He shuffled his feet in the direction of his home, walking in the car’s sidewalk. The streets were empty, but smelling of alcohol and blood. Hearing a car pull up behind him, Brooke froze. Is that what it sounded like when George had crashed? The air being split by revved up machinery, tires with screeching friction as it came to a still.
The car sounded the horn a few times before making its way around the stubborn teen. Did George give a warning as well? Or was he too intoxicated to even realize he was about to die, bringing a van restrained family with him. Luckily, no one was left alive… no victims who could sue. The Takre’s couldn’t afford that. They’d go houseless, easily.
Brooke pulled a cigarette out of his pocket, looking in his other for a light. Without one, he lazily popped the tip in his mouth, chewing on his half of the straw. The loose stones of asphalt were pushed by Brooke’s heels as he rocked forward, sensing his energy draining as sweat began to drip down his forehead. He had no idea how long he had been wandering his neighborhood. At least a day. He didn’t go home last night, and he didn’t want to now. The house would feel empty without George, although the world never felt much fuller. A smirk captured his frown as he decided Jenny must be worried about him. With a stronger bite of his cigarette, he started to lift his feet. Without a second thought, the walk turned into a run and he found himself in the deserted driveway in front of the building in which he lived.
Slowly, Brooke tried the door, wincing as the hinge creaked. The living room lights were off, making the atmosphere even deader. Brooke blindly made his way past the couch. Just a week ago, his family had bonded together on that sofa of emerald shade. Brooke munched on hot popcorn kernels beside his mother while George wrestled with Jenny, fighting about which channel to watch, each convinced the other had the remote… the remote that Brooke had hidden under the cushion on which he sat, just to ensure he could finish watching his cartoons.
Exiting the hallway he entered his room, lazily flicking the light switch as he flopped onto his disheveled bed. Just as he shut his eyes to sleep… instantly.
“Do you know how worried I was?” Jennifer scolded, grunting in frustration when her brother shrugged, the cigarette as high in the air as his nose. She roughly pulled yanked it out from between his teeth, smacking him across the head as he reached for it. “I already told you,” she made her way to the trash bin. “ No. More. Smoking.”
“It wasn’t lit.” He reasoned. Jenny could only keep her murderous glare for a moment, a memory making her smile.
“You always were below the influence.” She declared as she sat next to him on the sheets. “When you were two, you used to pretend that lollipops were cigarettes.” Brooke didn’t say anything, just looked up at Jenny as she continued. “When you were three, you drank out of an apple cider bottle on New Years and told us you were drunk…”
“And Dad believed me because he asked me how many fingers he was holding up, too drunk to realize I couldn’t count.” He too laughed at this, staring up at the ceiling.
“And then you turned four…”
“And I started gambling at F’ing preschool, so the teacher called Dad for a conference. She said he had to pay a fine to be distributed to the class ‘cause I took too much of the other student’s lunch money. And he said…” Brooke had to stop to catch his breath. “He said he’d roll her for it, double or nothing.”
“Yeah.” She smiled. “And he won.” She ruffled his curly brown hair, her hands getting stuck in the knotted mess. “And then you turned five…” She stopped there, lowering the corner of her lips as she realized there wasn’t another story to tell.
“And then I turned five… and all the fun stopped.” He finished for her. She nodded in agreement.
“Why do you think that is?” She asked, finally freeing her hand from the maze of hazel locks..
“My role model disappeared.” He answered as he turned to his night stand for another cigarette, which Jenny eagerly trashed.
“So, why are you starting again now?” They went silent when they heard the front door open, listening as their mother fumbled around in the darkness.
“I’m home!” She exclaimed in a roller coaster voice, knocking over something that sounded as though it broke. Jennifer sighed, but she didn’t leave the bedroom. She looked about ready to cry when their mother finally made it to Brooke’s doorway, barely able to support herself in the frame. She reeked of spilled beer and piss, Jennifer hesitantly resting her mother’s arm around her shoulder as she guided her to her room.
“Hey, Jenny!” She peaked her head back into the room in response to Brooke’s call.
“I have a new role model,” he smiled a triumphant grin as he lit a cigarette and began to smoke it. She rolled her aqua eyes asked before returning to her task at arm.
“You.” Brooke whispered to himself before stomping out the cigarette and throwing the pack away. He listened to the soothing sounds of his mother’s vomit as he relaxed, remembering that this was his home.
He was home.
Dillon stood next to Derek, watching as their father’s train began to roll away. Derek kept his hands in his jacket pockets, refusing to look through the window. Dillon kept his arm up, letting it limp as soon as the reflection was glared.
“You think he’s coming back?” Derek asked. Dillon just shrugged, walking closer to the tracks. It smelled of burnt steel, the evidence of friction rising for a moment before it settled, hovering only inches above the wasteland. Derek turned, walking to the train stop’s bench, sprawling in the shade beside a sleeping old lady. She smelled of wheat and cauliflower, strands of her ivory hair sneaking out from under her black hat. Her arms were folded neatly across her lap, rested on her knitting.
“How much do you think he took this time?” Derek asked cautiously, semi-expecting the woman’s eyes to snap open any minute. Dillon faced him, narrowing his stare. Thinking.
“Two… Maybe three grand.”
“Damn.” Derek muttered, causing Dillon to smirk, it finally sinking in.
“Shit.” He laughed, staring up into the dust filled sky. He hopped down onto the tracks, passively motioning for Derek to follow. Derek licked the top of his teeth before getting up and tiredly jogging to catch up with his brother.
“Where are we going?” Derek asked, competitively trying to keep one step ahead.
“Hell.” Dillon wiped the sweat behind his neck, scratching at the dirt behind his ears. “It’s hot as it.” He continued, slowly removing his Blink 182 T-shirt and using it as a towel. Derek rolled up his sleeves, unzipping the green and freeing his neck. He had a string tied around it, threaded through a soda can’s pull tab. He pulled his t-shirt collar up higher, trying to hide the scars he had from said aluminum scratching at his chest.
Without warning, the dust was blown off of the tracks and into their path before the wind quickly died again. Derek batted at his eyes, trying to get them to stop stinging. After a few coughs, he looked up at Dillon who seemed unfazed. Dillon had balanced his shirt on his face, ignoring the stench of his body odor and protecting his features from the sun. Derek felt the sweat roll down to his ankles, soaking his socks. It was like stepping in a warm puddle of glue over and over again, each second the liquid becoming even stickier. Eventually, fed up with the uncomfortable paces, he took off his shoes, peeling his socks down and cramming them in his jacket pocket.
The ground was crisp and boiling beneath his toes. Small grains of hot sand climbed onto his feet, trying to keep its place, every step an avalanche. Looking ahead, the brothers saw a tunnel. At first they thought it was a mirage, but once they were standing in the cave, cold air rushing to mend their burns, they eased. As they entered the darkness, their gray shadows lightened, camouflaging with the tunnel’s wall. But with their footsteps echoing, they could hear the shadows’ continue scuttling along, and although they all lost sight of each other, no one felt alone.
Dillon gargled his spit in an attempt to hydrate his tongue, swinging his shirt around to amuse himself. Derek ushered something about needing water, but Dillon had too big a headache to actually care about Derek’s needs. If it wasn’t for Derek shoving him forward, Dillon probably wouldn’t have heard what he said next either.
“Run!” Derek ordered, not bothering to explain himself as he took off down the tracks. Dillon shook his head, covering his open mouth with his hands. He looked up into the distance, watching as Derek sprinted from the scene. Dillon just stood there dumbly, his eyebrows slightly raised. After a moment he realized something.
He could see Derek.
Holding on to his shirt, he ran, ignoring the throbbing in his head and the pain in his stomach. He ran, racing the mimicking puppet on the wall, making the image of black dart from each crack and crevice of the rock wall. Dillon was blinded by the light at the end of the tunnel, but hearing the train’s wheels skate along the tracks made him wonder if he could beat it. Dillon looked over his shoulder, instantly regretting. The train’s distance was not necessarily reassuring, the shadow of the beast devouring his. He clenched his fists tight, his knuckles turning white as he ran, faster than he ever had as quarterback. On the football field, the rules are different. The outcomes aren’t deadly, unless, of course, Coach Ineedaname gets especially angry after a loss.
When Dillon felt that sun splash his face, he felt happier than he could’ve imagined. He threw himself off the tracks, landing awkwardly on his side as the train sped by. Dillon huffed, trying to regain his breathing pattern as he rolled onto his back, He covered his face with his shirt once again, ignoring the stench of the body odor and protecting his features from the sun. Derek knelt beside him, patting him on the shoulder before he joined, rolling onto his back and closing his eyes. He took his necklace into his mouth, whistling a few notes. Dillon relaxed as he heard the train’s whistle accompany softly in the distance.
“You could’ve stopped it.” Derek reasoned, feeling him tense up again.
“It was a goddamn train!” Came his muffled yell through the fabric. Derek couldn’t help but laugh. Wasting no time, he yanked the shirt off of Dillon and started down the tracks again. In an instant, Dillon was up, yelling profanities, and racing his shadow once again.
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