Reggie ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
Grandma spooned ice cream into two bowls and set the bowls on the table. Reggie began eating his ice cream with relish, taking big bites and making little moaning noises as he always did when he ate something that tasted especially good.
“You gave him more than you gave me,” Lane said, looking from one bowl to the other.
“They were the same,” grandma said.
“They were not the same. You always give him more than you give me.”
“You can have my bowl,” Reggie said. “I don’t mind.”
“After you’re already eaten half of it and slobbered over the rest? How stupid do you think I am?”
“Next time I’ll weigh the ice cream ounce for ounce to make sure they’re the same,” grandma said. “That’s the only way you’ll be satisfied.”
Reggie looked at Lane across the table with his sparkling blue eyes, and the way he smiled at her, in his smug, mocking way, made her hate him more than ever.
“I’d like to drop a brick on your head,” Lane said.
“Go ahead and try it,” he said.
“Leave your brother alone!” grandma said. “He’s not bothering you.”
“He always bothers me. He bothers me just by being where I can see him.”
“I’m afraid you’re one of those that will always find a reason to be unhappy,” grandma said.
“She’s not right in the head,” Reggie said and nearly fell off the chair laughing.
“I’m a lot more right in the head than you’ll ever be!”
“Bicker, bicker, bicker!” grandma said. “You are just going to have to try to get along.”
“I just don’t like him!” Lane said.
“I don’t care,” Reggie said. “I don’t like you, either.”
That was one of the things she hated about him most. He never backed down. When she said something mean to him, he always came back with something just as mean or meaner.
“You may find one day,” grandma said, “that all you have in this world is each other.”
“That will never happen,” Lane said.
She began taking dainty bites of her ice cream, already half-melted, and refused to look again at Reggie. He was enjoying his ice cream too much to suit her. She’d like to put some rat poison in it. He was always too happy, too sure of himself. She hated him more than she hated any other person on earth.
After Reggie finished his ice cream and went outside to play, Lane told herself it really wasn’t right to hate Reggie. She had been saved in church and she knew that as a good Christian she shouldn’t hate anybody, especially her own brother.
Well, she didn’t exactly hate him, then. And she didn’t really want him dead, either. She did, however, wish he had never been born. But, since he was born without anybody seeking her opinion in the matter, she wished somebody living in another state would adopt him and take him away to a place where she would never have to see him again.
Just think! No more Reggie! No more little white underpants for her to fold on laundry day and put in his drawer. No more having to share the back seat with him when they went on trips. No more having to give him one of her Twinkies out of her cellophane wrapper that held two. No more hearing mother coo about what a wonderful speller or what a good roller skater he is. No more having people make over him, patting him on his perfect blond head and telling him what lovely blue eyes he has while they ignore her as if she isn’t even there.
She had listened with interest to the talk going around about a child snatcher on the loose. People liked to talk about it and how awful it was. They said there were two of them driving around in a car. Not always the same car but different cars. The snatchers looked for children alone and when they found one, they stopped the car and grabbed the child and threw him into the back of the car and drove off. Nobody ever saw the child again.
She wished—without telling anybody, of course—that the snatcher would come and take little Reggie away. Not kill him or hurt him, but take him away someplace else and give him another life that he would end up liking. That would be the best thing for everybody concerned. Mother and daddy and grandma would be upset about it at first, of course, but after a while they’d get used to it. Not knowing what happened to Reggie would be the thing that would make them think it had all turned out for the best.
Any time she was slighted in the portioning out of ice cream or in any other way, she indulged in these fantasies.
In the afternoon, grandma had a headache and went to lay down for a while in her room. Lane took her library book and made herself comfortable in the big porch swing on the back porch. She opened her book and lay her head back on the pillow and began reading.
Grandma’s yard sloped down to the road behind the house about a hundred and fifty feet. Reggie was down close to the road, sitting with his back to the house, playing with the next-door neighbor’s dog, trying to get it to catch a ball in its mouth. Lane heard the dog yipping and heard Reggie laughing and talking to the dog. She concentrated on her reading and tried to tune out the noise.
She heard a car stop at the foot of grandma’s yard, heard the brakes squeal. She raised up to look over the top of the porch railing and saw a dark-green car. A man got out of the car and Reggie stood up. The man motioned to Reggie and Reggie threw the ball to the dog and went over to the man.
The man was tall and thin but Lane couldn’t see what he looked like because he wore a hat and wore dark, baggy clothing. He reached out and touched Reggie on the shoulder. They talked back and forth for a minute and then the man opened the rear door of the car and Reggie got in. He wasn’t forced in; he seemed to get in of his own accord. The man closed the door, got into the car himself, and the car drove off.
Lane wasn’t sure what she had just seen. She thought about it for a minute and then, finding herself very drowsy, went to sleep.
When she awoke, the sunny day had turned cloudy and it seemed to be about to rain. She scanned the back yard, expecting Reggie to be there, but she saw no one, not even the dog. When she went into the house, grandma turned from the stove where she was fixing supper.
“Where’s Reggie?” she asked.
“How should I know?” Lane said.
“Wasn’t he out back with you?”
“He was out back but he wasn’t with me.”
She wanted to tell grandma about the green car but decided it was in her best interests not to. Everybody would take Reggie’s side, as they always did, and she would end up getting in trouble.
At nine o’clock that night, Reggie still hadn’t turned up. Grandma, mother and daddy were in the living room. Dressed in her pajamas and bath robe, Lane stood just out of sight and listened. Mother was crying and grandma was trying to keep from crying. Daddy was mad, trying to keep from yelling at somebody for not taking better care of his son.
Lane walked into the room where they were. Mother took her by the hand.
“You didn’t see anything?” mother asked.
“Not a thing,” Lane said.
“Well, I’m calling the police,” daddy said. “Maybe they can find him.”
Lane went upstairs to her room, closed and locked the door. She looked at herself in the mirror. She had a happy expression on her face when she was supposed to be sad. She would have to watch that and not let anybody see it. How do you look sad when you’re really happy? She practiced different sad expressions, making herself look like a clown, until she got tired of seeing her own face and got into bed and turned off the light.
Copyright © 2017 by Allen Kopp