Smoky Mountains
Jason Crow

Chapter 3 – Shopping

Day 1.
Location: Asheville, NC
Date: November 14th, somewhere in the near future.

My dad turned off the television and had a worried look on his face.

“Well. I think he’s hiding something, Mia. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be holding a speech,” my dad said and looked at me. “Where’s your brother?”

“He just came home from his job at Uncle Tyrell and is in the shower now, I guess.”

“JOEL!!” my dad shouted.

“What?” came the reply from down the hall.

“Get your ass over here!”

A few moments later, my twin-brother came walking into our small living room. He was still wet and had wrapped a towel around his waist and was holding it to make sure it wouldn’t drop. I couldn’t help and notice how his muscles had grown over the past few months. He had a completely hairless chest, with a barely visible, but undeniable there, six-pack. Even though he was my brother, I liked it a lot.

“What is it, dad?” Joel asked, looking a bit annoyed but too scared to go against our dad.

“Get dressed. We need to stock up our groceries. I’m afraid that in a day or two, we’ll have some full-blown riots on our hands,” he said and polished off his can of beer.

“Okay, dad. I’ll be right back,” Joel said and went to his room.

“You’re coming with us,” he said, looking at me.

He burped loudly and crushed his can. Outside I heard a woman scream and a car drive away with screeching tires. After our mom died of breast cancer almost three years ago, we had to move out here to this shitty home in an even shittier neighborhood here in Asheville. We were in the middle of the Blue Ridge mountains in North Carolina, but other than some lovely scenery, it sucked ass. Big time! Last month alone, there were eight registered overdoses and three deadly shootings in our neighborhood. Whoopy fuck!

Our house wasn’t much better either. It was a small, one-story place, with two bedrooms. Our dad always fell asleep in his chair, which meant Joel and I had our separate bedrooms. A few times a month, our dad decided he needed to sleep in a real bed, which meant Joel had to sleep in my room because my room was slightly bigger than his. We’d blow up the air mattress we had, and Joel would sleep on that mattress.

Despite my efforts, our house was dirty. The walls were a mess, and a piece of wallpaper hung down in almost every room. The tiles in the bathroom were dirty, and no matter how much I scrubbed, they stayed dirty. Dad threw our old washing machine on our front lawn almost a year ago because of some broken part, and it hadn’t moved since. Now I had to do our laundry in town, which was a ten-minute walk.

Our dad had gotten hurt on his job. And because of that, he got his disability compensation. We were on food stamps, which was embarrassing. Joel mowed some lawns in the better part of town, but almost everything he made with it was confiscated by our dad. Recently Joel started at our Uncle Tyrell’s place. He ran an outdoor sports store with all sorts of outdoor camping stuff and knives, guns, and more of that stuff. He earned more working there than with mowing lawns, and the store was closer by, but he kept mowing lawns anyway because he didn’t want to disappoint his customers.

Our mom was black, and our dad is white. They always had struggles with that, even in these modern times. We didn’t feel like we belonged to any of the groups in school. We weren’t black, and we weren’t white either. To us, this wasn’t too much of an issue anymore, but we just didn’t fit in.

Our dad slowly became what people these days would call trailer trash. He didn’t hurt or molest us, but he never won a ‘dad of the year’ Award either. He just wasn’t a nice person.

Thank god Joel and I get along fine. For as long as I could remember, Joel looked after me. He said that was because he was the oldest and because he was a man. I gave him that, even though he was only a few minutes older than me. We never fought, and he pulled me out of a tight spot a few times already, so he really was my protector. He always hid some of his lawn-mowing money from our dad to pay our phone bill. That way, we were still connected to the world, without the need to ask our dad. I loved my brother for that, and in return, I did all the household chores.

We turned fourteen two weeks before. Dad gave us both a hug, a kiss on our forehead, and a can of beer to celebrate it. That was it. We hid the beer in the closet in my room, so he would think we drank it. We were both not too fond of drinking beer yet. I guess we didn’t want to end up like him.

Our dad’s view of stocking up groceries was… unique. We couldn’t afford to go out and shop for a month’s supply or two, so he had worked out a system. It wasn’t the first time we’d go shopping like this either. He had a system of finding the right supermarket he needed. He had a few outfits from delivery companies, and he knew which company supplied which store.

He’d drive us to the back of the store, where we had to wait around the corner. He’d park his car out of view and would walk up to the back entrance acting as if he belonged there. He’d grab some boxes, put them on the trolley, and walk away as if it was the most normal thing in the world. He’d quickly drop the boxes with us, so we could put them in the car. He’d go for a second or third run and stop when they got suspicious.

He only got caught once, but he talked his way out of it and returned the stuff from his last run. He knew better than to do it in our neighborhood, so most of the time, we drove for almost an hour to find the right stores. This time was no different, and it was almost dark before we got home. Joel and I carried everything inside and put the stuff away while our dad sat in his chair and opened another can of beer. During the ride home, he drank three already, and by the time Joel and I were done, he polished off four more and was shouting at some lame game show on the TV.

“I fucking hate this, you know?” Joel whispered to me as I was putting the last cans of beans in the cupboard.

“What?” I whispered back.

“Stealing food. It’s just not right.”

“I know. But what can we do about it?”

“JOEL!” our dad slurred.

“What is it, dad?” Joel replied with a scared look on his face.

“I’m sleeping in your bed tonight.” He said, stood up, and stumbled toward Joel’s room.

“Okay, dad. Good night.” Joel said and immediately looked relieved.

“Yeah, yeah. Whatever,” our dad mumbled and slammed the door shut behind him.

“Phew!” I said to Joel. “We won’t be hearing anything from him until the morning.”

“Thank god! I’m going to blow up the air mattress,” Joel said and walked over to my room.

I started heating some beans, so Joel and I would have something to eat. After we were done, we planted ourselves in front of the TV and ate our healthy dinner. After about an hour, I saw Joel yawning.

“Let’s go to bed, shall we?” I said to my brother.

“Good plan. I’m tired,” Joel said, stood up, and stretched.

I placed the dishes in the kitchen sink, and Joel put all the bolts and locks on the door to make sure there wouldn’t be some junkie entering our house during the night. Joel was already in my room and taking off his shirt as I walked in.

“Fuck!” Joel said out of the blue.

“What is it?”

“The air mattress. I think there’s a hole in it. Fuck!”

I got on my knees to check if maybe he forgot the plug or something. But when all that checked out, I had to agree with my brother.

“I guess you’re right, Joel.”

“That’s a night on the floor then. Damnit.” Joel said.

“Don’t be silly! You don’t sleep on the floor. If you promise not to steal the blankets, you can sleep with me,” I said, and I saw his frown fade away before my eyes.

“I promise. We spent nine months in the same womb, so I guess that we can work out sleeping in one bed together too,” he smiled at me.

I kept glancing at his chest. I noticed it for the first time this afternoon, but my brother sure had a nice body. Heck, he was a handsome boy, period! This realization came suddenly and unexpectedly, but I couldn’t deny it. I still don’t know why I didn’t see it earlier.

I turned my back to Joel, unbuttoned my pants, and stepped out of them. I put on my loose-fitting sweat shorts and lifted my shirt.

”Nice bra, sis,” I heard him say.

I looked at him over my shoulder and saw him smiling at me. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see that he was already in his usual sleeping outfit. He had dropped his pants and was looking at me in just his boxers. I couldn’t see his entire body this way, so I quickly unclasped my bra, took it off, and put on my tank top.

I turned around and pretended to look mad at Joel. I tried looking at his body and the bulge in his boxers without being too obvious about it. The glance confirmed my previous opinion. He was a very attractive boy with a fine-looking body.

”Just kidding,” he said, a bit apologetic.

”Nice boxers,” I said, giggling, and Joel started laughing too.

We both put our phones in the chargers, and I crawled in first. I held the blankets up so Joel could get in and clicked off the light. It was a bit cramped with two people in my bed, but I turned on my side and faced Joel. He got the idea and extended his arm, so I could cuddle up against him.

”This is nice,” he said.

”Yeah. I like it too,” I said. ”I think I can sleep like this,” and couldn’t hold back a yawn.

”Goodnight,” Joel softly said.

I couldn’t remember the last time my brother and I slept in the same bed together. My hand was lying on his chest, and I could feel his heart beating. I let my hand drift down a bit to see if I could feel his abs. The moment I felt the top of his abs, I let my hand rest there.

Copyright 2021 – Jason Crow
All rights reserved

ante omnia recta animi

P.S. The boy in the picture above this story was my inspiration for Joel. Just so you know.