“Jared!” yelled Connor. “Give me back my Monsterzine!”
Jared held the comic book high over his brother’s head. Connor knew better than to jump for it. Jared was taller, and would just lift it higher. Instead, Connor shoved him. “Jared, give it back! It’s mine!”
Jared barely moved. “Come and get it, squirt!”
“Don’t call me that! And give it back! MOM!”
“Stop fighting, you two!” their mother called out from the kitchen.
“But, Mom!” Connor yelled. “Jared stole my monster comic!”
Their mother appeared in the kitchen doorway. She was wearing her bright red apron, the one that Connor called her bull-fighting cape. Her hair was short and curly and her eyes were blue and pretty. But right now, she looked as mad as a bullfighter.
“Will you two please stop it? I’ve been listening to you both bickering all day. Can we please have some peace and quiet?”
“But Mom, I was being peaceful and quiet!” Connor said. “I was reading my Monsterzine, and Jared grabbed it away from me!” He glared at his brother. It was so unfair! Connor always got in trouble, and it was always Jared who started the fights. Always!
Connor wished he were big enough to push Jared out the front door, down the porch steps, and all the way down the street to the big ditch at the bottom of the road. Sploosh! Then he’d come out covered in green slime and looking like a monster. Or better yet, maybe he’d be eaten by a monster. That would serve him right.
“Enough!” their mother said. “I don’t want to hear another word out of you two.”
“But, Mom, Jared started it!”
“Connor, please! No more!” She turned and marched back into the kitchen.
Connor scowled. It wasn’t his fault!
Jared held out the comic. “Better not yell for Mom this time. She said not another word.”
Connor snatched his Monsterzine back.
“Off to play with your imaginary monster friends?” Jared asked. Then he leaned down and whispered, “Everyone knows there’s no such thing as monsters, weirdo.”
Connor knew he wasn’t supposed to argue with Jared any more, but he couldn’t help it. “There are too, and I hope that someday they come to this house and eat you.”
Jared laughed. “Monsters are stupid.”
“How can they be stupid if they’re not real?”
“Oh, so they’re not real?”
“No!” Connor said. “I mean, yes! I mean, how can you say they’re stupid if you don’t even believe in them? I know they’re real. They’re real and they’re smarter than you, so there.”
“Whatever, Shrimp. You’re younger and smaller than everyone, so no one cares what you think. Even if a real monster was standing right here, do you think anyone would listen to you?” Jared stood with his feet apart and his arms out like a sumo wrestler. He screwed up his face and said, “Urk, urk, urk!”
Connor crossed his arms. “Jared, you look stupid. What are you doing?”
“I’m a monster. Urk, urk, urk! Now tell Mom there’s a monster here, and see if she believes you!”
“For your information, Jared, monsters don’t say urk.” Connor snorted in triumph. “Everyone knows that monsters say ‘Oooargh!’”
Connor turned and marched away. Jared made him so mad! But his big brother had been right about one thing: no one ever seemed to believe Connor. That was Jared’s fault, for being older.
Never mind, he’d go away and read his comic and wish hard that a monster would come along and eat Jared.
“Connor! Jared!” their mother called.
Connor ran to the kitchen to see what his mom wanted. Jared ran around the house in the other direction, and stood in the doorway to the sunroom.
The kitchen was all floury. There was flour on the counter, flour on the table, and two big bags of flour near the stove.
“I have to go to the store,” their mom said. “I’m in the middle of baking goodies for my book club meeting tonight, and I ran out of sugar. I won’t be long, okay? Jared, look after your brother.”
“Oh, Mom!” Connor groaned.
“And don’t mess up the house. There will be a lot of people here tonight, so I want the place to stay spotless. And I’ve counted every single scone that came out of the oven, so don’t even think about touching one.”
With that, their mom took off her apron, grabbed her car keys, and headed out the back door.
The door opened once more. Their mother stuck her head back in and said, “Do not mess up the house, got it?”
Her head disappeared again.
Jared stared at Connor, and smirked.
The back door clicked shut. Both brothers stared at each other, Connor ready to run, and Jared ready to chase him.
Just then, Connor heard the click-click sound of the mail slot. Would today be the day his new issue of Monsterzine arrived? He spun around and started to run to the front door. One second later, Jared’s feet came slapping across the kitchen floor behind him.
Connor sprinted down the hallway. Jared’s feet pounded after him. Something in a shiny, plastic wrapper fell from the mail slot. It was Connor’s Monsterzine, and he had to get to it before Jared!
He ran hard. He was only a few feet away now, but Jared was gaining on him. Connor dove towards the door, grabbed the comic just as it hit the floor, and rolled away in a perfect somersault. He came up running and zipped through the living room door.
He was running so fast that the rug bunched up under his feet and he almost tripped. A loud clunk-clunk-BOOM noise came from behind him.
Jared had stumbled over the rug. Yes! Connor continued to run, through the living room, through the dining room, into the sunroom, and he could see through the kitchen to the back door…
Jared’s feet started pounding after him again. Connor had an idea. He ran into the kitchen, opened the back door, and slammed it shut. Now it would sound like he had gone outside. Then he slid inside the basement door and pulled it closed behind him.
He heard Jared’s feet thump by. The back door creaked open. “Connor!” Jared yelled.
Connor stood with his back against the basement door, holding his breath. Had it worked, had he fooled Jared? He clutched his comic tightly, making it crinkle. Oh, no! He didn’t want to crush it. He moved his hand and felt his thumb press against something rubbery. What was that?
“Connor!” Jared yelled again from the kitchen. “You’ve got to come inside sometime, and I’ll be waiting for you!”
Connor sighed with relief. His brother believed he had run outside, which meant he was safe for now.
“I’d rather be alone with a monster than with Jared,” he muttered to himself.