Johnny America


Don’t Kid


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.

Filed under Fiction on August 26th, 2008

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