I’m hanging in the driver’s seat of a busted up red pick up truck upside down in a ditch, and Lukey’s bleeding to death, and the money’s in the back, but by now it’s just too late, and there behind us the blue lights kick in, and I don’t know what’s going to happen, and I’m scared, and I know that this is the end.
And there we are, me and Lukey, at three years old, taking a bath together while Mom gently washes our hair with the special shampoo that makes sure no needless tears are shed, and we share a room, and we leave the hall light on all night.
So we’re driving along, and Lukey’s been shot. I’m holding the guns and I’m on the wheel and I’m watching the road, and they’re behind us and I’m watching them too, but we just might stand a chance, until the tiny red import stalls in the middle of the intersection and we smash into them, rolling and rocking until the dust settles and we’re upside down and it’s only a few minutes until it’s all over.
And I went to summer camp while Luke worked at the gas station on the corner, so I didn’t get to play with him until I came back and there we are, playing soccer in the back yard, climbing trees and building forts out of logs, exploring our surroundings like primitive man first setting foot in new territory, always making it back just in time for dinner, and having to wash our muddy hands before we eat.
Luke almost trips over the sidewalk, his arm over my shoulder, helping him stand up, and on the dark, hot pavement, our footsteps are laced in blood, and Lukey’s getting weaker by the second, and I’m holding the keys and the bag and the guns, and the clerk’s triggered the alarm, and we get to the truck, and I set Lukey down in the passenger’s seat, and I climb into the car, gun the motor and we’re gone.
I’m holding the video camera, and Luke’s name is called, and, looking so old, so mature, my brother walks across the stage, shakes the principal’s hand and accepts his diploma. And Mom’s so proud, Dad’s so proud, Aunt Franny, Uncle Mark, their little Sarah’s so proud, and he doesn’t know what he wants to do now, but there’s so much life ahead of him, so much opportunity, and none of us look back and worry, because he’s going to make something of himself. Lukey’s gonna be big.
Click and boom, and Lukey’s down, and click and boom, and bright orange cheese curls just to my right explode, and I drop to the ground, and Lukey’s not moving, and the plain white linoleum is slowly turning red, so I grab the guns, grab the bag, grab Luke and make for the door while the clerk clears the chamber, and ding dong, we’re gone.
And Luke rolls up a joint, and me and him stand on our porch late at night, coconspirators against our parents, and always naïve, I would ask him about life, and love, parties and girls, everything I think I’ll ever need to know, and he tells me so much, and right then, at that moment, I love him, and he’s my brother, he really is, just like in the movies, and my eyes sting from the thick smoke, and my throat burns, and I’m really high, and we talk, really talk, for the first time ever, all night long.
The gun is out, and Luke stays calm, and he starts talking in a low voice and the clerk is moving, opening the register, cha-ching and the money’s out, and I pick it up and put it in the bag, and we’re doing it now, we’re really doing it, and the clerk bends down, and I close the bag, and the clerk comes back up with a shotgun.
It’s my junior year of high school, and it’s my spring break, an awkwardly short smattering of days in the middle of the month of April, and Lukey’s off at school, and I go up to visit him, and he’s just so happy there, finally, so happy to be himself and live his life the way he lives it, and the old times weren’t bad, but the new times are so much better, and I meet his friends, and his girlfriend, and they’re so happy, and we go to a party, and he’s not showing off, he’s just being him, the him-est he’s ever been, and the future holds so much promise, but I drink too much and he takes care of me all night.
So, Lukey’s walking in front of me, and his gun’s in his pocket, and my hands are sweaty, and as he opens the door, ding dong, the clerk looks over and Lukey holds the door open for me, and he’s so calm, I’d follow him through hell, and I disappear into day glo potato chip bags, four kinds of beef jerky, prepaid phone cards, lottery tickets, slurpees, candy and girlie magazines while Luke goes up to the counter and reaches into his pocket.
Mom’s crying on the kitchen table, and Dad’s still at work, but boy, is he gonna be mad, and Lukey’s quiet, so quiet, and nobody’s touched their brisket, and Mom wants to know why he didn’t just ask for help, why he had to lie, why he cheated in the first place, what he’s going to do with his life now, why, damn it, why, so many questions, and we’re so disappointed, and how could you, and Lukey’s quiet, so quiet, and Dad comes home, and they shout, and I get sent upstairs, and they shout some more, and I do my best to listen in, standing in that spot where I can see the kitchen reflected in the hall mirror, and they’ve been shouting for a long time now, and Lukey storms off to his room and slams the door, leaving Mom and Dad to talk in hushed voices, and I can barely catch some of the words. Plagiarism. Judicial Council. Therapy. Trust. Expelled. So I take a plate of brisket, and I knock on Lukey’s door, and he’s crying, and he tells me he doesn’t know what’s going to happen, and he’s scared, and this isn’t the end, but it might as well be, and we don’t know where to go from here.
Luke’s leaning on the car, idly holding the pump while the meter clicks along, staring intently into the glass window, watching other customers fumble about with their purchases, willing them to leave so we can just get inside and get it over with, and I’m pacing, I’m nervous, the gun is so heavy in my pocket, but Luke knows what he’s doing. Luke’s so calm, I’d follow him through hell and ka-chunk, the tank is full, and ding dong, an overweight woman leaves the minimart, so we leave the car running and we start walking.
Lukey’s working at a resteraunt in town, barely breaking even on his loans and all the other financial concerns my Dad said he’ll have to ratify because he changed the overall mission statement, and me and him go half and half on an old red truck that we share throughout the year. Things aren’t that bad, really, but Mom and Dad still fight with Lukey about everything, about where he wants to eat dinner, about going out without a coat, about hunching his shoulders when he walks in public, humming in elevators, shaking hands, staying out too late, smiling when he introduces himself, cleaning his room, washing his clothes. I don’t exactly hate it, because every time I’ve messed up suddenly seems much more trivial, but I don’t exactly love it because…
...Well, he’s my brother.
So when Lukey takes me out to dinner at his resteraunt, and we eat for free, and he leans in and tells me he needs another chance, he needs more money and he knows what to do, and he hands me a gun under the table, and I look at him, and he looks at me, and just for a split second, I see Lukey, climbing trees in the backyard, biking down to the gas station to go to work, teaching me to parallel park, telling my about college, showing me how to roll a joint, how to open a bottle with my teeth, and he’s so calm, I’d follow him through hell, and since I’m not doing anything better tonight, why the hell not, let’s go have some fun.