“It was a dark and stormy night…,” Fen began.
“No! Shut up! Don’t do that same story again; it’s lame,” interrupted the listener, six-year old Max. The two brothers glared at each other, waiting for the other to break or to strike, and prepared for both.
Fen, older by four years, fell back on the classic response of brothers and sisters from the beginning of time. “You shut up!”
“No – YOU shut… Mom!” shrieked Max as he tumbled to the floor, a direct result of his being bounced from his bed by Fen’s cannonball.
Fen struggled to hide his grin. “Man, I’m so good,” he congratulated himself. Then he sighed, looking at his little brother curled in a heap at the side of the bed. “What a drama queen,” he mumbled to himself as he reached over to help heave Max to his feet. He had to hurry and smooth this over and do some damage control before his mother arrived on the scene.
“Come on, Maxwell-house,” Fen said with a grin as he pulled his brother up by the hand. “Let’s go eat breakfast, and I will tell you a real story when we get home from school, I promise. Look, I will even let you have the last Pop-Tart,” he added to sweeten the deal so that Max would not tell his mother that he had been ricocheted off the bed.
Fen watched his little brother run down the hall to the kitchen. Sniffing deeply, he could smell the pancakes that his mother was cooking for breakfast.
Mrs. Jacks already seemed frazzled, and breakfast hadn’t even been eaten yet. Several strands of hair had already escaped her ponytail and small splotches of pancake batter had flipped up onto her blouse. She hated cooking, and when forced to do it, she hurried through it as quickly as possible.
“Boys,” she began when Fen and Max entered the kitchen, “what was the yelling about? Did I hear a thump?”
“Mom, they say that with age the hearing is the first to go,” Fen replied with a serious face as he tore into his stack of pancakes.
“Don’t be disrespectful,” Mrs. Jacks snapped back with a playful swat at her son. “Oh, brother, I have to get started on those darn cupcakes for the PTO’s bake sale, and I can’t remember where I put that recipe.” She turned in a frantic circle, ending back over at the cabinets where the mixing bowl was still woefully empty.
“Is this it?” Fen picked up an index card from the kitchen table and waved it at her. “My guess is – yes, because it has globs of pancake batter on it that match the ones on your shirt.”
“Thanks, smart-aleck. Read to me what comes next after ‘two sticks of butter’, will you?”
Fen glanced quickly at the recipe card. He opened his mouth, and then closed it silently. Just then, Max, who had finished eating, got up from his chair and bent over to pick up his napkin which had dropped to the floor.
“Can’t, Mom. Gotta get to school. Atomic wedge!” Fen shouted, diving at his brother’s exposed Batman underpants’ waistband. His brother’s outraged roar almost matched his mother’s shrieking voice screaming his name, and he grinned as he sprinted out the door.