Stan Marsh was very bad at planning day trips. His ideas were either boring or incredibly dangerous, and more often than not, no matter who he invited, the only people who showed up were the same four people that had been showing up since the second grade. However, since he'd gotten his new car, he'd decided that it was time to start going out more often.
The story of how Stan Marsh came into possession of his 1996 forest green Pontiac Transport is not as interesting as it is baffling. Well, baffling mostly to one Randy Marsh, who thought he'd do his son a favor on his 16th birthday and take him down to the used car lot.
"You can pick out whatever you want," he said grandiosely and walloped Stan on the back, "and it's yours."
In Randy's opinion, this was perhaps the most excellent present he had ever come up with, and he was feeling quite superior about it (Sharon had just wanted to pay for the boy's letterman).
"Really, dad?" Stan squinted, not so much impressed as he was suspended in a sort of half disbelief. A majority of the cars were the kind of vintage that didn't work anymore, and he could hear Kyle's voice in his head chastising the taste he knew he didn't have.
Kyle had been telling him about vintage things a lot, mostly in terms of justifying the mustard yellow cord pants he'd worn to the last football game that Cartman had found hilarious. Stan couldn't see anything wrong with them except that they sort of got him in the mood for McDonalds, not that he'd ever tell him that.
Thinking in terms of 'what would Kyle do', Stan made a beeline to perhaps, the ugliest minivan that had ever come into existence.
"This one's fine," he patted the thing with his hand, trying to bond with it. Like
, or something.
"Uh- Stanley, are you sure you don't want something a little less," Randy was wincing, desperately trying to shuffle Stan over to a little, black Volvo, "uh, female?"
"I'm picking this one," Stan said, clearly not able to be swayed, for whatever reason.
Not even Stan knew
he had been so insistent about the mini van situation, but it had turned out to be for the best, because Kyle absolutely adored the thing.
"This is perfect, Stan, do you even know?" Stan didn't. "We can fold down all the seats in the back, put a mattress in, and go on a road trip!"
"That'd be pretty cool," Stan was nodding, and sat in the driver's seat with Kyle adjacent to him, peeking back together in awe at the vast expanse of the car that now belonged to them.
"We should make, uh, rules. For carpooling, and stuff." Carpooling was good for the environment, and Stan was determined to do it as often as possible.
"Alright. Hold on, lemme grab a pen."
On a paper taped to the back of each seat read the rules.
- Rule #1: Kyle gets shotgun. If Kyle is gone, Kenny gets shotgun.
- Rule #2: Stan picks the music.
- Rule #3: No soda in the car.
And, added later after Clyde had gotten too vigorous with his soft serve,
- Rule #4: No ice cream in the car.
As long as these rules were followed, Stan would give rides to whoever, whenever, to where ever, all while Randy reluctantly paid for gas, as he'd promised.
On this particularly poorly planned day trip, Stan, Kyle, Kenny, Cartman, and Butters were all crammed into their reserved seats on their way to Denver's holiday ice skating rink that was open during winter break.
"Can you turn off your indie shit, Stan? This doesn't even sound like music anymore," Cartman quipped from the back seat, as Butters dozed off by his side.
"Aw, c'mon, this is the best song on the album. You just have to get past the ghost noises. Or, whatever," he turned it up.
"Stan's right," chirped Kyle, as he lolled back against the grey headrest, and squirmed around a little in his seat. Denver was only about an hour away, but he always got a little antsy on longer drives, "this album is about Anne Frank, y'know. That's probably why you don't appreciate it, you anti-semitic pig."
"I'm sick of your shitty Jew music! Right, Kenny?" he turned to Kenny, who sat on the other side of Butters, looking uninterested in this entire conversation, "Kenny doesn't wanna listen to this shitty Jew music."
"Jesus, dude," Kenny finally spoke, "can you stop yelling at each other, you're going to wake this kid up." He gestured to Butters, who was in a sort of sedated state against Cartman's fat shoulder.
"Oh, will you shut up, Kenny, you're not his fucking dad," Kenny squinted at that, crossed his arms and glanced at the window, rather than at Cartman who seemed to be intent on heating things up.
"Anyways, Kyle, I don't even think Anne Frank was a real person. Do you know what I read on Reddit, Kyle?" Kyle was red all the way up to his ears and Stan seemed very concentrated on the road, not quite wanting to touch on anything Cartman had apparently read on Reddit.
"On Reddit, listen, Kyle- I read on Reddit, Kyle, that all the Jews are liars and the Holocaust never happened. Did you know that, Kyle?"
"Shut the fuck up, Cartman! I don't give a shit about what you read on Reddit!" Butters had stirred from his slumber and was looking around blearily, wiping his eyes like a confused baby.
"Oh, jesus, Kyle, look what you did," Cartman smacked Butters on his side, nudging him back to where he'd been napping.
Cartman, Kenny, and Butters had always had a strange dynamic, and Stan had always found them particularly bizarre to watch. Kenny and Cartman were good friends, or at least, they hung out pretty often. Stan could never tell if Kenny actually liked Cartman, or if he was just doing him a favor. What they both seemed to have in common was their unbridled adoration for Butters, who seemed perfectly content to be constantly sandwiched between the two of them, practically doted on. Maybe it was just that Butters looked like a Kewpie Doll and had absolutely no will for self preservation, but Stan had decided it had to be deeper than that, there had to be some underlying check and balance system that kept them all coping with each other, or else it wouldn't be happening.
Meanwhile, Kyle was about to explode. He turned up the music further (which was against the rules, however, Stan wasn't about to remind him of that), and folded his arms tight across his chest, seething.
"Dude-" Stan said, gently, "Cartmans full of shit, okay? Just- don't let it bug you," he was almost whispering, not wanting to re-ignite things.
"Don't let it bug me?! Are you kidding me? Stan," Kyle took a deep breath in an attempt to compose himself, "he just said the Holocaust didn't happen, do you even know how offensive that is? He cited Reddit, Stan."
Stan cleared his throat, "yeah, dude, I know, but, you know what he was trying to do, alright? He was just trying to piss you off. He doesn't really think that." He gave Cartman the benefit of the doubt.
He reached over, taking one hand off the wheel to give Kyle a pat on the wrist, but as soon as he came in contact with Kyle's skin, he yanked his hand back, eyes wide with shock.
"What?" Kyle looked concerned, and Stan shook his wrist as though he'd just been hurt, scrunching up his nose.
"Uh- nothing. Sorry," he put his hand back on the wheel with a frown, and continued the drive. Kyle's skin had been like a stove top, incredibly hot to the touch. The skin of his palm felt raw and the burning sensation had not quite let up, but, convinced it was all in his head, or something, he just forced himself to keep driving, finding a little relief on the cool wheel of the car.
Kyle had shrugged it off and the rest of the drive was somewhat quiet. Butters fell back asleep and Cartman let go of his conspiracy theories for the time being. All was smooth sailing until Stan started looking for a parking spot, and, at the same time, everyone decided they were absolutely starving.
"Can we just please get into the goddamn ice rink before you all start asking for food, I'm sure they've got shitty nachos or something?" That appeased Kyle, who loved shitty nachos, but not Cartman, who wanted 'a fucking burger'.
Butters, warm and sleepy, piped up to say he just wanted a hot dog. Kenny agreed, and, after they all pitched in for parking, they filed out of the car with a renewed sense of purpose.
They all tromped into the skating rink with the sort of rambunctious presence that made every minimum wage worker feel very, very tired. They swapped out their shoes with skates, claimed a table, and hobbled around on the blades while they swarmed the concession stand.
"I'll get uh-" Stan had decided to order for them all, footing the bill, mostly because he was the only one with a job (at the drugstore-which he frequently called out of), "alright, how about," he counted off the boys on his hand. "Five hot dogs. And," he pointed at Butters, "one hot cocoa." Then Kyle, "and an order of nachos. Please."
Stan paid, and collectively, they carried all the food back to their table, their ice skates making them wobble. Butters managed to spill cocoa down his front, and was wrinkling his nose at the uncomfortable warmness. It was only then when Stan's attention was called back to the mysterious throbbing in his hand. After everyone had become thoroughly distracted by their food, he tugged up his sleeve, just to peek. His entire palm was a sore, blistered red, and it ached quietly. Wincing, he hid the burn once more in his shirt, hoping that, like it had so appeared, it would leave just the same. Without warning.
Kyle finished his hot dog first, and wiped off his mouth with the back of his hand, as he turned to glance at Stan with a furrowed brow, "are you alright, dude?"
"Yeah," Stan swallowed hard, rubbing his hand roughly against his jeans in an attempt to dismiss any of the pain he was feeling, "yeah, I'm fine. Don't worry about it."
Kyle frowned, but was complicent for the time being, still, however, resolved on keeping a bit of an eye on him.
It wasn't long before they all stumbled out onto the ice rink. Stan was glad for the cool air against his palm, and everyone else was just sort of overwhelmed with the excitement of finally getting out on the ice. Kenny was a fairly good skater, and Butters, who had lessons when he was younger, was a show off. He spun around the group in graceful little circles, beaming with pride, and the cold.
Cartman was a different story. He walked with skates on the same way he skated with skates on. He lifted up his feet one at a time, clomping around clumsily, almost cartoonish. Kyle wasn't much better. He had poor balance and kept startling, almost falling, and his knuckles were white from holding onto the side rail. They were all managing fairly well, sort of working together to keep off the ground, excluding Cartman who tried to push Butters over several times, but didn't quite have the speed to pull it off.
Kyle's cheeks were red, and his hands were cold; he was feeling a bit frustrated. Stan stumbled over to him, capable, but not graceful on the ice like Butters was, just managing.
"You'd be better if you let go of the rail or something, dude."
Kyle ignored him, continuing to pull himself along with the cold metal, and Stan wondered, perhaps, if that would be the cure for the heat radiating from his hands. He slowed down to stay close to Kyle, who seemed like he needed a spotter,
"No. I don't think so," he snapped back, irritated that he even needed the help in the first place.
"Jesus, just let go and I'll make sure you don't fall, alright? You'd be fine if you gave it a try. I swear." Everyone else had skated ahead of them, caught up in their own antics, meanwhile, Kyle gave Stan a disapproving glance.
"Fine. But if I fall, you're coming down with me." That was clearly a threat, and Stan took it to heart, watching as Kyle tentatively pulled away from the bannister and held his arms out akimbo.
Stan was amused, but humored him, just hovering around to make sure nothing terrible happened. Kyle was shaky, stumbling, but Stan wasn't going to help until he was sure he was going to fall, for the sake of his pride. They went on like this for several minutes, Kyle clumsily moving his skates back and forth while Stan stayed as close as he could without touching him. It went well, just like that. They were always good at working together.
At least, until Butters decided to slide in right next to them, throwing Kyle off his balance.
"Hiya, fellas!" he chirped, angling his foot so he did a little spin, much to Kyle's irritation.
"Jesus christ!" Kyle threw up his hands, unbeknownst suddenly to the fact that those were the things that were keeping him up, causing him to falter and reach out for the bannister he was too far away to grab again. Stan, with his excellent football reflexes, was very much capable of getting Kyle on his feet again, grabbing him by the waist and tugging, straightening him up enough to keep his balance.
Upon making contact with Kyle's shirt, Stan felt the same scalding heat he'd felt in the car, however, much less intensely. It was a very comfortable warmth, that spread up his fingers and the veins in his wrist, and traveled up all the way to his brain, leaving a nice, friendly tingle. It was nice, just to know it was there and buzzing, stuck in his head for a reason he wasn't quite sure of. Once the intensity of the burning had cooled, felt less mean, which was how it felt now, he realized how nostalgic it was. It was the same warmth he'd felt when they'd shared sweaty beds together at sleepovers and camp, when they'd swapped drinks, or lunches, or clothes, the warmth of being much closer to a person than anyone else ever could be. The warmth of knowing everything there is to know about someone.
While Stan spaced out about what he considered to be quite profound, he failed to notice that the ice beneath him was becoming a bit less solid. All the ice in about a five foot radius of the two of them was quickly melting slush, the concrete underneath becoming suddenly visible. Drawn over by the sounds of both Stan and Kyle making disgruntled noises of surprise as they both smacked the wet floor, Cartman and Kenny gathered to make a small crowd.
"What the fuck did you guys do?" He was laughing, scraping the slush up with the blade of his skates, looking so strange, as if he was teetering on sideways knives, his fat legs not matching the rest of him.
Kyle's cheeks were burning and he attempted to prop himself up, grabbing listlessly for the railing with little success, the bottoms of his pants were soaked.
"Did things heat up or something?" Cartman was immensely pleased with himself, as if it was his grand plan to melt the ice the entire time, "Should've gotten a room."
He nudged Kenny's shoulder, who was busy keeping an eye on Butters, seemingly completely unaffected by this event. In fact, he hadn't even noticed yet, Butters was utterly content to twirl his way around the opposite end of the rink without interruption.
Stan made a feeble attempt to get up, managing to grab hold of the bannister until his hand slipped off, slick from freezing water and aching sorely.
"Will you shut up, Cartman, it was some kind of," he bit the inside of his cheek, trying to think of an excuse for something like this, "heating malfunction. Or something." His hand felt good all wet and cold.
"Yeah. This happens all the time," Kyle took Stan's assumption and ran with it, "My dad does lawsuits about this kind of stuff, you know. People break their legs like this. Don't be stupid." He reached over to yank Cartman's pant leg, causing him to stumble and hit slush as well, sputtering in protest.
"Real mature, Kyle!" he squawked, grabbing at Kenny's arm for support and knocking him over as well, all of them in a damp heap on what had formerly been the icy floor of the rink.
The grand collaboration of Kenny's surprised yell, the rest of their complaints, and the slaps of wet clothing repeatedly hitting the concrete as they all attempted to use each other as a way to get back onto their feet was enough to call over not only Butters, but also the owner of the Southwest Denver Ice Rink.
Stan, Kyle, Kenny, Cartman, and Butters were informed that they not only had to leave immediately, but also, that due to their apparent damage of property, none of them were allowed back.
They had all eaten, which was half of the experience, so, only Butters left dismayed about their lifetime ban.
The ride home was much quieter than the ride there. Stan chose different music, and everyone was too damp and irritable to argue with Pinkerton.
After a half hour of driving, everyone in the back seat had dozed off, and only Stan and Kyle remained awake, as vigilant members of the front. Stan chewed at his lip in anticipation of asking a few questions he felt needed answering, and he would be wringing his hands if: 1. he wasn't driving, and, 2. if it wouldn't have hurt like a bitch.
"So, uh... did you do that?" his throat felt dry and Kyle blanched, sitting up a little straighter.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Kyle mumbled, pushing his cheek against the back of the passenger seat as he turned to give Stan his full attention.
"I mean, like," he coughed, "The ice. Did you do that?"
Kyle shrugged, clearly embarrassed by the question, although Stan couldn't imagine why.
"Of course not. Why would I be able to do something like that?"
Stan shrugged, also embarrassed, that he had even asked. It seemed stupid now. The idea that Kyle could possibly do something like that.
"It's stupid, I guess. I just felt something." This piqued Kyle's interest and he propped his elbow up on the arm of the seat, narrowing his eyes slightly.
Stan didn't answer, but he took his hand off of the wheel, showing Kyle his blistered palm.
"What the fuck? When did this happen, dude?" his eyes were big with worry and when he took Stan's hand in his, it didn't burn.
"On the way here. I don't know, maybe it was a 'heat malfunction'," he laughed weakly, and Kyle furrowed his eyebrows with concern, touching the burned skin as gently as he could with the very tips of his fingers.
"It's nothing," Stan continued, "I was hoping it'd just go away. It doesn't really hurt anymore. I mean, since the ice."
"You should go to the doctor, or something, this doesn't look good."
Stan gave a noncommittal shrug and returned his hand to the wheel, deciding not to bring it up until everyone else had been dropped off. Usually after outings like this, Stan just went straight to Kyle's house, or vice versa, not that it really mattered, because they were neighbors, after all. If he didn't go over right away, he'd be over after dinner, or maybe even in the middle of the night. Sheila was used to Stan showing up at breakfast when he hadn't been there the night before.
Kenny just ended up tagging along with Cartman when he got dropped off, and Butters was the only one who returned to his own house, as he was not allowed to go to spontaneous sleepovers. Spending time with Butters had to be expertly planned, and usually had to have some sort of emergency fallback plan. On this particular trip, Butters' parents were under the impression that Stan's mother had driven the boys to a county-wide SAT study group. Both Kyle, who'd come up with the excuse, and Cartman, who'd provided the voice of Stan's mother during the confirmation call, had no idea if those actually existed.
Stan pulled up outside his house and parked the car, tugging the keys out of the ignition and putting them safely back into his pocket. The car didn't lock, which Stan didn't really have an issue with. Its unique and motherly physique made it fairly steal-proof, and he didn't own anything valuable or sentimental- besides his collection of John Elway clippings- but that stayed under his bed. Mostly.
He shut the door and checked the thing briefly for any scratches or dents, a habitual ritual that happened after every drive, whether it was going to make him late for class or not, then followed Kyle inside.
Kyle's parents had gone grocery shopping, as was customary of Sunday evenings, and the only one home was Ike, and the chances of him coming out of his room were unlikely.
They sat down at the kitchen table and Kyle grabbed a bag of chips, taking another look at Stan's hand with growing concern.
"I'm getting the first aid kit, this is ridiculous." He tossed the chips aside and hurried into the bathroom, wiping his hands on his pants to sanitize them. "How did that even happen?" he called as he bustled around under the sink, returning with a plethora of crinkled up medical tools all stuffed in a transparent plastic box. It was clear the whole thing was rifled through often.
Stan let Kyle take his hand once more as he examined it, spritzing it with alcohol and dabbing at it with a wet wipe, finding that no bandaid was big enough to cover the raw red of his palm. Sighing in irritation at this, Kyle dug around a bit to find some ace bandage. It was tightly coiled and held in place with a metal butterfly clip.
Kyle held Stan's hand close to his chest as he wrapped it, sterile and secure, it made Stan's fingers tingle.
"It happened when I touched you," Stan finally said, after a long and comfortable silence, blinking over at Kyle with half resignation, as if he'd been holding this in all along.
"I touched your wrist in the car, and it just hurt. I don't know. It's stupid, but it happened. I swear, dude." Kyle's bottom lip wavered, and for a second Stan was worried he'd made him cry.
Kyle didn't cry often. Sometimes, when he got frustrated, he'd tear up, but if Kyle really started balling, Stan knew something had to be really wrong. That didn't happen, however, he sniffed a little which set off a few warning signs in Stan's head. Either way, he said nothing. Just stared at the other boy's face patiently, waiting to see what he thought of his bizarre claim.
"I didn't-" his throat felt like there was something stuck in it and his eyes burned, "I didn't mean to. Stan, I'm sorry." Kyle wiped at his cheeks with shame, as he cradled Stan's hand to his chest in guilt.
"It just happens sometimes. That kind of stuff. It's been happening more often, I don't know what to do, I've always been worried about doing something terrible like this, I'm so sorry," he was ranting; the words pouring out of his mouth like they'd been pent up for years, and Stan was quickly coming to realize it was probably because they had been.
"Dude-" Stan quipped, in an attempt to stop him, get him to calm down or something, but Kyle plowed right over him.
"I've just been popping light bulbs since I was ten, and I never meant to, you know? You've seen it, I know you have. It's so stupid, it's so stupid. It's not even logical. I just try and try not to do, whatever this is, but it just overflows. That's the only way to say it, it's so stupid, I-" Kyle's cheeks were getting redder and the faucet turned on, startling him into shutting his mouth, glancing blearily behind him at the steaming hot sink.
Stan saw, and turned to look at the sink in an awestruck fashion, frowning.
"It's kind of cool," he mumbled, a bit slack jawed. He hadn't expected Kyle to start listing off all of these issues Stan never had a clue about, but was glad to listen, and quite impressed, to say the least.
"Kind of cool?!" Kyle was offended by this, and buried his face in his hands, letting out a grunt of frustration, "You're stupid, Stan Marsh."
Stan shrugged, content with this, and leaned forward to gently brush his lips against Kyle's warm forehead, the hand that wasn't bandaged making its way up and around to rest on the boy's shoulder and tug him close, "I know."
Unbeknownst to the both of them, the light above the dishwasher began to glow a vibrant yellow and the fridge stopped its humming.
If you enjoyed this story, remember to check out the original artwork that inspired it!