It began with an itch at the back of Pit’s neck which couldn’t be scratched away. It progressed to the sort of restlessness that made him leave his shop in the middle of the day for a late lunch at the café.

Cool Beans, the coffee shop-turned-café wasn’t really his style. He was more at home in dark, dirty bars and dark, clean tattoo parlors. The ride over on the motorcycle in the sweltering July heat reminded him of his days as a UPS driver, cooling off by doing two fifty-five down the highway—that’s going fifty-five miles an hour with two doors open, wind in your hair. Except that he’d been losing his hair back then just as bad as he was losing it now. His body art, leather, and chains were little compensation.

Ace McCarty sat at the usual table, back to the wall. Pit walked over and helped himself to the iced coffee on the table. As it was almost empty, he only managed a few loud slurps through the straw. Pit turned the spare chair around and sat in it, legs spread and sizeable gut pressing against the slats of the back of the chair. Then he grabbed the laptop and spun it around. “How’s the zine writing going, McCarty?” With a scowl and cat-like reflexes, Ace pulled the laptop back before Pit could get a good look at anything on the screen. But the reaction spoke for itself. “Not so good, huh?”

Ace shrugged. “Maybe I’m not cut out to be a RiotGrrrl… or RiotBoy… or whatever…” With a frown and sigh, Ace closed the laptop, had a sip of the iced coffee then passed the cup over for Pit to finish off.

“Ever think the problem might be that it’s hard to get worked up about things here in quiet ol’ Stokes? We’ve got a gay pride parade in June, a politically correct non-demonimational winter holiday festival in December, and that’s about all that ever happens around here.”

“What do you suggest?”

Pit grinned and leaned forward, one elbow on the table. The table rocked but bore his weight. He pulled a postcard out of his back pocket and slapped it down on the table. “Yesterday we heard from your boyfriend, Trip.”

With narrowed eyes and a wrinkled nose, Ace scowled at Pit again, but then quickly snatched the postcard up. Pit was confident that if Ace could ever imagine dating a guy, he and Trip would be neck-and-neck in the competition. Though rather opposite in appearance—with Pit a burly, dark, tough guy and Trip a skinny, platinum blond, clean-cut sailor—they both possessed warm hearts, the desire to protect Ace from any threat, and the skills to actually do so.

Ace devoured every word on the back of the postcard, then flipped it over again to study the picture. Cherry trees, with their white and pink blossoms, framed the left side of the card. The scene was of Kintai bridge in Japan, with its beautiful arcs sitting up out of the water, as though on stone pedestals, and disappearing towards the right side.

When Pit was sure Ace had absorbed the postcard, he tossed his idea out onto the table as well. “I was thinking we could pack a couple bags, jump onto our bikes, and hit the road.”

“I know you’ve got a great bike, and I hate to break it to you, but it’s not going to make it all the way to Japan. And the cherry blossoms in DC have been gone for months now.”

Pit shook his head. “Actually, I’m proposing we drive across America. So what do you think?”

Ace shrugged casually. “I think you’ve seen Easy Rider too many times.”

With all the drama he had in him, Pit clapped a hand to his chest. “Blasphemy, McCarty!” He laughed it off, eager for an answer. “But, seriously, a trip. We can go anywhere we like, get to know the culture—”

“A gender queer and a leather queen? There’s more of a problem with the culture getting to know us. Did you miss what happened at the end of that movie you love so much?”

“I’d keep you safe, you know that,” Pit said, quickly. “Think of the sights, the adventures. It’s a chance to reconnect with the country and see the things we’ve always wanted to see.”

Chuckling, Ace replied, “It’s a nice idea… but I can’t just up and leave.”

“You’re not going to classes any more. And you don’t have any craft shows lined up for the next few months, do you?”

“No… but what do I do about Dil?”

“The cat you hate?”

Ace held up a finger. “Correction: he hates me. I… tolerate him sharing my apartment.”

“Well, Dil can move into the house while you’re gone. The boys can look after him and my Princess could use another cat to boss around.”

 “What about my job?”

Grinning, Pit crossed his arms. “Because that particular restaurant is the only place in the world that can utilize your considerable, unique talents as a waiter?”

“Point taken, big guy. But what about your job? Can you just take off and leave your shop?”

“Sure can.” Having had his share of minimum wage jobs, Pit was the first to expound on the benefits of running one’s own business. “Since Hector took over as garage manager, the place has never run more smoothly. Sweetie can look after the finances for me. I can spare a month or so easily.”

Ace wasn’t convinced. “What am I supposed to do about my bills? Come to that, how do I pay for this glorious trip across the country?”

Pit had hoped that particular issue might not come up so quickly. “Well, about that—”

“Oh no.” Ace picked up the laptop and shoved it in the computer bag. After slinging it over one shoulder, grabbing a motorcycle helmet, and springing out of the chair, Ace stormed out of the café.

Pit wasn’t quite as light on his feet and he knew better than to grab at Ace. However, he tried to catch up, lumbering down the street. He only nearly avoided a collision with two flashy hairdressers standing around on a cigarette break, and then navigated around a small cluster of kids all wearing cardboard Burger King crowns. “McCarty!” he called, and Ace at least slowed down to listen. “I know you love pretending you’re a Bohemian, but sooner or later you’re going to have to cope with that fact that you have rich friends who want to do things with you.”

Slowly, Ace turned, presenting a soft smile. “Can we visit the grand canyon?”

Pit paused, considering carefully and knowing Ace far too well. “You just want to go protest that skywalk, don’t you?”

“Oh, I’m not telling until we hit the road.” But Ace’s smile turned into a bright grin and when Pit held his arms out, Ace accepted the invitation.

Despite the sweltering heat, Pit administered his usual tight bear hug, lifting Ace off the ground an inch or two.


Postcard that inspired this story (a prompt from my writers' roundtable group):