Chapter Ten: Brothers
The front door clicked open and Ben came in, shouted a hello, then ran to the garage to open it and bring his bike in. Gloria was lounging in the front room watching television, some documentary that had obviously been made at least five years before. She wondered why the premium cable had to air junk that had been old or inaccurate years before. Well, duh, it's all about the money. Past or present, money is the centerpiece of our lives. You got money, you live. You don't got money, you suffer.
Looking at her youngest brother as he walked into the kitchen, Gloria felt that her observation seemed an epiphany of a basic unfairness about life, a condition that was not right. It shouldn't be about the money. It should be about people being happy and safe. She got up and followed him.
"Anything for dinner, Glor? Or are we ordering pizza?"
"No pizza, Ben. We're living on what we have in house for a while. There's chicken and veggies and rice in the fridge, plenty of it for all of us. Do you know what shift Mom was working today?"
He got the containers out of the refrigerator and started scooping portions onto a plate. "Huh-uh. She left right after you did, so she must be doing a closing shift."
"Leave some for Will, okay?
"How much? Can you make more rice?"
"Don't be a pig, Ben. Where were you this afternoon, anyway?"
"I was over at Kinkade's. We watched Batman Begins twice through on DVD. It was better than I remembered."
"I never got around to seeing it, but my friends said it was good."
He snorted. "Your friends thought Sex and the City was good, too."
Gloria laughed. "Too true. But remember, you thought Transformers was high art."
"Yeah, well, you cry every December when they show Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol." He took a bite of his chicken and rice and hummed with appreciation. "This is good, Sister Cook. How did that job interview go, anyway?"
"I don't know." Sitting, she folded her arms on the table. "It was kind of weird. The Bakers were nice, but they looked and acted like they were trying out for some role on Masterpiece Theater, all completely by the rules of etiquette and -- and so totally lint-free they looked like they were painted into the room."
"Holograms! I'll be they were holograms!"
"The cook definitely wasn't a hologram. She was there, too, but she acted like she wasn't interested at all. She barely looked at me."
"Crap," Ben said. "That probably means she has someone else she wants for the job."
"Probably. Well, I'll be hitting the pavement tomorrow, dropping off resumes at some of the places on my list. There was a thing in the Sunday paper about job openings getting literally hundreds of applicants for each job, and that employers had their pick at bottom dollar."
"If you don't get a job, we're going to lose the house anyway, aren't we?" Ben finished his dish of food and took the plate to the sink to rinse.
"Yeah, dammit, I'm afraid so."
"And everything in it?"
"Well, just about. We might have enough to move some basic stuff into a cheap apartment, but what we'll be able to afford is going to be tiny. Why do you ask?" Gloria had a sense that her younger brother was thinking about something.
"EBay. What kind of stuff do we have around the house that I could sell on eBay?"
She laughed out loud. "Ben, you're solid gold! I don't know -- ask Mom when she gets home. I'll look through my stuff and see what there might be."
"Hey, we might as well sell what we can rather than leave it behind." He looked to the back hall. "There's Will. He wanted me to hose off his clothes tonight so they could be washed. If you get him his food, I'll hose his stuff off and put it in the washer for you. Then you can show me how to work that damn thing, and start teaching me how to do laundry so you don't have to."
"You don't have to take that on completely. But if you could vacuum and dust the place twice a week, that'd go a long way towards helping out. Go on, you're a hoser anyway." Gloria got a clean plate and scooped the chicken and vegetables over a mound of rice, put it in the microwave, and put water on to boil with a couple of bouillon cubes in it.
Will lumbered out to the kitchen. Gloria put the plate on the table. "How'd today go?"
"Completely the same. Shake, rake, and suck. Well, except for the coyotes," he said as he sipped the broth. "While I was raking nuts away from the trunks of the trees, I saw three coyotes run past, a couple of rows of trees away. They all looked at me."
"That's why they ran," Gloria said automatically.
He coughed, sipped some more bouillon, and began to eat. "Thanks for the food, Ugly."
"I see that the zinc oxide has stopped your face from burning," she observed.
Will nodded. "By the end of the day it looked like I rubbed chocolate bars on my face, but it kept me from cooking. Salvi and Alfredo thought it was funny, saying I wanted to be more white than I was."
"That's pretty ass-hat of them," Ben said, coming into the kitchen and washing his hands. "Are they some of those Pura Raza dickheads?"
"No, they were just teasing me. They're cool. They look out for me and Pete all the time, making us drink as often as we should, showing us how to get the most done with the least amount of strain. I like them."
"Stuff's in the washer," Ben said. "I sprayed most of the mud out of it, but it's still pretty dirty."
Gloria got up to inspect the work clothes. He needs three outfits, and then I'll have a full load of his stuff every nine days instead of a partial load every three. He's got the jeans; I need to get to the thrift store and get him a couple more baggy sweatshirts. And caps.
She returned to the kitchen after starting the washer in time to hear Ben ask, "So when are you taking time off to go out on a date with your buxom woman?"
"When I have enough energy for a wet dream, asshole," Will said, then caught sight of Gloria. "Sorry, Glory."
"Ben, let him eat, you dump."
Will paused between bites. "How'd your interview go?"
"I was telling Ben that it was pretty weird. No one seemed really interested in the whole thing. I left a resume with them, though, not that that will do much good -- Oh, look, I went to school and for two semesters worked part time in a day care facility for a grade in family studies."
"At least you don't have any piercings or tattoos. Places like Bakers' don't go for that kind of thing at all. Of course, look at us. Our mom and dad didn't go for that, either."
Gloria's cell phone buzzed on the counter. She got up to look at the caller ID. Once again, it was Damon, unable to fathom that she really had meant not to speak with him again. She put the phone down again.
"That mom?" Will asked, finishing his food.
"No, it was Damon. I ditched him today and he keeps calling. I don't think he believes me." She took Will's plate and rinsed it in the sink.
"Why'd you ditch him? Was he cheating on you?"
Gloria jumped a little, her mind flashing back to her mother's revelation of her father's infidelity. "No. I just realized he was a boring and useless dweeb."
"I didn't think he was that bad."
"Oh, he wasn't, I guess. I was just tired of his whining and pawing."
Ben smacked himself on the forehead. "NOW I understand why we never had a dog."
Gloria giggled, Will laughed, and Ben glowed under the attention. "Hey, Ben says he'll try to sell stuff on eBay and raise some money. Do you have anything you want to get rid of?"
His eyes got wide and he slapped the table with his palm. "Yeah!" he shouted. "I've got four boxes of comic books in my closet, taking up space and gathering dust! Come on, let's get them now before I change my mind and become a junior high kid again."
He's already not as tired as he was the first day he worked, Gloria noted. Guess that's why they want young men for the job. They can adapt quickly.
She followed her brothers back the hallway.
Will was already pulling four long boxes from the back of his closet. "Here you go, little brother. Work some magic and get us some bucks."
"Can do. I'll set up an account tonight -- but I'm going to need the bank account information for PayPal; can you get that for me, Glory?"
"Yeah, no problem ... wait, problem. There is a problem, one that I didn't think about. Taxes. I'm dropped out of school now. And since I'm over twenty-one, technically I'm not going to be counted as a dependent. Next year, unless you go to college, you won't be counted, either, Will. If all four of us are dumping money into Mom's bank account, she's going to be screwed. Is she going to get paid under the table, too?"
"I don't know. How are we going to work this?" Will sat on his bed, frowning.
"I'm a minor," Ben said. "I can set up the PayPal thing but I have to use an adult as a contact. That would be you, Sis. Too bad you don't have a bank account."
She threw her head back with a wild triumphant cackle. "Duhhh! I'll go set up a bank account tomorrow morning. If I get a job, the money will go in there, and be completely outside of Mom's account. And I'm pretty sure that I'm not going to make enough money to have to pay taxes."
Ben rubbed his hands together briskly. "By tomorrow night, we could all be millionaires."
"Time's short for eBay ... we can't afford the cable hookup, so we've only got three weeks. Sorry, guys, I didn't want to have to tell you." Gloria hated having to say the words.
Ben smiled and crooked a finger at her. She and Will followed him to his room, where his laptop hibernated in a standby mode. He touched the mouse pad, and the display came to life. He clicked on an icon in the bottom task bar. "Show wireless networks," the box said, and Ben tapped the mouse again. There were three listings: Melton (secured), del123 (unsecured), and Jovovich77 (unsecured). "Del123 is the goober next door," Ben said smugly. "I don't need no stinking cable."
"Isn't that like stealing?" Gloria asked, a bit taken back.
"Is it stealing when you hear your neighbor's radio playing? It's just broadcast waves, dummy."
If I can just find a job, we could make this work, Gloria thought. It's just that there are so many ifs...