Meathead and Loser

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Brother

I had two older brothers, River, who was arguably my dad’s favorite, and Alex, who no one liked. River was the one who found me. He ambushed me at work, but I was quick to take him home.

“This is nice, bro, better than I was expecting,” River remarked as he looked around Nick and my apartment.

“What are you doing here? How are you here?” I asked while taking off my black work apron.

I was flustered and trying to get my bearings.

“You wouldn’t come home, so I came to you,” he said, walking around the living room while I stood watching.

“How did you find me?”

“Find you? We never lost you,” he laughed and finally stopped moving.

My brother. He was the spitting image of our father with his perfect combed hair, fancy shoes, and business casual look. Even the way he smiled reminded me of dad, but River wasn’t our father. He had two faces, the one he wore when dad was around and the one I knew best.

“You stole dad’s car, and you’re still using the phone he got you,” he added.

I should have upgraded my cheap phone a long time ago, and it was a miracle I hadn’t been arrested for the car, but I guess I never thought about how easily those things could be traced.

“What does Dad want? Is he mad?” I asked nervously while River came to sit on the couch.

I was hesitant, but eventually, I sat beside him. There was a seat between us.

“He’s disappointed, Tommy, but he’d kill to have you back home. We all would,” River confessed.

I smelled like onions and grease. My clothes were filthy. I couldn’t stop sweating. That wasn’t the way I imagined returning to my family, but River left me little choice. Why couldn’t he have shown up after I got off work and had time to clean up? I still would have looked poor in comparison but less dirty if nothing else.

“What are you doing here?” I asked without looking his way.

Even though my body was turned to his, my eyes couldn’t look higher than his nose or lower than his eyebrows. I was never a salesman; I couldn’t hide my shame.

“It’s been two years. Dad thought if we gave you space, you would come back after you saw how hard things were without us,” he said.

“I’m not alone,” I remarked.

“And I get that. I can see that. But he’ll never ask you to come back. He feels like he failed you. We all do. Maybe we all did, but honestly, bro, I think you’ve been selfish.”

What did he say? Selfish? “How have I been selfish?” I said, finally looking into his eyes.

“You kept a part of yourself from us and ran away without giving us a chance to accept it,” he answered before I could take another breath.

“You wouldn’t have, he wouldn’t have,” I said.

“You don’t know that. Do you think I give a shit that you wanted to screw dudes? Maybe I might have had questions, but you never let me ask them.”

I couldn’t look away, and something told me he couldn’t either.

There was heat rising in my chest. Rage was better than shame, but I still felt the need to say, “I need you to leave. I don’t want Nick to see you.”

River’s eyebrows went up like I threw shit on his face.

“I’d love to meet the little asshole that stole you from us,” he said sarcastically.

“Leave,” I said, standing up.

“And what if I don’t,” He laughed without moving from his place.

He gave me a glair with a grin that was more passive-aggressive than anything.

“I haven’t seen you in two years, Tommy, no one has, and you think you can just ignore me,” he said, and for a moment, I thought we were going to have to fight until he said, “I’m kidding.”

He stood up, and I took a step back.

“I’ll be in town for a few days. But I want you to come back to OKC for Dad’s birthday. It would mean a lot to him. It would mean a lot to everyone,” he said before leaving.

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