I dusted a speck of mud off my brand-new leather jacket and scowled at the stain. I must have made a sound too, because my brother turned around to look at me.
‘You know, nobody made you come,’ he said, as I squinted into his torchlight. ‘I would have been happy to look for my toolbox by myself.’
‘Like I wouldn’t have heard about it for the rest of my life.’
‘That’s your hangup dude, not mine.’ He moved the torch beam back in front of him, picking a path out through the thick mud of the swamp. As soon as his back was turned I scrunched my face up and mouthed the word dude. He froze, then whipped back around almost as quickly as I could straighten my face.
‘What was that?’ he asked, looking around and above us.
Oh good, I thought. It wasn’t me. Then I realised that meant something else had spooked him, and I quickly joined him in scanning the trees.
‘What was it?’ I whispered. He shook his head.
‘I don’t know…’
‘I told you we should have just gone to that hardware store in the Hampton area,’ I grumbled.
‘It’s not just about the tools,’ he whispered after a few heartbeats.
‘That toolbox… it was the last thing Dad gave me.’
The low buzzing of mosquitos droned on in the background of our silence. Suddenly, I felt very bad for accidentally leaving my brother’s toolbox in a swamp.
‘The last thing he gave me was plumbing supplies. Cheltenham never was kind on our pipes,’ I snorted.
He grunted. Then chuckled – laughed. It was infectious. Soon we were leaning against one another, gasping for air as we howled with laughter.
Finally, it died down a little, as we wiped the tears from our eyes.
‘I’m sorry you got such a bad final gift,’ he smiled, grasping my shoulder.
‘I’m sorry I left your toolbox in this swamp,’ I smiled back.
‘You did what?’
‘Oh right, I told you it was stolen, didn’t I?’
I winced, as his grip on my shoulder started to really hurt.