Except: there is no nearby alley.

There are no cornfields.

This isn’t a scary movie.

The odds of this guy having an actual working chainsaw are slim to none, but ya know what? I’m not taking any chances.

I know how the story ends, and I’d rather not end up the casualty of stupidity on the evening news.

So. I curse him out, but privately, in the safety of my car.

Oh my god, what if he follows me after I drive off? I decide if I turn left and he turns left, I’m driving to the police station. Yes, that’s what I’ll do—go to the cop shop.

He definitely is giving me a stalker vibe.

Flash.

Flash.

“Stop! Ugh!” I screech, scared, wishing I could see the license plate the truck is legally obligated to have affixed to its front bumper.

When it’s finally my turn to go, I don’t announce my direction with a signal—I just hang a left and exhale a great puff of air.

He didn’t follow me.

Thank. God.

Shaking a little, I release my grip on my leather steering wheel and slump. Lean forward and adjust the dial on my radio, lowering the volume so I can hear myself think with the blood racing through my veins.

I hear it thundering in my ears.

Behind me, in the rear-view, the truck—black if my eyes don’t deceive me—passes through the intersection.

Jerk.

Second Friday

Jackson

Goddamn I’m hungry.

Nothing new there; I could always go for food. Trouble is, I’m too far from home to dash there real quick, even with my truck on campus—fuck if I’m willing to lose my parking spot next to the athletic building over a snack—and I’m not jogging home for the frozen burrito I’m craving, even if it would burn off the calories.

Like a bear sniffing out food after a long winter, I skip the athletic dining hall—that’s too far too because this is an emergency.

The on-campus cafeteria for regular students will have to do.

I turn my nose up at the thought, dreading the flat hamburger patties and stale lettuce I’ll surely find when I get there. Chicken sounds appealing; so do a few fatty hot dogs.

I quicken my pace, not sure where this fucking joint is located; I haven’t eaten there since…well, freshman year, and that one time was a mistake. The eats here are utter shit.

The perks of being a jock at a school this size are considerable. Special facilities. Massage therapist at my beck and call. Hot tubs in the training room. Free clothes through sponsorships.

I walk taller, a head above most everyone I pass. They scurry by, giving me the side-eye, some backward glances I ignore. Whispers. I don’t miss the elbow jabs.

Arrogantly, I know many of them recognize me. Guys especially.

My nose leads me to the food, the room full, lines long.

Fuck.

I don’t have time to stand in line—I have to be in the weight room in forty minutes, and it will take me that long to grab what I want.

I’m a big boy; this won’t be a light meal. It’ll be enough food to feed a family. Not having eaten since late last night, I desperately swipe a bag of potato chips on my walk to the grill, I tear it open with my teeth like a barbarian and stuff a handful in my face. Chew loudly, crumbs falling down the front of my Iowa t-shirt.

Iowa. How the fuck I ended up here is beyond me.

I was all set to attend school in my home state of Texas until, at the last minute, the scholarship money wasn’t there anymore. I had a spot on the team but not enough money to cover tuition, and my family ain’t rollin’ in dough.

Enter Iowa.

More money. More allowance for living expenses. More stability.

No way did I have the spare change to afford A&M on my own; I’m a great player, but not full-ride great.

And goddamn am I hungry.

I wad the chip bag in my fist, leaving it in my hand so I remember to pay for it. There’s a line at the griddle, but I doubt anyone will object if I cut it and skip to the front.

No one complains out loud, but a few resting bitch faces judge me.

I slide in after a girl with long, blonde hair. She’s bouncing on the heels of her—I glance down—brown boots, a baby blue backpack hooked over her right shoulder. Impatient, she continues to check the watch on her wrist every few seconds, as if the action is going to speed up the process of cooking meat.

I eyeball the grill, debating about what I want. One chicken breast, lean. Two hamburger patties, fatty. Three hot dogs.

Chicken it is.

The girl checks her watch again, and I stare at the back of her head, down at the crown, into her shiny hair. It’s long and a bit wavy, and I haven’t touched a girl’s hair in so fucking long, I’m tempted to rub a few strands between my fingers for old times’ sake.


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