Blinking Casey stared at Gene “what are you doing here?” He closed his eyes to slow the revolving of the room around him. “I think I’m going to be sick.”
“Go right ahead. I’m not stopping you,” Gene told him without pity.
“I don’t need your permission,” Casey grumbled.
Shrugging Gene got up and stared around the room in disgust. “This place reeks.” Wrinkling his nose from the stench permeating his senses.
“Sorry maids day off,” Casey grumbled wiping his mouth. “My head his killing me,” he reached for the bottle Gene had tossed aside earlier.
“You don’t need that,” Gene told him moving to take the bottle from him.
“Who says? You?” Casey stared at him. “You’re the last person I thought I’d see here. Come to gloat?”
Shaking his head Gene walked away crossing his arms, “you need help.”
“What makes you such an expert?” Casey asked moaning when Gene turned the lights on.
Glaring at his brother, Gene crossed his arms “I’ve been here before, except I was the one needing help.” Walking a few paces away he started to gather dirty dishes bringing them to the sink. “This place is a pit. Good thing Eddie isn’t here.”
Eyes narrowed Casey struggled to his feet. Leaning heavily against the wall “What does Eddie have to do with this?”
Without looking at him Gene continued washing dishes. “You left Eddie at dad’s place over a month ago. Don’t you miss him?”
“Of course I do … it’s just …..” he stopped holding his head. “Why do you care anyway?”
Giving him a sideways glance Gene sighed “well I might be wrong since I don’t have kids but isn’t it bad parenting or something to just dump your kid on the grandparents so’s you can go get drunk?”
Casey growled “I love my son.”
Without looking at Casey, Gene spoke distinctly “sure could have fooled me.”
Screaming Casey charged at Gene, rage taking over where lethargy had kept him glued to the floor for days. How dare he say he wasn’t a good father? What did he know of the stresses of raising a child? What did Gene know of love and loss? The more thoughts that echoed in his head the more he struck out. He didn’t care what he was hitting only that he was striking out. He was so tired of feeling lost and alone.
As his anger dwindled Casey became aware of Gene curled up beneath him. Was he laughing? Casey had just used him as a punching bag and he was laughing. Rolling off him Casey leaned against the cupboard “are you alright?” he asked in concern as Gene hadn’t moved since he’d got off him.
Gene slowly uncurled himself, wiping blood from his nose. “You know you hit like a girl.”
Casey couldn’t believe what he was hearing or seeing. He had just beat his brother up and Gene hadn’t even thrown a punch, it was if ….. “You wanted to make me angry.”
“Yeah,” Gene said as he held his nose leaning his head back to stop the flow of blood.
“Why?” Casey asked bewildered.
“I had to make you feel something,” Gene shrugged “you were just sitting there like so much silly putty. I had to kick-start you into thinking , feeling something.”
“Why didn’t you hit back? Defend yourself?” Casey asked refusing to look at him.
“Robert never did,” Gene stated “he just let me hit until I calmed down. I always felt like shit afterwards. He told me once that he knew I wasn’t angry at him but at the world. Since I couldn’t hit the word I was hitting him. I thought you might be feeling the same way.”
Casey nodded in agreement “life sucks.”
Gene smiled “that it does brother that it does.”
“Did I hurt you?” Casey asked watching how gingerly Gene was moving around.
“Naw I told you, you hit like a girl.”
“Liar,” Casey looked around him “God this place is a mess.”
“Not how I imagined your house looking like,” Gene admitted. “Want to talk about it?”
Shrugging “not really but …..” Closing his eyes to shut out the mess he sighed “I don’t have much choice.” Opening his eyes again “can we go outside? I need some air.”
Laughing Gene chided “first your washing off some of that funk …. you stink. All the fresh air in the world isn’t going to change that.”
Groaning Casey squeezed is eyes shut whining “the bathroom looks worse than this.”
“Well you better get busy,” Gene told him pulling him to his feet. “It’s about time this place had a thorough cleaning.”
Eyeing him Casey mumbled “you’ve changed.”
“You’ve noticed,” Gene muttered “it only took getting wasted for you to see it.”
“I … ah hell I’m sorry,” Casey said getting to his feet. “I shouldn’t have held the past against you.”
“Damn right,” Gene said “now go clean your sorry ass up.”
Casey walked into the bathroom and groaned at the mess that awaited him. How did he allow this happen? Fighting the urge to vomit he gathered up what will power he had and started to scour the toilet. Head pounding from his exertions he forced himself to continue. It was time he got his life in order again. Once the bathroom was sparkling clean again he tackled the disgusting litter box. Gagging as he cleaned it he wondered if it would just be better to buy a new one. That poor cat.
‘Oh god a month he’d been in a drunken stupor that long.’ He probably lost his job. He had a vague memory of a nasty phone call from his boss threatening him to show up for his scheduled shift or not bother coming back at all. When was that? Shaking his head he looked at his reflection in the mirror ‘you’ve made a right mess of things.’
luxuriating in the bath Casey marveled at how good it felt. He’d probably need to clean the tub again once he was done but it’d be worth it. Changing clothes he gathered up the clothes had been wearing debating whether or not to throw them away. He doubted he’d ever want to wear them again. Making up his mind he walked out into the living room, throwing the clothes in the trash can on his way. “You’ve been busy,” he commented to Gene “I didn’t know you knew how to clean.”
“There’s a lot of things you don’t know about me.” Gene retorted “question is do you want to know.”
Mouth hanging open Casey was shocked and went for the easy answer “of course I do. Your my brother.”
Gene’s eyes narrowed as he muttered “figures.”
“What do you mean by that?” Casey asked taking offense “of course I do.”
“Then why didn’t you to tell me you needed help before you completely lost it” Gene asked harshly.
“I …. I … didn’t think,” Casey cast back in his memories and found not once where he thought about reaching out to Gene. He had wanted Robert. Robert had always been there when he needed someone. It felt like Robert had abandoned him when he needed him the most. He never believed that he could lean on Gene. Gene had always been the wild child. The reckless out of control brother he didn’t or want to understand.
He could have called his dad but he didn’t want to see the disappointment in his dad’s eyes or the worry. His dad had enough to worry about between Robert being gone, Shon in the hospital and Evelyn falling apart. Casey hadn’t wanted to add to it and now he realized he had compounded his dad’s problems. He thought he could handle it. He thought it would be just a couple of days before he had a handle on things. A couple of drinks to relax. Now suddenly it’s a month later, who’s been paying the bills?
All this time Gene had been staring at him, hostility plain in his stance. Could he blame him? Not really, Casey had done nothing to bridge the gap between them. He preferred that Gene stay away from him and his son. Maybe if he had been there for Gene when he had needed someone they wouldn’t be where they are today. They had both relied up on Robert as the go between and neither one of them knew how to be any different. They only had each other now. “Gene I’m sorry,” hanging his head “give me chance. Give us a chance to be brothers.”
Nodding his head “alright you can start by telling me what happened.”
Sitting on the couch Casey looked down at his hands, then out the window anywhere but at Gene. “I just needed a way to relax. The pressure had been building inside to the point where I felt like I was going to explode. I’ve never been one to act impulsively or do anything wild and crazy.” Sighing he looked up at Gene “I asked Lynn to marry me and she said no. I don’t know, it felt like something snapped inside me and all I wanted to do was crawl in a hole somewhere and die. With dad preoccupied with Evelyn and Robert it felt like I had no one left.” Wiping his eyes he laughed without mirth “I kept wondering what made me so unlovable. Every woman I’ve ever gotten close to has left me. Mom, Hannah, Lynn they all acted like they loved me but in the end I was left all alone. What’s wrong with me that I’m so unlovable?”
Going over to his brother Gene put a hand on his shoulder “that’s simply not true. Mom is well …. mom. Don’t waste you time on her. Hannah is a grade ‘A’ bitch and you’re better off without her. But I think you’re wrong about Lynn.”
“No I’m pretty sure I understand what no means,” Casey replied a stubborn edge in his voice.
“That might be but she hasn’t gone anywhere.” Gene pulled his phone out “she cares about you.” He handed Casey his phone to show him her text “she’s the reason I’m here.”
“But why did she?” Casey began then stopped not sure he wanted to know.
Shrugging Gene said “I don’t know maybe you were going to too fast for her. Maybe she thought you were only asking because she’s good with Eddie. Believe me, you’re not going to get anywhere with the girl until your both on the same page. The only way you’re going to do that is to talk to her.” Pulling his brother up from the couch “and this time listen to her.”
“Ok ok ,” Casey muttered. “How did you become such an expert?”
“I’ve had my fair share of failed relationships. Pearl, Tracie to name a couple but I’m learning. With Aimee I want to get it right.” Gene smiled as he mentioned her name.
Catching the smile Casey asked “will I get a chance to meet her?”
“Of course she’s at dad’s playing video games with Michael,” looking around him “is the house alright?”
“It looks great,” Casey sniffed the air “let’s open all the windows and let the place air out some.”
“Ok let’s go,” Gene said entering the living room.
“Go where?” Casey asked confused.
“It’s time Eddie was reunited with is father.” Gene grinned “he misses you.” He fell silent as they walked outside. “You know I didn’t mean what I said earlier about you not being a good dad?
Looking at Gene with a sad smile “Well I wouldn’t have won father of the year. But thanks for telling me.” Grabbing Gene’s arm as he walked past “and thanks for coming.”
Gene gave him a genuine smile as he gave his brother a hug for the first time of his own accord “there might be hope for us yet.”
“Hope for what?” Casey asked confused.
“For us to be brothers and it only took you getting drunk.” Playfully Gene punched Casey’s arm. “If I had know that I would have gotten you drunk a long time ago.”
Groaning “I don’t think I’ll ever drink again.”
“Better not. I might not be so warm and lovable next time.” Gene joked grabbing his side as if something hurt when he laughed.
Looking at him Casey asked “You’re sure you’re alright?” Casey scrutinized the bruises on Gene’s face wondering why he was rubbing his side.
“I’m fine,” Gene frowned at him “quit worrying. I told you, you hit like a girl.”
Shrugging Casey dropped the subject as he followed Gene to their parents house.