Snapshots in the life of Sam, an Appalachian college-age guy who's grappling with sexuality, spirituality, and where they meet.
I'm starting this work off as a solo piece. I might open it up to collaboration if there is interest.
He glanced down at the bites covering his legs. He ran his hands over his very first fire-ant bites. Some of them had already started to get the little puss-filled caps on them. He picked at one with his fingernail and debated mashing it like a pimple. He decided against it, then folded his arms across his bare knees.
He glanced at the remote and had a mind to turn the TV on. It was just hotel cable so there was almost certainly nothing on at 9:30 on a Thursday night.
Why had he agreed to come? Why was he sitting on a hotel bed somewhere in upstate South Carolina in a mediocre hotel off I-26?
His legs began to itch again. Thinking he was being clever, he used two fingers to scratch on either side of the bites. He had been standing right on the ant bed and felt nothing. He had stirred the mound with his feet. How was it possible he didn't notice hundreds of ants crawling slowly up his legs? The mound had been unassuming in the grass: secretly housing a small army of tiny venom factories with the sadistic ability to somehow coordinate an attack to bite all at the same time.
This is how Jake had come into his life. Not like the ants, but the person messing with the bed. Sam had been just some college-age kid trying to figure his own stuff out. Jake had stirred up the mound and now all those tiny pockets of intensity were crawling up every part of Sam and getting ready to strike. Sam imagined Jake as some kid with a stick, bored and looking for something to do on a lazy summer day. He had shoved his stick into the bed of Sam's emotions and awakened an army of feelings and emotions that Sam was scared of. Sam could feel them crawling up getting into position, waiting on the right moment to strike. Sam just knew it was gonna hurt.
Sam put his forehead on his knees and though about crying. The TAP_CLICK_SLIDE of plastic card on metal door handle made him sit up. He dropped his legs flat on the bed and grabbed the remote, pretending to be fresh out of the shower and sitting down on the bed.
Jake's tanned round face appeared in the doorway.
"They didn't have the green stuff, but the lady at CVS said this blue stuff was better."
He produced a bottle of liquid that looked like a container of mouthwash had congealed. He tossed it on Sam's bed before setting the keys and plastic bag in a tangled mess on the chest of drawers where the TV also sat. He sat down on the other bed. He smiled a boyish smile that Sam's grandmother would have described as an "eat-spit grin."
"I could help you put it on if you want. . ."
Sam's head snapped in Jake's direction, a look of surprise on his face. Jake laughed with a breath through his teeth as he jerked himself backwards onto his bed and said, "I'm only screwing with you." Then he kicked off his shoes to the floor.
Sam rolled his eyes and grabbed the bottle of better-than-green-stuff and began rubbing on his legs. It was cold and cool. Cold in temperature and cool from the camphor, or mint, or whatever it had in it. These sensations were most pronounced on the tops of his feet where he had no hair. Focusing special attention around each bite, he rubbed a good bit of the stuff on his legs but not too much. He didn't want to stick to the sheets. As he massaged the gel into his skin, the pain and itch eased slightly.
He found his mind drifting. Then it hung on a thought, -I wish you would help me put this on.-