Twins Under The Christmas Tree (Oct 2013)
A sixth sense told Conway he was being watched. He opened his eyes beneath the cowboy hat covering his face. Two pairs of miniature athletic shoes stood side-by-side next to the sofa. He played possum—not an easy task when his legs were numb from dangling over the end of the loveseat all night.
"Is he dead?"
The question went unanswered.
"I bet he's dead." The same voice spoke again.
"Poke him and see." A second voice, slightly higher in pitch than the first, whispered.
Conway grinned, glad the hat hid his face.
The sound of a food wrapper crinkling reached Conway's ears.
"I'm hungry." Crunching followed the statement.
Conway shifted on the couch and groaned.
"Maybe he's sick."
"Look under his hat."
Conway's chest shook with laughter as he waited for his assailants' next move. Small fingers lifted the brim of his hat and Cheerio breath puffed against in his face.
On the count of three. One…two…three. Conway opened his eyes and his gaze clashed with the boys'. The kids shrieked and jumped back, bumping into each other.
The Cheerio box sailed through the air, the contents spilling onto Conway's chest. He studied the mess then turned his attention to the daring duo.
"Sorry, mister." The brothers scooped oat rings off of Conway's shirt and stuffed them back into the box. Conway swung his legs to the floor and sat up. The twins were identical. They wore their hair cut in a traditional little-boy style with a side part and both had their mother's almond-shaped brown eyes.
He pointed to the kid holding the cereal box. "What's your name?"
Conway moved his finger to the other boy.
"Miguel. Who are you?"
So Miguel was the outgoing one and Javier the shy one. "Conway Twitty Cash."
"That's a long name," Miguel said.
"You can call me Conway." It wasn't enough that his mother had slept with every Tom,
Dick and Harry across southern Arizona, but she'd also possessed a strange sense of humor in naming all six of her sons after country-music legends. "How old are you guys?"
"Four." They answered in unison.
"Are you a real cowboy?" Miguel asked.
"That depends. You asking if I work on a ranch?"
"I'm not that kind of cowboy."
Javier made eye contact with his brother and Conway swore the boys conversed telepathically. "What kind of cowboy are you?" Miguel asked.
"Part-time rodeo cowboy. When I'm not bustin' broncs, I work on a farm."
The boys stared with blank expressions.
"You know what pecans are, don't you?"
They shook their heads.
"Nuts that grow on trees. People eat the nuts or use them in pies."
Javier whispered in his brother's ear then Miguel asked, "How come you're in our house?"
Not sure what answer Isi would want him to give her sons, he asked a question of his
own. "Have you ever seen a man in your house after you woke up in the morning?"
They shook their heads again.
For some stupid reason that pleased Conway.
Javier whispered in his brother's ear.
"You can ask me questions yourself, Javier," Conway said.
"I mostly talk." Miguel's chest puffed up. "Why are you sleeping on our couch?"
"Your Mom wasn't feeling well, so I stayed the night in case something bad happened."
"Like what?" Miguel asked.
"Like what, what?" Conway had trouble following the conversation—he'd never talked with four-year-olds before.
"What kind of bad things?" Miguel asked.
"Well, there could have been a fire in the middle of the night."
Javier ran from the room then returned with a small fire extinguisher.
"We know how to put out a fire," Miguel said.
He doubted the boys had the strength to pull the pin on the extinguisher, but he was impressed that they knew what the canister was used for. "Or a bad guy could've broken into the trailer."
Javier set down the extinguisher then opened the closet door in the hallway and removed a baseball bat, which he drug across the carpet. Conway got the impression the kid was trying to tell him that they didn’t need his help protecting their mother.
"Can you lift that?" he asked.
Javier raised the bat and Conway intercepted the barrel before it hit Miguel in the back of the head. "Whoa, slugger." He confiscated the weapon and laid it on the couch.
"Javi…Mig….where are you guys?" Isi's sluggish voice rang out a moment before she appeared in the hallway. Conway sucked in a quiet breath. The bruising beneath her eyes had deepened to deep purple.
"Mom!" Miguel dashed across the room, Javier following him. "What happened?" Both boys hugged Isi's legs. "I had an accident at work last night. I ran into a door and broke my nose."
"Does it hurt?" Miguel asked.
"Yes. Did you have breakfast?" Isi dropped to one knee and hugged her sons. She whispered in Miguel's ear then he went into the kitchen, climbed onto the counter and retrieved two cereal bowls from the cupboard. Javier remained by Isi's side—he was definitely the insecure twin.
"Mom." Miguel set the bowls on the table.
"Conway Twitty Cash slept on our couch."
One lucky U.S. reader who comments on my blog will be randomly selected to win a signed copy of Twins Under The Christmas and a Cowboy Christmas Ornament. Good luck!