One Left

By Paul Negri

“Where do you have it?” asked David.

His brother Ben sat against the wall, his head in his hands. He was shaking.

“In my shoe,” Ben whispered. “Hollow heel.”

“It’s okay to cry, little brother.” 

“Where’s yours?” Ben wiped his eyes with a bloodied handkerchief.

“I sewed it in my sleeve. Momma taught me to sew, remember?”

 A metal door slammed and Ben jumped. 

David touched his arm. “We shouldn’t wait too long.”

“A blowtorch,” said Ben. 

“Don’t think about it. We’ll never see it, whatever it is. We’ll be where they can’t touch us.”

“A blowtorch,” said Ben again. “Let’s do it now. Do you want to pray?”

 “No.”

 “I do.” Ben closed his eyes. His lips moved.

David tore the loose stitching of his sleeve and removed the small brown capsule. He closed his fist around it. Ben took off his shoe and removed the heel. His eyes widened.

 “What’s the matter?”  asked David.

Ben looked at him. “It’s not there.” 

“Sure it is. Try the other shoe.”

“This is the shoe. It’s not there. Oh God. The heel was loose.”

“Look on the floor.” They crawled around the dark cell. 

Ben stood up. “We have just one?” 

David stared in silence.

“Break it in half,” said Ben.

 “Won’t work. The dose is for one. We’d both live.”

Ben turned around and around where he stood, as if he could find a secret way out. He sat down on the floor. Footsteps in the hall.

David took Ben’s face in his hands. “Put it between your teeth.”

 “No, it’s yours.” Ben shuddered, his eyes wild.

 “I’m your big brother. Do as I say.”

 “Oh, God.”

David kissed his brother. “Bite down. Hard.”

Ben bit down. He gasped, then sighed. He slouched forward and was still.

The door opened. David looked up. Four men, one with a blowtorch.

###

Paul Negri  has twice won the Gold Medal for fiction in the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Writing Competition. His stories have appeared in The Penn Review, Vestal Review, Pif Magazine, Into the Void and more than 30 other publications. He lives in Clifton, New Jersey.

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