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May 10, 2012

I Hraet You (4)

Beat 4: Best.  Family.  Ever?

The sun slid past Porbeagle’s horizon, and made its daily trek into the sky.  As light swept over the coastal town, its denizens began their morning routine.  Birds -- seagulls among them -- chirped and cawed, and started their search for morning meals.  The shadows that once ruled the town’s short buildings sank into the cracks, allowing each weathered brick to take in the rays and the heat.  Cars started heading out for work, going from the tops of sloped hills to the stores at the bottom; at least half of them broke off and headed for the ports, or the docks, or wherever they’d left their boats.  If they could see the sparkling sea, then they had no reason to avoid a good day’s work.
Porbeagle’s regular, everyday activity -- all of it, in tempo with the waves splashing against its coast -- had grown into a part of the town.  A natural alarm clock, of sorts; in spite of its small size (or maybe because of it), the launching of its fleet and the motion of its people lent the town its character.  Plenty of people woke up with a smile thanks to the sea-heavy symphony.
But not Lloyd.  Not today, at least.  He woke up because apparently, someone had decided to clamp his hands in a vise.

“Hngghaaaaah!” he cried, trying -- and failing -- to break free.  But that man had him in a grip that his dainty fingers couldn’t escape.  That man, of course, being the beast hovering a few inches away from his face: Patton B. Hoigleheimer.
“Big” didn’t even begin to describe him.  Supposedly, he stood at six foot ten since he’d started high school, and he had yet to lose a single inch of that to age.  But most would argue he looked even bigger than that; many feared that it was only a matter of time before his squared-off shoulders got caught in a doorway, and his stout stomach could probably hold more than a beer keg.  His arms and legs alike looked as if he smuggled entire pigs beneath his skin, and his hands (still moments away from crushing Lloyd’s geisha-like digits) could no doubt wrap around a whole watermelon. 
To say nothing of his face.  A jaw so wide, it needed its own car lanes.  A hefty brow and even heftier black eyebrows.  A nose borrowed from a Moai statue.  A black beard and mustache as thick as any forest, accompanied by a matching pair of mutton chops.  Tiny brown eyes, barely noticeable thanks to his girth, but easily felt by any prey he chose to stare down.
And currently, he gave Lloyd his famous stare down.  A low rumble echoed from his throat, and his lips started to part.  He opened his mouth, letting the scent of a thousand steaks drift into the air.  Finally, he spoke, in a voice that made the entire room quiver.
“Daddy’s so glad you’re okay, Lloyd.”
Lloyd nodded rapidly.  “S-same here, Dad,” he said with a wobbling smile.  “Do you think you could let go of my hand now?  You’re kind of turning it into dust.”
Patton let go in an instant, and tucked his hands behind his back.  As he did, Lloyd noticed his attire: a gray shirt -- one still damp with tears, he noted -- and a paint-splattered apron, along with some stained overalls underneath.  “Sorry, son.  Daddy was at the convention, but as soon as word got out that you’d been in an accident, I ran back here as fast as I could.”
“I appreciate the sentiment -- really, I do.  But there’s no need to wo-”
“I mean, I literally ran here.  I had to smash a few cars in the process, but I’d do anything for my boy.  Anything.”  He slapped Lloyd atop the shoulder; for a moment, the prince thought he’d heard it split from the rest of his body.
“Yes, it’s comforting to know you care, Da-”
“It caused a pretty big mess, but it was worth it to be by your side, son.  I even got in a few fights for your sake.”  He raised a fist into the air.  “You shouldn’t have crossed me, you old hag!”
“I think he gets the point.”
Lloyd peeked past Patton’s shoulder.  He hadn’t even noticed that he showed up, too.  An easy mistake to make; that four (and a half!) foot pipsqueak could hide in the shadow of a hamster if he wanted to.  But what he lacked in size, he compensated with a cool air.  He hadn’t bothered making any physical contact with his big brother, or even shown any signs that he loved him; he just stayed in his chair, one leg folded atop another, and gave Lloyd a chilly gaze. 

He clasped his hands, though it was hard to tell thanks to the much-too-large hoodie he’d thrown on.  The belt to his black shorts had been tightened well beyond their max -- he had to poke a few extra holes into the leather -- and his high tops no doubt concealed rather tiny feet…and added a few inches.  In spite of his vertical issues, he looked more mature than Lloyd, or even Patton at times; true, he had the ruffled brown hair of any given tween, but those hazel eyes of his and that stoic frown were enough to dissuade even the most malicious of muggers from going on the attack.
Lloyd raised a hand and offered a smile.  “Ah, it’s good to see you, my bro-”
“Let’s skip the theatrics for once, okay?  Time is money.”  JP B. Hoigleheimer.  Occupation?  Straight man.  “I was hoping that Dad and I would be able to get some real business going at the convention, but thanks to your little…”  He raised his hands, and drew quotations in the air.  “Mishap…we had to leave early.  Really, Lloyd?  A Ferris wheel?  How’d you manage that?”
“It was a trick of the fates.”
JP sighed.  “I can’t tell if you’re brain’s broken or not.  You still talk like a loony, but on the other hand, you’re talking like a loony.”
“Oh, really?”  Lloyd leaned forward with a cat-like grin plastered across his face.  “At the very least, I remember your full name.”  He pumped his eyebrows up and down.  “Is that proof enough for you, Judas Priest?”
JP winced and pulled back in his chair.  “I told you not to call me that!” he snapped.  He turned quickly to Patton.  “And why would you ever agree to make that my name?!” he hissed.
“Your mother was a fan of heavy metal,” Patton said, rubbing the back of his neck.  “Anyway, the important thing is that all three of us are alive and well -- and once we get out of here, we can have some steaks to celebrate.”
“Huzzah!  Your big, hearty, sixteen-ounce T-bone steaks are worthy of angelic chorus!” Lloyd declared, practically breaking into song himself.  “Granted, I’ve never been able to finish a single one on my own, but I appreciate the effort!”
JP (still reeling at the use of his full name) didn’t share the enthusiasm.  “Hold on a minute, Dad.  We should only eat a meal like that on special occasions.  Lloyd getting out of the hospital from an accident he probably could have avoided easily --”
“What, did you want me to dodge a Ferris wheel?” Lloyd whined.
“-- isn’t nearly big enough to justify spending on big steaks.”  He reached into his hoodie’s front pocket and pulled out a calculator.  “Let’s see…in this economy, and with the current prices of steaks in the local grocer, taking into account the average market worth, compounded by the general supply and ease of transport of meat into Porbeagle…”
“You’re such a miser, Judas!  How are you going to get the most out of life if you pinch all your penni-“
JP gave him a quick answer.  He threw his calculator at Lloyd’s forehead like a shuriken.  “Who gave you permission to use my first name?” he demanded; he leapt from his seat and glared at his older brother, his frown now curled into a canine scowl.  “Didn’t I tell you there’s a fee for that?  Pay up!  Better hurry, interest rates are high!”
But Lloyd merely raised his chin in derision.  “My my, what have we here?” he asked, folding his arms over his chest.  “So the guppy thinks himself a loan shark?  Why, Shakespeare himself couldn’t have written a better persona!”
JP slapped a hand on the bed.  “I’m warning you.  You’re already in the hospital -- you’d better not mess with me!”
“Oh, so you want to throw hands?  Be my guest, little brother!  I’d be happy to show you your place!”
And throw hands they did -- they flapped their hands at each other, trying and failing to get in the first slap.  “Ow, ow, ow!  No nails!” Lloyd whined as JP’s finger scraped his palm.  “Nails are cheating!”
“YOU’RE cheating!” JP fired back.
But Patton had had enough (and felt no small amount of shame in the fact that he’d seen babies who fought better than them).  He seized both his sons in a headlock, one lodged between each bicep, and reeled them close to his body.  “What’s important is that we’re here, and we’re happy.  So there’s no reason for us to fight.  Got that?”
“Y-yes, Daddy,” Lloyd and JP squeezed through their throats. 
“Good.  Daddy hates seeing his sons fight, so be sure to get along.”  He pulled his sons close to his manly bosom.  “Family’s gotta stick together, even if it means snapping a few necks!  But as long as you have friends in the lower to mid-level judicial branch, you’ve got a better chance of not going to court!”
Well, that was a worrisome non-sequitur, Lloyd thought as Patton released the boys at last.  Just what exactly are you doing at night?
JP -- after massaging his wind pipe open -- gestured toward the door.  “At any rate, the doctor says you’ll be ready to go at the end of the day.  So we’ll be back later to get you.”  His brow tightened.  “Try not to get run over by a roller coaster while we’re gone.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” said Lloyd.  Patton and JP offered a friendly nod and started toward the door, the latter muttering about ways to recoup their losses.  But before they could head out, Lloyd held up a hand.  “O-oh, that reminds me.  Did you two happen to see a blonde-haired woman on your way in?”  He raised a hand above his head.  “About this tall, and wearing a swimsuit under an open shirt?”
Patton and JP exchanged looks.
“She -- she spent the night with me.  She’s the one who saved me after the accident; she said she was a surfer.”
“Surfer?” JP repeated.  “Lloyd, Porbeagle isn’t exactly a town that’s famous for its surfing.  With all the ships going around, I doubt it’s even a good idea to try it.”
“What?  But she even threatened to clobber me with her surfboard!”
JP turned to his dad for support.  “Sorry, Lloyd.  We didn’t see anyone like that.  You’re sure you’re feeling all right?”
Lloyd opened his mouth to object, but decided to clam up.  He didn’t need to prove that Trixie wasn’t some sort of ghost, thanks to the glass jar he’d thrown earlier (he spotted a few shards under the chair, no doubt missed by the nurse’s morning sweep).  But without a lead on where his savior had gone, he didn’t see much use in dwelling on the subject.  He’d find her soon enough.  And of course, there was still a bigger matter to attend to.
He stroked his chin.  That audition room could prove very useful to me -- IF I can harness its power.  He stared furtively at his father and brother.  And these two may be just who I need to make that power mine.
Patton scratched his head and looked at JP.  “Did he always look that evil?” he asked.
“If by evil you mean ‘looks like a villain from a Saturday morning cartoon,’ then yes.”  JP watched as Lloyd twirled his (imaginary) moustache.  “By the way, am I adopted?”



  1. I love your staging, combined with interesting characters it's very easy for me to get drawn in and want to read more.

    Note: I love the dad. Classic.

  2. Very funny stuff. I agree with dimanagul, your staging is impecable, sets things up very well. I love the brotherly bickering. Great work!

  3. When it comes to brotherly bickering, I have a fair bit of experience. (Though back in the day, we settled things with our beloved grass fights...at least until we realized that all the biting, stinging bugs in the backyard would ALWAYS win.)