Excerpt for Who'll Want me Now?(5 short stories) by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Calvin, Henry and The Comic Book

The overcast sky was just beginning to part, and the stars were twinkling quite brightly, as Calvin, filled with rage, pushed his peddle bike with as much strength and power as he could, wanting to get as far away from his brother and his town as was possible. Calvin, who was 16 years old and had a full head of light brown hair that came right down to his shoulders, chestnut eyes and a baby face, yearned for a driver’s license, so he didn’t have to use momentum to get wherever he wanted to go.

It seemed that at that moment, he was so utterly upset, that he had forgotten exactly the name of his town, and really, he thought, what did it matter anyway. He wasn’t going to be staying long in the stupid place, anyhow. And yet, as anger overtook him, all Calvin could think about was leaving his older brother behind. He was all Henry had and Henry was all he had, and if he left town, they would both be completely on their own for the first time in each of their lives.

He didn’t want to think that way, however, because he was angry at Henry, and wanted to not care of his wellbeing. He wanted to be completely indifferent towards his older brother, for whenever he started caring about Henry –which was all the time-, he would often allow himself to be talked into doing things that he really didn’t want to do and things that, even before he took a step into it, knew were going to get him, and maybe Henry as well, caught in snares of trouble. Henry was always getting Calvin into trouble. And yet, Calvin always went along with it and often times, he would say things just so Henry would get the least amount of the trouble, even if that meant the bigger pile would be on top of Calvin.

Calvin looked at his watch, seeing that the short hand was pointed at the 9 and the long hand was pointing at 15. He left his brother in front of the hock shop about 15 minutes ago, when the clock had just struck nine and then he was out of there.

“Don’t go in that Hock Shop, Henry.” Calvin had advised. “We can get a lot more money if we go somewhere else.”

“They’ll give us a lot of friggin’ doe for this, Cal.” Henry had assured his little brother. “Trust me, man, they’ll fork over a lot of money. This is the first edition of batman NO. 1. Dude, we’re going to be friggin’ rich.”

“Not here.” Calvin said. He was always the thinker of the two, always the one with rationality flowing through his veins. “You have to believe me, Henry. I did my research and I know that we could probably still get a lot of money for this comic book here, but probably about a hundred grand, at the most. And chances are they won’t even give us that. Let’s auction this baby off. If we do it that way, I guarantee you, Hank, we’ll get three times that. I’m talkin’ three hundred grand or more. I’m leaning toward more.”

Henry had thought about this for a short while, running his fingers through his curly dark brown hair. But like the impatient, imprudent punk that he was, he just shook his head and said, “Nah! They’ll give us a lot of money.”

Calvin hated that. He hated his older brother sometimes, never taking a word that he(Calvin) said seriously. But then again, Henry never took anyone’s word for anything. It was always his word against the world’s, and his word reigned supreme…in is mind.

“You know what? You’re always wanting things the quickest, easiest way, even if you can get more or a better deal if you waited a little longer. Yeah, we might have to wait a while to get this auctioned off, but we would get a lot more money for it. Don’t be a moron, Henry. Just do what I say.”

“Hey man. You’re my freakin’ kid brother.” Henry said, pointing a finger at Calvin. “Don’t you talk to me like you’re a man and I’m a boy. I’m the man, here, not you.”

“Then for Christ’s sake, Hank, act like it.” Calvin said. “Do the responsible, intelligent thing and wait to auction the comic book off. I’m telling you, that’s the smart thing to do.”

“I want money now.” Henry said, like a 14 year old spoiled rotten child would say, when Henry was actually 19 turning 20.

“God.” Calvin said, throwing up his arms in frustration. “Do whatever the hell you want to do. I don’t care. I really don’t care any more, man. I can’t deal with you and you’re idiocy. Go get your money for that book, but just remember when you’re walking out of that store with, perhaps, 80 000 dollars, that you probably could have gotten 300 000 or more.” Calvin turned and started to walk away, down the sidewalk.

“Cal!” Henry called after his little brother. “Cal, get back here, man. I’m going to share the money with you. I told you I would. You’re the one that found the comic book. Come on.” He waved his brother back but his brother was too busy walking away to see the gesture.

All this was going through Calvin’s head, as he rode his bike as quickly as he could through the night, whizzing past parked cars, mail boxes and garbage cans. He pulled into an alleyway, his mind still not on what it should have been on, which was the rode, and muttered a few angry words to himself. He cursed the name of his brother and then, for good measure, he cursed the name of his father, who used to beat him and Henry every single night. And some of those night, they actually, sort of might have deserved it, but most nights, one strike of their father’s fist was uncalled for – if a strike from a father’s fist at any time was ever called for.

“To hell with everybody.” Cal said, driving out onto the road, not seeing the oncoming BMW speeding down the pavement, being driven by Carl Burns, a rich college student, who had enough money to kill a dozen 16 year old boys with his car and be able to pay his way to freedom.

The car’s tires didn’t even squeal as Carl Burns didn’t even care to slow down. When Calvin skidded to a stop, just barely out of the way of the speeding vehicle, Carl turned his head, flashed an ugly smile and flipped him the bird. Calvin flipped that asshole double birds with both hands up in the air. He then screamed profanity at the fast-moving vehicle, knowing very well that the driver probably couldn’t even hear a word he said, let alone give a shit.

Once the composure that poor Calvin had lost, after the near collision with the vehicle that would have surely ended his life without remorse returned, he rode his bike, slowly, across the street, to park next to a streetlight, trying desperately to catch his breath – nearly dying takes a lot out of you; sometimes when the angel of death simply grazes your skin, it might feel like you had just ran a full marathon without any water. He looked down at his hands, which were shaking quite uncontrollably, as questions swam through his head. Had this ever happened before? Had he ever been so careless on a bike? He believed that he had been careless on the bike before and more so. He’d done plenty of stupid things on a bike or on his feet, and even while illegally driving a car recklessly without a license, and never had he been so scared of death.

“Maybe it means I should go back to Henry.” He said, quietly to himself, feeling the sweat soaking his brown hair. He slicked it back as if he had just dunked his head into a sink, and when he brought his hand back, it was literally dripping wet. He wiped his hand onto his shirt and said, “Yeah, I’m not saying I’m going to stay with him but he is my brother and I can’t just leave him. Plus, I want to see how much he got for that comic book.”

The truth was, he didn’t think he could survive alone without his brother. A half hour away from his brother and he had come the closest to death as he had ever come before. And plus, Henry, as pig headed as he could be, as thick skulled as he often was, had always done his best to look out for his little brother, even when he had gotten him in trouble. Or at least, that was what Calvin believed to be the truth.

He started back the way he had come, thinking about his father and all those times he had beaten on Henry. Sometimes it was for nothing at all, save for asking a simple question. He used to throw Henry around that house, throw him around as if he was a football. When their father had thrown him into a lamp, and Henry knocked it over onto the ground, shattering the bulb, he couldn’t even explain to their father that it was the old man’s fault for throwing him into it before their old man knocked Henry out cold. That had been the worst their father had ever hurt Henry. But the most horrible thing about that was that their father never touched a drop of alcohol, which meant, he did that simply because he was an angry guy that hated his sons.

Calvin received a few beating but nothing like Henry. He and Henry, though frightened at the realization of their father’s death at first, became filled with elation knowing that the worst human being that had ever walked in their life’s path, would never knock either one of them around again. Knowing just how he died, that was the part that took the longest to get used to. And still, Calvin shuddered at that thought sometimes.

On the entire ride back to the Hock Shop, Calvin startled with every oncoming vehicle or any light that switched on, whether it was from a car or from a front porch. He would see the flash of light and gasp with fright, before calming himself down and forcing out a nervous laugh. He was quite certain that his nerves would be sparking at the ends for a few days, until that whole scare left his system and his mind.

When he arrived at the Hock Shop, he stepped foot inside and looked around, looking somewhat suspicious – sort of like he was casing the joint out. And he didn’t look like he had any money to spend or any objects to sell. He just looked like trouble.

“Can I help you?” The man behind the cash register asked. He was new there because if it was the owner, the owner wouldn’t have thought anything of his presence in the store. They had seen each other many times before. “You know,” the man behind the cash went on, “if you don’t got any money, you aint allowed in here, unless you got something to sell or trade, and it don’t look like you got anything.”

“I don’t.” Calvin said. “I’m just looking for my older brother, man. He was selling a batman comic book. Did you see him?”

“Yeah, yeah.” The man said, sounding a little more affable. “He was in here just a little while ago.”

“Did you buy the comic book?”

“I didn’t buy no comic.” The man said. “I mean, I offered him money but he said no.”

“Well, how much did you offer?”

“A few thousand.”

“A few thousand? Like what, 5 000 or something? That’s crazy. Do you know what kind of comic book he had?” Without letting the man reply, Calvin answered his own question, “He had the first edition of the first Batman comic book.” Calvin laughed, “And you offered him 5 grand. Nice.”

“Well, if you don’t mind,” the man said, “I’m about to close up shop here. You better get going or I’ll have to escort you out.”

“Well, can you tell me where my brother went with the comic book that he, thankfully, didn’t sell for a measly 5 grand?”

“He said he was going to take that comic book and go home. I don’t know where home is but since he’s your brother, I’m guessing you do. Now, I suggest you do what your brother did and get going home, because you got to get the hell out of here.” He pointed at the exit. “Goodbye, kid.”

Out of the Hock Shop, thankful that Henry hadn’t been his usual stupid self and hocked that 1st edition batman comic for what the guy had offered, Calvin was about to backtrack his way home. I can’t believe he didn’t hock it. I was sure that no matter what the guy offered, he was going to hock that damned comic book. I guess my big bro has some sense after all. Calvin shook his head: “Five grand. Wow. What a cheap idiot.” He glanced back at the Hock Shop, before taking off down the street, back to his and his brother’s apartment.

On the way, however, he met up with his older brother. But even though Henry hadn’t hocked that comic book, he was without it, lying on the side of the street with a broken leg. He wasn’t unconscious but he wasn’t making much noise, just seething through clenched teeth, fighting the few tears that wanted to drip from his tear-ducts.

At first the body on the ground didn’t look like Henry, for Henry had never been seen by Calvin lying down on the ground, injured. Surely, Calvin thought, it must’ve been somebody else, because Henry was too tough for that, too tough to be hurting badly. In the end, however, he couldn’t ignore the fact that it was Henry and Henry was without the comic book and Henry was injured.

“Hank?” Calvin said, rolling his bike to a stop next to his older brother. “Yo, yo. Henry! Are you ok? What happened?”

“Does it look like I’m ok, dude?” Henry snapped. “My friggin’ leg is broken. It’s completely broken. My shin or whatever that bone is, its snapped.”

“Holy crap, Hank.” Calvin got off his bike, letting it drop to the ground and got down to his brother’s level. “We gotta get you to a hospital. Tell me what happened?” When Calvin brought his face closer to his brother’s injured leg for a better inspection, a car drove by, not even slowing down. “You jerk!” Calvin said. “My brother’s injured and you don’t even care.”

“I was hit by a car, dude.” Henry said, feeling the back of his head where he had hit the pavement after the collision. When he brought his hand away from the growing welt, he saw that there was no blood smeared into his brown hair and that was good, but he was still in incredible pain. “Jack, Ronny and Mike, man. They were in that car and they drove into me on purpose. I don’t know if they were planning on doing this but when they got out of the car they saw that I had the Batman comic book and they took it. I don’t know what they’re going to do with it.”

“What do you think they’re going to do?” Calvin said, taking out his smartphone. “They’re going to get the money that should be ours. Damn it, man! Our uncle dies, gives us his comic book collection and we find this comic book that’s old as heck and somebody else is going to get rich off it. That frickin’ sucks, Hank!”

“We gotta get that comic book back then.” Henry stated, propping himself up with his elbows. “We gotta get the damned thing back so we can get what we deserve. Calvin, it’s our comic book that was given to us by our dead uncle. That money is ours.”

“We have to get you to a hospital, Hank.” Cal said.

“Cal,” Hank looked sternly at his little brother, “we have to get the comic book back. There’s no time for no hospitals and besides, I don’t like ‘em anyhow.”

“You’ll get pain killers, Hank.” Calvin smirked at that. “You like pain killers.”

Henry waved his hand in front of him. “I don’t care about that. It’s no time to feel all loopy. We have to get that comic book back and we have to get it back before they either ruin the thing or make money off of it. Like, they might not be as smart as we are, Cal. They might hock the fucking thing for five grand. And then, if we go to buy it back, the guy will probably be selling it for a hundred grand. We can’t just wait for that to happen, yo, we gotta get the comic back.”

“You have to get to the hospital.” Calvin said and then thought about it a little longer. After a moment’s pause, he said, “You need to be at the hospital, but I don’t. I know where those guys hang out. I can get the comic book back for us. And then, when we auction the thing off, we’ll be super rich.”

“I don’t want you doing this on your own, Cal.” Henry said, grabbing a hold of his brother’s arm. “It’s too dangerous.”

“Go to hell, Henry.” Calvin said, with a smile. “I know what I’m doing. I’ve hung around with these guys before. And you need to get to the hospital.” He put the smartphone to his head and called for an ambulance. “Hello. My brother’s just been hit by a car and he broke his leg. We’re on 2nd Avenue, just across from Shining Diamonds. Yeah, the strip club. He was heading home when he got hit by the car.” The operator kept asking questions. “Ok, but is there someone on their way?” The operator gave her answer. “Alright then, well, I don’t have time to keep answering questions. My brother will do the rest of the answering when you guys get here.” He listened again, rolling his eyes, making a circular motion with his pointer finger, wanting her to hurry it up. “No, they’re not here. The driver just hit my brother and took off. No we didn’t get the licence plate number, but seriously, I have to go. Just hurry up because the break looks bad.” He hung up the phone.

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