Kind of a mess...but a beginning...
--------------------------------------------Just because Alex Grasley was eleven years-old did not mean he was unaware of what was really going on. His dad may have told him they were moving to Albuquerque because he had a new job. His mom may have insisted they would be living in a great town with excellent schools, so he would be just as happy there. They both may have promised he would make new friends and this would be the last time they ever moved, again. But that's what they had told him when they were moving him from Austin to Seattle, three years ago. No, he finally knew why they were really taking him away from his friends and his home -- his little brother.
Drew was almost seven and about to finish First Grade, even though he had been out of school several days for his asthma. It seemed like his inhaler barely worked, even at the best of times, and after what must have been the thousandth trip to the doctor after yet another attack, Alex overheard his parents say they thought it was because of Seattle's cool moist climate. And the trees that surrounded them. And the neighbors' dogs and cats. But in Austin, they had whispered something about Cedar Fever and the city's humidity carrying too much pollen. And in Boston it was just too cold. It was getting to where it seemed that anything could trigger Drew's asthma, even the fact that he was little and closer to the grass on the ground.
Alex didn't have any trouble like that. In fact, he had not even caught a cold the whole time they'd lived here. Nor was he short enough to be bothered by anything on the ground; he was already halfway between five feet and six feet tall and his father, Hal, was talking about him needing a larger bike to ride, while his mother, Julia, had begun telling him over and over he'd probably wind up six-foot-six, like her father in Minneapolis, and be just as blond. "If you like basketball, that's perfect," she'd usually add.
Alex didn't have any problem with basketball; he enjoyed playing with his best-worst friend, Billy LeGrande...even though Billy liked to cheat. In fact, when Alex had confronted Billy about that and heard Billy respond, "It's not cheating, it's winning, like my dad taught me," Alex had made it a game to see if he could defeat Billy's cheating by not cheating. And he had succeeded a few times. But he liked soccer, more, and as for what to do when he was grown up, he wanted to be a pilot. Then he learned that pilots were usually a bit below average in height so they could fit more easily into the crazy-cool jets they got to fly, so his mom's encouragement only made him too aware of how he probably would never get to be one.
Drew looked like their dad's side of the family -- smaller, stockier, darker-hair, rounder face. People who saw the two boys side by side never thought they were brothers. The only real pleasure Alex got from that fact is that he knew pilots have to have twenty-twenty vision and Drew was already wearing glasses due to a stigmatism, so when the boy said he wanted to be a pilot just like his brother, when he grew up, Alex was able to tell him he could never be one.
Man, it seemed like everybody's life revolved around that brat. What they could eat. Where they could go. Whether or not they got to see a movie all the way through. He'd missed half a dozen soccer matches thanks to trips to the hospital to handle one of Drew's attacks. On top of that, they couldn't have a dog of their own. It was so bad, when Alex came home from Billy's, he had to brush off his clothes because hair from Dimbulb, their Golden Lab, might make Drew start wheezing.
That was the worst, because Billy had asked him if he wanted to take Dimbulb, once, since it was obvious the dog liked him more. No surprise there; even Billy knew it was because Alex petted the dog and played with him. He had come close to jumping for joy, and by the time he got home had already figured out a new name for him -- Azkaban, from Harry Potter. Ban, for short. Dimbulb was a stupid name for a dog, any dog, and while Billy could be okay as a friend, sometimes he was a real jerk and was probably in his jerk mood when he named him that.
But Julia had said, "Nope. Can't. Think of your brother's asthma."
Alex pouted about it for three days. He even complained to his totally best friend and neighbor, Taylor Castillo, about it. She was eleven, too, but she was considered a genius and went to special classes at a nearby college. In her usual way of handling a problem, Taylor had gone online and researched the illness, then tried to cheer Alex up by telling him, "Sometimes they grow out of it. So when he gets older, maybe he'll get better."
"My life'll be ruined, by then," Alex snapped back.