I felt like sharing.
Saturday, December 10, 2011
This was a short story I wrote a while back. While it contains some autobiographical content, it's highly fictionalized.
I felt like sharing.
I felt like sharing.
I could hear his slow, plodding footsteps clunking down the stairs over the crunching of my Rice Krispies. I hunkered down, trying to make myself invisible as he entered the kitchen. Maybe he would just ignore me.
As he passed me, he whacked me on the back of the head. “Hey, Booglet. Where’s Mom?” he asked, as he opened the pantry and took out the Cocoa Puffs.
“She’s in the shower. You know we’re not supposed to have the sugary cereals during the week.”
He poured himself a heaping bowl, little balls spilling over the edge after he added the milk. After a defiant bite, he glared at me. “Well, you’re not going to tell her, will you, Booglet?”
Booglet. That was his nickname for me because he said I was too small to be a booger. The first time he called me that was after he made me eat a piece of snot that he had picked out of his nose. “It’s bigger than you!” he laughed as he sat on my chest, holding it by my lips.
“I won’t tell her.”
“You better not. ‘Cause if you do, I’m just gonna tell her it was really you, and we know who she’ll believe.” He ate another large spoonful and stuck his tongue out at me, laden with half eaten Puffs. “Besides,” he said, “if you told on me, you know what I’d do to you, right?”
I knew. With five years between us and him being more than twice my size, he was capable of inflicting all sorts of pain on me. I knew this from first-hand experience; as the youngest kids in the family we spent a lot of time ‘playing’ together. What that really meant was that he gave me rug burns, Indian burns, noogies, wedgies, and other delights.
Recently my parents had signed him up for Karate lessons following his guidance counselor’s suggestion. Idiots! Didn’t they realize that they were just taking his natural brute strength and honing it into a carefully trained killing machine? Our free time was now devoted to him practicing holds, throws, and other techniques on yours truly. My parents, so happy to see my ‘involvement and support’ in his new project, bought me sparring pads and a foam helmet so that I could really help him. I have never seen such an evil gleam in my brother’s eye like when he realized he could now use full contact.
“I won’t tell her.”
“I know you won’t.”
I’m not even sure how we are related. I mean, I know that we have the same parents and everything, but I can’t understand how two radically different people could come from the same genetic material. He was athletic and excelled in sports, while I was uncoordinated and clumsy. He read the sports page; I read anything and everything I could get my hand on. He was large, broad, and solid as a rock and I was a scrawny thing that could blow away with the wind. He was loud and funny (at least, to others. Most of his jokes came at my expense, so I found it hard to laugh); I was quiet and serious.
For as long as I can remember, this is how our relationship ‘worked’: he dominated anything we did together, assuming charge and delegating all the work to me. If I didn’t follow his instructions precisely, he would berate me, giving me a severe tongue lashing. He would add venom if there were others around. Occasionally I would resist, but only for a moment. After all, what could I do? He was older and stronger, and willing to use those advantages. Besides, I could only bear to have my arm twisted for a few seconds; the pain was so intense I used to think that I would pass out.
Complain about him? Yeah, right. For some unfathomable reason, he had our father’s ear; the powerful lawyer saw his elder son’s aggressiveness as a positive trait, and would dismiss my reports as coming from a weakling who was ‘too sensitive’. My mother would tell me to stop exaggerating. “Honey, he’s your brother! He would never do something like that to you! I think you’re watching too much TV…all that violence, with those super heroes and guns.” Besides, one time he overheard me telling them about him; boy, did I get it afterward. He gave me a ‘dead arm’ that ached for days.
My only solace was in reading, especially science fiction and comic books. I used to dream about being like them: glistening, muscle-bound protectors of the weak, fearless in the face of death and pure evil, standing up for justice and facing their demons head-on. I envied their bravery and resilience and escaped into their alien worlds and dimensions.
My daydreams were filled with scenarios where I stood my ground in a confrontation and won! Many times, my adversaries would be spineless cowards who – after seeing the faintest hint of a challenge – would turn tail and run. The mere fact that someone was brave enough to stand up to them and not back down would reduce them to whimpering fools, defeated.
But I had nothing, really. I couldn’t fight, I wasn’t brave, and I didn’t have enough backbone to do anything remotely similar to the heroes in the pages of my novels…
He barged in without knocking, like usual. “Booglet! Let’s go to the basement and practice Karate.”
I was in middle of arranging an army of action figures on my desk, preparing for a battle royale. There would be a lot of bloodshed, and valor; it would be an epic that was discussed for centuries afterward. ‘Karate practice’ was not on the agenda for now, and I told him as much. My brother flopped down on my bed and grabbed my pillow. “Come on,” he protested, “don’t be such a loser. Don’t be such a wimp.” With a snort, he threw the pillow at the desk and sent my entire battlefield flying, knocking pencils and papers everywhere, and my precious toys to the ground.
Ears burning, I got down on my hands and knees and started cleaning up the mess he just caused. His shadow loomed over me as he got up and bent over to taunt me while I picked up my things. He snatched a few action figures from my grasp and held it out of my reach, laughing as I tried to jump and grab them from him. “What are you gonna do? Just take them from me – take them!” He would lower the toys, and then yank them away as I reached for them.
I don’t know exactly what happened then, but I lost it.
“I’m sick of you!” I bellowed at him. “You’re nothing but a bully! You make fun of me to feel better that you’re fat and stupid, but you’re just a bully! You’re just trying to look cool in front of the few friends you have, but we all know that you’re only ever going to be a bully, and I’m sick of it!” I pointed a finger at him. “This is the last time you bother me, ever, got it? I’ve had it with the way you treat me, and I’m not gonna take it anymore!”
My brother blinked, stunned by my outburst.
Could this be? Had I gotten through to him? I could just see it now: he would break down into sobs, confronted by the evil of his deeds, and beg my forgiveness. We would live happily ever after as loving brothers, him being my protector and guardian. Together, we could take over the world! I waited for his apology, my chin raised in defiance.
His nostrils flared and his eyebrows knitted together into a contorted mask of rage. I didn’t even see the shove coming; the next thing I knew, I was crashing into the wall so hard it rattled my teeth. Grabbing a fistful of my shirt in each hand, he lifted me up until I was level with his gaze.
Breathing hard, he stared into my eyes. “Never. Ever. Call me a bully again. I will kill you. Do you understand me? Dead.”
I nodded my head in agreement. He nodded back, and then hoisted me up until the back of my shirt caught the hook on the door. He muttered something about practicing by himself and left me hanging on the door to my room.
The next day, I burned all of my comic books.