Mason in the Center, Part 1

by Joe L

Chapter 1

March, 2010

"Okay, you guys. You're gonna play spin-the-bottle," Carson says with an evil smile.

"No fuckin' way," I protest.

"Yeah, that's fuckin' stupid," Tyler echoes.

"I guess you really don't want that extra ticket." Carson dangles it in front of us, and the three competitors grumble. I really do want that extra ticket. It's a ticket to the UFC fight on Friday night.

"You'll take turns. Since you whined first, Mason, you'll spin first." Carson hands me the bottle.

"Fucker," I groan.

"Tyler is second since he was second whiner, and Parker gets to go last."

"We just have to kiss, right? Our lips just have to physically come into contact. That's all right?"

"Yeah, but it's a competition," Carson says as if he's making it up on the spot. However, I know how his evil brain works. He's been mulling this over all day to make it as tortuous as possible. "The rules are that each kiss for each pair has to be longer than their last kiss. So if Mason has to kiss Tyler, and their last kiss was five seconds, you guys have to kiss for longer than five seconds. The first one to laugh or break the kiss too early or barf is disqualified. The last homo standing will get the pleasure of accompanying me to the fight on Friday. Any questions?"

I look at my brothers as if to say, 'Are we really letting him do this to us?' However, I can see by their faces that they're resigned to the game and they want to win. It's not often that anyone in our family has any money for anything remotely fun, so we'll do whatever it takes.

I'm fourteen and I'm the third-eldest in a family of five boys, and my mom is fuckin' pregnant again. I guess that wipes out any possible chance of my folks sending me to college. I'll have to do it all on my own. I'm sure I can, though. I have what it takes.

My oldest brother and current tormentor, Carson, is home for the week from boarding school. The school is only forty miles away from our house, but we only get to see him two or three times a year. Mom let him come home this week during his spring break, but she ruined everything by announcing that she's preggers again. Maybe that was her plan… to ruin his spring break.

Carson gets away with so much because he's so hot. Actually, he's fucking beautiful. He could have a career in Hollywood if he wanted. He's seventeen, he has effortlessly sexy hair, he always wears an extra-medium t-shirt, and the best way to describe his face is… angelic. He's no angel, though; his teenage years have been tumultuous. He has wreaked havoc on everyone and everything while he lived at home, especially my brother Tyler and me. When he was fifteen, he got a girl pregnant, and that's what led to him going to boarding school. Since then, he's always gotten in trouble every time he comes home, so he doesn't come home that often. I spend a lot of time hating him from afar. I blame him for our family's financial situation. If he was a little nicer and behaved once in a while, he could live at home, go to public school, and we'd actually have some money for… stuff! As it is, his tuition eats up all of my mom's paycheck and part of my dad's. Sometimes, we even come up short for the month and have to endure "Ramen Week."

Still, when he's home, everything changes. He's so charismatic and magnetic. I just love spending time with him. He can get away with anything, and he knows it. He uses that face and those eyes of his as his not-so-secret weapons. When he's around all the brothers at once, he's the ring-leader and the instigator, and we all can't help but get into trouble… doing exactly what he wants us to. However, in those rare times when I'm alone with him, he talks to me like a real person, not a little brother, and it makes me feel so grown-up and important. I could care less about the UFC fight. I really just want to have a night alone out with Carson.

"Fucking GO, already!" Tyler pushes me and I push him back. I take the bottle and try to decide which one of them I want to kiss first. I kinda wish Carson was in the game, but I push that thought out of my mind. I guess there's no strategy or form. I'm not going to be able to plan where it stops. I give it a good spin, and the three of us take a deep breath.

I guess I wouldn't mind kissing Tyler. I'll just think of it as practice for kissing boys, which is something I hope to be doing a lot of. Tyler is fifteen, and he's really hot, too. He has short, brown hair, which he spikes with gel, even though that went out five years ago. He can still pull it off, though. He's one of those people that looks good in whatever he wears, even hand-me-downs. I hope I look as good in them as he does, as I often have to wear them, too. It's a good thing the whole family was blessed with good looks because we certainly don't spend much money on clothes.

Tyler has a hard life, but he makes it harder on himself. I guess the years of torment from Carson really took their toll on him. He really got it much worse than I ever did. Tyler is as dumb as I am smart, and I'm pretty damn smart. He's always in trouble at school for fighting or skipping class or whatever it is this week. He's very athletic, but he just can't perform at sports. Even though he's a freshman, he could be on any varsity team he wanted. Unfortunately, he's been kicked out of every sports team his school has to offer, except track. The sports at school are so fucking stupid. All of the coaches act like they're coaching some top-tier pro team and overcomplicate things for high-school athletes. It was the same story every time: The coach asks Tyler to do something ridiculously complicated. Tyler forgets and/or screws it up. The coach yells at Tyler and makes him feel stupid in front of the whole team. Tyler gets mad and takes a swing at the coach. Tyler gets kicked off the team. Thankfully, that didn't happen with track. He can just run and he doesn't have to remember anything. He's very good at it, and his body has developed into a slim runner's frame… with really hot legs. I wish he could get a girlfriend and take some of the heat off the rest of us, but he's horrible with girls. He's cute enough that he could have almost any girl he wanted, but he often acts like a five year-old. When he does, no one can stand to be around him. I guess that's why he doesn't have any guy friends, either.

My relationship with Tyler is very strange. He has kicked so much ass for me at school over the years. I often find myself the target of bullies, partly because of my brains and partly because of my brothers' histories and reputations. Tyler always steps in and defends me, though. However, when we're at home, he's just as bad as Carson. Since he's so dumb, his torture is childish and completely physical. I've been doing a lot of push-ups lately, and I'm pretty sure that I could take him down in a few months if I keep it up. I can't understand how he can be beating someone up for me one minute and then beating on me the next minute. I guess that's all he knows and that's his only outlet. I have to be ready tonight. If he doesn't get the ticket, there's going to be some punches thrown.

I glance over at Parker, almost forgetting he's in the room. Parker is eight and has a stupid grin on face, as usual. Parker has no idea that this game is supposed to be unpleasant. He's just happy to be included in something. He's old enough to watch the UFC fights, and he knows all of the fighters. He's not going to be a push-over, like he is in every other game we play. I glance back and forth at them as the bottle begins to slow down, wondering which one of them is going to be my toughest competition.

Kissing Parker will be like kissing my grandmother. I just hope he doesn't have a booger coming out of his nose when I have to kiss him. I'm pretty sure Parker was an accident, as well as Jackson, who's five, and the little mistake that's currently in mom's uterus. Once I was born, my brothers were old enough to get into trouble… big trouble… and my parents knew what they were in for… at least until we were all eighteen and out of the house. I can't imagine anyone in their right mind wanting to have another baby, much less three more. Who knows? Maybe all six of us were accidents.

Luckily, Jackson isn't involved in the game. He's too young to go to the fight, and he wouldn't appreciate it anyway. It's actually my job to protect Jackson from the other brothers, especially Tyler. I really can only accomplish that by putting Parker and myself in the line of fire and keeping Jackson sequestered. I guess my parents saw what the tormenting has done to each of us, and they finally wanted to break the chain with Jackson.

As the three of us nervously glance back and forth between ourselves, the bottle finally comes to a stop, and it's pointed directly at Tyler.

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