Written by Mitch
Friday, November 20, 2020
The rough texture of the terry cloth towel seemed to almost bite at Adge Martin’s face through his fur as the hare dried off from his shower after the day’s practice. For being a billion-dollar team, the Typhoons managed to buy the cheapest towels imaginable, he surmised, and was careful with his as he toweled off his long ears as well. A second towel was wrapped around his waist, and there it remained as he padded to his locker in the males’ changing room at the Tallahassee Typhoons practice facility.
As the warmth from the shower spray died down, and his damp fur began to feel cool in the open air, the creep of tension and soreness began to make themselves known in his muscles after a brutal practice, and equally gruelling workout routine. Around him, his teammates found themselves in similar states of damp exhaustion, and after another rubdown of his face and headufr with his towel, then flung it over his shoulder and opened the cubby on his locker to see if his phone was charged.
Seven messages, three missed calls. All from the same number.
“Sim…” Adge sighed. Flicking through the messages with his thumb, all of them were some variation of, “I’ve landed, I’m here, Where are you? And, you coming?” A glance at the time on his phone’s clock, and he shook his head. On schedule; he wasn’t late.
“Jes’ got out ‘e shower. I’ll be down ‘e airport t’ get ‘ee at 5:30 like Ah said,” he fired off a message in reply. He then dumped his phone back into the cubby and ground another one of those horrendous towels through his fur for a final dry-off, before tugging on his underwear. A new pair, one of the RAWR branded briefs D’Angelo McQuilkin had given the team, it took a moment to adjust, but he had to admit they were insanely comfortable. Stylish, too, though style was immediately covered up by a pair of inexpensive cargo shorts, and a team tee shirt, as he prepared to head out.
Slinging his bag over his shoulder, Adge nodded to the eerily thin Dalmatian at the next locker. “See ‘ee later, Carson,” the hare said. “Not lookin’ fo’ard t’ ‘e floight t’ ‘Awaii on Sunday mornin’.”
The look of dread on Carson’s face was enough to tell Adge he didn’t fancy it much, either. Little good would be had from discussing it further, though, and Adge had somewhere to be, so it was left at that.
Fifteen minutes later, Adge crawled his Land Rover Defender along through the arrivals gates at the Tallahassee International Airport, scanning for another lapine. At last, a familiar set of ears came into view, and he pulled over, putting on his four-ways.
“Hoy dere, Sim!” Adge called out, grinning as he stepped out of the truck.
Standing at the curb was another hare, similar appearance to Adge, but nearly a foot shorter at 5’11”. His smile wasn’t nearly as broad as the larger hare’s, but it was still there as he nodded hello while picking up one of his suitcases.
“Heya, Adge. ‘Bout time you got ‘ere,” he chuckled. His accent was unmistakably British, yet nowhere near as thick as Adge’s.
Adge opened the rear door on the Land Rover and picked up the other suitcase, tossing it inside before taking the one from the shorter hare. “Simeon, Ah’m ‘ere at ‘e toime Ah said Ah’d be,” Adge replied. “Ah’ve got prac’is, ‘n this were ‘e closest floight t’ moy end toime as ‘ere were.”
Simeon handed his older brother his carry-on bag, to be tossed in the back as well, but held on to his backpack. “Ah know, Ah now. Just got bored having been ‘ere on three hours, now.”
“Loike Ah said, this were ‘e closest floight t’ moy end toime,” Adge repeated as he swung the rear door shut. “Were this, or arroivin’ half-noine this mornin’. Now, ‘op in.”
Climbing into the driver’s seat, Adge waited for his younger brother to get in the passenger side, and buckle up. Simeon looked around at the spartan interior of the Defender, unimpressed. “With wot you make, this is wot you bought?” he asked. “Is this... is this the Grangers’ old truck?”
“Aye,” Adge snorted, dropping it into gear and pulling away from the curb. “Nuttin’ wrong wit’ it. Proper good truck, this.”
“Yeah,” Simeon gave a halfharted reply. “But, why not a G-Wagen, or summat?”
“Jes’ b’cause Ah makes money don’ mean Ah ‘ave t’ go wastin’ it,” Adge stated. “Thems is proicey, ‘n Ah’m savin’ wot Ah c’n t’-”
“Buy back the farm, Ah know,” Simeon cut him off. “Just… thought you might splurge a bit, or summat.”
Adge glanced over at his brother, now eighteen, and chuckled. “Why splurge on a car when Ah’m splurgin’ on ‘ee?”
“London to New York to Tallahassee in cabin class is splurging?” Simeon countered.
Any smile on Adge’s face disappeared, and he put his eyes back on the road ahead. “Tis when someone else is payin’ fer ‘ee,” he replied. “‘N least yew done fit in ‘e seats. Ah did ‘em floights, plus ‘e flouights t’ Japan ‘n back, in cabin ‘s’well, ‘n yew didn’ ‘ear me complainin’. E’en when it were moy own money Ah done spent on ‘e tickets.”
Simeon had no good comeback for that, and it was difficult to watch the scenery outside when the sun had just set, casting Florida into darkness. The flight had been long, and he was tired, hungry, and cranky, and he knew he’d already started on the wrong foot with his brother. After some length of silence, other than the horrendous wind and road noise which permeated the Defender’s cabin, he sighed.
“Sorry, Adge. Ah didn’ mean t’ come across like that,” he said. “It was a long flight.”
“‘N yer proper jetlagged, Ah know,” Adge nodded as he changed lanes to pass some abysmally slow old Cadillac going well under the speed limit. “Bettin’ yer ‘ungry, too.”
“Aye, Ah could eat,” Simeon chuckled.
“‘N Ah’ve worked up a proper appetoite, moyself.“ Flicking the blinker, Adge headed toward an exit, and within a few minutes he was placing an order at a barbecue joint, to go.
The Defender smelled heavenly for the rest of the ride home, all five minutes of it, until Adge pulled into his condo’s one-car garage, careful to stop short of the mountain bike parked against the back wall.
“Nice bike,” Simeon said, unfastening his seat belt.
“Ah’d ‘ope so,” Adge replied. “Tis yers.”
“Mine?” The younger hare paused, holding his seat belt, ears splayed in confusion.
“Aye,” Adge nodded. “Yew’ll need t’ get ‘round when Ah’m not ‘ere, so Ah got ‘ee a boike.”
Simeon looked at the bike again, then the interior of the Defender. “Ah thought Ah could drive this,” he said.
The laugh from Adge as he stepped out of the truck was answer enough on that point, but the older hare couldn’t help but elaborate. “Fat chance o‘ ‘at, Sim! Yew ain’t got no droiver’s loicense.”
“Ah do,” Sim protested.
“British one, not American. Don’ work ‘ere.” Adge busied himself pulling out the two larger suitcases, leaving Sim’s carry-on for his brother to get. “B’soides, ‘ee wants a car, ‘ee c’n buy one yerself. Ah ‘ad to.”
Sim hurried out of the truck, backpack slung over one shoulder, and their dinner carried in a plastic take-out bag in his left paw. “But, that’s not fair! How’m Ah gon’ get the dosh fer that?”
“Plenny o’ work t’ be found ‘round ‘ere,” Adge shrugged. “Ah ‘ad t’ work when Ah were at uni.”
“Yeah, but your room and board was covered!”
Adge looked askance at his Simeon. “‘N yers isn’t?”
Simeon stood there, his lips pursing. “It was until my uni dropped my degree program.”
“‘N now it’s covered ‘gain by ‘e Big Bruh’er Fund. A big bruh’er who done jes’ ‘ad t’ foind a bigger flat, move, ‘n kit out ‘is ‘ouse proper t’ host ‘ee, costin’ not jes’ ‘is own toime, but ‘e toime o’ some o’ ‘is teammates t’ do so.”
“No one asked you t’ do all ‘at.”
Adge snorted. “No one asked? Damn roight no one asked. ‘Ey done told.”
Simeon’s brow furrowed. “Wot’s ‘at s’posed to mean?”
“Ne’er moind. Jes’ grab ‘e bag out ‘e back, ‘n let’s get inside b’fore ‘e food goes cold,” Adge replied.”
“No, wot was that s’posed to mean?” Simeon repeated.
“Ah’m not gon’ argue wit’ ‘ee in ‘e car park, Sim. Get ‘e bag ‘n close ‘e boot door so’s Ah c’n close ‘e garage door,” Adge replied, standing in the doorway which led inside from the garage.
Simeon just shook his head and did as he was told, before following Adge up the steps and into his brother’s condo.
The interior of the condo was not what Sim had expected of a pro baller with a multi-million dollar contract. It was simple, clean, and looked like something out of a magazine. A very familiar magazine.
“Adge,” he asked, looking around the living room, and into the adjoining kitchen and dining room in the open-plan condo. “Did you… just buy an Ikea showroom?”
The thump of two heavy suitcases being set down in the second bedroom was followed by Adge calling back, “Were ‘e best Ah could do on short notice.” Poking his head back out of the doorframe, he waved Sim over. “C’mon, this be ‘ee room.”
Sim followed, only to find yet another showcase of budget-friendly, flat-pack Swedish design on display, making up his bedroom. It was… fine. Modern-ish, with a consistent theme, and a larger bed than he was expecting. No decoration on the walls, but that was unsurprising, as he hadn’t seen any elsewhere in the condo, either, outside of a dartboard on the wall in the lounge.
“Think Ah c’n get a telly in here?” Sim asked, unslinging his backpack and setting it atop his carry-on bag. The smell of barbecue had followed him, as he still held their dinner.
“Aye,” Adge nodded. “But fer now we’ll ‘ave t’ share ‘e one in ‘e lounge. Yew got yer own loo next door, ‘ere, but, Ah’d loike ‘ee t’ keep it toidy, as comp’ny’ll use it, too.”
That brought about teasing snort from Sim, who arched an eyebrow. “Like, the lady type ‘o company?”
“‘Asn’t ‘appened yet, but it moight,” was all Adge said to that. “Now, c’mon, lezzeat.”
For the first time since his flat in London, Adge actually had a dining table, and he set it before placing a bottle of beer at his own place, and a can of soda out for Simeon.
“Ah’ll have a beer, ‘s’well,” Sim said, taking his seat.
“Not ‘ere, yew won’t,” Adge smiled as he shook his head. “Drinkin’ age be twenny-one, ‘n yer eighteen, ‘n jes’.”
Simeon rolled his eyes. “Aw, come on, who’s gonna know?”
“Ah will. ‘N Ah’ll get in roight proper trouble if’n anyone foinds out Ah’m given’ al’c’hol to someone underage,” Adge replied.
“But Ah’m your brother!”
Shaking his head once more, Adge began to divvy up the brisket and pulled pork, then coleslaw and baked beans. “Bruh’er ‘r no, Ah can’t do ‘at, ‘ere,” he replied, then looked up at Simeon across the table, before letting his shoulders slump. “Ah know tis diff’rent ‘an ‘ome, ‘n Ah know we both growed up drinkin’, but this ‘ere’s a diff’rent culture, ‘n, loike it or don’t, Ah’m a c’lebrity, now, ‘n folks watch wot Ah’m doin’.”
“It’s one beer,” Sim protested.
“Aye, ‘n it’s one beer ‘ee won’ be ‘avin,” Adge replied, his voice firm. “When yer twenny-one, yew c’n drink as ‘ee loike, on ‘ee own dosh. But ‘ere, in moy ‘ome, on moy fundin’, Ah’m askin’ ‘ee t’ respect moy rules.”
“And I’m just asking t’ be treated like an adult,” Sim snorted.
Food in front of him, starting to go cold, Adge stared across the table at his brother. “Adults ‘ave respons’bilites. Theres rules wot adults gots t’ play by. Sacrifoices adults ‘ave t’ make. Ah’m treatin’ yew loike an adult, b’cause Ah’m expectin’ ‘ee t’ act loike one. So’s yew can’t drink? So wot? Yer still gettin’ a place t’ live, yer schoolin’, ‘n food, ‘n ‘e loike, fer free.”
Picking up his frork, Sim prodded at a slice of brisket, watching it simply fall apart at the slightest touch. “Ah didn’ ask for that,” he said quietly.
“Ah weren’t asked t’ do it,” Adge replied.
Looking up, Sim’s ears cocked as he stared at his brother, nonplussed. “Then why’re you doin’ it? And don’t try to dodge, this time.”
Adge’s chair creaked as he sat back in it. Yes, all the screws and locking cams were tight, he simply was near the weight limit rating for it. Sighing, he set his fork down and explained. “No one done asked. Not yew, not Mum ‘n Dad, no one. Ah were told. So Ah done it. Jes loike Ah went t’ Elion, ‘n busted moy tail t’ be on ‘e team, whoile workin’ at moy studies, ‘n workin’ at Tesco t’ pay ‘e bills, b’cause Mum ‘n Dad done told me ‘at’s wot Ah were gon’ do. Told me Ah were gon’ do it fer ‘e family, fer yew. ‘N Ah done it, ‘n Ah’m still doin’ it, ‘n Ah’m gon’ keep doin’ it til it don’ need bein’ done no more.”
The younger hare said nothing, and so Adge continued. “Yew ‘ad a choice. Rosie ‘n Lyra both gots a choice fer what ‘ey wants t’ do wit ‘eir loives. Ah didn’ get no choice, Sim, ‘n Ah still ain’t gots no choice. Moy path were laid out, ‘n it were all or nuttin’, b’cause ‘at’s what ‘e fam’ly done needed of Ah. So ‘at’s why Ah’m ‘ere, ‘n why Ah’m ‘opin’ yew’ll study good ‘n ‘ard at ‘e ag’ur’cul’churral engineerin’, b’cause Ah’ll need ‘ee when Ah buys back ‘e farm fer us. Fer all ‘f us. Compared t’ at, not ‘avin’ a beer tent ‘at big an ask.”
Simeon sat and listened as Adge spoke. It was the most speaking they’d actually done in person in years, and Adge seemed a different man than he used to be. He remembered the big, dumb, playful Adge. The big brother who had always been there to help him on the farm, who showed him how to do his chores, how to drive a tractor, and how to fix one as well. The same brother who’d covered for him when he’d broken something, who protected him from schoolyard bullies, and who had helped him sneak back into the house after being out too late. And the brother who’d had to leave the family because he was the oldest, and they simply couldn’t afford to have him at home when the farm was sold.
It had been easy to think of Adge in London, imagining him doing well at that fancy university, and getting all the girls by virtue of being on the basketball team. Easy to just assume that Adge had reveled in being surrounded by all the rich kids, and going to their parties, living the high life on their means. Getting to travel the country, and parts of Europe to play games, seeing the sights and staying in nice hotels. All that while earning an accounting degree, which Simeon saw as a further escape from farm life, and yet more distance from the family. After all, who’d want to go back to toiling in fields, managing crops, tending to livestock, and worrying about irrigation when they could just get a cushy six-figure job in some high-rise in the city?
“You… really want to buy the farm back? And actually go back to it?” Sim asked, studying his brother carefully.
There was no hesitation, Adge gave a sharp nod immediately. “Aye.”
“But, what about all this?” Sim looked around. A wonderland of Ikea wasn’t what he meant, so he continued. “Your game, your career. You’d give all ‘at up, fer the farm?”
Again, Adge nodded. “Ah owes it to ‘ee. ‘N t’ Mum ‘n Dad, ‘n our sisters, ‘n all ‘e Martins wot came b’fore us. ‘At’s our land, we done worked it, made it wot it is. Tent roight fer it t’ be out ‘e fam’ly, ‘n fer ‘e fam’ly t’ be out o’ it.”
“That’s gonna take some time.”
“Oh, aye. Ah’ve got sev’ral seasons ‘head ‘f me,” Adge replied. “If’n Ah c’n really show moy stuff this season ‘n ‘next, Ah moight get a proper gurt contract offer, ‘n ‘at’ll ‘elp out summat fierce. Also gives ‘ee toime t’ get ‘ee degree.”
A smile started to work up Sim’s more slender face. “True. And… that also means we’ll be ‘ere for a while, so… maybe wouldn’t hurt t’ splurge a bit more on creature comforts?”
Adge’s thick brows furrowed. “Mate, Ah ‘ad less’n a bloody week t’ get this t’gether. Moight be glad Ah managed it at all. Aye, there’ll be improvements, but theys’ll come when ‘ey comes. T’morrer Ah’ll ‘ave t’ take ‘ee ‘round ‘e city ‘n pick up anythin’ yew still needs, b’fore Ah ‘ave t’ ‘ead off fer moy next away game in ‘e evenin’.”
“Where’s the game?”
Sim’s eyes widened, his ears going up like flags. Gleaming white teeth showed off in a broad smile. “Oo-arr! When do we have to leave by?”
“Ah leave t’morrer noight,” Adge said. “Yew don’t. Tent no pleasure ‘oliday, Sim. Tis proper work, ‘n ‘e team jet. They don’ allow no passengers.”
“Aww, come on! Surely they’ve got an extra seat!” Sim begged.
The older hare shook his head. “If’n ‘ere were, tent moine t’ give. Sorry, Sim, ‘at’s jes’ not ‘ow ‘ese things work. B’soides, Ah’m a rookie, so Ah’s gots t’ fall in lion ‘n show moy team Ah’m there fer them, first ‘n foremost. Mebbe next year Ah moight be able t’ get ‘ee on fer ‘e floight, but not this toime.”
“Next YEAR?” Sim balked. “Don’t you have, like, a hundred games per season? So you should be there, like four times.”
“They’s in a diff’rent conference, ‘n diff’rent division. We plays ‘em once on ‘eir turf, ‘n once on ours, per season. ‘N there’s eighty games in ‘e reg’lar season. B’soides, Ah’m told there’s some proper noice beaches ‘ere in Florida.”
“Told? You mean you haven’t been?” Sim asked. “You’ve been here for like, two months!”
“‘N Ah’ve been workin’ fer two months. Don’ get no weekends off, in ‘e FBA, ‘n when Ah does get a proper day off, Ah’m wrecked, ‘n need t’ recover. Moight get toime t’ ‘ead t’ ‘e beach in proper breaks, or in ‘e offseason, but durin? Not likely.”
“Well, we should at least be able to hit up Disney World, right? Ah mean, since you’ve got a car.”
The memory of having vastly misunderstood just how large America was came back to Adge, but that time he got to pull the knowing smile which he’d heard in Arther’s voice over the phone some months back. “Yew, uh, yew don’ know ‘ow big ‘e States is, do ‘ee? Florida’s bit more’n ‘alf ‘e size of ‘e whole UK, ‘n ‘at’s jes’ this state. Disney World be hours ‘n hours away, so Ah ain’t been, yet.”
“You live in Florida, but you haven’t been to the beach, and you haven’t been to Disney World? Is there anywhere you HAVE been?”
“‘E practice facility, ‘n ‘e stadium. Supermarket. Couple bars,” Adge chuckled.
Shaking his head, Simeon finally speared a chunk of brisket on his fork, and lifted it to his mouth. “For being a pro baller, you sure are living the high life…” With that, he popped the brisket into his mouth, and the world seemed to stop.
Across from him, Adge’s face turned up in a smile, watching Simeon’s eyes go wide with realization. “Proper good, innit?” he asked. “American barbecue; easy t’ become addicted.”
The rest of the meal was eaten in silence, outside of moans of culinary delight, and soon each hare leaned back, their plates clean. It was then that Simeon truly felt his jet lag kick in, pulling heavily upon his eyelids, and sinking him into his seat like a stone. Adge knew the feeling well, and would surely be experiencing it himself after the flight to Hawaii. Standing up, he cleared the table before patting his brother on the shoulder.
“Go ‘head ‘n knock off, Sim. Ah’ll wake ‘ee come mornin’,” Adge said. “Gon’ ‘ave a busy day, then yer on yer own fer a few days. Ah’ll be back on Wednesday.”
Simeon snapped out of his daze. “Wednesday? Why so long?”
“Road series,” Adge replied. “Short’n, but road series none’e’less. Pantry’s roight stocked, ‘n Ah’ll show ‘ee where things is at. Tent no ‘ills ‘round ‘ere, so bikin’ won’ be no trouble.”
“Are you sure I can’t drive the Rover?”
Simeon found himself too tired to argue, and it was a struggle to even stand up. Making it to the doorway of his room, he paused and looked back. “Adge,” he said. “Thanks.”
The larger hare had headed over to the couch, intending to watch some television for a bit. He simply smiled and nodded. “Sleep well.”
As the door shut, Adge sank into the still-stiff cushions of his new leather couch, holding the TV remote in his paw. So this was going to be his life, now. Basketball, and his younger brother to look out for. A younger brother he’d have to get to know all over again. Cracking open another beer, Adge flicked the TV on and leaned back. A win in Hawaii would be great.