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    Parker Owens
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

A to Z - 14. Splash

No warnings needed for this chapter. Enjoy the day with Eric.

Please comment on questions raised by the chapter in the story thread: http://www.gayauthors.org/forums/topic/40860-a-to-z/

June 20

Another hot day developed today as the sun rose up and over the mountain I’d just come down yesterday. I looked in my water bottle – empty. I must have filled it up at some house – when? Early yesterday morning?

I kept my eyes open for another house where I could fill it up. I wasn’t about to chance filling up in one of the muddy streams that crossed under the road, let alone the puddles in the drainage ditches.

Still, the morning was beautiful, and I walked along as quickly as I could. To my left, a long ridge rose in the east, with the sun barely over the trees. To the right, a valley stretched out – the farms on this road looked pretty big, and there was a fair bit of traffic, mostly headed in the opposite direction to me.

Funny how things happen. Most days, life sucks. Once in a while, you get lucky.

The sun beat down from nearly overhead when I saw a big sign: “Abel’s Acres U-Pick Strawberries, ½ Mile !– NOW OPEN.”

It didn’t really register until I was well past the sign. Strawberries. How much did they cost? Could I afford any? Since being robbed back in Houghton, and getting no work in rainy Marshall, I was broke. I had maybe eighty five cents in change, including what I’d found lying on the road.

Strawberries. I really couldn’t remember ever having eaten a fresh one. Sure, there had been jam and flavored stuff – Dad liked grape jelly better – but never anything fresh.

My stomach was awake by then, and the pain I’d been ignoring for a while returned. Why had I even thought about eating? Ugh. But now I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Hunger does that to you.

Rounding a bend, a collection of farm buildings and a spread of wide open fields running a long way back to some sparse looking woods came into view on the right. At that second, I came up with a plan. I was going to steal some strawberries.

I tried to shake the thought off. It was dishonest. I’m not a thief.

But the thought of eating overcame my moral objections. I became a thief in that moment of decision. I’m sorry for it, in a way, and I hated myself for having to do it. But when the opportunity presented itself, I took it – I just couldn’t resist.

I timed my walking up to the farm stand to coincide with the arrival of a minivan with a family inside – mom, dad, two younger kids. All here for a day’s outing. The kids seemed excited, bouncing in their seats, looking around. I heard the bored voice of the attendant as she handed off a couple of big rectangular boxes to the dad. She directed them where to park and where to pick.

I stepped up and repeated the phrase I’d just heard.

“Can I get a flat, please?”

The copper-haired girl behind the counter looked at me briefly, her eyes flicking up and down. Then she handed me one of the big rectangular boxes.

“Here,” she said, in the same bored tone she’d used with the man who’d been in line ahead of me; “park out back behind the shed, work down the far right row. Start at the blue flag, and move it to where you finish. If you finish the row, leave the flag at the end of the row.”

All that came out in a rapid fire monotone. She turned away, the contact concluded. That was fine by me.

I took my box. I walked to where I thought she had directed me, all the while expecting to have someone grab me by the collar and haul me away. Nothing of the sort happened. I saw an assortment of people in the second field, including the family that had arrived just before me.

In another field, I saw a different group of people working. Looking carefully, I noticed their darker skin, their practiced, efficient motions. These people were pros. I walked past them to my designated spot in the farthest aisle. As I walked along the row, I looked down and began to see flashes of red and pink peeking up from under the leaves. Reaching the blue flag marking my starting spot, I set my box down, and looked around.

I hesitated. I still hadn’t stolen anything. I could stop now and get out.

I knelt and lifted the lush green leaves. I was rewarded with the sight of several large, ripe berries. I pulled them off the vine and put them in my box. That was it. I was a thief now.

I can’t believe I actually picked several dozen berries before I broke down and actually ate one. I looked around carefully, making sure nobody was looking at me. No one was anywhere near, and no seemed to notice me. Quickly, I popped one in my mouth.

Delicious sweetness and juiciness flooded my senses. I tried to savor the luscious sensation, but it was gone far too soon. I had to try another. Again, the flavor burst on my palate. Again, I swallowed, and my stomach demanded more. The next few berries off the vine found their way to my mouth, and I sternly told myself to stop. Someone would spot me, and then I’d be in trouble.

I returned to picking the ripe fruit into the box, leaving the berries that were mostly white behind. I continued for a while before temptation got the better of me again, and I put a handful of delicious red nuggets in my mouth. I chewed a little more slowly this time, and I was able to savor and enjoy this most glorious food.

This turned out to be the way I worked through much of the endless afternoon, down the long, long row – picking for a while, eating a few more, picking a little longer, eating more – until I suddenly realized I’d reached the end of the field. I set my box down, and retrieved my blue flag to put at the end of the row. Now for the tricky part. I was close to the edge of the woods. There hadn’t been anyone nearby while I’d worked, and there wasn’t anyone at hand now. Nobody noticed me shouldering my pack and simply walking into the shady woods.

I awkwardly carried the big box of fruit in both hands as I ducked and weaved through the underbrush. I wasn’t about to spill a single strawberry.

I nearly tripped over a large pipe running away from the field and farther into the woods. I followed this, and soon discovered its source – another slow-moving, murky creek from which the farmer must be irrigating his strawberries. There was a rough path along the stream bank, and it looked inviting enough to explore.

I walked a little farther along and found a log to sit on. I enjoyed the best food I’d eaten in two weeks. I’d picked a huge mound of berries into my box, but I must have demolished about a third of them before I began to feel full.

I stopped eating and began to wonder how I could save the rest for later. I couldn’t very well walk down the road carrying this big box with me. I puzzled about this for a while. I needed a bag, but I really didn’t want to use my backpack. I finally hit on a solution I could try.

I opened my backpack and took out my spare t-shirt. I tied the hem into a knot, turning it into a makeshift sack. Into this, I carefully placed my remaining plunder. Then, holding everything cautiously upright, I gingerly slid the sack into my backpack. I could zip up the pack, and I could carry my stolen treasure openly.

I stood and started down the path, wanting to get out of the woods before the sun went down. The trail wound its way along the stream, and it wasn’t too long before I caught sight of a bridge crossing over it. Probably the road I’d been walking earlier in the day.

I was concentrating so much on getting to the road that didn’t hear the splashing and laughter until it was too late.

“Ay, puto, I’ll get you for…"

Two brown-skinned youths stood waist deep in the creek, hands on each other’s shoulders. Obviously, they’d been splashing, wrestling, enjoying the cool water on a hot day – who knows? They’d seen me, and their play had stopped abruptly. Two pairs of coffee-dark eyes watched me warily.

I noticed their clothes lying on the bank farther up the trail.

I decided they weren’t dangerous and began to walk on toward the bridge and the road. As I passed the pile of clothing, I heard a voice.

“Hey gringo! You too good to swim with us?”

I turned and found myself looking into the face of a boy, maybe two or three years younger than me. There was humor in his expression, and a challenge, too. His hair was wet, and droplets of water clung to his chest, shining in the dappled sunlight. No shorts hugged his hips, and the v of his lower abdomen was clearly visible. He and his friend were naked.

I wasn’t too good for them. They were too good for me. That was the problem. I’m the thief. I’m the patsy. I’m the sneak, the problem child, the fairy faggot gay boy who deserves to be punished for the problems he causes for everyone.

I shook my head.

“No, I’m not too good for you. I’m nobody special. But it looks like fun.”

He looked surprised. Then he grinned broadly, while his friend smiled, shyly.

“So, you coming in or what?”

“Yeah, maybe,” I said, not moving.

“Good,” he said, tossing his head, “’cause this puto needs help takin’ me down.” He gestured to his silent friend behind him. He turned and splashed his way back, and they resumed wrestling in the shallow water.

I watched them for a moment. They were having fun. Was I really welcome? I really didn’t think it mattered to them.

I felt myself kicking off my shoes and socks, and shucking off my jeans. Was it really me doing this? My last contact with people left me with a sore jaw for several days. I couldn’t help it. Maybe it would be OK. I desperately wanted that.

I waded into delicious coolness. The bottom was firm, but kind of squishy underfoot.

Holding my breath, I helped tackle the larger boy, and we all collapsed in a heap under the surface. Each of us came up again, spluttering. Suddenly, I was on the defensive, as my new friends decided it was my turn to be taken down. I kept them off, as best I could, splashing them, and wading away, only to be tackled in turn.

The rules to the game weren’t very clear, if there were any. It was always somebody’s turn to be tackled and taken under, but it hardly mattered. One moment I’d be under assault, and in the next, the smaller boy was shrieking in delight at being chased by me and the larger one. It didn’t seem to matter that they were naked, and I still had my underwear and shirt on. I wasn’t going to reveal my scars to anyone. Period.

It was during one of these quick changes of focus, as I turned to flee from pursuit, when I felt arms wrap around me from behind. I tripped and we both fell forward. I felt the distinct shape of a firm cock pressed against my ass as I went under. For an eternity, I sensed its pressure, wedging itself into my crack.

I stopped moving, and for once I didn't want to lose the sensation, but I was frightened that they’d know I’d enjoyed the incidental contact.

Then the moment passed; I was released, and I was able to come up for air again.

I turned and found the smaller of my companions looking at me, wide-eyed and worried. I felt just the same. This was no time to give myself away.

“You OK?” His higher voice betrayed his nervousness.

“Yeah. I’m fine. No problems.”

He relaxed for a second. Where was the other one?

“Hey,” came the deeper voice from the bank, “we gotta go soon.” We sloshed over towards the bank and climbed up. We sat for a moment, panting. Somehow, being out of the water emphasized the nakedness of my companion more than I expected. The water was quickly drying on his smooth skin.

“I’m Luis,” said the larger of the two, “and this is Ignacio. Who are you?”

“My name’s Eric.”

“Well, Eric, you're good at water wrestling. Come back again, maybe, huh?”

“Maybe.”

“So how come you don’t take off your clothes in the water?”

“I don’t know. I just don’t.” No way was I going anywhere near this.

Luis arched his back and thrust out his pelvis provocatively. His young cock flopped to one side in the sunlight.

“Don’t wanna compete with this, do you?” He grinned.

From the Luis’ other side, Ignacio watched, wide-eyed. It was innocent play, I guess, but I felt excited and scared at the same time. I wanted to reach out and touch Luis’s cock, hold it, stroke it; I wanted to run and hide from myself, from my desire, from who I knew myself to be.

“Yeah,” I said softly, looking back down at the ground between my feet, “that’s it.”

Nothing was said for a while. The only sounds were the crickets and the subtle sounds of the stream flowing by.

Eventually, Luis rose, and Ignacio followed.

“We gotta go. Mama will be lookin for us soon.”

They turned and gathered up their clothes and started to dress. I watched, from where I sat. I wasn’t dried out yet, so I was in no hurry to leave.

“Eric, you cool, man.”

“You guys are cool, too.”

And they were. We’d had fun, and I’d enjoyed myself. I watched them depart, regretting that I’d never see them again. As they started along the trail up to the road, I saw Ignacio turn and wave to me, shyly. Then they were gone, leaving me alone with my thoughts.

Last night, and after I woke this morning, I finished off all the berries I’d picked. The t-shirt that had carried them was now permanently stained with dots of red juice. I doubted any of that would rinse out. The evidence of my theft would literally be all over me, if I ever wore that shirt again. Given the heat, and the state of my clothes, I probably would be, soon.

I'm hungry again now, but for a while this morning my stomach was at peace.

Of course, I can't stop thinking about the food I had stolen. I don't like to think of myself as a thief. At school, I scrounged things I needed, like school supplies and stuff like that. I only took possession of items abandoned by their owners, and never anything much of value.

Yet, it seems to me that I was just as much a thief in those days as I had been yesterday. Worse, it was clear to me that Luis and Ignacio, my two swimming companions, worked in the berry fields, as paid harvesters – or, at least their families did. Which meant I had stolen from them, too.

Perhaps these thoughts are luxuries I can't really afford. I was starving yesterday, and had nothing to eat in a couple of days. The farmer wouldn’t miss the fruit I stole all that much. At least, I tried to spin it that way to myself. But then, I’d go back to the problem of stealing again. Eventually, I just tried to shut the whole thing out, and concentrated on getting away from there. Quickly.

At least a full stomach and a good night’s rest allowed me to pick up my pace today. By now, I've gotten used to climbing hills and watching out for cars coming around curves. By the time the sun fully rose, I was striding along under the shade of trees overshadowing the stretch of road that topped the first ridge.

I passed under a big four-lane highway late this morning. I thought about trying to hitch a ride somehow, but I couldn’t see the entrance to the highway anywhere from my stretch of road, so I kept going, on and on into the relentless June sun.

Craftingmom deserves my untold thanks for her kind and artful editing.

A review of any sort or description is always welcome.

Copyright © 2016 Parker Owens; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Chapter Comments

Each chapter of this story tugs at my heartstrings. When, oh when will he connect with another person and find a place to call home.

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On 10/23/2015 06:43 AM, JimP said:

Each chapter of this story tugs at my heartstrings. When, oh when will he connect with another person and find a place to call home.

Eric just can't quite bring himself to trust. But the barriers are wearing away. He actually had fun, at least for a little while. If the rest of the world were like Luis and Ignacio, things would be looking up...

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Eric did have an education today! Not only in stealing strawberries ...hehe. I think it was good for him to discover all kids aren't evil toward him, as seems to have been his bad luck up to now.
Maybe his shields will be down enough for a really good-for-him person to enter. Let's hope!
Another fine chapter Parker! This story is intriguing to read.
I always look forward to the next leg in Eric's saga!

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On 10/23/2015 09:58 AM, skinnydragon said:

Eric did have an education today! Not only in stealing strawberries ...hehe. I think it was good for him to discover all kids aren't evil toward him, as seems to have been his bad luck up to now.

Maybe his shields will be down enough for a really good-for-him person to enter. Let's hope!

Another fine chapter Parker! This story is intriguing to read.

I always look forward to the next leg in Eric's saga!

Thank you for the review, as always. Eric had a few moments when he forgot about everything and had fun. And while the menu was kind of singular, he got to eat his fill. At least he seems to be flying under any radar that might be looking for him...

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Nice chapter - it's about time Eric had a good day for a change. Hopefully things are looking up for him.

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On 10/24/2015 07:12 AM, Diogenes said:

Nice chapter - it's about time Eric had a good day for a change. Hopefully things are looking up for him.

A big break in the overcast sky. The weather could change for Eric. This was another fun chapter to write. I remember splash wars with friends in an actual swimming hole ( they really exist). Too many kids these days never see one....

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I keep hoping that someone will realize he's on his own and reach out to him. It is a shame he runs each time he begins to reach out to another person. He doesn't seem to give himself a chance to come to trust. Why not hang in that area a few days? It's a shame he couldn't have seen about working on the farm. He'd not have to be clean to do it. He could eat. I'm glad he had fun, but I was disappointed that didn't become an opportunity for him.

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On 10/24/2015 07:56 AM, Cannd said:

I keep hoping that someone will realize he's on his own and reach out to him. It is a shame he runs each time he begins to reach out to another person. He doesn't seem to give himself a chance to come to trust. Why not hang in that area a few days? It's a shame he couldn't have seen about working on the farm. He'd not have to be clean to do it. He could eat. I'm glad he had fun, but I was disappointed that didn't become an opportunity for him.

Cannd, thanks very much for your consistent and kind reviews. Eric has to wrestle with som many things in these weeks, not the least of which is daily survival on his own terms. His encounter with Ozzie, who may or may not have been benign, tells us that he doesn't trust people, and that he mistrusts outreach. The strawberry farmer would not have looked kindly on the scruffy wiry blond thief, and he has plenty of hands of his own. But work is likely to cross Eric's mind again....

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Well it's good he had a positive experience with the two boys. I hope he doesn't let stealing the strawberries weigh him down too much...or maybe I do. I don't want him to lose his moral compass or that sense of goodness that's so endearing. I hope he continues to have positive interactions and that someone helps him soon. I look forward to what's next. :)

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On 10/26/2015 03:12 AM, Valkyrie said:

Well it's good he had a positive experience with the two boys. I hope he doesn't let stealing the strawberries weigh him down too much...or maybe I do. I don't want him to lose his moral compass or that sense of goodness that's so endearing. I hope he continues to have positive interactions and that someone helps him soon. I look forward to what's next. :)

At least Eric had a full stomach for a day or so, and some good memories for once. If Luis and Ignacio had invited Eric to come with them to supper, I wonder if he would have accepted, or whether the guilt of stealing would have kept him away. Another plot string that went unfollowed....

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He can always go back and pay the farmer. I did it, not a farmer, but a shop. It wasn't hard, but the shop owner cried....

 

I think the boys playing was an important moment and I think the effects will last...

 

tim

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On 11/02/2015 12:42 AM, Mikiesboy said:

He can always go back and pay the farmer. I did it, not a farmer, but a shop. It wasn't hard, but the shop owner cried....

 

I think the boys playing was an important moment and I think the effects will last...

 

tim

And he might just do it, one day, who knows? That's the kind of person Eric appears to be. The play in the creek was pure fun...until he got scared. He's going to remember it though, you're right about that...thanks so much for your review.

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I hope that Eric won't lose the part of him that still has a conscience and keeps him humble. It's a double edge sword because there are things he must do if he is to survive. Stealing is one of them, even when you don't want to. He doesn't stay long enough in one place to form any bond or trust. I get that he is in flight mode still. Yet I worry how much longer before he is to do worse than stealing strawberries. I don't want it for him so I hope a hand he can trust reaches out soon but it will be almost impossible for him to trust people. On the other hand, he got to have some fun with the boys, some light at least.

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On 11/02/2015 08:24 AM, Defiance19 said:

I hope that Eric won't lose the part of him that still has a conscience and keeps him humble. It's a double edge sword because there are things he must do if he is to survive. Stealing is one of them, even when you don't want to. He doesn't stay long enough in one place to form any bond or trust. I get that he is in flight mode still. Yet I worry how much longer before he is to do worse than stealing strawberries. I don't want it for him so I hope a hand he can trust reaches out soon but it will be almost impossible for him to trust people. On the other hand, he got to have some fun with the boys, some light at least.

The interlude with the play in the creek was a fun part to relate, and just came to me in the moment. Eric needed to have some fun besides filling his belly with fruit. And then there is the moment when the fun and games turns a bit serious. But he will certainly remember that afternoon for a long time....

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On 12/31/2015 08:51 AM, dughlas said:

For just a little while he could just be a boy and play with others.

This is a first for Eric - we actually get to see him at play. It ended far too soon, though.

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In my life, certain groups of people have been more generous to me than others. A lot of it seems to be cultural. Many Latino and Pacific Islanders have gone out of their way to share food with me (and these instances occurred mostly while I was working and not particularly needy). These were acquaintances who I was friendly with, but we weren't close friends or anything. My impression is that they grew up in small communities with close ties.

 

I would think that two full meals of nothing but strawberries (after days with no food) would cause indigestion and diarrhea. But it seems Eric's constitution is stronger than mine! ;-)

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On 06/28/2016 11:05 AM, droughtquake said:

In my life, certain groups of people have been more generous to me than others. A lot of it seems to be cultural. Many Latino and Pacific Islanders have gone out of their way to share food with me (and these instances occurred mostly while I was working and not particularly needy). These were acquaintances who I was friendly with, but we weren't close friends or anything. My impression is that they grew up in small communities with close ties.

 

I would think that two full meals of nothing but strawberries (after days with no food) would cause indigestion and diarrhea. But it seems Eric's constitution is stronger than mine! ;-)

Eric doesn't write about that, but you have an excellent point. His digestive tract surely must have experienced a challenge! But for once, Eric got to meet someone who allowed him in, if only for a little while.

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On 11/1/2015 at 5:42 AM, Mikiesboy said:

He can always go back and pay the farmer. I did it, not a farmer, but a shop. It wasn't hard, but the shop owner cried....

When I was homeless, I had a few resources, including CalFresh (aka SNAP or food stamps) and General Assistance (a cash loan from the county), so I never felt I had to steal anything to survive. But I was given many things. So I try to repay the kindness shown me by donating things to the agency I still use.

 

In the past, I’ve given hygiene products, towels (they offer free showers and clients steal the towels), and even Tang (so they could serve their clients something other than water with lunch). Last year I donated new packages of boxer shorts – no one should be forced to wear someone else’s used underwear! (But unlike the other items, I made the special request that they should only be given out when someone really needs them. At some point, someone will come in who only has the clothes on his back and that’s who I want to help with this gift.)

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So sad to hear he has to do the things he has to do, all because of the police convicting him of murdering his father...

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4 hours ago, Higster said:

So sad to hear he has to do the things he has to do, all because of the police convicting him of murdering his father...

 

These are unfortunately the common episodes to kids who live on the street, who are wandering. The police suspected Stephan / Eric, and it would not have been hard to pin the murder on him. Prison might have been far worse than his current life. Thank you for your comments and for continuing to read the journal. 

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The innocent fun with the two boys were a highlight in this part of the journey. Stealing the strawberries was hardly a big crime, and the iron they contain would be helpful as the fruit sugar for his energy levels.

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A good day for Eric, he was able to be a boy for a short time when he played. He feels guilty about stealing, but its hardly a crime and it helped abate his hunger for a short time.

Edited by chris191070
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3 hours ago, chris191070 said:

A good day for Eric, he was able to be a boy for a short time when he played. He feels guilty about stealing, but its hardly a crime and it helped abate his hunger for a short time.

With a belly full of berries and some time to simply play, Eric has had as good a day as he has had in a long while. He'll remember it.

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