Chapter Thirteen: My Best Friends.

Charles lay in his bed, looking at the
ceiling. He'd been allowed to return to his apartment, provided he
stayed in bed and alerted the caretakers immediately if something
went wrong.
He felt lonely and angry. Charlie
hadn't needed training, it was only a ruse to keep his grand-father
out of the way. The insult stung.
Charles could have turned on the TV.
He could have read the twenty or so books that the twins had brought
him. But he couldn't bring himself to even lift his head.
He WAS getting old. He'd just had a
heart-attack, for pete's sake. His hips were constantly locking up
and his reaction time was much slower than he had once been.
His thoughts turned to the past. Joe,
Tim and him. They were unstoppable in their day.
“You're certain this is going to
work?” Joe looked doubtfully at the go-cart, which Tim was 100%
certain was going to work.
“Yup.” Tim grinned back.
“And you're going to beat those punks
on the other side of town?”
“With no injuries?”
“And the cart left in one piece?”
“Even though Pleasant Gorge is full
of dangerous turns and covered with rocks?”
“The Improbability-,”
“Finish that sentence and I'll deck
Charles laughed. “You're just
jealous Joey.”
“No, I'm not. I just disapprove of
using the Improbability Clause for every little thing that comes up
out of the woodwork!” Joe fired back.
“Yup, jealous.” Charles continued
to laugh.
The three boys had been challenged by
another group of boys on the other side of the city to a go-cart
race. It was the school holidays and the perfect time for young boys
just in their teens to start causing mischief.
“This beauty will have no trouble
getting down that hill.” Tim bragged. “And she'll have no
problem beating Davis, Bull and Pitt.”
“This beauty” was made of old
plywood and tape, with some old baby carriage wheels to finish it
“We're doomed.” Joe buried his face
in his hands, his long hair falling around his face. As the oldest,
Joe was usually the most level-headed and often kept the other two
out of trouble. Tim was next, and was always IN trouble. Charlie
was the littlest, and tagged along with whatever Tim wanted to do.
“You're such a spoilsport Joey.”
Tim poked his best friend in the ribs. “We'll be fine!”
“Besides, the girls will be there
watching!” Charles piped up, earning him laughs from the older two.
“Charles got a girlfriend has he?”
Joe ruffled his friends hair.
“No!” Charles shoved him back.
“Well, I will by the end of the week.
I reckon Denise likes me.” Tim smirked, proud of himself.
“Denise Fairweather? No way.”
Charles frowned. “You're too fat!”
“Yeah, Tubby!” Joe gave Tim a good
push. “You need to stop eating for a month, then you might have a
“Yeah, and you need to eat for a
month and you might have a chance with Delilah.” Tim said slyly.
“You know that's an arranged
marriage! I have no choice!” Joe groaned.
“You like her.”
“Do not!”
“The only thing stronger than your
love for Delilah is your jealousy of the Improbability Clause.”
Charles roared with laughter as Joe
tore after Tim, who ran off laughing.
The kids from the other side of the
city had a beautiful new store-bought cart that looked stunning.
It's metal exterior gleamed and the paintwork was exquisite.
Joe looked doubtfully at Tims cart.
The thing looked perilously close to breaking apart, the tape looked
ready to rip at a moments notice.
“Look at THAT! No way is that even
going to make it to the finish line!” Bull laughed.
“She will too!” Tim fought back.
“Oh please, it's barely holding
together as it is!” Pitt jeered.
“One weeks pocket money says
“You're on!”
“Hang on-,” Joe tried to intervene.
He really didn't want to give up a weeks pocket money, especially
when he was so close to finishing his model plane collection!
“Too late! Unless you're a wussy.”
Bull teased. The others started chanting “Wussy!” until Joe gave
Four of the boys piled into the two
carts, with Joe and Davis ready to push the carts down the steep
slope that had been the bank of Lake Pleasant until it had been
“On your mark…get set…” The
weaselly, pimply Mitch from their class got ready to start the race.
No one particularly liked him, but he was good for little things like
this. “GO!”
Both boys pushed as hard as they could
before jumping into the back of the carts. The two small vehicles
tore down the slope.
“WATCH OUT!” Yelped Joe as the
poorly-constructed cart rattled over a large rock. The other cart
had dodged it, costing the driver a bit of time.
“Faster Bull!” Davis protested.
“I'm trying!” Bull roared back,
dodging another bush that the other three boys had simply gone
Joe had never been so terrified in his
life. The sides of the cart were starting to fall off, and he
grabbed them tightly to keep them from flying away. Charles was
whooping with joy and Tim was fully focused on steering the
contraption…or at least pretending to, he hadn't thought about the
actual steering side of things.
The end was in sight, and the newer,
shinier cart was barely in front.
Joe. Precision steering was needed to get between those two
logs…and there was none.
“LEAN RIGHT!” Tim yelled back. The
three boys leaned right. It was too late, Joe only just being able
to grab Charles and pull him back before the cart smacked into the
side of one of the logs and went spinning towards the finish line,
the other cart barely avoiding getting hit.
Joe grimaced. Charles had nearly had
his face scraped off by the sharp sticks that pointed out of the
logs. The cart finally landed at the finish line, to the cheers of
the other children who had come to watch.
“YOU DID IT TIM!” Denise yelled
with joy. “YOU WON!”
“How in the-?!” Bull, Pitt and
Davis pulled up behind the three winners as the cart completely fell
“You were too scared to get your cart
damaged.” Tim pointed out.
IMPROBABILITY CLAUSE!” Joe roared furiously. Suddenly he felt a
sharp pain in face. He grabbed his eye, and was rewarded with the
sight of his own blood.
A nice big cut had opened up over his
eye. Thankfully the eye itself hadn't been damaged, but stitches
were going to be needed.
“Are you okay Joey?!” Delilah ran
over to help her friend. “Come on, we need to get you home!”
“Cripes, sorry Joey. Didn't mean for
you to get hurt.” Tim looked at Joe, scared. “You haven't lost
your eye have you?”
“NO. My dignity yes, but the rest of
me is fine thank you!” Joe walked off with Delilah. Tim and
Charles followed, feeling a bit sheepish.
“Maybe helmets next time?” Charles
“NO NEXT TIME!” Joe yelped.
Two tears fell from the eyes of the old
man lying helpless in his bed. No longer racing go-carts down
Pleasant Gorge, no longer fighting wars.
He felt useless. Impotent. Alone.
Charles reached over and grabbed the
remote. He flicked aimlessly through the channels.
There was a knock at the door.
“Come in!” He croaked. In walked
Joe Masters, the old scar from the cart-race joined by two others.
It made Joe look far older than he really was.
“Hard to believe you're older than
me.” Charles smiled wryly.
“What does that matter?” Joe asked.
“One of those scars should be mine.”
Charles said.
“Again, that doesn't matter. You have
nothing to prove Charles.” Joe said sternly. “You're my friend.”
“If it wasn't you protecting me, it
was Timmy.” Charles coughed.
“You did your fair share too. How
many times did you stop Tim and I from killing each other?” Joe
helped the other man sit up so he could have some water.
“When did we get old Joey? When did
we stop mattering?” Charles sipped his water slowly.
“We still matter mate. We're still
relevant. We're still loved.” Joe took the cup as Charles lay back
down. “You shouldn't have been so upset with Charlie. He got a
great deal out of your training.”
“It was a ruse.” Charles said.
“Because he loves you. He wants to
protect you. He also wants to learn from you. He can't do that if
you get yourself killed.” Joe tried to reason with his old friend.
Charles lay back. “I can't stop
Joey. I need to be out there. I need to be doing SOMETHING!”
Joe sighed. Charles was never going to
stop, that was true. He had always been ready to sign up to whatever
stupid plan Tim had going. He was always the first to volunteer for
a dangerous mission when they'd been at war. He'd scoffed at anyone
who hung back. He was prepared to do anything. Any dare, any
favour, anything to make himself noticed.
“You were always the oldest. You
were the one who always protected us. Tim always had the ideas. And
I was the lackey who followed along, because you two were the most
awe-inspiring kids in the neighbourhood. Everyone wanted to be you
guys. And you didn't mind that I tagged along. You made me your
friend.” Charles coughed loudly again, prompting Joe to refill the
water glass.
Joe watched helplessly as the younger
mans coughing fit got worse. He reached up to push the red button
that would call for help, but Charles stopped him.
“No, it's alright, I'm fine.”
Charles coughed out, clearly NOT fine. Joe continued to pushing the
button. “NO! Don't push that! I'm fine! I'm fine!” Charles
coughing fit soon stopped him from talking. Joe pushed the button,
and within five minutes a nurse had arrived to take care of the
The glare that followed Joe out of the
room would haunt him for the rest of his days.

© 2021 Kezzstar24