5 min read

Have You Eaten? Part Two

Part 2 out now!
Have You Eaten? Part Two
Cover by Shing Yin Khor

Have You Eaten? part 2 is live at Reactor!

Fen, Harper, Morrow, and Quan find themselves stranded in the middle of nowhere on their way to Chicago. A storm is coming, and they'll need to decide whether to shelter with a stranger, or turn away the help he offers them.

If you missed the news yesterday, Have You Eaten? is my serialized novella about queer dirtbags on the run, searching for their missing best friend. It's the story of how they nurture and nourish each other with their limited emotional and material resources. The entire novella is out this week over at Reactor, with sections going up each day through Friday. Each installment of Have You Eaten? is accompanied by an original recipe from my recipe box. You'll also find stunning original art from friend of the newsletter and genuine superstar, Shing Yin Khor. 

 You can read Parts 1 through 4 now, or keep scrolling for an excerpt from Part 2 below.

Excerpt: Dinner With Peter

Iowa is quiet at night, not that anyone in the back of the pickup would know. The engine is so loud that they can barely hear their own thoughts. But that’s fine, because none of them particularly want to tune in to that frequency anyway. The noise is a mercy, in its way. 

All four of them—Fen, Quan, Harper, and Morrow—are wedged into the space next to the strapped-tight ATV in the truck bed. They’ve been rattling around back there like coins in a can since the middle of Colorado, where they managed to get picked up for the clearance price of all the pills in Morrow’s pockets. The guy driving the truck didn’t even look at their faces before opening the tailgate and ushering them in. He didn’t look when he slammed the tailgate shut either. Fen was lucky not to lose a finger. 

That unlooking was its own kind of courtesy—the gift of anonymity, generously granted to four nobodies in exchange for a palmful of loose capsules.

“Quan. Hey. Hey, Quan.” Morrow is folded nearly in half to fit in their corner of the truck bed, closest to the cab. They’re nudging a zoned-out Quan with one sharp elbow.

“Wha?” Quan sounds disoriented, like he’s just woken up.

Morrow bends down to lean close to Quan’s ear. “What did I give that guy?”

“What did you—do you mean the pills?”

“Yeah, I didn’t check. Did you see what I handed him?”

Quan leans away, gives Morrow an incredulous look. “No. How do you not know what pills were in your pocket?”

Morrow shrugs, leans around Quan to try to get Harper’s attention. “Harp?”

Harper shakes their head, points to their ear. Even if they were open to conversation, which they usually aren’t, the thunder of the truck’s engine is loud enough to wash out any possibility of conversation. 

Morrow doesn’t bother trying to get Fen’s attention. She’s crammed tight into the opposite corner from them. Her back is against the tailgate, and a scarf is up over her face to filter the worst of the exhaust coming from the tailpipe beneath her seat. Her eyes are closed and her skin is a worrying shade of green. 

Just as Quan’s eyes start glazing over again, the truck slows. The stink of exhaust thickens without the wind of movement to whisk it away. Harper and Morrow pull their shirts up over their noses and mouths; Quan just coughs. 

There’s nothing here to stop for, but the truck pulls onto the shoulder anyway. The semiautomatic bleat of the rumble strip jolts them all alert. They glance at each other, worry passing between them as fast as an extreme heat warning pinging every palmset in a hundred-mile area. None of them know why the driver would choose to stop in this lonely place.

The engine cuts off. Wildflowers grow next to the highway, bottlecaps scattered in the dirt they’re growing out of. The golden pre-dusk light makes the broken glass on the highway shoulder glow. A fallow field stretches as far as any of them can see; on the other side of the highway, a blanket of soybeans extends all the way to the horizon. A door opens, then slams shut again. A lone cicada whines nearby; other than that, there’s no sound louder than footsteps on gravel as the driver makes his way around the side of the truck.

The tailgate drops open. Fen nearly falls out but catches herself just in time. She drops her head into her hands and sits there, catching her breath. 

The driver’s hat, a faded blue ballcap with a dark rectangle on the front where a patch has been ripped off, shades his face so his eyes aren’t visible. He clears his throat and spits into the wildflowers. “You’ll want to get out and walk from here,” he says. “State line’s in a couple miles, and the State Border Patrol in Illinois started doing agricultural inspections on all vehicles entering the state last year. Depending who’s running the booth, could mean trouble for some kinds of people.”

“We’re trying to get to Chicago,” Harper says as they scramble past Fen and out of the truckbed. It’s a five-foot drop to the ground. The driver doesn’t help them down. 

Morrow nudges Quan again. “That’s in Illinois, right?” they whisper.

Quan doesn’t answer. He pauses at the edge of the tailgate, looking at the driver, who has his face turned toward the soybeans. “Do you know how we can get there without running into State BP?”

The driver responds with silence. He waits while Morrow helps ease a gray-faced Fen to the edge of the dropped tailgate. Once the two of them drop to the asphalt, he slams the tailgate shut again. He hesitates for just a moment before turning his back on all four of them. 

“Go through Wisconsin. There’s just one guy working the inspection station up there, name of Bouchard. He never gives anyone trouble.”

By the time Harper reaches the "you” in “thank you,” the driver’s-side door is already slamming shut again.

If you’re a paying subscriber, come by the Stone Soup Supper Club and let me know what you think of today’s installment! (If you’re not, now’s a good time to sign up.) 

No matter what, please do share Part 2 of Have You Eaten? far and wide. This story is so personal to me, and is such a swing for the fences–it’d mean the world to me if you’d tell your friends about it.