Hawk stumbled up to his own front porch rubbing his eyes and yawning, ignoring Heath as he waved goodbye and headed home. From the entrance of his coul de sac Heath spotted it. The last thing expected and the last thing that belonged in the driveway of his mother’s house. Luke’s lime green hatchback – with blue lightning bolts, yellow flames and huge silver rims, it sat, parked, motionless, almost as if sneering at Heath out of the corner of its eyes, out of the corner of its headlights.
“Mom?” Heath beckoned as he pushed the open front door against the wall.
“Hey dude!” Luke tottered out of the kitchen, sweating and stuttering.
“What are you doing here Luke?”
“Just paying a visit man. How you been?” His face was broken out, covered in acne and red. His eyes were glazed as he bent toward Heath and tripped.
“Oh she’s sleepin man. I was just getting something to eat. What you doing out so early on a Sunday dude?”
“Uh… paper route.”
“Oh cool. Cool. Holdin down the fort while I’m away. Good man, good man.”
“Mom?” Heath turned down the hallway.
“Oh hold up, dude,” Luke grabbed him by the elbow, “you makin good money on that paper route?” He had a lazy grin, more transparent than the windows of Joshua’s house.
“I don’t get paid every week,” He replied jerking his arm away and walking to his mother’s bedroom door, “Mom?”
“Hm, what is it?” he heard her stirring from her sleep. Suddenly Luke was very close, and the smell of alcohol was on his breath. He leaned to Heath’s ear and whispered,
“Don’t let her know I’m here dude. Don’t want her to freak out.”
“But we’re leaving.”
“Really? Where to?” The stench of his empty innocence was worse than that of the beer. Just to push him away, Heath told him,
“Just around the block, a friend is waiting for us… Hey mom, I thought we’d take a walk today. There’s someone I want you to meet.”
“Oh perfect man! I’ll go and pull my car in when you guys come out, and I’ll give you a ride,” Luke chimed, as if he believed that appearing unannounced a few minutes later might be more acceptable to their mother. Before slinking out the door, he paused,
“Hey man,” wiping sweat from his face and glancing at it, “It’s not what you think.” So he headed for his car. While Heath waited for his mother to get dressed he went to the kitchen and found the top shelves of all the cupboards cleaned out and one of the four lagers missing from the back of the fridge. Whenever Luke was around, there was uneasiness in the air. He was unpredictable and edgy. Heath’s mind began to reel. How could he get his mom to Joshua’s house without having to deal with Luke? He knew his mom would immediately shut herself in if she saw him, and then would begin the endless stand-off—his brother pleading with her, insisting that he’s changed, his mother locked in the bathroom, and Heath relegated to stand watch in case the police needed calling. They had been through the routine several times before. A few months ago, Luke had left messages on their answering machine, pleading with their mom to believe in him, crying, “How can you expect me to change, if my own mother has given up on me? You don’t know what it’s like having to sleep in my car!” Heath’s mother had her own life-and-death issues to deal with, and didn’t need someone to come and drain her of what little energy and peace she was able to hang on to…
Then Heath remembered his walkie-talkie. He grabbed it and questioned,
“Hawk! Hawk come in! Hawk do you read me?!”
“Hawk, are you there?!”
“Honey I’m ready,” Heath’s mom’s voice came from the hall.
“Ok mom. You got your shoes?”
“Yup. I’m ready for our walk.” She teetered into the entryway and Heath saw her, smiling big, like on Christmas. Her nightgown was hidden beneath a heavy coat and she had a bright orange beanie hat on. There was no hair sticking out from under it and she looked like she weighed less than Heath. Walking carefully, as if her ankles were made of glass she moved toward the kitchen and caught a glimpse of the mess. Her smile quickly faded.
“Heath! What’d you do?”
“Don’t worry, I was just looking for something. I promise, I’ll clean it up when we get home. Now lets go.”
“That’s right you will! Heath Noel, I can’t believe you made such a mess of our kitchen! Oooohhh! You bad boy!”
“I’ll clean it up I promise! C’mon.” He ushered her out the door. She walked like a scarecrow, stiff and feeble. Her moccasins sounded like flower being sifted as they made their way slowly to the sidewalk. Then Luke pulled around the corner in his car and she stopped in her tracks. He approached slowly, like a scolded puppy returning to the litter. As the sun rose behind the clouds that morning the silver light streamed across that lime green rice-burner and to Heath it appeared as an omen, a bad wind sweeping in. Now, even more than the first moment he had seen Luke in the kitchen, Heath could feel disaster surging toward him like an unstoppable wave. Perhaps it was his mother’s face turning to a stony glare, or maybe it was his brother’s exaggerated grin jutting out the window as he crept up; no, it was something deeper, and now he could feel his hands tingling with anxiousness. Then his mother’s hand pulled away from his as she turned to go back inside.
“Mom!” Luke shouted. And she slammed the front door with what strength she had. Luke’s decal covered door hung open in the driveway while he flapped his feet toward the porch. Heath stood like a rotating turret watching Luke go to the door after his mother. He heard the bedroom door close and lock.
It was a quiet Sunday morning, and his brother’s pleas could be heard from the front lawn. Dim clouds loomed on the treetop horizon, while a moist wind began to blow. The scent of rain followed Heath to the door, where he slumped, trying to cut through the jungle of helpless frustration with a machete made of ten-year-old problem-solving determination. Could he trick his brother into leaving? Could he bring Joshua here? Could the police help? Then it clicked.
Heath leapt to his feet and ran to Luke’s car. Climbing into the driver’s seat he found the keys still in the ignition. He hesitated and then turned the key. The engine revved as he tried to put it into reverse. It took all his strength and it seemed like an eternity for Luke to run out and stop him but finally the clutch popped and the car jolted backward out of the driveway. It was a small enough vehicle that Heath could easily see over the hood and reach the pedals, so he swerved it around the sidewalk over the corner of their lawn and hit the brakes. Once he was confident in his get-away plan, he set his eyes on the open front door of the house and slammed on the horn.
Luke was obsessive about his car. Heath knew it was the only thing that could pry him away from another chance to manipulate and coerce his mother into offering him undeserved forgiveness. It only took a moment for Luke’s head to poke out the front door with an angry look. And Heath hit the gas. Dodging between gas and brake to avoid the sides of the street, Heath didn’t really go that fast, but it was just fast enough to keep his running brother about 30 feet behind. Somehow he managed to crank the car around a few corners and bounced it over the curb between the brick pillars of the Christopher estate. Revving engine, squealing brakes and screaming brother all in sequence, Heath finally crunched the front bumper hard against the wide porch steps of Joshua’s house. He hit it just hard enough to bump his head against the steering wheel. Dazed, he could hear his brother’s shouts coming swiftly up the driveway and then he could hear Hawk on the radio.
“Heath where are you!” Heath grabbed the walkie,
“I’m at Joshua’s house! Help,” was all he could get out before he was interrupted by Luke, panting, with his hands on his knees,
“What the heck do you think you’re doing you little terd? And who is Joshua?” Purely by reflex, Heath chucked the walkie-talkie through the open driver-side window and it hit Luke right between the eyes.
“Oh!” he muffled a cry as he grabbed his nose with both hands. Heath pulled the handle and kicked the door open against Luke’s body as hard as he could. Luke crumpled to the ground, cursing and groping unsuccessfully at Heath’s ankles as he bounded up the steps and through the huge, heavy front doors. Heath was up the stairs in a moment, but as Luke roused himself with a growl, from his nose began to trickle a red flow of blood, and from the sky began to fall loud rain and the more powerful growl of approaching thunder. He clawed at the French doors and pulled himself to his feet, and shouted with a hoarse voice into the house,
“Heath! I’m gonna kill you, you little cockroach!” Violin music was playing from Joshua’s Phonograph in the den, and Luke could smell lavender sunrise wafting from the lanterns in the corridors of the house, but it was as if he was blind to the comfort and calm in the house. With every step, he ripped through the tranquil atmosphere with angst, not bothering to wipe his bloody nose.
“Heath, what’s the matter with you man! You wrecked my car and you gave me a bloody nose! Mom’s gonna die when she hears what you did! Seriously you little jerk, I’m bleeding. Come and see for yourself!” Luke was belligerent and though he wouldn’t have admitted it to himself, his fingers were itching for something sharp to hurt someone with. With an intuition that should not be granted to people like Luke, he ascended the staircase.
“They’re all wrong and you know it Heath!” he called, “All your little friends that make up stories about me. I know you guys talk about me all the time, but it’s been forever since I did that stuff that mom got mad about,” It was pathetic the way Luke skirted around the truth and exhausted great effort to avoid naming his vices. As Heath listened from the third floor, he felt a twinge of pity for his brother who could not even say the word “heroine”.
“I was never gonna become the guy I am now with mom always nagging at me. That’s why I had to get away!” Luke opened the first door in the upstairs hallway. His mind was too focused on coercion to notice the multiplicity of mirrors and lack of other furniture, “I’m different now though. I don’t do that stuff anymore, I swear. I don’t even want it anymore!” He swung open the second door and was met by the chalky odor of pills and plastic. His eyes darted back and forth across the cups, bottles and syringes. He stepped forward and under his breath, cursed in wonder. His nose still dripped red spots on the floor, but he couldn’t feel it. He could no longer hear the rain outside, even as gusts of wind drove it against the windowpane. He could no longer smell the lanterns of the house or see the glow of their light. He became enveloped, like a man stricken with swell of love at first sight. As he approached the drift of medicine bottles piled in the corner he was halted by a hand on his shoulder.
“Luke,” said Joshua, “You are lying even when no one is listening,” Luke whirled around and shoved Joshua back towards the doorway.
“These things do not belong to you, and though I know you want them, you don’t need them,” Joshua said, calmly.
“Get off me! Who are you? Where’s my brother? What kinda perv makes friends with little kids and keeps a stash like this? Back off…” Luke, quickly shouted himself into a frenzy, cursing and getting closer to Joshua, even spattering blood and spit on his shirt. When Joshua raised his hand and tried to place it on him, Luke swatted it away and swung his fist against Joshua’s chest. Joshua stumbled backward and Luke advanced, forcing him to the floor,
“I’m taking your stuff, whatcha think about that grampa?” Smacking the old man across the face, “what are you gonna do? Huh, you old perv?” Luke’s fingers were really itching now for something sharp and as his rage blossomed into a blind fury, he started groping toward his pockets for the blade he always kept there. Always.
“Get off him,” screamed a child’s voice. But Luke only heard the cry of another challenger. A prosthetic limb cracked against his neck, but he recovered instantly and lunged with his knife across the man he had on the floor, tearing through a 12-year-old shirt, and plunging it into the 10-year-old belly of his little brother. Heath dropped the leg of rubber and plastic and clutched his abdomen. A red blotch began to spread across his hand-me-down sweater and red streams spilt through his little fingers. It burned like fire and his eyes welled with tears as he squeaked in shock and anguish. He felt as if his stomach was going to slip out of the gushing hole. He began to quiver and cry hoarsely, and he fell to the floor. Though Heath was deafened to it by the pain, Luke paused his assault and began his feeble and hate-worthy apologies. It was as if a veil had suddenly fallen from his eyes and he recanted all his evil. But even more despicably he began to demand the forgiveness of this wounded child,
“Oh my God, I’m so sorry Heath,” Luke lamented as he knelt in the doorway, “It’s not what you think, it’s not my fault… I thought you were somebody else… see for yourself… this guy has all these things and I thought… I swear it’s not my fault, people just never thought I could change, they’re all wrong about me… I love you man and you know it… I would never do anything to hurt you… it’s not my fault…” and on he rambled as Heath bled. Though it felt like an eternity, it was only a moment before Joshua intervened,
“If lies are the only medicine you can offer the dying, then keep them to yourself!” And as he said it he kicked Luke in the chest, sending him flailing across the floor of the medicine room. Then Joshua rose, with Heath in his arms and closed and locked the door, leaving Luke inside with all the chemical remedies he could desire to deaden the pain of his own self-hatred.