by James Ezra
In the back of the van, Ryan and Isaac share gummy bears.
Ryan eats the red ones. Isaac eats the yellow.
Their fingers slip into the bag one after the other but they never touch.
The plastic wristband around Isaac’s right wrist bares his name, date of birth, eye color. It catches the edge of the gummy bear bag every time he reaches inside.
Isaac was born in October. His eyes are gray.
Isaac’s nose starts bleeding but Ryan doesn’t mention it.
Ryan sniffs his own nose, rubs his own face.
It’s a hint.
But Isaac keeps his eyes down and keeps shoveling gummies into his mouth and Ryan doesn’t say anything because to say something is to admit just how wrong everything is.
Ryan crawls up to the driver’s seat. He turns the key in the ignition and drives out of the hospital parking lot.
When he comes to a stop at a red light, he turns on the radio.
The tune is poppy. Fake.
The light turns green. Ryan nods his head to the beat.
Isaac hates this song but he doesn’t say anything.
Ryan turns right off the main road and thinks about how Isaac might be Houdini incarnate.
He’s talented in those illusionary tricks, those sleight of hand diversions that allow him just enough time to make his nose bleed like that.
Maybe it was in the bathroom before they left the hospital. Or in the gas station when Ryan was paying for their candy.
Houdini died because one of his tricks went wrong.
His appendix blew up in his body.
A few hours ago, it looked like Isaac’s brain had exploded out of his nostrils.
Ryan drives down a country road, pulls over, parks in a field of dry grass.
It’s been a long day. It’s almost eight.
They’ll sleep here.
Ryan turns the car off but remains sitting behind the wheel. He stares out the windshield, thinks about whether or not Isaac owes him an apology.
In the rearview mirror, he can see Isaac fish inside the bag for another yellow bear. He picks up a clear one.
It’s close, but it won’t taste the same.
He chews it up. He spits it out. He smears it on the floor beside him.
“Hey,” Ryan says. “You’ll ruin the carpet.”
Isaac covers the gummy chunks now matted in the carpet with his hand as if it would make the mess disappear. He sniffs wetly. His eyes are cast downwards just enough that Ryan can’t make out the size of his pupils.
Ryan parts his lips.
Isaac licks blood from his lips.
Ryan shuts his mouth.