"What the hell are you doing?" Zach exclaimed as he witnessed his brother downing a bottle of whiskey while mowing the lawn in nothing but his underwear. He got off his torn-up bicycle in a rush, trying to figure out why he was doing that to himself.
His brother turned around at the sound of his somewhat struggling with his bike. Chris was now exposing the front side of his body that he didn't want to see. Zach shielded his eyes from the horrific sight and repeated, "What are you doing?" Chris began to walk closer, holding his arms out like he was a zombie about ready to eat his flesh, his eyes wide and a grin plastered on his face. Zach took one step back as he wrapped his arms around him.
"Hey, how's my favorite little brother doing?" He slurred into Zach's shoulder. He fake gagged at his brother's half-naked hug and pushed him away with both hands. Chris nearly toppled over, but he grabbed on to his mail box instead. He embraced it as if it was one of his own children. He began to pet it like it was glass, mumbling unidentifiable words into it. Zach knew he himself had gotten drunk off his ass before, but he never started to pet random objects...or at least he thought he never had.
He shoved his hands further into his jacket pockets, fumbling with the loose change. "Chris, are you sure you're okay?" You had us worried when you stormed out of the restaurant earlier." That evening was when the siblings went out for their weekly dinner, but when their sister brought up Chris's financial situation, he took off and never came back. He and Abby spent the rest of that delightful evening trying to figure out what was wrong with their brother.
"Just dandy," he responded with his signature goofy smile. Typical Chris, always acting like everything was fine in front of his siblings.
Zach shrugged nonchalantly. "I dunno, man. You've seemed pretty bummed out the past few weeks. Everything okay at home?" He motioned to the house in the background. Chris turned around for a quick glance and then was back facing him. He sighed, running his hand through his hair. "Come on. Open up. Isn't this what brother's are for?"
Chris scrubbed his hand over his face. "I'm...I'm just so sick of it, you know? Jen's been driving me nuts ever since the new baby was born, Molly and Jacob keep complaining about how we never play with them anymore, and, on top of the crap sundae that is my life, I'm in dept and can't afford to live in the house anymore!"
Zach wasn't surprised by any of those facts. He knew Chris and Jen were having problems, but what couple didn't? His niece and nephew already told him about how lonely they felt after Caleb was born. He was also aware of Chris's financial problems because he had borrowed money from him. "Look, if you need to borrow money...," he was cut off by his brother.
"No...no Zach. I don't want any of your money!" He threw his hands up in the air.
Zach crossed his arms. "You're in a real rough patch, Chris. Let me help you out." He reached into his jean pocket and pulled out his wallet. Once he had it, he got out a few hundred dollar bills. "I know it's not much, but it should at least pay for one or two of the bills." He held it out for him to take. He thought Chris was extending his arm to take it, but that wouldn't be like him. He did indeed take the money, but he proceeded to throw it up into the air. "Dude! What the hell was that for?"
"I'm sick of your charity. For once, I would just like to handle a problem on my own!" He explained as Zach knelt down to the ground to pick up the dollar bills. Zach knew it was hard for his brother to take the money, but he needed to do whatever he could to help his family out. Once he had gathered it back up, he held it out again.
"Just take the damn money. You know as well as I do that you really need it." Chris took a step forward and he was certain that he was going to knock it out of his hand once more. But Chris hated to be predictable, so, of course, he did the unexpected. He threw his arm back and launched it straight into Zach's nose. He tumbled backward and pushed his bike down, landing on top of it. Immediately, he could taste the blood and he put his hand up to his nose. That time, he didn't even bother to say anything because his brother was heading inside his house. He was startled when the door was slammed shut and knew that every picture hanging on the walls shook. Zach leaned his head back, pinching his nose to stop the bleeding.
Just as suddenly as Chris walked off, his wife, Jen, ran out to his aid. Even though all she ever did was scowl at him, she helped him up and lead him inside, instructing him to keep his head titled back. Once they were in the kitchen, she pushed him into a chair and scurried off. She came back with a wet wash rag and used it to apply pressure to his nose. "He sure beat the crap out of you," she informed him.
Personally, Zach didn't classify getting sucker-punched as a victory. "I-I was caught off guard." Way to make yourself sound manly, Zach thought to himself. She gave him a "sure-you-did" look and returned to drying the dishes once the bleeding stopped. He placed the rag on the table and stood up. He swayed from side to side, but he diagnosed it as head rush from standing up too quickly. He looked around the kitchen and wasn't surprised at what he saw. Food littered the table and the floor, some of it even displayed on the walls. The high chair was out in the middle of the room, where anyone, specifically him, could trip on it. There were blankets, shirts, and jackets draped over every chair and long-forgotten sippy cups of milk were covering the counters. Zach put his hand on his stomach and waited for the mess-induced nausea to fade. That was the polar opposite of his house.
"Sorry about the mess. With everything that has been going on lately, cleaning isn't the top priority on my list." When did she ever apologize to him? Two months ago she pushed him while they were playing soccer with Molly and Jacob and broke his wrist, but she never once apologized, let alone act sorry, for what she had done to him.
He gulped. "It's no big deal." Zach began to rub his hands together as he looked around more. Don't think about it, he told himself. He listened and walked over to a cabinet, pulling out a cup with dinosaurs on it. He proceeded to fill the cup up with water from the refrigerator.
"Did anyone say you could get a drink of water?" He turned around to see Jen with her arms folded across her chest, a fierce look on her face. He couldn't tell if she was being serious or joking around.
His brow furrowed. "No..."
Jen closed her eyes and sighed, rubbing her ringless hand over her face. "And there it is. Yet another man not asking for permission before he does something completely insane!" Things must have been worse than he thought if she was giving him a lecture over getting some water, but he knew there was a hidden message behind her madness.
"What did Chris do this time?" Zach asked. His brother was well-known for making spontaneous decisions. When he was sixteen, Chris decided it would be fun to become an Eskimo, so he packed up his things and took a bus to the airport. It turned out that there weren't any planes going to Antarctica, which even eight year old Zach could've told him.
"What didn't he do?"
"I-I don't know. That's why I'm asking."
She ignored his comment and continued. "I'm going to make a painfully long story short: Chris bought a truck without asking me."
Holy shit. What the hell was he thinking when he did that? Did he not realize that he didn't have any money and that he had three children and a wife to support? Still, the more he thought about it, the less and less it surprised him. Yes, it threw him off a bit, but Chris always splurged his money when he was running low on it. But, he didn't actually think that he would've went and bought something as big as a truck when he was in debt.
Without warning, Chris entered the kitchen. Thankfully, he was wearing sweat pants and not his boxers to cover up his...area. His hair was wet, but he still smelled like nothing but alcohol. He pushed Zach out of the way of the refrigerator and began rummaging around in it, leaving him standing there holding his sure-to-be-bruised shoulder. "Are we even going to talk about this?" Jen inquired.
"Y-You know, I think you guys should really talk about it. Lay your feelings out on the table," Zach chimed in.
"What are you? Our marriage counselor?" Chris spat back. His brother was having difficulty opening an energy drink, but, other than that, he wasn't even acting like he had just spent the past few hours nearly drinking himself into oblivion.
"I could be," Zach rebuttled.
He heard Chris scoff and mumble, "Yeah right."
"I agree with Zach," Jen said.
"Well that's a first." Chris shut the door and leaned up against it. He then turned toward Zach. "Why the hell are you still here?"
"Because he's worried about you. We all are." He knew it was bad now. Jen was hardly ever nice to anyone and now she's being generally concerned for her husband, even though she's stopped wearing her wedding ring.
"Well don't be!" Chris snapped.
Zach rubbed his palms together, biting his lip. He wasn't fond of those type of moments. He spent the first seven years of his life listening to his parents around and he hated it when he saw a couple going down the wrong path.
"You bought a truck! We're broke, dammit, d'you not understand that?"
Zach glanced over at his brother to see him shrug his shoulders. "No. I guess I don't." That was a bad move on his part. Jen threw her hands up in the air, mumbled something, and then left without saying another word. Chris was just shaking his head, like he was angry that she walked out, but Zach knew that he wasn't.
"Show's over, Skipper. What the hell are you still doing here?" Zach just shrugged and showed himself out the door of the house. So much for his plan to rescue Chris from himself.
© Copyright 2016 Lindsey Maguire. All rights reserved.
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