Pete stood at the foot of his little brother’s bed, clenching and unclenching his fists. Bits of wrapping paper still clung to his pajamas and sweat rolled into his narrowed eyes.
“Get up,” Pete hissed, shaking Adam vigorously.
“Huh, Pete? Did Santa come?” Adam asked, blinking the sleep from his eyes.
“Yeah, but you already know that,” Pete replied, pushing on Adam so hard he rolled out of bed and onto the floor.
“Hey!” Adam said, springing up and rubbing his backside, “I’m gonna tell mom.”
“Good! And then I’m going to tell them that you stole my Neon RC Radcaster.”
Pete turned from Adam, snapped on the light, and began pulling out the dresser drawers with a single-minded determination. Adam watched, transfixed, as his brother trashed his room.
“Where’d you hide it, Ah-dumb?” Pete sneered, flinging the covers off the bed.
“That stupid car you asked Santa for? Why would I have it?”
“Like mom and dad were the ones who opened all the gifts downstairs?” Pete walked to Adam’s toy box and started yanking out the contents.
“Stop!” Adam screamed, “Get out of my room! Mom!”
Pete strolled up to Adam and smacked him hard across the face.
“Shut the hell up.” Pete said, spinning on his heel and returning to the toys.
Adam sniffled on the floor for ten minutes while Pete continued his ransacking. The two boys didn’t say a word. Then Pete found the broken remote-controlled car beneath the dresser, next to a baseball bat.
“Don’t have it, huh? What the hell is this, then?” Pete brandished the toy pieces and shoved them into Adam’s face.
“Aaaah! Stop, please! I don’t know how that got there!” Adam cried, holding his arms up to protect his face.
“I have been asking for this for months, MONTHS Adam. Why’d you have to ruin it?” Pete’s breathing came out hard and heavy, anger emanating from his pores.
Pete turned from his brother long enough to retrieve the bat from the floor. While his back was turned, Adam fled to their parents room, small fists banging on locked door to be let in.
“Going somewhere, Adam?” Pete said, standing over Adam and swinging the baseball bat at his head. The bat hit with a sickening crunch.
Pete and Adam’s parents heard the disturbance but lay there unmoving, holding hands. There just wasn’t enough money to care for two children, anymore. But, by morning light, they knew their problems would be solved. All it cost was a Neon RC Radcaster.
Jennifer Ruth Jackson writes about reality’s weirdness and the plausibility of the fantastic. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Star*Line, Apex Magazine, and more. She lives in a small Wisconsin city with her husband. Visit her on Twitter: @jenruthjackson.