Chapter Two, by Kacey Condon
Early morning was the worst time for Jimmy. Even before Grandma was gone, in the last year he had been expected to wake his brother. Granddaddy proved how important that job was early last fall.
“The most important thing you can do is be ready to cut yourself. If you hesitate, there will never be time to make up for it. Now, fold this up like I showed you, and let’s get to it.”
Jimmy took the knife from Granddaddy’s hand and, holding the razor edge away from his body, pressed the tiny button. The snapping sound always made him jump, but his hands moved without thought by now. He pushed the smooth heaviness into his jeans pocket and tried to breath back the fear.
They walked through the kitchen, past the basement door covered with black plastic sheeting, and went out to the back porch. Granddaddy held back the bushes while Jimmy knelt down to unhinge the iron latch. They locked eyes for a moment before throwing their collective weight against the door. It slid slowly but silently and they slipped into the cool black space. Jimmy was in front and the tart edge of rotting fruit tickled his nose. Granddaddy slid the door closed behind them and Jimmy widened his eyes to the complete blackness. He felt his grandfather’s breath on his shoulder as he ran his hand up the rough surface of the wall. Just as he found the lamp he froze when he thought he heard something rustling. Granddaddy’s hand on his shoulder urged him on, but Jimmy’s bumpy flesh would not be soothed. He held his breath as he struck the single match. There was a brief flash before the steady widening path of lamplight. He stood immobile but his heart thrashed like a fish caught in a net.
Once his eyes adjusted to the dim flickering light, Jimmy moved forward. He crouched little and subtly tested the ground with each step. At the end of the corridor they turned to the right and the sleeping form of his brother brought a collective sigh from them both.
Granddaddy’s voice was barely a whisper. “I’m not here. You need to be able to do this on your own. Get to it.”
Jimmy knew it was coming but the dread washed over him anyway. He breathed in, stood up tall, and walked towards the platform. He put his hands on the metal edge and looked down. The tiny form, curled against the wall and hair damp with sleepy warmth, exhaled a tiny snore from pursed lips. Jimmy reached his hand out.
“Not his head,” said Granddaddy.
Jimmy jerked his hand back and bumped his arm on the platform edge.
Rady’s eyes quivered and opened. He moved his head to look at the two visitors and a tiny smile curled his lips.
“Good morning, Rady. Are you hungry?” Jimmy kept his voice low and calm. He steadied his arm to keep the flame from quivering.
Rady sat up and rubbed his eyes. His hair was twisted and stuck out on the right side like he had not moved all night. Jimmy felt relief wash through him. He put the candle down and prepared to unbuckle the webbing.
Just as he reached for the first buckle, Jimmy felt a violent squeeze on his right wrist. He let out a small scream before he quieted himself and then he tried to pull free, which tightened his brother’s grip even further. He dropped the lamp as he was pulled onto the platform and the room went completely black. The stench of rotten vegetation choked him as he fought the urge to struggle free. His arms were pinned and he felt the knife being pulled from his jeans pocket.
Jimmy heard a click and a swish and suddenly the grip on him loosened.
“It’s Okay, Rady, here you go, buddy.” Granddaddy’s voice was low and right next to Jimmy’s head. Jimmy felt a warm trickle on his face and a metallic smell pierced his nostrils. The three of them stayed like that for some minutes.
Jimmy wondered how many stitches Granddad would need this time.