“Joey’s not a sissy!” Matt said to his friends as they waited outside the apartment complex.
“Yes he is!” Steve said. “Death metal’s the thing now, and he’s still listening to speed.”
“Yeah,” Josh said, “he’s not brutal enough for death metal. That’s why he listens to wimpy speed metal. He’s a sissy.”
Matt looked at the ground and exhaled. He looked at his friends again and said, “Look. Joey’s a sissy, fine, but he’s my brother. Ok? So just-”
“Just what?” Steve said.
“Just show him some respect,” Matt said. “Ok?”
“Fine,” Josh said.
Just then, Matt’s brother showed up. Joey was fifteen years old, and had blonde hair that went down to his waist. He had pale skin. He wore a black, tight-fitting shirt and “skinny jeans.” The shirt had a band logo on it. The logo said, “Dying Breath,” which was the name of a local speed metal band.
Joey looked at Matt and his friends (all of whom were three years older than him) and said, “So…ready to rock?”
“More like you’re ready to rock,” Josh said as he shoved Joey.
“Huh?” Joey said.
“Thanks to you,” Josh said, “We’re coming two hours early just to listen to your bullshit.” He pointed at Joey’s shirt as he said this. Joey wanted to see the band Dying Breath, but Josh, Matt, and Steve wanted to see a death metal band – and that band was performing two hours after Dying Breath’s concert.
“Come on,” Matt said as he stood between Josh and Joey. He pointed to Joey and said, “It’s not his fault that Dying Breath’s on the same day as us.”
“Yeah,” Josh said, “but it’s his fault-” He stopped talking. He was about to say something mean to Joey, but he shut his mouth.
“Look,” Matt said, “he’ll go see Dying Breath while we…I don’t know…find something to do. Ok? Two hours go by, then we see Necrophiliac while Joey finds something to do. Ok? No big deal. We’re just early so Joey could see his show.”
“Whatever,” Steve said, rolling his eyes.
“Besides,” Matt said, “better to be early than late, right?” He forced a laugh. He stopped laughing when Steve and Josh glared at him.
Josh got into the driver’s seat of his car. Joey was about to get into the front passenger seat, but Steve pushed him aside and got into the seat.
“Oh, come on,” Joey said. “I wanted that.”
“I called shotgun, bitch,” Steve said.
“No you didn’t,” Joey said.
Matt looked at Steve and said, “Come on, let Joey ride in the front.”
“No,” Steve said as he shut the door.
“Well, let him ride in the front on the way back,” Matt said.
“I’ll think about it,” Steve said.
That’s just a fancy way of saying ‘no,’ Matt thought as he got into the car’s back seat.
Joey sat next to Matt. Josh turned on the radio and tuned it to the death metal station.
“Really, Josh?” Joey said as he plugged his ears. Josh smirked at Joey. Then they took off.
Josh entered the highway, with the radio still blaring. The radio was so loud that you could hear it from the next lane.
“Could you play 92.5?” Joey said. “For a bit?” 92.5 was the speed metal station.
“Sure,” Josh said, “in your dreams.”
“Well, anyone got an iPod?” Joey said. “So I could listen to my shit?”
“Come on,” Matt said. “Just play a song or two for Joey.”
“Yeah,” Joey said. “Just five minutes, really.”
“Fine,” Steve said as he tuned the station.
“Thanks,” Joey said.
Another band was playing on the radio, but it wasn’t speed metal. Joey looked at the car’s radio. It was tuned to 100.8 – the other death metal station.
“Come on!” Joey said. “Just one song! Please!”
“Shut up,” Josh said.
“Man up and take it, bitch,” Steve said. Steve smiled as he said this.
Joey looked at the ground and plugged his ears. Matt leaned towards Steve and said, “Come on. Just play one for Joey.” Steve looked at Matt and shook his head. Matt exhaled and sat back down, defeated.
Josh parked the car. They arrived early. It was about forty-five minutes before Dying Breath’s show, and all of them needed to go to the bathroom. The four went to the men’s bathroom when Steve stepped in front of Joey. Steve stood between Joey and the bathroom.
“Sorry,” Steve said. “It says ‘Men’s Room,’ not ‘Sissies’ Room.’”
“Really, Steve?” Matt said.
“It’s okay,” Joey said. “I’ll wait for you guys.”
“No, Joey-” Matt said.
“I’ll wait, I’m good,” Joey said.
Matt, Steve, and Josh went into the bathroom while Joey waited outside.
Matt, Steve, and Josh were washing their hands in the bathroom.
“So,” Josh said, “we got a few hours ‘til Necrophiliac. What do you guys wanna do?”
“I want you guys to stop picking on Joey,” Matt said.
“Oh come on,” Steve said. “We’re just playin’ with him.”
“Look,” Matt said, “I told you guys to treat him right. Ok? You’ve done anything but that, and I’m sick of it. I’m on my last nerve with you guys. Got it? Stop treating Joey like a sissy.”
“Lighten up,” Josh said. “We’re just messing-”
Matt left the bathroom before Josh could finish. He slammed the door shut as he left the bathroom.
Matt met Joey. Matt pointed to the bathroom and said, “All yours.”
“Thanks,” Joey said.
Steve and Josh left the bathroom together. Josh accidently bumped into Joey as he left the bathroom. Matt thought that he pushed Joey on purpose. Matt put his fist up, wanting to slug Josh. But then he put his fist down. Matt was breathing hard in order to control his anger.
“You guys want drinks?” Josh said.
“Sure,” Steve said.
“Ok. We’ll get some Tommie’s once Joey’s done,” Josh said.
The four went across the street to get drinks at Tommie’s. Tommie’s was a local fast food joint. At Tommie’s cash register, Josh said, “Four drinks, please. Two medium sprites, a medium cola, and a kid’s-size cola.” He looked at Joey when he said, ‘a kid’s-size cola.’
“No!” Joey said.
“Two medium colas!” Matt said.
“A kid’s-size cola,” Josh said.
“Two medium colas, and that’s final!” Matt snapped as he took out a five dollar bill.
“Ok,” the clerk said as he took the five dollars.
Josh turned to Matt. Josh was trying really hard to suppress a laugh.
“What?” Matt snapped.
Josh pointed to Joey and said, “The look on his face was priceless.” Josh started laughing, and Steve was suppressing a laugh, too.
“You’re real pathetic, Josh, you know that?” Matt said.
“What?” Josh said.
“Picking on my brother just make yourself feel good?” Matt said. “That’s pathetic, Josh.”
“Whoa, man,” Josh said.
“You’re pathetic, too, Steve,” Matt said. “You’re both pathetic!”
“Dude,” Steve said, “We’re just-”
“Messing with him?” Matt interrupted. “Well, it’s not funny. I told you guys to stop picking on him, and you didn’t. I told you guys to stop treating him like a sissy. Is that too much to ask?”
“But-” Steve said.
“But nothing,” Matt continued. “You think you’re all cool picking on him because you think he’s a sissy? Well, let me tell you something. He’s not. He not a sissy! You guys are sissies! Big fat sissies!”
“Dude!” Josh said.
“If you gotta make fun of someone to feel good, you’re a sissy! And if Joey’s a sissy, so what? He’s my brother.”
Everyone was silent for a moment.
“He’s my brother,” Matt said. “Ok? He’s part of me. Who cares if he’s a sissy? He’s still my brother, and I love him.”
Matt exhaled before saying, “If you guys can’t handle that…” Matt turned and started to leave Tommie’s.
“Come on, Joey!” Matt said as he started to leave.
Joey also turned and left Tommie’s.
“Shit,” Josh said.
“Two sprites and two colas?” the clerk said as he set their drinks on the counter.
Matt and Joey just got out of the Dying Breath concert. Matt didn’t stay for the Necrophiliac show. He was so pissed at Josh and Steve that he didn’t want to see them again. He wasn’t gonna stay for Necrophiliac if they were gonna be at the show. Joey and Matt were now on the train, headed home. It took them twenty minutes to get to the station, and all of their loose change to pay the train fare.
On the train, Joey and Matt sat next to each other. Matt looked at Joey and said, “I’m not a speed guy, but they were good.”
“Glad you liked them,” Joey said.
“Yeah. The singer – whoever he is – he’s awesome,” Matt said.
“He is,” Joey said. “You kinda look like him, too. Big, black curly hair. Big motorcycle jacket.”
“Yeah, except he’s twice my size,” Matt said.
Matt looked at his watch. He was now missing the Necrophiliac concert.
“Matt?” Joey said.
“Sorry I made you miss Necrophiliac.”
“Don’t bother,” Matt said. “Josh and Steve are there, and…” Matt exhaled and shook his head.
“Don’t want to see them, do you?” Joey said.
“Nope. Not now. Not even sure they’re my friends, really. Not the first time they did that shit, you know.”
“But I’m sure of one thing,” Matt said. He put his hand on Joey’s shoulder. “You’ll always be my friend, Joey. I’ll always love you.”
“I’ll always love you, too,” Joey said as he put his hand on Matt’s shoulder. They stared into each other’s eyes as the train sped down the tracks.
Christian Sorensen lives in Berwyn, Illinois. He was born in Corpus Christi, Texas in 1992. His family moved to Berwyn shortly after he was born, where he has lived for nearly twenty years. He is currently attending law school. He hopes to become a lawyer and a husband in the future.