“What are you reading now?” That was Manny, my little brother who thought he was my older brother.
Somehow he’d got it into his head that Jersey Shore was a proper inspiration for a sixth grader. The worst part of it was that my parents didn’t seem to mind. If anything they seemed glad that at least one of their sons wasn’t constantly attached to some book or another.
“It’s hard to explain.” I pulled the book tighter against my chest. “You wouldn’t be interested, no pictures.”
He stuck his tongue out at me and made to walk down the hall to his room. I eyed his as he passed, he wasn’t one to quit so easily. Manny lunged for the book, but I jerked it out of his reach.
“What is it?” He whined.
“None of your business.” I held the book over my head.
He started to climb up onto the arm of the chair. I pushed him out of my face and moved. The layers of hair gel practically turned his bleached mop into a helmet, but he yelled like something was broken.
“You’re fine.” I tucked the book under my arm and headed to my room.
I took a quick look over my shoulder, just to make sure he wasn’t really hurt, he was my little brother after all, and saw him eyeing the kitchen while he went on with his melodrama. He repeated the cry a couple of times, but no one rushed to his aid. The joke was on him, our parents weren’t home yet. He sat up and started texting on his cellphone by the time I had made it to my bedroom.
There was a fifty-fifty chance that he was sending a text to either of our parents, or to one of his friends. Manny was many things, annoying, a snappy dresser, and a talented pianist, but he didn’t let a grudge die easily. I tucked the copy of Interview with a Vampire in the back of my pants drawer and picked up a copy of The Once and Future King, one was required reading for my AP English class and one was a hardback that I had snagged from a yardsale last week. The only reason that Manny didn’t know what book I was reading was because I had purposely lost the cover before I brought it home. Then, I covered it in a paper bag like it was from one of my classes.
I kicked off my sneakers and hopped on my bed. The Once and Future King by T.H. White was the bane of my reading experience, and I loved to read. It somehow took the legend of King Arthur and boiled it down into pages and pages of useless details and minutia. English was the only class I had that was AP, we got a bit more freedom in the course work, but we also got a longer reading list.
My cellphone vibrated. I looked at it from across the room. It shimmied along the top of my dresser in a pattern that told me it was an incoming call, not a text. That meant my folks, they didn’t text when they wanted to yell at me. I watched it for a moment longer, then closed my book without marking the page, and flipped it open. Manny had one of those new touchscreen phones capable of video chat, mine had a camera that took fuzzy pictures, it was by choice, I hated cellphones.
“Is this Emilio Martin?” It wasn’t a voice I recognized.
“Yes?” I checked the caller ID, it was restricted.
“No need to worry, Mister Martin.” The voice gave a forced chuckle. “I’m calling because you recently submitted a survey through Bookshelf Horizons.”
“I don’t think you’ve got the right number.”
“Emilio Martin from Bangor Maine,” the voice paused. “You’re in Mrs. Lewis’ English class.”
“Who is this?”
“I’m Bill, from Bookshelf Horizons, we sent out a survey for student in English Classes to complete.” The forced tinge to the voice seemed to resurface as it continued. “Congratulations, you’ve been selected to be a candidate for Bookshelf Horizons new Literary Explorer Program.”
“And that would entail?”
“If you’d like I could send you the informational packet.” The voice paused. “Through you class of course, this is the only time we’ll contact you through a personal line.”
“Sure.” I shrugged. “I’ll take a look at it.”
“Great.” The voice just didn’t sound right, even that one word rung wrong in my ears. “The packet should be there tomorrow. Enjoy.”
“Yeah, thanks.” I closed the phone and looked at the doorway. “That wasn’t odd at all.”