Whenever they moved into a new rental house, apartment or trailer something fairly exciting happened.
It usually only occurred if the move was half way legit with signed papers involved and a promise of a designated amount of cash on dates with a specific year attached. Sam was never made privy to the details that transpired between his father and the frequent unseen middle party that allowed them access to a new place to call home for the time being.
All the best stuff usually came within the first week.
The first to arrive were always about five different yellow plastic wrapped copies of the phone book piled on their doorstep. Sam didn’t find the phone books all that incredibly exciting but unbeknownst to his dad, he’d rip out the page that had their latest alias on it and keep it in his own notebook. He liked how it sat there along with all the other names around it, sided by their correct address and a number that was out there in the dark for people who knew how to find it.
However, Sam’s most favorite thing usually came after the phone books and in a thick white envelope.
There was everything inside for the family with all its just recently moved in needs. An anonymous postal welcome wagon of marketeering. Coupons for carpet cleaning. Furnace repair. Roofing and tile. Foil samples of shampoo. Packets of detergent. Small one use disposal tubes of toothpaste. Car washes. Lawn care. Pest control. Dog walkers. Storage units.
There was even a colorful and glossy pamphlet for a local commercializing mystic that promised to read your stars right from the palm of your hand.
Pouring the hundreds of offers, deals and promises out over the floor, Sam liked to pick through them and place them in their appropriate piles. It wasn’t if they were all garbage. They were a one time only kind of family as it was, so the bait and switch thing didn’t catch them in the ass very often if ever. The two for one deals at Chinese buffet meant dinner for at least two nights in a row. A free oil change meant dad could score some of the good multi-grade stuff without buying those stupid floor mats like they wanted you to.
Sam put a hand over his stomach. He was hungry. All they had had in the refrigerator was someone’s old leftover dead chicken and Dad had went and thrown that away. Flipping aside a particularly obnoxious ad for Astroturf, Sam uncovered something he never thought he would ever see.
Staring down at it wide eyed, he blinked twice to make sure his eyes were not in some way cruelly deceiving him.
Heart pounding, he quickly looked around to see if anyone was watching. Predictably, he found his father quiet at the table that had been set up in the echoing space of the wood floored living room. Dean was seated several yards away under a single bright lamp, the pieces of a television laid out like an autopsy on one of their larger and cleaner oil rags from the car. His brother had found it while spelunking the unlit cluttered basement and insisted he could get it working in time for the basketball season to start next week.
Swallowing, he nervously collected the thin shiny slips of paper and shoved them down the front of his T-shirt. The frantic and clumsy act done, he checked his family again to see if they had in any way observed his activity.
Completely absorbed moments before by a dusty cathode-ray tube, it figured Dean was now looking directly at him.
“You find something for some 50¢ off used cat litter?"
His freshly turned teen brother never thought much of the heaps of junk coupons that were sent to them wherever they ended up on the map. He was a much larger believer in the type you could cut out of a local newspaper. Collect them all in a stack that magically deducted tens of dollars off the grocery bill when he was done. Sam saw absolutely no fun whatsoever in that tedious business regardless of the unarguable results.
“No..” Sam snapped back defensively.
“Cuz we are totally out.” Dean scratched at the back of his neck with a pair of pliers.
Leaving his meticulously organized stash on the floor, he crossed his arms over his chest and hurried to the bedroom he had to share with his brother. They just had sleeping bags for now, and the blue one was all his. Burrowing into it he grabbed his flashlight on the way in. His bag. His domain. The only way the sanctity of this holy ground would be defiled would be if Dean grabbed the end of it and shook him out. Clutching his arms tighter across his chest, he knew that that the likelihood of that happening wasn’t as far off as he often wished.
Pulling out the strips of paper he shone his light on them gravely. It had to be planned perfectly or everything would crumble.
He had to do this right or everything would be lost.
The first thing Sam knew he had to do was keep any and all food from entering the house.
Not for long. Just until about when evening hit and all thoughts turned to what exactly would be for dinner. His dad could go days before noticing that all he’d been putting in his mouth was black coffee, but his brother was a completely different story.
Sam stopped him from going to the grocery store the first time by pretending to be locked in the bathroom. It was humiliating and he could barely get his lies out knowing that this day would live on in Dean’s heart and mind for all of the rest of their days. The place was old and the door needed a pint of paint thinner and a sharp screwdriver to get to the coated hinges.
Dean swung the door back and forth a few times after it was all over and done with, looking at his smaller brother suspiciously when Sam didn’t offer a thank you or exhibit any sort of relief of any kind.
The second time Dean attempted to leave for food, Sam knew it was time to pull out the big guns. His brother hadn’t eaten anything but some dry cornflakes at around noon and he was in no mood for anything short of a sandwich stacked as high as he was. This was going to take everything Sam had.
It was out of his mouth before he even knew what he was doing. Picking a body part, Sam settled on the vague and mysterious area of the abdomen in general and grasped at it dramatically.
Dean paused at the door, his jacket already in his hand.
“It happens when you don’t eat.” He retorted, ready to open the door and just go.
Actually being quite hungry himself, he didn’t have to fake the moan that accompanied his fake stumble down onto one knee. He glanced up through his bangs to see if Dean was buying anything he was selling. But Dean wasn’t even paying attention, he was searching around in his pockets for his keys.
Sam frowned, blowing up at the hair in his eyes in exasperation. What did he have to do? Set himself on fire?
“Dean?” Sam tried to sound as pitiful as he could. “I think I’m gonna puke!”
“Good thing that bathroom door works then huh?”
Sam didn’t want to do it. In fact, it was the last thing he wanted to do ever. But he had his eyes on the prize and that was all that mattered at the end of it all. He braced himself first and then took the plunge.
“Oh man!” Dean lamented.
Sam stared down at the mess he’d just brought up by shoving his fingers down his throat. He wasn’t even sure it would even work. The only other time he’d accomplished the deed was when his father performed the act for him after accidentally ingesting half a bottle of grape flavored chewy child’s aspirin.
“You couldn’t even make it to the toilet??” Dean demanded, yanking his jacket off and tossing it aside. “What the hell is wrong with you!”
Their father’s voice was low and questioning from the room next door.
“Nothin’ Sir,” Dean sighed in revulsion. “Sammy just harfed all over the place.”
Actually now starting to feel a little sick, Sam limply let himself be steered to the bathroom and was grateful when the cool water of the sink was splashed up against his face.
One more hour.
Just one more hour and it would all be his.
Sam didn’t dare let himself breath just in case the distraction of his making any sound whatsoever would take his father’s attention off what had been left perfectly and plainly on the kitchen counter.
Laying on the bare wooden floor instead of his sleeping bag, he had assured his brother that he was just fine for now and that he must have just needed some fresh air. Dean hadn’t stopped looking at Sam like he was one of those 3-D pictures at the mall that you had to stare at just the right way before some picture came out at you. His brother was more than onto him, he was right there. But it didn’t matter anymore.
The time had finally come.
“What’s what?” Dean asked.
“Look’s like it’s pizza tonight boys.” Their dad sighed.
Sam smiled up at the ceiling, his belly battling between hunger and another dry heave of revolt against its unkind treatment.
Dean, the family accountant and counter of every last penny would be the first to question something as wonderful as an announcement like that one. Sam rolled over to watch Dean wander to their dad’s side to look at the small piece of paper he was holding. Sam sighed. Dean still had the potential to ruin everything.
“D-Dad, this is—“
“I know, but it’s free, so who cares.”
“It’s only free if you buy a bucket of fish sticks made from horse—“
“Just get in the car Dean, I’m about to gnaw an arm off and I don’t feel like discussing it.”
It was done. The deal was sealed. They were going.
Sam leapt up and started clapping wildly, ignoring the semi-shocked but mostly dangerous look his brother was giving his new found healthy glow. With a flash of guilt, Sam knew his father really had no idea what the hell he was getting himself into.
But Dean sure did.
A giant anthropomorphic rat. The cacophony of outdated arcade games. Cheap tokens to trade for even cheaper crap made in China. The collective screaming and shouting of over one hundred kids under the age of ten that wanted their pizza served to a good ole country tune from a jerking robot bear on a gum covered stage.
Sam squeezed his eyes shut, overwhelmed by emotion for just a moment. It was all something like an impossible dream come true.
“D-dad, please?” Dean almost whimpered. “We can go to the supermarket, we can find food, food that doesn’t dance—“
“Dean, if there’s beer there I don’t care what the hell they make their fish sticks out of.” Their father shrugged on his old jacket and opened the front door.
“They’ll-They’ll make us sing dad…” Dean was desperately clutching at the man’s sleeve and staring pleadingly up at his face. “… they’ll make us sing with hats on—“
“Don’t worry, I’ll give you half my brew.” John motioned with his hand out the door again. “Come on! Let’s go! Let’s go!”
Sam was already on his way to wait patiently by the locked back passenger side door. He met Dean’s deadly glare as he yanked open his own door first. There was a promise in that look. A promise that Sam was in no way going to get away with this. Not in one million years would Dean forget about this terrible night. There was retribution to be had. And from the glittering malice in his brother’s eyes he knew that whatever it was it wasn’t going to be pretty.
Sam slipped into the back seat with a happy sigh.
Whatever horrible consequence his brother could create was just fine with him. Because tonight? Tonight was all about Skee ball, air hockey and burning the roof of his mouth off with lava hot cheese. Maybe some cheap stuffed animals while he was at it. Those were always good for target practice anyway.
“You feelin’ better Sammy?” His dad thought to ask now that they were already on the road.