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August 1, 2007
"Stop the lies," Tyler grumbled, parking the SUV.
"Lies? They aren't lies. They're just half-truths. I grew up across the road, over there, in the trailer park. I put everything I owned of value into storage before I ran away... from my bastard, drunken, asshole, wasted and worthless father," Garrett said.
"You never told me you had a younger brother." Tyler opened the door so he could back the Escalante to the front of a storage unit. Sweat formed under his arms; it was 110 degrees outside.
"You never asked before," Garrett said, slipping into an I-ain't-sayin'-nothin'-more attitude. He opened the lock and shook it from the hasp. The roller door slid up, revealing boxes and the tin statues of a boy and a dog.
"I had to ask? Since when?" Tyler folded his arms over his chest and tapped his foot on the gravel.
Garrett wiped the sweat from his face with his t-shirt. "I'm sorry, Ty. All the lies stop today."
"God, you can be so slick, so fast to lie." Tyler pushed his sunglasses to the top of his forehead.
"You're right. From now on I'm only going to tell you da truth, da whole truth and nothin' but," Garrett said, trying to change the mood. Tyler glared.
"Look, I've been lying most of my life. My parents didn't die in a car crash. I lied to my friends in school when my mother ran away with her lover. I lied about my father when he'd pass out in bars and sleep on the streets, come home covered in shit. I lied to cops that he didn't beat us. And mostly, I lied to keep my little brother hidden after I ran away."
"You ran away and left your little brother with your drunk of a father?" Tyler asked, stunned by the revelation.
"Yes. No... I left him here," Garrett said. He turned away to hide his tears.
"You packed your belongings and left your little brother with his abusive father?" He waited as Garrett loaded boxes into the SUV.
"Yeah, I'm not proud, but Cody insisted. He thought Dad would die on one of his drunken binges after we left, but the bastard took ten years to die -- of liver failure. His ashes are waiting over at Frederick's Funeral Home. They say he burnt extra hot from alcoholic pickling. He was definitely ready for Freddie when he died." Garrett skipped a step, danced a shuffle, and struck a ta da pose. Tyler didn't laugh.
"Look, I'm not acting the fool. The man was a rotten bastard. I have half a mind to sprinkle his ashes into the nearest pigsty. Do you know if human ashes absorb cat piss? If so, I'll take him home for the cat."
"Okay, okay. I'll behave. I shouldn't be happy about the death of my dad, but he deserved it. I always doubted Cory's stories, but one day the little schemer and I had to hide from Dad after a particularly bad drinking binge. Dad was beating everything in sight – drinking buddies, cars, dogs, houses, and squirrels. Christ, the man felt no pain when drunk. I'd already taken one beating the day before, and Cody dressed me in the tin parts so we could hide from him. I was so desperate I would have tried anything. The tin suit almost scared Dad sober. After that, the armor saved both of us many a broken rib, shattered wrist, or worse. Look, I promised my kid brother I wouldn't return until Dad died," Garrett said, moving boxes into the back of the SUV. Tyler shoved a couple boxes filled with tin critters with his foot.
"The long and short of it is, you ran away and left a twelve year old to live with a drunk. That's cold dude, cold," Tyler said.
Garrett picked up the last box and set it in the back of the vehicle. "I didn't leave him defenseless. Dad was so drunk he never knew what was going on. We told him the tin men were haunted, and if he damaged them when he was drunk they'd cut his testicles off. He believed us. Thank God for superstitious drunks. Cody knew how to defend himself. I didn't. That was why he forced me to run away."
"I don't care how resourceful you think your kid brother was, there's not a twelve year old alive who can handle a drunk on a binge. You left him alone!" Tyler yelled so loud, snakes and lizards scurried away.
Garrett picked up a life size tin sculpture of a scruffy dog. "Calm down, calm down. I didn't leave him alone. He's had Barney with him all these years. See, here's Barney." Garrett set the sculpture of the dog in the back of the SUV.
"That's not a dog, that's a tin sculpture of a mangy, flea-bitten mongrel," Tyler bellowed, causing the vultures to squawk and flap their wings.
Garrett shook his head and petted the tin dog. "Barney's not a mongrel. He's a purebred, mixed-something-or-other. Ain't you boy? Good boy, nice boy. Tyler thinks you have fleas. You never had fleas, did you? He thinks you're not a real doggie. Why you're just as real as he is, aren't you?" He reanimated the tin dog, petting and kissing its head. It wagged its tail.
"Aw, gimme a break, I'm not stupid. Stop talking to that thing like it's alive. Stop pretending. Don't shake that tail again. It's just a piece of tin." Tyler walked to the door of the vehicle. "I can't handle any of this. Give me the keys, I'm leaving."
Ignoring Tyler's outburst, Garrett walked to a patchwork tin statue of a young boy standing with its weight on one leg, its hands on out-thrust hips. "No, I'm not going to give you the keys. Just calm down. Christ, you're awfully judgmental today, and impatient. You're not listening to anything I say." Garrett turned away from Tyler, hugged the tin statue to his chest, and reanimated his brother.
"It's been longer than we both thought, Cody. I'm sorry. I wanted to make it back sooner but I couldn't ...and Dad ...well, you know how impossible he was ...he took his time dying ...sad in a way. I feel sorry for him. Even his drinking buddies ditched him at the end." He stopped, trying to compose himself. "He died alone in that stupid trailer he so loved. It's hard to hate a man who dies alone, Cody. I bought an urn and a small plot. I can't throw him away. Even Judas had Potter's Field. But now I'm back. I'll never leave again." Garret broke. He cried and rocked with the statue in his arms.
"You're kidding me. You're hugging that tin statue and crying? Do you think I'm stupid?" Tyler asked.
"Don't cry. I always knew you'd come back," a young voice said.
"I can't help it. I never thought returning would be so hard." Garrett answered. The statue moved slowly, imperceptibly, trying to wrap its arms around Garrett.
"Put that fucking statue in the van and give me the keys. When we get back you can pack your shit and leave," Tyler snarled. Garrett didn't move. From somewhere, a third voice, a high-pitched, pre-adolescent voice spoke.
"If you don't stop that silly crying, I'll rust. You'd think I had an older sister, not an older brother, the way you're bawling," the young voice said.
"Are you playing with me?" Tyler asked.
Garrett turned, still holding the statue tight to his chest, nearly lifting it off the ground. Tears covered his face and shirt. "Please Tyler, calm down. Give me a chance to explain-." Garrett could barely talk.
"You should introduce me," the statue said, pointing a tin hand at Tyler.
"This is Tyler, my friend and this is Cody, my brother," Garrett said.
"Hi." The statue smiled, and spoke to Tyler.
"It spoke. It's a boy-." Tyler recoiled.
"What gave you the fucking clue, dude?" Cody laughed, a high, tinny laugh.
"Hey, you know better than to swear. First words you get to say in a decade and you swear," Garrett reprimanded.
Cody reached up with a tin hand and wiped the tears off his brother's face. "If you don't quit this ridiculous bawling, I really will rust. I thought you'd be an old, fat couch potato by the time you came back to get me." Cody leaned his tin body against Garrett's muscular one.
"But he's tin," Tyler sputtered, as he watched Cody walk to the van.
"Well you didn't expect to find a flesh and blood boy living in a storage unit, did you?" Garrett hugged Cody once again.
Cody pushed him off and leaned against the van. "Don't bend the metal. And don't think about kissing me again. I got a reputation to live up to with the girls." Buster the dog barked, and licked Cody's metal face.
"Um's a good word. I had Garrett lock me here and make his way in the world."
"He talks," Tyler said.
"Is he always this stupid, or did he forget to take his smart pills today?" Cody stuck a tin tongue out at Tyler.
"He's a little befuddled but he's good in bed. Should I keep him?" Garrett asked.
"Yeah, let's take him home." Cody lifted his brother and set him on the back seat in the van.
Tyler sat in the passenger seat. "Will he always be tin?"
"Oh, no. I'll become flesh and blood in a few days," Cody spoke up.
Garrett pulled the van away from the storage unit. The two brothers talked about cartoons, video games and movies on the drive back to Tyler's house in the Mojave Desert. That night, Cody explored ten years worth of new video games while Garrett and Tyler watched. With each of Cody's victories, Garrett revealed his troubled past as if each of his brother's successes absolved another of his sins.
The desert sun rose gloriously hot and brilliant the next morning. Garrett woke before Tyler. The brothers talked as Garrett drank his morning coffee and Cody sorted through the tin pieces.
"Do you think we have enough tin to do two people?" Garrett asked.
"Sure. Did you ask Tyler?"
"No, I don't plan to ask. I just plan to do. He's still a little hyper. The peace and quiet will do him good," Garrett said.
"You still doubt, don't you? Do you still trust me?"
"Yes, I've always trusted you. I just can't trust me; that's why I lied to Tyler all these years."
"Whatever." Cody shrugged his tin shoulders and assembled the suit of tin around Garrett's body. He activated the transformation. It only took a moment for his brother to turn into tin.
"I almost forgot how good it feels to be hollow, to become cold metal. The solitude and serenity of being metal," Garrett said. Still tin, Barney barked and jumped on Garrett. They laughed and played.
Either the barking or the smell of fresh coffee woke Tyler. He made his way to the balcony overlooking the living room where could see Garrett and Cody play with Barney.
"You're real," he said from the top of a circular staircase. He wobbled down the stairs, studying Cody, Garrett and Barney the dog - a tin trio - move about his living room. "Shit. I thought yesterday was a hallucination from some bad drugs or some spoiled tequila. But you're here, and you're both metal. I must be having a nervous breakdown." He filled two coffee mugs, and drank one with his eyes closed. When he opened them, he looked carefully at the three metal figures in his living room.
"We won't disappear," Cody said, giggling.
Tyler drank the second cup of coffee and reached for the whiskey bottle. He stopped when he saw the paperwork from the cremation and internment of Garrett's father's ashes. "I guess you won't disappear."
Barney barked and jumped on Tyler with his tin tail wagging. Tyler shied away. Cody and Garrett laughed.
"All right, all right, have your fun. Just think of it from my point of view. I come down for coffee and see two walking, talking tin statues. Not only that, his kid laughs at me for jumping away from his tin dog. I'm too young to be this psychotic."
"You're not psychotic. Why don't you join us for a few hours? It will give you an entirely different perspective," Garrett said. Tyler caught a glint of blue light from Garrett's metal eyes.
"Yeah, I can make you tin for a few hours," Cody said, holding up a few pieces. Cody had the same twinkle in his eyes, and the same hand gestures. Tyler studied the tin boy -- his slim body, narrow shoulders, slightly tarnished joints. Whatever he was, he moved with confidence, and acted decisively.
"What have I got to lose? The bats have left the belfry and the basket ain't even prepared for a picnic." He wiggled and squirmed as Cody and Garrett covered his body with tin, fitting the metal plates together without rivets. Tyler insisted Garrett cover the delicate, sensitive and more personal parts of his body. When they finished, he walked to a mirror to see how he looked.
"How do you do this? It doesn't scratch or scrape my skin when I move. I can't figure out how you pieced the tin to get it anatomically correct," Tyler said, posing.
"Just one more piece." Cody stuck a button the size of a quarter on Tyler's shoulder. Heat poured through Tyler's body. He felt his human body -- his flesh, blood and bones -- changing for the first time. He bent, twisted, gripped, stood upright, clutched, and flexed. All through the transformation, a fire, much like an orgasm filled his body -- changing him, hollowing him, emptying him, metallizing both body and mind. The transformation scorched. Then, as fast as it started, it finished. Tyler gaped at his reflection. No blood rushed through his body, no heart beat in his chest, no lungs gasped for breath, but he stood there, all metal, alive and moving.
"Neat, isn't it? It's like your body isn't there, and the tin sort of floats around under your control. All sorts of cool things happen if you stop and pay attention; really cool things. You don't worry about time. Your mind doesn't have a clock anymore. You don't have to eat yogurt, spinach or that farty broccoli. It's never too hot or too cold. It's fun, isn't it?" Cody beamed with pride.
"How is this possible?" he asked, touching the sofa, feeling the cushions, listening to the click-clack of his feet on the hardwood floor.
"It's even neater outside. Come on!" Cody tugged at Tyler, and ran to the back door. Barney trailed, barking and bouncing out of the sprawling house.
"He's quite a bundle of energy. I thought you'd return him to flesh and blood last night."
"Cody insisted. I used to think he enjoyed running around as a tin man more than being human. He begged me to let him convert us, and join him today. After all, the transformation is his one big accomplishment in life and as he would say - last one outside is rotten egg." Garrett winked and dashed away. Tyler felt the hot sun on his metal body. He didn't sweat. He didn't overheat. He chased barefoot after Cody, clattering along the stony path. The spines of the cactus garden didn't harm him. They chased Cody around the house, and up to the stone outcropping behind it. Tyler had built a limestone patio there, with a small fire pit. A couple of lawn chairs and a cooler to hold drinks sat nearby.
"You guys ever sit out here?"
"On warm nights, your brother and I lay up here and watch the stars. During the day, we leave it to the birds of prey." Tyler pointed to the sky where an eagle soared high above them.
"Nothing like watching the world go by." Cody smiled, holding his arms out to embrace the breeze, letting it flow around him. Barney stuck his doggie nose out into the wind, and pointed to the far horizon. Tyler mimicked Cody, pretending he could soar over the desert spread out before him.
"Tyler owns most of what you see." Garrett pointed out to the desert.
"Oh good heavens, don't tell the boy that. I only own a small chunk of the desert." Tyler put his hand on Garrett's shoulder. They laughed, relaxing in the breeze and the hot sun. Cody came up behind them and pressed a tin button into the small of their backs. Both men grew solid and immobile.
"You know Barney, I've never met two guys so uptight." Cody said as he fastened the tin men to the limestone using liquid nails, metal plates and bolts. He froze Barney, and bolted him into position. Then he posed his own body, located the bolts for his feet, and fastened them to the ground.
"You guys need a rest. You need to relax," he said to the statues of his brother and Tyler. "I left instructions for the guards on how to take care of us. I figure 3600 days and 120 moons will be enough time to for all our troubles to slip away. Slow down and watch the world go by. You'll both have a second chance, courtesy of your little brother who stayed home." Cody pressed a button to his body and became motionless.
2940 words more or less
FUTURES YET UNKNOWN
Ten Stories by Dave Fragments
*An Alien serial murderer and a furry detective with fleas.
*Murder on a world with altered humans.
*Disturbing apocalyptic visions *Monstrous dystopian societies.
*A man on trial for betraying the human race to robots.
*Devils, demons and ghosts.
*Survivors of a plague war.
*Cyborgs trying to be human.
*Six friends in a strange sinkhole.
*The truth about a world drowning in rain, without sun, without hope.
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