I almost forgot

I took Monday off cause a holiday and all.  Then I woke up this morning and realized that I hadn’t posted anything here, and even that it was Wednesday.  I guess my mind is slipping, though if you ask a few people they will say that happened years ago.

I am now taking the motivation to put something up 6 hours late, just cause I like all 4 of my fans…….. I might be able to dig something fun up for you to read……. One moment.

Just some random set up for something I thought.thinking about doing:

The bar was open from noon until, whenever.  It was still the same one that occupied the main corner in town so many years ago.  He sat and slowly sipped his drink.  Normally he would have had two or three by now, but he was contemplating things.  He had left the small town so many years ago, too many to remember.  He swore he would never return.  But things happen to bring you back home when you least expect it.  This time it was a death in the family.  Nothing our of the ordinary for a person who had some.

From time to time it would require you to appear to pay respects, in this case it was his father.  He never really cared for him, but he didn’t mind the rest of the clan.  That was the real reason.  His mother was still around and he felt that he owed it to here to at least appear for the services.  The viewing had ended shortly before he arrived at the house of booze.  It brought up a lot of memories.

He had visited his father when his health had first started to fail almost three years ago.  He said that when he died he would piss on his grave.  Then the bastard went and decided to get cremated.  He was going into the oven tomorrow, or what was left of him.  He giggled as he thought of the odds of him sneaking into the funeral home and pissing in the shitty coffin and not getting caught.

He was actually contemplating the idea when he glanced across the bar and saw the other man.  He looked familiar, but he wasn’t sure.  After a few moments he just downed the rest of his drink and ordered another.  When it arrived he grabbed it and went over the person he thought he knew.  He was trying to figure out what to say as he got closer, but he didn’t have too.

“Is that you Mike?” the face said to him.

“That’s my name.”

There was a moment of silence before the other man spoke again, “It’s me. Dave.  How can you forget me man.”

Then it all came back to Mike.  He used to roll with Dave when he was growing.  He looked for a few more moments and it all clicked.  It was Dave, but a lot worse for the wear.  When Mike got done realizing how long it had actually been since he saw him it all made sense.  “Of course I do.  I’ve just had a few already and it might take a minute or two for things to click.”  He ordered another beverage and then asked Dave what he was having.

It had been a shitty day, and he was feeling low.  So a chance to relive some old times, some good times, seemed like the thing to do.  He sat down with his new drink and prepared to partake in tales of the glory days.  Not the kind that revels in sports accomplishments and honors, but the times that you almost got caught, and even some of the ones that you did.

-end-

The idea was to take the craziest stories from my yoot and others that I knew and make it a kind of flashback thing with two old friends meeting in a bar and recounting their tales.  A kind of fiction/nonfiction fusion.  But of course I would try to make it cohesive, but that is a long way off, first I have to get enough funny stories to work with.  That is always the problem with using real life as inspiration or even writing about it, you have to think about it.  Even if just for the idea.

It’s not like you can just toss it down and change as needed like fiction, nope, need actual preparation, even in the starting stages.  We shall see though.

Group Discussion

backlit dawn foggy friendship
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Author Note:  This was a rewrite for “Power Outage”.  Roughly the first three pages are the same as the previous, but it takes a totally different turn.  So if you read the last one, then just skip ahead.

Group Discussion

The candle flickered in the wind as the slight breeze whisked through the window. The night had a severe chill to it and it was uncomfortable for Renard as he sat sipping his hot chocolate. It wasn’t his first drink of choice for the weather, but it had gotten cold quickly and it was the only things that he had in the house at the time, so he just made it. He was actually enjoying it a little too. He wasn’t sure how long it had sat at the top of the cupboard, but it had the little marshmallows in it, that made him smile when he first saw it. Now he was just sitting there.

Normally it wouldn’t have been a problem for him, but the power had gone out as well, thus the candle. Now he was just waiting for them to fix it and to get the furnace started. He was using an electric one. The gas lines didn’t run to where he lived. He had to open the window because the only candle he could find to provide light as the sun set let off some smoke, he wasn’t sure why, but it did. His old camping stove provided a place to make his beverage and to make some dinner, which was just a can of soup he found in the same place as the hot chocolate.

There was food in the fridge and freezer, but nothing that he wanted to try and cook on the little stove. Plus, he didn’t want to open the fridge and risk is thawing out. He had no idea about when the power would be back on, so he decided to play it safe. The one thing he had to be able to do though was to read, and the smoky candle provided him with the light he needed to do so. He thought that he had hit pay dirt when he dug out the old stove, but the flashlight that was with it was dead and he had no extra “D” batteries handy to replace the old ones with. SO here he was wrapped in a blanket by a slightly open window with a smoky candle sipping hot chocolate and reading a book.

It was still an hour or two before he went to bed and he kept checking the website of the power company on his cell phone to see the updates of the power line repair. There was a small storm earlier, but nothing that would have knocked out the power. When he finally got to the site he read that it was an accident caused by the storm. A car had hit the post. That was all it said. He wanted to check the news for more information, but he didn’t want to waste his battery. Right now though he was only concerned with reading the book that he had started a few days ago and getting through the night.

As Renard turned the page to start the next chapter, there was a knock at the door. It took a moment for him to realize that it was his door. He was that absorbed in the story he was reading. Another rap at the entry made it clear it was his. He carefully put the bookmark in the page he was on and set the paperback down. Then he got up and tossed the blanket on the chair he was in. He slowly made his way to the front entrance. It was dark everywhere else in the house and he didn’t want to stub a toe of anything.

The knocking kept coming at regular intervals as he worked towards it. He finally got there and peeked into the small lens that allowed him to see who was on the other side. It was dark outside too and the streetlights were not on, so at best he could only make out a shadow. It was probably just a neighbor who needed something. Renard wasn’t that familiar with many of his neighbors, but he thought himself friendly enough when he did engage with them. He opened the door to expect to see Mrs. Landon from next door, who might have lost one of her small poodles. They were yippy whenever he walked by, but they were small and cute.

It could have been Mr. Kowalchek from across the street, a retired Navy man who always made sure to raise and lower his American flag at sunrise and sunset every day. He was a stickler for that and for as long as Renard had lived here he believed the old man never missed a day doing it. He went on vacation once for a week and had asked Renard to do it. Getting a reputation of being unreliable was a bad thing in the area, besides Mrs. Kowalchek made the best cupcakes. Ever since he had helped with the flag for their vacation she had made him a batch every major holiday. That was a privilege he didn’t want to lose.

He fumbled with the deadbolt, then the lock on the door. He slowly opened it. When he was finally able to see the person on the other side it was an unfamiliar face. “Excuse me,” the still unknown face said, “the power is out and I wanted to talk to you anyway.”

Renard’s vision adjusted to the dim light and he realized it was Amy. He had just recently asked her out. They had gone on two dates so far and he really liked her. She only lived a few blocks away and worked at the corner coffee shop, which is where they met. “Oh, hi. I wasn’t expecting to see you tonight.”

“And I wasn’t expecting to come over. But after a while of sitting in my apartment I started thinking of you and decided just to risk it and come over.”

“Not an unpleasant thing to do. Come in, I just made some hot chocolate, would you like some?”

“Would I?” Amy said as she stepped into the house. Renard closed the door behind her. Then he took her hand and guided her to the living room by the candle. She sat on the couch that was across from where Renard had been sitting. He quickly found another mug and made her some cocoa.

“So what exactly were you thinking about me?” Renard smiled as he handed her the mug.

“How much fun we’ve had on our first two dates and what a great guy you are.”

“I’m pretty normal, nothing special.”

“You can say that, I can think differently. I guess we can agree to disagree, but since you have been such a good guy I thought I should be honest with you before we go any further.”

Any warm feelings Renard was having quickly erased. For Amy to go out in a power outage and end up at his dark home and then say what she just did meant it was most likely something bad. His mind started to race at what it could be. He sat down and took a sip from his mug. “It must be something major for you to walk over here tonight.”

“I think it is, but it’s up to you in the end. I might as well just say it and get it out there. I kind of already had a boyfriend when we started going out.”

It took Renard a few moments for what Amy had said to hit him fully. “You’ve been cheating on me with someone else?”

Amy looked at him with her big blue eyes, Renard’s stomach fluttered. She finally spoke, “Technically it’s hm I am cheating on with you.”

“You want to argue semantics? I think you are making my mind up for me.” Before he could continue there was another knock at the door. It took him by surprise, not Amy though.

“I may have told him to meet me here.”

Renard looked at her with a form of shock on his face. Her is this woman that he really liked not only saying he was her side piece, but that she had invited her other boyfriend over to HIS house. It was all happening kind fast and it still hadn’t all hit him yet. Amy moved away towards the front door. He heard muffled conversation. Then Amy emerged into the front walkway. “Can we sit in the dining room and talk?

Renard was still stunned, but understood what she wanted to do. Some kind of choosing game. It was kind of stupid in his opinion, using his house was stupider. If she wanted to play games it should have been at her apartment of some neutral site so that he could just leave. But instead it was here at his home. Renard figured that Amy knew hm enough to know how he would react and this made it easier to keep him from running off. He made his way to the dining room, the other two were already sitting.

Amy was on the far side, away from the door. The other guy was sitting on the side that faced the window. Renard sat at the end with his back to the entrance. Him and the other man sat there looking at Amy. Renard had seen him around a few times, mostly at the coffee shop. He was slightly taller and you could tell he liked the gym, even when he wore heavier clothes. It kind of made Renard insecure. He wasn’t a gym rat himself or really out of shape, but compared to the new guy it really didn’t matter.

The awkward silence was so thick that one could have crashed a truck into the room and totalled it. No one was saying anything. The two men kept looking at each other in confusion. The only person that seemed settled was Amy. She finally broke the silence, “ I suppose you both want to know why I wanted you here.”

“You think?” the other an said.

“Where are my manners?” Amy said, “Renard, this is Mike, Mike this is Renard.”

“Renard? What is he French?”

“No,” Renard replied, “My mother liked French literature though, I forget which one she named me after, but who cares. I want to know what the hell is going on here?”

“That makes two of us,” Mie said, now staring at Amy, “First you tell me we need to talk about us, then you say to meet you here and then at the door you say you are seeing someone else behind my back.”

“Those are the basics,” Amy said with a straight face, “It comes down to this Mike, you are a lot of fun. But that is all it is, fun. I don’t get anything from you besides that. When I need emotional support, or a shoulder to cry on you disappear or don’t’ seem to care. Renard does that for me.”

“You know I’m not that kind of guy babes. You knew that from the start. I’m sorry you think that’s worth dumping me over, but it’s not like I lied to you.”

“I never said you did, or that I’m dumping you.”

“Then why ask me over here? To be honest, a call or text saying you were leaving me would have been simpler.”

Renard felt a small twinge of pride. He always had a hard time approaching women, his friends said he was to soft. But here was someone actually picking him over the typical buff bad boy. It was kind of refreshing. A smile started to appear on his face.

“Don’t get too cocky,” Amy told him. She must have seen the smile and read it right. “I’m not saying you are my everything Renard. I get a lot from you, but Mike does provide me with excitement and experiences as well. I know you like to stay in or go to museums, as do I on occasion, but I grew up riding bikes and snowmobiles. You are what I used to call a candy ass, so in the end you don’t give me everything either.”

“Enough of the analysis,” Mike chimed in.

“I think he’s right Amy, just get to the point. Which one of us are you going to chose?” Renard added, Mike nodded in agreement.

“That’s the thing you two. I don’t want to chose one of you. I did say earlier that it was up to you.”

“Why should we? You cheated on both of us. Didn’t you think we’d both just leave you?” Mike responded. Renard was liking this guy more and more. At first he viewed him as an adversary. The longer this was going on though the more the two seemed to agree on the entire situation.

“It’s a risk I am willing to take.”

“Well, then I chose to step away,” Renard said, “I don’t like to be lied to.” This time Mike nodded in agreement with him.

“That’s the thing. I could have carried on easily. Mike works third shift and we really don’t see each other that much. I wanted to be honest with both of you. I didn’t even plan on this happening. I went out with Renard because he was a nice guy, I didn’t realize how I felt until after our second date.”

“Let me guess you love him now and not me?” Mike asked.

“I love both of you.” Silence filled the room. Neither man spoke, they just sat there kind of wide eyed. Amy was quiet as well, she was blushing so much that even the limited light from the candle in the middle of the table was enough for all to see.

Finally Renard broke the silence, “What was your optimal outcome for tonight? I mean what did you want to happen?”

Amy sat for awhile looking like she was thinking. The awkwardness was returning. Then she just blurted out, “I wanted both of you to pick me too.” As soon as the words popped out tears started to form in her eyes. Renard immediately regretted being forceful.

Amy wiped her eyes and forced back the tears. Then she continued, “I’ve watched those Romantic Comedies growing up and they always end with the perfect couple. In real life though there is never a perfect match. How many other people have each of you dated? Weren’t there the ones you left where nothing was actually wrong, but not everything was right?”

Both men were silent but looked like they were thinking. Neither of them answered her questions, but instead had a look of understanding across their faces. The fact was the the answer to both was yes for all three of them. Life rarely handed someone a soulmate. There might actually be one for everyone out there, but the logistics of them coming together seemed to elude most people.

Finally Renard spoke, “You were hoping for some kind of consensual love triangle then?” Amy nodded, still on the verge of tears. “Why are you drying then?”

“Because I had this happy ending in my mind, and when I finally said it out loud in front of you I realized how stupid it sounded.”

“The idea of it isn’t totally stupid,” Mike said. The others looked at him. “I mean the wanting everything from a partner part. I’ve never found anyone that I can honestly say was everything I wanted, so I can relate.”

“But I have what I think I want right here at this table,” Amy added, “I know my idea isn’t normal or even really possible, but if I’m going to lose you both anyway why not try?”

“I guess I am still a little confused as to how this would work? Renard said.

“I guess like it has been,but now everyone knows about each other. Though you two wouldn’t have to have anything to do with the other.”

“And what about us? I mean going off of your logic you might not be everything for us either,” Mike stated.

Amy thought a second, “I never thought about that. I was sure both of you would have left or asked me to by now. I guess it would work the same. If you find someone that you like you can see them while with me, or leave. I mean I’m not expecting us all the get a house and dog together……. yet,” the smile on her face forced the other two to smile as well.

Renard commented next, “I haven’t left yet because you decided to spring this on us in my house. I haven’t asked you to leave yet because I can understand what you are saying. Your solution though I am still thinking about.”

“I get that. You both have heard me out at least. I can’t ask anything more of you.” As soon as she finished the lights flickered as the power came back on. Amy got up from her chair and walked over to the door, she flipped the light on then stood there. “I will ask both of you to think about it a while before letting me know.” With that, she walked to the front door and left, leaving the two men sitting there.

Neither knew how long it was before one of them spoke. It was Mike who broke the silence. “We managed to find a crazy one didn’t we?”

“Do you want a beer?” Renard asked. Mike nodded. He got up and disappeared into the kitchen. When he returned he had a six pack and handed Mike one. Renard then sat down and the two men talked for a long time. Neither one knew the time when they stopped.

Amy was asleep when she was woken up by her phone ringing. Her clock read past 4am. he answered it with a sleepy “Hello.”

Renard’s voice came through the small speaker and right into her ear, “Mike and I have been talking for a while and we have something to tell you.”

Prelude to a Family Vacation

beach blue car combi
Photo by Nubia Navarro (nubikini) on Pexels.com

Authors Note: This is the rewrite of “A Brother’s Grief”.  So in class I got feedback on the last version and then rewrote it again….. revisions are for chumps.  So this is the third iteration of The Attic.

Richard knocked on the door to the office.  He could have just walked in, but he didn’t know what his brother, Brian was up to, and took the courteous route.  He heard Brain’s voice, but was unsure of what he said. So he opened the door slowly and stepped in. Brian was sitting at his desk staring at his laptop.

“What’re you working on?” Richard asked.

“Nothing important.  It is that time?”

“I told you one o’clock.  I hoped you’re packed and ready to go.”

“I did that last night,” Brian said as he closed his laptop.

“Bags are in your room then?” Richard asked.

“Yeah.”

Brian had a somber look on his face.  Richard knew it had been one year since Brian had lost his son.  It had taken a while, but Brian had finally relented to go with Richard and his family on a vacation.  Richard thought it would do him good to get out of the house and spend time away to try and get some perspective.

“I’ll have Mitchel get the bags,” Richard said as he plopped his six foot frame into a chair near the door, facing the desk, “You bringing your laptop with you?”

“No.  I don’t want to even be near social media today.  Shit, I don’t even want my phone with me.” Brian looked down next to his computer at his iPhone sitting there.  With a quick motion he swiped it with his right hand into a drawer that his left hand opened, then closed it.

The door was ajar and then it almost hit Richard as it swung fully open.  A boy walked in. “Where’s your stuff Uncle Brian?” The boy, Mitchell, was just over five foot tall, almost thirteen, was wearing shorts and a T-Shirt.  His brown hair was just above his eyes, not too long, yet not so that you couldn’t pull it. It never occured to Richard how piercing Mitchell’s blue eyes were.  His nephew had blue eyes as well. He was only three months older than Mitchel, well when he was alive. It hadn’t occurred to Richard until now, with his Brother and Son being together for the first time since the funeral.

“In my room,” Brian replied, “Be careful though, I haven’t exactly cleaned it lately and I don’t want you to fall or get lost in there.”

Mitchell looked at him initially with confusion and then he giggled as he exited the room and headed down the hall towards Brian’s room.  “He won’t get lost, hell he spent over half his life here,” Richard said.

“I know.  It’s hard to see him.  He reminds me so much of Justin, especially the eyes.”

Richard nodded in agreement, “They were inseparable.”

Brian stood up, “Want to go downstairs and get some coffee?”

“Do I.”

The two of them left the dark room, Brian closed the door on the way out.  They walked down the stairs, passing a multitude of pictures hanging on the walls.  The pictures revealed what appeared to be happier times for Brian. There was one with him, a woman, and a young boy on a beach.  The background wasn’t important, the smiles on their faces were. They were the kind of smiles that told you they didn’t care where they were as long as it was with each other.

Richard had stopped to look at this particular one.  “That was only a couple of years ago? Wasn’t it?”

Brian nodded a yes.

“Mitchell really wanted to go with you, I mean we all did, but my work schedule wouldn’t let it.”

Brian was quiet for a moment before answering, “We still had a great time.  It would have been great if you were there. It was the first time we didn’t go on vacation together, and right before we found out……..”

Now it was Richard’s turn to be quiet.  Brian started back down the stairs then his brother spoke, “Fucking cancer.”  Brian just kept going. Richard started after him.

They ended up in the kitchen.  Richard sat at the breakfast bar while his brother went to his fancy coffee machine and started to work the knobs.  Brian knew what the other man liked, a coffee so dark and thick that the spoon could stand up in it, but with flavor.  What flavor he didn’t seem to care as long as he could chew it and call it a meal. So, he worked the dials and added various things to try and get as close to his brother’s preferences without clogging his coffee maker.

The front door slammed and footsteps got louder.  Mitchell had finished dragging Brian’s bags to the car.  he stood there next to his father.

“You know we’re here for you.  That’s why I invited you to go with us this week to the beach.  I rented a nice little cottage on the lake. The kid are going to love to see you.”

“It has been a while Uncle Brian,” Mitchell said.

Brian took a moment and looked at his nephew.  “I think there are still some drinks in the fridge, help yourself.”  Mitchell went and opened the door. He looked for a moment and pulled out a soda, then looked at his father who nodded.

“Dad doesn’t let us have that many at home.”

“Well we are starting our vacation early so go ahead and have one or ten,” Richard smiled at his son, who popped the can opened then found his way to the chair next to him.

“ I was thinking of going to visit their graves,” Brian said.

“You can.  Hell I’ll drive you there.  You can take all the time you want.  But after we meet the rest at the cottage.”

“I want to visit them too,” Mitchell said as he took a sip, “I haven’t been there since the funeral.”

“I think I have to do it alone,” Brian said.

“Why?  What are you trying to prove?  We all loved them. I get they were your family, they were ours too.  Don’t act like you’re the only one suffering here,” Richard said, adding a little volume to his voice.

“Is it that easy?  You still have a wife and kids.  Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if they both died together.  I had one leave me and just as I am coming to terms with it I lose the other.  I wish it was simple, but it’s a pattern. It’s hard to move on from something when you always think what’s next.  Are you going to die on me now?”

“He was more than family to me,” Mitchell said quietly.  His head looked down at the counter. “He was my best friend, my brother.  We did everything together.”

The two grown men stayed quiet and looked at the boy.  He was on the verge of tears now. “I didn’t mean anything by it Mitchell.  I’m sorry. It’s just that I’m still trying to deal with it all,” Brian almost whispered.

“This isn’t about you,” Richard said to Brian, “It affected all of us, don’t be so selfish about it.”

“Selfish?  My wife and child are dead, how is my mourning being selfish?”

“Because you do it alone.  Quit acting like it only affected you.  I know her parents have reached out to you and you ignored them, you don’t think they want to comfort and grieve with you?  But shit, you won’t even talk to me most of the time, we used to be so close.”

Brian finished meddling with his high end machine and put a cup of something hot in front of Richard.  He looked down into it and smiled. This seemed to cut the tension in the room. “It should be thick enough.  If it was anymore I’d have to give you a fork and knife to eat it.”

All three of them laughed.  “I don’t mean to ride you so much little brother, but I have to try and look out for you.  It’s just us now, and I know it’s hard, but let me at least try to take your mind off of it for a while.”

Brian sipped his cup of coffee while leaning against the counter then he pulled it away from his lips.  “Don’t think I don’t appreciate what you’re trying to do. And I wish it was that easy. I’ve tried to lessen the lingering thoughts.  Hell I even saw that shrink for a while, it didn’t seem to help much.”

“I’m not talking about mental professionals, just a week away trying to have some fun.  We going to have some drinks, play bad party games, maybe even swim and get some fishing in.  Just getting away from the house. I mean Christ, Mary passed in your bedroom and Justin in front of the house. “

Mitchell looked at both of them.  “That was my fault you know.”

“What are you talking about?” Brian said.

“Dad had just gotten me the new playstation and a bunch of games.  I was supposed to come over and we were gonna play them. I was so excited that I played them at home by myself.  I told Justin we could do it the next day. If I was here, then he wouldn’t have been outside and he wouldn’t have been hit by that car.”  Mitchell started to cry at the thought, soon the tears were streaming.

Brain moved from around the counter and hugged his nephew.  “It’s not your fault. You couldn’t have known it was going to happen.  Don’t ever think it was your fault.” He pulled him tight. The tears were now becoming snorts as Mitchell tried to stop crying, then the snot started to come out of his nose.

Richard grabbed a paper towel and handed it to Mitchell as Brian let go of him.  “You guys never did the same thing for too long,” Richard said. “For all we know you both might have been outside at that time.  That’s the funny thing about thinking about what could have been, you’ll never know.”

“I still think about it,” Mitchell said, wiping his face one last time before crumpling the paper towel and tossing it toward the trash can.  It his the rim and bounced out. Everyone looked at it for a moment.

“I guess you aren’t going to be playing in the NBA,” Brian said.  The others snickered a minute.

Richard finished his sludge and handed the cup to Brian, “I think we should get on the road.  We have to meet Amy at the cottage by six and if we are going to stop by the cemetery we should get going.”  The others nodded. Richard got up and headed out to the car.

Mitchell was right behind him.  They sat there for a few minutes waiting for Brian.  Richard was about to get out and go see what was taking his brother, as he reached for the door handle he saw him coming out and locking the door.  Brain made his way to the car and got in the passenger seat. His nephew was in the back. “Sorry, I had to grab something quick.”

“It’s alright, we aren’t in that much a hurry yet.”  Richard put the automatic into drive and they were off.

The first part of their trip was quiet.  No one spoke. The highway was almost empty as well.  The mood in the car was somber. It was just three people sitting alone looking out the window at the passing landscape or changing terrain that mostly consisted of fields and the occasional subdivision of homes.

Richard finally slowed the car and pulled off a a rural exit about twenty miles from Brian’s house.  Then took a left and pulled into the cemetery. He knew where the graves were and pulled as close as he could before stopping the car.  Once he did Brian got out without saying a word.

* * * * *

They sat in the car for almost an hour.  Brian had gotten out and went to the graves of his family.  He wanted to be alone, so Richard and Mitchell stayed in the car.  It was getting late though and they had to get going. “You stay here, I’m going to go see what’s taking him so long.”

“It’s hard for him Dad, maybe we should just wait.”

“I know.  But we need to be there for him too.”

Richard got out and made his way up from the small dirt road that went around the perimeter of the graveyard.  The tombstones were over a little hill that was right next to where they were parked, just putting Brian and his location out of sight.  Richard saw his brother sitting there just staring. He walked up and put his hand on Brian’s shoulder.

Richard was close enough now to see a something in his brother’s hand, it was the picture he has stopped to look at on the wall earlier.

“I’m tired of feeling lost and sad all of the time.  I want to feel better. No one wants to wallow in this kind of hell,” Brian said as an acknowledgement of his brother’s presence.

“Be strong, it isn’t easy to get over something like this.”

“I just can’t.”

“You’re strong, stronger than me.  You’ve made it this far. I don’t think I ever could.”

Brian’s hand stayed on the picture, he turned his head towards Richard.  “You were always the strong one.”

“Physically maybe, you were the runt after all.”

This comment elicited a kind of giggle snort from Brian who was in the middle of crying.  “You always did whoop my ass.”

“I was the oldest, I think it’s written somewhere that I have to from time to time.”  Another snort from Brian. “But you were always stronger emotionally.”

“ My Mary and Justin never had the chance to live.”  He started to cry again.

“You know how hard I took Mary’s death, and I knew that was coming.  Watching my brother going through that alone was hard, when you did it for Justin it was even harder.”

“A lot of us went through that alone.”  Mitchell’s voice made them both turn around.  He had tears forming in his eyes. “I’m sorry Uncle Brian.  I had to come over. I wanted to see it.”

“That’s okay,” Brian said as he motioned for the boy to come to him.  He did, and was rewarded with a long hug. Richard just stood there.

The three of them remained there, silent for a long time.  The quiet was finally broken.”I never told anyone this, but Aunt Mary made the best cookies.  I tell mom her’s are good, but not really.”

The two men just stood with straight faces.  Then Brian started to giggle, followed by Richard.  Soon all three were laughing wildly. “He is right, Amy can cook, but baking isn’t among her talents.”  Now they all started to laugh more, to the point of tears.

After a few minutes they calmed down.  Mitchell made his way to the tombstone that had Justin’s name on it.  He noticed a small spider wandering across it. He reached out and let it go onto his hand.  Then he moved over to the web that connected to the stone of his Aunt and he ushered it onto the web.  Moisture had accumulated on the web and the light of the setting Sun reflected through it to create a small rainbow like a prism.

“I have been drowning in self-pity,” Brian said.

“It’s understandable,” Richard replied, “You have lost a lot.”

“Others have lost more than me, and I never took the time to realize how much you have lost as well.  This whole time I could have helped you through it as much as you could have helped me.”

“Life can just be a son of a bitch.”

“Dad you said a bad word,” Mitchell notified his father as he turned from the graves.

“Sometimes they can be okay, Mitch.”

Richard’s son made his way back to him.  He sat on the ground beside his uncle who still held the picture.  “Aunt Mary was pretty.”

Brian smiled at him,  “Yes she was. In more ways than just looks.”  Brian looked at his nephew. “I think you should have this Mitchell.  You and Justin were always so close, practically brothers. You need something to remember him by.”  He handed the photo over.

Mitchell started to tear up again.

“There’s no need for that.”

“I’m not sad Uncle Brian, I just remembered that time after you guys got back from this trip when Justin and I put the slip and slide in the backyard and we slid into Aunt Mary’s flowers.  He wore the shorts that he is in the picture. She was pissed.”

Brian smiled, “That is all we can do now is recall the good times.”

“There were a lot of them,” Richard added, “Speaking of good times we should get going or we won’t have any because Amy will be chastising us the entire time we’re there.”  Brain nodded.

They all got up and looked at the tombstones one last time before turning and heading off to the car.  Soon they were heading down the road to their destination.

“What were you writing when I got to the house?” Richard asked.

Brian looked at him, “It’s a journal of sorts.  What I am thinking and what i would say to Justin and Mary.  It’s one thing I picked up from my shrink when I was going.”

“That actually sounds kind of therapeutic.”

“I find it is.”

Mitchell popped his head up from the back seat, “You do it too?”  Brain looked at him confused. “We used to message each other all the time.  I still do it and pretend.”

“I forgot he had all those accounts.  Would you mind if I logged in and read them sometime?”

“No.  But I want to know what you said to him too.”

“The next time you’re over you can read what I wrote him,” Brian said with a smile.

“Deal,” Mitchell said with a smile.

A Brother’s Grief

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Photo by Irina Anastasiu on Pexels.com

Author Note: This is a rewrite off a previous Short I did called “The Attic” for a class.  It wasn’t literary enough, so I redid it, and here is that version.

He was writing a letter.  A simple letter, in context that is.  Whatever it’s purpose he wanted to get it right.  He kept deleting each sentence after he wrote it three or four times.  It had to be just right. Even after all the deletions he knew he would go back and add and remove elements until he could find no fault with it.  It was a work in progress and had been for almost a week now. The lack of light in his office didn’t bother him. He preferred the low light of the computer screen.  It made him feel isolated and alone. Just the way he preferred to be when writing something this important.

The time had passed and he could care less how late it actually was.  No one else was in the house, or so he thought. A knock at his office door proved him wrong.  He looked up as the door cracked open. He saw his brother, Richard, standing there. “I’ve been trying to call you for almost two days Brian.  I got worried, the front door wasn’t even locked.”

“I’m sorry.  I’ve just been thinking a lot lately.”

“I know.  It’s been a year since the event…..” Richard said in a low voice as he looked down to the floor.

“It has.  I just wanted to be left alone and have time to think.”

“What are you writing there?”

Brian closed his laptop, “Nothing.  Just some thoughts. It helps me to cope with everything that has happened.”  He stood up from his deck and walked over to his brother. He put his hand on his back in a friendly manner.  “Let’s go downstairs and get some coffee.”

The two of them left the dark room, Brian closed the door on the way out.  They walked down the stairs, passing a multitude of pictures hanging on the walls.  The pictures revealed what appeared to be happier times for Brian. There was one with him and a woman on a beach.  The background wasn’t important, the smiles on their faces were. They were the kind of smiles that told you they didn’t care where they were as long as it was with each other.

Richard had stopped to look at this particular one.  “That was right after you two were married? Wasn’t it?”

Brian nodded a yes.

“It was on that trip that you said she probably got pregnant with Justin, if I remember right.”

Brian was quiet for a moment before answering, “That was the way that we figured it.  Almost nine months to the day when she gave birth.”

Now it was Richard’s turn to be quiet.  Brian started back down the stairs then his brother spoke, “Fucking cancer.”  Brian just kept going. Richard started after him.

They ended up in the kitchen.  Richard sat at the breakfast bar while his brother went to his fancy coffee machine and started to work the knobs.  Brian knew what the other man liked, a coffee so dark and think that the spoon could stand up in it, but with flavor.  What flavor he didn’t seem to care as long as he could chew it and call it a meal. So, he worked the dials and added various things to try and get as close to his brother’s preferences without clogging his coffee maker.

“You know we’re here for you.  You don’t have to spend days like today on your own.  I actually wanted to invite you to go with us this weekend to the beach.  I rented a nice little cottage on the lake. My kids would love to see you.”

“Thanks for the offer, but I was going to visit their graves,” Brian said.

“You can.  Hell I will drive you there so you can take all the time you want.  But after we meet the rest at the cottage. You don’t have to go through this alone.”

“I think I have to.”

“Why?  What are you trying to prove?  We all loved them. I get they were your family, they were mine too.  Don’t act like you are the only one suffering here,” Richard said, adding a little volume to his voice.

“Is it that easy?  You still have a wife and kids.  Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if they both died together.  I have one leave me and just as I am coming to terms with it I lose the other.  I wish it was simple, but it’s a pattern. It’s hard to move on from something when you always think what’s next.  Are you going to die on me now?”

“This isn’t about you.  You have always been a bit selfish, but this is taking it to a new level.”

“Selfish?  My wife and child are dead, how is my mourning being selfish?”

“Because you do it alone.  Quit acting like it only affects you.  I know her parents have reached out to you and you ignored them, you don’t think they want to comfort and grieve with you?  But shit, you won’t even talk to me and I thought we were close.”

Brian finished his meddling with his high end machine and put a cup of something hot in front of Richard.  He looked down into it and smiled. This seemed to cut the tension in the room. “It should be thick enough.  If it was anymore I’d have to give you a fork and knife to eat it.”

Both men laughed.  “I don’t mean to ride you so much little brother, but I have to try and look out for you.  It’s just us now, and I know it’s hard, but let me at least try to take your mind off of it for a while.”

Brian sipped his cup of coffee while leaning against the counter then he pulled it away from his lips.  “Don’t think I don’t appreciate what you’re trying to do. And I wish it was that easy. I’ve tried to lessen the lingering thoughts.  Hell I even saw that shrink for a while, it didn’t seem to help much.”

“I’m not talking about mental professionals, just a weekend away trying to have some fun.  We can have some drinks, play bad party games, maybe even swim and get some fishing in. Just get away from the house.  I mean Christ, Mary passed in your bedroom and Justin in the attic. It just seems to me that maybe you should even think about selling and moving.”

“I know it sounds weird and even morbid, but them having both died here also means they are kind of part of the place now.  I don’t know if I could make myself get rid of it. As bad as I might seem to you, I think I would be worse if I left the place that reminds me of them the most.  It’s kind of cathartic in a way.”

Richard was mid sip when Brian finished his sentence.  “I get that, more like I understand your point, but just don’t see it helping you in the long run.  You might have to sink lower before you can truly get over it.”

“I can’t lose what little I have of them left.”

“No one is asking you to.  They’ll always be in your heart.  You are only 34, you have so much more life to live.  Take the time you need to heal, but then you have to move on.  If not for you, then for me.”

“You still have your family.”

“You’re part of my family too.  We have the apartment in the basement, you’re more than welcome to stay for a while, or a few years.  I say just move in and see how you feel in a month or so. Just take a break from here and then we can go from there.”

Brain took another sip.  “Tell you what, if you want to take me to the cemetery then I’ll go with you this weekend and we can talk about the other stuff then.  Maybe if I get out for a while I can see things differently.”

Richard smiled, “That sounds like a plan.  How about you go pack some things and we can take off.”

Brian set his cup down and smiled at his brother.  He went to the stairs and started going up. Richard smiled at him and drank more of the sludge in the cup.  He looked around while he waited. That was when he noticed a stack of papers on the counter. Nothing too weird, just bills and what not, but towards the bottom was an odd looking thing.  He reached out for it. It might be a while before Brian was ready so he decided to read whatever it was.

It was actually a group of things stapled together.  A receipt, form, and approval for a gun permit. Richard set his cup down.  It was dated the week before. The background check was seven days, today was the ninth.  Brian never had an interest in firearms before. Richard started to think. Would his brother be that depressed?  He didn’t want to wait to find out.

He got up and ran up the stairs.  He went to the main bedroom first.  No one was there. Next to what used to be Justin’s, his nephews room, that was empty as well.  Finally he went to the office. The computer was open. He went to it and read what Brian had been working on when he arrived.  It was a suicide note. Now he started to get frantic.

All the rooms on the second floor were empty, except the linen room, which also had the access point to the attic.  Richard went into the small space and saw the pull down ladder had been extended. He flew up it like it was nothing.  When he got up into the attic he let out a small sigh. Brian was sitting there looking at the spot where they had found Justin a year ago.  The small boy had managed to get up into the space and fell. He hit his head and by the time they found him, he had lost too much blood.

The police said he must have been knocked out when he fell and he slowly faded away.  No one knew for sure. Brian thought he had wandered up to find his mother’s old things.  He had been asking about her the morning he died. He was only 4 when she passed and 6 when he did.  He was a smaller boy, but the rope that hung from the attic stairs was low enough that he could grab it, he would have had to use all with strength to get them down though.

It really didn’t matter the physics of it.  Brian blamed himself for not checking on his son.  He was busy in his office and just assumed the boy was in his room playing like he always did.  He had promised the child they would go up and look at his mom’s things later that day, but he must have grown impatient and went up on his own.

Now, a year later, Brian was sitting above the spot where his son was found.  The dried blood was still there. He didn’t have the urge to have it cleaned up.  It was something real. I t was a part of the boy he loved. The one thing that he still had from the wife he loved and lost.  Now he was gone too and the blood on the floor of the attic was all that remained. Purging that from the world seemed, at least to Brian, washing away the last physical remnants of something he held so dear.

Richard moved slowly towards his brother.  The attic was dark except for a lone lightbulb that hung almost in the center, near where Brian was.  It swayed just a little, only gaining momentum when the pull string was engaged. The arch it was in now told Richard that Brian must have come almost directly up here only stopping to open his computer for all to read once his task was complete.

“I thought I could do it,” Brian said with tears in his eyes, “Just come up here, pull the trigger and be done with it.”

Richard was close enough now to see a pistol in his brother’s lap as he sat on the floor, his gaze directed at the dried patterns of dark red that the wooden floor had feasted on.  “You didn’t though, and you don’t have to either.”

“There is nothing else to do.”

“There is always something else, you just can’t see it yet,” Richard replied.

“I’m tired of feeling lost and sad all of the time.  I want to feel better. No one wants to wallow in this kind of hell, but what else can I do to get free?”

“Be strong, it isn’t easy to get over something like this.”

“I just can’t cope,” Brian reached down and grabbed the handle of the gun.

“You are strong, stronger than me.  You’ve made it this far. I don’t think I ever could.”

Brian’s hand stayed on the grip, but he didn’t raise it, instead he turned his head towards Richard.  “You were always the strong one.”

“Physically maybe, you were the runt after all.”

This comment illicited a kind of giggle snort from Brian who was in the middle of crying.  “You always did whoop my ass.”

“I was the oldest, I think it’s written somewhere that I have to from time to time.”  Another snort from Brian. “But you were always stronger emotionally. Remember when mom passed, then dad?  You had to make all the arrangements because I was a wreck. You comforted me. That’s the strength I mean.”

“It was different.  We knew the day would come when they would.  Not that it was any less sad, but they had a full life, they had a chance to live.  My Mary and Justin never did.” He started to cry again, this time lifting the gun.

Richard had been moving closer the whole time they were talking.  Brian didn’t seem to notice. He was now so close he could see the pattern on the handle.  It was nothing fancy, a basic model of a 9mm. He sat down next to his brother. He seemed a little startled when the thud came with the larger man hitting the floor.  It also coincided with the placement of the gun under his chin.

“Now you have to think about this,” Richard started, “If you do this it will be right in front of me.  How do you think I’ll take it?”

Brain’s face went from crying to contemplation.  “Not very well.”

“That’s an understatement.  You know how hard I took Mary’s, and I knew that was coming.  Watching my brother decorate his ceiling with his brains is not something I think I’d be able to handle to well.”

Another giggle came from Brian.  Richard always had a way to make him smile.  He offbeat comments, especially at inappropriate times always made him smile.  It was a practice he had honed while growing up, usually as a tactic to try and keep his younger brother from ratting him out after beating on him.  It worked more than a few times. It was one of those bonds that siblings developed when they grew to depend on each other.

“You never could take bad news that well,” Brian said.  The gun didn’t move from its position though.

“To be honest, if you do this, I might not be able to hack it and might even use that on myself right after.”

Now Brian put the gun on his lap and looked directly into his brother’s eyes.  “Why the fuck would you say something like that?” The tension from earlier in the kitchen returned with a vengeance.

“Why?  Really?  I’ve lost two parents, a sister-in-law, and a nephew in the last five years.  I’ve basically lost you as well, but there’s still hope there. If you truly go, then what?  Am I supposed to just go home and live out my days all happy and carefree?”

“You have your family still.”

“And what good would I be to them in a state of loss all the time?  This isn’t about what I have, it’s about what I’d lose.”

“Who’s being selfish now?” Brian posed the question with a slight grin.

“Fuck you.  It’s not selfish to not want to lose a brother.  Just put it down and let’s take that trip. You might feel better.”

“And if I don’t you’ll have me committed.”

“No I won’t,” Richard threw back at him immediately.

“Really?  A suicidal man you would just let go back home?”

“It wouldn’t be my first choice, but I couldn’t go to a mental hospital to see you.”

“Why not?”

“What would the neighbors think?” a large grin was on Richard’s face as he spoke the words.

Brian couldn’t take it anymore, he placed the gun on his lap and just started to laugh.  Richard thought about grabbing the gun, but decided against it. Too many things could go wrong if he did, so he just laughed along with his brother.  “If you keep making my laugh like this in the state I’m in, I’d be more likely to shoot you.”

“Do you even know how to use that thing?”

“In theory yes.”

“How about you just give it to me, we go pack some of your clothes and then see where life takes us the next few days?”

Brain sat there for a while.  Both of them, quietly. The time passed, and neither of them really caring about how long it actually was.  Finally something happened. The lone lightbulb decided it would be a good time to end its own life and it went out.  Now the two men were sitting in the dark.

Brian was the one that broke the silence.  “I think I would like that.”

Richard felt a poke in his side.  It was the butt of the pistol. He took it, took out the magazine and cleared the chamber.  “You might not have had to do that,” he said.

“What?” came a confused reply.

“We might both kill ourselves trying to get out of your attic.”

Both men laughed as they tried to make their way to the stairs.