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Jason's Long Ride
By Colleen Messina
  

1     Jason was making friends at last. He hadn't felt so happy since he moved from New York City three months earlier. A boy at the high school had invited him to go on a mountain bike ride this weekend, and Jason was determined to go. He figured if that's what Montana kids do for fun, he'd join them.
 
2     Sports weren't Jason's strong point, but he wanted to make some friends. A bike ride sounded manageable. Whenever he moved, his creed was, "do what you have to do." His philosophy always helped him get over the feeling that he was in exile. He had lived in Seattle, Washington D.C., and Denver in the last three years. Jason had tried to feel eager about moving to Montana, but he just couldn't get excited about geysers, elk, and bison. He saw the mounted heads of hunted creatures everywhere, evidence of the local hunting tradition. Jason didn't like those glassy eyes glaring at him!
 
3     Jason packed his backpack with snacks, sports drinks, and sunscreen after school. The next morning he put on his nylon shorts but noticed that his pipe cleaner legs looked white and weak. He waited in the driveway at 6:30 a.m. the next morning, and a red SUV pulled in the driveway at 6:33 a.m. Jason squared his jaw and tried to look invincible.
 
4     "Hey, Jason, we're glad you are ready!" Sam called from the car. He was red-haired, fair-skinned, and stocky. A hefty kid sat beside him. "This is Brian." Sam explained. "He's the cycling buddy I was telling you about."
 
5     "Hi, "said Brian, an enormous hulk of a boy with large, white teeth. Jason thought he looked like a grizzly bear and wondered how those two could be in his class.
 
6     Sam and Brian lithely launched out of the car and loaded Jason's bike onto the rack while Jason laboriously lugged his backpack into the back seat. Soon the trio was on its way to Yellowstone National Park. Jason tried to breathe deeply and relax. He was sure that saturating his muscles with oxygen would help him last longer. Jason watched impregnable stands of pine trees whiz by. They looked like ladies in evening dresses shedding their sharp perfume into the breeze. Soon the car smelled like Christmas. Herds of elk raised their heads and gave ear-splitting bellows as though they had stomachaches. Jason tried to quell his irrational fear that he would not live through the bike ride because of his lamentable lack of biking experience.
 
7     The boys drove around a bend in the road and saw flocks of camera-studded tourists tiptoeing toward grazing bison. Even Jason knew that that was not a good idea. The animals' fuzzy heads had horns that seemed to jut out of the sides like coat hooks. One large male turned around quickly as though he had just woken up from a stupor. He glared at the eager tourists with a perilous look. Suddenly he spun around and charged exceedingly fast. The flock of photographers ran like startled rabbits and hopped into their cars. They sadly sniffled about the unprofitable photo session.
 
8     "Those idiots should be glad they are alive," commented Brian. "Every year some dumb tourist thinks it's constructive to get close to those beasts. Then he finds out how fast they can run!" He laughed.
 
9     "Don't they read all those pamphlets about leaving the wild animals alone?" asked Jason.

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