A Brotherhood of Opportunity

By Pat Tompkins

As a trio, the brothers had been getting into trouble most of their lives. Jack was now 23, Teddy was 21, and Cal, long accustomed to being called “the runt of the litter,” was 18. Other members of the Chance family included a sister, Ida, the best looking of the siblings. The Chance brothers were so unalike in appearance that people said they must have three different fathers, although they didn’t say so within earshot of the parents.

The brothers’ main interest was money-making schemes: cons, really. Jack had a new plan, courtesy of Uncle Frank, whose idea had grown like mildew in his prison wing.

Thanks to Jack, the brothers had been suspended from school on numerous occasions and had DUI records. They apparently had never heard the maxim: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Raised to be optimists, if they had a motto, it was “Winners never quit, and quitters never win.” Years spent watching college and professional sports reinforced the notion. Despite a lack of athletic ability, they followed everything from the Olympics to the World Wrestling Federation.

Jack shared the new plan with his brothers as they sat around the kitchen table with their after-dinner beers. He had the looks and the brains of the three, although that was saying little, given that Teddy had the physique of a couch potato twice his age and Cal had left school at 16, having made it only through the ninth grade.

“No offence, big brother,” Teddy said, “but we haven’t done too well with any of your plans lately.”

Cal chimed in: “Lately? How about never?”

Jack stood up. “What? Like you have a better idea?”

“I’m just sayin’. Maybe we need to do things different.”

“I’m all ears. What is your genius plan?” Jack squinted at Cal and looked back at Teddy. “Where is this coming from?”

“Yesterday, when there was like nothing on to watch, I looked at that old DVD about the summer Olympics. You know how I love track and field. So, I’m watchin’ the high jump, and they did that whole thing on the Fosbury flop. That guy who decided to jump over the bar backwards. It was weird when he first did it, but now it’s common. The guy did it different and he was a champion.”

“So we should do things backwards?”

“No, but I got to thinkin’,” Teddy said.

“Now we’re in trouble,” Cal said. He rolled his bottle between his palms.

“Like I said, I was thinkin’ about it when I watched the Sox lose yet another game last night. Why do I watch them? They never win.”

“Except when they do,” Jack said.

“Which is practically never. They’re losers.” Teddy drained his second beer while Jack stared at him.

“And your point is?”

“I think he’s saying we’re losers,” Cal said.

Jack sat down. “Hey, man . . .”

“I’m not sayin’ that. No way. But we’re in an SOS situation.”

Jack tugged on his ponytail.

“Same Old Shit.” Teddy said.

“I know what SOS means.”

“Well, if we do stuff the same way, with our track record, so to speak,” Teddy paused. That was a good one. “If we want to win, we’ve got to do things different.”

“So what’s your plan?” Jack asked.

“I don’t have one right this minute. We need to plan our next plan.”

Cal grinned. “Uh-oh, Teddy’s getting’ deep on us.”

Teddy glared at him. “That’s right, little brother. Not that you’d know deep if you stepped in a pond of manure. But maybe, for once, we could think about the best way to succeed with this idea you’ve got, Jack. Maybe start by considerin’ the source: Uncle Frank. Where is Uncle Frank?”

Cal said, “He’s locked . . .”

Teddy nodded. “We know where he is and how he got there. And this isn’t the first idea he’s passed along to us. Now, Frank’s got nothing to do but sit around all day and scheme. Fine. But maybe his ideas are crap. He’s not even up for parole for another 8, 9 years.”

“What’s parole got to do with anything?” Jack asked.

“He was up for parole sooner, until he pulled that little stunt with Earl,” Cal said.

“So let’s not go off half-cocked for once,” Teddy said. “Let’s think about what could go wrong, what has gone wrong, first.”

“OK.” Jack nodded. “So how do we do that?”

“I guess we look at past mistakes.”

“We are going backwards.”

“It might be the way to go forward.”

And so began the review of their sorry past by the Chance brothers, aka Slim, Fat, and No.

Pat Tompkins is an editor; her short fiction has appeared in Nanoism, KYSO Flash, Grievous Angel, and other publications.

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