Monday, February 20, 2012


Evil Arizona Foreword: Stolen Jaguar It was Easter Sunday in the rural town of Diaville Texas and Jose Milagros, a teenager living close to the nearby high school, was laid up under a classic twelve cylinder Jaguar coupe. It had been a hot couple of days and the weather was about to change for the worst as an icy northern wind carried itself across a sky full of tightly packed cotton balls soaked in grape soda He had the car jacked up in his drive way to replace a water pump and rotate the tires. The rain started to pour down like a wall constantly bombarding the parched earth until a blanket of mud formed across the driveway.Jose rocks out with a pair of earphones and looks to his side to see the water cascading down. The song finishes and Jose acts out the final drum solo wrench in hand. As he pushed himself out from under the car his work boot slips and hits the bottom cinder block. The car sways then slams down on the front right wheel base. The car snaps Jose’s lower spine and breaks both his legs. He lay screaming and trapped under the massive weight squishing his guts.His grandmother Maria could be described as the sweetest old lady you would ever have the pleasure of meeting. She was small and by any means typically built for the ripe age of seventy two. On the front porch she sat in a rocking chair and watched the rain come down. Still in her night gown, she had just woken up and started brewing the morning cup of Joe. After she poured her cup that she heard the piercing screams of Jose belt through the volume of rain and ring in her ears. She immediately jolted to the driveway to find him stuck under the Jaguar. Without thought or question her hands slid beneath the side that was pressing on Jose. She lifted up with her legs and her back pulling up the front right side far enough to give him some wiggle room. She held that car up for about a minute as Jose used his elbows to crawl out. Maria’s grandson has recovered from that fateful day. He can no longer run or walk but, is alive and has his grandmother to thank for that. As for the owner of the jaguar, it was stolen. Doctors have tried to scientifically explain this tall tale by stating that short bursts of seemingly infeasible strength can enter the body in the form of adrenaline excreted by glands in the brain. Adrenaline can course its way through the body for five to eight minutes producing feats of unimaginable strength. You can call this physiological phenomenon the Stone Age fight or flight reaction and it is brought on during instances of extreme fear. Judges 15:16-“And Samson saith, 'With a jaw-bone of the ass -- an ass upon asses -- with a jaw-bone of the ass I have smitten a thousand men.” Chapter 1- Without Shade A steam box coupe housing two of the same genes, broil skin to the point of perspiration. Minute beads transpire down the dominant genes bulging forearm. High noon approaches and the car’s classic steal can cook a frost bitten steak. Unabatedly two brothers come to rise like cup cakes in an Easy Bake Oven. “Just one more hour parked without shade,” thought Big Bro, causing him to turns his head and shields his face from what feels like invisible bon fire winds.The white of his eyes stung from sweat magnifying radiant sun beams bursting through a classic Jaguar windshield. He blinks rapidly in an attempt to activate the tear duct gland and grabs the bottom of a partially ripped Mall of America T-shirt. The shirt stretches over his face smearing letters with tears and sweat. He squint his brow to block out harsh light projecting odd shapes against thoughts of Jim Bean and vomit. Big Bro’s focus sharpens on thin layers of skin cascading blood cells through networks of microscopic tubes. Reclined he parts his eyelids and recognizes familiar “floaters.” That was word he had often used for clear strands of protein sometimes seen in his eye. A former classmate from told him floaters came from being hit in the head too many times. This made perfect sense considering the fact that Big Bro had a Hell’s Angel treat his head like a punching bag. His first good beating came about from eating the last slice of pepperoni pizza. Although it could be argued that it had been coming for since the Hells Angels showed up for their annual gathering. Mike, the leader of his local chapter hung around the brothers’ foster mom. He had a grizzly beer belly and used it as a tool of torture. He could get good and drunk, just plain stumbling into their room and lay on Big Bro’s head and hold it between the floor and his gut mocking any pleas for mercy. Most Angels hang around the foster home loved to administer smacks, punches and poundings for any frivolous excuse including sheer sport. Years of threatened suffocations lead to Big Bro’s severe claustrophobia and cold shoulder to anyone that gets too close. The abuse often took place at home and in plain sight of his foster mom who, never seemed to be bothered by it either way. Their foster mom, Charlene, that name causes him to cringe at the thought of her name. Charlene, the bitch, he would say to himself. Her two front teeth were missing and the thought never occurred to buy dentures. Her gums hung on to decayed crooked teeth that would obnoxiously splatter words out her mouth in white trash twang. Years living in a shanty pig pen had him accustomed to doors slammed in his face and cigarettes put out on his feet. Adopted children for this woman spelled one word, money, and she enjoyed spending her state provided benefits on gambling and a tenacious drug habits. Charlene’s boyfriends loved to get good and pickled then climb creaky steps up to Big Bro’s room punishing him for sick sport. Young or old it didn’t matter to them, his little brother always got the worst. He would hide his face and hear Lil Bro screaming for help then silence followed by sobbing hiccups. Most of his years at the foster home were spent walking on egg shells and roaming county roads with Lil Bro. Big Bro brings his thoughts back to the car. He and rolls his neck back letting a collection of air pockets burst from cartilage that catalyze an incineration of memories uncovering thick blankets of suppressed pain.Big Bro and Lil Bro shared the same room and toilet with four adopted brothers and a leaky roof that soaked the floor and his bed when it rained. Big Bro had a mat he slept on next to the room’s only window. It was an inch of padding including blankets that used for cover. His sleep was often interrupted with the late night moans of restless foster children suffering from mental disabilities and unable to voice their needs. Most the nights the moans were drown out by motorcycles mufflers and drunken games that took place right under where the boys slept. One day Charlene came home with another Down syndrome child and parked the wheel chair over Lil Bro’s blankets forcing Big Bro to share his mat. That night the bothers shared the same dream of walking on a beach. He often peaked through the window to watch motorcycles roll away praying that Mike would be one of them. One evening just before dusk just as the brothers got into the routine of school Mike showed up. He downed bottle of whiskey then pulled a man out of the house and put a gun to his head. Right before pulling the trigger Mike glares up at the window as the two brothers’ watched in horror. He then blew the man’s brains out and put his finger to his lips and pointed the gun up at Big Bro. He stopped looking out the window after that night and began walking on egg shells for the next several years they would spend in Charlene’s home.The day after that execution in twilight Big Bro’s received his most traumatic beating. It was his thirteenth birthday and Big Mike gave him a fresh set of bruises. He got it worse than usual after trying to take up for his Lil Bro during a sequence of charades played by bored sociopathic bikers looking for cheap thrills. Big Bro swore to himself that day that never again would he be a fat biker’s pin cushion. The morning after his encounter with Mike Big Bro walked early to school and started lifting weights in the middle school gym. That was five years ago and time had changed everything but, the situation for him and Lil Bro. Reaffirmation of his past situation was enough of a sour taste to spur him on and press forward. Big Bro agrees with himself twice over that the future would be a better, no matter what he had to do. He was a man now, it was time to put childish nightmares of Mike and the Angel’s in the past and focus on tomorrow. It was two months after Big Bro’s seventeenth birthday that his brother turned fifteen. There was no birthday cake or presents but, Big Bro had a life changing road trip in store. Lil Bro stands six foot now towering over most his peers. He is old enough to know but, not know better. That was a phrase Big Bro overheard one of the Hell’s Angels say before tossing his brother down the stairs. Brutality and less than clever jokes was still only a day’s routine at Charlene’s house. Bikers never leave base without a bag full of inherited and humorously vulgar coined puns next to a butterfly knife; these things are acquired with time on the road. Big Bro had matured a great deal in half a decade and had one thick hide. He wasn’t worried about himself anymore, now his concerns lay with his little brother and how he’d get by. When the brothers did something that would be considered wrong they got it worse because Harley hogs on meth love to find a way to find a creatively bad way to release energy. The lines of wrong and right are often blurred by what is the “social norm” at the halfway house they called a foster home.Seventeen couldn’t come fast enough for Big Bro. He had been waiting to bust out that haunted house for too long. One thing was sure of, Lil Bro was coming with him so, it took a couple extra moths of selling off scrap metal and working late nights at a fast food joint to gather enough cash for gas. He mapped out the route to escape and when that day came he knew just what car to take for the trip.Mike frequented the house enough to leave his Jaguar sitting in Charlene’s garage. The car was stolen and meant to be pawned off for parts but, instead just sat collecting dust for the past three years because for some unknown reason Mike could not come to a conclusion on what would be done with it. Big Bro overheard him tell Charlene the car needed a new water pump and set of tires. Big Bro set off one day to find a water pump that matched at a junk yard and Lil Bro spent an entire summer mowing lawns to help pay for a new set of tires. They both worked on the car furiously for the month Mike was out of town on a run to Mexico. The first Sunday of August the car was ready to run and so was Big Bro.Four hours on the road and Big Bro was confident that there was a leak in the gas tank. Big Bro made up his mind that he was going to have to shop lift because the majority of their money had to be spent on gas.He walked out the store carrying a hand held baskets stuffed to the brim with lunch meat bread and cheese. Lil Bro had the car running and that was their first stop on the way out of the “Lone Star State.” Big Bro wasn’t proud of the fact that he had stolen but, was amazed at the style at which he went undetected.Big Bro explained to his brother that stealing from major corporations was not the same as stealing from someone you know. He told him that these stores where multinational with billions of dollars in insurance and food that was intended to go bad before getting sold. They could afford to lose a few pounds of bread and meat because it happens on accident every day. He didn’t believe this was entirely true but, it helped calm his conscious. A close call finally came in El Paso when they two nearly escaped arrest after pulling away from a gas station without paying the tab. They had a full tank and now the needle rested on a peg below the red dash.He didn’t expect the car to guzzle so much gas but now the twelve cylinder engine was running on pencil fumes and their food rations were as low as the gas tank. He felt the extended road trip was near its end. California consumed him; no one was going to take that away from them. He had a feeling in his gut that he would find a job that would allow him to take care of his little brother. It was that or the child protective services would send Lil Bro to Charlene’s were he would surely be beat to death by Mike and Big Bro wouldn’t have that. Big Bro knew he couldn’t lose the only link to his past. He’d rather them run than put a bullet in Mike’s head. Lil Bro had been through it all with him. They suffered the same senseless brutality under the same roof and had the same dreams of L.A. Lights and nights on Venice beach. He was not the overly optimistic kind but, he had a gut feeling they would make it and he didn’t want to let go of that. The idea had his heart throbbing and mind convinced of a soon found promise land.The day is brutally bright and that could be attributed to an excess of floaters gliding through the foreground of his vision. Mother Nature must be on fire or God left the stove on, thought Big Bro licking the salt off his lips. Any manifested visions of thunderous dark purple clouds dispersed after recalling a truck stop television blaring predictions of closer than normal solar flares and temperatures in the triple digits. The brothers hadn’t seen any news in over forty eight hours and that was long before getting savagely drunk and taking an unintentional detour to avoid seeing any cops. Somehow they had come to find themselves in somewhat of an “Oz” atmosphere.Big Bro scans the panoramic and comes to the conclusion they are parked in what resembles an upper class suburbia cut out of a magazine pertaining to futuristic utopias. Everything about this current area completely contrasts the bottom bucket slum the boys grew to loath. Luxurious mansions are hidden by a high wall tucked two feet from the sidewalk. Only a few dwellings along the freshly paved cul-de-sac were not hidden and the brothers sat nestled next to one. The house has an invitingly fragrant babied flower bed containing a mix of vibrant blooms. Vibrant flowers extend from a stained glass front door giving the entrance a cathedral presence Big Bro struggles to remember the street they were on. He uses his thumb and middle finger to spur on an epiphany rigorously messaging a hangover out his temples. It had been long drive across the Texas pan-handle fueled with Yellow Jackets and Fourloko. His legal doses of speed came in the form of pills and cans stolen from a gas station on the outskirts of Gun Barrel city limits. Yawning, Big Bro casually fills his lungs with the syrupy odor of evaporated Fourloko stuck to pennies lining cup holders. This sweet aroma slid up his nose accompanied by a heavy waft of rotten elixir. The elixirs pungent Ingredients itemized in his mind; chili cheese bean burritos, onion dip, macaroni salad and cheap booze, all of it plastered on the passenger door. The orgy of scent conjured memories of the night before and that’s when the street light turned green in the back of his head, the name: Edgefield.Proud the lethargic mouse stuck to a wheel started to run, Big Bro smiles pulls out the map and glances at his brother whose exuding auras of supreme tranquility. Lil Bro’s faint whispering breathes let his blood know a mellow picture show plays behind his curtain of sleep. His older brother avoids making sudden sounds that would disturb him. He snaps attention to peculiar sounds outside the car. He can’t quite put his finger on it but, is certain the noise is coming from a pair of lips. Patterns of chirping whistles continue in repetitions of three for a few minutes then intensify like a train barreling down the tracks at them. It had been two days behind the wheel and Big Bro asks himself, “is it people or insects I’m hearing?” Either way the noise was better than sirens coming from a cop car and possibility of arrest. He puts his head back trying not to think too much on a hang over but, the unusual sounds peaks his interest. Big Bro determined it had to be coming from the house beside them. He glances at the house and it enchants him in a way his run down foster home never did. The home stood resembling a fantasy that made his dreams look second hand. That house was the complete opposite if there ever was one. It made the foster home they spent so many sleepless nights look like a barn for roaring mufflers, smashed beer bottles and beefed up bullies. Lil Bro starts to rustle with a yawn followed by a bicep stretch. Big Bro returns the yawn innately and sinks deeper in his chair watching sweat roll down his brother’s Adam’s apple and settle in the soft dip between clavicle bones. He looks through the window and gazes at mechanical water sprinklers popping out of the earth to shower perfidiously edged St. Augustine carpet. They had made it to Arizona that he was sure of but, something about the current surroundings looked nothing of the sort of surroundings one would associate with a dry desert.Big Bro decided last night to head north and find a secluded place to hide until morning. He must have driven further north than he thought. The place he was in looked like a swimming pool full of chlorine in the middle of a desert, you can walk to the edge but you wouldn’t have enough money to jump in. Lil Bro slowly awakes with Easter Jesus arms above his head breathing deeper as he lets out another elongated yawn. “I want to stand under those sprinklers,” Lil Bro surprised his brother with an out loud thought. “We better not,” Big Bro responded ardently. You finally awake? Big Bro asks with the lowest voice he could muster. Lil Bro, “You got a smoke?” Big bro replies sharply, “We’re out.” Lil Bro, “I feel like shit.” Big Bro shared the same ringing in his head and didn’t want to mention to that squares should have been stolen at the last truck stop. He was hung over and glad as hell to have got pigs off their tail. He regretted the idea to down every beer in a thirty pack the night before feeling the belated reward for an elongated buzz. They glanced up at the skyline and realized the desert of America was this suburbia’s back drop. Big Bro, “better find a place to get cool or we’ll cook, only thing is we got maybe few miles left in the tank.” Lil Bro, “Where the hell are we?” Big Bro, “Arizona but, I’m not sure what part.” Lil Bro looks around replying with a sigh, “I can’t believe we didn’t get arrested last night.” Big Bro, “I don’t know how that cop didn’t spot us.” In truth that was the biggest mystery because the cop passed right by them on his way out of the dead end road. Lil Bro, “I have got to get something to drink, I’m burning up!” Lil Bro rustles and adjusts his chair. Big Bro, “I don’t think there is anything left in there.” He looks in the back seat were the cooler sits. Lil Bro, “No beer left?” Lil bro reaches back and opens the cooler. “Say How about the ice? It’s melted but still cold.” Big Bro, “We need a shower. I smell like a hobo.” Lil Bro, You’ve been sweating in that shirt for three days. You’re starting to ferment.” Lil Bro takes off his shirt his brother and Big Bro looks left to see a large man standing outside the car window. The man taps on the window, “Hello you two all right in there?” The big guy stands well over six foot wearing a sweat stained polo shirt and a straw hat. He repeatedly taps on the glass until Big Bro rolls the window down. Big Bro had a prepared answer anticipating the situation of someone coming up to the car. He cracks window about an inch. Big Bro, “Yes sir, we are fine, our engine started over heating.” He moves closer putting his hand on the hood. “It could be your radiator,” he replies; “you check the water level yet?” Big Bro, “Its fine we are about to leave anyway.” Big Bro turns the ignition key cranking the engine. The man leans on the car “You guys want some ice cold lemonade?” He smiles and glances behind him at his house. He continues, “My wife just mixed up a fresh batch of lemonade. You boys are welcome to come in cool off and have a glass?” Lil Bro looks at his brother who is hesitant in responding. Big Bro, “We’re really trying to by on our way sir.” Big Bro grabs the gear shifter “My Name is Barney,” he reaches his hand out to the window. Big Bro, not wanting to be rude rolls his window down and shakes it. Barney, “That’s some hand shake you got there. Where you headed too?” Lil Bro smiling, “California.” His brother looks at him. Barney, “Really I used to live in San Francisco.” It’s beautiful out there. I could possibly get you a discount on a room.”Lil Bro looks at his brother with a say little face. Big Bro “Thanks but, we have a place that we are trying to get to.” Big bro act disinterested. Barney, “You boys have been parked here all morning you sure you don’t want something to drink?” He whistles and the front door opens. Barney, “Bring me a couple bottles of water! At least let me give a couple strangers some water. I know you’re burning up out here, just hold up one second.” He jogs up to his front door and a pair of hands from inside passes him two bottles of water. Lil Bro, “He seems really nice, maybe he’ll help us get some gas.” They watch Barney hustle back to their car with two bottles of water in his hand. Barney, “Here you go, I brought you boys something to drink from the ice box.” He holds the bottles the window and tauntingly tilts them cap down.Big Bro, “Thanks.” He grabs the bottles and passes one to his brother. He snaps the top releasing the vacuumed seal. Lil Bro tips it up takes a sip that turns into a long chug before stopping to catch his breath. Big Bro follows suit and the two feel peachy and refreshed. Barney takes off his thick glasses and pulls down hard on a red bulbous nose cleaning the oil from it before sliding the frames back on. For the first time Big Bro gets a good look at Barney’s arms. The man has extraordinarily sculpted muscle wrapped limbs. With the flick of a wrist your life could be taken by them. The arms have to be thirty inches in circumference without a sliver of fat to spare. Big Bro had consumed himself with lifting weights for the past five years and was intimidated and impressed by Barney’s stature. Barney breaks the silence with a caveman laugh that exposes his dimples and smooth block chin. Barney, “I don’t think you boys are from around here.” Lil Bro “No sir.” Barney, “Please son don’t call me sir. You’re going to make me feel like old.” Call me Barney” He grins showing perfect teeth. Big Bro responds, “alright Barney,” then focuses intently on the Barney’s large gleaming forearm. Barney, “You boys have to be out of your minds to sit in this sun. It’s over a hundred and forty eight degrees out here. Stay any longer you’re going to melt. Let me guess, you don’t have air conditioner in that estrus ride? Lil Bro, “What does estrus mean?” Barney, “It comes from a Greek word that means heat until death.” Barney replies cordially. Lil bro, “I think I feel like that right now.” Barney puts his hands on his hips, “Well I’m sure as shit you do. You two boys have been cooking in there for hours. I started mowing the yard at dawn and saw you two sleeping like a couple sheep, didn’t want to disturb you, figured you would wake when you were ready.” Big Bro relaxes after hearing Barney’s sincere approach to their curbside napping. Barney “I don’t think that you boys need to stay parked here too much longer,” Barney looks around. Barney, “You see those two cars parked over there belong to my neighbor. He’s a real prick.” Barney whips out a handkerchief and dabs off his face. Barney, “He’s attorney to be exact so, you can imagine how much that guy would love to see someone get there car towed.” He has the whole street reserved for the day.” Barney snorts and turns the sound into a heavy collection of mucus he spits on the ground. Barney “Some kind of family reunion he planned a month ago.” The brothers look at each other in a moment of concern. Lil Bro shares his siblings’ confused and paranoid expression. Lil Bro, “District attorney, what’s that?” Big Bro replies, “Just somebody that goes after bad guys for the state.” Barney puts his hands on his hips. Barney, “Well said son.” Big Bro can think of only two ways out. One is, the drive a couple miles before running out of gas then walk to a station and steal more or, hitch hike leaving the car to be towed. Barney puts his hand on the top of their car and leans in closer speaking in a kind tone. Barney, “I reckon you can park it in my garage for a few hours let it cool off and the two of you can take a quick dip in my swimming pool. I’m grilling some burgers and hot dogs plus, there is a keg icing down.” Lil Bro, “I’m so hungry, beer and burgers sound like heaven.” Barney smiles and Lil Bro transmits a telepathic message of temptation to his brother. Barney, “How’s that sound? You can keep your car cool while you get something to eat.” Big Bro felt a major decision blowing in like a strong storm. He knew that they would have better chances at stealing gas later in the night and his brother was probably just as hungry as he was. Big Bro, “I guess we got a couple hours to kill.” Barney, “Cool, that’s awesome! I’ll go open the garage.” Barney’s reaction is child like. He winks at the brothers then runs up the sidewalk to the cherry oak door. Lil Bro, “Food and beer sounds amazing plus they have a pool. What are you thinking? He watches his brother chew on his nails. Lil Bro, “Do you feel like hanging here at least until the sun goes down?” Big Bro felt the hangover grip his empty stomach and knew Lil Bro felt the same. Big Bro, “I guess we can.”Big Bro thought about that first dive in the pool and hatched an imaginary cold rush that sent chills up his spine. He takes another look at the red needle hovering jus slightly over the empty peg. He turns the radio off bringing a moment of silence to his thoughts. Big Bro, “We are only going to stay for a few hours then split” He takes his foot off the break and backs the jaguar up Barney’s driveway. Chapter 2- Pool SharksBarney’s face reflects the Jag’s red tail lights. He gives the thumbs up to Big Bro’s reverse parking job and the car stops as the garage door closes. Lil Bro pops open his door making the car’s interior lights the only source of illumination. Big Bro hops out shuts the car door right after his brother. A five second stint of darkness devours the room and Barney pulls a string hanging over him bringing visibility to the room. Barney, “The back yard is right there.” Barney points to a door beside Big Bro. He walks up to the door knob and attempts to open it. Big Bro, “It’s locked.” Barney, It isn’t locked you have to give it a harder twist.” Big Bro twists hard breaking the door knob off completely. He stands with the metal knob in his hand while sunlight pours in from the hole in the door. Barney, “I said open it not break it.” Big Bro, “I’m sorry.” Barney looks at the door knob in Big Bro’s hand. Barney, “I’ll have to get another one, just give it here.” Big Bro places the broken door knob in Barney’s hand and pushes the door exposing the back yard. Barney walks ahead of them and up to a swimming pool. Barney, “Here it is my little oasis.” The brothers walk past a stone water fall and onto bone white concrete surrounding calm crystal clear water. Barney, “Perfect day for a swim,” he lifts the lid of a Bar-B-Q pit letting a billows of smoke escape. Juicy franks and burgers hiss and smolder as flavorful ash dance across stagnant air.Lil Bro, “You got a diving board too, this pool is sweet.” Barney flips a burger, “Go ahead and test it out.” Lil Bro dives straight into the shallow end, nearly missing the steps with his stomach. Barney, “That board has got a lot of spring. I adjusted it last summer to get the highest jump possible.” Barney adjusts the meat patties causing more flames to rise. Big Bro walks up to a keg surrounded by ice in a large trash can. Lil Bro swims under water until he reaches the opposite end of the pool.There is a garden sectioned off beside the garage that Big Bro stands near. Tall stalks of corn grow with tomatoes and peas cultivated around them. Lil bro climbs out of the pool dripping a Pollock image under him. Lil Bro, “Hot, Hot,” he scurries to the diving board runs up to the edge and takes two quick hops realizing the board’s potential. Lil Bro, “How deep is this?” Barney is caught off guard by Big Bro’s interest in the garden. Without looking back at Lil Bro he responds, “Twelve foot deep! What’s your shoe size?” Big Bro steps back, “excuse me?” Barney is looking directly down at Big Bro’s feet. Barney, “Your shoe size is a thirteen. Am I right?” Big Bro, “Twelve.” Barney, “I was close. My son has big feet.” Barney turns around and watches Lil Bro jump off the diving board. Barney, “You going to jump in the pool and get cooled you off?” Big Bro looks at the garden. Barney, “I got swimming trunks in the house if you need them.” Big Bro walks toward the garden with Barney right on his heels. Lil Bro bounces off the board getting twice his height tucks his knees and screams. Lil Bro, “cannon ball!” He comes down on his back making a loud smack that causes Barney and Big Bro to shift their attention off the garden. Lil Bro surfaces the water holding his back, “Ow!” Big Bro’s concern turns to laughter and Barney touches a stalk of corn in the garden. Barney, “It’s called the mound method. It’s the Cherokee Indian way to grow vegetables. This way you can focus more on the roots and conserve water.” Big Bro reaches out and touches a leaf on the stalk of corn. Barney, “During times of draught they would sacrifice animals and pour blood over the mound.” Big Bro lets go of the leaf and Barney leans over to watch his reaction. “Didn’t know something that would work.” Big Bro tries not to take Barney seriously and casually replies, Big Bro “That probably made the food taste like blood.” Barney, “The blood is not for watering but, to bring rain from the animals sacrifice. This plant is almost ready to be picked. Two more months and they’ll be ready.”This summer sun has been perfect for growing big juicy tomatoes.” Barney looks at Big Bro with beady red eyes as he fondles the plants. Barney, “How old are you son?” Big Bro, “I’m eighteen.” Barney turns back to the garden, “The reason I’m asking is, I noticed your frame and you look older than that.” Big Bro, “I do?” Barney, “Yeah, how much you bench press?” Big Bro shrugs his shoulders. Barney “I bet you can put every player on the field on their ass.” Barney flatters Big Bro but, he shows no sign of blushing. Big Bro, “I guess.” Big Bro, “I don’t play football. I quit.” Barney, “You quit. What the hell for?” Big Bro shrugs his shoulders again reluctant to reveal much of his past. Barney, “So you don’t know how much you bench?” Big Bro, “Last I got under any weight it was three seventy five.” Barney scoots closer to Big Bro. Barney, “I’ll be damned. That’s a lot of weight.” Barney nods in appraisal. Big Bro, “That was a year ago so I could be at four hundred by now.” Barney smiles, “I knew you were a strong boy. I can see it in your eyes.” Big Bro breaks eye contact with Barney and walks towards the pool. Barney sizes him up as he walks giving him extra attention. Big bro has always been stronger than other kids in his class and recently the four classes above him. Big Bro is not tall he is what some would call stalky. His chest is thick like and oak and he holds his mass like a rock. Barney, “Three seventy five is pretty impressive for anyone let alone a teenager.” Big Bro walks to the pool and Barney continues his praises. Barney, “I doubt your wrong and I’d sure hate to call you a liar,” Big Bro turns his attention from the pool and looks at Barney. Barney rubs his hands together, “I got a brand new bench press and weight that goes up to five hundred. How’s about a quick max? What do you say?” Big Bro smiles and shakes his head no, “Sorry but, I can’t.” Barney changes topics with an uncomfortable grunt, “I was in the NFL back in the sixties. I played linebacker for the Miners. That was before I blew out my knee.” Barney stands proudly pointing at his right knee.” Big Bro, “Candle Stick Stadium.” Barney, “That’s right, you know one night I played with three broken fingers.” Barney reminisces then shows his hand like a proud belt pitch fork. Barney, “I took out the first string Quarter back and had four after that one. The X-NFL player lets his lips pucker and tightens them whistling that familiar note and Big Bro’s intuition plagues him with questions. His senses lit up like a Christmas tree and soon he was asking himself if this was such a good idea. It was the same noise he heard earlier while waiting for Lil bro to wake up. The back door to the house opens and a bulky young man, about the age of twenty three, takes a finger out of his nose to swat away a fly that buzzed over his head.Barney walks to the grill and makes a long grunt before opening the pit. He flips a burger pressing down on the top milk grease that splatters on orange coals. The patties pop and sizzles as the same fly comes back to land on young man’s gigantic skull.Lil Bro skips over to a plate full of meat and grabs a hot dog without hesitation. Barney presses on another burger with his metal spatula. Barney, “This is my son Don-Don.” He uses the spatula to point. Don-Don has a less than intelligent expression on his face and goes from one point of interest to the next unable to focus for too long. Big Bro is watching his younger brother stuff face when a loud bark rings from deep inside the home. Barney takes another burger off the grill and his potato head son watches the back door. A decrepit and spindly old woman emerges carrying a pitcher of lemonade. “Barney, get these boys a cup.” She says with a raspy voice. The woman is followed by two large German Sheppard twins that looked like they came from an army base. Barney, “That’s my wife Betty.” Her hands shake as she places the pitcher down sliding her feet slowly slide across the concrete. Betty, “Hello boys, I have ice cold lemonade here if you thirsty.” Don-Don, a man-boy, runs up to the pitcher of lemonade. Barney, “Don-Don!” she turns to Barney, “Get back in the swimming pool.” He points scolding him as he holds the pitcher in his hands. “God damn it Don-Don!” He spills half the pitcher as he sets it back down on the table. She slaps him across the head and he screams looking at her furiously. The two dogs start to growl ferociously barking as they inch towards him like demons hypnotized by the devils telepathy. Don-Don becomes petrified and pisses himself then runs back to the edge of the pool. The dogs start to run but Betty whispers no. Then like a bi-polar lunatic he turns around and smiles at the dogs before jumping backwards into the pool. His expression was as if it had all been a joke to him.Big Bro gives Barney the first glimpse of attention to Don-Don since he walked outside. “Nice one Don-Don” Big Bro says complementing him. Don-Don quickly gets over ecstatic about Big Bro’s eye contact and small display of recognition. Barney, “Don-Don, get over here!” Barney takes off his sandals and shirt then dives into the pool. His son swims over and climbs on Barney’s shoulders. He flexes against the weight of his son attempting to crawl up to his shoulder. Don-Don, “Piggy back ride!”Barney throws his arms under Don-Don’s legs giving him a piggy back ride. Don-Don lets out a high pitched scream like a child on a roller coaster. Barney’s face shakes and glows red with violent thoughts.Barney, “Quit screaming!” Betty sits relaxed in her rocking chair shaded from the sun. She strokes the dog’s head using rocking motion to move her hand back and forth over the dogs head. Her thick ankles are covered with a blue spider web of veins merging with a pair of pink fuzzy slippers to form a different kind of animal attached to her legs. Betty seemed not to care her feet were resting in a puddle. The tip of her purple silk night gown is also soaking in the water. Her hair appeared slightly brushed but, still full of tangles and knotted clumps. It is the kind of hair a person that doesn’t get out of bed has.An awkward lip kiss is exchanged between father and his son. Barney throws his son off him and Big Bro notices Don-Don’s erect penis. He throws him away again and Don-Don swims to a blue float wrapping his legs around it and struggles to take it under water. He goes ballistic for a couple of minutes before becoming fatigued and disinterested. Don-Don slobbers on his black t-shirt shirt then takes off exposing a large tattoo of the Starter S, a brand logo common in football merchandise. The signature trademark contains one capital S merging with a star. The tattoo is large and covers most of Don-Don’s chest in a crude painfully written thickness.Don-Don’s screams energetically puts his face in the water and comes up spitting out a mouthful of water. Barney shoots a scolding glare at his son who is in the pool releasing a yellowish bright green tinted fluid that outlines his swimming trunks under the crystal clear water it dissipates into. Barney, “Ok your piss parade is over Mr.” Barney speaks in a scolding manner. Betty, “Did he piss in the pool again? That boy is spoiled rotten.” she comments from her rocking chair. Barney tosses a ball to Don-Don as Lil Bro notices the urine and starts to swim away from him.Big Bro tries his best not to laugh at a psychotic lip twisting man-child. Barney has Don-Don’s attention with a game of catch. Lil Bro finishes an underwater hand stand and pops up for air. Barney looks at Big Bro and waves him in. Barney, “Come on aren’t you going to get in?” Barney turns to Lil Bro, “I think your Big Brother doesn’t know how to swim.” Big-Bro takes his first step into the pool then takes off his shirt revealing a brick house physique. Don-Don whistles and takes a deep breath and dips his head under water. Big Bro slides further into the pool pushing away with a slow breast strokes that send him gliding into shallow water.Don-Don squeezes the sponge football ball under water allowing it to absorb its element. He brings the ball out from under the water and holds it above his head squeezing it softer. As the ball sprinkles his face he releases a high pitched whistle and grips the ball with an uncontrollable rage. Don-Don lets the pool water flow in his mouth filling up to the brim before squirting it out like a whale’s breath hole. He dips down filling another mouthful and swallows it all with a grin before slinging the spheroid at his mother’s head. Betty doesn’t move as the ball nearly hits her in the head. The speed whips her stringy grey hair back and she didn’t seem to notice. Don-Don exudes wildness with violent claps like he is trying to smash an imaginary cloud of mosquitoes. Big Bro watches him clap and notices that he is missing the pointer and middle finger on his right hand.“Why did you do that?” Barney yells at his son, “Go get it! Now!” Don-Don looks terrified and his chin begins to quiver. Barney “Pick it up! Now!” Don-Don pulls himself out of the pool and walks by his mother toward to the ball. She slaps Don-Don on the back of his head making a loud pop with her ring. He hides his face in his hands and runs towards the ball. Right before reaching it a dog lunges nipping at his hand as he reaches out to get it. He shrieks snapping his arm back in shock. Barney “You better be careful boy or you’ll get bit again,” Barney says looking at Don-Don while he splashes his face and gets his hair wet. Lil Bro walks out of the pool and up to the plate of burgers. Barney, “You boys can get yourself something to eat if you’re hungry. You help yourself around here.”Disinterested in the ball and afraid of the dogs Don-Don jumps back into the pool and attempts to engage Big bro. Big Bro clutches his two hands together and makes a stream of water squirt out between his palms. The water shoots straight out and at Don-Don. “Hey!” Don-Don pushes water back at Big Bro and the two are now involved in an all out splash battle. Don-Don tilts back and kicks his legs up throwing as much water into the air as his legs allow. Lil Bro finishes his bite and jumps back in. Big Bro separates his arms and splashes Don-Don with a titanic wave. Don-Don goes under water and swims at Big Bro’s knees. Both boys come after Big Bro with intent to slam dunk his head under water. Big Bro knew the game well. He was playing the defender as Don-Don and Lil Bro lunge at him grabbing, pulling and clawing in hopes of trying to control Big Bro. Don-Don becomes aggravated and more malicious causing Lil Bro to slow his attack and back away as a sign of neutrality. The once playful bout escalates and Big Bro continues fending off the man-child proving his dominance over Don-Don. Barney shows anxious irritation that his son can’t get a solid hold of Big Bro long enough to dunk him. Don-Don is taller and weighs more than Big Bro yet, he is having a hard time taking control of the fight. Barney, “Don-Don you have to play nice!” Barney lifts the Pit’s hood to inspect the food. Barney, “it’s ready to eat.” He looks directly at Big Bro. Don-Don stops trying to go after Big Bro and tries to shake his hand. Don-Don, “Truce let’s have a truce.” Big Bro, “Ok, Truce.” They shake hands and Don-Don spits water out his mouth at Big Bro’s face.“Now you already ate didn’t you?” Barney looks at his wife, she smiles and stops rocking. Betty, “I’m not hungry, you boys get full.” she calmly replies while intensely watching Big Bro swim a lap across the pool. Don-Don, “Hey, can we try and dunk you again? Hey!” Don-Don screams and splashes water at Big Bro to get his attention. Don-Don “I want to try and dunk you again.” Barney, “Don-Don, come get your burger.” Barney pulls more food from the grill. Barney looks at Lil Bro, “I hope you boys saved room for more.” Don-Don runs up to the plate of meat and starts to stuff his face. He uses both hands dropping chunks of food as he walks. “Don-Don, slow down and chew your food.” Barney responds gritting his teeth in anger as he watches his son eat. Barney walks up to Don-Don and slaps the back of his head knocking out his mouth full of meat. Barney, “Stop it I said!” Don-Don puckers his lower lip and quivers his chin. Barney mocks him as Betty rubs on the dog on her right.Big Bro, “The burgers taste amazing!” Lil Bro wipes burger juice off his chin with a content face. Big Bro was glad to see his brother get a hot meal and found the burgers to be spicy but, satisfying. It was the best food they ate since Charlene took them to Pizza Hut to calm them down after Mike went berserk and tore up half the house. Barney, “I didn’t even offer you guys a beer.” He smiles suggestively pumping the tap on the keg. “Here you go.” Barney fills a cup and hands it to Big Bro. He sips the foam with ease Barney fills another cup. Barney, “go ahead, drink up, it will do you good.”Lil Bro finishes his thick burger as his brother sips the beer. Big Bro is inclined to chug but does not did not want to seem ungrateful. He lets the sun cook his back helping him become more awake. Big Bro takes down more of the mass produced fermentation and Barney lets out a long belch flatting his chest after letting out the gas. Barney made an iced down mug of beer reachable to Lil Bro but, refrains from offering it. Barney, “Does your brother want a drink?” Big Bro looks over at his brother and waits for him to respond. Lil Bro, “Sure, I’ll have a drink.” Barney, “Don-Don put your trash in the garbage.” Barney lowers his voice to a grumble distracting Don-Don from his food. Don-Don throws the trash away and walks up to the keg of beer pausing before picking up the spout to make sure Barney’s back is turned. Suddenly his father whips around and stares directly at Don-Don. Barney’s picnic basket of anger displayed itself for everyone like a shark in the north Hampton shore. Don-Don despairingly reacts paranoid over his father’s suggestive glare. Don-Don’s constant misbehavior was wearing thin and Big Bro mustarded an artificial easiness to cope with his deep seeded and religious mistrust of everyone. He was beginning to feel bubbling in his gut and wondered if it was from the night before and the chili cheese bean burritos or, if it was spurred on by something new. The burgers couldn’t be beat and with an empty stomach combined with the horrible hang over they practically hit the spot. Barneys’ generosity couldn’t be beat so, Big Bro continued to fight his gut and enjoy another burger. Lil Bro, “These burgers are the best.”Barney, “Glad you like them, How about another drink?” Lil Bro finishes his beer, “Sure!” Barney, “I make the best burgers this side of Arizona.” Lil Bro walks around the keg and up to Barney. Lil Bro, “They’re awesome,” he responds tossing his paper plate into the trash. Barney, “How about your older brother, does he want more beer?” Big Bro, “No thank you, I’m trying to recover from last night.” Barney, “There is nothing wrong with a little hair of the dog that bit you.” Big bro looks over at the dog by Betty as it licks its chops. Barney, “I’ll tell you what, I’ll go in the house and make you a small drink and if you don’t like it I owe you twenty dollars but, I guarantee you will like it.” Lil Bro heads for the diving board followed by Don-Don. Barney, “Don-Don! Slow down! I don’t want you to fall and break your arm again.” Barney walks past Betty and her diligent guard dogs then heads into the house. Betty smiles and the dog on her right perks its ear up and watches Lil Bro take another sip of his beer. Betty, “You know your younger brother should wait a half an hour before swimming he could catch a cramp.” Her voice is soft and eyes narrow the smile widens across her face. She doesn’t flinch as a fly lands on her face then on the dogs. The dogs hang their heads at the back to the door as Barney walks out with a tray holding four drinks. Barney, “I had to search for the cherries.” Barney sets down the tray and opens the jar of cherries. Barney, “I wasn’t sure if we still had any but, I managed to find them.” He takes the drinks off the tray then hands one to his wife. Barney, “These cherries have been sitting in crown royal for the past eight months so, you can bet your biscuits they got a kick to them.” Barney, “I got a question, either of you boys a pool shark?” Barney passes the brothers a drink. Lil Bro looks at his Big Brother before taking the drink then responds to Barneys’ question with one directed at his older brother. Lil Bro, “You play don’t you?” Big Bro, “I’ve played before but can’t say I’m a shark.” Barney, “I bet you could break a rack, you got the guns for it.” Barney sips his drink and a dog barks at the brothers. Barney, “You too you boys should be in sports you got the genes. I bet your parents were healthy people.” Lil bro takes a drink and responds, “Our father was a strong man.” His big brother looks at him with discerning eyes. Lil Bro, Well, I didn’t know him too good but my brother did. Big Bro, “When I get to California I’m going to make him try out for the football team.” Don-Don chimes in after hearing a word he knows. Don-Don, “Football, I want to play!” He gets into a three point stance and prepares to take off. Don-Don, “Blue forty two set hit, hit.” Barney, “Shut up Don-Don! You boys drink up now; there is plenty more booze and burgers. I can tell you right now this heat is getting too much for me I’m going to be in the house cooling off for a while. Why don’t you boys come inside? We can play pool while Betty fixes ice cream Sundays.” Don-Don approaches Big Bro. “Let me see your guns.” Lil-Bro, “Go ahead show him. Big Bro smiles and flexes his right bicep. Barney bites his lip with attentiveness taken back by the sheer size of Big Bro’s muscle. Don-Don, “Wow! Your arms are almost as big as my Dads!” Barney, “Those are some nice wood choppers; you must have spent a lot of time lifting weights.” Big Bro, “I’ve been working out for the past three years.” Lil Bro interjects, “More like five.” Barney takes his hand off his mouth to respond, “I can tell. I’m an old man myself but no slouch.” Don-Don, “Show him your arms Dad.” Barney, “Now try not to get jealous son I’ve been working out longer than you. These are my money makers.” Barney flexes his triceps then curls up mountain peak biceps. Don-Don, “Get a load of those pythons.” Barney shakes with strain then turns his arm down flexing the triceps. Barney, “You don’t get these overnight. They come from years of torture and pain.” Barney continues to brag, “I know a little bit about that. You have plenty of time to grow and put on more size hell, if you were a foot taller I’d say try out for the CFL, Canadian football.” Barney, “That’s but, some folks just weren’t cut out for the league it has to be in your blood.” Barney flexes again for his son who mimics the pose. Barney, “It takes a special breed and talent; you have to be born for it.” Don-Don, “I’m going to play one day!” He proudly displays his large unshapely arms then points to his chest showing the brothers his tattoo. Don-Don, “I’m going to be a Pro…Professinal football player like my Dad.” Barney, “That’s right son you are.” Barney looks at the brothers and shakes his head in disagreement but, his son is too busy flexing to notice. Don-Don, “Test his arm dad, do the strong test.” Barney, “No, we are not going to do anything like that Don-Don. Stop irritating me.” Don-Don, I bet you can’t hold your arm after my dad squeezes it.” Barney, “Shut your trap boy. I told you I aint trying to hurt this boy now, drop it.” Big Bro, “Its ok you’re not going to hurt me.” Don-Don, “See dad I told you he wants it.” Barney, “Now are you sure? I don’t want to hurt you son?” Big Bro confidently replies, “Go ahead and try.”Barney smirks and steps closers to Big Bro. Barney, “Ok son.” Barney looks at Big Bro’s arm then softly squeezes it with cold hands. Barney, “I’m about to do a simple strength test.” Big Bro looks concerned when Barney glares and balls his hand in a tight fist. Barney, “It’s just to see the strength your bicep is. It shouldn’t hurt too bad.” He looks at his son and grins. Barney, “Now go ahead and flex your bicep as hard as you can.” Don-Don steps up to Big Bro watching his father grab hold of Big Bro’s arm with his thumb and index finger. Lil Bro, “flex it up Bro.” Big Bro looks at his brother. Barney, “Are you flexing yet?” Barney laughs. Don-Don, “He’s flexing.” Big Bro curls up his arm up again raising the bicep peak higher as Barney places his thumb on the top of the muscle and begins to squeeze. Don-Don’s forehead wrinkles in perplexing manure as he watches his father struggles to make Big Bro flinch. Barney places his other hand on the top of his thumb to increase pressure. Don-Don “Come on dad!” Barney struggles to break his flex pressing as hard as he can. Don-Don, “Squish it like a marshmallow!” Anticipating Big Bro’s breakdown Barney leans over him and digs his thumb deeper into the brother’s flesh. Lil Bro stops splashing water and looks and his big brother’s flexed bicep hold Barney’s intense grasp. Barney holds the bicep like a spider covering its’ kill. His finger nail is dug deep in the tense ball of muscle fibers breaking the skin. Barney smiles as his thumb submerges further into Big Bros arm. It appears the young man is not about to give. A thin line of blood rolls down Big Bro’s arm and veins on Barney’s neck surface bulging through his dark tan. Barney looks at the blood realizes what he’s done and stops squeezing. Don-Don “You couldn’t make him give.” Don-Don watches with amazement as Big Bro finally relaxes his arm revealing a purple bruise and red spots in the center of it.Big Bro shakes his arm and wipes the blood off it as Lil Bro looks it up and down with concern. Barney “Sorry about that son, I didn’t mean to make your arm bleed.” Big Bro, “It’s alright. I’m fine.” Barney looks at the fresh wound and replies, “Well, hell how about another drink now.” He turns to Lil Bro, “You want one too?” Barney tries to distract Lil Bro from looking at his brothers’ arm. He hands the two boys a drink and his son continues to gawk at Big Bros’ arm. Barney, “I’d let you try to break my flex but, I doubt your hand can make it around my arm.” Don-Don, “You can take dads strong test.” Barney, “Come on guys let’s go inside.” Barney, “You are definitely got a hell of a rock. I underestimated how hard your arm is, that or my grip just aint what it was when I was younger.” Lil Bro to his brother, “Your bleeding.” Barney, “I did give you a little cut with my finger nail. It was and accident, I’m real sorry about that.” He looks at Lil Bro with apologetic eyes; “I need to trim my finger nails,” Barney says smiling innocently. He reaches for Big Bro’s arm to examine the wound. Barney, “Here take this.” Big Bro wipes the blood on Barney’s handkerchief and looks back at Barney who seems over concerned and regretful. Big Bro, “Don’t worry it’s healing already.” Barney, “You’re a tough kid.” Barney turns to Lil Bro. Barney, “Your do what he tells you and you’re going to be alright.” Barney puts his hand on Lil Bro’s head and rubs it. Barney, “You are already as tall as him you just need to put a little meat on your bones.” He chuckles and grips Lil Bros’ arm lightly. Barney, “You’ll get there soon enough; just start lifting like your brother. Lil Bro watches Barney now with more nervous uncertainty.Barney throws up his arms giving the brother another show of might. Barney, “I owe my life to these pythons; they gave me eight years in the league. Of course, I had to save up most of that. I knew there’d be a time when I could no longer play. After my time of playing ball I invested in a vineyard, which has kept me and my family living right for the past twenty years.” Barney looks back at his house and continues on his point, “The wine is not mass produced but, everyone local grabs them up as soon as we bottle it. That is just one small vine I brought here from our vineyard and planted.” Barney points towards the garden and starts to walk toward it. Barney, “I’ll take you down to the cellar and let you sample some our first grow. How’s that sound?” Big Bro “It sounds nice.” Barney, “I promise you are going to love the taste, even if you’re not a wine drinker.” Big Bro, “Why is that?” Barney, “There is something special in it.” Big Bro, “What?” Barney, “Blood.” Barney beams and casually pronounces the word. “Human blood,” Lil bro asks as he enters the pool still listening to his brother’s conversation. “Yes,” Barneys’ grin widens. Lil Bro continues to tread water as he watches Big Bro calmly react to Barneys’ response. Barney, “Relax it’s just a joke.” Big Bro, “Really, what does it taste like? Big Bro gullibly acts amazed. Barney, “No, I was joking. I made a few bottles with snake blood but, no human involved.” Don-Don has started another violent splash war with Lil Bro and Big Brother intently stares at Barney. Big Bro, “You said snake blood?” Lil Bro pops up for air wearing goggles full of fog. Big Bro observes Barney watching Lil Bro and his son holding their breath under water. “What kind of snake?” Barney, “Rattle Snake. I have a friend that hunts Diamond Backs. There are a lot of them out here, snakes and spics.” Barney laughs uncontrollably. Barney, “He milks the venom for hospitals.” Big Bro puts on a disgusted face. Big Bro, “I don’t see that tasting too good.” Barney, “You really can’t even taste it. You’re not afraid of a little snake blood are you?” Big Bro, “I don’t really like to drink blood.” Barney, “Native Americans say it brings fertility and power. My wife and I had some trouble conceiving a child. The doc said she was too old but, we had Don-Don. Now, I’d love to find him a brother that’ll love him like you love your brother. It would be nice to find someone that will be around for the rest of his life, when we are not. Sometimes the wine gives the courage it takes to put up with him. Barney looks at Don-Don with remorse. Barney, “Since he was born the doctors diagnosed him as a retard, some kind of disease that stops the brain from fully developing. They said he will never be smarter than six year old.”Barney smirks and watches his son throw the ball with Lil Bro. Barney, “What do you say? You and your brother can live here for a while, I have plenty of space.” Big Bro watches his brother consumed in the game of catch with Don-Don. Big Bro is taken back, “Thanks, your offer generous but, we really got to be on our way.” Barney, “Just a suggestion, Don-Don seems to get along well with your little brother.” Barney fills up Big Bro’s half empty drink. “There is a spare T.V. in the guest bedroom. I promise it will feel like you’d died and gone to heaven,” Big Bro gazes at the garage door. Big Bro, “We really got to get to L.A by tomorrow morning.” Barney acts hurt and turns away looking back at the garage. Big Bro, “Nothing personal, I just have a friend expecting us and made a promise that we would be there soon, so he’s expecting us anytime really.” Big Bro tries to sooth Barney’s uncouth reaction.“I have been promising Lil Bro we’d be on Venice Beach by morning, he has his heart set on it.” Barney avoids any attempt at making eye contact with Big Bro. Barney, “Why didn’t you leave earlier, you had the chance to and you didn’t.” Big Bro takes a deep breath to pause and collect his thoughts. Big Bro, “The Reason we were parked so long is that we’re running low on gas. Last night we lost our way and needed a place to get our bearings straight.” Barney nods his head turned towards the garden. Barney, “Your lost and out of gas.” Big Bro, “You don’t happen to have a few spare gallons of gas, would you?” Barney, “No but, I can check.” Big bro, “Sorry to bother you, it’s just we really need to get going before it gets too late.” Barney, “No I don’t have any gas.” Big Bro, “That’s fine it’s no big deal. Thanks for the burgers. We will go ahead and get going.” Barney, “I’m sorry we don’t have any gas but, if you want to hop in my truck we can drive go to a gas station and pick up a few gallons to put in your tank.” Big Bro elated by the generous gesture, “That would be great, can we go now?”Barney turns away, distraught he pauses.Barney, “I just thought we were having a good time.” Big Bro respectful, “We are not bored. Don’t misunderstand me. This is a beautiful home, my brother loves the pool.” Barney cuts Big Bro off. Barney, “I know you already said that.” He stands up and trudges away methodically taking ten steps towards the garage then turns around. Barney, “At least try some rattlesnake wine.” Big Bro looks at his brother then back at the garage were the car is parked. Barney, “We can shoot a game of pool and cool off in the air conditioner before you leave.” Barney looks at the garage, “Then after the game we can go to the store and fill up your tank.” Big Bro scratches his head, “We really don’t have much time but, I guess we can do one game.” Barney, “One game and I’ll go get you two filled up and on your way to California.” Barney looks at Lil Bro smiling he winks.Big Bro gets out of the pool and dries off as the sun stretches across the afternoon sky turning it an orange pink. Big Bro, “That’s a generous offer.” Barney looks viciously at Big Bro with assertiveness and new found power. He grabs his bright red nose and pulls on it slowly. Barney, “Well, since you can’t stay for dinner, I’ll tell my wife not to worry about cooking any extra steaks. One thing I’m have to ask you.” Big Bro, “Go ahead.” Barney, “Promise me to at least let Don-Don play you in a game of pool.” He nods in agreement. Big Bro, “Sorry about the trouble we really did enjoy those burgers.” Barney, “One more hour out your day sure as shit aint gonna kill ya. I tell you what, let’s go play some pool, grab your brother and tell him to fill his cup and bring with him. Don-Don! Get in the house!”Chapter 3- Strength TestBarney opens the back door and the dark cold air flows out of the house hitting their face as cushy rug carpet grabs the bottom of big bros sunburned feet. The house is dimly lit even with a few living room lamps on a target on where to walk was hard to find. Barney leads the boys through a house that is decoratively stuck in the seventies. A spicy cinnamon scent mixed with mothballs, and cedar collides with the steam of bread baking hanging heavy in the air. The odor grows stronger with each step inside the house Lil Bro follows his brother through the dark house full of porcelain antiques protected by glass cabinet doors. Barney turns on a lamp casting thick ambers of light across the living room. The light brings to life over decorated hardly touched prized junk. Don-Don runs ahead of the brothers and up to a large metal door at the end of the hall. Barney, “honey will you open that door for him.” Betty walks up to the door and types a set of numbers into the key pad where the door knob would be. The door beeps twice then clicks opening itself. Big Bro stops dead in his tracks uncertain of what to think about the high security lock. Barney, “Don’t be afraid we had to install that door because the basement is temperature controlled. I’ve got a lot of expensive wine.” Don-Don pulls the door further open and stomps down a long curved staircase.They walk down the staircase where Don-Don is waiting by another door. The basement door matches the carpet and is made of a solid oak fitting the frame tightly lacking a gap between it and the floor. Barney turns sideways and making the keys jingle before picking one and sliding it into the top lock and turning the bolt to the right. He picks out another key and inserts it into the bottom lock barely turns it and a bolt pops back. His hand cannot place them back into his pocket the keys drop. Without hesitation he snaps them up and leans against the door turning knob he uses his shoulder to push it open. The door moans deeply pushing out a blast of air so frigid it instantly gives Big Bro chills. The air soars past Big Bro’s face and up the staircase. They walk in the room and initially become lost in the dark using two lights to guide them. The lights meet in the middle a pool table standing dead center of the room. A blue and a red lights battle over the pool table each trying to consume their half. The blue light emanates through a stereo mounted five feet up the right wall. While the red light glows from a clock sitting on in the middle of a shelf on the left side of the room. The basement is minimally decorated with empty beer bottles a dozen framed rock albums from the seventies. Lil Bro’s head hits the bottom of a wind chime clinking it’s components to produce an odd melody of hollow steel swaying against wood. Big Bro thought it was an odd place to put a wind chime considering that fact that unless a gust of wind entered the basement the wind chime was only there for unsuspecting heads to hit. Barney, “Don-Don get the light.” Barney walks to the back of the room and through a narrow doorway where another room is suddenly brighter than the rest of the underground entertainment area. Don-Don flicks a switch turning on a vintage lamp that showers the room with a greenish yellow. The room becomes larger as apparel is made visible. A bean bag, small coffee table with two chairs and couch constitute Barney’s furniture in a large cellar. Big Bro follows Barney toward the back of the room and Lil Bro runs his hand over the pool table glancing up at beer bottles and albums perfectly positioned across the wall. As Barney walks into the back room Big Bro follows anticipating further excitement. Barney, “Hold up!” He puts his hand out firmly. Barney, “Just give me a minute. Go wait in the pool room I’ll mix us up a couple drinks.” Don-Don turns on the radio cranking out a crackling base thumbing country song. Lil Bro immediately recognizes the tune and starts to sing. Lil Bro, “kept his eyes ahead and drove straight into the storm.” Nightmare Number Five, a song by Al Kooper. Barney yells from the back room, “Don-Don, go ahead and rack the balls. Let these boys work on their shot before we start whooping that ass.” Don-Don laughs sadistically loud and obnoxiously long as Big Bro peaks around the corner to see a collection of carpentry machines sitting in a small kitchen. Barney screws a back cap on an unlabeled bottle then glances over his shoulder and notices Big Bro peaking around the corner observing. Barney squinting shades his right eye with his hand and smiles lifting up his bottle of Jack. Barney in tempting manner, “Why don’t you and your brother pick out some sticks and work on your shot?” Barney shouting, “Don-Don show these boys were the chalk is.” Barney motions for Big Bro to leave to kitchen. Barney, “Go ahead son, I’ll be in there just give me time to mix us up some drinks.” He smiles persuasively.Big Bro walks back to the middle of the room and notices a drain under the pool table that the brown painted concrete slopes to. He looks up at the ceiling and finds two vents above the drain were the air is coming from. Lil Bro, “Sure is cold down here.” from the kitchen Barney speaks, “I told you so.” His words combine with the clinking glass. There is a loud crack and the polished polymer balls fly across the table. The eight ball sails off the table and rolls across the floor. Don-Don runs for it like a dog playing fetch. He snatches up the ball and places it on the table. After corralling the balls he shifts them back and forth then and rolls them to line up with a dot on the table’s carpet. Big Bro, “I don’t play much but, I think this is how you are supposed line them up.” Don-Don viscously steps in front of Big Bro with an irritated territorial expression. Big Bro, “It’s going to be alright. Ok. A ok, I just want to show you something.” In a sign of support Lil Bro walks away from the stereo and up the pool table where Don-Don is standing with heavy breaths. Barney then pulls the balls out of the rack repositioning them. Lil Bro, “You have to make sure the same colors are not touching.” Don-Don makes a relived sound and snaps his fingers. “I know that.” He smiles and Lil Bro slides the rack on the table back and forth tightening the balls. “The eight ball is always at the top of the rack.” Alright Barneys walks back in the game room with a tray full of drinks. Barney, “Now these may be a bit sweet. I put some cherries in there and a little coca cola but, the main thing you will taste is some homemade moonshine.” Lil Bro leans over to his brother and whispers into his ear. Lil Bro, “My stomach hurts. I got to go to the bathroom.” Big Bro responds brashly, “I do too, try and hold it.” Lil Bro, “I don’t know if I can.” Big Bro, “Try.” He furrows his brow and gives Lil Bro a stern while feeling his stomach cramp and spasm. Barney, “This is your drink,” handing Big Bro his glass, “and here’s yours,” Passing Lil Bro a tall glass filled to the brim. Barney, “Don’t put a flame to it. It’ll burn your nostril hair.” Barney laughs convulsively and hands Don-Don a drink. Barney, “And the sarsaparilla is for you young man.” Don-Don picks up his plastic cup. Barney blinking, “To the big city.” The brothers and Barney in unison lift their cups like swords. Barney, “To California,” the old man lifts his drink and the brother’s follow his lead taping their glasses against his. Don-Don misses the toast and starts to drink at a feverish pace. Barney, “There you go boys drink up now, there is plenty more.”As the liquid touches Big Bro’s tongue he picks up a peculiar taste the buzzes on the tip of his tongues. Big Bro wipes his mouth before setting the cup on the table. Barney, “Well how does it taste?” Big Bro, “Good.” Big Bro replies. Reluctant to drink more he conjured a chest full of questions analyzing the drink’s unusual flavor; beginning with what all was in the concoction besides liquor. The other question is why it would have such a strong menthol odor. The flavor was of whiskey and something entirely different, something that he could not put his finger on but, associated with cleaning supplies. The after taste was salty and clung to the back of his tongue like a chip he couldn’t swallow. Big Bro sets the drink down and makes his way to a tall machine sitting in the back left corner. “What’s this?” He asks. Big Bro feels and instant magnetism and paces around the pool table to the device. As he approaches his fingers make their way up the side and on a hand grip handle sticking out the top of it. Barney, “I see you’ve found my baby. They call it the Strength Test; some say it measures your manhood.” Sneering Barney continues to boast, “I got the damn thing from a guy that used to own a bar. The place was my stomping ground back in the college years so when I heard they were going to level the place and make room for a shopping mall I had to go pick it up. “I took it off his hands for fifty bucks. You could call it the winners’ discount.” Barney looks up from the machine with seriousness, “I set the record, fifty six ninety eight, did that nearly twenty years ago. Since the seventies the record has never been beat.” He takes a deep breath and pops his knuckles. Big Bro and Barney stand side by side in front of the machine. Barney, “It’s a game to most people but, I’ve always taken it seriously. This thing has got a lot of memories attached to it.” He places his hand on it and patting it gently, “mainly just the drunk ones which are always the best.” He lifts his glass and taps the Grip Tester toasting it.The machine stands five feet and has a place to stand facing the pistol grip handle. Barney, “It measures the strength of your grip, after three seconds some bells and whistles go off and the scores displays across the front. Don-Don walks around the pool table slapping his pool cue against the machine in anxious anticipation. Barney sticks his nose in the air, “You can try your best but, I don’t think you’re going to score as high as you’d like. Big Bro steps onto the strength tester and large pixels light up a blank screen and the word “Go” flashing across the archaic device. Big Bro grits his teeth and clinches the handle. His knuckles turn white and the machines’ arcade screen blinks rapidly numbers start to climb. Barney looks shocked and Don-Don watches Barney intrigued he steps closer to the machine. Don-Don, “that’s a new record.” Barney pretends not to take notice as Don-Don creeps closer looking over Big Bro’s left shoulder. Barney, “I’ll be goddamned! You beat my record!” The machine goes hay wire with sounds that mimic a marching band as the words “New Record” blink. Barney stands still looking at Big Bro then slowly speaks, “son of a bitch. This machine has had profession football players that weigh over three hundred pounds grab hold of it. No one has scored higher than me in over twenty five years.” Barney looks at the score and now a teenager beats my record. That is one hell of a squeeze you got.” Big Bro modestly, “I’ve always had a strong grip. I don’t know why.” Barney, “it’s almost like you have an iron hand. This calls for another toast.” Barney jealously grinds his teeth and lifts his drink up. Barney, “I guess we got another reason to toast, to the new champion.” Big Bro and Barney tap glasses as Lil Bro chugs the rest of his drink. Barney pulls back from the Strength Tester clutching his glass harder than normal. He looks at Big Bro’s drink then puts his hand on the boys shoulder. Barney, “Is something wrong with your drink, you’ve hardly touched it?” Barney points at Lil Bro’s glass. Barney, “Your little brother has already finished his. Barney “How did you like your drink son?” “It’s good.” Lil bro replies as he blinks in rapid secession. Barney, “Your brother liked it so, can’t be too bad. Is it too strong for your taste buds, big man?” Barney laughs at Big Bro, “It just tastes a bit odd.” Barney tightens his lips wrinkles his forehead and shoots a look of pure hatred at Big Bro. Barney, “Hell that could have been the soda pop, it was flat. Go ahead and start a game. I’ll make you another one.” Big Bro, “no, that’s don’t worry about it.” Big Bro walks over to the pool table and picks a cue from the wall. Barney, “you just give those balls a break. I’ll be right back with a fresh drink for you and your brother.” Barney heads to the back room. Big Bro raises his voice, “soda, no moonshine please.” Barney, “stop being a pussy. All I got is moonshine. Maybe I can scrounge up some sugar water to mix with it.” Barney disappears into the back room. Lil bro pulls back the cue stick and thrusts it forward striking the edge of the cue ball causing it to spin sideways and missing the racked balls. The stick vibrates in his hand as the cue ball rolls the edge of the table and bounces back to him. He laughs and Don-Don widens his eyes with pleasure and looks back waiting for his father to appear. Lil Bro racks the balls again and pulls the pool stick back taking aim on the cue ball again. He runs the stick through his hand three times before flinging it forward not even striking the cue ball. Lil Bro looks at his brother. Big Bro “What’s wrong?” The fridge slams shut in the back room and Don-Don grins like a cashew cat as he licks his lips. Lil Bro, “I guess my aim is off.” Big Bro, “I’d say so.” Don-Don, “You’re an idiot.” Big Bro gives Don-Don a cold fierce stare and grabs his brother’s stick. Big Bro “I’ll break.” Big Bro walks behind the pool table. Lil Bro leans against the wall beside the stereo. Without aiming, Big Bro cracks the ball with the cue stick sending it a hundred miles an hour straight at the eight ball. A thunderous break disperses the balls in an explosion of color. The eight ball flies directly into the side pocket along with four other balls into three separate pockets. Don-Don, “we won!” Don-Don rushes to the pocket were the eight ball landed. He pulls it out holds it above his head. Don-Don, “You got the black ball.” Don-Don holds the ball in his hand and looks closer at it. Don-Don, “You chipped it.” Don-Don uses his finger to point out a scratch on the eight ball. Barney walks back from around the corner with more drinks. Don-Don joyfully, “We won! He broke the ball.” Barney hands Big Bro a drink then looks at Lil Bro who sluggishly pushes himself back off the wall while Barney sets the tray down.Barney hands off another drink to the brother’s. Barney, “another toast.” He gives Don-Don his cup in exchange for the eight ball. Barney, “to a prosperous future and safe trip.” They lift their glasses. Barney, “Cheers boys.” Barney throws the eight ball on the table wiping his mouth with a forced smile. Big Bro takes a small sip barely letting the liquid graze his tongue. Barney, “I put some sour mix in it this time. How’s it taste? Is it too strong?” Big Bro, “It’s good.” Barney, “you must not be much of a drinker. You going to let your brother beat you?” Lil Bro takes two more large gulps before noticing Big Bro looking at him with concern. Lil Bro walks to the table and sets the glass down. While walking to the table he stumbles spilling some of the drink. Big Bro “Are you ok?” Lil Bro, “I just don’t feel like playing. I’m kind of tired.” Big Bro, “We really got to get going.” Barney, “You chipped my eight ball now you owe me another game. Let you your little brother rest and we can finish our drinks, play one more game then you can leave.” Barney looks at Lil Bro, “Have a seat in the bean bag son. Take a load off.” Lil Bro plops himself down in a large bean bag and leans his head back. “Don-Don, get that blanket over there.” Don-Don takes a blanket off the couch unfolding it and carefully handing it to Lil Bro. Lil Bro puts his hands to his face and rubs his eyes. Barney, “Have a smoke.” Barney pulls a pack of cigarettes out off his back pocket extending it to Big Bro. He takes the smoke from Barney and presses it between his lips while Barney flicks out a lighter. He holds the flame out and Big Bro sucks in turning the tip of the cigarette bright orange. Barney, “One game of eight ball and we will head out after that. How’s that sound?” Barney can tell by the look in Big Bro’s eyes that he was fed up with the basement and wanted to be on his way. Barney pulls the keys out of his pocket and hands them to Don-Don. Barney taking a drag of his smoke looks at his son and exhales. Barney, “Go upstairs and get my tape.” Don-Don, “I will get the tape Daddy.” Barney starts to rack the balls and Don-Don walks out the basement locking the door from the outside snapping both bolts in place then stomping up the stairs. Barney, “I’ll go ahead and break.” Big Bro, “I’m not trying to be ungrateful but, I’m not feeling to well and I think we should go ahead and leave.” Big Bro sets his cue stick on the table turns to the door and Barney grabs him by the arm. Barney, “I brought you down here to play a fucking game, now we are going to play my way.” Barney seething “I told you I would buy you some gas. That was the deal you have a few drinks with me and I buy you gas. Now finish your fucking drink and let’s play some pool.” Big Bro’s pupil’s dilate and his heart pounds. He looks down at his brother who is in a comma like sleep. Big Bro, “I don’t like the way you are speaking to me, and matter of fact, don’t worry about getting us gas we’ll just get in my car and leave.” Barney replies cocking his head to the side, “Leave? You’re not going anywhere.” Big Bro, “I’m sorry, what did you say. Barney, “You heard exactly what the fuck I said!” Big Bro looks at his brother and raises his voice, “Bro get up! Let’s go!” Lil Bro makes no move and Big Bro leans down to shake his shoulder as Barney laughs. Lil Bro’s head sways back and forth and his eyes shutter. Barney slams his hand around Big Bros neck shoving against the wall. Big Bro’s face turns red and Barney picks him up with one arm holding him up and strangling him. Big Bro grabs Barneys arm punching and it in an attempt to break the grip.The door opens and Don-Don stands in it smiling ecstatically as Big Bro struggles to breathe. Don-Don claps his hands and jumps up and down with excitement. Don-Don “Kill him!” Big Bros face turns cherry red and he watches Don-Don walk over to his little brother. He is sitting unconscious and deeply sedated Don-Don kicks him off the bean bag and Lil Bro’s face slaps against the floor like a fresh cut steak. Don-Don laughs again this time deeper as he looks up devilishly. Barney leans in to Big Bro spitting on him as he speaks. “The only place you’re going is in my garden. I’m going to plant your brain.” Big Bro mouths the words “no” and Don-Don hovers his foot over Lil Bro’s head. Big Bro, “Don’t hurt him.” Big Bro pleads whispering with his chin dropped in an attempt to flex out his neck hard enough to catch breathe. Don-Don, “Piece of shit!” His foot comes down barbarously on Lil Bro’s face. Lil Bro’s mouth opens and he moans bleeding as his body spasms and flaps against the floor. Barney looks over his shoulder at his son watching Don-Don jump up and down on Lil Bro’s face clapping hysterically. Big Bro watches his brother lay helpless to Don-Don’s attack. As if a switch had gone off in his head releasing a thousand milligrams of adrenaline Big Bro takes hold of Barney’s pinky finger and bends it back ripping it out of socket. Barney loosens his grip and Big Bro takes the opportunity to grab Barney’s chin forcefully twisting his wrist furiously. Barney’s fake chin is pulled off revealing a long red goatee. Big Bro clutches Barney’s chin again and twists savagely snapping tendons and breaking the old man’s jaw with a loud pop. Barney’s mouth hangs open like a screen door on a loose hinge. Big Bro then kicks down on Barney’s right knee. The two drop to the ground and Barney is on all four limbs crouches over carping in agony as he holds his jaw. Don-Don realizes what has happened and looks at Big Bro frustrated and unsure. Big Bro pushes himself off his knees while Barney mumbles and crawls toward him. “Daddy! What’s wrong? Daddy?” Don-Don screams uncontrollably as Barney stops crawling to hold his face. Barney looks at his son and tries to speak but just mouths the word, “Gun.” Don-Don, “It’s upstairs.” Big Bro runs up to Barney and tackles him. He hits him with the force of a linebacker pummeling with his shoulder sending Barney flailing back against the floor. Big Bro presses his shin against Barney’s neck. He then puts his hands around each side of Barney’s head then straining he stuffs his thumbs in Barney’s eye sockets. He screams with his teeth grinding and thumbs sunk deep in Barney’s head. The old man ghoulishly bellows a blood curdling scream followed by two squeaks and a crunch. The eyes oozed off white gel that mixed with blood and ran down the holes once housing Barneys’ vision.Big Bro pulls red stained thumbs out of Barney head and looks up. As he looks up Don-Don smashes the back of Big Bros head with a beer bottle. Stunned he falls over and covers his face. Don-Don continues to swing the jagged broken bottle uncontrollably slicing him all over his upper body leaving shards of glass in Big-Bros flesh with every flailing jab. Big Bro falls to his back and Don-Don makes the move to crawl on top of him. As Don-Don attempts to position himself on Big-Bro but, receives a mule kick the face busting his lip and sending him stumbling back against the pool table. Don-Don picks up a pool cue and runs at Big Bro swinging. He ducks and runs around the pool table picking up a pool cue. He holds like a batter about to swing at a fast ball to win the game. Don-Don raging with unbridled anger charges Big Bro with enraged emotions. He swings his pool cue and Big Bro ducks missing Don-Don’s swing. He plants his foot and uses his hip strength to swing the stick at Don-Don. The cue swoops through the air cracking Don-Don across his abnormally large head. He shakes his head regaining composer then sticks out his lower lip and charges again. Big Bro alters his swing to an upward motion hitting the fat end of the pool stick under Don-Don’s chin. This strike lifts him off his feet and flying onto the pool table. Don-Don lands on the table with so much force the balls drop out of their pockets and roll across the floor.Don-Don lies on the table as motionless and Big Bro shifts his sight to his little brother leaking a stream of dark red blood that finds its way to the drain. Lil Bro’s entire face is swollen and bloody. Big Bro drops to the floor and holds Lil Bro’s head in his arms. Big Bro “Please God let him live. Please, don’t die!” He puts his ear to Lil Bros lips and listens finally hearing a faint breath then frantically looks around the room in search of an epiphany. Big Bro places his brother’s head softly on the blanket and jumps to his feet. The upstairs door unlocks and is slightly opened. As Big Bro listens he recognizes the fast sound as paws running down the steps. A German Sheppard springs into the room growling with gums dripping saliva. It leaps at Big Bro’s face with a mouth of jagged fangs. Big Bro is turned to the side as the dog comes at him. He clenches his fists into two solid mallets and swings his left fist under the dogs’ mouth at the same time landing the right fist on top of the animal’s snout. His fists come together with a solid smack clapping the snout shut. The guard dog is knocked out like a light and hits the floor limp. Right after it hits the floor the larger another larger German Sheppard runs in. Thirsty for blood it takes a bite down on Big Bro’s arm and hangs on shaking its head and sinking its’ teeth deeper into Big Bros’ arm. The dog has a strong fix on Big Bro’s brawny arm and shows no sign of letting go. He pulls the dog close to his body straining with the pain of the bite he squints forcing his already blood soaked thumb further in the dogs’ head. He then rotates his elbow with his thumb completely in the animals head. He then pulls up splintering a large chunk of it’s’ skull. He peels the head back and pulls his arm out like it was as easy as opening can of Campbell’s soup. Shots burst out and bullets zips by Big Bro’s head hitting the wall behind him. Two more shots fly by him, one grazing his neck the other going through his right shoulder. Big Bro lifts up his arm and holds the dog in front of him as a shield. He shuffles behind the pool table’s wide leg then flips it over on its side long ways. Bullets continue to enter the wooden pool table as he pries the canine off his arm revealing a mutilated soggy flesh hanging off the bone. The gun clicks and Big Bro realizes the shooter is out of ammunitions he looks around and grabs the chipped eight ball beside him. Without hesitation he jumps up ball in hand and takes aim like a pitcher on mound. The black ball flies in a straight line right at the old woman’s’ face. It collides with the bridge of her nose shattering it she drops like a fly and rolls onto her stomach sobbing like a new born unable to catch her breath and hyperventilating. Big Bro picks up the gun stepping over her he walks in the doorway and looks up at the locked door. He then looks back at the scene of destruction conjuring a plan to get free from this satanic cave. He takes off his shirt wraps it around his mangled arm and looks down at the woman’s face. Big Bro, “Where are the keys?” He kicks Betty in the gut rolling her face up. She moves her hands slightly and he gazes at the entirety of the wound realizing it had been one hell of a throw. “No keys.” Betty replies through her hands with bubbles of blood. “The code to unlock the door, What is it?” She rolls back and forth shaking in agony and pure hysteria of her current situation. Big Bro scans the room and looks back at his younger counter part. He walks over to where Don-Don had dropped his pool cue and picks it up then breaks it over his knee and walks back to the Betty. Big Bro, “I don’t have time to sit and guess. You get one chance, what’s the fucking code?”Betty attempts to sit up. Big Bro grabs a fist full of her hair and drags her to where his little brother lies motionless.” Big Bro looks at his brother’s swollen face and screams at Betty. “What’s the code to get out of here?” She looks away and replies by shaking her head no. “You’re headed to hell and I’m ready to pack your bags.” She spits up a pool of dark blood and smiles. Big Bro takes the broken half the pool cue and kicks her over on her back. He places the sharp point on her soft chest then leans down putting his weight on the stick until it goes through her night gown. She gasps for air and grips the cue. “Last chance, where is it?” Betty screams spitting more blood and broken teeth. Big Bro “I will kill you! I swear to god.” She points at the Grip Tester and sticks out her tongue with her mouth wide open begging. Her head cocks back and forth as if possessed. Big Bro proceeds to put more weight on the stick until it the floor. Betty’s arms drop and her eyes close as her head hits the concrete. He takes his hands off the stick and it wobbles in her soft breast. Big Bro walks over to the machine and looks at it briefly then pushes the bulky device on its’ side. As it crashes over and smashing against the floor Big Bro looks down at the toppled machine and it reads the top scores. He looks at Barney’s old record then runs over to his brother. He leans down over Barney’s eyeless body and grabs the keys from his pocket. Walking to his brothers’ side he scoops him up and carries him to the top of the stairs. He punches the code in and carries his brother over his shoulder through the house and to the garage. Lil Bro is carefully laid in the passenger seat and the garage door opens. Big bro hops in the car cranking it up he looks at the gas gage before throwing it into reverse and slamming his foot on the petal. The car speeds down the dark street running a red light and causing passing cars to honk their horns. Familiar red and blue lights twinkle in the rearview as the Jaguar pulls over to the shoulder. Be looks at his brother puts his head on the wheel closing his eyes. AfterwordWhite washed and glossy walls hold in warmth like old marbles left outside on an August day. The room contained potentially the most alien and celestial intensity experienced by Big Bro since being put under for a routine tonsillitis operation when he was four. The hospital is unusually quiet. A few nurses chat with echoes of fluttering laughter blissfully loll in an out of wobbling gurney wheels and chopping metal clad doors. Looking down at his arm sends a sharp pain through his upper body. Steel cables hold up a cast around his right arm and as he turns his head making there is a wrinkling sound from the crisp blue disposable pillow case. A hanging IV bag pushes saline solution into his left forearm. The background contains a standard beep paced with the rise and drop of a green line inside the heart monitor strapped to Big Bro. Wires sprout from his chest and nose pumping pure oxygen and a Saline solution into his body. The whole environment has a claustrophobic effect on his mind which is overrun by the large amount opium keeping him half asleep.“Do you know where you are?” The question comes soft and baritone from the room’s entrance. “No,” Big Bro replies without as much as a twitch. It’s not that he doesn’t have the energy or bravery to find the voice; it’s that for the first time since yesterday he felt safe and didn’t want to spoil the moment by answering a barrage of ridiculous questions. “Do you know how you got here?” A sharply dressed man approaches Big Bro’s bed. “No,” the word came easy to his lips and required little effort. A tall man with thick greased back brown hair streaks the freshly mopped floor with his penny loafers. He rests his hand on Big Bro’s hospital bed then sits beside it. “An ambulance brought you here last night,” his tone incentivized as another man walks in with a pen and pad. My name is Jim Crane and this Jon Sutter; we are detectives with the Federal Bureau of investigations. Jim Crane is tall and thin, his partner is much shorter and dressed like a high school principal with the exception of a side arm clipped to his hip and a ready to rock and roll attitude to match. “Are you alright son?” Detective Sutter looks over Big Bro and into his eyes and pauses to meditate on the blood blisters stuck in the boys’ eye. “Your name is Donald Cross, age eighteen from La Ruche Louisiana,” Jim Crane holds his license up to the light. “My brother is he alright?” What are you talking about? The other agent looks up from his pad. Brother, you have a brother? “He was with me, I brought him out” Donald replied. “You were the only one they found.” Are you telling me there was another boy in that basement with you? He turns to his partner and looks confused. He’s not on tape.”The men start the interview off ambitious and wanting to know every last detail about that basement and exactly how he got out. Donald didn’t have to explain much about how he was able to escape because Barney’s basement had a hidden camera in it recording the entire event. He was the kind of sick asshole that liked to rewind and watch his victims suffer over and over again. It was sort of how he got off. Still the facts flowed out like a fountain of death. Betty and Barney had record of over three hundred murders profiting off of illegal aliens. Barney and his family methodically murdered a hundred people in the course of twenty years. He would help them get across the border then beat them close to death before taking their picture. It was told that every murder was chronologically kept track of in photo albums up until the late seventies when he started filming each horrific killing. The tapes were less than high definition but, still worth keeping for Barney’s viewing pleasure so each one told their own story of pain and suffering. Needless to say the police investigating the murders could hardly believe their eyes after watching a family of predators turn into prey. No remains were ever found pertaining to the innocent just and extensive tragic collection of homemade videos which were never shown to the victims’ relatives. Barney and Betty’s home was sold to a young couple new to the neighborhood and looking to start a family. Their remains were donated to science after relatives refused to come forward in fear of bad press. Not too long before the property was to be sold an old lady walked by and harvested what was left in the garden. As for Big Bro’s brother, Psychiatrists call it a psychic extension. In times of stress certain people make up alternative egos as ways of coping with reality. It can be said that Lil Brother was just an extension of ego. Life on the road is at times extremely isolated and of course, no one wants to be alone. One could infer that to make it out of Barney’s house alive Big Bro needed Lil Bro. He is the wiser.

Diablo's Presents

Short Story "Diablo's Present's" It’s the inside of something you have never lived in but, could easily say is the filthiest apartment bedroom in the world. Walls and curtains are all stained with ages of cigarette smoke. The smell is so intense you have to plug your nose to after inhaling the combination of smoke and turtle shit so harsh it will make your nose bleed.The smell hits your nose like a grenade. Exploding plumes of smoke, sure to sting any eye and give them instant contact highs from the leaking purple lips of our girl next door gone bad. Her voice gruffly calls to the man taking a piss in the restroom adjacent to our grizzly couples bedroom. “Chance! ” Ashes her smoke then turns up the music persistently screaming over the volume she just increased.“I’m hungry let’s order some fucking chinese food.” Piss bubbles up in the toilette as Chance snorts and spits his loogie like a challenge at the brown ringed bowl. “What!?” Chance misses the bowl and sends a stream flying at wet towels from previous showers. “Hi, my name is Diablo." She pushes back strands of black and silver hair with peircings everywhere a hole can go. She sharply snaps on a rubber band. “I’ve been dating my boyfriend now for six months.” Leaning back as she pulls the ash tray onto her bed. “I wanted to see how he would act with children so I made the decision to get him a pet." Chance walks out of the restroom and flops down on the bed. She continues to speak as if he is not there, “His place charges for a pet deposit and he’s poor so you know how it goes, I had to make do." Diablo hacks out a green glob from her throat. Half the goo hangs off her lips as she ashes her fat daddy joint. Diablo, “ I was trying to think of something cheap and that’s when it clicked. I knew what I was going to get him for Christmas, the Lord baby Jesus’s birthday. Plus Petco had a sale on two adorable turtles. Of course I had to get the bowl and food for them but, to make him feel like they were his I let him name them.” She looks at Chance who is snoring and drooling onto the stained mattress. “Smarty and Dum Dum, this is their story.” Chance holds a turtle in his hands then drops it and catches it before it hits the floor. Chance, “Wooh!” “How about a roller coaster little guy?” Chance drops the turtle. “Oh shit that was close” Chance holds the turtle up with his short chubby tattoo covered arms. “These turtles are fucking cool.” Diablo smiles I’m glad you like them. He places them back in the plastic tank on a table behind a older model desktop computer. Chance “I put them up her so I can watch them while I work.” Diablo licks a joint and lights it. She crackles a bright red light on the free bird and passes it to chance as she blows her remain from the last pull directly in his face. Chance takes the joint from Diablo’s hand and takes his puff making sure to hold it in as turns to lean over the turtles plastic container. He sends a cloud of smoke over the turtles environment completely engulfing their space. I wonder if I can teach them ninja moves?” Chance laughs. “Here put this over it, to trap in the smoke.” She hands him a plate which he places of the turtles home.” Chance smiles, “Sweet they are going to get extra high.” The turtles look up then dip into a small reserve of water.“I’m hungry,” Chance rubs his stomach. Diablo gets off the bed.” Let’s get some Chinese.” Chance grabs several skinny stick of incense. Light some of these so the landlord doesn’t smell the smoke. The two seal off the room and turn on the fan whispers the thick streams of Aleo and honey suckle incense into the turtle bowl. Chance pulls Diablo away from the door. Chance, “I’m too stoned to go.”He collapses onto the bed bringing her on top of him. Diablo tries to pull away but can’t. He forces his hand between her thighs spreading apart her legs. Diablo smiles and stops the effort to get up. Diablo, “Are you too stoned to..,”she looks spitefully aggressive,” Fuck me in the ass?” The two rip each others’clothes off in a haze weed smoke and incense. Months go by as bacteria grows on the bowl and the ritual doesn’t change for Smarty and Dum Dum. The toilette flushes. Chance! What? He hold his nose to feed the turtles. Chance, "Jesus Christ these fuckers smell like shit." Diablo, “I don’t smell anything.” Chance walks in the restroom and starts digging under the sink. “Where are those fucking incense?” Chance yells under the bathroom sink. I have something to tell you. Ah found them. Diablo I’m pregnant.Chance walks out of the restroom with a scared expression. “What? No! I want an abortion I mean we got to get rid of it. He paces the room. I don’t want a kid I’m too young.” She touches his arm. “I’m sorry.” Moving away from her, “You said you were on the pill. Fuck. Kill it.” I’m already three months in. It has a heart.” Starting to cry she sits on the bed. “Fuck. Well give it up for adoption.” He stares soullessly at the turtle bowl. “I want to keep the baby.” “Jesus Christ you are going to ruin our lives.” Diablo begins to cry and chance lights up a cigarette. Here take this. He passes her the cigarette. She inhales and he punches her in the stomach. Like a drum beat the sound of his fist hitting her stomach echoes. Chance watches Diablo hit the floor and curl up in a fetal position. He reaches for the bundle of incense and lights all of them. “Here get up.” He helps her on to the bed.She’s shaking as he wipes her tears. “Come on lets go get some ice cream.” The two walk out the room and Chance walks back in. He takes the incense and places it in the turtle bowl then flips the light off and walks back out his door.