Sibling Rivalry

The bunny slippers hit the floor with a cheery squeak. Long, fuzzy ears bouncing gleefully.

Brandon smirked. “What’s the matter, Alex?” he said. “You’re always saying your feet get cold. Happy birthday, baby bro.”  He watched as his little brother squirmed, shuffling in his seat and flicking his across the room to his date

“Ha-ha, Brandon. You’re hilarious. And stop with the baby bit. I’m 24.”

Brandon picked up the offending gift and tugged the whiskers, “I may be hilarious, but I’m also older and wiser, and I think they’re adorable. The colour matches your eyes, perfectly.”

“They’re pink.”

“I know.”

If looks could kill, Brandon would have been dead on the floor in an instant.

“Can we go?” Alex said, “We have a reservation. We’re going to be late.”

Brandon tossed the slippers across the room, “You’re not even going to try them on?” he said, feigning disappointment with a sulky pout. He turned to Alex’s date. “What do you think, Kristy?”

“I think they’re adorable too,” she said. “Try them on, Alex! They’ll look cute on you!”

“There you go Alex. They’ll look cute on you.”

Alex glared at him, “Maybe later. Can we just leave? Please?”

Brandon shrugged, and gave the slippers one last squeak before heading out the door.

 

When they arrived home, Brandon flopped in a drunken heap onto the sofa. “She’s nice,” he said, not being able to cover the slur in his voice. “I like her.”

“Yeah, she’s great,” Alex said. “Thanks for nearly blowing it for me by the way. Making me look like an idiot. With the slippers.”

“What are you talking about? She loved them. Chicks dig sensitive guys, and what says sensitive more than a pair of fluffy bunny slippers?”

“Well, maybe you should wear them.”

“Well, maybe I should. I’d make them look good.” He stretched out, trying to reach the slippers with his toes, instead losing his balance and rolling sideways onto the cushions.

“You’re drunk. Go to bed.”

Brandon staggered to his feet, “I’m drunk. I’m going to bed.” He waved over his shoulder as he swayed up the hall. “Happy birthday baby bro.”

 

The alarm jerked Brandon awake. He moaned, flashing to hazy memories of tequila shots and whiskey chasers. Reaching for a glass on his nightstand, he guzzled back some water, before lifting himself gingerly from the mattress, and slowly swinging his legs out of bed. His feet hit the floor with a surprising squeak. Puzzled, Brandon looked down and saw Alex’s bunny slippers looking merrily back at him. He wiggled his toes, and the ears flopped. He stared at them as his foggy brain took a moment to catch up. Why was he wearing Alex’s slippers? He rolled his eyes as he suddenly realised the gag. “Hilarious,” he said, as he reached down and grabbed the ears, giving them a good yank. Pain shot through his toes. “Ow. Shit! What the hell?” He gave it another try. “Motherffff…” Panicking, he grabbed the ears on the other foot and gave them a tug. “Ow! Man!” What’s going on? Why aren’t they coming off? It feels like…

 

He looked at his watch, it was just before ten, Alex would be at work. Grabbing his phone, he called his brother. It went straight to voicemail. He hung up and tried again.

“Hey, you’ve reached Alex, please leave your name and num…”

 Brandon hung up again and furiously texted one word. DEAD. His phone rang almost immediately.

“Good morning,” Alex’s voice said.

“Dude. Did you glue them to my feet?”

“I’m sorry, Brandon, what are we talking about?”

“The bunny slippers Alex. The Goddam bunny slippers.”

“Oh right. The slippers. Well you seemed to like them…so”

“So, you glued them? TO MY FEET?”

“They’ll come off. Just give them a good tug.”

“I tried that. If I want to keep any skin, that ain’t happening. What kind of glue did you use?”

“Um. Super glue.”

“Super glue? Alex.”

Alex was silent for a moment. “Maybe I didn’t think it through.”

“Maybe? Dude. I have a meeting in an hour. And I have rabbits glued to my feet!” The phone went quiet again, but this time Brandon could hear muffled laughter. “This isn’t funny.”

“It’s kinda funny.”

“No. It really isn’t.”

“Brandon, you’ve been playing gags on me my whole life, and you embarrassed the hell out of me last night. I figured I owe you.”

Brandon bit his lip. He’d thump him later, but right now… “How do I get them off?”

“I guess you’ll have to go to the hardware store and get some acetone or something. You’ll figure it out,” Alex said, adding before hanging up, “You’re older and wiser, remember?”

 

Brandon stormed through the apartment, a chorus of squeaks accompanying him. He tossed everything out of the kitchen cupboards, hoping there might be something, anything that would shift the slippers. But there wasn’t. He went to the bathroom, put his feet in the tub and thought about soaking them off. But knowing his luck he’d just wind up with soggy slippers that squelched as well as squeaked. He tried one more time to heave them off his feet, but it hurt too damn much. Defeated, he threw himself on the sofa and fumed. Sure, he’d pulled some pretty bad jokes on his brother over the years. There was the Nair in his shampoo, the itching powder in his gym shorts, that time he sent him on a date with the old lady down the road. But this? Even he thought this was a gag too far.

He called his client to postpone their meeting, stating a family emergency. His brother had done something stupid, and Brandon had to sort it out. It wasn’t a lie.

He glared at his feet and moved his toes watching the whiskers move along with them. The way he saw it, he had two options, wait for Alex to get home and suffer the indignity of having his little brother rescue him, or drive into town and get something that will do the job, and suffer the indignity of wearing bunny slippers to a hardware store. Brandon decided on door number two.

 

Getting his jeans on over the slippers was far more difficult than he anticipated. “Damn these skinny jeans,” he growled, as he shimmied the tight denim over the fluffy noses. He pulled on a black t-shirt and plaid over-shirt, trying to maintain a least some level of cool. He squeaked down the hall and out the door onto the street, sliding into his car as quickly as humanly possible. He started the engine and gently put his fuzzy foot down, slowly navigating the short trip into town. The last thing he needed was to be pulled over.

Of course, there wasn’t a car space right outside the hardware store, that would be too much to ask, so he parked in the lot on the corner, took a deep breath and squeaked his way down the footpath.

“Look at his feet!” a little girl yelled. “Bunnies!”

“Don’t point at the strange man, darling,” Brandon heard the mother hiss as she rushed her daughter past.

He swung the door to the hardware store open and winced as a loud ding-dong ricocheted off the walls.

Mr. Jackson, who owned the store, looked up. “Brandon,” he said from behind the counter. “What can I do for you?”

“Hi Mr. Jackson. I had a bit of an, um, accident.”

The old man looked confused, “An accident?”

“In the shape of an idiot brother who glued these to my feet,” Brandon wiggled his toes. Bunny ears bouncing.

Mr. Jackson chortled. “From what I remember of you two growing up, you might have had it coming.”

“Yeah, yeah. He owed me. Blah blah.”

“I’d say this makes you square for the Nair in his shampoo, wouldn’t you? Come on, I’ve got something that’ll shift that glue.”

Brandon followed him up the aisle. Squeaking all the way.

 

He was sitting on the sofa, feet wrapped in soft, cotton socks, when Alex came home.

“I see you got it sorted,” Alex said said, pointing at Brandon’s bunny-less feet.

“Yeah, no dramas,” Brandon lied. “Didn’t take much to get them off.” No way he was letting his brother know the day he really had, or that his feet were going to take a couple of weeks to fully recover. “You want a beer?” he asked, limping towards the kitchen.

“No thanks. I’ve got another date with Kristy. I just came home to change.”

 

Brandon was back on the sofa when his brother came out of his bedroom, buttoning up a crisp, white shirt.

“Anyway,” Alex said. “I was thinking. How about we call a truce? On the pranks, I mean.”

“Probably a good idea,” Brandon said, standing up. “Let’s put a stop to it here and now.” He saw Alex’s face break into a relieved smile.

“Great. Thanks Brandon.”

“You got it, little bro,” he said, slapping his brother hard on the back. “You go and enjoy your date. Tell Kristy I said, hi.”

 

As Alex walked out the door, Brandon wondered what the chances were that the kick me sign he just stuck to his brother’s back, would make it all the way to the restaurant. He figured he’d find out later. He grinned to himself and opened another beer.

@ Amy Hutton 2020

Panic

Panic: Noun. A sudden and overwhelming fear, which may or may not have a cause.

Five letters.

Panic: That feeling of utter dread when you know you’ve totally fucked up.

P-A-N-I-C.

Lydia scrawled the word out on a notepad, underlining it with angry, black scribble that ripped through the page, and continued determinedly onto the page below. She was currently experiencing an attack of the word, complete with sweaty palms, elevated heart rate and a loss of control over her breathing that saw her gulping at the air like a possessed guppy.

“Calm down, stupid. Don’t be such a moron. It’s no biggie. You screwed up the monthly report. So what? People make mistakes. And hey, if you get fired, well you don’t like this job anyway? You hate this stupid job. Fuck this job. Fuck everyone here. You should get up and walk out before they escort you out.”

She reached for her bag and attempted to shove her half-full mug of tea inside. Tepid, brown liquid splashed across the white leather, running down her arm, and dripping off her elbow.

“Shit. Idiot. IDIOT!”

She dropped the soggy bag to the floor and peered furtively over the top of her computer monitor towards the glass walled corner office and the meeting being held inside.

“Shit shit shit. Shit to everything.”

Suppressing the urge to run to the bathroom and puke, she instead closed her eyes and kneaded the sides of her temples in aggressive circles, causing the hair around her face to ball up in messy clumps.

“You alright, Lydia?”

Lydia jumped. Her lids sprung open to see the alarmed face of her co-worker Jeff.

“What? Oh yeah. Fine Jeff. Fine. Just spilled some tea. Like a moron. Ha ha.” She gave him a smile which she hoped looked reassuring and not like some crazed, maniacal clown.

Jeff’s eyebrows soared towards the ceiling. “Ohhh-kay,” he said, as he inched slowly away.

“Crazed maniacal clown it was then.”

The door to the corner office opened, and her manager’s head popped out.

“Oh shit. This is it.”

“Lydia, you got a minute,” her manager called, waving Lydia in.

“Sure,” Lydia sung out cheerfully. A little too cheerfully it happens, as all eyes swung in her direction. She smiled brightly about the room, quickly gathered up her scratched up pad and a pen and sauntered as casually as possible towards the office whistling “When the Saints.” Like a demented parrot.

“Ah Lydia, take a seat,” her boss said.

Lydia silently slid into the seat beside her manager.

“We just wanted to go over last month’s financial report with you…”

“Here we go Lydia, get ready for that dole queue.”

“…We found a discrepancy…”

“Told you, you shouldn’t spend all your money on clothes.”

“…In your role, you must ensure absolute accuracy, I can’t stress this enough…”

“At least when you become homeless, you’ll be chic homeless.”

“…But everyone makes mistakes. So, we wanted to go over it with you, and make sure you see where you went wrong. Okay?”

If Lydia’s life had a soundtrack, this is where the record scratch would have happened.

*Screeeeech*

“What?”

“Please make sure you double and triple check everything next month.”

“Um, yes.” Lydia spluttered. “Of course. I’m Sorry.”

“Excellent. Janet will run these numbers with you, so you can see where they went awry.”

“Okay. Thank you.”

“Is everything else alright?”

Lydia looked around the room at the expectant faces.

“Um. Yes?” she said, sounding more like she was asking a question than giving an answer.

“Good. Well, let us know if you need anything.”

Lydia walked back to her desk and dropped into her chair looking like a relieved stunned mullet. She stared at the notepad that was still in her hands, with its angry, black writing and furious, page-tearing scribble.

“Told you it was no biggie. Also, you should probably try to do better with that self-love stuff.”

Picking up her pen, she added in all caps;

IDIOT.

 

© Amy Hutton 2020