Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1986320-Suburbs-Turned-Him-Orange
by CCD
Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Other · #1986320
My very first real short story.
      Word Count: 4,552
          One year, my brother visited France for a month.  He left as my brother, but he returned as a raging alcoholic.  I was sixteen.  He was seventeen. 
          I remember sitting in class on the day that he came home.  Mrs. Love was chiseling away at my youth with a lecture on civil engineering.  I stopped taking notes at that point and began to stare at the signs Mrs. Love hung up around the room.  Laminated pieces of paper, valued at five dollars and ninety-nine cents, made encouraging remarks in my direction: "Persevere!", "Love Everyone". 
          Mrs.Love's voice faded into white noise and I glanced outside the classroom door.  The door was like a picture frame that captured those who passed by it.  Anyone that walked by stepped within the range of my camera lens.  I took multiple pictures of random passers-by before someone that I recognized, or at least I thought I recognized, walked in front of my camera.
          He looked unkempt.  Stubble enveloped his now coarse skin.  I noted his crooked smile and greasy hair.  The lack of effort he had put forth in his clothing choice could not have been more evident.  He slouched and walked in a manner that was purposefully nonchalant.  His plain white t-shirt was riddled with unidentifiable stains and he grinned at me as I completed my silent inspection.  Our eyes locked.  Where there had once been light blue circles, full of light, were two colorless pools of pond scum.  He managed a curt nod and continued down the hall.
          No one else passed by my camera lens for the remainder of class.  When the bell rang, my classmates shuffled out.  I didn't really want class to be over. 
          When the school day finally came to an end, I snaked through the surge of students in the hallway and made my way to one of the back doors.  I shoved the door open, and there stood the three of them.  They were my boys.
          "Look at this guy, huh?"
          Charlie liked to bust my balls.  He stuffed a thick wad of chewing tobacco into his lower lip and offered me some.  I refused.
          "How you guys get out here so fast?"
          "Free-period to end the day."
          Declan was our spokesperson.  He spoke in short, succinct phrases, and he walked fast as hell.  He also responded to questions before anyone else had a chance to. 
          "Where the hell you been, man?  You weren't here yesterday, or even the day before that now that I'm thinkin' about  it."
            "Day before yesterday was Sunday, dumbass!"
          Brendan loved to toss insults around.  The only thing he loved more was his chewing tobacco.  I don't think I can remember the last time I saw him without a wad in his mouth.  It was a horrible habit, but he didn't care.  I once told him that dipping too much could give him cancer, and he flipped out.  We were at Shake Shack.  He threw his strawberry milkshake against the wall and made a scene.  He wouldn't calm down, so Declan had to run to the store to buy him a new tin.  Brendan was a baby, and chewing tobacco was his pacifier.
          Declan cast a stern, yet sarcastic glance at Brendan and turned back to me.
          "Hey, man, where's your brother been?  He got back today, right?"
          "Haven't seen him."
          "I think I saw him in the halls, man.  Looked all messy and shit.  Jet-lag, I guess.", said Charlie.  I looked at the ground and started kicking some nearby pebbles. 
          "Yeah that jet-lag can mess you up.  I went to Italy once.  Got off the plane and could barely function.  Seriously."
          "You sure being deprived of dip for seven hours didn't have somethin' to do with it?"
          Declan cackled as Brendan took a swing at him.  Charlie started to walk down the path towards the front of the building and we all followed.  Silence obstructed our typical banter.  I could tell that Charlie wanted to say something to me.  I started biting my nails. 
          There wasn't really much to bite.  My nails were never long.  I was just always biting them.  I never heard the end of it from my ma'.  She used to literally pry my fingers away from my mouth. 
          When we got to the end of Main Street we took a turn towards the square.  Declan and I liked sitting in the coffee shop down there.  We cracked ourselves up at the people that would walk in. 
          First of all, there were always people drinking coffee and typing like crazy on their laptops.  I mean, what on earth could they be writing?  Was each one of them writing a novel?  The thing is, I think they wanted everyone to see them typing.  That's what I found so comical about it.  They could have been typing their novels at home, but instead they chose to sit in a coffee shop for everyone to see.  Maybe they wanted someone like me to ask them about the masterpiece that they were creating. 
          I was afraid to do that, though.  I just found it too damn entertaining to ponder what they were writing.  Declan didn't find these people as amusing as I did.  He preferred to observe the people with those large hoop earrings that walked in sometimes.  These hoop earrings weren't like the hoop earrings that you see in just any jewelry store.  They were wedged into these peoples' earlobes like a stake is wedged into the ground.  I liked the people that wore those earrings.  I'm not sure why, but I did.
          We walked into the shop and took a seat.  Declan approached the counter to get a cup of coffee.  The rest of us sat in silence for a moment.  I felt distracted, but I wasn't sure why.  I was in a bit of a stupor.
          The door swung open, and I snapped out of it.  A rectangular shaft of light seeped into the shop through the door frame and from that light my brother stepped back into my life.
          He didn't look in my direction, nor did he notice Declan standing in line.  He simply trudged over to the line and began to wait. 
          Declan, completely unaware that Jackson was behind him, continued to order his coffee.  He took a hold of his cup, spun around, and took a step.  After taking his first step, he froze.  His eyes silently reacted to the entirely new sight before him. 
          "Jackson, what's up, man," muttered Declan.
          Jackson's dull grey eyes pierced deep into the thin pocket of air that separated him from Declan.  Declan shifted uncomfortably and made a hesitant nod as he walked back in our direction.  Jackson stood there, evidently intent on buying coffee.  I found his determination to be unusual because he never drank coffee.  Maybe he had started drinking it in France. 
I watched him as he stood in line.  A pang of sadness permeated the thick layers of my unnecessarily pre-occupied brain, and I suddenly wished that Jackson hadn't come home.  He could have waited one more day.  Man, I just wanted him to wait one more day.
          The boys and I walked home from the shop that day in partial silence.  The only noise that emanated from our group was the sound of Charlie making half-hearted comments about Jackson's changed appearance. 
          "Your brother's wearin' some weird shit now, dude.  I mean, you know, a plain white t-shirt?  That's white trash stuff."
          "Yeah," I muttered "I guess he's still re-adjusting to how we dress over here."
          "Yeah that's gotta' be it, dude, because he looks like a drug dealer or some shit."
          Charlie recognized that I didn't want to discuss Jackson, so he just started kicking rocks down the road and looking at the large houses that we passed.  It was spring so most houses looked nicer than usual.  Cherry trees lined what had become our personal pathway, each one in full bloom.  The sun's delicate, golden rays gently caressed the pink blossoms and cast thin shadows on our faces.  It was that time of day when the sun rested on the horizon like a scrumptious peach.  There aren't really tons of things that cheer me up, but all of a sudden I felt pretty good.  I guess there was just something about walking off into the sunset with my boys by my side.
            When I got home that afternoon, Jackson was waiting for me in the kitchen.  He took a long sip from his coffee and nodded in my direction. 
          "What's up, bro?"
          "Nothin'.  How was France?"
          "Good, good.  You miss me?"
          "Yeah of course.  I didn't know you were a coffee drinker."
          "I'm not.  I just heard that caffeine cures headaches so I figured I would try it."
          "Why the headache?"
          "Jet-lag I guess."
          "Right.  That makes sense"
          He went back to sipping his coffee and I sat across from him at the kitchen table.  "So what did you while you were in France?  You were there for a month, after all," I said.  "You know," he said, "I partied."  I looked away for a moment.
          "You partied for an entire month?"
          "Hell yeah."
          "What are you gonna' tell mom?"
          "I don't know.  Some bullshit about how it was a great cultural experience."
          "Well that's kind of what it was supposed to be: a cultural experience."
          "Shut the hell up, Chris.  I didn't go to France to get some bullshit 'cultural experience'."
          "Well you could have at least tried to get something out of it.  If I'm not mistaken there's a bit more going on in France than just parties."
          Jackson looked down, took another sip of his coffee, and began to stare off into space.  From what I can remember, that was the last meaningful conversation I ever had with my brother. 
        In all honesty, I'm not really sure why my parents let Jackson go to France.  Sure, it was an exchange program and all, but doing something like that requires personal responsibility.  If there was some sense of personal responsibility that my parents gathered from Jackson, I sure as hell didn't see it.
        Frustrated, I barged out of the house and started walking up the street.  My house sat on a hill, and at the top of the hill was a small farm that overlooked the city.  Whenever I was angry, I would walk up the hill and rest on the picket fence surrounding the farm. It was beautiful up there.  It really was. 
          When I felt that I was truly alone, I would spew my thoughts to the cows that grazed along the fence.  Cows are great listeners.  They never got sick of hearing what I had to say, and, most importantly, they didn't respond.  They were physically incapable of forming an opinion, and I loved that about them.  Whenever I speak in front of people, I have to be conscious of what I say.  I am restricted by a subliminal fear of offending someone or saying something that's "politically incorrect".  Cows aren't people.  No matter what I say to them, they won't feel offended.
          On that particular night, one of the cows came unusually close to me.  It was hilarious.  His big round eyes were like glossy marbles that bobbed up and down as he chewed on a wad of stringy grass.  He stared at me blankly, and every minute or so he would lower his head to pick up more grass.  I guess I had peaked his interest.  For a while I didn't say anything, but his steadfast glare seemed to indicate that he was expecting me to speak, so I finally did.
          "What the hell is goin' on with Jackson, cow?  He's bein' a real asshole, that's what."
          I cackled and glanced at the ground.  In the grass sat a small patch of wilting daisies.  I picked one up.  It's such a shame when something so pleasant has to turn into an eye-sore, but that's life I guess.

          The next day, I woke up for school feeling groggier than usual.  I felt as if I was wearing a large weight vest when I finally managed to lift myself up.  I tried to calculate how many hours of sleep I had gotten, but I couldn't remember when I actually got into bed. 
          I could hear the clangor of Jackson's alarm clock and waited for the sound to cease, but it continued.  I waited another minute, and still the alarm clock whined. 
          I gathered enough strength to hop out of bed and walk clumsily down the hall.  I knocked on his door.  "Jackson!" I screamed.  "Jackson, get up!  Let's go."  No response.  I pushed open his door.  He lay prostrate on his bed, evidently in a very deep sleep.  I gently shook his sheets.  He extended his right arm as if to push me away, but I persisted. 
          "Seriously, bro.  Get up!  We got to be at school in like thirty minutes."
          "Chill out.  I don't...I don't...I'm not goinnn' to schoool."
          His words were slurred and fragmented.  He shifted uncomfortably, pulled his sheets over his head, and went limp again.  I stood there for a moment.  Suddenly I didn't feel like trying to wake him up.  "Whatever, bro.  I'm leaving," I said.  I moved towards the door, clutched the knob, and stopped.  I pivoted and looked back at Jackson, expecting him to at least try to get out of bed.  He didn't try.  I waited for another minute.  He didn't move an inch.  I backed slowly out of the room.  What an asshole.
          When I got to school, the boys were waiting for me outside the back entrance.  "What took you so long, man?" Charlie asked.  "Jackson wouldn't wake up," I replied.  "What happened?" yelled Declan.
          "He just got sick.  That jet-lag is still gettin' to him."
          "Man, that jet-lag is killer!" exclaimed Brendan.
          "Yeah, man, you know how it is.  Brendan, toss me a wad will you?"
          Brendan stared blankly at me.  He knew that I never dipped.  He fumbled for his tin.  "Yeah...uh...yeah, man sure."  He pinched a thick wad between his forefingers and placed it hesitantly in my palm. 
          I peered down at the moist, brown clump, picked up a strand, and stuck it in my side cheek.  It wasn't so bad.  I stuffed the rest of the wad in my cheek and was immediately overcome with a feeling of nausea.  I gagged violently.  This was horrible!  I spewed my insides all over the pavement.
          "Happens to most rookies," said Brendan. 
          "That was horrible!" I yelled, still feeling slightly nauseous.  I vowed to never try dip again. 
          When I got home from school that day, Jackson wasn't waiting for me.  In fact, he wasn't even in the house.  I sat down.  Maybe he would be home in a couple of minutes.  Thirty minutes went by and he still hadn't shown up.  I tried to think of where he could possibly be.  It took a while, but it finally hit me. 
          I bolted out the door and started walking up the hill towards the farm.  The sun shone brightly on my face.  When I got to the top, I spotted Jackson sitting on the picket fence.  He was hunched over.  The sun shone so brightly on his arched figure that he appeared only as a silhouette. 
          I approached him very slowly.  He didn't move.  "Jackson?" I whispered.  No reply.
          "Jackson...you good?"
          I swallowed hard.  I wasn't quite sure what to do so I just sat down next to him on the picket fence.  He wouldn't look at me.  I stared out at the grazing cows.  Maybe Jackson needed the cows as much as I did. 
          "I'm not feelin' too hot, dude." whispered Jackson.
          "You need some Advil or something?"
          "No, man, it isn't that."
          He buried his face in his hands.  As I sat there I realized that no one ever tells you that your brother is going to be an alcoholic.  I wasn't prepared for this.  I opened my mouth as if to speak, but my brain and throat had run dry. 
          "Is there something I can do to help?"
          That's all I could manage. 
          "Nah, man.  I just needed some fresh air."
          "Well, do you want to walk back to the house?"
          "I guess so."
          I stood up and extended my hand.  Jackson clutched my arm and hoisted himself up.  He winced in pain.  I started walking down the hill with Jackson at my side.  Neither of us spoke.  We just walked, but I didn't care.  It was just nice to have my brother back. 
          Months passed, but Jackson didn't change.  He still woke up with headaches, and his grades sucked.  It isn't like his grades were excellent before he left for France, but they surely got worse. 
          I never actually witnessed him drinking until one day in late November.  I was walking home from Brendan's house.  Red and yellow leaves danced at my feet.  The musk, yet crisp scent of Autumn pierced my nostrils.  All in all, I felt pretty good.  I opened the front door and Jackson was waiting in the foyer, ready to greet me.  "How you doin' Chrisss?" he snidely inquired.  He grinned from ear to ear.  In his right hand was a clear water bottle filled with a clear liquid.  I stared at him skeptically.  "Im alright." I replied, "Listen, Jackson, you should get your act together right now.  Mom and dad are gonna' be home soon."
          "Don't worry about it, bro."
          He tried to hoist himself up but stumbled to his left and nearly fell over.  I ran over to lend him a hand, but he pushed me away.  "I don't need help!" he roared.  Seemingly surprised at his own shortness of temper, he gave me a sheepish pat on the shoulder. 
          "I'm sorry, Chris.  I...I didn't mean to."
          "It's fine.  Just...just get yourself together, please."
          He shuffled past me.  After a couple of steps, he stopped and turned around.
          "I'm really sorry."
          "For what?"
          "For not being a good brother."
            For a while, I didn't speak.  "Why would you say that?" I muttered. 
          "I don't know man.  I've been a real asshole lately.  You...you don't deserve that.". 
          He turned around again and walked upstairs. 
          The next day, I woke up to the rarest of all sights: Jackson was awake before me. 
          "What are you doin' up?"
          "I'm excited, man."
          "For what?"
          "Open house tonight at Jack's."
          He smirked and nodded in my direction, extending an invitation.  I raised my hands in opposition, "I can't go."  "Why not?!" he cried.  He lurched in my direction and grabbed my shoulder excitedly.
          "Come on, Chris!  Grow a pair and come with me."
          "No.  Why can't you go by yourself?"
          "I need a ride there and back."
          That was one thing about Jackson that truly pissed me off: he had been too damn lazy to get his driver's license so when I finally got mine he would bum rides constantly. 
          "Are you serious, Jackson?  Get a ride from someone else."
          "Don't be a jackass, Chris."
          "Just find a different ride, Jackson"
          "Whatever, Chris."
          He stormed out.  Outside the window I noticed that it had started snowing. 
          Snow captivates me.  The world moves so damn fast, and I move fast with it.  I don't want to fall behind.  I lose myself in life's wonders.  I lose myself in bright lights and fusions of noise that penetrate my ears and ignite my soul.  Just when life has me in its grasp, snow forms a soft pillow that carries me to a quieter place. 
          When it snows, God whispers, and the world stops in its tracks to hear what He has to say.  The only problem is that God's voice carries at a frequency too high for us to hear.  He discloses the secrets of salvation, but we can't even hear them.  Instead of learning what God has to say, we are rewarded with an eerie silence.  When it snows, my soul's thirst for knowledge and stimulation fades away. 
            Sometimes, when it snows and no one is around, I step out into the snow without a coat, socks, or gloves.  I let the snow envelop my imperfections.  Once, when I was doing this, I got to thinking that the snow might bring my brother back.  Right then, I wanted to grab him and bring him outside.  I wanted the snow to envelop his imperfections, too.  I wanted the snow to melt him into a pool of liquor and flesh, and I wanted the flesh part of him to rise up out of the ground in all of its purity.  No alcohol, no stupid decisions, no depleted emotions.  I thought maybe we could laugh again.  I thought maybe we could walk up the hill again, his arm on my shoulder, and talk about stupid things. 
            I thought all of these things, but thoughts aren't manifestations.
            About ten hours later, Jackson was gone.  I didn't even see him leave.  When I awoke from my long afternoon nap, he wasn't in the house. 
            "Jackson?" I called inquisitively.  No response.  I knew that I didn't have to call a second time.  I smiled, walked upstairs to my room, and went to bed.  It was early, but I didn't care. 
            My phone rang.  I opened my eyes and turned my head in search of it.  I picked up and a loud, blaring sound met my ears.  "Chris!" screamed the person on the other line. 
            "You gotta' get down here, man.  This is nuts."
          "Yeah.  Listen to me, Chris.  Get down here now!"
          "Get down where?"
          "Jack's house...place is hoppin'."
          "No way, man.  I'm really tired and you woke me up.  Just tell me about it in the morning."
          "You're gonna' regret this, dude."
          "Yeah, yeah.  I'll talk to you tomorrow."
          "Alright.  Good night, sleeping beauty."
            I hung up and fell asleep again.
            I awoke to a grey sky.  The house was silent.  As I walked downstairs I heard sirens.  I poured my cereal and the sirens got louder.  I carried my bowl to the front door and opened it.  The sirens sounded so close.  That's when I noticed my car.  It was totaled. 
            All of my greatest fears had culminated in the worst case scenario.  I sat down on the front steps and tucked my head between my legs. 
          Blue lights flashed, sirens wailed; all of this transpired in my front yard.  "Son," the first officer barked "are you Jackson Collins?"  I shook my head no.  "Do you know of his whereabouts?" the second officer asked.  I didn't respond.  The first officer flashed a warrant in my face and they both walked past me and into the house. 
          "Jackson Collins," I heard the first officer yell, "you are under arrest on the charges of driving under the influence of alcohol, reckless endangerment, double vehicular homicide..."
            My face felt really warm all of a sudden, but I didn't cry.  I just felt warm.  The sound of footsteps came nearer until I was watching the officers walk Jackson to their cruiser.  Jackson didn't say anything.  He didn't look at me either. 
"You have the right to remain silent..."
            'Where was Jackson?' I thought.  In a French cafĂ© somewhere?  At the end of the driveway where we used to play four-square with the neighborhood kids?  Sitting across from me at the coffee shop downtown?  No matter where he was, he sure as hell wasn't sitting in the back of that police cruiser. 
            "...you have the right to an attorney..."
            I watched a pile of dead leaves dance around the cruiser as the second officer leaned in to finish declaring Jackson's rights.
          "...do you understand these rights as I have read them to you?"
          I couldn't make out Jackson's response.  The doors slammed and the cruiser pulled away.
          I probably sat on the steps for three hours biting my nails.  Just as my cuticles began to peel, my phone rang.  I picked it up, but I didn't say anything. 
          "Chris, honey, it's your mother.  Your father and I are at the police station.  It's just terrible, honey."
          She began to sob.
          "Chris, you need to come down here..."
          I hung up and walked inside.  I walked up to Jackson's room.  On his bed lay a moist and wrinkled piece of paper.  Words had been scribbled all over the face of it. 
I messed up real bad, man.  I took your car to that party and I got real drunk.  I didn't know how else to get home so I drove and I smashed into another car head on.  I didn't know what to do, man.  One of the kids in the other car went through the windshield.  There was blood everywhere.  I got out to see if there had been anyone else in the car and there were two.  One of them was covered in blood and the other one was passed out I think.  When I leaned in to see the driver it was Brendan.  The kid who went through the windshield was Declan and Charlie was in the back.  I think they were dead, man, and I got scared so I drove home.  I think I wanna' kill myself, man.  You don't have to forgive me if you don't wanna'.  I was never the brother I was supposed to be.
          Comprehension didn't set in for a while.  For a minute, I just stood there.  Then, finally, anger reared its ugly head.  I picked up the lamp by Jackson's bed and hurled it across the room.  I kicked down his closet door and flipped over his mattress.  Tears streamed down my face.  Anger suffocated me.  I couldn't breathe. 
          I knelt on the floor and prostrated myself as if to worship the forces that had taken hold of me: ignorance, laziness, bitterness.  They had gotten the best of me, and they had taken everything.
          The bright orange jumpsuit that Jackson wore should have reminded me of pleasant things, but it filled me with a feeling so sickening I thought I might vomit.  I turned to the other side of the courtroom and saw Charlie.  He had a cast on his right arm and left wrist and he wore a tall back brace.  He didn't react when the judge read the verdict of "guilty", but I still think it was because he was on so many painkillers, if that even makes any sense.
          The officers went to work chaining Jackson's hands and feet.  The rattling of the chains and my mother's loud sobs formed a somber melody that circulated through the courtroom.  When the officers were finished, they began to guide him down the aisle.  Some watched Jackson intently, searching for any trace of emotion.  Others preferred not to look.  I simply admired his jumpsuit.  Who knew that even a nice kid from the suburbs could turn orange?  In the end, I guess it was the suburbs that got him to that point.  Yeah, that makes sense: the suburbs turned him orange.
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