The boy sat on the platform and caught his breath, took a moment to think, to ask himself â€“ stay and try to get somebody to help, or go and do the job himself?
Six Sixes by Pamila Payne
CONTENTS He Leaves …… 5 The Bad Thing Happens …… 7 It Gets Worse …… 9 Plan for Success …… 11 Use What You’ve Got …… 13 Mom? …… 15 About the Author …… 17
The boy sat on the end of his brother's bed silently watching his older brother lay out the last of his supplies â€“ thin leather gloves, wire cutters, packaged alcohol wipes, a glazier's glass cutting tool and suction cup â€“ then carefully tuck them into a small rucksack. His brother looked at him, then held his hand out and waited for him to hand over the old, red Swiss army knife he'd been fiddling with. The boy gave it back reluctantly, looked into his eyes briefly, then stared down at his empty hands. "It's just Bakersfield," his brother said, "I won't be gone long, there's money in the tree, keep the old man level on his dose and just go on like normalâ€Ś" he paused to emphasize, "you go to school, and you don't leave early." The boy nodded, glanced at him again, sat up straight to try and look taller than his twelve years, then said hopefully, "You said my driving was getting 5
real good, why don't I drive and help the whole thing go faster?" The young man gave him a hard stare with the hint of a smile at the corner of his mouth, picked up the rucksack and turned to the door, but paused with his hand on the doorknob to glance over his shoulder at the boy and remind him sternly, "You're the only one left to look after the old man and I'm the only one left to do the jobs, so we both know our places, don't we?"
The Bad Thing Happens
The boy watched the house get bigger as he trudged toward it in the thin afternoon sunshine, checking for signs of trouble, listening for familiar noises, trying to gauge the state of things. The old man was usually pretty keyed up by the time the boy got home from school and sometimes paced back and forth out at the front gate to wait for his dose like an anxious dog. The whole place was dead still save for birdsong as the boy paused on the porch, key in hand, and listened with a growing sense of unease. Once inside, he could track the old man's movements at a glance by the trails of mess throughout the house and usually locate him right away from the noise of the radio that he moved from room to room and kept near him for company, but the radio wasn't playing. His heart was pounding as he made his way to the old man's room at the back of the house, aware of every creaking floorboard and the 7
absence of any other normal sound. The boy stepped through the doorway and his eyes confirmed his worst suspicion â€“ that the old man had finally located the stash, had shot the moon and now lay dead on the floor, his rig still jabbed in to the hilt and tangled in his fingers like some big, greedy mosquito unwilling to pull away â€“ he turned to run but was stopped cold by the shrieking ring of the telephone on the old man's bedside table.
It Gets Worse
The boy stepped around the old man on the floor and answered the phone in a dry, croaking whisper, "Hello?" His brother's voice came through strangely tinny, strained, urgent, "It's me, listen, I got popped, you clean up the old man, get five thousand dollars out of theâ€Ś place, plus another hundred for fees and cab fare and you take him down with you to Western Union to wire me bail money." The boy's eyes shifted to the side taking in the sight of the old man's face, his cheek pressed to the floor, a small puddle of drool, or something, beneath his slack mouth, the happiest, most contented expression he'd ever seen on his grey face. "Can't I go by myself?" he asked. "No, you need to have an adult to sign the forms and I don't have time to argue, now you listen to me and write this bail bondsman's name and phone number down and you do just like I tell you." The boy grabbed a pen and pad 9
and wrote with a shaky hand as his brother went on talking fast, hard as ever, not willing to pause so the boy could say anything, not giving him a chance to explain that their father was dead and the whole world was circling the drain.
Plan For Success
"Didn't I tell you it wasn't safe to keep the stash in the house?" the boy whispered, cursing his brother as he climbed the tree out back, nimble as a squirrel and mad as hell. He scrambled onto the wooden platform high above the ground, the only really safe hiding place they had, the only place the old man couldn't get to – his fear of heights and uncooperative joints kept him reliably earthbound – but the house, that was his whole world, it was only a matter of time before his questing fingers hit pay dirt. The boy sat on the platform and caught his breath, took a moment to think, to ask himself – stay and try to get somebody to help, or go and do the job himself? It wasn't really a choice, since staying meant dealing with the old man's body, because there wasn't anyone he could trust to help, and if the cops found out, his ass would be going straight to juvie and his brother would have no one to get him out of jail. He 11
opened the Christmas cookie tin, moved the gun aside, took out the thick envelope full of hundred dollar bills and shoved it snugly into the waistband of his pants. He stood up and ran his fingers through his long, shaggy hair trying to figure out whose car he should steal, which one wouldn't be missed for a day, and glancing down at the gun in the cookie tin, he realized, he'd better take it, too.
Use What You've Got
The boy had done his best to prepare; he had a map with the route to Bakersfield marked, he knew where the jail was, had spoken to the bail bondsman on the phone to be sure the guy knew of his brother and had his information straight. He'd changed his clothes, opting for a white wife beater under a button down flannel shirt, a pair of aviator sunglasses and a hat his brother had brought back for him from Florida, a low-key sort of grey felt porkpie style, in the hopes that he would look less like a kid behind the wheel, and more like just some short dude. Then, settling on old Mrs. Avery's Rambler as a good candidate for borrowing, since she was senile as hell and her carport couldn't be seen from the road, he'd creeped her yard, successfully slim jacked the car door and was attempting to hot wire the starter when the sound of the teenaged girl's voice, "What the hell do you think you're doing?" nearly scared 13
him out of his skin. Sitting in the passenger seat as far over against the door as he could get, he had long since relaxed his hand on the gun inside his knapsack that he had pointed at the girl while she drove, but he didn't relax his attention – he was on her like a cat on a sparrow – he just wished she'd quit running her mouth. "I always liked your brother," she said, glancing at the sign for Frazier Park as they zoomed past, "we were in the same class before he dropped out, and… I'd always hoped we could hook up at some point, you know… I would have just driven you, if you'd asked me." Right, he thought, like you could trust a woman to come through for anything that didn't put a dollar in her pocket, he knew better than that, but even so, she was being pretty cool about the whole thing.
The boy shut himself into the phone booth on the edge of the gas station and glared out through the glass at his brother and the girl leaning against the side of the Rambler as he gassed it up, still talking nonstop like they had been since they got him out of jail. He was still fuming from the way his brother had smacked him down right in front of her and taken the gun away as soon as they were out of the jailhouse parking lot. You can just find out about the old man on your own, he thought, as he dug around in his nap sack for a small blue denim address book at the bottom. The book was faded like a real pair of jeans, with a tiny cowboy riding a bucking bronco embossed into the cover, and though he'd kept it closed with rubber bands over the years and it was dirty and beat up, it still looked as babyish to him as it had the day she'd given it to him. There were only five phone numbers inside â€“ all of them 15
crossed out but the last one, all of them belonging to her â€“ and just then, looking at the pages of messy, cast off numbers, he remembered that she hadn't even called on his birthday, so it had to have been more than a year since he'd heard from her. He dropped a quarter into the pay phone and dialed, hoping to god she hadn't moved again and that if she answered, he wouldn't cry.
About the Author
Pamila Payne is a native Los Angeles writer who spends a lot of time at a motel in West Texas with a bunch of dead guys. Flash Fiction is helping her to get out more and make new friends. pamilapayne.blogspot.com vintagevice.com
Six six-sentence stories by Pamila Payne