Anyway, on to today's story! Man Enough is an excerpt from a novel by Kevin Christopher, a writer from New Orleans who currently lives in California. He's a self-described "drifter" and writes and creates "passionately." Enjoy!
By Kevin Christopher
My brother Casey and I were inseparable. I was twelve and he was seven at the time. Our father drank heavily. I assumed by his erratic behavior he had more then just a drinking issue. Our Mom was a nurse who spent the majority of her time working at the oddest hours. I recalled constantly asking myself if she really knew what we dealt with while she was away. Then I would think that maybe she decided that she would look the other way, making herself believe we were fine. I no longer had to wonder though. My once wandering thoughts became an apparent truth. As the bruises began to increase, her presence in our home lessened dramatically. For me, she had now become a thought. I likened her love to the soft Seattle drizzle that fell in view of the streetlights’ evening glow. I was sure her love was there, but the feel of it was so faint I was indifferent to it. Unmoved by her presence, or lack thereof, my life went on.
I felt a tinge of pain as I watched my younger brother long for his mother. I questioned if it even mattered at times, since she was only a hallowed shell of a mother. She had left us alone to handle whatever the days brought. She favored my younger brother more than me, even if it was only slightly. Still, it never placed a rift between Casey and myself. I imagine it didn’t because he was unaware, and I unconcerned. I figured that she had known just how horrible my father was, that somehow, my being the oldest would predestine me to be a protector. Ultimately, that I would save my brother from the bulk of any beating. So naturally she would opt for the longest work hours imaginable, or so I concluded. She underestimated her husband’s cruelty, however. I soon lost my desire to care what her reasons were for not being there, or for her in general, I became focused more closely on how to make it through each day.
My father often left as well. He left us with tender kisses on the forehead, although he never returned with quite the same affection. Instead, he returned loudly while we slept.
”Where’s my wife? Where my boys?” He’d call out as he stumbled around creating thunderous thuds. After his loud commotions, he would become more settled. This meant it would be time to perform in order for us to get rest. Sometimes, we amused him enough to the point he would allow us back to bed. I could count on one hand how many times that occurred. Majority of the time there was no way for him to be amused, no matter what we did or how hard we’d try. These were the times that he’d wake us up so that he could beat us back to sleep. Oddly enough, I accepted this as an alternative way to be caring.
It was a shame that he did not give us a clue as to which person we were encountering. His true self was internal, somewhere lost in the deep. His facial expressions remained unchanged. There were times I believed he could have potentially been a good father. He never failed to correct my twisted moments of ambiguity, by displaying the true tormentor he was. I was much younger then, and didn’t really know what was going on with him. I did know, however, that when he would leave it would be in our best interest to avoid him at all cost.
Nightfall became synonymous with uneasiness. It never failed each night as the sun would slowly creep away into the distance, I would feel each irregular deep-pitted movement within my core. I would hear the sped up pace of my heart, I could count each breath I took. I lost all hunger and desire to do anything. As hard as I tried, there existed no escape from him. I cringed at the reflection I witnessed in the mirror each day. I cowered at the call of his name because it was my own.
“Junior and Casey. Get in here now,” he declared. I hesitated, and my brother watched me for my movements. I knew what was coming, but I still was afraid. There was no possible way to avoid the inevitable. More importantly, I could not let Casey know I was afraid. There was no good reason for him to look to me for support, unless for the fact I was the only one around to look to. I was no hero.
“Who left this shit all over the place?” My father yelled.
“Dad. Casey is younger than me so,” an involuntary pause had arisen through my words ”its my fault.”
“Standing tall like a hero savior for your little brother? I like that type of attitude, it gets me hot.” Like a crazed mad man he began smacking himself in the face until his hand left a red mark upon his cheek. “Woooooo! Nothing to say, now?”
“Take this beer, boy. Drink it up.” He handed me a beer and I began taking large gulps. It burned as it went down leaving a sour after taste that was unbearable.
“C’mon just like that, boy. Get ‘er done! Drink it all, superman.”
When this happened the first time I was fooled, I thought he was in an abnormally good mood. I thought he was genuinely just having fun with us. I knew better this time around, it was only preparation. He was hyping himself up.
“How do you feel?” he asked superficially concerned.
“Okay. I guess,” I answered.
“Just okay? Well take this. We gonna’ make sure you good.” He tossed me another beer to drink. “Don’t worry Casey, your Mama won’t find out. One day you’ll out drink your brother. He’s a sissy anyway.”
I disregarded his comments and I began chugging the beer; I knew it would numb any pain that would come. I suppose in a way that was the good-natured father in him, however twisted it may have been.
“Ok, last one. Let’s race this time. You want to shotgun it, or drink it reg‘lar?”
“Shotgun,” I said reluctantly. I knew that was what he wanted to hear.
“That’s my boy! Ready, steady, go.” There was no way I could beat him, he was a large adult, not to mention a lush. We both knew the tuth, but that wasn’t enough to hamper my attempt. Driven by the fact that I could see Casey from the corner of my eye secretly cheering me on, coupled with my father’s pseudo compliment of ‘that’s my boy,’ solidified my decision. I pushed it to the limit. Our small moral victories were all we would have against him, so I needed to win no matter how ridiculous it was.
“Finished,” I proclaimed as I slammed the beer can down. My legs felt woozy beneath me.
“Yaaay!” Casey let out a naïve cheer.
“What,” muttered my father compounding his question with a belch. “You beat me, you little shit? You’ve been drinking behind my back. He pointed at Casey but his disorientation made him point past him instead, “and you helped him.”
“So you really are superman tonight, huh boy?”
I sighed, knowing that I had made a costly mistake “If you say so,” I said. The alcohol had given me a splash of courage. Whatever I said I decided it was irrelevant anyway.
“A smartass superman. You must want me to enjoy this,” said My father.