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Valhalla

You got me

Written by Anny Sanchez


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Just 1 more minute. I didn’t think it was possible, but Mrs. Miller has managed to make history even more boring than watching grass grow. I’d know cuz my brother and I tried it once. We didn’t last 10 minutes. I just ended up watching a worm wiggle in the dirt. Squirming every which way, trying to go back into the ground. I squirm like that worm, in anticipation for the bell to ring. My fingers tap my desk to an unkempt rhythm. Everyone else seems to be in a dead stare at their tables, looking out the window or on their phones. Mrs. Miller could announce that her butt itches and no one would even notice. I watch the skinny red line make its way, tick by tick, around the clock. 30 seconds left.

I shift up in my seat and grab my bag sitting beside me. The girl behind me noticed my movement and does the same. It has a domino effect, and one by one people look at the clock and grab their stuff. Life returns to them as they each repeat one word in their heads. Weekend. But in my head, “party” closely follows that word.

I look to my right and see Riley still sleeping on his desk. His blond hair breaking free of his backwards cap. I reach in my backpack and grab a pencil. Ever so slightly I inch it towards his face. The eraser just barely grazes his left nostril.

“What the!?” Riley jumps awake and pulls back his head. I bust out a laugh as the bell rings and make my way to the hall.

“Hey wait,” Riley scrams to catch up, and shoves his stuff in his backpack. “Hey, you ready for tonight? It’s gonna be even better than last year!” He nudges into me with a cocky smile.

“Yeah, my dad’s gonna be workin late tonight, so I’m home free.”

“Awesome! Hey, I got a lot of things to pick up before tonight so I gotta run. I’ll catch ya later.”

“Yeah, see ya tonight!” Riley’s back is already turned and running to the parking lot.

Every year since the ninth grade, Riley’s had a party at his place in the sticks, when his parents are out of town. They own their own company and go on business trips every fall. What started out as having some friends over for a beer or two, soon turned into an annual event. We all show up in our beat up cars, prepared for anything. Every year someone ends up becoming the talk of the school because of this party. Sophomore year, it was Kyle Dunn who had to shave his left eyebrow from losing a bet. He got the idea of filling in the blank space with sharpie. But it was so dark at the time that he hadn’t realized he grabbed a purple sharpie instead of a black one. It would have looked ridiculous either way, but there’s nothing quite like the sight of a purple streak on a guys pale brow line. Junior year, Emma Fitz came to be known as the class slut when she slept with three guys that same night. None of them being her boyfriend, Max. But it’s ok, she embraced it. Wonder who’s gonna make senior years news.

Walking to my car, I feel a raindrop hit my hand. I walk faster, knowing the rain will only get harder. And it does. Now running, I take the keys out of my pocket and unlock the door. As soon as I get in the passenger’s side, I hear how hard the rain is pouring down. It’s as if marbles are being dropped on my car.

“Boo!” hands grab my wet shoulders and jolt me. “Did I scare ya!?” Even the loud sound of rain can’t drown out Chris’s deep voice. He’s crouched behind my seat, eyes and smile wide, waiting to see if he was successful.

“Haha no. Chris I’m tellin ya, you’ve never been able to scare me, and you never will. You might as well give up now.”

Growing up Chris has always tried to get a scare out of me. He’d hide under my bed for hours waiting for me to fall asleep. Even scratching the side of my bed and would make low growls trying to impersonate a monster. I always knew it was him so it never worked. Every time I couldn’t help but just laugh at how hard he’d try, or the idea’s he’d come up with. His dedication has faded over the years, but every now and then he’ll try in a much simpler way.

“Ohhh, Danny one of these days I’ll get you.” He smiles and squeezes his solid broad shoulders between my seat and the drivers. I bounce as he plops in his seat and shifts the car. As twins we both have a pretty solid build. We’re 6 feet tall and both around 165 lbs, give or take a few Big Macs. So the fact that he was hunched in the back seat, for who knows how long, makes me laugh. Although we’ve always been pretty athletic and agile so it’s not that surprising he was able to do it.

There’s nothing like the thundering sound of an old car. Chris and I bought this ‘70s Camaro two years ago and fixed it up. It took us about a year and a half to save up for the needed parts and put it together. We finished it as of this last summer. Our dad’s a mechanic and taught us all there is to know about cars. Although that’s just about all the old man has ever done with us. Our mom died of Lymphoma when we were three. My dad’s never not had a Budweiser in his hand since then. Some days he resorts to whiskey, and those are the days Chris and I know to stay out of the house.

We pull into our driveway. Trying to beat the rain,  I run out of the car and lift the garage door open. Chris pulls in and shuts off the car.

“Hey, we gotta change the oil in this thing before we head to Riley’s.” He pats the car and lifts the hood.

“Yeah. Get it started and I’ll put our stuff away.” I grab Chris’s bag and head inside.

The stale smell of sweat and booze hits me as I walk through the kitchen. Two steps from the hallway is when I see him. His belly flat on the couch with his mouth slightly open. Probably dreaming of another swig from the bottle of Jack Daniels he has loosely gripped in his hand. He seems smaller when he’s sleeping. When he’s not passed out drunk, he stands at 6’2. For someone who drinks a lot of beer, he stays pretty solid in his stature. Although, that belly of his ain’t going nowhere.

The hardwood floor beneath me creaks and I stop dead in my tracks. I move only my eyes. Glancing back and forth from him, to the quiet carpet that starts the hallway in front of me. Making myself as light as possible, I lift off into what I can only imagine was the most ungraceful looking leap. But I didn’t make a sound to my room. I don’t bother putting Chris’s things in his room next door on the left. I just put both our bags on my bed in the far right corner by the window. To my left against the wall is a full body mirror by the door. The person staring back at me is soaked in fat rain. Against that same wall, I pull a black t-shirt and red flannel out of my dressers middle drawer. I hadn’t realized how cold I’d actually been till I changed into my dry clothes. I grab a white t-shirt for Chris, and a solid grey hoodie that’s sitting on top of my dresser.

I remember where it is that the floor had creaked, and strategically place my footing in a different spot. The old man’s still passed out to my right.

“Hey, lets finish this fast and get out of here.” I shut the door behind me that separates the garage from the kitchen. Chris looks at me, puzzled as to why there’s a need to rush. I hold my gaze at him. My blank expression tells him why and he lets out a sigh of understanding.

“So much for working late. I already relieved the pressure, you can drain the oil.” He hands me an old tupperware container and I hand him the dry shirt and sweatshirt I got for him. I shift under the car on my back and remove the engine drain plug. The oil’s draining into the container when the door to the kitchen swings open. Quickly, I torque the plug back on and grab the oil. I slide out from under the car as Chris comes and stands by me on the drivers side.

“I need you boys to run to the station for me.” The 76 gas station is about two blocks away, and is my dad’s go to place for another 12 pack. He stands in the doorway clutching the door frame for balance. “And don’t get me none of that Miller shit. Get the good stuff.”

“Like it’d make a difference.” I say this under my breath as I go to set the oil on the counter by the door. Before I can step back, I see something blurry come at my right eye. It hits me and I stagger to the left, to see my dad no longer in the doorway. He’s hunched over with his right arm stretched out.

“Don’t you be disrespecting me boy!”

I look over and see every muscle in Chris’s body harden as he grabs my dad by the collar and takes a swing. My dad falls back in the doorway. Rubbing his jaw he tries to stand. But he can’t keep his footing and falls back again. Feet firmly planted, Chris stares down at him. Meanwhile, I quickly grab the oil and funnel it into the engine. My right cheek rings with pain but I don’t dare lift my hand to it or he’ll know he hurt me.

“Let’s go.” Chris leaves my dad in the doorway and gets in the car. I take out the funnel and drop it on the floor. Just as I shut the hood he starts the car. I’m barely in the front seat when he peels out of the garage, hitting our trash bin at the sidewalk. Not bothering to put it back, he steps on the gas. I softly touch the right side of my throbbing face. My cheekbone is slightly swollen, and I know it’s only going to get worse.

“Does it hurt?” Tence, and with his hands at ten and two on the wheel, Chris looks at me with concern.

“I’m okay.” I stop testing the pain of my cheek and focus on the road ahead.

“So I hear this year’s gonna be even better than last year.” He’s trying to lighten the mood by talking about the party. I let him think it worked and give him a smile.

“Yeah, that’s what Riley was saying.” I think he read through my fake tone and could tell that his attempt at small talk wasn’t working. He cranks up the radio to King Nothing by Metallica. We bang our heads to the beat and simultaneously scream the lyrics. Their words are the only words we say the rest of the way. I watch the fat rain hit and slide down the windshield.

It’s just becoming dark by the time we make it to Riley’s. Chris parks on the lawn along with 5 other cars who also didn’t want to park down the street and walk. Normally there’d be a bonfire in the back behind the house, but no fire could burn with this kind of rain. My feet sink in the muddy grass when I get out of the car.

“Maybe we should’ve just toughed out the rain.” Chris laughs at the slop we’ve parked in and now have to walk through.

“Naw, it’s fine.” I slam the car door shut and barely finish my sentence, before I’m booking it to the front door 3 cars down. This ground is so uneven and spongy that my “fast pace,” is actually just  very large and dramatic tiptoe movements. Somehow Chris beets me to the little covering over the door. So much for changing into dry clothes. We’re soaked. I run my hands through my hair and shake it side to side, trying to slide out the extra water in it. Chris laughs at me trying to fix my hair and just does one fast sweep through his hair that was once brown but now looks black. It sticks straight up a little over finger length. Mine being slightly longer needs to be fixed in someway.

From the doorstep outside, we can hear the music coming through the door. We don’t bother knocking and just walk in. The music gets louder as we step inside. One by one people turn their heads and cheer their solo cups at us. It’s already packed in here. People’s feet are covered in mud and streak the light hardwood floors with their footprints. But no one seems to notice or care, so I keep my shoes on.

“Hey! Look who made it!” Riley yells from the kitchen to our left. He makes his way to me through the crowd. Not very smoothly, though, as he’s bumping into everyone rather than walking through the space between people. Can tell he’s already had a few. Practically falling into me, “Hey Danny boy! Here, this’ll help with that shiner of yours.” He hands me a drink and clinks his cup to mine. I’d gotten so pumped in the car I forgot about my face. Eh, who cares I just wanna forget about it anyway.

“Cheers!” We both say simultaneously, and down our cups. I don’t know what he mixed, but whatever it was, it was strong and did the trick. By drink four, I was losing a game of beer pong. Badly. As punishment I had to chug all the drinks on my side of the table. There’s laughing and cheering as I finish my last cup.

Everything was funnier, slower and just better. People cheer and holler in the livingroom. They all crowd around Chris and his buddy Mike, as they see who can take a shot of vodka and drink two beers the fastest. Mike doesn’t stand a chance. Guess that’s another thing our dad taught us. How to drink.

“You ready?!” Riley looks at them both. They nod in anticipation for the go. “GO!” They grab the shot and finish it at the same time. But this is where Chris always pulls ahead. They both open the top of the beer can, but Chris pops a hole in the bottom side with his pocket knife. He gets mouthfuls of beer at a time, while Mike has to take multiple gulps. Chris beats Mike to the second can. He opens the top and pops the bottom. Mike thinks he’s got a chance and tries Chris’s method on his second can. But not even half way through it, Chris fists the can and throws it to the ground.

“AHHHHH!” In a sumo stance, Chris flexes his chest and arms. Me and all those having cheered for Chris, charge at him and do the same. Chris bangs his chest like King Kong, still screaming to his victory. He turns to Mike, who’s laughing at all this going down, and pats him on the back.

“CHRIS, CHRIS, CHRIS, CHRIS!” He smiles and puts his hands in the air like Rocky Balboa. Chris sees me cheering for him.

“Danny! Danny do one with me!” He grabs me in a side hug and nudges me to do it. I give him a cauky smile. People wait for my response. I lean forward to grab the bottle of vodka that’s on the coffee table. As soon as I move everyone knows my answer. I put it to my mouth and take a swig. I stare down Chris, trying to intimidate him by having taken it one step further. He laughs and takes the bottle from me. He refills the shot glasses. Riley comes over with four more beers.

“Let’s make things interesting,” I put my hands in the air for everyone’s attention. Looking at Chris with challenge in my expression, “first one to do a handstand after, is the winner.”

“OHHHHHH!” Everyone’s hands go to their mouth and lean back as they look at Chris’s reaction to my challenge.

“You’re on!” We smack our hands in the form of a handshake, and ready our stance.

“Ready!” I switch out my pocket knife, ready in hand. Chris does the same. “GO!”

With our free hands we each grab the shot and swallow it in one gulp. We’re in unison grabbing the can, opening the top and popping the bottom. The cold beer easily flows to my mouth. But Chris is done seconds before me onto his next one. Just behind him, I quicken my pace to do the same with this can. I look over at him as I take in my last mouth full, and see him rock forward into a handstand. But he can’t hold it even a second and falls. Everyone yells as I  finish my can. I throw my arms up and my body rocks forward. My hands hit the ground and my legs swing over my head. I start to stagger but move my hand, catching myself. They all cheer when I hold myself in place for two seconds. My elbows bend and I meet the floor with a thud. Two guys pick me up and everyone crowds me as I’ve just beaten the champion of the night. With my head rushing, I see Chris come to me with approval and cheering.

We all stop when the music shuts off and the lights flicker. We look around to see Riley at the switch. He says two words that instantly makes everyone sober.

“Po-Po!”

Practically everyone yells shit, as they try to get there stuff and run out the door. I look over to see Chris already looking at me. We book it to the sliding glass door over in the kitchen, that leads to the back and side of the house. We’re instantly hit by the rain that’s still pouring. We turn the corner to the side of the house and our feet slosh through the grass and mud. We don’t take dramatic tiptoes this time, but actually try to run. Mid stride I lose my footing and fall right in the sloping grass. Chris sees me on the ground, and helps me regain my footing. Everyone is falling and sliding, trying to make it to the street and to their cars. We make it to ours and get in. Chris puts it in reverse and pulls away from where everyone is at the front of the house on the street. Red and blue lights flash from that direction and Chris turns the car to go up the opposite end of the street. I turn in my seat to look out the rear window to make sure we weren’t being chased. Slowly the lights grow dimmer and I knew we weren’t.

“Chris, you can slow down, they’re not behind us.” I face forward and look down. Through the dark, I can see just how muddy I am. I laugh to myself about it and look over at Chris. My laughter gets harder when I see that he must’ve fallen too cuz he’s even more covered in mud than I am. He looks at me and realizes that I’m laughing at us. He busts up too.

“I can’t believe you beat me!” He squints to see through the rain and smiles over at me.

“What can I say I guess I’m ju”

No words come out when I see them. I see them, but Chris doesn’t. Two of them. Big and bright. I reach for him but I’m not as fast as they are. Chris is lunged towards me as they hit us. My out stretched arms fly back. My elbow breaks through the doors window, and suddenly I feel light. Then black.

I hear the rain beating the pavement. I just listen to it confused as to why I’m listening to it in the first place. I slowly open my eyes, but shut them as soon as fat drops touch them. I try and squint them open and turn my head. But not as fast as I want it to. Why am I moving slowly? Fear rushes in me when I see metal scraps in the street. The first word I think of isn’t ow. Its not crash. Its Chris.

“Chris!” I roll to my right side and onto my stomach, trying to scope what’s around me. To my left I see them again. The bright headlights that Chris didn’t see. “Chris!” I look to my right where the metal scraps are. But that’s all I see is scraps. I shift my head down a bit and all the adrenaline I have kicks in. “CHRIS!” I push up and bend my knees under me to get up. But as soon as I move my right leg I fall to my side. I hold my knee in pain. It feels bigger and it’s not straight. I slide on my left side to the car that’s laying upside down in the street. “Chris!” I ignore the pain in my leg and crawl as best I can to the car.

The closer I get, I make out Chris’s upper body lying face down out of the car’s window. Shattered glass covers the ground under him and in front of me. I army crawl through it and go to him. “Chris!” He doesn’t move. I look for any movement. Even the slightest. There’s none. “Dammit Chris answer me!” Nothing. I don’t dare move him. I shift my body so he’s facing me. Blood covers the right side of his face and his arm is bent in front of it. I nudge it. “Chris.” Still nothing. “HELP! SOMEONE HELP ME!” My eyes well up with frustration and fear. “Someone please!” But no one’s listening. I scream at the top of my lungs. But the more I scream, the more it turns to sobs. I press my face into him and cry. How can you be laughing with someone one minute, and they be gone the next.

“Danny?”

I don’t hear it. My sobs grow louder and louder.

“Danny!” His arm moves towards his body. I lift off him in disbelief.

“Chris!?” I stare at his eyes to make sure they’re really looking back at me.

“Why are you crying?” He looks around trying to remember what’s just happened.

“I thought you were dead, that’s why! You scared me!”

He looks back at me and smiles.

“How could you be smiling right now!?”

“Because I finally scared you.”

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You got me