E. A. Blevins


by E. A. Blevins

It had been maybe a minute since Soren started the staring contest, and his eyes were getting dry. His opponent blinked lazily and turned her head away in clear contempt, rendering him beneath notice.

Soren glowered at his mother’s fluffy white cat. There was no satisfaction in winning against someone who wasn’t even playing the game.

“You’re not supposed to be on that counter,” he told Snowball, whose eyes drooped half-closed even as her ears rotated toward him.

Soren turned to face the middle of the airy kitchen where he’d placed a toy robot no larger than Snowball.

The remote control in his hands was larger than he was accustomed to. Uncle Hubert had made it for him, citing the wisdom, “You don’t want to be too close if your robot explodes.”

Soren moved the right-hand stick and the robot took a step forward. He moved the left-hand stick and its head turned.

Soren hopped in excitement and mashed the big red button.

Fzzzt! His robot shot red lasers from its eyes that left a mark on his mom’s sideboard. The feature flickered on and off in less than a second, but it was enough for Snowball to gain her feet and flee the room, green eyes wide, long fur puffed in indignation.

It was good no one else was home. His mom had her Harmony Women’s Society meetings with Memaw on Wednesday, and the high school got out later than the elementary school. The only part he didn’t like was taking the bus home. It was too loud and it still smelled a little like the time Ginger Appleby puked on the third row.

Soren held down the red button and fiddled with the head motions. The eye lasers swept beneath the kitchen table and into the bay window beyond. He released the button, startled by the sound of breaking glass, and saw that the window had cracked. Movement drew his attention, and he watched with a sinking sensation as the table slid off its own legs where the laser had slashed across them.

The slash that stretched across his mother’s sideboard smoked, and he could see the blackened wall behind it if he crouched low.

Soren decided maybe he should take his robot outside.

He picked it up, tucked it under one arm, and carried the remote control in his opposite hand. When he slipped out the back door, he decided to ride his bike to the old flour mill. He stuffed his robot and the remote into his bike’s rear basket and started for the south part of town, past the town square.

He did not, however, quite get to the square before a shiny grey car pulled over. Soren stopped his bike, annoyed, as the driver put it into park and got out. “Soren? Where do you think you’re going?”

“None of your business, Hadyn.”

Soren’s brother Hadyn was the worst person Soren knew. He nagged and glared and got Soren punished way more than if he would just butt out of things.

Hadyn’s mouth firmed and he said, “You’re supposed to wait for me at home.”

“I don’t need a babysitter.”

“No,” said Hadyn with insufferable calm, “I don’t need a babysitter. You still do.” Soren scoffed, to which Hadyn raised an eyebrow and said, “The microwave?”

“I needed to see how it worked!”

“Uncle Hubert tried to charge twice his fee to fix it.”

“He needs the money.”

Hadyn rolled his eyes. “Uncle Hubert is a cheap old goat.”

“He is not!”

Hadyn sighed and dropped the subject. “Turn your bike around and get home. Now.” Soren considered mutiny until Hadyn added, “I’ll be following you in the car.”

Soren bent low over his handlebars, sinking into a deep sulk, and peddled as slow as he could the whole way home. He stopped and waited extra long at crosswalks. When they arrived home, he was marginally satisfied to see Hadyn’s tight jaw as he parked in the driveway and led Soren into the house.

Soren carried his robot past Hadyn who’d paused to drop his keys into a bowl just inside the door. In the living room, Snowball sat at the bottom of the stairs. Soren thought he saw her glare at him, and she turned and fled satisfyingly before him as he hurried up the stairs.

Behind him, he heard Hadyn call, “Do you want a snack? I’m cutting an apple.”

“Sure,” replied Soren. He might be irritated at Hadyn, but that was no reason to turn down a snack.

Just as Soren reached his bedroom door, he heard Hadyn yell, “SOREN!”

Soren froze, brain working rapidly to come up with a denial for the accusation to come. At the sound of Hadyn stomping up the stairs, Soren stuffed his robot and its remote under his bed.

He faced the doorway with the most innocent expression he could muster. Hadyn didn’t fall for it as often as their parents did, but he could be worn down enough to hand the situation to their mom, who was much easier to handle.

Strategy in place, Soren greeted his brother with wide eyes and a perfectly angelic, “What?”


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