Jack

Dad is silent all morning. Well, usually he's not talkative, but that's not the reason he is silent now. He is on edge. If he starts to speak, he will break down, and he cannot afford this. Five hundred acres of land are waiting for him. Therefore, he is silent, gritting his teeth.

I am silent because I don't know what to say. Yesterday morning my aunt called and said that two men had climbed into their house. Their farm is nearby. It was the evening of the previous day, and only Courtney and Kelly were at home — her ten and twelve-year-old daughters, uncle and aunt were busy at the stable.

Two men climbed through the window, they didn't take anything, but tried to abuse the girls. Fortunately, my uncle returned to the house. But these bastards managed to escape. The girls seem to be all right, but they are scared, they don't talk to anyone. Aunt took them to the city.

And then the uncle called and said that the intruders had been arrested.

The father dotes on his little nieces, of course, he is torn with anger that some psychos wanted to hurt them. Father has been sulking all morning. He dropped the keys to the tractor a couple of times, so I didn't let him get behind the wheel. Now he sits next to me and scowls around. As if looking for something or someone.

And he finds it. On the outskirts of the field, under a single spreading tree, I notice a car. The father also sees it and immediately straightens up. I stop nearby, my father jumps to the ground and pulls a gun from the back.

"Dad," I try to catch up with him, but he is already near the car. I can't stop him now.

He knocks on the glass:

"Get out of the car. Hold your hands where I can see 'em." There is no tremor in my father's voice, but I can see how he turned pale. A guy gets out of the car. Judging from his tired face, he hardly slept and, of course, did not expect to see a gun in front of him. He holds his hands in front of him, hunching over.

"Sir, calm down, please," the guy says politely, throwing a cautious glance at me.

"What about the other one? Get out too!" Father doesn't back down.

The other one? Is there someone else in the car?

"Sir, listen to me, please. There is no need to point the gun at us. We are not dangerous. My name is Brent Royce. And there, in the car, it's my younger brother, Aiden. He can't go out, he is sick."

Father is angry, his anger has been accumulating since yesterday evening, and it is becoming more and more difficult for him to hold it back.

"What the hell are you doing here?"

"We drove until dusk, we just stopped to spend the night here. And if you put your gun down, We'll leave."

I watch my father, try to stay calm, but I like it less and less.

"Dad," I say. His anger is on the rise, and I try to somehow slow it down.

"Shut up," he says. And there is silence, broken only by the creak of the rear door of the car. The guy, obviously, Aiden, who came out of there, is barely standing on his feet. He is quite pale. He looks at the gun, fascinated.

"You said he was sick," the father throws the gun up again, his finger on the hook.

"He is sick! Aiden! Get back in the car!" Brent exclaims desperately, as if he knows his brother won't hear him. Aiden goes to father. The situation heats up in an instant, and I feel an unpleasant cold in the back of my head. It makes me take a step forward.

"Aiden!" shouts Brent.

"Stop where you are, boy!" father turns to him.

"Aiden!"

"I said, stop!"

"Dad!" I has only a couple of steps left to reach him.

"Don't shoot! Aiden, stop, for god's sake!"

The barrel presses against the guy's chest, and Brent grabs him by the shoulders. Father's finger twitches, and I manage to grasp his hand and pull it towards me. A shot rings out, father falls to the ground, these two do too.

"Aiden!" Brent examines his brother, but there seems to be no blood on him.

"Dad, that's enough!" I take the gun from my father's hands. It looks like he's scared himself. "You could've killed someone! Damn!"

Brent tries to lift his brother, but suddenly Aiden starts screaming. His scream is like a piercing cry. Cold wave rushes upon me. Maybe father hurt him? Then it's bad. Very bad.

I throw the gun aside. We are trying to find a wound on Aiden together with Brent, but there are no traces of blood on the clothes, and the clothes themselves are intact. Why is he screaming then? His face is contorted, as if he is in unbearable pain. And tears are streaming down his cheeks. I've never seen anyone cry like that. Brent tries unsuccessfully to calm him down. And I feel sorry for him, Brent seems powerless and helpless. Aiden stops abruptly in his arms.

"Aiden?! Aiden?!" He calls out to him, but Aiden must have lost consciousness.

"Get out of here," says father, looking down at us. "Get your lunatic back in the car and get out."

Brent lifts his motionless brother and carries him to the car. I can't understand why, but my heart aches desperately from this picture. I pick up the gun from the ground and carry it to the tractor, my father follows. He's still angry, but he's pretty overwhelmed. Apparently, he didn't expect this from himself.

"Was it really necessary to immediately point the gun at them?" I ask, stowing the gun in the rear box and snapping the lock.

"How do I know they are not dangerous ?! And look, one of them is generally crazy."

"You don't know what they..."

"What difference does it make to me?" father spits irritably. "I want them out of my land."

This guy, Brent, comes up to us. He looks exhausted.

"Sorry again," he says. "My phone is dead. Can I borrow yours, please? The car broke down apparently and..."

"I don't care!" father snaps. "Do you know that you are on my territory? I can shoot you and burn you with this car."

I can't stand it. These two, apparently, had a hard time.

"Dad! Stop it!"

My father looks askance at me and stops talking.

"The house is there, I can take you," I say.

"I can't leave Aiden," Brent says firmly. "Maybe you… you can call…"

"Maybe I just look at your car?"

I want to help him in some way, I don't know exactly why. But this guy looks pretty normal. He looks at me with some amazement, but agrees.

I feel uncomfortable and want to fix it.

"Sorry about my father," I say. "Yesterday two men broke into the neighboring farm and tried to rape two girls, ten and twelve years old. They are my father's nieces. He's not himself right now."I pause. "I am Jack."

"Brent."

"What happened to your brother?"

"Long story."

Probably I should not have asked. I, of course, did not expect that he would tell me everything at once. But I couldn't help asking.

Their car is old. Silver Jeep Cherokee 1985. Opening the hood, I realize that nobody cared about it. I haven't seen such a neglected engine for a long time, it's surprising that it worked at all. Since childhood, I am into cars, and my father always encouraged my interest.

"It's good to have a smart mechanic on the farm," he always said. I liked that he called me smart and that he brought me a bunch of car magazines from different years so that I could figure out how the engines work. At twelve I was helping my father to fix the tractors, and at sixteen I was already doing it alone and I had to watch over father's cars. In return, I could take any car and ride in the fields as much as I wanted.

"Why don't you love your car so much?" I'm trying to break the ice.

"What?"

"Well... this is the end of your car and your journey." I say and close the hood.

"What? Why?"

"The engine is completely worn out, I can't say more precisely. The oil is everywhere, the candles maybe dead or the accumulator..."

More precisely, I think that everything died there, but I don't want to upset him. This news shocks Brent, he is rubbing his face as if trying to return the blood to his pale cheeks. I feel sorry for him again.

"Where did you go anyway, if it's not a secret?"

"Nowhere."

Good answer. Very clear... I can see despair overtake Brent. I hope he won't lose his composure. But I don't know how to help him.

"Maybe you have work here? " he squeezes out, his head lowers.

Apparently, things are really bad for him.

"Come on."

We go to my father, he seems to have cooled down, he stands by the tractor and looks at the protectors.

"Father," I turn to him, but he doesn't even look at me. "This is Brent..."

"Royce," Brent adds.

"He and his brother just need a job. And we need helpers, you said yourself this morning."

Dad looks at me from under furrowed brows, then looks at Brent.

"What can you do?" He asks sternly.

It's good. So he is frowning only for show. My father often listens to me, and it is clear that he would like to quickly forget about today's incident.

"Farm things, you mean?.. A little, but... I will do what you say. I am a fast learner and not afraid of work."

"What about your brother? What's wrong with him? Is he crazy? Is he dangerous?"

I get tense, listening to the answer and glancing at the silver Cherokee under the tree.

"No, no, sir," Brent says hastily. "He had a severe shock... Our parents died in a car accident... and he... he was in the car with them."

Oh, I see. Well then, his condition is understandable. Although it's not entirely clear what they're doing here? Maybe they went to visit relatives? Why won't they call them and tell them that the car has broken down?..

Something he still doesn't tell.

"You don't look shocked," his father says incredulously.

"I need to take care of my brother."

This answer was clearly to my father's liking.

"Orson Phelps," he says. "This is my son, Jack. You can help on the farm."

"Thank you, thank you very much, Mr. Phelps," Brent's voice sounds relieved.

"Jack, take the pickup and tell Laura to unlock the house for the shepherds," my father looks at me.

"It has a leaky roof."

"Then they'll fix it."

"We'll fix it," Brent says immediately. This is a good approach. Father will like him. Brent's face lightens up, it even seems to me that he sighed a couple of times with relief, as if part of the load had been lifted from his shoulders. But, there is still enough left.

I come for them in a pickup truck. Brent pulls his brother out of the car, Aiden still hasn't come to his senses. Brent seats him in the middle and holds him all the way home.

Are they really brothers?

I can't tell by appearance, although both are tall and thin. But that's where the similarities end. Brent's hair is dark, like his eyes, while Aiden's hair is black and his eyes are light. When he looked at the barrel of the gun, they seemed to me transparent and colorless. Face features are not alike.

Laura meets us on the porch. I had time to say only a few words to her in the morning when I took the pickup. "I'll bring the workers now," I said. Laura grinned wryly as usual and rose an eyebrow.

Brent and I get out of the car, Laura takes a quick glance at Brent and then looks at Aiden behind the windshield.

"This is Laura, my little sister," I say.

"Brent. Nice to meet you," Brent tells her and takes his brother by the shoulder.

"Let me," I push Brent aside and take Aiden in my arms. He seems light. Laura looks at me, baffled, but then opens the door and says:

"Come in. What happened to him?"

"He's in shock or something,"I say. "Father pointed his gun at him, he thought they were those two from yesterday... Maybe you could check on him?"

"Put him on the sofa."

I put Aiden on the couch and Laura does a quick examination – she's a medical student. Then she purses her lips and shakes her head.

"Well... he is in shock."

"I'll put him in my room for now," I say, and leave Laura and Brent behind.

My room is at the very end of the hallway. As a child, I was upset that my parents and Laura had rooms on the second floor, and I didn't. But over time, I realized the beauty of this separation. Firstly, I was close to the kitchen and I had my own bathroom, my parents and Laura shared one, and secondly, an exit to the veranda was directly opposite my door, and from there I could get to the garage. So I could work on the engine of some old Impala until nightfall, and then get some food and sit on the veranda or in front of the TV. I didn't bother anyone, and nobody bothered me.

I put Aiden on my bed and notice the bandages under the sleeves of his shirt. Yes, bandages on the right and left wrists.

There is definitely something Brent is not telling me.

Aiden is very pale and cold. I brush the hair back from his forehead and caress his cheek.

I couldn't hold back.

He needs to rest, come to his senses, to gain strength.

I look at him before I leave and try to chase away the morning memories of his screaming and crying. Something about him hooked me. I close the door. Laura and Brent are in the kitchen. She has already managed to get him to talk, she know how to break the ice.

When Brent sees me, he instantly forgets about Laura, in his eyes there is only concern for his brother.

"He's asleep, so don't worry. Plus, after what happened, I don't think he will have the strength to even get up. Let him come to himself, then he will have to eat. By the way, you look like dinner wouldn't hurt you either."

Brent only grins in response. Laura puts a coffee pot, pancakes, and honey on the table. Now she reminds me of my mother. She, without knowing it, cooks pancakes just like mom. How is this possible? Laura was only five years old when our mother died.

Brent eats hastily and seems to be on guard all the time. I need to distract him somehow. Maybe it will pass at work?