My brother, 11.
Home alone while my parents are out to lunch.
Light blue carpet. Plush red leather couches.
And a grandiose framed oil painting of an abstract landscape
hanging above an inset brick fireplace.
I don’t know.
Probably involves TV channels.
What else do kids fight about?
Jump up and down on the spot.
Try to break my little feet through the floorboards.
Now, here’s where shit gets real.
With that smug little asshole standing in front of me, grinning his shit-eating little front-tooth-missing fucking grin, I feel all the pent up rage, all the pent up injustice of him being insurmountably bigger and stronger than me.
So I jump higher. And my feet come down harder.
The fury that my parents would leave this fucker in charge.
Jump higher. Come down harder.
The tears streaming down my face in a well of frustration.
The oil painting on the wall silences us with a sharp snap of its string.
What happens next can well be summed up as the longest 5 seconds of my entire fucking life.
The giant frame, jostled on by my plea for retribution, tears itself from its anchored walls and takes a short jump onto the mantelpiece ledge.
4 wide eyes, 2 open mouths.
Perhaps not as stable on its feet as it once was, the top begins its slow (painfully slow) geriatric tumble forward.
In a spread eagled sprawl it hurtles towards the floor and comes to a ground-shaking, belly-wrenching crash at both of our feet.
Silence. Silence and whatever stupid goddamn TV show my brother got to pick playing in the background.
What occurs to me:
1. Holy shit, I’m pretty much the Incredible Hulk.
2. The Incredible Hulk was probably never this pants-shittingly terrified of what his dad was going to do when he got back from lunch.
“Uh oh,” my brother announces.
He knows he’s as culpable as me.
Sure, he wasn’t bouncing up and down like some hyped up little crack-head, but we can all be damned sure that he’d exacerbated this whole mess. Inciting it all like some little toe-sock wearing Che Guevara.
We’re in this together cabrón.
I walk over to the fallen frame and prod it with my toe.
I’m not sure what outcome I’m expecting.
We know not to touch it. We’ve broken enough glass shit in our time to know that mum’s the only one who’s allowed to get near it.
Without a word, we both shuffle back to the couch and prop ourselves onto it using both hands.
His smugness, gone.
My rage, gone.
Both replaced with a matching interior monologue along the lines of, “ohhhshitohshitohshit”.
After what seems like hours of sitting in blank-stared silence, the familiar sound of the garage door opening grinds its way into our eardrums.
Our day of reckoning has come.
The angry hand of God is steering his Jeep Cherokee into our closed off little world.
The engine goes silent. The car doors open.
And BAM! The closing of the doors set us sprinting like a starter pistol.
As if my dad will only believe the first story he hears walking in the door.
We’re stupid, but shit, it’s worth a shot.
The front door opens and I see the smiling faces of both my parents, mid-conversation as they take their first carefree steps into this warzone. Little do they know the mayhem that awaits them.
We meet their warm, heart-felt smiles with a torrent of furious, emotionally fuelled defense of a crime they don’t know we’ve committed yet.
Get your words in first.
Get ‘em in first and, if that fails, get ‘em in louder.