|20.20|21|22|22.2|22.22|22.222|23|24|25|Those Extra Four…|1|2|3|4|Back Cover|
A Rude Awakening
The sound of a distant coughing fit greets him along with a headache powerful enough to split Jack’s corpus callosum clean in half, their forces combined providing our boy with what can only be described as a rude awakening. Still exhausted from the run that he, Sam and, Daisy went on together as a family last night, Jack reaches a single hand out from underneath his covers and searches for at least one of the myriad of water bottles that he usually keeps on his night stand. But, just like last night, his thirst goes unquenched.
‘Oh right, Mom couldn’t buy any bottled water this week. Not enough money left over from last month’s child support check.’
Jack gets up out of bed and looks over to the little area rug tucked underneath the storage ottoman. ‘Wait… coughing?!’ he thinks as his body, moving a bit slowly this morning, flops across his room. With drowse in his eyes, Jack lazily flips the top off his glorified footrest and breathes a hearty sigh of relief. His suspicions of Sam stealing his weed back are squashed just like the ant under his foot as Jack runs up a total of one and one quarter staircases to confront his brother about his dreadful early morning coughing.
“Sam!” as Jack jumps and bangs on the latch to the attic. “Sam, why are you coughing?! Are you smoking again? SAM!”
“Honey,” Daisy calls out, followed by cough cough hack chew,then she debates, then swallow and then, “Jack, sweetie, it was me who was coughing. I had a lot of sticky, polleny mucus in my throat this morning. I think it was a side effect from that medicine your athletic trainer gave you, my thigh still hurts from where I injected it. My hip’s feeling better though, thank God above. Anyway, are you okay?
‘Oh, thank goodness.’ “Oh thank goodness, I thought Sam was smoking again. Yeah, I’m okay though, just a little bit of a headache is all.”
Jack goes into the kitchen and, after taking all of the thirty-seven wine bottles out of the wheezing refrigerator, he finds a single half-empty bottle of water with the label ripped off sitting in the back. Not feeling the need to do a taste test because the bottle’s in the fridge and not the freezer, Jack unscrews the cap and screws his poor, defenseless sobriety by inadvertently guzzling a mouthful and a half of vodka. The bottle splatters the armpit-tasting liquid all over the floor and Jack hurries to find some paper towels so he can clean it up before Mom walks in and slips on it. Nobody needs to break their hip again, not today.
He checks inside the cabinets under the sink, in the cabinets over the sink, in the cabinets hidden in the back yard where the Montas keep all their backup cups, he even checks the pantry and the one place the paper towels definitely wouldn’t be: the paper towel rack. It’s here that he finds an open-ended cardboard cylinder; the glue on the outside of it’s dry to the point that it’s crumbling. It must have been a while since Mom’s bought paper towels… we must be really short on money this month.’
“Hey Momma,” Jack shouts down the hall, “we got any waters? Or paper towels?”
“Did you check behind the grape juice in the fridge?” the wolf howls from its den.
“Yeah, I thought that was a water bottle back there, but uh… then I accidentally spilled it. No paper towels though?”
“YOU SPIL–” sigh “no Jack, we don’t have any damned paper towels. What am I, made of money? You know I can’t work, and the child support last month was much, much less than it normally is. Can’t you just… you have a few extra dollars laying around, right? Go run to the deli and get some from Hildreth. Better yet, tell her to put it on Sam’s tab.”
“Oh uh, okay Mom. Do you want me to get anything else?”
“Did I say to get anything else? No, Jack, you’d probably just spill it,” Daisy snarls from underneath her comforters.
“Oh uh, hahah, yeah you’re right,” through a forced smile that only Jack himself can perceive. “Don’t walk in here until I get back okay? It’s slippery.”
No answer – Jack guesses that means it’s time to go! He runs downstairs, taking a detour into his room to look at the rug again, then he throws some socks under the two-year-old running shoes on his feet and heads out the door.
Something’s About To Happen
It’s a quiet morning in Quarryville, everybody is still out of town because of the whole extraterrestrial invasion thing. A tad bit dramatic, perhaps, seeing how the ship’s been here for days and it’s literally done nothing but hover. Oh well, humans will be humans.
Going to practice yesterday was pretty fun – other than the psychopaths in his… well, that were in his basement, Jack hasn’t had any human contact outside of his family in a few days. He also hasn’t had a silent moment to himself in a while, or a moment of peace inside his head, nor a moment when he felt adequate at all; he doesn’t think there’s a correlation there, no way, just like there’s no correlation between ice cream sales and house robberies. He’s just enjoying the peace and quiet is all. Well, the Quarryville variant of peace and quiet – there are birds singing, chipmunks chirping, tree frogs peeping; it’s actually not quiet at all out here, not until he runs underneath the spaceship. Now that’s some dead quiet.
Aside from the constant humming of the anti-gravity engine, anyway. Dude is so particular about his particulars, sheesh. Funny how he makes all this mental commotion about the nature sounds around him, but not once has he mentioned his huffing, puffing, or any of the onomatopoeias for heavy breathing he makes when he’s running. He’s already halfway across the dam too, and that shit’s almost a mile long! I can’t help but feel like if he was going to call himself out, he would have already.
About three minutes later, Jack looks right, then left, then right again before turning left onto the county road that leads from the dam to the deli. There are no humans coming nor going and there hasn’t been for days now, save for Coach, who’s been taking full advantage of the clear roadways, but Jack still looks. You never know when life is going to come and slap you in the face just to see how long the handprint stays embellished into your cheek – always gotta be vigilant.
Speaking of vigilance, when Jack gets there and hops over the broken glass that reaches out of the windowsill like the hands of the damned reach out of the fiery pits of hell, he hears something rummaging around in the back of the deli. When the owners booked, they surprisingly left all their extra food here; this place must be a hub for nocturnal critters, a veritable watering hole except filled with various foreign meats. A meatho– never mind. Uh, so, could it be a family of foxes back there? A herd of suddenly carnivorous deer? Jack’s never seen one before, but maybe a bobcat’s hanging out back there… or maybe a momma bear with a few newborns. If it’s a bear, Jack’s about to get the fuck outta here; Coach once told him about this false charging thing that bears do, except the charge isn’t always false… no need to get mauled one day before he turns seventeen.
Taking after his brother only when his brother can’t see him, Jack releases a little WHOOP into the doorway leading to the kitchen, and although it comes out more like a wip, whatever’s back there suddenly stops rummaging through the pots and pans. An uneasy silence falls over the delicatessen. An actual silence too, even by Jack’s standards.
“Uh… h-hello? Is uh, is anyone back there? Or uh,” he shudders, “anything?”
Jack takes a step forward, the shards of glass cracking beneath his feet like bones between the jaws of a predator. Or like the shell of an egg when it’s cracked, whichever mood you’re trying to feel right now; something’s about to happen, we just don’t know what.
Jack’s head starts running neurotic simulations, his brain putting his wildly overactive imagination to work in the worst way possible. Shaking his head to distract himself, he steps forward, gingerly, and takes another step, then one more, creeping around the counter and going up the little ramp to step forward once again before he peers into the kitchen. Jack looks right – nothing there. He looks left – nothing there. Right again – oh fuck, it’s a bear!!!’
Jack turns and tries to run but the corner of the counter licks his hip, stopping him from outpacing the lumbering beast. She swipes her golf tee sized, black as night claws and Jack goes down. The shards of glass scattered upon the tiled floor tear through his jeans and impale his knees, and every time he tries to get up, the shrapnel shatters further and travels deeper into his joints, like the shards of metal into the heart of Steel Man in that surprisingly fantastic movie that came out twelve years ago.
‘Holy crap, was that really twelve years ago already? I was only four… I’ve lived such a short life. It was a good life though, right?
I’m afraid only you can answer that question, Jack. We’ve only been here for a week now, not even; five consecutive business days spent snooping in the business of your Universe, watching as the dysfunction piles up and festers into a pimple that’s finally about to be popped by the one hundred sixty pounds of force behind a mother bear’s bite.
As he attempts to crawl away, the bear sniffs the boy’s body, spending a lot of time on his shoes before moving up and checking out his butt. The bear smells each and every single meal that Jack’s eaten for that past two weeks and thinks to herself, ‘What the fuck happened during dinner on Wednesday?’ before using a single claw to flip the boy around. A hot plume of air escapes her maw and Jack begins to sweat.
Towering over Jack, the brute places first one, then both of her heavy paws on his chest. He’s having trouble breathing, not from the weight of the bear but from the smell of her breath – it smells as if she was digging around in the dumpster out back before she wised up and realized the humans weren’t actively guarding their horde of fresh food. This bear is clearly much smarter than Jack.
Jack cowers as the bear’s head comes down to his, inching closer and closer, wanting to scare her prey, wanting to ensure that, before he dies, Jack is made perfectly aware of one thing and one thing only: there is, and always will be, something bigger than him.
The bear draws back, opens her mouth and…
“Jack! Open your eyes doofus, it’s me.”
Doofus opens his eyes to see Sam looking at him from behind the counter. He looks down – not only is he not on the floor about to be devoured and shared among a small family of ursas, not only are his knees not filled with continuously shattering shattered shards of glass, not only is he not even wearing jeans, but he’s still standing at the counter, right where he felt his mind beginning to spin out of control a minute ago.
“You okay man? I know that look; get caught in a little thought hole, did we?”
Jack says nothing, still extremely confused.
“You didn’t smoke some of my Canna–”
“NO!! I!! DIDN’T!!”
“Hah, howdy partner. Want some breakfast? I’m cookin’ Taylor Hams.”
Jack almost declines Sam’s offer but his stomach, stricken with a case of the rumblies, cuts off the circulation to his vocal cords and reroutes some bioelectricity to his brain, forcing him to accept. After the brothers sit and eat a peaceful breakfast together, Jack finally remembers why he came to the deli in the first place.
“Hey uh, thanks for the food and stuff, but are there any paper towels laying around here? Mom told me to come get some and uh… put it on… my tab, I guess,” not having the heart to make Sam spend any more of the money that he doesn’t make.
“You have a tab here? Lit, I guess you’re buying today!”
Jack shoots Sam a killstare. ‘Sure, now you can’t read minds.’
Sam, unable to read Jack’s mind, says nothing. Well, his smile speaks volumes, but he doesn’t vocalize any mouth noises.
Until, “I was joking dawg, I don’t think they’re gonna notice the food was missing. Oh who am I kidding, they definitely will, I’ll just grab some money from Chuck before he leaves. Dude seems pretty keen on throwing around that bottomless pit of his.”
In the matter of a single half-second, Jack’s post-killstare facial expression turns sour, then shameful, then it descends into that all-too-familiar pit of self-loathing. He really doesn’t have the heart to do much at all today, it seems. ‘Because I’m weak.’
“What? Oh fuck, did Chuck and them leave?!” Sam says in his outside voice, lowering it to a more inside level before, “Sorry, I’m a little shocked. He didn’t even say goodbye! What about the other guys, they dip too?”
Jack doesn’t answer, instead looking over at the wall displaying all the steins that Sigmund was admiring the other day before he put the fish candy on his sandwich… god that was so gross.
“So I’m guessing Tim is gone too? Gah!” Sam gahs in anguish. “I wanted him to take me to see the old man on the mountain again! Oh well, I guess I can just go on my own, if the mountain still exists. Yo, speaking of which, did you guys find that anomaly, or whatever you called it yesterday?”
Finally, Jack speaks. “No dude, I told you when you drove me to practice. Never found it.”
“Oh… well, I guess… they didn’t find it after you left?”
“I don’t know Sam, I wasn’t with them. Did you sneak into my room and smoke some of your weed or something? What the hell is with your memory.”
“I don’t know man, it’s been shite for a while now. Couldn’t tell ya…” he trails off, thinking back to that tick bite he got at his eighth-grade graduation, of all things. Weird how you sometimes randomly remember certain things and forget certain other things.
Then, “So why’d they dip without saying goodbye?”
“Huh?” Jack says, pretending not to hear the question so he could have some time to conjure up a bullshit response.
“Well I heard you guys talking last night before you came back up with that crazy medicine. Mom thought you were having a yelling match with yourself down there. Don’t worry, she doesn’t suspect a thing, I told her that you’re not like me lamayo.”
“I uh… I don’t know, he just kind of left.”
“Really? Huh… doesn’t seem like him. Although, I don’t know him at all, definitely not as well as you do. My words probably don’t have much weight here.”
“Yeah, I really didn’t know him that well either, man… he was kind of a douchebag.”
“Yeah… a helpful douchebag though. Seemed like he had good intentions.”
“You’re only saying that because he smokes weed and you smoke weed.”
“Well… I mean, no, but even if that were true, is that such a bad thing? It gives us something in common, some talking point to start a conversation off of. I don’t know, it’s not the worst similarity to have.”
“Yeah, of course you think that. Stoner,” Jack teases, realizing too late that his words probably came off as offensive.
“You’re right, I am a stoner.”
Sam reaches across the table and, deflecting the offense that only Jack perceived, rubs his brother’s head, messing up his hair that’s grown much longer than he usually lets it. “A stoner that gave you all his Cannabis and cooked you breakfast. You’d think I was trying to take you home, hah!”
“Yeah… so how are we getting home?”
“Oh, uhhh… I guess walking? I was still in running mode when I woke up so I just kind of footed it out here.”
“Okay,” Jack says as he gets up, grabbing both his and Sam’s empty plates and throwing them into the trash receptacle. “Thanks for breakfast, and uh… for not smoking your weed. I appreciate it.”
Sam smiles and stands, putting his hands on Jack’s shoulders and conga-lining him towards the broken window. “Yeah, yeah… don’t thank me yet, for all you know I have a secret stash hidden in my room that I’ve been dipping into ever since I gave you my bud.”
Jack goes limp, letting Sam catch him before he falls. “You better not…”
“I definitely haven’t smoked since I gave you the herb. Okay?”
The two Monta brothers embark on a perambulation over the Skunksville Dam, reminiscing over their younger days when their Mom would take them out here to go bridge jumping. It became a running joke in their family, especially after Sam started smoking. Daisy would always ask him why he started and he always gave the same answer: “Well, like, both of my two friends do it, so why wouldn’t I?” That was always followed by a stern, “Well if your friends jumped off a bridge, would you follow them?!” which Sam rebutted with, “Nah, they sure followed me though!” Sam and Jack always found it funnier than Daisy did… come to think of it, Jack never really had a problem with Sam’s smoking until recently.
Now that Jack’s really considering it, since he and Sam entered into one of their conversational quiet patches and he has the time to do so, he never had a problem with Sam’s smoking until after Sam suffered that weird head injury last year. He hit his head so hard that he thought he died and came back to life – Jack took that as a very scary sign of delusional thinking, probably because he was still enduring the psychology week of the health class month of gym class back then – and he thought that if Sam kept doing drugs then it would just make the head injury worse. Because, like everybody knows about hall-yew-cinnogens, “Not only will doing them make you catch brain diseases like schizophrenia, but they will also rot your diseased brain!” Jack and his Mom suddenly grew a lot closer after Sam’s head injury, too… huh, couldn’t be a correlation there, though. No way.
As they walk beneath the floating hunk of planet, both boys catch themselves gazing up in awe. Regardless of the fact that it’s pretty much a big rock, it’s still pretty incredible the thing’s even here. It’s gotta be at least a quarter of a mile long, maybe a little bigger, and it came here from some distant planet floating out in infinity, built by hands that are just a shade different than Jack and Sam’s, maybe a little bigger too, and now it’s here in their airspace. Or rather, the air around the planet they just happen to have spawned on, as Sam corrects Jack when they stop underneath the ship to talk shit about it.
“What do you think the inside looks like?” Sam asks, leaning against the handrail and pretending to smoke a joint.
“Sigmund and Chuck said it looked like the inside of a cave. Why are you doing that.”
Sam lowers the nothing he has pinched between his pointer finger and thumb down to his side and exhales as if a cloud of smoke were escaping his starved lungs. “I don’t know man, I guess I just like smoking stuff. Old habits die hard. Plus, humans have been smoking random stuff that grows out of the ground since before we learned to stop throwing shit at each other… eugh, now that I think about it, the circles back then must have been pretty fuckin’ nasty.”
“Yeah, you’ve seen That 60s Show, right? It’s when everybody sits in a circle and passes a jay around.”
“Oh… oh. Blegh! Gross Sam, why do you gotta even think of stuff like that?!”
Sam snickers, miming another pull. “I don’t know man. Why did the aliens design the inside of their ship to look like a cave? Some things aren’t for us to understand.”
“Good point… well Chuck said there was a little pool of water in the middle of it, like, turquoise water, that glowed so bright it lit up a small part of the room. I asked Jolon about it and h–”
Zeroc Chairseat. He’s the captain of the ship, he–”
“Yo! You met the friggin’ captain of that thing?! How come you didn’t tell me??”
Jack rolls his eyes, feeling like he’s part of an in-crowd. “I just did though. He was really cool, you would have liked him… I’m sorry you didn’t get to meet him Sam.”
“It’s all good dude, let me live vicariously. What did he say?”
“You were gonna say he said something before I cut you off?”
“OH! Yeah, he said that each of the Chairseats of the Council of Life – they’re like the leaders or something, I dunno, we didn’t get into their politics much. But he said that whenever the
Zeroc invade a planet, one of the Chairseats is picked to lead the operation, and whoever gets picked has to design a spaceship that’ll best suit the soon to be invaded population. Jolon said he wanted to go with a purely naturalistic look because Earth is like a big garden; his ship is actually part of an old moon that got blown up a long time ago because all of the inhabitants were infected with some sort of brain disease that wasn’t curable. Kinda sad if you think about it, but…”
A pause, both boys weighing the gravity of this statement whilst standing under a hunk of decimated moon powered by anti-gravity, or that is, gravity pointed the opposite way that they’re used to it pointing.
“Yeah, that’s really fucked up. I hope that doesn’t happen here.”
Jack laughs, “Yeah, as if. We cured all the non-curable diseases like a year after New Manhattan opened. I think we did anyway, I haven’t heard about swine flu or ebola or anything for a while. Besides, who would have the balls to blow up the Earth?”
“Definitely not me,” Sam says, forgetting exactly how they got to this point in the conversation but rolling right along with it. “Wait, so the ship is part of a moon?”
“Yeah, but it was an uninhabited part. Buried under a bunch of ice or magma or something, I don’t know. The disease isn’t coming here, don’t worry.”
Yeah, don’t worry Sam. I’m not that evil, sheesh!
“Well that’s good…” as they start walking. “So a turquoise pool, huh? You’d think it would be purple or something, because their skin and whatnot.”
“Isn’t that a little racist?”
“Probably… but we’re lower lifeforms,” said in a voice that almost kind of sounds like one of the various purple-skinned aliens they’ve met over the course of the week. “I think we’re still allowed to make mistakes. How else would we learn?”
The Paper Towels
When they finally get home, hands in their pockets and bellies full of mostly grease, Jack and Sam walk in to find their mother sprawled out on the floor for the second day in a row. Hey, at least she’s on the tiled floor of the kitchen instead of the carpeted floor of the living room this time! Wait… no, that’s worse.
“MOM!” the Monta boys shout in unison as they push each other up the stairs. Sam runs to the paper towel holder on the counter, almost slipping in the vodka on the way, just to find that it’s empty. Jack, meanwhile, is crouched next to his Mommy, holding her hand.
“Mom are you okay? I told you not to come in here until I got back… oh fuck, I forgot the paper towels.”
“Yeah, no shit you forgot the paper towels. Thank you, Sam, for distracting your brother. Now I think my fucking hip is broken again…” knowing damn well her hip is fully intact. “God, can’t you two do anything right?”
Jack looks at Sam – dude’s got his emotionally numb face on full force – and then he looks back at his Mom.
“He didn’t distract me Mom, it’s my fault. I can just run ba–”
“No, it’s both of your faults. I don’t care which one messed up, somebody did and now the day’s ruined for all of us, because of you two. Surprise, surprise,” said through a cloud of vodka-laced breath. “Sam, just…” sigh “go get my fucking keys, drive your brother to the store and pick up some paper towels. And do it right this time.” Then, almost sarcastically, “Please.”
It didn’t come off as sarcastic to Jack because it’s his Mother who said it, of course, but he can’t help but feel like if anybody else said it like that, it would have come off as entirely sarcastic and rude. Whatever; regardless, Jack and Sam scurry out to the car and as soon as it’s pulled out of the driveway, Daisy gets up and changes out of the clothes that’ve been soaking in floor-vodka for the past twenty minutes, then hops in the shower to rinse away the smell of spirits from the outside of her body.
“I really didn’t mean to forget the paper towels,” Jack panics from the passenger seat of his Mom’s old Forge Engage that she never drives anymore. “I didn’t mean for her to break her hip again, I-I-”
“Dude, relax. Please. I think she’ll be just fine, her hip probably didn’t break again.”
“How do you know that?” Jack snaps, going on the defensive. “She probably slipped right before we left. I told her not to go in there until I got back, nnnnnn, what if she can’t make it to the meet tomorrow Sam? Then how are you going to get there and talk to Coach?”
Sam looks over with one eye, keeping the other on the road. “I thought you didn’t want me coaching your team?”
“I don’t, but, I mean… I’m only gonna be on the team for like, another year. So…”
Sam smiles. “Ahhhh, okay, I see you. You don’t want your older brother to coach you, but you think I would be good at it.”
“I think it would be good for you, because of your…” he trails off. Jack almost said drug problem but, like, Sam hasn’t smoked for a few days and he seems fine. His demeanor hasn’t really changed at all.
“Because of my…?”
“UH. Because of your… lack of a job, I guess? How do you even get money anyway?”
“Meh, I get around a little. Do some handyman-type stuff for some local small businesses. Sell a gang of crap at the auction hall on the other end of the Alps plaza. I’m not making a killing but, yanno, I make enough to do what I need to do.”
“Huh… why did I think you were totally broke?”
“Why does our mother think I’m totally broke? Some things just aren’t meant for us to understand,” with a wink.
Jack lets this simmer in his mind for the rest of the thirty seconds they need to drive, then he throws himself from the car, hurdles the broken window, grabs an entire pack of paper towels, and hops back in the passenger seat.
“Okay, let’s go. Mom’s probably still on the floor.”
Sam shifts into reverse, backs all the way out of the parking lot onto the normally very busy street, throws that bitch into drive, and floors it home, deliberately ignoring the speed limit because there’s nobody around to enforce it; or rather, in Sam’s explanatory words to Jack, punish those who don’t follow the arbitrary guidelines they set without consulting the rest of the population that has to follow them. Jack hops out of the car, roll in hand, before Sam even shuts off the ignition, leaving the rest of the pack (and the neurotically shredded plastic it was previously wrapped in) for Sam to carry in.
After Jack leaps up the three-quarters of a staircase in two grand bounds, he’s shocked to find the kitchen floor spotless. Not a lick of liquor, imagine that!
“Mom?” he calls out, getting an uneasy silence in reply. Sam walks in and stuffs the paper towels into the pantry before taking the plastic into the attic so he can stuff it in his backpack and burn it in the next campfire he has, whenever that’ll be. Tyler used to give him shit for that, but as far as Sam’s concerned, its better than letting the plastic continue to exist in solid form on the Earthly plane.
‘Hey, I still never heard from Tyler. I wonder how he’s doing,’ as Sam searches around the crawlspace of a room for his cell phone. He eventually finds it, cracked screen and all, behind his desk. It’s been back there for a little while now so it’s probably got a bunch of notifications for him to check, texts and whatnot to get back to… oh, well never mind then. He types out a message saying…
Hey dude, just checking in. We’re still in Treering, mom didn’t wanna evacuate until the aliens were knocking on the front door. Not the aliens you & I saw, but some different aliens. The ones who flew the big ship over the dam, me and Jack met them. Hmu, let me know something, looking forward to catching up.
…before sending it to Tyler and tossing the ancient smartphone onto his desk so it slides and falls back into the slot between said desk and the wall. Sam then opens his desk drawer, equips that little shovel, and opens the latch so he can stare at his pipe collection and bask in the smell of old resin. Down at the bottom of the vortex, covering the purple light, is an aluminum grinder with just enough ground-up bud left in it to smoke a bowl. He debates using it now, changing the subject of the debate to scraping and smoking the res in the pipes first, but then the entire argument gets drowned out by the sounds of a different argument downstairs. Sam closes the hatch but leaves the drawer open, thinking he just might come back to this in a few minutes.
He can hear his mother berating Jack before the latch out of the attic is even open.
“…and you didn’t even clean it up before I got up, not even a wet floor sign to let me know. I could have broken my hip Jack, this is so unacceptable. You’re lucky your father doesn’t live with us anymore, or else h–”
“Or else he’d what, mom?” Sam asks, walking down the ladder without using any hands. “What would that degenerate two-time sperm donor possibly do, he doesn’t even know us. He doesn’t even care enough to visit more than once a month.”
Daisy scowls at the drug addict kid that she got stuck with. “Excuse me? I was talking to Jack, Sam, nobody asked you to come out of the fucking attic. Why don’t you go back up there and dry rot your brain a little more, hm?” said with hands on her intact hips.
“And, by the way, you’re wrong, Sam. He was a one-time sperm donor, one of you are adopted.”
An icy silence grips the throats of the Monta boys.
Sam, not sure if his birthgiver is full of shit or not, continues. “You’re talking to my brother in a way that makes me want to punch a hole in the wall, mom. Back off, he made a mistake.”
“Did you just threaten me? I could call the police, you know, have you carried away in a paddywagon. Again.”
“What? I’ve never been arrested, what are you talking about?”
“Yeah, sure,” Daisy scoffs, feeling her tail brush the corner of her glass cave. “Not like you’d tell me,anyway.”
Sam says something, Daisy says something, then Sam makes a quip and Daisy turns it into an all-out verbal brawl, a pissing contest to see who can say the more fucked-up shit about the other. Jack doesn’t hear it though – he’s shut down completely. His hearing is dull, his eyesight’s gone blurry; if he was capable of moving he’d probably be in the fetal position with tears streaming down his face. Probably, that is; there’s no way to really know. He’s just standing there, head down, frozen like a statue until his Mom finally breaks and says…
“You know what? Fuck you, fuck the both of you,” pointing her fingers so her children know exactly who she’s talking about. “I’m fucking going for a fucking run, to fucking,” as she starts crying without any tears, “to fucking get away from you abusive, spoiled rotten little assholes!”
Then, with her running shoes already on her feet because she put them on after she got out of the shower, Daisy takes off into the beautiful spring morning, the warm air caressing her as she hobbles up Frick Hill with a victorious smile on her face, just hoping there’s a police officer parked on the side of the road that she can bring back to her house to take away those terrible little monsters. Or, better yet, maybe the aliens will abduct them and turn them inside out.
Just Like His Mom Taught Him
“sam?” Jack mouses, hardly even moving his lips. “Are… are we bad kids sam? Am i a bad son?”
Sam just kind of looks at Jack for a moment, seeing him for the first time. “No, Jack. You’re a great son, and a great brother. You’re a great human, okay?”
Sam hugs Jack, or rather, wraps his arms around Jack’s clammy body, then, “Don’t let her get to you, okay? Sh–”
“But i hurt Her. She loves me so much and i failed Her sam, we both failed Her. i didn’t clean up the vodka in time and She slipped and hurt Her hip, and i…”
“Dude,” Sam says, petting Jack’s head, “if she was so hurt do you really think she’d be able to just run off like that?” Then, in a voice with more rumble than Sam expects, “Do you think that if she really loved us that much it would be so easy for her to just take off? Sh–”
“She, what ?!” Daisy accuses, stomping up the half-staircase and breaking the hug in half to get her keys out of the kitchen, which she had to clean up. Ungrateful brats. “She what, Sam? What were you going to say? You know what, just fucking save it. I’m out of here, I’m leaving and I’m going to spend the weekend at my Parents’. You two don’t deserve me in your life, you have no idea how good you have it.”
“But Mom!” Jack cries, the sadness finally breaking through the emotional botulinum toxin that’s paralyzed him up until this point. “W-what about my m-m-meet tomorrow? It’s my birthday, y-you gotta be there! Coach Thenure wants to sss-see You!”
‘Oh yeah, it’s his birthday tomorrow,’ Daisy thinks to herself before saying, “Oh, well I almost forgot, I did tell Coach Thenure that I would be seeing him this weekend. Maybe we’ll just have to get dinner after he gets back.”
“Mom!” Jack sobs, wrapping his arms around her. “Please! i want You there, i’m gonna do really good! i promise, i–”
“We’ll see,” as she pushes the dribbling, snot-nosed little thing off of her. “I’m going to Grandpa’s house. Maybe I’ll see you at the meet.”
And with that, Daisy slams the door behind her, dropping the top on her convertible sports car and peeling out of the driveway. When the dust settles and the tinking of pebbles off the siding of the house finally stops, Jack looks out the window and sees skid marks going in the direction of the dam.
“sam! we gotta go stop Her, we gotta go, we, sam, we, we gotta,” hyperventilation “we gotta, sam, we,” sharp inhale “we,” gasp
Suddenly, Jack feels Sam shaking his body.
“Wh… what happened?” Jack says to the ceiling behind Sam’s horrified face. “Everything… everything got white, what… where’s Mom? Sam? Can you help me up please?”
Sam runs down the hall and grabs a washcloth out of the closet, then takes it into the bathroom to soak it with cold water. Then he rings it out, pretending the cloth is Daisy’s neck, until it’s just damp enough to not leave a trail of drip marks in the carpet. Sam then returns to his brother’s side and wipes the sweat from his paler-than-usual face.
“Dude, you passed out. Are you okay?”
“Is Mom okay?” in a weak voice.
“Jack… I don’t give a fuck if mom’s okay, just like she doesn’t give a fuck about us. Wake up, man! She pretends to be nice when it’s convenient for her, but we’re a fucking burden on her life a–”
“But i don’t want to be a Burden, i love Her, i–”
“We’re a burden on her as far as she’s concerned, Jack. Fuck!” Sam screams at the ceiling, burning his throat in the process. ‘Maybe you should smoke some Canna–’
“I want to love her too dude, I really do. She’s my mother, she created me. I get it, okay? I fell for her shit for a long time. A really long time. But she… she’s just not capable of loving us, not like a mother should. I don’t know what kind of fucked up shit her parents did to her growing up, but Skunksville was not a wealthy town. Not a public town. Some dark shit went down there and she’s the product of it. It’s fucking terrible, but… there’s nothing that we can do about it, it just is what it is. Okay?”
Jack says nothing, the washcloth feels so nice on the outside of his eyelids. So cool, so refreshing.
“Okay Jack? You need to understand, there’s nothing you can do to gain her support or her approval. No matter how fast you run, she’ll always be right behind you to tell you exactly why you’re a worthless piece of shit in her eyes. You just need to learn to tune her out man… are you hearing me?”
“Huh?” Jack says. He tuned Sam out just like his Mom taught him to when Sam gets into one of his episodes. You can always tell when Sam’s slipping because he starts cursing, it’s a dead giveaway. Just gotta smile and nod, let him tire himself out until he leaves you alone. That’s the safest way to deal with a schizophrenic: just let it spew its nonsense, maybe throw a compliment in there somewhere, and eventually it’ll get tired and curl up into a ball. But when it asks you a question you have to respond, just so it knows you’re not totally ignoring it. It’s not like the mentally ill can tell when you’re patronizing them, their brains don’t work like everybody else’s. That’s the ill part.
“Yeah, yeah I hear you Sam. Thank you, you’re a good brother.”
Sam doesn’t need the ability to read minds to understand the message between those lines. He sighs and slowly stands up before offering Jack a hand to help him up. Jack stands on his own.
“Thanks, um… thanks for talking to me Sam. I’m gonna go catch up on some homework, I’ll uh, I’ll see you later.”
Sam doesn’t answer, opting to silently watch his brother walk down into the basement, waiting for the click of the lock on his bedroom door before finally breathing again.
With his head hanging low, an emotionally exhausted Sam drags his feet to the still-open latch of the attic and climbs up, one rung at a time, before quietly shutting it and locking himself in. The sweet smell of Cannabis resin is aloft in the stagnant, atticy air of his bedroom. It’s utterly intoxicating; usually it smells like tar mixed with a sweaty ashtray, but right now the brownish-black guck that festers on the inside of Sam’s uncleaned pieces smells like sweet, sweet release. Maybe he will smoke, after all… might as well, right? What do I have to lose?