Brian reached down and carefully tightened the toe clips on his bike. It felt good to be moving, his feet secure and tight with the sound of the wheels clicking gently beneath him. It was going to be a hot one, but it really didn't matter. What mattered was that they were finally underway. Moving, finally moving, out and away from the doubt of the summer and the past. Finally moving, instead of just talking about moving, and finally out of Parson, Connecticut. Brian didn't know if his body would make it all the way to Florida, but it was certainly better than trying to kill time in Parson. He watched as the small tubby woman in front of him struggled with the toe clips on her bike. He wanted to offer his help, but he couldn't interrupt the rhythm of the bikes in the summer morning stillness.

Brian watched as the black of the pavement turned to grey, their speed increasing, his body warming with the effort. His hangover was gone now. It hadn't been that bad anyway. His body had gotten used to the alcohol, and he hardly ever felt that bad the day after. It always hit him on the second day, and when it did, it was worse than if the hangover had arrived on time. Brian watched as the sweat dripped off his forehead and onto the black frame of his bike. It came slowly at first, and then in bunches, until his shirt was soaked through and heavy on his back. He took it off and stretched it over the handlebars to dry. His naked stomach hung down over his shorts. It disgusted him, knowing that he had been fit once. September first wasn't supposed to be this hot, he thought. It wasn't supposed to be, but it was.

Brian watched as the line of bikes in front of him leaned toward the right with the bend in the road. There were twelve of them, including Brian. Father Landers was out front, leading the way on his brand new silver Peugeot U-10. Behind him was another priest, known only as Phil. The author of several books on the nature of sin in the twentieth century, Phil was also an avid triathlete. Although he looked more like a bodybuilder or a professional football player, Phil had somehow managed to force his five foot four, two hundred and twenty seven pound body through the prestigious Ironman Triathalon in Hawaii. I couldn't have done it without the Lord, was what Phil often remarked, but when Brian shook his hand, he doubted that the Lord had all that much to do with it.

Behind Phil's massive blonde-haired body, rode two doctors, one of them, was Dr. Chun, a thirty two year old surgeon who had once been close to being a millionaire but had recently been divorced by his wife of seventeen months. The other was a small balding Jewish radiologist who had never been with a woman before. Born and raised in New York City, he had somehow led a sheltered life, which Brian thought was somewhat odd, but not quite as odd as the fact that he was the only Jew on what was almost a religious retreat for Catholics.

Behind the doctors rode a tall thin sandy blonde haired woman named Kathi. She had made a point of insisting that her name was spelled with a K and an I and not a C and a Y. A radical feminist and devout lesbian, she had disrupted several of the services at the Church of Our Blessed Savior by storming the altar single-handedly to protest the exclusion of women from the priesthood. After her second "sermon", Father Nyessi had her arrested after which she was handed over to the custody of Father Landers for counseling.

Behind Kathi rode two more women, both of whom were reborn Christians and enthusiastic practitioners of glossolalia, or speaking in tongues. These women had also disrupted several of the church's prayer meetings by their insistence on praying in other languages, none of which were at all distinguishable to anyone else present at the prayer meetings. Teresa and Jeanine were somewhat reluctant about going on the trip, but they relented when Father Landers acknowledged their right to pray in any manner they saw fit, as long as it wasn't infringing on the rights of others. Brian hoped that they wouldn't start in on any spontaneous outbursts of incomprehensible prayer. At least not while he was around.

Directly behind these two, rode the only married couple on the trip. Martha and Jack P. Sherine were a product of seventeen years of Roman Catholic marriage. They did everything by the book, but when they told Brian of their seven children, he wondered how they had settled on such an odd number when the national average was two point three. Martha was a tall, leggy brunette who wore her hair short and boyish, but in a perky, almost sexy sort of way. In fact, Brian thought, it was almost too sexy, and although he had figured that she must be in her late thirties, he found it hard to keep himself from staring at her well kept figure. Her husband Jack was an equally tall, athletic looking man with very short hair and thin, wire rimmed glasses. Probably an ex-marine, Brian thought. Jack looked almost like a tall, young Father Landers.

Behind them rode and ex-black panther leader who had undergone a radical leap of faith two years ago and been converted to Christianity. At six three, Russ' balding head stood out above the rest of the group. Not only was he the only black person in the group, he was also the only black person in the parish. He was also one of Father Landers' closest friends. Russ had insisted that he ride in the rear, but after an hour or so, it became apparent that Brian was not about to ride ahead of anyone else, and Russ reluctantly passed him. After another hour or so, Russ was forced to pass yet another rider who was too slow for his pace, a forty two year old nun named Claire Mooney. Claire was short and somewhat overweight, but her face had a kindness in it that Brian liked and he felt comfortable riding behind her.

The group stayed fairly close together for most of the morning. It was hot and humid and Father Landers kept a constant watch on the group over his shoulder. They stopped for lunch at a small sub shop that had a series of red wooden picnic tables outside. Father Landers had given each of them three hundred dollars in cash when they set out in the morning so they could take care of their own meals for the duration of the trip. When they arrived in Florida, Father Landers would hand out money again for those who were making the return trip. Brian sat alone at one of the red wooden tables. The white sun made it almost unbearable. Even though he didn't feel much like eating it, he unwrapped the medium tuna sub he had ordered and took a small bite. He watched as the sweat rolled off his nose and onto the table. It lay there for a moment, and then, slowly seeped into the red wood.

"Hot enough for you?" Phil asked as he sat down across from Brian.

"Yeah," Brian mumbled uncomfortably. He tried to hide his surprise and embarrassment by quickly taking another bit of his sandwich and acting as if nothing had happened.

"You're sweating pretty good there," Phil said with a big white smile. "That's a good sign though. It's when you don't sweat that you're in trouble. Me, I love to sweat. Love the feel of it. Makes me feel clean. Inside. You know, sweat isn't as bad as it's made out to be. When you sweat from physical effort, there's no smell, it's only when you're nervous that your sweat smells."

Then you should be able to smell me a mile away, Brian thought. He tried not to stare at Phil's acne, but he couldn't help it. It wasn't so much that he was disgusted by it, but more that it fascinated him in some strange and peculiar way. Probably from steroids, he thought as he nervously bit into his sub again. He noticed that the acne was on his arms as well as all over his face and he wondered if it was painful.

"You take this acne here," Phil said quickly. "It always clears up when I spend a lot of time sweating it out on the bike. Really has a purifying effect. That's how I know I've been sitting around in the office too long, the old acne pops up."

Brian stared back uncomfortably not wanting to talk about the acne, but not knowing what else to say.

"Oh, it's all right, you don't have to feel uncomfortable talking about it. I mean, it's my problem, right? And we are out here to talk, aren't we? You'd be surprised what talking can do for you, Brian. It is Brian, isn't it?"

Brian frowned and nodded with his mouth full of tuna sub.

"I thought so. Well anyway, I've found that the more you talk about something, the better off you are, that is, unless you don't have the opportunity to talk and you have to act spontaneously. But most of the time, it really does wonders to talk things out. Know what I mean?"

"Yeah." Brian said softly standing, thankful that he had finally finished his sub. He had eaten it too fast, but as far as he was concerned, it couldn't have been fast enough. Still, as the lump in his throat throbbed it reminded him that he should have taken more time to chew and less time to swallow. "Well," he said dryly, swinging his leg out from under the table and banging his knee on the bench. "I've got to get something to drink. This heat's really got my throat."

"Well, I'm sure we'll be talking more in the next few weeks. That's one thing we've got on our side, plenty of time."

"Yeah." Brian said, trying not to let his face show how badly his knee hurt. He hurried around the corner of the sub shop, stiff legged and holding his breath but relieved that he had managed to escape from Phil's friendly grip. He looked down at his bare knees, almost expecting to see blood, but there was only a slight redness.

The afternoon wore on endlessly. Connecticut was turning out to be a hillier state than he had expected. By five o'clock, the water stops had become so frequent that Father Landers decided to call it a day early. The reborns, Teresa and Jeanine, weren't holding up too well in the heat. They had been falling farther and farther back all afternoon, along with the forty two year old nun. Brian had a perfect view from which to watch them fall behind, because no matter how slow they went, they were still quite a ways in front of him.

Brian noticed a small town coming up on the horizon. The sign on the side of the road said: Welcome to Dodgintown. The road they had been riding on turned directly into Main St. in Dodgintown but Brian didn't know it was Main St., because there wasn't much on it of interest that would make anyone think of it as a "Main St.". There were two bar rooms, one on each end of the street, and a few small general stores with apartments above them. Brian almost rode right by Father Landers and the rest of the group as they stood on the sidewalk underneath a long wooden porch with a sign above it that read: Ike Likes Dodgintown's Finest Homemade Chili. Apparently, Ike had been through Dodgintown once on his way to New York and had eaten at Emmett's House of Chili. Legend had it that he loved the chili so much that he had ordered several gallons of it to take back to the White House with him, and, when he ran out, he often sent members of the Secret Service up to Connecticut by helicopter to bring him back a fresh supply. After Ike died, things hadn't gone quite so well for Emmett's House of Chili. Not many people cared much about Ike anymore, or whether or not he liked the chili at Emmett's. Still, the couple that owned the restaurant had somehow managed to make ends meet over the years mostly due to tourists who traveled the backroads during the peak of the fall foliage season in search of unseen views. For the past eight years, Father Landers had been stopping there, partly out of pity for the aging owners and partly due to the fact that he had voted for Ike.....Now, he led the others in a round of applause at Brian's arrival. Brian's face flushed slightly, and he wanted to tell them all to go to hell, but he somehow managed a smile as he dismounted.

Dinner was served at one, long, narrow banquet table. The walls were covered with black and white photographs, some of them autographed, of famous people who had been to Emmett's House of Chili. Brian was too tired to notice the pictures though. All he wanted to do was to get a good meal and find someplace where he could sleep in silence without the heat bearing down on him. The conversation was dominated by Father Landers, Phil, Martha and Jack, and Kathi the lesbian. They all seemed as enthusiastic as when they started out, although Kathi was a bit more cynical than the rest. Brian sat at the other end of the table and tried to avoid the eyes of those involved in the discussion. He knew it couldn't last forever, because of the amount of time involved, but for as long as possible, he wanted to try and remain as far from the action as he could.

"May I have your attention please," Father Landers said, tapping his fork of his coffee cup as he spoke. "Now I know you're probably all tired from riding, and since the weather's not cooperating, we're only going to ride a few more miles before bedding down for the night. I know the prospect of getting back on the bikes might not sound too inviting to some of you right now, but I'm just going to have to ask you to bear with me for a few more miles until we get to a suitable camping spot. Don't worry, this gets a lot easier once you get used to it."

"Oh, we don't mind," Martha bubbled for the group. "I for one could use the extra exercise," she added with a laugh.

Brian wondered if the disgust was highly visible on his face. He tried to focus on his plate, but he was overwhelmed by the feeling that everyone was looking at him and he was forced to lift his head.

"Well then, if everyone's ready, we might as well get a move on," Father Landers said.

Brian's stomach felt tight and heavy as he mounted his bike. His thighs were heavy and sore, but the pain that he was most aware of came when he sat down. He had brought only three pairs of gym shorts with him, because that was all that he owned. They had no padding, like the kind of shorts that were made for biking and although they were nylon, he had begun to chafe quite badly. Brian assumed his place at the rear of the line again, and slowly followed the back tire of the bike in front of him. Twenty minutes later, they pulled into a small field on the side of the road. It was almost dusk. Brian could only make out a small railroad bridge off to his right which ran parallel to a small wire fence. The woods to the rear of the field were an indistinct wall of darkness.

"Well, this is it," Father Landers said with a tired smile. "As I said earlier, since the weather today was a bit extreme, I'm going to cancel tonight's group discussion. Under normal circumstances, we would make a fire, and talk for a while. No set format or time limit, just a relaxed conversational atmosphere. But, since we've all had a tough day and everyone's worked so hard, we'll skip it for tonight and get to bed early. Tomorrow's a big day for us."

Brian wondered what he meant by that, but before he could imagine the worst, Father Landers broke the silence.

"No ideas?" He asked with a laugh. "Well then, I'll just have to tell you myself. By noon tomorrow we'll be in New York City, and, since Phil and I have become avid followers of the Rockettes over the years, we'll be stopping at Radio City Music Hall for the afternoon show. With all the business I've given them over the past ten years you'd think they'd give me a free ticket for life," he said holding back a yawn. "Well, at any rate, we'll be stopping in for the afternoon show and I'm sure that the air conditioning will be a welcome and well deserved respite from the heat. So, if there aren't any questions, we'll set up the tents and call it a night. If anyone needs any help with their gear, just ask Phil or Russ or myself and we'll be glad to lend a hand." Father Landers paused, and glanced around the

semi-circle of tired faces for some hint of doubt or dissent. Satisfied with the silence, he turned toward his packs and said "I hope everyone gets a good night's rest."

"Good night, Father," a few voices said in the spreading darkness.

Brian knelt down and opened the new pack that Father Landers had given him. It was one of a set of three, two of which could be attached to a frame over the rear wheel of his bike. On top of the frame itself, a small two-man tent had been tied, which had also been supplied by Father Landers. Brian unfolded it and wondered if he would ever be able to figure out how to set it up. He had only been camping a few times, and he had never set up a tent by himself. His father had always taken care of that, or at least he did when he was around. Brian didn't like to think about that though. It wasn't that he denied his father's drinking, it was just that he had come to accept it as something perfectly natural, like waking up in the morning to David Hartman on the t.v.. It was much the same way in which he viewed his mother's conversion to lesbianism during one of her many separations from his father. She wasn't one of those really radical cram it down your throat lesbians. She was just a lonely woman who needed companionship during her separation, and, for Brian, it was perfectly natural. At the time, he really didn't understand what a lesbian was, so it didn't bother him at all. He couldn't remember how old he was when his mother sat him down and tried to explain it. Understanding it hadn't really changed his feelings about it though. He had just accepted it as perfectly natural.

The door to the tent had no mosquito netting in it. Brian pulled the flap back and carefully crawled into his tent. He could hear the rumble of thunder in the distance. He hoped it would rain. Brian sat back on the floor of his tent and waited for his body to cool. His neck and shoulders ached from bending over the handlebars of his bike all day. It was almost totally dark now. The door of the tent ruffled gently in the light wind. Brian was about to reach forward and tie it shut to keep the mosquitos out, when a hand reached in from the outside and pulled the flap open. Brian sat back quickly. He wanted to close his eyes, but his curiosity was too great. His stomach tightened in anticipation of another vision, but the hand was real. It belonged to Jim Lyman.

"What's up?" He asked with a puzzled grin. Brian was too afraid to talk.

"Hey, you all right?" Jim said, reaching out with his hand and touching Brian's arm. Brian pulled back instinctively, but then he realized it was all right. Although his visions were extremely convincing and often spoke to him, they never touched him physically. That was how he determined if things were real or not. He had come to distrust his eyes. If you can touch it, it's real.

"What're you doing here?" He asked, still stunned by the fact that Jim was indeed kneeling in the doorway of his tent in an empty field just outside of Dodgintown Connecticut.

"Just stopped in to say hello," Jim said with a laugh. He crawled in on all fours and sat cross legged across from Brian. There was no extra room.

"How the hell did you get down here?"

"I followed you guys, and it wasn't easy."

"You followed us? On what?"

"I bought myself a bike this morning. Spent three hundred and eighty seven dollars on it. Goes like hell though. You guys had a three hour head start on me and I still caught you."

"Well, we stopped a lot for water. Some of the women had a hard time with the heat and all."

"And my bike's air-conditioned. Face it, you guys weren't even pedaling."

"It's not a race. Besides, you didn't have to follow us. Last night at this time you were dead set against this trip."

"That's right. I still am. That's the beauty of it, you're trapped, but I'm out here on my own. I can go wherever I please." "What about money?"

"I closed by bank account this morning. I've got two hundred and sixty seven dollars on me right now. I mean, I had to get out of there sometime and now's the time."

"Yeah but you left before and always came back. What makes this time any different?"

"This time it's for good. That's all there is to it."

Brian paused for a moment, considering what Jim had just said. He was glad to see Jim, but at the same time, he wasn't sure how things would be if he was around. Although they had only been on the road for one day, he had already begun to enjoy the feeling of being alone. So far, he had managed to avoid most of the others on the trip, and it was going smoother than expected. His only problem was that he was out of shape. That and the weather had made it tough, but other than that, it hadn't been too bad. It would probably get easier as time went on, he thought. Jim might just complicate things. Especially if the rest of the group finds out about him.

"Does Father Landers or anyone else know you're here?"

"Naw. I snuck in. You know, under cover."

"Where are you going to camp?"

"Over there, underneath that little railroad bridge."

"Why don't you just go see Father Landers, he said you could come along."

"Sorry. I don't want anything to do with Father Landers, or any of the other nuts on this trip. I'm just out here to have a good time."

"If they find out about you, I'm the one that's going to have to explain things. They'll come straight for me."

"Listen, don't worry about it. I mean, look, I followed you guys all day today without anyone seeing me. Besides, you seem to be taking up the rear most of the time, so I don't have to worry about anyone else looking back over their shoulders and seeing me." Jim said laughing. "So I'd like to welcome myself aboard. I'm gonna go set up for the night. You better tie up this door or the mosquitos will kill you." Jim crawled carefully backwards out through the door. When he was all the way out, he paused and stuck his face back in. It seemed almost too big to be real in the darkness and Brian watched its long, thin grey smile.

"I guess I'll see you sometime tomorrow," the face said.

"Yeah." Brian said as the face disappeared through the closing flap. He reached forward and tied the door tightly shut. Smiling weakly to himself, he undressed slowly in the darkness. It was raining steadily now, but the air was still thick and humid. He laughed as he heard Jim swearing softly in the distance as he lost his footing in the wet grass. Brian lay on his back, naked and stuck with sweat to the vinyl floor, listening to the sound of the rain in the woods and trying to decide if sleep would come quicker if he was being eaten alive with the door opened to a cool breeze, or as he was suffocating safely in the stale air. The mosquitos were everywhere.