3.

He starts to learn

The ride home is silent. Not even Frankie says anything, though he protests lightly when Joe turns off the radio.

It sounds strange, but the radio hurts the most. The radio and the TV, in fact. The boys cannot go anywhere without hearing, "An here is a following report about the death of Mr. and Mrs. Lucas, parents of the teen-pop band Jonas," or "Who knows if Jonas will continue their band after the heartbreaking car accident that robbed them of both of their parents?"

The last time a report came on about them on the TV, Joe threw his shoe at the screen.

They don't watch TV anymore.

Kevin breathes, trying to keep his hands steady; they shake at the wheel, and he wishes that Joe could drive. But recently licensed Joe is in no condition to be driving; he looks over at his brother who's sitting in the front seat. Joe's eyes are focused straight ahead, and Kevin knows it's because he doesn't want to think. Joe looks pissed off, and Kevin thinks he's rightfully so. But Kevin doesn't want to be the bad guy—the brother who didn't let his brothers know what's going on.

He sighs. "Guys, let's get ice cream."

Joe gives him a dirty look, as if challenging Kevin. You think ice cream is going to help us forget?

Kevin channels his vision ahead and doesn't say anything. He drives into the parking lot of the nearest Dairy Queen and parks.

He goes inside, praying that his brothers will follow.

They do.

Kevin has always loved Dairy Queen. It's a comforting little store that sells reliably tasty ice cream and alternate lunch choices if ice cream isn't on your list.

Frankie bounces up and down next to him, his small hand wrapped around Kevin's. Kevin smiles down gently at him, and musses his curly hair.

He gets up to the pimply worker, and orders four vanilla chocolate dipped cones. Joe and Nick sulk in the back of the store.

Kevin asks for a job application.

Frankie looks at him, his eyes wide. "You're going to work at Dairy Queen?"

"Whatever it takes to feed you, buddy," Kevin says gently, handing Frankie a cone.

Frankie takes a bite out of his ice cream, and looks hopefully at Kevin. "You'll bring us free food then?"

"I hope so, buddy," Kevin says quietly, "I hope so." He ruffles Frankie's hair, and walks out the door, Nick and Joe reluctantly following him.


He knows how to play a guitar. He knows how to sing. He knows how to drive.

Then why the hell does he not know how to cook?

Joe glances hopefully at the curling noodles. Crap, did he leave them in for too long?

He gets a strainer and dumps the yellow noodles into it, wincing as some of them fold over cleanly in half, and others mash into a pile of what looks like pencil sharpener shavings.

Great.

Now there's something burning, and Joe runs frantically over to the spaghetti sauce which is bubbling furiously and turning black on the sides. What?

He thinks about asking Kevin for help, but then he remembers Kevin is sitting in the dining room, taking care of bills. He opts for the second best choice.

"NICK!"

Nick comes running down, his face flustered. "What?"

"Help me!" Joe exclaims helplessly, finally appreciating his mother's cooking. This is what she had to go through every night!

Nick grabs bowls and throws noodles in them, ladling on the sauce.

Joe hopes his brothers won't die of poison. A helpless sob catches in his throat, and he asks Frankie to set up the table.


Frankie sets up six places.

Nick retreats to his room to cry.