i promised my little brother blake once that i'd dedicate a post to him. it was only about a bajillion years ago. (sorry blake!) and then this month i decided to try my hand at fiction for this writing club i joined, because i was curious to see if i could write about something other than myself for once.
so i started in with a picture of a sixteen year old boy in my head. i didn't know who he was really or what he was up to, i figured i'd just kind of write and see what came out. about two paragraphs in i realized that the character i was writing was my brother. sort of.
anyway, this is a bit of a departure from the norm here on nat the fat rat, but here is a little bit of fiction i wrote for my writing group, and here, blake, is that post i promised to write about you. sort of.
he hadn't intended to scrape his knee and ruin his brand new cords but there it was, one ghastly tear in the forest green fabric with blood soaked edges and one entirely ruined summer. he stood up in disgust and gingerly swept the dust off his shoulders. he noticed they ached and wished he'd never started working out. he imagined that work out room and that nasty old bench, waiting for him at the high school every afternoon, and he winced in so many layers of pain it surprised even himself.
picking up his blue sportcoat and tossing it over his sore shoulder he strolled as nonchalantly as he could back to the wedding. maybe no one would notice? he thought as he half-heartedly limped along the dirt path back to the dull sound of chatter. maybe he could just have a seat, sip some flat, watery punch, smile at the old people across the table, and spear some wedding cake with a fork until it was over? after all, he was sixteen, and nobody expects much from sixteen. it's not like sixteen is terribly remarkable or friendly anyway. it was a good plan. he stood up taller. he felt a trickle of blood down his shin. he would carry on.
before he'd had the chance to find an empty chair, his sisters were upon him.
"oh no," amy started in at the sight of his badly torn trousers. he rolled his eyes in grand fashion and awaited the onslaught.
"brent, she's here and she's going to find out," amy said, her face grim and tragic. suddenly brent felt the seriousness of the day as he realized what few romantic hopes he'd ever entertained with jen were now near impossible. dead on delivery. call it, doctor. he's dead, jim.
allison was a little softer. "maybe she doesn't even know it's missing? maybe that cat . . . " she trailed off worriedly, her eyes searching the grassy field just to the left of the thick green pond.
brent's eyes followed allison's. he watched the mosquitoes dip and dive and he knew what he had to do.
"no, i know." brent's voice was harder than he expected and it caught him off guard. he exhaled in a decided fashion out his nose, and squared his shoulders. "i'll tell her."
he took off briskly, noticing his hurt knee less and less as he strode toward the blue pickup. now was the time and he was going to be a man about it. she was getting out of the car, gosh she was pretty, and her blonde hair like that? he imagined it would feel soft and cool on his fingers. then todd got out of the pickup too and he remembered. oh yes. the boyfriend. the dead cat. i got this. i got this. it's just a cat. she didn't even like the cat.
he paused for a minute behind the tree with the swing and collected his thoughts, cobbled together a plan. he traced the familiar carving in the tree absentmindedly as he formulated his approach.
"jen, you remember that summer we found that bird?" he would start.
that bird, man, that bird wasn't long for the world, all mangled and beat up like it was, but jen had lovingly cared for it just the same, like it was her own flesh and blood. the whole two hours after they found it, it's back clearly broken in a few spots, jen was its faithful steward. but her eulogy at its burial? brent laughed at the memory of it.
'dead bird, i set thee free!" she'd shouted to the skies before lobbing it haphazardly in the direction of the neighbors fence.
that was jen. equal parts raw emotion and sarcasm. he missed that about her. he'd watched her become more and more of a regular girl lately and, in the process, so much less of a person. well, less his person, anyway.
"i set thee free." that was it. "dead cat, i set thee free." didn't have quite the same ring to it, but okay.
he marched up to the blue pickup, where jen was straightening her left shoe. her hair dangled over her bare shoulders and brent suddenly remembered the summer when those shoulders got so sunburnt she couldn't raise her arms above her head, and how he'd stolen a kiss outside the sno-cone shack and she turned so pink in the face from anger he thought she'd pop.
he wished she were alone. at least not with her that loser boyfriend todd. seriously. and jen going out of her way to pick him up for her sisters wedding after his DUI? of all things? and that smug look on his face?
"jen," he started as he got closer, his voice cracking in the worst kind of betrayal. the look on todd's face said it all. she knew. he was toast.
"jen, it's my fault," he said on an exhale. and then he told her the whole story, really poured his guts out, trying to get to every last detail before she'd have the chance to hit him, or storm off, or worse, start crying.
but her reaction surprised him. it was so much worse than he could have expected. she just looked at him and through her blue eyes he saw nothing. not the raw emotion he was afraid of. no sarcasm at all. just a stranger. he looked into those familiar eyes and didn't see a thing.
suddenly, he regretted it. not hitting the cat, i mean, sure he regretted hitting that cat, that's an awful way for a thing to die, and probably he'd never forget the sound of that awful thunk as he ran over it with his dad's sedan, but no, he regretted the panicked moments spent agonizing, worrying over her feelings, and the slipshod attempt to bury it, and the resulting pair of perfectly good cords ruined in a dumb moment of clumsiness. he regretted it all. the sore shoulders, the months spent working out, the years spent missing her. dumb, stupid regrets.
defeated, he glanced back and saw his sisters standing awkwardly along the row of hedges, leaning in to overhear the verdict. amy cringed at him and allison fist-bumped the air in solidarity. yep. dead on delivery.
he turned back and grimaced awkwardly at jen and todd. then, wordlessly, he walked away. he didn't even say good bye. why bother? she'd already said good bye eons ago.
brent eyed the neighbors fence as he trudged toward his sisters. he pictured himself flying headlong and lifeless into the abyss beyond.