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Fooling self
by Katerina Charisi
2016-11-27 11:39:48
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“How you doing?” I asked Michael that morning back in the shed where Bradford kept all the useless scrap and spare parts of the old cars. He and Marianne had left few days ago with him saying that he wouldn’t need those anymore; he had everything he needed on the truck. He didn’t mind to leave our car, though. When I mentioned the car while they were getting ready to go - Bradford on Jacob’s old truck with their stuff loaded in the back, Marianne smiling behind the wheel in Michael’s - he lowered his head without letting me saying a word and he said: “It’s his car, Jenny, I’ve already told you that. He had paid for it in the first place. Can’t do anything about it, not anymore.”

kat01_400_04He had told me before in another fight about the same manner how Brad had ran the car to the house five years ago, head out of window, hand on the horn, shouting: “Hey, little brother, look what I got ya!” Michael had dashed the stairs and ran out to see his new car. That day even Jacob had a smile drawn on his face. Frances stood at the front door, watching her boys. “Can’t change brotherly love!” She said and giggled. Michael jumped in and Brad turned and took it to the main road and back. He mentioned a knock in the cylinders. When they took it slowly back to the shed, Michael had already rolled his sleeves up. “Jerks when I throw the second, Brad”, he said behind the wheel. “Yeah, must have lost a tooth or two. Pull your sleeves down, okay? I’m not getting all over grease before I eat something. I’m starving”.

They asked Frances to put them something on the table, while they never stopped the talk about the car. Even with their plates in front of them, mouths full of beefstake and mashed potatoes, they went all along about the car and how they would turn it to a doll. “Needs lining and new brake too”, Bradford said between the munching and sipping quickly the coffee that Frances gave him. He made a short calculation of the cost and Michael gasped. “Can’t pay for all this Brad”.  His brother smiled. “I will. No worries. We’ll get a good price.” Back to the shed later, he found two broken teeth and the brothers were greased to their eyebrows, all happy.

I didn’t say anything else. Paid or not, it was for Michael and I didn’t agree with his excuse. Who takes a gift back? Michael straightened his back and let his arms drop on his sides. He looked like he didn’t know what to do with his arms.

“Doing the best I can”. He rubbed his hands on his dirty overalls and wiped his face. Sweat ran down his temples. A dark green vain pulsed between his eyes. I remembered Frances saying that Michael was born angry, this vain showing up and pulsing above his nose and disappearing all the sudden, she said she remembered herself worrying about it at first because it looked like a small bruise.

 “I could go...”

“Nah, you can’t and you know it.”

I wanted to tell him that all this time I could have done something, that was the whole point after all, me and him working together, working our land, sharing the chores, talking about the weather and earth at dinner, planning our year, falling to sleep all tired and with our muscles stiff and sore. Together. Happy. But I didn’t say a word about it.

“Do you think it’s going to work? I mean, all this?”

He raised his arms and shrugged and rolled his eyes. “What do you want me to do, Jen? I’m a man on his own out here. I do the best I can. We need a car and I try to-” he threw the greasy rag away. He was struggling with something that could turn to a car, but was far away from it at the moment.

“We need help, Michael”, I said as softly as I could.

“Oh yeah? Who is going to help? My parents? Or Sam?”

“I could... I mean, after the baby is born-“

“No. Someone has to take care of the family and someone has to make us a living. The baby needs you. I need you at home. I am not doing all this for my mother and father. I am supposed to take care of you. Take care of all this”, he said and showed around with his arms wide open. That was too much work for one person and we could never manage to put it in a row, even if everything went well. “Sometimes I wonder what am I doing here, you know? All these people on my shoulders, all the things to be done. I start before the sunrise and I stop when I can’t see a thing in the dark and when I turn my head around the next morning everything looks like before.”

It was a weird feeling to put all of your strength into something you had no idea it is worth the effort. I could share his worries and feel a slightly taste of failure somewhere in the back of my throat, but I couldn’t let everything hanging in the air just like that, left to hopes and the feeling of obligation to the land and the house. After all, we could... Oh, Michael would never agree to that, but we could just leave. Start a new life somewhere else. Okay, it was a nice dream, all this, the country side, the fresh air, the big house, but look at us now. This dream doesn’t seem to like us. Why wasting more time?

“I won’t let it beat me, though. I’ll turn this place to its best. I’ll make it. It’s my house, my land, my family.” Michael murmured to himself. How could I possibly even mention my thinking about going away?

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