“No more kids!” was the first thing Robert Filler heard his father say the day his brother, Samuel, came home.
“No more I say!” his father, Jeremy Filler shouted, shoving Robert’s mother out the door, and snatching a bawling Samuel out of her arms. “I’m taking this one back to the orphanage where it belongs! Honestly, we’ve talked about this before! One child is enough for us!”
There was a wave of alcohol around him, the air thick with the noxious fumes. Robert followed his father who was noisily staggering around, obviously drunk. He couldn’t have noticed Robert even if he were sober. They walked through the drifts of freezing cold snow, making Robert’s bare feet ache and then just feel numb. Slowly, they traveled down the dark street of the small town.
Robert’s father stepped up to the door of the orphanage, found it to be locked, cursed, and just dropped Samuel in a drift of snow on the porch of the dark house.
Robert ducked behind a lamp post, and heard his father shuffling down the road, away from their home, and towards the town bar. Robert waited a few minutes, and then there was a slight shuffling and a flurry of snow. The sole lamp post illuminated Robert turning a corner at the end of the street, and a baby-shaped indent in the snow.
Several years later, during the summer of 2031, Robert still hadn’t forgotten the musty scent of the street corner, and saving his brother from the confines of the orphanage. He was sixteen now, blond with deep, brown eyes, and he was still blind. He couldn’t help it. He’d been born that way. All he could do was listen, smell, and think. In fact, he’d honed his four other senses to perfection, and actually had a better sense of his surroundings than most people who could see. His brother, Samuel, now approximately thirteen years old, having been almost one year when he had been saved by Robert, twelve years before, was exactly the opposite of Robert in many ways, having brown hair and blue eyes. That fateful afternoon, both boys were sitting lazily out in the forest behind their father’s house, resting through the heat on the edge of the treehouse that Robert had built for Samuel to live in, almost completely obscured by the canopy of the thick oak tree. Both were chewing on a piece of beef jerky, and were thinking about what they would do later on in the day. Samuel suddenly thought.
“Hey,” started Samuel.
“Is for horses,” finished Robert, snickering. “How many times do I have to tell you?”
Samuel looked at his brother with a sour expression, and continued. “I was just thinking. Tomorrow is the day that mom died. We should go to the cemetery.”
Robert said nothing. Just stared straight ahead, a pained expression imprinted upon his face. Then, his face cleared, and the same steel expression that he commonly wore came back. About four years ago, their mother had died in a car crash. Who was in the other car? None other than Stacey, their father’s selfish new girlfriend.
“We can go visit her grave, down the hill at Settler’s Cemetery.”
The two boys lived in an old American town which had been there since the pilgrims had landed in the 1600’s. Many pilgrims were buried in the land around them, and every so often a body was discovered and then reburied in Settler’s Cemetery.
Samuel hung his hand over the branch of the oak tree, and watched a leaf float down slowly, swaying side to side. It landed in front of a pair of running shoes, which immediately stepped on top of the leaf. Samuel looked up, and saw the face of his father’s girlfriend, Stacey Collins, staring smugly up at him and Robert.
“So boys, is this what I think it is?” she said, grinning meanly up. “Because if it is, I think you have a lot of explaining to do to your father.”
The boys stared down dumbly, their mouths agape. (or, at least, Samuel stared down dumbly.)
“Or,” Stacey said, drawing out the word and still grinning. “You can just give me money. Who knows, I might forget to tell your father. I want two hundred dollars. Here. In a day.”
She turned around, laughing, and walked off out of the forest.
“Oh my god Samuel, what are we going to do?” Robert asked.
“How am I supposed to know?”
“There’s no way we can get two hundred bucks in a day!”
“But what will our dad say when he finds you!?! You know what he’d do to you!”
“I can hardly imagine.”
They continued talking like this for a little while. Samuel looked into their savings jar, and found only several dollars. They realized that the best thing for them to do was to move Samuel to another location, far away from their treehouse, but that wouldn’t work either, Stacey was coming back tomorrow, and there was no way that the boys could remove the treehouse by then. They saw no way out of this situation, and all they could do was sit around and wait for the next day to come.
“Come here boy!” Robert’s father shouted.
Robert wheeled around, could Stacey have told his father about Samuel already?
“We’re out of beer. Make yourself useful and go to the mart! Pick some supper too!”
Robert exhaled a sigh of relief.
Robert ran down the road with Samuel, past the orphanage, past the library, and he was just about to clear the corner past the drive-in movie theater, when Samuel recognized Stacey’s blue and black convertible. He slowed to a stop and halted Robert who was puffing behind him. Samuel saw a man cast in shadows, blocking the bright light of the giant screen, opening the door of Stacy’s car, and getting in.
“What are they doing?” Robert asked.
“Some guy just got into her car,” Samuel answered. “I don’t know what they’re doing.”
The top started rolling back, and Samuel saw that the man had his arm around Stacey. She leaned her head against his shoulder, and Samuel dashed down the street, explaining what happened to Robert along the way.
The next morning, Robert ran into the woods behind his home. He woke up Samuel, and waited for their father’s girlfriend to come.
Stacey entered the forest noisily. Her mind set on the events of the previous night. The movie, the dinner. She grinned to herself, and continued down through the forest. As she walked, she started to feel sorry for the kids. Maybe she shouldn’t have done this. Maybe. . . no. She said to herself. She had to pay back her debts, and this was the quickest, easiest way to get it. She knew very well that the kids wouldn’t be able to fulfill her demand, but they must have some money, otherwise that other one, the younger-looking one, would have starved by now. She steeled herself and stepped into the clearing where the two boys stood waiting for her.
“So then,” Stacey said, grinning. “Where’s the money boys?”
“You’re not getting anything Stacey.” Robert said.
“And I suggest that you forget about me,” said Samuel, “Or our dad will find out exactly who’s cheating on him.”
Stacey stared at them, her mouth agape, and then, spinning on her heel, she marched out of the forest, her head held up high.
The quiet of the forest was destroyed by the sound of a loud explosion, coming from the vicinity of Robert’s home.
The next day, the police reported. The explosion had killed Robert’s father. It had been caused by the gas burner on which they had cooked their dinner the night before. The gas burner had been running all night.