Meanwhile, back on Earth…
His family was defeated. They were devastated and in a world of shock at the early and untimely passing of their son. The oldest brother Henry, heavy set and ginger, bore the brunt of the weight and the two younger brothers, Edwin and Caulfield, were still trying to figure out where their brother was. Not that they were too young, or emotionally handicapped… this was just their way of dealing with the loss: to pretend he was only missing, or hiding.
Mother was, of course, a bona fide wreck. She was nearing 350 pounds and she did not wear it well. Years of pouring into her children, as best she could and that was a far cry of what most loving mothers provide, and supporting her dying husband took a toll like no other on her. Her back hunched. Her rolls rippled. After her husband had been “stolen by the cancer” as she repeatedly would tell people, close to a year prior, the death of a son couldn’t have been more inconvenient. Her late husband had no life insurance and no bills were paid. As the debt mounted, her backside grew, epically.
She would get in these fits of emotion: rage, sadness, blaming, rage and more rage. Being twice as heavy set as her Henry, her very footsteps would often make the walls (and the kids) shake. Sometimes she’d get so worked up and sour that she would pick up whatever was closest to her at the time and hurtle it across a room. The phone. The blender. A plate. The cat. It was just her way. The children became accustomed to it; fond childhood memories that would haunt them later.
Each time Mother got into these moods, which was pretty much every hour on the hour, the boys would go down into the basement which was basically a bomb shelter but without any of the supplies needed to sustain life. However, at its essence, it was in fact a shelter protecting one from bombs. And deep in the belly of said shelter, Henry, Caulfield and little Edwin would pretend that war was upon them, with Mother’s stomping as artillery and her throwing objects as live grenades.
“Major! Major! We’re surrounded from all sides!” Caulfield barked, holding onto his camo army helmet. “What in all heck are we gonna do?!”
Henry grabbed the two boys and hit the deck. “Take cover, soldiers! We’ve been hit!”
Crash! Then a bunch of muffled yells could be heard.
A silence rang loud and the three boys would lock eyes, bracing for the next wave of terror. And when it came, it came hard. No one could be so used to something that they would not still jump out of their skin during these explosions.
Caulfield, lying face down, with his little stammer, said “I-iii-s it ova? Did we die?”
Henry sat up, not impressed with his baby brother’s outburst. “No, idiot. We’re alive. Peter’s dead. I’m done. Game over.”
They heard the cat shriek and then a loud thud.
Caulfield looked at Edwin, tearing up then at Henry, sourly as can be.
“He didn’t mean anything, Hank. C’mon.” Caulfield pleaded. “Geez.”
“Anyways, I don’t want to play right now. Mother is almost done and I want to be alone.” Henry sauntered up the long staircase and disappeared into his room.
Edwin’s tears rolled down his tender, ruddy face. He wiped them away angrily, as though embarrassed at his emotion. The kid was growing up fast. They all were.
Henry turned up his stereo; 70’s rock thumped through the floors. He threw himself on his little twin bed and stared at the ceiling. Curses came out of his lips; angry words about his mother and the state their lives were in. “Stupid woman. Control yourself! Heaven help her! I hate you, mother. I bloody hate you!”
A minute later, Mother was knocking at his door. When he opened it, he saw tears running down her face and makeup also running everywhere. “Tomorrow morning, at dawn, we bury your brother. You should get some sleep.”
“You too, Mother. You too” replied Henry, numbly, not making any eye contact. She closed the door and he mouthed off a few obscenities in whisper fashion, with both middle fingers extended toward the shut door.