Meant to post this last night. Whoops.
I realized I haven’t posted any of my real work in a long time, so I thought I’d try out one of my own prompts. Glad to know what you think.
It stood in the center of the garage. A puzzle of greenish copper gears and cranks with worn leather handles. A metal mess the size of a Volkswagen Microbus. And, from somewhere inside it, a faint ticking.
“Where’d you get it?” I asked.
“How’d you move it?”
He took a long drag on his Kool. He wasn’t going to answer.
I stuck my hands in my armpits. My fingers were itching to pump some levers and tickle some toggle switches, but this was no time to play around. Both our futures—or rather, our pasts—were at stake. Imagined scenes sped through my head, a thousand should-have-beens. He’d have finished school, graduated with honors, gone on to college. Met some girl and married her. Maybe I’d even be an uncle by now. It was funny; most of the ideas I had about how much better our lives would be were about him, not me.
“So how does it work?”
“You couldn’t steal a manual, too?”
“We’re not gonna use it.”
I almost hurt my neck, I turned my head to look at him so fast. I knew he didn’t steal it for me. He stole it so he could get back six years of working at the plant to keep me alive and in school. So with so much on the line for him, and with the job half done, why was he backing out now? He had the hard look in his eyes that always scared me, but I was too mad to keep my mouth shut.
“Then what the heck are you gonna do with it?
He threw his half-smoked cigarette on the ground and mutilated it with the toe of his boot.
“No,” I shook my head when I realized what that meant. “We finally have the chance to bring them back. You can’t just—”
“They were my parents, too.”
“So why can’t we try? Look, you probably just pull that—”
He smacked my arm back and I yelled so loud we could hear it shake the garage door.
“I already stopped it,” he told me. “I already went back. I already saved them.” Something weird and distant in his voice made my gut turn.
“So they should be here with us right now, right?”
“You were riding your bike that day. Just up the street.”
“So why aren’t they here with us right now?”
“I changed it back.”
He closed his eyes. “I tried it a million different ways, and it always happens the same. Either the truck hits them,”
He paused, because his voice cracked on the word hits. The knot in my gut spread to my chest as he swallowed before finishing the sentence.
“Or it hits you.”
All of a sudden my legs were like paper, crumpling under me until my butt hit the concrete floor. He turned around and started searching Dad’s old workbench. I felt sick when he hoisted the sledgehammer.
“Why’d you pick me?”
He stopped and looked at me. “The same reason I never let them ship you off to foster care. What, are you stupid?”
He turned around again, raising the hammer over his shoulder like a baseball bat. I pushed myself to my feet and stumbled through the door into the house. Before I’d even closed it behind me I heard the clanging crunch of the metal as the machine caved under the love of my brother.