Friday, January 3, 2014

My Brother's Keeper

“Please, help me.”
Billy barely heard the plea from inside the box. In the beginning, the screaming and cursing were so loud they hurt his ears, and he thought the kicking was sure to burst the box right open, but, evidently shipping crates were as strong as they claimed. The kicking and screaming wouldn’t do any good anyway. Billy had learned the hard way that nobody heard your screams out there.
By the time the dirt had reached the half-way point of the box, the cursing had stopped and the clawing and begging started. The first shovelful of dirt Billy threw on top of the crate brought about pounding and promises. Unfortunately, Billy had given up on promises a long time ago.
“I… can’t… breathe.”
Billy laughed. “I used to feel the same way when you had my face crushed into the pillow.”
“Billy? Is…”
“Hello, Dad.”
“Please, son,…out”
Billy ignored his father’s begging and kept shoveling dirt onto and around the box. He was almost finished when his father started crying.
“Please stop!” his father wailed. “Please!”
“How many times did I say the same thing to you?” Billy demanded. “You know, I thought it was my fault. That I was somehow to blame for the pain you caused me all these years. That I did something wrong or I really was evil like you said. You had me convinced, Dad, until last night.”
When the begging and crying stopped, Billy said, “That’s right. I saw you coming out of Jeremy’s room last night.”
“I…promise it..wi…ll…never…happ…”
“It should have never happened in the first place!” Billy yelled. “He’s only six!”
“I know. I’m…sorr…y.”
“Sorry isn’t going to cut it this time, Dad,” Billy said and threw another mound of dirt onto the crate. “Sorry won’t bring his innocence back.” He pushed the shovel into the ground again. “Sorry won’t stop his tears!” He brought the shovel around once more. “Sorry won’t ease the pain! Sorry won’t stop the blood!” Billy screamed as the shovel handle cracked. “Sorry won’t give me back the last eight years!”
The head of the shovel slashing his arm as it flew by snapped Billy out of his rage. He tore a piece of his shirttail off and tied it around his arm. He’d go to his uncle, a doctor, later. The man was used to patching him up and not asking questions.
No matter how hard Billy tried to put his brother out of his mind, the boy’s pleas from the night before kept haunting him. He could still see his father coming out of Jeremy’s room and hear Jeremy saying, “I’m so sorry, Daddy, I will be a good boy from now on. I promise.”
Billy had waited until their father went into his own room before going to Jeremy. The boy didn’t want to talk about it at first, but after Billy started talking about his own experiences, Jeremy finally opened up. By the time he was through, Billy was shaking so hard he could barely stand. He promised his little brother that nobody would ever hurt him again.
“Never again, Jeremy,” he whispered as he picked up the shovel head and started scraping dirt into the hole. He noticed how his blood mingled with the older, dried blood from where he’d hit his father earlier that morning. Billy somehow thought it fitting. After all, they both had blood on their hands in one way or another.
“Please, God,” his father whispered as the dirt rained through the few remaining holes in the crate.
“Go ahead and pray,” Billy said. “It won’t do you any good. God quit listening to this family a long time ago.”