Copyright © 2016 Val Day-Sanchez
All rights reserved.
Rockie was always more appealing. He was handsome, smart, charming, naturally better. If I ever picked up a new hobby or interest our folks would encourage him to do so, only so he could upstage me. The thing is I was stupid enough to play him up. I told everyone about my wonderful older brother. If they every complimented me I would defer to Rockie. “You’re so funny.” My classmates would say, and I would consistently counter with, “Oh you should meet my brother Rockie, he’s the real funny guy.”
I was too dumb to even be jealous. It was so engraved in our household even by my Abuela. I had accepted long ago that I would not and never was as good as him. It was fact.
It wasn't until we moved west, just the two of us, that I started to question it. Even considered that maybe I was as good as him. It took him losing his full ride and flunking out of his degree program for me to even allow to think it. When he kicked me out of the trailer we had bought together and became quite the entrepreneur in meth manufacturing I finally started to see that he didn’t belong on pedestal. He was just a person. Years later, I realized I was better. He had served one five year and one seven year sentence. My parents still compared me to him, and I never could seem to impress them. Decades past before I saw that we couldn't coexist.
It was a thought that I kept deep inside. I never uttered it allowed. I trained my brain to believe that my family no longer existed. I had a good job. I had graduate from college. I was in the middle of buying a house. I was successful. Any parent would be proud of what I had become. But when I closed my eyes at night, I dreamed of a way to be fully rid of them. Had they successfully broken me? Thousands of miles away and I was still consumed by their reaction. Their words still bit as harshly as they ever had. Their impression of me still ruled over me. Would I ever be free of this madness?
When I wasn’t trying to think of a way to please my family, I was consumed with that dark and desperate thought. My brother and I had been born to kill each other. Raised in a home where we were pitted against one another even in infancy. It was clear only one of us was wanted. I was just too docile to see it and my caregivers to clever. They were so covert with their methods of torment, it was and still is difficult to grasp actual instances of it. They were so flighty, easily swept under the rug whenever outsiders visited. That was until my Tío came to visit.
He was an angry man. He was full of injustices that he wanted to right, starting with my Abuela. He was the first and last person who I'd ever heard refer to her as, The Old Woman. He had come with a mouthful and his hand out. Ready to receive his recompense. My Abuela, never looked so frail nor so weak. For a moment I feared for her. That was my stupidity revealing itself once again, for my Abuela was a snake and she lured my Tío in with the perception of sickness. She allowed him to come close to her before pounding him in the chest with the end of her cane. My uncle fell down on his back choking on his food. His plate crashing to the floor. My mother raced in the room, only to demand that I fetch a broom. No one asked how the plate had come to be broken or the precarious position of my Tío. The message was clear. I vowed to never return to my home if I wasn't willing to play along.
I drive the ten mile stretch of dirt road, my stomach in knots, a migraine forming behind my left eye I light my last cigarette throwing the empty pack into my backseat. I pull the Chevy next to Rockie's, of course his model is newer but our trucks share the same color. I haven't seen him in twelve years, my father must have told him about my company vehicle. I try not to let it taunt me. Tell myself, they're broken, this is no longer my world and it helps until they pile out of the house.
It's my father first and I freeze. He needs to speak before I can act. If there are other people here he will hug me. If it's just him and Rockie he'll ask about my drive before falling straight into how well he's doing. Or in this instance how awful, whichever will garner more pity or attention. My mother won't be bothered to come out, instead showing her adamant work ethic by being absent. The sacrifice she is having to make. Rockie will follow my father's lead.
"Richie," My father pulls me in close and I see over my shoulder that the reverend's car is parked behind the guest house. "Come inside, where are your bags?"
I work through how I'm going to say it before acknowledging the fact that they will twist whatever I say no matter how carefully I say it, “I'm only hear for the service this evening and then I've got to get back to work."
"They couldn't find you a replacement? Rockie has an apprentice. The guy does all his work and still sends him a cut of his commission. He can stay with us indefinitely."
I pushing the crawling under my skin away. "Nope they can't spare me. It's going to have to be a turnaround trip."
"Leave him alone Pop,” Rockie smiles at me as if to say, don’t worry you can thank me later. “He's not his own boss."
"Rockie, how are you?" I ask following them inside the house. It's disturbing how much the house hasn't changed. My perception of it is a balance between the stagnant familiarity and the attack on my senses. My heart begins to race as my mind fights to fall back into old habits. I feel my feet leading me to the kitchen in order to prepare a meal for my mother who I'm sure has been a complete martyr since her suegra passed away. She has no doubt made it common knowledge that she isn't eating due to funeral planning.
A trip to my abuela's financial planner, when I was entrusted as her indentured servant, one summer makes me prudent to the fact that her funeral and expenses had been taken care of since before my birth. Whatever my mother was busying herself with was beyond me but it kept me from running to the kitchen.
"Richie, I'm so glad you have returned. Of course my condolences for the dark circumstances. Luckily your brother Rockie has been available to aid your mother with the preparations. How your father has been handling this, you would never know he was the last standing child of your Abuela.” The reverend smiles at my father. “Such grace."
Both my brother and father stand ingesting their adulation and I move to the fridge and take out a beer. It feels alike time stands still here. It’s long after the reverend's left and my mother has made a short appearance as she passed through to her bedroom. My father has drank himself to sleep on his recliner. Rockie sits next me on the couch.
"When are you going to move back home?"
The question catches me off guard and I curse myself for allowing him the element of surprise. Why wasn't I prepared for this? "I really like where I am."
"You're going to kill them like you did our grandmother." Rockie's voice is suddenly angry.
"What are you talking about?"
"You don't know?" Rockie's exasperated. "You really don't have any idea?" He's standing up now and I do the same. He's two-never-let-me-forget-it inches taller than me. He's balding now, like our father.
I keep my voice level, like I’m trying to tame a dog. "Rockie what are you trying to say?"
"You killed our grandmother. She loved you like a son."
"Funny, it always felt more like I was born to serve her."
"Oh not this again, you're the victim of a horrible childhood."
His sarcasm enrages me.
"Not everything is about you Rich."
"Of course not, it's never been about me! I was born to live in your shadow, to build you up."
"Our parents would do anything for their kids, ask anyone. And you leave, when they need you most."
"Ask anyone? Anyone they've lied to, anyone they parade their charade in front of." At this, Rockie pushes me and I stammer backward before lunging at him. His fist pounds into my face and I force him off of me before climbing on top of him. He flails around, trying to push me off but I don’t budge. I pull up his shoulders before slamming them back down, sending his head into the stucco floor. I don’t know how many times I do it, before I hear head make a sickening sound. His eyes are lost, I can't reach him.
"Rockie?" My mother's voice is low and distant, like I've never heard it before. She falls to my brother's side. "My love?" She cries into his chest. "My boy, my only son."
Valerie Day-Sánchez enjoys reading and writing across genres, although young adult is her favorite at the moment. Threshold is her first attempt at Sci-Fi. Her other work consists of YA Fantasy Trilogy, Harlow Whittaker. She received both her B.A. and M.A. in Communication Studies from New Mexico State University. Her love of the desert Southwest keeps her close to home although she loves to travel, especially when she gets a chance to try the local cuisine. Playing with her two sons and the family’s Boston Terrier, Winston, are how she occupies her time when she’ not writing.