I let out a quiet curse as I stepped to the windows to draw the curtains for the evening. Dave’s car was just pulling into the driveway. My dear sweet brother, Dave. Goddammit.
Not bothering to close the curtains I made my way to the front door. I opened it just as he was about to knock. He stepped back, a little surprised, and flashed me his best car-salesman smile.
“Whoa! You startled me.” He took another step back to make room for the storm door as I swung it open for him.
“I saw you pull into the drive.” He nodded in understanding. “So, what’s up?” Like I didn’t know.
He gave a slight shrug as he stepped inside. His eyes scanned the hallway and the living room beyond. “Just wanted to drop by and say hi.” He started toward the kitchen. “Got any beer?”
We settled at the kitchen table, each nursing a bottle of lite beer. I opened a tin of nuts and we nibbled at them between sips.
“Haven’t seen you in a while,” Dave said. In fact it had been three months. “What you been up to?”
“Nothing special. Still the daily grind, down at the office.”
He bobbed his head up and down in commiseration. “Yeah, no rest for the wicked, eh? Can’t remember the last time I had a Saturday off. The car business has certainly recovered, I can tell you that. I’ve sold over a million dollars worth already this year.” He beamed with pride.
“There’s going to be a banquet for all the million dollar dealers around Christmas time. You want to come?”
I frowned a bit. “Is it a good date?”
His smile looked somewhat forced. “Not sure yet.”
“Well, that could be awkward.”
He took a large pull off his beer. “Yeah, the 6th would be bad. Hopefully they’ll pick the 13th or the 20th.”
“Thirteen’s bad luck,” I observed. “Aren’t you lot a superstitious sort? And the 20th is awful close to Christmas…”
“I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.” His good spirits seemed to be waning. His eyes darted around, not focusing on anything. He does that when he’s trying to change the subject. But what he wanted to change the subject to wasn’t much of a change at all. Not really.
“So,” he began, “we going to see you next Wednesday?”
Dive right in.
I sipped at my beer. Frowned. “I don’t think so.”
I saw the anger flash in his eyes.
“I’m really sick of Randy,” I said. “And frankly, the others aren’t much better.”
“You going out by yourself?” he asked, incredulous. “Lone wolfs don’t fare too well.”
“It’s lone wolves, not wolfs.”
His face contorted into a grimace. “You and your freaking grammar. It’s shit like that that gets you picked on.”
“No, it’s Randy being a prick that gets me picked on. Alice and Fredda eat it up, which just eggs him on. I’m not doing it anymore, Dave. I’m done with the pack.”
He almost rose out of his chair.
“You can’t run alone. It’s too damned dangerous.”
He was actually concerned about me. How touching.
“I won’t run alone—.”
“You found another pack?” He was dumbfounded.
“No. I just won’t run.”
He stared at me in silence for a good thirty seconds, the veins in his neck visibly throbbing. He turned in his chair and looked at the basement door. “You don’t have a freaking cage down there, do you?”
I said nothing.
He jumped up, pulling at the hair on the back of his head and let out a howl toward the kitchen light. He slammed his fist down on the table so hard his beer bottle fell over. It was nearly empty, so no mess made. “No brother of mine locks himself up in a cage for a full moon! No, dammit! No!”
I shrugged, but made no reply.
He started toward the basement door, then stopped and whirled back toward me. “I can’t look. Shit, Tim, what will Mom say? It’ll kill her.”
“Not if you don’t tell her.”
He paced back and forth.
“You can’t do this. You’ll bring shame on the whole family.”
“I’m going to live my life the way I see fit, Dave. I’m done running. There are more of us then you realize, and we get along just fine without the pack.”
“What? You got a freaking support group?” His voice was heavy with sarcasm.
I nodded. “Yes, as a matter of fact we do. We meet the day before the full moon, eat rare steaks, have a few Margaritas, and give each other the kind of support a pack ought to give. We don’t have to bare our throats to some stupid asshole who thinks he better than everyone else. We just have a good time, help each other through, and go back to work the next day.”
He stood there, wild eyed, panting. You’d think the Moon was raising.
I gestured toward his chair. “You’re welcome to join us if you’d like.”
At that he spun on his heel and headed for the front door. As he jerked it open he snarled over his shoulder, “Mom’s going to have a fit!”
© 2014 by J. M. Strother, all rights reserved.
Image used by permission, © by Angie Capozello, for use with the #FridayFlash Halloween Humor and Horror contest.