“Why does it have to me?” Ben wailed.
“You drew the short straw.” Tyler replied.
“But I drew last!”
It wasn't fair and Ben knew it.
He was on his knees, in the gravel, Tyler and Simon both holding one of his arms.
“Look, you gonna let us do it?” Simon asked, though his tone made it seem more like a statement than a question.
It was because he was the youngest. Ben knew it. Tyler must have told Simon which one the short straw was so Ben would draw it. He would always get picked to do the stuff Tyler and Simon didn't want to do when they did things together.
“It's gonna hurt!”
“Yeah, it is. But then we'll all get candy and chocolate so just get ready, alright?”
This was the worst thing so far. Usually they would just send him to get the football from the house because they didn't want to, or he would always be the one to have to look for them during hide-and-seek. But this, this was the worst.
He wondered if they would let him run away. The construction site was empty, there was nobody around for at least a couple minutes in every direction. He figured they would let him go. They were his brothers after all, and they weren't sadistic or anything. But they would never let him forget it. They would probably use it as an excuse to stop inviting him to come along to stuff. He already had to beg them to take him along as it was.
He looked down at the gravel and nodded his head.
Tyler and Simon began dragging Ben on his bare knees across the gravel. The pain started almost immediately and Ben yelled out and asked them to stop.
“Just a little longer, Ben.” Tyler said. This wasn't the deal. They said they would stop dragging him as soon as he asked. He asked them, so why were they still dragging him? Already he could feel that the skin on his knees were gone and the gravel scraping against bare flesh. His protest became more vigorous and he tried shaking his arms to get out of his brothers' grip. It was no use though, they were much stronger than him individually, let alone combined.
Ben stopped struggling but continued yelling at the top of his voice, it was all he had left. He didn't know how long they dragged him across that gravel but it felt like forever and the pain got worse with every passing moment, going from stinging to searing to blinding.
The pain continued to get worse even as Tyler and Simon stopped dragging him.
“Come on, it's over, we did it.” Tyler said.
Ben didn't respond, he couldn't get any words out through the sobbing.
“Is he alright?” Simon asked.
“He's fine, aren't you Ben? Aren't you?” Tyler said. Ben nodded his head.
Tyler was the oldest and he was the one that tended to come up with these schemes. Simon and Ben followed his lead. Whatever Simon said went.
“Alright, let's get him to Mr. Jones before he stops bleeding.” Tyler and Simon picked up Ben by the arms and got him on his feet. Ben got a look at his knees. They were scraped raw. There was no skin left, just a combination of blood, flesh and dirt. He barely had time to collect himself and his brothers were walking him to Mr. Jones' corner shop.
By the time they arrived at the top of the street where it was, the pain had become a deep throb.
“Alright, now you know what to do right?” Tyler said. “Make sure you get him to take you to the back of the store.”
Ben waddled down the street over the Mr. Jones' shop. He was reading the paper behind the counter when he opened the door and rang the little bell that hung above the entrance.
“Mr. Jones?” Ben said in a shaky voice. Mr. Jones, hearing the distress in Ben's voice, looked up and saw the state of his knees. He got up and went around to kneel down next to him.
“What happened to you?” He asked. “D'you have a fall?”
Ben nodded. “I need a plaster.”
“Yes you do. Alright, follow me, I have a first aid kit in the back.”
As Ben followed Mr. Jones into his back office, he shot a quick glance at the chocolate display in front of the counter. He saw the Hungry Hippos which were his favourite and looked forward to having some later. Those were the ones he said he wanted before they drew the straws to determine who would act as the distraction.
Ben entered the office and looked around. He had never been in this room before. There wasn't much. There was a safe in the corner, some movie posters, a calendar. Mr. Jones went searching through his desk for his first aid kit.
Ben turned his head to look into the store and he could see his brothers slowly opening the door to avoid ringing the bell.
“Ah, here it is.”
Ben looked back. He moved further into the office so Mr. Jones wouldn't be able to see his brothers as he applied the plasters.
“I'm just going to have the clean the wound first, OK? It'll sting a little.”
Mr. Jones applied a disinfectant to the cotton pad and began dabbing it against his knee. It did hurt but not as bad as being dragged across the gravel did. Ben felt bad as Mr. Jones tended to his knee. He was a kind man and Ben was helping to steal from him. He told himself it was only chocolate but he realised that he was doing a very bad thing. By the time Mr. Jones applied the plaster, Ben didn't want to look him in the eye.
“Alright, now you be careful now, alright?”
Ben nodded and Mr. Jones ruffled his hair.
They left the office and Mr. Jones went to sit back behind the counter and resume reading his paper. As Ben walked past the counter to go back outside, he shot a glance at the chocolate display again. He could see there was less chocolate there than before. Simon and Tyler had taken Snickers, Kit-Kats, Lion Bars and loads of others. The Hungry Hippo tray, however, had not been touched.