WNP: Jose sat down across from him....
Jose sat down across from him. The table between them littered with small piles of scrunched up paper covered in spidery lines of smudged black ink, a half dozen empty bottles of Ale-8 and IBC Root Beer, and the cracked remnants of a bag of blue corn chips. Reg refused to raise his head from where he was pounding it against the table. He had been here for two hours already and still nothing...
A hand grabbed a handful of his black curls and hauled his head upward until one dark brown eye could meet his blue gray ones. Jose managed a serious glare for all of about three seconds until he actually got a good look at Reg, then his face slowly broke with amusement until a few seconds later he had let go and was leaning back against the cracked vinyl of his own bench, howling with laughter.
"What, man?" Reg straightened upright with a snap and disgruntled snarl.
"Sorry, sorry," Jose tried to speak through his choking bursts of laughter, vaguely waving his pointer finger at Reg's head until he finally managed, "... your, your face.... it's..." At which point he gave up and just laughed as tears began leaking out of the corners of his eyes.
Reg launched out of the booth and toward the back of the diner where a thin strip of mirror ran along the top of a long counter, receiving several startled looks from other patrons as he whipped past. Dropping his forearms down on the counter, he leaned forward and peered into the mirror. A mass of jagged red and green lines ran across his forehead and down his left check, a few lines of words in smudged black ink overlying them. With a groan he sank down onto a stool and buried his face in his arms. This day was going to be so bad. Sam was going to kill him.
Eventually he felt a tug on his arm, trying to haul him up and off the stool.
"Come on, Reg. You can still be the winner in the ink war." For which he got a fierce glare over his left shoulder. "Come on. Up and at 'em. We have to be back home in like five minutes or mom is going to kill us. A little soap and water, and you'll be back to normal."
"Yeah, but I still don't have a letter or a picture for Sam." The last almost a long drawn out wail.
"Maybe you should just leave the ink then," Jose managed between renewed puffs of laughter. "She'll give you a grace period I'm sure." Then he hauled him off the stool, slapped a wet paper towel into his hand, and began dragging him back toward the front door of the diner. He snagged a heavy bag off the bench of the booth as they walked by that Reg hadn't noticed before, and wait for a minute while Reg gathered his own pens and paper.
"What's with bag?" Reg grumbled as he slid into the front seat of Jose's beater. He swore he was going to fix it up, but..
"It's not a beater," Jose huffed as he walked around and slid in the driver's side door. He tossed his bag onto Reg's lap with a thump.
"I didn't say anything." Reg defended, unzipping the bag as he spoke.
"I can hear you thinking it."
Inside the bag was a homemade blank book whose cover had been collaged with what looked suspiciously like photos of him and Jose. He pulled it out to get a closer look.
To Sam From The Dynamic Duo was hand printed at the bottom. He gave Jose a sideways look before opening the book. Inside, scraps of his crumpled up attempts at birthday poems and drawings for Sam from the past two weeks had been carefully smoothed out and glue-sticked to the right hand page. On the left side Jose had written his interpretation. Next to a black heart he had written "we miss you already"; for a scrap of bad poem about her hair and charm "we think your awesome and beautiful and top stuff"; for a blue mountains scene that had actually been for a school project "just think of all the peace and quiet without your two rowdy brothers". He had wondered what had happened to it.
Reg flipped to the last page. It was the page he had been pounding his head against when Jose had found him ten minutes ago. The page was a mass of black words with every other one scribbled through, and several dark lines of red and green running down it where Reg had finally given up and attacked the page with some of his other color pens. Next to it Jose had written "In fact, we love you so much, we can't even find enough words to tell you." Underneath it he had put in a photo their mom had snapped earlier that summer of the three of them sprawled on a park bench after hiking through the Gorge for several hours in the heat. They were dirty and exhausted and smiling. Sam was sitting between the two of them. It was a good picture.
"You did this?"
"Bro? Sam is thirteen as of today and bitter, bitter, bitter that you and I are going away to school in three days without her. You think I'm coming home from school at Thanksgiving to find out she's cut holes in all our t-shirts and painted hate messages in black nail polish on the bottoms of our skateboards?"
Reg just bumped his fist to Jose's, too emotional to reply with more than a soft, "Thank you."
"I got your back, Bro. I got your back."