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Rated: ASR · Short Story · Experience · #1762693
A young man looses everything he cares about and will do anything to get it back.
         I never wanted any of this.

         Life isn't fair, is it? I mean, it's like everything you do gets tattooed on your face in invisible ink that everyone can see but you. I had to do what I had to do, and that's that. I won't apologize, and I won't take anything back. Because I never wanted any of this.

         I suppose you could say it started when I was a child. I had a good childhood, believe it or not. I grew up in a big house with a big family, and I was even related to some of them. Those were the good old days. We had money, you see, left to us by a rich relative, so there was no worry, really. Every day, we'd go out to the lake and have a picnic, my mother and brother and two sisters and I, along with anyone else who wanted to join us. Momma was always so gentle, so kind...to everyone, even the people she didn't like, if there were any. I wish I was like that sometimes. At this point, I can't even imagine being that decent, that trusting. Not after what I've been through.

         She died when I was 12, and she left the house and the money to an aunt of hers, who was neither gentle or kind, even to the people she liked, if there were any. Some of it, most I think, was supposed to be passed to my siblings and I when we got old enough, but that never happened; instead, when we were old enough, she kicked us out.

         My older sister, who was nearly 20 by that time, went to find herself a job, and she took my other sister with her. I was 17, also working age, so I was to take my brother, who was just 14, and find work for myself. Splitting up like that, we hoped to be able to get by more easily. Foolish thought, I know now, but it seemed right at the time. Fewer mouths for any one paycheck to feed, fewer bodies to house and clothe on any one salary. Of course, if we'd stayed together and combined our wages we'd have been in the same place but together, but, as I've said, we didn't realize that then.

         My brother and I found a man who would take us into his home. He had a spare room, and asked a small rent. He was a kind old man. As I recall, his wife had died a year or two before, and he was beginning to feel the emptiness of his house. I liked him, because he was kind, and, well, I guess he was as alone as we were.

         The job I worked to pay his small rent was hard physical labor, and it wore on me. My brother amused himself while I worked by peddling papers or shining shoes. We got by, and were almost happy. But the absence of my mother weighed heavily on me. I missed her like I couldn't believe.

         After a while, the kind old man passed on, as kind old men tend to do. And we once again searched for a place to live. I thought, in the back of my mind, of trying to find our sisters, but always went back to our original agreement and pushed the thought away. The only place available was a small apartment in a run-down old complex, nowhere near as cheap as the old man's spare room. I had to work even harder. My brother was old enough to work for himself by then, too, and got a job working with me. The labor nearly killed us both, but we got a roof over our heads and food in our stomachs, most of the time.

         It turned out that the labor was nearly killing everyone who worked with us. The employees decided to make their complaints known. The company fought back, and we found ourselves caught in the middle of a conflict we couldn't understand. Fearful and confused, my brother and I both left the place. We had no choice. And this time, we made the right decision. But without jobs, we fell on the hardest times yet.

         By chance, one day last month, I awoke about 2 in the morning. We had found a bench to sleep on – well, my brother slept on the ground beneath it, because that was better protected from winds and rain, if we had any. As I turned over on the bench and tried to go back to sleep, I heard a voice from a nearby alley call out in a whisper.

         That was how I found the gang, or rather, how the gang found me. In reality, they're just a bunch of small-time crooks who hang out together, but they take care of me. So far, I've only met them nights, when my brother was safely asleep. And yeah, as you can guess, I've done a lot of things in those two months that I'm not proud of. Stole some things, hurt some people. But at least my brother and I eat.

         Tonight, I'm going to take him to meet the guys for the first time, and he'll become one of us. Don't get me wrong, the last thing I want is to turn my little brother into a crook, a thief, a liar. But I can get a lot more money if I “work” full time, and I won't leave my brother behind. He's...he's the only person I've got left.

         We had such a good childhood. We'll never live anything like that again unless I get some money. My brother deserves better than the life he has! I deserve better. So we're staying together.

         And maybe, when I get enough money, we can leave this place, and find our sisters, and buy that old, big house. And life can be good again. Then we'll be together and we won't have to make the mistake of separating and we won't have to be criminals...

         I didn't ask for any of this. But what choice do I have?

         ...I never wanted any of this.

(1033)
© Copyright 2011 J. B. Anthony (j.b.anthony at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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