Mike sniffed the air like a hungry wolf.
Under the car where he had been working, the smell of engine oil punched him in the face. But there also was the unmistakable hint of a fresh bake in the air, and his mouth began to water. He knew that there were beef pies in the oven and his stomach rumbled in hunger.
Lily, his wife, was not just a remarkably good-looking woman. She was also a fantastic cook.
Above him and under the hood of his car was his older brother, Andy and from the looks of it, or rather from the sounds of metal working against metal, Mike reckoned that he hadn’t noticed the aroma in the air. From within his home, he heard his wife sing and he sorely wished he hadn’t started working on his car. No, he thought again. He wished Andy hadn’t come visiting when he had decided to work on his car. Andy made himself a nuisance where engines were concerned.
Come to think of it, Mike mused dryly, Andy made himself a nuisance where everything was concerned. He took his big-brother status a little too far!
He heard more metallic sounds and finally his brother called aloud:
“Okay, I’ve shoved the bolt in place. Hold the gearbox while I tighten it up.”
“Yeah,” Mike grunted, his greasy hands poised upward, holding the part in place.
He heard Andy rummage around his tool kit and then swear loudly...almost too loudly.
“Where’s the damned wrench?”
“With the tools,” he answered.
More rummaging followed with another unnecessary expletive, which told Mike that the truant wrench had not been found. He tried to peer out from under the car, confused because he had loosened that same bolt – with that very wrench just a little while before.
“I used it Andy,” he gritted as the weight of the gearbox bore down on his arms. “It’s got to be there.”
“Well, it’s not here,” his brother stated flatly.
“That’s weird,” grunted Mike, more muddled than ever. Then he sighed aloud in resignation. “I must have left it in the garage.”
Another needless oath followed and Mike saw Andy’s legs retreat up the driveway. With another deep sigh, he lay there, holding the gearbox in place and hoping that once this was done, his officious brother would just leave. He was always the disdainful and haughty elder brother, and Mike had begun to resent it.
Out there within his home, the singing had stopped, but Mike could still smell the delicious bake and his stomach rumbled again. Or was it Andy rummaging around there? He couldn’t tell. His stomach protested so loudly for sustenance now that he almost couldn’t tell the difference.
Finally, after an eternity of waiting, after his arms had turned sore and after he had almost lost all his patience, he heard a melodious whistle and saw his brother’s legs appear. He sighed in relief. His arms were beginning to kill him.
“You took your time,” he grumbled aloud.
“That’s because you don’t keep things in their right places,” came the swift retort.
When the bolt was fixed in place, and the gearbox harnessed, the brothers washed up and crowded the kitchen where the smell of the fresh bake was strongest. The pies were out on the table cooling, but strangely a few had toppled on their sides on a very untidy board, and two more had fallen to the floor.
“That bloomin’ cat!” thundered Mike and Andy chuckled in derision,
“Told you cats are a nuisance.”
Mike glowered over his brother, biting back his anger as the snickering got louder. At that moment Lily walked into the kitchen, looking remarkably flushed and lovely. Her hair was combed neat and her eyes were sparkling,
“Look who’s looking better than delicious,” Andy remarked, and once more Mike frowned at him.
“Meat pies,” Lily quickly announced, eager to quell a fight that threatened to erupt between the two men. Then she gasped when she noted the two pies on the floor.
She blushed deeply in embarrassment.
“That bloomin’ cat!” Andy hooted, drawing back a chair and sitting down. Mike shot him one more dark look of disgust and bent down to retrieve the pies. Lily was already on her knees gathering them up, but for some, strange reason she could not look him in the eyes.
“You okay?” he asked and she nodded quickly, but her lips were trembling.
It was long after lunch was done – in fact long after the sun had set and the young couple were getting ready to retire, when Mike remarked casually:
“Andy’s a pain in the wrong place. He’s always been like that.”
“He only wants to look out for you,” Lily replied. “Don’t be so hard on him.”
“I’m a grown man Lily,” he muttered. “I don’t need looking after. At least not by him.”
Lily began to undress for a shower and Mike watched her with sudden interest. He pulled her to him and asked huskily, “but why did I even bring the subject of him up?”
“Because you’re a dummy, that’s why,” she replied, pushing him away and turned to deposit her clothes on a chair.
Mike looked hopefully at her smooth back, clad in nothing but lacy underwear, and reached out for her again. Then he looked once more, leaning forward and peering harder. He wanted to ask something, but choked instead when realization dawned.
How Andy must have secretly guffawed when he went to ‘look’ for a wrench that perhaps had never been misplaced. How he must have laughed at the ‘bloomin’ cat’ notion.
And Lily was right. He was such a dummy!
Tears filled his eyes as he swiftly wriggled away from her and left the room in disgust.
Lily glanced up in astonishment, wondering what had happened. But when she eased out of her underwear and noticed a clear, black, greasy fingerprint on the clip, she froze in shame and chewed guiltily on her bottom lip.