“The Stuff of Brothers”
It was a warm summer day, under the shade of an old oak tree, in the back garden, is the only shelter from the heat. With the brightest of the sun making everything so damn hot, it only natural, one would gat shelter under a favorite tree in the garden.
Max lay press against the trunk of the tree, naked has the day he was born not being bother that the neighbor next door, having a family barbecue. The boy rarely seen without his Sherpa hat, even this weather he seemed to be wearing it.
He just wanted to get out of the house, as he once again had another intense argument with his brother. Like ever argument, when his brother ran out of arguments, he turned violence. With tears in his soft brown eyes, he tossed his elbow against the trunk of the tree in his anger.
He and his brother hadn’t been the same since dad had left. After that Jason came distant, slowly had time past the brother he once knew was gone. In his place of a fiercer brother, he may have his friends fooled but he known Jason slowly slipped more into the darkness.
Maximizing wished for the brother he had knew to return and they could goes back to the way they were when dad was still with them. The nasty reality is that his brother is gone, but a boy can hope, can he not.
He ignore his brother, met his gazed as he stood at the back door. Unlike his younger brother, Jason was only wearing an old pair of shorts that had paint stains.
“Max, earth to Max,” Jason spoke, as he slowly walking over to his brother. The auburn hair boy glance his eyes so he wouldn’t have to look at big brother. “Did you hear me calling you?”
The boy just sat there, Jason now stood over him with his arms at his side. “Go the hell away from me,” Max finally spoke to his co-called brother, with a looked that said ‘hope you burn in hell’.
“Oh, ok but mom wish for our present in the dinner table,” he said, turning back toward the house as he started to walking away.
His mother, Lois Schell had sat her sons around the dining room table, where she stared at them with a long-suffering look, which seemed to despair of them ever growing up. From experiences the boys had learn that look meant for them to sit still and listen to their mother.
The silent only meant one thing that this was going to be a family talk; her sons had bad memories of these talks. From these times before any talk of divorce, and their father was still the man of the house.
Those councils had always seemed to be about chores; that needed to be done, or never been done, and someone always had to be proved right.
“Would you be all right on your own for a few days?” their mother took a deep breath.
Noticed Jason and Maximilian stared at her with widen-eyed. Behind those eyes, you could see the expectation that this was the introduction to some special announcement.
“Your grandma, she been in the hospital and she’s had nobody to help her,” she paused, to see if her sons was listening. “I’m going to look after her and take care of her house.”
She gave her sons a penetrating look, as though she might read their minds. “I think I’ll need’d about four days, from tomorrow on,” her eyes never left the boys.
As they sat at the table, she noticed a short reflexive jerking about their mouths and a mysterious shining about their eyes still her sons didn’t seem sure. If they needed to suppress a joyful shout or if their good cheer was in vain.
“Can I trust you two to behave yourselves, or do I need to get a baby-sitter?” Lois asked, with a slightly exaggerated strictness.
It took a few moments for the boys to realize that this required an answer. Reluctantly, but then at the same time, they shook their heads.
“Yes,” they said, trying to project an air of injured innocence.
Lois studied their face, with a gaze that she we when she supposes her sons use trying to hid something from her.
“Yes to you can behave? Or yes I need’d to get a babysitter?”
The brothers gave each other concerned looked, as her younger her son spoke. “We can behave while you are gone,” Max glanced back to his brother, as he too was nodding at her in agreement.
She raised an eyebrow, “You’ll go to the Shepards for dinner, boys if you need anything Diana had said she would be checking in on you,” she stopped for a moment in hesitation and looked at her sons.
Jason noticed his mother’s doubts and quickly said, “There wouldn’t be any problems that we essential need Mrs. Shepard for,” with a glance aside to his brother.
As her son spoke, she caught her younger child hang his head, as he seemed to be sad, her supposes was conformed.
“Is there anything you boys like to tell me?” she gave her sons that look a mother can give when they mean better not liar, or else.
“It nothing, mom,” murmured the young brother, as he barely make eye contact with his mother.
She looked at Jason supposedly, “You know if you two turned this house into a battlefield, better not be home when I get back you’ll live to regret it, you hear.”
“You Boys finish your dinner and get ready for bed,” Lois said to them from the kitchen as they ate the meatloaf they were having for dinner. After they finished dinner, they ran up the stairs to the bathroom racing each other to get there first to shower and get ready for bed.
“Can I go first this time?” Max asked, glancing into the bathroom.
“Well, rock, paper, scissors?” Jason said, smiling at his brother.
As the boys played the childish schoolyard play, where Jason picked a paper has Max tossed a rock and everyone knows the paper beat rock.
“Guess I won.”
“But you always pick rock,” Max stared confusedly at his brother, as he closed the bathroom door.
Max slowly sat on his bed, in his room still naked, he tossed his hat on his pillows. As he heard the echo from the running water in the shower, knowing that Jason was goes to be long in there.
Slowly he felt the gently embraced from his imaginary alien friend, Izzy as he slowly held his dear friend.
“How do you know want I need’d you,” he softly spoke, as he lean into Izzy’s tender arms.
He heard him whispered into his ear, made him smiled. He and Izzy leaned in and was about to kiss when Jason interrupt them as they heard him spoke into the room.
“I’m done with shower, now,” glancing at his brother, as he stood nude in the door.
Slowly he got up from the bed as Jason disappeared down the hall. Max stopped at his door and turned back to say something to Izzy, only to find that he was gone, again.
Later after his shower, as Max and Jason were laying nude spread out over the couches, as usual, and expressionlessly watched a rather boring cartoon on the television.
After some time, he turned to his big brother. Sunk deep in the image on the screen, Jason kept his finger stuck in his nose as if to stop something from running out. Didn’t take his eyes off him; he glared back at his nerdy brother.
“Yes?” he said, as met the younger brother’s gazed.
Waited to see if he would take his finger out of his nose, Max wondered. “What’re we gonna do tomorrow when we're alone?” it was a fair question; one that Jason had no answer.
Finally, he withdrew his finger and looked at its tip. “Yeah, I got nothing,” and began to work at the finger with his incisors.
“What’re we not usually allowed to do?”
Max layback on the couch as he stared at the ceiling. A thoughtful silence fell upon the brothers, thoughts of the many possible ran through their heads, only one stood out for the young ten year-old.
“Eating the whole tub of ice-cream….” mumbled Max smiled at the ceiling.
It seemed that his brother concur with this plan, turned back to the flickering screen.
“...while drinking dr. pepper until late at night,” it seemed that he was thinking more on the subject than his brother was. His face started to shine and glow with the endless possibilities of being ‘home alone’. “And getting the others here too.”
On the other hand, Jason never seemed to lose the feeling that he was at least a little responsible for his little brother. He should hold him back in his thirst for acting wild, so when he suggested getting their friends over–without taking his eyes away from the screen, he muttered, “Hey, don’t go crazy.”
He felt dictated to. “Why not, it’s much more fun with everybody with us?”
“Your point is, ’side Mrs. Shepard would be checking on us while mom is away and she wouldn’t be very happy if we throw a party,” Jason looked uninterested as if he didn’t care to discuss it.
As the young brother slowly sobbed knowing that his brother was right, but he still didn’t like it. Guess it was out of his annoyance, he sat up where he looked him up and down, as if seeking the weak point of that floppy form on the sofa. Imperceptibly, the expression on his face changed to one of slight underhandedness.
“Bet, she probably wouldn‘t be very happy if you burn the kitchen down, again,” curiously, Max watched to see how his brother would react.
Jason slightly lost his stoic, quiet appearance and looked from the TV to his young brother’s waiting face and when this face became a victorious grin, he grabbed a cushion and threw it at him.
Instinctively, Max ducked to one side so that the cushion dropped short of his auburn curly head. In a half of a second, he was above his brother’s smaller and lighter figure trying to get him into a headlock. The younger boy retracted his legs and curled up into a ball so that his brother clutched at his head in vain.
“Just wait,” a hint of angry, he panted and changed the target from the head to his brother’s feet.
Seductively, his bare feet gleamed under his curled up body when Jason’s fingers crawled on them, light as a spider, a reflexive jerking went through his rolled-up brother. With a half-choked snort came out of the sofa cushions.
Max tried to repel the tickle attack by kicking, but he couldn’t get rid of his attacker’s fingers, which tickled every part they could reach of their kicking and twisting brother.
“Hey, stop that stupid,” there was a real shortness of breath in Max’s voice and his face was glowing red.
Lois’s head appeared in the doorway to the study where she was sitting down looking at some bills and bank statements.
“What are you two squabbling about?” she sound annoyed.
Immediately the boys sat up on the couch pretending to be innocent, thinking only that their mom could change her mind if they didn’t get on with each other.
They looked up with innocently. “Nothing mommy,” said Max.
Looking admonishingly at them, the head disappeared into the study again.
The doorbell seemed to go completely unheeded. That was no wonder from the fearful din that came through the closed door. The cranked up stereo drowned out any other sound from the Schell home, although it was impossible to figure out what piece of music was playing.
Niklas gave up on the front door and ran to the narrow garden gate next to the garage, got on tiptoe, and peered behind it.
In the garden, there was no one. The gate was unlocked as usual, slowly pushed it open has he went into the garden, behind the house. The roaring music even more loudly, undoubtedly, it came from the living room. It was clearly was one of Jason’s Nickleback CDs that he only allowed to play in his room, at moderate volume.
He went to peer through the windows to the living room but the curtains seemed to be close. Shook his head, mumbled something about ‘nuts’ and hope the back door leading to the kitchen wouldn‘t be locked.
The door stood slightly ajar, when he entered the remodeled kitchen, the music increased to a body-shaking throb.
On the work surface laid a two-liter tub of rocky road ice cream containing nothing but a sticky spoon and a melted residue. Two smudged dishes in the sink gave clear evidence of its fate, which there are two sweet teeth, were responsible for guzzling the whole tub.
Shaking his head, thinking it was lucky that his mom hadn’t seen this mess, she would have the brothers on their hands and knees cleaning the whole kitchen, with just a toothbrush.
Niklas went on into the hall were a mess all over the place. Carelessly, dropped slippers spread on the floor, some drawers stood open, and their content churned up, some of their mother’s scarves hung around the banisters. From the crack in the door to the living room came lights, flickering somehow to the beat of the music.
Uncertainly, pushed through the door the darkened living room as the stereo had been turn up until it sounded like it was nearly bursting.
One of the figures there madly switched a couple of covered desk and floor lamps on and off, obviously to create something like a light show.
The other figure stood on the coffee table and played wildly on a tennis racket, like a rock guitarist. Both had taken off their shirts, tied scarves around their heads like headbands, and equipped themselves with sunglasses.
A smile crept across his face, as he stood there helpless. The guitarist was obviously, Jason as he was singing long with the music, until he caught sigh of his best friend. He shouted something that wasn’t understandable over the noise. Knowing his friend, Niklas could guess the kind of word he used, the kind that his mom would wash his mouth out with soap.
Jason descended from the coffee table and turned the music down. Just then, Max noticed what was going on and stopped his light show.
“Ever hear of knocking?” he said, took off his sunglasses turning to face his friend.
The eleven year old was damp with sweat, his face and bare chest were shining and his hair stuck in strands to his forehead.
“What on earth is this?” said Niklas, pointed to Jason’s upper arm with a color marker, had drawn a kind of tattoo there, a bleeding heart with an arrow stuck in it.
He gave a sugary smile. “Who is this for?”
Jason lifted his arm and examined the tattoo as if he had overlooked something.
“Well, usually you get that kind made if you are in undying love with somebody, with initials below. So, J+ who?”
There was only one person, he could think of, but he cannot tell his best friend that. Before he could answer, Max joined in, also damp with sweat. “I can fetch the marker and write it in.”
Glancing at Max, he asked. “Yeah, J and...?”
He was about to open his mouth, as Jason shoved his brother. “I told Max to draw a skull and cross bones but he can’t do one.”
As the brothers bickered, Niklas kept quiet imagining ‘J+N’ on that sweaty upper arm.
“I’m tired of this conversation,” hearing, Jason’s voice brought him back to living room and the bickering brother.
Niklas finally got between the brothers, “My Mom sent me, you’re to come to us for dinner, like our parents arranged.”
Max looked down at himself, he wore old holey, washed out jeans, that were a bit too small for him, and he had scarves tied around his arms. “Is it already that late?”
“C’mon, let’s change,” said Jason as he ran to the stairs.
He examined Max’s "look" more carefully. The headband looked amazingly good on him, and he had never seen him in such skintight jeans. Max noticed his gaze and waited a moment. Niklas looked up and felt slightly self-conscious.
“Great costume,” he stammered.
The ten year old said nothing and smiled awkwardly. Then he followed Jason upstairs. Niklas looked after him. How he envied Max for having a big brother.
During dinner, Diana Shepard enquired how the two brothers were getting along. Her son had said nothing about the chaos that reigned in his friend’s house and tried to keep quiet while eating, not to laugh.
The brothers had quickly tidied themselves up as they again wore their normal clothing, they had quickly put their sweaty heads under water, and put their messed up hair in order with a comb, but they still looked a bit exhausted.
They quickly devoured everything that Mrs. Shepard put on their dishes. Niklas merely nibbled, not concentrating on his food, he fidgeted uncomfortably on his chair. When there was, for a while, a pause in the conversation, he finally came out with a question.
“Mom, can I go with Jason and Max to stay for a while after dinner?”
Diana memory when she was young and she didn’t need to imagine what her son was thinking. “Oh no, dear, I think its best you children all stay a while here.”
Shot down, but he won‘t give up without a fight. “But mom, why?”
“Answer me this, what would you do there, you can’t do here?”
The five of them sat in silent, until Dawn just blurted out, breaking the awkward silence.
Could hear a pin drop, as all eyes turned to her has an awkward silent fill the dining room again. Niklas glared at his six year old, sister. It was surprising and almost scary, how suddenly his usually dreamy blue eyes turned to a look that threatened the darkest revenge, looked announced little terrors for weeks, starting with hidden doll clothes up to disgraceful lies about her to her friends.
The little girl stiffened with half-open mouth and looked down at her fork with the fried eggs.
Their mother just raised her eyebrow, I much have a word with him, she thought before she spoke.
“Dawn, I don’t allow that kind of talk at the din table, and for you,” he turned to meet her gaze. “Just have to find something else to do here.”
A strange silence filled the house, although the boys were used to being on their own when their mother was away at work or other business, they felt that this was a much more abandoned and empty silence, as if the house had stopped breathing.
He and Max looked at each other, in the big eyes of his little brother looked somehow moist, so that he thought Max was about to cry.
“What do you think?” whispered Max wickedly. “Should we find out if dad forgot to cancel those porno channels?”
The expression on Jason’s face slowly turned from astonishment to a glowing mischievous smile.
A little later, they had built nests of blankets and pillows on the two couches in the living room and had stripped out of their cloths. As a matter of course, Jason had taken command of the remote control and was zapping through the channels.
So many channels, so many choices to attract their interests before those channels fall victim to his thumb. Only when the unmistakably hysterical woman’s screaming of a horror film rang out did he stop and stared with shining eyes at the grotesque images on the screen. Finally, real trash, very unsuitable for children. With nobody was there to say, switch that off, that’s not good for you.
Giggling, Maximilian snuggled up in his blanket-nest and watched unknown actors as they tried in vain to escape from a growling monster.
Set the volume louder than usually allowed so that the living room filled up with clatter and screams.
Then something crackled and shattered and the beast had came through the ventilation shaft. Another co-actor with glasses stared wide-eyed into the camera, then something hit him and blood fountain plastered over the screen.
Inevitably, he turned to look at his little brother lay rolled up in his nest, holding his thumb half between the lips and watched the flickering massacre without moving.
Max noticed his brother has concerned look. “I know that’s not real,” he affirmed unasked.
“We can watch something else,” he offered.
He looked unwilling, his thumb still half between his lips. “Naaaa, leave it on.”
Once more his brother was treating him almost like a baby. Max was wildly determined to see only the really bad stuff, anything else was a waste of time now.
Although skeptical, Jason had left the horror movie on. The two boys in front of the TV felt the upcoming disaster. Actually, after the hero had called a fat doddery police officer from a lonely gas station, he looked deeply into the eyes of the heroine, as they moved closer as they kissed.
“Oh, no,” a screamed came from the younger brother, “They’re smooching!”
Jason groaned with nausea, fell back into his nest with a thud and stuck his face between the pillows.
“This is so dumb!” Max wailed and slapped himself on his forehead.
He slightly shook his head, his nose still buried between the pillows. Luckily, the action soon developed again, because the monster had hidden in the unwitting police officer’s car. Obeying the logic of the screenplay, it didn’t set on the police officer but quietly let him drive it to the shabby motel where all the main actors had gathered and were waiting for things to come. Its first victim was the scruffy porter’s wife.
The boys jumped up cheering, “The old hag’s gonna get it,” with high-spiritedly Max hopped on his sofa so hard that the springs creaked.
“Hey, stop that, the couch will crack,” he said.
“I don’t - give a - shit!” sang Max with a high voice in the rhythm of his hopping.
He accepted the provocation and pounced on his brother. Together they landed in Max’s pillows and began to scrap. For a while they completely forgot about the film and had a good romp, when Max could free himself he jumped in one leap over the back of the sofa and ran into the dining room. Like he had gone crazy, Jason darted after him, slipped completely over on the small carpet and crashed into the chairs around the dining table.
Unsure if his brother got hurt or not, Max skipped provokingly up and down. Without hesitation Jason leapt up again and clutched at his little brother, who shrieked and ran away.
There is a time to fight and a time to get the hell out of there before your big brother pound the crap of you. Max tried to open the door to the hall Jason caught him dragging him down to the ground. With pumping breath, Jason pulled his body weight upon his brother’s belly and held his wrists above his head.
For a while, both boys just gasped for air. “Do you surrender?” asked Jason, as he stared into his brother’s eyes.
Maximilian stared up at his brother, weakened, through half closed eyes. Some curly strands adhered to his sweaty forehead, his cheeks were red like raspberries and his lips seemed to pulse to his heavy heartbeat.
He felt the body heat from Max’s narrow chest against his own bare chest as he lay on top of him.
“Why, I got you where I’d wanted you.”
The tension left his wrists, Jason slowly sat up, and it seemed that his little brother began to make himself comfortable under big brother’s weight. It felt hours, the brothers remain like this, neither felt the need to move—the younger boy just stared up at his brother with a half smile, as felt little aroused having his brother’s bare buttocks against crotch.
“Now you don’t know,” he caught that mischievous look in his little brother’s eyes. “If you want to punch me or just kiss me?”
“What stopped me from doing both,” he looked more mischievous, playful punched him in the shoulder, as he lean down and pressing his lips against Max’s tender ones.
As the brothers were kissing each other, he felt his brother’s tongue in his mouth as he lean up to kiss him back.
The noise of the TV again attracted the boys’ attention and reluctantly both got up and climbed back into their nests of blankets and pillows. Furtively Jason peered at his little brother. Somehow, he had rather switch off the movie and continue smooching with Max. He couldn’t say why he didn’t do it; guess his blanket felt a tad too warm now.
“Aren’t you tired, too?”
“You really wanna go to sleep so soon?”
His little brother looked wearied himself nevertheless unbelieving. Act-ually, his comfortable nest had lulled him in the past minutes, but big brother’s intention to tell him once again when he had to go to bed made him defiant.
“Now why don’t we watch something else?”
Grudgingly, he took the remote control and switched through the channels. Surely, they really wanted to take the chance of staying up late, but inevitably, they got tired around this time just because they were used to it.
“We can stay up all night long tomorrow as well,” with a sigh, he switched off.
Max looked tired and gave in.
After dinner, the boys ran upstairs to Niklas’ room for the rest of the evening the boys stayed in Niklas’ room, he heard Jason’s voice murmuring about plans for Niklas’ escape, and he sat in the corner of Niklas’ room and listened to how Niklas could climb out of the window at night to sneak to over to their house. He could put pillows underneath his blanket to make it look like he was there and use the bed sheet as a rope.
His brother and his friend went on talking about tiresome parents. Time seemed to pass by while he was listening and there was the door of his wardrobe.
He didn’t wonder why his wardrobe was in Niklas’ room, he just knew that he had to keep its door shut at all cost and didn’t know why if he was just able to move, his arms suddenly weighed tons. Jason and Niklas didn’t notice somehow, he had to do it on his own.
He knew that he could brace himself against the door all night if necessary, but his arms and legs seemed to be stiff. Then he heard a half choked grunt from inside the wardrobe, deep and vibrating.
Suddenly, he hauled his head from the pillow and saw only blackness all around him. Absolute clearly, now he felt the danger that came from his wardrobe and finally he could move. With a pounding heart, he thought for a moment.
Felt like, he should run away but then he clutched for his bedside light. With the sudden bright light, it hurt his eyes and the pain helped him back to the present, to his quiet bedroom. Though his wardrobe looked like always and there was absolutely nothing to hear from its inside.
Driven by his pounding heart he drew back his blanket and got up. A bit dizzy, he snuck to the door of his room, tried to open it silently and in the dark corridor, he felt for the doorknob to the neighboring room–
–like so many times before, Jason lay in the dark and mulled over important things which he never seemed to have enough time for or the right concentration by daylight. Anyway, he just couldn’t think about these things outside his bed and by light, they didn’t even come to his mind.
When suddenly the door opened, it made him leap from the bed. The small slim form with the curly head standing in the door was quickly been identified as his brother. Max
Seemed to be unable to see anything in the darkness of his brother’s room and clung uncertainly to the doorknob.
“Jason?” Maximilian’s child voice sounded husky and subdued.
The shady boy figure in the doorway stood limp and disheartened in a moment of hesitation and closed the door reluctantly. Jason just lay back on his pillow.
There was the feeling of being responsible for his little brother; he felt now that he couldn’t leave him alone if he wanted too. With a short sigh, he got up and walked to the door.
The little brother sat on the edge of his bed and looked as if he had a stomachache. His head was pale, his forehead and cheeks looked hollow.
He looked up embarrassed at him as if he felt guilty of something. Just because he wasn’t use to it Jason spoke rather sensitivity.
“Just go way,” he moaned.
In a silent understand nature, Jason gently moved so he could sit next to his baby brother on his bed. There was a part of Maximilian had miss this side of his brother, had been years since Jason generally felt sympathy for him. He met his big brother’s gaze as he broke their silence.
“Just had a stupid dream.”
“Do you want me to leave the door open, I mean, mine and yours?” he said, thought about what his mother would do now.
Wistfully Max looked at his big brother. “Jaaaaason, can’t you stay here?” with a quick look, he pointed to the second bed in his room. Those two beds were the upper and the lower half of a set of bunk beds that the brothers once shared - years ago, back when their father spelt in the room that was now Jason’s.
“Like when we had this bed room together?”
The two nude boys sat in silent, as Jas