“No thanks.” The words came out of Rune reflexively, like a leg kicking forward when its knee was hit with a doctor’s rubber hammer. He took a step forward, then stopped himself, waiting for the car to follow his directions to the Sunoco.
“It’s OK.” The man in the hunting cap continued to smile, his face hanging out the car window. He tilted his head back, in the direction of the driver’s seat. “Rusty says he knows your dad.”
Rune tilted his head down, his hands still buried in his jacket, and looked into the car. The driver had turned, his right arm dangling into the back seat, waving to Rune. The teen couldn’t make out the face, but the shape of the man’s head, the hair and beard, did look familiar to him. The image of his home’s back yard came to his mind, the pile of firewood. And suddenly he remembered the face of the man in the hunting cap, he’d seen him at a high school football game, in front of him in line at the concessions, he wore that same hunting cap, he’d seemed a little annoyed at being surrounded by teenagers but he’d kept his tongue, ordered his hot dog and Coke and paid his money and left, and now here he was leaning his head out the window of a car driven by a man who delivered firewood to his family, and Rune realized that he no longer could use the silent excuse of stranger danger to decline the offer of a ride.
“It’s — ” and then Rune stopped himself. If he completed the sentence, said he wasn’t far from home, Rusty might remember where his home actually was, called him out on his lie. Rune scanned his memory for any homes or shops in their immediate area, as looking around would also give him away, but nothing came to mind. He couldn’t say he was walking downtown without explaining why he hadn’t turned left when he hit Main Street a quarter mile behind them.
“Why you out here anyway?” The man in the hunting cap sounded impatient. “School let out couple hours ago. You pull detention?”