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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

LII: Yesteryears

The races grew dull that summer, at least in Brendon’s eyes. Same roaring engines. Same pisswater beers. Same booming music. He spent the time drawing cars, peeking in at engines Casey could identify by sound alone.

They would linger far into the warm nights, creeping through tall grass, scratching at mosquito bites for days and days after. Casey got to sit in Taylor L.’s car—black leather seat sticking to the underside of his knees—and press that pedal like he owned it, blowing smoke and cooking oil like butter in a pan, but sweeter. Least that’s how Casey described it, all tingling from the tips of his fingers to the bottom of his soles.

Taylor L. would nudge and chuckle and sit a little too close, always with that swagger that made him seem like a God with a capital. Magnanimous and easy with his blessings, though Brendon always got the impression that Taylor L. would have been just as happy to forget Brendon existed, especially when he spoke in a foreign language—spouting torque and horsepower while Brendon’s pencil focused on the glint of light off the studded belt one of the other boys wore.

“Dad’s gone, for the whole week. Heading out west—Tennessee to see family and a doctor out there for a second opinion.” Casey threw up a hand and waved in the general direction of west, which also happened to be upstreet, road coursing off, gravel offshoots spitting out like branches from a trunk.

“So you’re staying with your mom?”

“Nah. Becks is still mad at me. Says I wasn’t empathetic enough to her situation.”

“Her situation…”

“Yeah, that’s what she’s calling it. Like the fact she can’t keep her legs together is reason enough for me to cater to her.”

Brendon frowned at the character design he’d been crafting—an amalgamation of a tall, lanky fellow who kept showing up to races in a trench coat and the idea for a vampire comic he and Robbie had been chewing over. “I could write the scenes! Got two arcs planned out already—want to see?”

“What does that mean for you? You’re just staying home alone?” asked Brendon.

“That’s right!” crowed Casey, lifting his beer can over his head in an exaggerated toast to himself. “Six nights of total freedom, baby! Going to have Taylor L. supply my house.”

“With what money?”

Casey leaned over. Close. Touching close. Shoulders together, breath hot on Brendon’s cheek. “Stole sixty bucks from my mom’s jar on her makeup table. Another thirty-five from my dad’s beer fund over the past couple of months. Gonna have a ton of liquor. Gonna have a ton of fun.” He winked and his gaze slid off Brendon, leaving him feeling cold, and wandered over to Taylor L.

That party was a hell of a week, leaving Brendon curled in bed for two days after getting up close and personal with a bottle whisky. His memories of the nights were hazy, but there’d been that one day, still sober, holding that bottle tentatively as he sat perched in the same place Casey’s dad usually occupied on the couch. Listened to a bit of rocking, a bit of moaning, a bit of protest and then a breathy sound he wouldn’t be able to identify until almost three years later.


Next Chapter: LIII