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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes
There’d been an argument that winter between Casey and his father. The sort that started like a low buzz, obnoxious frustration simmering, straining. Turning from cold breath to hot steam, Casey just turned fourteen, but filled with so much fury and confusion he never quite knew who to turn to for what, with a father too bitter to see anything past the pile of beer tabs and broken down cardboard boxes that he’d been so sure had at least one more can left in the bottom.
Taylor L. picked Casey up at the end of the street and took him who-knew-where for an unprecedented amount of time. Long enough even Casey’s dad got worried despite being drunk off his ass and raging about that supposedly left-open window. The conversation on Brendon’s porch had gone something like this.
“Where’s that boy at?”
“Casey? Casey’s not here. I’m still doing homework.”
“Fuck. Don’t lie to me.”
Brendon took a step back. “He’s not here. Did something happen?”
“Something’s always happening with that boy. Now where is he? Your father here? He’ll tan your hide if you’re lying to me. You should know better. You should know better. Little n—”
Brendon had never been quite so thankful for his father’s hand on his shoulder, the one that said “quiet, listen, obey,” the one used in public when words weren’t appropriate. Brendon sank backward, allowing his own father to take on Casey’s dad. Slipped away, into the hall where he listened to the hard edge in his father’s voice, to the sloppy slur in Casey’s dad’s. That’s how he knew Casey had left with Taylor L., not because it was said, but because if Casey wasn’t with Brendon, and with Becks out of commission, there was really only one other person.
Brendon didn’t see Casey that evening. Didn’t see him that weekend. Didn’t get a chance to talk until third period Monday morning. And then, Casey didn’t want to talk and Brendon never did figure out what the argument was over. Or where Casey and Taylor L. went for countless hours on end.