illustrations by ana carolina maciel
A woman walked down a sidewalk as she pushed a stroller with her nine-month-old child twisting uncomfortably inside. The baby released an unsettling cry causing the woman to stop the stroller. She knelt to hand the baby his pacifier as the sound of a loud horn rang out beside her. She turned to scowl at the man sitting inside the 1952 Cadillac that idled next to her.
The man behind the wheel of the Cadillac honked his horn once more. The woman let out a scoff before she pushed the stroller and scurried down the road. The man did not even notice the woman; his thoughts ran rampant as he waited. He wondered how long it was going to take his foolish younger brother to get down the stairs. The two were already running behind. The words of his father rang through his head: Watch out for him, sonny. He’s going to need you.
The man shook his head while he snapped the rubber band against his wrist. He looked up to the dingy apartment after hearing a door slamming and saw his brother running toward the car. An apple was dangling from his mouth as he struggled to get his arm through the sleeve of the suit jacket.
“Sorry, sorry,” he said, muffled by the apple as he pulled the passenger door open. The creak of the door filled the silent car.
The man continued snapping his rubber band against his wrist in agitation. “We are already running behind the rest of them.”
“My bad, I didn’t realize how late it was already.” The younger brother sat in his seat, tucking in his white shirt into his suit pants as the man sped off down the road.
“Everybody is there already?”
“I am assuming so, just got a page I am refusing to look at.” He said as he sped down the road as he tried to make it to the highway.
The younger brother reached over, twisting the knob of the radio. The loud noise switched between the sound of advertisements and a stale static, giving the man a headache. The brother twisted the dial until he heard music playing from one of the radio stations. He turned up the volume and relaxed back into his seat, taking a bite of his apple. The brothers sat in awkward silence as the obnoxious rock song played through the speakers. After a few seconds, the man twisted the volume knob silencing the unpleasant music.
“Why would you turn that off?” The brother asked with a mouth full of apple as he reached toward the knob.
The man dropped a hand from the wheel and slapped his brother’s fingers away as he snarled,
“Why must you put on music as soon as you get into my car?”
“You know, silence bugs me, especially when I am nervous. Now turn it back on.” He said, reaching over once more only to have his hand slapped harder.
“I need a clear head.”
“So, we’re just going to ride in silence?” The brother asked, annoyed.
“Yup.” The man said.
“But I can’t stay silent, talking about it makes it a bit easier.”
“Fine, if you need to, then talk about it.” The man said, growing irritated with his anxious brother. Had it been up to him, he would’ve done this solo or at least rode alone.
“You thinking about what you’re going to say yet?”
“I’ve been thinking about it,” the man said, looking out the window, dropping one hand from the wheel, “There’s not much to say.”
The brother bit into his apple as the man pulled onto the highway. The younger brother chewed as he looked out the window to the blue sky with cartoon white clouds.
“Do you ever notice movies don’t get these things right? These days are usually gloomy and grey, but look,” he gestured towards the windshield, “a bright sunny day. They always try to portray these scenes as if they’re relatable, but there is nothing organic about any of it.”
“What are you rattling on about?” The man questioned as he kept his eyes on the road.
“I never eat a burger and drink a milkshake at the same time,” the brother said matter of factly,
“It just doesn’t taste the same. The milkshake is too thick with the added richness of the burger, makes it almost impossible to swallow. Movies are just unrealistic when it comes to real-life problems.”
“I am still not exactly following what you’re trying to say here.”
“I am just saying movies try to prepare the audience for this sort of stuff, but it never works. Thinking about the right words to say at the completely wrong time, especially when you know you’re just going to upset people.” The younger brother let out a heavy sigh, “This is just one of those scenarios that can’t get captured realistically.”
“Can we have some silence? For five minutes?”
The brother shrugged his shoulders. “I am nervous; you know how my brain runs when I get too anxious.” The brother said, tapping his forehead with his pointer finger.
“You know you can get a handle on that. There are people you can hire who will listen to you for a full hour.”
The younger brother took another bite of his apple, raising his eyebrow skeptically at his brother, “You been seeing that therapist again?” He questioned with a full mouth.
“Ever since his judgment day.” He said, gripping the steering wheel tighter.
“Buddy, if you were hurting, you could’ve come to me.” His brother said, barely containing his laughter on the last word.
“Don’t mock me.” He said, scolding his immature sibling.
“Why are we even driving there?” The younger brother asked, pulling a pack of cigarettes from his suit pocket. He cranks down the window before he lights his cigarette and takes a drag. The man’s nose is tickled from the familiar scent of the nicotine first being burnt and pushes away the urge to ask for his own.
“I had a feeling you were going to be running late, so I told them we would carpool.”
“I cannot believe you are driving his car.” The younger brother said, opening the glove compartment and rummaging through the contents. The man had already removed all of his father’s junk and kept it in a safe place back at his home.
“You’re not going to find anything in there.” The man said, switching lanes.
“Not fair that you get to keep all of his shit, including his car.”
“He wanted to me have it.” The man said, not wanting to argue about this again. The last time they had seen each other over a month ago, the same fight broke out, so he tried to alleviate the situation.
“How have you been handling it?”
The younger brother shrugged his shoulders, “You know it was harder the first couple of days, that’s why I left mom’s house. She’s not still mad at me, is she?”
The man shrugged his shoulders, “She misses you at Sunday dinner. One empty chair was hard enough. Now she is dealing with two.”
“Man, don’t make me feel bad. You know how hard those dinners are now that he is gone.”
“Yes, but if it is hard for you to imagine how hard it is for our mother.”
“Going to the house has too much permanence to it. I don’t want to accept he is gone yet.”
“Well, today is the day you’re going to have to accept it.”
“I get it.” The younger brother said with anger in his voice.
“You think you’re ready?” He asked his brother genuinely.
“Is anyone ever ready for this shit?” The brother questioned, “Let’s just bail.”
“We cannot bail; we have people waiting for us.”
“They won’t even notice if we aren’t there.”
“Are you stupid? We have to be there.”
“You may be, no one even cares much if I show up anywhere.”
“Cut the self-pity.”
“I was never suited for this, that’s why dad always asked you to do the hard shit.” The younger brother sounded defeated as he softly said to himself, “I am going to mess something up.”
“You can’t mess it up, because we’ve learned from his mistake.” He told his brother though he didn’t believe the words himself. His father had always promised as an adult these situations were going to be easy to handle, yet all these years later, he still had the same nervous pit in his stomach, especially now that his father wasn’t around. “You remember where to go when we get in?”
“Left of the exit, waiting for your signal.” The brother said, reaching towards the backseat and grabbing the two pieces of fabric, throwing one into the lap of the man. The brother got onto his knees as he reached toward the floor of the back seat and pulled the two machine guns into his arms. The sound of the metal rustling against each other was music to the man’s ears. He felt his adrenaline spike as he saw his father’s associate’s car waiting in front of the building.
“You still nervous?” The man asked his younger brother as he pulled up behind the parked car.
“I just can’t believe it’s the first one without him.”
“I know he wishes he was here, too.” The man promised his younger brother as he pulled the mask over his face.
The men sitting in the parked car each opened the door and stepped one foot out of each side of the vehicle, giving the brothers the signal.
“It’s show time.” The man said to his nervous brother over his shoulder. They exited the car and walked toward the entrance of the bank.
Margaret Apostolis is a writer born and raised in South Florida. She is a student at Florida Atlantic University pursuing her BA in English Literature. She is currently published in the anthology Exhuming Alexandria: Modern Myths to Tell in the Dark, Esthetic Apostle, Ripples in Space and a winner of the inaugural Literary festival contest for Broward College.