July 3, 2008
Since we get to celebrate the Fourth tomorrow, and since the Fourth is all about fireworks, I’ll finish off “stories about my family” week with my worst moment as a human being.
When I was about 8 years old, I hit my nadir as a person and a brother, and I’ve been paying for it ever since.
Sophie had to choose between her kids. Hamlet killed Polonius by accident. Henry Fonda dropped the bomb on New York City.
I threw my 3 year old brother under the bus. I mean, not LITERALLY. Not literally, in the sense that, when your co-worker gets in trouble and you say “they LITERALLY CRUCIFIED him.” Not literally like that. Well, wait, yes like that. Literally as in, figuratively.
I figuratively threw him under the bus. To the lions. Left him twisting in the wind.
Summer in Minnesota, about 35 years ago, and the Fourth of July was upon us. Fireworks season. My dad had picked up a huge stash of cool fireworks in North Dakota, or Wyoming, or whatever wild west state you had to visit to get cool fireworks in those days, and he kept them in the bottom drawer of his dresser in his room. I wanted to fire some off, not on the Fourth, but now, TODAY. I would get a good one, a big one, and take it into the woods and fields behind the house and have a blast.
Except the whole family was home, and I didn’t know how to get to the fireworks and get out of the house.
So I told my little brother, who was 3 years old, I’d give him a piece of candy or something if he went into dad’s room and brought me out a big one. And he did. Cuz you know, he was 3.
But being 3, he didn’t really get the whole evil genius nature of my plan, and once he had found the fireworks, he dutifully brought ME the fireworks. Out into the kitchen, in front of the whole family.
I panicked, totally. After hyperventilating for a second or two, as I saw Rob approaching me with the dirty merchandise, I picked him up by the collar and belt, and chucked him directly under the oncoming bus.
Again, figuratively, not literally.
I said to my dad, who was in the kitchen too, “Hey dad, look what Rob did.”
I know, I know, the plan was retarded, not well thought out, stupidly implemented. Hey, I was EIGHT. But in the face of the enemy, when the plan unraveled, when the shit hit the fan, did I stand by my comrade, solidarity, semper fi?
Of course not. Rob, meet the bus. I remember that he got a slight spanking for that. And he was too confused by what happened to even rat me out. You know, him being only 3 and all that.
The face he made when my dad picked him up and carried him back to his room haunts my dreams, and sometimes when I’m awake. I’ve spent my life trying to atone for this, like the old Briony from Atonement. Pretty much nothing else I’ve ever done bothers me like this. Really. Nothing. Weird, huh?
The great irony? Rob doesn’t even remember it happened. No recollection whatsoever. But since I’ve told him, he does love to bring it up. Or if Kim wants to make me feel really really bad, she’ll mention it. Love them.