A short story based off my first ficly “Somewhere Else In Town”. This time it goes more into depth about the narrator’s resistance to let go of the past, and his tendency to blame his brother for being too caught up in it.
My brother, Geoffry watched me from across the armrest with his signature smile, ears raised, looking like an ass. The previous night, while I was trying to clean up the remains of Thanksgiving dinner and finally get the kids in bed, he told me that this was the one. This was the second one this month, the fifth this year, but heck, who was counting? He followed me around the house, a begging, prodding tone in his voice until I dropped the mostly empty boat of gravy in the sink and screamed at him. I told him exactly what I thought about him living in my house at thirty-two while he waited for his career as an impressionist painter to take off. It wouldn’t be taking off any time soon, but getting himself off the couch would be a good start. I told him that he didn’t have the money for a girlfriend even if this woman was his perfect match, and that she probably didn’t have any use for a bum. He wanted to know if that meant I would drive him around to find her. No, it meant I was done driving him around. His grand plan of action was to cruise around till he saw her. I wasn’t going to have any part of that. He didn’t like hearing the argument that he was acting like a child. He told me that I sounded like dad.
In bed, I watched the ceiling fan collect dust. I listened to the kids breathing in the next room, and stretched across the king size, trying to fill the space to my right that Nathalie left when she ran away. You think you know when it’s “the one.” I chide my brother for saying that about every woman he meets. Maybe he’s just afraid that he’ll never find anyone, or maybe he’s right every time in the same way that I was “right” when I married the girl who left me and the kids. I sounded like dad. I got up to close the window; it was getting chilly out.
The next morning we slid open the left barn door, watching the trees sway in the breeze. Geoff and I hopped in the car and headed for town, bouncing in silence down the gravel driveway. He had won again.
I looked at the restaurant from the front seat of the Taurus that I had bought last year for too much money. Nathalie and I had been saving it for the kids’ college education, but when she left she took the car, and I was too afraid to call the police. Our fifteen thousand went to this car. Now I was using it to help my brother find someone he met at one of those free-coffee, two-minute speed dating groups that try to get you paired up with someone equally lonely and tired of rejection for the fair price of ten bucks a night.
He tried to explain that this girl was the whole package, and he was an excellent salesman for someone who couldn’t get his art out of my living room. Green eyes like spring and short dark hair. Tattoos everywhere. A girl like that sold me weed in high school. A girl like that got pregnant from Geoff when he was fifteen. Geoff hasn’t grown up. Geoff is a little stuck in the past. He needs to be babied, but I’m not sure I’m the person for the job.
I turned to him. He was talking about sitting around a long table, looking at a large hairy man, waiting for his turn with one of the women. The dating group. I asked if the fat man had “green eyes like spring” too. Only three women made an appearance, so seven men were forced to sit and wait. They held meetings on Tuesday nights in a small conference room in the admissions building of a local community college. It was Friday afternoon. My brother was still hooked on that woman, and we were hunting her. There had to be a law against that somewhere.
I was forty years old. I didn’t know what I was doing. The car engine puttered in the frigid November air, and I cut it. We were downtown, up against the curb. Too cold to think anymore. Only a few people on the streets stupid enough to brave that kind of cold. Seemed like it blew in overnight.
I had left the kids at the neighbor’s. Two and three years old, probably bored out of their minds being told to avoid the china cabinet by that seventy year old coot. Geoff’s habits were starting to get in the way of my spending time with more important people, and I was enabling him. I bit my tongue and swallowed the urge to take us back home immediately. Still, without Nathalie at home, part of the reason that I condoned Geoff’s behavior was because it gave me an excuse to run away from the single-parent lifestyle that I’d been forced into. It seemed like the only time I left the house to do anything other than work or shop was when I was with Geoff.
He nodded his head back and forth peering out the driver’s side window, trying to find the green eyes like spring. Quiet streets except for the howling gusts. No one really. Homeless man in an alley way, fetal position, back to the wind, but no one really.
Earlier we had cruised around, listening to the breaks creak as we neared red lights, listening to the growl of the engine as we left them. Empty roads for the most part. We passed the Chinese take out place in which I’m not allowed any more. I took my eyes off the road to look at the bowling alley where my friend was stabbed during my high school years. He was back on his feet within two weeks, but something about our town had been shattered for me, and for a lot of people. I might be the only person still living here all these years later. Geoff doesn’t look over; he doesn’t remember. After that it wasn’t long before the sense of security vanished. A few years back there were problems with gang violence. You can see a lot in forty years.
I wanted to stop at the supermarket for a snack. He told me we should keep moving.
I couldn’t have been sure if the sky was threatening rain or snow. It was gray enough for either, or a lot of both.
Eventually we found ourselves parallel parked in the center of town waiting for a miracle. Geoff was hopeful. The wind knocked a slew of brown leaves like a thousand tiny umbrellas down the narrow sidewalk, and my brother looked at me, grinning. Again.
Something about today just meant that I wasn’t going to get any work done. The architect gig was paying the bills, but I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere. I designed the house I live in, my children’s bedrooms, but it was becoming almost too much to handle on my own, what with my trio of children, two, three, and thirty-two, running around.
When Geoff wasn’t talking, I wanted to turn the car back on and listen to the radio and kill the silence, and when he was talking, I wanted to drown him out the same way.
Back a few years ago when we were both a little younger and Geoff was a little more naïve–this was when my wife was still with me–he came over to spend a few nights on the couch. He’d been kicked out of his apartment after he failed to pay his rent for the second month in a row.
The clouds seemed a tint darker than before, like they were getting ready for something. An older man in a heavy coat hobbled through the wind, and as he passed by, I saw a woman with green eyes like spring and short dark hair entering the restaurant. She was holding a man’s hand. My brother didn’t notice. I stuck the car into gear and pulled out of the space, my turning signal clicking nervously, loudly. I told him we would look for her somewhere else in town, and asked him if he had thought about what he would say when he saw her.
The original Ficly: “Somewhere Else In Town”