An Unkindness of Brothers by Lyon Brave
CHAPTER THREE: HELL AND BACK
The next morning wasn’t any easier on Henry. The twins came in his room singing Happy Birthday, very loudly, though it was no one’s birthday. The twins were always doing something that only made sense to the twins. They proceeded to Henry’s king size bed, wearing matching Batman pajama pants and crawled onto Henry’s stomach, which made him feel like he was going to chuck it again.
Immediately Henry sat up with a wild look in his eyes like he did not know where he was. He didn’t acknowledge the twins crawling all over him at first, until he realized he felt horrible and had little recollection of the other night. All he could remember was the vagueness that his mother died and this left him feeling sicker than any hangover Henry would have in his whole life.
He stood up, and rushed to the bathroom. Logan the more sociable of the twins, was still on Henry’s back and had his little pale arms wrapped around his big brother’s neck as they went flying down the hallway. Lucas had a tendency to follow Logan’s lead, so he chased his brothers down the hallway. It looked like madness in the early morning.
The pitter patter of feet raised concern with Linda who was downstairs washing dishes. She looked up at the ceiling like she could see through it, let out a heavy sigh, and slowly made her way up the stairs, where she followed the sounds of giggles and hurling and found the three boys cluttered around the toilet.
Henry’s head was practically in the bowl, his face covered in puke and tears. Logan was patting his back as if to say though I’m young, but I’m here for you big brother, and Lucas seemed to be nothing more than an observer narrating the event, saying things like, “the puke just came out of his mouth. It was really gross.”
“What’s going on in here,” Linda questioned.”
“Henry is sick,” Lucas said in a very definite voice.
“Is that so,” Linda said very snidely folding her arms and leaning against the frame of the door. “You are all fools for going out drinking. My father used to say boys will be boys, but I think a more accurate saying is boys will be idiots.” Henry didn’t respond to Linda. He was too busy chucking up his guts.
Shortly after Frank came into break up the clutter, carrying two purple Gatorades in his hand. “Linda stop crowding the boy, and get these little scoundrels out of here. They don’t need to see this,” Frank said, while kneeling down beside Henry. “Drink these and take some aspirin, go back to bed. You’ll feel much better tomorrow.”
“Where’s Jack,” Linda asked.
“I don’t know. Probably puking his guts out somewhere too,” Frank responded somewhat annoyed by the judgmental ways of his second wife.
Linda sighed and escorted the twins downstairs where she instructed them to go out and play. They lived in a big farm house in Virginia, four bedrooms, two baths, lots of yellow wall paper and dusty wood floors. They had plenty of land for the boys to play on. Frank and Linda moved in with them when Sarah first got sick to help with the twins, while Jack and Henry tried to keep the farm running. When they visited Sarah at the hospital, they had to make the same hour commute she used to make to get to work every day.
Jack was proud of his wife for becoming a nurse. They needed the extra money and it made Sarah feel good about herself. She was always insisting a woman had to do more with her life than raise children, but it seemed to Jack, Sarah found a way to raise other people’s children and care for them. She spent her days with the children most people were too afraid to go near because it hurt to look at them. She would always come home and complain to her kind husband about the parents not visiting their kids enough.
Sometimes Jack would make love to his wife and it felt like she wasn’t there. Her mind was always on a recent death or how she could make things better at the hospital for them. The same qualities he admired about his wife, he resented. Jack kept his feelings to himself, but how he wished she was content with being a stay at home mother, looking after her own boys. She would come home from the hospital, tired, grumpy, never asking about his day, but always concerned enough to ask if the twins ate dinner. It wasn’t that Sarah was a neglectful wife or mother, it’s that Jack wish he could have spent more time with her.
Some people get married and say they have grown to love their children more than their spouses, but this wasn’t the case with Jack. Jack provided for his boys, did the things a father should do, and cared very deeply for his three boys, but they didn’t fill him with the passion and fire Sarah did.
Jack didn’t understand how the men he played poker with could say they loved their sons more than their wives. He loved his boys, but it wasn’t the same type of love that created his children. They were just a byproduct of love. He saw Sarah as his teammate, his compass, his shelter, his heart. Without her, Jack had no clue how he was going to raise them. He couldn’t give them piano lessons, cook their favorite meals, or stich their jeans back together. Sarah made Jack more human and come alive and he was feeling lost without his compass guiding him, so though Jack was still hangover from the night before, he was sitting in the barn drinking a bottle of Jack Daniels.
Jack was drinking, Henry was sleeping, Linda and Frank where in the upstairs bedroom bickering, and the twin boys were outside playing as instructed. “How we going to get all the way up there?” Logan asked his identical twin brother Lucas. They both sat on the moist grass staring up with blue eyes and blond wispy hair.
“I think if we going to visit her we need wings.” On that summer day the sky swirled and filled with white magic, clouds that could shift into the face of someone else or into something else like a castle. “Or maybe we can get a ride on that dragon.” Lucas pointed to a peculiar cloud that indeed looked like a dragon.
“Oh, I know,” Logan said, standing to his feet with excitement. “Why don’t we just get superpowers? Then we can visit Mommy any time we want to.”
“How we going to do that?”
“Like Daredevil. We just need chemicals,” said Logan very sure of himself.
See in the comics most superheroes get their powers in some kind of freak accident. The boys didn’t have patience for this to happen to them by fate so they intervened with chance.
The boys headed to the kitchen to gather supplies. Once there, they were overwhelmed with a sea of half yellow walls with lose strands of duct tape creating horizontal stripes. The kitchen floor was covered with splashes of fresh paint. The boy’s father Jack was painting it for Linda, but Jack was nowhere to be found.
Never forgetting their mission, the boys started digging in the cupboard under the sink, gathering as much cleaning supplies as they could. Heading back outside, carrying Comet, Bleach, a bucket of paint and anything else they could find, they scurried over to their designated play area and poured all the chemicals in one of those baby pools that were plastic, tiny, and cheap.
The summer sun burned like a fire scorching them. The concoction of chemicals smelt like ammonia, and seven year old kids like them didn’t know they shouldn’t jump in liquid that smelt like ammonia.
“Go ahead Luke,” Logan said while nudging his brother.
“You go first. It was your idea,” Lucas said pushing him back.
Logan sat down on the damp, fluffy grass, pulling his shoes off one after another, then his socks. This process continued until he stood in just is Superman underwear in the summer glow. He wedged his big toe in the pool. Anticipation filled him. He looked at Lucas, unfurnished his throat, ready to embrace his destiny, to be changed.
“You god-damn-boys, what the hell do you think you’re doing?” The twins’ father Jack came out blaring and drunk. Jack was a handsome man, with a square jaw and eyes glowing like the sea. He tipped the pool over, sprayed the grass with water, yanked them by their blond hair, and spanked each of them in that exact order.
The boys were sore at their dad for hitting their bottoms, but one day they would thank him for saving them from chemical burns and blindness.
“Damn it. Don’t just stare at me like that. Go help Linda in the house or something.”
“But Daddy, we don’t like Grandma Linda,” said Logan while rubbing his backside.
“Yeah, Grandma Linda not nice,” Lucas agreed while tugging his shirt over his head.
“Well, I got chores to do. I can’t have you messing around, so go play in the house. Just don’t break nothing,” Jack said, slurring his words and a little ashamed for his drunkenness and anger.
The boys scurried away from their father like he was a flood and they were mice who would never escape the rushing water. They were hit with the smell of fresh cut grass, mixing with sweet flowers, and cow manure to create an odd but alluring scent as they scuffed closer to the front door.
Lucas was the delicate one of the boys, more introverted, seeking alone time in corners to draw and read in. Lucas felt his mother’s absence more deeply than any member of the family and for this reason it seemed he was always holding back tears. A heavy mist was always gathering behind those bright blue orbs of his and any spontaneous memory of his mother could unleash them. She was absent before her death, she was absent because she was working, then more so when she was sick. It seemed Sarah lived at the hospital.
The last time the boys were at church was a weeks after their mother was diagnosed with cancer. Lucas cried at the beautiful sounds of the piano. Amazing Grace was his mother’s favorite song and she would often sing it to the boys as a lullaby as she put them to sleep, how sweet the sound of her voice in their ears, melodic and soothing, counting back the seconds, until they would drift asleep into pleasant dreams. She played piano herself, with long ivory fingers that were always painted the color of the sky, but she hadn’t played for them since she gotten sick.
At first his tears were gentle and unnoticed, but then sobs and slobber came and the women of the church rushed to comfort him with expressions like, “baby what’s wrong, do you miss your mother.” Lucas felt confused by the women surrounding him, patting his back and knees, hugging him, kissing him, saying, “Your Mamma needs a miracle.” The momentum of grief he was feeling, only escalated, and he found himself pushing through the women and rushing to the life size crucifix of Jesus Christ, dropping on his knees, he began to pray, to holler. He even started threatening god saying, “Bring my mommy back from the hospital or I will never come here again.” Because of the scene Lucas made at church, it should have been no surprise Lucas made a scene at the funeral. His threat was a promise because the family never stepped foot in that church again after the funeral.
Jack went back to the barn and phoned his college buddy, saying, “Look Jim, I know we haven’t been close over the years, but I need someone to talk to. I can’t do this without Sarah. The boys are going nuts. I’m not doing too well with them. Sarah was always good with them. I don’t even know how to feed them anything but cereal. The house is a mess. I feel terrible because I just beat my boy’s bottom. I just was furious. I just I hit them Jim. I’ve been drinking. I’m not doing well. I’m just afraid of being like my father. I could turn into a monster doing this alone.”
Jim took time to consider Jacks words before responding. “Frank, you are nothing like your father. Your wife just died. If my wife was dead, I would be drinking too. You aren’t drinking because you’re an alcoholic; you’re drinking because you’re hurting. It’s going to take time to stop hurting.”
“How are my boys?” Grandpa Frank asked the twins when they entered the living room filled with porcelain dolls sitting on shelves, tables, chairs. The old farm house looked like a thrift store on the inside, thanks to Frank’s second wife Linda who bought dollar items every chance she got. Seeing his Iron-Man coloring book on the black table, Lucas flipped through it. Finding all the pages colored, he shot his brother a look and threw it aside.
Their grandfather’s silver hair and thin frame gave him an almost regal appearance. He seemed to be born of wisdom, moving and talking as gentle as he could, as if he walked on water no matter what the circumstances. “Where you boys been at?”
“We want to go see Mommy, but Dad stopped us from getting superpowers. We need wings or maybe teleportion so we can get to visit her in the sky,” Logan said, butchering the world teleportation along the way.
“Boys, your momma six feet under. Just get a shovel and dig up the ground. If you can get to China that way I am sure you can get to h…”
“God damn it Linda,” Frank screamed at his second wife Linda, a woman with a plain face and lips painted the color of peaches. She was a little chubby, and had a squishy stomach. Logan imagined her stomach rotting like soft bread soaked in milk. He shivered at the thought.
“Frank I was only joking,” Linda said folding her arms. They were all standing in the living room, which was furnished with velvet furniture given to Jack by his mother. It wasn’t his cup of tea, but it was free and comfortable.
“You don’t make those kind of jokes. That’s my daughter you’re talking about and you saying my baby girl is damned.”
“Boys, why don’t you go play outside.”
“But Grandma Linda,” Logan protested.
“Logan Fredrick, don’t hassle me.” Sometimes when Logan talked to Linda, the hummingbird in his voice started pecking at her ear, so she shoved him off before it started.
Logan left the room defeated and Lucas followed. They went out to the backyard.
“Wait here until I get back. I have an idea,” said Logan. He returned pulling a red wagon behind him. In it were two shovels. The brothers picked up the shovels and started digging the earth up in excitement. As they dug deeper in the ground, their hands and faces became caked in dirt. Their petite arm muscles strained and small beads of sweat scattered across their faces.
“Well, where is it,” Logan exclaimed as he threw his worn-out arms in the air and let out an exasperated wail.
“It’s got to be close. Let’s keep digging,” Lucas said as he continued to dig deeper. A few seconds later, Logan rejoined him and the two resumed their search.
They tunneled further into the ground. The pile of dirt outside of the hole grew bigger, and the dirt began to change color and texture. The soil went from dark brown to a reddish orange, and it became warmer and tougher to burrow through.
“Look Logan, the dirt is on fire. We must be getting’ close.” That meant the boys could shake the Devil’s hand they heard so much about in church, and try to bring their mother back. With enthusiasm, they kept on tearing up the earth.
“It burns. It’s too hot. Let’s go back,” Logan said. Their imagination started taking over, and they stood on the grounds of hell. Skies passed over in colors of the most catastrophic fire. Walls of the world crumbled around them. Air turned stale and their lungs rejected it, leaving them gasping.
“I can’t breathe,” said Logan. He tried to cry at the destruction, but his eyes were parched; he could not make them blink. They were unwilling to miss a second of annihilation, a world once beautiful melting.
The boys’ world transformed from a country setting to a parched desert in a matter of moments due to their overactive imaginations. Wind gusted so wild and untamed it seemed to take the form of razor sharp leaves that cut their flesh into tiny cuts. “Ouch, it hurts here,” shouted Lucas, the younger of the boys by two minutes.
Logan screamed something back to Lucas, but his voice was no louder than a butterfly wing fluttering in a thunder storm, loud all around them, but familiar. Then darkness came in a figures shadow. It crept up on them boldly. Both of the boys were paralyzed by fear, but when they felt warm hands reach for the back of their shirt collars they took off in a maddening run, surpassing odd creatures as they made their way through the barren land.
“You damn boys,” a voice boomed, snapping them back to reality.
“What are you damn boys doing now?” Jack shouted, his voice pulling them out of hell. “You boys can’t stay out of trouble for five seconds can yeah’. Well I asked you two a question. What the heck are you doing digging up the yard for and running like nuts from me?”
They responded innocent enough, “Digging to hell.”
Complete Chapter from An Unkindness of Brothers by Lyon Amor Brave
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