by Leanna Totten

by Karen ArnoldMy brother and I ended up in separate households.  Me at our Grandmother’s and he went to our Aunt’s.  Our Aunt Linda was married to a man with issues.  My brother would call me at night and tell me how crazy Uncle John was.  He would say, “Uncle John drinks all the time and he plays Russian roulette with the kids.”  I could hear Uncle John hollering in the background, their television on full volume and kids crying.  I could imagine how much beer he had drank and wondered if he ever hit anyone,  Aunt Linda always made excuses for him, telling everyone that Uncle John was depressed and he couldn’t help himself.  My Grandmother would roll her eyes and say, “He is just a damn drunk.”

My brother told me that Uncle John would pretend to put a bullet in an old revolver.  He would spin the cylinder and then point the gun at one of his kids.  No one had ever gotten shot, but it made the kids cry anyway.  Torture is what my brother called it.  Trash is what he called Uncle John.

Aunt Linda would say, “Oh, ya’ll.  You know he is just playing.  There ain’t no bullets in that gun.”  Then my brother would call her trash, too.  Not to her face, just to me.  My brother didn’t belong in that house.

When my brother called he would plead with me to come get him.  About once a month, I could talk my Grandmother into it, we would go pick him up and he would get a few days furlough from what he called hell.

We never spoke much about our parents.  My brother said they were trash, too.  They could never get their act together.  Our father was in jail under the three strikes you are out rule.  He had so many felony convictions he will probably never breathe free air again.  Our Mom was dead.  Too much Crank had made her hallucinate, and she shot herself.  There had only been one bullet in the gun.  My brother and I wondered if she was playing Russian roulette like Uncle John.

One day I told my Grandmother about Uncle John and his revolver.  My Grandmother looked at me in total disbelief and said, “Jesus Christ.  That drunk sombitch is going to kill someone.  Unfortunately for us, it won’t be him either.”

That day we went to Aunt Linda and Uncle John’s and freed my brother from hell.

I look back on our childhood and it feels like watching a movie of someone else’s life. Like a great wave picks me up and carries me to some place I don’t want to remember.  But I do anyway.  I don’t talk about those days with my brother.  We only talk about the current times what we call the good times.

We both made it through high school.  My brother went into the Army, and I made it all the way through law school.  We are now sitting together at Uncle John’s funeral.  One day, Aunt Linda reached her limit.  She picked up the revolver, put one bullet in the chamber and shot Uncle John.  When my Grandmother called to give me the news she said in total disbelief, “I didn’t know she had it in her.”

My brother just said, “Trash.”

Category: Memoir, Short Story