Neal looked out at the tan, dusty ground and began walking. He walked to the highway and stuck out his thumb. It was early in the morning and the sun was not yet up. Next to his bag, on the ground, was a piece of cardboard he'd scrounged from a dumpster, with San Francisco written on it in black marker which he'd swiped from a convenience store, along with some candy and a package of hot dogs. All he had was the $22.52 left from his last paycheck at the Century Theater.
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by Joshua Medsker
Illustrations by Jeremy Waltman
Neal kicked the ground, producing a plume of dust that settled on his pant leg and shoe. Twinges of doubt nagged at him as he paced along the side of the road with his sign. Across the road a ways, he saw the Del Taco he worked at when he was a freshman in high school -- further on down, he imagined his neighborhood, and his old school, where he went before dropping out in his junior year -- and he remembered hanging out with his friends, skating the nearby curbs, smoking weed, selling it to the hockey players and the football players. (They would sell to the jocks at school, at first to avoid getting beaten up, but later it helped form a bond of sorts.) The misfits and quiet artsy kids all hung out in the vacant lot behind the school, riding their bikes or skateboards, playing Black Flag way too loud from their sticker-covered stereos ... anything to avoid going home. Neal and his friends would hang around the Anti-Media shop reading the newest issue of Maximum Rock N' Roll, arguing about music, or watching army autopsy videos and petting the shop owner's big black mutt. Neal lay down on his backpack, on the side of the highway, and let his mind drift.