PART 6, SECTION 14

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Jason picked up the phone right away. I could tell by the sound quality that I'd reached his cell.

"Who's this?" he demanded.

"Are you on duty?" I asked.

"Yes, I'm on duty. Who is this?"

"You stood me up."

"Ashley?" Right away Jason's voice hushed. "Crap. Give me a second."

There was a series of shuffling noises, then the sound of a car door closing.

"Ashley, yeah. Look. Sorry about that. But it just wasn't going to work out. They're kind of cracking down on unregulated intimate relations around here. It's just way too risky."

"Unregulated intimate relations?" I parroted.

"Well, yeah," he said sheepishly. "That's what they call it. Sleeping with a positive is amazing. It's like doing it on ecstasy. And a lot of guys haven't been careful enough. Now if you get caught fooling around without a license, it's not pretty. I shouldn't even really be talking to you."

I pretended to be hurt. "Have fun jerking off for the rest of your life, then," I said. "I should have known all that crap about you being down to party was bull. I was even saving my last two grasshoppers." I tried to sound as disappointed as possible over not partying with him. But it was hard. I kept remembering Jason climbing behind the wheel of the swather. "Look," I said. "Whatever."

"You have grasshoppers?" Jason sounded genuinely envious.

"I was going to surprise you. But, whatever."

"Crap," he said wistfully. "I haven't had grasshoppers since before the plague. Where'd you get grasshoppers?"

"I knew this guy at the trucking company who used to come in from Denver," I lied. "How does it matter now? I'm so bored, Jason. Seriously. My whole family's cut me off. And now Morgan's gone, so I don't even have her. You heard about Morgan, right?"

"Yeah, I heard."

He said this with utter disinterest. He was so gross. . .



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