After the run-in with Baker, I stumble through the door, exhausted…startle Azalea.

She’s scrubbing the table. Looks up in surprise. “Baby, you scared the shit out of me! What’s wrong?”

Can’t catch my breath. Hold out the grocery bag…she looks in…is immediately grossed out. “Gussy, it’s a gooey mess! What happened?”

In breathless bits and pieces, I tell the whole story.

“Baby, that’s terrible,” she says finally. “Tell Carl everything. He’s got tutoring with that pervert tomorrow.”

Being back with Azalea makes me feel a lot better! “Will do,” I tell her.

Azalea dumps the mess onto the newly-clean table and I feel like shit for fucking things up.

She glances at me and smiles. “It’s okay, Gussy…the groceries aren’t a total loss, but where’s the beer…and we need toilet paper, and paper towels. I’ll go this time.”

I wave her off. “No way! I fucked up, and I’ll fix it.”

She studies my face. “You sure?”

“I’ll do it, no problem, but how am I gonna get beer?”

“Is the little Latino guy there…Joey? He gives it to me if I say it’s for my mom. Just tell him I’m sick and can’t come.”

I picture the short, stocky dude behind the counter. “Yup, he’s there!” I tell her. I’ve never bought beer before, so I’m really nervous about it.

Azalea hugs me. “I hate to see you go again, but it’ll be more fun to be tipsy, right?”

“Definitely!” Actually, I dread being out on the road with Baker around, but keep it to myself. I’m Azalea’s guy and don’t want her thinking I’m a wuss, but I’m still paranoid about seeing that blue car again…plus, I’ve never done 99% of the stuff that’s happened in the past week!

As I set out, it’s late afternoon. Sun’s low…shafts of light streaming between the trees. After the Baker stuff, the minute I hear a car coming, I’m ready to run…s-o-o-o friggin’ jumpy! I figure Baker patrols the roads constantly…which is ridiculous, right…or is it? He’s a fucking pedophile…maybe he does! Shit!

After what seems like hours, the quick-mart comes in sight. “Whew!!!!” Check the cars to be sure Baker’s not there (he’s not). Hop up the steps. It’s s-o-o-o creepy knowing the guys lurking out there somewhere!

Grab the toilet paper, towels, and a six-pack of Bud from the cooler. My dad’s into craft beer…so fuck that!!!! Wanna think for myself! Glance around furtively. Expect the cops to nail me any second! Thankfully, the Latino dude’s at the counter, so I step up and lay out my purchases.

He stares from me to the beer, then back again. It’s painfully obvious I’m not twenty-one. “You got ID?” He asks coldly. I totally zone…stare at him without saying a word. Holy shit! Figure I’m fucked. Then, out of nowhere, hear myself say: “Listen, I know I’m not twenty-one, but I’m on a date and there’s a good chance I’ll get lucky if we down a couple. Can you make an exception?” The minute it’s out of my mouth, I figure he’s royally pissed by the lame explanation!

The guy looks around. Fortunately, the place is totally empty. “Okay,” he says sticking the beer in a bag. I look at him. “Geez, thanks a lot, dude!” Grab a pack of gum. “This too.” Figure the more I buy, the better he’ll feel.

“No sweat, man,” he says, “but get the fuck out before the manager comes.”

I grab the bag so fast it starts to rip, but manage to cradle everything in my arms. Hustle out. Suddenly, see a flash of blue. Holy shit! Baker again and I’m juggling all my shit! Immediately crouch between a parked car. Realize I’ll be completely screwed if a teacher catches me with beer, but Baker parks on the opposite side of the lot. A tall, skinny kid walks up to the car…leans in his window.

“Hi, Paul,” Baker says. “You have time for me?”

“Yeah. Twenty-five bucks,” the kid says.

“Hop in.”

They drive off. What the fuck did I see? Is he tutoring or what? Can’t be tutoring. The kid gave the price. Fuck! Feel like I should do something…tell somebody, but
really just wanna get back and cuddle with Azalea. Baker must be obsessed! Why else would he be cruising 24/7??? Geez, a lot of crazies out there!

For a fleeting second, wonder if I should ask Dad what to do, but I’m too confused by the whole transvestite versus pedophile thing. Are transvestites child molesters? Don’t have a clue, except Dad never bothered me…nothing, nada. Gotta ask Azalea.

Finally get back to the familiar driveway. It’s almost dark. On impulse, I open the mailbox. It’s crammed! Holy shit! Pull it out and hoof up to the house. Azalea’s sitting on the step. Her face lights up up when she sees me. “Hi, stranger! Seems like we’ve been apart all day.” She’s such a super girlfriend!

I flop down next to her. She sees the beer. “Oooo, nice job! Pop those tops!”

Simultaneously, we take big gulps. Start to tell her about my adventures, but she interrupts.

“Did you call Carl?”

“Shit no. So much was going on, I forgot!” Give her all the details…about Baker and the other kid…what they said, everything.

She looks me straight in the eye. “Baby, Baker’s a criminal pedophile. You should report him.”

My stomach drops into my shoes. “Report him…to the police? Me?”

“Well, at least tell somebody and get the ball rolling.”

“Like who? My Dad?”

“I guess…”

“I thought about it, but he’s pretty weird too.”

“But nothing illegal? At his club, they check ID, so it’s all adults. Nobody’s watching anything they don’t want to.”

I take another sip. “I guess.”

“Look, Baby, first phone Carl and tell him to call in sick! No way he should go to that man’s house. No telling what Baker’ll do. He could drug him…and what if that other kid’s there? How old was he?”

“I dunno…older….maybe sixteen or seventeen. Geez, I didn’t think think of all the possibilities!”

“Gussy, you’re a babe in the woods. You should have heard the weird stuff my brothers bullshitted about. I’d never want to be one of their girlfriends! No way!”

“Okay, okay, I’ll call Carl ASAP. Hey, look what was in the mailbox!”

She holds her head in her hands, “Christ, Baby, I haven’t looked for weeks. Maybe there’s a check…I forge Mom’s signature.” She jumps up and l follow her into the house. She dumps everything on the kitchen table…turns on the lights. It’s suddenly cozy…like I’m really home, and I guess I am.

She gives me a dirty look. “Gus, call Carl. Don’t put it off any longer!”

I hate getting bossed, but pull out my cell and punch in his number.

To be continued…
Read Next Episode!