old Faithful and the other geyser basins, Mammoth Hot Springs and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. We wouldn’t be going to Yellowstone National Park on this trip, but it was definitely a place we planned to see in the future.
We soon came to the trailhead at one end of Castle Trail, but there were three other short hikes there, the Door Trail, which was ¾ miles round-trip, the Window Trail, which was a ¼ mile round trip and the Notch Trail, which was 1½ miles round trip. All afforded spectacular views and gave me ample opportunities to use my camera. Continuing our drive, we came to the ½-mile Cliff Shell Nature Trail, and then we continued on to the parking area for the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. Henry and I took the opportunity to go inside and empty our bladders as the locations of facilities would be sporadic along our route.
Stopping at the information desk, I asked one of the rangers, “We have a Tesla Model 3. If we were to get out at the Castle Trail trailhead, since it’s a self-driving car, could we send it to the other end of the trail to have it pick us up?”
Shaking his head, he replied, “Because a lot of people walk on the roadway as pedestrians, self-driving cars aren’t allowed anywhere in the National Park system. In addition, the park roads are not likely to be in your GPS database, nor will your car be able to find a stable signal for an internet connection. There’s no guarantee that your car will find legal, safe parking at the other end, either.
“Keep in mind that the Castle Trail forms a loop with the Medicine Root Trail, so you might want to hike it from one end or the other anyway. Oftentimes, you’ll see things on the return trip that you might’ve missed when facing the other way. However, if you really do want to avoid hiking a long trail in both directions, with two of you, if you split up, you could always hike from opposite ends, wave as you pass each other in the middle and then pick the other up when finished.”
“Where’s the fun in hiking alone instead of sharing it with someone special?” I asked.
“Besides which, I won’t have my driver’s license for another couple of months,” Henry added.
Laughing, the ranger said, “You’ll hardly be alone. That’s the most popular trail in the park, and ever since the pandemic hit, hiking has been seen as something safe to do outdoors. I probably don’t need to tell you how hard the virus affected us here. It’s still affecting those stupid enough not to get vaccinated. Hope I’m not stepping on toes there,” he added, and both Henry and I shook our heads. “During most of the summer, pedestrian traffic on the trail will be extremely heavy and, at times, packed. Unlike in the more popular parks, we don’t require reservations or entry times for hiking, either.”
Then turning to speak directly to Henry, he added, “No one is going to give a crap when it comes to whether or not someone has a driver’s license or a learner’s permit. If you look around town in Wall, not in the tourist spots but in the residential sections, you’ll find drivers who are obviously underage. They all have farm or school permits that allow them to drive independently, but no one cares if they’re actually driving to or from school or driving a farm vehicle.”
“I have a Nebraska school permit, but it’s the summer and school’s out. What if I’m in an accident?” Henry asked. “What about insurance?”
“You could claim you’re doing a summer project for school, and besides, you’re with a licensed driver.”
“But I’m only nineteen,” I pointed out. “You’re supposed to be 21 to supervise a kid with a permit.”
“The park rangers, state police and local sheriffs alike will only record that you are an adult,” the ranger responded.
“I guess we’ll keep that in mind, as it would be nice if I didn’t have to do all the driving,” I replied. “Anyway, thanks for the suggestions.”
“You’re more than welcome,” he concluded.
Getting back to the car, we quickly slipped off our tank tops, opened the sunroof and all the windows, and headed out of the parking lot and back onto the scenic loop drive. It was about five miles to the other end of the Castle Trail, but because the road was winding, scenic and had a 20-mph speed limit, it took twenty minutes to get there. We bypassed the Saddle Pass Trail, which was a strenuous hike to climb The Wall, Badlands Park’s main geologic feature. We’d end up at the same place on the Castle Trail, and it would be much easier. There was a small parking lot at the Castle Trail trailhead, and there was a short trail there as well. We started with the Fossil Exhibit Trail and then set off on the Castle Trail, packing our lunch with us to eat along the way.
The hike provided a much more intimate look at the rock formations and plant life than could be seen from the road. There was quite a bit of foot traffic in both directions on the trail, but still I managed to take many photographs along the way. There was some animal life, too, which became evident when Henry pointed out a fairly large lizard on top of a rock less than twenty feet away. The lizard blended in so well that I wouldn’t have noticed had Henry not pointed it out. Grabbing my camera, I zoomed in on the lizard, framed my shot and pressed the shutter release. I got a couple of additional shots before a curious boy got a little too close and the lizard scampered away.
I continued to take photographs as we went, capturing rock formations, plants, insects, birds and lizards, not to mention people. Young children were far less inhibited than adults, and the expressions on their faces were priceless. Of course, I always asked their parents’ permission before photographing them. Even younger teens were more expressive than adults and made wonderful subjects for my photos. When they reached fifteen or sixteen years of age, however, they were too self-conscious and, worse still, seemed to feel compelled to show off and act like teenagers, making them undesirable for my photos.
I also took more than a few photos of Henry, who looked incredibly sexy in only his shorts, with beads of sweat glistening all over his skin. If there’d been a secluded spot, I could’ve taken him right there, but there wasn’t any cover of any kind. Not that I would’ve risked being seen, in any case. When we reached the parking lot at the other end of the trail, we took advantage to make use of the facilities and then found a secluded spot away from the parking lot and behind a rock formation, where we could sit and eat our lunch of processed-cheese sandwiches and peanut-butter-and-jelly on sliced white bread.
Disclaimer: This story is purely fictional and any resemblance of characters to real individuals is unintentional. Although it takes place in actual locations, in no way are any official policies, opinions or events inferred. Some characters may be underage and at times engage in homosexual acts. Anyone uncomfortable with this should not be reading the story, and the reader assumes responsibility for the legality of reading this type of material where they live. The author retains full copyright and permission must be obtained prior to duplication in any form.