Due to an unfortunate computer error, Franklin deleted his sister-in-law.
This was, of course, more than his older brother could stand. “You did what?!” he bellowed, jumping up from the couch and moving to the basement door in three strides. With such a prodigious bulk coming so swiftly toward him, Franklin could not help but take a step backward.
“I’m sorry, Matt. It was an accident. Honest.” But Franklin’s adolescent wheedling did nothing to mollify his older brother. Matt seemed to loom even larger in his anger.
“Listen, you little twerp! You get back down there and figger out how you’re gonna get her back! You’ve gotta fix her up pretty soon ’cause she’s not gonna keep all that much longer. So go!”
Franklin retreated down the flight in haste. Halfway down he stopped, turned and stuck his tongue towards the empty doorway, then continued his descent.
“Big, dumb jock,” he muttered. “I’m not stupid, y’know. It’s not like I didn’t have her backed up or anything. Jeez, I hate him.”
Franklin’s sister-in-law, Elvira, had been the hapless victim of a domestic incident. Matt, exercising what he believed to be his divine right to establish his superiority over his wife, had slapped her a good one out on the back porch. The force of the former high-school linebacker’s hand sent her backward down the steps where she clumsily brained herself on the walkway. Matt, realizing the depth of the hole he had dug, quickly called his kid brother.
For the past three months Franklin had been annoying everyone with his home-made brain-wave scanner. He pestered each family member to submit to the scan until last week when his father had ordered all and sundry to sit down and let him do it. “Maybe then he will let us alone,” his father had prayed.
One by one the relatives descended to the basement where an ecstatic Franklin gleefully impressed their brain-wave patterns upon his small holographic-memory microdisks.
Now, of course, Matt was grateful for Franklin’s obsessive hobby and wanted Franklin to put Elvira’s brain-waves back into her brain where they belonged. Especially before the folks got back from their two-day holiday.
Franklin could hear the cheers of the television audience screaming from the living room as Matt watched whatever sporting event happened to be on. He would be drunk and asleep in the recliner within the hour, Franklin knew.
Lovingly, Franklin pulled out the original microdisk that held Elvira. Carefully he assured himself that the read-only plug was in place and then gently inserted the disk into the drive and began the copy procedure. “Poor Elvira,” Franklin thought, “stuck with that idiot brother of mine.” Upstairs Matt’s snoring was already competing with the announcer. “If only I were older. . . ”
Franklin’s eyes narrowed as a particularly intriguing thought crossed his mind. Slowly, he swivelled in his chair and looked up the dark stairs, toward the living room. Behind him, the whirring and clicking of his machinery continued, the glare of the desk lamp turning his tousled hair into a wiry nimbus of golden light. A tiny smile crept across his shadowed face, growing in breadth and malevolence.
“If only. . .” he grinned.
Franklin tied off the final knot with a sharp tug, waking Matt in the process. Franklin had never tied up anyone before and, as a result of his somewhat exaggerated respect for his brother’s strength, Matt more than anything else resembled a hemp mummy, encircled in a multitude of rope loops, the ends hanging at odd places. Matt opened his eyes with effort and struggled to focus.
“Wha ya doon!” he slurred.
Ah, good, Franklin thought. A few of Mom’s valium on top of two or three of Matt’s six-packs seemed to have done the trick. Franklin checked his watch and ticked off an item on his clipboard. Things were right on schedule.
“Wha ya doon!” Matt tried again.
“Shhh, quiet down!” Franklin whispered, his scrawny hands dripping with wires and electrodes. “You’ll wake Elvira. She took her data transfer quite well and is sleeping. She’ll need a good bit of rest this week;, she’s had a rough day.” While Franklin talked he had begun to affix some of the electrodes to Matt’s skull.
“Wha tha hell ya doon!” Matt garbled for the third time. Franklin looked up from his work and saw fear in his brother’s eyes. Franklin had not expected Matt to be intelligent enough to be afraid.
“Oh, don’t worry, Matt,” he said, his voice flip-flopping from juvenile falsetto to adult baritone and back. “It won’t be so bad.”
“Wha ya mean?” Matt croaked.
“Well, the way I figure it, you’ll get what you’ve been wanting and I’ll get what I’ve been wanting.” Franklin glanced adoringly to the couch where Elvira lay sleeping, then turned back to his supine sibling. “Just the other day you wished you could go through high school again knowing what you know now. Well, now you’ll get your wish.” Methodically he began applying electrodes to his own head. “Won’t that be fun?”
“No . . . No!!” Matt tried but could not move a muscle as the drugs took hold. Franklin checked his watch and untied the ropes that made his brother one with the recliner. “Nuh . . .” was all Matt could manage now.
“Sorry, Matt,” Franklin apologized, moving to the whirring, blinking collection of home-rigged computer equipment. He counted out a slightly larger dose of valium than he had given his brother, checked his watch once more, dry-swallowed the pills and made a tiny check mark next to the final item on his clipboard. He settled down on the couch next to Elvira as a soft beep signalled the beginning of his transference program.
“See you in a bit,” he told Matt. “You little twerp!”