Angela Scire resides in Hazlet, NJ and has been writing stories since she can remember. As she works toward a Masters Degree in Creative Writing and Literature, she spends whatever spare minutes she has with family, friends, and her spunky dachshund, Schnitzel.
My brother was born on August 11, 1990 at 2:34 pm. He was seven pounds and eleven ounces and had maybe four hairs on his head. The only reason I remember this is because I could still picture all my aunts and uncles placing bets on the time and weight of the new baby. I was four years old. My family and I were all sitting in front of the nurses’ station. There had to be over two dozen of us all sitting around on uncomfortable hospital chairs with discolored cushions and broken armrests. The only two people standing were Uncle Frank and Uncle Toby. They stood in the middle of the room and continued to raise the stakes of the bet with every minute that passed. I remember the nurse repeatedly coming over to tell them to quiet down as I sat in the corner with my knees against my chest and watched. When my father finally came out and shared the good news with us, the match between my uncles only got worse as they both claimed to have said that it would happen at 2:34. I remember thinking that they were really stupid for not keeping a written record of the deal.
After a scramble of hugs and kisses exchanged between everyone in celebration of a new baby boy, my father grabbed my hand and led me down the hall. The waiting room we were all seated in had bare, white walls and dark grey floors. The halls looked no different except it smelled of feet. We arrived at a big window looking into the next room and my father pointed out my brother in one of those plastic bins on wheels. I nodded and smiled even though there were so many babies in there I really couldn’t tell which one he was pointing to. He said his name was Tom and as his big brother I should always look out for him.
We lived in a small blue house with a white porch and white shutters on every window. It was just off of the main road in a small town in New Jersey. Tom and I shared a bedroom basically our whole life. He was the athletic one. He won every trophy a high school and college football team could possibly earn. We were complete opposites. I guess that’s why my entire life has been based on getting him out of trouble. When the jock got himself into trouble on a Friday night (lost in the woods somewhere in northern Jersey or drunk in a parking lot God knows where), it was always implied that his older brother who was home studying would come to the rescue. Despite all of my efforts, I never really resented him for it. As the years went on I realized that he somehow gave my life a meaning or a purpose. Maybe I was mistaken.
My college years were spent at my desk writing anything and everything that came into my head. I always wanted to be a writer. Sharing my words with people who would truly understand their meaning seemed like a pretty decent way to spend my life. Tom’s radical lifestyle seemed to fit in to this equation perfectly. I would find myself saving my brother from these odd, dangerous, or random situations he got himself into. Then, I would go home and write about it. I have to admit that sometimes I felt guilty. Writers are supposed to write from their own experiences. My writing career rested solely on my brother’s experiences.
I was sitting home one night reading O. Henry when the first of many adventures unrolled in front of me. It was the summer before I started my second year of college and he started his second year of high school. Tom sent me a message with an address and said it was an emergency. The words of my father telling me to look out for him played in my head as I contemplated going to pick him up. I got in my parent’s old, beaten-up minivan and drove there. It was only about a fifteen-minute drive down the main road and then a few turns on various dirt roads until I arrived at what looked like an abandoned barn. There were wooden panels ripping off from the structure. It was red and white on the outside and it looked like no one had been inside for at least twenty years. I pulled up slowly and kept the headlights on the barn door. It was a relatively cold night for the middle of summer and somehow I had forgotten my jacket in the rush of sneaking out of the house without my parents noticing. I was wearing grey sweatpants, a white t-shirt, and sneakers. I was definitely not leaving the warmth of my car for anything. Luckily I didn’t have to. Tom got in the car and started to explain what was going to happen next. Apparently this wasn’t just a pick-up/drop-off situation.
“Get on the highway,” Tom said.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“Norwalk, Connecticut,” he answered.
“What? What the hell is in Norwalk?”
“I have to pick something up. The less you know the better.” His short black hair was a complete mess and his skin looked pale. I wondered what he had been doing at this barn all night. The possible answers worried me so I decided not to dwell on them.
“I have school tomorrow. There’s no way I’m driving your ass out to Norwalk and back. I need sleep. You need sleep. And mom and dad would kill us,” I said.
He began to get frustrated with me.
“You sit at that desk night after night scribbling down your little words that no one is ever going to read. What’s the problem if you help out your brother? I just have to pick something up from a friend of a friend down in Norwalk. Stop being a baby and just drive. Think of it as your next big story to tell.” I remember feeling embarrassed by this. My younger brother actually managed to intimidate me. This was the first of many nights I did exactly as he told.
I pushed my feelings aside and drove him. It ended up being a pretty decent night. We listened to music the entire ride and made fun of those late night shows on the radio that gave random people dating advice. We even caught the sunrise by the water in Norwalk. Whatever exchange or pick-up Tom was involved in went smoothly. To this day he refuses to tell me what it was. We got into the house around eight o’clock. I sat in class that morning and wrote an account of everything that happened. I wrote about the drive and the shady man my brother met and everything that was going through my head. Of course I embellished the characters a little bit, Tom was more of a big-shot while I was his naïve brother hiding in the background of it all. That was the first of many stories that were left unpublished in a pile on my desk.
The places I saw in the next few years driving my brother around were amazing. We never went anywhere over three hours. We always made sure to be back before our parent’s alarm clock went off at 8:00 am. I refused to get caught by my parents and risk them taking away college for me. They were basically funding my entire education. Sleep was absolutely out of the question. Even after we got home, I would stay up and write about the night before I had to leave for class. I always believed in time being the enemy of a good story or idea. Once too much time has passed between the live action and the words on the page, the story loses its depth and sense of wonder.
During my late college years, I sent my stories to so many different publications. I truly wanted them to be published together in a collection of short stories about a boy who craved adventure. I had pages and pages filled with nights that people would never believe actually happened. The publishing companies all turned me down. They complained that there was no climax, no purpose to all of these adventures. They claimed that my work was just a collection of descriptive scenes.
My struggles in the publishing world did not change my perception of Tom. I still thought of him as a true adventurer despite the fact that no one wanted to publish his stories. My little brother was now living the life I could only dream about living. I knew the problem with my writing. In my opinion, it was not about the lack of a climax or conflict in the stories. It was the lack of connection. There seemed to be a brick wall between my mind and the words I was putting on the page. I was not my brother. These adventures were just a play I was partaking in, with a set role and a script I needed to follow. I was never fully emerged in it. This picture I had of Tom in my head couldn’t have been healthy. He had become this mentor that I would look up to. I craved to feel the same adrenaline and rush that he felt constantly. I became consumed in his life.
Another night while I was in our room hunched over my desk, a smile appeared on my face as Tom called my cell phone. The words “Mr. Adventure” lit up the phone.
“Where am I shipping out to tonight?” I asked him.
“No where. I’m outside. I’ve got a girl with me. Come down and open the back door would ya? Mom and Dad can’t know,” Tom said.
I was disappointed that night. I did as he said and then slept in the basement so they could have the room to themselves. No adventure tonight. No grand story to tell.
This continued for the next seven or so years. The adventures stopped and the girls came pouring in. I guess he was over adventures. Tom brought home a different girl every night and it was my job to bail him out in the morning. Sometimes they would forget to set an alarm and I would have to sneak the girl out of the house while my parents made breakfast in the kitchen. Another time, the girl wondered into my parents’ bedroom and gave them both a heart attack. She was probably the dumbest one. When they asked her who she was she simply responded “Brittany” and then asked if she could have a ride home. It followed that I had to pretend she was my college girlfriend and that she spent the night with me. My parents probably would have died if they had found out Tom was having sleepovers with girls in his high school years. So as usual, I was the one who took the blame. I guess I did it because of that heroic image I had of him. Why should a kid who is living the dream have to suffer? I never got in serious trouble anyway. I was in college and was considered an adult. A few girls over the house were no big deal to my parents as long as they didn’t know the specifics of what we were actually doing when they were there.
Tom did manage to get me in trouble once. One time Tom decided it was okay for him to go away with his friends for a weekend and sneak into a club in Atlantic City. When your parents realize that your little brother has not been home for forty-eight hours and he has taken a suitcase, there’s really nothing you could say to bail him out. Even though they eventually found out where he was and that he had been drinking all weekend, it was still somehow my fault. Apparently, as the older brother I was not looking out for him and I did not warn him about the dangers of alcohol. I didn’t fight it though, anything for my super-hero little brother. Little did I know that the super-hero would lose his powers and my respect.
* * *
I open the door to see Tom standing outside with a suitcase. He is wearing a white t-shirt adorned with several stains and a pair of blue boxer shorts. He hasn’t shaved his beard in about five weeks. He just looks at me and shakes his head as I motion for him to come in.
My house is very plain. It has beige walls and hard wood floors. The hallway, beginning with the front door, leads to the living room and the kitchen. Upstairs there’s just one bedroom and a bathroom that only fits one person at a time. My wife Diana and I haven’t even started talking about kids but when we do I’m sure we’re going to have to find a bigger place.
Tom comes in and shuts the door behind him.
“Hey, bro. I’m sorry about this but do you think I can stay over here for a few days? Barbara kicked me out,” he says.
“What happened?” I ask, with an already disappointing tone.
“She found out about Rose.”
He sighs and scratched his head for a moment as if he didn’t know the answer.
“She’s just some girl from college.”
“Tom, I thought you were done with cheating. Man, I thought you were done with all of this bullshit: the cheating, the drinking, the…”
“I don’t want to talk about it. Can I stay here or not?” he interrupts with a much harsher tone, obviously feeling my judgment.
“Honey! Who is it?” Diana screams from the kitchen.
“It’s Tom. Barbara threw him out again,” I scream back.
“Jesus, Rob, do you have to announce it like that?!” Tom says, embarrassed.
“Look, you could stay here but go upstairs, wash up, and put on one of my suits. My in-laws are going to be here any minute. You need to look decent,” I say pointing to the staircase. “You mean the ones that think you are a successful businessman instead of a struggling novelist?” he says with a chuckle.
My in-laws are rich beyond imagination. My father-in-law is a very successful businessman and trust me he never lets you forget it. So when Diana and I got engaged there was a lot of tension between us. It is a complete understatement to say that he did not approve of me being a writer. He tried to break us up for years. So I finally told him I would go into business for the sake of my relationship with his daughter. Once I said that, he was perfectly okay with me putting a ring on her finger. Diana always supported me though. She was never like her parents. Although, she sometimes feels the need to make them think she is.
“If you can’t play along than you’ll just have to go stay at Mom’s house.”
“Okay, okay. Fine.” He says, starting for the staircase.
My wife walks into the hall just as Tom goes up the steps.
“What’s going on, honey?” she says, concerned.
“Tom is going to stay here for a few days. I told him he has to play along tonight.”
“Oh…but are you sure that is a good idea?” she says with a nervous look on her face.
The doorbell rings and my wife and I look at each other. She sets down her cell phone on the side table next to the front door and starts straightening my tie. I flatten out her dress in retaliation. She is wearing a short, black strapless dress made of silk. I’m wearing a white shirt with a black tie and trousers. We take a deep breath and go for the door. I open the door with my arm around Diana.
Her father is a tall, physically fit man in a tight suit. His grey hair is slicked back. His broad shoulders and straight posture defines intimidation. The mother is a petite lady wearing a black dress and a diamond necklace that is probably worth more than my car. The smile on her face widens when she sees us.
They quickly come inside and we exchange hugs and kisses all around with the traditional greetings. Diana mentions that dinner is almost ready so we all move into the kitchen and sit down at the table decorated with our only good tablecloth and silverware.
“So, Robert. How is business these days?” her father asks.
“Business is good. I can’t complain.”
“Must be a stressful life and all, working at Meryl Lynch.”
“Yep. Honey, can I help with dinner?” I say, trying to change the subject.
Tom walks in with one of my white shirts half-buttoned and his tie in a knot. “Rob, how the hell am I supposed to know how to do this?” he says, trying to untangle his tie. He looks up and realizes who is in the room. “Oh…hi,” he says, embarrassed.
“Ummm. Lisa, George, this is Tom. He is my…” I begin to say.
“Business partner!” Diana interjects.
“Hello, nice to meet you,” Tom says to the in-laws.
I grab Tom and pull him into the living room. I just shake my head and fix his shirt and tie. “Please. Don’t embarrass me,” I say. I hear a cell phone ring.
“Whose phone is that?” Tom says.
“It’s probably mine. I’ll get it. You go back into the kitchen and act like a mature human being.” Tom obeys and I reach for my phone and realize it was not mine that rang it was my wife’s. I pick up her cell phone from the side table. There is a text message from a random number that says, “No, of course not. I told him her name was Rose.” I then recognize my brother’s cell phone number.
I walk back into the kitchen and sit at the table. Diana is serving the food and we are all sitting around the table. After we say grace, we all dig in.
“Can you pass the salt, Mom?” Diana says. Her mother passes her the salt.
“Can you pass it here next, Rose?” I say looking at my wife. Diana’s parents stop moving and look at me with concern. Diana looks at me with a confused face. Tom looks at me with fear in his eyes. Diana then looks at him and then at me.
I finally found a climax to my story.