Even as a new wolf pup, Maya knew to love Neal more than Noel. The family used to joke that the only way to tell the twins apart was to let Maya in the house. She would go straight to Neal and whimper whenever Noel confronted her. Everyone joked about it except Noel. As she and the boys grew, Maya watched over both of them especially Neal.
As adults, both Neal and Noel lived in their family home to attend to their dying mother. She seemed to be dying ever since the twins were born. Dying of what, no one was sure.
The twins’s father was rumored to work for the phone company hanging wire. He fell in love with long distance especially from his wife and children.
Noel became a used car salesman. Neal became an actuary for a car insurance company. And, Noel never let Neal forget that Neal made more money than him. He borrowed money without repaying and called him Chief.
On the weekends, Neal and Noel howled at the moon. Cheap whiskey coated Neal’s yelping while top shelf tequila made Noel more mean and full of plots to ruin the world. And, at least once a month, the twins would get into a brawl with Noel getting kicked out of the local drunk tank the next morning.
The mother’s hobby other than preparing for her death was entering contests. She entered raffles and lotteries for a Tiffany diamond necklace, a ten minute ride in those new spaceships that hovered above the stratosphere for a few minutes, and a Chicago bowling alley to name a few. She also loved entering contests for large amounts of money.
And, one day she won.
She won five thousand dollars a week for the rest of her life. And, she was able to name one person to inherit the weekly winnings after she passed. She named Neal her heir, because he was the oldest and perhaps Maya was not the only one with a favorite. She named Neal the heir at nine on a Monday morning and died of a surprise pulmonary embolism by Tuesday’s dawn.
Neal used his first five thousand to pay for a funeral full of flowers, a new black dress for his mother, and a dark blue suit for himself. Noel did not attend the funeral and instead went on a week long bender and came back with a plan to kill his brother and assume his identity.
Noel began to poison Neal’s coffee. He watched in ecstasy as his brother slowly deteriorated. After a few weeks, Noel realized he had to kill Neal soon or they would no longer be identical.
So, he got drunk and snuck into Neal’s room late one night when Neal was weak and asleep. He smothered Neal with his pillow. He did not struggle but emitted a high pitched noise sounding like a slow “why?”
“You know why, Chief,” Noel replied his hand still pressed on the pillow.
He buried Neal under the front porch. He took pleasure in stomping his feet over his brother’s grave every time he entered or exited the house.
The next weekend he bar hopped in Neal’s dark blue suit.
“What’ll ya have?”
“A shot of Three Ships, please.”
“Hey Neal, sorry about your mom.”
“He couldn’t take losing Ma. He went berserk and took himself off the grid. I think he’s living in a commune out in Louisa County.”
“Did ya ever wonder why this joint is called the Sharks Club with no sharks?” yelled a drunk man in the corner.
No one answered.
“Because we are the sharks!” he screeched.
No one took notice of him.
So, he yelled again, “We’re the sharks!”
Everyone knew Noel’s hot headed, near sighted ways and accepted the story of his flight. Everyone believed except for Maya. Maya would not come near Noel and started sleeping under the porch.
Noel started chain smoking agitated that someone might notice the change in the dog. He decided to poison Maya. Maya would not eat the tainted dog food and ran away.
Noel was relieved until he started hearing Maya’s mourning howls every night. Soon, there was a chorus of howls all seeming to near the house. Then, one night the howls stopped.
The next morning, one of the Johnson girls from a few streets over brought Maya back to Noel. Maya was fine except for a small tear to her right ear. Maya returned to her spot under the front porch.
After finishing a bottle, Noel decided to kill the dog with his axe. He beheaded the dog and heard a muffled scream behind him. The Johnson girl had returned with a homemade poultice for Maya. Noel approached her wielding the bloody axe. The girl ran from the house into the woods.
Noel’s drunken steps led him away from the girl and into a small wolf den. His blurred eyes did not see the glint of the ten canine eyes glaring at him. They smelled their sister’s blood on the axe. All five jumped as one.