Jimmy woke up to the rustling of paper and shifting of cardboard boxes. He rubbed his eyes and looked out the window –still pitch black. Jake was kneeling on the floor going through his stuff. He looked over his shoulder at Jimmy and told him to go back to bed. Jimmy’s eyes started to glisten. He asked,
“Are you going anywhere?” and after waiting in silence for Jake to answer, added with enthusiasm, “If you’re going anywhere I wanna come too.”
Jake gave Jimmy a dirty look, as if Jimmy had just asked if he were packing to leave for a luxury trip to France.
“Well?” Jimmy pressed. He sat down on his bed and held his knees.
“What makes you think I’m going anywhere?” said Jake. Jimmy laid back down onto his bed in a huff and blinked up at the ceiling. Knowing it would be impossible to go back to sleep, he started to clap his cheeks. Clap, Clap, Clap-
“Would you stop that!” whispered Jake. Jimmy sat up again tapped the wood underneath his navy mattress. Jake got up and flicked Jimmy on the head,
“Stop. Go back to sleep!” Jimmy sat with that for a second before saying,
“We could go somewhere though.”
“Come on, Jake…” Jake looked at the mess next to his mattress. “Come on, Jake.”
Jimmy was grinning now. Jake tried to hide a smile,
“Like where?” said Jake. Now Jimmy really started to grin,
“Oh, thanks, Jake, you’re the best!”
Jake waved a hand at Jimmy to settle down,
“I don’t know…”
“Come on, Jake.”
“Ok Ok…wait, let me get my jacket.”
Jimmy pumped his elbows down in victory and jumped off the bed. They tiptoed their way downstairs and out of the door. Jimmy walked next to his big brother with a spring in his step. He loved watching him, in awe that this huge bulk of a guy – fiercely strong and strongly fierce – was on his team. Jake didn’t take crap from anybody-
“Hey, watch where you’re going,” Jake told Jimmy.
And back when Jake was in school, Jake would stick up for Jimmy no matter what.
They travelled down the winding roads past sleeping tramps and the occasional stray dog. A rush of breeze lifted its way up Jimmy’s T-shirt. He shuddered. Jake rolled his eyes,
“Why didn’t you take a jacket?”
Jake let out a sigh and pulled Jimmy to face the direction they just came from by the scruff of his shirt,
“Hey, wherewe going? Home!”
Jake didn’t answer. He let go of Jimmy and started to walk. Jimmy had always thought Jake walked like a soldier, like the ones you get in England. His face was mostly expressionless, but hard, like a face set in stone. He knew Jake wouldn’t say where they were going, which made Jimmy think it probably was home after all. He had no choice but to follow his brother in disappointment.
Further down the road, Jimmy could make out some figures with their hoods up. As they got closer, the hunched-back shadows looked up at Jake. Jimmy watched as Jake stared them down and then nod at the one who pulled something out of his jacket pocket.
“Jake, who’s that?” asked Jimmy.
Jake didn’t reply. The next corner they turned was into their street. As they approached Number 44 Jimmy started to cross the road, but was pulled back by his brother, who was set to plough on past their house. Jimmy’s stomach tickled with excitement when they passed it.
“I know you don’t have a jacket, Jimmy.”
Jimmy blinked at his brother and felt slightly ashamed. The feeling grated on him, creating a nagging anger. Luckily it passed.
“That’s why we’re gonna get one” said Jake.
Jimmy knew exactly where they were heading. He felt the beginnings of adrenalin surge up from his core. His body insinuated itself into a swagger, and somehow Jimmy knew Jake was buzzing too. It took what felt like to Jimmy at least twenty minutes to get to the semi-filled parking lot of the local Department store. Plenty of time to let the adrenalin lick through their veins.
They were standing outside the tall, wired fence, soaking in the view of their super-sized playground. Jimmy felt a warm sensation in his heart. He knew on the other side of the fence weren’t just jewellery and food and the perfect jacket – no, on the other side of the shining silver fence were memories. This was their door to imagination.
“Jimmy” Jake said. He was staring up at the store with his mouth open slightly, “do it.”
Jimmy climbed up the fence like a gecko and swung himself over. He paused for a moment on landing and looked into Jake’s face. It had just hit him that they were going to break into a department store – the only big one for miles – and they had nothing to cover their faces, heck, he thought, the fences weren’t even barbed and the store lights were still on. Wait, the store lights were still on.
Jake straightened his lips into his smile; his eyes looked warm,
“I knew you always wanted to know what it felt like to break into somewhere as huge as this.”
With that, Jake walked around the fence to join Jimmy in the parking lot. Jimmy felt ridiculous, but was touched by the gesture, all the same.
“You didn’t actually think we could break into this store without a goddam crow-bar?”
Jimmy’s lips twitched into a smile. He guessed not.
“So we’re gonna steal?” Jimmy asked.
Jake answered by soldiering onwards towards the store, and once again, Jimmy felt delicious energy stirring in his gut. He imagined this energy as worms. Hundreds of multi-coloured neon worms that twisted over each other until they arranged themselves into one huge rainbow-worm, ready to shoot through the gut wall into the blood stream.
They walked through the sliding doors and stopped to soak up the promise of bounteous delights and infinite possibilities that lay ahead of them. Each store was like a separate Christmas present waiting to be unwrapped. Jimmy started to twitch and shuffle his feet around. Jake stood tall and straight, calculating the safest route. A few people waddled in and out of their view, some eating gigantic iced buns that stuck to their sweaty palms, other consumers were pressing bundles of jeans to their chest. Then Jake tapped Jimmy on the arm, leaned over and disclosed The Plan. Jimmy’s tongue hung out of his mouth and he started to pant. Emerging from Jake’s eyes was a dancing fire.
“Ready?” said Jake. “Go.” They parted into opposite directions, which really headed to the same store. Jake gave Jimmy the long route because of his quick stride. The clothes store, TJ Max was their red X – their goldmine. Once Jake entered the store, he noticed that on the other side of the open doors stood a huge security guard. Jake prayed that Jimmy wouldn’t come into the store staring at it, then moved deep into the rails of clothes. He observed that the store had only two other customers, both tired looking middle-aged women. There was also one worker at the counter – skinny, around 22, leaning on his elbow, stapling the air.
Upon hearing the entrance doors slide open, Jake glanced up at Jimmy, who had just entered the store. Jimmy was looking around at the abundance of Hawaiian shirts squished together on the rails. Jake could see how hard he was trying to take slow movements, but couldn’t seem to stop his knees from jerking whenever he took a step. It was unsurprising to Jake that his heart wasn’t thumping. Since they were old enough to leave the house without mom, Jake and Jimmy snuck in and out of what they believed were empty houses (seven out of ten of them) like it was their goddam right, and each time they did it the thrill came mostly from entering and exiting the place – so basically this part was the easiest.
Jimmy’s hands glided through the array of fabrics. Alarmed that he was close enough to the cash desk to hear Jake talking to the employee, Jimmy mazed his way to the other end of the store. He saw the bodyguard moving towards one of the ladies outside of the store changing rooms. She stood next to the store clerk, who was yawning and looking down at his watch. A thump of blue fabric landed next to Jimmy’s feet. He picked it up in a hurry and, realising it was a jacket, put it on, ripped the bag off in one smooth swipe, and left the store. In the air-conditioned hallway, he saw the back of Jake’s head bop towards the route Jimmy had taken last time, and took this cue to make his way outside the department store via the shorter, opposing route. He soon caught up to Jake’s side, though rows of jewellery carts positioned at the centre of the store created distance between them.
Jimmy grew aware of the electric blue jacket cooling the skin on his arms. His heart gave out a warming thud – the jacket fit perfectly. From the corner of his eye, Jimmy saw Jake look over his shoulder. That’s when he heard it,
“Hey! Hey! Get back here!”
It felt as though Jimmy’s organs dropped. He looked over at Jake. His breathing became hoarse. Jake was trying to gain momentum in his walk.
“Hey! Hey!” they heard the guard call.
Jimmy could see Jake’s head to bop up and down from the corner of his eye. He turned around and winced from the pain of his sinking heart: jogging behind Jake was a gigantic bodyguard.
“Run, Jake, run!” Jimmy called.
The few people in the store looked over their shoulders to satisfy a fleeting hunger for petty drama. Meanwhile, a green, luscious poison seemed to flood into Jimmy’s blood. He shifted into a sprint, passed Jake, who had also broke into a run, and bounded over a jewellery stand to meet him, sending little beads pelleting to the floor. Jake crashed into him from behind and they both staggered forward. Jimmy could hear a smile in Jake’s voice,
Jimmy laughed and they looked over their shoulders, the bodyguard was weaving in and out of people, his face crimson. He almost slipped on some beads. The brothers looked at each other in wonder – this was just like a movie, they thought, got up, and ran together, arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders, towards the nearing sliding doors.
Jake and Jimmy criss-crossed through the parking lot with their jackets pulled over their heads. They gulped at the air like fish when they were in the clear.
“You got the shit?” asked Jimmy, panting. Jake waved a bottle of something in the air. Jimmy felt giddy thinking about the absurdity of their situation,
“What’s that?” he asked – he was expecting a couple of jeans, or a hat at the least. Not this bottle. Jake’s face crumbled into laughter. The laughter grew and grew until Jimmy couldn’t help but join in. Jake was in tears now. He stopped Jimmy under a streetlamp and tried steadying his laughter and shaking body. Eventually he managed to squeal out,
“It’s what?” asked Jimmy.
“It’s” Jake laughed some more, then let out a loud, “It’s fucking bleach!”
They laughed so loud they made dogs bark.
Somewhere in between the steps they took side by side on the way home and their sporadic giggles, it hit Jimmy that he saw, for the first time since dad died, Jake let himself laugh. And on they went, their smiling faces lighting up each time they walked under the golden glow of a streetlamp.