The Boys

“Why aren’t you two sleeping?”

“We are.”

“No, you aren’t. I can hear you goofing around up there. Don’t you lie to me.”

“We’re not mom. We’re just getting ready. William has to brush his teeth.”

“Go. To. Bed.” William and his adopted cousin William sit still on the floor of their bedroom and watch each other, anticipating angry, mothering footsteps coming up the stairs. A corner lamp cuts quick shadow across the room with an angled line of it darkening the closed door. 

“I told you to be quiet.”

“You were the one laughing so loud.” The two giggle quietly and turn another page of a magazine William took from his older brother’s bedroom. 

“Look at the size of those? They must get in the way. What if you had to run?” William takes a pillow and holds it to his chest, mimics running around the room hitting himself in the face. William holds his mouth and spits laughter through his fingers.

Together they continue flipping through the pages of the magazine and their amusement turns into wonder. Laughter from the television downstairs floats up through the floor vents, and William’s parents chatter with their friends visiting for the evening.

“We better turn the light out before your aunt comes up and gives us hell.” William distances himself from his mother when she acts out of their favor.

“My aunt? She’s your mother.” William laughs and turns his eyes to the floor.

“What are you laughing at?”

“She has boobs too. We don’t want to make her run up the stairs.” Both boys fall prone on the floor, stifling their laughter only makes it louder.

“That’s it!” William’s mother shouts and her footsteps fall heavily and quick on the stairs. The other adults downstairs laugh. Only seconds pass but when the door swings open the magazine is hidden underneath William’s mattress, the lamp is turned off, and the boys are tucked deeply under their covers with their eyes closed. The light from the hallway cascades into the room and silhouettes the figure standing there. William sits up and shields his eyes.

“Mom! What are you doing? Turn the light out, we’re trying to sleep.” She twists her face feigning anger and trying to conceal her laughter.

“Not. Another. Word. Good night.” The boys are silent. They wait for the sound of retreating footsteps on the stairs.

“Boobs.” William snickers. William bursts into laughter and buries his face with his pillow. His tears soak the cotton cover.

Night after night they would laugh each other to sleep like this.

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