Bunkbeds Headline
by Niklas

Mrs Van Mason had sat her sons around the dining-room table and now stared at them with a long-suffering look, which seemed to despair of them ever growing up. This look touched the two boys' consciences and made them sit still and listen to their mother. It seemed that this was going to be a family talk. The two boys had bad memories of these talks from earlier days, before the divorce, when their father was still the man of the house. Then, those councils had always seemed to be about chores; that this one or another had not been done, and someone always had to be proved right. And those councils had always become loud, although Sniv and Jason hardly knew what to say.
Their mother took a deep breath. ”Would you be all right on your own for a few days?”
The boys stared wide-eyed. Behind those eyes you could see the expectation that this was the introduction to some special announcement.
”My Aunt Margaret - Marge from Southend, you know her, don’t you - is in hospital. Since her husband died, she’s had nobody to help her. I’m going to look after her and take care of her house.” Mrs Van Mason gave her sons a penetrating look, as though she might read their minds. ”I think I’ll need about four days, from tomorrow on.” She noticed a short reflexive jerking about their mouths and a mysterious shining about their eyes. Still the two of them didn’t seem sure if they needed to suppress a joyful shout or if their good cheer was in vain. ”I don’t have to bother with a baby sitter anymore, do I?” asked Mrs Van Mason with a slightly exaggerated strictness.
It took a few moments for the boys to realize that this required an answer. Reluctantly, but then at the same time, they shook their heads. "Nooo," they said, trying to project an air of injured innocence.
”I’ve called Niklas’ mother. You’ll go to the Edlunds for dinner. I’ve bought enough for every other meal. There is even bread stored in the freezer, you can put it in the microwave.” She stopped for a moment in hesitation and looked at her sons, as if unsure that those two wouldn’t kill each other with the household appliances.
Jason noticed his mother’s doubts and quickly said, ”that’s okay, I know how to do that, we won’t die of starvation”, with a glance aside to his brother. Sniv still didn’t know what to say and looked from his mother to his big brother and back, his mouth half open.
Mrs Van Mason sighed and surrendered. ”Don’t mess up the house. If I come back and the house is a battlefield, you’ll live to regret it, you hear. Have you got that?”
Hardly perceptible nods. ”Yeeeez, mum.”

Later that evening, Sniv and Jason lay spread out over the couches, as usual, and expressionlessly watched a rather boring cartoon on the television. After some time, Sniv turned to his big brother. Sunk deep in the image on the screen, Jason kept his finger stuck in his nose as if to stop something from running out. When Sniv didn’t take his eyes off him, he glared back at his brother and asked: ”What’s up?”
At first Sniv waited to see if Jason would take his finger out of his nose. ”What are we gonna do tomorrow when we're alone?”
Finally, Jason withdrew his finger and looked at its tip, murmuring: ”Dunno, make a suggestion.” And began to work at the finger with his incisors. Sniv lay back and stared at the ceiling. ”What are we not usually allowed to do?”
Thoughtful silence. ”Eating the whole tub of ice-cream,” mumbled Jason around his finger.
”...while watching cartoons until we go nuts.” Blissfully, Sniv smiled at the ceiling.
”Yeah,” Jason seemed to agree with this plan. He turned back to the flickering screen.
”...and drinking coke until late at night.” Sniv was keeping his mind 'way more on the subject than his brother. His face started to shine and glow as he thought about the endless possibilities of being ‘home alone’. On the other hand, Jason never seemed to lose the feeling that he was at least a little responsible for his little brother and should hold him back in his thirst for acting wild. So when Sniv added, ”and getting the others here too,” Jason muttered, ”hey, don’t go crazy.”
Sniv felt dictated to. ”Why not, it’s much more fun with everybody with us?”
”We don’t have enough stored for a real party.” Jason looked uninterested as if he didn’t care to discuss it.
His little brother looked him up and down, as if seeking the weak point of that floppy form on the sofa. Imperceptibly, the expression on his face changed to one of slight underhandedness. ”But at least Jon could come, couldn’t he?” Curiously, Sniv watched to see how his brother would react.
Jason slightly lost his stoic, quiet appearance and looked from the TV to Sniv’s waiting face and back. And when this face became a victorious grin, Jason grabbed a cushion and threw it at his brother. Instinctively, Sniv ducked to one side so that the cushion dropped short of his curly head. Jason pursued. In a moment he was above his brother’s smaller and lighter figure trying to get him into a headlock. Sniv retracted his legs and curled up into a ball so that Jason clutched at his head in vain.
”Just wait,” Jason panted and changed the target to his brother’s feet. Seductively, Sniv’s white socks gleamed under his curled up body. When Jason’s fingers crawled on them, light as a spider, a reflexive jerking went through his rolled-up brother. Then a half choked snort came out of the sofa cushions. Sniv tried to repel the tickle attack by kicking, but he couldn’t get rid of Jason’s fingers, which tickled every part they could reach of their kicking and twisting brother.
Sniv gasped for air. ”Heyyy, stop that stupid.”
Jason let go of him. There was a real shortness of breath in Sniv’s voice and his face was glowing red. ”That was for trying to blackmail me.” Jason justified himself.
”Huh? Why blackmail?”
”You know exactly why.”
Sniv sat up, his face still red and sweaty. ”Jon is MY best friend. We are the same age and in the same class.”
Jason got his merciless big brother face, his freckles looked deeper red than usual.

Jon is MY best friend!

”So what, is everybody in your class your best friend? And why shouldn’t Jon be my best friend too?”
Sniv folded his arms and ducked his head a bit, like he always did when arguing with his big brother. ”And what about Niklas and Fabi then? You’ve known them much longer, haven’t you? And Jonathon has only been here with us a few times.” Sniv was sure he was superior to his brother in argument and that Jason would use his superior strength unfairly as soon as he ran out of arguments. But when it came to Jonathon, Jason proved to be unexpectedly vulnerable.
”You can’t tell me who’s my best friend! And it absolutely doesn’t matter how long you’ve known each other.” Jason’s voice sounded unusually defensive.
”And why not ask Jonathon to come here when we’re alone?”
Vincent and Jason stared a while into each other’s eyes. In Sniv’s there was defiance and rebellion against his big brother, in Jason’s there was the search for a pretext why he’d rather meet Jonathon without Sniv being around. More by reflex than from the heart, Jason punched his brother’s upper arm.
”Auuuh,” Sniv groaned, exaggerating loudly, and held his arm. Naturally! Once more he got only brute violence from his brother, instead of an admission that he had no better arguments.
Mrs Van Mason’s head appeared in the doorway to the study where she was sitting down looking at some bills and bank statements. ”What are you two squabbling about?”
Immediately the boys forgot about their argument, thinking only that their mother could change her mind if they didn’t get on with each other. They looked up with innocent faces. ”Nothing mom,” said Sniv.
”We already agreed,” pretended Jason.
Looking admonishingly at them, the head disappeared into the study again.
”Dork,” grumbled Sniv at his brother.
”Cry baby,” hissed Jason.

It took a long time after breakfast before Mrs Van Mason finally carried her luggage to the car and her two sons could stand expectantly in the doorway to say goodbye. She took a deep breath and looked once more at her offspring. Both were neatly combed, Vincent even wore his slippers which he usually didn’t do without getting grumpy. Mrs Van Mason had to laugh out loud and shook her head. ”You hypocrites. I should take a photo of you now and give it to a newspaper. A cartoon without words.”
Sniv and Jason waited motionless. One could just make out a certain offence in their faces, that their mother could so persistently doubt they could ever really be as good as that.
Mrs Van Mason noticed this and tried to take her sons seriously - something that most parents don’t manage. She wrapped her arms around the two and squeezed them against her cheeks. ”Just take care, that’s all I want from you”, she said quietly and kissed them. Then she turned and got into the car. When she turned the starter the boys stopped breathing for a moment. But the car started without problems.
Their mother waved coquettishly one last time and drove out onto the street.
Sniv and Jason ran to the side walk and looked after the car. It disappeared behind a bend and the street became quiet again.
Now they were really on their own. Jason wanted to high five Sniv but his little brother suddenly looked sad, somehow. A bit numb, Sniv stood there in his slippers on the sidewalk and gazed down the quiet street. ”Don’t tell me it’s true,” thought Jason, ”this baby is missing his mom already.”
”I hope you don’t wet your pants,” he was tempted to say, but he realised that he would spoil the whole day with that. Indecisively, he waited until Sniv turned away from his view down the street and asked instead, ”what do we do first?”
His little brother looked at him and got a mischievous expression.

Niklas peered behind the garden gate.The doorbell seemed to go completely unheeded. That was no wonder from the fearful din that came through the closed door. The cranked up stereo drowned out any other sound from the Van Mason home, although it was impossible to figure out what piece of music was playing.
Niklas gave up on the front door and ran to the narrow garden gate next to the garage, got on tiptoe, and peered behind it. In the garden, no-one was to be seen. The gate was unlocked as usual. Niklas pushed it open and went into the garden, behind the house. Here the roaring music could be heard even more clearly, undoubtedly it came from the living room. One of Jason’s Dave Matthews Band CDs that he was only allowed to play in his room, at moderate volume. Niklas tried to peer through the windows of the living room but the curtains seemed to be closed. He shook his head, mumbled something about ‘nuts’, and tried the back door leading to the kitchen. The door stood slightly ajar. When Niklas entered the kitchen, the volume of the music increased to a body shaking throb.
On the worksurface lay a two litre tub of strawberry and cream ice-cream containing nothing but a sticky spoon and a melted residue. Two smudged dishes in the sink gave clear evidence of its fate and which two sweet-toothes were responsible for guzzling the whole tub. A nearly empty bottle of cola stood open beside the fridge. Shaking his head, Niklas went on into the hall.
Mess all over the place. Carelessly dropped slippers spread on the floor, some drawers stood open, their content churned up, some of Mrs Van Mason’s scarves hung around the bannisters. Through the crack in the door to the living room came light, flickering somehow to the beat of the music. Uncertainly, Niklas pushed through the door.
The living room was darkened, the stereo was turned up until it sounded like it was nearly bursting. One of the figures there madly switched a couple of covered desk and floor lamps on and off, obviously to create something like a light show. The other figure stood on the coffee table and played wildly on a tennis racket, like a rock guitarist. Both had taken off their shirts, tied scarves around their heads like headbands, and equipped themselves with sunglasses and pendants of costume jewellery.
The ‘guitarist’ - obviously Jason - shrugged when he noticed Niklas standing in the doorway. He shouted something that wasn’t understandable over the noise. Niklas looked helpless.
Jason descended from the coffee-table and turned the music down. Just then, Sniv noticed what was going on and stopped his light show.
Jason took off his sunglasses. ”Hiii,” he said to Niklas. He was damp with sweat, his face and bare chest were shining and his hair stuck in strands to his forehead. Around his neck swung a colorful enamel medallion of his mother’s from the ‘70s.
”Hi, you rocker,” said Niklas and next moment burst out in laughter.”What on earth is this?” He pointed to Jason’s upper arm. With a color marker, Sniv had drawn a kind of tattoo there, a bleeding heart with an arrow stuck in it. Niklas gave a sugary smile. ”Who is this for?”
”What, who is it for?” Jason lifted his arm and examined the tattoo as if he had overlooked something.
”Well, usually you get that kind made if you are in undying love with somebody. With initials below. So, J+ who?”
Sniv joined in, also damp with sweat, ”I can fetch the marker and write it in.”
Niklas looked at Sniv, ”Yeah, J and...?”
Jason shoved his brother, ”nothing doing! That’s about nobody special. Just, when I’m a rocker, I need a tattoo. I told Sniv to draw a skull but he can’t do one.”
”I CAN do a skull, but it just wasn’t scary enough for you.”
Niklas kept quiet. He imagined ‘J+N’ on that sweaty upper arm, but Jason would never show that to anyone. Except Fabian, maybe. Or Jonathon? He wondered if Sniv was about to write ‘J+J’? No, Sniv watched with envious eyes as Jason claimed his best friend for himself. Finally Niklas said: ”My Mom sent me. You’re to come to us for dinner, like our parents arranged.”
Sniv looked down at himself. He wore old, holey, washed out jeans, that were a bit too small for him, and he had scarves tied around his arms. ”Is it already that late?”
”Come on, let’s change,” said Jason and ran to the stairs.
Niklas examined Sniv's look.Niklas examined Sniv’s "look" more carefully. The headband looked amazingly good on him, and he had never seen him in such skin tight jeans. Sniv noticed his gaze and waited a moment. Niklas looked up and felt slightly self conscious. ”Great costume,” he stammered.
Sniv said nothing and smiled awkwardly. Then he followed Jason upstairs.
Niklas looked after him. How he envied Sniv for having a big brother!

During dinner, Mrs Edlund enquired how the two brothers were getting on. Niklas had said nothing about the chaos that reigned in the Van Mason house. He tried to keep quiet while eating and not to laugh.
Jason and Vincent had quickly tidied themselves up. They again wore their normal clothing, they had quickly put their sweaty heads under water, and put their messed up hair in order with a comb, but they still looked a bit exhausted. They quickly devoured everything that Mrs Edlund put on their dishes.
Niklas merely nibbled, not concentrating on his food. He fidgetted uncomfortably on his chair. When there was, for a while, a pause in the conversation, he finally came out with a question: ”Mom, can I go with Jason and Sniv to stay for a while after dinner?”
At once Mrs Edlund knew what her son was up to. ”Oh no, dear, I think it’s best you children all stay a while here.”
”But mom, why?” Niklas couldn’t stand when his parents talked about ‘the children’. You could call Tina and her friends ‘the children’, but not big boys like himself and Jason.
”What would you want to do there alone? Just getting up to mischief, true?”
Tina said, with an awkward look at her brother: ”I know what they do when they’re alone!”
Niklas glared at his little sister. It was surprising and almost scary, how suddenly his usually dreamy blue eyes turned to a look that threatened the darkest revenge should Tina say just another word. The little girl stiffened with half open mouth and looked down at her fork and the fried eggs. Niklas’ look announced little terrors for weeks, starting with hidden doll clothes up to disgraceful lies about her to her friends.
”What do you know about science fiction”, Niklas tried to divert the conversation.
”No matter, you stay here, boys”, Mrs. Edlund made it clear once again. ”There is nothing that you couldn’t play here as well. How about another egg, Vincent, darling?”
After dinner the boys ran upstairs to Niklas’ room and closed the door behind them with emphasis. That was meant for Tina, who unavoidably had jumped up with them and had made some steps to the stairs. But her mother stopped her. ”Tina, dear, better let them go. You know well how they get unbearable when they want to play alone. You should stay downstairs with us.”
For the rest of the evening the boys stayed in Niklas’ room and spread through his trading cards with wizards and warriors and elves. They didn’t attend much to the game, mostly they talked about possibilities to escape from their parent’s control. How Niklas could climb out of the window at night to sneak to the Van Masons. How he could put pillows underneath his blanket to make it look like he was there. How he could use the bed sheet as a rope.
And then it was 10 and Mr. Edlund appeared in the door. ”Come on, boys, it’s time for me to drive you home.”
Quietly Sniv and Jason said good bye to their friend, knowing well that Niklas wouldn’t carry out their adventurous plans anyway.

After the noise of Mr. Edlund’s car had died away, a strange silence filled the home of the Van Masons. Although the boys were used to being on their own when their mother was away at work or other business, they felt that this was a much more abandoned and empty silence, as if the house had stopped breathing. Sniv and Jason looked at each other. The big eyes of his little brother looked somehow moist, so that Jason thought Sniv was about to cry.
”What do you think?” whispered Sniv wickedly. ”Should we find out what late night TV is REALLY like?”
The expression on Jason’s face slowly turned from astonishment to a glowing mischievious smile.
A little later they had built nests of blankets and pillows on the two couches in the living room and had put on their pyjamas. As a matter of course Jason had taken command of the remote control and was zapping through the channels. Dull whodunits, political babble and Cary Grant kissing Audrey Hepburn found no mercy under his thumb. Only when the unmistakably hysterical woman’s screaming of a horror film rang out did he stop and stared with shining eyes at the grotesque images on the screen. Finally! Real trash, totally unsuitable for children! And nobody was there to say, switch that off, that’s not good for you.

They had built nests of blankets and pillows.

Giggling, Vincent snuggled up in his blanket-nest and watched unknown actors as they tried in vain to escape from a growling monster. Jason set the volume louder than usually allowed so that the living room filled up with clatter and screams. A robust looking man, obviously the hero, made efforts to save women and kids. ”You have to make it!” he shouted again and again, and: ”C’mon, pull yourself together!” Then something crackled and shattered and the beast had come through the ventilation shaft. Another co-actor with glasses stared wide-eyed into the camera, then something hit him and a red blood fountain plastered over the screen.
Inevitably Jason turned to look at his little brother. Sniv lay rolled up in his nest, holding his thumb half between the lips and watched the flickering massacre without moving. Then he noticed his brother’s concerned look.
”I know that’s not real”, Sniv affirmed unasked.
”How about a war movie?” offered Jason.
Sniv looked unwilling, his thumb still half between his lips. ”Naaaa, that’s kid stuff!” Once more his brother was treating him almost like a baby. Sniv was wildly determined to see only the really bad stuff, anything else was a waste of time now.
Although skeptical, Jason left the horror movie on. At least the action had slowed down a bit now. The robust hero had stuffed the women and children into a car that - after the usual starting problems and the grunting beast glued to the window pane - finally drove howling and skidding out on a deserted country road. The woman in the front passenger’s seat - surely the heroine - leaned on the hero’s broad chest and sighed lovingly. The two boys in front of the TV felt the upcoming disaster. Actually, after the hero had called a fat doddery policeman from a lonely gas station, he looked deeply into the eyes of the heroine. And then they kissed.
”Oh, nooo”, screamed Sniv, ”they’re smooching!”
”Uhhhhhh”, Jason groaned with nausea, fell back into his nest with a thud and stuck his face between the pillows. ”I can’t see that!”
”This is sooo dumb!” Sniv wailed and slapped himself on his forehead, ”they just saw the biggest splatter scenes and only five minutes later they’re kissing again! That’s im-pos-si-ble!”
Jason slightly shook his head, his nose still buried between the pillows. ”That movie is such a dud!”
Luckily the action soon developed again, because the monster had hidden in the unwitting policeman’s car. Obeying the logic of the screenplay, it didn’t set on the policeman but quietly let him drive it to the shabby motel where all the main actors had gathered and were waiting for things to come. It’s first victim was the scruffy porter’s wife.
The boys jumped up cheering, ”The old hag’s gonna get it.” High-spiritedly Sniv hopped on his sofa so hard that the springs creaked.
”Hey, stop that, the couch will crack”, said Jason.
”I don’t - give a - shit!” sang Sniv with a high voice in the rhythm of his hopping.
Jason accepted the provocation and pounced on his brother. Together they landed in Sniv’s pillows and began to scrap. For a while they completely forgot about the film and had a good romp. When Sniv could free himself he jumped in one leap over the back of the sofa and ran into the dining room. Like he had gone crazy, Jason darted after him, slipped completely over on the small carpet and crashed into the chairs around the dining table.
Unsure if his brother got hurt or not, Sniv skipped provokingly up and down and sang: ”Are you dead or just wounded?” Without hesitation Jason leapt up again and clutched at Sniv, who shrieked and ran away. When Sniv tried to open the door to the hall Jason caught him and dragged him down to the ground. With pumping breath Jason pulled his body weight upon Sniv’s belly and held his wrists. For a while both boys just gasped for air.
”Do you surrender?” asked Jason.
Vincent looked at him, weakened, through half closed eyes. Some curly strands adhered to his sweaty forehead, his cheeks were red like raspberries and his lips seemed to pulse to his heavy heartbeat. Jason felt the body heat from Sniv’s narrow chest coming up through the fabric of his pyjama.
”Why should I surrender? I got time.” The tension left Sniv’s wrists and it seemed that he began to make himself comfortable under Jason’s weight.
His big brother looked a bit helpless. ”We’ll miss the end of the film”, he finally said.
The noise of the TV again attracted the boy’s attention and reluctantly both got up and climbed back into their nests of blankets and pillows. Furtively Jason peered at his little brother. Somehow he’d rather switch off the movie and continue scrapping with Sniv. He couldn’t say why he didn’t do it. His blanket felt a tad too warm now.
The main actors already were in the middle of the showdown. The shabby motel was burning high, the robust hero pushed all women and children outside right before burning roof-beams came tumbling down. Then, at his attempts of rescuing himself, the beast blocked his way. Moments of fear and a lot of dangerous grunts. The beast succeeded in injuring the hero’s arm before he found the gun belonging to the obviously murdered policeman lying in the burning inferno and fired it. The monster suffered some disgusting damage, keeled over into the fire and exploded with a flare into bloody chunks of flesh. The robust hero escaped in the last moment and landed straight into the arms of the main actress. They kissed in front of the blazing flames to the sound of the dramatically playing orchestra.
”Why do they never call the firemen?” muttered Jason and wrinkled his nose. He turned to Sniv. ”Aren’t you tired, too?”
His little brother looked wearied himself but nevertheless unbelieving. ”You really wanna go to sleep so soon?” Actually his comfortable nest had lulled him in the past minutes, but Jason’s intention to tell him once again when he had to go to bed made him defiant. ”Now why don’t we watch a war movie?”
Grudgingly Jason took the remote control and switched through the channels. Surely, they really wanted to take the chance of staying up late, but inevitably they got tired around this time just because they were used to it. Jason yawned. All channels showed only dreary stuff now. Nothing appealed to the boys. With a sigh Jason switched off.
”We can stay up all night long tomorrow as well.”
Sniv looked tired and gave in. ”Okay.”

The intimacy of Sniv’s bed had the usual narcotic effect on him and his eyelids drooped thankfully. The boys had romped all the day nearly to exhaustion. The cover almost pulled up to his nose he sank into deep, silent blackness.
First the impressions of his day always lingered on in his mind for a while before he would slip into dreamless deep sleep. He heard Jason’s voice murmuring about plans for Niklas’ escape and the familiar face of Mr. Edlund once again looked at him reproovingly. Again he sat in the corner of Niklas’ room and listened to his brother and his friend talking about tiresome parents. Time seemed to pass by while he was listening. And there was the door of his wardrobe. He didn’t wonder why his wardrobe was in Niklas’ room, he just knew that he had to keep its door shut at all cost and didn’t know why. If he was just able to move, his arms suddenly weighed tons! Jason and Niklas didn’t notice somehow, he had to do it on his own. He knew that he could brace himself against the door all night if necessary, but his arms and legs seemed to be stiff. Then he heard a half choked grunt from inside the wardrobe, deep and vibrating.
Sniv hauled his head from the pillow and saw only blackness all around. Absolute clearly now he felt the danger that came from his wardrobe and finally he could move. With a pounding heart he thought for a moment. First he felt like he should run away but then he clutched for his bedside light. The sudden bright light hurt his eyes, and the pain helped him back to the present, to his quiet bedroom. Though his wardrobe looked like always and there was absolutely nothing to hear from its inside, Sniv felt a latent untrustful fear. Driven by his pounding heart he drew back his blanket and got up. A bit dizzy, he snuck to the door of his room, tried to open it silently and in the dark corridor he felt for the door knob to the neighboring room.
Jason still lay awake. Like so many times before he lay in the dark and mulled over important things which he never seemed to have enough time for or the right concentration by daylight. Anyway, he just couldn’t think about these things outside his bed and by light, they didn’t even come to his mind. When suddenly the door opened it made him leap up.
The small slim form with the curly head standing in the door was quickly indentified as his brother. Sniv seemed to be unable to see anything in the darkness of Jason’s room and clung uncertainly to the door knob.
”What’s up noooowww?” Jason moaned.
Vincent’s child voice sounded husky and subdued. ”Jason?”
”What’s up, can’t you sleep?” Jason asked a bit too rudely.
The shady boy figure in the doorway stood limp and disheartened in a moment of hesitation. Then it said with a weak voice: ”Nothing. Forget it”, and closed the door reluctantly.
Jason laid back on his pillow. There was something wrong with his brother. Beside his usual feeling of being somehow responsible for Sniv he felt now that he couldn’t leave him alone in trouble. With a short sigh Jason got up and walked to the door.
Sniv looked up embarrassed.Sniv’s room was lit. The little brother sat on the edge of his bed and looked as if he had a stomach-ache. His head was pale, his forehead and cheeks looked hollow. He looked up embarrassed at Jason as if he felt guilty of something.
Just because he was used to it Jason spoke rather unfeeling: ”Are you sick? Or did you wet your bed?”
”Noooo”, moaned Sniv. He hadn’t wet his bed for years and it hurt that his brother suspected him now. ”Just had a stupid dream.”
Jason understood. That horror film had invaded Sniv’s innocent head, inevitably. For a moment he was tempted to react scornfully but then he simply felt pity for Sniv. He thought about what his mother would do now. ”Do you want me to leave the door open, I mean, mine and yours?”
Wistfully Sniv looked at his big brother. ”Jaaaaason, can’t you stay here?” With a quick look he pointed to the second bed in his room. His two beds were the upper and the lower half of a set of bunk beds that the brothers once shared - years ago, when their father’s files were piled up in the room that was now Jason’s. ”Like when we had this bed room together?”
Jason stood numb in his shrunk old pyjamas and looked at his old bed. It was still familiar to him like an old favorite toy that he didn’t play with anymore but that he’d never give away. Then he looked back at Sniv.
His little brother put on that begging face that always had an absolutely unfair effect on his mother. ”Please.”
Usually Jason was immune to this face, to these deer-brown eyes with their long lashes and these pouting lips. Just tonight it had an effect on him, maybe because they were alone and nobody could see Jason's weakness. ”Okay”, he said.
Sniv’s face lit up. ”Cool!”
Jason was just about to go and get his blankets and other bed things when he stopped. He fixed his eyes on Sniv’s glancing eyes. ”Wouldn’t it be even cooler if we set up the bunk beds like before?”
For a moment Sniv looked baffled. ”Can we do that? Aren’t they too heavy?”
”Not if we put down the mattress first.”
Without any further discussion the boys began to work on the bed, put down the mattress, poked the required connection parts out of a drawer full of ping pong stuff and finally lifted the bedstead up to its original position.
In high spirits Sniv climbed up the bare bed and tried the view from there.
”I’ll sleep up there”, Jason complained, ”like always!” He bent down to get the mattress. ”Come on, help me!”
After some strenuous making of beds their place to sleep was complete including Jason’s bed things. (But not his old teddy bear, he suddenly felt too old to take it with him.) Only the short ladder that originally belonged to the bunk beds had been misused by the boys years ago and might be stuffed somewhere in the cellar now. Jason had never used it to get up to his bed. With a few experienced moves he clambered up to his stage. ”Light out!” he called and slipped under his blanket.
One last time, Sniv stuck his head out of the bed, looked around and reached for the switch of his bedside light. The following darkness in his bed room felt completely different than usual. Although the two boys were absolutely silent and they even stopped breathing, the blackness before their eyes seemed to be moving, to be filled with colors - in contrast to the dead silence that was there when they were alone in their beds. The brothers remained like that without moving.
It was Sniv who had to laugh first. First half muted then snorting he laughed breaking the silence.
”Now sleep, stupid”, said Jason and his voice was meant to sound admonishing but it got infected by Sniv’s giggling.
”But I can’t now. I’m not tired at all.” Building the bunk beds had made Sniv wide awake and besides that he already had had a short sleep.
Jason heard how his little brother was kicking the blanket back making the whole bed shake and how his breathing was restless. Jason rolled on his stomach and rested his ear on his pillow, listening. He felt like he could hear Sniv’s heartbeat, transmitted by the bedstead and the mattress, just like he registered even the slightest movement of his brother through a faint swinging of the beds. It filled him with a warm feeling of intimacy and memories and he was amazed to realize that he had missed it. He sighed deeply and moistly on his pillow and then heard himself asking: ”How about telling stories, like we did before?”
For a moment Sniv remained silent and then he chuckled - slightly triumphant, it appeared to Jason. "Okay, you’ll start”, said Sniv and snuggled up deeper into his bed.
In those times when they had shared the same bedroom the boys had pictured a lot how they’d go through adventures if they were like the heroes from their favorite programs on TV. Jason would have a supercar that not only could fly and win all the races but even could swim under the sea to look for wrecked pirate ships. Sniv liked to tell how he was like a ghost flying everywhere, even through walls, playing a lot of twisted pranks on people and of course how he’d make one slam dunk after another at basketball. Often without knowing, their stories turned into a dream during a stage of light slumber.
Jason began: ”What would you do if you had three wishes?”
”Hah, I’d wish to have countless more wishes!”
”Nope, that wouldn’t work. And you can’t wish that you could do magic or other stuff. You can only wish what’s there in real life.”
”Uh, but that’s boring! Then eternal life wouldn’t count either.”
”No, but why is that boring? You just have to think about it carefully.”
”Okay...” Sniv thought it over and one could slighty hear him breathing through his nose. ”Aw boy, that’s stupid! If I wished that I was really, really rich I could buy everything on earth and wouldn’t have to wish it.”
Jason groaned. ”Alright then, what would you wish that’s not really there? Except more wishes and magic stuff.”
”Hm, I wish I was a superhero and I could fly even through space to explore other planets.”
”Cool! And meeting extraterrestrials.”
”Yeeeaaah, people from distant worlds, just not such evil aliens, only those you can talk to.”
”Ferengi and Vulcanians!” Jason mispronounced.
”Yup, but no Klingons, those are stupid.”
For a while the brothers were quiet and imagined meeting friendly aliens. Then Sniv said: ”Now you! What would you wish?”
Jason hesitated with his answer then he almost whispered: ”I’d wish that time stood still. I mean, not really everything standing still, but that we don’t grow older and we’d always have vacations.”
”Huh?” Sniv was confused. ”Vacations are okay, but why not grow older?”
”It’s so good how it is now, I wish it could last forever. I don’t want to become like all grown ups, I don’t want to have a job. And I don’t want for you and all our friends to grow up.”
Sniv didn’t like the idea of being a little brother always and forever. ”But... imagine, you could never drive a car then! And you would never have as much money as an adult.”
”I know... but I’d also wish to have a secret supercar and nobody knew that I got it. Like nobody knows who superman is. Then why would I need money?”
”But if you wish that all of us don’t grow older, that would be me too.”
Jason turned to lie on his side. ”Do you really want to grow up? To go to school until you’re done? With all those tests? And everything just to work even harder and never ever have real summer vacations.”
Sniv chuckled. ”Nope, I’d become a superhero and wouldn’t have to work anyway.”
”Hey, now for real! Do you want to grow up?”
For a moment the younger boy was at a loss to answer. ”Don’t know.”
”I think you like it when we share one bedroom? I mean, I love having my own room but at night it’s more fun to be together, don’t you think so?”
”But if we were grown ups we wouldn’t even think about it.” Jason listened in the darkness. Somehow his little brother didn’t respond anymore, there was no movement in the bed below. ”Are you asleep?”
A moment of breathless silence, then giggling. ”Nope.”
Jason realized that his brother didn’t seem to like that subject. He sat up in his bed and then bowed down across the edge so that he could make out the outline of Sniv’s curly head lying on his pillow. His blood pounded in his head and made it hard to breathe. ”Do you know what grown ups never do either?”
Sniv rolled up squeaking. The sound of Jason’s voice announced that he was about to do some mischief. With something like a downward roll he swung into Sniv’s bed stage like he used to do before. Sniv sat up and made some room willingly. He quite appreciated when his brother came down to visit him just like in older times which usually led to a little scrap or a pillow-fight. But at first Jason kept sitting quietly on the blanket and seemed to wait.
”What do you want?” asked Vincent playing the little innocent.
Jason enjoyed the moment. His brother knew very well what this game was about and he joined in like only kids can join a game. Without a warning Jason leaped on Sniv’s thin figure and began to pinch playfully every part of that shrieking and squeaking boy that he could reach with his fingers. When he even reached the cheeks of Sniv’s rear his little brother choked. Undecided, Sniv had to cough and to laugh at the same time. Jason decided he'd better let up on him so that he could calm down.
Slowly, Sniv recovered his breath. ”Pinching butts is not fair!” he yapped and had to laugh about his own complaint.
”Well, go snitching! Why not call the police and tell them”, he imitated a wailing child, holding his hand like a telephone to his ear, ”pinching butt’s no faaaaiiiiir!” He burst into laughter over this image but didn’t forget about his target. Now he only aimed at Sniv’s little butt ignoring the desperate attempts of two small hands to defend it.

Help me, I'm getting my butt pinched!

”Help me, help meeee, I’m getting my butt pinched”, Sniv shouted in a high, husky voice and had to laugh again. Finally he was so short of breath that he had to give up every defense and Jason could give his butt twinges unimpeded. Along with Sniv’s fading sounds of pain the strength of his big brother’s efforts let up until he finally stopped.
”I bet your rear is now so heated up that it should glow in the dark”, said Jason. It was really hot in the narrow bed through their fighting. The heart-pounding body heat of the two boys got mixed up like in a steam bath.
Sniv mustered up all his power. Jason knew well that his brother now was about to take ”revenge”, because this was part of the game. And Jason played the game by ”suffering” the revenge almost without defense. Sniv hauled himself across his brother’s shoulder so that he could embrace his chest from behind and pushed him down onto the bed. Then he moved further down on Jason’s back to keep him locked under his weight. His cheek reached the area of bare warm skin that Jason’s old shrunk pyjamas always left uncovered between shirt and pants. In the darkness he was barely able to make out where the waistband described the beginning of the two half globes of Jason’s backside cheeks and the little notch between them. While the rest of Jason usually smelled like soap this notch was the origin of a remarkable, not at all unpleasent scent, a really unique Jason-scent. Instinctively Sniv began to blow into this tri-angular hole between waistband and backside cheeks. Jason answered this with a short jerking and some giggling, muted by the blanket.
”What are you doing there?” he mumbled indistinctly.
Sniv chuckled lustfully. ”Checking if you clean your butt carefully. 'Cause it smells already!”
”Not true! What’s smelling there is your beaten butt.”
With the flat of his hand Sniv slapped those two cheeks of meat until they were shaking in their pyjama pants. ”And now you’re gonna get a thoroughly slapped butt”, he said and began to play drums on Jason’s backside with both hands. His big brother put up with that for a while but then rolled on his side so that Sniv slipped down from his back. Now his small brother was afraid that Jason could strike back and he jumped out the bed, crying breathlessly: ”Don’t hurt me! Don’t hurt me!”
Jason got out of the bed too and the next moment he heard a bang and painful whimper. Sniv had bumped on a piece of furniture in the dark. Then came a tearful sobbing. ”This stu-pid desk!”
”What’s up?” asked Jason who could only see some shadows but not his brother.
Walking with a stoop Vincent’s slender form came out of the shadows. ”My foot! This hurts so... damned!” If his mother had been around he would have cried heart-rendingly, but since he knew that he couldn’t expect to be comforted by his brother, he just swallowed.
”Is it broken?” Jason expected the worst.
”Nooo, I just bumped on my desk, but it hurts like hell!”
Jason said: ”Better come back here and get in your bed.” He sat down on the edge of the bed and waited to see what that curly-headed shadow would do. Sniv limped forward and sat down beside Jason. Whimpering he held his foot. Jason felt that Sniv would like to cry out loud but he just didn’t do it because there was only his big brother around. Usually Jason did the same when he was hurt, but now he wondered why he wouldn’t cry when it would make him feel better. Surprised by the sound of his own voice he asked compassionately: ”You want me to comfort you?”
His brother sniffed. ”How do you wanna do that?”
Jason couldn’t believe that he had really said that. But tonight he had such a weird feeling that he was able to comfort his little brother like their mother usually did. A bit hoarsely he said: ”Take you in my arms.”
For a while there was unbelieving silence. Sniv wasn’t sure why his brother suddenly wanted to play ”mother and child” with him, he just couldn’t imagine that Jason was serious. But while he was wondering he felt his brother’s arms carefully embracing his chest. Sniv remained quiet, surprised by the sudden gentleness shown by his big brother. Somehow his hurting foot didn’t matter anymore. He rubbed it a bit and held it in his hands to keep it warm.
Jason's arms came from behind.Jason whispered: ”If we lay down I could hold you even closer.” And with a slight pressure he pulled his brother back to stretch out on the bed. Sniv was confused that Jason showed so much affection, but in a strange, exciting way he liked it. Jason’s leg came from behind to embrace Sniv’s thighs, and his arms tightened around his little brother’s narrow chest. Sniv sighed deeply.
The boys lay quietly together and enjoyed their closeness. With open eyes Jason inhaled every impression of the situation. There was this small breast slightly heaving and lowering in his hands and he could even feel the little heart beating inside. These shoulders and shoulder-blades and this back that leaned into him warming his chest. These short brown curls right before the tip of his nose with a last thin smell of bubble bath. These quiet breath-strokes that belonged to Sniv’s button nose.
”Are you better?” Jason asked carefully. But he got no answer. He was quite sure that Sniv was already asleep. Jason closed his eyes and thought back to moments when he was jealous of Sniv and his little brother seemed unbearable to him. When he had managed once again to blame everything on his big brother and never got punished but always got comforted instead. More than once Jason had wished that their father would come back and gave Sniv a good spanking. And sometimes he even thought about living with his dad to get rid of that little brat, although he knew that his father had a girlfriend that he couldn’t stand and would never allow Jason to live with them. Tonight Jason felt sorry that he ever wished to live somewhere without his brother.
Silently, he repeated the first of his three wishes, that time stood still and they’d never grow up. Maybe it could come true, who could know?
Jason stroked with his nose through the curly hair down to the smooth, warm skin of Vincent’s neck and gave this skin a moist, gentle kiss. Sniv moved slightly in his sleep, making some smacking noises with his lips and tongue then continuing to breathe deeply and slowly again.
Without waking his brother Jason slipped out of the lower bed and climbed up to his stage avoiding any shaking or any noise. Like he always did before.

(With special thanks to Jason and Jonathan.)

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