Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes
On some afternoons, while the jays screeched in raucous cacophony, Brendon sat in Casey’s house at the kitchen table with its grooves and stains and cat hair. A game murmured on, announcer’s voice like screeching devils and the air smelling of cheap beer and cigarettes. Casey’s mother was usually at work, leaving Becky to watch them despite their father sitting out in the living room wearing a jersey over his gut.
They played marbles across the table, the rolling of them loud enough Casey’s father shouted here and there, though ended up just increasing the volume on the TV. Things were said though, every time there came a shout of, “Casey! Another!” or “Becks, get off the damn phone! It’s not nine yet!”
Nothing was ever directed at Brendon, not fully. But some of the mutterings, such as, “Damn boy better not be getting into our food. Parents should be watching him better,” made Brendon wonder whether his parents weren’t watching him well enough. A question he generally forgot to ask, but stuck with him until the day he realized that the words had been self-admonishing, though Casey’s father was unaware of the fact.
His arm late that autumn had been bandaged tight. The left one, used defensively when some beast—a dog, a wolf, a fox—had sprang for his face one night in his own kitchen. A strange smell entered Casey’s house during that time, one Brendon called “sadness” when his mother asked what he’d meant. He later found the same smell at the hospital, that too-clean, antiseptic, alcohol wipe, and coppery blood air freshener flavor.
Brendon had still been nine, birthday fast approaching and Casey’s party in the winds by a month.
Things had changed rapidly after that. A separation. A divorce. Private dating and remarriage in the case of Casey’s mother. A string of girlfriends before a final steady one in the case of Casey’s father.
It was the loss of his job, murmured Brendon’s father to his mother. The surgeries that never quite fixed things, least of all the sense of worth Casey’s father had lost. The scars on his arm, the lack of full use of his muscles, turned into a visceral reminder of why he’d become a gopher on the job, fallen from the bucket and the lead.
“Always thought it’d be an ungrounded line that zapped me out of commission,” muttered Casey’s father, too deep into a hole that had meant to be a high, baggy sans weed on the table, a couple of fruit flies crawling over empty can lips. “I never even owned a dog. Can’t believe that woman left the window open. Can’t believe.”
He’d try to make a fist with his left hand, then abandoned the task.
Casey whispered to Brendon that “that woman” meant his mother and that she swore she’d locked the house up that night and that Becks must have snuck out despite Becky promising otherwise. Ultimately, blame games happened and no one ever quite wanted responsibility. So no one ever took it.