Chapter 1 - Sample Chapter
My brother Charlemagne Roberts was unusual. He was already nine when I found out that he suffered a medical condition that made him look, act and seem like a toddler: Down syndrome it was. Charlie could not improve the way he talked; he stuttered frequently. His eyes were small, his hair was blond and scant, and his teeth were tiny and weak. Charlie did not attend school, as long as I remembered; he was kept locked with me at home to protect him from this cruel world. He looked like a baby, so we treated him as one.
We lived in a random street of a suburban village – a retirement village. When the Second World War concluded, some anonymous surviving soldiers were believed to be the ones who built and dwell the village. Dread that the enemies would return and avenge, the village remained unnamed and secluded. The only access to the hamlet was the public highway. The city was two hours away.
The neighborhood was mostly retirees – taciturn, self-abandoned, neglected and alone. The houses were built distant from each though there were few of them. Some were forsaken and wrecked. No one claimed any. By morning, before the sun rise, old folks would simultaneously work within their gardens - a thing uncanny to me; however it seemed that it was some way of them for entertaining themselves. I could see their yearning for a visit from a relative whenever I caught them slouching by their front porches every day and would then pass out due to drowsiness. I would not understand their disinclination to talk with neighbors which I thought would defuse their desolate longing for someone. These old people could have rehabilitated their depressive lives by consulting with one another.
The usual day in the neighborhood was a deafening silence. I could hear the strong blow of wind through the air and tall grasses outside the wire fence of the border of the village. I realized we lived next to it so I could precisely see the green grass dancing tirelessly. It was synchronized and rhythmic and monotonous. There was nothing to view but the broad field and the horizon between the grass and the sky. Every day after breakfast, I would come up with a new game with Charlie; however there was something that curbed us from carrying out – there was someone. Making usual noise within our own yard was extremely audible. Our neighbors were all old veterans of wars and found solace through tranquility. They had lived most of their times within their homes, reading books and newspapers and taking naps, and that ought not to be interfered. We would be doomed, not through battery but through morbid words and yell.
Growing up in the neighborhood, I had a pile of horrendous memories that we had learned from. There was one time when Charlie and I recklessly bicycling around without painstaking evasion of the lawns of our distant neighbors, my brother fell into Mrs. Coleslaws’ pots of azaleas in her yard, two houses from ours. Charlie had a cut in his knee and Mrs. Coleslaw caught him. We were both sentenced to plant new one as compensation under the burning sun. The memory that I did not want to reminisce and was supposedly buried the same day in utter darkness along with the anger I had for Mrs. Coleslaw. We could have escaped her fatal lawn, but Mrs. Coleslaw was someone who had glaring pair of eyes, dreadful enough to make a wimp pee out of his pajamas. Her look cost tons of regret. She was naturally rude, a fat woman in mid-50s with a hollering voice that would haunt you in your dreams. Coleslaw family was among the most discreet in the village, and Charlie's mishap was immoral accordingly that it left him terrified up until now. Mrs. Coleslaw and her only daughter, Barbara, who was way ruder that she would roll her eyes whenever they met mine and Charlie's, were completely isolated. They were deceived that isolation would be necessary and wholesome for them so they made no contact, even after Mr. Coleslaw's death years ago. Harry, worn-out from his work, was badly anxious when Charlie caught fever from trauma for days. That was one of the reasons why old folks would not like kids like us. Some spoke, some shut their doors, some sprayed waters whenever we passed by, all because of the ridiculous stereotype and monotonous belief that all children, not related to these people, were generally and disturbingly vexatious. Henry kindly expounded that it was because old people loved calmness and everything that behaved well. Charlie and I were mainly known to hound a lot. We played various and peculiar games in the front yard that old folks wouldn't understand, and at the very next time, we had been told that Charlie and I were odd and out-of-the-way.
My closest relative Harry Barnes was my deceased mother’s only brother. He was born and raised along with his grandfather in an ancestral house that had been passed to more than three generations before he, himself, inherited it. When his grandfather passed away, Harry vowed to assure that he would be spending the rest of his life in the house. Harry was a lot different from the usual folks. He used to work in the city as a fast-food chain crew. He was naturally friendly and contagious that when the sun was set amid afternoon, his eyes and teeth glistened as he greets everyone around. Harry was a lot different from Charlie and me, the folks liked him. He was a perfect compound of genuineness and courteousness. He was formal, he did not laugh much, and he did not play alien games. Old folks said that when Harry was young, he loved to hear them their stories, and he believed them. Harry was obedient, he even helped them to their gardens, which was something Charlie and I would not. However, I reckoned that we had his enthusiasm and optimism in life and somehow, that made us eternally related at heart.
My parents both died in a tragic car accident years ago. As far as Harry could tell, it was a horrendous memory to keep so he decided to move on along with me and Charlie. I was 4 and Charlie was six months alive when Henry initiated to adopt us. As my mother's only brother, Harry opted to conclude his own education to find a living to raise us. His commitment substantiated that being a parent does not mean to have his own child whose blood runs same as his. Being a parent does not need to make life, it is about giving life. The death of my parents was something Harry would not like to discuss. He would mainly explain that he was very worn-out by work, or just it was ambiguous to in his memory or it was a noxious story for children to hear, but I knew that it was just a dodge to keep us off of asking about it because it was a vivid and painful memory for him.
Under financial circumstances, Harry kept us locked most days of the summer. He could not afford to pay for a cook, or a nanny, or anyone who'd look after Charlie and me, so Harry had been whole-heartedly satisfied to edify me, as thirteen and the eldest, on how to properly use the gas stove, how to make bologna sandwiches, how to deal with strangers, and whatnot.
The summer was unpredictable. The heat was unendurable that by noon, everyone was forced to stay at home, watching favorite noontime shows or baking goodies, unless someone would like to get tan or stroke. Mr. Goodman, the fat and black old man who lived in front of us, loved to sweep leaves away his doorstep and lawn. He was eccentric and did not talk to anyone in the village, perhaps - no one just hadn't heard him. He was mean that when I greet him in the morning, he wouldn't even look me in the eyes and stop sweeping to do the same in return. His door and windows were frequently shut. No one asked, no one cared. However, life is a Shakespeare's poem; everyone can read but few would dare to understand and reflect. Perhaps there were hidden stories behind Mr. Goodman's behavior, but I was not allowed to care, Henry strictly enunciated not to mind anything that had nothing to deal with me, and so did I.
Charlie had recovered and decided to play in the yard as a superhero. He had again snuck his red blanket from his bed to make it his cape. I let him play while I did the dishes.
“I’d be late tonight, Carolina.” Harry yelled from the living room.
“Stop, Harry. It’s Carol!” he chuckled audibly. I knew he was teasing me again.
“Do not go out a lot. Do not let your brother ride his bicycle again, all right? Do not talk to strangers. Oh god, I wish I could stay with you, honey.”
I glanced at him through the wall that separates the sink from the living area. Harry was massaging his arm.
“Are you hurt, Harry? Stay with us.” He looked around to see me.
“It’s okay, honey. I’d be all right. It’s you and Charlie I am worried about.”
Harry smiled at me with sanguine. He was 28 now, thin and not that timeworn. Mostly, I’d be worried about his health. He had gotten no enough sleep because Charlie had a hard time sleeping at night. His eyes were dark and sullen. I wish I could help him, I wish we were rich. Harry’s pursuit made me ambitious and persistent. I wanted a better life for him and Charlie. Harry’s sacrifices were something I could not pay back. I had loved him as my own father as much as how he loved us as his own.
“We’d be fine, Harry. I hope you’d be too.”
Harry kissed me in my forehead as usual before facing Charlie and his consequence, however Harry loved him so much that he let him to play with his blanket, which meant that Harry had to hand wash it again by next day.