You like pranks, you little shit? Practical jokes and comic book novelties are so fucking funny, aren’t they? Hey — I got one for ya, magic boy…”
Classic. The knuckle sandwich. Brent fell backwards, pulling down a shelf of action figures on his way to the floor. Randy slammed the door on his way out of the bedroom before the rain of toys and little brothers subsided. Weeknights their mom was at work until ten.
Close to the start of first period at school, Brent woke up to a bruise on his shoulder; a strewn battlefield of soldiers, superheroes, and warriors; and a plan to save himself and his fallen friends. He hurried into the cleanest clothes in the hamper and stumbled downstairs. Randy was pulling out of the driveway and his mom slept in until noon. There was money for a week of lunches in a jar by the telephone. The walk to school usually took about ten minutes. Brent went back upstairs and prepared his feat instead.
Randy got home after football. The refrigerator held stuff to share with his brother from the restaurant where his mom worked as a hostess/waitress. He took half and didn’t bother checking for anything that would explode ink, reek, or produce a bitter onion taste when he took a bite. He plopped down on the sofa without pause or concern for any embarrassing sounds it might produce. He stared at the TV, not at spaces behind him or around the corner leading upstairs for periscope lenses, nonexistent X‑rays, or clicking spy-sized cameras. He didn’t think of Brent at all.
Randy was usually in his room, playing music with the door closed, when his mom finished her shift. But Thursdays were sometimes slow at the restaurant and he was still on the sofa when she deposited tomorrow’s meals into the fridge. She removed what wasn’t eaten from the Wednesday night specials. There was more to toss out that usual — nearly half.
“Why hasn’t the trash been taken out?”
“It’s Brent’s turn this week.”
She pushed the tin-foiled food down until it was below the rim of the overstuffed can.
“He’s just like his father.”
In the morning, Randy checked the jar by the telephone just in case he could score some beer for the weekend. The money there the previous day was gone. He moved through the rest of the house looking for any neglected change. Tiny plastic bodies still littered the bedroom upstairs, but the casualty list was a select few pocket-sized figures lighter than original estimates. Without the wave of a wand or a puff of smoke, Randy failed to appreciate their disappearance. Also unnoticed in their absence were Brent’s backpack and sleeping bag.
Randy pulled out of the driveway minutes later. His mom slept in until noon. The Vanishing Act failed to elicit appreciation from the intended audience, who had already seen it once before.
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