Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"Almost a Day" -Rough Draft

It was Thanksgiving and three families had come together in one house, things get lost in a house like that. My mother asked me where my brother was. “Have you seen him?” she said “No” I replied barley looking up from my book. We both knew where he was, it was just a formality to ask. It gave us a reason to bring up his sickness, his disregard for us, his narcissism. I continued to sit on the couch as my mind shifted from the story I was once lost in to thoughts of my brother in an upstairs bathroom finding new ways to get Oxy into his body. Simply swallowing them had perhaps lost its appeal and smoking it was too risky. I bet he crushed them up on my grandmother’s bathroom sink and snorted them.

My parents and I knew what was going on but all the aunts, cousins and grandparents here were in the dark about my brother. They knew he had some problems with drugs but their knowledge of addiction was limited to what they had seen on TV or in the movies. There were whispers in the house about where he was, only a select few were let in on the suspicion that he used today. Someone was upstairs and saw him; he looked out of it and confused. To someone unknowing -- maybe he was tired or home sick. To us, it was a familiar warm chair that we could sink into. Here we were again, back at zero, but what to do? Nothing worked on him so why try. We just stayed paralyzed by him, he ran the show, and tonight was his night.

We decided to go to dinner, nowhere fancy though; my grandfather liked it simple. “Crackle Barrel?” my grandmother said. “Ok” my mom said, not wanting to put up a fight, too weakened by my brother to argue. She paced, wearing her jacket and ready to go. By this time we were all ready to go, we just needed him to come downstairs. One by one my parents went to check on him, there was no explanation as to what was taking him so long. They simply descended the stairs and continued to pace, jacket on, ready to go.

Finally the big moment came, to some it was their first real look at addiction, to me it was only thoughts of where it all went wrong. My parents, already broken down, looked like they had lost again. There was still a glimmer of hope but tonight it was overshadowed by a fear that this would never end.

He sped down the stairs looking like almost normal; unaware that nine people had been waiting on him and discussing him. His jacket was on when he hit the last step, but we were on his schedule and he needed coffee. Some was made and waiting in the pot, he poured it, he looked almost ok.

During the fifteen minute car ride it took hold. It transformed him; he was gone now, gone to conversation, gone to reason gone to anything resembling my brother. Any hope for normalcy escaped, the rest of us couldn’t even talk. This wasn’t supposed to happen, not after the rehab he went to, it was supposed to fix this.

Dinner was like a show. We watched as he stared into the menu pretending to not know what to order. His eyes were barley open and every now and then they closed completely, until his body convulsed slightly and he awoke again. He fumbled through the menu like it was an ancient language, “can I get breakfast ….is this the breakfast menu” he slurred. “It’s dinner time” my mother snapped.

From the outside he looked pathetic; slow moving, slow thinking, like a cross between an old person and a new born baby. On the inside though I knew he felt perfect, numb to all of his problems and worries. He felt good enough to sacrifice all of us at least, this insulated life he chose was only big enough for him.

As soon as we arrived home I disappeared into the basement, we were going home early the next morning and I needed sleep. When the next day came we all got ready, moved luggage to the car and ate a quick breakfast. After breakfast I put my jacket on and waited for my brother to come downstairs.


  1. This is a terrific first draft, full of longing and false hope, because we are not sure if the brother will ever get better, even though the narrator wants him to. I think your way in to emotional truth is through the desire of this narrator, his desire for his brother to get better. Mine this for all it's worth. When you revise, try to strip out the "telling" passages and show us this story unfolding. I think the fifteen minute car ride is a great place to expand. Let us see through the narrator's eyes his brother transforming like a werewolf. Slow it down and let us really see. Through these descriptions we will feel the narrator's pain more precisely. Great start. I'm looking forward to seeing how you finish! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Great advice from JM there T. I too feel for your narrator and am fully drawn into his pain and frustration.

    I liked how you plugged dialogue from multiple people into the same paragraph. Of course that's technically against the rules, but I thought it worked here, it made the focus on the two brothers, and the rest of the family mattered less.

    It's so sad, oxycontin and oxycodone ruin so many lives. They're basically just Heroin in a bottle.

    I do agree with JM, there are some spots where this needs some tightening and some work, and other parts that could be expanded, but I think you're off to a great start here.