by Paul Beckman
My brother helps our mother with the laundry, baking, and vacuuming. He says he loves using the mangle most of all. Mom trusts that he won’t get his fingers caught in the roller but she won’t let me try. She tells me to watch Artie and learn the right way to help with these chores but I don’t want Artie to be my teacher in anything. He’s only a year older than me.
I hang around with Dad. Hand him tools, cans of oil when he’s changing the oil in the car, and I’m getting good at anticipating which tools he’s going to need and having them ready. He even lets me sit on his lap when he’s driving and steer the car.
Now I no longer have any jobs. Dad took the car and his tools and drove away. I see him every few months but although I offer he doesn’t need my help in anything. Artie doesn’t want to see him when he comes to visit. He says he’s baking cookies or washing clothes with the wringer washer.
Our father tells my mother she’s turning Artie into a sissy. Mom doesn’t tell him that Artie’s the star player on the baseball team. I don’t tell him that Artie protects me from the bigger kids.
I no longer have helper chores so I invent things to do. We sit around the Philco listening to Gunsmoke and Boston Blackie. I plot robberies.
I get very good at robberies — taking change from women’s purses in the grocery, heisting Wrigley’s and Devil Dogs. Artie knows what I do and doesn’t rat me out. Sometimes he’ll ask me to get him a pen or a Spauldeen but we both know I’m going after the big stuff when I’m older.
Paul Beckman’s new collection of flash and micro-fiction, Kiss Kiss, came out in March. Over 400 of his stories have been published in print, online, and via audio in the following magazines and others: Spelk, Necessary Fiction, Jellyfish Review, Brilliant Flash Fiction, and Connotation Press. His blog is pincusb.com.