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Chris, my brother
I had retreated to my room for the day, marveling at my brother’s friend’s stupidity. I looked at him and wondered how he avoided special Ed. He was a hostile specimen, that Raphael. He had no respect for his elders, or for that matter, anybody else. I have this ability to know when a person is dumb. It’s like the BS meter Grandpa always talks about.
I muttered a quiet prayer to god that my brother see that monster for what he was and end all contact with him. My family is very religious for a bunch of folks that don’t go to church, my father wanted a few years to allow me to grow unspoiled by others.
Then again, I knew nothing of how kids my age acted.
Regardless, I expected to have to talk to my father about Chris’s friend. My grandfather is so very much like me, it makes me glad to be related to him. He too disagreed with this unholy alliance between the two of them.
I regret to be the one to tell you, but this is no happy story. All that this story ends with is the death of my twin, and the death of his friend. If you would elect not to read such a tale, I would not blame you.
I just had to get it off of my chest.
Raphael and Christopher do not go to the same school, but they are both boy scouts. Chris is a tall, lanky child with blonde hair and scrawny yet steel muscles. Raphael is the opposite, short and pudgy. Greasy brown hair covered half of his pimple-studded face. While Chris was in love with the entire program, Raphael was forced to go there. At first this did not worry me, but then Chris began to hang around him more and take after him. He still went on camping trips, and we still talked, but he seemed to be slipping away from home. That worried me, as we had a great home life and everything we wanted, we had.
But still, Chris would rather be with him than his family. What made things worse was that Dad seemed alright with it. He said it was good for him to spread his wings and be himself. In many ways, Dad said, Chris was my younger brother.
“Think how things would be different if it were the other way around.” He said. And ultimately, it was that Phrase that ran through my mind after Chris’s death.
And so I did nothing. I went on the same camping trips as he did, but Chris and I no longer bunked together. Now, he bunked with Raphael. I bunked with Teddy, a friend from my advanced classes. We had the most profound conversations, whereas all you could hear from my brother’s tent were a few muttered words and then loud, braying laughter.
The predominant feeling at this point was jealousy. I had spent all my life with Chris, especially since mom died. He needed me, but I never thought that I needed him. I never cared as much for our mother as he did, but I did ever so enjoy feeling needed.
It was a rainy September morning. I and Chris had been eight at the time. Our mother had been struggling with cancer for over five years, and was throwing in the towel.
“Please,” Dad begged from the opposite bedside from us.”Keep fighting, the doctors say you can do this.”
“Balls,” said mom, making me and Chris crack grins, despite the grimness of the situation.”I can fight this for another ten years and still have it. I won’t fight forever, I need rest.”
“Mom?” I spoke up. “Are you gonna be okay?”
She tuned to us, misery in her face plain as the nose that also resided there.”No, I’m going to see the big guy in the sky.”
We spent the rest of the morning in the hallway, listening to our dad cry in mom’s room. Chris’s teary voice broke me from my deep train of thought. Dad never cried was the main gist of it. It’s been eight years since, and that’s all I can remember.
“Dave? Do you think we should go in and s-s-say good-bu-Goodbye?”
I mulled it around. Something seemed rather wrong about it. My stomach growled, and I had a grand idea. I shared it with Chris and we went to the kitchen. We had been educated in the art of making over-medium eggs; mom’s favorite.
We held the tray dad always used for their anniversary with a small effort. We had eggs and toast for her. As soon as the door was open, I knew something was wrong. Dad was bent over her, weeping in such a way that it was agonizing to watch. And there was a smell, a smell of sweat and toil all come to rest. Mom seemed to be asleep. Chris handed me the tray and went up to shake mom awake. She did not move.
“Mom? Get up, we made you breakfast.” Chris said in his patented cute voice. But no matter what he did, she slept on. Through dad’s weeping and Chris’s shouts, and that smell still hung in the air.
I hate thinking about that day, but now that I write it, I feel so good. Chris needed me then, needed me until he met Raphael. I hate him for taking my brother away, in more ways than one.
Dad was inspecting our rooms for cleanliness, as he always did. He checked all the best places to hide mess, like under our beds and in our dresser drawers. In Chris’s room, under the bed, he found a nudie mag.
He asked Chris where he got it, and words I had never heard exited his mouth. Perhaps that was why dad was so flabbergasted.
“Why do you care? At least I need these.”
Dad frowned down upon him” why would you need this?” He said rifling through the pages.
“I don’t have to answer to you.”
“Yes,” Dad said.”You do. Where did you get this?”
Chris then lapsed into obscenities that have very little bearing upon this story. In the end, Chris was sentenced to his room for a month with no contact to the outside world. His room got thoroughly inspected and his meals were slipped through Mittens’ old cat flap.
“Do you have any idea-“
“Not a clue dad.” I answered. But I did.
Chris was let out of his room today. We watched cops in the living room. It was not the loud, joyful experience it once was. It was silent and awkward. Me and dad sat on one end of the couch and Chris the other. When the show ended, Chris asked if he could go see some friends.
I had told dad everything I could about the situation, but he did not believe me. He thought he must have met some evil adult. I wonder how he could not see the obvious, and next week it was quite obvious.
“Sure,” dad said” If Dave goes with you.”
I imagine that, at the time, dad was patting himself on the back for his great idea. I and Chris both looked shocked. It was my brother that broke the silence.
“I can’t go with him!”
Despite my similar train of thought, I was still hurt by this remark. I still had not prepared for such.
“I agree, I have no desire to watch his antics with his friends.”
But despite our protests, Dad would not change his mind. And so we went to Raphael’s. Chris talked on the phone with him before we set off. He seemed too happy and I should have seen it coming a mile away, but how was I to know his elation was not from being outside the house?
We arrived at the house, and Chris jumped out and sprinted toward the door. The building seemed to be held together only by spit and prayers. The house was surrounded by oaks and cedars and bushes.
Raphael and his buddies sprang from the bushes. I was grabbed by one wrist, and the owner found my fist on collision course with his nose. Before contact was made, that wrist was grabbed as well. One of them got in front of me. I had the prudence to wear my steel-toed work boots. I kicked him squarely in the gut. He coughed blood as he fell. Someone grabbed my legs, and I was beaten. I was almost unconscious by the end of it`. They tied me to a tree. Amazingly, they had not broken my bones. I was aware of blood trickling down my forehead.
Raphael stepped before me, and I no longer saw just an almost retarded man, but a threat. He flashed his idiot grin and without speaking, kicked me in the fork of my legs.
Then, he spoke. I will not tell you his exact words, but the speech was about the call, how Chris had planned it all. How foolish I had been, and he went with Chris following him. We were leaders, as grandpa said. We never followed. Grandpa I thought, and as soon as they left, I began towork myself out of the rope, hoping I could make it to grandpa’s before it was too late . Once I was free, I started the car and headed to him, wondering what he would say.
My grandfather lives an hour away from my house and only half an hour from Raphael’s shack. He was sitting on the porch, a cigarette in one hand. He looked up at my arrival, smiling until he saw the bruises and cuts.
“What happened?” He asked, concerned.
I told him what happened, everything. I felt as though I was betraying my brother, but the days where he wanted my support were long gone. My grandfather went inside, and came back out with a shotgun for me to put in the trunk while he got in. We drove home to tell dad.
He believed me, and we set up a search party. We had every able-bodied man on the block working with us. We searched for seven days and six nights. On the seventh night, I found him.
He was in the forest outside town. The first thing I noticed was he seemed to be sleeping. It was only the smell, the smell that took me back half a lifetime ago, that made me see the truth.
“Son?” My father called.
“Here dad.” I said, controlling myself, despite my tears.” He’s over here”
I sat in shock, tears streaming down my face. I did not have to see the bullet holes to know what had happened. Raphael had killed Chris.
How he could have devised such a plan, I did not understand. It just didn’t match up. How did an almost retarded kid become smart enough to dump that incriminating evidence? Was Chris slowing him down? Or perhaps he thought that our search would end with him.
All I can tell you is that I continued. I hunted for days. Then I found him. He looked at me and I saw a warped kind of intelligence. It was a primal, deprived thing free of humanity. It was the ability to survive. I could hardly stand looking into those eyes, but I did until the business I had with him was over.
“Think how things would be different if it were the other way around.” That is the phrase my father used. If it had been me, would things have been different? More importantly, what brought him down? Was it something I did? I cannot sleep, for these questions do so torment me.