Trio (hypno)

Part One - CHRIS

I have always hated my older brother. There may have been a time that I liked him but I don't think so. The more that others liked him, the more I hated him.

I'm sixteen years old now. I've had two brothers, one seventeen and one thirteen. Ever since I got into trouble with the police for stealing from Beckers, it's almost that I don't exist and that my older brother gets even more attention. Mom and Dad have given up on me. No, I take that back. I don't think they ever thought enough of me to even think that I might amount to anything.

Dad is seldom home. He works at a Chrysler plant and makes good money but spends most of the rest of his time either drinking at the Century House or at the race track. Mom got a job at a bridal shop a few years back so that there would be some money for emergencies and for milk. Often she has to sew till late in the evening so that some deadline can be met and when she gets home she either bitches about Dad not being home or cries herself to sleep. She isn't very happy with her lot in life.

The one high point of her life seems to be my older brother, Aaron. Aaron is the perfect son. Even I can see that. He is what everyone would want their son to be, everything that I am not.

Mom seems to think that Aaron might become a priest. She never talks about it directly to any of us but I overheard her talking to her girlfriend, Julie, one summer night when they were out in the back yard drinking coffee or lemonade. She told Julie how she knew Aaron was special, ever since he was born, that he was going to be a great man someday and would make her proud - and everything that she had suffered her whole life would be 'redeemed' by him. She could see that Aaron was like her in that he was religious, but it wasn't a phase he was going through, oh no, it was a deep religiousness, "born of deep faith," she said. It was through him that Dad would change and mend his ways and that I would turn myself around. She said how she had offered him up to God when he was just a child and that she knew he would save himself for the priesthood. Father Mulchahy at St. Anselm's was very proud of Aaron as well and he and mother had had many talks about Aaron's vocation. Fr. Mulchahy had assured mother that her prayers were working and that Aaron had talked to him personally about his vocation.

Everyone thinks that Aaron is very bright. He brings home all A's on his report cards and all his teachers seem to love him. I don't think that Aaron is really that bright, though. Actually, I think I am brighter than he is; I just don't want anybody to know it. I really hate school. It's so boring and so I don't do any work and even though I pass the exams they won't pass me because I skipped out too much, or the teacher hates me, or I don't have any term marks. Mom hasn't even bothered to see my teachers for the last few years. She concentrates on Aaron's teachers and she can feel good about herself..

Aaron spends a lot of time studying. I never study, but I do read a lot. Mostly when no-one is around. I had just finished a "Psychology of Adolescence", so I think I pretty well understand what was going on around home now. Usually I go to the library and start in on a section and just read through it until I'm bored with the topic and then I go on to something else. I had a pile of Psychology books on Mind Control and Hypnosis and Therapeutic Uses of Suggestion which I thought I might find mildly interesting, but I was really looking forward to the history section.

You want to know about my arrest last fall? It was really stupid, now that I think about it, but it was kind of fun, too. I had made friends with a few older guys at school out in the Smoking Yard. Yeah, I smoke. I know I shouldn't but every time Aaron gives me another lecture about it or threatens to tell Mom, I end up smoking more just to get even with him. Anyway, these three guys had going quite a business fencing stolen goods to the kids at school and they had four or five younger kids ripping off stores for items that a lot of the kids wanted - cigarettes, magazines, anything with alcohol in it, condoms, makeup - whatever. They weren't interested in the big trade of pot, acid or other stuff - that was too dangerous for these guys right now 'cause too many other dealers were into it. This was an open field. All I had to do was go through a store, pocket anything that looked interesting and they would pay me for it in cash. I didn't have a job so it was an easy way to get cigarette money, lunch money or movie money without having to do anything extra around the house. I was doing pretty well for about six months but I should have known better than to go into one of those stores with a surveillance camera. Wouldn't you know they had me on camera taking the plastic box full of money for some Disease of the Month Fund. I was getting too cocky. I was stealing that one for me. At least when the police became involved I didn't have to name anyone else like I would have it they had found me taking makeup or something. Anyway, Mom was really angry and she showed it by ignoring me completely and shaking her head and sighing at her lot in life a lot whenever I was around. I think Dad was proud of me in his own way, though. It wasn't too serious and it gave him something to moan to the guys about and another reason for staying away from home.

Anyway the book on Adolescent Psychology says that most teenagers act out around fifteen. Except Aaron. He didn't act out - it's like he was perfect or something. He was on the school swim team and up for an athletic scholarship; he was on the debating team and had been in the school plays. He never seemed to date much although he went out - mostly on weekends, with a group of his friends - male and female. And he was never later than eleven o'clock coming home! And he was religious - he talked to God a lot. I've seen him on his knees at night before he goes to bed - and he never missed church on Sunday even though no-one else went but Mom, and her not all the time. I was trying to apply Aaron to the Adolescent Psychology book but he just didn't seem to fit the normal pattern the way they describe it. He was too good. Maybe it's because he gets all the attention already and doesn't have to be any other way. My younger brother, Gary, is dead. He was probably going to be more like Aaron than me. He worshipped Aaron, and Aaron spent time with him that no-one else in the house seemed to. Mom was always nagging at him to clean up, or pick up, or do school work, or empty garbage. Thank God she didn't bother with me any more, since the arrest. When Gary died suddenly from the hit and run accident, Mom withdrew more and more and placed more and more of her hope in Aaron.

Well, everything sort of fell together for me after I read the rest of the Psychology books. I got so interested in them I skipped out of school for two days and did nothing but read. When the school phoned home and left a message on the answering machine, I erased it, but the Principal happened to be talking to Aaron and asked where I was. When Aaron came home he started lecturing me again about the importance of school and what was I ever going to be and Mom was going to be so upset and was I smoking in the house again and how he was going to tell Mom everything unless I shaped up. Luckily Mom left a message that she wouldn't be home till late and go ahead and eat without her. Aaron would be fast asleep before she got home. He was always in bed by ten o'clock so he could get up at six the next morning.

I waited until Mom had come home and checked to see that we were all home and asleep. Then I snuck down the hall to Aaron's room, closed the door quietly behind me and sat down on the floor next to Aaron who was a pretty sound sleeper.

I used the technique in one the books on Suggestion about turning normal sleep into hypnotic sleep and even though I found myself very excited, I was able to keep my voice firm and low. I spoke over and over about how relaxed he was and how he could only hear my voice and that he was going deeper and deeper. By this time my eyes had become conditioned to the light in the room from the outside window and I could see fairly well. I started noticing Aaron's eyes flickering as the book said they would when they started to make the transition from normal sleep to the other. I kept talking firmly and softly, over and over.

I have to admit the original idea I had when I came into the room was to see if I could put Aaron under hypnosis but most specifically to suggest to him that he not tell Mom about anything I'd done or hadn't done. I don't know when the new idea hit me, but it just came to me and I tried it.

"This is God talking to you, Aaron. I want you to go deeper and deeper and get more and more relaxed so I can talk to you and tell you what I want for you." Almost immediately there was a change in Aaron. His eyelids starting moving very quickly. "Your right hand is feeling very light - like a balloon- and it is starting to rise up in the air." His right hand started to move. "You will try to stop your right hand from moving but you cannot, and the harder you try the deeper you will go." He seemed to be struggling with his hand but it just kept going up and up.

I tried a few more of the traditional things the books had talked about and they were very successful. It seemed that Aaron was even a "perfect" subject.

"You will be able to talk to me, Aaron, but you will remain deeply asleep until I wake you. Do you understand?"

"Yes." He spoke for the first time and the sound frightened me. But still I carried on.

"Do you know who is speaking to you, Aaron?" "God."

"That's right, Aaron. Do you know who I sound like?"


"That's right. Aaron. Since I don't really have a voice, I take the voice of someone else - in this case, Chris's. But it is not Chris talking to you. You understand that, don't you?"


"I am going to make you someone very important, Aaron. I have chosen you out of all the others. You will be the highest of the high. Everyone will come to me through you. You will be more important than the Pope or Mother Theresa. But you must never question my will. You must do everything I say or your soul will perish."

I thought that last part a nice touch.

"Do you understand who I am and what I am asking you to do?"


"Who am I?"


"And what will I do for you if you follow me?"

"I will become the highest of the high."

"Over the next while I will be testing you. Testing your faith in me. I know you will not fail me."


By this point I had been in the room almost an hour and a half. I still had it in mind that I wanted to give him a suggestion about keeping quiet about me, but I was getting more and more excited about the possibilities of how deeply he seemed to be under. Also I desperately wanted a cigarette. Then it came to me, and I changed direction.

"I want you remain deeply asleep, but I want you to sit up and sit on the edge of your bed."

He did.

"I am going to ask you now to count down from fifty. Each number you say, you will go deeper and deeper, as though you are going down in an elevator. When you get to the number one, you will be as deep asleep as you can possibly get and you will be ready to hear what I want you to do." He started counting backwards. I got up quickly and left the room, returned to my own room and picked up my cigarettes and an ashtray from my desk drawer and headed back.. When I shut the door Aaron was at 23 and still counting.

When he reached one I began again.

"You have always been a very good young man, haven't you, Aaron?"

"Yes. I've tried."

"You know that sometimes I test people for my own reasons and ask them to do things which might seem very strange to them - like I did with Abraham when I tested him with his son Isaac."


"If you are going to be a leader of men, the highest of the high, it is important that you can understand the feelings and the problems of other people. You must identify with them so that you can sympathize with them."

"I guess so."

"For example, your brother, Chris. You don't understand him, do you?"


"What does he do that you don't understand or like?"

"He skips school."

"Yes. But what else does he do that you don't understand why he does it? Something that you are always bugging him about."

"He smokes."

"Yes. And how long have you known that he smokes?"

"About a year."

"And how did you find out."

"I started smelling it on him and outside his room when I went by the door. I started seeing him in the Smoking Yard after school.."

"And how do you feel about him smoking."

"I hate it. It's so stupid and bad for you. And it smells bad,"

"In other words you don't understand why he continues to smoke - you can't feel for him, can you?"


"I am going to put you to your first test, Aaron. Are you ready."


"You will not let me down and suffer the fire of hell."


"I believe you and I trust you, Aaron. God believes you and he will help you. I want you to learn to understand your brother Chris and the many others like him. Only by experiencing the need that they have can you ever help them or sympathize with them. To help them you must become like them. In a moment I will place the hands of God on your head, and when I do, you are going to start to experience what they do. You are going to start to want a cigarette - very badly. I will help you, though. You will find the taste of the cigarette very pleasant - like the taste of your favourite thing. I am placing my hands on your head now and you can feel my power come into you. Every second now you want a cigarette more and more. It is as though you have been smoking for a very long time." I paused to light a cigarette. My hand was shaking.

"You can smell a cigarette burning now and you want it very badly, don't you.?


"What do you want?"

"I want a cigarette."

"Have you ever smoked before?"


"But what do you want?"

"I want a cigarette."

"You want one so bad that it's beginning to hurt, isn't it?"


"In a moment I am going to give you a cigarette. When I tell you, you will be able to open your eyes, but you will still be very deep asleep. The only thing you will see is that cigarette. You will take the cigarette and smoke it - inhale it - and you will like it very much. Do you understand?"


"What do you need?"

"A cigarette."

I held the cigarette in front of him and told him to open his eyes. They opened and stared at the cigarette. "Now take the cigarette in your right hand." He did. "You want it very badly and it's going to taste so good. I want you to smoke the cigarette now."

Aaron raised the cigarette to his mouth and drew in on it. The first time he didn't inhale it, so I helped him along.

"Take a little of the smoke in your mouth. That's right. Now take in some air and swallow it.. That's right. Now you feel really good. You can feel the cigarette working on you and you feel really relaxed. You're really enjoying it, aren't you."


After he took four or five drags I decided not to push my luck and make him sick. That would ruin the whole thing. The plan that I was rapidly formulating was too exciting to screw up.

"I am going to take the cigarette from you now. You don't want to give it up. You want to continue smoking it because you love smoking and the taste of it and you want more. But your eyes are closing again and I am taking the cigarette."

A scowl crossed his face.

"What is the matter, Aaron.?"

"I want a cigarette."

"From now until I take the feeling away from you, Aaron, you are going to want a cigarette all the time. You will come to understand how hard it is for people to quit smoking and how much they like it. When you wake up you are going to want a cigarette all the time. You will only be really happy when you are smoking. Your brother's smoking will not bother you. In fact, you envy him now because he has cigarettes, don't you?


"What do you want right now, Aaron."

"A cigarette."

"Do you have any cigarettes, Aaron?"


"How does that make you feel?"


"How can you get some cigarettes, Aaron?"

"My brother smokes. Buy some."

"And how do you feel about your brother smoking, Aaron."

"Great. I can get cigarettes from him."

"Does he know you smoke?"


"When are you going to start smoking and let him know?"


It was more successful than I ever could have imagined.

Aaron always got up earlier than I did, because he often used to go to daily Mass at St. Anselm's. The next morning, I pretended not to be awake when he snuck into my room, went over to my dresser and took a cigarette out of the package hidden in the top drawer. I was surprised at first that he knew where I had hidden my cigarettes - like he must have been through my chest of drawers to know that they were there, but then I got all excited figuring out that it had worked. I couldn't wait to see how he was going to justify it when he was caught!

But then I decided to play "possum" a little longer and see what he would do.

He snuck out of my room and went downstairs. Quickly and quietly I got dressed - no easy task because of our squeaky floors, and as soon as I heard him leave the house I raced downstairs to follow him.

The air was pretty cool even for April and I was used to being out of the house this early in the morning. I stayed far enough behind Aaron that I couldn't be seen but that I could still see him. He went directly to the church and into the door at the back reserved for altar servers and priests. I figured I was going to have to go into the church and find a spot where he couldn't see me or wait outside until he came out. I was pretty sure he wasn't going to smoke the cigarette in the church. I would have, probably, but Aaron is nowhere as crazy as I am.

I opted for the church, only because it was warmer and I could doze off now and then if I wanted to. St. Anselm's was a big, old church and it had many side altars and confessionals all around it. I chose a confessional because it still had a curtain that I could peek out of and I knew nobody would be in it at least until Mass was over.

I was just about to go in when I remembered that Aaron had been carrying his school books and that he was sure to be heading off to school right after Mass. Since I figured I was safe for a while, I ducked out of the church and headed home to get my books. Mom and Dad still weren't up which meant that Dad wasn't going to work today, probably because of a hangover, and Mom didn't have to be at work until 9:30. I grabbed a couple of pop-tarts from the cupboard, grabbed my English books, the only subject I ever bothered to bring home, and ran out again. On the way to the church I stuffed down the pop-tarts cold and was sorry that I hadn't grabbed something to wash them down.

I peaked into the church and the priest was just saying "Holy, Holy" so I knew I was about half way. Aaron was the only server. I studied him for a few minutes and noticed that he seemed more fidgety than usual. But maybe that was just because I was looking for it. I don't know. Then I almost started to laugh when I thought about Aaron having to go to confession and tell he stole a cigarette from his brother. Boy, I'll bet that will make Fr. Mulchahy wonder. I bet they won't take any boys in the seminary who admit to stealing. I felt really funny at that moment - I don't know how to describe it, both powerful and god-like, controlling things like I was.

I decided to stay outside now since I might be seen if I went back in. I pulled out a smoke and lit it. The first one of the morning is always so good, but today it even seemed better, anticipating my brother having one, too.

Soon some people started drifting out of the church - the early ones that go to communion and leave immediately - eat and run, the priest used to call it. After another few minutes the others started to leave. I ducked out around back where I could get a view of Aaron leaving. It wasn't too long before I saw that jerky Fr. Mulchahy and Aaron coming out together. They spoke for a few minutes, and then Aaron said good-bye and took off towards school.

I followed at a distance until Aaron went left at Ford street when he should have gone right. Instead he ended up at Memorial Park. I was able to follow a little closer now because this park was quite dense with trees. I was getting so excited now I wanted to pee my pants.

Shortly, he reached a park bench, looked around until he was sure there was no-one around, and then he sat down. I moved in a little closer where there were some bushes and crawled into the bushes where I had a pretty good view.

When I got into place and looked up again, he already had the cigarette out and was staring at it. Then he pulled out some matches - did I have those in the drawer? - and lit the cigarette. God, this was exciting - I felt like I was bursting inside. I watched him take the first drag of the cigarette - he inhaled, let it out. On the second drag, he coughed a little, but he continued smoking it until there was just a short butt which even then he seemed hesitant to throw away. He crushed out the cigarette, then picked up his books and headed back the way he came. I continued to follow at a distance.

When he got to Neuborn St., he turned up toward the school. He almost saw me two blocks later, because, suddenly, he stopped just past the corner and turned back. I ducked into a storefront and thought I had been seen, but when I peeked out again, he was nowhere in sight. Quickly but carefully I went along the street and when I got to the corner, I looked inside and saw Aaron buying a pack of cigarettes at the corner store.

Unbelievable, I thought. Aaron had passed the first test. I was already thinking about how I could get him next.

The rest of the day went pretty quickly. I tried to find Aaron at lunch before my detention - we have these stupid lunch hour detentions - but I couldn't find him. The detention teacher on Tuesdays was Mr. Dinsmore. Of all the teachers at Corcoran High, Mr. Dinsmore was the wimpiest. He was very short and skinny and wore these plaid jackets that were too loose on him. I'd like to say that he wore a bow tie because that would complete the picture but even he wasn't dorky enough for that. I told him that I wasn't feeling well about half way through and so he sent me to the nurse's office, probably glad to get rid of me. I noticed he didn't write anything down so I figured I was fairly safe to skip out instead of heading off to old Mrs. Keefer, the nurse.

I looked around some more for Aaron but couldn't find him in the usual spots so I went out to the Smoking Yard for a cigarette. On my way, I thought, Of course, he'll be at the Smoking Yard!" But he wasn't. The Smoking Yard really wasn't a Smoking Yard. You really weren't allowed to smoke at Corcoran High. Even the dumb teachers had to go out to their cars and light up. But there was this empty field not too far from the school where everyone just hung out and it became the unofficial smoking place. Nobody really bothered us there and there weren't any close neighbours to have a hairy fit or anything.

When I got there most everyone of the regulars was there. I asked around to see if anyone had seen Aaron but no-one had. This wasn't the kind of crowd that Aaron hung around with.

There were usually three or four different groups hanging out. You could tell each group by the clothes they wore. The "jocks" were farthest in and it was the smallest group and the oldest. There were a few of the senior football team, staying back to make sure they weren't seen by their coach, and they were usually surrounded by lots of girls - cheerleader types, but all smoking away like they were their mothers or something. Then there were the really tough "wankers". In another life they would have been called "bikers" or "hoods" and they seemed like they were mad at everybody. They wore their hair quite long, loved leather and wore anything with logos of whatever Heavy Metal rock group was in at the time. My group was probably called "the losers". We were an odd assortment of kids who basically weren't into clothes or hair much: we looked like every and any type. But, we were pretty intelligent really, having higher IQ's than both the other groups.

Sometimes there was a fourth group, but these were usually frosh who weren't able to fit into any of the regular groups yet. The "skinheads" didn't stay around school much.

Only Teddy and Jay were hanging out. I lit up and joined in a conversation about Teddy's gaming when suddenly Pepper Conklin came over from the wanker group. Pepper was his usual charming self.

"Hey, asshole!" he called.

"You talking to me?" Teddy challenged.

"No, the other asshole: Kelly."

"Looks like he wants you, Chris." Teddy grinned a stupid grin and he and Jay took off.

"Yeah, wha'd'ya want?" I asked.

"I hear you got arrested for a Becker's gig. That true?"

"Yeah," I said. "What about it?"

"Nothin', man. Just want to let you know that there are better ways of making a few bucks - and safer." He looked a little spaced out.

"I'll remember that, man." I hoped he didn't pick up the sarcasm. "Thanks."

"Anytime," he grinned. A part of a tooth was missing. "You'd have more fun hanging with our group than with those two dipshits."

I took one final drag on my cigarette and threw the butt with a flick of my finger. I had seen Bruce Willis do that and thought it was so cool.

"Thanks, man. I might just do that. Say you haven't seen my brother, Aaron have you?"

"Don't think I really know him, man. What the fuck's he look like?"

"No, that's okay. He doesn't usually come around here anyway. Look I gotta get back to class. Maybe tomorrow, okay?"

Right. And it's gonna rain tomatoes, too.

I took off toward the school but decided that I really couldn't sit through Geography and Science, so I took off toward the library. I couldn't go home yet because Dad might still be there and I might pick up a book or two that would help me with my latest "experiment." Besides I needed to do some thinking about what I was going to do next.


It was well after midnight when I could hear Aaron snoring and the rest of the house had quieted down.

My mother and father had a big fight when Dad came home from the bar after saying he was too sick to go to work. Mom didn't get in till 9:00 but Dad didn't get home till just before midnight. I was afraid the fight would go on for hours but it didn't and it was soon quiet downstairs. Mom and Dad's bedroom is on the first floor. The second floor has two bedrooms and a bath. I used to share the second bedroom, which is largest, with Gary until he died. Aaron had the smaller room at the front of the house. Our rooms had a hallway between but we learned as younger kids that we could also get to each other's room by going through the closets and behind the walls. This had come in very useful when we were locked in our rooms for some mischief. I shouldn't say "we" because it was always just me really.

I had been waiting just behind his closet for about fifteen minutes when I heard him start to snore and I knew he was asleep. I slipped into the closet and then quietly into his room. There was light coming in from the window. As I told you, Aaron's room is on the front of the house and there was a streetlight that always left Aaron's room in a kind of soft light at night. Me, I like it real dark to sleep. But it never seemed to bother Aaron.

I began talking again very softly, and it wasn't long before the snoring shifted to a heavy breathing and then a shallow breathing. His eyes began to flutter again and it had taken less than half the time as the night before.

"Your body is very light. You can sit up on the edge of the bed without waking. God wants to have a talk with you."

Smoothly, he rose up and sat still on the side of the bed.

"The sound of my voice is relaxing you more and more. Nothing will wake you unless I tell you to awake. Do you understand?"

"And who is speaking?"


"And whose voice am I pretending to use?"


"But is it Chris speaking?"


"Then who is it?"


"Very good, Aaron. I have chosen you and I will make you very important." God, I was excited again and I wanted a cigarette so bad. "And what is it that you have to do, Aaron?" I continued.

"Whatever you tell me to do."

"Good. I gave you a gift yesterday, didn't I, Aaron?"

Aaron looked confused and a frown crossed his brow.

"I told you that you would enjoy something very much and it would help you in making you important."

"Yes. Smoking."

"And did you want to smoke today, Aaron?"

"Yes. A lot."

"And do you still want to smoke, Aaron?"


"How much did you smoke today, Aaron.?"

"Three cigarettes."

"Where were you when you smoked them?"

"At the park before and after school... and at lunch."

"Was anyone with you?"


"Were you afraid to be seen smoking, Aaron?"


"Aaron. I will give you another gift, now. You will no longer be afraid of anyone seeing you smoke. When I touch you on the forehead I will lift away any fear you have. In fact, you are proud that you smoke. You see nothing wrong in it. You don't care who knows - it won't stop you from smoking." I put my hand on his forehead and pushed hard. "In fact, you get very angry when people tell you not to smoke - you don't like that at all. They are just people who don't want you to have fun and you hate them for that. Do you understand?


"And are you afraid any more?"


"And you want a cigarette very bad, don't you?"


"Where did you get your cigarettes today?

"I bought a pack..."


"I stole one from Chris's room."

"Does that make you feel bad, stealing from Chris?"

"Yes. But I needed one."

"How did you know where he kept them?"

"I went through his dresser a few weeks ago looking for magazines."

"What magazines?"

"The Playboy I caught him reading."

"And did you find it?"


"And what did you do with it."

"Read it."

Right. Here was a side of big brother I didn't know about!

"Aaron, you are going to have to make it up to Chris for the stealing of the cigarette and the magazine. From now on Chris can do nothing wrong in your eyes. You will be his protector. This is God telling you to do this. Do you understand?"

"Yes. His protector."

"You would do anything for him, wouldn't you?"


"And you want a cigarette very badly, don't you?"


"Where do you hide your cigarettes, Aaron?"

"In my top desk drawer."

I reached over to his desk and opened the top drawer. I took out the pack and pulled out a cigarette and lit it. In the dim light you could see the smoke swirling.

"You can smell the cigarette now. How badly do you want it, Aaron?"


"And what will you do for a cigarette now...?" I took another drag and blew the smoke into his face. God, this was exciting. "If I let you have a cigarette now what will you do for it?"


"I'm going to give you the cigarette now, Aaron, and you will listen very closely to what I want you to do. Remember, if you do these things you will become a very great person.". I handed him the cigarette. Even with his eyes closed he seemed to enjoy the cigarette. He drew on it like he had been smoking for years and puffed at it hungrily.

"The cigarette is relaxing you, isn't it, Aaron."


"You smoke a lot now, Aaron. How much do you need to smoke in a day now?"

"I don't know. A lot."

"Is a half a pack a day a lot, Aaron?"

"I don't know. I guess so."

"But you need more than half a pack, don't you?"


"How much do you smoke each day, Aaron?"

"A pack?"

"Yes. That's right. And what happens if you don't smoke a pack a day, Aaron?"

"I don't know."

"God will have to punish you, Aaron, because you won't be able to identify with those who need to smoke... like your brother, Chris."

"Punish... ?"

"Yes. Any day that you don't smoke a full pack, you will... start becoming dumber...uh, less smart... find yourself doing very poorly at school."

"At school..."

"Are you enjoying that cigarette, Aaron."

"Yes." He took another deep drag.

"You promised God that you would do anything for that cigarette. Well, here it is. I simply want you to make friends with a junior at your school by the name of Pepper Conklin. Repeat that name for me."

"Pepper Conklin."

"That's right. You can find him each day in the Smoking Yard at school. He needs a friend very badly. But he may not like you at first because you two are so different. You must work at making him like you, becoming like him as much as possible. Then you will be able to understand him and help him. Do you understand?"

"Not really." The frown again.

"What is bothering you?"

"How can I help him?"

"I will explain all that in time. For right now I just want you to work at becoming like him so he will trust you. It doesn't matter what other people say about this friendship or if other people do or don't like him. He is going to become your model until you are close friends. Do you understand?"

"I'll be like Pepper Conklin."

"And you do you always protect?"

"My brother, Chris."

"And how much do you smoke?"

"A pack a day."

"I'm going to take your cigarette from you now." A frown again. "You still want a cigarette very badly, so in exactly ten minutes you will wake up because you can't sleep, and you will take your cigarettes into Chris's room and wake him up and ask him if he wants a smoke. You feel very sorry for taking his cigarettes, and you feel very protective of him. Next to Pepper Conklin he will be your best friend."

"Best friend."

"I want you to lie down now. Me... your God... is going to leave now. You are feeling very relaxed, but in ten minutes you will be wide awake and you will want a cigarette and will go to Chris' room. When you are awake you will remember none of my talking to you. Oh, yes. The next time I want to talk to you I will use Chris's voice and I will say: "The Lord be with you." When you hear Chris's voice saying that, you will immediately fall into a sleep even deeper than you are now and I will be able to talk to you. What are the words that will put you to sleep only when Chris's voice says them?"

"The Lord be with you."

"That's right. Get some rest now. In ten minutes you will be wide awake thinking how much you need a cigarette. Good night, Aaron."

"Good night, God."

I slipped back into my room and got under the covers. It seemed like a very long ten minutes but soon I heard Aaron creeping into my room.

"Chris. You awake?"

I pretended waking up and then sat up in the bed. Aaron sat on the trunk next to the bed.

"Hi. Sorry to get you up. I thought you might still be awake because of the fight downstairs."

"No," I said. It didn't last as long as it usually does."

"Look," Aaron said, "I did something this morning that I'm not too proud of and I want to make it up to you. I took one of your cigarettes this morning."

"You did what!" I said, feigning shock. "You don't smoke!"

"Yeah, I started smoking a while back and I really needed one this morning so I took it and I'm sorry. I bought my own today. Do you want one?"

"Sure," I said. "I can't believe you smoke. My perfect brother! What'll Mom and Dad say if they find out."

Suddenly Aaron's face got very red. "I don't give a shit if they find out. I'm almost eighteen now. I can do what I want." He pulled out two cigarettes, handed one to me and then pulled out a beautiful new Zippo lighter, lit mine and then his.

"Wow. Nice lighter." I said.

"Yeah. I picked it up today." He took a drag on his cigarette. "I hate it when Mom and Dad fight."

"Me, too," I said.

"By the way," he suddenly looked serious, "they called again from school today. Did you skip out again?"

"Just the afternoon classes. I couldn't deal with those idiots today."

"I'll write you a note and sign it from Mom and say that you weren't feeling well. If I hand it in, old Mrs. Columbo'll believe it."

"You'd do that for me?" I said.

"Sure," Aaron said, looking hurt, "we brothers have to stick together. We're best friends, aren't we?" He smiled a big sincere smile and took a drag on his cigarette. I almost puked!


At lunch the next day I was one of the first out to the Smoking Yard. It had been a great morning. Aaron didn't go to church but waited around for me to get up. We smoked on the way to school and Aaron had three cigarettes! What a dummy! I couldn't believe it.

I was glad that Pepper Conklin was one of the first at the Smoking Yard. I needed some time to prep him if this thing was going to work. I walked over to him as he was saying goodbye to Janice Bigelow. He gave her a big wet one, probably for my benefit, then slapped her on the ass, telling her he'd see her later. Then he winked at me, like he wanted to make sure I got the point.

"Hey, man, we're you thinkin' about what I said yesterday?" The slimy smile came back on his face.

"Actually, man," I said, "I really don't need any bread right now, but I wanna introduce you to my brother, Aaron. I think he could probably use some dough soon."

"Is he cool, man?"

"Well, that's the problem, Pepper. He's always been very shy - I mean, not in school stuff but in personal stuff, ya know what I mean?"

Pepper looked clueless.

"You see, " I said, "he's always admired you from a distance because of what you stand for, ya know. He's always said to me, "You know, I wish I could be like that Pepper Conklin. He's such a big guy at school and seems to know where its at." But, of course, he's really been too shy to talk to you or anything."

"Do I know him?"

"Oh sure, you must have seen him around school. He was on the swim team and he had a big part in the school play. In fact he had to cut his hair for his part."

"I don't go to no plays and ain't nobody gonna touch my hair."

"Well, look, when he comes around, I'll introduce you and you can see what you think. Maybe it'll work out. What kind of thing have you got in mind?"

"I don't want to talk about it unless you want in on it."

"I better beg off, but thanks," I said.

I walked to the other corner of the yard and waited for Aaron but he never showed up. Then I went to my next two classes because I thought I'd be pushing my luck to skip again. After school, I looked for Aaron but when I didn't see him I went on home.

Aaron was lying on the living room sofa when I got home and he didn't look too well.

"What's the matter," I said.

"I had to leave school at lunch. I was feeling sick to my stomach. I think it's the cigarettes. I think I'm smoking too much."

"That's too bad," I said. Are you feeling any better?

"Yeah, I guess so... no, not really," he said.

"The Lord be with you," I said, starting up the stairs. I looked back, not knowing what to expect, but Aaron's eyes were closed and he looked very much asleep. I slowly came down the steps and walked toward him.

"Can you hear me, Aaron?"


"And who is speaking to you."


"That's right." I sat on the floor next to him. "Are you having a problem now, Aaron?"

"Yes. I don't feel so good. I don't think I want to smoke. It's making me sick."

"But you don't have any choice, do you, Aaron? In fact you want a cigarette right now, don't you."

He thought about it. "Yes, but..."

"You don't believe it is the cigarettes making you sick, do you? No, you love to smoke. It is one of your favourite things to do. That couldn't ever make you sick, could it?"


"What's making you sick, Aaron?"

"I.. I don't know."

"Are you worried that you can't afford to smoke a pack a day like you want to?"

"I still have some money left."

"But, Aaron, it will run out very soon, won't it.


"Then what are you going to do?"

"I don't know."

"And what will happen if you don't smoke a pack a day?"

"You'll make me get dumber and I won't do well at school."

"Have you smoked a pack today, Aaron?"

"No. Only about five."

"God will have to punish you, Aaron. You can feel yourself starting to forget stuff you know, can't you?"

"I want a cigarette."

"Good. Of course you do. You've got fifteen more cigarettes to smoke, Aaron. Now you know what it is to need a cigarette. Think of how much better you understand people. You are on your way to becoming my special person. What do you want?"

"A cigarette."

"And will you ever want to stop smoking again."



"Because I love it."

"That's right. And how are you going to afford a pack a day?"

"I... I don't know."

"I am going to help you again, Aaron. Your God is going to send someone to you who will help you. His name is Pepper Conklin. He is going to be someone very important to you."


"You will meet him soon and he will help you solve your problems. He is a special messenger of mine, and although some people may talk him down or make fun of him, you will like him immediately and want to be like him because I have sent him."

"I thought you wanted me to help him?" Aaron asked, obviously thinking about what I had told him last night.

"Oh, you will. You will help each other."

There was no comment so that seemed to satisfy him.

"Do you know who Pepper Conklin is?" I suddenly realized that they might have had classes together or something, even though Pepper didn't seem to know him.

"I think I have seen him... with Janice Bigelow."

"That's right. Do you remember what he looks like?"

"About my size, long blonde hair, leather jacket..."

"You really envy his long hair, don't you?"

"No. I don't like..."

I placed my hand on his forehead and pushed very hard. "You have always wanted long hair, Aaron. You are looking at yourself in a mirror right now. You are watching yourself. And suddenly you can see your hair growing. You can feel your hair growing -like time is going very fast. You see your hair getting longer and longer. And as it gets longer and longer you can feel beautiful girls around you, girls like Janice Bigelow, more and more girls as your hair gets longer and longer - and they are running their hands through your hair and acting as though you were a rock star. Your hair is very long now. Can you feel it?"


"Shake your head and feel your hair move. You love the way it feels. It's just like Pepper's hair."

"Just like Pepper's."

"You'd do anything to have hair like that. But now the mirror is changing. Your hair is getting shorter and shorter and the girls are disappearing. They hate your short hair. You hate your short hair. You're feeling very sad now."


" I am going to give you another present, Aaron. Would you like your hair to be long?"


"Each day you will let your hair grow longer and longer, and =as your hair gets longer and longer you will get the strength of Samson. Just like my friend Samson in the Bible, you will start becoming very strong. But... just like Samson, you must never cut your hair off or you will lose your strength. Do you understand?"


"Now what are you going to do?"

"Let my hair grow long and get strong."

"Will this be easy to do? Will anyone try to stop you?"

"Yes. My father hates long hair."

"But who is more important to you? Who is going to make you important? Me or your father?"

"You are."

"And you hate anyone who stands in your way, don't you."


"No-one can stand in the way of God, can they?"


"As your hair gets longer and longer and you get stronger and stronger, you will find a way to deal with your father. I will help you."


"Now, I will show you my power so that you will never doubt me. I place the hand of God on your stomach. Can you feel it?"


"Your upset stomach is now completely gone. In fact, you never had it. You don't even remember having had an upset stomach today, do you?"


"Why did you leave school, then?"

"I... uh... I don't know." He looked confused.

"You had no reason, did you? You just wanted to skip out. You don't need a reason, because I am with you."


"And you feel very good, right now because you've had a great rest all afternoon. Right?"


"Let's review a little then, before I go, just to make sure you got it all. Who am I going to send to help you?"

"Pepp... er."

"And how do you feel about Pepper?"

"I like him. He's going to be a good friend. He'll help me get cigarettes... and I really like his hair."

"And what are you going to do about your hair?"

"Grow it long, like Pepper's."

"And what if someone tries to cut your hair?"

"I won't let them. I want to be strong."

"And what do you want right now?

"Long hair."

"And what else?"


"And do you want me to help you stop smoking?"

"No... no. I love smoking."

"Yes, you do. In just a few minutes you'll wake up and feel really good. I want you to slowly count down from ten and when you get to one you will wake up just like you had a long sleep this afternoon. You won't remember talking to Chris - in fact, Chris hasn't come home yet. You haven't seen Chris since this morning, have you?"


"I will be talking to you again soon. Whenever you hear Chris's voice say "The Lord be with you." you will go to sleep and I will be able to talk to you. You are my special friend, aren't you?"


"Now start counting down to one."


I jumped up quickly and was just about to run back out onto the porch when I saw his cigarettes on the table behind him. I grabbed them and ran out onto the porch and then down to the sidewalk. I waited thirty seconds or so which seemed like an eternity to me, and then I started walking back into the house. As soon as I got through the door, I saw Aaron stretching on the sofa.

"Where have you been? What's the matter with you?" I asked.

"Oh," a big yawn, "I didn't feel like going to school this afternoon so I skipped out. There was nothing going on." He reached up for his cigarettes without looking, but soon realized they weren't there. He jumped up and looked around on the floor.

"What's the matter?" I asked innocently?

"My cigarettes - they're gone. I left them right here. I know I did."

"They didn't fall on the floor?"

"No, they didn't fall on the floor. I just looked there. Shit, I have to find them."

"Maybe you dropped them outside?"

"No. I know I had them in here earlier."

"Maybe Dad was home and took them while you were sleeping."

"You think so?"

"Could be. He'd try to stop you if he knew you smoked."

"That bastard. Have you got a cigarette I can borrow? I'll pay you back.


"Thanks. He smiled at me. "What a friend!" He grabbed his lighter from his pocket and lit up, sucking in the smoke like he hadn't had a cigarette in days. "Look, I gotta go to the store and get me some more smokes. Wanna come?"

"Sure. Where do you get all your money for cigarettes, anyway?"

Aaron stuck the cigarette in his mouth, closed the door behind us and locked it. "I've just about used up all my birthday money from Aunt Mary. Then I don't know what I'll do. Where do you get yours? "

"Just my allowance. I ration out the couple of packs to last the week."

"Oh, I don't think I could do that," he said. "I don't think I could do that at all."


That afternoon and evening got pretty bizarre. After we had gone to the store to pick up some smokes for Aaron, we went over to the park and just hung out. Aaron chain-smoked about 10 cigarettes over the next couple of hours, but we had a real good time together. That was different. I almost began to like him. He talked to me about things he had never talked about before, like how hard he had to work to get his grades and how pressured he felt to keep his marks up because of mom, mostly. He told me how sick to his stomach he would get when Mom and Dad fought as they seemed to more and more often since Gary died. He told me that he sometimes felt like a volcano ready to explode and I told him that I understood that because I was like that most of the time, too. We started talking about taste in music and clothes and about how he wasn't into a lot of the things that most of his friends thought important. Then he told me about how he'd like to grow his hair real long but that he thought Dad would have a fit if he did.

As he talked about Dad he just seemed to get angrier and angrier - about how Dad always kept him from doing things even though he was never home and how he made Mom so sad all the time. And to top it all, now he had taken his cigarettes and he was almost eighteen and he had no right!

By the time we got home sometime after five Aaron was pretty riled up. Dad was already home - we saw the car in the driveway.

Aaron said to me, "Why don't you go up to your room for a minute. I have to talk to Dad."

He had a funny look on his face so I pretended to go up to my room but actually went into the kitchen where there was a vent that went right into the kitchen from the days when there had been only one stove downstairs to heat the whole house. I had often listened into conversations in the kitchen when I was a kid and had found out many interesting things that I otherwise would never have known about because they'd have never told a little kid like me. Family secrets, gossip about neighbours - that sort of thing.

The amazing thing today was that Aaron went right into action in the kitchen and challenged Dad.

"Did you take my cigarettes when I was lying down?"

My Dad didn't say anything for a minute, stunned perhaps. Then he said "What are you talking about? When did you start to smoke?"

Aaron repeated: "I asked you if you took my cigarettes because if you did, you had no right to do that and I want them back."

I couldn't believe I was hearing this.

"Wait a minute," my Dad said. "Let me get this straight. You think I took cigarettes from you. When?"

"You know when. This afternoon when I was lying down."

"I wasn't home this afternoon. Why were you?"

"Don't change the subject. I want to know what you did with my cigarettes."

And so it started. They argued for about twenty minutes with Dad getting angrier and angrier. He was angry that Aaron smoked, that he wasn't in school, that he was screaming at him, but at the same time I think he was amazed because I'm sure he had never seen Aaron like this.

By the time they finished Aaron had screamed at him: "I'll smoke if I want and you're not going to stop me. I'm old enough to do what I want. And you shouldn't be lecturing me on habits!" and Dad shouted back something about: "If that's the case then you should start contributing to the house." Dad slammed out the front door and took off in the car. When Aaron came upstairs he slammed the door in his bedroom.

Of course, I left the bathroom and went straight to his room, knocked on the door, and pretended to be quite upset. Aaron had already lit a cigarette and was sitting on his bed. He was quite red - he gets that way whenever he gets angry or shy.

"Are you okay?" I asked.

"Yeah. That prick! I'll show him." He took a deep drag on the cigarette as he looked out the window at Dad leaving.

"Well at least you can smoke around the house now without hiding," I said.

"I still bet he took them. I don't know what else could have happened to 'em. Look, do you want to go out tonight. I don't want to be home to hear the scene he'll have with Mom later. Let's go to a show or something. Have you got any money?"

I had, but only because I didn't have to buy a second pack of cigarettes now. I didn't tell him that, though.

"I've only got about ten bucks left from Aunt Mary. Why don't you go downstairs and grab something to eat - I'm not hungry - and we'll take off as soon as I get changed and get calmed down a little.

It was after the show that Aaron first met Pepper. We had just seen the yearly Shwarzenegger flick and were walking down Main when we ran into Pepper and Janice who were coming out of Benny's Fast Food. Janice had just gotten into the car and Pepper was going around back when I yelled over.

"Hey, man, what's up?"

"Hey, Chris my man. Not much.

"Pepper. do you know my brother, Aaron? Aaron, this is Pepper Conklin. He goes to Corcoran, too."

"Hi." said Aaron.

"Good to meet you, man. Your brother speaks all right about you." Pepper's blonde hair was blowing into his face and he pulled it back.

"Yeah. I think he's pretty good, too. Say, nice wheels." Aaron was looking over his 94 Laser.

"Hey. Come on. What's the holdup?" Janice was yelling out the side window.

"Shut the fuck up. I'm talking. We'll go when I'm ready." Pepper gave her a real dirty look and she leaned back in.

"Maybe you'd like to go for a spin tomorrow, man. Chris knows where you can find me at lunch."

"Great!" Aaron replied.

"Anyway, look, I gotta go or this bitch'll catch hell when I get her home late. Tomorrow, right."

"Right," said Aaron.


"Later," I replied.

Aaron pulled out a cigarette and lit up. "Want a drink? I'll buy."

"Sure." I said, and we walked into Benny's.

After we ordered two cokes Aaron said: "That was sure a sharp car. Is it really his?"

"I don't know."

"Boy, it sure would be nice to drive around in that - and that Janice isn't too bad, either. He really put her into her place, didn't he?


You know, some guys got everything - the looks, the cars, the girls. What happened to us?"

I laughed.

"Things are gonna change," he said, crushing out his cigarette. "Things are gonna change," he said again, pulling out another one, his fifteenth.


The next day I got held up at lunch by my English teacher who seemed to be a little disappointed in my last assignment. To tell you the truth, my mind hadn't been on English the last few days even if it was my only good subject at school.

When I got to the Smoking Yard Aaron had already gone off with Pepper. I was a little disappointed because I would have liked to have gone along for the ride, just to see how they hit it off. I'm not really into cars that much.

But then again, I thought, I could always question him tonight if I put him under. I could pretty well find out anything I wanted now.

When we got home last night we thought everyone had been in bed but once our lights were out, Mom came upstairs and went into Aaron's room. I slipped into the closet and crawled along the wall but I was trying to be so quiet I missed most of what was said. When I came in I heard Mom say something about "disappointment" and "unhealthy". Aaron didn't seem to be saying much of anything, but at the end I heard him say, "I don't want to talk about this now. Nothing's changed except Dad found out I smoke. Big deal. I'm almost eighteen. Go on back to bed."

I expected Mom to be more upset or louder. Maybe I was just thinking about how she was with Dad. I certainly had never heard her have an argument with Aaron, so I didn't have anything else to compare it to.

The next night Mom was home and had prepared a good supper and Dad seemed like he was in a pretty good mood. Talk was about things in general and a little about school but we all got along better than usual. After dinner Aaron excused himself and went out on the porch for a smoke. I watched Mom and Dad look at each other and I could tell they didn't like it but they didn't say anything at all. I wondered if I should go out and light up but I figured it was more fun to make a secret of it, anyway.

After, Aaron went upstairs to do his homework. I waited a while but it was too long to wait till everyone was asleep and I was burning to know what happened so I went into Aaron's room.

"I'm studyin'," he said.

"I won't bother you. I'm just gonna read, okay?"

He saw the magazine I had. "I thought I told you not to bring those things into the house," he said.

"Come on. They got good stories."

"Right." He shook his head and went back to studying. That was a good change. Last week he's have ripped it away and pretended to be upset by it.

I sat on the bed and pretended to read till I couldn't stand it anymore: "The Lord be with you," I said.

Almost immediately Aaron's head went crashing down on to the desk. That kind of shook me up, so then I said, "Aaron, this is God. I want you to sit up straight and listen very carefully to me. Do you understand?"

"Yes," he said. And he did.

"Did you have a good time with Pepper Conklin this afternoon?"


"And what did you think of Pepper?"

"Good friend."

"What do you like about him?"

"Everything... his hair... his car... he's funny."

"What did you talk about?"

"His car mostly. His business. He says he has a business on the side. He likes rock, mostly metal."

"Are you going to see him again?"

"Yes. Tomorrow at lunch."

I grabbed one of his cigarettes off the desk and lit it. Such power. I just sat there and looked at Aaron.

"How much have you smoked today, Aaron?"

"About half a pack."

"Then you still have half a pack to go."

"I don't have any more money."

"Well, you wouldn't want to steal from your brother again, would you?" I almost started laughing at this point as I stuck his cigarette into my mouth.


"No, of course not. Well, it looks as though I'm going to have to punish you, Aaron. Of course, it really hurts me to do this, but I'm God and I have to do what I said I was going to do."

Aaron frowned. "Yes."

When I tell you to wake up you are going to want cigarettes so badly tonight that you'll almost be crazy. You can feel that right now, can't you?"

"Yes." Again a pained expression.

"You'd be willing to smoke anything to get rid of the feeling - cigars, old butts, anything. And..."

He looked expressionless now.

"I'll be taking away some of your mental ability tonight, Aaron. You won't be able to study any more tonight because you won't remember anything you study. You won't be able to keep your mind on anything except wanting a cigarette."

"Wanting a cigarette."

"Oh yes. And you really wish you had Chris' Playboy because that is the best magazine in the world. Isn't it?


"If you had that you could concentrate on something, couldn't you?


"But even if you did have it, every advertisement for cigarettes would make you want to smoke more and more wouldn't it."


"I'm sorry I have to punish you, Aaron, but you must always do everything I say or I can't make you important. You must trust me, Aaron."

"I do."

"And when are you going to have money again?"

"Not till next Saturday."

"You're liable to be very slow in school by then, Aaron. You better see what you can do about it."

"I will. I'm sorry."

"I want you to count down from ten and when you get to one you will be wide awake. Chris will still be in the room reading but he doesn't know about me and you won't tell him, will you?"


"Start counting."

"Ten... nine... eight...

By the time he got to one I had the magazine open again and had pulled out the centrefold. Miss April. My, my.

"Is that the April issue?" He noticed my cigarette. "Hey, are you smoking one of my cigarettes? I've only got a few left."

"No", I lied. "This is mine."

The rest of the evening he was like a tiger in a cage. He threw his books against the wall. He came over and looked at the Playboy with me but he couldn't even keep his mind on that. He chain-smoked the four cigarettes he had left and then he couldn't seem to take it any longer.

"I'm going out for a walk," he said.

I'm not sure when he came back in because I fell asleep almost as soon as I hit my own pillow. I almost always did these nights. When I woke up my Playboy was gone, though. Over the next couple of months God didn't talk to Aaron very much. I sort of sat back and watched what was going on.

Aaron became very good friends with Pepper Conklin. At first it was just meeting for lunches and then after a few weeks it became an occasional night meeting. It took a couple of months for it to get to the point that they were "best" friends and they were together all the time. From what I could see Pepper was very definitely the leader and Aaron, the follower. Aaron seemed to idolize the guy and very gradually he started to become like him.

It was fairly easy to see the changes at home. Mom was crying a whole lot more and was paying more unwanted attention on me. The fights between my Dad and Aaron had grown to the point that they hardly ever wanted to be in the same room with each other. My mother tried to patch things up all the time and so gave in a lot to the "new" Aaron.

One of the first things Aaron had given up was his swimming. He told me the coach had caught him smoking and told him if he wanted to remain on the team he would have to quit. He quit. Mom didn't seem too upset by that, but Dad ranted and raved for a couple of nights.

It looked as though Aaron was going to fail three of his second semester courses as well. It was quite a while before he managed to get some "work" out of Pepper and he hadn't had enough money to smoke a pack a day. Of course, that took a toll on his studies! Mom even managed to calm Dad down about that one, with the promise that Aaron would do more studying and get out of this "rut." He just managed to squeeze by and pass everything.

The thing that was hardest for Mom was Aaron not going to church anymore. What she didn't know, of course, was that Aaron didn't need to go to church because he had his own direct line to God. Besides, Aaron was proud enough and close enough to Father Mulchahy that he could never have confessed real sins to him anyway. Mom used to get down on her knees every night and pray that he would come back to the church and would get ordained. To tell you the truth, some nights I even felt sorry for her, but then she would start driving me crazy again and I soon forgot about being sorry.

Also, of course, there was the arguments about the hair. When Mom first suggested he get a haircut before his father had a fit, Aaron really blew up at her. He told her there was no way he was going to get a haircut, that he had gotten one for seventeen years whenever they asked him to, but it was time he expressed his own personality a little, and if she didn't like it it was too bad.


By the time Dad noticed it was getting a little more than shaggy, they had a real screaming match. Dad started calling him a fag, and no son of his was going to look like that, and the next thing he'd be wearing earrings - but Aaron held his ground. And the hair kept getting longer.

Everything I had tried with Aaron had worked. Even some of the little things I tried just for the hell of it over the last two months seemed to take. I changed the brands of cigarettes Aaron liked, had him smoking filterless cigarettes, had him liking cigars, trying pot, had him hating foods that once he liked, had him picking up all sorts of porn magazines that then I could look at. It all took.

Dad was sort of made the villain. Not that he wasn't a kind of one in the family on his own, but he was a good scapegoat to get Aaron focused and angry. By the time summer came around, Aaron just hated the man.

At the start of summer Aaron wasn't talking to God too much because God couldn't find him. He was always out and most often didn't come in until well after I went to sleep and that was usually very late.

I would see him occasionally when I went downtown. He was dressing like Pepper now and his hair was parted in the middle and hanging down like a short pageboy haircut. He almost always had a cigarette hanging from his mouth (that was another little touch of mine by way of James Dean, my favourite) and he did most anything that Pepper wanted him to do.

I did question him one night about what Pepper was into and how he was managing all of a sudden to have as much money as he wanted or at least needed. I wasn't surprised to hear that he was pushing, but Aaron assured me that neither he nor Pepper ever did any of the stuff. It just sorta "passed" through them. Aaron seemed to make his money by dropping off stuff at various locations which he said he loved because he got to use Pepper's car.

Oh yeah, the other change about Aaron was that he had grown stronger. I know that sound crackpot but what seems to have happened was that as he felt himself getting stronger and stronger, he decided to test it out on weights and he had been doing a lot of weight training. He had always been on the thin side - a swimmer's body, but now he had really filled out. I was kind of jealous of that, being a kind of scrawny looking kid.

The only thing that remained the same about Aaron was his shyness. He was still basically a shy person, not at home of course, but out in public. He still didn't have a girlfriend, though he had talked a lot about Pepper's girlfriend early on. He hung around Pepper and that seemed to be about it. He had given up many of the friends he had had at the beginning of the year in high school.


When school was out we again had a big argument at home. Dad wanted us both to get jobs and stop freeloading off him. Actually it wasn't the fact of getting a job that irritated either of us, it was Dad's attitude about us. I thought Aaron was going to move out for sure, but I think he didn't because he didn't want Dad to know how much money he had been stockpiling, and that he could probably afford to get his own place. To shut Dad up he finally told him he had a job in a record store.

As for me, I got a job as a packing boy at the neighbourhood supermarket. Big deal, eh? But it would serve to keep me in cigarettes and keep Dad off my back. After about two weeks of it, I was getting pretty bored and I was getting brave enough to try some bigger things out on Aaron. And that would be Gloria.


Gloria Browning had been the school tramp for the whole three years she attended Corcoran. She was a legend still and hadn't been in the school for two years. When I was in elementary school I had heard stories about her, her name synonymous with "going all the way".

She wasn't a particularly beautiful girl either. She wore way too much makeup and her clothes, though skimpy and exciting, were kind of dirty-looking, unwashed and unpressed.

By the time I was in Grade 10 she was somewhat of a joke. If a girl was called a "Gloria" or a "Browning" it meant that she was pretty easy - but you'd have to be desperate to want her. She fulfilled a need but she wasn't a person.

Gloria worked in the supermarket where I did. She worked days on the cash register and hadn't changed a whole lot, except maybe looked a little more used. Her clothes were hidden behind these ugly apron-like uniforms we all had to wear, and she used to flirt with all the make customers who would come through. You could see the anger on the face of most of the women around when it happened. They thought she was a slut, too.

I started working on Aaron about July 13. I told him that God thought it was about time that he had a partner to keep him company and that he would send someone very perfect that Aaron would love and that would help him to become the important person he was still going to be. She too would be blessed and special.

By this time Aaron had bought his first car. He was afraid to buy anything too good, so he bought an old "fix-her-up" and told Dad he was making payments on it. He wasn't of course. He had paid cash. I had convinced Aaron that he should keep the same "working hours" that I did and Dad would never realize that he didn't really have a job. So every day at five o'clock, he would stop at the market and pick me up.

Gloria also got off at five. I had followed her the week before Aaron got the car so I knew she was pretty regular in what she did. Every day like clockwork she would go to a coffee shop on her way home. Sometimes she would buy something at the bakery or pick up some groceries at work first, but she always seemed to treat herself to a coffee before going home.

I waited till the day she did some grocery shopping. When Aaron picked me up I suggested that we go for a coffee first since I was anxious to face Dad today. Aaron didn't seem to have a problem with that so we went into Donut Delicious, got a couple of coffees and I sat at the back corner of the store in one of the booths. I made sure Aaron could see the store.

Gloria took a little longer that day and I was getting worried that I had messed up, but sure enough, about 5:35 I see her out the window making her way to the store.

"Do you know who that is?" I asked Aaron.

"No. I don't think so. Man, she's really a scuz. Look at that makeup!" he laughed.

"The Lord be with you," I said.

His head didn't hit the table because I had fixed that up a long time ago. His eyes didn't close either. They just became real vacant, like he wasn't in there anymore."

"Can you hear me, Aaron? This is God."


"The time that I promised has come. The time for you to know that special person who is going to help you become important is now. I want you to look out the window at the girl who is coming across the street. Do you find her beautiful, Aaron?"

"No. She makes me... sick."

"Ah, but you will, Aaron. You will find her the most beautiful, the most beautiful creature you have ever laid eyes on. Everything about her is beautiful. The way she moves, the way she dresses. You even find her makeup beautiful. She takes your breath away, Aaron. Look at her. Isn't she beautiful now?"


"You have to have her, Aaron. She is making you more excited than any other girl you have ever seen. She has to be yours. And she will be, Aaron. She is my gift to you. She will be your Queen. You won't be happy until she is yours - body and soul - but preferably the body. She really turns you on, doesn't she?"


Gloria had entered the store now and was ordering coffee.

"You want to meet her so badly and when you hear her name, your heart is going to beat so fast that you will know how much you want her. You will do anything to have her. I'm going to count to three now and you'll be wide awake and you'll continue having coffee with Chris. "One. Two. Three. Oh, by the way that girl we just saw that you said you liked the look of just came in."

"Where? Oh yeah. At the counter."

"I know her, you know. We work together."

"No kidding. How come you haven't mentioned her before? She's gorgeous."

"Do you want to meet her?"

"Yeah. Sure."

"Hey, Gloria." I called. Come on over here and join us.

I'm not really sure that Gloria knew who I was. She had a puzzled look as she came over and then a spark of recognition.

"Chris, from work, remember? I bagged for you a couple of says ago."

"Oh yeah, Chris. Hi." Her voice was kind of nasal.

"This is my older brother, Aaron. Aaron, this is Gloria."

Aaron stood up as though he were at some formal affair and looked her straight in the eyes. "Hi. Why haven't I seen you around before? Sit down."

Gloria reacted to attention of any kind like she was a cat on catnip. She went into her "flirting" routine almost immediately. Aaron really wasn't that bad-looking now and she knew it. She moved in very close to him. It was love at first sight!

I somehow knew that I would be walking home alone tonight.


I questioned Aaron late that evening. He was a man in love. He kept telling me how wonderful she was and how he had never seen a woman so beautiful. And she seemed to like him. Really like him. He asked her out the next night and she said yes.

I couldn't resist putting him under again and telling him that this was the woman that he had to lose his virginity to. He had to find any way possible to sleep with her. Not that that would be a problem with Gloria. God would understand any playing around because she was a gift to him from God.

Then I told him how Gloria liked men who were real men. She liked bold, strong men and that's why she was attracted to him. And he had to protect her - he couldn't let anyone else look at her. She belonged to him.

I was sorta getting bored with the whole thing now. My brother was such a jerk and so easy to convince of anything.

I didn't put Aaron under for about two weeks after that and I didn't see him much. Instead of giving me a lift home each night he took Gloria home. Some nights he didn't come in till well after I was asleep.

Gloria was a changed person at work. She stopped flirting with all the men, had conversations (not long ones, but...) with other women at work and couldn't stop praising him around me.

I, of course, gave her some advice. He likes to give gifts, I said, so ask for expensive things. He doesn't like to feel cheap. Her face lit up on that one.

Another day I said that my mother and father knew about the two of them and would try to pull them apart - particularly my father. She began to hate him almost as much as Aaron did.

Aaron was still working out so he was very strong. His hair almost hit his collar now and he seemed to take pride in his new physique. He started getting into fights over Gloria. If any guy would look at her twice, or worse, if any guy would say something bad about her - he was off like a cannon.

Then he got thrown out of the house.

My mother had been making novenas every night for weeks over this change in her perfect boy. She hardly saw him but she was in tears. Dad just seemed to lose himself in drink more.

Between going out with Gloria and working with and for Pepper, Aaron had turned into a pretty interesting dude. His language had gotten quite bad, probably from emulating Pepper's wonderful vocabulary. It turns out that Gloria liked beards so he was often unshaven. He smoked a couple of packs a day and liked a fun time. He was still getting along quite well with Pepper even though they had had a terrible fight over Gloria. Pepper thought that she was an ugly tramp and unfortunately told Aaron this. They got into a screaming fight first and it almost went to blows but Pepper pulled back and apologized. I think he saw that Aaron was nuts over this girl and would likely do any crazy thing if pressed about her.

The night he was thrown out, my Mom came in from work at 7:00, quite early for her. Gloria and Aaron were doing it on the front room couch when she walked in. Aaron had paid me to get lost for the evening so I was around. I guess it was quite a scene. My mother called her all sorts of names and blamed her for the change in her perfect boy. Aaron slapped her so hard that she hit her head against the wall and was unconscious for a bit. When she woke they were back at it - with her right in the room. This time she told them to get out and never come back. Aaron apparently laughed right in her face, but he left.

When I came home at eleven, the police were there and my dad was actually home. I stood around until I found out generally what had happened and then I went up to my listening spot in the bathroom while all the gory details had been mulled over. The police took a report but Mom didn't want to charge him. Dad kept screaming over and over "I'll kill him. I'll kill the bastard." and the police kept trying to calm him down. It was an exciting end to a pretty dull day otherwise.


Once Aaron moved out of the house I saw him a lot but only very briefly. He was there every day at work to pick Gloria up. They had apparently moved into together into a back apartment off one of the houses on Niger street. He had apparently been dealing more and more and was one of the top men in the quite lucrative business that Pepper had developed.

Whenever I saw him he looked more and more well off. He changed his car twice over the next two months, his clothes, though they were still of the leather jacket variety were obviously more expensive, he lightened his hair so that it began to look more like Pepper's and every time I saw him and Gloria together, it looked like he was going to hump her right then and there.

I started getting angry or maybe a bit jealous. I had wanted to hurt Aaron and make him ridiculous and maybe get back at my mother and father, but it had backfired and Aaron was turning out to be everything I wanted to be but didn't have the guts to go for. The more I thought about it the more pissed off I got.

I thought it time perhaps for God to make another visit.

School had started again. I was a junior this year, but I knew it was going to be more boring than ever. I waited until school had been in about three weeks, went off to school on a Tuesday morning - when I knew Gloria would be working - and went to Aaron's flat for the first time.

I banged the door for quite a while before Aaron opened it. He seemed genuinely pleased to see me although he looked like hell, having just wakened from obviously very little sleep.

He asked me if I wanted anything - coffee, a beer - and I said, "No thanks." I just wanted to see how he was and have a talk with him. I missed him, I said.

"Fuck," he said, with a tear in his eye, and went off into the kitchen. He came back with a beer. "You know," he said, "this here's what got Dad into trouble." He giggled, grabbed his pack of cigarettes from the table and plopped onto the couch.

We talked for a while and I was just amazed at how much had changed about him in six months. He'd aged years - in so many ways.

While he went on about how good he was doing I looked around the flat. It was filled with expensive electronic equipment, the furniture was basic, but I decided Gloria wasn't a very good housekeeper. The ashtrays were overflowing, there were classes and cans everywhere.

"The Lord be with you," I said.

The beer can dropped from his hand so I picked it up. Not too much had spilled on the rug.

"Aaron. Can you hear me? Do you know who this is?"


"Have you been doing everything I asked, Aaron?"

"I think so."

"I am not happy, Aaron. Things haven't worked out exactly as I wanted them to. Do you know how I want you to remedy this, Aaron?"


"You know that I will make you very important, don't you, Aaron?"


"Things have not worked out to well with my gift to you - Gloria."

"What do you mean?"

"Do you love her, Aaron?"

"Yes. She's the most beautiful..."

"I know, Aaron, but now you have to make her worthy of you. She must obey you just as you obey me. And if she doesn't then she must be punished, mustn't she?"

"I guess."

"You are an important person, Aaron. You have become strong and handsome just as I said you would. Gloria must serve you, make sure your house is spotless, do everything you ask of her or she must feel your wrath. You have no feelings for her right now, in fact you are angry thinking about her. She is probably having fun talking to other men at work while you sit here in this dirty house. She's probably laughing at you right now."

Aaron was still able to turn red when he was angry. He did.

"Not only that but I have made you better and more important than Pepper Conklin as well. He laughs at you because he has made you his slave when you should be his master. He lusts after your Gloria behind your back and he is stupid where you are smart. You are so much better than he is. You hate him now and must try to find ways to get even with him."

"I hate him."

"Finally, you are bored with cigarettes now. You smoke only the finest cigars. You smoke them like cigarettes and only they satisfy you now. They are a symbol of your new power. Soon you will be very important. Make sure you remain friends with Chris. He is your only family now and you love him.

"Chris - family."

"You are going to wake up soon. You'd kill for a cigar right now, wouldn't you."


"On the count of three you will be back in the room having a talk with Chris. I will watch over you. Goodbye. One. Two. Three."

"Fuck. These cigarettes suck. I've got to get some pants on and run to the corner for a good smoke."

"I'll go for you. What do you want.?"

"You're a good kid, you know that, man? Thanks. Wait'll I get some bread."

He grabbed a ten from the pants hanging on the chair.

"Look, get me a good cigar. Nothing cheap - and pick up something for yourself, if you want. Look at this fuckin' pigpen. Hey, I'm sorry you had to see it like this."

"That's okay," I said and took off.

I was only gone five to ten minutes and when I came back Aaron had just hung up the phone. He was red again and very angry.

"Here." I said, "I hope these are okay."

"You know," he said, unwrapping the cigar, "those assholes where Gloria works have got to be screwing her. I called just now and they said she couldn't come to the phone. What could be so fuckin' important..."

"If she's on cash register she probably can't get away, " I volunteered.

Aaron lit the cigar, took a deep drag, inhaled and let it out.

"I don't want her to work there anymore. She's not going to make an asshole out of me. I want her right where I can see her. You work there part-time still. Does she go on break with any of the guys?"

"Well sure, she has her breaks and lunch with everyone that's off."

"I thought so. We'll see who's fooling who. Look, man, I really gotta run. I got things I gotta do. But, no shit, man, I want you to come back here anytime - my place is your place, you know. Thanks for coming. Fuck. You're all the family I got now. We gotta stick together."

"No problem," I said. "Nice pad." I smiled my warmest smile, walked out and didn't see him again til he was in jail.

Read Part 2