The first draft of the first chapter of the book I'm currently working on.
| It was as big as the white house. I've never seen the white house. My brother's new house must've spanned five acres, inside it was elaborate, everything sort of sparkled, and looked new from the white paint. There was a staircase with red carpet going down the center, that lead to the top two bedrooms, one for me, and one for him. Going straight down the hallway would lead you out to the pool, it looked Olympic sized, with a small wading area, a big staircase going down into the crystal blue water, that you could sit on, a deeper area, with pool floats, and noodles and things. Going straight and to the left would take you to the kitchen, with the large pantry, and the dining room with the ten person table, that we would sit at nightly, and eat dinner, smoke cigars, and then have desert.
A few nights a week my brother would have some friends over, they would lounge in the den, or play cards around the dining table; they would shout real loud whenever they were winning, or losing. I was not allowed into these rooms when he had his friends over. I did not ask why; I could entertain myself in any of the other rooms for as long as need be.
I also did not ask him how we could afford such a house, or how he could afford it. We were originally small country mice, living in a trailer with our mom, who would work two jobs, for twenty hour days, and come home and we would rub her feet until she fell asleep, and then wake her up again. Back in those days everything seemed smaller, we were always tight on money, we never had food in the house, and we didn't need much to get by. My brother and I would walk three miles to school through the Mississippi backwoods onto a dirt trail, that would lead us to the back of our school where the children got called in after morning recess and we would try to draw letters on the wall onto our paper using crayons. Mom always used to remind us, there we're 12 pencils to a pack, but 16 crayons to a box; fifteen if you didn't count the white one.
It was around sixth grade that my brother started changing, he stopped walking home from school with me; there was no one to carry my shoes as I would walk barefoot through the bogs. He started to grow a mustache, and talk with his friends behind the bleachers. He would come home smelling like smoke, or like the musk from our father, that we used to keep in the bathroom as sort of a remembrance of him. He would walk in, after I had gone to bed, go directly to his bed, and slam the door. Whenever I would try to talk to him, like we used to talk at night, he would just mumble and put the pillow over his face.
He didn't lose any of his new characteristics, until our mom kicked him out. She said he'd been stealing from her penny jar, and was smoking, and acting like a fool, and was no longer welcome in our house. He walked out proud, but sometimes at night I would hear him rattling the windows, and I would open them so he could get in.
Then mama died, and the tax man said the trailer was underwater, and the counties property. It was something I couldn't understand. But my brother took me in. He had got himself a trailer, one of his own. He told me the rent and lot rent he paid on it once. That was when I got my first job. My brother told me I was too dumb to do what he did, and I started working a job at a shoe store downtown. It was easy, I coaxed the customer out of their current shoe, and into a metal vice, I would always complement their feet, and their current shoes; and then I would talk to them about sports, or the kids, or shows my mom used to watch. They would happily bring me up to date with whatever we got to talking about, and then I would start complementing the shoes on the rack, and tell them how wonderful they would make their feet look. As I would bring up the box with the shoes to the register, I looked at the price, and then charged them five dollars extra. I could keep that money, and if I made enough, I could live with my brother another month.
At first I had no idea what my brother was doing, but there was one day I saw him and his friends from the trailer park, hanging out by the stream, I thought they were fishing, and ran to grab my pole. When I came back, the closer I got, the funnier it smelled. I could hear them coughing, and see them smoking a pipe. When I asked my brother about it, he told me at first to get lost. But after a little convincing, sweet talk like I would use at work, he gave me the pipe and a match and told me to try it.
I was instantly hooked. The feeling that I got when I used to blush, combined with the feeling I would get when my mom would compliment me, combined with a warm fuzzy feeling, and I felt like I was in heaven. Everything got turned down a notch, the frogs chirping, the bugs buzzing, the kids fighting in the park. All of it was just a little better for a moment, the lights were brighter, and I felt, well, I felt better. I exhaled quickly, when my brother patted me on the back, and told me not to hold it in like a cigarette; even though I'd never smoked a cigarette, and coughed until I did not feel the happy feelings anymore. It felt like I was home, I had met some people who knew how to achieve a feeling of peace; and I wanted more.
I started meeting up with them, in the weed infested area of the lake, every night after work. It became harder to become enthusiastic to sell customers shoes. The conversations with the customers became shorter, I would sometimes charge them ten dollars instead of five more dollars for their price. The boss pulled me into his office one hot summers day, I was sweating like the dickens, and he told me that the customers no longer preferred my service, and that I came to work smelling funny; ultimately he fired me.
I immediately ran home crying, to my brother; I told him it was not fair, and that I should have another chance. We were hanging out on the porch, and he put his finger under my nose, and told me to breath. It was not as good as the stuff we had smoked, but I stopped crying. I felt a little better, and my brother asked me if I would like to start charging fifty dollars more, instead of five dollars. He told me that I was already a salesman, a pretty slick one at that, and if I wanted too, I could sell the stuff he gave me. It all started to make sense.
Sell it I did, profit I made. One night the cops rolled up on our trailer, and they took my brother away; he told me I should go to jail to pick him up. I did not understand why, but I asked one of the neighbor boys, and they said he got arrested, and I should take all the money I had for rent, and go down to the jail to get my brother out. His mom even drove me.
That night after we had smoked, and gotten in for the night, my brother had explained it to me. The cops arrested him for being a good salesman. They had locked him up, I had bailed him out. He told me the cops in Mississippi took drug charges serious, and he might have to go away for a few years; after he found a lawyer. He told me that I should just work a straight job, like I had when I was selling shoes, he said that if both of us got arrested, we wouldn't have nowhere to live when we got out.
So, I spent the next couple of years selling housewares and vacuum cleaners. At night I would get together with his friends, in the weeds of the mosh, and smoke and talk about how much it sucked that he was taken away. His friends started to like hanging out with me, and me them; they were the only family I had for now; and I sold off a little bit of my brothers powder.
After two years, my brother got out, he was built like a boxer; I had become even scrawnier. He told me that he had learned a few tricks and a few trades while he was inside. He told me he knew how to make powder from basically nothing, and he had learned how to start a car without a key. He told me that he had learned of a drug that was even better than the powder "I had been wasting my time with".
I didn't do it immediately; I was scared of it. I had been smelling and smoking powder, the powder that did me fine, made me good; was acceptable among my new friends. But one night the devil came in our trailer, while my brother was out; the devil found his stash, and made me try some. I hadn't even been the same since.
We went back to selling different things to junkies, and street people; we always had each others backs, and I was happy again. My life became all about using the needle, what my brother called skin popping, and the time I had to go without it, and the time until I could get it back.
I was the next one arrested, I continued my habits in prison for as long as I could; but I didn't have much money, or much leeway with the guards, or any friends. My money ran out. I ended up being stuck in a small cell for three days, while I constantly vomited and shit, sometimes both at the same time. After this they let me into the block.
I tried to learn cards, because all of the guys always played cards, but I couldn't. I tried to learn how to tattoo, but I couldn't even draw. I began to hustle cigarettes. I had stopped smoking, and would buy three packs on store days, and sell three cigarettes for a fifty cents on the day before store day. I would also hoard other commissary items, a lot of guys liked chocolate and coffee; these were easy to sell, I didn't need any of my sales tricks.
I didn't work out, I didn't need too, my protection was superb; nobody wanted to mess with the store guy. And when I got out, I was still scrawny; the first thing I remember was my brother giving me a noogie.
A few more years passed. My brother kept changing, I did not go back on the devils powder, but I went back to snorting and smoking with the Bush Gang, aptly named for our hangout spot in the trees. My brother would decline for a few months, until he said he hit bottom, and then get picked up by his parole officer, and sent to rehab. Then when he got out, he had gotten a new idea; join a gang. Click up with people, make more money.
But I didn't want any part of this latest plan, his last one hadn't worked out so good. I decided I was fine with my humble position in life, sell what I needed to sell; and smoke what I needed to smoke.
And then my brother really changed.