“Billy, did you find it?” Mike asked, waiting under the car. Billy, his fifteen-year-old brother, enjoyed getting lost in the tools, lingering over washers and brackets, pieces he might add to a new work of “art”. He wasn’t much help around the garage.
But it was summer and he’d promised to keep Billy busy from ten until four o’clock during the week while their parents worked. Billy spent more time studying his surrounding than actually participating in them. “Did you find the torque wrench?”
Billy’s green-laced doc martins stayed planted next to Mustang, suspended two feet above him and he stuck his arm out, waiting for the wrench to fall into his hand. “Any time now.”
It landed in his hand. “Thank you.”
Then Billy walked away. A kid of few words, unless it was a subject he obsessed over, like Wars and Spirits, a video game, which he had to be peeled away or spend his life eating intravenously from his position at the console. He’d talk about Magic cards and things Mike didn’t really understand.
Mike was more than a decade older, a surprise baby, just when his parents thought their Golden Years were ahead.
He shook his head. At least Billy could bring him the tools he needed while he was under the car.
Banging metal sounds as though hubcaps were falling all over the place rattled the garage.
He slid out from under the car. Wiped the grease off his hands onto the bandana, then made his way in the direction of the noise. “You OK, buddy?” he called to his little brother.
Several hubcaps circled the floor. Billy wasn’t there. Probably scared off thinking he was in trouble.
It wasn’t as if he got in terrible trouble, but Billy couldn’t take the tamest scolding and usually retreated when the hint of a confrontation arose. Mike knew how to tread lightly.
“It’s all right, Billy, nothing’s broken! No harm no foul.” He laughed using the same expression his father would.
“Where are you?” Mike searched around. Not seeing his brother, he began picking up the hubcaps and stacking them against the wall, then checked his watch. “Looks like lunchtime!” That was sure to get Billy out of his hiding place.
“I’m ordering a pizza unless you want to go for a drive?”
No answer. Mike checked the restroom. Billy wasn’t there. “Well, I’m starving,” Mike said and went to the phone against the wall and dialed the number for pizza delivery.
Billy ran passed.
“Hey, wait. You want pepperoni?” Mike called to him.
Billy stopped, turned to Mike and shook his head vehemently then continued on his way with a determined expression. Mike rolled his eyes; it was going to be a long day.
Mike organized a few items in the office while waiting for the pizza delivery. Billy came into the room, his eyes skimming the items laid out on the desk. A collection of discarded items from the garage and junk from the dumpster.
“Whacha looking for?” Mike asked.
“Ah, not sure.” Billy opened the desk drawer. “Just need—here!” He pulled out a coil of copper wire.
Mike gave him the eye. He didn’t mind if his brother busied himself with another project. At least, maybe he’d get some work done with Billy entertained.
The pizza had arrived, but Billy wouldn’t respond to his calls. If he wasn’t hungry, he would be, eventually. Mike finished his lunch, drank water from the cooler, and then got back to fixing the Mustang.
Billy’s Doc Martins pass by, again and again, carrying rattling and clamoring things along with him, and now dragged a long metal pipe. What’s he up to? “Are you building a spaceship?” Mike laughed.
Billy returned for more items. Such determination would warrant a masterpiece. He had to be sure and let Billy know that. Any time he could boost his brother’s confidence he’d done his job.
Mike finished correcting the alignment of the wheels and scooted out.
Cold pizza sat on the desk in the office. He shook his head and went through to the garage to find his brother. “Hey, Van Gogh, you aren’t even eating? Must be some work of art you’ve got out back.” Mike trudged to the exit door and opened it.
Materializing before his eyes, a disk of light lifted a few feet above the ground. With the sun’s reflection, it was hard to determine the outline. Below the spinning orb, a mound festooned with assorted metal links, wrenches, hammers, and bolts held together with twisted copper wires pointed into the shape of a pyramid.
The orb expanded and retracted. Mike turned to his brother, staring at the disk, eyes wide, trance-like, and the orb zipped away.
“What was that?”
“They came when I made it,” Billy said. “They said the pyramid’s a phone.
“Yeah, I communicate with their star beings somehow with the pyramid.”
Billy leaned closer and shouted up into the wires coiled into the shape of a cone, “My brother doesn’t believe me.”
The orb returned. Out of nowhere. And waited at the point of the pyramid.
More arrived. And more still. Until the clear sky became covered in white pulsating orbs.
“Now what?” Mike asked.
“I called that one here," Billy said. “They can’t all come unless we build more communication systems, the way they used to visit.”
Mike looked away from his brother and watched the disk fade in and out of visibility.