Gay teen Jack is hiding out in a bully’s car in the hopes of retrieving his backpack when he’s joined by another stowaway. Brittany, who wants to be called Brandon, is a transgendered classmate also on the run. When the bully crashes his car, it’s the start of a journey that will bring Jack and Brandon together in the hopes of finding a new future.
Along the way, they meet Buster, a dog that saves their lives; Alvin, who is heading to Denver to sell his car and offers them a ride; and Ducky, a loud-mouthed but loveable woman who is apparently more than just Alvin’s friend.
When a tornado hits, Jack and Brandon have a chance to prove their mettle and show what they are made of. But is there happiness at the end of their journey?
Two cars almost gave us rides, slowing and staring, but when they saw the dog, the drivers shook their heads and left. After what seemed like forever a third car pulled up. It wasn’t very new but it was big, a sedan of some sort, maybe a Chrysler. It looked pretty neglected, but then, so did we. The driver rolled the window down and said, “One in the front, two in the back. The dog goes in the back.” He looked okay, middle aged, nondescript, like you’d expect a history teacher or an accountant to look. Glasses, clean shirt, brown hair thinning on top. I don’t know why I thought that. Brandon climbed in front, grinning at me. Busted and I climbed into the back. There was junk everywhere on the floor, magazines, fast food containers, and dirty clothes of some sort that I didn’t want to look at closer.Beggars can’t be choosers, I thought, as we pulled away.
Everything went fine for half an hour. He had the radio on to some religious program, and he and Brandon were talking quietly. Busted sat and looked out the rolled up window. At seventy miles an hour, I didn’t want his head out the window; so that was good. After a while I realized there weren’t any window handles, or even buttons. It must all be done from the driver’s seat. Then I noticed there weren’t any inside door handles back here, either. Then I got worried.
Worried or not I might have dozed off after a while except just when I started to nod, someone on the radio screamed “Jesus!” only they said it, “Jay-Zus!” My eyes flew open. Buster burped. I could see his ears, which I hadn’t noticed before as they were usually lying down along his head. Now they were pricked up, at attention. Brandon’s back looked funny, and I realized all his muscles were tensing up. I could see him move his arm and he said quietly, “Don’t do that, mister.”
I had no idea what was going on but I blurted,” I think this is our turn, let us out here please.” There was no road anywhere near by, just the deserted flatlands to the sides of the highway.
Our driver just chuckled. He was reaching across the seat, and Brandon was trying to back up closer to the door. He said, “Look, mister ...”
The driver shouted, “You shut the fuck up! I do what I want in this car. You should have thought about that before you got in. What are you, stupid?”
The car was swerving a bit as the driver reached toward Brandon’s leg. I leaned over the seat but couldn’t reach anything. I was fumbling with my seat belt buckle. Beside me, Busted whined, then growled. Brandon was just saying ‘no’ over and over, and his breathing sounded terrible, like he’d come down with pneumonia or asthma. I was really scared too, to be honest. And still having trouble with the damn seat belt buckle.
“Ha!” laughed the driver. Brandon squealed. And then, Busted projectile vomited over the seat. It bounced off the windshield, splattered all over the dashboard and steering wheel, and piled up in a stinky, smelly, acidic mess of semi-digested squirrel parts and liquefied rat guts. You could still see bits of fur, and I made out a few tiny teeth and some claws. The driver screamed and yanked the wheel, barely able to see. He pulled off the highway and slammed the car to a halt barely off the roadway. Still screaming and cursing now, too, he leapt out of the car and started batting at himself, while cars and trucks flew by him scant feet away. Horns honked. I finally got my belt undone and Busted and I climbed over the seat. Brandon joined us as we piled out of the car. I even grabbed my backpack; go me. We ran past the driver and fled into the trees at the edge of the road. Behind us I heard brakes, screams, and growls, and then Busted came galloping up beside us into the weeds and brush. We all ducked down, and Busted wagged his whole body and burped. Even though he smelled terrible, we hugged him, and each other, our hearts pounding.
After a long while, we saw the man climb back into his car and drive off.
Brandon turned to me. “Well that went well, didn’t it?” Then he burst into tears.
Busted licked his face with his long, drool- and slime-covered tongue. That made me laugh so hard that Brandon had to join in. It took him a while, but by the time he’d wiped his face on his sleeve a few times, he managed. We rolled in the dirt laughing hysterically, and Busted rolled on his back between us. Brandon managed to croak out, “And his car was a piece of shit, too!”