Monday, February 8, 2010


As I was carefully putting things back in the medicine chest this morning, labels always to the front you know. I remembered that one morning when my little brother was about eight he brushed his teeth with Brylcream, what a dummy. It made me think of the old jingle. "Brylcream a little dab el do ya, but watch out, the gal’s will all pursue ya."

Today he would be diagnosed with ADHD and be given large doses of Concerta, or something like it. He was perfectly satisfied with being a D minus student as long as he could play and didn’t have to do homework. I myself wouldn’t have cared except for the fact that since the day he was born when I was two it was my responsibility to watch him and make sure he didn’t get lost, into trouble, or hurt himself. When he did all of those things, which was often, my mother would always scold me, “He’s your little brother and you’re supposed to watch out for him. Why did you let him do that?” All of this while she was cleaning up his blood, bandaging him, or driving him to the emergency room. You’d have thought that after several years she’d have realized that no matter how much bossing, griping, and yelling I did he was going to do whatever he damned well pleased anyway and no one was going to stop him. “You’re not the boss of me!” was his favorite saying.
One Sunday as we were changing from our “church” clothes to our play clothes he said. “Look at my arm, look at the marks mama left on me.” He held his arm up and sure enough there were three tiny little crescent shaped bruises already red, green, and soon to be purple. My mother has always had long hard perfectly manicured fingernails and when we were kids and acted up in public she would reach under our arms to the soft fleshy part and give us a tiny little pinch. It must’ve looked innocent as hell to anyone watching, but those tiny little pinches hurt so bad they could make you go blind, blackout, and pee your pants at the same time. He said, “You just wait till next week, I’m gonna fix her!” “What are you going to do?” I asked. “I’m not telling you tattle tale, you’ll tell on me.” He was right I was a prissy little tattle tale and would rat him out every chance I got just to try and gain favor with my parent’s. Even at the age of eight I knew he was their favorite. I just wish I would have realized early on that it was a fact of life that would never change no matter how hard I tried to be perfect. It would have made my life immeasurably easier.

We didn’t always go to church with my parents, mostly he and I walked together to the little Nazarene church down the street from our house in Merced, California to attend Sunday school. We were Baptist, but the Nazarene church was the only one within walking distance. I remember singing the song about John 3:16. “John three sixteen, that’s the verse for me, read it and you’ll know it, then to other’s show it. John three sixteen that’s the verse for me, tells us of eternal life.”

It was a rare occasion that my father was in town since his job repairing flight simulators in the Air Force kept him out of town every other month, thank God! At least those times were somewhat peaceful. When we knew it was getting close to time for him to come home we’d call out to our mother after we’d gone to bed, “Mama, when is daddy coming home?” Then she’d say, “In three days, or next week.” I can’t fucking believe that she thought for years that it was because we missed him we just wanted to know when our lives were going to turn into pure hell again. Not that life with her was a piece of cake, but somehow mental abuse at that age seemed better than physical abuse. He was, and still is, a monster.
All that next week I begged Danny to tell me what he had planned for mother, but he wouldn’t budge. That little shit had the patience of Job, while I on the other hand had to tell everything I knew. “Oh, come on please, pretty please? I’ll give you my candy bar.” I’d beg. “No, you’ll tell.” He’d say. “No I won’t, I promise. I’ll let you ride my bike.” I pleaded. “I don’t care about your stupid bike, I’m not gonna tell you.” He said, nothing worked.
We didn’t attend church with my parent’s that often it was boring as hell to us, but we put up with it because it usually meant we went out for pizza afterwards, or mother would make a nice pancake, egg, and bacon lunch for us when we got home. As it turned out we didn’t go to church the next Sunday, so it was two weeks before we went again. No matter how much begging and pleading I did that smug little shit wouldn’t tell me what he was going to do to her. That was the longest two weeks of my life. When it was time to go I was electrified with anticipation. My mother always sat between the two of us to keep us from fighting and my brother always sat next to my father because I didn’t want to be near him I loved my mother best. As the Sunday service continued to the point where even I wanted to run down the isles screaming Danny leaned forward and looked at me to see if I was watching him. He had an impish grin on his face and as brothers we didn’t need to say a word to know he was telling me the time was here and to watch and pay attention. He began slowly and innocently swinging his legs back and forth with each swing they went just a little bit further and further and further. My eyes went from his legs to my mother’s face, his legs to my mother’s face, his legs to my mother’s face, until his shoes hit the pew in front of us. Without taking her eyes off the preacher my mother reached over with her right hand and delivered one of those expert tiny little deadly pinches to my brother’s left arm. He screamed at the top of his lungs, “Owww stop pinching me!” I almost passed out, I looked at my mother waiting to see what she was going to do. I just knew she was going to kill him on the spot. Her face turned beet red, but her eyes never left that preacher and she never said a word, not then, not later, not ever, I couldn’t believe it.

As we were changing from our “church” clothes when we got home he grinned at me and said, “I told you I was gonna fix her.”

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