11

11

The boys dined on sausage and pepperoni pizza and Mt. Dew that night as they watched Village of the Dead. Eli felt an odd I-know-I-shouldn't-be-doing-this excitement as he watched the blood and gore on the screen. When the movie was over Mrs. Martin ushered the boys into Russell's room for the night.

"What'd you guys think of the movie?" Russell asked from his bed. He got to sleep on the bed while the others pitched their sleeping bags on the floor.

"Scared the crap out of me," Robbie said. He silently hoped he would actually be able to get some sleep tonight. It seemed every time he closed his eyes he saw zombies coming for him. Their rotting hands reaching for his warm, living flesh; their dead eyes oddly focused on his head and to the brain within.

"It was awesome when that zombie ripped that guy's arm off!" Jake said. As always Jake seemed coolly unaffected by the horror of the movie.

"And when they ate that girl's head!" Eli chimed in.

"That was cool too," Jake agreed.

The boys talked a little more about the movie till the conversation slowly died down and one-by-one the boys drifted to sleep. Soon Russell was the only one left awake. And he had to pee!

He silently crept out of bed and down the hall to the bathroom.

A few minutes later, his business taken care of, he was tiptoeing back to bed when he passed Bart's room. He stopped when he heard voices coming from the room. It wasn't unusual for Bart to talk to himself, but not in the middle of the night. His half-brother had always been a heavy sleeper. Bart's door was opened by a crack and Russell slowly and silently pushed it open just enough to peak his head in.

Bart had his wheelchair pushed to the window and he stared out across the night muttering and mumbling. The only words Russell could distinguish were "No" and "Not again".

Russell sighed and left the room. It was torture to watch Bart go through life like he was. No one should have to live like that. Best not to think of it though.

Russell reached the door to his own room and inched it open and climbed back into bed, trying not to disturb any of his friends.

"Russ?" a whispered voice rose up from the floor. Jake was awake.

"Yeah?" Russell answered.

"You want to put the snake in Eli's sleeping bag?" A hint of excitement played in his voice.

This woke Russell up all the way. "Yeah!" he said. "Should we wake up Robbie?"

"I'm already awake," Robbie whispered.

The excitement that was in Jake's voice was now in the air. It was like electricity, all the boys could feel it. "How are we going to do it?" Jake asked.

"Just put it on his pillow," Russell said.

"No, you gotta put it down in the sleeping bag," Robbie said.

"That would wake him up," Russell explained. "What do you think Jake?"

Jake was quiet for a moment. Putting the snake down in the sleeping bag would be more realistic, but it was riskier to try that. "I think I got it," he said. Silently he pulled the rubber snake from his backpack and crawled over to Eli's sleeping form. After checking to make sure Eli wouldn't wake up Jake lifted the top of his sleeping bag a little and placed the snake just inside. Once he was satisfied with it he crawled back into his own sleeping bag.

The three boys waited tensely for a few minutes, but Eli never woke up. "I think you could've gotten it all the way in," Russell said.

"He probably won't wake up till morning," Robbie grumbled.

"Kick him," Russell said from the bed.

He didn't kick him, but Jake moved his foot over and nudged Eli in the side eliciting a sharp snort from the small boy.

"Nothing," Robbie said. "Do it again."

Jake again nudged Eli then retreated back to his sleeping bag. This time Eli stirred. With another snort his eyes fluttered open. He slowly became aware of something on him and he moved his hand to it. His eyes shot open and a high, piercing scream burst from his mouth. "SNAKE!"

Jake, Robbie, and Russell erupted in laughter.

"We got you!" Russell shouted.

"That was great!" Robbie wheezed through tears.

"What?" Eli looked down at the thing in his hands. The snake was rubber. His face turned bright red. "You jerks!" he shouted, tossing the toy aside. "I'm going to kill you guys!"

The three others just roared with laughter.

And just as quick as the laughter started it stopped when the light flicked on. All the boys turned to see Mr. Martin standing in the door.

"What is going on in here?" he shouted. None of the boys said a word. "Huh?" Mr. Martin demanded. "Russell?"

"They put this in my sleeping bag!" Eli held up the rubber snake.

Mr. Martin turned to his son. "Did you?"

"Y-yes," Russell stammered. "It was just a joke."

"It was my idea," Jake spoke up before Mr. Martin could say anything to Russell.

"It doesn't matter whose idea it was, it's almost three in the morning. You all need to get back to sleep." Some of the initial anger had drained from Mr. Martin's voice. Truth be told, when he found out what they had all been laughing about he almost cracked up himself. The ole snake-in-the-sleeping bag was a classic. Especially when administered to that little Edwards boy. "Understand me?" he finished.

"Yes, sir," Jake answered.

"Yes," Robbie said.

"Yeah," Russell mumbled.

Eli didn't say anything. He just sat, his jaw twitching slightly in anger.

"Goodnight." Mr. Martin left the room, pulling the door shut behind him.

Eli threw his head back down on his pillow. He vowed at that moment that he would get back at his friends. They messed with the wrong guy.